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New Yorker looking for quintessential Bay Area cheap eats

I'm going to be in San Francisco for a week - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city, or nearby outside (I will have access to my brother's car) is fine.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads Bay Area hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

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  1. In Little Saigon, Saigon Sandwich makes great vietnamese sandwiches in your classic hole in the wall storefront. 560 Larkin Street. ( at Eddy St. ) 94102 (415) 474-5698
    It's very close to the Federal Building and gets rather busy during the lunch hour so work around that time frame or you'll be in a line. I like the meatball but most of the offerings are good. BBQ chicken. Pork, Combination ...... Sandwiches are about $2.75 IIRC

    1. I'm just a frequent visitor, but some of my faves...

      In the Tenderloin - Lers Ros. Best Thai ever. Pakwan. Decent Northern Indian. Half a dozen banh mi shops (there are the big boys like Lee's and Saigon Sandwich, but many, many more).

      Of course there's the Mission burrito. You could spend the whole week - no, a month or two - exploring the possibilities. El Faro and la Taqueria are the classics. Go from there.

      The Saturday farmer's market at the Ferry Building presents endless possibilities.

      I'm a wannabe Denis Leary groupie. Dinner at Canteen is over your budget, but you could swing brunch there. Or lunch at The Sentinel. Truly one of the more impressive chefs working today.

      There's lots more, but hopefully that's a place to start...

      1. The San Francisco Chronicle just did their "Bargain Bites" yearly article. Check out http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/listing... for this years list of bargains. This will cover the entire bay area so some of these probably won't interest you.

        2 Replies
        1. re: skwid

          As an avid peninsula eater and no real fan of Mr Bauer, I would take his word with far more than the usual grain of salt south of San Francisco.

          1. re: bbulkow

            Bauer doesn't review cheap places, but that list is a bad place for a visitor to seek advice, since it leaves out a lot of the best cheap places, includes places that aren't cheap or aren't good, etc.

          1. We're very good at beverages at the moment. Espresso at Blue Bottle or Local 123 in berkeley. Beer still doesn't travel well - some of our less distributed great local stuff is Racer 5 and anything from Russian River. Not that any of that is "eats", but.... the espresso at Local 123 is full of awesome.

            Also, Lee's is foul. - the other bahn mi places are great. And there's the taco trucks.

            There's a current spate of ice cream, although generally ice cream is less good than the east coast. H Slocolmbe is fun and bizzare, BiRite has better base, Mitchell's has mexican flavors but I've never liked the base, you can get Durian ice cream a few places, like Polly Anne's.

            At the ferry building, look for the cheese. The sonoma cheesemakers are doing amazing things.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow

              The beer you really won't often find elsewhere is local cask-conditioned ale, particularly on hand pump. Lanesplitter usually has one.

              Mitchell's has Filipino flavors.

              The don't -miss cheesemaker is Andante, which has a stand at the Saturday Ferry Plaza market.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Always appreciate beer advice as well, though I will say last time I was in town I visited Russian River, Bear Republic, and Moylans (and may hit up the first two again as they're not too far from one another if I recall correctly) and luckily happened to be around for Pliny the Younger - which was phenomenal - if there are any brewers I missed or brew pubs feel free to inform (or great beer bars - I did happen to catch the Barleywine Festival at Toronado). Thanks.

                1. re: FoulShotz

                  If you're that into beer, two more places you won't want to miss are the Trappist, which has about 50-50 Belgian and esoteric craft brews, and City Beer, which is also a bar.

                  City Beer Store
                  1168 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  The Trappist
                  460 8th Street, Oakland, CA

            2. Sundays Only:
              Three Papaya Sunday Brunch at Doc's Clocks from noon to 5. (Average Plate Price $8)

              Ryan Farr hotdogs at Elixir. Sunday afternoons/early evening only. ($5) Call Elixir before heading over to be sure Ryan will be there.

              Wednesday to Thursday (noon - 3pm): Mission Burger at Duc Loi $8
              Beef or Vegan Burgers are both delicious - but the beef burger is especially amazing. Fried Chicken Wings have been on the special menu recently, they're scrumptious.

              Mission Street Food might be considered quintessential sf cheap eats...check their website to see what they're serving.

              3200 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              Mission Chinese Food
              2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Duc Loi Supermarket
              2200 Mission St, San Francisco, CA

              Doc's Clock
              2575 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1. Go to the Sugar Lounge on Sunday and it's happy hour prices all day and into the evening -- you can fill up on free appetizers, free paninni sandwiches, free teriyaki chicken, & free tempura. Address: 377 Hayes Street (near the corner of Gough).
                ~Source: http://bayareaonthecheap.com/dates/ha...

