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best cheap eats in the Berkeley / Oakland area

Posted this in another topic but it really deserves its own.

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  1. La Bedaine (French takeout)
    Ba Le (banh mi)
    Lanesplitter (pizza and great local draft beer)
    Miss Ollie's (Caribbean)
    Nido (Mexican)
    Pyeongchang (soondobu - Korean soft tofu soup)
    Marrow (meat-centric)
    Battambang (Cambodian)
    Champa Garden (Laotian, avoid the Thai dishes)
    Chef Yu's aka Yuyu Za Zang (Chinese-Korean)
    Vik's (Indian chaat)
    Shan Dong (Chinese dumplings)
    Geta (Japanese)
    Jalisco Cafe (carnitas)
    El Huarache Azteca (Mexican dishes made with fresh masa)
    Pho An Sen (pho with crazy good lemongrass condiment)

    1. Cam Huong could be the #1 bang for your buck.

      702 International Blvd
      Oakland, CA 94606

      920 Webster St
      Oakland, CA 94607

      1. What's your definition of cheap? Or of best? At 7.75 The mole burrito at Talavera is a splurge compared to the 5.00 pollo burrito from the truck outside the Hotsy Totsy club, but it's much tastier.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Glencora

          I guess that's cheap by Solano Avenue standards. Burritos in Fruitvale are around 25% cheaper.

        2. Second for Vik's Chaat House

          Also Gum Wah
          345 8th Street
          Oakland, CA 94607
          (510) 834-3103

          14 Replies
          1. re: kungful

            Vik's Chaat House has not been cheap for 7 years!

            To me Cheap should be lunch under $10 bucks!

            How do you get out of there with a fulfilling lunch for under $20?

            Please tell.

            1. re: Mission

              Order one of their specials ($7.99+tax)? I would do it fairly regularly when I worked over by there, and would end up satsifed and not hungry until dinner (and I have a healthy appetite). If you order chaat, then yeah, it's going to be over $10. And generally, I like their chaat/dosas better, but I still think it's good food.

              1. re: Mission

                I don't think I've ever spent $10 at Vik's. I usually get cholle with paratha instead of bhatura, or lamb roti.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I will give them one more try...and report back.

                  If I get a parking ticket from the overzealous Berkeley parking control...I will report back on that too.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Is the parking lot right next to the building or across the street or?

                      1. re: Mission

                        It's next to the building. The entrance is on Fourth. Have you been there since they moved? I don't think there are any restrictions on street parking in the immediate area, either.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I think there's another lot across the street, too. No problem parking there at all.

              2. re: kungful

                FWIW after not going to Viks for a long time, I've found myself there on several occasions over the past coupla months -- and the food has been stellar: goat curry, lamb roti, (the cholle is always my go-to dish).

                1. re: escargot3

                  But what did it cost you?

                  This is about cheap eats!

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I will try it again this week....if nothing else to check out the free parking.

                      I will probably go around 1:30 so hopefully they will be a spot?

                      I will see if I can get satiated for $15 or less out the door for lunch.

                      I doubt it...especially if I buy any kind of drink.

                      Report to follow.

                      1. re: Mission

                        I often stop by for lunch around noon and have never had any trouble parking in their lot.

                        If you want to get out for less than $10, you have to do one of the specials (IMO). I like their weekend specials better though, and generally get their veggie specials (and lamb roti on the weekend). If going with multiple people you can order a few chaats and probably get out for ~$10...

                    2. re: Mission

                      I don't recall the cost, but definitely I would consider Vik's to be cheap food.

                      There are 2 parking lots. On Friday and Sat nite, and Sunday aft there's ample parking on the street.

                  1. re: Glencora

                    The falafel at Sunrise Deli are tops, but I think everything else is below average. I just get a bag of falafel rather than spoil them with bad pita etc.

                  2. Indus Village should be in there. Top Dog too, given dogs are still $3 bucks.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      I went to Indus a few months ago after a long respite. Found it too oily for my palette.

                      1. re: escargot3

                        What did you order? My experience has been Indus has a pretty light touch for Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Lamb. Okra Masala. Saag. Chicken Tikka Massala

                    2. East Oakland:
                      Pho Ao Sen
                      Taqueria Sinaloa Truck
                      Banh Mi Ba Le

                      Piedmont Ave:
                      Lunch at Gregoire is usually a pretty good deal and under $10 (sandwiches, salads, potato puffs).
                      Geta for good cheap sushi and other japanese dishes.

