Rolling in the Cheap

The best cheap eats in San Francisco

We're not sure what your credit card statements look like, but ours are 90 percent food, 10 percent . . . everything else.

It's hard not to get spendy in a city where the restaurants are amazing, the openings are constant and the cocktails are pretty much always in the double digits (better than New York, right?). Thankfully, there are budget bites to be had, some of which can be found in serious dining destinations (all of which are delicious). Here are our 10 favorite spots with killer eats under $10.

Macaroni and cheese at Cowgirl Creamery's Sidekick, The Embarcadero
Anything that uses Cowgirl Creamery cheese feels so marvelously indulgent that calling it "budget friendly" feels inaccurate. Still, there are serious deals to be had at its Ferry Building café, Sidekick. Top among them is the macaroni and cheese ($7.25) made with a ridiculous combination of Cowgirl's Wagon Wheel and Red Hawk cheeses. Add pancetta or ham for $2, and you'll still stick to your budget.

Blistered green beans at Hawker Fare, The Mission
Hawker Fare opened with a bang in the Mission last month, serving a funky, unapologetically authentic brand of Thai-Laotian food. We dig the funky fermented fish pastes, but one of our favorite dishes remains the blistered green beans ($8), a classic from chef James Syhabout's original Oakland location. Snappy beans are lent a heady richness, thanks to ample amounts of fatty pork bacon, and a funky heat from prik khing curry paste and snappy dried shrimp.

Buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto and cotto chiles at La Nebbia, Noe Valley
What's not to love about La Nebbia, a temple of cured meats, pizza and wine from the team behind San Francisco's beloved La Ciccia? Add reasonably priced plates to the list—sure, you can drop bank and eat all of the meats, but you can also keep things reasonable with a gorgeous plate of creamy buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and savory chiles ($10).

Grits and egg sandwich at 4505 Burgers & BBQ, Western Addition
One of the few vegetarian menu items at 4505's barbecue joint may be the sleeper hit of the year—buttery grits, a runny egg, salty Oaxacan cheese and roasted green chile peppers combined on a buttery griddled bun ($9.75)—and will practically cure you of the hangovers you haven't had yet. Craving meat? 4505's aptly named Best Damn Cheeseburger with bacon can be yours for just $10 ($8.75 for a single, plus $1.25 for bacon). We think a 4505-centric diet sounds like our perfect kind of money-saving plan.

Tortas at Nopalito, Inner Sunset
It's not hard to find big, satisfying tortas in this town, but no one does 'em quite like Nopalito (available at lunch or brunch). The Inner Sunset location has three filling options ($10 each), including chorizo with potatoes and avocado, shredded pork in adobo and braised brisket.

Tamales at Roosevelt Tamale Parlor, The Mission
We love everything about Roosevelt, from its cozy, family run feel to the old-school rice-and-beans combo plates. The tamales are tops, too. A one-tamale combo plate ($10 for round, $9 for standard) comes with rice, beans and your choice of masa-rich magic. The signature "round" tamale, which is doused in gravy and covered in cheese (take your pick of cheese, chicken or pork for the filling), or go for a traditionally shaped tamale filled with everything from caramelized butternut squash and goat cheese to sweet corn and tomatillo sauce.

Beef tartare smørrebrød at Bar Tartine, The Mission
No one in her right mind would call Bar Tartine a cheap meal. But hear us out: At Saturday and Sunday brunch, you can get the perfectly proportioned smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) for a reasonable $6 a pop. One of said sandwiches is topped with beef tartare (which is then topped with tonnato and bottarga), which is—and we don't say this lightly—the very best in town.

Ultra Goliath Waffle Sandwich at Hot Sauce and Panko, Inner Richmond
We're not sure why everyone in the world isn't making fried chicken sandwiches using waffles as the bread. Maybe it's because they can never be as good as the Ultra Goliath Waffle Sandwich ($7) at Hot Sauce and Panko, which has perfectly fried chicken karaage, Kewpie mayo, Sriracha caramel and slaw, all sandwiched between massive wedges of Belgian waffle. Oh, there's a chicken and waffle sandwich with gravy, too . . . just so you know.

Bun rieu at Jasmine Garden, Castro
Everyone has a favorite pho joint, but we can't get enough of Jasmine Garden and particularly the bun rieu ($8). It's not a strictly traditional take on this tomato-based soup, but the savory broth is chock-full of egg, fried tofu and shrimp; the noodles are springy and fresh; and the portions are massive. Our only hesitation in sharing JG with you is that we want there to always be a table available for us at our go-to neighborhood joint.

Tea leaf salad at Mandalay, Inner Richmond
There's no denying the popularity of the always-packed Burma Superstar, and its sister restaurants B Star and newly opened Burma Love. But we're partial to Mandalay in the Inner Richmond—in addition to having less of a mob scene, its interpretations of Burmese classics are on point and completely delicious. This, of course, includes its tea leaf salad ($9), a stunning mix of flavors and textures that you'll be hard-pressed not to crave daily.