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Noe Valley

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  • Hagar Jul 4, 2006 12:05 AM

Hi there.

I recently moved up the hill from the Mission to Noe. After being in the neighborhood a couple of weeks, I am only just beginning to pick out the local favorite spots including Fresca (amazing ceviche), Cloe's (breakfast to die for), and Eric's (great chinese!).

I have a feeling that there are more gems tucked amid the neighborhood's charming residential blocks and would love to hear what chowhounds recommend.

Thanks!

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  1. Check out Firefly. Starts with Californian cuisine, but branches out from there. Upscale neighborhood restaurant.

    http://www.fireflyrestaurant.com/
    4288 24th St
    San Francisco, CA 94114
    (415) 821-7652
    Cross Street: Douglass Street

    KQED's Check, Please! Bay Area featured Firefly on an episode. At the following link you can read the guests' review of Firefly, see a photo gallery and watch the episode (if you have broadband 'Net access).

    http://blogs.kqed.org/food/?p=85

    1. Though I haven't been there for a while, I did enjoy a nice dinner at Le Zinc. I also really like Noe Valley Bakery for baked goods, especially the breadsticks. For the homecook, Cook's Boulevard is a nice little shop with friendly and knowledgable staff.

      1. Lupa is good, as is Bacco (although I admittedly haven't been to either in a while). Hamano is good for sushi, if a bit lacking in ambience. Outer Noe, near Glen Park, has Deep Sushi, and there's a new Sardinian place call La Ciccia (didn't love my first visit but am going to give it another chance). I think a few more restaurants will be opening in that area soon, too.

        1. I love Incanto and Fattoush is pretty good too. I'll second Fresca and Bacco and Firefly -- all very nice. Eric's is OK, but I prefer to get take-out rather than eat there. La Ciccia is awesome and one of my new favorite restaurants.

          1. Can you tell me more about Bacco and Lupa. I have not heard of them. Thanks so much to everyone for your helpful replies.

            1. I'll add Mi Lindo Yucatan for very unusual Mexican food (they have another branch somewhere in the Mission) and Swatdee for a Thai restaurant with friendly staff (most of the appetizers are especially good).

              1. I've lived in Noe Valley for more than 10 years and absolutely never eat in the neighborhood if I can avoid it.

                Generally restaurants are overpriced and mediocre, especially compared to walking a few blocks to the Mission. It's surprising in an area with so much disposable income, but Noe Valley and the Castro are largely cursed with yuppie food. Valencia Street or the strip of Mission from Valencia south to Cortland is filled with much more interesting choices.

                Places that are worth eating at: as mentioned, Bacco, Firefly, Incanto, and La Ciccia. Incanto in particular can be quite expensive--you're there for the wine--and I always end up spending at least $60 per person.

                I have been served truly inedible food at Eric's. Recently went to Deep Sushi and thought it was overpriced and uncomfortable. Hamano is occasionally quite good (the whiteboard has a number of rare fish you won't find in most sushi bars) and often not at all.

                I did have an okay lunch at Mi Lindo Yucatan, including the appetizer platter, and would return, but not before I went to Pastores again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Windy

                  You mention 5 places you like in Noe, yet you say you never eat there if you can help it. I would consider any neighborhood culinarily blessed if there were 5 places I liked.

                  1. re: bdl

                    I have to agree with Windy on this. I'm so glad I don't live in Noe -- just try to find a decent lunch for under $15 if you're hanging out on 24th during the day, which I do sometimes. It's difficult. The one time I tried Fresca, the ceviche I had was incredibly harsh and acidic to the nth degree.

                2. I have had pretty good meals at Fresca, Firefly, Fattoush (their appetizer plate is wonderful) and Bacco, but it's true that the restaurants are not the draw of the neighborhood. Do check out the farmer's market on Saturdays (24th b/w Church and Sanchez) - I think that's the neighborhood's best food feature.

                  Also, Pomelo (30th and Church) is a sweet little place for brunch - good menu and there's usually not a wait.

                  1. We had dinner at Firefly on Saturday night and the service was disastrous. We waited almost an hour for entrees, and the server mostly ignored us. Ultimatelly the retaurant comped the first course and one round of wine. Still we had to leave without dessert and coffee because it had gotten so late, and the original plan was to have a pleasant dinner at a well liked restaurant, not an aggravating evening.

                    1. I like Pomelo, Incanto, and Savor in the Noe. Savor has fresh food and I love their crab cake (called the New Orleans) benedict for breakfast or lunch. They also have crepes, salads, sandwiches and soups.

                      Barney's is a decent burger spot (big basket of fried goodies, ice cream shakes and malts, vegeterian options), and good for groups and/or kids.

