Posted Aug 11, 2015
Cheap Eats in San Francisco on a Starving Startup Founder’s Budget
San Franciscans typically pride themselves on their stellar food options: I’ve only visited here once, but it seemed like residents always pointed to their favorite local restaurant immediately when I asked for their short lists for the best things to do in the city.
You might think with all of the fancy wineries nearby in Napa Valley and the booming startup community in Silicon Valley right next door, that San Francisco is nothing but row after row of budget-busting, Michelin-starred restaurants. While you can definitely splurge and go all out on a fancy meal here, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are loads of wonderful cheap eats to choose from too.
Even more impressive, SF has a diverse list of affordable places to go to if you’re eating on a budget (you can’t cook and eat in every night when there’s so many tasty options in the city), whether you want to test out some stellar ethnic food or simply chow down on a juicy cheeseburger.
If you need a little direction for best cheap eats in San Francisco, test out of some of these food trucks, food stalls, hole-in-the-wall spots, and dives:
According to the Lonely Planet, it can be tough to find a hearty sandwich in the SF area that’s under $10, but smart locals know of a magical spot on the border between the Tenderloin and Little Saigon where an affordable and well-made Vietnamese sandwich awaits.
At Saigon Sandwich, beautiful French Rolls are stuffed with chicken, tofu, or pork, then topped with all of your favorite banh mi standards: jalapeños, cilantro, and pickled veggies.
SoMa Streat Food Park
Can’t make up your mind when it comes to al fresco dining decisions? Head to the super trendy SoMa district and wander into the SoMa Streat Food Park, which is actually a collection of San Francisco food trucks all lined up together, dishing out some deliciously cheap favorites in an adorable picnic area under palm trees with free WiFi.
The friendly vibe and wonderful weather on the day I visited this spot made it one of the best dining experiences I had in the city. This place also offers a beer and wine truck and dessert truck, as well as massive screen for watching your favorite sports games. What more could you want?
A trip to Chinatown is a must-do in general while you are visiting San Francisco. With its charming red lantern lights, walkable streets and incredibly authentic Asian dishes, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to food here. Seriously, the aromas you’ll encounter in the alleyways in Chinatown are incredible– and for the most part, the eateries here are remarkably affordable.
The San Francisco Travel Association recommends the Golden Gate Bakery for dan tat and Z&Y Restaurant for Szechuan delights with a spicy kick. Of course, the San Francisco Fortune Cookie Factory is also a fabulous spot to check out if you want a freshly made, crunchy and sweet treat.
The Mission District is known for its authentic Mexican fare, especially when it comes to the neighborhood’s world-famous burritos.
This spot is excellent for a cheap lunch under $10 and whether you go for the Burrito Mucho, Wet Burrito or Mega Veg Burrito, there’s no chance you will be leaving San Jalisco hungry.
Also located in the Mission, Yamo is well known as a cheap place to chow down on Burmese and Chinese dishes, including mango salad, hot and cold noodle dishes, fried rice, curries, and fresh coconut.
Tasty apps like spring rolls, potstickers and samosas, all of which are under $5, are also available.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill
For a hearty sandwich piled high with sausage, sauerkraut, onions and spicy mustard (for as low as $6 a pop), head to this San Francisco staple.
The sausages also get quite inventive at Rosamunde Sausage Grill, and include knockwurst, andouille, lamb and wild boar sausages. You can get as classic or as wild with your sausage sandwich as you want, and you can do it all without breaking the bank.
When it comes to cheap eats, sometimes the occasion calls for a hot, fresh authentic slice of pizza– the ultimate dining-on-a-budget fare that definitely pleases a crowd and never goes out of style. California gets a bad rap for its pizza options, but Arinell is the exception to the rule.
In fact, according to SFist, many East Coast transplants will be found here scarfing down slices— and at $2.50 a slice, I can’t say that I blame them.
Eating out in San Francisco doesn’t have to put a burden on your wallet, and there are a wide variety of places to choose from. Check out these tasty food trucks and dives next time you need to feed your appetite on a budget.
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