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Not for Tourists’ 5 Bites of San Francisco

Not for Tourists’ 5 Bites of San Francisco

San Francisco is known for many things — creative minds, healthy lifestyles, and delicious food, among others. The hilly city that plays home to Ghiradelli’s chocolates, famous cable cars, and Gilroy’s garlic fries has plenty to offer even the most persnickety traveler. Once you’ve seen the Golden Gate Bridge, peeked inside the Legion of Honor Museum, and walked around the Haight, take Not for Tourists’ word and grab a bite at these following five local favorites. — Nicole Campoy-Leffler

(Photo, below, courtesy of Flickr/VerismoVita)

Breakfast: Dottie’s True Blue Café will look closed when you arrive. The doors open at 7:30 a.m., but by 8 a.m. there is a line to rival that of Ruby Skye’s on a Saturday night. Touted by locals as the “best breakfast in San Francisco,” the ten-table Dottie’s draws hordes of visitors, even though its location in the slightly seedy Tenderloin is a bit off-putting for some tourists. The phenomenal fresh baked goods

include cream-cheese zucchini bread and chocolate-chip toffee scones. Dottie’s permanent menu has well-prepared standbys like eggs and potatoes with chicken-apple sausage. Not on the menu: ask for the amazing fruit salad mixed with homemade crunchy granola and yogurt.

If a sweet breakfast is more your thing, Dynamo Donuts offers a rotating list of about 16 different flavors, including apricot cardamom, coconut, spiced chocolate, and maple glazed bacon apple. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/everywhereATonce)

Lunch: Tu Lan's location on Sixth Street isn't the most desirable part of town, nor is the interior likely to earn a high mark for cleanliness. But don't let that deter you from enjoying the food, especially considering Julia Child once stopped by. The joint's most popular items are Child’s favorites — the pork

kebabs, ginger fish, and imperial rolls. Come hungry, as the portions are huge. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Troy Holden)

Dinner: Weird Fish is one of those restaurants that wavers between being intimate and annoyingly small. It's a popular spot because Weird Fish serves delicious fish at un-fishlike prices, with interesting and unexpected side dishes. Some local favorites are the Little B. Stack starter, a dish of roasted yams, spinach, goat cheese, and marinated tofu and the Dijon almond-encrusted rainbow trout.

Drinks: Anytime you need to escape from a long or difficult day, Blackbird is there. It has everything anyone could want in a drinking establishment — a pool table, photobooth, elegant bar, rotating artwork, and chill ambiance. And with expertly crafted cocktails including a delectably spicy Bloody Mary made with chipotle vodka and a refreshing Red Wine Crush which marries OJ, cabernet, and brandy, it’s no wonder San Fran locals keep packing into Blackbird for more.

Local Gem: Velo Rouge Café is a hip joint with Blue Bottle coffee, free WiFi, and menu items named after cycling legends like the Leipheimer Breakfast Burrito, The Ulrich Tuna Melt, and the Coppi. Stop in for a coffee and an afternoon snack. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/geekstinkbreath)


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


BARGAIN BITES / Dining on the cheap / New treasures and old standbys / SAN FRANCISCO

1 of 3 It's a family affair. Gabriel Ali age 2 yrs, his dad Zakir Ali, Anwar Ali with hat and dad of Zakir and Anwar is , Mohammed Ali in jacket. they have been eatiing at this restaurant since it opened and love it! Naan N Curry restaurant in SF on O'Farrell. CHRONICLE PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE Penni Gladstone Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Andy Suarez, cook and cashier at El Tonayense taco truck on Harrison Street near 19th Street, fixes a burrito for a customer on Thursday evening in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Chiu / The Chronicle. Jeff Chiu Show More Show Less

(NOTE: The 2003 edition of Bargain Bites will be published in the Sunday Magazine, Sept. 28, 2003.)

Bargains never go out of fashion, but the longer the economy continues to stagnate, the more important they become.

Finding a good meal for less than $10, or even a great place where almost all dinner entrees are less than $10, can be a challenge, and we found that some of the Bargain Bites standbys from previous years had gone beyond our cut- off price. However, that left room to add about 30 new restaurants to our list,

including a new Contra Costa section. Some of those restaurants have just opened in the past year or two, and others are treasures we discovered along the way.

