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Gimme Your Local, Delicious, Divey Faves

The BF and I will be in SF for a long weekend tacked on to some business for me. I've been to SF many times, but this will be his first time. He is not at all interested in fancy, fussy or overly pricey dining. Here in Chicago, he's happy with fabulous pho, creative curry and magnificent Mexican -- the cheaper the better. So, I'm thinking I need your help for the down and dirty.

We're staying at the Harbor Court near the Ferry Building, but are proficient in public transit and are willing to travel. Ethnic is great! A dinner or fun breakfast place is good and a spectacular beer bar is required (the Hopleaf here in Chicago is the best!).

We'll be hitting Shalimar in the Tenderloin for Pakistani food, I love that place. The one possible "fancy" meal will be Nopa, which I've been to and am requiring a second visit. We'll also hit Blackbird in the Castro for drinks. Visited Contigo on my last visit and it was good, but won't be hitting it again. We don't have great sushi in Chicago (it's all soooo expensive and just eh). I'd love a good, hole in the wall sushi place. He doesn't love Thai but adores Vietnamese. Middle Eastern is good. Really good Mexican, not Tex-Mex. We like pretty much anything. Italian is probably not a necessity.

I'm talking dinners under $50 here (sans cocktails). I'm making this a little bit of a challenge for myself to complete. Give a gal a hand?

Thanks in advance!

560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

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  1. Here's a good post with a cheap eats roundup, good place to start. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3599...

    1. So, here's what's weird. Divey in SF means meals around $30 for two. There's that range, and then you bump up to $100 for two. the mid range is lacking.

      On to some recs.

      Saigon Sandwich. Bahn Mi. Do not go to lee's.

      Bodega Bistro is well regarded (pho)

      Schwarma is strong, I love Simply Med at 16th and Valencia, which is a great corner for bar crawling. Two bars on every corner, I'm a patron of Dalva but Casanova is good. Hit one bar, grab a schwarma, hit another bar. Give the mission some of your drinks dollars. Especially consider a bi-rite run.

      Branch out in the tandoorloin. I like the dark curries at Pakwan.

      Don't write off italian. Defina, for example. SPQR. Frances.

      You have mentioned no tacos. Where are the tacos.

      Search 'hakka'. And get on the Geary bus out to Spices (or hop the bart to Oakland's version).

      Saigon Sandwich Shop
      560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Bodega Bistro
      607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      3121 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      1. My favorite dive is only open for lunch but is fantastic. Plus it's totally convenient by transit from where you're staying.

        Out in the Dogpatch close to Cesear Chavez Street there's the Mariposa Cafeteria, which when you go you'll see the daily specials are roast pork Mondays, roast pork Tuesdays, etc. etc. etc. Chinese style roast pork but just super moist/tender/flavorful and for $8 unless you have a HUGE appetite you can both share a single plate.

        Seriously the place is a total dive. I'd advise NOT going into the bathroom and keeping lots of sanitizer on your person. But the pork is really THAT GOOD (yum!) and the price absolutely cannot be beat.

        Mariposa Cafeteria
        1599 Tennessee St, San Francisco, CA 94107

        2 Replies
        1. re: stomsf

          One would get there via the Muni T line and consider other dogpatch stops like Mr and Ms Miscellaneous, or the beignets at Just For You.

          Just For You
          732 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          1. re: stomsf

            here's a photo of the roast pork from Mariposa - very yummy stuff! It's as good as stomsf says and he's also right about the scary bathrooms!

          2. HRD Coffee Shop - mongolian cheese steak sandwich, kimichi burrito.. Cheap and definitely divey...lines gets long around lunch time.


            HRD Coffee Shop
            521 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

            5 Replies
            1. re: gnomatic

              Can't believe I've never heard of this place - will have to hike over there next Giant's season. Can't handle the ballpark food anymore... Thanks gnomatic for the reco

              1. re: gnomatic

                Whoa...is that HRD? I worked around the corner for more then 10 years and would go there once in awhile for a cheap breakfast but mostly not. The photos on their webpage look great...way better then what they served.

                Total guess here, since I haven't been in a few years...new owners? Use to be a Chinese family that owned/operated the place. But they had grown kids in their 20s...maybe they took over? The kimchee burrito and Mongolian cheese steak sound are definitely new.

                (Okay I just read a link off their hompage to an SFgate article...nephew took over.)

                1. re: ML8000

                  I started working around the corner this past February. After the SFist blog mentioned the sandwich, the business really picked up. They now have a nice new menu sign inside, and the new awning. But it's still the same old grungy counter, dark back dining room.

