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