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San Francisco on a budget


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Ill be in SF in the middle of march and was wondering what there is on budget food there? I hear (from The Layover) that SF trumphs NY in having more decent mid-range prices. Unfortunately i dont know if I can afford that either (back packing). So are there are cheap places that are worth going too?

Im hoping for some seafood options since where i havent had it in a while.

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Cheap, excellent seafood @ Yuet Lee in Chinatown.

Half priced oysters at Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Plaza Fuilding on Monday and Thursday from 5 - 7 PM.

And a classic Crab Louis @ Swan Oyster Depot - though it will set you back at least $20.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • Grab a mission super burrito as big as your head in the Mission for $8.
  • Mission Chinese in the Mission is a bit pricier (~$15) but everyone raves about it for good reason. Expect an hour wait, even on weekdays.
  • There's excellent Vietmanese and Indian food in the Tenderloin, near the civic center.
  • Burmese food is a SF specialty and there's a ton of places dotted around Richmond, SOMA & The Mission
  • There's decent dim sum in Chinatown and truly excellent dim sum that's more out of the way in either Richmond of Sunset.

PS: I am a guy.

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The last time I had dinner with a super-foodie friend, who is also a chef, she unloaded a bunch of recommendations on me. I'm glad to share the budget-minded places with you. How she manages to eat at all these places while holding down a full-time cooking job boggles my mind. I'm sorry to say I haven't checked out these places myself--too many project deadlines for me these days. They're on My List. My friend's recs have always been very reliable.

Roam Burgers, http://roamburgers.com/

Spice Kit, http://spicekit.com/

Deli Board, http://www.deliboardsf.com/

Cotogna, especially for the pasta dishes. My friend says they cook pasta perfectly al dente here, other places overcook pasta. (You can tell she has strong opinions about food. ) http://www.cotognasf.com/pdf/cotogna-dinner.pdf

In the Tenderloin district, be alert after dark:

Saigon Sandwich, http://www.yelp.com/biz/saigon-sandwich-san-francisco

Bodega Vietnamese Restaurant, http://www.yelp.com/biz/bodega-bistro-san-francisco-2

Also, some places I have tried that might fit your budget:

Delfina's Pizzeria, http://pizzeriadelfina.com/menu.html

Bi-Rite Ice Cream, close to Delfina's http://biritecreamery.com/

Burma Superstar, http://www.burmasuperstar.com/menu.html

And don't forget the food trucks, Off The Grid: http://www.facebook.com/OffTheGridSF?sk=info

There are food trucks and vendors at the SF Ferry Bldg farmers mkt on Saturdays. Recently I became addicted to the porchetta sandwich at the Roli Roti truck. http://www.roliroti.com/

have fun in SF!

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Ooooo they all look good. Annachan, I guess our maximum budget would be not more then $20 (hopefully), if lets say we had a meal over $30 im sure that would be fine, but the bulk of it should be below the $15-20 range.

Seafood wise, i think oysters is definitely something im looking for. Sushi/sashimi would be great though that's usually a tad pricier. Fish and chips by the wharf - worth it or just another tourist trap?

I'm quite intrigued about the food trucks - are there ones that are better then others?

Oh also, I really want to buy a thing of sourdough starter, are there specialty bakeries that i can get a starter dough from?

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Ooooo they all look good. Annachan, I guess our maximum budget would be not more then $20 (hopefully), if lets say we had a meal over $30 im sure that would be fine, but the bulk of it should be below the $15-20 range.

Seafood wise, i think oysters is definitely something im looking for. Sushi/sashimi would be great though that's usually a tad pricier. Fish and chips by the wharf - worth it or just another tourist trap?

I'm quite intrigued about the food trucks - are there ones that are better then others?

Oh also, I really want to buy a thing of sourdough starter, are there specialty bakeries that i can get a starter dough from?

One thing you do have to factor in is tax and tips. Tax is not included on prices on menus, so you need to add about 9% on top of the menu price. If you go to a sit down place, tips are expected. Generally, 15% - 20%. Some place may even add a health tax, somewhere around 4%.

Now, there are still plenty of great places for under $20:

*Burmese - Little Yangon in Daly City (take BART to Daly City station and walk about 3 blocks). You can get some really authentic stuff there and prices are great. I prefer it a lot more than Burma Superstar (pricey, food that is more Americanized).

*Mexican - tacos, burritos, you can fill yourself up silly for $20. El Burrito Express (2 locations) is one of my favorites.

