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My first time to SF - my Food itinerary, what do you think?

  • k

My boyfriend and I are celebrating our Anniversary in SF for a long weekend in March. I'm a big planner (for better or worse)...around FOOD, that is! SF-natives/locals, what do you think? Suggestions are welcome!

Day 1: Lunch at Scoma's in Fisherman's Wharf; Dinner at Zazuela's for tapas on Hyde St. Any recommendations on good places to get after dinner drinks on Hyde?

Day 2: Lunch at Sushi Ran in Sausalito; Dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Any recommendations on good little snack/coffee shops to go in between in either Sausalito or Berkeley?

Day 3: Breakfast at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market; Lunch in Palo Alto-- any good recommendations? Dinner at Aziza in San Francisco.

Day 4: Breakfast at You's Dim Sum in Chinatown; any good recommendations on good and quick lunch near Golden Gate Park?

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  1. Chez Panisse, Ferry Plaza, and Aziza are great choices.

    Vik's in Berkeley for a snack.

    Tea leaf salad and sambusa soup at Burma Super Star for lunch a few blocks from the park.

    1. Day 1- We just had tapas at Zazuela last Sat. and stopped at Bacchus Wine Bar before dinner, you can go there after just down the street on the same side. Good selections of wines.

      Day 2- Cheeseboard in Berkeley for a snack

      Day 4- Velo Rouge Cafe- near GGPark-http://www.velorougecafe.com/

      on opposite side of the park there is Chow on 9th ave more of a sit down the service is pretty quick and you can eat at the bar which is faster , or Gordo's burritos on 9th Ave. just a handful of tables very close to being a hole in the wall- pretty good carne asada burritos.

      1. Seems like a pretty decent list -- I am only concerned and/or question your interest to go all the way to Sausalito for sushi. You may be spending the bulk of your day traveling back and forth however it you are doing one of the harbour cruises, it could be lovely.

        1. I used to live in Sausalito and think you should make a day of it. Cruise over and have lunch at your sushi place, go shopping, drinks at the Alta Mira overlooking the bay and you could go to Scoma's over there. There's a wonderful basque restaurant called Guernica's which I used to go to all the time (hope it's still there!)

          1 Reply
          1. I think you could skip Zarzuela. It's fine, but there are better restaurants even a block away. If you want to stay in that area, Frascati www.frascatisf.com is better and other chowhounds like Luella (I've never been) - also within a few blocks of Hyde and Union.

            Sushi Ran is great - I agree with the other poster about making a day of it. The restaurant is only about a 10 minute walk from the Ferry.

            I second Burma Superstar for a meal near the park.

            1. Re: Lunch at Scoma's. If it's your first time here and you want to get the Fisherman's Warf experience, that's the place to go. Keep to the simple preparations of fresh seafood, i.e. petrale sole, sand dabs, crab. It's a bit old-fashioned, and a bit expensive for what you get, but it's a good option for the area.

              1. Great post kngo, and I would second all the rec's you have receive so far. Just to get my $0.02 cents in:

                Day 1: You may want to consider the Buena Vista on Hyde Street for the birthplace of the Irish Coffee. I have posted a link below:


                Day 2: You should know that Sausalito is over the Golden Gate bridge (north of SF), which is a must do, and that Berkeley is over the Bay Bridge (east of SF). There is another way to get to Berkeley from Sausalito without having to cross back through San Francisco, but depending on the time of day either direction could be a traffic nightmare. In fact you will definitely get stuck in commute traffic for a portion of your trip regardless of the direction you choose. Chez Panisse definitely warrants a special trip to Berkeley though, but I would try to reschedule so that both locations are not on the same day.

                Day 3: Don’t bother taking a special trip to Palo Alto just for lunch. There are some great restaurants in the area, but there are just too many great choices in SF to make the trip worthwhile, IMO. Also, Aziza is located on the same end of town as Golden Gate Park, so you may want to schedule both on the same day.

