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Top 5 Restaurants in SF

  • d

Looking for recommendations for the best restaurants in the greater SF area. I already know Chez Panisse and French Laundry. What else is a must-eat-at. No restrictions on cuisine or geography (but nothing too much farther than the Napa Valley).


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  1. Friends of mine, who are very much into the food scene in the Bay area, recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at Aqua, in San Francisco. Pricey, but they raved about it - over and over!

    1. IMO:

      French Laundry
      Bistro Jeanty (cant wait for Jeanty @ Jack's)
      **tie between Danko & Elisabeth Daniel

      **would like to see how Gras' cooking at Fifth Floor compares when he's cooking his own menu

      1. Definitely, Masa's and Gary Danko. I'd add Martini House (in St. Helena, in the Napa valley)-- new place that's really marvellous. Haven't been to Aqua or Jardiniere in quite a while, so can't weigh in there, but they have very high-quality reputations.

        1. I'd add another vote for Elisabeth Daniel in SF.

          For sushi, my pick is Hama-Ko, also in SF. (BTW, now's a good time for sushi - cold winter = fatter fish!) I've had cuts of fish there that were simply out of this world.

          1. for some ethnic variety

            Brother's Korean BBQ
            Ton Kiang for Dim Sum
            R&G lounge for Chinese
            Taiwan Restaurant for Taiwanese "petals of pork soup" On Sunday, they have "yam cake" on their dim sum menu. Yam flour outside, meat inside and 3 sauces.

            for spending money: Fifth Floor, new, great service, don't order the tasting menu if you want to choose your own dessert (crepes suzette is an option, I think. But I don't know b/c I ordered the tasting menu and didn't get to choose)

            South bay: Sent Sovi

            4 Replies
            1. re: Sophia

              Be advised not to go to R&G lounge for lunch. It's disappointing. Have heard dinner is better.

              1. re: Sophia

                Thanks! It always depresses me to see Top anything lists of SF places that exclude all Asian choices, which to us are one of the main reasons for paying the price of living in SF!

                1. re: Sophia

                  What is the price range of Fifth Floor? I'm in NY but planning a honeymoon in SF and want to splurge a bit.

                  1. re: challi

                    i think it'll run you around $150 per head, inclusive. apps, entree, dessert, 1 bottle of wine (mid range) tax/tip included. a very special restaurant. enjoy!

                2. r
                  randy salenfriend

                  Locals only, anti-fancy, avant garde list.

                  1. Tadich Grill (ok so tourists frequent it. where/what else would you consider the quintessential San Francisco spot?)

                  2. Caffe Sport - Sure you can get better Italian food but what a zany spot and they still have fabulous pasta.

                  3. Zarzuela for tapas- You betcha. Russian Hill, cable cars clanging by-if its a foggy night, Dash Hammett would have loved the scene.

                  4. Venticello- I've said it before and I'll say it again, this place looks and feels like New York and you'll think its your own private trattoria.

                  5. Original Joe's- 'Nuff said. Real original, not faux.

                  Eat. Eat!!!!

                  1. Another vote for Elizabeth Daniel - outstanding. Also a big fan of Boulevard, especially for appetizers.

                    1. r
                      recovering chef

                      (in no particular order)

                      french laundry,
                      bistro jeanty,
                      gary danko,
                      chez panisse.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: recovering chef

                        Ditto that! switching out Gary Danko with Fringale( I have not been to Gary Danko yet)

                      2. m
                        michael (mea culpa)

                        Strangely, no votes for La Toque, Pane e Vino or Farallon.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: michael (mea culpa)

                          Ate at Farallon a few months ago, thought the food was good but not up to par with the best. Expensive but worthwhile for the decor. My friend who loved it thought that it has slipped a little.

                          1. re: Limster

                            Now I am curious about Farallon, I am going there for my birthday on Sunday.

                            1. re: Gatun

                              Happy Birthday - and come back to tell us about Farallon.

                              1. re: Limster

                                Thank you! I will give a full report.

                              2. re: Gatun

                                Don't waste your time or your money. Maybe just go in for a drink to see the place (it is pretty!). Then move on. I've been there twice, once with a party of eight, and we ALL thought that the food was terrible. I had to send my first entree back!

                                1. re: Doug B.

                                  ahh too late....went Sunday. My experience was quite different from your's. Had a really great meal with excellant service. I did not expect it to be as good so it was a nice surprise.

                            2. re: michael (mea culpa)
                              recovering chef

                              La Toque - perhaps top 25 but not top 5. food is too precious and too inconsistent.

                              Pane e Vino - i don't know if i would count it as top 5 Italien much less top 5 in the Bay Area.

                              Farallon - the only thing more over the top and representative of "form over function" than the design of the room is the food. maybe top 5 right near Union Square?

                              Just my $0.02 worth.

                              1. re: recovering chef
                                michael (mea culpa)

                                Just my $0.02 worth.>>
                                You are obviously closer to the action and therefore probably correct. I do find it curious that Bistro Jeanty is so highly regarded. I'd say it's about the equal of a Pinot in LA. Likewise, the comment about La Toque serving precious food is hard to decipher. I find most two and three star restaurants tend to have such food. That's why I, and presumably others, like them. As for consistency, I have repeatedly found the work of Ken Frank and his brigade to be consistently top notch.

                                1. re: recovering chef
                                  michael (mea culpa0

                                  Are Fleur de Lys and Hawthorne Lane still around? Your thoughts on those?

                                  1. re: michael (mea culpa0

                                    Fleur de Lys is currently closed after a kitchen fire.

                                    Hawthorne Lane is still around. When people comment on it, the comments are always positive, but somehow the name doesn't come up as often as the other three-stars in town.

                                    I've never been there, but the fact that it is participating in the upcoming prix fixe dining around town promotion is very tempting. I also promised myself I'd take myself there if I got my taxes done before Valentine's Day (a powerful incentive!).

                              2. Definitely Elisabeth Daniel, Aqua, Jardiniere, Boulevard and for a less expensive but excellent restaurant, Clementine.

                                1. In Marin, I love the following, even tho they don't end up on top of cuisine awards lists.

                                  El Paseo in downtown Mill Valley. Despite the name, it's a good approximation of a French country-inn. It is the most charming and romantic place around -- perfect for a small intimate celebration. You often see local celebrities enjoying a quiet meal there. They also have a tres impressive wine cellar.

                                  Guaymas in Tiburon. Great water view. Interesting Mexican menu - heavy on the grilled seafood. Fine margaritas and all kinds of tequila and beer choices. Good happy hour with generous food freebies. Great place to take a group of out-of-towners to watch the sunset over the city.

                                  Caprice in Tiburon. Probably the best bay view of any restaurant in the SF area. Intimate, romantic and expensive. Continental food. Haven't been there lately, think they may have changed hands, but no matter what happens in the kitchen, the view remains. Good place to take someone you want to impress.

                                  1. If you don't mind going all the way to Santa Cruz, the BEST Asian is at O'Mei. At the north end of town on Mission. Doesn't look like anything on the outside.
                                    I haven't eaten at Chez Panisse or French Laundry, but I would put O'Mei as equal to Masa's (which I've eaten at several times and love.) Much less expensive too (that is, it's high for Chinese but nowhere near anything French.)
                                    Several people who have traveled more than me say O'Mei is the best Chinese restaurant in the world. Must have one of the seabass dishes.