Report: 4 Days with my parents in SF - My longest post ever??
For the past four days, my parents have been visiting from Massachusetts. They had a nice time in the city (they hadn’t been here in over 10 years) and did lots of exploring and of course lots of eating. I think that the post below is a great tool for anyone visiting San Francisco for a few days….my parents visited lots of different neighborhoods, ate in all different types of restaurants, both touristy and non-touristy. So hopefully this post will be useful for people who are coming to SF for the first time and are staying for a few days….depending on budget, more ‘destination’ restaurants could be substituted in for the places my parents and I ate. I will write this report about my parents itinerary (sometimes they were on their own when I was at work, but I was with them for most meals). I’ve included addresses and websites where I could…check out websites for better descriptions of some dishes that we ordered at various places.
WEDNESDAY – DAY 1
My parents arrived late Tuesday night. They stayed the entire weekend near Union Square. On Wednesday morning I was at work, so I wasn’t able to specifically guide them anywhere. They ate breakfast at Lefty O’Doul’s near Union Square. This is probably their least noteworthy meal of the entire trip. My dad had eggs, sausage, homefries and my mom had oatmeal. I wasn’t there, but I get the sense this place is fine but nothing special at all.
333 Geary Street (between Powell and Mason)
After breakfast, my parents first went to the Civic Center Farmer’s Market, where they bought nuts (my dad really liked the nut selection that the nut guy has there) and fruit (grapefruit, oranges), then headed to North Beach/Chinatown area for some exploring. My dad climbed up to Coit Tower, and both enjoyed walking around North Beach, looking into cafes, visiting bookstores, etc. They ate a small lunch at Stinking Rose (not my suggestion to go there, in fact I probably would have discouraged it) but they really enjoyed it. I think they just ordered some roasted garlic w/ bread and olive oil and a salad. They said it was good. They also stopped by XOX where they each ate a chocolate truffle. They really liked that too.
325 Columbus Av.
754 Columbus Av (between Filbert and Greenwich
415 421 4814
After I finished work in the evening, we headed to Chinatown. We went to Z&Y restaurant, even though I wasn’t super impressed by my first meal there. Luckily, this meal was much better, mainly due to ordering the right things this time. The restaurant was almost empty the entire time we were there (it was valentine’s day). We started off with potstickers, which were not too impressive in my opinion. Still, the filling was flavorful and my parents commented that they are much better than what they get in western MA. I thought they were a bit too greasy and crisply fried, but once again, not bad.
From the house specialties, we ordered the sliced pork with leeks. This was quite spicy, lots of chili oil, garlic, black beans and some other spices I couldn’t quite figure out. The leeks and the pork were excellent. The dan dan noodles were extremely good. Generous serving (the dish is less than 5 dollars) of noodles, pork, peanuts, garlic and loads of hot oil. Despite some similar ingredients, a very different flavor from the pork dish. We also had a plate of Chinese broccoli, sautéed with some garlic. All were very nice with steamed rice. I highly recommend these three dishes to anyone who eats at Z&Y.
655 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
THURSDAY: DAY 2
I took the day off from work and we rented a car to head down to Ano Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals. This was pretty cool, I recommend it. Before we left San Francisco, we headed toward Nena’s in Bernal Heights to get breakfast, but found that they are only open for breakfast on the weekend. Oh well. So we were in the neighborhood and hungry for breakfast, so we randomly chose El Paisa, a Honduran restaurant on Mission St. that serves breakfast. The staff was very friendly, and we all enjoyed our simple but good Honduran breakfasts. My mom had huevos rancheros, dad had plantains w/ eggs, beans and rice, and I had avocado and ham w/ eggs, beans and rice. I wouldn’t ever come back here for breakfast, but some of the other menu items looked interesting. The place is plastered with maps of Honduras, and if I ever was craving Honduran food, I think this would be a great option.
3322 Mission St.
From there we drove down to Half Moon Bay, where we walked around the downtown area and sat in a café for a while. I have no idea what the café was called, but in addition to a coffee and soda which we drank there, we got two sandwiches to go. I had pastrami and swiss on a bagel (this should be a clue for HMB people about where I went, since it was one of their specials) and my mom had a turkey sandwich. They were both fine. These were saved for after our walk to see the elephant seals.
After an afternoon on the peninsula, we drove back to San Francisco, arriving back just before rush hour. For dinner on Thursday we headed (along with another friend of mine) to El Delfin. My parents took BART there easily from downtown. We had an excellent meal, and overall this is really an excellent restaurant and a great bargain. The woman who serves and runs the place is extremely nice and helpful. We started off with guacamole, which was very fresh and contained avocado, red onion, cilantro, garlic and tomatoes, finely (but not too finely) chopped. Delicious. Chips and salsa were already on the table too. We each got one entrée and there was plenty of food. My mom ordered shrimp w/ chipotle sauce and my friend ordered shrimp al ajillo. The shrimp al ajillo is very garlicky but it is not spicy. The menu is very misleading. In fact, the shrimp with chipotle sauce is much more spicy. The sauces were both excellent, shrimp cooked perfectly. Both really awesome dishes. On my first visit to El Delfin I liked the Chipotle sauce better than the al ajillo, but this time I think I switched, and I liked the shrimp al ajillo more.
