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Need affordable dinner spot - SOMA/Downtown Thursday night

  • jdem Sep 1, 2009 09:36 AM

Needs:
-Dinner spot this Thursday night
-Around $20-25/pp
-Location in/around/near/walkable to Mont. St. BART
-Good food
-Space for about 7 people (minimal wait time, or takes a late reservation)

Wants
-No 'chain' places
-A real SF experience (half are from NYC)
-Preferably has table service (we want to visit together - not at a grab & go place.)
-Good food

Our crowd of seven is pretty open to all cuisines. We have one picky eater, but so long as we don't do sushi - she's OK.

Got ideas?

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  1. $25/pp prices you out of Gitane, Salt House, Yank Sing. You might look at the belden place options (Plouf), but they're a little further away and also pricier than your range - but those would be my picks if you're going to relax the price constraint a bit.

    If you stick with $20 out-the-door, I think your only option is Henry's Hunan. Formica tables, 7 people no problem, but soild hunan at the right price. Don't pretend it's the ritz!

    $20/pp in any part of SF is tough - but that part of town is particularly tough. If you relax the location constraint you'd have better luck - for example, there was that recent post about Speiskammer's recession menu, makes it sound like it would work.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      Henry's Hunan was my first thought, also. The food is very solid, and you will get out for your budget or less.

      -----
      Henry's Hunan Restaurant
      110 Natoma St, San Francisco, CA 94105

    2. You might consider walking to the Tenderloin to check out some of the Indian-Pakistani restaurants there. It's probably a 10 minute walk. Sultan is highly recommended on the board (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/644761). It is nothing fancy and the room is drab, but the food is good and you can sit by the window to observe the street scene. Last time I was there they let you BYOB with no corkage.

      The Slanted Door inside the Westfield Mall is right next to the underground entrance to Powell BART. You could probably get away with $25 pp.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Mari

        The restaurant in the Westfield Mall is Out the Door.

        1. re: Mari

          Good suggestion. That's not much of a walk for a NYer! Unfortunately, I can't think of any place in that price range that's a "real SF experience."

          Oh wait, how about Town's End? Again, not much of a walk for a NYer.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Townsend's pretty far and dinner's not as good as brunch. They'd be better off going to Chinatown if they're going to walk.

        2. B Restaurant on top of Yerba Buena is probably the best choice in that price range. They don't have a menu for that location online but menupages has one:

          http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...

          Pazzia, Schroeder's, and Chaat Cafe might also work.

          -----
          B Restaurant & Bar
          720 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          Schroeder's Cafe
          240 Front St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          Pazzia Restaurant
          337 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          Cafe Chaat
          320 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          1. Tropisueno is pretty good and could probably take a group of 7 without a problem.

            -----
            Tropisueno
            75 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, CA 94103

            4 Replies
            1. re: tvham

              I wanted to thank you for this post. I had planned a birthday dinner at Tajine and got a call on Thursday afternoon that they had closed suddenly thanks to a problem with their lease.

              That left me scrambling to find a moderately priced restaurant that could accommodate 13 including 4 kids on a Saturday night. And I'd promised the kids they could eat with their hands:)

              I'd originally considered Tony's Pizza, only to be scooped by a Bauer review in the Sunday Chronicle the week before.

              So Tropisueño it was. We ate family style and shared a variety of appetizers and 5 entrees. Service was attentive and very friendly.

              Highlights: fried plantains with black beans, camerones al mojo de ajo (although I prefer mine with a little more sear and a little less butter), vegetarian chile relleno, a sweet but delicious chicken mole, spicy guacamole, and delectable warm thin tortilla chips. I heard rumors of a great chicken taco from the far end of the table, and the empanadas de hongo were apparently very good.

              Less successful: albondigas, chile relleno stuffed with picadillo, poc chuc. I didn't try the vegetarian pozole, but the vegetarians liked it. We split on the ceviche; several people really liked it. I prefer a Peruvian style with just fish and marinades, rather than a finer chop with scallops.

              Prices are very reasonable: starters are $7-12, entrees $11-20 including rice and beans and tortillas, and mostly the portions are huge.

              The wine list is mostly Chilean and Argentine, with a lot of well priced wines under $35. Good luck finding that anywhere near Moscone! We drank an old vines Malbec from Mendoza that I thought went well wit the food. Margaritas are $8 and not that special. In fact I preferred the virgin limeade with the fresh juice.

              Great place for a group, and the decor is tasteful and airy. 6-8 people would have been easier than 14, since it's a long skinny table, but that's minor. The area just outside by the Contemporary Jewish Museum has pretty good people watching, if you can snag a table by the window.

