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Best SF chowhound neighborhood?

We would greatly appreciate help from you experts!

My wife, baby (1 yr) and I are going to SF for the first time. We will be on foot and want to stay in a safe area, with great walking range site-seeing, and most important, great cheap-eats area.

To give some of you a better idea of what atmosphere we love, our favorite trip is the Denman Street / Stanley Park neighborhood in Vancouver Canada for all these same reasons!

We are considering staying in 3 different neighborhoods but don't know which is best for this type of trip:

1) Union Square neighborhood (around were Powell and Stockton cross Sutter and Bush). Seems very central but maybe too much of a business/financial area??

2) North of Chinatown (were Columbus and Broadway cross). It doesn't seem too dense for a mainly foot trip???

3) Fisherman's Wharf (were Powell and Beach cross). I understand it may be too touristy???

Thanks!

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  1. The best cheap-eats areas in San Francisco are arguably the Mission (esp the stretches of Valencia and Mission between 16th & 24th and again around 29th & 30th streets) and the Inner Sunset along Irving. Of the two, the Mission is more transit-accessible. Though the Mission lacks hotels, one option between the Mission and the Castro is the Parker Guest House, which puts you in easy range of Tartine bakery, Delfina, Bi-Rite Creamery, everything near 16th & Valencia (Ti Couz, Sunflower, Truly Mediterranean). As for the Inner Sunset, it's much less central, and I'm not aware of hotels there.

    Among the 3 areas you mentioned, I'd vote for Union Square. Chinatown is close, as is the Tenderloin, and Union Sq itself has good cheap eats. It's also near lots of movies, some museums, and of course shopping. The Mission is an easy BART ride from Union Square where you can take advantage of everything there.

    1. The Mission's by far the best. Not much in the way of hotels or B&Bs there, but there are some vrbo.com listings for nearby Noe Valley. (Note that Mission Bay is nowhere near the Mission.)

      http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/...

      Here's a "where should a chowhound live" topic that might be useful:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      Fisherman's Wharf is about the worst place for a food lover to stay.

      Union Square's okay, though most of the great chowish places near by are in the Tenderloin, which is relatively unsafe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        The Mission is great for cheap eats, but fails the "site-seeing" requirement.

      2. Definitely Union Square, especially if you go around the holidays (awesome decorations and good cheer everywhere). You've got superb food and neighborhood sight-seeing in a few blocks of this central hub, with every other part of the city easily reachable via high concentrations of transit scheduling no more than a few blocks away. Basically, it's the closest thing to a central transportation hub the city offers.

        Easily accessible are:

        -Richmond District (plenty of great Asian food) and Golden Gate Park
        -North Beach (great food and views)
        -Chinatown (lots of fun, some darn good food here and there)
        -Financial District (great food, shopping and sightseeing)
        -Ferry Building (awesome food-lovers experience, great views)

        I could go on. The Mission has some great food, but it ain't high on scenery and views. You should visit it, though. Be sure to consider taking the kids across the Bay on a ferry ride to Sausalito. That would be a lasting memory for them.

        Avoid Fisherman's Warf. Tacky tacky tacky.

        11 Replies
        1. re: uptown jimmy

          The view from the top of Dolores park is pretty spectacular.

          1. re: misti

            Not a whole lotta food on Dolores, though. And there is an infant involved....

            1. re: uptown jimmy

              Not on Dolores true true, but it's a nice walk. my sis has two babies and we walked up that hill, but she is a bit of a health nut. But on 18th there's lots of food. Tartine, Delfina pizzaria--more appropriate for the lil' ones....I just think its worth the trip

              1. re: misti

                Oh definitely worth the trip. Get some tamales in the deep Mission for sure. And the view from the top of Dolores park is very nice.
                There's some great food in the Mission. I miss it.

                BTW, I recall a nice Shawarma shop on 16th; I wonder if it's still there...

                1. re: uptown jimmy

                  That's the previously mentioned Truly Mediterranean.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Riiiight. I used to work at Muddy Waters coffee house, and they appeared right before I left town. I think they were Jordanian friends of my Jordanian bosses at MW. Great folks, great food, great (strong!) coffee. Loved that shawarma. The eggplant was great. One of the many bargain bites in that area, and so tasty. I'm glad they're still humming along.

                    Oh, the memories.

                  2. re: uptown jimmy

                    I rarely recommend Mexican food in this town unless I know where the OP is from - if Boston, then yes, SF Mexican is an improvement, if from the LA, the Southwest, Texas, then don't bother.

                    In my experience, 99% of the tamales in this town suck or are so bland and boring they're not worth the calories.

                    1. re: larochelle

                      For great Mexican food, the best thing is to jump on BART and go to Oakland's Fruitvale district. A sunny weekend afternoon's the best, hundreds of Mexican families shopping and strolling.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I volunteer for a nonprofit near Fruitvale so I am familar with the area. Most of the places I've had been have been better than what I can find in SF but not "great". If you have any specific recommendations for places and signature dishes, I'm all ears.

                      2. re: larochelle

                        I agree, but I did have some pretty good tamales when we return-visited a few years back. We found them in a little Mexican grocery pretty deep in the Mission, at least around 20th or 24th on Mission. It's been a while, so forgive me. Very low-key place, very little English.

            2. Interesting query. When I first read your post I was thinking how the touristy places are generally the worst for good chow, so it would be very difficult to fit all of your criteria. But then I saw your North Beach option (Columbus at Broadway) and I think that fits your bill pretty good. It is a fantastic neighborhood to walk around (my favorite), lot’s of restaurants (many are touristy, but Chowhound should be able to steer you away from those) and things to do.

              I agree with the others that Mission has some great cheap food (as well as the Richmond District and the inner Sunset), but there really isn’t much to see on foot. At least at North Beach you would feel like you are in the middle of it all.

              1. Another vote for the North Beach option (Columbus at Broadway), with Union Square as #2. Lots of good resturants, close to Chinatown, and the most picturesque of the options. Are there tourist there? Yes. But you're on vacation! And it's not exclusively tourists as it would be at Fiserman's Warf.