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Hi everyone, I am new to the board and wanted to just say how much my eating life has changed since I discovered Chowhound, thanks to all of you! With that said, I looked at older posts and found no specific thread where posters rate their top 5 restaurants by price point and type of meal in Berkeley. So now I was hoping I could get that kind of thread started to see what's on everyone else's radar, and to fill in some gaps in my eating schedule.I plan on doing more threads like this with higher pricing points.When getting to dinner, I was drawing blanks, hopefully Chowhounders will be up to the task to enlighten.
Rate your TOP 5 RESTAURANTS IN BERKELEY FOR UNDER TEN DOLLARS, not including drinks, tax and tip.
Here is mine: (in no order of hierarchy)

900 Grayson
Bette's Oceanview Diner
Homemade Cafe
Cafe Fanny

Ryowa Ramen
Vik's Chaat
900 Grayson

Naan N Curry
Brazil Cafe
Saigon Restaurant
Cha- Ya
Lucky House Thai

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  1. I like your thread! Here are mine:

    Bette's Oceanview Diner
    Homemade Cafe
    Cafe Fanny
    Chester's Bay View Cafe
    Meal Ticket

    Brazil Cafe

    King Tsin

    1. Have you tried my usual favorite is TAIWAN restaurant on Shattuck and Univ and you definitely can get out for less than $10. Search my previous posts for the SPECIFIC dishes and specific TIMES for the specials. Many of their dishes are unique and seldom found elsewhere. The south style peddler noodle soup (clear soup) is the best version I had in Bay Area - only available during weekend lunch. The clear soup had good flavor probably from the minced pork. The noodle is toothsome and the added chives and bean sprouts give it added boost. Topped it off with a nice soy-simmered egg gave this dish a mark of 9 possibly 10 for a home style soup. Have not had this for a year or so because we were able to duplicate it at home and surpassed it. The place had other gem dishes as well - check the board. One of them used to be the pork roll with the outer skin made of tofu sheets - deep fried. The pork filling is infused with the 5 spice (ngo-hiang). A side sweet sauce with sliced of cucumbers is provided. Sadly, it was not as great as before the last time I had it. A bit soggy. But the noodle dish was still great as ever was.

      And of course, JAYAKARTA is favorite of many hounds on this board for Indonesian food. Again, check for the specific dishes. If you like Asian food, many dishes here will surprise and delight any hounds.

      How about TOP DOG ? You can buy their 1/2 dozen frozen dogs for less than $10 with the buns and make it yourself at home without the wait.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Han

        I forgot about Top Dog, and will try Taiwan and Jayakarta. Thanks for the recs!

        1. re: oscarm

          Please report your finds in return !- fresh reports always interesting to know. Places have gone downhill sometimes and we need to know that from users like you. But Jayakarta still flying high last I heard.

          You can also reward the rest of us by trying out a new interesting dish that have not been tried by the hounds.

        2. The only places I regularly spend under $10 for something other than a slice of pizza are Vik's, Udupi Palace, and Ryowa Ramen.

          I like 900 Grayson, Cha-Ya, Naan 'n' Curry, and Venus, but I spend more than $10.

          Cafe Fanny and Gregoire are good but some of the most expensive takeout in town.

          Picante, Tacubaya, and Cancun are lame. There's no good Mexican food in Berkeley.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I've had good food at Picante, Tacubaya, and Cancun. Agreeably, not everything is excellent, but many things I've had from each place have been well above average. Cancun has some very good salsas and their carne asada is tender and flavorful as are the carnitas.

            I like Picante's tortillas soup, a giant portion with just the right amount of spiciness.

            I recently went to Tacubaya and had some of the best enchiladas I've ever tasted (and I grew up in SoCal where good Mexican food is prevalent). The sauce was rich and very flavorful and I could taste that the tortillas were handmade. My husband and I were both very impressed. It was only the second time we've been there in two years, but that meal convinced us that we need to go back.

            So, my question is, why do you call those places "lame"?

            1. re: chemchef

              Lame based on what I've had there and compared with what I've had at my favorite places, Taqueria San Jose and El Huarache Azteca, where the food's as good or better than what I get on my regular visits to Guadalajara.

