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Must-Have Cheap Lunches

cigar12345 Mar 9, 2011 10:42 AM

I'm a foodie of limited means coming to San Fran for a week and would love to hear some local recs for cheap lunch spots. No dietary restrictions, the more flavor the better. "Only in SF"-type places would be particularly appreciated.


  1. j
    johnrsf Mar 14, 2011 08:16 AM

    I second your recommendation of King of Noodles, but would also suggest King Wonton, two blocks further down Irving at 20th, also for homemade noodles, wontons and dumplings in flavorful broth. I like to get some pig hand in my soup as well, although my chopstick skills aren't good enough to convey the slippery, bony morsels to my mouth and back to the plate without using my hands. While we're talking about soup noodles, Vietnamese pho is usually what I think of on a cold rainy day. Turtle Tower on Larkin between Eddy and Ellis has the best, most flavorful Northern Vietnamese style beef and chicken pho (no herbs or sprouts on the side, and pure plain broth with no star anise or other spices, as found in Southern Vietnamese places.)

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

    King of Noodles
    1639 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA

    1. s
      saffrongold Mar 9, 2011 02:41 PM

      lately I've been taking cheap comfort at King of Noodles in the Sunset District (18th Ave and Irving). Hand pulled noodles, flavorful broth with all the variations for $6.95. You will leave full but not comatose.

      King of Noodles
      1639 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA

      1. CarrieWas218 Mar 9, 2011 12:48 PM

        Burmese Kitchen aka Larkin Express - cheap, great food, and best for lunch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: CarrieWas218
          stanbee Mar 10, 2011 01:14 AM

          Great tea salad.

          I understand Dennis buys the tea in Cambodia.

          His food is inexpensive, mostly underseasoned, although the owner loves highly spiced himself. Ask for some heat and dried shrimp for the table to doctor to your own dellght.

          Somtimes the meat dishes aren't braised long enough for tenderness but I love the hospitality
          and the favorite Samosa soup . A bargain!

        2. scarmoza Mar 9, 2011 11:13 AM

          If you're ever out in Bernal, Mi Lindo Peru's lunch prices are much lower than dinner.

          Mi Lindo Peru Restaurant
          3226 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          2 Replies
          1. re: scarmoza
            bigwheel042 Mar 9, 2011 11:17 AM

            I wasn't wowed by the arroz con pollo I had for lunch here. Are there dishes you'd recommend?

            1. re: bigwheel042
              scarmoza Mar 9, 2011 11:35 AM

              My other half doesn't care much for the arroz con pollo either. He usually goes with pollo saltado (which I've always found very good but also pretty salty. I recommend it if you didn't like the arroz con pollo) or lomo saltado. The saltado dishes are served with both rice and fries.

          2. d
            DavidT Mar 9, 2011 11:03 AM

            For starters, I would go to the upper right-hand corner of this page and searches for both "cheap" and "bargain". You should be able to access a large number of helpful recommendations already here.

            Then I would check out this link to the SF Chronicle's "Bargain Bites" page for bargain dining in San Francisco. If you click on any of the balloons shown on the map, you will get a description of the establishment recommended:


            1. b
              bigwheel042 Mar 9, 2011 10:46 AM

              The Sentinel is where I take all SF guests. Take-away only and not rock-bottom prices, but certainly reasonable.

              Lots of ethnic restaurants have deals at lunch in the $5-10 range.

              5 Replies
              1. re: bigwheel042
                cigar12345 Mar 9, 2011 10:48 AM

                Thanks! Any ethnic spots in particular that I should try?

                1. re: cigar12345
                  bigwheel042 Mar 9, 2011 01:05 PM

                  For the truly cheapest lunches, it's hard to beat banh mi. Most sandwiches can be had for under $4. Note that Saigon Sandwich is closed through March. My mainstay is Irving Cafe and Deli. These are basically sandwich counters, so don't expect a ton of atmosphere.

                  Yamo is also dirt cheap (still $5.25 for most dishes, I think). This place is a true hole in the wall. The cold noodles are a good bet.

                  Various searches should turn up other places that offer deals at lunch.

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

                  3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  1. re: bigwheel042
                    vulber Mar 9, 2011 03:36 PM

                    yamo just raised their prices to $6. as some have noted, this is now more expensive than a super burrito at el farolito

                    1. re: bigwheel042
                      Windy Mar 10, 2011 12:10 AM

                      I love the cold noodles at Yamo. Even though the chicken is hot, and spicy. Where else can you get enough food for two meals and a coconut for $10? But don't skip the mango salad.

                      Irving Cafe has a great meatball bahn mi.

                      Lunch specials at Henry's Hunan (multiple locations in the financial district and Noe Valley) are $7-8 with hot and sour soup.

                      Other great lunches in the Mission in the $10 range: sandwiches at Local Mission, arepas or chef's special at Mr. Pollo, tacos al pastor at Taqueria San Jose

                      Mr. Pollo
                      2823 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Local Mission Eatery
                      3111 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  2. re: bigwheel042
                    ankimo Mar 9, 2011 10:56 AM


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