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The 5 Best Places to Eat in San Francisco for $5

Updated: Aug 15, 2014 09:22
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You know you live in an expensive city when your local supermarket is commonly referred to as ‘Whole Pay Check’ (aka Whole Foods).  With such exorbitant prices, you wish your food would not only cook itself, but rub your belly after you’ve finished eating.

Luckily, there are still a few joints peppered in this city that cost as much to eat out as it does to buy all the ingredients, where $5 bucks can still buy you a filling meal:

Liguria Bakery or whom I lovingly call “The Foccacia Natzis”

1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 9413

If you want a real slice of San Francisco, come to Liguria Bakery or “the Foccacia Natzis” as I call them as the experience is reminiscent of the ‘Soup Nazi’ episode on Seinfeld. There are unwritten rules and protocol that locals have perfected (by learning the hard way) over the years.

The first rule: indecision is frowned upon. You must quickly decide between plain, pizza, raisin, or onion focaccia. “Pizza” is the top seller, and I have found myself running across the city fearing it will sell out Sunday morning.

The second rule: don’t expect small talk. This isn’t a nail salon.

Third: make sure you specify whether you want it whole or “cut up.” The focaccia comes out of the oven as a huge rectangular slab, or it can be cut into 12 pieces, wrapped, strategically tied in string, and stuffed in a brown paper bag for your pleasure. Ideally this information should be recited in one swift sentence (i.e. “Pizza cut up”).  I repeat: you do not want to irritate the bearers of the most fluffy, yet crispy wheat succulence that will sustain you for hours to come.

Last rule: Bring cash, because by the time you walk to the ATM, they will most likely be sold out. They close when their product is gone, and on some weekends, it sells out faster than San Francisco Real Estate!

It doesn’t look like much when you walk in: empty shelves, two stern faced Italian women working at the counter with butcher paper and string, with only ONE single item on the entire menu. This family owned North beach staple, opened since 1911, serves focaccia… and only focaccia. However, this is not just any old bread. This is the holy grail of focaccia. It is served from a magical oven, literally as old as the business, and you have to follow the rules if you want a taste.

Crepes a Go-Go Date for Two

1220 Polk st  San Francisco, CA 94109

This under-rated, hidden gem on Polk St & Bush has the best god damn crepes in all of San Francisco. Its definitely not the ambiance with their shockingly yellow walls and peeling map of the world from 1997 taunting you. What makes the crepes better than the more upscale “Crepe House” a few blocks away, or the infamous Crepes RV in front of Slims? Well, my reluctant friends, it is all in the sweet, crispy shell of the crepe, the high quality meat and ingredients, along with the unique, gourmet combinations you would not even believe could come out of this hole in Polk Gulch.

My favorite staple savory crepe is the overflowing feta, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and shredded chicken marinated to delicious perfection… The portions are generous, so I suggest getting one savory crepe and one dessert crepe (like Nutella and banana) and splitting them with your honey.

Lucky Creation for Vegetarians on a budget

854 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

As a carnivore, eating vegan sometimes feels a bit like switching over to the other team. But where else can you get delicious Chinese food for your lacto-ovo-fishy activists, kosher brother-in-law, and gluten-free dieters, all for under $10?

Although the name of the restaurant sounds more like a new age retreat than a food establishment, their fake food is the real thing! Their fake chicken fried rice tastes delicious and wholesome, their pot-stickers are fried to perfection, and their fried taro with candied walnuts will make your mouth water. It is crisp, nutty, oily… and I just slobbered on the keyboard.

Nick’s Crispy Tacos –  A drunkards haven

1500 Broadway St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Eating Nick’s Crispy Tacos is akin to riding a great rollercoaster. As soon as you’re done, you want to do it all over again. Every Tuesday, you can achieve the taco experience for $2 Tuesday, two for $5 Fridays, and bottomless mimosa Sundays! For $1.25, the pico de gallo and chips is probably the best value outside Tijuana. Protocol is to have the taco Nick’s way, and I support that initiative and his plans for global taco domination.

Located in the heart of Russian Hill, Nick’s Crispy Tacos shares a space with a campy nightclub. The gaudy red velvet and chandeliers make for a great environment in a Mexican restaurant. There’s an eclectic mix of ravenous Fidi-ers with Coronas in hand, and when the clock strikes 9pm, the night club Rouge officially opens (you will find an occasional Snooki-lookalike, so beware).  Still, the pork is moist, beans tender, and the guacamole uncased by a crispy shell and soft tortilla. All topped off with the red or green sauce that awaits you on your table.

Saigon Sandwich 

560 Larkin st San Francisco, CA 94102

What surprises can you expect to find in the tenderloin in broad daylight? Well, apart from the obvious answers of ‘crackheads’ and ample “material” to play one of my favorite games, “Human or Animal?”

The surprise I speak of is a Vietnamese delicacy called “Bahn mi,” which tastes so darn good, I almost don’t want to know how they do it for under $3.50.

This is a factory line up type of joint, nestled in the heart of the Tenderloin on Larkin at Eddy St., where they try to get you in and out as soon as possible to accommodate the vast Bahn mi fans.

So what makes this sandwich so widespread and addicting, luring Marinites in their Ed Hardy shirts to hipsters on their fixies, unnecessary scarves (neckerchiefs) blowing in the wind? Is it their toasted bread, house mayo, their generous pickled veggies, pate, cilantro, or daikon?

The simplicity of the menu, located on a classy green board has thit (pork), xiu mai (meatballs), (chicken). Chay (tofu), however not listed, is also available and a house favorite. This sandwich has all of the flavor and pricing of Vietnam, but with big, fat American sizes.

There you have it! So now that you know some of the most deliciously addicting eats in San Francisco, let us know some of your favorites in the comments.


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A. Rose

A. Rose

A Rose is a San Francisco native Renaissance Woman: a licensed clinical Hypnotherapist, Private Investigator, Existential humourist, Refined Hustler, and lover of the weird and the wonderful that makes up the San Francisco Bay Area.