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Consensus On Best Restaurants in SanFrancisco???

c
crsin Aug 8, 2006 03:59 AM

I'm going to be going on a trip to San Francisco next week and will be staying along mason st. I've spent VERY little time in the area and really have no idea where to eat and where to go. There are obviously a huge number of restaurants in the area. However, reading the boards, I can't seem to get a feeling as to what are really widely considered to be the GREAT restaurants of San Francisco. What are they?

My family and I are pretty adventurous eaters and are open to most. However, I'm not really looking for anything that is hugely pricey, just some relatively fun places with great food. I'm looking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In particular, I'd like to know of great asian food and great seafood, although I'm open to and would love to know absolutely everything.

I'll only be on town for about 5 days, so I'm looking for a consensus on a few of the GREATS in the area that you would think we MUST visit before leaving.

Thanks.

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  1. m
    madwrk RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:06 AM

    I think you are going to be asked to be a lot more specific - particularly about price. San Francisco is full - FULL of great asian and seafood restaurants but price can be a problem.

    1. c
      crsin RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:32 AM

      I'm really not too picky. I plan on having maybe one high end meal. Other than that, I would probably keep cost down to average of about $15 per entree or less. Money isn't really the limitation. I'm more interested in getting really good food, but probably mostly more places where it would be acceptable to walk in as is, wearing whatever without making reservations a week in advance (although I really don't mind relatively long waits). Hope that might clarify.

      Also, what I'm getting at is, in my neck of the woods, if someone were to come to me and ask "what are some standout restaurants around here which have fantastic food and you will likely rarely hear a negative word about?" I could probably rattle off numerous restaurants for every catagory (breakfast, lunch, seafood, chinese, etc.) that immediately stand out as incredible with few equally great alternatives.

      1 Reply
      1. re: crsin
        Ruth Lafler RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:55 AM

        Okay, bringing it down to $15/entree narrows it quite a bit -- that's pretty low priced for SF.

        Of the places I mentioned, I think you'd like Helmand and Bodega Bistro, and they'd be in that price range. When you say you're staying on Mason I assume one of the hotels off Union Square. You might like Sultan, which is one of the best Indian restaurants in the city and is in that area.

      2. PBSF RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:32 AM

        Besides price range, try to be more specific...if you are traveling with children, their age, and what their likes are. How adventurous eaters is your family? San Francisco has good food from every country in Asia. Plus all the pan Asian restaurants sprouting up everywhere. Chinese restaurants run from inexpensive hole in the wall serving good down home food to large Kong Kong style restaurant serving whole fish, dried abalone, fresh water prawns, etc. where you can drop $50 per person without any trouble. Seafood restaurant is a little more problematic.
        Consenus doesn't exist in San Francisco. For many of us, GREAT restaurant means great service, great food, excellent wine list...Gary Danko, Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton?

        1. t
          TheFuzzy RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:33 AM

          You're not going to get a consensus. SF has probably 300-500 good restaurants; nobody has been to them all, not even the critics.

          Also, if it's next week you've already eliminated some options because you don't have reservations.

          For breakfast, I'd recommend Ella's, Kate's Breakfast and/or The Pork Store.

          8 Replies
          1. re: TheFuzzy
            larochelle RE: TheFuzzy Aug 9, 2006 12:29 AM

            See, you gave a perfect example of lack of consensus.

            I live right by Kate's Kitchen but refuse to go there it went downhill a long time ago, now most of their food is mediocre and their breakfast potatoes SUCK. I stopped going to the Pork Store for breakfast because the grease they douse EVERYTHING with has been rancid one too many times. And while Ella's has decent food, I never go there because of the long lines, snotty clientele and poor service.

            1. re: larochelle
              t
              TheFuzzy RE: larochelle Aug 10, 2006 02:16 AM

              Larochelle,

              I'll admit that Kate's isn't what it used to be, but it's still impressive to someone from out of town. Ella's is better on the weekdays; I won't go on the weekends anymore either. As for the Pork Store, I'm a local so maybe they give me better food. I don't know.

              Where *would* you recommend for breakfast?