              1. re: chemchef

                I'm not a fan of everything at Tacubaya. However, they do a great menudo on the weekends. I'll have to try enchiladas. When Tacubaya hits it is great. When it misses it is good but not very memorable.

                While I wouldn't say the food at the some of the Berkeley Mexican restaurants is lame, it is a different category ... Cal-Mex ... sort of the current generation of Mexican-American.

                Old-style Mex-American appealed to a broad American audiance at that time. The Cal-Mex do the same. The ingrediants are fresh and often organic. It continues to please popular tastes. It is seldom scary or challenging. It misses the soul of good Mexican food. Even Fonda which is probably one of my favorite restaurants ... I forget it is supposed to be Mexican. I think of it just another good California-style restaurant.

                So I agree with both you and Robert in a sense. The food is good but it's not really Mexican.

                1. re: rworange

                  I basically agree.

                  I love traditional Mexican food. When it's adapted for Berkeley palates and prejudices I usually find it bland and boring.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I agree whole-heartedly! Thanks for putting that in perspective. I hate bland food and love spicy. However, I do try to eat a little healthier these days, so I appreciate restaurants that can use quality ingredients and keep it flavorful and exciting. I know that is not the heart of down home Mexican cooking, but I like it when its done well.

                    I also agree about Tacubaya. Not everything I've had there was awesome. Likewise for Picante etc. The point was that I have had some items that were well above the bar. And, for a decent price. I know where to go when I want to spend a lot of money, but its the places that are relatively inexpensive, but do a good job that are sometimes harder to find.

                  2. re: chemchef

                    Ryowa's is nothing special but okay since there is nothing better in this area. But for value minded folks, I think Manpuku is also a viable choice. Manpuku serves up huge, Korean sized bowls of ramen with plenty of toppings and you can also get budget sushi and various kinds of bento as well. You're much more likely to get out of Manpuku for under $10 than Ryowa, esp if you're a big eater like me. That said, Ryowa has a decent lunch special for around $8.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      Have you ordered the special noodles at Ryowa? Those are great. The regular ramen are nothing special.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        which ones are the special noodles again? I've ordered just about everything on the menu since I live nearby. overall, i feel like the noodles are kind of flabby and the soup is nothing special.

                        1. re: choctastic

                          Just ask for "special noodles." Adds $1 to the price of any order.

                          I think they accidentally left them off when they redid the menu, but they've always had them when I've gone.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Ah I need to listen to KK more often. Do they have special broth for $1 extra as well? I thought it was kind of weak, compared to a place like Santouka.

                                1. re: choctastic

                                  Ryowa makes several stocks, some better than others. Which ones have you tried?

                    2. I was at Juan's place the other night, which largely serves Cali-Tex-Mex-anglo-ized food (in the old school tradition) EXCEPT the specials. My buddy got birria which was excellent and I got two fish tacos - full fillet in each taco (2) w/ the usual rice and beans. For $10 bucks the two fish fillets would be worth it, the birria was $11. There's also Mario's La Fiesta on Telegraph and Haste - top 5...probably not but a solid, solid value and you can most certainly eat for under $10. I'd go to either w/o hesitation -- compares well to any Cali-Tex-Mex I've had in SoCal as a kid.

                      1. lol...i'm not sure how you get out for under $10 at some of those places especially bette's and 900 grayson.

                        i'd like to add jimmy dean's, gypsy's, and gordo's to your already well rounded list.

                        1. I second the Juan's rec, especially the fish tacos. My friends and I love their two kinds of chips - flour and corn.

                          Others to add: Cha-am for Thai food, Jupiter's for pizza in the beautiful outdoor patio (although you really have to have a beer too, which blows the whole $10 limit), Goia for NY style pizza (near Monterey Market), and Spenger's for the happy hour cheeseburger (with 2.50 drink purchase).

                          Here's a decadent dessert trick - you can go to Chez Panisse for dessert and coffee after 10:30pm.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: emery_jc

                            So, did you try anything else at the Spengers Happy Hour?

                            Happy Hours are the way to go. T-Rex is the best ... the best ... and it will include beer ... for $1. Killer ribs for $5 and great $3 onion rings ... 3-6 ... 7 days.

                            Fonda has good late night food ... after 9 pm.

