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groceries and cheap (meaning *cheap*) eats in hayes valley/lower haight?

  • b

I'm moving up to SF from palo alto, which means saying goodbye to the Milk Pail and Dittmers. Sad! So I'm looking for recommendations for decent produce, meat, etc in hayes valley or the lower haight, and inexpensive restaurants. And I do mean inexpensive; I've seen this topic: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/313874 but the person suggesting Suppenkuche as inexpensive because you can get a meal for under $25 probably isn't a graduate student---surely there are places with mission taqueria-like prices, but I don't know where they are.

Mostly though I'm interested in the groceries/butcher angle! I've been to Faletti's/Delessio's and while I'm sure they're great, $12.50/lb for a flank steak boggles my mind, so I assume/hope there are more reasonable options not too far down the quality ladder. Or anything interesting in that vein you think someone moving to the area should know about...


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  1. How funny. I made the exact same move 2 1/2 years ago and I would go to Milk Pail all the time. My favorite place up here is Golden Produce which is about a 10 minute walk down to Church and Market. They've got a great selection and many organic options, which makes it slightly better than Milk Pail in my book. I've talked to the owners a couple times and they are planning on opening a butcher shop down the street and it might already be open as I haven't been down there in a week. If you happen to work anywhere close to the Civic Center area, there is a farmer's market in the United Nations plaza on Wednesday and Sundays. Again, it's a 15 minute walk, at least from my apartment but it was one of my favorite places especially since I worked right around the corner from there. Once in awhile I'll drop by Nabila's if I need one or two things but it's not the cheapest. Otherwise, it's mostly convenience stores.

    As for cheap places to eat, there are quite a few cafes and cheap eateries and I'm sure many people will chime in with their favorites. I'll just mention that I like Rosamunde Sausage Grill and Cafe du Soleil, a Bay Bread outpost.

    Welcome to the neighborhood.

    1. Check out:

      Courtney's on 15th Street and Castro (Divisadero) for fresh produce, homemade fruit juices and sandwiches.
      Estela's on Fillmore near Haight for great deli sandwiches, soups and salads. My favorite is the General Sherman.
      El Castillito on Church near Market Street for cheap taqueria grub. (it's ok, but maybe the better in the neighborhood)
      Woodhouse Fish Co on Market near Church for slightly pricer but damn good seafood and one hell of a Crab Louie Roll.
      Lilly's BBQ on Divisadero at Fulton Streets for yummy sauced BBQ ribs, brisket, and more.
      Memphis Minnie's on Haight near Steiner for a dry rub BBQ (I hear their weekend brunch is good too)

      1 Reply
      1. re: shnigglebob

        Brunch at Memphis Minnie's has been discontinued, sadly.

      2. if you like vietnamese or other southeast asian cuisines, consider walking to the tenderloin, or at least the area dubbed "little saigon." there is the oft mentioned turtle tower for pho, and search for recent posts about larkin express deli for burmese. all are affordable. several choices for banh mi or vietnamese sandwiches. just do a search for larkin st. and you'll find many threads with good recommendations, although there are other restaurants that i'm still just starting to tap into that aren't on larkin st. i've enjoyed meals at ngoc mai, for example, but don't have the address handy.

        when i lived in hayes valley, i avoided fritz and flippers and many of the other local spots. the frites at fritz are disappointing, and i've never left flippers without a stomachache. i enjoyed suppenkuche, but yes it's not cheap by grad school standards, but there are economical ways to make a meal there. maybe a soup, a salad, and a beer. generous portions. the people at nabila's are very sweet, but it's not cheap and the selection is very limited. arlequin's sandwiches are worth checking out. don't remember prices, but if it was unreasonable i think i would remember. i also liked their beignets, which were more like french jelly donuts. i'm a little confused because beignets in the US seem to mean a savory fried treat, or a new orleans specialty i'm not at all familiar with. forgive me if i'm wrong. anyways. and golden produce, mentioned above, is a bargain for produce, just across the safeway, down from the blockbusters.

        oh and for drinks, i recommend against ordering draught beers at place pigalle. i think they hardly ever clean their tap lines, and their beer tastes like...just awful. go for bottled or wine.

        many of the restaurants down there are unremarkable or just bad. but it has been about two years, so i don't know what's changed. but it's pretty central and it's easy to get to parts of the mission, tenderloin, haight, fillmore, castro, etc.

        1. The farmers market at Civic Center on Wednesdays and Sundays is cheap.

          For meat, probably worth the time and bus fare to go down to Mission Market.

