Suggestions for a London hound in town for a week...
My wife and myself are going to San Francisco for a week in the middle of February, I realise this is a popular request, and I have searched old posts and found them really useful, but I'd appreciate any up to date recommendations for places for Breakfast, Dinner, and other essential nibbles during the day...!
I'm pretty fluid about money, if somewhere's really good I'm happy to pay for it, likewise I'm always interested in the cheapest fantastic street food.
This is our first time in SF, but if it helps at all we've been to New York a number of times and have enjoyed Les Halles, Ouest, Cesca, Blue Smoke, Strip House, Bread, Home and Balthazar...
I'd really appreciate a selection of places that gives us a true taste of the city, Seafood, Italian, Chinese, American...etc.
Thanks very much in advance. Matt.
This question is probably asked once a day here. In particular, you can find very recent threads on breakfast, dinner, tips for first-time visitors, quintessential SF places, etc. It's much easier to answer specific questions about certain places you're considering (since you said you had scanned the board first) and you'll get more responses.
I think a must for any London visitor is lunch at Sam's Grill on Bush St...order the sand dabs. Not a fancy place, but better than the Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall (for comparison). Tadich on California St is also very good for plain seafood. Take advantage of dim sum in Chinatown.
So are you going to be just touring around, or are you here for work or an event? Will you have a car some of the time?
I ask, because there's a lot of good chow (and good chow experiences) outside SF proper. If I was just touring around, I'd definitely head out to the wine country. Napa County is very touristy, but has a high density of chow targets (wineries, markets, restaurants); Sonoma County is much more laid back and spread out. In February at a lot of Sonoma wineries you'll find the actual vintners manning the tasting rooms and eager to talk to you. The town of Sonoma is lovely, with an old town square and the last Spanish mission.
If you really want a street food experience unlike anything you'll find in England, I suggest you BART over to Oakland's Fruitvale district (by the BART station by that name) and check out the many Mexican street vendors and taco trucks in that area. If you do a search for "fruitvale taco trek" you'll get lots of discussions with recommended stops and itineraries.
I think anyone who is really interested in food should eat at Chez Panisse, birthplace of California cuisine and still holding its own. The set menu at the main restaurant ("downstairs") gets progressively more expensive from Monday, so you can choose your level of investment. Although I have to say that you'll find restaurants to be amazingly cheap by British standards, and I believe even less expensive than comparable restaurants in NY.
I'm continually amazed that Chinatown is not the tourist trap I thought it was. Yes, parts of it are touristy, but it's still the heart of the Chinese community. For the "real deal" check out the markets and prepared food places on Stockton Street, although there are a few good places on the more touristy Grant Street as well. I suggest Great Eastern or R&G Lounge for a Dungeness crab (our local seafood star).
In the ongoing Tadich/Sam's debate, I come down on the Tadich side: sanddabs (a small, local, sole-type fish, very sweet and delicate) are the only thing worth ordering at Sam's, but Tadich is also known for its cioppino (seafood stew).
A couple of other unique to SF restaurants I like are Aziza (California-influence Moroccan) and Piperade (upscale Basque). Oh, and you should definitely eat some Vietnamese food: skip the highly touted Slanted Door and try Bodega Bitro instead (note that it's not the greatest neighborhood). Somewhere along the line you should also pick up a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) or two. Incredibly cheap and delicious.
Dottie's True Blue Cafe (on Jones St. between Geary and Ofarrell Streets) is a must try for breakfast or brunch on the weekend. I have not been during the week, but every time I've been there on the weekend, the wait has been over an hour. The food is worth the wait. Frascati (Hyde St. at Green St.) and Tablespoon (Polk St. between Vallejo and Green Streets) are two great neighborhood restaurants if you happen to be staying in the area; both are in Russian Hill. The service and food (everything from appetizer to dessert) are excellent for reasonable prices. Both restaurants have excellent wine lists. Every time we've been to Tablespoon, there are new wines on the list. The staff is also very knowledgeable about the wines.