                            For lunch ... it's been a while but 6 Degrees on Solano.

                            I don't see how you are spending $10 in some of those breakfast joints ... but you might give Kensington Bistro a try. Also Sconehenge makes very satisfying breakfasts and lunches.

                            On the Berkley border, but La Calaca Loca makes killer chiquilies on the weekend for some ridiculous price like $5. It is in the 900 Grayson category for quality and it is a LOT of food.

                          2. Breakfast: $2.50 gingerbread from West Side Cafe eaten with a $2 cappuchino at the Trieste.

                            Lunch: $6 philly cheese, Cheese Steak Shop

                            Dinner: $6 mac'n'cheese at T-Rex

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                              T-Rex is good but not a cheap place. They have some items under $10, but so does Chez Panisse.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                T-Rex's side of mac and cheese is bigger than my head. It's a large enough portion for dinner, as long as you don't mind eating nothing but mac and cheese for dinner.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  Yeah, and if you go during happy hour you can get a $1 beer with it. Even the more pricy $3 drafts will bring you under the $10 limit.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Speaking of T-Rex - I just learned this tip from a server: If you get the two way with beef short ribs, they cannot cut the short rib in half, so you get a full beef rib order for the two way price. A two way with beef short ribs and baby back ribs is more than enough meat for Mrs. Mousse and me.

                                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    T-Rex's vegetable sides are excellent values at $6 each. We had a curried roast cauliflower that was just great.

                                    No way I could go in there without succumbing to the $28 urge for a slab of ribs, though. Which is under $10 for the three meals it would make.

                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      The only problem is that I don't like their mac and cheese at all, it's the soupy version of mac and cheese, which I am just not a fan of. That's the only thing at T-Rex that has been a failure for me.

                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                        That "soup" is two giant handsful of melted chedder and parmesan.
                                        Baked until crispy under a broiler. Noodles in cream sauce. What other
                                        versions, aside from boxed, are there?

                                        One time I had it and it was almost inedibly salty. The waitressperson said
                                        that was unintentional. If you get it and it's inedibly salty, send it back.

                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          When I make macaroni and cheese, it doesn't have that texture. It tastes like there was either no roux in making it or not enough, because most macaroni and cheese isn't noodles in a cream sauce, but is noodles in a cheesy sauce, with a little cream to bind it. I've never had macaroni and cheese as soupy as the style at T-Rex.

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            Have you had it recently? They have gone through a couple of changes in their sides over the months. When I had it at opening, it was so bad I never wanted it again. But I might be tempted by some of the recent reports. Ditto on the cornbread which was awful at opening but has been getting raves recently.

                                            I mean it still might not be to your taste, but I've had two versions of mac and cheese there (the second was by mistake and worse than the first).

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I only had it once, and that was about three or four months ago, has it changed since then? I ate at the bar about a month ago and it looked exactly the same as it had before, which is why I haven't been tempted to order it again.

                                              I do love the cornbread, though, so maybe they've fixed the mac and cheese, but it still looked very soupy when I saw it last.

                                2. The pizza at the Cheeseboard, located about 1000 feet or so from the Cheeseboard cheese store.

                                  1. sorry , make that 100 feet from the cheese store not a thousand.

                                    1. Imperial Tea Court in Epicurious Garden tops my list for reasonably priced dinner in Berkeley. Hard to find such tasty, organic food at such a low price. Lunch and dinner under $10.

                                      Andy & Cindy's Thai at the Farmers' Market is delicious and under $10 - Saturdays for lunch, Tuesdays for dinner.

                                      Bakesale Betty (technically north Oakland) for lunch

                                      The new bar menu at Downtown has some good looking small plates for under $10, though it would be hard to keep a full dinner under $10.

                                      You can get pretty reasonably priced dinners at Sea Salt (if you stick to the sandwiches), Ajanta (if you order a la carte), and Gregoire. They will definitely break the $10 barrier, but you can keep them under $20.

                                      Lunch for under $10 is much easier to find than dinner for under $10.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        Imperial Tea Court might or might not be under $10 depending on what you order.

