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NY chowhound seeks advice for one day visit

Hi,
I am a NYC chowhound coming to the Bay Area for a few days for a wedding in San Jose. I probably will only get one day or so to get into San Francisco. Having been there only once before, I am eager to sample a few uniquely san Francisco places in a short amount of time. I've never tried a Mission burrito but will probably only get to hit one place (have heard about la taqueria, taqueria san jose, farolito...which shall it be?) I've also heard about swan oyster depot for crab louis, Tadich for Cioppino and old-school SF vibe...as far as the fancier places, I read about Slanted Door, Canteen, Zuni Cafe, Chez Panisse...any picks?
bonus points for any must trys in San Jose (staying at Hotel Valencia). Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

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  1. Get the super burrito al pastor at El Farolito. Two higher end places I like in the Mission are Delfina and Bar Tartine.

    1. Great list you have found!

      If you have a stomach for a lot of eating you could get the majority of it out in one day
      Breakfast - Canteen
      Lunch - Tadditch for Cioppino and a small crab louis
      Snack - mission burrito - I am also a fan of el farolito on 24th and Mission becuase they grill the burrito and use slices of avocado instead of guac but La Corneta on the same block is also very good
      Dinner - Zuni - they serve late so you could have a good long time between your burrito and your dinner.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Meredith

        I forgot to say that I am always reading reports of amazing Vietnamese food in San Jose, which is why I left Slanted Door off your SF day.

      2. I may get flamed for this, but if I only had one day in SF I wouldn't bother with a Mission burrito. The Mexican food around here is fine, but isn't nearly as good as what's available in SoCal and the Southwestern United States. Burritos are great because they're cheap and filling, and if you're on a tight budget it's worth considering, but in terms of delicious food SF offers much better ways to fill that precious, limited stomach space.

        If I had one day in SF I would do Canteen for breakfast, Slanted Door or Tadich or Swan for lunch and Zuni or Chez Panisse Cafe for dinner (note that Chez Panisse is in Berkeley and requires a BART (subway) ride across the bay, may not be appropriate for a tight schedule.)

        12 Replies
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Yeah, but if you're from NY, a burrito in the Mission will be quite a tasty treat. Even followed by a burrito in San Jose.

          And maybe one day tummyache will get to SoCal or the SouthWest but maybe not this trip.

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            I agree with Morton the Mousse. Though california burritos are better than the ones in NY, and be as it may that mission burritos are unique, I wouldn't say it's a must destination for a 1 day trip. El paso taqueria in NY has excellent carne asada, al pastor, and lengua soft tacos and burritos.

            I totally agree with the Canteen rec for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and a trip to Chez Panisse, Zuni, or Oliveto.

            Canteen for breakfast,lunch, AND dinner:
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: Porthos

              Could not disagree more with Morton and Porthos. Granted, I'm biased but a mission burrito is the one thing that this NYer and Bay Area ex pat misses most. For exmple, El Paso Taqueria, while decent, can't hold a candle to my least favorite places in SF.

              NY is becoming a decent taco town -- I'll grant you that -- but we're still a wasteland where burritos are concerned. I'd say that a mission burrito is a DEFINITE must try for someone from NYC.

              1. re: a_and_w

                The question was, if you had 1 day in SF. Would a mission burrito be the 1 of 2 meals you get to try during your visit? Would you say that a mission burrito is more quintessential than Chez Panisse, Zuni, or Canteen?

                If I had 4 meals, yes. If I had 2 meals, I would have to pass.

                1. re: Porthos

                  I agree with Porthos here. Mission Burritos are amazing food bombs, but you run the risk--especially if you make the mistake of finishing one without intending to--of being too full for your other restaurants. (We normally walk to Taqueria Cancun, as their tortillas are grilled and the veggie burrito doesn't require a trailer to carry it home like at Taqueria San Jose.)

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Porthos, to clarify, I'm very biased on this point. Getting a burrito is pretty much the first thing I do upon arriving in the Bay Area (literally -- even before I drop off my stuff at the folks). If I could only eat one meal in SF, that might well be it.

                    Chez Panisse, Zuni, and Canteen are great (though my last meal upstairs at the Cafe was just OK) but you can get that kind of food back east. Not so with the burrito.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      To a and w: I agree. I am not a huge Mexican food eater (ironically, I live in the Mission too) but when I lived in Italy and NY, it was the one cuisine I craved (apart from Japanese in Italy), especially burritos. Some Austrian friends spent a 18 months in SF and guess what the one thing is that they miss? Yep, burritos!

