Heading to San Fran in September from NYC...
and looking for some great dining ideas for both lunch and dinner. We've been to Zuni and Gary Danko in the past and would prefer ideas on the less formal side. In other words, no Gary Danko's! We're not picky about what type of food but would rather have a handful of wondeful dining experiences that are unique to San Francisco and not similiar to what we have here in Manhattan. We will also be visiting with friends with a car, so travel to some of the areas nearby is also an option. Finally, we don't consider ourselves tourists so let's stay away from those traps! Thanks in advance-
The following places are more or less unique to the SF area and are considerably less formal than Gary Danko:
Caffe Rouge (Berkeley)
Chez Panisse & Chez Panisse Cafe (Berkeley)
Ferry Plaza & its Saturday farmers market
Sam's Grill (like Tadich but less touristy)
Sketch Ice Cream (Berkeley)
I would suggest trolling around some of the restaurants in the Mission District ... one of the more happening areas of town these days, with great food happening in a casual or midscale setting -- not formal by any means. We love Limon. If you search the board for "Mission" you'll find many other quality reccomendations.
Aziza: great cal-moroccan, hard to sample all the tasty things without feeling like a glutton.
Delfina: an excellent cal-italian, in the Mission so a very comfortable vibe.
Quince: More upscale, white table cloth cal-italian. Incredible pastas. I lived in NYC 10 years and don't know where I'd go to find anything like these two.
Range: Very good california cuisine, cocktails and mix of patrons in the Mission.
Kokkari: Greek in a great setting. Much more fun and tasty than I ever found Periyali.
Limon: Peruvian fusion. Great cerviches. Loud Mission setting
You can't go wrong with any of Robert's suggestions, but there's a lot of variety up there. May be the first time I've seen Original Joe's and Chez Panisse in the same list!
I always recommed Swan Oyster Depot on Polk and California. Amazingly fresh seafood. Be prepared to stand in line.
I also echo Original Joe's, which is an SF institution (but if you're from NYC, you've had better Italian). Incanto is some amazing Italian food if you're going slightly more upscale (although not on a Gary Danko level :)).
Greens is great vegetarian food with an incredible view.
If you have an afternoon to spend, September's a great time to take a ferry to Tiburon, sit on the deck of Guaymas, and have some guacamole and margaritas.
And I love, love, love the Ferry Plaza.
(BTW, call it San Francisco when you're here.)