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A Week in SF: Save our marriage!

I'm a foodie married to a cheapskate. DH will eat boiled rat on a stick if the restaurant has a good view. We both like just about any kind of Asian, especially southeast Asian. I love Japanese but know where to get plenty of that when we move on down the coast to LA for a few days. We will be spending a week in SF before heading down the coast; we are staying at Union Square. So to summarize, our parameters are:

Mostly cheap/reasonable (dinner doesn't have to be super-cheap, and he owes me an anniversary dinner)

We both love any kind of Asian...I'm a little indifferent to Italian. But a place for super thin crust pizza would be nice to know about.

Staying at Union Square

Returning one evening from the ferry to Sausalito--suggestions for dinner around Pier 41?

He suggested dinner at Cafe Trieste one evening--alternative suggestions in that area?

We'll be at the Asian Art Museum of SF one evening. He proposed a place called Brainwash Cafe on Folsom & 7th--anybody familiar with it? Alternatives?

Zuni Cafe sounds OK, and that is part of his itinerary.

And last but not least, suggestions for something a little more special/memorable?

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  1. Burmese Kitchen, Lers Ros

    You can get a panino or piece of focaccia at Caffe Trieste but it isn't really a place for dinner. L'Osteria del Forno is great and cheap.

    Thinnest crust pizza in town is Pizzetta 211.

    I can't imagine going to Brainwash unless I needed to do a load of laundry.

    1. US Restaurant (Italian) is next door (or 2) to L'Osteria is good and is about the same price. The grilled pertrale sole is very good.

      +1 Brainwash is snack food and sandwiches in a laundrymat. I wouldn't even eat lunch there. At night you might get a local indie band playing in the small dining area. 98% chance you will not be comfortable.

      For "under cover" cheap Chinese seafood try Yuet Lee. It's not cheap but the hole-in-the-wall decor might lead one to think you're paying for food, not decor, which is about right. Anything fresh/seasonal or in the tank should be very good.

      I'd look at SFGate's Bargain Bites and cross-reference.

      1. As mentioned, Lers Ros Thai and Burmese Kitchen are both very good and relatively cheap. SF also has a lot of good inexpensive Vietnamese places if Pho and Banh Mi are lacking where you are from. All these are found within walking distance of the Asian Art Museum.

        Butterfly (Asian fusion) at Pier 35 has a nice view and is one of the few recommendable restaurants in the Fisherman's Wharf area.

        Zuni is great, but just note that it may come off pricey for what you get for a cheapskate (or anyone willing to eat rat on a stick).

        1. My suggestion for something a little more special/memorable is for you to ditch your husband and have an extramarital affair with a local epicure, which is what your husband deserves for suggesting dinner at a laundromat cafe.

          But barring that, Burmese Kitchen is very close to the Asian Art Museum, and it's not very expensive. I'm a fan. I can second Lers Ros as a recommendation for Thai food, and that's not too far either. Nearby is also Turtle Tower, which is a very popular pho place, if you like pho.

          There is a great Italian restaurant near Pier 41 called Albona, although it's not exactly cheap. It is, however, significantly better than all the touristy Italian places in that neighborhood.

          Zuni Cafe is worth a stop. Great raw bar.

          1. Like everyone else said: Brainwash is a laundrymat. However you are very close to UN plaza, depending on what day/time, there are some great street food options. Bring cash.

            I dont think of Trieste for food, but near by, assuming you are talking about the original location in North beach, you have Tonys Pizza: all different types of pizza.

            Depending on where in Union square you are staying, you can walk into chinatown. Most CHers will not eat in china town. I only eat at Hunan Homes, but there are a ton of options.

            Zuni is great!

            1 Reply
            1. re: smatbrat

              Most (or at least many) CHers will happily eat at Great Eastern and Z & Y in Chinatown. In fact, I'd call them both very good choices to meet the OP's needs. Location is convenient to Union Square.

            2. My guess is that Zuni may be on his list because he's heard about the burger. If so, he needs to be okay with a $15 burger, not including fries. Add cheese, grilled onions, and a side of fries and you're looking at a $25 burger lunch for one, before tax and tip.

              If the plan is to go for dinner, the burger is not an option. Most entrees will be in the $25-30 range. Certainly fair for San Francisco, but possibly not what your husband thinks of as cheap.

              4 Replies
              1. re: lexdevil

                I have to agree with one of the other posters - I'm not feeling the desire to help you save your marriage.