I ordered a special of pork chops in salsa verde, which according to the server, was a recipe from her grandmother. The sauce, made with tomatillos and several spices, almost tasted like an Indian curry. The pork chop was good but not great, but the sauce was very good. I didn’t like it as much as the shrimp dishes though.
My dad had chiles rellenos (one beef, which is not on the menu, and one cheese). I only tasted the beef one and it was excellent. I would definitely recommend this.
The table shared one flan for dessert. It was really good, almost cake-like. I think this restaurant is a great place for people who are visiting San Francisco. It’s easily accessible, delicious, affordable and not-touristy.
3066 24th Street (between Folsom and Harrison
FRIDAY – Day 3
I had work in the morning, and before heading to breakfast, my parents decided to check out chowhound and found posts about Dottie’s True Blue Café. They went there and really enjoyed it, even after a 25 minute wait. My dad had an omelette with mozzarella, chorizo and baby spinach. My mom had an egg white omelette with avocado and goat cheese. Apparently my dad’s was very good and came with good jalapeno cornbread. My mom’s was also good, but the goat cheese was a bit too intense. They told me that service was very friendly.
Dottie’s True Blue
522 Jones St.
415 885 2767
After this meal, they hopped on a bus and headed out to Golden Gate Park where they visited the botanical gardens. It was a beautiful day so they enjoyed this. On the way back toward downtown, they stopped in Haight-Ashbury and walked around a bit. They liked the ability to get off and re-board busses for free with the transfer. Then at 1:15 they came to pick me up at work.
From my work we headed to Delessio on Market St. This was a nice place for us at the time since we are different levels of hungriness. I ate a good sized meal from the buffet, my parents ate less. I liked everything I tried, though nothing stood out to me as really outstanding. But this is still a nice buffet (a bit pricy, but good quality) for lunch. We sat outside which was nice too. For dessert, we tried the cupcakes. I decided to branch out and try some things besides my favorite, the brownie w/ cappuccino frosting and cinnamon merengue. The banana cupcake w/ butterscotch frosting was okay. I didn’t think the cake part was that good, but I liked the frosting. The chocolate cake w/ malted vanilla frosting was very good and I would consider getting this again. We got one of the cappuccino brownies so my parents could try it. This is definitely still my favorite. I really really like them.
1695 Market St.
415 552 5559
After lunch, we took an F trolley back to Montgomery and went to the cartoon museum in SOMA where we saw the exhibit on rejected New Yorker cartoons. It was nice and worth-seeing. After this, my dad and I took the trolley up Embarcadero to Telegraph Hill and climbed up one staircase and down the other. I had never been there before, so this was pretty fun. It was a beautiful evening. After we got back, it was time to get ready for dinner. We went out to Angkor Borei (Cambodian in Bernal Heights) with 8 of my friends. I made the reservation the week before, and when we arrived the table was prepared in the back of the restaurant. We had a very nice meal.
We shared everything. I think I remember everything, or at least I will try:
Vegetarian Crispy Crepe: I like this better than the pork version, this has tofu, served with a nice dressing.
Fresh Spinach Leaves: I really like these…fill them with lime, ginger, peanut, dried shrimp, coconut, special sauce. Delicious.
Crispy Rice Chips: Served with a delicious pork/shrimp dip. The rice chips themselves were like little rice cakes, I hadn’t had these before and I enjoyed them.
Papaya Salad: This was spicy and very good.
Squid Salad: One of my favorite squid dishes of all time was at Floating Rock, a Cambodian restaurant in Revere, MA. Sadly, I didn’t think this squid salad was nearly as good. It was a bit too tomatoey for me I think. Still, the squid was cooked nicely and it was pretty good. But I was hoping for greatness.
Ahmohk: Luckily the greatness came here. I really love this dish; Soft fish mousse in a banana leaf basket in a mild curry sauce. I think I will order this every time I visit from now on. The fish flavor is there but not overpowering, and I really like the soft texture. Note for susancinsf and other chowhounds who have discussed Angkor Borei vs Lotus Garden: you should go here and try this dish. Also order the vegetarian crispy crepe, the spinach leaves and the papaya salad.
Pan Fried Fish Fillet with spicy 3 flavors sauce: This was also excellent, and was recommended by our server. Add this to the list above.
