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Quintessential San Francisco restaurants

I am visiting SF with my wife, who has never been there. Besides the Tadich Grill, what other restaurants might qualify as a quintessential SF restaurant? I'm looking for a bit of architecture as well as good chow, if possible, and would like to get out for $70 pp or less without tax, tip, and alcohol.

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  1. Can't think of anything more iconic SF than Zuni.

    1. Zuni. Tommaso's.

      This topic from the Not About Food board might be helpful:


      1. Boulevard. Try to get a table with a view of the bridge.

        Aside from the highest of high end establishments, you can get out of most SF restaurants for less than $70 pp w/o tax, tip and alcohol.


        1. Delfina- Mission area cal italian. Great SF vibe and california food. Think very knowledgeable waitresses in clean white t-shirt and tattoos.

          Boulevard- Great location in classy building. Great food, wine. Does great meat from a wood oven.

          Chez Panisse- Its in Berkeley, but I'm pretty sure its in the dictionary under Quintessential. Upstairs or down.

          Zuni Cafe- Great raw bar and ingredient driven menu. Less pricey than Boulevard

          2 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              Corrected. It like the old New Yorker illustration. Everything east of me tends to run together.

          1. For taverns with chow, there's the Buena Vista and Tommy's Joynt.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Sharuf

              Is the food at Buena Vista any good? I don't think I've read a word about it ever.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                It's pub grub. I've had a perfectly fine grilled ham-and-cheese with a side of fries. Nothing too spectacular.

                And I LOVE me some Tommy's Joynt sandwiches. I always take out-of-towners there for lunch--always fun, good beer, big sandwiches. Along with Rosamunde/Toronado for lunch.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  One of the most memorably bad meals I had was at Buena Vista. You've missed my past rants on the place. Stick to the drinks.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Buena Vista's only barely hanging on to the "local" thing. From 1979 to 2001 it
                    was owned, through a group of subsidiaries including the Houlihan's chain, by
                    W.R.Grace, an international conglomerate that makes most of its money in the
                    petroleum cracking industry.

                    It's back in local hands (Bob Freeman who also owns the Water Street Grille in
                    Sausalito) so maybe things have improved a bit? Last time I ate anything there
                    was probably 1997 and that was too long ago for how terrible it was to matter.

                    The Irish Coffee is a perfectly respectable reason to drop in if you happen to
                    be in that part of the city.

                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      Hmmm ... will have to try it again then. The last time was a few years ago, though not as far back as 2001, maybe two years ago.

              2. Have a grilled sandwich and a glass of wine at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
                in North Beach. More of a lunch than a dinner, maybe. Add an espresso and
                you're looking at about $15/pp total.

                1. What are one of the divey restos in Chinatown? One of those is necessary....Also Pearl's Oyster Bar.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LPC

                    Capitol on Clay. Get the chicken wings and whatever else looks good. Ask for advice about the specials on the wall in chinese.

                  2. Don't forget Swan's Oyster Depot on Polk Street. Sam's Grill, on Bush Street downtown, does not quite have the stature of Tadich, but is still a classic. Le Central, also on Bush Street, is one of SF's landmark French restaurants/brasseries.

                    1. Zuni Cafe and Tadich Grill.

                      1. My suggestions are Kuleto's on Powell, Fior d' Italia on Mason, Buca Giovanni in North Beach, The Stinking Rose on Columbus, Capp's Corner in North Beach (try to see Beach Blanket Babylon at Fugazi Hall next door), Washington Square Bar and Grill, the list can go on.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: stillian

                          The Stinking Rose doesn't get many favorable reports on the board. What have you eaten there that you like?

                          1. re: rworange

                            Wow! I just checked the board and you are certainly right...mostly bad comments. I went there so long ago, I can't remember what I had. But we did enjoy it. Guess we should scratch that one from my list of suggestions. I just thought of another old time S.F. restaurant: House of Prime Rib. I went there about 7 months ago and it was as good as ever.

                            1. re: stillian

                              Buca Giovanni has been closed for quite some time. The Stinking Rose may win as the least favorite restaurant on the SF board. I ate there once years ago. Still trying to forget the memory. Jeanty at Jacks (see below)is a relatively new incarnation of what was once known as Jacks. A sister of Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. Classis French bistro food although I somehow prefer the Yountville version to the SF version.....although the Napa location has taken some hits on this board recently, I have greatly enjoyed my few visits there.

                        2. Chez Panisse, quintessential and truly as great as it's cracked up to be.

                          For classic SF, try Jeanty at Jack's in the financial district, a place that's been around since your grandfather went there with his father, only with better food.

                          1. I would not let friends visit San Francisco without lunch or dinner at Original Joe's...not fancy, but good ,cheap food.