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Best Blowout Lunch

I'll be in SF/sonoma with my girlfriend for the 1st time, and while we're both poor grad students we're looking for a great lunch to splurge on (up to $250 or so).

We're currently thinking about Bouchon, Boulevard, Rubicon, or Chez Panisse Cafe, but never having been to the west coast I'm open to anything.


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  1. When are you coming out? Reservations may be difficult, depending on your travel dates.
    Also, FYI, Rubicon only serves lunch on Wednesdays.

    1. Boulevard is lovely and unless you go wild on wine, $250 is more than enough. Note that Bouchon is in Yountevilli in the Napa Valley. That would be around a 1 hour drive from SF and perhaps a bit more than that from Sonoma.

      Have a great time.

      1. I'm confused, I would think you could have dinner at most of those spots, including CP Downstairs (if you could get a reservation) for under $250. I would vote against Boulevard, I found it sort of corporate feeling and overpriced for the experience we had there. I also don't know if the space would work so well in the daylight.

        1 Reply
        1. re: China

          Sorry, I'm being unclear (for what it's worth, I'm a grad student in engineering, so sadly, it's to be expected). I'm coming from the East Coast, and was aware that all of those places would cost under $200 or so.

          I was more just looking for recs as to which place to choose (or what others I should consider).

        2. Chez Panisse Cafe should come in well under $200 for lunch, probably under a $100. I'd take the remainer and go to all the cheap eats you can find in SF (the list is long) or head to another nice mid-priced place. I think lunch at Bouchon is about the same or a little more.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ML8000

            Thanks, that sounds like a great plan.

          2. The lunch service at Aqua is very nice. And if you've never been to SF you can ignore those that are over it. It is top notch service and food. Very business like, however.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Chris Rising

              At Chez Panisse Cafe, you'll know you're in California. At Aqua, you could be in any big city.

                1. re: rworange

                  Who mentioned Michelin? For someone who ranted against them it seems to be on the tip on your tongue.

            2. If this were my list, I'd delete Rubicon and add Zuni Cafe. You should be able to do lunch at 2 of these places for the price range you are talking, assuming you don't drink like fishes. It also depends on what type of setting you are looking for. Aqua is a lovely room, beautiful flowers, but very expense-account. I have always liked their food and in the expense account circle I hang out in, it is popular choice for a client lunch. Boulevard similar in that regard, but less so. The other places are not in the Financial District, so wouldn't have the crowds in suits trying to impress clients with their vast knowledge of food and wine! Enjoy your visit!

              1. Zuni is great for Food, but if you are also looking for atmosphere try Slanted Door. It's at the Ferry Bldg, and on the Water. If you have a car and are coming to the Napa Valley, Bouchon is fab. Have a great time!

                1 Reply
                1. re: calif_martinigal

                  Thanks for the tips everyone. Zuni and Bouchon it is!

                2. My wife and I will be in SFO the week of October 23. Last year had lunch at the CP Cafe and loved it. Will repeat this year, as long as we can get in on short notice (should not be impossible, at least early in the week). ace1317 could go there twice on his budget.
                  Heard many good things about Bouchon, but also really enjoy Bistro Jeanty in Yountville.