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Dives and cheap lunches

hi guys im gonna be in town with the GF from Nov. 8th to the 12th. We are gonna do great places like the Slanted Door, flour n water, wayfare, etc for dinner...but we wanted to know some cheap dive type places that the locals love for lunch. all suggestions are welcome. We love all kinds of food adventures. only restriction is it has to be in city cuz we're goin everywhere by cab. thanks in advance.

p.s. -- if u have a suggestion but the place is not cheap, but is a MUST HAVE LUNCH then thats ok too.

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  1. I like Red's Java House even if others don't .The food is only ok but the view from the patio is great.
    For a better burger but not a dive, Original Joe's across from Washington Square in North Beach.

    1 Reply
    1. Are you only staying in Frisco?

      Or are you adventurous?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mission

        no. stayin in frisco. takin cabs everywhere.

      2. banh mi at Saigon Sandwich
        taco al pastor at Taqueria San Jose (the original on Mission near 24th)
        lamb schwerma wrap at Truly Mediterranean
        mohinga and tea leaf salad at Burmese Kitchen

        1. la Torta Gorda, 24th St. about six blocks east of the Mission Bart station. tortas, quesadillas, breakfasts, chiles en nogada.

          1. any awesome chinese or japanese dives? or seafood dives?? im from Houston and are mexican food here is amazing, but the Chinese food is above average at best. and SF being so heavily influenced by china n japan and being right by the water...i was hoping for something along those lines.

            10 Replies
            1. re: rdmousavi

              Katana-ya for ramen and the Sapporo-Ya noodle shop in Japantown are probably as close as you get to a dive among the local Japanese places.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I second Red's Java House ( which is different from The Java House at pier 40) but ONLY for the ambience and fish and chips. Yuet Lee on Stockton and Broadway is a must, since it is a dive, (while it's not dirt cheap, who wants dirt cheap fish?) it specializes in seafood and it's Cantonese, making it a threefer by my reckoning.

                1. re: little big al

                  Love Yuet Lee.

                  Note to OP. SF is relatively small and easy to get around. Walking and public transpo will serve you well.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    For ramen I'd recommend both Ramen Underground on Kearny and Kirimachi Ramen on Broadway.

                  2. re: rdmousavi

                    for Chinese cooking, if you want the best quality it won't be from dives, but the small, quaint places which could qualify for that moniker are probably in that 'above average at best' strata that you have in Hou.

                    1. re: moto

                      i think dives may have been used improperly on my behalf or summed up into too large of a category. What i meant was quaint locals only type of places that your average hotel concierge wouldnt know about

                    2. re: rdmousavi

                      very SF, calif-italian seafood, good eats, cozy but not a dive, not cheap[ good seafood cannot be cheap here], Sotto Mare in North Beach.

                      1. re: moto

                        perfect. im totally for it. thanks

                      2. Shalimar - 532 Jones Street
                        Really good. Really Cheap. Really funky.
                        A total dive in deepest darkest Tenderloin. Don't trip over the junkies

                        1 Reply
                        1. B & M Cafe on 2nd street might work. Cheap Chinese dive. To up the adventure, be sure to go right at the lunchtime peak and join the crowded chaos. My favorites are the won ton or chow fun dishes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BernalKC

                            At B&M the made to order food's generally better than the steam-table stuff.

                          2. My fave's..

                            Lefty O' Doul's
                            Gott's for the ahi burger..can be split
                            Tadich for chowder at the counter

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              Lefty O'Douls - a name out of my past. When I worked at Union Square, 20+ years ago, I had countless breakfasts and a fair number of lunches too there. Yum.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Lefty's rocks it and I so wish I was up there when the Giants won the world series..
                                One of the best places and I have closed down Lefty's and I have opened with one of their bloodys..
                                Best place for breakfast or lunch..seen the SF Mayor to Barry Bonds...classic, cheap and good!

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  I used to do most of my 'damage' at Harrington's over near the Embarcadero :)

                            2. I wouldn't say you're getting good recommendations yet.

                              Hit some food trucks at the every-day food truck park

                              There's a great little neighborhood called Potrero Hill, and one of my favorite lunches is sandwiches from Hazel's with coffee from Farley's, a neighborhood tradition, line out the door. Make mine sourdough black forest.

                              You said no mexican, but that's what we eat for lunch. El Faralito at 24th and Mission is a classic.

                              I like the Sycamore, around 19th and Mission, for "gastropub" food. Strange things like pork belly doughnuts and sliders. It's an adventure. There's an alley there with a lot of street art.

                              Wise Sons for Pastrami - everyone's been talking about it, I haven't been.

                              Saigon Sandwich for Bahn Mi - it's in the 'loin, it's better than Lee's.
                              (ie, RL above is steering you right, grab a schwarma at Med Delight


                              Arizmendi for pizza, but take out to Dolores Park if it's a decent day.

                              Rosamunde for a sausage - like the one on valencia

                              Chinese lunch - there are a million small places. Lunch is quite good at the upscale Yank Sing (not a cheap dive), you can also trek out to San Tung and get the "crack" chicken wings, or Spices in the inner richmond. Henry's Hunan is one of the slightly older school places that actually makes spicy food, as does Dong Bei Mama. I would try to get ahold of The Chairman truck, they make good stuff.

                              Most of the good food adventures are outside of town, like buying seafood off the boats at Half Moon Bay

                              Gott's? NO. Tadich counter? Sure. Red's? I love it too - it's an actual dive.

                              I thought your statement about "hotel concierge" is hilarious. As I've been doing more business travel in the last few years, I learned that concierges are TERRIBLE. I haven't figured out if they don't care, or they get kickbacks, or they're aiming for the lowest common denominator, but I have had _zero_ good concierge recommendations in over 10 tries in cities across the world, Tokyo to Shanghai to Portland to NYC. I can do better with one hour on the internet.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: bbulkow

                                There are some great taco trucks but most trucks sell dishes that you could get tastier at half the price going to a normal dive with a roof, tables, and chairs. Here's a topic on which are good and which are just cashing in on the fad:


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  GF and I have mostly sworn off food trucks, but there's a couple I like, and it does feel like an adventure. I like The Chairman, the Korean Taco truck, Always on Mondays, Pollo Frito. I am very much sick of trucks that take you half an hour to give you your food.

                                  That being said, I really liked the Streat Park the one time I went, and I would go again, for the vibe and the food's pretty good too. As discussed elsewhere, the trucks there matter.

                                2. re: bbulkow

                                  Good recommendations should also include correct information. Rosamunde is on Mission near 24th and there are 2 Arizmendis with delicious pizza: Inner Sunset on 9th near Irving and in the Mission on Valencia and 24th. Sunset is closed Monday; Valencia closed on Tuesday.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Cheeseboard and Arizmendi aren't normal pizza places, they're bakeries that make one vegetarian pizza a day, e.g.:


                                    The cracker-like sourdough crust is unique and not everyone likes it.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      agree with above though prefer the Rosamunde sausage-Toronado beer combo on Haight.
                                      That said, Rosamunde on Mission had decent beer options

                                        1. re: Civil Bear

                                          yea! go early to Rhea's - they might run out of the faves.