In a town of bacon-wrapped hot dogs, taquerias, and food trucks, it’s easy to get spoiled by all the quick, cheap food San Francisco has to offer. But find yourself in North Beach–one of the most bustling tourist neighborhoods in the country–and cheap eats become a little trickier to come by. Here are our picks for the best dishes to score in the 'hood for $10 or under (in no particular order). What are yours?
1. Meatball Sandwich from Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café
With an abundance of overpriced, touristy North Beach restaurants, Mario’s is a refreshing, no-frills beer and sandwich joint. Filled with gooey cheese, marinara, and onions on freshly made onion focaccia, this sandwich will satisfy any mid-afternoon craving. Make it even cheaper with their half-sandwich option for just $5.50. $8, 566 Columbus Ave.
2. Grilled radicchio wrapped in Parma prosciutto from L’Osteria del Forno (Radicchio alla Grigli)
This tiny, family owned restaurant is a gem amongst the large, fancy Italian trattorias studding Columbus Avenue. It’s the perfect place to share a delicious thin crust pizza and a carafe of wine with a friend or a date, but don’t miss the radicchio appetizer. The smoky, bitterness of the grilled radicchio is highlighted perfectly by the sweet and salty prosciutto. $9, 519 Columbus Ave.
3. Burger at Sam’s Pizza & Hamburgers
When you’re out late and need a bite to soak up the booze, Sam’s is just the place. Sam’s has been around forever, and is a refreshing look into the world of North Beach before the swanky restaurants and expensive bar scene emerged. This greasy, no-frills spot will satisfy your after-hours cravings for a small price (Sam’s Special: the Hamburger, fries, and a coke will set you back only $6.99) and will probably still serve you after their alleged 2 am close time. $5, 618 Broadway
4. A slice at Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is arguably North Beach’s most popular pizza joint. With about ten different styles of pizza (New York, California, Silician, Romana, and Coal Fired, to name a few), this place has tourists and locals alike clamoring for a table. But between the long lines, lofty prices, and large pies, it’s not quite suited for the frugal, the hurried, or the less hungry. But duck next door to Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House for a slice of New York style pepperoni, Sicilian ricotta and meatball, or California-style quail egg, potato, and guanciale, all ranging from $3.75 to $6 a slice. 1570 Stockton St.
5. Tiramisu and espresso at A. Cavalli
After an afternoon of wandering the streets of North Beach, Cavalli is the perfect place to relax with an espresso and sweet treat. Grab a seat upstairs for a great view and welcoming atmosphere. This is the kind of place you can linger for hours over your cappuccino and a good book. Their tiramisu, arguably the best in San Francisco, is light as air and the perfect balance of sweetness and espresso. $4.50, 1441 Stockton St.
6. Cannoli at Stella Pastry & Café
For anyone who's had a real Italian cannoli, few things in this country can live up to the creamy center, the crispy shell, and the studs of chocolate chips. But Stella Pastry does it right. They leave their homemade pastry shells empty until the last moment to prevent the sogginess that comes with most American cannolis. They then fill the shells with a light, not-too-sweet, ricotta center right before your very eyes. An assembly line in the back keeps these, along with dozens of other pastries, freshly rotating. The tiny café will make you feel like you are in Europe, sipping on espresso and munching on delicate pastries. $4, 466 Columbus Ave.
7. Caffe Trieste
On your tour of historic North Beach, this café, the hangout spot of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, is a must-see. Despite its fame, it has remained untainted since the mid-50s, and still houses the old Italian crowd and North Beach natives. Everything is under $10, so choose whatever espresso drink speaks to you and any of their delicious sweet or savory pastries. Less than $10 buys you a coffee and the priceless experience of immersing yourself in alternative and artistic America. 609 Vallejo St.
8. Monte Cristo from Mama’s
This quirky little brunch spot is infamous for their long waits–which exist for a reason. Their brunch is not to be missed, especially their coveted Monte Cristo sandwich—roasted turkey breast, honey baked ham, and two types of cheeses battered in egg, grilled, and served with homemade jam. Okay, it’s 50 cents over the limit, but if you’re really a stickler, their delicious Swedish Cinnamon French Toast clocks in at only $7.75 and is just as tasty. $10.50, 1701 Stockton St.
9. Chicken Tikka Masala from Urban Curry
Find yourself trapped in North Beach but had your fill of pizza and pasta? Look no further than Urban Curry for a quick, cheap, yet delicious Indian feast. Hidden amongst strip clubs, this restaurant will certainly crush any craving for a non-Italian dinner. Enjoy traditional Indian dishes and finish the meal up with a free Chai tea. $7.99, 523 Broadway St.
10. Italian deli sandwich from Molinari’s Delicatessen
Craving a sandwich a notch above the normal deli fare? Head into Molinari’s Italian market where you choose your own freshly baked bread, and select from an array of high quality charcuterie and cheeses behind the counter. Fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, basil, artichoke hearts, salami, and prosciutto are just some of the endless options. If it’s a nice day out, buy a bottle of Italian wine to go along with your sandwich and enjoy them at Washington Square Park across the street. If the options are too
overwhelming, give the Molinari’s Special a try—you can’t go wrong with this classic Italian combo. $7, 373 Columbus Ave.
For more 10 Under $10 neighborhood lists, click here.