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Midwest Hound with questions for SF Hounds

Hello SF 'hounds,

My husband and I will be visting SF for the first time in a few weeks. We only have a weekend (Fri till Monday morning) and are staying at the Hyatt Regency across from the Ferry Building. I've been reading this board for about a month now and have some general ideas, but could use some specific advice. We both love all kinds of food, particularly seafood, and will not have a car...we both like to walk, and can take cabs or busses as necessary.

So far, this is what we have planned:

Friday afternoon: Our plane gets in around 1:30, and I assume it will take a while to get to the hotel via BART, and we'll both be hungry, so I could use some reccos for somewhere close to the hotel to grab a decent bite. Didn't want to do the Ferry Building, because that's the plan for Saturday morning/afternoon. Maybe Tadich Grill if it's not too far? From what I've read, they open for lunch and stay open, so might be an option for 3:30 or 4:00 or whatever time it'll be.

Friday evening: Thinking about Bacar. We both love wine, and have read about Bacar on other forums from wine geeks. Is this is a good choice for dinner? If not, is there somewhere close to Bacar you recommend? Also, any idea how far it is from Market to Bacar? I've read about other wine bars as well, but admit we both have somewhat euro-centric palates regarding wine, and I think perhaps Bacar has more European wines than some of the other places I've read about. Your thoughts on wine bars are also appreciated!

Saturday morning: Ferry Building, of course!

Saturday afternoon/evening: ?? I'd really like to go to A-16 (the Italian wines are a draw). Is it walking distance from the Ferry Building? I can't tell on the not-to-scale maps I've seen.

Sunday morning: Dim Sum! Remember, we're from the midwest, and we've only had dim sum maybe 10 times in our lives, although we love it. The places we've been usually had the carts, and we could look at stuff before deciding, so I'm not sure we have the confidence or knowledge to order what we'd like off the menu (ala Good Luck Dim Sum). Although I know the overwhelming board fave is Koi Palace, we'd really like to have dim sum somewhere in Chinatown, and walk around and take in the sights. We're tourists, after all ;-) Your recommendation for a place in Chinatown with carts, that has good food?

Sunday evening: I've already made a reservation for the Slanted Door. The person who took the reservation was a bit surprised that I called a month in advance, but I've been reading about SD on various wine forums for years now, and although I know it's far from a board fave, it's somewhere I really want to go.

Sights I want to see: the Japanese Tea Garden, maybe the Haight-Ashbury district (is there anything *to* see, there?), maybe Fisherman's Wharf. Mostly we want to wander around, eat and drink great food, and enjoy being in San Francisco. Next trip, we'll do Berkley and Chez Panisse, but this time we want to stay in SF.

OK, that's it. If you got this far, thanks for reading, and please, please, give me your advice. Thanks in advance, and if you ever head towards Ohio, I'll be glad to recipricate!

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  1. Tadich is just a few blocks from the Hyatt and they're open all afternoon.

    If you love wine, check out WINE, right nearby on Front Street between Sacramento and Clay. Biggest by-the-glass selection in town plus a small selection of cheeses, cold cuts, and other cold food.

    The food at Bacar is very good. The huge wine list is online. Rubicon's is not but it's even more remarkable (though the glass selection isn't).

    A16's great but Incanto's wine list (not online) is even better. Both are four or five miles from downtown but only a single bus or streetcar ride away.

    http://www.winebarsf.com
    http://www.bacarsf.com
    http://www.sfrubicon.com
    http://www.a16sf.com
    http://incanto.biz

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks, Robert. I've been intrigued by all the posts on Incanto, but my husband doesn't eat offal, so I was a little concerned about that...several posts and the on-line menu I saw seemed to indicate the menu tilted that way. I appreciate the suggestions, especially for the wine bar!

      1. re: Niki in Dayton

        Don't discount Incanto - I've been there numerous times and I've always had a good choice of dishes that are not offal or awful (sorry!).

        And I will say that their Handkerchief pasta with rustic pork ragu ($14) is THE BEST ragu I've put in my mouth -- and I've eaten a lot of ragu and been to Italy.

