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New York CH heading to San Fran for honeymoon. Recommendations?

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Heading out to SF for my honeymoon next week. Looking for everyone's top 3 recommendations. We are real fans of fabulous foods for a fabulous price. (We are a young couple just out of grad school so we don't have the money for anything crazy, though we are willing to splurge a bit - honeymoon afterall!)

We are staying in the Union Square area, but are pretty adventurous and we would love to walk around neighborhoods and eat at places where locals would hang out, to get a real feel for a place. Recs for this? (Not just the typical touristy stuff.)

Also, what's the deal with the tenderloin? I keep hearing that it is a dangerous neighborhood, but the only info I can find is that there are a lot of pan-handlers. In NY panhandlers and homeless are often found in the most expensive neighborhoods because there is better food. So how dangerous is it exactly?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Definitely take a walk down to the Ferry Building for Sat a.m. Farmer's Market. You can snack on samples, have some bbq oysters etc. and just take in all the yummy sights.

    I second Aziza and Incanto- but no reason to have sushi here- you have far better options in your hometown.

    The Mission is a great neighborhood to walk around and grab a cheap lunch. Do a search - there are lots of strings on best carnitas burritos etc.

    Giving a more specific budget and special likes also helps get more informed responses. Congratulations on your wedding and have fun in SF.

    1. Tadich Grill is a must for lunch one day, very old-time SF with great fish and cioppino. Go early, no reservations. A couple of good neighborhood places are Luella and Frescati, both are on Hyde so you can ride the cable car back to Union Sq. after dinner.

      We had an excellent dinner at Town Hall last weekend. It's big and noisy but has a vibe about it, large servings and a great butterscotch-chololate pudding for dessert.

      Have a great honeymoon.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rtmonty

        Tadich is also my "must" rec. As long as you stick with basic fish and don't order any of their "shrimp diablo"-type things. Except of cioppino, which is great. Also great house dressing on a dinner seafood salad (side dish size) and wonderful tartar sauce made from spuds.

        I'd also have breakfast at Canteen! Every day if I could. Wonderful lattes and great food. Even bacon and eggs is good.

        I third or fourth Incanto, and add Zuni. I'd choose that over Chez Pan. You could even go there for lunch = great raw oysters and clams and hamburger.

        I'd take BART over to Oakland's Fruitvale for Mexican. There's a BART stop right there and two great taco trucks within a block.

      2. Incanto and Aziza both have fabulous food at a fabulous price, thought it's easy to rack up a tab on wine and cocktails respectively. Those would be my top two choices for mid to high priced dining.

        For One Big Splurge I'd BART (subway) across the bay for dinner Downstairs at Chez Panisse. It's quintessential California, one of the most influential restaurants in the world and the price for the downstairs prix fix is quite reasonable, especially for a four star restaurant (between $50 and $85 depending on the evening and the number of courses). Oh yes, and the food is wonderful.

        If you can't make it to Chez, you might consider Zuni Cafe or coco500 for similarly styled food at a lower price point.

        In Union Square, go to Canteen for breakfast or brunch.

        Zuni Cafe:

        3 Replies
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Are Incanto and Aziza open for lunch? What are your favorite things on their menus? General location of each?

          1. re: niki rothman

            No and no.
            Aziza - Beef or Lamb Stew.
            Incanto - Braised Pork.
            Aziza is in the Outer Richmond.
            Incanto is in Noe Valley.

            1. re: niki rothman

              There are many, many reports here on Aziza and Incanto.

          2. If you're coming from New York, you probably won't find the Tenderloin very threatening.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Absolutely NOT true. NY has changed a lot since the last time you were there Robert. I have no problems walking around NYC at 4am and I have no problems walking around Spanish Harlem...and have done so many times. I would NEVER walk around the Tenderloin at night and during the day, I'd feel a little uncomfortable also.

              Back to food:

              1. The Ferry Building is a must. Go before 11am. Get coffee at Blue Bottle and have a heirloom tomato scramble at Rose's.

              2. I would try Canteen since it's unique to SF. Brunch or dinner are both great.

              3. I second Chez Panisse on a Monday to take advantage of the price.

              4. If you have a car, Koi Palace for dim sum. Dim sum in SF is much better than the dim sum in NY. Actually, Koi Palace for dinner also for amazing cantonese seafood if you can.