                      1. I've lived in Noe Valley for 4 years and we call it "no eats valley" I almost always cook at home or leave the neighborhood to eat.

                        I like Pomelo for value and when you want to please people with different tastes (say visitors or a mixture of vegetarians and no)

                        Mi Lindo Yucatan is reasonable, friendly and has some pretty good things on the menu, though I've also ordered items that bombed.

                        I always want Le Zinc to be good, but it rarely ever is. Too bad because the atmosphere is great.

                        I had a good pasta at Lupa, but not good enough to rush back for.

                        I'll get nailed for this by some chowhounds, but I've always thought Firefly was just fine, not great.

                        I've never been to Incanto or the new La Ciccia, but have been meaning too. Also mean to try Fattoush, but haven't gotten around to it.

                        If I'm not cooking and don't want to go far, I get take out from Pasta Gina. Some of their soups are good. Their pastas are nice and the prepared salads and entrees are better than most deli food. Plus they're really nice people.

                        Otherwise, head over the hill to 19th and Castro and eat at Thai House Express.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: veebee

                          I am with you on Firefly: have had some good meals there, but some that weren't so great, and I am not a huge fan. It can be just as expensive as Bacco (where the mid week prix fixe is a very good deal)but not as reliable, particularly when it comes to service (where Bacco always shines). They do have Navarro wines by the glass, however, which I count as points in their favor.

                          I used to think Lupa was ok, but wouldn't go there now that La Ciccia (which I love) has entered the picture...La Ciccia isn't much if at all more expensive than Lupa (pastas are very reasonably priced) but it is at an entirely different level, food wise...

                        2. I just wanted to mention Tom's Pies on 24th & Castro has a nice lunch. I LOVE their spinach & feta pie, I love their mushroom pie and they often have some nice specials. Their soup always looks good too. It's a nice healthy cheap lunch. YUM.

                          1. I live in Noe Valley and unfortunately, I have to agree with some of the others from this 'hood. In general, the food is so-so and lacking in a diversity compared to other parts of the city. I generally prefer to walk down the hill to the Mission, but if I am feeling lazy or otherwise disinclined to leave the neighborhood, my usual picks are Hamano Sushi (I like the Valencia Roll), Chloe's for breakfast, Mi Lindo Yucatan, Le Zinc (usually for brunch/lunch), Eric's. Noe Valley Bakery has good stuff too - I love the scones, fig bread, and asiago cheese bread. Miss Millie's used to be a good bet as well, but it has moved out and I haven't tried the new place yet (Kookez?). I do like Firefly, but have only eaten there a few times as it's more $ and I usually don't have my act together enough to get around to making reservations in advance.

                            Places that round out the mix / I visit less often: Fresca (prefer it for lunch), Savor (really pretty mediocre though), Barney's, Amberjack Sushi.

                            Places I have eaten at once and not gone back to: Lupa (not bad, but for some reason I have never been tempted to go back), Swatdee (very bad things happened to my digestive system after eating there) and that hibachi chain place on Castro (Hahn's?). Also, be warned that the two pizza restaurants (Haystack and Noe Valley Pizza?) are TERRIBLE. Just terrible.

                            HTH and welcome to the neighborhood! :-)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bluestgirl

                              Noe Pizza isn't bad for spaguetti and meatballs; I certainly wouldn't call it TERRIBLE. (other than their wine list, which is pretty sad). I don't eat pizza much, so can't comment on it for that, but for an old-fashioned red sauce Italian place, I think it is worth stopping in now and then. They don't overcook the spaguetti, the meatballs are fine, the sauce is fresh....

                              I have never eated at Cloe's because waiting in line for brunch is just something I won't do...I sure hope it is good with all the people I see swarming around, but I am skeptical that it is truly worth the wait.

                            2. Agree that Noe is not a culinary destination, but here are my thoughts on restaurants and specific dishes at each:

                              Hamano: Eat at the sushi bar, make friends with the chef and ask him what is fresh that day. I had eaten here almost every week for a few months simply because it was very convenient but found it only mediocre to decent for a quick weeknight bite. But then I sat at the sushi bar one night and it was a totally different experience.

                              Tom's Pies / Peasant Pies: Second that these are great, cheap and healthy. I like the curried yam/potato (spicy, hearty, comforting), fritatta and cherry for dessert.

                              Farmer's market on Saturdays: Try the Loulou's Garden stand for preserved kumquats (sooo good on their own and also great chopped over vanilla ice cream with shaved dark chocolate or used to flavor roasted chicken); strawberry-meyer lemon jam; and rose petal jelly.

                              Eric's: Not authentic but good for takeout. I like the avocado rolls, mango chicken and sesame chicken.