                      1. re: Porthos

                        If I had only one day in New York, my priorities would be the local burrito counterparts, such as pierogis, a pastrami sandwich, pizza, and mofongo. I'd have to be there two or three days before a fancy restaurant would make the cut.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          i agree with a and w - it's definately the first thing i do when i arrive in the bay area.... once i missed my usual burrito trip, and it felt like i had cheated on my boyfriend - you know, you show up in town where your long distance love lives, and don't tell him you are in town.... it was heart, and stomach-wrenching to leave without a carnitas burrito.

                        2. re: a_and_w

                          I agree that a Mission burrito is an essential experience, and also that it's a food bomb. The obvious solution?

                          GET ONE ON THE WAY OUT OF TOWN TO EAT ON THE PLANE.

                          Duh! That should hold you all the way to NY.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            exactly! one is always in my carry on :).

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Ruth, I've tried but it never tastes the same. By the time you eat it, the burrito has become a cold, oversteamed mess. Not to mention the problem of sitting in an enclosed space after having just eaten beans...

                      2. Lots of people love Mission-style buritos. Trying one's the best way to learn whether you're one of them.

                        Personally I prefer tacos, which is Taqueria San Jose's forte. I wouldn't go there for a burrito.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Your game plan for NY works well because pierogis, pastrami sandwiches, pizza, and mofongo is what NYC does much better than LA or SF. A burrito isn't something SF that's unique to SF. LA does much better burritos and NY has pretty some pretty decent burrito's if you're willing to go up to the heart of spanish harlem.

                          You won't find a Chez Panisse in NY, a Canteen in NY, or the Ferry Building in NY. You won't find Koi Palace either.

                          That's my reason for recommending the above over a burrito, even a mission-style burrito.

                          I agree that low end stuff is just as good as a nice restaurant but I'm not sure what street vender/comfort foods SF does so better than NY. Maybe ramen with Santa but Menchenko Tei's hakata style ramen is just as good. The falafel place in San Jose is better than what I've had in NY...

                          1. re: Porthos

                            Mission-style burritos are a distinct local specialty, different enough from other varieties that Calvin Trillin got worked up about them. From what I hear, New York's burritos are about as good as our pastrami sandwiches.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Naw, NY burritos aren't nearly as bad as the pastrami here. As a whole maybe but for those willing to go above 100th street into spanish harlem, very authentic and excellent burritos can be had. The carnitas, carne asada, lengua, and al pastor there are as good as any here. Fresh corn tortillas made on the spot if you like soft tacos. The guacamole is made to order and you see the guy mashing it up with a mortar and pestle.

                              I like the carry on idea though. That way, you can still go to Koi Palace, Chez Panisse, and/or Canteen and still walk away with a mission-style burrito. Genius idea Ruth.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Porthos, no disrespect but this just isn't true. The burritos in NYC are awful -- esp. at the authentic places above 100th street. Burritos are not an "authentic" mexican food -- they're a distinctly Bay Area invention, which is why the best burritos in NYC (imo) are unfortunately at chains like Chipotle.

                                Again, I agree that NYC has decent tacos, which are probably more authentic Mexican fare.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  Mission-style burritos are traditional in the sense that Mexicans in the Mission District have been making them that way for 45 years.

                                  More generally, burritos date back at least a couple of hundred years in Sonora. They were probably first made shortly after the invention of the flour tortilla.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    NY burritos SUCK! Well, no, I haven't tried all of them and maybe they have improved in the past couple of years. But I have written before about going to a place in UWS that touted "Mission-style" burritos. The thing wasn't even rolled! Just folded over. It was clear these people had never even tasted a Mission-style burrito much less how to make one.

                            2. Of the taquarias you mentioned, I would pick La Taquaria. I normally go there for their tacos, but their burritos are great too. Just be sure to squirt a little (or a lot) of the salsa verde from the squeeze bottles between each bite. That stuff is fantastic!

                              I wouldn't necessarily classify some of your fancier picks as particularly fancy. If fancy means a special occasion destination that requires getting dressed up for, then your first three places are more like moderately priced ($$-$$$, California influenced, yuppie hangouts. You could add Chez Pannisse to that category too, if you specify the upstairs.