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Weekend visit - help an L.A. hound choose

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Hi, I'm an L.A. 'hound who loves S.F. but never gets there enough. My husband and I are coming next weekend for a last minute trip. Just 2 nights so I want to choose carefully. After reading several posts, I booked the Ritz-Carlton for Sat. night. Good choice? We love tasting menus, wine pairings, etc., so I thought that would fit the bill. I had contemplated Boulevard instead though--even though it's a different type of place--I've always wanted to go and never made it there. Would you stick with the Ritz?

My big question pertains to Friday. Our flight does not get in until 7:15 so I am thinking a 9:30 dinner. Looking for a more neighborhood place. On past visits, we went to Delfina (4 yrs ago?) and Piperade (2 yrs ago) for that type of experience and really liked it (as to Delfina, actually, we fell in love). This time, I am thinking of these places:

A16
Incanto
Defina
Canteen
Bar Tartine
Quince

I know less about Bar Tartine and Quince than the others. Obviously we may not be able to get a reservation at all of them, but I'm hoping w/ the late start time, we will have more options than we'd otherwise have.

Also, we are staying at Hyde and North Point (someone gave us a free place to stay for the weekend). Any places to get an excellent cappuccino nearby?

Thank you in advance.

Megan

meganinlosfeliz.blogspot.com

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  1. This is a great example of how these requests should be written; nice, detailed information. I've yet to go, but pretty much all reports on the board praise the Ritz highly. Boulevard is fantastic, but probably not quite in the same league. My vote for Friday night would be for Delfina or Bar Tartine. I'll let someone else help with your cappuccino request.

    1. I'd say A16 based on what you liked in the past, where you'll be staying, and what time you'll be eating. Or, if you want a cute, cable-car-going-by-the-window type of spot, luella is perfect (but take a cab, don't drive).

      1. We won't have a car anyway (happy to be without it for a few days!) We tend to walk all over the city when we are there.

        How would you compare Delfina and A16? Also, has Delfina gone downhill at all?

        3 Replies
        1. re: meganinlosfeliz

          I would say Delfina or A16 are your best best for Friday night.

          In terms of comparing them, I would say A16 is maybe a little more a meat-lovers paradise and has a slightly longer menu. It is Southern, so the dishes are a little more complicated and there is lots of braising. In terms of atmosphere, A16 is casual but trendy. Perhaps both more casual and more trendy than Delfina. The wine list at A16 is longer and more well thought out but almost all Southern. Iwould give the slight edge to A16 but you can't go wrong at either.

          As for the Ritz, I hear great things. My favorite restaurant in the city is Fleur de Lys which is in a similar price range, but I do hear great things about the Ritz.

          1. re: whiner

            There's nothing trendy about A16. The Italian portion of its wine list is almost all southern but there are a lot of wines from California too.

            http://www.a16sf.com/WineBottle.html

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I wasn't calling the food trendy, I was more relating the young, chic vibe of the place. It is casual, but everyone there looks well put together.

              The stemware is excellent there as well...

        2. I would definitely try to get Incanto, Bar Tartine, and/or Canteen in on your trip. They offer something unique that LA doesn't quite have. Bar Tartine is a tad reminiscent of AOC in terms of style of food but it's not small dishes like AOC. The wines by the glass at Bar Tartine is also excellent even if it's not as extensive as AOC

          As for the Ritz, if you have to do a high end restaurant in the city, the tasting menu at the Ritz is as good as any. However, if you're willing to drive south, Manresa is rivaled only by The French Laundry and there are those like myself who feel Manresa has The French Laundry beat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            Would you recommend Incanto over Delfina? I think Italian would be nice because L.A. is thin on great Italian restaurants.

            1. re: meganinlosfeliz

              I haven't been to Delfina but there are many positive reviews on it. I haven't made it over to Delfina because Incanto's menu is more pleasing to me.

              Incanto is more rustic and has more pasta selections but the decor is a little tacky. The hankerchief pasta with pork ragu and the braised pork shoulder are crowd pleasers. Their wine flights are usually pretty fun and a great bargain. Check out the menu and see which you like better.

              www.delfinasf.com
              www.incanto.biz

              Be sure to go to Bar Tartine too. Great bread, and excellent food. I had a delicious cuttlefish with braised pork belly appetizer the other night that was enlightening. Of course tender cuttlefish goes with tender/crisp pork belly. Why hadn't I thought of that before? Salads are also excellent. They work wonders with vinagerettes.

          2. Too bad you couldn't make it over to Range (in the mission). I think that's by far the best place to go right now, especially when you are considering other restaurants in a similar price range.

            I used to eat at Quince every other week for nearly a year and it has gone down hill -- as far as I'm concerned. Too expensive for unpredictable quality.

            A-16 is good, but casual. Boulevard is unbelievable (I'd definitely recommend going there if you can get a reservation). Canteen is fun and unique; however, my meals there have been hit or miss.

            Myth could be a good option for you to consider. Or, the Salt House.

            1. You're unlikely to go wrong at any of the places you named (except for Quince - I agree with lexcre8 that the quality to cost ratio can be disappointing - luckily, you're probably not going to be able to get a reservation. Also, if I just got off a plane, I wouldn't want to head straight to a formal restaurant).

              Bar Tartine and Incanto are my two favorite restaurants in SF. For someone arriving late on a Friday, looking for good, comforting food, I would give the nod to Bar Tartine - I love the gnocchi, the bone marrow, the portugese style kale soup with poached egg, actually haven't ever had anything disappointing there. It has a pretty big bar and is open until 11. I think dinner at the bar with a couple of glasses of wine would be a perfect Friday night.

