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Dec 4, 2008 09:24 AM

Top SF Cheap Eats/Dives of 2008

Hey All,
I used to live in the city but now I just work here. I feel like I do not have a finger on the pulse of the best cheap eats (my definition= 2 persons under 20 Bucks.

My wife and I are fearless. The atmosphere can be subpar if the food is good. Long fav's included: Truly Mediterranean, El Farolito, Pho Hoa (Clement St), Tu Lan (If only for the curry fried rice), and El Tonayense (Truck @ BestBuy for Cuban Sanwiches)

What are the new best dives?

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    1. re: wolfe

      Thanks, yes saw this and the others posts.
      To clarify, I was a little dissatisfied with those as there was not much that was new. I was looking for best picks, new discoveries...but that is my fault for not being clear.

      Poc Choc sounds interesting. There is suppose to be some donut place int he mishion now like Voodoo Donut in Portland Or? Serves crazy combos?

        1. re: roster

          Poc Chuc isn't exactly cheap unless you flip the menu over and order from the tacos and other cheapie items. The main entrees are actually pretty steep considering. It's all very good tasting.

          1. re: sugartoof

            Not that it hasn't been discussed before, but I'm always happy to say try Pastores, but be sure to call and make sure Irma is open.

            Pastores Restaurant
            3486 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1. re: sugartoof

              IMO Poc Chuc's mains are actually quite reasonable for the quality of the food. Not steep at all. This is cooking at a level that you just won't find at most other Mexican restaurants in the City. (though yes, you can keep it cheap by the OPs definition (2 people for less than $20) by sticking to antojitos).

              Poc Chuc
              2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              1. re: susancinsf

                Once you get into the $18+ price range for a single entree, you're now competing against a number of restaurants with nicer dining rooms, and more elaborate menus, who would never be categorized as "cheap eats". You may love the food, and think it's a good value, but if you really want to keep it on the cheap eats side, don't miss the back of the menu (because I almost did).

                You do have to watch what you order if you're eating on the cheap, and it's unfortunate for Poc Chuc that they are so miscategorized because I bet those $18 dishes are really good.

            2. re: roster

              Dynamo is polar opposite of cheap/dive. Yuppie to the Nth degree. Yes, I know that a donut is not a major investment, but it is also not a meal.

              For Yucatan, I really like super divey El Maya Yucatan near 16th & Mission (near BART station on west side of the street). I have *loved* Poc Chuc in the past and the last 2 times were very disappointing.

              I enthusiastically second Yamo.

              1. re: roster

                You want divey and donuts and GOOD, go to Bob's...the best in SF. It's open 24hrs. Late night, before or after the bar rush, it's very, very divey, bad fluorescent light, and the whole deal. During the day however it's just an old donut shop. The people that work there however are very nice.

                Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop
                1621 Polk St, San Francisco, CA

                1. re: roster

                  Thanks, yes saw this and the others posts.
                  To clarify, I was a little dissatisfied with those as there was not much that was new.

                  On re-reading this just made me wonder. Don't dives develop? How do you open a new dive? Is that the owner's intent? Is that a branch of restaurant design? How do you get a business loan? "I need money to open a dive."

                  1. re: wolfe

                    Broken Record has a new couple in charge of the kitchen. They're doing fun bar food - bacon-wrapped corn dogs, wild game sausages and Texas Queso.

                    Even though the bar was opened last year, I'd say it qualifies as new since the food is a new development.

                    1. re: larochelle

                      That seems to be a trend lately, new owners adding food to long-time bars. That was the case with Tee Off. And really the same deal with Yats which was a recent addition to that long time bar. Seems like a good strategy in this economy ... movin on down ... to the dive bar ... to the un-luxe table with a sigh ... movin on down ... to the dive bar ... we no longer have a piece of the pie.

                      Responding elsewhere to Poc Chuc being too pricy to qualify, within the last year or so a number of Yucatecan joints have opened ... most of which fall into the bargain basement category such as Comida Yucatan y City Pizza, Oxkutzcab , Yucatasia, Puquito and Tunisia Cuisine Comida Yucateca Tekaxena

                      So far no one has reported on the Tunsian food on that last restaurant which is only served in the evening.

                      1. re: rworange

                        What I think is a good strategy in this economy, as far as Yats and Mission Street Food go, is leasing out a kitchen in an existing business. So much cheaper than opening your own restaurant, and it benefits the existing restaurant/bar. I think it's a cool idea.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Speaking of pie, RiteSpot now serves pie right at the bar! They have a really cute antique pie hutch, home made pies, and they cut you a slice right there at the bar. They have a cute little home made sign "we have pie" on the door right when you come in. I didn't taste it but the apple looked really great, the pumpkin a little shrunken.

