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You have $5 in San Diego

Dear Chowhounders,

You folks all seem to have disposable income, so I call on you in this thread to aid wannabe frugal college students like me. If you had $5,$7, or, hell, even sub-10, where are some fun or tasty places to go?

I'll start:

El Zarape $1 fish tacos!
The 2 Somali places/3 Ethiopian places
Bronx Pizza if cost of pie is split among a few ppl
Everybody loves Super Cocina

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  1. Pho and other Vietnamese soups. Try Pho Ca Dao at around 52nd and El Cajon Blvd. for one example. Fast, good, & cheap.


    1. Ciro's Pizza in the Gaslamp - 2 slices and soda for $6
      Lefty's Pizza - good Chicago dogs and lunch special like Ciro's
      Pho T Cali - Vietnamese with numerous inexpensive options
      Bread and Cie - Great sandwiches
      Blue Water Grill - also great sandwiches
      Phil's BBQ - BBQ Broham sandwich, huge and only $6

      1. Yeah the tacos de guisados are the way to go at super cocina for really cheap...1.30 each!

        1. Lunch combos at the food bars at Lucky Seafood (southeast Asian) or 99 Ranch (Chinese). Vietnamese would be another obvious choice, but $5 will get you more at the to-go bars (no tip, either).
          If I'm further south, matzo ball soup at D.Z. Akins ($4.95).

          1 Reply
          1. re: maestra

            Sam Woo Restaurant in Ranch 99 has great AUTHENTIC Chinese food cheap. Yes, it is greasy but it is so tasty and cheap to boot.

          2. Pho takeout from Saigon. You call ahead and order and when you arrive, you're handed 2 full bags of stuff -- a quart of broth, a container with ample portions of meat and noodles, a big foil package which holds a ton of basil, sprouts, peppers, etc.

            All this for a mere $4.50.

            When you take it home an assemble it yourself, it's as if you cooked at home - only it would've cost you a ton more in time, gas and effort to really have done it yourself. My husband and I often do this for a meal - and we both feel plenty fed from just one.

            Wish I would've known about this in college!

            1. Matsuwa MArket in KEarney MEsa, prepares sushi at lunch time in the market.
              Bully East - Burger-8.50, that does not include the Beer.
              Whole Foods Deli or Salad Bar
              Safron on India Street

              1. If you go to the Chinese food takeout counter inside of Ranch 99 (not Sam Woo BBQ) at around 7:45pm, they sell to-go boxes of that evening's unsold food for only $2 each and each box holds alot of food.

                1. K Sandwiches, near Mesa College. Numerous sandwiches under $4 that are great tasting and very filling.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Josh

                    Or some of the independent banh mi shops along El Cajon Blvd - Kim Chan and Song Huong come to mind as really good examples. Song Huong just raised the price to $2.50; last time at Kim Chan they were just $2, but that was a while ago. Certainly enough for lunch and sooo goood.


                  2. There are tons of great, cheap places...but not all are fun. So if we stick to cheap AND fun:
                    The Waterfront for a burger and a beer.
                    The Turf Club (though it's been a while, and this may exceed the $10 limit).
                    South Beach Bar - fish tacos whilst watching the surfers.
                    The Jewel Box - respectable bar food, shuffleboard, and wise ass barmaids
                    Shakespeare's - the lunch fish & chips and a great Limey crowd.
                    Cass St. Bar - better than average bar food, pool, shuffleboard.
                    Bub's Dive bar - tater tots, nuff said.

                    1. You can get a good Mexican meal at Pokez on the corner of 10th and E. They even have Vegan dishes.

                      I'll second Bronx Pizza.

                      Porkyland you will get a great Carnitas burrito and a drink for 5 bucks. don't bother with the jumbo one, it's way too big unless you're splitting it.

