Montesacro Pinseria-Enoteca


Little Gem

7 buzzy spots worth the hype for less than $25 per person

By Eloise Porter

Dining in San Francisco can sometimes feel as economically challenging as a European vacation. Between the eight-course meals, the nationally recognized restaurants, and the farm-to-table, organic, sustainably raised ingredients, a dinner check can rival your monthly rent before you know it. But have no fear, it’s still possible to sample fabulous cuisine at top restaurants without taking out a second mortgage. We’ve put together a list of seven restaurants where you can actually walk away for $25 (or less) per person (not including drinks or tip).

Spaghetti Brothers
While you could easily spend a pretty penny at the Marina’s newest Italian joint, the pastas all come in under $25 and are filling enough to make a whole meal. Chef Erik Lowe (a veteran of BIX and Fog City) is a pasta pro, and it shows in his inventive and satisfying noodle dishes. The spaghetti with local uni butter is an instant classic at $21, but if you want to enjoy an appetizer, too, we recommend starting with the pickled veggies and ranch for $7 (trust us, they’re that good). Then move on to the rigatoni with vodka sauce for $16.

Cockscomb’s dinner special is rad: an oyster omelet and a glass of wine for just $18. Chris Consentino’s offal outpost may serve over-the-top meat dishes, but stick to the lighter side with this steal. Because what’s dinner without some wine?

Montesacro Pinseria-Enoteca
This authentic Italian oasis serves San Francisco’s only truly authentic Roman cuisine, featuring pinsas—a pizza-like flatbread made from three different kinds of flour (soy, rice, and wheat). Escape to Italy and enjoy any of their pins as (pictured) for under $25. Go for the Maranella, with burrata, broccolini, and spicy pork sausage, or the namesake Montesacro, with stracciatella di burrata, kale, Calabrian peperoncini, and garum (fermented fish sauce); both go for $18. And if you stop in during “aperitivo hour” (4–6 p.m), you can enjoy two-for-one drinks, complimentary bar snacks, and menu specials.

Tacos Cala
While dinner at Cala will set you back a pretty penny, you can get a taste of Chef Gabriela Cámara’s food at Tacos Cala, the fast-casual taqueria located in the alley behind the restaurant. You’ll get tacos de guisado, a typical on-the-go lunchtime staple in Mexico City. Each taco is just $3.50 and comes with rice and beans. You can choose from at least three daily rotating fillings, such as beef picadillo, braised squid in adobo, pork en chile verde, pollo en chile cascabel, and soft boiled egg.

Iza Ramen
Every corner you turn there seems to be a new spot serving up rich tonkotsu broth and chewy noodles, and we’re okay with that. Enter Iza Ramen, the newest addition to the Lower Haight serving rainy day–ready bowls. Try the Iza spicy ramen in special broth that’s a mix of tonkotsu, chicken, bonito tuna, and vegetable broth for just $13. That means you can start with karaage (fried chicken, $9) or takoyaki (octopus balls, $7) and still walk away for under $25.

Little Gem
Opened by two Thomas Keller Restaurant Group vets, the Hayes Valley fast-casual spot doesn’t sacrifice flavor in favor of price. You’ll get a whole menu of filling, healthy eats at reasonable prices, like the King of Hayes (pictured), which features King salmon, red quinoa, kalamata olives, almonds, wilted spinach, and a lemon scallion vinaigrette for $22. Try a hearty bowl like the trumpet mushrooms on heirloom beans and rice for just $10.50, and treat yourself to a glass of Napa Valley Chardonnay for a perfect, light lunch.

Cafe du Nord
The restaurant on Market has been a San Francisco institution since 1907, but its renovation in 2015 brought about an amped up menu of bar eats. Chef Thomas McNaughton hails from Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, and Salumeria, so you know you’re getting quality bar food. As far as late-night eats go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better burger in the city. The Burger du Nord with fries is worth every penny at $17.50, and will leave you full and happy after a night on the town.

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