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Sep 7, 2006 10:47 PM

Recommendations for eating in San Francisco (City only)?

Hello fellow chowhounds. Hubby and I are heading to San Francisco at the end of September for a few days and we are looking for Chowhound recommendations. We like ethnic mom and pop places, microbreweries, and also something very "San Francisco." I lived there for a year out of college so I do have some familiarity with it.

Unfortunately, we will be staying at Fisherman's Wharf, so some place within walking distance (Chinatown/North Beach) or accessible by MUNI would be great. We will have a car since we are roadtripping to SF, but I prefer not to navigate the hills while I'm there.

Anyways, I'm looking for a few decent places to eat. I'm really NOT interested in a place like French Laundry or Fleur de Lys. Just good food at semi-reasonable prices. I don't want Stinking Rose, for example. I think I've eaten at LuLu and Zuni Cafe and that was just okay.

Here's my list so far-

-Isobune Sushi (floating sushi boats) at one of the malls in Japantown for a light lunch. (Not the highest quality, but decent and Hubby will love it.)
- Seafood sandwich from one of the carts at Fisherman's Wharf. (Again, Hubby will love it.)
- Swan Oyster Depot

Are there any good microbreweries in San Francisco? Irish pub/British pub? We are also looking for a good Thai place. What should we "not miss?"

Please help, I really don't want to eat at Alito's, hee hee!

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  1. Swan Oyster Depot's always my recommendation for "very SF." I don't generally eat in-house, though, as it takes a year to get a few seats--get the food, then head to Crissy Field or out to Sutro Park for a picnic. Grab some nice rose and it's perfect!

    Microbreweries--seems to me you'd go with Anchor Steam, which is an original and has a tour, in Potrero Hill. SF Brewing Company (I think that's the name?) in North Beach has good beer, decent pub food, and is centrally located for a tour of North Beach. (You can pop over to Tosca for an Irish coffee, or to Vesuvio for a drink.)

    Since it's been a while since you've been here, I definitely recommend the renewed Ferry Building, which is simply gorgeous--get some oysters and a beer at Hog Oyster, or go to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and order the cheese/bread/antipasto plate.

    For upscale restaurants, check pretty much every other post in here. :)

    Have fun!

    3 Replies
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      Actually I do not recommend the beer at SF Brewing Company, although its been a while since we've been there.

      In North Beach if you want a decent Irish pub, try O'Reilly's. Food is pretty good (including the oysters) and good atmosphere. They also make one of the better Bloody Marys I've had. Otherwise, the better pubs and few brewpubs are not in easy walking distance of where you are staying. I'm also a big fan of their bigger, fancier place on Polk, O'Reilly's Holy Grail. You can even find live Irish music there on Sunday evenings, as well as more sophisticated food and a good wine list. They have recently revamped the menu to include lots of small plates, including very good crab cakes (all crab). The large entree of smoked pork shank is unique and delicious.

      There are no real British-style pubs in San Francisco, at least none I know of worth visiting -- with the exception of the Pelican Inn which is in Marin near Muir Beach (and you'd need a car to get to.

      Another North Beach place worth a lunch is Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, which has excellent foccacia sandwiches and is a non-touristy institution.

      If you are truly beer geeks, go to Toronado in the lower Haight, where you can also bring in fabulous sausage sandwiches of all sorts from Rosamunde next door, which is a favorite on this board. Toronado has enough different microbrewery beer and Belgian beer to keep anyone happy. It's also on several bus lines (on Haight, near Fillmore)

      I definitely second the recommendation of Hog Island for oysters in the Ferry Building.

      1. re: Joan Kureczka

        Oh, yes! Toronado for sure. Grab a Rosamunde and head next door.

      2. re: MuppetGrrl

        Anchor Brewing doesn't have a pub but their tour is fun, and of course you get to taste at the end.