                      You can also get a great sandwich at Mona Lisa in Little Italy (not the restaurant, the deli attached to it). Go for the imported Prosciutto. Make sure they use the fresh Mozzarella and only have them put some roasted red peppers, some basil and a little olive oil on it. They'll try to put on mayo and mustard but don't let them. A great sandwich for about 8 bucks.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sdunbier

                        "You can get a good Mexican meal at Pokez on the corner of 10th and E. They even have Vegan dishes."

                        And a great big helping of attitude to go right along with it!

                        Pokez is on my avoid-like-plague list. But there are people who like it.


                        1. re: Fake Name

                          I can't stand Pokez. Never understood the appeal.

                        1. Tofu House on Convoy (the one next to O'Brien's)--will run at $10/person
                          Yogurt World on Convoy
                          Tapioca Express on Convoy
                          Tea Station on Clairemont Mesa Dr.
                          Buga Korean BBQ during lunch (their lunch specials are really good, average about $10/dish)
                          El Cuervo
                          Mama Testa's
                          Ricky's for Dutch apple pancake
                          Mission Coffee Cup
                          Pho T Cali
                          Wired (in the Renaissance Towne Center Plaza)
                          Yakitori K-1
                          Whole Foods

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: daantaat

                            As good as Mama Testas is, I have to beg to differ on including it on a list for $5/under. Every time I go in there, I have to remind myself that it's not a taco shop and that's why it's decidedly NOT taco shop prices.

                            1. re: mimosa

                              If you go for lunch, Mama Testa has a number of specials under $8.

                              1. re: Josh

                                Chicken Pie Shop.

                                -Chicken pie
                                -mashed potatoes
                                -vegetable medly

                                Right around $5. If I was still in college, i'd eat here daily.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    Gotta agree with Mimosa on this one, Josh. Mama Testa always ends up costing more than I think it should, and more than your average basic taqueria. I'm luck if I can get out of there for $10, and it's more likely to be around $12, nearly double the OP target range. Now, granted MT is not exactly your average taqueria and using organic/free range meats and paying Hillcrest rents isn't exactly going to give you the the financial freedom to structure menu prices like the average basic taqueria.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      I couldn't exactly remember Mama Testa's price point. I knew it was not in the $5 range and figured it's in the $10 or slightly above range. However, I threw it in there b/c it is cheap(er) and they serve good stuff which makes it worth the extra few bucks IMO.

                                      1. re: daantaat

                                        I was just there and there are few menu items at $10. Most things are priced between $7-9.

                                        1. re: daantaat

                                          And I fully agree - great grub and priced fairly. Still, it's not something I'd throw in the cheap eats column.

                                          1. re: mimosa

                                            Mama testa offers their steamed tacos (any four of the four they offer) for half price during happy hour. So four tacos for $2.75. I would definitely put that in the CHEAP column. Plus free chips and salsa. Plus even during normal hours their rolled tacos are only $5.50 - barely above the $5 limit and they are piled with lettuce, salsa fresca and on a bed of beans - plus the free chips and salsa again. Del Muneco - two crunchy beef tacos with rice and beans are just over $6. And that's just a few I can think of off the top of my head. I don't know how you can not put this place in the cheap list - ESPECIALLY for the quality.

                                1. THE CHICKEN PIE SHOP
                                  Whole Dinner for under 6, including pie.

                                  1. The taco cart in Joe's 99 cent store at night!
                                    1.50$ tacos and 3.50$ burritos. They are absolutely amazing!

                                    1. Happy hour sushi rolls at Sushi Teriyaki House in Hillcrest, $4 gets you a good sized rainbow roll.
                                      Carnitas tacos and fish tacos at El Cuervo, also in Hillcrest.
                                      Shrimp quesodilla at Dos Brasos on San Diego Ave.
                                      Mama's Lebanese Bakery, the Manakeesh Ultimate is one of the most delicious things you can eat in San Diego.
                                      Bahn Mi at Cafe Dore.
                                      Luigi's Pizza in Golden Hill.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Two cheapies that haven't been mentioned yet is the lunchtime buffet at Thai Cafe on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (it would be in the $7 group) and lunchtime combo specials can be had at Punjabi Tandoor for under $6.

