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

c
ChowDiva Jul 17, 2006 05:25 PM

Hello:
In search of top 5 suggestions of great dining experiences in San Fran.
1.) Great Chinese...in 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!

  1. anna Jul 17, 2006 06:03 PM

    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
      c
      ChowDiva Jul 17, 2006 06:34 PM

      Where would you suggest going? Inexpensive-moderate?

      1. re: ChowDiva
        PeterL Jul 17, 2006 08:49 PM

        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
        susancinsf Jul 17, 2006 06:37 PM

        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
          m
          melly Jul 17, 2006 07:41 PM

          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
            susancinsf Jul 17, 2006 07:55 PM

            weekay breakfast. They do take reservations for dinner

          2. re: susancinsf
            Porthos Jul 18, 2006 03:22 AM

            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.

            Maybe

            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
              Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2006 03:41 PM

              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
                Chris Rising Jul 18, 2006 07:30 PM

                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
                  rworange Jul 18, 2006 07:47 PM

                  There's a few ideas on the origin of cioppino

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                  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
                    Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2006 08:05 PM

                    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
                      rworange Jul 18, 2006 08:15 PM

                      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
                      Melanie Wong Jul 20, 2006 02:23 AM

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

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Porthos Jul 20, 2006 03:04 AM

                        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
                          Melanie Wong Jul 20, 2006 03:19 AM

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

                  2. r
                    rtmonty Jul 17, 2006 06:21 PM

                    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. Robert Lauriston Jul 17, 2006 06:34 PM

                      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.

                      http://www.hogislandoysters.com

                      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
                        susancinsf Jul 17, 2006 06:41 PM

                        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
                          Gary Soup Jul 17, 2006 10:06 PM

                          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
                            Tripeler Jul 17, 2006 10:15 PM

                            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
                              Tripeler Jul 17, 2006 10:18 PM

                              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
                                Robert Lauriston Jul 17, 2006 11:29 PM

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

                            2. s
                              Sixy Jul 17, 2006 06:51 PM

                              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. rworange Jul 17, 2006 07:02 PM

                                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 Chinese...in Chinatown

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

                                http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/listing...

                                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.

                                1. farmersdaughter Jul 17, 2006 07:17 PM

                                  It doesn't have a view, but for fresh seafood in an old school atmosphere I'd suggest Tadich Grill, either for lunch or dinner.

                                  1. c
                                    ChowDiva Jul 17, 2006 07:29 PM

                                    Thank you for your responses. I wanted to start my research here at Chowhound because I find the community very helpful, educated and resourceful in NY. Because I will in fact be a tourist on my visit to San Fran, I will be hitting up the more touristy areas. I imagine that my post should have specified that along with outstanding food, I'm also looking for places with unique, local flavors. Because I've never been to San Fran, I haven't yet started to search out locations outside of the city that may be worth a short journey. Thought I'd first start getting some ideas within the city proper and then branch out.
                                    By the way, Brunch to me is a place that serves up a killer bloody mary and great omelette/ egg options.
                                    In terms of Mexican, both budget and upscale options would be appreciated.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ChowDiva
                                      rworange Jul 17, 2006 08:02 PM

                                      Oh, ok ... well, ok ... so if you don't mind then I'm going to go with tourist areas, but maybe not necessarily what is on your wish list. They are the places I would take out-of-town guests for a first time to the city.

                                      One thing to consider is that SF has good, coffee ... really, really good coffee. So you might schedule some of your people watching around that.

                                      In North Beach, I love Cafe Roma. I also like XOX chocolates which has Graffeo coffee, my favorite, and a free truffle with a cup of coffee ... get the caramel. Nice neighborhood watching as locals drop in and chat. There are two tables inside. Those truffles make nice gifts to take home and the Graffeo coffee shop is across the street ... also a nice gift to take home. The shop smells wonderful. In the Mission there is Ritual, a Chowhound favorite where you would defininately have a people-watching experience ... or Phils on 24th ... coffee with fresh mint and personality.

