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Over-budget already

Arriving in SF tomorrow (staying in hotel in Union Sq) with 2 teenagers (one who could easily bankrupt me if I let her with her sushi habit and the other whose idea of the perfect meal would be an in n out burger followed by a Denny's chaser) after 4 days in Monterey area and points south. We are already seriously over budget food-wise. Can anyone make recommendations for very reasonable fare (burgers, pizza, Thai, pasta, roast chicken, etc., wish it could be Zuni, but that's not in the cards for this trip). I knew even before we left Boston that food could not be the focus given the cost of travel, tickets to the sights, hotels, etc. etc. I feel guilty that I didn't do more research on this in advance...

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  1. You can find great, cheap Vietnamese in Little Saigon (Larkin between Eddy and Turk, approximately). My favorite is Bodega Bistro. There are a couple of great Thai places around there. Mekong Thai on Larkin at O'Farrell is delicious and cheap. As is Thai House Express at Geary and Larkin. Be aware that this neighborhood is rather unsavory, apart from the food. Also right down the street is some of the best Pakistani food in the city, at Lahore Karahi. Also very inexpensive.

    Inexpensive Mexican and Latin American food is abundant in the Mission. La Taqueria is supposed to be great, although I've never been. El Toro, La Cumbre, and Mariachi's are all within a few blocks on Valencia Street (around 16th).

    Emmy's Spaghetti Shack in the Outer Mission is excellent for a $9.50 huge serving of spaghetti and meatballs.

    The Inner Richmond is overflowing with good Chinese food. Do a search on the boards for this.

    If you don't want to go to the Mission Area and want to venture north, Polk Street has some decent food. Thai Spice at Polk and Clay is reliable, though not mind-blowing. Nick's Crispy Tacos has some of my favorite fish tacos. U-Lee at Jackson and Hyde has excellent Chinese food for very cheap. There have been some positive reports on the boards for Cafe Ya Bon (Polk and Bush) which opened recently, as well as Tajine.

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    Bodega Bistro
    607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Thai House Express
    901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
    18 Virginia Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

    La Taqueria
    2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Tajine Moroccan Restaurant
    1653 Polk St, San Francisco, CA

    Mekong Restaurant
    791 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Lahore Karahi
    612 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Mariachi's Taqueria
    508 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    La Cumbre Taqueria
    515 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    El Toro Taqueria
    598 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Thai Spice Restaurant
    1730 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Nick's Crispy Tacos
    1500 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94109

    U-Lee Restaurant
    1468 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    3 Replies
    1. re: mchan02

      Nice list and recs...definitely agree on Asian/Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and taquerias can be huge values and way tasty. Ah yes and U-Lee...I always like this place for down home Canto and because it's near my grandma's place.

      I'd skip Nick's...way too pricey and only average compared to the other taquerias. 2 tacos x $5 + $2.00 for a drink = $12.00 x 4 = $48.00...sure it's cheaper but the Mission would be less and tastier.

      To the visitor from Beantown, you might check this, the annual bargain bites from the SF Chron: http://sfgate.com/food/bargains/

      1. re: mchan02

        I would add Mediterranean Spirit at Polk and Bush for Middle Eastern cuisine to that list. I agree with ML8000 that Nick's is needlessly pricey; there's an outpost of revered Taqueria Cancun on one of the seedier blocks of Market St. (1013 Market, around the corner from the controverial Tu Lan, q.v.).

        I don't buy into the "nothing-good-in-Chinatown" snobbery; there's plenty of good cheap Chinese food there. Utopia Cafe on Waverly Place is good for lunch or dinner and San Sun at 941 Stockton is a great hearty cheap eats place that flies under the radar. Hing Lung on Broadway is a favorite for jook, and there is good cheap dim sum galore. Try Gold Mountain on Broadway or Lichee Garden for full service dim sum, or check out the many walkaway dim sum storefronts.

        For your second daughter's baser instincts, grabbing a slice of Blondie's prototypically gooey American-style pizza near Powell and Market is something of an institution, especially for us long-in-the-tooth Cal alumni. I don't know from burgers, but there IS an In-n-Out at Fisherman's Wharf, right next to Hooters.

        1. re: mchan02

          And if you want to grab something and leave the neighborhood, you can grab a banh mi from Saigon Sandwich, Baguette Express, Wrap Delight or Lee's Sandwiches for $2.50 each.

        2. L'Osteria del Forno. Maybe the best value in the city. In North Beach -- bonus for tourists. No reservations. Get the pork roast and the porcini pizza.

          1. there is a great sushi place on sutter and mason called Akikko (next to a parking garage, across from a gym, near marine's memorial) it is very small (seats 15 or so) but it is a great little family run sushi place. It is probably the best that I have ever had, not to mention it is not expensive at all. Hubby and I can got, get three rolls, and be overly stuffed, walking out with it being under $30 including drinks.and tip.

            1. Thank you all for these great recommendations. We're on our way now with a pit stop in Pescardero...I hope Durante's lives up to its write up in the CA Rough Guide.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Runningmom

                I think you mean Duartes. Chowhounders are all thumbs (up) when it come to the pies from Duartes. Don't know about the other food.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  ummm
                  Duarte's food is AWFUL
                  but the deserts are good.
                  but really, the food is totally not worth the stop.
                  i would drive up the road to san gregorio and get sandwiches from the market "in town" which is basically an intersection.

                  1. re: jupiter

                    The fabled artichoke soup does not live up to its reputation?

                    1. re: Paul H

                      i have to admit, that i did not have the soup. i guess i should have.
                      i had the deep fried artichoke hearts. tasted like they were frozen and then dumped in the deep fryer and way over fried.
                      then we had a very unmemorable burger, salad, some other thing i cant remember, and then we had ollallieberry pie a la mode. now THAT was good!

                      1. re: jupiter

                        Duarte's is known for seafood -- nobody recommends it for burgers. Also, order the soup "half and half," i.e. half artichoke and half chile each poured into half of the same bowl. And simple is best at Duarte's -- fish simply done.

                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                          well, to be honest, the salad was a dungeness crab salad and was pretty bleah
                          and i think that the other dish was a very boring version of sand dabs. and i like sand dabs.
                          but not there.
                          the burger was for my s.o. that doesn't eat fish.
                          but the pie was definitely very delicious.
                          i could have just gone at a bad time, on a bad day, etc...
                          but my experience was definitely not one i would return for. oh well.

                    2. re: jupiter

                      I was just there yesterday (the 26th) and had fried smelt, coleslaw, and artichoke bottoms with aioli (and pie, of course). It was all very good. I have always enjoyed the non-pie food I've eaten there.