Shrimp with red curry: This was good, but I find their curries to be a bit too rich and strong for my taste. This was very popular with other people at the table.
Peanut Mock Duck: I only had one taste of this, and I thought it was fine. The mock duck and some veggies were in a pretty thick peanut sauce. I think I was too distracted by the other dishes to pay much attention to this one, but I think it was good. They have several mock meat dishes on the menu, so this is a good place for vegans and vegetarians.
Eggplant with yellow bean sauce and basil: Nice dish, eggplant pieces were very tender and tasty.
Chili Chicken – Spicy and somewhat boring (in my opinion) chicken dish. Other people liked it though.
I think we also had a tofu and string bean dish, though I hardly remember it, and I think there may have also been one more thing which I also don’t remember right now. Overall, everything was good and it was nice to try lots of things. Now that I feel more confident with my favorites, I’d focus on those (maybe order two of some things) for other big group dinners.
For dessert the table shared 4 mango w/ sticky rice (black sticky rice w/ coconut cream and a half-sliced-mango) and 2 fried bananas (with coconut ice cream). All very good.
Service was excellent, and I recommend this restaurant as a great place for a big party like ours (we were 11 people).
3471 Mission St. (at Cortland
415 550 8417
SATURDAY – Day 4
Like all hosts should, I brought my parents to the Ferry Building for breakfast on Saturday. We got there at about 10 AM. We got breakfast at the Rose Pistola stand and the line looked long but really was pretty reasonable. I had the scramble w/ arugula and prosciutto, my parents shared the breakfast sandwich. My mom also got a strawberry yogurt from the yogurt stand at the north end of the building in the front. I really like their honey flavored yogurt. After this we walked around for a while, sampling all sorts of things, and buying things as well (fruit, pistachios, etc.). We also had some OJ and coffee. It was ridiculously beautiful out, so it was pretty pleasant (and crowded). My parents really liked the Ferry Building. Like many chowhounds, I recommend this as a Saturday morning activity for any visitor.
We had lots of eating still to do, so we left the Ferry Building around noon and took BART to 24th Street so my parents could check out my neighborhood (I live in Mission/Potrero Hill). First stop was at Taqueria San Jose, where we had one taco al pastor and one vegetarian taco. I also had a strawberry agua fresca. Of the strawberry agua frescas I’ve tried, San Jose is the best (and they always have it). Same with the salsa verde for the chips. Tacos were both good, the beans in the veggie one were pretty nice.
Taqueria San Jose
2830 Mission St. (at 24th Street
415 282 0203
After the taco, we headed across the street to Mr. Pollo and bought one sweet cheese arepa. Excellent as usual; it makes a nice dessert after a taco. We weren’t in there for very long, so I didn’t get a chance to see what new Ecuadoran and/or Colombian specialties they are offering.
Mission and 24th (across street from Taqueria San Jose)
After this, we walked down 24th Street and considered eating more things. My parents enjoyed this street, seeing the murals, the different shops, etc. We stopped in at La Palma where I ordered one chicken tamal to go. We ate it in the new park on 24th and York and it was very pleasant. Kids were playing in the fountain since it was so warm out. We also passed by the newly opened Torta Gorda which I mentioned in another recent post. As I mentioned, it looks nice inside and I’m excited to go. They have both hot chocolate and Mexican hot chocolate, and since it’s mentioned on the new sign, I think it might be good. I’ll try it soon.
La Palma Mexicatessen
2884 24th Street (at Florida St)
415 647 1500
After 2 PM, it was time to stop eating to save room for dinner at Aziza at 7 PM. We took a bus to Dolores Park and walked around there a little bit. We resisted the temptation of Bi-Rite Creamery. I even overheard some people talking about Bi-Rite when I was in the park! Eventually my parents took the J trolley back downtown, and I went home for a bit before we met up again to head to dinner.
I met my parents downtown at 5:45 to catch the 38 to the Richmond for our 7 PM reservation at Aziza. A 38L came right away, and we got to the Richmond really quickly and painlessly. We were quite early, so we walked around a bit. We went in to a big Russian market (New World Market I believe?) which was quite nice, and also peered into windows of several Chinese places that were filled with people celebrating the New Year. That part of Geary (between 24th and 18th Avenues) is a nice area to walk around in before dinner.
We arrived at Aziza at 6:45 and asked if our table was ready. It was! We were seated at a table in the back room, which was really nice. It was much quieter than the front room, which on Saturday was quite noisy. My mom recommends the back room to everyone, unless loud is what you want, which in some cases it might be. It’s nice that this restaurant has both options.
