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san francisco foodie wannabe...

My friend and I are coming to San Francisco in early February. Not familiar with the San Francisco food scene we would like some recommendations.

-We tried to make a reservation at Chez Panisse (downstairs) and were unsuccessful and received a fair amount of attitude. We were looking forward to trying their food...Is the cafe worth trying? Lunch or Dinner?

- We were interested in trying the gems the locals know about and are not too interested in the tourist route. Anything and everything from budget to gourmet delicacies...

- We also looked up the 'slow food' restaurants and found a few that seemed quite good - but it is hard to tell online from websites alone.

Looking forward to your recommendations!

yoyo and tubbs

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  1. If you didn't make a reservation at Chez Panisse in time (weeknights don't book up as fast as weekends, and are cheaper), go to Oliveto. The other top "slow food" restaurants in my book are Zuni, Oliveto, and Pizzaiolo.

    There are several hundred gems, no exaggeration. Read through the archive (too bad search is currently broken), come up with a list, and ask for feedback. Helps to mention where you're coming from and if you'll have a car.

    1. The cafe at chez is nice, and in my opinion a better value as you get to choose anything to eat that you like. the downstairs is formal, and a bit stuffy, from what i have heard.

      i would definetly check out pizzaiolo, on 51st at telegraph. wonderful california italian food, great atmosphere, nothing snotty about it. new pastry chef that is amazing. also, bakesale betty, a local neighbor to pizzaiolo is open till 7 and they have great cookies, scones, and fried chicken sandi's

      3 Replies
      1. re: Doodleboomer

        51st at Telegraph in OAKLAND (remember, this poster and others aren't familiar with the Bay Area).

        1. re: Doodleboomer

          It's not stuffy a bit. The room is gorgeous, the food is terrific, and the wait staff is beyond helpful. One example: The waiter noticed I had cleaned my plate (roast pork) and asked if I would like a second helping. Of course I said, "Yes!" A few minutes later the chef came to the table with my second helping and said, "I heard you liked this." Is that stuffy?

          1. re: Michael Rodriguez

            That pretty much matches my experience.

            Sometimes a lot of customers are wearing suits and whatnot as if they were in a stuffy French place in some other city. Mondays it's mostly schlubby Berkeley types.

        2. I too love Chowhound, (at least I did in the old format), but it's best with specific questions. For large topics such as "where to eat in San Francisco", the format breaks down. Go pick up a copy (or go to Amazon) of Patricia Unterman's Food Lover's Guide to San Francisco. It is not only the best guide to SF restaurants, it's the best city restaurant guide in the country. Large. Comprehensive. Well-written. It's categorized by neighborhood, with indexes by cuisine, price, etc. Armed with this book, you'll be able to dine like a well-informed local.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jimctgc

            That is the best book for the area, though she's sometimes unreliable where chiles are concerned.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Could you be more specific? I'm wondering what you meant by "she's sometimes unreliable where chiles are concerned"?

              Thanks!

              1. re: chemchef

                She's not a reliable informant as to whether e.g. Thai places use an appropriate level of hot pepper. If you prefer food that's traditionally very spicy to be toned down, that's not necessarily a problem.

            2. re: jimctgc

              I agree! That book is invaluable. Not only that, her descriptions make you want to rush right over to whatever restaurant you're reading about IMMEDIATELY! At least it did for me. I have lived here for two years now, and still refer back to that book often.

            3. I have only ever been to the Chez Panisse cafe, but I have been there many times. I've thoroughly enjoyed it every time and you can usually get into the cafe easier than the restaurant. Its also nice that you can choose from a menu.

              1. Thanks for the replies, we'll look into the book.

                -Which of these would be indispensible of a food/chef tour of SF: Aziza, Aqua Restaurant, Micheal Mina, Gary Danko, MIcheal Tusk, Ame Restaruant?

                -What do you think about Kiss Seafood for sushi?

                -Is Cafe Zoetrope worth the trip?

                -Looking for a place that showcases wines from the region, instead of having to go directly to the source.

                -Burritos?? anyone?

                5 Replies
                1. re: yoyo and tubbs

                  Aziza is the most unique.

                  Aqua, Michael Mina, and Gary Danko are international-style restaurants like those you might find in Las Vegas (where I think all three chefs have or have had places) or any cosmopolitan city.

                  Of the local Cal-Italian places, why Quince (Michael Tusk) rather than Incanto or Oliveto?

                  1. re: yoyo and tubbs

                    Aziza, no question. Definitely also Incanto (or Perbacco) over Quince.

                    Never heard of Zoetrope.

                    Is your wine question limited to restaurants, or are you open to wine bars, too?

                    Do a search for burritos - that topic is beaten to death on here. Some favorites: Taqueria San Jose, Taqueria San Francisco, Taqueria Cancun, Mi Castillito (certain locations).

                    1. re: Maya

                      Zoetrope probably refers to Cafe Niebaum-Coppola (I think they renamed it recently). Reviews are all over the map, but I feel good about going there because FFC is a mensch. Try the calzone, if they still make it.

                      1. re: Gary Soup

                        The San Francisco branch is now Cafe Zoetrope, the Palo Alto branch is now Cafe Rosso & Bianco.

                        http://www.cafecoppola.com

                    2. re: yoyo and tubbs

                      Depending on your budget and what you want to see

                      I highly suggest driving across the bridge (Golden Gate) to Sausalito and trying Sushi Ran. Guide Michelin starred.

                      Thep Phanom Restaurant - Thai (some of the best 'authentic' cuisine I've enjoyed)

                      Globe (late night dessert, or bistro dinner earlier)

                      A16 (Italian, great wine list)

                      Thai Budhist Temple (Berkeley - on Sunday from about 1030am until the food runs out - this is a popular spot for locals and the UC Berkeley crowd). The food is sold in hawker stall fashion every Sunday as a fund raiser for the temple. Cuisine is prepared by church members and the temple priests. The recipes are from the Thai families. If you are lucky you may be there on a day they are practicing music or dance, or even giving a performance - no extra charge. From noodle bowls, tea/coffee, and sweet riced with mango and everything in between. Great for vegetarians as well. This is really a good experience for CH'ers!