                      Gum Kuo for jook and rice noodle rolls
                      Phnom Penh House - Cambodian
                      Vien Huong for noodles (chow jew noodle soup and beef stew ho fun are especially good)
                      Spices 3

                      Genova Deli for really good sandwiches

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Mr_Happy

                        Looks like the Piedmont Gregoire currently has the lunch menu all day.

                        That branch seems like a better deal than the Cedar branch to me, since you don't have to sit on the sidewalk.

                        1. re: Mr_Happy

                          Mr Happy, your list has everything that I had in mind. I might add Champa Garden which is super bang for the buck. I would also add Arizmendi for its pizza slices.

                        2. I like Slicer and Lanesplitter for good slices.

                          1. Cheeseboard pizza
                            Turkish Kitchen (request fresh pita instead of lavash if you get a sandwich)
                            Ethiopia Restaurant for best low price Ethiopian, but for higher quality Ensarro or Cafe Colucci are in the $12-$15 range
                            Vientian (Lao)

                            +2 for El Huarache Atzeca, Banh Mi Ba Le, Battambang, and Banh Mi Ba Le. All are cheap with no hit on quality.

                            +1 for Gum Kuo and Spices 3. Cheap but not as good as more expensive places (and that's okay).

                            Vik's advocators--- there's not a lot of recent updates, so please post recent experiences if you have a chance. An old thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7808...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              --Cheeseboard is of course a crown jewel.

                              --Kim Albany Cafe is a little pricier than VN sandos in deep oakland or the tenderloin but is a good deal ... certainly cheaper than La Bedaine (I like La Bedaine and I think they are good deal for quality, but I dont think of them as cheap)

                              --Bongo Burger Persian Burger is a good deal for $7.50 with tax (and have the $3.50 breakfast)

                              --Suya Afro/Carib Grill ... I havent gone their too many times but I think it is a good option. Not a lot of seating space.

                              --If you list La Bedaine, might as well list PIQ or Gregoire Sandos (as long as you dont order a potato item, it's under $10 for lunch)

                              --you can get some cheap and good stuff at Oasis Market, but it's a bit weirdly run ... I've been charge different amounts at different times, quality can vary etc. Beef somosa, spinach pie, lebne/baba ganouj all generally pretty good ... i dont think they still sell pita individually for 20cents but i think you can get 5 fo ~$1.

                              1. re: psb

                                At La Bedaine I always feel like he's not charging enough.

                                PIQ is a good value if you stick to the savory items and skip the pastries.

                                Gregoire seems too expensive to me but most of the stuff they sell I'd make at home.

                              2. re: hyperbowler

                                The wraps at Turkish Kitchen are pretty good. I think the baked pies ("Calzone") are bland and overpriced.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  I thought Turkish Kitchen's pide with sucuk and cheese ($8?) was really good. My usual order there is the appetizer combo.


                              3. Some friends and I recently had a really good lunch at Arabica on Kittredge in downtown Berkeley. They make their own pita, which they bring to the table after you order, with olive oil and zatar, and it's addictive.....and they brought more when we asked. I had the chicken kebab plate with lots of vegetables, and my friends had the lamb burger and the chicken kebab sandwich in a pita. At $11, it was big enough for two people. Most of their sandwiches, entrees are in the $10-11 range.

                                1. Cheeseboard's the original and the several Arizmendis are spinoffs, basically interchangeable.


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Cheeseboard is closed Sundays and Monday, and are often closed for school holidays, whereas Arizmendi is open pretty much open daily. That and their multiple locations make Arizmendi worth mentioning for people who may not know that they are sister restaurants.

                                    1. re: hbsboak

                                      In my experience Arizmendi Valencia has good game, but Golden Gate Park, E'ville, Lakeshore are all noticeably weaker. I've eaten at all of them quite a few times, but havent been in a while, so maybe they have gotten better.
                                      [judging on pizza alone ... although the Valencia Focaccia with cheese is also good].

                                      I think Nick Pizza and Slicer are fair deals for slices. I like Lanesplitter too.