      3. To what I suggested on another thread, I would add Gatip Classic Thai Cuisine on Lombard (#30 Chestnut bus). While there are closer Thai restaurants to where you are staying, I personally am a huge fan of Gatip (and it's not as pricey as Citizen Thai). Plus, remember all of the cool old motels on Lombard when you lived here last? They're still there! I like to drive down that street just for the vintage/kitsch factor. Also, FYI, people in Thailand eat with forks. For God's sake, please don't ask for chopsticks!

        Another good, but often overlooked, Thai place is Cha Am on Folsom and 3rd.

        Why not try something different? Go to the Grubstake on Pine (#1 California bus) for some authentic Portuguese food. I don't know what's up with the Portagees, but they're generally not the restaurant owning kind. So when one of them opens one up, it's always worth a visit. Definitely Mom and Pop here.

        My favorite Italian place for pasta in NB is Caffe Puccini. Service is sometimes confusing (in the day you often order at the counter, at night they have a waitress), but the pasta, and the price, is well worth it. I love the rabbit sauce.

        Also, pop into Molinaris to check it out, but you'll be much happier getting your Italian sandwiches at Palermo on Stockton (near Washington Square Park) and then walking over to the park. Plus, they're much nicer at Palermo than Molinaris.

        La Boulange is a new French cafe that opened on Columbus that has fantastic croque monsieur sandwiches (that's a ham-n-cheese to you and me) and fantastic people watching. It's my new favorite on that stretch. And while you're on Columbus, you must try the sacripantina at Stella Pastry (hope you're not on a diet!)

        Also, check out The Helmand on Broadway. Really good and unique (at least for this area) Afghan food, not terribly expensive, and in a very nice dining setting. The lunch buffet is $10 and is well worth it.

        I'm not sure where you're from, but if you're from California then you probably know about taco trucks. There is a good one (within walking distance) at Pacific and Sansome that has a delicious al pastor (bbq pork) burrito for, like, $4 or something (the torta - or sandwich - is also good). You get that to go and then walk over a few more blocks to the park at Pacific and Front, or walk a little further to the park near Justin Herman Plaza, or walk a little further to Pier 7. Either way, you can't go wrong.

        Other Chinatown suggestions: Hunan Homes and Chung King (both on Jackson between Grant and Kearney), Vietnam (on Broadway) - small restaurant but great Vietnamese food. Please don't go to Sam Wo's. You will only regret it. Also skip any place on Grant not called Yee's or Golden Gate Bakery and avoid anyone who attempts to hand you a menu. Yuet Lee on Broadway and Stockton is also another fine Chinese restaurant, and you'll have plenty of people who will agree (in a way it's overhyped). However, it's not my number one choice and the service and setting is below that of those mentioned above.

        If you want dim sum, go to one place and one place only - Gold Mountain - and (unless you're Chinese or a native SFan) prepare for a bit of culture shock, and don't be surprised if you're seated with other people. When you sit down, tell them you want the "bo lay" or "gok fa/yellow flower/Chrysanthemum" tea. Order from the menu, smile at the people who come around to offer you food, and say "no thanks" (unless you actually do want what they're offering). Don't be a chicken...try the chicken feet or "phoenix claws" or however they have it worded!

        Don't bother going to Chinatown before 11 or 12 PM. Most places aren't open until then (and sometimes later).

        You mentioned sushi...for a surreal sushi experience, you MUST go to Country Station on Mission (#14 Mission bus). Excellent sushi, eclectic jukebox, and really, really happy owner.

        Also in the Mission, try Los Jarritos on South Van Ness (#10 Folsom bus). Really good, basic homestyle Mexican food in a colorful setting. Also very good jukebox (of various Mexican tunes).

        Like I said in the other thread, The Pig and Whislte is a fantastic and authentic British pub with great pasties, fish and chips (the best in the city), and shepard's pie to die for. The atmosphere is very welcoming and relaxed. Less relaxed, although interesting, is another pub on Geary (but further up) called Ireland's 32, which is an Irish nationalist pub that often has live music at night. Pics of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness everywhere and fresh-off-the-boat young Irish guys. Not sure about the food here, though. But if you want an authentic Irish pub and not the "Irish pub in a box" that you see everywhere, this is it.

