Delicious Dives Worth Braving the Smell of the TL For

Our beloved Tenderloin has been hailed the worst neighborhood in San Francisco for decades. Unfortunately, it's not getting any better, but that doesn't deter locals from trekking through human feces, begging dope fiends, and enchanting cracked-out hookers to get some pretty cheap and unique bites to eat. Out of the rancid smell has risen a plethora of surprisingly worthy (and constantly feuding) Indian joints, fancy wiener spots (read: Show Dogs, get your mind out of the gutter), and hole-in-the-wall hipster hot-spots.

Updated: February 04, 2010

Dive Lovers

Saigon Sandwich Shop

560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

It really doesn't matter how long the line is, there will always be only 2 people working shouting something reminiscent of Seinfeld's soup Nazi (only Vietnamese, of course). Skip your morning coffee, and spend your $3 on the most delicious banh mi that ever was. But word to the wise, know what you want, pay cash, get in, get out, and eat somewhere else. You might get claustrophobic just looking at the place.


601 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94107

This is about as fancy as Vietnamese gets. Where else can you get a filet mignon with garlic noodles for $8.95? Exactly. Mangosteen is cheap, classy, and clean all while still retaining that hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese flavor.

Dottie's True Blue Cafe

522 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Oh, please. Even the tourists know about Dottie's. And even they wait patiently in line for sometimes up to 2 hours, all while being cat-called by crazies just to taste this grimy diner's cuisine. Tacky tablecloths, mismatched tumblers, teeny tiny space consistently filled to capacity, but the specials menu makes it all worthwhile. Pulled pork scramble with house-made tortillas anyone?

Farmerbrown Restaurant

25 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102

This is Southern food done right. Quaint little tables and benches by candlelight won't hide the masses stuffing fried chicken down their throats, but the black and white projector on the wall adds a nice distraction from your friend's mac & cheese and collard greens-covered face. Cornbread, grits, Farmer Brown runs the gamut. You say soul food, I say Farmer Brown.

Shalimar Restaurant

532 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

My friends, there aren't many places that do Northern Indian and Pakistani better than Shalimar. From the outside it may not look like much, and ok, the inside may resemble a 90s cafeteria, but don't let that discourage you. Try anything, the Alu Naan, Seekh Kabab, Chicken Boti, Daal Chana, pretty much anything at all on the menu and you'll be impressed.