Sweet Deals

The best cheap eats in San Francisco

It can be hard to stick to a budget in San Francisco, what with our astronomical rents and $4 artisanal toasts. But eating out doesn't have to break the bank. Here are our 10 favorite spots for cheap eats, presented in no particular order:

Pakwan in the Mission
San Francisco's lousy with cheap Indian food, but there's no beating Pakwan for flavor (or price). Get a heaping serving of curry or vegetables for under $8—we love the chicken saag ($7.99), creamy spiced spinach studded with tender chunks of meat. Bonus: It's BYOB.

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe in North Beach
Mario's melty baked sandwiches are legendary in San Francisco for a reason—fresh Liguria focaccia. The bread does wonders around sausage, meatballs and breaded eggplant, making for a hearty meal that just barely tips our scales at $10.75. And Mario's is cheap in price only—the charming atmosphere makes it easy to linger for hours over a beer or coffee, too.

Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin
There's no doubt that Turtle Tower's Hanoi-style pho ga ($6.75 small, $8.25 large) will cure what ails you—the immaculately flavored chicken broth is chock-full of tender meat and perfectly springy rice noodles. Unless you're in the market for an epic pho feast, bear in mind that the large feeds two, easily.

Puerto Alegre in the Mission
We love ourselves a good cheap taco or oversized burrito. But there's something about an old-school combo platter that simply can't be beat. The plates at Puerto Alegre ($7.35 for one item, $8.35 for two, $10.35 for three) remind us why we got into Mexican food in the first place—enchiladas, sopes and more, served with perfectly al dente beans and orange-hued seasoned rice.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill in Lower Haight
When it comes to San Francisco artisanal sausage, we're still obsessed with the offerings ($6.50 to $7) at Rosamunde. There's really no bad order here. All of the sausages—from the classic smoked beer version to the rich, sweet duck and fig—are snappy, juicy and served on freshly toasted buns. Make it a meal with a side of mustard-heavy German potato salad ($3.75).

Yamo in the Mission
If the line out the door is any indication, this hole-in-the-wall Burmese joint is as good as it is cheap. Nothing clocks in above $6, and traditional dishes like the Yamo cold noodles, mohiga (fish stew) and crunchy fermented tea leaf salad will have you back for more.

Frisco Fried in Bayview
There's fried chicken, and then there's fried chicken you dream about, craving even in your sleep. Frisco Fried falls into the latter camp. Exquisitely juicy, heavily seasoned birds have shatteringly crisp skin and tender meat within. Get the chicken dinner (two pieces for $8.99, 3 pieces for $10.99), which comes with equally worthy sides like collard greens and mashed potatoes with gravy.

Terra Cotta Warrior in the Outer Sunset
Can we get a "Hallelujah!" for the long-awaited arrival of Shaanxi cuisine in San Francisco? The best of the best is at Terra Cotta Warrior, where the atmosphere is charming, the flavors are big and the noodles are stunningly fresh. Oh, and everything on the menu is under $10. Try the Qishan Minced Pork Noodles ($8.25), featuring one massive hand-stretched noodle in a deeply savory, slightly sour broth, with just the right amount of chili oil.

Balompié Cafe #3 in Bernal Heights
Is there anything better than a steaming hot pupusa? Not when they come from Balompié café. The tender, barely sweet corn cakes ($2.50 to $3.50 each) are stuffed with a huge array of fillings, both traditional and not, ranging from classic bean and cheese to prosciutto and shrimp. Two are sizeable enough to make a meal, especially with their snappy fresh slaw on the side.

Lers Ros in the Tenderloin
Lers Ros may not make cheapest Thai food in the city, but it's easily the best. Don't miss the stir-fried pork belly with Thai basil ($10.95 for a rice plate), Bangkok street-style pad thai ($9.95) or the galangal-rich grilled Northern Thai sausage ($8.95).