                Lers Ros is a good choice, but I have not found the trick of ordering well there. Order the pad thai and you're wasting a meal.

                Waterbar, which is upscale with a great view, has a $1 oyster happy hour every day. There are some other "dollar oyster" threads.

                The quintessential cheap eat in SF is burritos and tacos. Check some of the threads for best burrito. Some are sublime.

                There are a number of fancy burgers in town beside Zuni, like Namu and Nopa (four letters -> burgers?)

                A guy I was traveling with last week said he hated how his wife spent money on things, until he went through divorce and found out how expensive _that_ is. You might have to be blunt with him.

                Your husband's idea of dinner appears to be a sandwich. Hotel Utah is a lively real sf place with burgers. Find a drummer, dump the husband, and move to SF.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  As tourists, we've been to Lers Ros four or five times now including one Chowdown with many dishes. I've found that they shine on the appetizers and do less well on the mains (sweeping statement, YMMV). That being said, they still leave any Thai restaurant at home (Vancouver) buried miles in the dust.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    But there are good thai places in LA, the OP's next stop.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Fair point, well made. May be best to wait then :-).

              2. That's cool that he's picked out Zuni Cafe, but I'd be concerned to see whether he understands what he's getting into. The $48 roast chicken with bread salad is great an a signature dish, but I could imagine a cheapskate telling tales of the sticker shock rather than the quality for years to come (I do!).

                Around the Larkin St. corridor sounds like the ideal place. As mentioned above, Lers Ros, Burmese Kitchen, or Thai House express. Search threads to find out the dishes to get at these places as it's easy to get suckered into getting their non-specialty dishes.

                You don't mention needing lunch options. If you do, let us know-- some of the best Asian sandwiches are within a mile of where you're staying.

                1. Cheap, authentic, delicious Asian restaurants. Here you go:

                  Anh Hong
                  808 Geary St
                  (415) 885-5180
                  Style: Vietnamese
                  Neighborhood: Tenderloin
                  Note: 7 courses of beef

                  Kim Son
                  3614 Balboa St
                  (415) 221-3811
                  Style: Vietnamese
                  Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
                  Note: good Bun Rieu

                  Saigon Sandwich
                  560 Larkin St
                  (415) 474-5698
                  Style: Vietnamese banh mi
                  Neighborhood: Tenderloin

                  Little Vietnam Cafe
                  309 6th Ave
                  (415) 876-0283
                  Style: Vietnamese banh mi
                  Neighborhood: Inner Richmond

                  Turle Tower
                  5716 Geary Blvd
                  (415) 221-9890
                  Style: Vietnamese
                  Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
                  Note: great northern style pho ga

                  Golden Star
                  11 Walter U Lum Pl
                  (415) 398-1215
                  Style: Vietnamese
                  Neighborhood: Chinatown
                  Note: great bun thit nuong

                  Ngoc Mai
                  547 Hyde St
                  (415) 931-4899
                  Style: Vietnamese
                  Neighborhood: Tenderloin
                  Note: best bun bo hue

                  Cordon Bleu
                  1574 California St
                  (415) 673-5637
                  Style: billed as Vietnamese, this is really Southern Chinese comfort food
                  Neighborhood: Nob Hill

                  Hong Kong Lounge
                  5322 Geary Blvd
                  (415) 668-8836
                  Style: dim sum
                  Neighborhood: Outer Richmond

                  Yuet Lee
                  1300 Stockton St
                  (415) 982-6020
                  Style: Chinese
                  Neighborhood: Chinatown

                  Z & Y Restaurant
                  655 Jackson St
                  (415) 981-8988
                  Style: Szechuan
                  Neighborhood: Chinatown

                  San Tung
                  1031 Irving St
                  (415) 242-0828
                  Style: Chinese
                  Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
                  Note: dry fried chicken wings, liang zhang pei

                  Lers Ros
                  730 Larkin St
                  (415) 931-6917
                  Style: Thai
                  Neighborhood: Tenderloin

                  Zen Yai
                  771 Ellis St
                  (415) 885-0725
                  Style: Thai
                  Neighborhood: Tenderloin
                  Note: great Guay Tiew Ruew (boat noodles)

                  My Tofu House
                  4627 Geary Blvd
                  (415) 750-1818
                  Style: Korean
                  Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
                  Note: soondoobu

                  New Korea House
                  1620 Post St
                  (415) 563-1388
                  Style: Korean
                  Neighborhood: Japantown
                  Note: come here for soups, not BBQ. Good hae jang gook.

