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Mar 16, 2011 02:34 PM

Best $3.50 lunch in Berkeley?

I've become a regular at Luca Cucina Italiana, where a bowl of polenta soup goes for $3.50. They start with a beautiful tomato sauce, add the polenta, and top it with a slice of mozzarella. My only complaint is that I want a tad more tomato sauce than they normally use, but they're happy to add a bit extra. Basic, no frills spot, but I've loved everything I've had there.

Other contenders for something that good at that price?

Luca Cucina Italiana
2057 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

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  1. A slice of pizza down the block at Lanesplitter.

    Luca's prices are startlingly cheap.

    Lanesplitter Berkeley
    2033 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

    1. The peppered pork sandwich at the Albany Cafe. (Okay, that's Albany, not Berkeley--but close.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Glencora

        I'm in agreement w/ Glencora on this. That is an excellent sandwich.

        1. re: Glencora

          How does it compare with Ba Le?

          Albany Cafe
          1309 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            While the similarities are there to a traditional banh mi, pickled Daikon, carrots, jalapeno peppers. I really feel like it's almost an entirely different animal with it's more rustic toasted baguette and organic ingredients. They also serve a variety of meat filling you won't typically find at Ba Le or Cam Huong like their Peppered Pork or Spicy Crab. That being said, it's a very good alternative to Ba Le.

            Cam Huong Cafe
            702 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

        2. Regular burritos are still $3.95 at La Palmita on San Pablo. Excellent chili verde.
          Tacos are $2.50, tamales $3.50 at Casa Latina.
          PIQ downtown has a variety of sandwiches and pizzas for under $4.00
          I think the falafel at Zand (Solano in Albany) is $3.95.

          Casa Latina
          1805 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

          La Palmita Cafe
          1335 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

          1. I'm usually looking for the $5-6 lunch, but for 3.50 there are some sandwiches at Lee's less than a block from LCI. A huge club is only 5.25. Also slices at Arinell also nearby and Gioia. You can get 2 bowls of good honest soup at any Alta Bates cafeteria. I like the beef and root vegetable.

            4 Replies
              1. re: sydthekyd

                Possibly Lee's Deli which is much more than 1 block from Luca Cucina. Thank you EIB.
                2116 Shattuck Ave
                Berkeley, CA 94704

                1. re: wolfe

                  Less than a block from PIQ, not Luca.

              2. re: chocolatetartguy

                Lee's is definitely a good deal. The turkey is roasted in house..and the sandwiches giant.

              3. Top Dog still has the brown bag special for $, small soda, chips.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ML8000

                  I remember in my youth that the Top Dog brown bag special (As late as 1979.) was only a $1.00...topdog, small soda, chips.

                  Plus the Top Dog "Louisiana Hot sausage" were actually really, really hot!
                  Now they should not even be called a "Hot" sausage.

                  You could also get a Cheeseburger, French Fry and a drink at Kwikway in Oakland for $1.00.

                  Good times!

                  Good thing there is no inflation.