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Best Cheap Lunches in San Francisco

mission burrito hiusa walking tour

When you stay at any of the HI San Francisco hostels, we know you’ll want to make the most of your time in the City by the Bay, like seeing the sights and tasting the world of cuisines on offer, without going broke. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to enjoy a belly-satisfying lunch for under $10 in San Francisco. That means you’ll not only get to enjoy some hyper-local spots in the city, but you’ll also be able to spare your funds for experiences like visiting Alcatraz or going to a show at a historic venue. Take a look at some of our favorite eateries perfect for travelers. 

Pupusas at the Farmer’s Market 

pupusas in san francisco

Every Wednesday the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market is set up in the Civic Center Plaza a few blocks down from HI San Francisco City Center Hostel. The market is a great place to stock up on ingredients for preparing dinner and for freshly made pupusas to enjoy while people watching in the plaza. The El Salvadorian stuffed corn tortillas are made fresh and filled with meat or vegetables, and each goes for just $3.50. One will certainly do the trick but you’ll find that you’ll always kind of need a second one because they’re so good. 

Banh Mi Sandwiches in the Tenderloin Neighborhood

banh mi san francisco

Little Saigon in the Tenderloin neighborhood (which HI SF City Center calls home) offers a veritable feast of Vietnamese eats for those looking to get a bang for their buck. Your best bet for lunch is a banh mi sandwich, made with a crispy-on-the-outside baguette and filled with meat and vegetables, which can be found in various places for generally under $5. A local favorite is Saigon Sandwiches, where you’ll often find a line during lunch time, while L&G Sandwiches makes an excellent tofu version for non-meat eaters. 

Tacos at El Toro 

el toro san francisco tacos

It could almost be considered a crime to visit San Francisco without trying some local Mexican food, especially since the city has a whole neighborhood filled with authentic taquerias run by a community filled with Mexican heritage. El Toro in the Mission is the place to go for a great variety of tacos – from seafood and vegetarian to good old meat – going for under $4 each. The eatery is a stop on the Mission Walking Tour hosted by HI SF Downtown hostel, so you can check it out then or just gather a gang from the hostel to go with and split some chips and guacamole. 

Falafel at Flying Falafel 

flying falafel san francisco

These might be considered a bit of a splurge at about $7 a pop, but the pocket of pita filled with fresh falafel, veggies and a cheeky bit of crispy fries dished up at Flying Falafel on Market Street are totally worth it. The best part is that when your order is ready they throw the last little falafel ball into the air so it lands right in the pita, which somehow seems to make it all taste a little bit better. The little hole-in-the-wall spot makes for a great stop from HI SF Downtown on the way to exploring the city, and you’re guaranteed a satisfied stomach for a good few hours. 

Pizza at Golden Boy 

golden boy pizza san francisco

Pizza by the slice might be a New York thing, but San Francisco holds its own in North Beach, a neighborhood near HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf with Italian restaurants competing for diners’ attention. For a quick and affordable sample of North Beach cuisine, the local recommendation is Golden Boy Pizza, which serves their pizza slices in squares going for no more than $4 each. This joint is also open ‘til late, so if you find yourself in desperate need of cheesy goodness after a night out, you’ll find plenty of others with the same craving right here. 

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HI USA Tip: While you’re in town, check out more San Francisco foods you can try just by joining our hostel activities - eat new food and make new friends!