        1. re: Niki in Dayton

          My wife doesn't eat offal either and she likes the place as much as I do.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Ditto for Incanto and non-offal dishes. Lots of other choices.

      2. For your Sunday morning dim sum, you could take BART to Oakland's Chinatown (two BART stops from the Embarcadero station). There are several good dim sum places with carts. (Search this board for discussions.) Then walk to Jack London Square and visit the farmer's market, smaller and less hectic than the Ferry Building market. Then take the ferry back to San Francisco. The ride gives you a view of San Francisco most people never see.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Michael Rodriguez

          Sounds beautiful...especially the ferry ride. Thanks, Michael.

          1. re: Niki in Dayton

            Just about the ferry ride; watch the weather difference between the City and Oakland - could be very breezy out on ferry deck, dress in layers and consider wearing a hat to keep ears warm. Probably warmer once you get over to Jack London Sq.

        2. Bacar - if you start on 3rd and Mission, it's about 5 longish blocks. Definitely walkable depending on shoes.

          A16 - not walkable from Fery Building

          Dim Sum - Golden Mountain for good dim sum on carts. In Chinatown. Walkable as well.

          3 Replies
          1. re: vliang

            Walking to Bacar, you can head down the Embarcadero, lovely walk along the bay around dusk. If you prefer not to walk, take the Muni subway, it goes within a block or so.

            1. re: vliang

              Thanks, vliang. Golden Mountain was on my "short" list based on reviews I've read, although on Yelp several folks talked about finding roaches in their food at Golden Mountain, so I was wondering if there were better options...

              We're used to walking and will have shoes equal to the trek. Thanks for the feedback!

              1. re: vliang

                Incidentally, it's Gold Mountain, not Golden Mountain (in case they need to look it up). I agree that it's the best option for dim sum with carts in Chinatown.

                It's on Broadway between Grant Avenue and Stockton St. They can walk straight up Sacramento St. from the Hyatt Regency, right on Grant Avenue and left on Broadway.

              2. To me Bacar is not walkable from your location. I'd take a cab. I lived in that area for over a decade and I personally would never walk to Bacar, and I lived a lot closer to Bacar than your hotel. It can go through some iffy sections especially in the evening. It's like a five buck cab ride. Take a cab.

                Also, with Bacar, good wine, but the food gets too busy. I've heard of better recent reports though. You might want to do a separate posts asking about the best to order at Bacar. Personally, I'd eat at Coco500 and go up the street and have wine at Bacar. Coco500 has a nice, if not geeky wine list. The same person who consults for Slanted Door, consults for Coco500.

                For Dim Sum, you are a block away from the beautiful and tasty Yank Sing. Yeah, it is not Chinatown. Yeah, it is pricy. But it is great and especially if you are new to Dim Sum, this is a great place. When you do Chinatown, just get some egg custard tarts and bbq pork bun from Golden Gate Bakery on Grant. The best of both worlds.

                A16 is totally NOT walkable from your hotel. However, if you have your heart set on Fisherman's Wharf, you can take the street car from the Ferry Building to Fisherman's Wharf, tour around (check out the Sea Lions on Pier 39) and then take a cheap cab ride to A16 from the wharf.

                I personally would eat at better places than at the Wharf, but if you are considering eating therehttp://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/307917

                One thing to note is that Nunzio Alioto is a Master Sommelier (and wine geek!). One of my favorite things in SF is to sit at the bar area near the window and have the seafood sausage and the creme brulee for dessert. The rest of the menu may be overpriced, but I say they have the best creme brulee in the city.

                You know, I'd just take a cab to the Tea Garden and ask to drive up Haight Street. IMO, it is not particularily worth valuable SF time to spend more time than a brief view. The day for the Haight was the 60-70's. That time has passed.

                If you are up the tea garden way later in the day, you might consider cabbing it to Aziza for dinner. Not a horrible distance and great and unique food. Lots of reports on this board if you search.

                Memphis Minnie's in the Haight is said to have a great brunch, so you could make a pit stop there for a Sunday brunch and continue on to the Tea Garden.

