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Jul 17, 2006 05:25 PM

Die Hard New York Chowhounders Coming to San Fran...Where do we eat?

In search of top 5 suggestions of great dining experiences in San Fran.
1.) Great Chinatown
2.) An upscale, must-visit restaurant for fresh, oustanding seafood (not sushi) with a view
3.) A local, neighborhood place with good people watching for brunch
4.) Mexican...California style
5.) A great place for desert

My requests are basic, as I'm just beginning my chow research for our trip. Any and all suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. Chinatown is more a tourist destination, full of tourist traps. You will have to venture out of that area for great Chinese food....

    14 Replies
    1. re: anna

      Where would you suggest going? Inexpensive-moderate?

      1. re: ChowDiva

        Well, nothing really great in Chinatown. R&G Lounge (just outside Chinatown) is the one we'd go to. But if you really want great Chinese in SF you'd have go a little bit south to Daly City for Koi Palace.

      2. re: anna

        I disagree. There is excellent Chinese food to be had in Chinatown. For starters, do some searches on the board for Great Eastern (seafood) and Gold Mountain (dim sum, also for dinner, if you want lower end). I also like Kan's for dim sum. If you do decide to venture out of Chinatown, the best options are out of the City, consider Koi Palace in Daly City.

        I agree that upscale, must visit excellent seafood and view are pretty much mutually exclusive.

        Consider Canteen for brunch, although it is fairly small so I am not sure it is the best for people watching. Zuni serves brunch and would be a good people watching destination, if that is more important than the food.

        Personally, I'd go to Aziza not only as a great place for dessert, but a great place period, and something you aren't as likely to get in NY....

        1. re: susancinsf

          Canteen was featured in Food and Wine Magazine this month. It only has like 10 stools though. I'd love to go there...well, I will. I only live 90 minutes away. Best time to go in order to get a seat?

          1. re: melly

            weekay breakfast. They do take reservations for dinner

          2. re: susancinsf

            As a former NYC resident, I completely agree with the Canteen recommendation...brunch, lunch, or dinner. It's unique to SF and you have to admire the chef...and be amazed at how young he looks.

            Other areas unique to SF

            1. Ferry Building. Don't eat breakfast on Saturday morning and just go to graze, Rose's for scrambled eggs and heirloom tomatoes, and Blue Bottle for iced New Orleans coffee. Also has a nice view.

            2. Koi Palace for dinner or dim sum. Exquisite seafood swimming in something like 10 tanks. It's like going to an aquarium. It's unlike anything in NYC chinatown. Try the king crab 2 ways.

            3. Chez Panisse, Oliveto, or Zuni for some cal/cal-italian cuisine. The line caught stripped bass at Chez Panisse was the sweetest most succulent bass I've ever had.

            4. Cioppino. I've never been but hear that Tadisch is good. I don't think it's upscale though.

            To avoid because NYC has something like it and better:

            1. Sushi. Ozumo or any other sushi.

            2. Hog Island Oysters. Maybe to compare west coast oysters but Aquagrill, Grand Central Oyster Bar, and even Blue Ribbon have just as many and even more oysters from both the east and west coast.

            3. High end dining. Michael Mina and even The Dining Room...both about half a notch or so below the likes of Le Bernardin, Jean-George, Daniel, etc.


            1. A16. It's a good restaurant with a nice wine list. The pizza, pasta, or even the wine list itself isn't unlike something you can't find at Otto, Lupa, or Una Pizza Napoletana

            1. re: Porthos

              The food at Tadich is good but not good enough to justify the prices on its own, the historic atmosphere's the real draw. Cioppino's a good thing to order as that's a local specialty (derived from Ligurian ciuppin).

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for the etymology. On Sunday, during some inane FoodTV show the host said that it derived from immigrant fisherman if SF "chipping in" to the pot what they had caught that day.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  There's a few ideas on the origin of cioppino

                  I agree the FoodTV host was inane. When I first saw that on the web, my gut reaction was to giggle a lot. One of the Fisherman's Wharf restaurants even has that on its menu misleading visitors.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I'm quite sure cioppino was derived from ciuppin. SF's Italian immigrants mostly came from Liguria, and except for the difference in what seafood's locally available it's the same recipe.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Good to know. If you have any sources to back that up, please add them to the General Topics link so that good info doesn't get lost here.

