San Francisco's Guide to Cheap Eats

By Tamara Palmer  |  August 12, 2013

Here in San Francisco, it's entirely possible to spend your next mortgage payment on a single meal or eat like a king for $20. Check out our suggestions for dining on the less expensive side of the food chain without sacrificing satisfaction. Have we missed your favorite place to eat on the cheap? Please be generous and share your picks in the comments.

  • Credit: Flickr/sjsharktank


    This is a city of burgers, no doubt, but you don't always want to spend double digits for a decent one - and you don't always need bone marrow and truffles on top. That's one reason why the outposts of Pearl's Deluxe Burgers and Super Duper Burger do so well with their classic offerings, each under $7.

  • Pizza Slices

    You can find cheap pizza all over town, but if you are looking for cheap, good pizza, your best bet is to head directly to North Beach. You can order the full menu from Tony's Pizza Napoletana at the takeaway-oriented Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House next door, but ordering slices there is a great way to quickly become acquainted with the wide variety of pizza styles served there, including Roman, Neopolitan and Detroit styles. Late night, though, it's all about those fabulously doughy square slices at nearby Golden Boy Pizza.

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    Food Trucks

    The truck formerly known as Chairman Bao, now called the Chairman, offers boundary-pushing takes on the Chinese bao, or steamed bun. You can typically find it and other reasonably priced takes on hybridized cusine at the Off The Grid mobile markets around the Bay Area.

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    At Yamo, the Burmese grandmothers you never knew you had will make you fantastic bowls of noodles, soups and curry for $6 if you're willing to wait in a single-file line for some coveted counter space. HRD Coffee Shop also will feed you to total capacity for around the same price, with a large choice of Korean-style burritos, egg sandwiches and Pan-Asian sub sandwiches. And if you need to tap into your inner child but still indulge your adult tastes, you'll melt over the selection of sandwiches at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

  • Credit: Flickr/rocor


    Tacos and burritos are the go-to packets of cheap deliciousness in this town, and it's easy to find good value in the Mission District taquerias. Yes, there's always a line at Pancho Villa Taqueria, but the line-averse can be assured that it always moves swiftly and is there for good reason. And once you're done with the evening's drinking and revelry, a pre-hangover padding of El Farolito food is a proper Mission nightcap.

  • Credit: Tamara Palmer

    Tasting Menus

    While chef Manny Torres Gimenez no longer operates the kitchen at Mr. Pollo in the Mission District, his tradition of fine food for hardworking people continues there with a four-course tasting menu for $20. Torres Gimenez now operates two similar ventures nearby: Roxy's Cafe, where four courses are $25; and The Palace, which does an even more epic four-courser for $50 that's comparable to far more expensive tasting menus around town.