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Jun 24, 2009 09:34 AM

Cheap, casual, and very good around Union Square?

I'm coming to San Francisco from out of town, staying near Union Square (Powell and Bush), and seek cheap, casual, nonchain, nontouristy, and very good places for lunch and dinner within a short walk. I'm well aware of such places that exist beyond a short walk, so no need to suggest other neighborhoods, which I will get to anyway.

I'd be eating alone, casually dressed, in my 20s, looking lonely (kidding). This is only my second trip -- on my first trip I noticed a plethora of pricey, not casual places in the area where it didn't look like I'd be so welcomed.

Or should I just give up before I start, and head straight to other neighborhoods like the Mission? (which I will do anyway, and I know where to head, but this post is an attempt to cover the waterfront (though not literally)).

Thanks in advance!

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  1. $5 for a gyro sandwich at Theatre Too on Sutter, just a little west of Powell. It's mostly a take-out cafe but there are a few two tops and usually a couple of people eating alone. Not the best gyro sandwich you'll get, but I place it at above average overall and pretty darned good for the price. I hear the salads and coffee are good too.

    Buffalo burger, medium rare, at Pearl's. Or a milkshake. Or a bowl of chili.

    How short is a short walk? Waterbar is a little over a mile away, on the waterfront, and
    does $1 happy hour oysters and $5 cocktails which tend to be great. Epic Roasthouse next door also has some nice happy hour food for under $5.

    Then there's a list of places that I wouldn't call very good and/or very cheap, but are serviceable: Asuka Ramen, Rika Sushi, Ryoko's, Cocobang, Grand Cafe, any of the curry houses or Thai places.

    And despite your experience last time, don't shy away from dining solo wherever looks good to you. SF is full of solo diners and restaurants are usually quite welcoming.

    399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

    Pearl's Deluxe Burgers
    708 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Theatre Too Cafe
    539 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA

    1. If heading to the Mission etc. is an option, yes.

      Paladar. Some other options:

      Waterbar and Epic are very expensive outside of happy hour specials.

      Paladar Cafe Cubano
      329 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Muracci's next door to Paladar is also quite good if you like Japanese curry over rice with a deep fried pork cutlet.

        What do people think about Ayola Greek? There's one next door to Paladar as well but I have never been.

        Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill
        307 Kearny St, San Francisco, Ca

      2. Sultan is a cut above the other curry houses in quality. If you walk down Bush toward the Financial District there are lots of cheap(er) lunch places.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Second Sultan. Also, Out the Door in Westfield or Canteen for a splurge. Prices for Canteen at brunch aren't bad at all.

        2. You should head to the Mission, yes -- everyone should. But for your purposes, in Union Square, Katana-Ya is where I'd go. Geary and Mason. Great ramen, with delicious, rich broth -- salt, shoyu, or miso varieties. I can't vouch for the other menu items.

          430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

          2 Replies
          1. re: davina

            Really? Last time I went it was outright disappointing with oily off-flavored broth (I'm comparing to a few years ago, when it was quite good). Maybe I need to try again, but as of a few months ago I preferred Asuka on Bush by a long shot, plus Asuka has a nice fried rice.

            1. re: Pei

              Oh, I'm sorry to hear that -- I haven't been in about a year, I guess. We used to go whenever we went to ACT but new baby=no plays.

          2. I really like the Irish Bank. The menu is pretty much pub basic, but it's well done, and the vibe is nice there. It's laid back and friendly, not at all a rowdy frat boy kind of place.


            Irish Bank Bar and Restaurant
            10 Mark Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108