Most people are unimaginative when it comes to eating on less, heading to one of those chains where the tomatoes come from Florida and the mustard is in a squeeze bottle. Please. Dont make us cringe. The famed Berkeley co-op The Cheeseboard sprung little bitty Arizmendis around the Bay Area, one conveniently placed on Lakeshore Avenue. Morning buns, muffins, pizzas and breads are baked on property. If Lenas Soul Food Cafe isnt yet famous for her 99-cent menu that features about seven soul-food items like red beans and rice and chicken thighs, she will be. Cheap eats aint nothing in Latino Fruitvale, with best taco smackdowns waging between Tacos Sinaloa and Mariscos La Costa (at this latter place, spring for fresh ceviche and seafood). Salvadorian pupusas are also a bargain at Los Cocos.
Lake Merritts got its $20 lunch spots, but at the truck Tacos mi Rancho, a super taco will set you back a whopping $2. We dont know how. But its open from 10 a.m. till 2 a.m. Burgers and sandwiches are $8 at West Oaklands 10th & Wood. With fries. You can even score a grilled chicken salad for $9. Just up the street is the fusion Korean FuseBOX where a Tokyo Poboy is $8.50.
Oakland Chinatown is bargainville with stand-in-line dim sum and bakeriesoff the top of our heads: Wonder Food and Ruby King for egg custard; and Tian Jin Dumplings for real Chinese street food ordered from a window. Sit down meals are superior (and almost all under $10) at Shan Dong. Not much on Cafe Coluccis Ethiopian menu is above $12.95 for dinner. The tibs are the highlight at this Temescal restaurant.
As is the case with many Korean restaurants, Temescals Casserole House on self-titled Kimchee Road isnt known for its diminutive portions. Expect bowls to arrive filled with kimchee, banjan and soups, all for $9.95 for a lunch bulgolgi.
And we all know where to find a real discount. Two words. Food. Trucks. Bites off Broadway is a seasonal gathering of about six food trucks every Friday at Studio One Arts Center on 45th Street (May thru October). Theres competition on Fridays, because its also Friday Nights @ OMCA (Oakland Museum of California), which brings a lineup of trucks from Off the Grid. The natural grain-fed organic cheeseburger at the roaming Fivetenburger food truck will set you back $6.75.
With all that extra cash, you wont feel guilty splurging elsewhere in Oakland.