The Best Cheap Eats in San Francisco

Red’s Java House at Pier 30 is a local institution
Red’s Java House at Pier 30 is a local institution | © Hoberman Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
K Santos

Although San Francisco is considered one of the most expensive destinations for traveling, cheap eats don’t have to be difficult to find. From quick dim sum in the Richmond District to $2 slices of pizza on Haight Street that rival New York City’s, discover dining options in San Francisco that don’t break the bank. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Taqueria Cancún, 2288 Mission Street

No “cheap eats” list would be complete without featuring one of the various tasty taco and burrito spots in the Mission District. Open late and painted in bright yellow murals, Taqueria Cancún in the Mission (one of three in the city) stands out above the rest with a menu that features massive burritos, a wide choice of tacos and affordable Mexican beer. After closing for six months in 2018 for a seismic retrofit, the beloved taco place is back up and running, serving bar hoppers, thrifters and foodies alike.

Bus Stop Pizza

New York City may be famous for its by-the-slice, hole-in-the-wall pizza parlors, but the Big Apple can’t always rival the long list of toppings found at San Francisco’s own Bus Stop Pizza. Open daily until 11pm (11:30pm on weekends), Bus Stop Pizza is especially popular for the night-time bar crowd that enjoys the eatery’s long list of choices. Toppings on the menu include clams, bay shrimp, bacon and sweet corn as well as staples such as anchovies and pepperoni. Bus Stop Pizza also lives up to its name as it’s on the corner of Divisadero Street and Haight Street, a convenient place to catch the bus.

Tommy’s Joynt, San Francisco

Tommy’s Joynt is well known for its cheap food and drink

Things are always changing in a rapidly developing San Francisco, but Tommy’s Joynt is a constant. The ever-affordable sandwich joint is revered by San Franciscans as a go-to for cheap drinks and cheap eats. Fancifully decorated with a good number of regular customers stopping by at all open hours, Tommy’s Joynt claims to be the most affordable bar in the city with a menu that features $4 cocktails and $6 scotch. Still, the decades-old restaurant’s biggest draw is the food menu that includes slow-roasted pork, braised oxtails and old-style German sausage sandwiches.

Hamburger Haven

Open since 1957, Hamburger Haven is a classic American diner that hasn’t changed much since the ’50s. Lined with photographs of the diner’s most famous visitors (including the late Robin Williams), the restaurant has a small-town feel. A place where the waitstaff knows the regulars by name, the diner really is a haven in a bustling part of the city. Come for the massive breakfast plates, stay for the welcoming atmosphere and free coffee refills.

Red’s Java House

Red’s Java House has been offering beer and burgers for about a century

An unassuming shack located on the waterfront, Red’s Java House has been a pit stop for sailors, dockworkers and tourists since the beginning of the 20th century (the restaurant opened either in 1930 or 1912, depending on who you ask). When the diner opened almost a century ago, the menu’s specialty was beer and burgers. Although the current menu offers more choices – including french fries, which weren’t introduced until the early 2000s – the staples are still the same and their beer and burgers remain a popular lunch item for visitors.

Good Mong Kok Bakery

France has baguettes. New York has bagels. San Francisco has Good Mong Kok Bakery. The bakery, located in bustling Chinatown, has a wide-ranging menu that includes pork buns and various dumplings. For hungry Chinatown visitors who want to explore a wide range of foods, the Good Mong Kok Bakery is ideal. Although the small shop gets busy during lunch hours, the place is known for quick service. It is important to remember that the bakery – like many affordable eateries in San Francisco – is a cash-only spot. The upside? You won’t need much cash for a hearty snack.

Shanghai Dumpling King

San Francisco may be the location of California’s most expensive restaurant, but it’s also home to dozens of hole-in-the-wall joints that offer everything from pizza and sausages to tacos. However, the Outer Richmond spot Shanghai Dumpling King offers something else altogether: an atmospheric sit-down Chinese dinner spot at a great price. The restaurant’s large menu includes spicy soups, pastries and, of course, Chinese dumplings.

Proper Food

Dana and Howard Bloom are bringing gourmet dishes to the grab-and-go sector. From seared raw tuna to sustainably sourced octopus, Proper Food aims to bring fine-dining meals to an audience looking for more convenience, affordability and speed. They offer the option for customers to take the food ready to go as is or have their meals warmed up in the store if preferred. The ingredients at Proper Food are locally sourced and in-season and follow sustainable practices. Proper Food prepares every meal fresh each day and donates anything not sold that day to Rescuing Leftovers Cuisine – in fact, no food remains in the shop for more than 14 hours. The business is expanding, and it now has numerous locations in San Francisco as well as a few stores opened in early 2019 in New York City.

This is an updated version of an article created by Eve Hill.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.