*Ike's - the sandwiches are well worth the price and the wait.

*Cotogna - one of my favorites, but $20 is tough, even $30. I do love that place though.

*Il Cane Rosso - you can't go wrong with breakfast or lunch there.

*Food trucks - like someone mentioned before, Off the Grid is where you want to be. It's a weekly gathering of food trucks and food stalls. Go to the one at Fort Mason Center. The last time I went (October 2011), there were at least 30 trucks/stalls).

*El Huarache Loco (food stall) - they are sometimes at Off the Grid, always at the Alemany Farmer's Market on Saturdays and I think they've opened a restaurant in the North Bay. Anything with alambre, the pambazo, the huevos divorciados, etc. God I miss that place! When we lived in SF, we got food from there weekly.

*Choice Yakiniku - this place is tuck in the middle of a residential area, up in Diamond Heights. The owners are Korean but the menu is mainly Japanese and diner food, with a few Korean dishes mixed in. Surprisingly, the burgers are great (big and juicy) along with perfectly cooked steak fries (under $10). For the Japanese fare, I like chicken katsu, stuffed jalapeno tempura (stuffed with beef and very spicy) and the calamari tempura. I also like their tofu soup (stew). You have a choice between beef or seafood (calamari and shrimp). I always ask for beef and calamari. Ask about kimchi and pickled jalapeno if you like spicy stuff. They know me there so they give me a bowl of that stuff no matter what I order. Even with tax and tip, you shouldn't have a problem eating for under $20. Oh yeah, portions are large.

*King of Thai Noodle (Taraval location - the only location I can recommend) - lots of good, cheap noodles here. Love the chicken noodle soup (with lots of chili), curry fried rice and some of the stir fry noodle dishes. If I remember correctly, items are mostly under $10.

*Arizmendi - it's mainly a bakery. You got to try a cheese roll. Breads and baked goods are generally fantastic. Daily pizzas are available during lunch.

*PIQ - if you're over in Berkeley, you have to try this place. It has beautiful breads (I dream about the mushroom bread!), wonderful sandwiches and calzones, and lovely desserts (the sfogliatelle is a must!). The egg panini is perfect for breakfast. $10 should be more than enough for a meal, maybe a few dollars more if you add in a drink and dessert.

*Farmers markets - Alemany, Stonestown and Ferry Building all have great food stalls.

*Hard Knox Cafe - great Southern food at great prices. You can't go wrong with the fried chicken (I generally request all wings) and the oxtails are good. Portions are huge, you get 2 sides and corn muffin with your meal (except for burgers/sandwiches) and mostly under $15. It has 2 locations and both are good.

*Bisou - this is more the $30 meal. French bistro food for really good prices. Prix-fixe menu from 5:30-7:00, 3 courses for $26. It is one of the best deals in town. Oh, during brunch, $10 will get you bottomless mimosa and bloody mary. Say hello to Nick (the owner) if you're there. He's just the friendliest guy around.

I'm sure there are more, will post when they come to me. I know you'll have a great time there.

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Don't forget In-N-Out Burger - near Fisherman's Wharf.

I don't know that fish and chips is a particularly San Francisco thing - certainly not at the wharf, where it's generally about overpriced crab and shrimp cocktails.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Some of the best & cheapest food I ate on a Dec '11 trip to SF came from the lunchtime food trucks at UN Plaza...can't recall which day of the week (Tuesdays, I think). Tamales, wood-fired pizza, samosas, fresh juices, etc. Definitely an economical pig out with lots of ethnic variety, and a farmer's market nearby to boot.

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I believe Off The Grid at Fort Mason is totally off the grid at this time, and is set to resume in March.

http://san-francisco.cityseekr.com/off-the-grid/festivals-fairs-food-drink/event/mar-2-2012/2089172

Check before you go to Fort Mason, and dress warmly.

The other Off The Grid locations are active. I posted the link upthread.

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Just for clarification, you're from Singapore -- so I assume you have amazing pan-Asian food every day. If you're looking for food that is more foreign to you than dim sum and noodles, I'd head to North Beach, and get a sandwich at Molinari's. I'd pick up some focaccia at Liguria bakery. I'd get some salumi from Boccalone in the Ferry Terminal (a short walk from North Beach). For me, a trip to San Francisco is all about the pork and bread. Their salumi makers are among the best on Earth, as are their bakers. Try to find some Pliny the Elder beer to go along with your meals. In addition, Napa and Sonoma wines, while not cheap, are a real bargain*. We like to have our lunches at Coit tower, while watching the parrots.