              5. Zuni Cafe for the chicken.

              6. Bar Tartine was Cal-cuisine style french bistro and some pretty amazing bread.

              7. By all means, forget sushi in SF. NYC has more variety and better quality.

              1. re: Porthos

                Maybe I should say, if you developed street smarts in pre-Giuliani New York, the Tenderloin's no big deal.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Tenderloin is pretty loud and wild (last time I was there about a month ago for dinner), but nobody paid much attention to us. There were folks screaming at each other, but not at us. Weird people wandering in the middle of the street, etc. It was uncomfortable, but not really threatening.

            2. I echo the recommendations of everyone else on this board, especially about Incanto and Aziza. I would toss in Chapeau! on there as well, for the reason that the food is great and it can be quite intimate. I would suggest Boulevard for the splurge, or the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room. Boulevard is like Gramercy Tavern, but with a California twist and setting. The Dining Room is just flat-out fabulous, if you enjoy a good 2-3 hour dinner with a variety of tastes and textures. Also, I agree with the sentiments about trying dim sum. It really is a San Francisco experience to try it in either a really upscale place (like Yank Sing, HKFL, Koi Palace), or somewhere less refined, but still excellent, like Y Ben House or Good Luck Dim Sum.

              There is a lot of street food in SF that I would recommend you trying as well. Getting CTM in the 'Loin, buying Chinese baked goods, hunting down some banh mi, chowing down on a fresh taco al pastor or burrito in the Mission, or getting fresh foodstuffs at the Farmer's Market are some of the best things you can do for good, cheap food that satisfies the palate.

              Congratulations on your wedding, and enjoy your trip!

              1. Me and my wife went to San Fransisco for our anniversary and I have to highly recommend Bix restaurant. It is a real classy 1930's style jazz restaurant with excellent food. One recommendation, though, is find out when they have their jazz pianist/band there before making reservations. Me and my wife got there too early and left just as he started (we felt bad about holding the table for the rest of the night) and missed a big part of the ambience. Even so, the experience was great and we will go there again next time we're in the bay area.

                1. This isn't really fine dining, but the young locals here are big on burritos and tacos. Totally worth it, and a bargain, too. Go to La Taqueria on Mission and... 25th? 26th? Somewhere down there. Make sure you get tacos, and get the melted cheese. There's nothing like it in NY -- places like Big Ench don't compare at all. You can make it a snack in the middle of the day or something.

                  Personally, I don't think the Tenderloin is the death pool that everyone says it is; and I have even walked around the Loin at night. But it's definitely not as safe as you might expect a similar bar zone to be in Manhattan. An equivalent area would be like some of the sketchier parts of Brooklyn. I'd recommend against exploring the area much at night, but certainly don't be scared from visiting a Loin joint owing to this.

                  1. As a point of reference, I'm a 5' female who has lived in the "gritty" lower haight for 20 years. I've only been mugged once and that was years ago in an area that was widely considered safe.

                    Your question about the Tenderloin is hard to answer. First, the "safety" of streets varies dramaticly - I would have no problem walking any block of Geary at any time and while Polk Street can seem dodgy to an outsider, its bustling sidewalk help make it safer at night. But there's a little circle of blocks around Taylor and Market that has so many very-down-'n-outers on questionable substances that even I would question the wisdom of wandering those streets.

                    For example, last night we had no problem popping by Farmer Brown at 10pm for a drink, but when we found it jam-packed and super loud, we stood on the corner and briefly considered going to Original Joe's because they have an cool retro bar. Then, we assessed the street-life and the fact that we had come from shopping and had several bags which I thought would make us tempting targets so we hopped the 7-Haight and headed home to the cold bottle of champagne in our fridge.

                    1. Ummm, hope I don't get in trouble for this, but you guys need, need, need to have a few drinks at Harry Denton's Starlight Lounge while you're there. It's right on Union Square. At night the lights of the city glitter like thousands of stars spread out beneath you. Very romantic, absolutely awesome views. Get a banquette facing the windows, or a window seat ain't so bad either. But the banquettes are very romantic.

                      They serve food there, right? So I'm not totally out of line. I'm sure the food is, um, great. Great fries, yeah, that's the ticket.

                      Liquor is food, right? Wine and romance are food, certainly. Enjoy your stay. Read all the recent posts on SF; it's a glorious town.