Some restaurants on our list might have a few entrees that top the $10 mark,

but they all offer great value. And a few are out-and-out cheap, such as the $5 steaming bowls of wonton soup and noodle plates at Just Won Ton in San Francisco's Sunset District, the spicy $1.25 tacos at El Tonayense taco trucks in the Mission, the $7.25 wood-roasted chicken dinner at Chicken Chicken in Burlingame, or the $3.85 perfectly cooked-to-order cheeseburger at Athens Burgers in Dublin.

Each restaurant offers something different and is worth a visit, even if you're not one of the many Bay Area residents entering a second year of unemployment.

BURGER JOINT

You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style.

Vitals: 807 Valencia St. (at 19th Street), (415) 824-3494. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 700 Haight St. and the San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal.

CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY CAREME ROOM

In the Careme Room at the California Culinary Academy senior students prepare a three-course fixed price ($12) lunch that features your choice of one item in each course. There are five starters like classic Caesar salad, six entrees including Medallions du Veau au Foie Gras and a selection of desserts from a buffet to complete your meal.

Vitals: 625 Polk St. (between Turk and Eddy) (415) 292-8229. Lunch Monday- Thursday, dinner Tuesday-Friday (prices higher on weekends and evenings).

CHEF JIA'S

Although it's become a Chinatown tourist destination, the restaurant is quick to dish out piping hot platters ($6-$8) only a few dishes reach beyond the $10 mark. Try the rolling lettuce prawns or beef with string beans -- it's enough for four. If you ask for spicy, they don't pull punches, and the deep- fried honey bean curd is a great vegetarian order.

Vitals: 925 Kearny (at Jackson) (415) 398-1626. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.

Tony Gulisano and chef Laurence Jossel use first-rate ingredients to produce food that would cost twice as much at most other places. The thick juicy burgers, made from grass-fed cattle, with fries are $8.50, and the old- fashioned bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is $7.50. The original Castro location features a relaxed interior where the tabletops are set with tin cans that hold the paper-napkin wrapped flatware. The Park Chow location, close to Golden Gate Park, features a fireplace, upstairs patio and private dining room for 25. At either location don't miss the ginger cake or one of the house-made pies for dessert.

Cuisine: American with Italian and Asian accents.

Vitals: 215 Church (at Market), (415) 552-2469. Lunch and dinner daily. Park Chow, 1240 Ninth Ave. (near Irving) (415) 665-9912. Lunch and dinner daily. Credit cards accepted. No reservations.

CITRUS CLUB

Come early or be prepared to wait at this favorite neighborhood spot. As you walk into the restaurant toward the several dining areas, the open kitchen is busy preparing Asian-influenced dishes. The specialty is noodles -- in soups, in salads and tossed in a wok. Start with the spring rolls, then move on to garlic shrimp and shiitake mushrooms with rice noodles. Green tea ice cream is a good ending for the meal.

Vitals: 1790 Haight St. (at Shrader Street) (415) 387-6366. Lunch and dinner daily.

EL POLLO SUPREMO (A.K.A. SUPREME CHICKEN)

Place your order at the counter for delicious marinated and grilled chicken.

The chicken comes with tortillas and salsa additional side dishes range from macaroni salad to sweet plantains. A quarter chicken ($2.99) is enough for one,

or go for the "supreme family pack" ($12.99) featuring a whole chicken and enough fixings to feed at least four adults. The fast-food decor makes ordering to-go the most appealing choice.

Vitals: 2801 Folsom St. (at 24th Street) (415) 550-1193. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 3036 16th St., and 1678 Story Road, San Jose.

EL TONAYENSE

Though this company has an actual taqueria on 24th Street, it's best known for its taco trucks that are parked around the Mission. The food is served roadside, and there might be only a curb to sit on, but the marinated and grilled meats are wonderful and the tacos cost $1.25 each. These are small tacos, so order at least two or three you'll probably be back for more. Ask for the spicy salsa.

