13 places that still have (relatively) cheap eats, Ronald McDonald, new boba tea
It all depends upon what you call “cheap.”
What we used to think of as cheap 10 or two years ago, and one year ago, no longer exits, except in a couple of places in Sonoma Valley.
Are “cheap eats” primarily filling food, or inexpensive nutritious food?
Restaurants all say “costs have gone up,” and that is true in many ways. Some of them got federal money to help with those costs. And some have struggled through rising food and supplies costs.
And rent around our Sonoma Plaza is sky high. A well-known commercial property Realtor confirmed what I had heard that restaurant rents around the Plaza range from $8,000 to $12,000 per month. That’s very hard to cover with a restaurant totally or half closed down, off and on, during the pandemic.
Restaurant survival can depend on owning the building or on the sympathetic generosity and largesse of property owners. But as one restaurateur told me, “Landlords have mortgages and monthly payments too.”
Some raise prices because supplies cost more, and others raise prices to make up for lack of income during forced closures. And still some are offering signing bonuses to dishwashers and servers.
So what hasn’t changed much and is still good and cheap? These best values are often found in lunch prices since it’s often less expensive than dinner out.
Food trucks keep prices low because of their main constituency and clientele, which are other workers whether in the vineyards or hospitals. They also have mush lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar business. Simple soft tacos with not so simple flavors are really cheap by most current standards at around $3 each. Similar bargains are available at Taqueria la Hacienda, a.k.a. Hacienda Bar & Grill in the Springs and other small Mexican restaurants.
McDonald’s and Jack in the Box sell burgers, fish, and chicken sandwiches, fries and drinks under $10. Taco Bell’s top of the menu deal of three Crispy Tacos Supreme and a soft drink cost under $10, although it just went up a couple of dollars. Not sure what is in all the “beef” the fast food chains use. Soon McDonald’s will carry Impossible chicken nuggets. How about leaving out the word “chicken?”
The outstanding best deal sandwich is Broadway Market’s readymade (every morning) sandwiches (up to $5), and their several-year Sonoma People’s Choice made-to-order equivalents. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fans go there just for these sandwiches. 20511 Broadway, Sonoma. 938-2685.
Baker & Cook has fabulous breakfast pastries, breakfasts, soba noodle salad, root vegetables and chickpea hummus, smoked trout and egg bagel sandwich, buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy, quiches and avocado toast. $4 to $14. 18812 Highway 12, Sonoma. 938-7329. Find baker Jen Demarest at the Friday morning farmers market at Depot Park too.
El Huerto Super Foods has loads of healthy smoothies and juices, bowls, toasts, panini, acai bowls and salads. Most under $10. 19213 Highway 12, Sonoma. 934-8729.
Golden Spring Mandarin Cuisine has full lunches that include appetizer of usually wonton strips, soup and a wide range of healthy main courses that come with rice. Soup is not included in to-go orders. Chicken, beef, pork and vegetable entrées are $7.85, prawns $9.25. Combo plates from $9.45 to $11.25. 18995 Highway 12 behind what was Palms Grill. 938-1275.
Some people know E-Saan Thai’s food from the Tuesday night farmers market. According to their website, they offer fresh rolls and even chicken satay as appetizers for $8. Full dishes with choices of meats or vegetables and curries, or Pad Thai at $10 to $13. 18629 Highway 12, Sonoma. 939-9077.
Scandia Bakery has many half and whole sandwiches on a variety of breads with varieties of meats or vegetables, and salads. Also combos of half sandwich with soup or salad. $4.25 to $10.50. 500 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 938-5820.
The Mill at Glen Ellen, in Jack London Village with the lovely flowers, has clam chowder with a housemade bun that is filling and $10.50; two ample sliders are $13; the garlic, plain or truffle fries run $8; and the Wagyu steak burger with fries and cole slaw is $19.50. All pizzas about $19.50. 14301 Arnold. Drive, Glen Ellen. 721-1818.
Jack London Lodge has various French fries $6 to $8, fish & chips $15.95, and burgers salads from $10.50 to $13, and burgers (including salmon) from $14.95 to $17.95. Plus flatbreads. 13740 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 938-8510.
Not long ago, Mary Pizza Shack’s Soup and Salad deal was $7.95, and recently it has jumped to $9.50, which which is cheap for what you get. Mary’s signature salads (a meal at any size) range from $7.50 to $12.95 while a Cobb salad runs $15.25. Many sandwiches include soup, salad or fries, but those are $4 extra with the newish crispy chicken sandwich. Plain cheese pizzas range from $10.50 to $23.95, while Mary’s combo costs $18.95 to $28.95 and Toto’s combo is now $20.95 to 32.95.