Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bargain Bites

I have been reading Bargain Bites from The Chronicle for the last several years now. For those who are not familiar, The San Francisco Chronicle's food section puts out a Bargain Bites section each year where their food reporters travel throughout the Bay Area trying almost every cheap restaurant that they can find. In the end they publish a list with recommendations of the best meals at the best restaurants for the best prices throughout the Bay. This is a great way to get to find new, affordable places that you may have never thought to try before. Each year I find this article to get better and better.

This weekend I was actually able to try a new place from this year's edition on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each time I was unbelievably happy when my meal was finished. I tried pupusa's from Balompie Café, a burrito from The Hot Shop, and Mongolian Beef and Mu Shu pork from Shan Dong. The pupusa's were made from the freshest corn tortillas, grilled until the edges of the tortillas were just crisp; the gooey, cheesy insides filled with deliciously fried zucchini and grilled chorizo. The burrito, possibly the most interesting part of the weekend, was oozing with the most delicious sweet and tangy lamb curry. Tonight the Mongolian beef was hot and spicy with a salty finish and the beef was as soft and tender as slow roasted vegetables.

The most amazing part about these three meals was probably that I never paid more than $10.00 for an entire meal. A good friend of mine read this blog over the weekend and sent me an email in response. She reminded me of the idea of over-priced food from my first post. She is an unbelievable cook. Every time I've been to her house for dinner I am blown away by the quality of the meal. She said that she understands not liking to go out for food and pay for something that she feels she could have made herself. That is why when she goes out it is generally for ethnic food, something she cannot make normally on her own. I noticed that of the three meals I ate this weekend they were all ethnic. Salvadorian, Mexican, and Chinese. All things that I know I could not reproduce on my own. What makes this even more interesting is that the majority, if not all, of the restaurants in Bargain Bites are of some ethnic background that isn't of American or European decent. It makes me wonder what it is that they do that makes there prices that much cheaper than the Italian or French places throughout the city.

So what is it about ethnic food that makes its prices so much cheaper? Is the quality actually that much lower, or are the people in contemporary restaurants just ripping us off? If so, can they really get away with that? More on this thought later...

1 comment:

hoo.asked.yoo said...

perhaps the people in the 'ethnic' restaurants aren't getting paid top dollar. perhaps they are family. perhaps they are 'undocumented'. . . . you know?
or perhaps you're right: we're just getting ripped off elsewhere.
or a bit of both.