                1. I'm surprised no has mentioned taquerias or taco trucks, and in particular a Mission burrito.

                  Someone on this board (bbulkow or chuckles?) said the burrito in SF is NYC's slice of pizza. It's inexpensive, democratic and fast. The discussion of where to go is like NY'ers talking about the best slice but probably much worst because there's an infinite number of combos of what you can get (meat x beans x salsa x y)

                  I'll drop 4 places knowing there will be disagreement, so anyone can add their own. El Tonayense is a taco truck.

                  Taqueria San Jose
                  2830 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Taqueria Cancun
                  2288 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  El Tonayense
                  2598 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA

                  Taqueria Cancun
                  1003 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ML8000

                    Hey ML, my one shot at Bartlett's and you give it to someone else.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      My bad...I'll remember now. Still a great line however.

                  2. I am a frequent visitor as well. One of my favorite things to do is to go to Bi-rite creamery and get a cone and walk around Mission Dolores Park. I love the views and people and dog watching, lots of local flavor there. If you like oysters there is a great thread for $1 oysters http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/611664 I second Blue Bottle (Mint location) and they have a pretty decently priced breakfast. Limon Rotisserie in the Mission has great roast chicken plates. Though it is not quintessential Bay Area there is an In and Out in the wharf area if for some reason you find yourself in the area. It is a California fave with some people and it is cheap.

                    1. Dim Sum?

                      How does SF compare to NYC?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Columba

                        There are some really, really long dim sum threads. That's its own topic. But also remember - almost all the CH Approved dim sum places are outside SF proper, typically about 15 miles outside of town, to the south.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          The places many people think are best are outside of SF, but there's good dim sum in SF proper.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Compared to NYC dim sum? I'm asking because I really don't know.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              When visiting relatives in Queens, lots of dim summing is required and can be frustratingly blah. Flushing places are a notch better, but NY dim sum seems to have largely skipped out on the fancy HK trends of the last 20 years. Which makes it wonderfully nostalgic for me. Mostly carts of lukewarm food, drippy tables, and an amusing "eat your har gaw and get out" attitude. On the plus side, they have a few things people don't make in SF dim sum anymore: steamed ketchupy tamarind spareribs, sesame seed rice noodle rolls, and snails, for ex. And, there is nothing like watching your doddering great uncle stalking the freshest carts throughout the dining room.

                              Dim sum in SF Bay Area is significantly more expensive, but there is generally more variety. Plus (this may be shocking to people who scrum at Koi Palace) it is more quiet and relaxed than in NY.

                              If one can't leave the City, I would currently recommend Hong Kong Lounge. And of course, there is the ever polarizing Yank Sing.

                              edited to add: Don't go to Yank Sing if looking for cheap eats.

                              1. re: sfbing

                                Tu Lan on 6th btw market and mission is cheap,greasy,tasty vietnamese food. Rosamunde Sausages are fantastic,essentially a take out couple of counter seats but you can take yours to go nest door to the Toranado which has a vast array of beers on tap, one of the best in the city.They are on Haight btw fillmore and stiener. Saigon sandwiches on larkin. Da Beef on folsom and 7th for a great chicago hot dog. Turtle tower on Larkin for a great bowl on Pho. Nicks crispy tacos on Polk near Broadway. Shalimar on Jones for some rice and a Kabob $ 3-4 bring your own beer. Shanghai house on Balboa outer richmond district for some steamed buns. Swan oyster for a bowl of clam chowder and sourdough. Truly Mediterreanen for a Schwerma sandwich. U-Lee on Hyde and Jackson for 6 huge pot stickers. All good filling and well below $10.

                                1. re: mick

                                  Swan Oyster Depot's clam chowder is canned. Stick to the oysters.

                      2. Hot dog with a bay view and free parking at Red's Java House. I 'll bet none of the Papaya's have that combo.

                        edit: Ignore the map with the place link. The joint is on the embarcadero just south of the Ferry Plaza

                        Red's Java House
                        Pier 30, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: mick

                            Is this question for Robert? Do you mean the "fabulous chowder" at Swan? I believe that it is Campbell's to which they add fresh clam juice or perhaps milk or cream.

                          2. re: wolfe

                            With you there on Red's, but the fish and chips or even better the( recently re-tested and found improved) exquisite corned beef hash are both better than the dogs or burgers. No place like it I know outside of some old Brando flick .