              1. At Incanto there's usually no problem getting a reservation at 9:30. Parking's a lot easier than at the other places on that list, and it's closer to the airport.

                1. For Cappuccino, I've heard good things about Coffee Adventures (1331 Columbus near North Point) even though it's on the wrong side of the foodie tracks.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    That certainly is the nearest location. Will have to check it out. Just wish they would mention the type of coffee they serve.
                    http://www.coffeeadventurescafe.com/4...

                    If it is not a first of the morning cup of cap ... I really, really like the cappucino at Alioto's in Fisherman's Wharf. The joint is old-school Wharf food established by Italians. And they just do that cappucino right. No fancy baristas just a good cup of cap. You can sit in the bar and take in the view. I highly recommend the creme brulee with that which is one of the better ones in the city. Nothing fancy. Just making it the same way as they have for decades ... rich and eggy with a top that shatters.

                    Otherwise I'd head up Columbus for good cappuchino in North Beach. The first place you will hit is XOX chocolate where, though I don't reccomend the cap, I do highly recommend their regular cup of Graffeo coffee ... which comes with a free hand-made truffle ... get caramel.

                    There's a couple of little cafes around XOX, but the next decent cup of cap isn't till you hit Washington Square ... and pretty much it is hard to get a bad cap in North Beach proper. One of my favorite coffee shops ... though again we are not talking cap but regular joe ... is Cafe Roma. Caffe Greco, as mentioned, is good for cap. I like Cafe Trieste;s cap too... I give Trieste the edge for atomosphere and Greco the edge for cap. For a while people were going crazy on the board over the barista mastery at Steps of Rome. However, if I eventually tried the cap there, I'm not remembering.

                    Then again, you can always walk down the hill and have an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista ... just don't order anything else there ... especially the food.

                    Has anyone been to Waterfront Bakery in the Cannery? Do they really make their own bread?

                    Looking forward to your report about your trip ... where you ate and how you liked the food.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I intended it as a first cup (first cap?) option, since once they stumble out of bed they won't have to stumble further than a block. As is known, I am a North Beach cafe buff, and concur with Trieste, but prefer Puccini over Greco. (I should point out I am not a cappuccino person, though I'll wimp out with a macchiato once in a while.)

                  2. Three small supplemental points. One re cappuccino--the *only* topic in the foodie world on which I consider myself an expert. You're not far from the classic North Beach cafes. You might visit Caffe Trieste for historical reasons (e.g., to see the booth where Coppola wrote parts of The Godfather) but I haven't been recently enough to speak to the beverages; Caffe Greco on Columbus, I know, will make you at least a very good and possibly a great cappuccino. (N.B. I've only been a few times in recent years, so stand ready to be corrected if there's been a change . . ..) And of the restaurants you mention, so will Delfina--the chef is very strict about ensuring that all servers learn to make a good cappuccino and I've gotten several of the best I've *ever* had there, and very rarely indeed a bad or mediocre one. (It never ceases to mystify me how mediocre or downright bad a cappuccino one can get at an otherwise very good, thoroughly attentive-to-detail, high-end restaurant; I've had some at Aqua reminiscent of an airport Starbucks.) Point two is bread--I've liked my couple of dinners at Bar Tartine a lot, but can't fairly evaluate it on just two visits except to say that, as others have noted, (a) their bread (from Tartine bakery, of course) is unsurpassed, and that (b) Delfina serves the same bread (or, to be precise, serves 1/2 Tartine bread and 1/2 Acme; one can ignore the latter). If those are two categories about which you care, Delfina gets perfect marks in each (and Bar Tartine in the latter, not sure re the former). (And no, to answer your query, Delfina has not imho gone downhill except in desserts since Michelle Polzine went to Range.) But, turning to point three, good luck getting a 9:30 Friday res at Delfina on a week's notice; that strongly favors Incanto. And on that note, if you'd like a neighborhood Italian place, add La Ciccia to your list of potentials; it shares Incanto's advantages re location, reservability, parking, etc. (they're just blocks apart), and SF 'hounds love it (e.g., http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359810, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353510, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/328859)

                    1. I just realized Incanto is in Noe Valley (I spent 3 yrs living in Palo Alto back in the late 90s and I spent a lot of time in Noe, so it's one area in your great city I'm fairly familiar with). We won't have a car so will be cabbing from SFO to our room, then cabbing to a restaurant, so the proximity from the airport does not help us. I am not the best re time to get from place to place by cab in SF but I am thinking Delfina would be slightly more convenient. True?

                      I actually got a reservation at Delfina. So unless anyone feels strongly I should switch it, I think I will save Incanto (and Range and Bar Tartine, which I'm dying to try) for my next trip.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                        Bar Tartine is open for lunch Saturday - no need to save it for your next trip!

                        1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                          Delfina's about three and a half miles, Incanto another mile past that.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            If you're concerned about that, go to A16, as I mentioned in my first post. You'll be much closer for a late reservation.

                        2. It's tempting to do Bar Tartine for lunch, but with the Ritz tasting menu that evening, I don't want to overdo it. Also, I was planning on spending hours at the Ferry Bldg, which I have never visited. I am definitely looking to eat some serious oysters!

                          I cannot wait to try the cappuccinos in North Beach. I had an amazing one years ago but could never remember where it was.

                          It really is a tough call btwn Incanto and Delfina! I am still mulling it over.

                          Also want to say thanks to everyone for all the info. I also am deeply envious of you for having all of these options every night. An embarrassment of riches... I promise to post re my experiences, with photos. :)

                          1. Wow--congratulations on your good reservation karma. We look forward to your report!