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New Yorker Visiting SF for First Time Ever! Any Suggestions...

i'll be in sf later this month and was hoping some of you could recommend some great san francisco restaurants that are reasonably priced. also, hoping to get a great china town recommendation. we will have a car!

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  1. I would recommend Delfina for California ingredient-driven Italian that you simply cannot get in NY (by the way, NY kicks SF's ass with regard to Italian food in general)...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Husky

      I would have to recommend some "California" style restaurants. Aziza or Slanted Door are both in the "reasonable" price range, and quite good. If you wanted to splurge, you could go to Boulevard, which is Gramercy Tavern-esque, but still distinctly Californian.

      As for Chinatown, I personally have to recommend Golden Gate Bakery for egg custard tarts, and I really like to go to Great Eastern for food (seafood in particular). And I know a lot of 'Hounds will disagree with me on this, but I'm actually pretty fond of the Hong-Kong style noodles at Yuet Lee, preferably with green pepper beef on top.

        1. Oh my God, Becky. New Yorkers driving in our city....please don't.

          Here are some great places you can get to on PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

          Mehfil (#15 or #10 bus) - great Indian cuisine
          Pig and Whistle (#38 Geary bus) - the BEST British pub food
          Spices 1 or 2 (#2 bus) - great Taiwanese/Sichuan food
          Taqueria Cancun (#14 Mission bus) - Burritos, of course
          House of Nanking (just walk; Chinatown) - trust the chef, order whatever the house special is; chicken, beef, or pork
          Lefty O'Douls (just walk, Union Square) - it's a hofbrau, and you don't have those in NYC (alternate - Tommy's Joynt)
          Chow (M, N, J, or L Muni) - good American food, lots of variety
          Slow Club (#9 or #27 bus) - great brunch (frittatas, salads, hamburgers)
          Suppenkuche (#21 Hayes) - great brunch (German food)

          21 Replies
          1. re: siesta

            House of Nanking is the worst food in Chinatown!

            1. re: dfresh

              It is? Oh, my bad.

              In that case, I suggest....House of Nanking!

              Mmmwwahahaha.

              Seriously, no it's not and not even close. It IS good and it is certainly creative (again, you're better off not ordering from the menu). I wanted to hate it, since that sentiment seems to be very popular with certain people (especially those who simply diss it because of the tourist/whitey factor), but I found myself, surprisingly, liking it very much.

              I think you will too, but like everything in this forum, that is simply my opinion (a 13-year SF resident who happens to have eaten lunch - and occasionally dinner - at various and differing Chinatown restaurants 3 - 4 times a week for the last 2 1/2 years).

              1. re: siesta

                HoNK's worth a try. Unique food and dirt cheap. Note that if you don't take the chef/owner's advice, you might end up with sweet potatoes in every dish.

              2. re: dfresh

                Chef Gia is right next to House of Nanking and is 100X better. I really don't know why people sit in the line for Nanking right in front of one of the best Chinese places in SF.

              3. re: siesta

                Oh yeah, and the Flytrap restaurant (around the corner from Mehfil). Very old school San Franciscan restaurant, beautiful setting, and reasonably priced.

                Who does Celery Victor anymore? Worth going just for that!

                Here's the site:
                http://flytraprestaurant.com/home.html

                1. re: siesta

                  The Fly Trap's Web site gives the false impression that it's been in business since 1898, but that place actually closed in 1963. The current restaurant opened in 1989 and has no connection except the name. But it's still cool that they serve Celery Victor and Hangtown Fry.

                2. re: siesta

                  Siesta, you lifesaver! See my recent post, please. I'm going to copy and paste this advice. I had Lefty O'Doul's on my list, actually.

                  1. re: siesta

                    I've been to the Pig and Whistle dozens of times, and would not recommend the food there to anyone. In fact, it's best to go there after 10pm, when they don't serve food anymore and let you bring your own food in. Or else order the imported Tayto potato chips.

                    Also, I don't think most of the restaurants on this list are worth it for someone coming from NYC (with the exception of Taqueria Cancun). For example, I think NYC has better Indian than Mehfil and better Sichuan food that Spices, and this is coming from someone who likes both Spices restaurants.