                  Some people in my office refused to go there..since they remember it from before the nephew took over. I like the old school stuff on their menu (i.e. the turkey dinner....what's not to love..roast turkey available all year! And their roast pork over rice). I also drop by for breakfast on days when I have early meetings. The staff are always friendly...even when they have a line out the door.

                  1. re: gnomatic

                    Glad to hear the service is sim/the same and the menu is better. The old staff was alway very nice as well. I use to get the turkey plate and sometimes chicken and bok toy...way back when ATT wasn't there and next door was a run down gas station (not the Shell). It wasn't bad and it was cheap. I went less and less because I commuted from the Embarcadero side....but still got breakfast or a BLT .

                    The BLT was something ridiculous...like $2.35 5 years ago, now it's $3.50. It's made like a homemade BLT - toasted Safeway white bread, mayo, iceberg, pink tomato and 3 strips of bacon but in that neighborhood it's worth it. Brannan St Cafe is also a good place to get a decent BLT for like $5.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      HRD had a promotion for a free fried oyster and kimchi burrito through Scoutmob this past week, so I snagged one today. I didn't think I was going to like this - most fusiony "burritos" in my experience go wrong somewhere; usually it's with flavors that don't overpower the tortilla, so you get a mess that tastes like a flour tortilla. In this case I figured that there would be white rice in it or something that would lead to disaster. And the listing of "kiwi salsa" as an ingredient just sounded bad.

                      Boy, was I wrong. The rice is kimchi fried rice, and there is a ton of tart kimchi in the burrito. The nori on there adds a nice touch, and the kiwi salsa isn't sweet enough to offend my sensibilities. Also comes with gochujang on the side. I suspect this thing is even better with the usual meat than with oysters.

              2. So $50 for two without drinks generally means to me entrees under $20 , apps under $10, and desserts around $7. There are several good choices in the City that meet that criteria. A few of my favorites that offer very good quality for this price range are:

                Park Chow for comfort food
                Poc Chuc for home cooked Mayan (awsome tortillas)
                Burmese Kitchen for authentic Burmese
                Inka's for Peruvian rotisserie chicken
                Bodego Bistro for Vietnamese OTHER than the Pho
                Nearby Turtle Tower for the best Pho Ga in the City
                PPQ for Pho Bo

                For the ultimate Vietnamese dive there is Tu Lan. It is a one-time Julia Child approved HITW, that SF Chowhounders are hesitant to recommend to first time visitors. You will not find a tastier bowl of Bun for less though.

                Inkas Restaurant
                3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Park Chow
                1238 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                Turtle Tower Restaurant
                631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                Tu Lan
                8 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Poc Chuc
                2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1 Reply
                1. re: Civil Bear

                  regarding tu lan, which is tantalizingly close to downtown, it is even more contentious than Civl Bear mentions. Quite a few people here think it's just an awful grease pit and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. There was a long investigation and discussion a few years ago. Some people really like specific dishes there.

                  Classic taco truck rec is the El Tonayense's. One spot is 18th and Harrison. Very accessible mission burritos at Pancho Villa on 16th, slightly tastier ones elsewhere. I do like PV's reliability.

                  Pancho Villa
                  365 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                  El Tonayense
                  2598 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA

                2. Ok. Pure dive. Yamo.

                  Burmese food in the Mission (18th St, W of Mission). It's an 8 or 9 seat counter with two women doing the cooking. Watching them work is worth the price of admission. Feels like something you saw in Blade Runner except it has walls. Fantastic Tea Salad. Good curries and noodles. One of my favorites. Especially recommended if you've never had Burmese, this is as authentic as you'll find.

                  Oh, and did I mention? Way cheap.

                  3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                    Yamo is pretty Chinese-influenced if you look at their menu. Still good, though.

                    3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  2. Thanks y'all for all of the great recs. Clearly, we're going to need to spend some time in the Mission. And PPQ is looking like a winner for pho and crab.

                    I'm up for tacos and Mission burritos, too. Any good trucks?

                    Keep the ideas comin'...I promise to give you a post report.

                    Oh, and we arrive tomorrow afternoon, so if there are any places with specials on Thursday nights let me know!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: geg5150

                      Dive with a view and little else, foodie wise, to recommend it Red's Java House.

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

                      1. re: wolfe

                        I am a fan of Red's corned beef hash. Best in the city since The Eagle went all corporate. Fish and chips for around $8 aren't the best ever,but for the price they can't be beat. Same goes for the cocktails (around six bones IIRC). Otherwise Wolfe is right. DO NOT get the burger or dog.

                      2. re: geg5150

                        Please note that PPQ is for cheap pho and bun and the like, while sister PPQ Dungeness Island is for the wonderfull crab dishes.