          1. It might be more of a walk from your neighborhood than you are interested in but Golden Produce on Church Street (right across from Safeway) is a great store. It is a small place but is loaded with great products. The produce is consistently good and they seem to be getting more organics all the time. I have been doing most of my shopping here for the seven years I have been in this neighborhood. The only downside, not any meat selection, only some prepackaged coldcuts, imported meats and bacon in the cooler.

            For meat I usually hit Drewes on Church near 29th, friendly family run place, Bryan's meat market, two doors down from Bryan's Grocery on California St. in Laurel Village, or the market in Cal-Mart also on California St in Laurel Village...all three more of a trek and great quality meat but perhaps not super cheap.

            Also, if you like to buy bulk (as in natural food, not costco) and are looking or a great and giant health food/natural store there is a Rainbow grocery on Division and Folsom. Absolutly no meat here but great eco-friendly bulk section and fresh food.

            3 Replies
            1. re: letseatnow

              Bryan's has superior meat, but I think it's is the most expensive butcher in SF.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I think the best quality is at Bryan"s so I'm willing to pay the price and trek over there. Recently, doing my regular shopping at CalMart, I bought chicken tenders there since they are never available at Bryan's. Never again - they were awful, stringy, I had to throw them out.

                1. re: walker

                  OP says "groceries and cheap (meaning *cheap*)." Bryan's is great for wealthy people, but I walk in there in awe kind of like I'm in a museum. Beautiful and unaffordable goods. I have rarely ever been able to bring myself to buy something there. Now, Drewes I go to several times a week.

            2. I too have lived in the Haight on a grad student budget, so I understand. When folks think a meal under $25 is inexpensive, that's insane when you're struggling on $15,000 a year! $25 a week is what you hope to spend on groceries for the week!

              These have been my staples:

              Lower Haight:
              - I love the spaghetti and meatballs at Stelline (next door to Walgreens in Hayes Valley, $9, and enough for lunch the next day)

              Upper Haight/Cole Valley
              - Asqew
              - Zazie (luxurious breakfast under $10) (cole valley)
              - use the 2-slices-for-1 coupon you get in the Val Pak mailer @ Escape from NY Pizza

              For good, inexpensive produce, inexpensive meats and seafood, and cheap, reliable eats, I would trek over to the New Chinatown on Clement Street in the Richmond. There's nothing in Haight/Hayes Valley that can compare. Clement between 4th and 8th is my spot for cheap barbecued pork buns, 3-for-$1.25 dim sum, reliably delicious Thai food at the 2 King of Thai locations, always-packed and consistently good China First, country style pork ribs at Taiwan Restaurant, and more. And for groceries, May Wah Supermarket (Clement and 8th), and all the seafood and butcher shops and produce stands on the surrounding blocks will not break your budget. And the Civic Center Farmer's Market is a great place too. Good luck!

              1. I use to live right on the edge of Hayes Valley and Lower Haight not too long ago. I'll give another mention to Golden Produce and the tacqueria El Castillito next door. Stelline was mentioned once already. I use to frequent them about once a month for good (not great) inexpensive Italian. My favorite Italian in the hood was Il Borgo on Fell at Laguna. Great owners and pretty darn good food for not so much money. I would go a few times a month. Axum on lower Haight was good for cheap Eritrean food.

                I was never able to find a good source for meat and always ended up driving out of the neighborhood. Quite frankly, I still haven't found a meat supplier that I'm really thrilled with. Faletti's is pricey and not very good if you ask me. Bryan's is excellent by mucho dinero. Haven't yet tried Drewe's, guess I should.

                3 Replies
                1. re: PumpkinHead

                  I have to add that the Golden Produce people are opening up a butcher just up the street. It's the brown boarded building right next to El Castillito and the had planned on opening a couple weeks ago but of inevitably there are delays. If they are anything like Golden Produce, it'll be a great addition to the neighborhood.

                  1. re: jeffreak

                    As a resident of lower haight, I would have to agree on pretty much everything said--with the inclusion of Ali Baba's Cave-which if you don't mind a little grime makes a great, cheap shawarma as well as some of the best hummus in the city. Beyond Estela's sandwiches, they also make a pretty mean smoothie (spoiler: closed on Sundays)

                    Kate's Kitchen is worth mentioning-but I don't care how good someone's home-style potatoes are, I'm not waiting 40 minutes for breakfast. I typically defer to J's Pot of Soul, which what lacks in fresh ingredients makes up for in....well, hush puppies. (To the right of the framed picture of Whoopi Goldberg is a really neat photo of what the place looked like in the 50's.)

                    And thank God for a decent butcher in the area, all it took was a stroll past Lo-Cost Meat in the afternoon-and the stink was enough to keep me away forever! (though they do stock some offal).

