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4 Hour Stopover for Lunch in SF this Friday

I'm from Toronto and on a "last minute" trip to New Zealand, leaving the day after tomorrow - I just got my ticket and see that I have several hours' stopover in SF - allowing me to be in the city from about 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. before I will need to go back to the airport...perfect for a leisurely lunch and a bit of a stroll. I've never been to San Francisco so would appreciate if anyone could suggest somewhere interesting/tasty, particularly for seafood/crab or Californian cuisine, that wouldn't require a reservation (or have too fancy a dress code as we will be dressed quite casually given its a long way to NZ) and that would be easily accessible from the BART system coming from the airport.

Thank you, fellow chowhounds, for your help!

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  1. This will be Friday afternoon or Saturday afternoon? Different places are open.

    Zuni is open all day and midafternoon you can usually sit right down.

    Is your stopover eight hours? Because you'd probably want to allow four for BART, airport security, and customs.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      It will be Friday afternoon. My flight arrives at 11:40 and my connector is at 8 p.m. (and my luggage is checked right through so have no baggage to deal with either arriving or going). I clear US customs on the Toronto side so, once arriving in SF, I can head straight into the city. So I think my time estimates are pretty conservative...aiming to be heading back to the airport by 5, which should give me lots of time since I already will have my boarding card and no baggage.

      I've heard amazing things about Zuni -- just assumed I'd need a reservation for Friday lunch... which BART stop should I get off at, do you happen to know?

      Thanks Robert!

      1. re: gorge_ous

        A late lunch for one at Zuni should be no problem, I wouldn't expect to have to wait more than a few minutes.

        I'd say get off at the 16th St. station, walk past Mission Dolores on the way to Zuni, then after lunch take a vintage streetcar all the way down Market, visit the Ferry building (food lovers' paradise), and return from the Embarcadero station.


        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          This sounds like a nice itinerary in theory, but keep in mind that 16th Street BART to Zuni is more than just a 'bit' of a stroll; more like three quarters of a mile, with some up and downhill I believe (?) and passes through not the greatest neighborhoods if that matters to you. If you don't feel like that much walking in sometimes somewhat gritty areas, consider Tadich Grill (a shorter walk from either Montgomery or Embarcadero BART Stations). Hog Island is a great recommendation also although be aware that their menu is fairly limited.

          And yes, I think Civic Center is a bit closer BART Station to Zuni than 16th Street, though it isn't that close. However, I do think it is all downhill from Civic Center to Zuni, though I am not positive.... The BART website can help you plan your trip and figure out distances:


          1. re: susancinsf

            I think if the OP were to walk 16th up to Guerrero and check out Mission Dolores, then walk back on 16th to Valencia, then down to Zuni, that would be the "flattest" way to go. But I hesitate before ever having a visitor I don't know use the 16th/Mission BART station, no matter what time of day.

            1. re: Frosty Melon

              Mission Dolores is on Dolores, not Guerrero.

        2. re: gorge_ous

          Here's a post from a Torontan who went out to the Beach Chalet during his stopover on the way to NZ, musta been the same schedule.
          That's just an FYI though, not something I'd recommend on public transportation, as it sounds like he had a lift from his friends.

      2. I love Zuni, but it's a bit of a walk from a BART station for someone needing to get back to a flight. My recommendation would be the Ferry Building. It's a block from the BART station, the weather should be lovely, and you can probably get a table at either Slanted Door or Hog Island at that time easily. Afterwards you can walk around the building both outside and inside, and see the view and the shops inside. If you want to spend a bit more money you can go across the street to Boulevard (though I'm not sure what time they close for lunch, you can probably check that on their website) and get a seat at the bar.

        7 Replies
        1. re: JasmineG

          Thanks Jasmine - those sound like great ideas too - I will definitely check out the websites! In checking the location, it looks like the nearest BART stop is the Civic Center stop - is that correct? Thanks again for being such a great help! Glad to hear the weather is supposed to be lovely -- haven't had a chance to check that yet. Its bloody cold here in Toronto....brrrr....

          1. re: JasmineG

            They could just hop on Muni Metro at Civic Center and get off on Van Ness?, leaving a short walk to Zuni. I recently walked from that stop to Miette Confiserie in Hayes Valley (passing Zuni) and it was easier than I thought it would be.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Or hop on the F and alight directly in front of Zuni.

            2. re: JasmineG

              My vote is also for the Ferry Building and the Emabarcadero in general. You can take BART directly there and back. Walk along the waterfront, check out the Claes Oldenburg's Cupid's Span, the views of bay and bridges, lots of shops in the Ferry Building, and GOOD FOOD AND DRINK!

            3. If the weather's nice, I would get out at 16th and Mission and go to either Bar Tartine, Pizzeria Delfina, or Ti Couz for lunch (Bar Tartine closes around 2, but the other two are open all afternoon)... then Bi-Rite for ice cream... then take advantage of the fact that lines are going to be as short as they're going to get at at Tartine, and buy a bunch of things to snack on for the plane!

              The Ferry Building is great, but it's still essentially an indoor food mall. I'd go there if it's raining, but I can't imagine a more blissful layover in SF than wandering and noshing in the Mission. And off-peak hours at Tartine! You have to take advantage of that!