              1. re: TheFuzzy
                Robert Lauriston RE: TheFuzzy Aug 10, 2006 03:03 PM

                Canteen's probably the best breakfast in town right now.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  l
                  lparis RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 10, 2006 06:40 PM

                  I was at Canteen two weeks ago--I'm a tourist too--It's fine but not great--My eggs (salsaed were fine--my husband's pancakes--mediocre--I like Dotties True Blue better even if it is touristy

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    s
                    Sixy RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 10, 2006 08:52 PM

                    I really like Canteen, but as a local don't really understand the current breakfast raves either. I thought it was a competent but not extraordinary at breakfast.
                    (I LOVED a luch I had there, though)

                  2. re: TheFuzzy
                    larochelle RE: TheFuzzy Aug 11, 2006 03:30 PM

                    Suppenkuche Sunday Brunch - http://www.suppenkuche.com/brunch.html
                    I’ve been inconsolable since they took the quark & boiled potatoes off the menu but the ravioli & eggs dish is good, as is the Emperor's Pancake. Not to mention it’s the one place in SF where I can have breakfast & coffee while the spouse has excellent Jägerschnitzel & beer.

                    Bambino - http://www.bambinosristorante.com/wke...
                    good basic egg breakfast without the wait or attitude of Zazie next door

                    Citizen Cake - http://www.citizencake.com/menus/brun...
                    the creamy anson mills grits, bacon, soft egg yolk, cheddar, scallion dish with a champagne float is an awesome way to start the day

                    Saha - http://www.sahasf.com/breakfast.html
                    Two words - Yemenese Fouel

                    Mama’s on Washington Square http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...
                    Awesome french toast, nice omelettes

                    Tartine - http://www.tartinebakery.com/menu.htm
                    Way too crowded so I rarely go anymore but the spouse dreams of their gougeres (sp?). Maybe a visitor wouldn’t mind the wait.

                    Puerto Alegre - http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...
                    I wouldn’t really recommend this to a tourist but Puerto Alegre has a dish I love – “verde chilaquiles”. They’re the closest thing to my favorite breakfast dish in the world -- Austin Migas – that I’ve ever found outside of Texas. I never order anything else. And their coffee & margaritas suck so I stick to beer.

                    Memphis Minnies –
                    http://www.memphisminnies.com/
                    Best biscuits & sausage gravy in the bay area. Excellent grits. The other dishes (hashes) are now “special treats” ‘cause they’re really big & caloric.

                    Canteen - http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...
                    Best Eggs Benedict I've ever had in large part due to the incredible hollandaise

                    1. re: larochelle
                      chaddict RE: larochelle Aug 11, 2006 04:04 PM

                      That's an excellent list. I always forget how good the brunch is at Suppenkuche when asked for breakfast recommendations. All the dishes I have tried with the exception of the meatloaf and eggs dish have been great. And thanks for the tip on that dish at Citizen Cake. In general, don't care for the place but I will try it this weekend thanks to you.

                      I would add the soft scrambled eggs at Universal Cafe (other dishes are great too), the pumpkin pancakes at J's Pots of Soul, and the chef's mess and bacon-cheddar-green onion pancakes at St. Francis (not the hotel) as great breakfast dishes.

                  3. re: larochelle
                    n
                    niki rothman RE: larochelle Aug 11, 2006 10:48 PM

                    Breakfast - Dottie's True Blue Cafe on Geary near O'Farrell. Best breakfast in town. Home made cinnamon rolls. Great waitresses.

                2. Ruth Lafler RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 04:39 AM

                  Yeah, you need to be more specific about what you consider a "great" restaurant.

                  Frankly, we don't talk about the consensus "top" restaurants very much because, well, when there's a consensus, what's to talk about?

                  But here are a few ....

                  If you're talking about great restaurants in the Western (Euro-American) style, then the consensus for the last year (or has it been more now?) is The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. Inventive tasting menus -- often with an Asian influence -- by chef Ron Siegel, served in a classically elegant atmosphere. The other restaurants that aspire to being of that class are a bit more controversial -- Gary Danko used to be a favorite, but I've read some negative reviews recently; ditto for Fifth Floor; haven't heard much about Masa's or Campton Place since their last chef changes. Fleur de Lys also gets mixed reviews; La Folie seems to be a better bet for more pure French. And then of course there's Chez Panisse, which is a completely different experience but still great.

                  Then there are restaurants in the tier below that -- not so much in quality (or even price), but in the fact that they're not as tasting menu focused: Boulevard, Jardiniere, Myth, etc.

                  French bistos like Fringale, Chapeau! etc.

                  Italian restaurants like Defina, Incanto, A-16, etc.

                  Then there are upscale "ethnic" restaurants like Aziza (Cal-Moroccan) and Piperade (Basque) that could be considered some of the great restaurants in the city because not only is the food excellent, but it's unique.

                  Then you have slightly less upscale but still wonderful ethnic restaurants like Helmand (Afghan), Bodega Bistro (Vietnamese), Panchita's #3 (Mexican/Salvadorean), etc.

