Inexpensive but not cafeteria style
East of the Tunnel
La Tapatia, Concord
Guadalajara Grill, Concord
Golden Willow, Concord
Siam Orchid, Orinda
Jitr Thai, Alamo
Mary's Pizza Shack, WC (for their superb spag 'n balls made with sausage)
This is without naming chains that I'm not ashamed to admit I like: PF Chang's, Chevys, Old Spaghetti Factory, and CPK.
West of the Tunnel:
Cha Am (for Cha Am Noodles, Chicken with Cashews)
Tuk Tuk Thai (green curry noodles with chicken)
Berkeley Thai House (basil beef)
Le Regal (only for vermicelli with BBQ beef skewers)
Shen Hua (Andy's Chicken)
Kamakura (good teriyaki/tempura) in Alameda
Oh yeah, Sargam. I haven't been there recently but it used to be very good.
There's a third Le Cheval in Walnut Creek. If you're driving through the tunnel there's much better Vietnamese food near the Oakland location.
There's a third Zachary's in San Ramon. Expensive for pizza and not that good a rendition of Chicago style. If you're going through the tunnel for Chicago pizza, drive all the way to SF and go to Little Star.
Shen Hua, Kirin, and Ching Hua (quasi-chain) are relatively expensive bland yuppie-Americanized Chinese food (a la Alice's and Eric's in SF). Surely there's a similar place in Walnut Creek?
La Mediterranee--Holy Land's a block away, cheaper, and serves much tastier food.
Oakland / Berkeley / Albany cheap, great food, table service:
Binh Minh Quan
El Huarache Azteca
Holy Land (Berkeley branch is better)
Reports on all in the archive, use the search.
re: Robert Lauriston
I would add to the Oakland/Berkeley list:
Kang Nam Pho--cheap Korean owned Pho/Rice plate restaurant.
Sahn Maru--Korean (cheaper than Ohgane, which I'm a fan of as well). Has super friendly service--a great place to learn to like Korean food.
LoCoco's--okay red sauce Italian w/ seriously tasty pizza (not super thin crust...chewy and very flavorful).
Cafe Colucci--Ethiopian w/ pretty potent flavors.
Messob--Ethiopian, a bit more delicate than the above.
Uzen--The sushi isn't cheap, but it's not crazy expensive either. Quality is very high. Cooked food like Udon, Donburi, etc. is quite reasonable if you're trying to stay cheap.
LoCoCo's pizza is good, especially the fresh ricotta. I found their pasta mushy and gross. I suspect there are similar old-school places on the other side of the Caldecott.
Note that Lo Coco's in Berkeley is owned by cousins and has a different menu. Their pasta's OK but I'd stick with the pizza.
Uzen's maybe dangerous if you're on a budget.
re: Robert Lauriston
You need to stick w/ cooked food to stay on a budget at Uzen. Maybe have some maki or nigiri as an app., but don't plan to fill up on it as a main. Happily, most of the cooked food is good. The Udon is excellent. The Tonkatsu is very nice. The Tempura is just fine. The Oyako Don is nice too.