                              Like others here, I enjoy Chloe's for breakfast and Fattoush. Also, for coffee and snacks, there's a cafe at 24th and Diamond (can't recall the name) that has great, frothy lattes; a tasty, buttery (though slightly greasy) ham & cheese croissant; great peanut butter cookies (when they are fresh); and a tangy fresh lemonade.

                              1. What can I say... I absolutely HATE (detest)! Tom's Pies....cardboard crust...yeck.. (my personal taste)
                                Chloe's has great, huge salads.....and I am still mourning the loss of "Little Italy" R.I.P.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                  I second that. I'm amazed they've survived all these years.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Have you tried the spinich feta pie? Tasty.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      There not the greatest, but very handy when you need to eat on the go.

                                  2. I'll second the Hamano recommendation. As I've said before, the dining room could use some help, not that I need a dj in there or anything but it feels very sterile and hotel-like. Still, I like the fish and the price, and now try to eat at the bar.

                                    I like Mi Lindo Yucatan. I also like Drewe's Meats for sausages and other stuff when it's on sale, a nice neighborhood business. Has anyone tried the new sub shop at 24th and Castro? I keep meaning to but haven't gotten around to it. Also, I got a menu from Twin Peaks Pizza on my door step the other day, any opinions on that. I was intrigued by their meatball and eggplant sandwiches, but sceptical.

                                    I really like Regent Thai at 29th and Church too, good for take out and a pleasant dining room for eating there (you have to ask them to spice it up though). They serve their lunch special 7 days a week and there is almost never a line for lunch on the weekend.

                                    The BF lived over there for 10 years and would order from Haystack from time to time b/c they delivered. That ended when I found 2 industrial staples in his spaghetti and meatballs, not to mention that I felt like my pasta was better then theirs. Never a good thing to find giant staples in your food!

                                    Oh yeah, and on the Noe/Bernal cusp, what is going on with Front Porch on 29th btw. San Jose and Mission? I'm not a fan of Emmy's but I was intrigued by a new option in the hood.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Candice

                                      Re: Front Porch, we stopped by while they were working over the weekend. It's Caribbean, or nuevo-Caribbean, really. They've done a really nice job with the place, and the menu is intriguing. I'm looking forward to trying it out. It opens 08/15.

                                    2. I live in Noe too and thankfully don't find it quite as desolate as others. There aren't many places worth traveling into Noe for from other parts of the bay area, but there are a few good eats for those times you just don't want to travel to other neighborhoods.

                                      Bacco is still my all-around favorite. If you want more info, check out any of these reports I've posted over the years:
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/search/std?q...

                                      Fresca, Incanto, and Firefly are also good upscale options. Fresca Noe is currently my favorite Nuevo Peruano in the bay area, which is saying a lot because I think there are a lot of excellent ones around town.
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                      Definitely check out 24th Street Cheese Company soon. It's one of the very best cheese shops in all the bay area.

                                      I'll second some of the other suggestions so far. Fattoush, Noe Valley Bakery's scones and coffee, spaghetti&meatballs and spinach salad at Noe Valley Pizza Restaurant, and Cook's Boulevard are worth checking out some time if you live in the area. I also agree with the negative comments on Peasant Pies.

                                      I don't like any of the sushi places. I never had food from Hamano that was worth the price, likewise on my one visit to Deep. I used to like Amberjack for take-out sushi, but the last two visits were very disappointing so I think I'll give up on it.

                                      What Noe really lacks is inexpensive food of just about any ethnicity. Casa Mexicana makes a pretty good chicken mole that is good in a burrito with black beans, and the pollo asado, beans, and salsas are good enough for a quick fix, but otherwise it's average to fair. I personally think Eric's is atrocious, perhaps the worst "Chinese" I've ever had, and I've had lots of bad stuff. All the Thai places, other Chinese, pizza, Mediterranean deli, burger, sandwich/salad joints, etc. are all disappointing. Your best bet is Angkor Borei or Lotus Garden in the Outer Mission area, which both deliver to Noe.

                                      The farmer's market is a nice thing to have around and you can get some good produce there. But this neighborhood is really lacking in good groceries ever since those jerks that bought Real Food closed it down. For something delicious to make at home: I have recently fallen in love with Pasta Gina's ricotta spinach ravioli. It's excellent with a pesto (which I make myself; Pasta Gina sells their own but I haven't tried it).

                                      -Nick

                                      1. I ordered a pizza from Noe Valley Restaurant and asked for THIN crust and thought it was really good.

                                        1. For good sushi that is on the Noe/Mission border, try Kiji- it is a newish place on 22nd and Guerrero and it is FANTASTIC. lots of inventive dishes and fresh sushi.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: evangross

                                            Thanks for the heads up! Could you tell me what dishes you especially liked?