                                      The thing to go for here is Cal cuisine not necessarily Cal-Mex. Aziza, as mentioned, is Cal-Morroccan and certainly unique. Lots of posts on this board. It would be more or less convenient if you were in the Legion of Honor/Cliff House area (The Cliff House good for a cocktail ... stunning view from lounge, skip the food). Really, seriously consider Aziza. One of my favorites in SF.

                                      Sort of in the Wharf-ish are you might consider Piperade, Cal-Basque. It doesn't knock my socks off, but I think I'm the only one on the board who feels this way. I plan a return visit soon.

                                      Downtown, as mentioned, Canteen gets lots of positive mentions. I haven't been there yet, but those eggs benedict are the next thing I want to get.

                                      Coco500 is great Cal-cuisines with lots of small plates and is near the ballpark and downtown. Definately a place I would take people.

                                      Tadich, as mentioned, is a seafood place I would take guests for specific dishes and San Francisco atmosphere.

                                      If you get stuck at the Wharf, although I don't think many would agree with me, Scoma's has a terrific $21.95 pre-fixe lunch. The veggies may be ho-hum, but the fish is stellar fresh. There's a little bit of a view and it is kind of charming and set off in its own little area with their boats and fish processing plant near by.

                                      You might consider Yang Sing for dim sum. It is upscale in a beutiful building with a fountain that rains from the ceiling.

                                      And really ... Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday morning. This is the place to be to really the best of San Francisco and people watch.

                                      1. re: rworange
                                        t
                                        Tobias Jul 18, 2006 02:03 AM

                                        By "in the Mission there is Cafe Organica, a Chowhound favorite where you would defininately have a people-watching experience" I assume you mean Ritual on Valencia near 22nd. Organica, as per my other post, is mysteriously closed and located in the Western Addition.

                                        1. re: Tobias
                                          rworange Jul 18, 2006 06:40 AM

                                          Yep. Thanks. I fixed my post so your reply doesn't look odd.

                                    2. moto Jul 17, 2006 07:46 PM

                                      hello, if you are truly unfamiliar with the 'restaurant scene' in SF, browsing the review archive at sfgate.com, which is searchable by location and cuisine type, might help get a general picture. Many of the places the 'hounds here like have their 'cali-quirks', by that I mean we have a lot of places that are hard to compare with those in other restaurant cities like NY, DC,LA. Sometimes domestic travel presents a challenge in terms of gaining the 'traveller's mindset' of leaving some expectations at home. Of course, the more upscale you go, the greater the likelihood of convergence, because the upper economic strata likes to keep itself in a certain comfort/familiarity zone and has the means to sustain it(exemplified in the top tier places re-created in Las Vegas).

                                      The place rw mentions for really fresh fish and great view is very not upscale, but really has a local uniqueness, Fish in Sausalito (think dockside informality), is best enjoyed in the warmer seasons--are you coming within 3 months? have fun with the planning

                                      1. Chris Rising Jul 17, 2006 08:11 PM

                                        My 2 cents:

                                        1. R&G Lounge or Jai Yun for chef specialties. There was a recent positive post for Capital, but its a formica table top diner, with the best dishes on the wall.

                                        2. Michael Mina. Very upscale, but the view may not be what your looking for. The restaurant is in the Westin St. Francis and some tables look out at Union Square.

                                        3. Mama's in North Beach. That's a great neighborhood to watch the world go by.

                                        4. Burritos in the Mission. I like Pancho Villa and its very convenient to Bart.

                                        5. Back to Michael Mina to sit at the bar.

                                        1. d
                                          DavidB Jul 17, 2006 09:48 PM

                                          1)Chinese: San Tung (Get the dry-fried wings, shrimp & Leek dumplings, noodles) on 11th and irving if you are in the sunset but if you are in Chinatown, You should go to House of Nanking (though it's touristy, it's still really good) and make sure to get whatever the owner, PEter,(who also is part of the wait staff) recommends.

                                          2)Seafood: Ozumo (great view, great seafood kinda similar to Nobu) though I've heard great things about Farallon (I haven't been there though)

                                          3)Brunch: Zuni Cafe on Market or Rose's on Union Street (corner of Steiner)

                                          4)Mexican: Hands Down, it's gotta be LA Taqueria (between 24th & 25th, on Mission), get the Carnitas Burrito/Taco and ask for some Guacamole in it.