                  Chinese? Pick your style and your price point.

                  Frankly, I think if you're visiting SF and only eat at top Euro-American style restaurants you're missing the essence of the local food scene.

                  1. c
                    crsin RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 05:06 AM

                    Thanks for all of the tips. I suppose I didn't mean a literal consensus but from reading the board, it seems as though every post lists a new restaurant with little to no overlap. That's a great thing, however difficult for someone who will only be in town for a couple of days.

                    As far as chinese: Authentic, reasonably priced, delicious. More of, as PBSF said "inexpensive hole in the wall serving good down home food". Would definitely like good dim sum as well. I'm looking more for down-to-earth type of places that are likely to have large crowds of locals who go for great asian food, as opposed to large crowds who are there becuase of the new flashy scene.

                    1. s
                      schneed RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 05:51 AM

                      Spots to check out:

                      The Slanted Door - the best cali fusion Vietnamese ever. And walk around the Ferry Plaza building on Saturday morning during the farmer's market.

                      Papalote - hands down the freshest and tastiest burrito's and fish tacos and best homemade salsa ever. anyone that tells you otherwise has never been or doesn't know what they're talking about.

                      Yank Sing - To notch Dim Sum

                      For Brunch, if it's nice outside and you are patient, wait at Chloes on Church and 26th. Or go to Maverick on 17th and Mission.

                      Boulevard is always a great choice (out of your $15 price range though)

                      If you're looking for reasonably priced healthy organic food, check out Lettus Cafe in the marina.

                      For sushi check out Koo in the sunset.

                      All of these places are outside of your hotel zone, but it'll be a good way for you to experience SF.. cause union square is not the most ideal part of the city to spend your time.

                      Hope this helps.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: schneed
                        Benny Choi RE: schneed Aug 8, 2006 06:44 PM

                        I've tried Papalote in the Mission twice and both times, I was quite disappointed. I'd suggest El Farolito or Taqueria San Francisco. In fact, the last time I ate at Papalote, I was so disappointed, I actually walked to El Farolito to finish my meal.

                        1. re: schneed
                          Ruth Lafler RE: schneed Aug 8, 2006 08:35 PM

                          If you're looking for where locals eat, not a flashy scene, then forget Slanted Door. I repeat: Bodega Bistro. Yank Sing is very expensive and serves "nouvelle" -- not traditional -- dim sum. Mostly yuppie/Financial District crowd and tourists. And before someone else says it, the same goes for Ton Kiang, although it's slightly less expensive.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 8, 2006 09:02 PM

                            Most of Yank Sing's dishes, including most of what I usually order (listed below), are the same as you'll find at any dim sum place and higher quality than most. They also have some original items. On the weekends I still see lots of Chinese families.

                            chicken-mushroom fun gwor
                            cheung fun (soft rice noodle rolls)
                            mushroom caps stuffed with pork and tarragon
                            roast eggplant
                            steamed Chinese broccoli
                            sticky rice in lotus leaf
                            turnip cake
                            taro dumplings (only if hot from the fryer)

                            You can get the same quality or a bit better for less money in Daly City or Millbrae, but there's nothing else to draw a tourist to those places.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Chris Rising RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 9, 2006 12:11 AM

                              I concur. Many chinese resident's love Yank Sing for a special dim sum luncheon. Head to the branch on Stevenson Place(?) for smaller, less touristy feel.

                              1. re: Chris Rising
                                Robert Lauriston RE: Chris Rising Aug 9, 2006 12:15 AM

                                No fountain for kids to play around, though.

                          2. re: schneed
                            a
                            abe1329 RE: schneed Aug 9, 2006 01:55 AM

                            Why do people like Chloe's? I don't get it..??

                          3. c
                            crsin RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 06:00 AM

                            Thanks for the tips. I'll check them out.
                            Also, just for reference, $15 isn't really a prince range. I'm more than willing to spend more, I was just giving an approximate average.

                            You say Union Square is not the most idea area to spend time. As I haven't been in SF for years, where would you suggest I spend more time to really make the most out of the city? Thanks.

