The Best Spots For Cheap Eats (& What To Order) in San Francisco
I dunno 'bout you, but I'm really over seeing that whole "S.F. is the most expensive city in the world" headline all over the place these days. I get it — San Francisco is pricey AF - from $15 cocktails to, well, yeah...the rent.
In a city where you often feel like you need to work to live, a list of go-to cheap eats can really help a sista out. From tacos to toast, the following spots will leave both your stomach and your wallet feelin' pretty full.
HRD is a super quick, super affordable and super delish South Park spot serving up all the fusion fare — with everything from Mexican to Korean flavors. Must orders include the Kimchi burrito, short rib bibimbap, poke salad, and Bulgogi tacos to name just a few (all ranging from $9 to $13).
HRD, 521A 3rd Street (between Taber Aly and Park Avenue); 415-543-2355.
Tartine’s long lines and wait times are not for the faint of heart or hangry, but well worth the wait. Just ask anyone who has had their open face ham and cheese croissant. My bread loving mama recently said this was the best bakery she'd been to since moving out of France.
Tartine Bakery, 600 Guerrero Street (at 18th Street); 415-487-2600.
WesBurger 'N' More
San Francisco's WesBurger has classic old-school diner vibes and serves up, as the name suggests, more than just a badass burger. Their menu has chicken sandwiches, burritos, steaks, salads, 'n' more! Be sure to stop in and try the "Hot Wes" patty served with onion rings, queso, and pickled jalapeños for just $11. Oh, and a side of the $4 tater tots are not to missed.
WesBurger 'N' More, 2240 Mission Street (between 19th and 18th Street); 415-745-9371.
Hot Sauce & Panko
How do you like your chicken wings? Tossed with chipotle and pesto-avocado crema or traditional buffalo? I don’t even care how they're flavored, as long as they’re from Hot Sauce and Panko. Even better is their Wings and a Waffle special, which includes a half dozen wings and an airy, buttery Belgian waffle for your game-day (or any-day) enjoyment.
Hot Sauce and Panko, 1468 Hyde Street (at Jackson Street); 415-359-1908.
This downtown San Francisco joint serves up fast Korean fare with a "California kick" — try one of the savory rice bowls with a soy egg and some kimchi on top ($11), an order of the three street tacos ($10), or just "Poké It" with their Island Style poké bowl ($13).
Saucy Asian, 3801 17th Street (at Sanchez Street); 415-834-5555.
The Pizza Shop
The Pizza Shop in S.F.'s Mission neighborhood slings out NY-style slices for $4 — the white spinach with mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, and garlic and the white mushroom pies are cheesy crowd pleasers.
The Pizza Shop, 3104 24th Street (at Folsom Street); 415-824-1840.
Bini's delicious Nepali momos (i.e. dumplings) come filled with either turkey, chicken, pork, or vegetables and are ready to be dunked in a spicy side of tomato cilantro puree. Pick up an authentic Tibetan curry lunch with a side of momos all for just $10.
Bini's Kitchen, 2948 Folsom Street (between 25th Street & 26th Street); 415-361-6911.
The only thing better than fresh-slapped, griddle-fried masa is fresh-slapped, griddle-fried masa filled with melted cheese and velvety refried beans. At Balompie, the pupusas are deftly shaped and filled by the hands of masters, the cheese is molten, and the accompanying cabbage slaw is the perfect vinegary pairing. You can’t go wrong with any of the filling combinations, but we love the pure simplicity of the bean and cheese — it truly needs no accompaniment.
Balompie Cafe, 3349 18th Street (between South Van Ness Avenue and Capp Street); 415-648-9199. 3801 Mission Street (between Richland and Crescent avenues); 415-647-4000.
In a town of long lines, Bi-Rite’s may very well be the most dependable — come rain or come shine, we will wind around the block for the pleasure of a scoop or three. Get your money’s worth with one of its killer sundaes — our top pick is the Afternoon Snack, featuring roasted banana ice cream, caramel sauce, and the absolutely perfect house-made graham crackers. Don’t forget to take full advantage of their free-sample policy, too.