        Don't bother going to the Edinburgh Castle unless you're going to see a band. The f&c sucks there and is overpriced.

        In the same area as Ireland's 32 is Katia's, a Russian restaurant run by, who else!, Katia. The best Russian food you're gonna get in SF and in a very comfortable, homey setting. I don't know if the crazy accordianist still comes in to serenade the diners, but if so, you're in luck. Highly recommended. Not sure if they serve vodka (officially) now, so you may want to call ahead and check. Otherwise, see if you can bring your own and have them chill it for you.

        Coit Liquors on Columbus is a good place to stop for your liquor needs.

        Good luck and welcome!

        3 Replies
        1. re: siesta

          This is such an awesome recommendation thread that I had to register just to say so. So many of these places I've not seen mentioned on this board before.

          1. re: siesta

            Coit Liquors has changed a whole lot this year. The new owner converted a big chunck of space to a wine-tasting bar, so the place has less selection.

          2. You guys ROCK for your very detailed recs.

            A little background on Hubby and me. We will be 30 next year and don't like pretentious places, even if we do have the $$$ to spend. We are from AZ. Hope that didn't put you off. However, we eat at the ethnic mom and pop's in AZ. We're not about to go for Mexican in CA since we're from AZ :)

            We love all Asian cuisine - sushi, Korean, dim sum, Thai, whatever. Obviously in the desert, we're not able to get FRESH seafood.

            Hubby loves wood-fired pizza, places with plentiful food and unpretentious atmosphere.

            I would love recs on yummy bakeries. Is Citizen Cake overpriced/too much hype? We'll be going to Boudin for chowder/bread of course.

            Are there any SF wines you guys would recommend?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Baxterita

              If you are interested in wine, I would recommend going to one of the better tasting bars. I suggest either the one in the Ferry Building if you just want to do some afternoon tasting. Or else go to Cav, which is a newish place next to Zuni Cafe on Market. They have quite good food too, and one of the most adventurous lists as well as a great, friendly staff.

              If you are in North Beach and want pizza, just head to Tomasso's. One of the original places for pizza from the wood-burning oven, and great, older SF atmosphere. The calzone is great too. Lots of character, with the old booths, murals and wine in pitchers, and the pizza is excellent.

              For bakeries in the areas where you will be, it's Acme in the Ferry Building (much to be preferred over Boudin). Check out the sour cheese wheels, my personal passion. There are also a couple of good, original Italian bakeries in North Beach that are worth a stop.

              1. re: Baxterita

                For the pizza/bakery thing I would go to Chow. They have a wood fire oven, the pizza is good and the food is definitely plentiful and unpretentious. They have a really varied menu, and the gingerbread cake with caramel sauce and pumpkin ice cream sounds perfect for our weather right now. Chow is at the corner of Church and Market and accessible from the F line or any of the buses that run along Market Street. After eating, I would walk down Church to 18th (about 4 blocks) then make a left onto 18th and walk to Guerrero (2 blocks). There is Tartine, my favorite bakery in the city. If you are here on a week day the lines aren't that bad, on a weekend they seem to stretch on forever.

                Korean BBQ is mostly found along Geary Street, though I have seen good reviews of the Korean place in Japantown. I like Brother's (Geary and around 6th) or Wooden Charcoal BBQ (Geary and 10th ish).

                Thai House Express gets great reviews from my friends who are really into Thai food and those just figuring it out, so I think that is very solid rec from RL below.

              2. Definately check out Magnolia Brew Pub in The Haight. Very good hand crafted brews and surprisingly good eats at good prices (the fries rock). It's funky and totally SF... After you have a lunch or dinner, you can walk down Haight Street and get asked for change 20 times...

                1. One more rec, since you like sushi--Ryoko on Taylor, near Post. It's underground, and while the sushi isn't the super-all-time-best in the city, they have great service, a speakeasy atmosphere, and really terrific specials. They're very nice people and a good neighborhood restaurant, and they're only a few blocks from Union Square