                  Kirimachi Ramen
                  450 Broadway St
                  (415) 335-5865
                  Style: Japanese ramen
                  Neighborhood: North Beach

                  Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
                  5120 Geary Blvd
                  (415) 668-6080
                  Style: Japanese ramen
                  Neighborhood: Outer Richmond

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: od_sf

                    Saigon Sandwich is a cheapskate's dream.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Zen Yai with the boat noodles is pretty good for cheap eating too, and they have huge windows, but you might need an adventurous idea of 'view' to call it scenic.

                        1. re: od_sf

                          "Scenic" was one of the qualities poster's husband prizes.

                          Did poster say where she was from? (Hmm... I guess these days someone with a husband is not necessarily a woman!). What's "cheap" depends a lot on what you're used to paying at home.

                          If hubby would eat a rat on a stick, it's too bad Tu Lan was finally closed down for health code violations.

                  2. For your night at the Asian, I'd migrate to nearby Hayes Valley and eat at Hayes and Kebab, Arlequin Cafe, or Stelline. You can get a meal + glass of wine at any of these places for about $15. There's also AYCE Chicken Wing Weds at Double Decker, a circular restaurant in the Days Inn parking lot. Don't ask me how I know this. If you enjoy red meat, I think House of Prime Rib would be a good pick for the anniv dinner. ~$40pp gets you an entirely delicious prime rib meal w salad, potatoes, creamed spinach, yorkshire pudding, and seconds.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rubadubgdub

                      Hayes and Kebab was pretty subpar the one time I tried the old location closer to Van Ness. I'd be more inclined to go to almost any of the Vietnamese or Thai places around Larkin. Yemeni's is also not far off - reasonable, different, and amazing as long as you stick to the true Yemeni dishes and avoid stuff like hummus.

                      Also Cafe Zitouna and Aicha for North African (the latter not dirt cheap but very good quality).

                    2. Agree with everyone's rec to stay away from Brainwash. It's not a place to trek to for dinner.

                      That said Citizen's band is a couple doors down from Brainwash. great burger and really good comfort food.
                      Not super cheap but large portion and it comes with fries. I was there the other night and got a salad to start. Was entree sized.
                      Moya ethiopian is at 9th and minna. SUPER cheap and quite good.

                      SOMA Streat food park is at 11th near harrison. Always a selection of food trucks there that range from cheap (Sunrise Deli) to not as great a value. http://somastreatfoodpark.com/

                      2nd the rec for Tony's pizza and also add in Bao Necci. I think their pizzas are outstanding and doesn't have the wait that Tony's does.

                      and if your husband is really all about cheap with a view, Pier 23, Red's Java hut, Java house and the Ramp all should suffice. The Ramp has a surprisingly good crab louis salad (but at $18 may break the cheap bank). Note these are all best with outside seating which summer evenings in SF is hit or miss.

                      You've got some great asian recommendations already. What are you thinking you want for your special meal?

                      1. Middle Eastern for a cheapskate, schwarma at Truly Mediterranean. Literal hole in the wall but great food.

                        1. Thanks so much for these ideas. We live in DC, so yes, I could be a man.

                          I think I was too hard on my husband. He's a good egg...just depends on the guidebooks unless I figure out the food part. Fair enough, since I'm the one who cares.

                          Banh mi.....mmmmm. I'm thinking maybe ramen tonight because I'm just off the plane and wanting comfort food.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Feralpudel

                            I would go with pho instead of ramen in SF.

                            1. re: Civil Bear

                              Since you're here , in Union Square, and maybe a little bushed, maybe you should start at Katana-Ya and then branch out for more adventure later. Check out Ms. Wong's ramen listing, she's quite a scholar.

                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                @Civil Bear: Have you tried Kirimachi or Men Oh Tokushima Ramen? They are both new establishments and well worth a visit. Finally there are good ramen-yas in SF.

                                @little big al: Personally, I find Katanaya's ramen substandard and would not recommend it, even if the location is convenient.

                                1. re: od_sf

                                  I have not had the chance to try either, but your reviews of MOTR seemed kind of mixed.


                                  How does Kiramachi compare to a place like Ramen Dojo in San Mateo?

