Weekend in S.F. - Cheap eats with dietary restrictions

Hi all! I will be visiting my friend who lives in the Lower Haight area of San Francisco this weekend (Thursday - Sunday). My friend gave me the task of finding some good eats for our weekend reunion. My restriction is budgetary (preferably $10/under per person w/o drinks - a little wiggle room), my friends restriction is dietary (she avoids gluten and dairy). Any kind of cuisine, though my friend is not a big fan of seafood and is generally not a very adventurous eater. A few walkable spots from Lower Haight would be great (she lives near Buchanan between Market & Haight). We also have night-time plans in the Mission District on Thursday, SoMa on Friday, and Bernal Heights on Saturday. Recent breakfasts have included mediocre food from Duboce Park Cafe and Le Cafe du Soliel. I had tasty pastries at Thorough Bread on a recent trip, but I don’t think she’d easily find something gluten-free there. My memorable meals with her in the city have been few, but we both enjoyed Burma Superstar (granted, this was likely near 10 years ago). Are there any cheaper/less-packed Burmese restaurants around town? She’s got a Mexican restaurant in mind for us (not sure what it’s called). I’m originally from Los Angeles but currently live in Davis for school, so I’m looking forward to some affordable food explorations :slight_smile: Thanks in advance!

One more bit to add. We might do a hike one of the days. Any recs for picnic-friendly fare? Thanks again!

For picnic stuff, you might consider the Arizmendi Bakery in the Mission District.

They often have gluten-free and vegan pastries, as well as some pizza options.

(Full disclosure, my friend is a worker/owner there.)

Thank you, looks great! After guest lecturing on social/economic justice for food workers a few weeks ago, I appreciate the bakery’s mission statement. On the list! :smiley:

1 Like

$10 doesn’t go far in SF. The following should fit your requirements:

Memphis Minnie’s - Lower Haight
Palmyra - Lower Haight
Old Jerusalem - Mission
La Santaneca - pupusas, best curtido I’ve had - Mission
Taqueria San Jose - tacos al pastor or chorizo - Mission
Yamo - Burmese - Mission

I’m not a fan of Arizmendi’s bread or pastries, which has only a handful of gluten-free itemf: http://www.arizmendibakery.com/bread

If you’re near the Ferry Building, Mariposa is remarkably good for a GF bakery. The first time I had samples of their pastries I didn’t realize it was GF. http://pickup.mariposabaking.com/pages/san-francisco

1 Like

Wonderful, thank you for your recs! I’ll look into your suggestions. I love pupusas and can’t find them in Davis (have to go over to Woodland). Thanks again.

La Santaneca is so cheap I always feel like I’m cheating them. I suggest asking for extra curtido.

Breakfast - before 10 am - CASH only - closed Tuesday: $4.50 Special for 2 eggs, 2 bacon or sausage, 2 pancakes or toast ( $5 after 10 am). New Taraval Cafe at 1054 Taraval at 21st Avenue. Hours: 7 am - 2 pm.
Order the Fruit Plate for your gluten-free non-dairy friend.

El Metate/ 2406 Bryant Street at 22nd St.
Order the Torta Milanesa for a generous chicken sandwich with soup - great value/great taste - best bang for your buck if you are truly searching for cheap eats that taste good.
Complimentary tortilla chips/salsa.
Order soup for your friend to maintain the gluten free and non dairy restrictions.

I have 2 faves for breakfast on Mission St.
Red Cafe - 2894 Mission Street
Mission’s Kitchen - 2738 Mission Street

1 Like

Thank you for the recs! New Taraval looks to be a bit of a drive from Lower Haight for a cheap and cheerful breakfast, but I’ll bookmark it for another visit as I love (good) diner food. El Metate looks promising, thanks!

Thanks again for all the recs. We had some hits and some misses over the weekend, but generally got some good eats. I’ll post some pics from my phone in the next post.

Thursday: Had an event at the Makeout Room in the Mission at 10 so my friend and I had dinner beforehand at Old Jerusalem. We both ordered the chicken shawarma dinner, one with rice and one with hummus so we could share ($15/plate). To start, the waiter brought out complimentary pita bread, yogurt and tomato sauces, and a plate of pickled turnips and green olives. The pita bread was warm and tender and paired well with the accompaniments. The chicken shawarma was a solid rendition, though I wish I had gone with the lamb. The hummus was so creamy and delicious, and the rice perfectly cooked and well seasoned. In all, a tasty meal with outstanding service.