                    1. re: Malik

                      Hmmm, well I've never been in the P&W after 10 PM. I've only been there in the afternoon and I've never had anything but excellent food. I use to work in Laurel Village and would pop on over to have the banger roll for lunch. I still go, even though I don't work in the hood, on the weekends and the food is excellent. Out of town guests love the place. And when I was in the Cotswolds, Oxford, Brighton, Wales, and London a year and a half ago, I rarely found fish and chips as good as the Pig and Whistle's.

                      Also, I was in NYC (Manhattan and Brooklyn) at the beginning of this year visiting friends. I'd be interested to know which places you thought were better than Mehfil and Spices.

                      1. re: siesta

                        I really don't care for the fish and chips at the Pig and Whistle, I find the fish greasy and tasteless, and even the fries are not very good. I haven't had great fish and chips in London, but I haven't gone out of my way to look for some there (on both of my London visits this year, I ended up going mostly to gastropubs). Some of the best fish and chips I've had were at Burdock's in Dublin circa 2001, those were truly memorable.

                        Just in Manhattan, the Grand Sichuan International mini-chain is better than our Spices restaurants, and that's without even exploring any of the outer boroughs. And there's quite a few very good Indian restaurants throughout NYC, check out those boards for recommendations. My point is that neither Sichuan nor Indian are cuisines that SF is particularly good at, especially compared to NYC.

                        Instead, I'd recommend trying some Mexican food, such as a burrito in the Mission, and if time permits, tacos in Fruitvale and maybe even dinner at Tamarindo in downtown Oakland. California cuisine is another thing to try in SF, the only restaurant I've been to in NY in the same style is Blue Hill (they even have Kermit Lynch wines on their list).

                        I think Delfina which was mentioned above would be a great place for NYC visitors. Modern Peruvian would be a good choice, I don't know of any such places in NY. My favorite is Mochica, other options would be Limon or Fresca. Dim Sum is also better here, I'd recommend stopping by Hong Kong Flower Lounge either on the way to or from the airport. Have some Vietnamese food in the tenderloin, I like Pagolac and Bodega Bistro. Yamo, a Burmese hole in the wall in the Mission, might be worth dropping by.

                        1. re: Malik

                          There's a great fish and chips shop run by Turks across the street from the Thistle Hotel in Islington in London, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop by.

                          I had to laugh when you mentioned Grand Sichuan. That place can't hold a candle to Spices. Although it does have one thing that Spices doesn't.

                          General Tsao's Chicken. Yummmmmm.

                          As far as Indian food is concerned, I hope you're not talking about any of the Indian joints on 6th Street. There is a reason why everyone jokes that they all share the same kitchen.

                          The fact is, San Francisco, and the Bay Area, simply has a larger, wealthier, and more demanding South Asian population than New York. I like Mehfil, because I think they excel in Punjabi cuisine, and obviously I'm not the only one.

                          On the contrary, while Delfina is good for San Francisco, I doubt I would recommend California Italian food to an Italian expat who lives in New York.

                          He may like Limon, however.

                          1. re: Malik

                            I have yet to find Indian food in San Francisco that's as good as the best I've had in New York. Or even Berkeley.

                            The best Indian food I've found in the Bay Area has been way out in the 'burbs, places like Fremont and Sunnyvale.

                            1. re: Malik

                              To siesta:

                              What dishes at Mefil are punjab? I lived two blocks away from the place for a couple of years and tried about everything on their menu. So wondering what it was I ate of that particular cuisine.

                              I liked Mefil the first few months they opened ... they never were good enough to make me impressed with Indian food, but they were decent enough. However, the longer they were open the more the quality dived. It is definately not a place I would recommend to a SF visitor no matter how many times they visited, let alone the first.

                              1. re: Malik

                                I'm baffled by this, too, though I've only been at lunch. Mefil is sorely lacking in ambiance. At lunch we call it "Curry in a Hurry" because that's about all they are good for- get you in and out with a plate of food quickly. Especially for a visitor, this 'hood is just lacking in anything anyone needs to see- there are much better neighbourhoods to spend your time, and equal if not better food to be had in those neighbourhoods. This area is a ghosttown after 6PM and on weekends (unles overrun by Giants fans.)

                                1. re: Malik

                                  The Dal Makhani, the tandoori dishes and breads, the lassis...basically what most people think of when they think of Indian cuisine.

