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Oct 6, 2009 08:54 PM

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 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