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Plan my Trip!

Ok...I have a challenge-

The family just planned a very last minute trip leaving this Saturday. We are from Miami and have only been to San Fran once. We will be staying at the Quail Lodge in Carmel for 2 nights before heading to San Francisco for the last three nights of our trip, staying at Campton Place. I am a total foodie, and my family loves great food but isn't all that experimental.

We will be travelling to Napa for one dinner or lunch, where must we go? The one place I want to go in the country is obviously the French Laundry but I don't think they could handle that and there is probably very little chance we'd get a res with such short notice.

So, price is no object...with that said, I have done some research but am open to all and any recommendations.

1. They definitely want to experience the BEST of chinatown. Where?

2. We will be in town on the 4th of July and need somewhere amazing for dinner.

3. My father is a big meat eater. I'm not a huge fan of steakhouses, (I like pretty food), but is there one that's a must?

4. Family loves italian, not like chicken parm, but maybe more of a northern italian, tuscan sort of place.

5. Definitely want two nights of unbelievable food. Maybe one night of pure culinary genius and one of the same with a bit of a hipper atmosphere considering my brother and I are both 20 and 21, travelling with our relatively young parents.

Here are some thoughts for San Fran, what do you think?

Gary Danko
Michael Mina
Fleur de Lys
Zuni (better for lunch/brunch?)

Obviously these are just names I pulled from Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Chez Pim's blog. I am totally lost!

Help me please with 3 great places in San Fran, one in Napa, maybe a great place by the wharf for lunch, and your chinatown favorite.

Thank you!

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  1. my picks: Canteen, Delfina, Zuni-I've only been for dinner but maybe lunch would be good, Incanto. Manresa is in Los Gatos-which is 1.5-2 hrs South of SF, easier to get reservation here than French Laundry, which u need 2 month reservation and very hard to get a table. Call any restaurant you want to go to make sure they are open July 4th.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hhc

      You can make it from SF to Manresa in Los Gatos in an hour, during non-commute time. Beautiful drive down Hwy 280. Los Gatos is a nice town, you might go early and walk around downtown.

    2. If you want to go to the French Laundry, might I suggest Cyrus in Healdsburg instead? I haven't been but the reviews have been fairly positive.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PegS

        Healdsburg is a great place to center yourself for a mellow wine-country day - do the Dry Creek Road wineries, much more chill and small and not as touristy/jaded. It's truly a lovely day in the country.

        Cyrus is absolutely amazing - the WOW factor will definitely be right up there with the best.


        An older article from the SF Bay Guardian might direct you to some good Dry Creek Road wineries.

        Note: it will be hot up there, but likely quite chilly in SF. You might find some cool 4th event up there that would enable you to actually see some fireworks, which you can't usually do through the fog in SF proper.

      2. Lots of places will be booked up.

        Zuni's best at dinner but they're one of the best restaurants that's open for lunch.

        The best of Chinatown would require a time machine. Today's real Chinatown is Clement Street, in the Richmond neighborhood (north of Golden Gate Park).

        3 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Sorry, I guess I should have specified Chinese restaurants on Clement.

              For walking and shopping, I'd still recommend Chinatown. the three-block stretch on Stockton St. in Chinatown packs in more food action and grandmas with sharp elbows, that's just like Hong Kong to me. Then there's Grant Ave. for tourist souvenirs and the warm custard tarts at Golden Gate.

        1. I'd recommend you go to Aziza and Zuni if you want meals that knock your socks off. Both are amazing and probably unlike what you could get anywhere else. Aqua is a more formal seafood place. For Italian, Acquerello, Delfina, Incanto. You can find info on each of these if you search by their name.

          PS Bring layers - it's foggy and overcast most of the time around this season.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Maya

            agreed on both counts. aziza is can't-miss, and zuni is quintessential sf. tadich grill is also often recommended for visitors.

            i'm not sure if albona is northern italian, but food there is quite good. if you can get to koi palace in daly city, that's where the best chinese is.

            have a wonderful trip!

          2. Given you like Northern Italian and want excellent food, you should consider Aquarello. Here is a recent report.

            If price is no object and you would have eaten at The French Laundry if you had been able, consider Manresa and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. I'm sure you've read all about Manresa on Chez Pim, here's a Chowhound review of dinner at the Ritz:

            Best of Chinatown is kind of an oxymoron, but personally, I'd suggest R & G Lounge.

            1. For Napa, I would go to Martini House in St. Helena. They have great variety, a beautiful patio and good food.

              The city is harder because the great places fill up way in advance. Ditto on calling ahead for fourth of July. I know Gary Danko is closed that day.

              Other places to try in the city, I really like Boulevard and they meet your pretty food requirement as well as offering something your family would like.

              In my opinion, Masa's is overpriced for what you get. Same with Aqua.

              Farallon is a fun experience if you are seafood people. The atmosphere is good and they service is unbeatable. I don't eat seafood, but my husband really enjoyed his meal.

              Let us know what you went with and how it was when you return.

              1. It's spelled Acquerello. The $105 prix fixe on the wine pairing is a great value if you drink enough to enjoy the free refills. Per opentable.com they're open on the 4th.