                                  And because Punjab and Kashmir are both in the north, Mehfil's cuisine (which is basically northern cuisine) has a healthy selection of Kashmiri dishes.

                                  1. re: Malik

                                    rw, closer to where you are now, the food at Indus Village is largely punjabi.

                                    1. re: Malik

                                      Thanks, Melanie.

                                      I'm going to have to explore that a little more.

                                      1. re: Malik

                                        In terms of cuisine, doesn't Punjabi = Pakistani? or are you drawing some sort of distinction?

                                        Almost all of the inexpensive Indian places that have opened in recent years are Pakistani: Shalimar, Naan 'n' Curry, Indus Village, Pakwan, Darbar. Mehfil's menu seems very standard to me.

                                        1. re: Malik

                                          Punjabi is a subset of Pakistani and a subset of Indian as well, as Istrian is a subset of Italian cuisine and a subset of Croatian. There are many other regional cuisines in Pakistan.

                                          1. re: Malik

                                            Since we've hit the nesting limit, I've started a new topic to discuss Pakistani places and their specialties:

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

                                            1. re: Malik

                                              Actually, the SF ones are not very broad. The local Pakistani and Indian restaurants offer mostly Punjabi and Moghul style dishes.

                                      2. Cmoing from NYC, I'd definately check out Mexican cuisine. Maya on 2nd, near Moscone. Nuevo Mexican cuisine, nice place, reasonable prices. Tres Agaves, mixed reviews but might be worth a chance.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ML8000

                                          Maya's a branch of a New York restaurant!

                                          http://www.modernmexican.com/mayany/i...

                                          Tres Agaves, eh. You can get yupscale Mexican fusion in New York.

                                          If you want the real thing, take BART to Fruitvale (Oakland).

                                        2. Chef Gia is my absolute favorite Chinatown restaurant. do not pass up the onion cake there. and don't drive: you'll miss the best parts of SF when you are in a car. try a nice walk: SF is tiny.

                                          1. I concur with most of the other choices but srrongly urge you NOT TO DRIVE in SF. Direction are hard to give/follow, parking is difficult, tickets expensive.

                                            You could easilty take a cab to most places within SF or take public transport - the city is not that large.

                                            Don;'t msu the Sat morning Ferry Plaza farmers' MArket.

                                            Restaurant recommendation COCO500 Brannan and 4th Street, SF

                                            1. As a recent transplant from NYC, the places that I have found out here that are not like anything in NYC are as follows:

                                              Little Nepal. In Bernal Heights- reasonably priced, solid Nepalese food in a very serene, interesting setting.

                                              Burmese Superstar. In the Clement (aka the Inner Richmond). Cheap, delicious burmese food, with some real interesting drinks and desserts. If you drive, prepare to search for parking for 20 minutes (nothing you aren't used to if you drive in NYC). Also, try to go early because the wait can be insane.

                                              Zuni Cafe. On Market Street, in the Hayes Valley area. A bit pricier, but amazing. Definitely a "California" experience. If you go one place, this would be it in my opinion. Also no need to drive.

                                              La Taqueria. Mission btwn 24th and 25th. Order some carne asada tacos "crispy". Can't get that in NY for sure.

                                              In Chinatown, my favorite place is Lucky Creation, on Washington between Grant and Stockton. Cheap and delicious, and everyone who works there is super friendly. It is all vegetarian though.

                                              Swann Oyster Depot, on Polk Street. This place is a tourist trap, and you may have to wait awhile for a seat, but it is well worth it. Delicious, fresh seafood, all pretty reasonably priced. Plus the place has a lot of history. I went the first day I came to visit (when I was deciding whether to move here) and I knew I would love this place after that.

                                              Good luck!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: evangross

                                                Okay, I totally agree about Burma Superstar, though it's so small and so crowded, I always do take out. But it is amazing.

                                                I personally think Zuni Cafe and Boulevard are over-rated (yes, heresy, I know). I've never been that impressed with them though.

                                                As far as Chinatown goes, R&G Lounge has really authentic Hong Kong style food. The name sounds non-authentic, but you should go for it!

                                                1. re: ambrosia

                                                  Everyone should eat at Zuni at least once. You may love it, and you may hate it, but at least you'll know.

