Bay Area Cheap Eats

I don't imagine that the first words that would come to mind for anyone asked about my food preference would be "cheap eats!" I'll just fess up: I tend to like things that just happen to be expensive. Big shock, I know. My food sensibility is usually best reflected in high quality ingredients and preparations served by nice people in pleasant, if not necessarily luxe, settings. That said, I learned early in life to appreciate a bargain. I even have an informal list of favorite eats in the Bay Area that offer good food at a great value. A few of them are even inexpensive. Many of these made it onto this year's Bargain Bites roundup in the Chronicle. I suppose the Chronicle needed some criterion more objective than perceived value to qualify this year's Bargain Bites candidates. Price is certainly the most obvious and accessible when looking for that sort of thing. They do bring undeniable manpower to the topic; after all, I I haven't been eating 7+ meals a day for the last several months. I was happy to see that the list included Axum, Shalimar, Pakwan, Ti Cous, and Out the Door, among other of my personal favorites. However, in their company were some that struck me as markedly less worthy. My Bargain Bites list would have to include a number of places that are truly bargains even with entrees over $10 and cut a number of places that are undeniably cheap--and may even be a bargain--but still aren't worth the opportunity cost.Re-dubbing the Chonicle's list "Cheap Eats" and sticking to their criteria, here are my additions: Aqui Cal-Mex GrillCal-MexSan JoseAtlas CafeCafeSan FranciscoYou can't go wrong here, but the smoked trout salad, personal pizzas, and soup of the day are always particularly good.Borrone'sCafeMenlo ParkThe daily sandwich specials, quiche, and chocolate chip cookie with everything are especially good.The Cheese Board Collective PizzaPizzaBerkeleyOne (always-vegetarian) flavor per day - always excellent.Ditmer'sDeliMountain ViewJust for you meat eaters: meat stuffed meat stuffed meat.Iberia's BarSpanishPalo AltoSit-down dinner at Iberia would never qualify as cheap or a bargain, but you can eat amazingly well for not much cash from the full tapas menu at the bar, where prices range from about $2-6.MijitaMexicanSan FranciscoQuality ingredients and a Bay view.Mediterranean WrapsMiddle EasternPalo AltoGood falafel wraps and shwarmas - ask them to add a little spice.Pluto'sAmericanSan Francisco and Palo AltoSalads exactly as you like them, delicious special sandwiches, and garlic fries not to be missed.Primo Patio CafeCaribbeanSan FranciscoBrunch, lunch, or dinner when they stay open late on game days. Try the house special jerked chicken sandwich.The Slow ClubCaliforniaSan FranciscoDinner doesn't quality, but lunch is squarly in-budget and almost as good.Tartine Bakery French Bakery and CafeSan FranciscoWho really needs more than a sandwich, a glass of wine, and a pastry to make a fabulous meal?Taylor's RefresherGourmet Burger JointSan FranciscoI particularly like the tuna burger and fish & chips.