                        1. re: Civil Bear

                          Yes! Do note that PPQ Dungeness Island is wonderful. We were guests at a fabulous wedding dinner party last weekend and it was great. The crab was fresh, delicious, spicy and devoured by us all. The noodle side dishes were good, too.

                          For some time I've not eaten at Vietnamese restaurants (except for the occasional Bao on Webster in Oakland) because I over did it several years ago by having lunch almost every day at Pho 84. I got really sick of the star anise flavor and needed a few years off. After this great dinner, I'm ready to hit the local Oakland places once again! Wow! It was great.

                          Oops, just realized that this is a thread about "divey" places and PDQ is certainly NOT divey.

                          Pho 84
                          354 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                      3. Fried Chicken Ramen at Katana-Ya (super small place, might be a wait)
                        Turtle Tower for Pho (but I prefer their beef stew in wine sauce with the wide flat noodles)
                        Monk's Kettle or Magnolia for burgers and beers
                        Hog and Rocks is now my go to place for drinks/beers and pub food but The Sycamore is becoming a favorite, too (because they have a little outdoor space).

                        We don't have anything like Hopleaf here but we could use one! Also, all the decent and cheap sushi places are gone. For your fancy night out, you might consider Bar Crudo. They have a nice beer menu plus super fresh raw seafood delights.

                        Hopefully, you have City Beer Store on your list, too.

                        430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        Bar Crudo
                        655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

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

                        Turtle Tower Restaurant
                        631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                        The Monk's Kettle
                        3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                        Hog and Rocks
                        3431 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: scarmoza

                          Have you tried Sushi Aka Tombo in Japantown? It has been well-recommended here on chowhound for affordable sushi (8 piece omakase is $30, if the OP is happy with rolls and pairs of nigiri, $50 for food for two is workable). I went last night with a friend who doesn't eat fish, so I kept my food ordering on the cheaper end, but I'll be back on my own to try the sushi.

                          We split gyoza, each had a drink, he had a chicken teriyake and I had the ankimo appetizer salad with hamachi kama. Total was $40. I never had gyoza in Japan, so I can't comment on them, but the hamachi kama and the ankimo both felt exactly right in terms of quality, price and authenticity and would have been right at home in Japan, down to the dipping sauce and pile of grated daikon with the hamachi kama.

                          Sushi Aka Tombo
                          1737 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                        2. Angkor Borei for Cambodian food in the Bernal/Mission corridor. Try their signature special, the ahmok (fish mousse). Even with an app, drinks, and entrees, we can usually get out of there for under $15/person.

                          1. You have some good recommendations for Mexican already, but let me throw in Nopalito. It's a Mexican restaurant from the folks behind Nopa, and while it's stylish and hip, the food still has Mexican soul. The metaphor I use for it is that it is the type of restaurant you might find in fashionable neighborhoods of Mexico City, geared toward young educated professionals, not upper-crust titans of industry.

                            I love Poc Chuc, recommended by someone else in this thread, but I tend to go back to Nopalito more often.

                            Semi-secret tip: you can call ahead to get a place on their wait list. They don't take reservations, but if you call 30 minutes in advance the wait should be fine.

                            1. If you'd like a good, cheap sushi lunch, Yama Sushi at 1814 Franklin Street in Oakland (entrance is actually on 19th Street and very close to 19th Street Bart) has pretty much their entire menu for half price after 1:15 pm until they close at 3 pm. And you still get the free miso soup too! They;re only open weekdays.

                              Yama Sushi Restaurant
                              850 Holloway Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

                              1. I didn't see TuLan (6th off Market) on any of the lists. It is an old fave for Vietnamese and definitely a dive. Interesting tasty Bumese can be had at Burmese Kitchen, 452 Larkin (Civic Center/Tenderloin area). Lots of people crave Burma Star out in the avenues. Yamo on 18th (near Mission) is a tiny divey and popular spot too.

                                3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                1. Thanks y'all for some great suggestions.

                                  We're back from SF full and satisfied! We loved Yamo. I'd never had Burmese food before and this was a great intro. It's an "interesting" place to say the least. The food was great. I loved the tea salad. The gyoza was a little heavy on ginger for my tasty, the wrapper was perfect and delicate. Our two noodle dishes were hearty and filly.

                                  We also hit Katana-Ya for ramen and a little sushi for a snack on Sunday afternoon. The placed was packed. Very tasty ramen and the fish was super fresh.

                                  An obligatory trip to In-N-Out was required. I love that place, that my BF was a virgin, so he loved it!! He was bemoaning that we have a stupid Five Guys in Chicago and not an In-N-Out. Love it!

                                  Curries at Shalimar did not disappoint.

                                  430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                  3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: geg5150

                                    Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit. Also, really glad to hear you loved Yamo. I've found nothing else to compare (total experience) this side of the Pacific.

                                    3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110