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Good little neighborhood places...

  • m

I'm frequently asked for my recommendations for small, attractive, neighborhood spots in SF and I am finally compiling a list so I don't keep reinventing the wheel.

Criteria are:

- excellent food, of course
- friendly vibe
- good service & value
- noise level not too loud to have a normal conversation
- tables not too cramped together
- return business from neighborhood residents
- can function as a mellow midweek last-minute dinner or a low-key "special occasion" dinner (ie jeans usually OK)

So far I've come up with (in no particular order):

- Firefly
- Luella
- The Richmond
- Tablespoon
- Chapeau!
- Garibaldi (maybe, haven't been in a couple years)
- Florio (occasionally too loud)

I'm definitely forgetting some, and the Mission is my blind spot. Any others for the list in any part of the city?


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  1. Some of your choices don't make sense on the noise level or tables cramped together. Like Chapeau! or Tablespoon. (although I love Chapeau! and learn to live with the tables and noise level)

    La Provence is possible addition to your list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cary

      Definitely true about Chapeau, I had forgotten about that. When I ate at Tablespoon I guess we had a table apart from the others, or maybe we were there early enough that it was not full, but I didn't feel cramped. The food was very good.

    2. Though I love it, I have to mention that the tables at Chapeau! are _very_ close together.

      For such restaurants in my environs, I'd add Incanto, Chenery Park, and Blue Plate.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Euonymous

        How is Chenery Park these days? I loved it a while ago but heard it kind of went downhill.

        1. re: Maya

          We frequently go back about every three to four months to check on whether or not it is getting better.
          We went again last week and it was the best it has been in a long time, which made us both very happy.
          I had the Clams app and the macaroni and cheese and my date had the steak frites. he said it was one of the best preperations of the dish that he has had there in the last 3 years.

          Honeslty, it tastes like they got a new sous chef, or a new expediter, because the food (while the menu has not changed at all) is living up to par of how it used to be before the back slide of the last year or so.

          Give it a shot.

          They are still some of the nicest staff around.

      2. Several of my neighborhood favorites are: Chouchou, Roti, Bursa Taraval Okazu Ya and Tangerine (a little further away). Chouchou and Okazu Ya are loud at times and tables can be a little cramped, depending where you sit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: anna

          I'll second Roti, and add Fresca, Incanto, Aziza, and Thep Phanom.

        2. You should add Rue Saint Jacque to your list, it's perfect. Luella is outstanding.

          1. Blue plate for sure-Mission and 29thish.

            1. chenery park - glen park

              1. I don't know if there are any "neighborhood" restaurants in the Mission, since the Mission itself is a sort of destination neighborhood for not-from-the-missioners. However, there are two under-the-radar restaurants that I love to go to:

                Whiz Burger - Don't let the somewhat run down look fool you, the burgers and fries are tasty. Also, the shakes are amazing.

                Balompie - Salvadorean food that's a little more upmarket than a taqueria, but still won't break the bank. Sometimes the roast/fried meat can be a little dry.

                1. I would add liberty cafe to the list. i was there last week and it was really great. It was my first dinner visit, I had only been there for brunch prior to that. Can't get much more neighbourhoody than that!

                  1. I had another thought. When I lived in the Polk st area of russian hill, my neighbourhood spot was Le Petit Robert. I loved, it, especially whiling away a weekend over a bottle of bubbly, sitting on one of the pavement tables, out in the sun.

                    I returned there last month and had a wonderful lunch - an octopus salad which was excellent. Their mac and cheese is exactly how I like it (not American style, but with gruyere and leeks and ham - very rich, very indulgent, wickedly good).

                    Ever since reminding myself about it, I have been antsing to return.