                                        Downtown is one of the more expensive restaurants in Berkeley, appetizers up to $12.50, entrees up to $27.50. You could make a meal of small plates (which in my experience is a better idea than then entrees, but I haven't been there recently), but it would cost you well over $10 not to leave hungry. The fried olives are a great cheap snack with a glass of wine..

                                        Similar story for Sea Salt, Ajanta, and for that matter Cesar and Fonda Solana. Some great food, and some items under $10, but not places for somebody on a $10 meal budget.

                                        Sea Salt's vegetable sides are a great value.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Have you seen the new bar menu at Downtown? Almost everything is under $10, many of the items are under $5.

                                          I rarely spend more than $15 for dinner at Imperial, and I usually have leftovers.

                                          The sides at Sea Salt are a good value? They charge $8 for a side of broccoli rabe.

                                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                            The Web site has lunch and dinner menus. Is the bar menu something else?


                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Correct, the bar menu is not posted on the website. You can order it all day long, but you must sit in the bar section (which has some tables). They recently expanded the bar seating, and the new menu came with the remodel.

                                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                Interesting. I'll have to check that out, nice to have another later-evening option. We went there a lot when they first opened and kept late hours.

                                      2. Breakfast (under $5 for two of them)
                                        Homemade Cafe
                                        Meal Ticket
                                        Cafe Durant

                                        Shen Hua (Andy's chicken)
                                        Cafe Panini
                                        Cheese Board Pizza

                                        Pie in the Sky
                                        La Mediterranee
                                        Naan n Curry
                                        Chaat Cafe

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: katya

                                          Bahn Mi Ba Le in El Cerrito? Not sure it fits in the thread- not really a lunch destination, but you sure can get full of good sandwiches for under 10 bucks.

                                          1. re: katya

                                            Holy Land, a block from La Mediterranee, is cheaper and has much better food.

                                            I usually spend over $10 there, but not much over.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Agreed. Great falafel, and love the combo salad.

                                              1. re: lexdevil

                                                That's my usual order: combo salad with four a la carte falafels.

                                                1. re: lexdevil

                                                  What is including with the combo salad? I love the falafel and the malawach bread.

                                                  1. re: The Dive

                                                    Varies, but some of all of the salads plus some vegetables of the day. Usually seven or eight different things.

                                            2. is trex supposed to be good now? gregoire's for lunch should do the trick.

                                              or one of the slice places.

                                              have some sketch ice cream for breakfast or lunch.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: kevin

                                                T-Rex is good, but the BBQ plates are $12-17.

                                                Sketch doesn't open until noon. And it's not hard to spend over $10 there. Prices are fair for the ultra-high quality, but the ice cream and pastries are about as expensive as they get around here.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  T-Rex ... happy hour ... happy hour.

                                                  I haven't been back to T-Rex for dinner yet. But the brunch and happy hour may lure me back. Brunch is NOT in the $10 ranch. The priciness of brunch keeps me from going as often as I would like. It is really good but somehow those prices are off-putting to me.

                                                2. re: kevin

                                                  T-Rex is now regularly good and often very good. It is not cheap. Burger is $10
                                                  and ribs are $14 (for a half order, but half is more than enough for a single hungry
                                                  person). But it has the crazygood mac and cheese thing and a decent happy
                                                  hour which is the only reason it's on this thread.

                                                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                    T-Rex charges $14 for a half and $28 for a full slab of superior spareribs, about the same as conventional rib joints in the area.

                                                    The other places may give you more sides for that money, but they're often not worth eating.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Isn't that exactly what I just said? $14 for a half order. Which is
                                                      precisely $4 greater than the maximum sum we are dealing with
                                                      in this thread. The reason t-rex comes into play here is the happy
                                                      hour and the mac and cheese. sheesh.

                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                        I just don't want anyone to skip trying T-Rex's ribs on the mistaken impression that they're more expensive than E&J or whoever. It's not a cheap place, but the barbecue is priced competitively.

                                                3. I'd been conflicted ever since discovering CH about posting my fave hole-in-the-wall in Berkeley. It's not as if they were going to go out of business; I've been eating there ever since I met the owner's son back in the late 80s. Prices have always been absurdly low, and portions are great. Plus they have the best egg/imperial-style rolls around (family that owns and operates the place is Vietnamese).

