Visiting San Fran for 1st time
Agree on Luella - I'd also add Isa to your list - it is in the Marina, but you can get there via bus or cab. I know Luella is on Open Table and I think Isa is also. We recently had a really good dinner at Nopa - went without a res so we had to eat at the bar, but the benefit of that is chatting it up with the staff and meeting the chef!
I like Range (California comfort food, great cocktails, hip crowd) in the Mission District, and I've always enjoyed Frascati, a comfy Nob Hill neighborhood place with great lamb, duck, and pasta dishes.
I also highly recommend Delfina, but as others have mentioned, it can be tough to score a reservation there.
Enjoy your trip!
re: Steve Green
Why Chowhound is great... some great suggestions... applaus to:
whiner... nice addition of A16, unique and killer chow. try to book on open table and be prepared to take an early table... or go for lunch...place is very small.
steve green... both excellent ideas for SF character.
Mid-price restaurants I really like that are a true SF experience:
Slanted Door (this is where I always take out-of-towners)
NoPa (but LOUD, especially downstairs)
Town Hall (some say have gone downhill in past year, though)
Delfina (Good luck getting in)
Myth (see above)
A16 (see above)
Bong Su (but this overlaps with Slanted Door and I'd go to SD first)
Range (I heard it through the grapevine)
Scott Howard (see above)
Other mid-priced restaurants that aren't super SF-y but are still worth considering:
l'Osteria del Forno (one of the best values in SF)
The grapevine ones are on my 'to do' list that seem to be getting uniformly positive remarks from my friends.
Please do not go to the House of Nanking...apologies to anyone who likes it but the food is crap...along with surly service....check out the many many many posts...a 'favorite' only with uninformed tourists....
You can do much better - I'd eat in the local's Chinatown...the Richmond district.
Try Nopa! It's a fairly new restaurant in the Western Addition neighborhood. It gives you a good feel of casual, yet inspired San Francisco dining and nightlife. They serve California Mediteranean cuisine (excellent wood fired oven) and has a nice bar scene. It would be about a ten minute cab ride from the Nikko, but it'll be refreshing to get out of the Downtown bustle. You can also walk down the street to Madrone Lounge, a nice neighborhood bar.
Gary Danko is just ok imho, but this is not a mid priced rest, so beware...
I always hit SLANTED DOOR in the ferry bldg. (ok, the orig place was great, its more touristy now, but let me tell you... there's a lot of stuff they're actually doing better now. Killer ambiance, food still awesome... so fresh. Gets slammed a lot on the board, but unjustified)... its one of the great places in town.
Want a mid priced place near u in Union Sq. Go to Kuleto's for good Italian food. Solid for years now, good ambiance, close by. Usually do a great duck dish, pastas are fine. They do a nice breakfast too.
Postrio (a wolfgang puck partnership) in the prescott hotel is excellent. Can eat in the cafe (cheaper) or the dining room. Also a place with more elaborate KILLER breakfast in a beautiful room. Kuleto's bkfst is simpler and less $
Have to agree with many others here that Slanted Door, while being a gorgeous space with gorgeous views, lacks somewhat in the food department. There's a wide-spread, IMO well-deserved, impression that it caters to a crowd primarily interested in "experience dining" and willing to pay higher prices to avoid eating in dingier, more authentically "Vietnamese" restaurants. I found the food over-priced and underwhelming. Nice space, though.
Hotel Nikko is located right near Union Square, so you are potentially within walking distance of many places and neighborhoods. You are also very close to dozens of buses, muni and BART so you can probably get around pretty easily. Look for threads about Union Square, there have been several in the past few months. But if you can, get out of Union Square and explore some other neighbrohoods.
Here's one link I found from a few months ago, someone was asking about where to eat when visiting SF:
In general, you'll get more responses if you are more specific. What type of food are you looking for? How far are you willing to travel? If you use the search feature of the site, you'll be able to find out a lot about the 'don't miss' places...then you can ask specific follow up questions. I have never been here in February, but I (like many chowhounds) always send visitors to the Ferry Building on Saturdays. I assume it's still a good place to go, even in February. So that's a start. Also, I haven't been there, but the restaurant that is currently at the very top of my list to try is Aziza. If that's in your price range, it sounds like it'd be worth a trip.