                            I'd appreciate any more suggestions.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: crsin
                              s
                              schneed RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 06:09 AM

                              well over the past few years they completely cleaned up Union Square and it's definitley a lot nicer now.. but it's just a bunch of big chain stores to shop at. If you like shopping all day long then it'll be fine. But otherwise there's not much true SF character in that part of town. If you're renting a car, i'd suggest exploring all parts of the city (and if you're not, then get a muni map and figure out how to get around with public trans - the cabs are a bit pricey)
                              Definitley go over to the Haight and walk around by Golden gate park, head down to Union Street in Pac heights and check out stores and outdoor cafes there, take a drive through the Castro and head up to Twin Peaks for views of the city. Catch a Giants game at ATT park and see the up and coming south of market area, walk around the Ferry Plaza building/Farmers Market, go to Valencia and 16th street and walk around the Mission. If you're looking for touristy stuff go to Pier 39 and look at the Seals and Fisherman's Wharf. Go over the golden gate and Take a drive to Sausalito and walk around, drive to Tiburon and have lunch at Sam's and take in views of SF and the bay, check out Muir Woods near Mt Tam. All good things to do outside of Union Square ;- enjoy your trip.

                              1. re: schneed
                                c
                                crsin RE: schneed Aug 8, 2006 06:16 AM

                                Sounds great. Thanks for the reply. I'll try to hit as much of that as I can.

                                One more scenario to help get at the restaurants I'm looking for: Imagine if you had visitors who have never been to SF before. These people enjoy really unique restaurants with great food/great atmosphere but relatively unpretentious. If you wanted to plan the most accurate, essential representation of the food and restaurants your city has to offer, where would you send them?

                                Thanks again.

                                1. re: crsin
                                  rworange RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 07:37 AM

                                  If one of these days is Saturday, you must go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It is breakfast and lunch. There are great vendor stands where you can get all sorts of breakfast and lunch items. I'd suggest the Hayes Street Grill stand for breakfast. If you were doing a picnic, the Rosti Roti chicken is fabulous. Oustanding baked goods like Downtown creamery and Acme. Wonderful cheese like Andante. Stellar fruits and veggies and all sorts of food gifts you can take home.

                                  If there were only one place I can bring guests it is Ferry Plaza on Saturday Morning.

                                  You could just hang out at the building all day ... Stop by Imperial Tea for Chinese tea. It is not the top in the city but there's a burrito place next door that has a nice outdoor patio. You could take the ferry next door to the ferry building to Sausalito or Tiburon. Nice cruise on the bay without the touristy blue and gold fleet blaring 'San Francisco open your Golden Gates".

                                  Where I would take visitors for five days in San Francisco

                                  Day 1:

                                  Breakfast North Beach: Mama's in Washington Square. Stop by Liguruia bakery across the street for the foccacia. Just check it out. Walk down the street to XOX choclates and have some of their wonderful tiny french truffles ... get the caramel. Walk into Graffeo coffee across the street, enjoy the aroma ... take some home.

                                  Lunch: Stop by the many small bakeries in Chinatown for buns and dumplings. If Golden Gate Bakery is open, get the BBQ pork buns and the egg custard. Walk back to North Beach and get some gelato at Naia.

                                  Dinner: Aziza Cal-Morrocan and a must stop

                                  Day 2:

                                  Breakfast: Canteen (alternate Boulette's Larder)

                                  Lunch: Canteen (alternate Scomas ... because I bet you are going to visit fisherman's Wharf. There's a nice $21.95 lunch prix-fix and the fish is stallar fresh)

                                  Dinner: Canteen (alternate Coco500)

                                  OK, I've never been there but it gets such great posts I want to go.

                                  Day 3

                                  Breakfast: Town's End on the Embarcardero

                                  Lunch: Vietnamese Sandwich from Saigon Sandwich

                                  Dinner: Zuni - roast chicken

                                  Day 4:

                                  Breakfast: Tartine in the Mission - baked goods

                                  Lunch: Mexican in the mission. As for suggestions or search the board for burrito and taco recs. Stop by Mitchell's for ice cream or Bombay Ice crem

                                  Dinner: Tadich Grill for traditional seafood

                                  Day 5:

                                  Breakfast: Dotties True Blue Cafe

                                  Lunch: Dim sum at Yank Sing

                                  Dinner: big blowout - Dinner at The Dining Room at the Ritz ... $100 per person minimum ... too big a blow out ...
                                  Bart across the bay and eat at the upstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse.

                                  And pick up a copy of the Chowhounds Guide to the SF Bay Area for about 600 other suggestios categorized by cuisine, neighborhood, and restaurant. It is light weight and you can carry it with you and never be without a suggestion for a good plaace to check out no matter where your vacation takes you.

                                  It might help to say where home is and what parts of the city you will be visiting. If I was in a smaller city, yes I could rattle off the places to eat. However, there are over 8000 restaurants just in San Franciso and as someone else said there are probably at least 500 great ones.

