How much does it cost to eat (basic food) in San Francisco?
March 16, 2008 8:54 AM   Subscribe

How much does it cost to eat (basic food) in San Francisco? I'm talking anything from Dennys or In-N-Out to some vegetarian places like Love N Haight to take away pizzas?

Ok, something I literally have no idea on is how much it costs (in US Dollars) to eat out at cafes, take aways or budget / cheap restuarants. I'm talking anything from Dennys or In-N-Out to some vegetarian places like Love N Haight.

We're (23 year olds, MF couple) coming over from the UK for a couple of weeks and have looked up the places to eat (as tourists) but have no idea how much to budget per day or per meal for food. We'll probably be thinking small breakfasts and lunch, dinner in the evening. As well as how much a coffee or milkshake would cost at the average cafe?

For example; to get a large Pizza over here would be £9.99 or $20. To get a coffee at Starbucks is around £2.50 or $5.

Thanks so much!
posted by stackhaus23 to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
London's typically more expensive. So if you just figure on paying what you'd pay at home, but know you can probably get by just find spending a bit less than that.

A lot of things depend on where you choose to go also, you can get a burger combo for $5 at a fast foody place but you can also pay $15 at a trendier place that makes gourmet burgers. Same goes for pizza.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2008

Ignore that "find" in the first sentence. It snuck in there somehow.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2008

You'd be better off, budget-wise, to make breakfast your "fancy" meal and go cheap for lunch and dinner. SF has some outstanding breakfast places where a complete meal with coffee will set you back about $12/pp.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2008

CitySearch has listings for many restaurants at different price levels. Many listings have actual prices in them.
posted by mpls2 at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2008

Speaking as a San Franciscan who recently went to London, you can pretty much expect that due to the tanked dollar, eating in SF will almost invariably be cheaper than eating in London when comparing the same class of restaurant.

You can get a huge, delicious burrito almost anywhere for the equivalent of £3, with a drink and chips making things no more than around £4. A large cheese pizza on the Haight is $16.95, or around £8.47, and you can find cheaper pizza elsewhere. Your Starbucks drink will probably still cost about the same, or slightly less, as it does at home. The problem, of course, is that there are different classes of restaurants. Fancier restaurants, like in London, can be very, very expensive -- and it varies throughout the city.

Anyway, budget a few pounds less than you typically spend in London for each meal, and you'll be fine.
posted by eschatfische at 9:40 AM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

A big, hearty meal at a taqueria will set you back $5-7. Mmm.
posted by bluejayk at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2008

You're coming over from Britain. You will be exchanging pounds for dollars. Thus, you will find food in SF cheap, plentiful and varied. You can very easily pay $10-15 a head for dinner and be stuffed silly with a different cuisine every night. Your main issue will be judging quantities: no point ordering a massive burrito unless you have somewhere to keep that take-out box, so I'd be inclined to agree with Saucy Intruder and suggest focusing around breakfast and lunch, where you're more likely to hit the sweet spot of budget and variety.

Think street food: dim sum, tacos, bahn mi, buns and bubble tea in Chinatown, buffets or lunch menu specials.
posted by holgate at 9:58 AM on March 16, 2008

Banh mi are usually $3-4 and a couple of them make a sizable meal.

A large pizza at Cheeseboard in Berkeley is also around $20 and is very much worth it.

If you've got money to spend, San Francisco is a great place to spend money on food. But if you don't, SF is also a great place to eat excellent, cheap food from every country you can think of.
posted by escabeche at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2008

San Francisco is a food city. You don't have to eat expensively to have excellent meals, but please, please don't go there for the Denny's.

Yelp does a great job of reviewing SF restaurants, and there are no shortage of tacquerias, vietnamese dives, pizza places, italian cafes, etc. Many of them in the same price range as a Denny's.
posted by zippy at 10:30 AM on March 16, 2008

Response by poster: That's awesome guys, the places I typically eat over here are just the cafes on the corner that sell toasted sandwiches or jacket potatos, and since we're vegetarian we'll tend to eat at simple Italian places. I figured it would be slightly cheaper than the UK. I think eating is still going to cost more than the places we're staying!
posted by stackhaus23 at 10:32 AM on March 16, 2008

since we're vegetarian we'll tend to eat at simple Italian places You're going to love taqueria food, where delicious veggie eats are so wonderfully inexpensive.

(Fwiw 'cheap' is a bit derogatory here, where in the UK it can be a almost a compliment, hence 'inexpensive' -- US English can be quite different, and my earliest problem as an expat Brit was making myself understood and most particularly to Hispanic Americans.)
posted by anadem at 12:48 PM on March 16, 2008

You will very much appreciate SF as a vegetarian. While some of the 'hole-in-the-wall' places will be meat-centric, you generally won't encounter the problem in the down-home south where vegetables are routinely cooked with ham or lard for flavour. The Asian places will likely have tofu or non-meat protein options; the taquerias will have bean-centric dishes; there are shopping options if you want to picnic. People in SF are serious about their food, and you should take advantage of the range and diversity of what's on offer.

You should, at very least, plan on one splurge dinner towards the end of your stay. You're probably not going to get into the French Laundry, but with exchange rates being what they are, that thirty quid a head at somewhere like Greens will go a long way. (SFians will probably argue about its quality, but it's such an iconic place for veggies.)
posted by holgate at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2008

FYI, the "vegetable" tasting menu at French Laundry is not necessarily vegetarian (one of our dishes had ham, I think), but I'm sure they could accommodate you if informed.

Millennium is a very good vegetarian/vegan restaurant in SF, creative and tasty. I've eaten at Greens several times, and kicked myself for returning each time. The takeaway snackies in the front are good, but the sitdown menu I've always found uninspired, bland, and overpriced. Herbivore is a bit more casual and ok, though as a meat-eater it doesn't really have enough pull for me to want to go back.
posted by trevyn at 1:18 AM on March 17, 2008

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