                There's no reason to go to the Wharf except to walk along the bay. It's just tourist traps. For lunch in that area, walk up Columbus to North Beach.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I think there was a favorable post about the newish Boudin upstairs cafe/dining room area at the wharf. Probably by rworange - she found some other good spots despite the touristy-ness of the area as I recall. Sadly I'm not having the best of luck finding those strings.

                  Maybe someone else will have better success?

                  Kathy/Kuisine (formerly KathySK)

                2. I just returned from a trip in San Francisco and Northern Sonoma (Healdsburg). While in San Francisco I dined at Ame and I loved it. I am very picky...however the food, service, and ambience were great! It is located in the hip St. Regis Hotel. A previous post recommended the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. I stayed at the Ritz Carlton and you definitely won't go wrong dining here. It is absolutely beautiful and romantic. You might also want to check out Chez Panisse in Berkeley...it's worth the trip. Lastly, I agree with the above comments....Cyrus in Healdsburg is a great pick.

                  1. a sligthly lower budget, but great find in Napa/Yountville for Lunch or dinner is Cafe Don Giovanni. It is Italian in the pizzas, pastas, great secondi's and antipasti's. it is a quality place and you can eat in or outside and i truly loved my experience there. I would also second trying Cyrus, Healdsburg is to die for.

                    Delfina for city Italian
                    Kokkari (closed sundays) for wonderful greek food/great atmosphere and service
                    Aziza is the best for a unique experience, great food, and the scenery

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Doodleboomer

                      Don Giovanni is a fun place. Yet, I've never been happy with the food at any of many meals there. Best dish has been the roasted beet salad with goat cheese.

                    2. I'm with doddleboomer - bistro don giovanni all the way. we were yountville residents for 15 years and this is, by far and away, our fav. as far as sf - boulevard is our pick! have FUN!

                      1. It's hip to dismiss Chinatown, but no other place in the city can surpass the track record of Great Eastern on Jackson St. for consistently good seafood-oriented Cantonese cusine. R&G Lounge is notoriously inconsistent; some dishes can be excellent sometimes, but you can also experience severe disappointments there.

                        1. I'm not sure why people don't recommend La Folie as much as someof the others - but every time I eat there I wonder why I have forgotten how wonderful it is!

                          1. Chinatown might be your best bet for dinner on the Fourth (plus you can pick-up some quasi-legal sparklers to celebrate). Or you might enjoy having dim sum in Chinatown one day for lunch. For dinner I like Great Eastern (but don't let them seat you downstairs), for dim sum I like Gold Mountain.

                            In Napa Valley, I like Martini House in St. Helena. I think it has a very California style, both the atmosphere and the food.

                            There aren't any must-go steak houses in San Francisco, but Boulevard is a great restaurant that appeals to carnivores.

                            For your culinary genius, chowhounds have been raving about Winterland -- the local critics don't like it, so it might be easy to get a reservation.

                            Most of the Italian food in SF is northern Italian (except A-16, which is Neapolitan). I think you'll be happy with any of the Italian restaurants on your list if you can get a reservation.

                            1. On Clement - China First (6th Avenue) or Ocean City (8th Avenue), for Dim Sum, Good Luck (also 8th Avenue) - if you like spicy, go for Spices I (off of 8th ave) or II (6th Ave).

                              For Steak, Harris on Van Ness & Vallejo or House of Prime Rib (very traditional - Van Ness & Pacific); burgers - Bullshead (West Portal)

                              For Italian, Delfina (18th Street & Guerrero), Incanto (Church St?) Cafe for All Seasons (West Portal - Angel Hair pasta) or Kuleto (not really that traditional) on Powell

                              1. Gary Danko is MAGNIFICENT.

                                1. Italian-Bacco in Noe Valley
                                  Napa/Y-Ville- Bouchon Jeanty's Bistro
                                  China Town- Yuet Lee
                                  Steak- Alfred's on Kearny/Merchant

                                  1. If you decide to head for Sonoma instead of Napa, I suggest Harvest Moon Cafe. The food is never disappointing and now that the rain has finally stopped, the back patio is open. I ate there last night and the smoked fish and pickled cucumber salad was very good as well as the wonderful tart/sweet rhubarb sorbet we had for dessert.

                                    Harvest Moon Cafe
                                    487 1st Street West


                                    1. What about Bouchon as the lower-end French Laundry pick for them in Yountville? What do you all think?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: 5 and Dime Eater

                                        I'll reiterate my relucatance to send visitors to a French restaurant in the Napa Valley. For a local, it's great these restaurants are available, but for a visitor, what's the point of eating French food -- which you can get in any big city -- instead of our local, California cuisine?

                                      2. For steak, I would suggest the House of Prime Rib. It's a great, old, San Francisco institution that is still doing it right. I always order mine rare and request a bone. Heaven on Earth. I will second the rec for Yuet Lee in Chinatown. I just had lunch there this afternoon. My mom and my mother-in-law are visiting and we met my husband for lunch there. We had salt and pepper squid, sturgeon chow mein, black bean clams, beef with chinese broccoli, and chicken and abalone porridge. It's the 1st time we have ever been in the daylight, but it was still good.