Vitals: Trucks are parked on Harrison Street at both 19th and 22nd streets and at Shotwell and 16th Street. Lunch (from 9:30 a.m.) and dinner daily.

ERIC'S

This Noe Valley spot is always packed for its fresh, untraditional take on Chinese food. Mango prawns, with big chunks of fruit offset by jalapeno and red onion, and Shanghai chicken, served on a bed of crispy seaweed and pine nuts, are two house specialties to look for. Service is efficient, and the restaurant has an airy atmosphere with big plants, bay windows and mirrors.

Vitals: 1500 Church St. (at 27th Street) (415) 282-0919. Lunch and dinner daily.

HERBIVORE

Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here.

Vitals: 983 Valencia St. (near 21st Street) (415) 826-5657. Also, 531 Divisadero St. Lunch and dinner daily.

LITTLE THAI RESTAURANT

A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.

Vitals: 2065 Polk St. (at Broadway) (415) 771-5544. Lunch Tuesday-Saturday,

JOE'S CABLE CAR RESTAURANT

It's for real: ground chuck, churned through the blades right after you order it and it's cooked to order. Such a fresh hamburger is a rare find, so that you will gladly fork out the $8 price for the 6-ounce burger. The price increases for the toppings but the burger on the plastic plate, the paper napkin (better to capture the dripping juices with) and surrounding memorabilia is a memorable experience.

Vitals: 4320 Mission St. (at Silver) (415) 334-6699. Lunch and dinner daily.

JUST WON TON

Though wonton soup is certainly the specialty at this casual Sunset restaurant, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since the menu also includes a long list of jooks, rice plates and noodle dishes like chow fun with savory beef and soft-cooked eggs. The 20-plus variations on wonton soup feature tender, homemade dumplings with all kinds of accompaniments, such as roast duck or long noodles for extra slurping.

Vitals: 1241 Vicente St. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 681-2999. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

KAM PO

This no-frills restaurant boasts wonderful roast duck, roast pork and authentic dishes with tripe and kidney. Come early in the day to get some of the crispy roast pig and some crunchy skin. Rice or noodle plates come with your choice of dishes and a flavorful broth on the side.

Vitals: 801 Broadway (at Powell) (415) 982-3516. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

KHAN TOKE

The Thai atmosphere is a big draw: You take your shoes off, sit at low tables in a wood-lined dining room with peaked ceiling and Thai carvings. The menu ventures beyond the usual, with dishes like duck with chile sauce and meing com, seven favorite ingredients bundled into lettuce leaves.

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (between 23rd and 24th avenues) (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily.

KING OF THAI NOODLE

Though the quality can vary at some branches of this inexpensive noodle house, the food is dependably good at the two inner-Richmond spots on Clement Street, near Seventh and Fourth avenues. All of the restaurants are very casual, with somewhat brusque service, but the menu of Thai noodle soups and stir-fried noodles -- and the fact that they are all under $6 -- is always appealing.

Vitals: 639 Clement St. (near Seventh Avenue) (415) 752-5198. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 346 Clement St., 3199 Clement St., 1541 Taraval, 156 Powell St. and 420 Geary St.

LA MEDITERRANEE

A neighborhood favorite that offers dolmas, hummus and baba ghanoush. The restaurant is narrow, with rows of tables lining the decorated walls. This adds to the cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy Lebanese kibbeh, chicken kebab or chicken Cilicia, one of the phyllo-dough specialties. End it all with coffee and a wonderful Datil Amandra, warm date-filled phyllo rolled in nuts and covered in whipped cream.

Vitals: 2210 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento) (415) 921-2956. Lunch and dinner daily. Also at 288 Noe St. (415) 431-7210. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley (510) 540-7773.

LA TAQUERIA

For nearly 30 years, this small Mission taqueria has been turning out some of the best burritos in San Francisco. Unlike most others in this Mexican enclave, the La Taqueria versions are filled with meat without all the rice that weighs down most others. As you line up at the counter to place your order you can see the meats being grilled, the salsa being made and the tortillas being gently warmed. The fruit drinks (try the cantaloupe) and carnitas are must-order items. Eat your burrito at one of the picnic tables on the premises, or take it away.

