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The Best Cheap Eats in Richmond

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By Haley Pollock

If you don’t know, you better ask somebody: Richmond isn’t just coming up, it’s always been. Those of you who think Richmond is something out of Law & Order need to come correct. Richmond is hella brown, hella progressive and hella cool. There’s a thriving art community and resources galore for families, queers, elders and kids. There is also a food scene, and because we don’t have a gangload of tech bros taking over, stuff is actually affordable, if you can believe that.

Graphic courtesy of TownMapsUSA

In Richmond, you can find everything from a bomb taco truck to a sit-down spot with cloth napkins and a wine list for way less than what it will cost you to eat in SF, Berkeley or Oakland! So, come hungry, and lets get on this:

Huong Tra: Vietnamese

I go get my nails done and my nail tech is from Vietnam. Want to know where she eats when she doesn’t want to make pho at home? This place. Pro-tip for the pale Europeans, if an Asian restaurant has Asian people lining up to eat there, that’s where you want to go. Unless Panda Express is your favorite, then I can’t help you. Huong Tra is in a janky-looking strip mall on San Pablo Avenue between MacDonald and Barrett. This is the kind of place where the waitstaff might ask if you are sure you know what you’re ordering, which is always a good sign. A massive bowl of pho starts at $8.

Location: 12221 San Pablo Ave #8, Richmond

Starbread: Filipino

This isn’t a restaurant or even really a food counter, it’s a get-your-shit-and-get-out chain of Pinoy bakeries. It’s not for the lactose intolerant, but at $.50 per piece, the Senorita Bread will turn you into a lifelong customer at first bite. They also have Pan De Sel and other traditional breads from the Philippines. There are other locations throughout the Bay Area – just check their website.

Location: 13501 San Pablo Ave., Richmond

Starbread goods. Photo courtesy of Chowhound

El Trompudo: Mexican

I grew up in the Bay and have thrived under the nurturing care of Mexican food establishments. I am also a carnitas fiend. With a strong Latinx community in Richmond, there are no shortages of establishments to find Mexican, Guatemalan, El Salvadorian, or whatever spice you’re in the mood for. However when I need, like, need chilaquiles, I go here. It’s a counter order-and-pick-up place, no table service and they’re always busy. That’s a good thing. They serve tongue and pupusas, delicacies other places don’t always offer. Food is as affordable as a fast food meal at the drive-thru and so much better. This is my spot.

Location: 3850 San Pablo Damn Road (technically in El Sobrante)

Destiny’s Ice Cream: Ice cream and Antojitos

Destiny’s serve’s Mitchell’s ice cream so, its awesome right off the bat. Added bonuses include the family-owned and operated vibe, as well at the outstanding Mangonada and Tostilocos. Its tiny, the parking is non-existent and it will be crowded, but so worth it!

Location:  717 23rd St, Richmond

Botto Bistro: Italian

Botto has had some time in the spotlight recently because they decided to give a huge and very public middle finger to Yelp a few years ago. This place is owned and operated by two guys from Livorno. The dinners are sumptuous coastal Italian amazingness, and the price is reflected in that. However, the lunch specials can’t be beat, and the sandwich-of-the-day deal is also a winner for those on a budget. For the same price as a sub, chips and a drink two doors over at a chain sandwich monstrosity, Botto will fill you up with delicious authentic Italian lunch food on weekdays. Sometimes it’s pasta, other times its a panini with salad and fries, but it’s always great and under $15 for a generous portion.

Location:  2171 Meeker Ave, Richmond

Brezo: California Mexican

Brezo is in the building previously inhabited by The Baltic in Pt. Richmond. It’s got a great bar, great brunch and great dinners for what one would expect to pay for a nice sit-down meal in the Bay Area. However, they also have an outstanding Happy Hour! Tuesday-Friday from 4 p.m.- 6 p.m. and it’s a steal! Taqueria prices and upscale flavors abound, plus they make their own tortillas and salsas. Pro-tip: The queso fundido is indulgent.

Location: 135 Park Place, Richmond

Meal at Brezo. Photo courtesy of Nyla J via Yelp

Cabalen: Filipino

Calm down, I know this isn’t in Richmond, but in adjacent Hercules. Trust me. Cabalen is a Turo-turo joint, aka, steam tray to-go stuff. There are tables to sit down and eat at, but it’s really a take-away environment. They have different traditional dishes and staples like tocino, longanisa, lumpia and more every day. In a cooler next to the cashier are desserts from their sister store in Vallejo, like caramel cupcakes, buko pandan and leche flan. If you’re not sure what to order, staff there will walk you through and help you out, but it’s all excellent so just go for it. Note: It’s not for vegetarians; even the veggie dishes have some fish paste or something in them.

Location: 1572 Sycamore Ave # F, Hercules

Great American Hamburger and Pie Co.: Burgers and Stuff

This place is teeny tiny and keeps daytime hours only – their website is from 1998. It’s the red plastic basket with yellow waxed paper joint of your dreams. This is the place for burgers, bacon, cheese, chili dogs, fries, fried chicken patty sandwiches and B.L.T.s – grease on overload to cure any hangover. However, they also have a bit of style, offering a Sriracha tuna melt, Greek turkey burgers, hot pastrami sandwiches, chicken gyro and even some sweet potato fries.

Location: 35 E Richmond Ave, Richmond

Graphic illustration courtesy of Great American Hamburger and Pie Co.

Casper’s Hot Dogs: Hot Dogs, duh.

There are many Caspar’s in the East Bay from Richmond to Walnut Creek. They’re all the same and have been for literal decades, they are old school East Bay! If hot dogs are your thing, this is the place. Steamed buns, freshly chopped toppings, hot links, Polish sausage, and hot dogs that snap when you bite into them, because they manufacture their own franks.

Location: 1825, 2530 Macdonald Ave, Richmond

New Soul Cafe: Soul Food

It wouldn’t be a complete Richmond Eatery roundup without a soul food spot.  If you like Gumbo, hot water cornbread, sweet tea, catfish, collard greens, fried chicken and peach cobbler, then yes, go here! It’s not a fancy place, and like many of the other places mentioned, it’s more take-out than sit-down, though there is seating. The owners are sweet people and will let you try before you buy. A big plate of southern love will stuff you silly for around $15 dollars. You’ll be back for more, and bringing friends.

Location:  1305 Carlson Blvd, Richmond

Food for the soul. Photo courtesy of Groupon

And now that you know…go!

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