                                        1. I had dinner Friday evening at Aladdin's in the Uptown Center in Hillcrest.

                                          Their salads are in the $11-12 range, BUT the salads are enormous and they will give you a half order, which is a still very generous portion served on a 9" dinner plate. While I think there are a few different salads, my crowd usually orders either the chicken salad or the shrimp salad. The chicken is nicely grilled and the shrimps are cooked in a passionfruit marinade and mercifully usually not rubber. (These are lettuce based salads, not mayo salads). A half-order of the salads runs about $7.50.

                                          Aladdin also serves a chicken kebob plate that is huge. It comes with a (large) dinner salad, 2 chicken kebobs, off the skewer (no vegetables), rice, hummus and something else I can't remember. For $7.00 it is a lot of food.

                                          Pita bread is made fresh and served warm, quartered.

                                          As Middle Eastern food goes, Aladdin won't set the world on fire or break any new ground, but it is possible to eat there without breaking the bank and leave very full.

                                          1. For $9.95 plus tax you can have a great ground-in-house cheeseburger on a fresh baked roll with all the fixins and a hearty helping of some amazing herbed pomme frittes at JRDN in PB. Sit on the patio and you get a show with your meal (interesting folk and tasty waves). One of my favorite mid-day escapes.

                                            Down the street is surfer favorite Kono's. Food is good...not great, but delicious after a morning in the water. Good breakfast burritos and fries. Cheap. Line out the door.

                                            Hodad's has great burgers as well. I know, I know...I used to dig Rocky's, but they pulled a major asshole move and I'm boycotting them. Plus, Hodad's has that thick chewy bacon that really slams that burger home. Their onion rings don't suck, either.

                                            Point Loma Seafood does a ridiculous sandwich of deep-fried scallops on white bread for around $6.

                                            Luigi's pizza. Cheap and yummy and run by very cool folks. Their chefs, Rita and Ramon, very much rock.

                                            Masala and Bombay do lunch buffets for around $10 that are pretty tasty and the environment is gorgeous and relaxing.

                                            I've had many a broke-ass guy treat me to 1/2 price Mondays at World Famous...and it was all good.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: 1HotTomato

                                              Although i agree that the scallop sandwiches from pt loma seafood are as good as they get, you might not have been there in awhile cause they're either 12 or 14 bucks now. pricey, but well worth it. the other seafood sandwiches are around $6-8 so a good deal can still be had.

                                            2. HOW CAN I FORGET???

                                              A great new gem - Uncle Vito's Subs - brouht to you by the good folks who own Mimmo's. Del Mar Highlands area. AMAZING sandwiches on fresh baked bread, all made to order. You-call-it salads with not a leaf of iceberg in sight. Fresh soups. Parking sucks, but it's a winner. Look for a new location at the ballpark soon.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: 1HotTomato

                                                is it in Del Mar Highlands or around the corner from the Highlands in the plaza where Blockbuster Video is?

                                                1. re: daantaat

                                                  This is what SmartPages says:
                                                  Uncle Vito's Subs
                                                  12265 El Camino Real
                                                  San Diego, CA 92130
                                                  (858) 720-8486
                                                  So on El Camino Real, between Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights. Right up the street from where I work. There was a nearly invisible Quizno's location in that area that closed, maybe they're in the same place? We'll try to check it out this week.

                                                  1. re: kimxchris

                                                    is it on the southern end of Del Mar Highlands plaza, near Barnes and Noble?

                                                    1. re: daantaat

                                                      Its in between the Marriott and High Bluff Rd. The street is called Paseo View Court. You'll see it, the office buildings are called Paseo del Mar. The food is really really good!