                Day 4: I agree with the others that Burma Super Star is a good choice, but just keep in mind that it is not really walking distance from GGP. If you are thinking of driving to GGP, and then driving to lunch, and then driving back to the park, you should know that parking can be a hassle at both locations. If you find yourself around the DeYoung Museum area around lunchtime, you may prefer walking to the numerous good chow worthy places around 9th Ave & Irving.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Civil Bear

                  Definitely agreed on Day 2 -- don't do Sausalito and Chez Panisse in the same day, it will be very rushed and not as fun as if you did Sausalito for lunch in a day when you have dinner in SF, and dinner at CP in a day when you have lunch in SF.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    I say, consider skipping Sausalito entirely, and spend a full day in the east bay.

                2. I assume you're coming to Palo Alto for reasons other than lunch! Indian food is something that the southern part of the Bay Area does better than just about anywhere in the country. If you want to try that, Hyderabad House on University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto would be a great place for lunch. There are plenty of good places in Palo Alto (search for earlier posts to see lots more) but that's a particular standout fo a food visit.


                  1. Why are you going to Scoma's? Will you already be in the area? There are other, MUCH better and less expensive options.

                    1. I'm a Scoma' s fan ... with reservations.

                      If you stick to the lunch three course prix-fixe ... a real deal

                      The thing to remember at Scoma's is the fish is the focus. They have the BEST and freshest fish anywhere in the Bay Area ... everthing else is mediocre at best.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        Does Scoma's present your table with a live fish plucked from the seafood tank before dispatching it to the kitchen ala Hong Kong-style?

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Let me revise that then ... freshest fish not pullled live from a tank in the Bay Area ... to clarify further ... I meant everything other than the fish at Scomas is mediocre.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Tanks aren't everything. You don't know how long the fish have been kept there, or how often the water is changed.

                            At Scoma's and some other FW spots, you are getting fresh fish that hasn't been languishing a tank for God knows how long, as well. Tank-free fish, as it were.

                        2. re: rworange

                          When I first came to SF, I looked around and definitely considered living in beautiful Marin. But sorry, I couldn't do it - no true food lovers live anywhere in Marin. I have yet to encounter a good exception to the rule, besides oysters. They somehow manage to find ways to turn perfectly fine fish into only mediocre dishes. I am still open to suggestions, but I've been disppointed so many times I am a little wary.

                          1. re: rworange

                            If you're not being forced to go to FW for other reasons, I'd go to Sam's or Tadich for that experience, or Swan's. Scoma's really depresses me and the prices are OUTRAGEOUS.

                            1. re: Maya

                              Yeah, best plan is to enjoy the view from Fisherman's Wharf for free by walking along the bay before or after lunch.

                              If you want a meal with a view:


                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I don't think the OP said why they wanted to eat at Scoma's.

                                Having acutually eaten at a few FW restaurants and planning on trying a few others it is not exactly the black hole of cal-culinary.

                                It's not a chow destination either. But if the OP wants to spend time at the Wharf Scoma's is a decent place. The $21 for three courses is competative with Tadich / Sam's.

                                And Newsweek voted Scoma's one of the top clam chowders in the country. I don't agree with that but they make it from scratch ... not like Swan's that starts with canned chowder and adds clam juice.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  The 3-course price might be competitive pricing, but the atmosphere is still dismal compared to any of those other 3.

                                  1. re: Maya

                                    What do you object to in the atmosphere? A window overlooking a marina of little boats on one side and a view of the GG Bridge and Mt Tam on the other. Decor seems comparable to the other two places. The waiters are in the same class ... not the chummy 'Hi I'm xxx" types.

                                    A few of the wharf restaurants seriously need a re-model. The decor is stuck in the 50's and shabby ... there's only so far a good view will take you.

                                    Also, I want to be clear I'm NOT pushing anyone to go to Scoma's. It was just the OP made the selection. Don't know the reasons. Just a comment I always liked the fresh fish and have eaten the lunch special a few times. Actually it kind of cheers me up.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Last time I was there, the atmosphere at Scoma's was exactly like you describe the other FW places. You certainly don't get that view in every seat in the house. It's just shabby without being retro. All I'm saying is, if you want a good piece of fresh fish, there are more pleasant/atmospheric places to go.

