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Dinner for 11 near Opera House?

A group of 11 of us total (including 5 kids ranging in age from 4-10) will be seeing the Nutcracker at the Opera House this Fri. Show starts at 7pm; we would like to meet for dinner around 5pm. Ideal if we could find something within reasonable walking distance of the OH so that we'd only need to park once; however, we'll consider parking twice if it's not too much hassle.

We'd like a place that's kid-friendly (meaning comfy for kids but no special kid's menu needed), cheap to moderately priced, reliably efficient in service, and open to reservations, of course. Family-style, ethnic cuisine sounds about right.

Bodega Bistro comes to mind. The food sounds great for our group, but I am uncertain about whether it's within easy walking distance to the Opera House and whether the neighborhood is "savory" enough to park and walk around at night. If it were just me and husband I wouldn't worry, but I just don't want the kids or parents to feel uncomfortable. Thoughts?

Any other places that come to mind? We're open to all kinds of cuisine. Feel free to throw in any parking tips w/ your food tips. Thanks so much for your help, hounds!

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    1. i think bodega bistro would be fine, even with your concerns. the restaurant isn't that far into the tenderloin, only two blocks past the fed building on larkin. it would be a bit of a stroll to the opera house, so it will really depend on whether the kids can handle the ~<15 minute walk.

      i would suggest parking closer to the opera house/civic center. for a 5pm dinner, you'll walk comfortably in daylight to dinner, and walking out of the TL afterwards in the dark at 6:30ish. i would definetely not want to walk back to the TL area after the nutcracker gets out. that is a bad idea.

      also on the bodega bistro block, consider pagolac. if you called ahead, they could have a table set up for a party of your size. those so inclined could have the 7 ways of beef, and the spring rolls might be fun for the kids.

      imo, max's is awful. there is however, a decent and spacious japanese place in opera plaza. i usually get the chirashi. the kids could run around a bit outside in the plaza and get their wiggles out before the ballet.

      3 Replies
      1. re: artemis

        Well, this time of year, it really will be dark or close to it, even at the start of dinner...I agree that parking closer to CC makes sense in some ways (plus there is a City parking lot there) but is also creates several other problems: you'd still be walking the few blocks in the Tenderloin (which might indeed make some uncomfortable), and of course that you would walk more altogether, since you would have two walks before dinner: one coming (to BB) and one going (back to the Opera House), plus I think it is uphill from the Opera House to Larkin...

        Mapquest says it is half a mile from the Opera House to Bodega Bistro.

        However, there isn't much else nearby. I hate Max's also. I did think about the Japanese place: just decent though, nothing more (and even that is based upon a visit at least three years ago).

        At that time of night on a Friday, parking twice might not be a great option either, unfortunately: traffic may be a big headache in the area at around 5 or 5:30! (It certainly was this Friday night).

        I am not sure there is an obvious, really Chowish solution for you, especially on a Friday night....

        1. re: susancinsf

          all good points. the best thing might be to make it a particularly early dinner (to allow time for car relocation), park at thai house express (where i'm going tomorrow after my last final, woohoo crab noodles!), have a fabulous meal on the cheap, and then drive to civic center garage (cheaper than performing arts garage, i think) and bite the fee.

          1. re: artemis

            I was thinking of Thai House Express also, but it is a bit further than Bodega Bistro....and though it does have the advantage of being open all afternoon (meaning you can make it really early), finding parking there at fiveish on a Friday night won't be a picnic either...

      2. When my kids were that age they were happy at Max's for Nutcracker type events. I haven't been since and can't remember it being bad (or good for that matter). I guess no memory is not a strong chow-ish recommendation.

        1. Thanks for everyone's responses and willingness to help w/ the parking/eating/walking dilemma. Since the OH is on the westside of the Civic Center, I think I'd like to stay on that side and save Bodega Bistro for another time. I looked at Max's website and didn't care for it, not to mention that your negative opinions biased me.

          Is the sushi place mentioned above Opera Plaza Sushi or Shima Sushi? Are there a variety of cooked vs. raw items since the kids and some adults probably want cooked stuff. How does Sushi Hana at Van Ness & Eddy compare?

          I found a helpful restaurant listing at the symphony's website:

          Below are the places I'm interested in, followed by their location. Your opinions as they relate to my initial criteria are greatly appreciated! Thanks also for speedy replies as I need to make reservations soon!

          Frjtz, Hayes & Laguna: Is this place too much of an adult bar scene?

          Laurels Cuban, Oak & Gough

          Opera Plaza Sushi, Van Ness & Golden Gate

          Suppenkuche, Laguna & Hayes: I'd like to try this place, but not sure if it's a general crowd pleaser.

          Sushi Hana, Van Ness & Eddy

          Thepin Thai, Gough & Fell

          7 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Is Il Borgo at 500 Fell (@ Laguna) too far? I haven't been there, but it seems to be a crowd pleaser with many positive posts. Or Zoya?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Il Borgo was exactly my thought. I also had a nice meal at Shima; the review is floating around here somewhere...

              1. re: chaddict

                Thanks, ladies. Il Borgo sounds just right; I don't think it's too far from our destination. I read your Shima review and was def. keeping it in mind, but Italian will be great for this group.

                I just called Il Borgo and made a reservation for Fri. at 5pm for 11 of us w/ no problems. The website below says they open for dinner at 6pm, but I guess it's not accurate, thank god!


