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NY chowhound seeks advice for one day visit

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:

            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.

                              1. I'm a south bay guy, so hear are some recommendations. A lot of the restaurants at Santana Row, where you're staying, get tons of hype. I don't think they live up to it, with the possible exception of Straits Cafe (Singaporean). Do not eat Mexican food at Santana Row. For San Jose classics or legends near your hotel: Taqueria Eduardo 255 Race Street (good, bare bones, cheap, classic Cali taqueria. try carne asada or al pastor tacos, or burrito if you must), Krung Thai on Winchester (mid-price, best Thai in the bay area), Falafel Drive Inn on San Carlos (cheap, eat outside, fantastic falafel and gyro). If you can get to downtown SJ (about 2 miles away) great vietnamese food at Vung Tau on Santa Clara St, New Tung Kee Noodle House on E. Santa Clara (chinese noodle soups, cheap, fast, very good)

                                1. as a bay area girl, who now lives in NY - here are my picks.

                                  definately grab a mission burrito for lunch. or a couple of tacos. la taqueria is fantastic and a great sf experience. you can vibe with other people about it when you get back, and the food is off the charts. but the best tacos in the world are at tacos morenos in santa cruz - about 35 min from san jose. drop in, and hit the beach, grab a taco if you have time.

                                  chez panisse is one of the best restaurants on earth - but definately, like mentioned above, specify upstairs. they have a wood burning oven, and you can order a la carte. she (alice waters) is the creator or modern american cuisine, so it's worth the trip across the bridge to berkeley. but bear in mind, this can be a hike. it's only 13 miles, but the traffic can be HELL.

                                  breakfast - canteen is fantastic.

                                  1. I'm from Boston, just back from 3 days in San Francisco. Here's where I ate and had a real good time:
                                    Thurs dinner: Zuni
                                    Fri lunch: Ton Kiang (for 11am dim sum)
                                    Fri dinner: Chez Panisse (downstairs; reservations needed)
                                    Sat lunch: Pancho Villa Taqueria (Mission burrito)
                                    Sat dinner: A-16 (inventive Italian in Marina district)
                                    Happy with all of the meals I had. Chez Panisse was the standout meal by far.

                                    1. Thanks for all the helpful replies! So it looks like we will have a full day in the city on Friday, most of the day on Saturday but not dinner, and sunday night dinner...Here's what I've come up with so far. Any more comments would be greatly appreciated!

                                      breakfast- probably at hotel if included...if not, Canteen
                                      lunch- burrito at El Farolito
                                      Dinner- got a reservation for Slanted Door...then read a lot of negative posts (overpriced, hype, better food at non-fancy vietnamese joints....the same kinds of things you read about Spice Market in NYC) I tried to make a reservation for Chez Panisse but no luck. any other ideas for a nicer meal that is unique to SF?

                                      Saturday- lunch at Tadich Grill

                                      Sunday- dinner: zuni cafe

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: tummyache

                                        According to OpenTable, Aziza still has tables free for Friday night. Delcious food, fantastic bar and very unique to SF. Do a board search on Aziza and you'll find a ton of raves.
                                        Did you try Chez Panisse Cafe or just the restaurant downstairs?

                                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                          Our NYC houseguest enjoyed today's lunch at Cafe Gratitude on 9th Avenue near Irving Street.
                                          We have dinner reservations for tonight at Aziza. - I will add another vote for your Friday dinner: Aziza

                                        2. re: tummyache

                                          I hope your Saturday includes going to the Ferry Building Farmers Market.

                                          1. re: tummyache

                                            greens is a fantastic restaurant out in ft mason, near the presidio. really incredible vegetarian food. you will not miss meat. i guarantee it.


                                            other options in the city are GARY DANKO, and BOULEVARD. Or Myth, a spinoff of danko.....

                                            another great east bay spot is lalimes in berkeley. really, it's fantastic.

                                            1. re: tummyache

                                              Skip Tadich. A San Francisco institution, but really, nothing special about the food. If you want to experience, grab a drink at the bar, then eat elsewhere. Maybe Great Eastern for wonderful Cantonese food.

                                              Keep you reservations at Slanted door, beautiful ingredients, beautiful space, beautiful people - San Francisco vibe. After all, you're here to experience what you don't have in NY.