                    And I'm still waiting for the Iraqi restaurant down the street to open up (the sign says something ambiguous like 'first Iraqi restaurant here").

                    El Castillito
                    136 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                    Estela's Fresh Sandwichs
                    250 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    Da Pitt BBQ
                    705 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    Ali Baba's Cave Cafe
                    531 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    Kate's Kitchen
                    471 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    J's Pots of Soul
                    203 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    Lo-Cost Meat Market
                    498 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    1. re: itsapeugeot

                      Different neighborhood, but Yaya is Iraqi and has been around for years in several incarnations.

                      2424 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

                2. In addition to cheap eats:

                  Naan and Curry on Haight near Filmore. Go with the specials as they come with Dal and Naan.

                  The Ethiopian place on Pierce and Haight is also pretty good and relatively inexpensive.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: epicurious_sf

                    The Ethiopian place is Axum, listed above. And yes, it's good and cheap, especially the veggie combos.

                    1. re: Windy

                      Axum cafe has really solid Ethiopian. Which reminds me that Club Waizema is sort of close and has good cheap drinks and Ethiopian as well.

                      Axum Cafe
                      698 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                      Club Waziema
                      543 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                  2. might I also recommend Love N Haight Sandwiches. They're open until 2am and serve huge sandwiches for about $5. They specialize in fake meat, but I'm sure that their real meat is probably good also.

                    Love N Haight
                    553 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mchan02

                      Love and Haight is a good recommendation, but I'm pretty sure they don't carry meat--they do have a bunch of vegan options (most of which are the specialty fake meat sandwiches you're referring to) though.

                      Love N Haight Deli & Cafe
                      553 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                      1. re: itsapeugeot

                        last time i was there my friend got a turkey sandwich...i think they do have some meat

                    2. Welcome to the neighborhood! For deliriously inexpensive produce, try the market at the corner proper of Divis and Page Streets. The produce is often at its peak (be careful of overly ripe items), so you'll want to eat whatever you buy within a day+. I usually head there before dinner, see what looks good and buy accordingly. They often get unusual items, too. One night I picked up a Korean squash the likes of which I've never seen before. The owners told me what it was and how to prepare it.

                      1. I'm kind of surprised that I haven't seen Mythic Pizza on this list yet. The pizza's not phenomenal, but hey, they've got 2$ cheese slices. When I first moved to Hayes Valley, I was so broke I was eating a 2$ slice of cheese nearly every night for dinner!


                        5 Replies
                        1. re: bojyra

                          I agree that mythic is cheap---and at the end of the night it doesn't always matter how good the food is, but a bunch of people I know-myself included-have had bad experiences with the food (on non-drinking nights). The other pizza place down the block past fillmore, Volare, sells a 10" pie for $4.99--but its typically a ghost town in there for good reason--I was lured in once on my way home from work--big mistake...[sigh] if lower haight only had Arinell's.

                          Mythic Pizza
                          551 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                          Volare's Pizza
                          456 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                          1. re: itsapeugeot

                            So where is the good pizza around here? (I like Patxi's but I think they stop selling slices fairly early?)

                            I got a roast beef sandwich at Love 'n Haight and it would probably be better if they *didn't* carry meat; it was awful.

                            1. re: btr

                              honestly btr, I don't think good pizza exists in lower haight. I agree with you about Patxi's in hayes valley, and have enjoyed Cybelle's Pizza on 14th (across from the bar Amber). And getting further away in a few directions, Litte Star on Divisadero and Pauline's on Valencia are both great (Pauline's especially because they have crayons and paper table covers on every table, and their own table wine)--but in terms of good pizza in the immediate lower haight area, I believe we're in the stone ages.

                              Patxi's Chicago Pizza
                              511 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                              Cybelle's Pizza
                              719 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                              Little Star Pizza
                              846 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                              Pauline's Pizza
                              260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                              1. re: itsapeugeot

                                The branch of Little Star on Valencia is closer to some parts of Haight St.

                                Little Star Pizza Valencia
                                400 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  If you actually want to get good pizza in the LH, I recommend ordering delivery from Deja Vu on 16th near Dolores 415.255.1600. Their website is, for some reason, currently unavailable. They're open pretty late - midnight, I think.

                        2. Well I'm glad this thread is revived because I'm a lower Haighter and missed it the first time around. Grocery tip: the Korean-owned produce market at the corner of Page and Diviz. Prices are low though you have to pick around a bit to get good quality. They also have bags of seriously overripe stuff on a rack out front, for the adventurous. I've been known to buy a sack of red bell peppers and grill them with excellent results.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: otis

                            You could also walk up the hill to Courtney's for bountiful fruit. Or out on Church to Natural (Produce? Grocery?) by Blockbuster.