I'd also find a coffee shop. It's hard to find a bad coffee shop in San Francisco -- as long as the name on the door is something other than "Starbuck's."

You'll have to find someone here to give you a recommendation for simple steamed dungeness crab. I always have access to a kitchen when I visit. So I buy live crabs and steam them myself. In my opinion, it is the best crab on earth, narrowly edging out the Florida Stone Crab.

I have my go-to dim sum and ramen joints as well. But you likely can find as good or better in Singapore. Eat pork, crab and bread. Drink coffee, beer and wine. I think that's what the Bay Area does best.

* It is worth your time and money to schedule a trip to wine country. We always stay in Napa, and visit San Francisco by using the ferry from Vallejo. That requires access to a car, though. I'm sure you can find an inexpensive bus trip that includes a few stops for wine tastings.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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You'll have to find someone here to give you a recommendation for simple steamed dungeness crab. I always have access to a kitchen when I visit. So I buy live crabs and steam them myself. In my opinion, it is the best crab on earth, narrowly edging out the Florida Stone Crab.

I'd also find a coffee shop. It's hard to find a bad coffee shop in San Francisco -- as long as the name on the door is something other than "Starbuck's."

That's why I recommended Swan Oyster Depot above. They do Dungeness crab as good as anyone (it's my favorite crab also, and even beats out lobster, in my opinion), as do many of the Hong Kong/Cantonese places that have live tanks.

As far as coffee goes, I'll beg to differ on the quality of the coffee in just any old coffee place. There is plenty of over-roasted, poorly pulled coffee to be had in North Beach. You'll always have a nice atmosphere, however. We like the La Boulange bakeries for nice pastries and decent, reasonably priced coffee in the mornings.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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That's why I recommended Swan Oyster Depot above. They do Dungeness crab as good as anyone (it's my favorite crab also, and even beats out lobster, in my opinion), as do many of the Hong Kong/Cantonese places that have live tanks.

I haven't been -- so I assume they offer Dungeness that isn't a Crab Louis salad?

That would be a GREAT idea for a restaurant in the Little City area: "Here's-A-Crab" Guests walk in, sit down at long communal benches. The benches are covered with mallets, lobster crackers, chopsticks, ramekins and carafes of various sauces. As soon as guests sit down, the servers drop a steamed crab in front of them and take their drink order.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Oh also, I really want to buy a thing of sourdough starter, are there specialty bakeries that i can get a starter dough from?

Sorry if someone has already said this. You can probably buy San Francisco sourdough starter at gift shops in SF (heck, you can buy it online), but be aware that once you get it home, it will soon turn into Singapore sourdough starter, because your flour, yeasts and bacteria are not the same as SF's.

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I haven't been -- so I assume they offer Dungeness that isn't a Crab Louis salad?

According to the menu on Menu Pages, they offer cracked crab and crab cocktail, as well as crab Louis. Now I'm hungry for one of those!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Just so you know.....looks like I will be joining some friends for a 10 day trip to SF and the surrounding area in early August so I am saving all of your suggestions. Keep them coming!!!!

Donna

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Agreed!

Actually I'm in Pullman, WA right now (i study at Washington State University) so being a little homesick, some really good dim sum would be great! I have an aunt who lives there and I did offer i would cook for her since shes hosting my visit - steamed crab seems like a great idea! Are they seasonal or year round? I don't think i've ever had dungeneese crab actually.

With regards to Swan's oyster depot, i believe that was featured on The Layover, looks damn good.

Salumi and all that good porky stuff is very much in my heart, and it'll be great to try.

My friend and I are actually driving down to SF and we were thinking of visiting Napa or Sonoma either on the way, or to be cheap by not paying for accommodation (we are college students), we were thinking of doing day trips (though being a 2 hour drive, would gas then negate that?). Regardless, I'm trying to get recommendations into wineries to visit in Napa or Sonoma and also trying to figure out who has cheaper tasting fees. I would very much like to visit Stag's Leap, Duckhorn etc but those places are kinda out of the budget I believe.

Also Bouchon by T. Keller - worth it? I looked at the prices online and they are NOT cheap (in comparison i guess to what im used to paying these days).

Thanks for all the suggestions!

