SFBA East Bay Cheap Eats/Bargain Bites

A recent topic on the prices at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley inspired me to start this one. We all know that restaurant prices have soared recently, both because of new minimum-wage laws (a good thing, I think), rents, and food costs. How are you coping with this? What are some East Bay places where you’re finding good bargains?

I mostly eat out for lunch. It’s difficult to find meals at sit-down places for under around $12 including tax and tip, so I mostly go to order-at-the-counter restaurants. Even there, $10 is not uncommon. Here’s part of my current rotation:

Betty’s To-Go, Fourth St. Berkeley. Sandwich specials at $7.95, eat on the plaza outside of the Pasta Shop for good people-watching.

Pizza slices at Goioa (North Berkeley), Arinel’s (downtown) and iSlice (Solano in Albany). Though I don’t go to Arinel’s much anymore because parking is almost as expensive as the slice.

Banh Mi at Kim’s (Solano in Albany) and Super-Super (San Pablo in Berkeley).

The prepared food at the Gilman Whole Foods is surprisingly good, and $8.50/lb.

$5.99 kebab + naan lunch special at Kabana is kind of nuts.
The Pasta Shop pizza slices to me are a lot better than the ones at Betty’s.
Berkeley Bowl West’s burritos are consistently better than at the main Berkeley Bowl, but main Berkeley Bowl’s bargain produce (bag of 12 organic apples for $1) tends to be less picked-over.
Ham & Cheese croissant at Acme is a lunch and a half sometimes.
There’s a new Brazilian bakery on Solano.
Potala is over $10 I think but is still pretty reasonable and filling.
The made-to-order sandwiches at Sprouts are $4.99 I think?

I hadn’t been to Poulet for a long time until lunch yesterday. A piece of chicken (3.75 for a thigh) and a salad (I had the broccoli-kale slaw), with a roll was less than $10. I didn’t pay, but I’m thinking $8? It was like good home cooking. Pleasant. While we were there two different young guys came in for nothing more than a plate of mac and cheese.

By the way the Virginia Bakery across the street closed at the end of April! I’ve had many pieces of not very good Virginia Bakery cake over the years, but my son was very happy with his train cake when he turned 3, so I’m a little sad to see it go.

Pho Aosen in Albany is a deal. I went for dinner last night and had #40, bun with grilled pork, and my half of the bill, including tip, was $13. I was stuffed, too! I think the pho and bun here is a cut above, and I like the house lemongrass chili oil. It’s near Ocean View Brew Works, which doesn’t serve food, so the two places combined made for a great Saturday food experience.

655 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

In El Cerrito, I like Bahn Le Banh Mi for a quick bite. I can get a banh mi and a Vietnamese yogurt for under $10.

10174 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

Do happy hours count? La Marcha in Berkeley has happy hour from 4-6 PM and 10-midnight. The happy hour used to be all day on Sunday, but I’m not sure if this is still the case. Every drink comes with a tapas, so if you’re not starving, you can cobble together a meal.

2026 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702

Other places I frequent for an inexpensive bite are Vik’s Chaat, Udupi Palace, lunch menu at Daimo or a bowl of noodles anytime, 85ºC for a savory baked good, Boss Burger (spicy fried chicken sandwich), and Oori Rice Triangles. Thursday nights at Benchmark Pizzeria are great because you can get a bottle of wine for $15. Wine plus a pizza can feed two, and that puts you around $30 for two people.

Temple Club- ‘street-sized’ mi quang and other noodles on the menu. $7.5

Lunch specials at Sichuan Style; Spicy, flavorful Egg Drop Soup, 1 egg roll, shredded iceberg salad with a little cabbage (I think) choice of brown or steamed rice and usually fried rice, but Tuesday it was Chow Mein. I love the Cumin Lamb and my Mom tried the Sweet & Sour Pork which she wished was more sour. We just had water & tea and total with tax and a nice tip: $25.

Yes to the cumin lamb, and also the fish in black bean sauce.

Next door to Sichuan Style is that new Brazilian bakery. I’ve had their pork sandwich, one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

Over at China Village, a favorite is Seafood Deluxe soup, thick with minced seafood and egg, $6.95 for a small bowl that is plenty for one person.