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First Time Out in Months - Need Recommendations

My husband and I are planning our first night out in almost a year (we had twins awhile back and have had our hands full). We're dieing to have a great meal and some time to ourselves and we'd love some recommendations for new restaurants to try, or if you have ideas about old restaurants to try we're up for that too!

We're looking for a restaurant that is:

- in the city.
- not ridiculously expensive. With twins, all our money is going to diapers these days :)
- good about keeping to reservations. We don't want our few hours out to be wasted waiting for our table.
- all around good food. from appetizers to entrees to desserts. i want it all!

Any help you can give is very much appreciated! We're having trouble figuring out where to go - seems like a pretty momentous occasion to us since it's been so long!

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Incanto's one of my faves, but it can creep up there pretty quickly if you're drinking wine. It's in Noe Valley, too; do you have any idea where you want to eat in the city?

    1 Reply
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      We don't mind where we eat. We live north of the Panhandle so we're pretty central and don't mind driving/taxiing wherever we're going.

    2. I'd go to Incanto. We typically go way overboard but if you eat and drink like a reasonble person it's relatively inexpensive.

      http://incanto.biz/sample_menu.html
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      FWIW the chef's kid isn't much older than yours:

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/s...

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I'll third Incanto. The prices are shockingly low considering the quality of the food. I've only been once, but it was one of my best meals of the year so far and I can't wait to go back. The food is incredible from first course to last. They were very good about keeping our reservation and even held our table when we called to let them know we were stuck on the bridge. You could get carried away with wine, but if you're still breast feeding that probably isn't an issue. One thing to keep in mind when looking at menu prices is that they charge a 5% back of house surcharge in addition to the gratuity.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I'm wondering: what is it about Incanto that is SO good. The reviews you list don't necessarily make me feel i NEED to eat there.

          1. re: teerak

            I grew up on the cooking of Italian mom and grandma, and the pork shoulder gave me a full-on sense memory of my grandmother's pork. The meat ragu with handkerchief pasta was so savory and delicious that I had to pause after the first few bites to gather myself. (What I call the mouthgasm!)

            The sliced meat plate--prosciuttos, salamis, etc.--were better than any I've had anywhere else.

            It's Italian fare, and familiar, but it was done better than anywhere I've ever had it before. And the wine list is tops.

        2. I've heard good things about Oola, too, if you're going for romantic.

          One restaurant I LOVED that seemed reasonably priced, had incredible service, and very rich, delicious French food, is Le Charm. It's on Fifth and Folsom, so plenty of parking, and I've eaten there twice just as a walk-in. They have a canopied backyard. The wine is mostly local, the maitre'd loves talking about it, and the cassoulet was amazing. Great date place, IMO.

          11 Replies
          1. re: MuppetGrrl

            I've had great meals at Oola but it doesn't seem like a special-occasion place to me. And there have been two or three reports in the last month or so that make me wary that it might have gone downhill.

            Le Charm gets mixed reports here.

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

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Canteen gets blazingly fab reviews and I had a terrible time there, so it goes to show! :)

              1. re: MuppetGrrl

                Canteen's been running over 10 to 1 positive to negative reports. That's about as close to a consensus as this board gets. Any chef can have an off night.

                1. re: MuppetGrrl

                  Canteen gets blazingly fabulous reviews for breakfast and brunch but fairly mixed reviews for dinner.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    I'm aware of that, Robert. Everyone here adores Canteen. Every chef has an off night. Evidently I was on the one night a year he screwed up, and that's what I have to go on.

                    Thanks for letting me know that, Morton--I hadn't noticed any other not-great reviews here, and was beginning to wonder if I remembered the grainy potatoes as well as I thought I did. :) Maybe that's the issue. I rarely, if ever, eat out for lunch or breakfast, though, so dinner's pretty much my only dining-out meal.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Being bored by Canteen would be one thing, but based on three dinners, I can't imagine bad mashed potatoes coming out of that kitchen, that's why I figure it was an off night.

                      If Dennis Leary gets sick, does someone fill in? It's very much a one-man show there.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        FWIW, I didn't think Canteen (for dinner) was all that great either. To me it didn't live up to the hype. The brioche was fantastic, but the rest of the food just didn't wow me.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Potato dishes every where around here are disappointing this season. Mealy and washed out flavors. A good one seems to be the exception.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            I don't know about that. I've had quite a few delicious baby potatoes as recently as last night, and my homemade Yukon gold mashed have been consistently fine.

                            Besides which, I'm of the opinion that if the ingredient's no good, use something else. (For the record, I went to Canteen last winter, not this season. And maybe dinner's just not their thing as much as other meals.)

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I very much enjoyed the ambiance at Oola- exactly what I look for in a "date place." Which can be a special occasion, depending. I guess we did go there to celebrate something somewhat special, but mostly just because I wanted to go somewhere sexy and eat good food and I had been curious about the place since I walk by it nearly every day after yoga.

                          Depending on your outlook, I would consider it "special occasion." I'm sure there is better food to be had elsewhere, though for a non-bbq appetizer rib, you really can't beat it. (The burger is phenom as well.)

                        3. re: MuppetGrrl

                          I personally wouldn't trust Oola to meet the 'good about reservations' criteria based on my experience there.

                        4. I would go to Rue Saint Jacque or Luella. Both are neighborhood places, not fance but good food across the board and good service. And, you'll be able to afford wine without breaking the bank.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rtmonty

                            I was just logging on to suggest Luella. Fabulous food, chill neighborhood vibe, attracive surroundings, and great service. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

                          2. Range (in the Mission) is amazing. It isn't expensive, and they serve the best chicken I have ever had. It is a good atmosphere as well, and they do interesting cocktails.