                                          5)Dessert: Millenium (though's it vegan, its easily tied for the best, with...) or Citizen Cake.

                                          Hope this helps.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: DavidB
                                            Robert Lauriston Jul 17, 2006 09:51 PM

                                            I had the worst dessert ever at Millennium. The combination of vegan and ultra-low-fat is a recipe for disaster.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              v
                                              veggie jawn Jul 22, 2006 07:40 AM

                                              hey hey - easy on millenium - we all know the entrees are overpriced and a lil boring, but the dessert is definitely legit. the chocolate almond midnight is on the menu every night & is a sure bet - the other desserts can get more experimental and fruity...

                                              also, as a high school teacher, i agree with the "san fran" quote - try "the sco"

                                            2. re: DavidB
                                              m
                                              MuppetGrrl Jul 17, 2006 09:56 PM

                                              A quick word of advice: calling it "San Fran" is the quickest way to shriek "I'M A TOURIST"! :) It's just San Francisco to most folks.

                                              Most of the comments above are good, but I'd like to chip in on seafood with a view. Go to Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street (You'll have to stand in line) and get your selection to go (my favorite is a combo seafood salad--nothing more than iceberg, Louie sauce, and crab, shrimp, and lobster), pack a bottle of cold white wine, and take your selection of great SF parks.

                                              My favorite place is Sutro Park at Ocean Beach--all the way at the end of the 31 Geary line--because it has a lovely oceanview, but this time of year, it might be too foggy and cold (although the fog is a San Francisco special in itself).

                                              Another park option would be Lafayette Park, at Sacramento and Octavia. A lovely neighborhood and views of the bay and South San Francisco, plus it's usually fairly sunny midday.

                                              You'll have to do it for lunch, though, since Swan Oyster Depot closes at 5.

                                              Upscale? Not necessarily. But fabulously San Francisco, yes.

                                              1. re: DavidB
                                                rabaja Jul 20, 2006 03:16 AM

                                                The one and only time I ate at Millenium I found the food to be laughable in it's horridness. Especially the desserts.

                                              2. l
                                                lizelle Jul 17, 2006 11:06 PM

                                                If you don't mind a lovely scenic drive about an hour outside of SF, I'd highly recommend Manka's Lodge in Inverness (http://www.mankas.com). Otherwise, Zuni, Bar Tartine, Fifth Floor, or Cafe Fanny in Berkeley.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: lizelle
                                                  joltgrrl Jul 20, 2006 02:16 AM

                                                  I second the vote for Café Fanny for breakfast, brunch, lunch (can combine with Acme Bread next door).

                                                2. s
                                                  Silverlaker Jul 17, 2006 11:24 PM

                                                  I asked the same thing -- check out my replies.

                                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                  1. s
                                                    Silverlaker Jul 18, 2006 12:42 AM

                                                    lizelle -- just made reservations for early sunday night dinner per your rec for manka. we're very much looking forward to it. thanks so much for the rec (la chowhounder). we'll be coming down from santa rosa, any winery (etc) recs along the way?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Silverlaker
                                                      l
                                                      lizelle Jul 30, 2006 03:31 PM

                                                      Would love to hear what you thought of Manka's. I really hope you like (love) it is as much as I do. My husband and I have been there about a dozen or so times and have never had a bad meal.

                                                      One of our fondest memories is sitting in the front room on a cold dark night and hearing a strong popping sound. We turned and saw the cook kneeling by the fireplace - it was duck fat crackling over the fire. May seem strange but it was so comforting, especially in that environment.

                                                      Several years ago, they used to have a nice wine tasting dinner program called "Lap it up with Louie" - who was Manka's larger-than-life yellow lab (looked about 200lbs. but very lovable). Unfortunately, Louie is no longer with us. Though I wonder if they'll reintroduce wine tastings in another form.

                                                    2. Melanie Wong Jul 18, 2006 01:41 AM

                                                      Manka's is a lovely suggestion. However, you may want to carefully study a map and decide whether you really want to drive on those kind of unfamiliar country roads for an hour or so back to Santa Rosa at night after eating and drinking.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        s
                                                        Silverlaker Jul 18, 2006 01:54 AM

                                                        We'll be heading to the city from there. And it's an early dinner at 4pm so we should be traveling w light. Thanks for your concern, it's appreciated!

