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Jun 22, 2009 02:21 PM

CHEAP eats in SF/Berkeley

I am visiting SF next week and will be there for 3 days. I am travelling on a budget but want to experince great local food. I would prefer local places, off the beaten path, non-touristy.

I would like to find a great sushi place, or chinese place, or mexican place, or some other ethic cuisine that will blow me away. I have read previous posts on this subject, but they were a year or two old, and I know with cheap eat places, they might not be around.

So give me suggestions with neighborhood for lunch or dinner, or even breakfast if you have any. If you have some thoughts for Berkeley, let me know as well.

For me, cheap eats is $10-$15 per person.

thanks. looking forward to finding out some great places.

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    1. re: wolfe

      As a visitor to SF, I think Larkin Express would fall into your cheap "ethnic" category nicely. We don't have any Burmese here in Vancouver to compare with (maybe part of why we have found it so satisfying) but I'd be hard pressed to find something I'd like to eat more than their tea-leaf salad. And the relatively recent addition of samusa soup made me very happy -- I liked it better than the version at Pagan which had a lot of unnecessary lettuce in it. It is in an area that locals sometimes warn tourists off but we have never had problems there. It is also mainly a daytime destination, though I believe it is now open till 8-ish on Friday and Saturday.

      Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
      452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      1. re: grayelf

        Open till 8 on Friday and Saturday, also the name is now Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen. Tea leaf salad and moh hinga are still $5.50 each. Half a dozen combo platters get you two or three items, rice, and tea for $5.50 to $8.50 ($1 more after 3pm).

        Poc-Chuc (Yucatecan) is another place with great food in that price range.

        Cheese Board Pizza for a dirt-cheap, very Berkeley experience.

        Cheese Board Pizza
        1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

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

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          new hours: Monday 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, Tuesday thru Saturday 10:30 am - 8:30 pm. Closed Sunday. Go now and enjoy 10% off your dinner tab. $2 beers Happy Hour from 4 pm to 6 pm: Fat Tire/Corona/Tsingtao/Heineken

          1. re: Cynsa

            Nice! Thanks for that, Cynsa. Am I mixing things up here -- I thought I read/heard that happy hours are not kosher in SF?

            1. re: grayelf

              Maybe you're confusing happy hours with BYOB? The latter's illegal in California if the place doesn't have a liquor license.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                You're right, thanks, and for clarifying how BYOB works in CA as well.

        2. re: grayelf

          Second Larkin Express. Great food for great prices. I'm now completely enamored with their corn and onion side...

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. What days are you planning to be in Berkeley and what days are you planning to be in SF? Will you have a car?

          The Chow Digest is a good thing to read for recent tips.

          It covers the whole Bay Area, but if you scroll through it you will see lots of recs for different places in Berkeley and SF like this one for falafel

          Since you are from Chicago, pizza and Mexican you might want to skip here ... unless you want Cal Pizza

          6 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I will bein Berkeley on Monday and SF on Tuesday-Thursday.

            Going to One Market for our nice meal. any thoughts?

            Heard good things about Sai Jai Thai, anyone confirm.

            If you had to choose between Larkin Express and Burma Super Star?

            1. re: chiguy13

              The food at Larkin Express is a big step up from Burma Superstar, but it's lunch only on Tuesday through Thursday, Burma Superstar's open for dinner.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                But you will easily spend double at Burma than you would at Larkin. And it is hardly twice as good...

              2. re: chiguy13

                One Market is fine, but it would not be my choice for a one nice meal in SF.

                1. re: JasmineG

                  I have to agree. It is the last place I would send someone for a nice meal. It is the type of place that people take clients for lunch and dinner. It is part of a restaurant group by Bradley Ogden who has long ago sold his soul for a comfy income ... this is from someone who was almost a groupie of this chef when he started. If you are in Berkely, I'd use that nice dinner for the Cafe at Chez Panisse.

                2. re: chiguy13

                  Sai Jai is just ok. I think Lers Ros is significantly better.

              3. Two good restaurants in Berkeley specialising in cuisines you might not get much of in Chicago are --

                Jayakarta (Indonesian): The nasi padang rice plate is a logical starting point for adventurous newcomers (chili-fried egg! sator beans! the rice itself sometimes sucks though), or else get something wrapped in a banana leaf: optimally, a whole fish.

                Vik's (Indian chaat/snacks): If you've had first-rate chaat elsewhere, you'll find nits to pick about this place. Otherwise, order the lamb baida roti and something with the garbanzo chutney and be very satisfied. Wider menu on weekends. (NB: Vik's is moving in the very near future, but I think that's after your trip.)

                Vik's Chaat House
                2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

                Jayakarta Restaurant
                2026 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                1. Another thought if you don't want to do Chez Panisse is Incanto's special $30 three-course monday night dinner. Here's the report for week one

                  If you are on University Ave, stop by Chocoletier Blue. .He was a pastry chef who worked at Charlie Trotter and opened a chocolate shop here. The summer flavors are here and the stand outs are the raspberr and the smores. From the ongoing flavors the espresso is my favorite. For a $2 truffle, you can buy a piece of the best of the best. The cold chocolate drink is amazing too.