                                            2. Though I live in Florida, I travel to the Bay area once a month on business. As such, I get to eat out a lot! Recent favorites for dinner include Boulevard, Town Hall, and Cosmopolitan Cafe, all in the Business District. At Cosmo on Thursday nights, the entire wine list is half off. Which means you might get a bottle for what you pay at your neighborhood wine shop. If you go, tell Chase that Jeff from Florida sent you. As noted above, the Ferry Market is a haven for Foodies. Don't miss it. Zuni and Chez Panisse are also the real deal, but you said you only have a few days. Good luck!

                                              1. I agree with avoiding SLANTED DOOR. You can get better v'nese elsewehere at a fraction of the cost... a beautful setting though and while walking along the EMBARCADERO and marvelling at our amazing scenery, enjoy a dozen oysters at HOG ISLAND OYSTER BAR right next to slanted door instead!

                                                as for top eats... other options have been mentioned above... a few other in the mix: FANTASTIC TAPAS at Russian Hill at Zarzuela's. Good hearty home cookin' italian in North beach (Michaelangelo's), LA FOLIE on Polk is FANTASTIC french food as well and polk is a nice place to just walk around

                                                ALSO just over golden gate bridge in sausalito (a beautiful town literally just north of the city) is SUSHI RAN -- arguably the best sushi in the city ...

                                                GOOD LUCK CHOWING!

                                                1. You are staying at the Valencia at Santana Row. Amber India is fine Indian food: the lamb roganjosh and butter chicken are fantastic. (I am a huge fan of Dévi in NYC, so that's how high my standards are.)

                                                  Also in San Jose is Habana Cuba:


                                                  I've only had lunch there (twice) and would HIGHLY recommend the Lechon a la Cubana: slow-roasted pork in Cuban spices and citrus marinade. It's indescribable: falling apart tender, salty and smoky and complex, and just a fine thing to have on a fork headed towards your mouth.

                                                  Take my advice and order beer or wine. Do not (repeat NOT) order a cocktail. They're made with some kind of fermented monkey juice that serves as a replacement for liquor (no liquor license). If you order a mojito, you might want to kill yourself.

                                                  Saturday at the Ferry Plaza: head to Boulette's Larder before you eat somewhere else. Check out the aroma and check out the menu. I never get tired of it. (Though I also never tire of Hog Island oysters: a dozen oysters with a bottle of Sancerre is a great way to start your own private progressive dinner party.) One cool thing you can do is get a lunch to go (from Boulette's or Mistral or somewhere else) and bring it to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant's bar. This is picnic dining at its best: and the people watching is supreme.

                                                  Bring a suitcase on wheels and stock up on things like assorted funghi, Rancho Gordo beans, harissa (Boulette's Larder), pasta, Scharffenberger Chocolates (I know people love Recchuiti, but I'm a purist...just give me those dark brown squares, please), and some cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.

                                                  If you need a quick snack, grab some of the housemade potato chips from Lulu Petite.

                                                  1. Definitely skip Slanted Door in favor of Aziza.

                                                    1. I'd skip breakfast and add afternoon and evening snack, more interesting food in the evenings than morning

                                                      Do Lunch at the Taddish or Swan Oyster Depot
                                                      Grab a 3pm coffee and cake at Cafe Madeleine (3 locations in SF)or a cream puff at the new place next to the Marriott (name escapes me)
                                                      Do a 5pm drink and and the Tuna Tartare appetizer (order traditional style) at Aqua
                                                      Do dinner at Ame if you want Japanese/California fusion, Bong So if you want Vietnamese fusion, plus many other choices on the thread above.
                                                      Post 9pm-10pm, if you still have room, Oola for a drink and a snack.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: kleungsf

                                                        The cream puff place is a branch of the Beard Papa chain, which has several branches in NY.

                                                      2. if you are into indian food, i would second amber india -- although there is a branch at santana row, the original restaurant in mountain view (20 min from santana row) is better, in my opinion. if you have time to get to saratoga, which is about 10-15 minutes from where you are staying, check out la fondue, on big basin way, at least for dessert. you can pick your chocolate, your added liqueur, and various accompaniments, and they have a nice wine list.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: ptrachel

                                                          I don't think there's any reason for a New Yorker with a short time in the Bay Area to go to an Indian restaurant.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            But if you're staying in Santana Row and two blocks away is one of the best Indian restaurants in the USA, why not? I sure wouldn't spend the extra time to go to Mountain View, but Amber India is far and away the best choice right near his San Jose hotel.