                                                        1. re: Silverlaker
                                                          Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2006 03:43 PM

                                                          Manka's Sunday dinner is early but long. It's really much nicer to stay there.

                                                      2. x
                                                        xbailey Jul 18, 2006 02:30 AM

                                                        Okay, Here's my vote sticking with the general idea of what you originally wanted:

                                                        1.) Great Chinese...in Chinatown
                                                        - Without question Sam Wo's. It's probably the biggest dump in China town, but rumored to be the birthplace of Chow Fun noodles. It's open really late, and was the place to go after the bars closed when I was in college. Brign your own beer though, as they don't have a liquor license. Also....try any of the fresh greens on the menu.

                                                        2.) An upscale, must-visit restaurant for fresh, oustanding seafood (not sushi) with a view.
                                                        - I can't think of any that are not huge tourist traps. If you've never been to SF then you might want to think about Slanted Door (don't bash me people - it's a worthwhile recommendation for a newbie). It has the view and seafood, but with a Vietnamese menu. Several years ago this was the hottest restaurant in the City and received international acclaim. It's become more of bridge and tunnel/ tourist destination these days, but the food is still phenomenal. You must try the glass noodles with crab!!!

                                                        3.) A local, neighborhood place with good people watching for brunch.
                                                        - Definitely the ferry building - Czar Nicolai caviar bar has the most amazing smoked salmon sandwich ....and no bloody mary, but champagne tasting for breakfast - VERY "San Fran" ;-)

                                                        4.) Mexican...California style
                                                        - This is a tough one. Most of the good mexican places are mentioned in the strings above, but are more authentic and less California. Aqui in San Jose is a perfect match. it's got all the trimmings of a burrito joint, but with an executive Chef trained at CIA in Hyde Park New York and and well trained full kitchen staff that makes your food to order. If you get down that way, ity's definitely worth the trip. In San francisco however the only thing I can think of is a new place in the Marina on Chestnut called Mamacita. haven't been there, but it's been the buzz around the Marina since it opened.

                                                        5.) A great place for desert
                                                        - My current favorite dessert is at Cafe Maritime in the marina. A seafood restaurant inspired by New England lobster shacks as interpreted by a San Francisco designer. Really cool interior/atmosphere, but very casual and neighborhood friendly. Coconut cream pie is to die for.....but you have to call ahead to make sure they have them in supply. They make them fresh everyday and do not keep them over night. Some nights they run out early. the owner is from Chicago and a very knowledgable foodie himself.

                                                        6.) A personal recommendation:
                                                        - A16 in the Marina is one of the hottest restaurants in town going on two years now. They focus on the cuisine of the Campana region of Italy (where Naples is located) with a pizzaiolo trained in Naples. It's not necessarily the most original restaurant concept, but they focused on a region of cuisine that and executed like I've never seen before in the US.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: xbailey
                                                          Melanie Wong Jul 18, 2006 02:43 AM

                                                          Coconut cream pie at Cafe Maritime is very good -
                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                          Most of Sam Wo's menu is inedible, but if one must, there are some safe things. What do you recommend there to help our visitor avoid the land mines?

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2006 03:47 PM

                                                            Sam Wo is a cheap funky dive with unremarkable food. There are plenty of places like it in New York.

                                                        2. w
                                                          websusan Jul 18, 2006 03:18 AM

                                                          These are the best I can do.. sure there might be disagreements by some, but it's a try!

                                                          1.) Great Chinese...in Chinatown

                                                          Empress of China -- great view! Food was just ok, but not any worse than the best I've had in SF. The view of city light and artifacts in the entrance/common area, amazing.

