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Hidden Gems in SFO? / Best Crab at "Regular Guy" Prices

LaserGecko Feb 14, 2007 09:12 PM

Hi everyone,

I've been trying to "digest" all of the different reviews and blurbs on the net about where we should eat on our upcoming four day SFO weekend, but I could sure use some personal advice from some actual human beans. :-) The online previews of Brokeass Stuart's guide have been very interesting (MUST find Virginia, the Tamale Lady!) and we'll probably pick up a copy when we're there.

That's the sort of thing we like to find.

We'll be staying at Fishermans' Wharf and doing the normal touristy things, but with four days to explore (and the public transportation pass, so no car) we ought to have a fair bit of time to seek out the good stuff. We like pretty much everything and do enjoy authenticity (until it gets to the pig uterus-like parts), even then, as long as my wife doesn't have to look at it, things should be OK.

Specifically, though...
CRAB: Very interesting reading about the true "crab season". We love dungeness crab and were planning on The Crab House since some friends loved it last year. Does anyone have a better idea at about those prices?

DIM SUM: "Clean bathrooms", that's hysterical. Any authentic, but not too authentic joints that are easily accessible by tourist?

If you have any other suggestions, we'd sure appreciate it.

Thanks in advance,

I'll pay it forward with a couple of Las Vegas recommendations, if you're ever in our neck of the woods:

Buzz BBQ
7810 W. Ann Rd. #130
Las Vegas NV 89130
Phone: 702-294-2899

This is the only Q restaurant in this town that has ever met (and surpassed, I hate to admit) the Q that I cook in the Kamados in my backyard. I'm a Q purist (and proud of it). Anyone who knows me, knows that this is not something I would ever say lightly.

Los Antojos
Southeast corner of Sahara and Eastern

This is the place where five star chef Alessandro Stratta goes for Mexico City style tacos. Freaking amazing. Shockingly good. The clientele will show you that it's authentic and it's good. They even serve Mexican Pepsi in bottles. Very friendly to Gringos, too. Carnitas tacos are out of this world.

  1. larochelle Feb 15, 2007 06:14 AM

    Kan's on Grant in Chinatown is my dim sum recommendation. Its good dim sum and very good ambiance.

    1. g
      gordon wing Feb 15, 2007 07:46 AM

      Here's a link to a Chow Lunch at Dol Ho in SF Chinatown - it qualifies as a hole in the wall place .... especially good is the steamed spare ribs over rice. Quite inexpensive. $5-8 per person? A real locals place with better than average dim sum and a low key atmosphere.
      For a big city / glitzy experience in Chinatown - maybe Gold Mountain on Broadway .... although Kan's has that old time Chinatown feel with a more upscale feel.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gordon wing
        gordon wing Feb 15, 2007 03:59 PM

        just saw that there was a not so good report above on the dim sum at Gold Mountain - there had been some decent dinner reports so I was hoping for some carryover but maybe not? the arrival of a new dim sum chef at Louie's is promising.....

      2. rworange Feb 15, 2007 09:35 AM

        For Neptune's sake, don't go to the Crab House. The last time I ate there (a few years ago) I had to fight the urge to tell tourists standing outside ... DON'T DO IT ... I don't know maybe I DID tell them that.

        If you MUST eat on Fisherman's Wharf and want crab go to Scoma's. It is no more expensive than the Crab House and while the sides are only average at Scoma's they are haute cuisine compared to Crab House ... ditto on the sourdough.

        Scoma's treats fish with respect. It might not be exciting or cutting edge, but it has the freshest fish in the city. Here's some stuff about Fisherman's Wharf. In the long post, a warning that Eagle Cafe was sold. The last report was the food was overpriced and bad.
        Fisherman's Wharf Survival Guide

        With all respect to Brokeass Stuart, one person can't know everything. The tamale lady, while fine, is one of those deals where the legend is better than the tamales ... not that they are not good ... but she shows up late and people have been drinking a while.

        If you are looking for stuff like that, take a look at the Chowhound's Guide to the SF Bay Area. It has a lot of hidden tips culled from this board. Most of those places are still great (things change after all, like the Eagle). Amazon will allow you to peak inside to see if it is for you. It is a great little book that is lightweight, despite having over 1000 tips, so no matter where you are in SF you will know about a place near you that has good eats

        More good resources in this topic

        Pricy dim sum in a beautiful restaurant with immaculate bathrooms can be had at Yank Sing near the Ferry Building. Also, the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building is a must stop on Saturday morning. It is a quick ride from Fisherman's Wharf on the cable car. You can have breakfast just on free samples of bread, jams, cheese, produce, etc. Also there are lots of vendors that have good walk-away breakfasts. My favorite is Hayes Street Grill which has a fabulous soft shell crab sandwich in season.

        Keep on that same cable car and further up is TownsEnd which has wonderful breakfasts with great house-baked rolls and mini-muffins with your meal.

        Ah, I can see I'm starting on my repetative what to eat in SF eats spiel ... search down the board about people asking your question. A few of the usual answers
        Breakfast: Mama's Washington Square, Dottie;s True Blue Cafe
        Take a leap and give Curley's in North Beach a try and report back and tell us how it is

        Egg Tarts & baked BBQ pork buns at Golden Gate Bakery. Foccacia at Linguiria Bakery, Truffles at XOX, Chicken at Zuni, Dinner at Aziza. All things I eat and when I moved back to SF were the first places I returned to. Oh yeah, Coco500 is a great place ... get the vacheron for dessert.

        Thanks for the Las Vegas tips. Hope you have those on the Los Vegas board somewhere too so that people looking for food in that area know where to eat.

        The best way to pay it back is to report back on where you ate. This does two things.
        1. It helps future visitors and locals about how eats are perceived by out of towners. We know what to recommend or not in the future.
        2. It allows Chowhounds to get familiar with the type of food that rings your chow bells. So as you continue to participate and ask questions we know what type of food you like and will get you better results. That's a good reason for posting in your home board as well.

        Also, just have fun and use your instincts. So often visitors try places overlooked by the locals and give us a tip. For ideas about how to develop instincts for sniffing out good eats, take a look at the highly entertaining chow tour.

        It isn't about this area. It isn't really about eating at specific places in the tour area. It is more an example of how to determine chow-worthy places.

        Tell a man where to eat the best crab and he eats a good meal.

        Show a man how to size-up whether a restaurant might have extrodinary crab and he eats well for life ... no matter where.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange
          Calvinist Feb 15, 2007 11:20 AM

          Re the Ferry Building:

          Take the F Market Trolley Line. It travels directly down the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Warf to the Ferry Bldg.

          You can get there via Cable Car, by transfering to the California line, but each transfer is a seperate fare.

          1. re: Calvinist
            free sample addict aka Tracy L Feb 15, 2007 12:57 PM

            I recommend the F line as well, it even stops close to Zuni Cafe.

        2. Robert Lauriston Feb 15, 2007 09:42 AM

          No cheap crab at the airport (which is what SFO means here).

          Best cheap crab in SF is at Chinese or Vietnamese places with live tanks. You can find them in the Tenderloin, Richmond, Sunset, and elsewhere.

          If you want clean bathrooms, check out the reviews on bunrab.com.

          If possible, change your reservations and stay somewhere more central. Fisherman's Wharf is the worst food neighborhood in town and will add an extra half-hour to many public transit trips.

          1. Civil Bear Feb 15, 2007 11:17 AM

            Here is link to a recent experience I had with $6 crab in SF...


            1. g
              gordon wing Feb 15, 2007 11:40 AM

              if you find yourself out on Clement Street in the Richmond District then check out Lee Hou for Chinese crab dishes .... here is a link to some specifics:
              It's an interesting area to walk and explore ....

              1 Reply
              1. re: gordon wing
                Civil Bear Feb 15, 2007 12:35 PM

                Thanks, I'll be sure to check it soon!

              2. l
                LaserGecko Feb 15, 2007 09:08 PM

                Thanks for the wealth of info, everyone!

                I will try (but will likely fail) to post our non-updated "Places to Eat in San Francisco" list, but since the plane leaves in twelve hours (and I'm not off work for another two hours).

                The Farmer's Market is one thing we had already planned to do, so it's great to see it mentioned here. The list of vendors just sounded heavenly. One other place on the list is a Chinese pastry shop with a logo that resembles the Gorton's fisherman. I'm sure you'll know it instantly, but I can't even fathom the name now.

                I'm printing this and all the linked threads right now just in case our laptop gives us fits.

                We're at Fisherman's Wharf because I stayed there last year at about this time on a two day business trip, so it was a familiarity thing. I told my friends last year that we were doing the equivalent of going to The Strip in Vegas. That trip convinced me how cool your public transportation system is and how much I wanted to come back!

                Of course, driving into town while the Governator was arriving to start the bike race was the world's worst timing.

                Thanks again, guys!

                1. larochelle Feb 16, 2007 07:17 AM

                  You mean Beard Papa, the Japanese pastry shop.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: larochelle
                    Robert Lauriston Feb 16, 2007 07:47 AM

                    See the Chains board for my report:


                  2. l
                    LaserGecko Feb 17, 2007 01:07 AM

                    Hokay, well, we'll skip that, then. :-)

                    Sometimes you're looking for good and sometimes, well, you're starving. After quite a trip (thank you, fog related ground delay), getting to pet Kevin Spacey's dog while we waited for all waited for our luggage (confirmed, btw but we were cool and didn't bother him), riding BART with Reverend Al Sharpton (If it wasn't him, it was his twin brother), and getting to the hotel, we were pretty darned hungry. We got hornswoggled into Nonna Roses crab ("same owner as next door"). We split the whole crab dinner. It reminded me of the bit on Family Guy where they flashed back to their vacation in Purgatory. "Well, this isn't bad. It's not good, but it's not bad."

                    Skip to being starved after the Alcatraz Night Tour. We just didn't have the patience nor energy to seek out anything on the list, so we went to Cafe Pescatore since I had a great lunch there last year with fantastic service.

                    OMG, was it good! I ordered the Polenta Con Forma as an appetizer. I don't have the energy to detail the full meal right now (it was a great meal), but this $7.50 appetizer is OUTSTANDING.

                    Wood oven baked polenta with parmesean, marinara, and pesto in an Italian flag motif. Of course, it's served so hot that you expect scientists to land a helicopter on it and take a core sample, but it was so, so, so fine.

                    Take one bite and you'll probably end up calling it "my precious". Somebody who knows Italian food should come down here and try it. I'd really like to know what an expert would think of it.

                    Plus, they have Sugar in the Raw for your iced tea. I really dig a restaurant that goes to the extra effort to buy turbinado. I don't know why they haven't been mentioned on Chow, but I'll write a full review when I get a chance.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: LaserGecko
                      Robert Lauriston Feb 17, 2007 09:06 AM

                      Nonna Roses is a restaurant?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        rworange Feb 17, 2007 09:31 AM


                        Part of the expanding Alioto empire. I thought at first they might have replaced Cafe 8 with Nonna Rose, but different address. I guess they share that wood-fired oven.

                      2. re: LaserGecko
                        rworange Feb 17, 2007 01:41 PM

                        So often visitors try places overlooked by the locals and give us a tip.

                        Thanks for reporting back and doing exactly what I mentioned earlier ... "So often visitors try places overlooked by the locals and give us a tip."

                        Glad you didn't take peoples suggestions to avoid Fisherman's Wharf. Looking around on the web for info about Cafe Pescatore, it seems that The Tuscon is a charming hotel. The wine in the lobby sounds quite pleasant and that is a nice location that is a quick walk to North Beach.

                        To keep in mind for next time, Scoma's is around the block from Nonna Rose's. It is the little alley right next to that building. However Cafe Pescatore sounds so much better.

                        You have the true soul of a Chowhound (Chow is the cooking site that hosts the Chowhound forums).

                        I'm looking forward to your report on Cafe Pescatore. I will definately try it next time I'm down at the wharf. I hope you don't mind, but I'm breaking it out into a separate topic to get it a little more attention and see if anyone else has comments.

                        BTW, great line about Nonna Rose

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