                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                    Men Oh is not consistent yet but I'm sure they will work out the kinks soon enough. They've only been open for about 3 weeks. As is, they are still one of the top 2 or 3 ramenyas in the city and are far superior to Katanaya, Tanpopo, suzu, etc... Definitely worth checking out.

                                    Kiramachi's ramen is really great, the best in SF and comparable to Ramen Dojo, not quite up to par with a place like Orenchi though. But superior to anything else in SF. Deep, rich, complex broth. And the people running the shop are quite passionate about what they do, which is nice to see.

                            2. For thin crust pizza I would suggest Cafe Bao Necci in North Beach, it's probably one of the best thin crust pizza's in San Francisco, and North Beach is a great neighborhood to explore.

                              1. A really good place for foodies and cheapskates to both be happy is My Tofu House.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Agreed, and as mentioned in my earlier post. :)

                                  My Tofu House
                                  4627 Geary Blvd
                                  (415) 750-1818
                                  Style: Korean
                                  Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
                                  Note: soondoobu

                                2. I was thinking of another angle on cheap, free corkage

                                  The only free corkage place on OpenTable's list in San Francisco, and ever mentioned here, is Skool, which I find a very pleasant spot. Good San Francisco 'tude. One bottle max, but there's a Trader Joe's quite nearby, so you can grab the eternally cheap two buck chuck and really feel like you're getting away with robbery.

                                  Poc Chuk is on Yelp's list of free corkage, although I thought that was debated (RL would know). Gary Danko is also on Yelp's free corkage list, but they're clearly wrong - their website lists the corkage as $35/bottle, so I'll trust OT on this and not Y. As usual.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Places without liquor licenses can be fined or shut down by the ABC for allowing patrons to drink wine, so that kind of clueless no-corkage policy should not be mentioned online.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Exactly - which is why california doesn't have BYO, they just have free corkage places.

                                      So go to Skool and get your free corkage on!

                                    2. re: bbulkow

                                      Park Chow has free corkage and is a good bargain to boot.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        I've seen free-corkage nights at a bunch of places, usually early in the week. Can't think of any in SF offhand.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Hillstone has "limited complimentary corkage" according to their reservation page.

                                      2. Go to Rocco's on Folsom nr 7st, get a couple 'o burritos at Farolito(24/Mission) , a couple 'o slices at Gioia Pizza. Cafe Trieste for dinner?(very funny, you can have a capuccino and a pastry), 2nd Yuet Lee, not really cheap but a nice roast pork chow fun and salt &pepper squid would satisfy 2 normal people.

                                        1. OK, I'll file a full report later. We had a good lunch yesterday at Great Eastern and dinner at B44. Off to Lers Ros tonight after the art museum.

                                          We'll be at the Cliff House late afternoon and coming back on Geary Blvd. We can stop off at Japantown for dinner or eat around here. I'm always up for Japanese--any suggestions? I'm thinking about Sushi Aka Tombo or Izakaya Yuzuki, although there will be good izakaya in LA. Any other suggestions either in Japantown or around Union square?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Feralpudel

                                            Geary Blvd to downtown?

                                            a) Shanghai Dumpling King (34th and Balboa (two long blocks south of Geary)
                                            b) Aziza - might qualify for the fancy meal - Michelin star, Cal-Moroccan, accessible palette, under $100 p/per (Geary and 22th)
                                            c) Vietnamese - use to be on the Chron's top 100...moderate price...mom and pop, nice interior but nothing fancy (also at Geary/22nd)

                                            1. re: Feralpudel

                                              Izakaya Yuzuki is in the Mission.

                                              I doubt there's much in Japantown that you couldn't get in LA--- it's for the most part filled with mediocre places with similar offerings. Sushi Aka Tombo is good though and has Omakase. For regular sushi, I'd probably wait till LA.

                                              On the way back from Cliff House, well before Japantown are various hot pot places, Kappou Gomi a great non-sushi Japanese place, and a variety of cheap Asian places. That's the Richmond District.

                                              1. re: Feralpudel

                                                I would highly recommend Aka Tombo. Yes, you will find better sushi in LA than in SF, but it will be significantly more expensive than Aka Tombo. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal anywhere than Ryoji-san's amazing $30 omakase nigiri deal. I was there 2 nights ago and he has some wonderful summer specials at the moment, that he includes in the omakase.

                                                1. re: Feralpudel

                                                  Yuzuki is great. Better food than Izayoi in LA.