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

                                                          Cafe Maritime -- I haven't been myself, but my friends just went twice and raved! http://www.cafemaritimesf.com

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

                                                          Memphis Minnie's! That's people watching and great bbq, a hearty brunch.
                                                          http://www.memphisminnies.com/

                                                          or la Boulange on Fillmore - incredible brioche French toast with custard bottom. mmmmm http://www.baybread.com/fillmore.php

                                                          4.) Mexican...California style

                                                          I'm dying to go to Tres Agaves, http://www.tresagaves.com

                                                          5.) A great place for desert

                                                          We had a group of 8 at Indigo for the after 8:00 prix fixe wine dinner recently (under $30 each including wone pairings, btw) and so we ordered and shared ALL the desserts. Each was fantastic! Paired with a port or espresso, we were quite pleased.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: websusan
                                                            rworange Jul 18, 2006 06:45 AM

                                                            I don't think Cafe Maritime has a view.

                                                          2. w
                                                            websusan Jul 18, 2006 03:30 AM

                                                            RE: Indigo

                                                            Correction, I recalled incorrectly! The wine dinner was $49 per person. But we ended up having another bottle of wine and some champagne so it ended up being more... still, it was the deal of the century for a party of that size and everything was very good, if not super inventive, we couldn't find anything to complain about! The desserts certainly stood out.

                                                            1. k
                                                              karoline Jul 18, 2006 07:46 AM

                                                              For a very down-to-earth san francisco seafood experience, go to castro street and eat at the anchor oyster bar. it's not upscale, and has a fairly simple menu (mostly cold), but the seafood is very fresh, i would recommend the dungeoness salad ($22 - heaping mound of crab) with the house-made creamy garlic dressing. is there anything more san francisco than dungeoness crab? the staff are super nice and they have outstanding specials (mostly hot). it is a tiny place and you may have to wait.

                                                              1. g
                                                                getsnarky Jul 20, 2006 05:28 AM

                                                                Following up on the coffee suggestion.

                                                                To really appreciate what SF has to offer, you must try the hand-made coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee Co. (in Hayes Valley at 315 Linden - http://tinyurl.com/z7tpm; and at the Ferry Building during the Sat. Farmer's Market), and Philz Coffee (3901 18th St.). Try Philz iced coffee. Sublime.

                                                                Also, if you're looking for great wine (and food), I would also recommend CAV wine bar on Market (near Gough). The food there has been outstanding (we had their housemade merguez last time and it was the best I've ever tasted). The wine list is adventurous and you'll find things there you won't find elsewhere. Highly recommend. http://www.cavwinebar.com/. I think it's one of the most underrated places to eat in SF - perhaps because people think of it just for wine, or because it's next door to Zuni. Either way, check it out.

                                                                For wine tasting without food (or if you've got time before heading over to Mamacita's), stop by the California Wine Merchant in the Marina. VERY friendly and knowledgable folks. Smaller producers are often highlighted. Good deals on wines that you buy from the store after you've tasted. http://www.californiawinemerchant.com/.

                                                                Enjoy your visit!

                                                                1. b
                                                                  brianc33 Jul 30, 2006 10:12 PM

                                                                  Fish. in Sausalito is tremendous for casual seafood -- sustainable, creative and local.

                                                                  Brandy Ho is a stand out for Chinese -- no gloppy sweet sauces or pale, unappetizing stuff like so many other "great" Chinatown places.

                                                                  Pazzia is a commonly overlooked, excellent trattoria near Moscone Center.

                                                                  Michael Mina is the best restaurant in S.F. these days, surpassing Masa's, the Dining Room at the Ritz, and the now-forgettable Fleur de Lys.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: brianc33
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jul 31, 2006 04:17 PM

                                                                    Like all local seafood places, much of the seafood at Fish. comes from out of the area. It's unfortunately impractical for restaurants to serve only local seafood, there's just not enough of it.

                                                                  2. w
                                                                    waldrons Jul 31, 2006 11:13 PM

                                                                    Instead of Mexican - California style, how about "Nuevo Latino"... Latin American restaurants done California style? I'm thinking of Destino, or Limon, or Andalu.

                                                                    Susan

                                                                    1. p
                                                                      ptrachel Aug 1, 2006 01:31 AM

                                                                      for dessert, if you're into ice cream, check out picco in larkspur... soft-serve vanilla and/or chocolate made from organic milk from a local creamery, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. think upscale carvel for the five-year-old in all of us.

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