Bi-Rite Creamery, multiple locations.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
With a name like that, you’d better bet this is greatness in burger form. 4505 delivers with its rich, grass-fed-beef patty topped with Gruyère cheese and served on a buttery, crisp sesame- and scallion-topped bun. It manages to perfectly walk the fine line between top-quality ingredients and down-home, diner-esque comfort-food flavor (don’t even get us started on the secret sauce). And you can even add bacon or avocado and still come in under the $10 mark.
4505 Burgers & BBQ, 705 Divisadero Street (at Grove Street); 415-231-6993.
Devil's Teeth Baking Company
There are breakfast sandwiches that are hastily assembled and simply meant to give you energy for the day ahead. Then there are breakfast sandwiches that take on a bigger, almost divine purpose — they don’t just start your day, they make it. The humongous, biscuit-topped versions from Devil’s Teeth do this admirably. The bacon-egg-and-cheese original is tops, but lately we’ve been feeling the special — it features the same flaky, buttery biscuit topped with fluffy scrambled eggs, plus thick smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and lemon-garlic aioli. It’s going to be a beautiful day.
Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, 3876 Noriega Street (between 45th Avenue and 46th Avenue); 415-683-5533.
Arguello Super Market
As quintessentially Northern Californian as a sandwich gets, the roast turkey at Arguello is a standout thanks to its spit-roasted preparation — the meat is always juicy, tender, and well salted, particularly when the dark and white meat combination is layered on a soft, sweet Dutch crunch roll. Add avocado and pepper jack cheese, and you’ll have a park-ready feast at your disposal.
Arguello Super Market, 782 Arguello Boulevard (near McAllister Street); 415-751-5121.
Mission Banh Mi at Duc Loi Supermarket
There are cheaper banh mi in town, but few are as generously topped and addictively good as the specimens found at Duc Loi. We love them all (including the excellent fried tofu), but it’s hard to beat the decidedly untraditional fried-chicken version, which features layer upon layer of thinly pounded, panko-fried chicken topped with caper aioli, pork paté, slaw, and jalapeños.
Mission Banh Mi, 2200 Mission Street (at 18th Street); 415-551-1772.
Chomp N’ Swig
What’s better than a grilled-cheese sandwich? A grilled-cheese sandwich slathered with bacon butter, loaded with guacamole and sharp cheddar cheese, and pressed until it's melty and crisp (yet manages to avoid being greasy!). Pair it with a craft beer, and consider yourself in paradise.
Chomp N’ Swig, 1541 Clement Street (between 16th Avenue and 17th Avenue); 415-683-5946.
Golden Boy Pizza
There’s no shortage of pizza-by-the-slice joints, but few garner the accolades of Golden Boy. The thick, square slices are buttery-tasting rather than greasy, toppings are generous, and with the combination (which is loaded with sausage, pepperoni, and vegetables), you can truly have it all. Most significantly, these slices taste just as good when you’re sober as when you’re...less than.
Golden Boy Pizza, 542 Green Street (near Columbus Avenue); 415-982-9738.
Kasa Indian Eatery
The flavor-packed kati rolls from Kasa Indian Eatery could almost be considered quaint — fresh-griddled roti is dolloped with your choice of filling, ranging from lamb curry to gobi aloo. Simple perfection — and dainty enough to warrant ordering at least two.
Kasa Indian Eatery, multiple locations.
We’re having a thing with the garlic noodles at Mekong Kitchen in the Castro. That thing includes eating them straight out of the container on our way in the door as we’re beelining for the couch to further bury our faces in their springy, deeply savory, so-loaded-with-garlic-your-boyfriend-will-be-sorry goodness. Obsessed? Perhaps. Worth it? Definitely.
Mekong Kitchen, 4039 18th Street (near Castro Street); 415-346-9700.