              My only complaint is that I mentioned at least four times it was my birthday including when I made the reservation as well as when I arrived and introduced myself to the host. But it was only after a bunch of employees serenaded another table that my friends reminded our server we needed a candle. She gamely put together a mini-fruit plate and candle (we had somehow not ordered the chocolate fondue with fruit), and they came and sang again. Everyone left happy and full.

              Total came to $315 including 18% service charge and 2.5% healthy California charge (still annoys me that restaurants think they should highlight this to out of towners, rather than raising an entree or two by a $1 and recognizing it as part of the cost of running a business). They were very good about bringing jugs of water to refill, checking to see if the kids needed anything, and clearing stacks of plates we kept accumulating, without ever rushing us. It's a very convenient location, a block from Powell Street BART or the Mission Street garage, although street parking is possible at night too from Folsom Street south.

              Tropisueño has happy hour weekdays from 4-6, with lots of inexpensive botanas and $5 margaritas. I look forward to returning.

              -----
              Tajine (Heights)
              2080 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA

              1. re: Windy

                The website says they also have free snacks from 10 pm to 2 am (tacos, flautas etc) with a one drink minimum... click on the "chica"... this place is close to our hotel and could be a good option. Thanks tvham and Windy.

                PS the map that shows up in the Places record is whacky.

                1. re: grayelf

                  That's because Google thinks it's on Yerba Buena Island, in the middle of the bay :)

                  Yerba Buena Lane is between 3rd and 4th and Mission and Market. Two doors down from Papa Beard. It's a walkway rather than a real street.

                  If you're staying nearby, you might also consider a drink at Seasons on the fifth floor of the (on the verge of foreclosure) Four Seasons Hotel. It's the best place I know to pretend you're royalty for an hour or two.

                  1. re: Windy

                    Ah! And thanks for the tip on Season's, though since we're not coming till Nov it may be too late...

            2. 2 of us went to Chaat Cafe for dinner 2 weeks ago, and were amazed at how great the food was. I don't know if there's a new chef, or if it was just a unique nite, but the meal was top quality: well-spiced, not oily and very fresh. And quite affordable.
              I highly recommend it for the low budget foodie who likes Indian food.

              Only disappointment; the chai wasn't to my liking.

              1. If you want Thai, you could do Osha on 2nd. Fun atmosphere

                1. Sai's for Vietnamese. I particularly like their green beans in black bean sauce and other vegetarian items. $10/pp.

                  I don't know what you consider walkable but the Ferry Building is not too far away.

                  I second:
                  Pazzia (nicer)
                  Chaat Cafe (very casual - you order at the counter and they bring you food. $10/pp)

                  Personally I could do Scala's for $20$25/pp, but I don't do drinks, and I'd even be able to share an app or dessert. Mixed reviews for it here. The Bostontini dessert (Boston cream pie in a glass) is great.

                  -----
                  Scala's Bistro
                  432 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Sai's
                  505 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. I'll add a nod for Henry's (smoked ham), Pazzia, and B Bar, which has outdoor seating and $1 oysters most nights until 7.

                    I've eaten lunch at Chaat cafe a lot since I started working nearby and wouldn't recommend it. Mehfill a block away at 2nd and Folsom is much better Indian. You might be able to get away with $25 at the new Fly Trap, especially if you share.

                    Osha is more for the atmosphere than the food. But the atmosphere is good for a group that size.

                    1. If everybody just got one entree (and maybe naan), Amber India.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: vulber

                        I'm sure that the quality of the food at Amber India is excellent, but if you are trying to feed a group for less that $20 per person, Amber India is not the place to go..

                        Naan: Mehfil $2.50, Amber India $3.25
                        Chicken Tikka: Mehfil $11.95, Amber India $19.95
                        Lamb Roganjosh: Mehfil $12.94, Amber India $21.95
                        Chicken Biryani: Mehfil $10.95, Amber India $20.95

                        1. re: Paul H

                          Hmmm...I've only been there for lunch; I guess I looked up the wrong dinner menu

                      2. I recently had lunch at Basil Thai on Folsom and had a great experience. It was for a wedding reception so we had a lot of diiferent dishes and all were very well prepared. Would work equally well for dinner since they have a full bar and really interesting cocktails. It's updated Thai, almost bistro style and it looks like they have an even more gourmet version of the original just down the street. The dishes at Basil Canteen look phenomenal for Thai food. Here's a link to their site: http://www.basilthai.com/
                        Let me know what you think of Canteen if you end up eating there!

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