                5 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  I didn't used to think much of Bacar's food but I've been maybe five times in the past year and all the food was good. Entrees are too expensive but aside from that I'd feel comfortable ordering anything these days. The brandade and pizzas were standouts.

                  Walking down the Embarcadero and then up Brannan the iffiest thing you pass is Red's Java House. It's all hotels, office buildings, condos, restaurants, the ballpark.

                  Third street is an unpleasant walk, but that's out of the way from the Hyatt Regency.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Thanks, rworange! I suspected there might not be much to see or do in the Haight, but my hubby has an affection for all things from the 60s (maybe cause that's when he was born?)

                    We actually weren't considering eating at the wharf, just seeing the tourist sites since that seems to be what tourists do ;-) I'm always up for a good creme brulee, though, so maybe we could stop in at Alioto for a glass of wine and nosh.

                    I've read the posts on Aziza and it does sound amazing...so many restaurants, so little time :-/

                    1. re: Niki in Dayton

                      I also would say skip the Haight Ashbury (unless you want to shop for records and CDs at Amoeba, which is pretty amazing). It's really not much of an echo of the 60's and is often downright unpleasant. Memphis Minnies is in the lower Haight, near Fillmore, not the Haight Ashbury.

                      If you want a wine bar alternative to Bacar, try Cav. Wide selection of European wines (and just as far ranging as Bacar's) and an interesting menu -- not as expensive on the food as Bacar is, and with the advantage of being able to order smaller tasting versions of many dishes.

                      1. re: Joan Kureczka

                        Since people keep bringing up Cav, I'd like to throw out a vote for Hotel Biron, which is on the same block, but on the other side. I like Cav, mind you, but Biron is much cozier. Comfortable couches and such.

                  2. Had a horribly, laughably bad experience at Aziza. Don't bother. I can't believe they're still in business.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Ciao Hound

                      Lots of posts here about good experiences at Aziza, many from people who've gone more than once. What exactly was the problem on your visit?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        So sorry--I went back to look at my notes and I got Aziza and Azie mixed up. Azie was the bad one.

                    2. I second the suggestion of Yank Sing for dim sum - the setting is very nice and they are very used to dim sum amateurs. I have always enjoyed the dim sum there and I've gone often.

                      I also love to walk and this is a great walking town, however I echo the concern about walking from the Hyatt Regency to Bacar - it is not the distance, but you traverse areas that may feel a bit dicey. I'd do that one by cab.

                      I was at Aziza last week and must candidly admit that I've maxed out on all the rave reviews here for it, so I really wanted to find something to pick apart. (Aren't I fun?!?) I had been once before and was disappointed that it was not really Moroccan and I had my heart set on that. Must say, though, last week I enjoyed my meal very much and would definitely return. The Mediterranean spreads are fabulous - we split the chicken basteeya and it was excellent and Moroccan enough for me. (The roast peppers were good, but nothing special so I'd skip that next time.) So I would say that if you do go to the Japanese Tea Garden (also check out the new DeYoung) and consider hopping a cab over to Aziza - you won't be disappointed!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: dinnerout

                        Have you walked up Brannan from the Embarcadero recently? With all the restaurants and bars that the condos and ballbark brought in, it's very different from how it used to be. There are thousands of people living down there now. King Steet, the next block down, is lined with shops, restaurants, even a Safeway.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Stating this a second time doesn't make it true. Two people have stated it is an area to exercise caution. Safeway is nowhere on that route. The area still has a number of drug reahab residences and not all those people make it. The two grocery/liquor stores in that area continue to attract an unsavory crowd.

                          The impression is that the area is lined with shopes, restaurants and markets with people strolling about after dark is not the case. Those condos have lots of security and this area is worse than the Tenderloin in many respects because if something happens, at least in the Tenderloin there are other people around. If someone jumps you on Brannan it is really likely no one will hear or come to your rescue.

                          As said before, I'm sure that the OP has the info needed to determine if they should walk or not. Repeating the same statement doesn't change things.

                      2. I'm speaking from recent personal experience.