With so many restaurants in this town, it’s not enough just to have cheap food. After all, where’s the satisfaction in having a meal that was cheap if you don’t feel satisfied afterwards?
Aside from being VERY TASTY cheap eats, these places also share one other thing in common: hard to find parking. But it sure is worth it.
PPQ Vietnamese Cuisine (1816 Irving St.)- They’re known for their quality beef in all their noodle dishes and their Five Spice Chicken, but don’t miss their Curry Chicken Pho or their Hot and Sour Catfish Soup with pineapple, tomatoes, and taro root. It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted.
Citrus Club (1790 Haight St.) – Their menu reads like a hodgepodge of Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, and all sorts of other Asian noodle dishes, but they do most of them very well. Atmosphere is casual and it’s usually bustling with the long wait during peak times and the open kitchen, but a bowl of any of their stirfried rice noodles is like Asian comfort food.
Ti Couz (3108 16th St.) – This is French fast food. Both sweet and savory crepes here are both authentic and delicious. For something a little more distinctive, try a buckwheat crepe with mushrooms, scallops, and cheese with a pear hard cider to drink. Share an apple crepe with whipped cream, and you’ve got the perfect meal.
Marnee Thai (2225 Irving St.) – This is one of the first authentic Thai restaurants in the city, and they’re still one of the best. They’re known for their chicken wing appetizer, but don’t be afraid to experiment with some of their more distinctive dishes or Green Papaya Salad.
Park Chow (1240 9th Ave.) – Are you seeing a pattern here with cheap eats on Irving St? It’s no coincidence many places along Irving are great spots for good cheap food, since they’re near both San Francisco State AND University of San Francisco. Park Chow is no exception with their wonderfully cozy atmosphere and classic dishes like Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roasted Chicken, and various salads and pizzas. Don’t leave without trying the apple pie.
Shanghai House (3641 Balboa St.) – Xiao Long Bao, Shanghainese Chow Mein, Lionshead Meatballs, the list goes on and on. Most of their rich, braised, or doughy northern Chinese dishes are traditionally prepared and done quite well. Be adventurous when ordering here or go with a Chinese speaking friend.
Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers (3344 Steiner St. & 4138 24th St.) – Their burger menu is vast and most are very good, but don’t underestimate either chicken or turkey burger choices either. Vegetarians will also have some options as well. Make sure you share an order of curly fries.
Just Won Ton (1241 Vicente St.) – I used to visit this place frequently when I craved a classic Chinese rice plate. My favorite was the Tomato Beef, but many of their other rice plate choices are also tasty. Ironically, their wontons aren’t anything special. If you look up “hole in the wall,” you’ll see a picture of this place.
Golden Flower (667 Jackson St.) – My family and I used to frequent this Vietnamese place when I was a kid, all the time. Parking may be a pain here in Chinatown, but you’ll be rewarded with some traditional Vietnamese dishes done exceptionally well. Their pho broth and noodles are unbeatable, and their grilled meats are marinated and tender. Order a coconut juice beverage and you’ll be rewarded with a fresh coconut. No canned version here.