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Deluxe Tots at WesBurger 'N' More
Photograph: Courtesy WesBurger 'N' More

Best cheap eats in San Francisco to get more bang for your buck

From comforting Japanese curry to flavorful Nepalese dumplings, fill up for less with the best cheap eats in San Francisco

By Amy Sherman and Virginia Miller
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San Francisco is a wonderland of bargain bites. Depending upon the neighborhood, you can find affordable tacos, ramen, slices of pizza and banh mi sandwiches galore, but the real challenge lies in finding a complete meal in the $10 range. Look in the right places and you’ll find juicy Nepalese dumplings, authentic Greek specialties, Middle Eastern and Filipino food that all come in under budget. In addition to the classics, the newest options include destination worthy yet low priced versions of burgers, Asian bowls, vegan food and a restaurant from a popular food truck. Be sure to check the hours as some spots are only open for breakfast and lunch.

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Cheap eats in San Francisco

1. The Argentum Project

A visit to The Argentum Project is a transporting experience. Charming Katerina and Dimitrios Kalessis welcome you with Greek hospitality and homemade sandwiches stuffed with souvlaki, grilled Greek cheese, roast chicken or prosciutto and fig jam and Greek salads, all around $10. Massive slabs of moussaka and pastichio are over a pound each and easily serve two, a bargain for $15. Be sure to try their savory pastries like hortopita or spanikopita, stuffed with cheese and greens. Seating is limited so it’s a particularly good spot for grab and go.

A container of fries covered in sauce
Photograph: Flickr/Norm Evangelista/CC

2. Señor Sisig

Newly opened on Valencia Street, this outpost is being warmly welcomed by fans of the Señor Sisig food trucks. The menu expands on the Filipino meets Mexican fare with five additional items, including the crunchwrap, a kind of crispy tostada inside a grilled tortilla and the sisig nacho-rrones made of pork rinds served nacho style. Most gut busting burritos hover around $11 and include Filipino style proteins such as pork, chicken or tofu. 

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3. Bei Fang Style

This small Northern Chinese dumpling shop in the Sunset fills with locals who can’t resist a beef noodle soup, jian bing crepes and stuffed, savory beef pancakes. An order of 16 Chinese cabbage-and-pork dumplings is a ridiculous bargain at under $9. It’s so much food you may end up taking some home. The restaurant also does a brisk business selling frozen dumplings and deli items such as marinated beef shank, cabbage and potato noodles, boiled peanuts and pig ears.

Wes Burger neon sign
Photograph: Flickr/Thomas Hawk/CC

4. WesBurger

In addition to bargain priced Southern fried or Nashville hot chicken sandwiches for $11, Wes Burger has recently added smash burgers, $6.50 for a single patty and $9.50 for a double patty. These crusty, flavorful burgers are served fast food style, topped with a slice of American cheese, pickles and onions on a Martin’s potato roll. For another $5 you can get an order of his housemade tots. For little appetites or big ones, it’s a delicious deal, either way.

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A plate of pork curry with rice
Photograph: Flickr/mswine/CC

5. Volcano Curry of Japan

You don’t have to order your Japanese curry served over rice “volcano” hot, there’s also hot, medium or mild. While the basic “e-z” version comes with just vegetables, there’s also fried katsu chicken or one of the specials like ginger pork or fried oysters. At $10.50 rich curry with big chunks of potato and carrot is as comforting as a warm hug. This Richmond spot also offers bowls of noodles with beef, chicken or veggie curry, all for under $11.

The outside and awning of the restaurant HRD
Photograph: Flickr/rocor/CC

6. HRD

Restaurants South Beach

HRD's self-proclaimed “global fusion food” is heavy on Korean-Mexican-Japanese mashups like the massive kimchee katsu burritos drowning in Japanese curry. There are also bahn mi wraps, sandwiches (get the bulgogi beef), salads and rice bowls—most hovering around $12 and large enough to take home leftovers.

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A tray with different plates of dumplings and curries on a colorful table cloth
Photograph: Flickr/Gary Stevens/CC

7. Bini's Kitchen

Open for lunch only, Bini is famous for her scrumptious dumplings in turkey, vegetable or lamb, but at this spot you can also dine on Nepalese main dishes like Gurkha chicken and pork Chhoila for just $7. Bigger appetites will be satisfied with a $12 combination plate of a main dish, four momo dumplings and rice. Bini’s latest outpost is a bright and colorful corner space with plenty of seating.

8. Sowl Bowls Thai Street Food

This new family run spot offers a myriad of choices—start with a bowl and pick white, brown or sticky rice, garlic noodles or salad, then top with freshly grilled chicken, pork, short ribs or garlic tofu. Another option is their ingenious “sticky rice burger” on a bun made from compressed rice. Spicy mayo, tamarind and cilantro sauces and fresh greens make these bowls and burgers particularly noteworthy. Portions are large, the food is fresh and the prices, ranging from $7.75 for a pork or chicken burger to $12.95 for a short rib bowl are low.

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9. Nick's on Mission

Filipino food is known for being meaty but not at Nick’s. Here you’ll find Reina Montenegro’s vegan versions of classic dishes for breakfast and lunch including generous portions of lumpia, sisig, kaldereta and pancit for $10. Soy and wheat gluten versions of meat show up in breakfast silog dishes with scrambled tofu and garlic rice for $12. There’s a communal picnic table for dining on site. Montenegro encourages diners to bring their own reusable containers.

10. Heyday

Restaurants SoMa

An affordable lunch downtown!? At Heyday, choose any small salad, soup or half-sandwich for $6.50 or two items or a toasty hot sandwich for $11.25. Dishes range from Moroccan chickpea quinoa salad to smoked rainbow trout over roasted eggplant puree on ACME toast. For a perfect break downtown, grab healthy, fresh salads or sandwiches and a can of wine, then head to Salesforce Park to lounge in the sun.

Eat your way through SF

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