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Best choices for single diner near Hotel Monaco/Union Square?

I just found out I have to go to San Francisco for business on Monday, so I need recommendations for where to eat on Sunday night. Background info: early 30's female traveling alone with expense account (should try not to exceed $120 for dinner, a little wine, tax & tip). I am a big fan of fine cuisine (especially partial to French) but I think I would get bored sitting through a 3 hour meal by myself, and I never feel comfortable taking a book to a "nice" restaurant. I frequently end up eating room service or at the hotel bar (so I can chat with the bartenders) when I travel alone, but I am trying to be more adventurous this time. I appreciate any recommendations.

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  1. If you don't mind walking a bit, head over to Belden Alley, between Bush & Pine, Kearny & Montgomery. It's a one-block-long alley all given over to restaurants. You can sit outside (under the heat lamps) or inside, and there's a friendly, festive vibe all night long. You won't need your book -- it's simply fun to people-watch all night long. Good, reliable places are B44 (a Catalan bistro, specializing in tapas and paellas), Plouf (Belgian mussels and fries), Tiramisu (pretty decent Cal-Med fare) and Cafe Bastille (pretty decent French bistro fare -- I love the boudin noir with sauteed onions and apples and some of the best pommes frites in town).

    A more upscale place that's great for single diners is a stool at the kitchen counter at Boulevard (take a cab). Or take a cab over to the Civic Center and sit at the fabulous bar in Jardiniere for dinner. In both of those places, that's more fun than sitting at a table, and you won't need a book to be entertained. You can also sit at the bar at the venerable Tadich Grill -- the oldest restaurant in town, serving fine fresh seafood.

    1. The Grand Cafe at the Hotel Monaco is very nice and so is the bar area. The food is French brasserie style and the interior reminiscent of La Coupole in Paris. I think you'd feel comfortable eating there alone. Another idea would be Ame, which has a bar and is French with an Asian/Fusion bend. More upscale than the Grand Cafe and expense-account worthy!

      1. Try Michael Mina at the St. Francis Hotel..on Union Square.

        here's a link:

        http://www.michaelmina.net/michaelmin...

        3 Replies
        1. re: ChowFun_derek

          Normally the food at Mina doesn't appeal to me (looks nice, but not my aesthetic--I've only had drinks and dessert there), but here's the thing:

          You can have any of their menus AT THE BAR. I know it sounds bizarre, and who wants to eat a fancy meal at the bar, but when we were there everyone was doing it! That way you can enjoy the food, chat with the bartender about what you're eating and what you're drinking, and maybe share the experience with the people eating next to you. Strange and new, but something to consider. And the wine list is phenomenal.

          1. re: Pei

            Personally..I haven't been yet...but your suggestion to eat at the bar and interact with others is a terrific one for someone eating alone!
            Also the room off the Historic St. Francis's lobby is a beautiful one....classic San Francisco....!....
            Did you notice they moved THE CLOCK!

            1. re: Pei

              Yeah, when I saw the MM suggestion, I was going to say no because I ate in the dining room alone and it was one of the few places I was bored out of my mind dining alone.

              So the bar would be good. Actually most places will serve any of their menus at the bar. I know Gary Danko does, but that's a little out of the way for the diner unless she takes a cab or a cable car.

              If you are at a really top place and doing business travel, the restaurant will often acknowledge that and offer reading material. I know Silks does that, but I haven't been there in years.

              Really, I hope you will be more adventerous. What opportunities you are missing. The only time I ate in my hotel room was when the business day was WAY to long and I was exhausted. If you are staying at nice hotels, cabs are always available. If you are eating at nice restaurants, most will call a cab for you to get back to the hotel.

              In the suggestion for Boulevard by Frosty Melon, that is not short cab ride from the hotel and it is definately the type of place that will help you get a cab back.

          2. I guess it's a bit of a walk, but if you can get down to Market and hop on an F line street car, it'll take you right to Boulevard, which is perfect for single dining at the bar.

            1. Besides the list, you might ask the hotel concierge. Explain what you said here...a little adventure, great meal, dining alone. A boutique hotel like the Monaco should be able to make the arrangements or even give you options and have the connections to get you in as well. (If nothing else, they should be able to get a res.) Congierges have a lot of info for particular needs, after all it is their business.

              6 Replies
              1. re: ML8000

                They'll probably suggest she go to the Grand Cafe or Petite Cafe inside the restaurant. I've only been to the Petite Cafe and think it's fine for a quick meal or a drink, but hardly fine dining. Reports about Grand Cafe usually tend towards the Cheesecake Factory-esque food.

                1. re: Pei

                  You have a point, but a good congierge wouldn't, not at a decent hotel. A lazy management type probably would. Any way, common sense suggests avoid hotel restaurants except for high end places like MM in St.Frank's.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    I wasn't trying to discount The Monaco. It's one of the better hotels around, and I love their decor. It's more like I know if the concierge gives her a list it's likely to include the Grand Cafe, and it's cute enough (and convenient enough) to be tempting but I would avoid it except for a lunch or some drinks.

                    1. re: Pei

                      Well if nothing else, the congierge should be able to assist in getting a table at a place.

                      1. re: Pei

                        I can't ever remember getting a decent recommendation from a concierge no matter how good the hotel. It always is geared toward the touristy places. I have done a TON of business travel too staying at some top-tier hotels ... spending two years living out of hotels at one time. What I find the concierge best for is getting reservations and tickets.

                    2. re: Pei

                      Actually, reports on the Grand Cafe have been up and down, and I've seen at least one good one lately, but I don't think any have in any way compared it to the Cheesecake Factory. A totally different style of food, and in my opinion, not a fair comparison, at least without further explanation as to why it reminds you of the CF.

                  2. While not necessarily adventurous, the Grand Cafe is most definitely NOTHING like Cheesecake Factory! It's a lovely French brasserie. The current chef was most recently at Domaine Chandon and was a Chronicle Rising Star Chef in 2004. You can look at the menu online:

                    http://www.grandcafe-sf.com/grdmenu/i...

                    1. Kuleto's counter just a few blocks away - or Cortez across the street from the Monaco

                      1. If they are open for Sunday dinner (I am having trouble remembering) a good suggestion that hasn't been mentioned yet is Canteen. A short walk from the Monaco.