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2 chicago chowgirls with 3 days to explore SF cuisine

  • c

Next month we'll be traveling to San Francisco and are in search of some great spots to eat. We'll be staying in the Mission/Noe but are willing and eager to travers the city for great food. Some things we're looking for include a place for cioppino, moule frites (is it belon?), a mexican tacqueria to rival chicago's best, and italian. In general we'd like inexpensive to moderately priced places, but are willing to spend more for something really special... help, please.

p.s.
We'll also be in Napa and are planning on eating, and drinking, our way through there as well... any more suggestions? or en route from SFO to Napa a good roadside lunch spot to start us off right?!

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  1. regarding the tacqueria, in the Mission I would think that 50% of the tacquerias blow away Chicago's best (and yes, I have lived in Chicago!) try these;
    La Tacqueria - the purist's choice
    El Farolito - the Al Pastor is my all-around favorite
    La Cumbre - for that Chicago "burritos as big as your head" type of action

    6 Replies
    1. re: Andrew

      I haven't been to La Cumbre in ages, but when I used to go there (beginning c. 1981) it wasn't a "bigger than your head" burrito-with-absolutely-everything kind of place; its appeal lay partly in the simplicity of its burritos. The star was the carne asada burrito, consisting of steak (grilled as you watched), beans (enteros, of course), and salsa cruda in a tortilla. (I always got mine with cheese.) At some point they started putting rice in, much to my dismay; rather than simply ordering a carne-asada-with-cheese I had to start specifying sin arroz. Don't get me wrong--I love the supergigantecontodos kind of burrito as well; but if La Cumbre has gone in that direction it's too bad, because what they used to do was so great.

      1. re: Tom Hilton

        El Farolito makes great burritos + tortas.

        La Taqueria makes the best tacos around and,
        if you object to rice in a burrito, this is
        your place.

        1. re: JohnnyP

          I'm not looking for taqueria recommendations--I'm just wondering what the scoop is on La Cumbre these days.

          1. re: Tom Hilton

            Tom, I am with you on the rice problem. I don't like rice in my burritos either, so I finally asked La Cumbre when they started doing that and they said 12 years ago or something! Wow. Anyway I always say no rice. I have to say I eat there at least once a month for years, but the last time the food was off. I was very disappointed to get a flavorless burrito there and don't think I'll be back in awhile.

            I think La Taqueria is the best for quality, though I wish the salsa was better. The carne asada is what I usually get and the taco's are good too. My daughter always gets the carnitias and it is very well done, very lean too.

            Everyone on this board has their favorites, but I eat at La Taqueria a couple times a month. No rice junking up the burrito either.

            1. re: Tom Hilton

              Still pretty good, but eclipsed by La Corneta.

              The major problem at La Cumbre is the person with the cleaver going WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! at the meat in the same room where you're trying to eat. Bring aspirin.

        2. re: Andrew

          I second the motion for La Taqueria and make sure to order the "Super beef taco". This is the best Taco i have ever eaten in my entire life. Get it with a side of melon juice and some chips and you will be so happy....
          Enjoy your trip.

        3. For moules/frites in S.F., I would recommend lunch at PLOUF, on Beldon alley in the financial district. It has a nice French feel to it and while not cheap, they serve a large portion of mussels in your choice of 5 or 6 different sauces/broths. They are the speciality of the house. Share an order of frites and you are in business.

          1. z
            Zach Georgopoulos

            You'll probably get tons of recommendations -- you can also search the chowhound site (just add "francisco" to your search to narrow it down). For cioppino, I would recommend Taddich Grill on California St. Good cioppino, and historic place too. Might be pricy though, haven't checked lately.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

              just ate at tadich's when some family was in town visiting - it is definitely worth it for the old san francisco atmosphere, the wonderful sourdough bread, and the very very good cioppino and clam chowder. other dishes were not so hot, but i think the cioppino is first rate (though it did make me long for la bouilliabaise in brooklyn heights!! - but that's another story)

              beware long waits on weekend nights - ours was an hour - which we spent at a bar around the corner (or you could have an expensive glass of wine at aqua next door).

            2. I second Plouf, and recommend Swan Oyster Depot on Polk St., a combi fish market/restaurant. No tables, just a marble counter w/ stools and fresh shell fish and great chowder w/ sourdough served by the guys that run the market. Lunch only. Also, I question the referral to Tadich, but to each his/her own.
              In Napa, I'd make a bee line to Bistro Jeanty for lunch. It's in Yountville. And, if you're going to wineries, my suggestion, having lived there, is to avoid the large ones and others w/ prominent public tasting facilities. Instead, I'd call those that taste only by appointment, and make an appointment to go to [just a couple before a late lunch] high end, small boutique wineries. Personal favorites for this sort of thing are Stony Hill, El Molino and Tudal. Get a good wine country winery map, which will have wineries' addresses and telephones indexed.
              If you want to eat on the way to Napa, but before you get there and not in SF -- and have it casual and pretty quick -- consider The Yankee Pier in Larkspur, about 10 minutes over the GG Bridge in Marin County. The YP is run by, and next to, the pricey but generally worth it Lark Creek Inn.
              Finally, given where you're staying and your desire for a great meal, my #1 recommendation is Delfina. Call now to get a res. Very reasonable, hip and delicious, and near your home base.
              Earlier this year I moved from SF to Southern Illinois, outside StL, so I've been hitting Chicago regularly and will appreciate reciprocal recommendations.
              Have a great trip.

              1. Belon closed.

                Do you have taco trucks in Chicago? I'd recommend El Tonayense, the truck at Harrison and 24th Street.

                Also, I still think Slanted Door (Vietnamese, a bit upscale) is a great place on a quick culinary trip of SF. Or Tu Lan, or Jasmine House.