This was my first time at Aziza and we had a great meal. Service was good and food was good, at times excellent. We decided not to get the pre fixe meal but instead shared 3 appetizers, 3 main dishes and 1 dessert. This was really enough, along with a nice bread basket. We had the following:
Mediterranean Spreads: These are outstanding, I am very glad we ordered these. The yogurt spread was thick and creamy, what every tzaziki dreams to be, and the red pepper spread (or whatever the red one was) was addictive. The pitas were good, but it was nice to have the extra bread in the basket for more dipping.
Lima Beans: The cheese on top of these was a delicious and creamy feta-like cheese, and while this dish was very good, I thought the whole thing was a bit heavy on the tomato. I also thought the beans were slightly undercooked, but this is personal preference I guess, since they weren’t really undercooked, just not soft and mushy (I like soft and mushy).
Curly Cress, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad: This was great. The fruits were ripe and perfect…the grapefruit especially was amazingly sweet. And the cress was delicious and lightly dressed. My dad thought this appetizer stood out as the best. I thought the spreads were the best.
Prawns Tagine: We all felt this was the weakest main dish, possibly due to overpowering tomato. The stewed vegetables and meyer lemon were good but very tomatoey. The shrimps were perfectly grilled and delicious. I wished the different ingredients stood out more individually. It was sometimes hard to tell whether I was eating a piece of carrot or lemon!
Couscous Aziza: When I ordered this dish, the server asked how I wanted the sausage cooked. This gave me the impression that the sausage pieces would be substantial, but really they were quite small. Couscous itself was flavorful, but the couscous I make at home is better. What made this dish great was the stewed lamb which was hiding inside the couscous. I do not know how to make lamb like that at home! So overall, the dish was very good but I didn’t think it was a showstopper.
Stewed Lamb and Charred Eggplant: I was initially interested in this based on Robert Lauriston’s suggestion in a post I read. We all agreed that this dish was the best. The lamb and eggplant were molded together in a ball of deliciousness. Presentation was also lovely, with three small mashed potato flowers and crostini with olive tapenade. I highly recommend this dish. I would be very tempted to order this on another visit.
For dessert, we shared the apple huckleberry cornmeal crisp with cinnamon stick ice cream. This was amazing, baked (or at least re-heated) in the ceramic bowl and topped with ice cream of perfect creamy consistency. Great hot/cold contrast in every bite, and great flavors (not overly sweet). Large enough to share between 3 of us.
Overall, Aziza is a very nice restaurant. Our server was nice and professional. There was a large gap between our appetizers and our main dishes, enough so that our server came over and apologized for the delay, explaining that the kitchen was backed up. After this, it was only 5 more minutes or so, making it about 30 total, so it wasn’t too big a deal. Other than that, I have no complaints at all. I’m really glad I got to try this restaurant and I would like to thank all of the people on chowhound who have recommended it.
The bus ride back downtown on the 38 was less pleasant since it was very crowded and we stood the whole time. Something to consider for sure…taxi would have been another option.
5800 Geary Boulevard (at 22nd Avenue)
415 752 2222
SUNDAY – Day 5
Before my parents headed to the airport, we headed to Nena’s in Bernal Heights for breakfast. This time they were open, and we had an excellent meal. My mom says that Nena’s breakfasts are just as good as Dottie’s. But without the wait! My housemate came too. He and I both had the citrus French toast, awesome as usual. Beautiful presentation, my parents were impressed. My dad had the Latin Scramble, topped with cheese and served with tortillas. He seemed to really like this. It’s a huge portion. My mom had a small bowl of the oatmeal, which is served with brown sugar and homemade apple-raisin butter (not to mention the real maple syrup that was already on the table). The apple butter was really good in the oatmeal…this is yet another breakfast at Nena’s that should be considered. After breakfast, we drove my parents to the airport and they were off.
3459 Mission St.
415 285 8985
I spoke to my parents tonight once they arrived back in Boston and they reported back on their deli sandwiches they got from David’s Deli. The turkey was good, the pastrami was less-good (too fatty) and the service at the deli was somewhat unfriendly (my Dad said the lady was rude). Luckily for them, they have good delis on the east coast, and they left San Francisco having eaten very well.
474 Geary St.
415 276 5950
They really enjoyed their trip, the visits to different neighborhoods and all the great meals.
That’s about all for now….I hope you all enjoyed….
Great post, thanks!
Another good option for breakfast in the neighborhood if Nena's is closed are the chilaquiles and/or the huevos rancheros at Pastores across the street. Two hints: they might be open even if they looked closed, so check the door, and don't order both chilaquiles and huevos: both have the same sauce and the chilaquiles come with eggs any style on the side....
Fabulous report, Dave. Sorry you didn't opt for the tasting menu at Aziza -- you would have had a few more appetizers to taste, the same entrees to choose from, and more desserts. Slightly more money, yes, but GREAT left-overs! It is my favorite deal in the city and their couscous is my favorite day-after breakfast!