                                      I've eaten at Sliver maybe 20 times and they were trending down from their opening [at which point I think their staff were all cheeseboard emigres] but still ok ... if the downward trend continues, it might be a problem, but otherwise I think they are a reasonable cheeseboard sub and a cheap lunch indeed, if you dont get a cocktail [which i did once or twice and are generally not good].

                                      Sorry, not a fan of Vik. I'm in the south bay enough these days to save my indian food/chaat outings for ECRish places.

                                      re: La Bedaine ... I think his smoked salmon which used to be priced at $16/lb was a great deal. It's gone up ... and that is more of a treat than a lunch/dinner. Not sure if you can do lunch there for under $10. Although we're splitting hairs to suggest their are more than Gregoire ... for me, if I've gone all the way over to Solano, I'll end up getting more than a Sando, so I always end up spending more at LB than G, but I suppose it's not inherently more expensive.

                                      Build: over priced.
                                      Pho place on Euclid across from Bongo, Next to LaVals: over priced.

                                      Stuffed Inn: not sure if they have gotten worse or expectations have been raised but I was in the mood for an old school white bread sando and it was pretty bad. The sando/middle eastern/smoothie place has a better $4.50 "school lunch" type sando.

                                      That indian fast food place on Euclid [Urban Turban] actually gives you a quite large amount of food for what they charge, if memory serves.

                                      My colleagues and I miss Brasa, although it was perhaps pushing "cheap".

                                      My colleague like Donkey Burrito ... it is very cheap, tacos $1.25 I believe, but I do not think it is very good. I am not a huge fan of Cancun either.

                                      I've heard decent things about Rocket Food or whatever it is called, but I suppose that is sui generis.

                                      When Cafe Rouge has their pastrami, it is also a great deal ($14?) ... I'll just eat it straight for lunch. Local Butcher corned beef has gotten too pricy ($18?).

                                      1. re: psb

                                        Spoonrocket. Meals appear to have gone up to $8 but still delivered to your door in minutes.

                                    2. I live a block away from Khana Peena on College Ave.
                                      and I still think their Indian buffet Lunch for $8 is a great value.

                                      They no longer give you cloth napkins and a free soda drink but its still always satisfies.

                                      Their outdoor dining area is great!


                                      Don't order a beer as it will cost $ almost as much as the buffet.

                                      Khana Peena
                                      5316 College Ave
                                      Oakland, CA 94618

                                      1. best cheap eat in oakland. Big Dish restaurant 1.25 for a bowl of congee. nothing more than $5.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ThaDu

                                          Big Dish
                                          339 9th St
                                          Oakland, CA 94607
                                          b/t Harrison St & Webster St in Oakland Chinatown
                                          Phone number (510) 839-3188
                                          I've never tried this -- thanks for the tip.

                                          Also, 8th Street Cafe
                                          337 8th St
                                          Oakland, CA 94607
                                          b/t Webster St & Harrison St in Oakland Chinatown

                                          I've been here several times for the extremely cheap 3PM to 6PM specials.
                                          Now you are getting the cheapest food, with questionable service and scary sanitary issues.
                                          I like it, my wife is appalled.

                                          1. re: ThaDu

                                            I had a piece of roast pig from Big Dish this week. It was quite tasty.

                                          2. Just me, I'm not a fan of Le Bedaine or Khana Peena. I did really enjoy the Kama Sutra border art around the skylight though! That was, ummm...unexpected.

                                            Our only contribution to a 'cheap eats' thread would be Red Sea's lunch buffet. You have to deal with the red palm oil; they use a lot of it. We're fond of it so no problem for us. The injera is made that morning so it's much fresher at lunch than at dinner.

                                            Do NOT try ordering off the menu. We cannot figure out why they are so slow, plating food that is often right on the buffet for less than $7/pp, but they are. We spent over 90 minutes on our first visit, watching people sit down, stuff themselves silly with plates of food, and zip out while we were still waiting, waiting, waiting.....

                                            The quality is moderate, the seasoning depends on which relative is cooking, but it's an amazing bargain. We get their only smoothie, the Red Sea fruit juice, which ups the bill a bit, but no biggie.

                                            When they're "on", the zigne (spicy beef red curry) and the okra are excellent. The doro alicha (chicken yellow curry) is usually the boneless tibs but very occasionally will be the bone-in wot, which my DH loves.