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street) (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

LA VIE

La Vie offers Vietnamese standards like rice flour crepes filled with bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp and served with lettuce, fish sauce, mint and spicy Thai basil and rice noodles in several forms. The cool colors of the subdued dining room set the tone for a quiet meal. Roast crab is a specialty. At market price, it's much more than other items on the menu, so check the price before you order.

Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues) (415) 668-8080. Lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner daily.

MANDALAY

Mandalay's framed embroideries and authentic atmosphere set the tone for a mix of Burmese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant features a good rendition of ginger salad with an addicting combination of young, mild ginger, peanuts, fried lentils, peanuts and coconut chips. The fish chowder with rice noodles has plenty of texture and flavor, but not a lot of heat. Mango, coconut, ginger and lemongrass are used in a number of items. Be prepared for a leisurely meal since service can be unhurried.

Vitals: 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 386-3895. Lunch and dinner daily.

METRO CAFFEE

A small, homey space with just a few tables offers a targeted menu of simple, good things like the 6-ounce Metro burger with all the fixings. Or select special burgers that sport additional ingredients like bacon and blue cheese or grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese. French fries, onion rings and cheese fries come hot and crisp to accompany a cold root beer float. For the choosy, all burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef. Call in an order to-go as many of the locals do.

Vitals: 247 Fillmore St. (at Haight) (415) 621-9536. Lunch and dinner daily.

NAAN 'N' CURRY

The tables may not always be wiped clean at this Tenderloin spot, but the Indian-Pakistani food is spicy and addictive. The garlic and onion naans, with their fresh, pungent flavor, are fluffy and nicely charred from the oven. Equally good out of the tandoor is chicken, which is juicy and full of flavor. Curries, including the lamb vindaloo, are great too. Order at the counter and servers will deliver it to your table.

Vitals: 478 O'Farrell St. (between Jones and Taylor) (415) 775-1349. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Also at 533 Jackson St. (at Columbus) and 2366 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant and Channing), Berkeley.

L'OSTERIA DEL FORNO

This local North Beach spot is always humming. The tiny kitchen crafts delicious rustic Italian fare -- dishes like insalata rustica, an antipasto of tuna and white beans, crispy thin-crust pizza and focaccia. The special pork, either in a sandwich or an entree, is a standout. Although the wine list is limited, you'll be able to find something to complement your meal.

Vitals: 519 Columbus St. (at Green), San Francisco (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. Cash only.

PHO HOA HIEP II

Noodle soup here reaches beyond the basic pho -- the Vietnamese meal in a bowl. There's seafood, chicken and pork with wide rice noodles, or shrimp, fish balls and squid with egg noodles. But the main attraction is pho bo: beef and rice noodles in a rich-tasting five-spice broth. Add your own lime, cilantro, basil, jalapeno and sprouts. Regular bowls are $4.20 kids' bowls are $2.75.

Vitals: 1833 Irving St. (between 19th and 20th avenues) (415) 664-0469. Breakfast (from 10 a.m.), lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

RED'S JAVA HOUSE

If you've got a craving for a burger and a beer, you can't do much better than at this San Francisco landmark. Where else can $4.25 get you a double cheese burger and a Budweiser along with a glorious view of the bay? Crispy onion rings or hot french fries are just a little more.

Vitals: Pier 30 (415) 777-5626. Breakfast and lunch daily dinner Wednesday-Thursday (closes at 8 p.m.). Cash only.

ROSAMUNDE

Sausage sandwiches are the speciality at this small lower-Haight grill. The display case offers standards like Italian and andouille. Exotic selections include smoked duck with juniper berries, pork with hazelnuts, or seafood with shrimp, scallops and snapper. Seating is limited, but you're welcome to take a sandwich next door to the Toronado and enjoy it with one of the 45 beers they have on tap.

Vitals: 545 Haight St. (near Fillmore) (415) 437-6851. Lunch and dinner daily.

