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Cheap, casual, and very good around Union Square?

Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 09:34 AM

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. Pei RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 09:42 AM

    $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. Robert Lauriston RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 10:42 AM

      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
        Pei RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 24, 2009 04:35 PM

        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. Ruth Lafler RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 11:01 AM

        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
          sfbing RE: Ruth Lafler Jun 24, 2009 09:21 PM

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

        2. davina RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 04:49 PM

          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
            Pei RE: davina Jun 24, 2009 05:02 PM

            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
              davina RE: Pei Jun 25, 2009 08:52 AM

              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. manraysky RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 04:58 PM

            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

            1. w
              whiner RE: Dedicated Fresser Jun 24, 2009 06:40 PM

              Depending upon your deffinition of cheap and "non-touristy", you may be asking for more than we have at Union Square. Sure, people are sending you to the restaurants in the nearest parts of the Tenderloin, but I think you might be happier elsewhere.

              1 Reply
              1. re: whiner
                Pei RE: whiner Jun 24, 2009 10:05 PM

                I know people's tolerance levels vary, but I don't consider any of the places mentioned to be "Tenderloin" at all. Pearl's might be the closest since it's the furthest west, or Sultan because it's on O'Farrell, but everything else is solidly Union Square or perhaps borderline Financial District. That's not to say there are much better food neighborhoods in SF for those willing to travel, but for a visitor who has not exhausted Union Square I'm sure a handful of interesting cheap eats can be had.

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