                                  1. re: rworange
                                    Paul H RE: rworange Aug 8, 2006 03:40 PM

                                    >Breakfast: Canteen
                                    >Lunch: Canteen
                                    >Dinner: Canteen
                                    >
                                    >OK, I've never been there but it gets such great posts I want to go.

                                    I have now been to breakfast at Canteen. I'd rather breakfast at Town's End, Mama's on Washington Square or Dottie's True Blue Cafe.

                                    Also on the Tadich-for-Dinner recommendation, I think Pesce is a much better choice. You hardly ever will see a tourist there, it's very reasonably priced, and the food is top notch.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      Pei RE: rworange Aug 8, 2006 04:22 PM

                                      I'll say this: you can't go wrong following an SF food itinerary written by rworange. Any suitable substitutions would be based on personality and your specific group dynamics. I love the itinerary except for a few things (not a Yank Sing fan), but Paul H's suggestions are certainly right on as well.

                                      1. re: rworange
                                        Alcachofa RE: rworange Aug 10, 2006 03:33 PM

                                        "If there were only one place I can bring guests it is Ferry Plaza on Saturday Morning."

                                        I don't suppose that the Ferry Building is a good choice for breakfast on a Sunday, is it?

                                        1. re: rworange
                                          rworange RE: rworange Aug 10, 2006 07:47 PM

                                          >>> I don't suppose that the Ferry Building is a good choice for breakfast on a Sunday, is it? <<<

                                          I would guess not. The Ferry Building is VERY quiet on Sunday Morning. I haven't been for a while, but it would not be a place I'd go on that day of the week and at that time.

                                          Not sure if Boulette's Larder serves breakfast on Sunday. Don't know what the very few farmers market stands sell. On a Sunday it is more of a coffee and pastry type of place ... Acme ... Frog Hollow ... Boulette's beinets.

                                        2. re: crsin
                                          larochelle RE: crsin Aug 9, 2006 12:38 AM

                                          I take out of town guests to Saha. So far, I have not had one person not love it. And several in-city friends have made it one of their regular spots after I've taken them there.

                                          The food is wonderful and inventive. The atmosphere is cool and unpretentious. The clientele is relaxed normal people having a good time, not obnoxious tourists, crazed foodies or PIB/hipsters which is a HUGE draw for me.

                                          http://www.sahasf.com/

                                          1. re: larochelle
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: larochelle Aug 9, 2006 12:51 AM

                                            I think Saha's trying to do with Yemenese cuisine what Aziza does with Moroccan, but I didn't find it as successful.

                                            1. re: larochelle
                                              chaddict RE: larochelle Aug 9, 2006 02:14 AM

                                              In reply to Robert: try eating in Yemen and you'll understand why a Moroccan restaurant would be more successful. Not knocking Saha at all. It's just that Moroccan cuisine is a little more interesting.

                                              1. re: larochelle
                                                Robert Lauriston RE: larochelle Aug 9, 2006 04:00 AM

                                                I like Middle Eastern food way more than Moroccan food. I just didn't find Saha's experiments very successful, and the more traditional dishes I've had better elsewhere.

                                                1. re: larochelle
                                                  chaddict RE: larochelle Aug 9, 2006 04:05 AM

                                                  I love Middle Eastern food, too. But, except for some seafood dishes, *Yemeni* food is not that great.

                                                  1. re: larochelle
                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: larochelle Aug 10, 2006 03:35 PM

                                                    Holy Land's malawach is great and allegedly Yemeni.

                                                    Saha's menu doesn't seem distinctly Yemeni to me. Many of the dishes (foul, hummus, baba ganoush, kibbeh, kofta) are made all over the former Ottoman empire. Merguez is North African. Bastilla is Moroccan.

                                                  2. re: crsin
                                                    Chris Rising RE: crsin Aug 10, 2006 10:58 PM

                                                    I think Delfina fits the bill for that description perfectly. The diners and waitstaff are a slice of San Francisco, and yes its tourists. The food is great, and I find Cal/Italian to be a great representation of a typical, and varied local cuisine.

                                                    I prefer to take friends who have visited before, but never dined here. They seem to really enjoy getting at least a bit out of the mainstream.

                                              2. moto RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 07:19 AM

                                                hello, I've travelled in a fair number of cities with good restaurants and my 'starting avg.price point' isn't far off the $15. p.p. you began with. As others have said, asking for a consensus (dealing here with a pack of yapping, at times snarling 'hounds) presents another challenge. I consider myself more a 'cat/feline' type and sure enough often think I have a minority view amongst the canines, so I speak only from my own experience, not from perceptions of others' through reading this board.