                    2. re: Porthos

                      King crab season is over, so that dish is probably not available at Koi Palace now.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Ooops, you're right. That's too bad. In that case, the Shanghai 2 taste crab. I just called and they have "crystal" crab in season right now. It's dungeness looking but white. The flesh is sweeter and more delicate than dungeness.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Crystal crab is one species that has eluded me. I have heard that it's fantastic with a very tender texture.

                  2. There are two up-scale seafood restaurants for the most part, however neither have a view to speak of. Aqua on California is outstanding. Threre is also Farallon on Post St. in Union Sq. Of the to I would pick Aqua.

                    1. The only non-tourist-trap seafood with a view is Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building. That's not a cutesy name; it's owned by an oyster farm.


                      You can get above-average Chinese food in Chinatown, but if you want the best Chinese food, or something you won't find in New York, you'd do better to look elsewhere. Will you have a car?

                      By "California-style Mexican" do you mean upscale fusion or a Mission-style burrito or what?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Yes, Hog Island is excellent, good point. It is not in the least bit upscale though, and I wouldn't call it must-visit unless you love oysters. However, if you do love oysters, it is easy to drop a lot of money there!

                        You should plan a visit to the Ferry Building anyways, so you should drop by and check it out.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          One could justly argue that the whole Ferry Building scene has become nothing but a tourist trap itself (albeit for gastro-tourists). Hog Island is also no solution if the poster wants something beyond ersters.

                          It's not Dungeness season, we can't compete with the East coast in lobster, but perhaps what we do best is the stuff that stares back at you from the plate. That brings the circle back around to Chinese restaurants, are notably view-challenged, especially since North Sea Village in Sausalito closed.

                          Solomonic solution: combine two meal budgets and pig out on the denizens of the fish tanks at Great Eastern, or Koi Palace if you can get there.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Even less touristy than Hog Island (which I found a bit touristy) is the Tomales Bay Oyster Company four miles north of Pt. Reyes Station on Highway 1. They have a picnic area and barbecue pits, which are available at no charge on a first-come basis. I like their oysters best because they seem to be cleaner tasting. On weekends, people using the picnic area are mostly Spanish-speaking families. Lots of boom boxes, bottles of hot sauce, and friendly folks if you speak any Spanish. Now the oysters are a bit milky, and are best barbecued.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Apologies for the previous post. I didn't know Hog Island was in the Ferry Building and thought RL referred to the one up on the coast.

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                By "Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building" I meant the one in the Ferry Building.

                            2. Desserts

                              I went to chez panisse for the first time a few weeks ago, upstairs in the cafe, the most impressive part of my meal was the desserts. They were really good. All of them, (we tried every dessert on the menu, barring the bowlful of unadorned cherries).

                              I have loved the desserts at Piperade too, in particular the Biarritz chocolate rocher.

                              My favourite dessert in town bar none is Zuni's caramel pot de creme but it is not always available, and none of their other desserts are quite as ethereal, in my book.

                              1. I have to say your wish list sounds more like the tourist special. I'm almost reluctant to answer because it doesn't seem to be a question centered around food, rather visitor experience, but here's the best I can do.

                                1.) Great Chinatown

                                Being the least qualified on this board to answer this question, this list of restuarants from the SF Chronicle


                                With the exception of maybe House of Nanking, most of these places get positive posts on Chowhound. Search the board using that the above list. Some restaurants like R&G only do certain dishes well, but they do them wonderfully. Maybe Jai Yun for a different experience.

                                The best of Chinatown, IMO - those egg custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery. I personally love the BBQ pork buns there. Stop for tea at Imperial Tea.

                                2.) An upscale, must-visit restaurant for fresh, oustanding seafood (not sushi) with a view

                                As Susan said, upscale and good fish and view, not really. Hog Island would combine your view/people watching requirement. I think both Aqua and Farralon are over-rated and there is much better fish to be had.

                                I would take the Ferry to Sausalito, grab a cab for a brief ride to Fish. and sit on the wharf at picnic tables and have some of the best fish in the area with a terrific view and ambiance. Only thing upscale though is the prices.

                                3.) A local, neighborhood place with good people watching for brunch

                                Zuni might be good. I would just go to the Saturday morning farmers market, nosh at the stands and sit on the pier watching the shoppers. What does good brunch mean to you?

                                4.) Mexican...California style

                                Yeah, sort of like upscale seafood with a view. You might try Roosevelt Tamale Parlor that just re-opened. There is a recent report if you search.

                                5.) A great place for desert

                                Tartine and it would definately include the people watching part.

                                Whatever you choose, hope you will report back about what you selected.