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NY hound seeking great solo meal

  • m

i'm in town for work and think i might be able to manage wednesday night dinner by myself (sans colleagues or clients). i'm looking for somewhere with interesting, inventive food where i can dine by myself - ideally at the bar, but i would take a solo table if that's how it ends up.

i haven't been to a ton of places in SF but have covered everywhere in the Ferry Building, zuni, town hall, delfina, range and perbacco.

a tasting menu would be great but is not necessary.

i'm staying at the Fairmont and (as a new yorker) would love to be able to walk to the restaurant. but it's not necessary.

thanks all.

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  1. You could walk to The Dining Room at the Ritz which has a spectacular tasting menu ... a few of them including a salt tasting menu. $$$$ ... Great ... great ... wine pairings. Let them do it. I have only had one better pairing in France.

    1. Canteen would be perfect. It's walking distance and uniquely SF. There's already a counter and you can watch the young and talented Leary cook up a storm. No wine pairing but do a search and you'll see a very positive consensus. The homemade dinner brioche rolls are amazing and yes, you can ask for seconds. Make reservations early.

      1. Masa has a by-request 13 course tasting menu which is phenomenal. It is an upscale dining room, so no bar seating.

        1. I second Canteen. It was my first thought when I read your post. It's an easy walk from your hotel and is great for solo dining at the counter. They do not have a tasting menu but the food is inventive and very personal. It's midpriced. My husband has taken several of his NYC clients there for dinner (they tend to stay at your hotel) and they have loved it.

          Masa and the Ritz are high end and do have tasting menus, but I don't think they say "San Francisco" the way Canteen does. They are both very high quality restaurants but not unique to SF -- you could have a very similar dining experience in NYC.

          11 Replies
          1. re: farmersdaughter

            Canteen seems like a good suggestion, but I have one comment about The Ritz. I don't think you can get that anywhere else. Ron Siegel is at the Farmers markets getting the best of the best produce and then coaxes even more greatness out of the great.

            1. re: rworange

              Daniel Humm is in NYC now doing the same thing. Per Se is another. Jean-Georges is asian-french fusion like Siegel but a little more refined. The Salt and Pepper Tasting is unique but the rest of the menu...not so much.

              The OP may have difficulty getting into Canteen for dinner if (s)he is already in town in which case, the Salt and Pepper Tasting at the Dining Room would be a good rec.

              1. re: Porthos

                I bow to your expertise in high-end dining which I don't indulge in often. However, I was talking more about the quality of the ingredients rather than the creativity of the presentation. As fine as restaurants may be in NY ... and I realize the French Laundry Connection with Per Se ... it is still shlepping veggies accross country and that somehow to me always loses something in the translation. I can eat equisite food in the USA imported from France, for example. The top chefs can prepare it. It has never been as good as at the source.

                1. re: rworange

                  I was thinking more of the style of the presentation than the actual ingredients themselves and that the style at Masa and the Ritz are something that can be found in NYC. I am not an expert in NYC dining but I believe there are restaurants there using locally available ingredients (however, there are probably a dearth of them this time of year). I have eaten at the Ritz and found it to be very good but I wasn't "wowed" as much as I wanted to be, especially in comparison to a place like Manresa which I can't praise highly enough.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Market driven cooking and using local ingredients is in general a good restaurant practice and contrary to popular belief, NYC has access to great produce from New Jersey, ramps from the Catskills, Hudson Valley foie gras, etc. There are plenty of local/small farmers in the area and while the Union Square Greenmarket is nowhere as impressive as The Ferry Building, chefs use it and also lay claim to the best ingredients from those local farmers.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      This time of year, there's a considerably wider variety of local produce in San Francisco, where it's currently 60 degrees, than in New York, where it's 24.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        It's definitely true that the farm-to-table practice has taken off in NYC, as well (see, e.g., Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns). But as Robert notes, the pickings are much leaner in the winter, and less varied and more expensive the rest of the year. It's less of an issue in the high end establishments -- you notice it more in the mid-to-low-end places, esp. ethnic food.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Local produce currently on local menus:

                          green garlic
                          stinging nettles
                          lacinato kale
                          brussels sprouts
                          savoy cabbage
                          winter lettuce
                          spring onions
                          celery root
                          golden beets
                          blood oranges
                          Meyer lemon
                          ruby grapefruit

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Which is another way of saying, lots of bitter greens and roots. And this has been a terrible year for citrus. The fresh sping onions and green garlic have been exciting, though.

                            I'm all for farm to table dining, but the produce this time of year is not going to wow an out of towner in the same way as, say, Chez Panisse in late July.

                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              The rapini and Meyer lemon salad I had at Incanto the other night was exciting. Never occurred to me to eat broccoli raab leaves raw.

                              The Knoll Farms cardoon dishes Oliveto serves this time of year are practically worth the trip from New York.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Don't get me wrong, I go crazy for cardoons as well. Had a cardoon salad at Chez upstairs last year that I'm still thinking about. It's just a certain type of hound that gets all hot and bothered when thinking about chicories and nettles.

              2. When I am dining alone I do not care for formal dining. I have had GREAT solo meals at the counters facing the kitchen at both Rose Pisola and A16.

                Just a thought.

                1 Reply
                1. re: drcuisine

                  I have to agree that a tasting menu isn't all that much fun sitting by yourself.

                  Canteen's a good thought--or any small dining room. I'd also recommend sitting at the bar at Incanto if you like unusual meats and Italian wine.

                2. The lounge at Coi but I doubt you'll be walking there. It's pretty darn creative.


                  1. I'd go to Bar Tartine. The bar's pretty big, so it would be easy to get a spot for one person, and it's the consummate SF restaurant in my book. I can't think of an equivalent restaurant in NYC off the top of my head... maybe if you crossed Lupa with Craftbar (refined peasant food of mostly Western European origin, in a boisterous intimate setting). It's an easy enough BART ride to 16th Street.

                    If you really want a tasting menu, eaten at a bar, within walking distance, you could consider Michael Mina... I wasn't blown away by my dinner there, but I'm starting to wonder if I ordered poorly (hint: no point in getting the braised pork belly sextet, they all taste the same) and I'm thinking about giving it another chance. Also, I hear they have a chicken fried in bacon fat.

                    Finally, I'd consider Boulevard. While the main dining room feels big and corporate, the seating area for the bar (actually a cluster of small, 1-2 person tables off to the side, which would be GREAT for solo dining) has a much cozier feel. I'd make my own tasting menu from a couple of appetizers, plus dessert.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: daveena

                      Totally agree with Bar Tartine. It's not really walkable from the OP's hotel but like you said, it's a short ride away. It's distincitve from what you could find in NYC, refreshing and comforting all at once, and the bread is excellent. I'm also a fan of their wines by the glass.

                      As for Mina, I don't think you ordered wrong. I felt the same way you did. Same gig, different sauce. Add the kobe beef series to the list of things that didn't wow or that should be filed under "ordered poorly". The dungeness crab ravilolis with 3 different soups was the only memorable set of the evening.

                      Bar Tartine wins by miles in my book.

                      1. re: daveena

                        Boulevard also has a counter -- the only problem is that it's hard to decide what to order when you see several delicious dishes being made in front of you.

                      2. Third the recommendation for Canteen - very SF experience! :-)

                        1. thanks to everybody for your suggestions. canteen sounds perfect. alas, it was fully committed on my last night in town. i'll be back in the next few weeks and will plan better!