Wherever I live, I always line up a few cheap local eats that help me establish a culinary budget baseline. Why? Because I like to eat out, and that can be expensive. In a different time and place—say, Santa Cruz in 1990—five dollars would have purchased me a legit cheap meal. In today’s North Bay, 15 dollars is a more realistic figure.
Today’s tour starts in Sebtown’s Barlow District at Blue Ridge Kitchen (brkitchen.com), with its high-quality $9.75 Barlow Burger and $3 add-on fries. Show a little restraint and this meal stretches into lunch and dinner. Also in Sebtown: Namaste Kitchen (www.namastekitchen.com), my favorite Sonoma County Indo-Nepalese/Tibetan restaurant, offers not-to-be-missed pakoras and momos on its starter menu for $5.99–$8.99.
Moving east to Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa, we encounter Delicias Elenita Taco Truck (www.deliciaselenita.com) and its highly-rated $2 street tacos. My favorite? El pastor, of course. A two-taco lunch leaves me actively drooling, while three have me twitching for one more. Four, and I’m picking my teeth.
Onward now, to Criminal Baking Co. (www.criminalbaking.com), located a few blocks north of Railroad Square, on Donahue Street. The Bacon Apple Scone pairs perfectly with a medium latte, both of which easily fit inside our $15 budget, leaving room for a monster tip.
But with all this drool, let’s not forget downtown Santa Rosa’s Mac’s Deli & Cafe (macsdeliandcafe.com), located on Fourth Street, where a large menu of delightfully old-school sandwiches—averaging around $8 each—beckons. My favorite? No. 28, the tuna and egg salad on sliced sourdough.
Heading north to Windsor, we encounter BurtoNZ Bakery (www.burtonzbakery.com) and authentic New Zealand pies. I’ve been to New Zealand, and these pies are as legit as they are delicious. At about $8 a piece, two stretch our budget, as well as our waistline. The smart move: buy two now and regret it later.
We end this tour 55 miles south at Venice Gourmet, on Bridgeway in sunny Sausalito, which offers an array of very tasty sandwiches. My favorite, the San Francisco Club—built of top round roast beef, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and red onion—is a bargain at $10.95.
I’m so hungry, now that I wrote this. How much money is in my pocket? Fifteen dollars? Oh, yeah.