                                          2. As a long time Noe Valley resident (12 years) I've been frustraed by the food choices in the area. While there are many good choices, we almost always go to the Mission if we're not getting take-out. Like other readers, there are so many places that I want to be good but never deliver. This is especially true with the recent crop of new places. There seems to be a general lack of understand of the kind of restaurants that are needed in the neighborhood.

                                            Good example is Le Zinc. Great location, interior (though they really need to fix up the outside more) but food and vibe is just OK and overpriced. The concept of having a neighborhood bistro that is open all day is great one but it just comes across as too formal and stiff to acheive that. Plus if would be really great if you could actually hang out at the Zinc bar, have a drink and maybe even eat there but it turns out to be just a prop. Probably some zoning issues but it should be fixed.

                                            Fresca is another. We've eaten there on several occasions but I always end up thinking it's just OK. Some ceviches are good, others just OK. Issue I have it atmosphere. It is just way too loud in there to have a reasonable conversation. It gets worse if you're at the ceviche bar where they guy who works there has his own music blasting while the restaurant is playing something different. Just not relaxing. It's also not the drop by for dinner place that is so badly needed but instead has become a high priced destination restaurant. Good for owners but not for local dinners.

                                            Kookez or whatever the hell it's called. Replaced Miss Millies which I was never a big fan of but it looks like a glorified Applebees or Chilis with it's something for everyone menu that is also overpriced.

                                            What'd I'd love to see is a more casual place where you could sit at the bar and have a drink and eat there as well. There are no places like this in NV - it's either a bar that doesn't serve food or a restaurant where the bar is an afterthought. Why not add pub-like food to places like the Dubliner or the Village Pub??

                                            BTW, Barney's is not it. This is another place I always want to be better and never is. Give me Burger Joint or Flippers anyday.

                                            Ok, enough complaining. What are some places I like:

                                            1. Lupa - Some of the most authentic Italian I've had. Nothing fancy, no mindblowing combinations but reasonable prices, very friendly service and good preperation of traditional dishes - just like dropping into a small alley-side restaurant in Roma.

                                            2. Erics - I agree some of the dishes are subpar but if you order the right things - eg. Shanghai Chicken - it's one of the best.

                                            3. Regent Thai - Some of the best Thai I've had in SF.

                                            4. Deep Sushi - I love this place. It's not best for traditional nigiri but there non traditional stuff is amazing. Try Lomi Lomi Salmon. Always sit at the bar and get great service. Plus it's the only place in NV where you feel like you're in the Mission.

                                            5. Pasta Pomodoro - Yup, it's a chain and some of the dishes are just OK but some of the salads are great, it's not that expensive and service is usually very good. Oh, and it's the best place in NV to sit outside.

                                            Places that are just OK, overrated or should close:

                                            1. Amberjack Sushi - Why would you every go there if Hammano and Deep Sushi are open? Mediocre at best.

                                            2. 24th Street Cafe - Looks like it should be great. Even has outdoor seating but a disappointment everything. With better food this place would be a perfect neighborhood spot.

                                            3. Savor - Help me understand the appeal of this place. There are always long lines on the weekends for what I think is very mediocre food, overpriced food typically accompanied by servers with a bad attitude. Coffee is weak and tasteless like they're trying to save $$ buy using fewer grounds. Aside from the nice outdoor courtyard in back I don't get it.

                                            4. All the pizza places - We've tried them all and end up at Cybelles but always with very specific intructions about the crust (make it thinner) and the cheese (please, please don't put on so much) Usually comes out OK but not great. Haystack is just aweful. Fat tasteless crust. I'd honestly rather have Round Table.

                                            5. Herb's - Again could be should be cool. Should be a funky throughback place with eclectic interior, surely waitress and and cheap but solid diner food. It has none of this with all the atmosphere of a muni station. A little could go a long way here.

                                            1. Replying to the question "Suggestions on MUST restaurants, cafes, etc. in and around Noe Valley?" in another thread:

                                              Incanto, La Ciccia, Bacco, Firefly.

                                              Down the hill, Taqueria San Jose, Blue Plate, Angkor Borei.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Also replying to MUST restaurants:

                                                I'll throw in Lupa for simple neighborhood Italian, and LeZinc if you have time for an authentic (slow-paced) Paris vibe. Pasta Pomodoro works well for a quick, good counter meal, and eating at the bar at Fresca (Peruvian ceviches etc.) is a great way to avoid their service/seating issues and still get the great food. We always go for the bar at La Ciccia (Sardinian) and Pescheria (Italian seafood in SF Chronicle's newest top 100).

                                                I also recommend Swatdee Thai and MiLindo Yucatan on 24th for cheap good ethnic the MUST OP may not get at home.

                                                Down the hill I'd add Front Porch (southern comfort) and also eat at the bar for quick service and fun vibe.