                          2. might wanna check out Top Dog and/or Hamburger (hole in the wall)...i know they're not coffee shops but they are amazing. I would do Chez Panisse for brunch instead and get their bennets. Or the Acme olive bread with rubbed garlic topped with prociutto...or my favoite, their chicken sandwhiches

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: EnderWiggin

                              Chez Panisse doesn't serve brunch. The cafe does lunch, the menu changes daily so you never know what will be available.

                              1. re: EnderWiggin

                                Top Dog for Iunch and either Chez Panisse or Oliveto for dinner. That would be a perfect chow day...

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  Top Dog's pretty good, but kngo is coming from Chicago, so there are probably better places to lunch.


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Top Dog can be a little, ahem, harsh on the stomach depending on what you get. I wouldn't risk it if you're going out for a nice dinner. Why not Gregoire for a snack?

                                    1. re: adrienne156

                                      Gregoire is another excellent suggestion! Perfect conclusion to a stroll through campus...

                              2. I'd point out that You's is basically a walkaway dim sum place, though they have some small tables at the rear. But then again, if you really do mean breakfast, they are in fact open quite early, as opposed to the standard 11:00 for the full-blown sit-down dim sum palaces.

                                Another fun spot is Garden Bakery on Jackson St. which has more of the HK-style baked pastries in addition to standard steamed dim sum items, or Washington Bakery on Washington Street for a bigger and fancier (but not better) place of the same stripe.

                                1. As stated above, Indian in Palo Alto is a great choice. Amber India on El Camino (just north of Rengstorff) is our favorite in the area. Great buffet, from 11:30--2:30. Be sure to have some of the Butter Chicken (last item in the line).

                                  As for Scoma's, unless you're dead set on going to the Wharf, you might consider Sam's Grill or Tadich Grill, both old-school SF fish houses in the Financial District. Note that Sam's is closed weekends and Tadich is closed Sundays. We prefer Sam's for its less-touristy atmosphere, but either one is fine.

                                  While you're out by Golden Gate Park, check out Arizmendi, a wonderful bakery on 9th near Irving. Their cinnamon rolls, cheese rolls, and scones, are the greatest, IMO.

                                  1. I'd also go somewhere else instead of Zarzuela, unless you're craving Spanish tapas (ie youre not from a place that has better versions of this). Piperade is Basque, and in my opinion much better. I've also heard that B44 is good, but haven't been there. If you want to be in Russian Hill specifically, Luella (my favorite place in the city) or Frascati are better options. Depending where you're staying, you can take the cable car up there very easily.

                                    For drinks, there are a couple of wine bars (eg Bacchus) in the hood but I didn't like it all that much. Walk down to Polk for a lot more options on the cocktails front.

                                    1. Piperade was quite good when I ate the a year or so ago.

                                      1. I've always enjoyed Piperade but it is rather more "upscale" in menu and price.

                                        1. twilight deli for med food is yummy and about a block from the stanyan/fulton corner of the park.

                                          1. I don't think Burma Superstar can be considered a "quick" lunch, if the lines at dinner are any indication of the wait. I didn't fancy the tea leaf salad there either, found it to be overwhelmingly salty.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: DezzerSF

                                              I've never encountered a line at lunch.

                                              Do you like somebody else's tea leaf salad? I've had it at several places and Burma Super Star's didn't seem any saltier than the others.

                                            2. I liked a version which a Burmese coworker made. It was definitely not as salty, so I was able to taste (& enjoy) more of the other ingredients. If there isn't a line at lunch, then it will definitely qualify as quick. The kitchen seems to churn out dishes almost too quickly, which may be good in this case.

                                              1. I would skip Scoma's, it's okay but not that great...Have dinner at The Tadich Grill, excellent, and do a dim sum lunch at Yang Sing's...Very good dim sum and fun atmosphere