Is Cliff House worth it for me...a tourist?
Go there for drinks, and to soak up the ambience, and look at the seals on the rocks, and the seafog over the beach. Dress warm, and chuckle at the tourists (and natives) in shorts with their knees turning blue. Take a walk across the road to see the foundations of the old bath house. After 29 years, we still go 2-3 times a year.
I've never met, or heard of, anyone who ever ate anything at the Cliff House. There was a pretty servicable brewpub with acceptable food, a few blocks south at the entrance to Golden Gate Park. Anybody on here know if it's still working?
The one time I ate at the Cliff House I was horribly dissapointed, especially for the price I paid. For an almost equally nice view but with really great food, I would suggest going down the street (on the Great Highway) to the Beach Chalet. Make a reservation to sit by the window and I think you'll be very pleased.
The Cliff House is completely different since it's been rebuilt. It has a fancy restaurant and a lounge-type place. I ate at the "fancy" place last week, had black and white sesame crusted rare ahi on various vegetables. The food was well prepared and presented, a little heavy on the sesame, but completely different from the "old" Cliff House (where I would only go for drinks too.) The room is very nice (it's amazing what millions of tax dollars can do), and the wine list not bad either. All in all, a positive and pleasant dining experience - even though we sat near the bar, not having a requisite reservation.
I grew up in Waterbury.
I've eaten in all three restaurants at the Cliff House since it reopened last year. Although I've written some pretty scathing posts recently, I'm going to agree with Farmerfill.
The problem, to me, with the Cliff House is that it is in a city filled with restaurants that are tops in the U.S. and it suffers in comparison.
As a local, will I throw tons of money to eat there again when my restaurant dollars are better used for one of the more exciting San Francisco eatieries? No.
However, as Farmerfill said, the food is not swill either.
Looking at your original post, you said "I am not to expect spectacular food but as long as it's decent I don't really mind."
Based on that, I'd say the Cliff House would do it for you. Based on the fact that I'm a Connecticut native, I would say that the dining room (Sutro) is much better than most of what you will find in my home state.
I think breakfast in Connecticut is probably better. However, out of the three Cliff House restaurants, if I ever do go back, it would most likely be the Bistro for breakfast or a sandwich. The eggs were overdone, the prices high, the service uneven. But the crab, homefries and coffee were good and you get those faboulous popovers (almost as good as the Yankee Clipper, if it still exists, in CT).
But despite all my good will here, NEVER, NEVER eat brunch there. Worst view in the building and one of the most incompetant brunches I have ever had ... anywhere, in any state.
I think that the view is better in the Bistro as opposed to the Sutro because it is on the second floor.
If you just do go for drinks, the cocktail area across from the Bistro has a table in the very corner with one of the best views in SF.
And ... without the view, there is NO way I'd ever consider saying anything nice about these places. So don't go after dark or if you are fogged in.
Here are links to my previous visits:
Brunch - Turkey with Strawberry Jam
Here's a review by a local food critic
The thing with the Cliff House is that it copycats the menus of top restuarants, but is a little short with attention to detail.
If you do decide to eat there, hope you will post back and tell us what you think. If someone out of the area thinks it is good, then I might recommend it occassional on the board given criteria like yours.
Here's the link to their website with the menus.
JUST DONT DO BRUNCH !!!
We ate at the "Bistro" last week and it has gone downhill and is now on par with Beach Chalet. That would be big portions of sub-par food. When we asked about the menu changes the waitress mumbled about they were trying new things and there were no specials, huh?? But prior to dinner we sat at the big window overlooking the ocean and had drinks and appetizers which was quite nice. The cocktail waitress did give me a hassle about my ice tea order and how she would have to trek all the way over to the kitchen to get it, boo hoo hoo I mean get a grip this is your JOB! And it is not all that far, geeze. I'd opt again for the bar over either of the dining rooms again. The view is fantastic, but please wash the windows more often.