                                                I'll simply name one place, good food and atmosphere, mid range relative to SF prices, located in a fairly well-off neighborhood(a plus if you don't want to book ahead and have a lengthy wait),very good service. Unpretentious, lively and fun but very loud. Top notch ingredients, but not fussed over as much as many places do; focus is on enjoyable eating, not beautiful plates and artful, painstaking prep, in other words, simplicity over complexity.(which I find is a virtue of a lot of Italian food, or Cantonese food for that matter.) A-16 does Campanian/Italian based food; that doesn't sound terribly unique, but combined with the excellent wine list (many by-the-glass) it's a place unlike practically any Italian eatery you're likely to find in the U.S. Except for the loudness factor, it's a place to take visitors on whom you don't wish to push too much that's smelly/unfamiliar/spicy; my conservative Italian-american mother-in-law enjoyed it, not that she's typical of the people who go there. Enjoy your visit.

                                                1. PBSF RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 08:08 AM

                                                  If I was entertaining friends visiting the city for the first time that loves good food but not obsessed about it:
                                                  Walk around Chinatown, especially Stockton St. to see how Chinese shop. Dim sum lunch at either City View on Commercial St. or Golden Mountain on Broadway. Then walk to North Beach and coffee at Greco, Roma, or old style Italian pastry at Stella.
                                                  Previous mentioned of the Ferry Building Market for food browsing and view of the bay is a must.
                                                  Stroll the Mission for taco at La Taqueria or Taqueria San Jose; burrito at Papalote; falafel at Truly Mediterranean, dessert crepes at Ty Couz, coffee and sweet at Tartine, pizza at Pizzeria Delfina.
                                                  Breakfast: Sears near Union Square is famous for the dollar size pancakes and decent standard breakfasts and is a place that tourists must go; Dotties True Blue Cafe just west of your hotel on Jones St; the previous mentioned Pork Store Cafe in the Haight or the Mission; a cheap Chinese/American breakfasts at Ping Yuen or New Hollywood in Chinatown (hot dogs with eggs serve with macaroni soup, Chinese take on Western pastries).
                                                  Dinner slurges: Zuni Cafe, Range, Delfina, Quince for Cal/Med that San Francisco is so famous for; I think the food at these places are better than the more expensive places such as Boulevard and Farallon. The main courses are around $20.00. Quince is a little more. Limon in the Mission for Peruvian, the often-mentioned Aziza for Moroccan inspired.
                                                  Inexpensive: Vietnamese at Poglac and Bodega Bistro; R&G Lounge and Great Eastern in Chinatown (in any Chinese restaurant, knowing what to order is the single most important thing in getting good food); then there are all the bare boned and good (at least for the money) Indian places which there are a few are near your hotel...the previous mentioned Sultan is the best, along with Shalimar, Naan and Curry, Pakwan. A warning, one must have a strong stomach to walk through that neighborhood at night. Chow on Church St is a fun place that serves very good and not too expensive “American” food...the staff and the client represent a good slice of San Francisco.
                                                  San Francisco really doesn’t have great seafood restaurants. The upscale Aqua and Farallon serve good but over-elaborate seafood. Tadich is an old San Francisco institution but only go there for the great atmosphere and a few good simple dishes. I think the best seafood is served in Chinese restaurants. The good Cal/Med restaurants have always some excellent seafood on their menu.
                                                  For convenience, the many Thai/Asian noodle places around Union Square are quite good for a quick lunch or late night supper.
                                                  Hope this is a good start...have a great trip.

                                                  1. m
                                                    Maya RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 02:22 PM

                                                    Make sure you go to Aziza.

                                                    1. l
                                                      LPCagain RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 02:48 PM

                                                      I just thought about how to frame this question one more way:). If you went on a camping trip, say 2 weeks or more, eating freeze-dried food, and then when you got back to your house, you found it tented for termites for a week and you had to stay in a hotel and eat out for all meals - where would you go?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: LPCagain
                                                        rworange RE: LPCagain Aug 8, 2006 02:55 PM

                                                        I don't think that is what the OP is looking for. I certainly wouldn't be eating at those restuarants and pizza and Chinese takeout would figure in there heavily. I'd never take guests to any of those places.

                                                      2. Robert Lauriston RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 05:27 PM

                                                        I think there's no consensus because there are a hundred or so great restaurants of many different styles. Here's a rough list of upscale places only, if I spent more time I could come up with more and strike a few.

