16 Ways to Have Dinner for $30 in SF

January 13, 2014
by Tamara Palmer

With your post-holiday wallet damage in mind, here are eight ways to eat around San Francisco within a $30 budget (tip, tax and drinks excluded). We crunched numbers to come up with surprisingly satisfying meals at fun restaurants that fit the bill. Leave your own favorite places to eat on a budget in the comments.

Gracias Madre

Café Gratitude's Mexican restaurant offers a twist on traditional cooking with the omission of animals and animal products for a vegan dining experience. Vegan spots can be expensive, but here's how to do it reasonably:

Meal 1: Grilled plantain empanada ($7.75), pozole in ancho-chile broth ($11), pumpkin spice cake with maple cream and toasted coconut ice cream ($8.75) = $27.50

Meal 2: Guacamole con tortillas ($6.75), tacos with seasonal vegetables, cashew cheese and beans ($12.75), flan ($8.75) = $28.25

2211 Mission St.; 415-683-1346

State Bird Provisions

If it feels like you've waited your whole life for a shot at a reservation or if you happen to walk in during the lucky sweet spot when tables turn over, it's nice to know that you don't have to break the bank once you've actually made it into the Bird.

Meal 1: Guinea hen dumplings ($3), rabbit and fontina croquettes ($2), CA state bird with provisions ($16), chocolate roll cake with sesame mousse, Seville orange-clove caramel ($8) = $29

Meal 2: Raw oyster with spicy kohlrabi kraut and sesame ($3), sourdough pancakes with sauerkraut, pecorino and ricotta ($8), half-dozen cast-iron quail eggs with apple, sunchoke and Mt. Tam cheese ($16), "world peace" peanut muscovado milk ($2) = $29

1529 Fillmore St.; 415-795-1272


Jumping on the Japanese izakaya bandwagon can be pricey in San Francisco, but if you head to this casual one in the Mission, you can escape the preciousness in favor of some substantial food.

Meal 1: Warm kabocha salad with pumpkin seeds and wasabi aïoli ($5), miso ramenburger with shiitake and blue cheese ($10), ginger chocolate crème brûlée with ginger cookie and marshmallow ($10) = $25

Meal 2: Edamame hummus with taro chips ($7), miso-glazed salmon ($14), blood orange beignets ($8) = $29

2491 Mission St.; 415-681-7150


This spot is celebrating one year in business with an ever-evolving menu of nontraditional barbecue platters and accompaniments. It's gotten a reputation of being a bit pricey for BBQ, but with some guidance, it doesn't really have to be.

Meal 1: Beef tendon crisps ($5), octopus with forbidden rice, aji amarillo and radish ($14), s'mores ($7) = $26

Meal 2: Chopped salad with apple and smoked blue cheese ($9), pulled pork with vinegar mustard sauce ($13), tres leches cake with satsuma and whipped cream ($7) = $29

3416 19th St.; 415-874-9921

Fog City

Bruce Hill's latest restaurant has gotten a lot of media buzz, which might lead to the impression that it's not affordable. But au contraire, there are some real steals to be had at the former Fog City Diner, which now looks completely different inside and on the plates.

Meal 1: Deviled eggs with crispy quinoa and bacon ($7), burger with smoked tomato aïoli and American cheese ($14), vanilla frozen custard with egg-yolk caramel ($6) = $27

Meal 2: Wood-grilled tomato soup ($6), wood-fired clams ($16), two French crullers ($6) = $28

1300 Battery St.; 415-982-2000


In a neighborhood that can feel lean on bargains and quality food, this Castro hot spot stands out with its awesome menu and lack of sticker shock.

Meal 1: Split-pea fritters with curried yogurt ($5), Starbelly bacon pizza with jalapeño, arugula and Green Goddess dressing ($14), arborio rice pudding with maple syrup and Oregon hazelnuts ($5) = $24

Meal 2: Mixed greens with local goat cheese, market fruit, and salt-and-pepper vinaigrette ($7), housemade bangers and mash with shredded Brussels sprouts, bacon and apple ($18), scoop of Humphry Slocombe ice cream ($4) = $29

3583 16th St.; 415-252-7500


Nopa's central location, crowd-pleasing food, and late-night hours (open until 1 AM) keep it packed around the clock. But you can always drop in and order the full menu at the bar, which is one of the most comfortable impromptu eating areas in town. If you do it right, said bar meal can also fit into tight wallet constraints. 

Meal 1: Warm marinated olives ($5), grass-fed hamburger with pickled onions and french fries ($14), shaker Meyer lemon tart with brown-butter ice cream and candied sage ($8) = $27

Meal 2: Chicken soup with cauliflower, wild rice, cilantro and lime ($8), fried Monterey Bay sardines with dill and romesco ($12), cinnamon caramel sopapillas ($8) = $28

560 Divisadero St.; 415-864-8643

Namu Gaji

The bi-weekly Namu Street Food stall at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market offers lots of food for well under $20. But if you're willing to shell out $30, you can sit down and enjoy the more sophisticated kitchen musings of chef Dennis Lee in the brick-and-mortar Mission District restaurant.

Meal 1: Assorted pickles ($5), okonomiyaki with kimchi, oyster, yamaimo, cabbage, bonito and Kewpie mayo ($18), black sesame pudding with ganache and whipped cream ($6) = $29

Meal 2: Individual pickles ($5), gnocchi with shiitake, smoked beef ragù, Parmesan and oregano ($16), hand-cranked seasonal shaved ice ($8) = $29

499 Dolores St.; 415-431-6268

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