SAIGON SANDWICHES

There is a line at lunchtime, but it's worth the wait -- especially for the value. For under $3, you get a crusty, tender section of baguette filled with barbecued chicken, or various kinds of pork (there is a combo sandwich that contains two types of pork), plus a virtual salad of shredded carrot and cilantro piled over the meat. All is doused with nuoc mam, the salty, sweet and garlicky fish sauce that pervades Vietnamese seasoning.

Vitals: 560 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Turk) (415) 474-5698. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 4:30 p.m Sunday. Cash only.

SHALIMAR

At this bustling Tenderloin restaurant, the staff has a reputation for surliness, but there is usually a line out the door for the spicy, if somewhat greasy, Pakistani-Indian food. Order dishes like chickpea curry with coriander or juicy tandoori chicken from the counter, then return to pick it up when your order is called. Most dishes are $7 or less.

Vitals: 532 Jones St. (between Geary and O'Farrell) (415) 928-0333. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.

THEP PHANOM

Although you'll find cheaper Thai restaurants in the city, the extra dollar or so you pay here is well worth it in terms of quality. Pathama Parikanont has been perfecting her mother's recipes and adding her own touches since the place opened in 1986. Situated in an old Victorian house, the dining room has the tone of a private home. Try the fried quail, basil, salmon, lemongrass chicken and seafood curry steamed in banana leaves.

Vitals: 400 Waller (at Fillmore) (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily.

TI COUZ

This Breton-style restaurant serves delicious sweet and savory crepes in a charming country French setting. The seats at the counter are perfect for watching the oversized crepes being made on special hot plates. Hard cider to wash down the crepes is also a specialty. The menu is rounded out with a few soups and salads, and there's a Breton seafood menu after 5 p.m.

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia) (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

TITA'S HALE AINA

A few menu items at this restaurant top the $10 mark, but most of those are big enough to share. "Da combo plate" ($12.95), for example, comes with two large scoops of rice, two main course servings, plus another side dish of choice. The Kalua pig and chicken adobo are house favorites also don't miss the house-made desserts. Or come in for a relaxed weekend brunch to really enjoy the restaurant's laid-back and friendly, Hawaiian-style service.

Vitals: 3870 17th St. (between Noe and Sanchez) (415) 626-2477. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

TRULY MEDITERRANEAN

It's hard to beat the fresh falafel and shawarma wraps at this Mission District restaurant, which primarily serves takeout. With an influence from nearby taquerias, the sandwiches are rolled up in lavash bread into hefty, burrito-like tubes. The falafel deluxe comes with fried eggplant and potatoes the chicken kebab is cooked to order and comes with juicy grilled tomatoes. Be sure to ask for the spicy sauce.

Vitals: 3109 16th St. (near Mission Street) (415) 252-7482. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol or reservations. Also at 627 Vallejo St. (at Columbus) (415) 362-2636. Lunch and dinner daily.

WING LEE BAKERY AND BBQ RESTAURANT

Get two bargains with one stop under the green awning. For less than $5, fill up on wonderful dim sum like har gow, siu mai, or other steamed items (3 for $1.20). Sink your teeth into the baked BBQ pork buns that have a tender crust and just the right amount of lean, juicy filling. Or wander next door for a $3.25 rice plate with choice of two hot items (or noodles with one choice). The daily selection includes black bean spareribs, bitter melon chicken, or eggplant with garlic sauce. Wipe off a worn Formica table and dig in or grab a takeout of luscious, steaming roasted duck ($8 each), roast pork or hot items sold by the pound. When it's busy, be prepared to stand firmly in line since these deals are no secret in the neighborhood.

Vitals: Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue) (415) 668-9481 BBQ: 501 Clement St. (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.

YUM YUM FISH

The name of this deli cum takeout fish market reflects the impish humor of 65-year-old owner Chiyo Padanori, who has been serving good sushi out of this location for more than 20 years. There are only three well-worn tables, but they've been knocked around by decades of happy diners who come for traditional Japanese sushi as well as a smattering of interpreted French food. The big sushi/sashimi platters aren't cheap, but you can order yourself a good meal indeed for $10 at this one-of-a-kind, personality-plus joint while you watch folks come in and buy fish.


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