                                                        Market-driven California:
                                                        Chez Panisse, Zuni Cafe, Cafe Rouge

                                                        Market-driven Cal-Italian:
                                                        Oliveto, Incanto, Pizzaiolo, Delfina

                                                        Italian:
                                                        A16

                                                        Pizza:
                                                        A16, Pizzaiolo, Tommaso's, Cafe at Chez Panisse

                                                        Chinese (dinner):
                                                        Koi Palace, Jai Yung

                                                        Chinese (dim sum):
                                                        Hong Kong Flower Lounge, Koi Palace, Yank Sing

                                                        Basque:
                                                        Piperade

                                                        Tapas:
                                                        Bocadillos

                                                        Cal-Vegetarian:
                                                        Greens

                                                        Cal-Moroccan:
                                                        Aziza

                                                        French:
                                                        La Folie

                                                        French-influenced Italian:
                                                        Acquerello

                                                        Chef-driven Cal-French:
                                                        French Laundry, Ritz, Gary Danko, Michael Mina

                                                        Asian fusion:
                                                        Ame

                                                        Wine List:
                                                        Rubicon, Bacar, Incanto

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          d
                                                          dMary RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 9, 2006 02:27 AM

                                                          Love this list! One thing everyone forgot to tell the original poster - Make Your Reservations NOW!

                                                        2. n
                                                          Nancy Berry RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 06:12 PM

                                                          One really good choice in your price range is San Tung. The owners are Chinese of Korean descent and they serve excellent pulled noodles, pork and leek-shrimp dumplings, dry-fried chicken wings (my favorite,) dry sauteed green beans, scallops in garlic sauce and other great Chinese dishes. To see their menu go here:

                                                          http://tinyurl.com/etxsm

                                                          For a much more expensive but absolutely delicious big splurge, I'd recommend Boulevard, especially if you're coming with your family. Nancy Oakes' food is fantastic. It's upscale American food with a stylish slant -- just wonderful! Here's a link to their website: http://www.boulevardrestaurant.com

                                                          I also recommend a visit to the Ferry Building, especially on Saturday, when the outdoor Farmers Market beautifully surrounds the permanent vendor area. Lots of incredible prepared food, produce, olive oils, seafood, beef, etc., etc. It's a must if you are a Chowhound.

                                                          I don't know where you live, but if you haven't had banh mi, delicious and incredibly inexpensive Vietnamese sandwiches on baguettes, then there are some excellent places near Civic Center (City Hall) -- there's an exit off the Muni Metro or BART (under Market St.) -- Saigon Sandwich is the most recommended on Chowhound. Here's a description and some reviews on Citysearch:
                                                          http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/pr...

                                                          For mid-priced creative eclectic food, I really like Firefly in the Noe Valley. They have a very good Sun-Thur $34 prix fixe -- you choose any appetizer, entree, and dessert off the menu plus coffee or tea. Here's the current menu: http://www.fireflyrestaurant.com/menu

                                                          And, by the way, it would help if you told us where you're from so that we don't recommend places that would be inferior to even the middling places in your town that serve a particular cuisine.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Nancy Berry
                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: Nancy Berry Aug 8, 2006 06:14 PM

                                                            Recent reports on Saigon Sandwich have been mixed.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              n
                                                              Nancy Berry RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 8, 2006 06:34 PM

                                                              That's too bad -- sorry to hear of a great place going downhill. What place would you recommend for banh mi?

                                                              1. re: Nancy Berry
                                                                Benny Choi RE: Nancy Berry Aug 8, 2006 06:42 PM

                                                                Le Cafe in the Outer Richmond on Clement and 31st serve good banh mi. It's a bit out of the way, but worth it.

                                                                1. re: Nancy Berry
                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: Nancy Berry Aug 8, 2006 06:56 PM

                                                                  Maybe SS still is tops, I'm not sure I've been following the discussion closely enough.

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

                                                            2. Benny Choi RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 06:49 PM

                                                              Some off the cuff suggestions:

                                                              Primo Patio Cafe for casual Carribean food.
                                                              Yummy Yummy for casual Vietnamese food.
                                                              Q for casual stylish comfort food.
                                                              Piperade for somewhat upscale Basque tapas.

                                                              1. s
                                                                Sixy RE: crsin Aug 8, 2006 07:17 PM

                                                                The Consensus is that there is no consensus.

