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...
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.
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
2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Tajine Moroccan Restaurant
1653 Polk St, San Francisco, CA
791 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109
612 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109
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
1468 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109
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/
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Trattoria Contadina is great Italian Food and really reasonable if you stick with pasta and forgo the meat entrees. Esperpento is in the Mission district and is awesome for cheap yummy tapas and great sangria. Asqew is a chain (of 4) and has fantastic yummy, filling food for cheap (and they have beer and wine for the grown-ups). Home isn't too $$ either. Hope that gives you a good start, looks like you are getting lots of responses! Check out citysearch.com and look at their cheap eats section for Best Of. They usually have some good thoughts too!