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Stinking Rose - tourist trap or local favorite?

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While visiting SF last year we went to the Stinking Rose. The guidebook said it was good (this was before I discovered chowhound.com as a source of more reliable info) but the place was a huge disappointment. The place was virtually empty so they seated every customer in the fron window area to make it appear busy from outside. It was November so we were cold due to drafty windows. We also had a tiny table and felt claustrophobic. Now, I love garlic, but this place had probably the lousiest techniques for cooking with garlic I'd ever encountered despite their name and proclaimed specialty. The food actually tasted bland, with a bitter garlic undertaste. The service was terrible. The waiter was S-L-O-W, the hostess was a punker girl with black nail polish (I wouldn't care except it gave me a bad feeling about the place). I'm from NYC so I'm pretty weary of tourist traps aka Times Square, but I think we got ripped off in this place. I was just wondering how SFers feel about this place.

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  1. When you're in Amsterdam, try the Garlic Queen. Best service I've ever had. Cozy and elegant ambiance. Excellent food. Nice wine selection.

    1. I admit never having eaten at the stinking rose, because it seemed to have "tourist trap" written all over it. The vibes weren't good, and your post verifies that.

      1. Tourist Trap!

        Even Zagat agrees: "Many 'tourists love' this 'crowded' North Beach Italian with 'garlic everything', including 'garlic ice cream'; however locals lament that the food is 'poor' and 'anyone with taste buds should stay away"...They give it a 14 for food, just about the lowest rating in the book.

        I also seem to recall seeing a review that said "I wouldn't take my enemies!"

        I'm so glad that we have chowhound to guide us when we go to unfamiliar cities! In a city with hundreds (probably thousands) of better choices, what guidebook pointed you toward the Stinking Rose?

        Maybe this is a question that should be moved to the general topics bulletin board...Are there any guidebook series that are reliable for food recommendations?

        -Ken

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ken

          $15 for a 6-month subscription to San Francisco ChowNews is the best guidebook to eating in the Bay Area. Everyone contemplating a visit should subscribe to plan their eating destinations.

          Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/23/c...

          1. re: Ken

            Ugh I never thought to look at Zagat but that may have been one of their rare, accurate reviews. My fiancee had, I believe, a Frommer's guide which gave a fairly positive review of Stinking Rose. I'll be sure to dump that guide in the garbage. Thanks for sharing!

          2. I really do want to respond to your overall question and agree that no San Franciscans I know have any interest in the Stinking Rose. It's a place that I would have considered taking out-of-towners to, but your post even removes that idea.

            But now that I've done that - I'll admit to my not-so-secret agenda to try to figure out the comment about the hostess. One of the things I love about this City, and one of the reasons I feel at home here, is a general air of tolerance of our inalienable right to have decent employment even with a nose ring, green hair, what-have-you. It's not every City that can proudly boast 40 year old bike messengers and skate boarders.

            Was it the black nail polish that bugged you? Did it seem unclean? Surely it wasn't that you perceived her to be a "punker"--a term, honestly with all due respect, that is deader than Sid Vicious.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Frantik

              I didn't mean to infer that the fact that she was a punker (sorry that's the only term I know of that can describe her) was bad - I should have mentioned that she had a bad attitude and only cared about seating people by the window to use us as dress-ups. Sorry, and no offense, but black nail polish in a restaurant just creeps me out, especially with the thousands of garlic bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I just regret going to that place, given that we were in town for only 5 days and wanted to try everything that was truly good about San Francisco. I'm convinced now that our bad experience at the Stinking Rose was not an anamoly and it was a waste of our time and money, which would have been better spent elsewhere, since we found SF to be truly a beautiful city. If we were rich, we'd move there in a second.

              One of our most memorable meals turned out to be two dungeoness crabs, boiled at the Wharf, taken back to our hotel and eaten on the bed. I think they were Pacific Northwest crabs, too as the local fishermen were on strike that week (the same week there was a blackout at the Wharf).

              1. re: Frantik

                Another thing too - I completely respect your love of SF. I live in NYC so you can imagine that we have a truly massive mix of people here. It's my deep belief that no one should ever be limited in what they do for a living. But black nail polish and food is just a bad combination for me - just unappetizing. I envy your living in SF - what a beautiful place.

              2. The boss man, Jerry Dal Bozzo long ago dropped food
                out of this restaurant equation. It is about selling
                hats, tshirts and cookbooks. The Punkette reeking
                attitude? and with the service ethic of a prison
                guard? a tourist trap in a restaurant town never
                attracts hospitallty professionals.

                1. z
                  Zach Georgopoulos

                  I've never gone in because I always just assumed it was a tourist trap, and/or a place for suburban folks who aren't familiar with the City -- there's quite a bit of that on Columbus Ave., unfortunately. Also, I know well that garlic must be used judiciously -- too much will just destroy a recipe. I figure a place that revolves around cooking with garlic just for the hell of it is bound to use too much...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                    When I first moved to the Bay Area, and went to North Beach for the first time, not knowing any better, went to the Stinking Rose.

                    All I want to say is I put it in the same league as Olive Garden.

                    -t