                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Ok, I was just reading some reviews on yelp and learned that IB is cash only. Not a huge deal, but I'm so glad I know now so I can tell the other parties in my group.

                  Since there is no pricing on themenupage.com site, can someone tell me the average price for pasta, pizza, etc? I assumed it was on the inexpensive side, but I'm not so sure after reading some comments. Also, is the service very slow here around 5pm? I generally like leisurely Italian, but want a place that can be quicker if we request it. Thanks for your help.

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    This has pricing, though might not be completely up to date -

                    and a report from this summer with tab stated -

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Thanks, Melanie. I just perused those two links right before checking back here. Yeah, the menupages prices look out of date, but even if dishes are a few bucks more, it looks reasonable. We'll probably stick to pastas, pizzas, and maybe some salad. Looking forward to it!

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        FYI there is an ATM at the restaurant. I have been there recently and I had a generous portion of house made ravioli that was $12.

          2. Maybe this is a long shot, but maybe it's worth a try. I'd call Zoya (the crow's nest would delight the kids!) and request a reservation for 11 - that should fill the small space.


            The location is perfect for one-stop parking near the Opera House. Food is a delight. Service is warm-hearted and gracious.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cynsa

              I did strongly consider Zoya, but their dinner service starts at 5:30pm as stated on their website. But now you have me curious about this crow's nest...

              1. re: Carb Lover

                Chat with Tracey about the time and menu for the children - perhaps there's a way to accommodate the evening (pre-order from the menu/shared small plates?). A light dinner in one hour? The children will be so excited about the ballet - they won't need to linger long over food. Doesn't hurt just to ask, does it?
                -The location is so perfect...it's an easy walk to the Nutcracker performance - even with a 7 pm curtain.

            2. Thanks to everyone for their input, particularly Melanie and chaddict who suggested Il Borgo. We had reservations for 5pm (when the place opens). Y and I lucked out w/ a primo parking spot about 50 ft. from the front door.

              We proceeded to wait for our group to arrive, and w/ two families w/ kids on a Fri. night, punctuality was an issue. We got to talking w/ the gray-haired gentleman who was waiting tables that night to relieve the female owner, and he seemed very relaxed and understanding about their delay. We didn't feel too guilty given that the place was completely empty til about 5:30.

              It ended up being 5 adults and 5 kids w/ varying appetites so we ordered the following and nibbled at each in family style:
              insalata mista
              pizza margherita
              pizza w/ sausage & mushrooms
              fetuccine w/ bolognese
              lobster ravioli
              bottle of pinot grigio
              lots of milk for the kiddies

              Overall, the food was very tasty and satisfying for kids and adults alike. As previous posts have noted, their handmade pastas are delightful. The lasagnetta and fettucine were my absolute favorites w/ the noodles being so silky and their respective sauces accenting the pasta so well w/o overpowering. Portions were generous. The lobster ravioli was a relative weakness since I found the pasta sheets to be on the thick side and the filling and sauce to be salty and not as delicate as I would have liked.

              The pizzas were solid renditions, but if I were really in the mood for pizza, I'd probably try some of the other notable places in SF like Delfina and A16 first. IB's versions were still enjoyable though.

              The service was good, and I commend our server for being patient w/ the kids and our group. I told him that we were going to the Nutcracker, so pacing worked out well and we left around 6:30 to make the 7:00 curtain. The walk there was very pleasant and only took about 10-15 min. Kudos to the efficiency at the Opera House since we got through the doors and found our seats quickly.

              I would highly recommend Il Borgo for pre-theater dining. I don't think I'd take a group of 5 kids there again though since the place is small, and I felt self-conscious and embarrassed when the kids were restless. If your kids can sit and use their "inside" voice, then no problem. We plan to get season tickets to the ballet and look forward to returning to Il Borgo for future meals and to eat our way through the pasta menu.

              Walking back to the car around 9:30pm, some of the restaurants (Absinthe, Cafe delle Stelle, Citizen Cake) looked so festive and fun inside. Saw a couple tiny, tiny places w/ no obvious names that looked intriguing too...

              No food photos this time due to the group context and the extremely dim lighting at IB, but here's a shot inside the Opera House:

              1 Reply
              1. re: Carb Lover

                A brief update to report that one year later, our group of 8 adults and 3 kids returned to Il Borgo for a post-Nutcracker dinner on the night after Christmas. We were hoping to try something different like Suppenkuche to further explore Hayes Valley eateries, but they couldn't guarantee a reservation whereas Il Borgo was able to give us a 9:30pm seating.

                The menu looked very similar to one year ago, although I noticed a few veal dishes that looked good. We ordered an assortment of pizza, salad, antipasto, and pasta--very similar to last year. We did try the veal marsala w/ mushrooms and roasted veggies. Everything was amazingly consistent and tasty one year later. The pizza was better than I remembered, as the crust had that perfect crunch at the bottom while the cheese remained creamy. The veal was absolutely delicious and tender w/ a well-balanced wine sauce--my favorite dish at the table. While I have a weakness for their housemade pastas, my only complaint is that the sauces can be overly salty.

                The service was wonderful as before. The proprietress exuded warmth, charm, and professionalism and was very welcoming of the kids. After a couple of two tops cleared out, we were the only ones in the small eatery and it felt like we were in their home enjoying a home-cooked meal and getting to know them. The chef (I assume her husband?) was slaving away in the kitchen and waved to us from a distance. Hard-working and genuine people who deserve to do well...

                Il Borgo
                500 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102