                      1. My SF faves are Oola, Isa, and Bar Tartine. Style-wise, I think they resemble Craftbar in NYC(French/Italian influenced, seasonally driven, small plates), but are more romantic. Isa's in a great neighborhood (Russian Hill) for exploring, and you'll find other restaurants that may appeal to you (Luella and Frascati were mentioned upthread if you walk around a little- Tablespoon is another). And Bar Tartine's in a great part of the Mission, so I'd recommend giving yourself a few hours before dinner to explore there as well. They take walk-ins (there's a fairly large bar), and if you go during the week, you may not have to wait too long. Oh, and go to Tartine Bakery one morning (in a separate location, but also in the Mission) for breakfast.

                        Try to get to Liguria Bakery in North Beach for foccacia... then go to Osteria al Forno for whatever they have that day... then XOX chocolates for perfect little rustic truffles. Cognac and caramel are especially good.

                        I haven't been able to find anything like the lunchtime prix-fixe menus they have at the four-stars in NYC, so you probably won't get to sample the "top" restaurants in SF, but frankly, I don't think 4-star food is San Francisco's strength anyway.

                        I would consider Cafe Chez Panisse instead of downstairs - you'll be able to order a la carte (and thus taste more dishes), plus it's less expensive, and open for lunch. Then you can spend some time exploring the Gourmet Ghetto - especially the Cheese Board (go Tuesday-Saturday). It's like Murray's Cheese Shop, except not intimidating. You wait on line until it's your turn, then you get a counter person who's basically yours as long as you want. You could ask to taste every blue cheese they have, or you could get a vertical tasting of goudas, or whatever. They're super accomodating.

                        Finally, I'll add my voice to the chorus of "yeays" for Canteen and Zuni, and the Ferry Building on a Saturday.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: daveena

                          Isa's is in the Marina- on Steiner just off Chesnut (not Russian Hill) Very good place- sit in the back on the (heated) patio. This place is good on a budget because they do small plates and they do them very well. Down the road a piece is A16- for VERY popular Southern Italian food. They do lunch Wed (I think), Thur, Fri. The Marina isn't a particularly interesting neighborhood on its own but it is just a few blocks from the Palace of Fine Arts, Marina Green and one of the BEST views in the city of the Golden Gate.

                        2. Oops... thanks for the correction. I was picturing Luella and thinking Isa. So, an afternoon walking around Russian Hill and reading menus to figure out where to go to dinner might be fun.

                          Is this a first trip to SF? If yes, there may be too much to see and do to spend a lot of time in the East Bay (although I still think a trip to Berkeley for Cafe Chez Panisse and the Cheese Board are a must-do). If this is a repeat trip, then maybe a stop at Oakland's Chinatown (Oakland City Center/12th Street BART stop) to get knife cut noodles at Shan Dong, and soup dumplings at Shanghai Restaurant would be in order.

                          Oh, and if you get to Liguria Bakery, make sure you bring some towelettes, because those focaccia will leave a delicious, olive oily, salty slick on everything.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: daveena

                            Is the Shanghai or Shandong food in Oakland any better than they have in New York?

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I had to do a quick Manhattan board search to answer this one, since it's been a few years since I lived there - it looks like there are a few more Shanghai-style restaurants now than there used to, and there doesn't seem to be a consensus on who makes the best soup dumplings. So, all I can say is, the xiao long bao at Shanghai Restaurant in Oakland are much, much better than the ones at Joe's Shanghai (the only place that made halfway decent ones when I lived in NYC), and the rest of the menu is also much better than Joe's. I can't compare Shanghai Restaurant to the newer Shanghai places in NYC, though.

                              There doesn't seem to be any Shandong food in Manhattan at all - I'm sure there has to be someplace out in Queens - I'd never seen a knife cut noodle until I moved here.

                              Other things I'm pretty sure don't exist in Manhattan -
                              Chinese Muslim food
                              Charcoal grilled Korean barbecue (looks like the last Manhattan holdout switched to gas in 2003)
                              (I've only had these in the South Bay and can't give personal recs for SF, but there are definitely postings for both on this board)

                              OH! And...
                              Frog Hollow peaches and nectarines
                              Really, really good heirloom tomatoes. I mean, I'm sure they sell them there, but I don't think they can afford to pick and ship them when they're super ripe-near bursting they way they do here.
                              Fresh muscat grapes (maybe you can get them at Dean & Deluca or something, but they'd charge a dollar a grape)

                              Which is to say, bring a fruit knife, some bottled water for rinsing off the fruit, and a bunch of napkins to the Ferry Building on Saturday, because you will want to eat everything on the spot. And then if you're still hungry, you can get an ahi burger at Taylor's Refresher.