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store
In addition to being one of the finest cafés in North Beach, Mario’s makes focaccia sandwiches that are the hearty, melty stuff dreams are made of. The olive-oil-rich green onion focaccia, baked fresh at Liguria’s just across Washington Square Park, is a fine vehicle for any filling, but we’re partial to tender-crisp breaded eggplant, which is generously layered with melted mozzarella cheese and fresh, bright tomato sauce.
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, 566 Columbus Ave (at Union Street); 415-362-0536.
Pakwan is a Bay Area cult classic. Their saag paneer in particular is perfectly spiced and creamy; spooned on a hot round of char-spotted naan, it’s full-flavored, budget-friendly perfection. Pro tip: Both San Francisco locations are BYOB.
Pakwan, multiple locations.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Hot dogs are legit my most favorite food on the planet. All of the offerings at Rosamunde are the tops (catch the Tuesday-only Haight Street cheeseburger), but I absolutely love the sweet-and-savory duck sausage, laced with brandy and figs.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill, multiple locations.
Home of my most favorite Kale Caesar Salad. It's a pile of dark-green, kale gorgeousness, generously tossed with smoked-paprika-buttermilk-Caesar dressing, topped with with creamy squares of avocado and crunchy toasted pepitas. Kale-hater, you're about to become a believer.
Reveille Coffee Co., multiple locations.
There's no place like California when it comes to Mexican food. The forearm-sized burritos at Taqueria Cancún on Mission Street are as filling as they are delicious. My personal favorite is the al pastor - it combines the the perfect balance of bright sweetness and tangy heat. Do yourself a favor and go for the super, which is generously loaded with both pork and avocado. One burrito can definitely last you two meals...but I'm not judging you if it only lasts one sitting.
Taqueria Cancún, 2288 Mission Street (near 19th Street); 415-252-9560.
Shanghai Dumpling King
The xiaolongbao at Shanghai Dumpling King brings all the crowds to the yard, but it's the pan-fried pork buns that bring me back to this gem of place. The thick but tender dumpling skins surprise you with their crisp crust from a hot-and-fast pan fry. Dunk those babies in that accompanying vinegary dipping sauce and you'll be so glad you took the trip out to Shanghai Dumpling King.
Shanghai Dumpling King, 3319 Balboa Street (between 34th and 35th avenues); 415-387-2088.
The Boy’s Deli
Who says San Francisco doesn't do delis? Obviously those naysayers haven't been to The Boy’s Deli. This Russian Hill gem has one heck of a sandwich menu, complete with special sauces. Make sure you go with Dutch Crunch.
The Boy’s Deli, 2222 Polk Street (between Green and Vallejo streets); 415-776-3099.
Everyone wants to hate on $5 toast these days, but here's the thing - good toast is SF's version of an NYC bagel. Don't go here unless you're ready to carb load, but you'll be thankful you spent $5 for a filling breakfast of doughy perfection. That's a promise.
The Mill, 736 Divisadero Street (between Grove and Fulton streets); 415-345-1953.
It seems too good to be true - a sushi roll swollen to the size of a burrito, stuffed with veggies, sauces, rice, and raw fish. Sushirrito, a Bay Area restaurant chain that claims to be the birthplace of this beastly food still attracts long lines and crowds. The serving is so generous that you may not be able to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
GLAZE TERIYAKI GRILL
I like to call this place the Chipotle of Teriyaki. One of the best things about this quick and easy, affordable eatery is that everything is totally customizable - with gluten free and super low calorie, low carb options. On the Whole 30 or any other diet ATM? Don't fret - Glaze has got your back.
EL BURRITO EXPRESS
El Burrito Express, affectionately known in the neighborhood as EBX, is literally my cheap eats go-to. These guys never do me wrong and are a solid choice when it comes to consistent, simple Mexican food. Their Al Pastor Super Quesadilla is my favorite, but you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu.