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Need birthday dinner suggestions in SF

My partner and I will be celebrating my birthday in San Francisco this year, and she's offered me dinner at the restaurant of my choice, price not being an object.

Neither of us have ever been to SF, and I'm finding the list of possible candidates a bit overwhelming. So I turn to my fellow CHs for help and suggestions. To set some criteria:

* We're staying in Japantown, and we won't have a car, so the restaurant would have to be within easy walking distance or a reasonable taxi ride.

* We're both carnivores with a love for good steak and seafood.

* She is not an overly adventurous eater, so definitely not looking for a 'cutting edge' sort of place.

* Open to just about any ethnic style, aside from Mexican. We love Japanese, but sushi/sashimi isn't high on our list of favorites.

* It probably goes without saying, but the quality of service is just as important as the quality of the food. Inattentive service staff really can ruin the most perfect of meals....

Also, my birthday is on St. Patrick's Day, but neither of us are much for the whole 'party' atmosphere, so I'd like the place we go to be relatively devoid of that sort of crowd, ie, not someplace that will have a huge, rowdy party going on.

Is all of that asking too much? Probably, but I'm hoping someone out there might have a good suggestion.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I have a couple of favorite places in San Francisco.... Zuni Cafe and Moose's. Neither is particularly romantic, but the food is great, and both are always a great evening.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChefJune

      Zuni was one place I've been eyeing as a possible candidate. We may actually check it out, as we'll be in town for an entire week, and have determined that we won't eat at the same place twice, wanting to try as many great restaurants as possible.

    2. I second Zuni ... good SF vibe and great roast chicken for two. Boulevard also has lots of fans for its roasted meats.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        Boulevard is where we finally decided to go, after she turned her nose up at every other menu I offered her. Sometimes it's hard to be with someone who wants to be a foodie but has so many food issues....

      2. Kiss Seafood- in Pacific Heights very close to Japantown. Beautifully prepared seafood and other Japanese dishes without having to have sushi. They offer a Omakase tasting menu
        You can search here lot's of discussions and favorable to most people.

        Quince- I like this place was here for my SO b-day dinner. Nice atmosphere, Pacific Heights neighborhood and the menu changes all the time. Here is a link so you can take a look-

        Keep in mind SF is a small city so a cab ride is pretty short almost anywhere-

        Coi- would be another suggestion, creative menu, beautiful interior-

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lori SF

          I've heard good things about Kiss, and may have to make a stop there, even if I do so on my own. I'm a sushi novice, but my partner won't even consider the idea of raw fish. She's such an odd contraditon, really. Claims she's a foodie, but turns her nose up at anything the least bit unfamiliar. Showing her all these menus was an exercise in frustration. I actually suggested McDonalds at one point....

          1. re: DarkRose

            perhaps Myth, really nice food and atmosphere.

            I love Zuni and have been going since they opened, it can be so so at times.

            Boulevard is a good choice as well.

            We are keeping our fingers crossed for you!!!!! Let us know where you end up and how it went.

        2. you won't be far from 2 pretty good steak houses, the house of prime rib and harris. Service at house of prime rib is very very good, as i recall

          2 Replies
          1. re: chuckl

            Silly question, but do they serve anything other than prime rib at HoPR? I LOVE good prime rib, my partner doesn't. Another place I'd love to check out while we're in town, though.

            The reviews I've read of Harris' have been mixed, so I shyed away from giving it a go.

            1. re: DarkRose

              Don't go to House of Prime Rib with anyone who's not into eating prime rib.

          2. Since it is 3/17, you may want to look at O'Reilley's Holy Grail on Polk Street...I had an AMAZING pork shank last time. They have many small plates as well. Although on St. Paddy's day I'm sure they will be doing something special.

            The other place I just found is Terzo...a small (romantic) Mediterranean small plates restaurant with a great wine list. Just on the other side of Pac Heights from Japantown. http://www.terzosf.com/

            7 Replies
            1. re: bigdrunkmic

              I would imagine that O'Reilly's would be quite rowdy on St Patricks day which the OP wanted to avoid. Terzo sounds nice. What did you have there?

              Chowhound reports on Terzo

              1. re: rworange

                Holy Grail will be more full, you are correct, but they also might have a nice prix fix menu for that night which I just might look into...
                At Terzo we just had several small plates. I was with a veggie so we had a lot of cheese plates and the hummus, which was yum! The menu changes daily so I couldn't find what I had on their site.

                1. re: bigdrunkmic

                  I just don't get going to Holy Grail for a special occasion such as a birthday and there are so many other wonderful, far better choices. I had brunch there once and found it kinda depressing and the food was not that good.

                  1. re: Lori SF

                    I've only been for dinner...I could see how brunch would be a bit dark.

                    1. re: bigdrunkmic

                      Yeah, it depends on the time of day. When it is empty ... with all those stained glass memorial church windows in can make you meloncholie. I would guess that on St Patrick's day that wouldn't be a problem.

                      I do agreen with you though, bigdrunkmic, that pork shank is really great and the best dish I've tried there. O'Reilly's gets quite a few enthusiastic brunch reports. Hope they are not going down hill brunch-wise.

                  2. re: bigdrunkmic

                    Holy Grail, like any Irish place, will be a drunken zoo on St. Patrick's.

                2. re: bigdrunkmic

                  Holy Grail was one of the places I was interested in checking out, but definitely want to keep clear of on St Patrick's day, even though they do look like they're offering a good prix fixe. If it was "just" St. Pat's, I'd say it'd be great, but not quite what I'm looking for in a romantic birthday dinner.

                3. You could easily walk to Quince from Japantown. The atmosphere is quiet and should be on St. Patrick's Day as well. I love Zuni and have gone there for my bday a couple of times, but I don't think of it as particularly romantic - much livelier crowd than Quince. I'd also toss in Nopa and Aziza as choices for you to consider. Zuni is an institution, Nopa is relatively new but the food is great. All 4 have webpages you can check out. Enjoy your visit!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dinnerout

                    I had bookmarked Aziza as a place to check out, though my partner turned her nose up at the menu. Some day, I swear I'll come back to SF and check out all of these places that look great to me, and less than to her >_< And thank you, I certainly hope we'll enjoy the city! Looking forward to doing some touristy things... and not so touristy as wel.

                  2. I'm going to second Boulevard and House of Prime Rib. Wasn't impressed with Harris'. Hear good things about Alfred's steakhouse as well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: asciiwar

                      After all the good reviews I've seen elsewhere and the reccs here, we were able to settle on Boulevard. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it lives up to all my fellow Hounds reviews :)

                    2. also within walking distance is Cafe Kati, which is lovely, and in lower pac heights near where you'll be. i'm one of the people here who thinks Zuni is astonishingly overrated, for what its worth. But Boulevard is amazing!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sfoperalover

                        The statement on the menu at Cafe Kati that cash is preferred put my partner off. Honestly, I think she was, at that point, looking for an excuse other than there not being anything on the menu she liked to reject a place.

                      2. Price no object, birthday, romantic, love meat and seafood, Boulevard would be great. Definitely an only-in-SF place.

                        Steak's not something to order on a visit to SF. Lots of other places do it as well or better.

                        1. Quince is the most romantic of the places mentioned. And, the food is great.