                                                  So I've finally decided to break my vow of silence. If you want to spend less than $10 (or even $5), my fave resto in Berkeley is.........New Oriental Restaurant on University (cross street is McGee). Following link has their addy and a picture of the storefront: http://www.shopinberkeley.com/n/newor...

                                                  So what would I recommend there? BBQ chicken over brown rice plate (you can get any of the rice plates with either steamed white rice or brown rice). Last time I had it there, it was $4.80 or $5.00 (tax included, as you order at the front counter then sit down at a table; all menu prices posted on the wall include tax). Two large boneless chicken thigh strips that have been grilled to order, topped with a teriyaki BBQ sauce (more like a marinade, as it is thin, not goopy). Side is either a basic salad or steamed veggies (it alternates). When I first started eating there in the late 80s, I think this was priced at $2.80 or thereabouts.

                                                  I'd also recommend the won ton soup. I forget how many won tons come in the soup, but it's somewhere between 8 to 12. Soup itself is nice and doesn't pack an MSG wallop, and is topped with a sprinkling of green onions. I remember this being $1.80 when I first started going there, and I remember it being $3.00 when I last stopped by a few months ago.

                                                  If you eat there, you absolutely must try the egg rolls. They use ground chicken with some cabbage and other veggies, give it a decent slug of black pepper, then roll them up in the same type of wrappers that are used in Vietnamese imperial rolls. I forget the price for these now, but I'm certain they're still under a buck apiece (65 cents sticks in my mind, but that could've been the price a few years ago; regardless they're less than a buck). These aren't little measly egg rolls measuring a few inches long; these are close to double the length of the typical Chinese egg rolls you get at Chinese-American places. They're served with a good sweet & sour sauce, which I punch up with Sriracha. Heaven.....=-D

                                                  I've also tried the spring roll, which is this huge pocket of crunchy veggies in a thicker wrapper. Nice when they're hot and fresh.

                                                  I'm a big eater, but it's been impossible for me to spend more than $8 on lunch or dinner there (and that includes a tip in the jar on the counter). More peckish eaters could easily get away with a meal for $5 (won ton soup and an egg roll is enough to fill up most). They have a pretty lengthy list of rice plates, noodle dishes and soups, with plenty of veggie options. But I've always ordered some combo (sometimes all 3 when I'm starving and also want leftovers to take home) of the BBQ chicken over brown rice (used to be the #26, may be different number now), egg rolls and won ton soup.

                                                  If you go, be prepared for a bit of a wait even if you're the only person in the place. Everything is made to order, and you can easily see into the small kitchen from most tables of if you're standing at the counter. This is not an operation predicated on doing high volume at any given moment, but they've been in business for over 20 years, so they've obviously been doing a steady stream of business thru the years.

                                                  Would be interested in hearing any CH'ers who've been there before, or checked it out after reading about it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Eugene Park

                                                    Wow! Thanks for breaking your vow of silence.

                                                  2. It seems like most of the good places have been covered already but I'd like to add Tandoori Kitchen. Basically the same kind of north Indian/Pakistani food as Naan N curry (which seems to have popped up on a lot of lists) but more flavorful and less greasy. The owner is friendly and everything seems to cost a dollar less than Naan N curry. It's on telegraph and parker in the space where Bison brewery used to be across from Andronicos.

                                                    1. What?!? No Great China??
                                                      Their lunch specials include a big portion of the entree with a choice of chow mein, fried rice or steam rice, an eggroll, daily soup, and a side salad for under 8 bux!

                                                      Try to get there early to beat the lunch hour rush, or you'll be standing in the front watching people eat for a while.

                                                      1. Check out Raleigh's (Telegraph at Haste) for lunch or dinner. You can get a great sandwich and beer for under $10. And the waiters are known to undercharge for large parties.

                                                        I would also second an earlier vote for Gypsies. I think it's off Durant near Telegraph.

                                                        Lastly, if you're ever on Cal's campus, check out the Free Speech Movement Cafe for lunch. It's very good.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: leaht

                                                          Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana is at 2519 Durant.

                                                        2. For a while Jerusalem Organic Kitchen was a lunch time favorite of mine. Anything with their grill chicken or beef is great and the falafels are also good.