Cheap Things To Do

Unemployment is an interesting thing. You go through days and days of inactivity, of just eating, sleeping, and applying for jobs. Sometimes you get kinda antsy, so you leave the house and have something light to eat — nothing too expensive, because money is tight. But sometimes you get tired of the really cheap stuff, and you spring for something that costs a little extra. All the while wondering if your next job will cover all these miniscule expenses.
So here is my contribution of the places I usually go to wile away those unemployment blues while not paying a heckuva lot of dough:
1. Hang out at the Ferry Plaza. I know, there are a lot of expensive things to buy here, but you can actually get by with $10-20 if you just control those shopping impulses. I would avoid the really pricey stuff and go for the affordable bento boxes at Delica rf-1. Delica rf-1 is a Japanese delicatessen that serves really scrumptious shrimp and scallop cakes, as well as potato croquettes. A bento box typically includes some of the shrimp and scallop cakes, a tofu stir fry, a chicken salad, and some sticky rice, all of which only costs about $9. Plus, if you walk around the place, you can snack on free food. The shops usually have trays of little samples you can try out. This may not sound like much, but believe me, you can get a pretty good “dessert” just by snacking on some free chocolate and gelato samples.
The reason I suggested the Ferry Plaza is because it’s just so beautiful. You can walk over to the nearby park at the Embarcadero and have a mini-picnic. Or you could just stare out onto the Bay. It just melts those blues away.
2. Golden Gate Park. This is an old stand-by, which I admittedly haven’t been to in awhile. Just wandering around here can free your mind, plus you can sit around and people-watch, which can be rather amusing.
3. Cheap Asian restaurants. Specifically pho and noodle shops. I especially enjoy New Loi’s on Taraval and King of Thai Noodle House on Clement (They also have a branch on Mason St. in Union Square). For under $10, you can get a very hearty meal that will fill you up. You just can’t beat the bang for the buck deal of these shops. As for Pakistani-Indian food, I have to mention Pakwan. It’s been a Bay Area favorite for years, and there’s a reason — you get really cheap food, that tastes really good. It’s no-frills — that means the customer gets his or her own food from the counter — so most people get their food to go. How cheap? $5-6 per entree. For some of the best curries and breads, it’s a steal.
4. I’m not sure if I would recommend this late at night, or in dodgier areas of the city, but I actually just like to walk around and window-shop along the sidewalk. You get to stumble across the most interesting things. Like just the other day, I decided to walk from the Ferry Plaza to Powell Street. I came across Fog City News, an interesting little newsstand that sells gourmet chocolates and imported magazines. I also came across Jeffrey’s Toys, a large toy and games store with a little nook of comic books at the back.
5. The folks at Chow! will lay testament to this: I go there a lot. Not every week, or every day, but enough so that the behind-the-counter people recognize me. The reason is clear: mouth-wateringly delicious food, with really affordable prices. Their short ribs are to die for. Their daily fresh fish is equally amazing. And when I’m there for lunch, I almost always order their daily sandwich (which comes with a free side dish). Prices are generally around the $10-20 range, but if you just order a sandwich, it’s less than that.
So what’s your favorite cheap way to wile away the blues in the City?

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