                                                  1. re: ambrosia

                                                    I agree that Boulevard is overrated. There's nothing wrong with the food there, it's just rather expensive for what it is. I'd expect more creativity at that price point. R&G Lounge is indeed a good place for a Cantonese food.

                                                    1. re: Malik

                                                      There are lots of other restaurants in Boulevard's price range for people who want more complicated food, which is readily available in New York. Personally I prefer Nancy Oakes's style and think Boulevard is more of an only-in-SF experience.

                                                2. As a NY/NJ resident my whole life, and having visited SF for long vacations twice in the last 24 months, I can't BELIEVE no one has recommended the Greens restaurant in Fort Mason. The room is beautiful, with a spectacular view of a harbor and the GG Bridge, particularly at sunset. The creative vegetarian cooking is absolutely wonderful. The portions are generous, the presentation always lovely, and the flavors, featuring local produce, cheeses, and herbs, are fantastic.

                                                  I would also recommend FISH, in Sausalito, for a great lunch. The Grilled Salmon Sandwich, w/Vietnamese spices, and the Grilled Hamachi, are wonderful. The slaw alone would be worth the trip.

                                                  I like Great Eastern for Chinese food, as some have recommended. I actually cancelled our Zuni Cafe rezzie in August, and chose to return to Greens, although I'm not a vegetarian, because our memory of our last dinner there was so terrific. We were not disappointed, in the least.

                                                  Have fun.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. Miami chowhound would like to chime in. Have been in SF for two weeks and will be here for three more weeks. Staying in Cow Hollow. Have been using public transportation. We have stayed in New York for extended periods and know that dining scene well. East 58th St. between Second and Third is the best place for Indian food in Manhattan. We like Chola the best. As for SF, we are amazed at the number of reasonably priced good restaurants in this neighborhood. I have posted some of our positive and negative reviews. Just last night we ate at Home on Union St. and had a very good experience. We went to Clement Street and had dim sum at Good Luck Dim Sum. Reminded us of the Number One Dumpling House on Eldridge Street In Manhattan. We had five separate dim sum for a total of %8.40. We also discovered Golden Apple Bookstore on Clement. Had a free tea tasting also at Shirlin Wu at 302 6th Ave. just below Clement. Saw so many ethnic places on the Geary bus. Had great seafood chowder at Cafe Maritime on Lombard in an inviting cozy atmosphere. Going to A16 next week and revisiting Isa and Bistro Aix this weekend.

                                                    Now for two questions. Any Indian places to get dosas? Any good Russian places? My wife is from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and we know the cuisine. Especially looking for blinis and vareniki. Would appreciate any suggestions. Many thanks to all posters as you have been quite helpful. South Florida is a culinary wasteland compared to SF.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: rebus1805

                                                      Weird lack of South Indian in SF. So far as I know, the only place that makes dosas is the upscaleish Dosa in the Mission. You would think a place called Bombay Curry House would, but I don't think they do.

                                                      If you make a field trip to Berkeley, Vik's is really good. Lunch only. Udupi Palace's dosas are decent but I usually get the uttapham or thali.

                                                      1. re: rebus1805

                                                        Good Luck Dim Sum is good and CHEAP. Glad you liked the area - FYI it's Green Apple, not Golden Apple, but it is a wonderful place to lose yourself for an hour or so.

                                                        As for Russian, best place in my opinion is Cinderella Bakery and Cafe on Balboa and 5th (1 block off Geary). Katia's is across the street, more pricey and nicer atmosphere, and not as good in my opinion.

                                                        1. re: rebus1805

                                                          Here's a recent post about Russian places. It is mainly in upper Geary.

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

                                                          This little nothing deli, I've been meaning to re-visit because of a mention that their blini and vareniki might be made by some local babushka-type. There is a big frozen case of them.

                                                          Eleseevskiy Deli
                                                          4605 Geary Boulevard
                                                          San Francisco, CA 94118
                                                          (415) 386-2199

                                                          Other than that I think New World and Gastronom are the best market/delis. I like Gastronom's baked goods better than the stuff I've tried to date at Cinderella.

                                                          There was a report that Russian Rennaisance changed ownership and is going uphill. I was hoping someone would try that and report back. If you get to Berkeley, you have to try Crixa.

                                                          Hope you or your wife will report back on her impression of the Russian places.