                          Oh, and they're a dive.

                          So I have no idea what you're saying, rworange, about not having a piece of the pie at a dive bar. Some dive bars serve very nice pie.

                          Rite-Spot Cafe
                          2099 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            rworange was making a joke by rewriting the lyrics to The Jeffersons theme song -- instead of "moving on up" because of the recession, we're all scaling back. So the pie is a piece of the American Dream, not actual pie.

                            I thought it was pretty clever.

                            1. re: larochelle

                              Thomas or George? Did our founding fathers even have theme songs?

                              1. re: larochelle

                                Actually, I got rworange's joke, thought it was clever, and thought a clever response necessary.

                  2. You might read through the Chow Digest

                    Though it covers the entire Bay Area, you can find lots of SF stuff such as Yat's (really sub par atmosphere),

                    In SF, one of my favorite dive bars has been Tee Off in the Richmond

                    Where else can you get kangaroo for about $10 ... where else can you get kangaroo period. There's more standard stuff though like mac and cheese.

                    One place that is high on my list to try is Darren's Cafe in ... of all places ... no, I won't tell you immediately. It is Vietnamese with American breakfasts. The chicken fried steak and Italian lovers omelet I've read are good. Ok, it is in Fisherman's Wharf.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: rworange

                      The atmosphere at Yats is not subpar in any way. No, there aren't any Design Within Reach chandeliers, but the bar is woody and old fashioned and the place is clean. You eat your meal at a lovely solid wood table in a very comfortable setting.

                      I had breakfast at La Note in Berkeley last weekend, if you want to talk about subpar setting.

                      1. re: Atomica

                        Atomica, we have different standards. There are places I can imagine my mother pulling me out of by the ear and telling me how disappointed she is that I went there. Yat's is located in a dive bar like that. I felt guilty even sitting in there waiting for my order. To portray it in any other way is unfair. If I were taking pictures for a dictionary for dive bars, I would use this place. That is not to say the staff is unfriendly or the barflies ... uh... patrons are not colorful ... but still ... we are talking pin ball machines and pool tables.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I adore dives and I frequent them when I can. That place is just not divey in my book. Maybe rundown, a little. Then again, we're planning to get a vintage pinball machine for our home, so yes, we have different standards. And to make this about food, I am very remiss about not reporting on our Yats turkey. Must do that.

                          (It's Yats, everyone, not Yat's.)

                        2. re: Atomica

                          Please expand upon the "subpar setting" at La Note, thanks.

                          1. re: sydthekyd

                            Tables extremely squished together so you can't move your arms or put your belongings anywhere (like a coat--it was a very chilly morning). Then too much food badly placed on a very small plate, when you don't have much room to move your arms around, it's just supremely uncomfortable. For the outrageous prices they charge for breakfast, I expect more comfort.

                            1. re: Atomica

                              Me, I just like my pancakes cooked all the way through.

                              Venus, a couple of doors north, has a better, cheaper
                              brunch with no waiting.

                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                Actually, the pancakes were really tough and leaden, now that you mention it. Thank you for the tip on Venus.

                      2. Have tried Yamo? it is an excellent and divey burmese joint at 18th near Mission. There is only counter seating and they don't server alcohol (but you could probably bring your own). The two ladies who run it are friendly and cook your food up fresh in front of you. The noodle dishes are the way to go here -- start with the house noodles and then try other things. The flavors are robust and the quality is good.

                        3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. Not new, but my all time favorite dive is Red's Java House (not to be confused with The Java House at pier 40) on The Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge. Great fish and chips (Mon.-Fri. only) for $6.99 and (at least on week-ends) the best corned beef hash in the world. Large chunks of meat with cubed spuds and crunchy bits throughout. Full bar/beer-"garden" in the back. Breakfast/lunch only.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: little big al

                            To help alleviate the confusion a place link would be helpful. I, silly me, didn't realize there were 2.

                            476 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

                            1. re: wolfe

                              Pier 30 sounds right, but for some reason the map is screwy, putting Red's south of Shi...I mean Islais Creek. It's on Embarcadero in the shadow of the bridge (figuratively).

                              1. re: little big al

                                It gets worse. Google gives the address as Reds Java House‎ 30 Pier, San Francisco, CA‎ and shows it on the map on pier 45 near the Pampanito SS383.

                            2. Gotta toss Rosamundes in there. Theres nothing better that a Happy Hour beer at Toronado and a sausage for under 10 bucks.