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Jul 16, 2007 07:50 AM

Chowing on the cheap, in and around Union Sq.

A few of us are coming for a conference, staying around Union Square. We love good food, but coming form the Midwest, we are not used to paying outrageous sums for it. So, chowhounds, please share your wisdom. Here are some parameters: don't mind taking a cab, but prefer public transit if it's not walkable. Cheap means entrees in the 15 to 25 range. Chinatown recommendations would be appreciated. (We did already book one dinner at Aziza.) Thanks, in advance, and I apologize if this replicates some prior posting -- my chowhounds search skills aren't great.

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  1. Not many restaurants in SF have entrees over $25, and you can get most places by public transit, so that doesn't narrow it down much at all. Read some of these topics:

    1. One of my favorite restaurants in Union Square area is Anjou,
      44 Campton Pl
      San Francisco, CA 94108
      (415) 392-5373
      I've always thought it was really reasonable for that area. Fixed price lunch is about $16.00.

      I also recommend going to the basement of San Francisco Center on Market, to the new food court (nearest Bloomingdale's). There is a fabulous selection of all types of cuisines. Many SF restaurants have a "branch" there. It's not your father's food court.

      1 Reply
      1. re: caseycm

        The only "branch" of an SF restaurant I can think of in that food court is Out the Door, a spinoff of Slanted Door. Most of the places are chains.

      2. howdy cr,
        get a multi-day muni passport at the information center two block south from union square and a free map. transportation wise, the city is now yours.

        next, robert lauriston is correct when he says most sf entrees are under $25. still, beer, wine, apps, sides, desserts, espresso, tax, tip and so on can push a tab a little further north than you intend. you might want to arbitrarily set a per-person charge for dinner/lunch/whatever that you are comfortable with and share it with us.

        lastly, what kind of food/booze do you guys like? i'm a frequent business visitor to san francisco. the city knows food. if you can articulate your needs, this board will have answers.

        1. Do a search for Belden Lane...just off USq. There's 6-7 restaurants all within the price range you mention.

          As mentioned, most places in SF easily come within range. If you want to stay on foot, North Beach and Chinatown are also w/i walking distance.

          6 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            Thanks to all for your replies! I had lunch at a lovely Basque place on Belden Lane on a prior trip, and it was quite memorable (both for food and eating outdoors among such a nice collection of other restaurants). As for this trip, I think we'd shoot to keep it under $40-45 per person, but one of us (not me, thank heavens) doesn't drink, so I will probably have a glass or 2 of wine and not include that in the 40-45 figure. I think that would typically include 1 app and 1 entree per person, and perhaps a desert to split? As for type of food: we like anything that is creative, quality, and not something that one could get just anywhere, plus something served in a fun/cool environment (which is why I've already picked Aziza). I realize that doesn't narrow it down, other than to say that we won't be going to Gary Danko or places of that ilk, nor Tenderloin ethnic places or Mission taquerias that (from my past visits) offer great food, but a bit short on the environment component. Robert Lauriston's links seem certainly to be pointing us in the right direction (A16, Zuni, Incanto, etc.). Thanks again!!

            1. re: ClevelandRandy

              You mean B44? It's Catalan, not Basque,.

              44 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Ah yes, you're right. It was a few years ago, and I suppose senility is setting in.

                What do you think about Greens Restaurant. Someone in the group had mentioned that one.

                1. re: ClevelandRandy

                  Greens has had its ups and downs over the years. Some recent reports were positive:


              2. re: ClevelandRandy

                i'll second both a16 and zuni. dined at both a few weeks ago. the "30" bus will take you to a16 in the marina district. you can take the "f" to zuni near the civic center.

                1. re: ClevelandRandy

                  A nice place in Chinatown, with nice contemporary environments, is R&G Lounge. Very good food, comfortable...try and get a table upstairs. Also, along the traditional SF eats, Tadich Grill and Sam's Seafood...both pretty close to USq.

              3. I think that Firefly Restaurant would appeal to your group. It's an easy public transportation ride via bus or streetcar.

                Firefly offers a Sun.-Thurs. $35 prix fixe that includes any appetizer, entree and dessert (the desserts are both creative and delicious) plus coffee or tea. The menu is eclectic American and they use local ingredients. I think that their food is delicious -- it's one of my favorite moderately priced restaurants anywhere. Here's a link to a recent menu the one listed is June 27, 2007:


                And don't forget to look at their desserts:


                3 Replies
                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  Firefly's good but it's a little over half a mile from the J streetcar stop.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Here are Firefly's public transportation directions with transfer suggestions:

                    Take BART to the 24th Street Mission Stop
                    Transfer to Muni bus line 48
                    Exit at the corner of 24th and Douglas, right at Firefly’s doorstep
                    Or walk up 24th Street through Noe Valley (about 25 min up hill)

                    Take the Muni Streetcar "J Church"
                    Exit at 24th and Church
                    Transfer to the Muni bus line 48 or walk 6 blocks up 24th (about 15 min up hill)

                    Take the Muni bus line "24 Divisadero" (runs all night) to Castro and 24th Street
                    Transfer to the Muni bus line 48 or walk two blocks up 24th (about 5 min up hill)

                    Also, 3 or 4 people sharing a cab from Union Square to Firefly would make the trip's price not too bad.

                    1. re: Nancy Berry

                      The report:
                      Day 1:
                      Saigon Sandwich: amazing how delicious and filling a sandwich can be had for $2.50. So good I didn't mind eating while walking (something I normally hate doing).
                      Incanto: (Thanks to my City Pass, I easily found my way on the bus and streetcar). Waiter had to explain about half of the menu items, including duck testicles (fries), which I politely declined. The grilled radicchio and roased eggplant side dishes were more memorable than the clam and pork sausage main course. Nice inexpensive wine by the glass. Very comfortable place.
                      Day 2: Dinner @ Greens. Can't think of a more beatiful place to watch the sunset! Corn soup w/ ginger and thai basil was outstanding. The filling of the enchilada was delicious, but the tortilla was so tough it was impossible to cut with a knife! My friend's wild mushroom ravioli was quite good.
                      Day 3: Started at Dottie's True Blue, and really lucked out by scoring a table right away. Had smoked whisky fennel sausage, baby spinich and mushroom scramble, with a slice of griddle fried cornbread and excellent coffee. Had to go back to Saigon Sandwich for lunch and take my incredulous friend! Dinner at Aziza. The kumquat, vodka, mint drink was one of the best cocktails I've ever had. The mediterranean spreads and lamb sausage appetizers were both wonderful. I had escolar for a main course that was cooked perfectly. Beautiful restaurant, friendly, knowledgable service.
                      Day 4: Dinner at Limon. My friend had made other plans, so I dined alone at the bar. Too busy of a place on a Saturday night to dine alone at the bar, but such is life. The appetizer of baby octopus was one of the more unusual things I've eaten -- 6 tiny whole octopi (sp?) atop 3 small delicious mounds of mashed potatoes, on a bed of chimichuri sauce. Wow! The main course was a sliced steak sauteed with onions and french fries (odd) in a rich brown sauce. Why it was served with a side of rice I coudn't guess. Tasty, but but not memorable (my fault -- should have ordered something else).
                      All in all, I'd say say Aziza was best, but everything was wonderful in its way, and I can't wait to come back. Thanks, Chowhounds, for all of your helpful advice.