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Jan 12, 2008 02:56 PM

Cheap or Inexpensive Restaurants in San Francisco?

My girlfriend and I are visiting San Francisco January 19-21 from LA. We'll probably be staying somewhere toward the center of the city but will be around Fisherman's wharf and the like most of our trip. Neither of us can really afford that much, so I'm wondering if anyone can recommend good places that would be less than $50 for the two of us for a whole meal (with tip and tax). We don't mind walking/taking the bus/BART to get somewhere, so anywhere in San Francisco would be fine. In terms of food, we'd probably prefer seafood (especially local) and the only meat we eat is chicken, but we do eat just about every cuisine around and will have no major preference. We also usually don't order appetizers or desserts (and almost never wine) so that $50 can be mostly for the entrees (unless there's some great appetizers/desserts). That number is also not fixed - if it can be lower, great, but if some place is absolutely amazing but it will cost $60, its not the end of the world. We also don't care that much about ambiance or the like - we'd rather spend the money on better food.


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  1. These are inexpensive and fun.

    From FW walk up Columbus to Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store

    A few more blocks to Chinatown for Sam Woh.
    813 Washington St, San Francisco 94108
    Btwn Grant Ave & Waverly Pl

    17 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      A few downhill reports on Mario's --- have you been there recently?

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Sometime last summer after Chuckles warning I took my daughter and had no problems with service or the meal. Turkey for me and veggie without cheese for vegan. Must have been my day as I got the parking space on the Union Street side

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          it's nothing insanely special, but they use really good local focaccio.
          i much prefer momma's on the other side of the park for a casual lunch/brunch or moose's for something a little more formal (although the new revamping sounds like a zoo).

          Some other sugestions might be Gialina's for pizza in Glen Park, which is accessible by Bart.

          Delfina's for pizza is another option, though your best bet is at lunch when it's less crowded. Right at the corner is Tartine for desserts, coffee, pastries, and other goodies. You can also visit Bi Rite market for some local gourmet items, and a bit of window shopping while on your way to their ice cream shop. All of those are within a block of each other, and fit well within your budget, so that stretch of food is a no brainer suggestion. Also, walk another block to Valencia and you're not far from Lucca Raviola, which is an old Italian specialty market. Not far from there is Ritual Coffee, where they roast their own beans in the back, and you can get mini cupcakes with soy icing for a buck. If the crowds too young or arty for you, keep walking and you'll be near indian ice cream (not as good as Mashti Malones, but still...) and lots of great Mexican food in the Mission. There's also Bar Tartine or crepes and cider at Ti Couz on 16th at Valencia.

            1. re: wolfe

              Why is that? You aren't confusing it with the Washbag, are you (also once owned by Ed Moose)?

                1. re: wolfe

                  Moose's has a new chef, new decor, and new owners .... so it's very possible that it's not an option anymore since they might as well change the name at this point. It's still there though.

            2. re: sugartoof

              I've been wanting to try Bar Tartine myself as it is highly recommended by this board. How is their pricing since you only recommended the bakery and not the restaurant (lunch/dinner)? I have never been to the Indian ice cream place but have to chuckle at your Mashti Malones comment because I heard SOO much about it on the L.A. board but only to be disappointed when I finally tried the ginger rosewater:-) Not that it was bad, just not great. I just tried the pistachio ice cream at Milk, yum. Perhaps another flavor at Mashti's?

              1. re: ceekskat

                It is so frustrating that Bar Tartine does not have a stand alone website from the bakery (and therefore no menu for the restaurant). If you go here and click on on screen menu, you can see a menu of theirs, but I'm not sure what the date is on that menu. The prices there are in the high teens to mid 20s for entrees, and I haven't been there for dinner recently, so I'm not sure how accurate that is. I can highly recommend brunch, though, and there the entrees are around $7 to $14.

                1. re: ceekskat

                  Oh I wouldn't defend Mashti's, I just know the LA folks aren't going to be too impressed by the Valencia place in comparison. Truthfully, I suspect they get their stuff imported from Mashti's or somewhere else anyway. The Cardomon, and Safron flavors are usually the best. Rosewater can taste like soap, I think. They're now selling pints of Mashtis' at Molly Stone's, but it didn't live up to my memory of it.

                  I haven't tried Bar Tartine yet, but I love the bakery, and it's perfect when paired with Delfina.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                Do they actually sell cigars, and, if so, can they be smoked in there?
                (Im guessing "no" on both counts.)

                1. re: Anonimo

                  the sale of cigars have not been sold there since California's anti-smoking law was enacted in 1998

                  1. re: Lori SF

                    Were cigars for sale there before '98? I really just remember coffee, and then some pre-made grilled vegetable sandwiches sitting on the bar.... but I only went during the day.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      They may of had some behind the counter forsale as well as cigs before 1998.. I think the cigar smoking predate 1971 when Mario Crismani bought the place...It was a men's card club at the turn of the century (no woman allowed) a place where they smoked cigars, played cards and play a few games.

              3. re: wolfe

                Try Caffe Sport on Green St. in North Beach. It has been there forever and is really very good. Certainly within your price range. Really good seafood. Or go half a block down the street to Golden Boy pizza and get a couple of slices of pizza and a beer for a super cheap meal.

                I agree with wolfe on Mario's, but I must say that I have had way too many disappointing meals at Sam Wo's to recommend it.

                1. re: paellaguy

                  How could you be disappointed? I never expected it to be great just cheap and filling. I did like the raw fish salad.

                  1. re: paellaguy

                    "way too many disappointing meals"

                    How many does it take to learn not to go back, or to lower one's expectations?

                2. Pauline's Pizza or Litttle Star would be fun

                  Pauline's Pizza
                  260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  Little Star Pizza Valencia
                  400 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  1. And Osteria Del Forno in North Beach

                    L'Osteria del Forno
                    519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    Pauline's Pizza
                    260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                    Little Star Pizza Valencia
                    400 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Calvinist

                      I second all three places.

                      You can also get an excellent meal at one of these charming spots-

                      Go to SPQR on Fillmore at Pine. You could order the ANTIPASTI
                      and have their housemade pasta for under that amout.

                      Pesce - on Polk at Green, good Italian seafood and pasta dishes.

                    2. Pasta Pomodoro is a small chain of Italian restaurants in the Bay Area. There are 5 locations in San Francisco. You can have lunch there for under $10 and dinner for well under $20 person, without wine. The portions are good-sized and I have always found the food there to be pretty darn good (and I eat a lot of Italian food!).

                      Locations are: 3611 California St, 816 Irving St, 2304 Market St, 655 Union St, 1875 Union St.

                      1. Try Angkor Borei: It's really good and cheap enough that you'll be able to afford another more expensive place. There are a lot of good places near 16th and Valencia, too. Cheapish.