                          2. Re: the Tenderloin -- just go during the day. It's grungy but in board daylight it's nothing. As NY'ers you should feel safe. At night, it's a more subjective call relative to you. A lot of hipster hang out have moved in. It really is a small area (lie 5x10 blocks) and it borders "nice" 'hoods.

                            Re: food, I'll 3rd or 4th Chez Panisse as the Mecca of Calif cuisine. Gourment Ghetto (the area around it) is a nice half day hang.

                            Besides that, there I'd suggest stuff you can't get in NYC, cuisines, seafood (well Pacific caught) and produce. Definately the Ferry Building and Farmer's Market. The Tenderloin will have good Vietnamese...but so will many neighborhoods.

                            For the whole SF crab and fish thing - Swan's Oyster Depot is really old school SF and it's not on Fisherman's Wharf.

                            I'd definately get a Mission burrito (I know they're advertised as such in NY) I'd recommend LaCumbre and Taqueria Cancun but you'll hear many people defend their favorites (do a search).

                            I'd also get some inexpensive Chinese food. Chinatown is great but I find Clement St. to be easier to take in half a day. Clement St. is kind of like going to Queens. You might go to Clement St. on the way to Ocean Beach. You definatly should see the Pacific Ocean, just to see it.

                            1. Thanks so much to everyone for all this info. Its really helpful and even better to get it from locals! I'll let you know how everything turned out.

                              1. As a former LES'er, I would say that the Tenderloin is probably worse than any neighborhood you'd find in Manhattan in terms of sketchiness. That said, in the daytime, it's fine. At night, eh, it really depends. Certain stretches are worse than others (i.e., parts of Turk street). People forget that the Tenderloin also has a lot of immigrant families (vietnamese) that live in the neighborhood among the drug dealers and prostitutes (most of whom come out at night), so there is an OK element in the neighborhood. Just keep your wits about you.

                                As for food, we had a fabulous meal at Myth www.mythsf.com last week. I highly recommend Delfina http://delfinasf.com/ which meets your criteria for fabulous food at a fabulous price. I'd agree with Frascati http://www.frascatisf.com/ which someone else mentioned. Aziza is a chowhound favorite and we liked it too.

                                Echoing the burrito recs. We just took my husband's visiting aunt and uncle (westchester residents but Bronx natives) to have their first REAL burritos (Harry's/Benny's Burritos are a sorry try at a burrito - a burrito should not be eaten with a knife and fork!) and they loved it. You will not get them in NYC.


                                1. Lots of great referrals here so I'll address the Tenderloin query as someone who lives there. I guess Geary St. may be more of the Tender-nob but, as someone who is also on a budget, I eat at a lot of places in the 'loin and most of that eating is done at night. I walk in the area all the time by myself (I'm female and pretty puny) and have never felt my safety threatened. I have definitely seen some disturbing human behavior but not on a regular basis. Yes, people will ask you for spare change or try to "help" you if you look like a lost tourist in need of directions (for their services they require a tip). Yes, you may see some hookers (they seem more prevalent on Sunday morning, actually) or people smoking crack or behaving like they are on it. Really, it's more sad than scary to me. But, I find that when I say no to people looking for money, they accept that. So, I'd say figure out where you'd like to go and how best to get there and enjoy. There are some cool places to explore.

                                  My advice is to try Bodega Bistro or Turtle Tower in Little Saigon. I think it's a unique SF experience and if you head down Geary and take a left on Larkin, you kinda bypass the loins of the 'loin. Oh, and get a great cocktail at Rye on Geary and Leavenworth on your way!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: fine wino

                                    I went to school in the 'loin and definitely had quite a few late evenings wandering away from Edinburgh Castle. It feels unsafe and unpleasant, even though I've never actually been threatened. I like Bodega Bistro, EC, Olive and other places....but I don't know if I would go there for my honeymoon unless I really had to try a place there. That being said, I agree that walking down Geary is probably the best way.

                                  2. What fabulous suggestions. I echo the praises for Zuni's chicken, Town Hall for dessert, Delfina in general, and Koi Palace for dim sum (go exceptionally early).