Friday: We went to Thorough Bread for brunch. I had a delicious ham and cheese croissant (nice buttery layers) and a drip coffee; my friend had a tuna nicoise salad (all sandwiches can be made into a salad upon request). We grabbed a table on the back patio and had a nice leisurely meal.

For lunch, we went to Nopalito in the Inner Sunset at my friend’s request. I was not impressed. Our server was visibly stressed after a rush of people and the atmosphere in general felt harried. We started with complimentary fried chickpeas and paid for the addition of chips and salsa. The salsa our server selected for us was not very exciting, and at 50 cents for each small cup of salsa we cut our losses in case the other types were equally underwhelming. To drink I had a strawberry almond milk horchata, which was just OK. There wasn’t very much of it either, with the cup mostly filled with ice cubes. For my main I had a zucchini and squash blossom quesadilla. Again, not very good and quite pricey. Thankfully my friend treated us to our lunch. Not recommended.

Our dinner destination was also selected by my friend, this time as a group dinner with our friends visiting from Germany. She picked House of Nan King. The food we ordered was rather gloppy and salty, but that can make for an addicting combination. The blossoming flower tea was nice, the sesame chicken with sweet potato and bitter melon tasty but overly sweet, and the green beans fine but a sodium bomb. The scallion cake we started with was not what I expected, which would have been a green onion pancake, but rather crunchy layers of fried dough with some sautéed onions stuffed inside and topped with brown gravy. I’d suggest skipping it. Overall, our guests seemed happy enough and we continued our evening with a walk through North Beach and drinks at Tosca Cafe.

Saturday: We had breakfast at home before climbing the stairs to Coit Tower. We ate lunch at Sunflower Portrero Hill. We both ordered the bun with pork and imperial rolls. For under $10, we left quite satisfied. The vermicelli and veggies in the bowl were nice and refreshing and the pork well seasoned. Not a destination spot, but a fine option if in the neighborhood.

Dinner was at La Santaneca, though the location in Bernal Heights. We thought it would be a perfect spot before our DJ gig down the street at St. Mary’s. Perhaps this location isn’t as stellar as the one in the Mission, but we had quite a mixed bag of food and service. The chips and salsa to start were not great (tasted like they came out of a bag and can, respectively). Most of us ordered the Salvadorian horchata, which was just wonderful - horchata with cocoa (and perhaps corn?). I had one pupusa revuelta and one queso con loroco. The revuelta was much better than the latter, which was overly cheesy and seemed undercooked. The curtido here was good, though not discernibly better than that I’ve had elsewhere (e.g., Pupuseria La Chicana in Woodland, various spots in L.A. - Texis, Sarita’s, El Buen Gusto, etc.). Our server started out nice and on top of things, but our dinner (6 of us) took nearly two hours. We were without food for a long time, then three of our dinners came out. The remaining dishes arrived a good 30 minutes after the first round, and our server pretty much stopped coming around after that (likely because of the hiccup in timing). The food itself seemed to be hit or miss depending on the dish. I would likely try one of the other Salvadorian spots along the block before returning to La Santaneca.

Sunday: Our last meal of the trip was at a Thai restaurant we randomly picked near our friends’ hotel: Zen Yai Thai Restaurant in the Tenderloin. One of the best meals of the weekend. Top service, tasty food, and affordable prices. I wish I had noticed they offered boat noodles for $2.50 (!) before I ordered, but my noodle dish was just lovely. One of our party ordered the duck soup and said it was one of the tastiest soups she’s ever had. The offer a nice variety of chile sauces, fish sauce, and sugar on the side to customize the flavorings of your dish. Lunch for 5, including drinks and 2 appetizers, was just over $60.

In all, a tasty and fun weekend. My friend who lives in the city was happy to find some new dining spots as well!

3 Likes







2 Likes

The pupusas and curtido I’ve had at the original La Santaneca have always been great. First I’ve heard they added another location. Spinoffs in yuppie / hipster neighborhoods most often disappoint.

I’ll keep the Mission outpost in mind for my next trip out. The one I went to was on Mission but not in the Mission. The area, with quite a few Salvadorean restaurants, didn’t seem overly yuppie/hipster, but I’m not too familiar with the characteristics of different S.F. neighborhoods.

Off-topic but I can’t help chuckling. Bernal Heights is now “yuppie/hipster”? 'Course Bob paid $115k for our house in Noe Valley…in 1981. Our recent house exchanges have been in Marin and Sonoma due to grandkids. We need to get back into the city.

1 Like