                                                                Personally, according to my current mood, I would visit these places if I only had 5 days:

                                                                the ferry building on a saturday morning
                                                                piperade
                                                                coco500
                                                                bar crudo
                                                                zuni [caramel pot de creme]
                                                                ti couz
                                                                oola for ribs
                                                                truffles from xox, especially caramel
                                                                lemon sandwich cookie from citizen cake

                                                                but by next week I might have changed my mind

                                                                1. l
                                                                  lawrence RE: crsin Aug 10, 2006 08:47 PM

                                                                  i'm always on the lookout for good quality, good value asian food and after living my first year in SF, I find there's a LOT of great places, if you're flexible in traveling or visiting a more "ghetto" area. so veering away from most of the replies on this thread, here are the picks that come to mind (may not be the "best" but definitely worth it)...

                                                                  japanese: cocoro on geary/22nd
                                                                  - very fresh fish, creative specialty rolls you don't find at most places(try the rice wrapped yellowtail that's been deep fried - not raw but cooked to perfection with the fish skin fats/juices perfuming the rice... SO good), deliciously flavored udon broth. friendly service, although they sometimes screw up orders but end up giving you free items.

                                                                  chinese: i'd highly recommend the hyped up (and deservedly so) golden gate bakery for their oven fresh, flaky, delicate egg custard tarts, but they're on a 1 month sabbatical until sept.

                                                                  san tung on irving and 14th
                                                                  - great chinese/korean fusion fare and cheap. get any of the dumplings and the dry fried chicken wings. literally finger-lickin good.

                                                                  taiwanese: little formosa on clement and 26th
                                                                  - good if you want to sample a bit of everything taiwanese food has to offer in a clean modern environment. not the shining example but you get my point. house special noodles (cold handmade noodles with peanut sauce), red wine chicken, dumplings and potstickers, any of the special apps. avoid the cantonese side of the menu.

                                                                  korean: can't say i can whole heartedly recommend any in the city. try k-town in LA if you're ever there. =) there is a korean bbq place on taraval in the outer sunset area which is ok. oakland fares much better in this cuisine.

                                                                  vietnamese: sunflower on valencia and 17th (?)
                                                                  - more a vietnamese/chinese style place with extremely friendly, although frenzied, servers. must gets include the garlic prawns with garlic noodles and the black bean sea bass.
                                                                  - i'm not 100% sold on pho places in the city, and there's much better viet cuisine down in san jose, in my opinion.

                                                                  filipino: fil-am on school st and mission in daly city
                                                                  - SO worth it if you're willing to drive. known for their bbq skewers, think of it like the street vendor carts in thailand, billowing bbq smoke and all, just housed in a crummy little shop. their stews are also extremely rich and hearty. the ultimate in hole-in-the-walls.

                                                                  thai: osha #1 on leavensworth and geary
                                                                  - a little ghetto, but very tasty and very cheap, especially for the late night crowd. forgo the pad thai and curries and stick to the stir-fried noodle and rice plate dishes.

                                                                  fusion: ame at the st. regis hotel
                                                                  - might be out of range (looking at $50+ pp), but definitely worth it if you can get a reservation! must gets include any of their creative fish small plates from the sushi bar and an interesting crabonara (carbonara made from crab roe/innards). the menu is just extremely creative with seafood, an italian/japanese take on things.

                                                                  seafood: pacific catch on chestnut and filmore
                                                                  nothing fancy, but good solid food. fried oysters and a pacifico beer were perfect for a sunny afternoon in the marina.

                                                                  my two cents. just explore. sf has a lot of hidden gems. =) good luck!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lawrence
                                                                    rworange RE: lawrence Aug 10, 2006 09:49 PM

                                                                    >>> filipino: fil-am on school st and mission in daly city
                                                                    - SO worth it if you're willing to drive. known for their bbq skewers, think of it like the street vendor carts in thailand, billowing bbq smoke and all, just housed in a crummy little shop. their stews are also extremely rich and hearty. the ultimate in hole-in-the-walls.<<<

                                                                    Thanks for the report on this place. There was only one brief mention that I recall. The place always intrigued me with all that smoke drifting cloud-like onto Mission. Never could get there at the right time. I'll make a special effort next time I'm in the area.

                                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                                      l
                                                                      lawrence RE: rworange Aug 12, 2006 02:46 AM

                                                                      you're welcome rworange! if you do head over to fil-am, try to go around lunch time for skewers right off the grill. later than 6pm and you're risking an empty grill. the pork is tastier but the chicken is more tender. both gooey sweet. there's also a really rich beef and carrot stew worth getting if they haven't run out.

                                                                  2. l
                                                                    LPCagain RE: crsin Aug 10, 2006 10:12 PM

                                                                    Personally I don't like Ame - have been twice. Food is just not tasty to me. As of the other night, if you want fusion, I would recommend Azie instead. Also less hushed and full of out of towners...Love the St. Regis bar though.

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