Recommendations for San Francisco trip, Jan. 28-Feb. 1 - inexpensive
My wife and I are traveling to SF for her to attend a conference. We will be staying at the Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero Center, where the conference is held. Neither of us have ever been to San Francisco, and since we are flying, are limited to public transportation. I would like recommendations for dinner in that area that would be inexpensive. We like ethnic food, and enjoy trying new (to us) cuisines. Since we will be free in the evenings, would also like recommendations for various neighborhoods that can be easily reached by public transportation, are safe, uniquely "San Francisco", and where we can walk around to get a flavor of the area and enjoy a simple, inexpensive, good meal. In short, if your friends were visiting San Francisco for the first time, and you wanted to show off the city, where would you take them.
What kind of cuisine would be new to you?
From the Hyatt at the EC, you can easily go to the Ferry Building (across the Embarcadero from your hotel). Public transportation (muni trains) can easily take you to some areas with lots of good chow:
Union Square & Castro (all Market street trains)
Noe Valley & Mission (J-church train)
Inner Sunset (N-Judah train).
You can also easily walk or cab over to North Beach (about 15 blocks away).
There are busses too, but I personally stay off of them because they are quite slow and you can get to plenty of good places on the trains.
That covers a lot of territory and it's all pretty well covered on CH. If you try searching for each of those neighborhoods, you'll find lots of good recommendations. Or, maybe narrow down your question about what kind of "ethnic" cuisine would be new for you.
inexpensive and San Francisco don't really go together. What type of budget were you thinking per person per meal?
Anyhow - right near your hotel is the Ferry Building and there are plenty of good eats there. Since you'll be there through a weekend I definitely recommend checking out their Farmer's Market which has folks coming from all over the city and the Bay Area to walk around and sample some of the food. Taylor's is in the Ferry Building as well and does a good job w/ burgers. Slanted Door is there as well and one of the more popular restaurants in SF...again not sure if it's what I would consider inexpensive.
For a really nice meal for (what I consider) a reasonable price you can go to Perbacco which is near your hotel and has great Italian food.
You can also walk to North Beach / Chinatown from your hotel and there are some good spots there. For Chinese, I like R&G Lounge on Kearney. I also like L'Osteria Del Forno - it's a tiny italian spot on Columbus but the food is good. Another North Beach spot that I really like is The House (it's on the pricier side). Haven't been but I hear Tony's Pizza Napoletana is great as well.
If you're willing to cab it, plenty of places in the Mission, including Poc Chuc (Latin America) whic is great.
Vis, there are tons of good cheap eats in SF. It just depends on what type of cuisine they are looking for. Here is a link to a thread with some good recos. As you'll see, cuisine is all over the place, but it's a good place to start until we know what the OP is looking for.
By the way, you are right about Tony's, it is very good. Not cheap eats, but should be on any pizza lovers list.
Slanted Door is not inexpensive by any definition.
Perbacco isn't cheap, but is reasonably priced if you go for lunch.
I would definitely hit up the Ferry Building - especially on Saturday, when they have the huge market. All sorts of inexpensive street food (well, expensive for street food, but inexpensive for a meal).
And if you go to the Ferry Building on another day, Il Cane Rosso is great. There is also the $1 oyster happy hour at Hog Island.
That immediate area sucks for good cheap food, there are several hundred thousand office workers who are a captive audience. Órale Órale is decent Mexican, open for breakfast. Oasis Grill for gyros etc. Thursday lunch you should hit the Ferry Plaza farmers market vendors. Check out Belden Place for dinner some evening when you don't want to venture far.
The liveliest streets for walking and eating in the evening are Clement St. from Arguello to 10th (Inner Richmond, 1, 2, or 38 bus) and Valencia from Market (or 16th) to 24th (Inner Mission, F vintage streetcars, J / K / L / M / N Muni Metro, BART).
Info on tourist bus passes: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/passp...
The best way to go "cheap" in that immediate area (and still try some great dishes) is to hit up the myriad happy hours. If you walk down Stuart Street, you will find $7 Sushi rolls at Chaya, $5 guacamole and traditional-style tacos, an assortment of interesting Chinese style small plates at Shanghai 1930 and some interesting stuff (like herbed flatbread with goatcheese and figs) at Cosmopolitan. The happy hours include drink specials, and begin around 3 or 4, lasting until 6-7. Epic also has a nice happy hour selection. I also second the suggestion of Hog Island Happy Hour on Mon or Thur for $1 oysters.
For a grittier experience, you can walk along the Embarcadero and hit up Red's Java House for breakfast or lunch - great burgers, etc and cheap.
Full dinners will be a bit harder, but walk up to North Beach/China Town for some great choices.