Dinner in Mission (around 21st) or transit accessible low-key but good food restaurants.
I live in San Jose and rarely make it up to SF to eat. However, I'll be staying in SF for a week near S. Van Ness and 21st. I partially chose the location so I'd be near Ritual Coffee. I'd prefer restaurants within walking distance, but am willing to travel if need be.
I'll have my dinner times free and am looking for suggestions. I'll most likely be eating solo. I prefer quality over quantity (small portions appreciated), prefer quieter restaurants. I like a wide variety of food (love tripe, spicy foods, tendon, etc). I particularly appreciate well-done vegetable dishes not swimming in oil or cheese, since they are so rare (restuarants seems to focus on meat, starch, and cheese). I'm not a big cheese/dairy fan, unless it's small amounts of very high quality cheese.
My south bay favorites are (were) Brigitte's in Santa Clara (before they closed), Saiza (izakaya), Tanto, Choi's (korean), Saravanaa Bhavan (veg south indian), Darda Seafood (for takeout, too madhouse for eat in), Tanglewood, Pizza Antica, Kaygetsu. On the way up to SF, we stopped for a chef-chosen dinner at Sakae that was fantastic (but I'm not looking for $100 dinners like Kaygetsu/Sakae -- this list is just to give an idea of my taste in foods).
I already plan to do a dinner at Chapeau and one at Aziza (both before 6pm hoping to cut down on noise). Prefer less high end for other dinners during the week.
Takeout (especially from walking distance restaurant) would be fine in order to get good food but avoid noise.
La Traviata is one of the worst so-called "Italian" restaurants in the city, in my opinion.
My list would include (of the ones people mentioned before):
Mi Lindo Yucatan
Range is not bad, but I don't recommend it.
(995 Valencia at 21st Street)
- El Toro at 17th and Valencia, and
- La Corneta at 2731 Mission between 23rd and 24th
Cha-Ya vegan Japanese at 762 Valencia between 18th and 19th streets
There's also a new gringo mexican place at 23rd and Bartlett (between Valencia and Mission)
Sorry, we love La Traviata on occasion. It's fine for old-fashioned "red sauce Italian." It's beyond congenial and comfortable and I've had some decent food there on many occasions.
Now, Platanos, the place the OP ended up, I despise. They have been horrible to me, but maybe they have better staff running it now. It's very telling to me that Platanos was "quiet," though. They used to be packed. Now when I drive by there on the weekends it's always empty when Tartine & other places are packed to the gills.
The waitress was very nice with us. My boyfriend is cuban and we had a discussion of the different preparations of plaintain/ when they tend to soak up more oil (when riper)/their frying techniques, etc. She was Asian, but familiar with the cooking there.
We were admiring the art on the walls, and she came over to explain they were by an artist who lived in the area.
So the food was good and the staff pleasant to us.
Awesome! Of those listed, which are likely to be the quieter restaurants, maybe even appropriate for reading a book while eating?
I'm certainly interested in Aslam Rasoi. I do like Pakistani food (I like Zafran in the south bay, and Shan (food is more variable at the latter, but one Shan location has the benefit of being right near Barefoot Coffeehouse Good coffee and haleem and lamb chop tandoori.) Do you know if Aslam has Haleem shahi? Or if any of the pakistani restaurants have chicken haleem?
A very good question (regarding the noise), as I was surprised at some of the answers, since many if not most of the places you have been directed to are indeed quite noisy, in contrast to your original request. I think most folks are trying to steer you to the best food at reasonable prices, but in this neighborhood that doesn't mean quiet!
I can comment on the following:
Delfina gets lots of raves, but is definitely not the type of place where one might read a book.
I really like Range, but no, it isn't quiet. Ditto Blue Plate.
Limon was a bit of a scene when I was there.
I'm not that enthusiastic about La Traviata's food, but it is quiet, at least during the week. Be prepared for very friendly wait staff wanting to chat, however.
Lotus Garden is indeed quiet. It fits your requests, perhaps a little too much (I wish it got more business, which it deserves). Perhaps the quietest of those recommended. Indeed, during the week early you might see the owner's kids in there doing homework. They deliver and do takeout also, although I think some of their dishes don't deliver that well.
Angkor Borei is fairly quiet, and also does delivery and takeout.
Little Nepal is small and may be quiet or not, depending on how full it is...tends to get lots of families.
Dosa is the ANTITHESIS of quiet!
The branch of Mi Lindo Yucatan on 24th street is fairly quiet, especially during the day.
I haven't been to Aslam Rasoi so can't comment...
BTW, for your dinner at Aziza, if you ask for a quiet table they will do their best to accomdodate you. I also like quiet when dining, and when we went last Friday night, with a 7:15 reservation, they put us in the end of the back room, and we were very comfortable...
Another quiet place you might want to try is Bistro 1689, at 1689 Church Street (near 30th). Somewhat pricy, but very good food, and it is definitely quiet during the week.
Have fun getting to know the neighborhood!
Thanks for the greater detail, much appreciated.
I arrived yesterday in SF, and had lunch with a friend at Platanos -- wonderful! Quiet, extremely pleasant atmosphere and really nicely flavored dishes. We had guacamole with plantain chips (which were perfectly fried, not greasy and the oil was fresh), chicken soup, and the empanaditos. Oh, and fried yuca, but those were more ordinary. The chicken empanaditos suprised us by being more juicy than the pork.
Sigh .. I wish the south bay had better south/central american restaurants.
Aslam's Rasoi is not a particularly interesting restaurant. Neither is Indian Oven, for that matter.
Dosa is much better, though a completely different style. For other Pakistani style food, Pakwan on 16th street is probably better than Rasoi, and there are numerous other options around town, such as Nan 'n Curry and Shalimar that are better and cheaper.
I looked at the menu at Pakwan (I think) and saw no haleem on the menu. Didn't check Aslam. If the extent of the pakistani items is tandoori, it's not as interesting (I like achaar dishes as well.
Stopped by and looked in on Dosa last night (Sunday). Very rowdy. Given I often dine near "MG street" (aka El Camino) in Santa Clara where you can't spit without hitting a south indian restuarant, I'm very familiar with south Indian food. Most of the good south indian restaurants nearer me are vegetarian so it triggers a bit of dissonance to see chicken curries and dosa on the same menu (since that's a marker of a bad south indian restaurant in my neck of the woods).
My favorite dosa is rava dosa, which Saravanaa Bhavan does particularly well. Anyone had Dosa's rava dosa and can describe it?
If I lived in the South Bay, I wouldn't waste my meal is SF on South Asian food. You have less expensive and better choices in your own back yard. It is we SFers who make the pilgrimage to Sunnyvale and Santa Clara for good dosas!
But if you must, Pakwan sometimes has a chicken achar dish. I can recommend the lamb achar at Darbar. Shalimar makes a good haleem, but i don't think it's made with chicken. Shalimar and Pakwan both have South/East Bay branches.
Mi Lindo Peru
Mi Lindo Yucatan
Where does one start? Maybe Mangosteen at Eddy & Larkin in the Tenderloin for modern Vietnamese. How about Pesce further up Polk (a bit north of Broadway) for Venetian small plate fish and seaffod dishes. Both transit accessible from your location on the 49 Van Ness/Mission bus.