                                              2. Lately I have become OBSESSED with the mini taco deal at El Cuervo. 4 mini tacos with your choice of al pastor, carnitas, carne asada, pollo asado for 3.99. They are piled with the appropriate toppings onion & cilantro, guac etc... and have so much meat in them you can barely pick them up. I can only eat two. I take the other two home for dinner or breakie the next day. They are seriously great.
                                                It is listed on a piece of paper taped to the counter

                                                1. Happy Hour at the Brigantine..Best Fish Tacos for $2.25
                                                  Dumpling Inn on Convoy..Best Dumplings $6
                                                  Las Quatros Milpas...Best Carnitas Burrito $4
                                                  Antonellis' Deli...El Cajon..Best Turkey & Cheese $4.75
                                                  Waterfront Bar..Best Cheeseburger with fries $5
                                                  Filippi's...half order of lasagna or spaghetti & meatballs with bread $5.50
                                                  Rubio's Fish Tacos on Tuesday after 2:30.. $1.00
                                                  Cotija's..Suprema Quesadilla $3.75
                                                  Rocky's Burger in Crown Point $5.50 (they are a-holes most of the time)

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                    What's the problem with service at Rocky's? I have only heard about it taking a while in the past, but never heard of any serious problems.

                                                    1. re: Joseph

                                                      Hey Joseph,
                                                      I've been going to Rocky's since the late 80's and even when I lived in Crown Point and somewhat local, there has always been this attitude from every bartender that they have on duty..the guy cooking the burgers is always nice but its those arrogant bartenders..
                                                      I asked my husband and other guys if it was me and they all have said the bartenders are full of themselves..
                                                      I do love their burgers, just wish they didn't have the attitude!

                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                        Wow- we've gotten just the opposite treatment at Rocky's and as a result, always make a point to sit at the bar. I can't think of a time - and we've been many- that I've gotten anything but friendly service there. Sorry your experience differs! Frankly, if we did experience poor treatment, we'd likely not return. It's already hassle enough finding a seat - their burgers are good, but not that good.

                                                        1. re: mimosa

                                                          Hi mimosa..
                                                          It almost became a game for my husband and I to see how grumpy the bartender would get and we'd see a lot of regulars there and try and figure it out..our good friend knows one of the main bartenders there and he isn't as surly with them but maybe thats because she lets him play the golf course for free..
                                                          Haven't been in about a year and I do like their burgers and yes, its always a hassle to get a seat..
                                                          We always tip over 20% and are always nice so its a big mystery to me as to why but some things you just can't figure out!

                                                  2. El Porvenir San Diego's oldest burrito shop and its been in business since 1915. They still do it right with toasted tortillas (instead of those soggy steamed tortillas most of the crap places have) and no junk fillers like rice or beans. If you order carnitas you get carnitas with just a bit of cheese and guacamole. Its simplicity is its strength.

                                                    Banh Mi from one of the local Vietnamese restaurants here in Mira Mesa is a great option too. Pho Wa Cali has some damn good Vietnamese and the place is packed with a large Vietnamese speaking crowd so you know it is the real deal.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: oerdin

                                                      Where is El Porvenir. My friends dad always toast the tortillas when we hae CArne Asada. I thought it was jsut him.

                                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                        1786 National Ave SD 92113 There is a blog about it on mmm-yoso, done in December. *very* hole in the wall...4 tables...

                                                    2. World Famous at the end of Pacific Beach Drive on the boardwalk in PB

                                                      Sit in the bar area and get

                                                      $1.00 fish tacos (Monday)
                                                      $1.00 shrimp tacos (Tuesday)
                                                      $!.50 lobster tacos (Wednesdays)

                                                      I eat like seven or eight everytime I go.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: BigBelt

                                                        Amen. And I think all apps are 1/2 privce on Mondays too. And making it an even better deal is the dinner show - bar and restaurant both offer front row views to the best parade in town- the PB boardwalk. Shh, don't tell the tourists.