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My friend and I are actually driving down to SF and we were thinking of visiting Napa or Sonoma either on the way, or to be cheap by not paying for accommodation (we are college students), we were thinking of doing day trips (though being a 2 hour drive, would gas then negate that?). Regardless, I'm trying to get recommendations into wineries to visit in Napa or Sonoma and also trying to figure out who has cheaper tasting fees. I would very much like to visit Stag's Leap, Duckhorn etc but those places are kinda out of the budget I believe.

Also Bouchon by T. Keller - worth it? I looked at the prices online and they are NOT cheap (in comparison i guess to what im used to paying these days).

1) Bouchon is worth it. Ad Hoc is also worth it. Even better, just go to Oxbow Market in Napa and sample, sample, sample.

2) There are hundreds of small wineries that don't charge much for a flight of wine tastings. So many, in fact, that the question isn't "can we afford it" but "can we go to this many places and still be OK to drive?" Just ask the locals, and tell them you're students on a budget. They'll send you to appropriate places. (There's this attitude out there that wine country is populated by snobs. But that simply isn't the case. Wine country is populated by wine geeks. Find a geek and ask thoughtful questions. You can't go wrong if you do this.)

You're better off going to the relatively-unknown wineries -- they don't charge as much, knowing that you'll buy their superlative wine by the case to bring home (or to the hotel).

If you can find an inexpensive place to stay in Vallejo, or the Napa or Sonoma areas, I'd stay there instead. Then take the ferry from Vallejo and walk/bus around San Francisco. Driving and parking in San Francisco is a hassle. Better to be a pedestrian -- the savings on parking (and on time looking for parking) is worth the cost of the ferry ticket. Parking is free near the terminal, and the ferry ticket is a bargain compared to gasoline and parking in SF.

When we go to SF, we get off at the ferry terminal, walk STRAIGHT TO LIGURIA BAKERY, and buy focaccia. Then we get some coffee nearby. Then we climb Telegraph hill and look at the parrots while eating focaccia. Then we wander around Chinatown and have some dim sum. We then take a bus to some place that interests us. On the way back, we buy seafood in Chinatown. Then we head to Molinari deli and buy a lot of salami. (Last year, we bought 20 pounds. We can't get anything that good at home. And it keeps great cryovac'd in the freezer.) Then it's back to the ferry terminal, where we get a couple salumi cones from Boccalone to enjoy on the ride back. We take the ferry back to Vallejo (crabs and salami in our backpacks), go back to our hotel, and steam up some Dungeness, which we enjoy with the wine we bought at the wineries.

This is what we always do -- five years in a row now. We always find a place with a kitchen, so that we can buy some of the best groceries in the world and cook them at our place. It will probably save you money in the long run if you find a place with a kitchen.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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With regards to Swan's oyster depot, i believe that was featured on The Layover, looks damn good.

That's because Bourdain and his crew are always right on top of the cutting edge places :rolleyes: .

We've always preferred Sonoma to Napa, probably because it's a tiny bit more off the beaten track and none of the wineries that we've tried in Sonoma charged a fee.

I have a different view of the driving and parking situation. Every time we go to San Francisco we rent a car - that allows us to take a drive down the coast if we want (even just out to the Cliff House for the stunning views), or over the Golden Gate Bridge and up into the Marin headlands. And I never have found parking to be a problem or that expensive - but perhaps that's because I live in NYC and compared to that, anything else is a breeze.

Since you'll probably be splitting the gas costs, I'd imagine it will all equal out in the end.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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My friend and I are actually driving down to SF and we were thinking of visiting Napa or Sonoma either on the way, or to be cheap by not paying for accommodation (we are college students), we were thinking of doing day trips (though being a 2 hour drive, would gas then negate that?).

Try to visit Napa or Sonoma on your way south. The gas will be expensive. Every gas station I've passed this week is selling over $4 per gallon. Also, do you really want to spend time commuting when you could be exploring SF?

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My cousin (who lives in the area) mentioned that there are buses that do rounds of the vineyards in the area, but I never did look into it. I imagine they're at a reasonable price point, and would also mean that you needn't worry about watching your wine intake super carefully, the way you would if you were driving.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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If you go to Napa, definitely get some baked goods from Bouchon Bakery.

Oh, how did I forget to mention Patisserie Philippe in SF? You can't get better French pastry in SF. Quality is on par with Bouchon.

Swan Oyster Depot has been around a long time, an old fashioned place. Great for oysters and other chilled seafood. You can spend a good amount of money in there if you let yourself go. It can be a little dangerous for someone on a budget.

You can get cheap accommodation at Napa if you want to stay overnight. Look for budget hotels. You are some located in prime areas that are quite reasonable.

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