              1. What I would do if I was in your situation is to take BART from the airport to Powell Street and walk past union square to Farallon. It's an unbelievable room, food is fantastic and memorable, and you can spend whatever free time you have hanging around union square or going into shops

                1. You have not asked and others have not addressed this. But since you are checked through and already have your boarding pass, you can have an early dinner in the city. You may also want to stop on your way back to the ariport at the Millbrae BART (subway and elevated train) station. There are several options for good Asian food there. Across the station on El Camino Real are a couple of very good Chinese: Fook Yuen and Hong Kong Flower Lounge. Also there is a Vietnamese place called Le Petite Camille. Then hop back onto BART for a very short ride back to the airport.

                  1. I think you'll have a far better time sticking to the Ferrry Bldg than getting to Zuni. Zuni's nice and all but really just a good meal and there are many tempting offerings in the Ferry Bldg. Also, walking from Civic Center can result in encountering some pretty disturbed and disturbing people as the area is a hangout for the homeless.

                    While the walk might be enjoyable as exercise, that stretch of Market isn't particularly scenic. Mission Dolores is nice enough but the 16th and Mission BART stop can still be a bit dicey seeming. And once you'll be back to SF one day and the Mission will still be there. Barring a really huge earthquake.

                    A great and cute tour of the Ferry Building can be seen at: http://www.bunrab.com/yummychow/Metro...

                    1. How about getting off at the 24th and Mission BART station and going to La Taqueria for what I feel is the best burrito in the city? Its directly across the street from the BART station and would probably take you 30 min at the most to order and eat. Then you could head downtown on BART and have all the time in the world to wander about and shop. The Ferry Bldg is a wonderful destination and having a few glasses of wine at the Ferry Wine Merchant would be the way I would go before a 17 hr flight to NZ!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: IanW

                        Actually, I'd suggest getting a burrito at Pancho Villa near the Ferry Building on Embarcadero for the long flight to NZ. IMO it's not the best burrito in SF (I'm a Cancun and LaCumbre fan) but it's still decent and good, has to be 1,000x better then airline food and has devotees.

                        It's right next door to the Ferry Building. Here's the website, although the Ferry Building location isn't listed; http://panchovillasf.com/page/o5wx/Ho...

                      2. I have to say I'm surprised by all the bickering. The vast majority of these posts really had NOTHING to do with food, but rather were a great deal of posturing. The OP asked for suggestions - it didn't need to become a "I'm right/you're wrong" scenario.

                        All the suggestions have validity as everyone has a different idea of an enjoyable layover experience in SF. Depending on what the OP is looking for, the Mission/Zuni or Civic Center/Zuni or Ferry Building options all are reasonable considering the time constraints.

                        The Mission is a great neighborhood, but I would never suggest meandering from a BART station unless the person doing so has a bit of street smarts and has a map. For instance, Robert, you live here... of course such a stroll is easy for you. I know many people who would feel daunted by it. I think the area, however, does offer realistic impression of SF. And I'll agree that the area has a lot to offer.

                        The Ferry Building, itself, is a bit sterile: but it does contain a number of nice stores, restaurants, etc. It also does afford great views of the Embarcadero, bridge, etc. It's different, but still offers a realistic impression of the city. Lest ye all forgot, this city is a wonderful juxtaposition of new and old.

                        Gorge_ous, if you want to be adventurous, grab a map. If not, grab a cab. It's really your ballgame - you have the info, now it's just a matter of your taste and what you feel comfortable doing. Best of luck... and enjoy!!

                        P.S. Based purely on food, IMHO I'd say go to Zuni.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: jrhsfcm

                          Well put.

                          I haven't been to Zuni yet (I know, I know), but love the Ferry Bldg in all its sterility. I've been following this thread to see whether it was time for me to head on over to Zuni or not. Apparently it is, but I agree that there was an awful lot of unhelpful bickering going on. jrhsfcm, thanks for clearing it all up!

                          1. re: chemchef

                            Hi all!

                            Just reporting back -- got back about a week ago from NZ, which was a fabulous trip (lots of great restos to give any of you advice if you're heading there)! Anyhow, wanted to thank you all again for your great thoughts etc. Due to the fact we had lots of carryon luggage to schlep around (I packed a lot of books to read on the 13 hour flight etc.), we decided to go the simple route and stuck to the Ferry Building. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and lazily strolling along the Embarcadero was great and I had a blast looking through the shops at the Ferry Building. We had to leave our name at the Slanted Door, so we did a bit of shopping (found a great sun hat to take to NZ since I had forgotten to pack one) and then went to the Ferry Wine Merchant for a glass of wine before lunch. Then we had a wonderful long lunch at the Slanted Door. What a fabulous place! We had a great table by the window in a nice quiet corner and an excellent server. Started out with the Niman Ranch carpaccio and the yellowtail and kampachi sashimi (picture enlosed) and then 2 kinds of spring rolls and then the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab and caramelized prawns. All washed down with a fruity Alsatian riesling. And if weren't stuffed enough already, we simply had to share the chocolate and caramel tart with pecan ice cream. It was a tremendous lunch and a great way to start off on a long flight! I know that our next vacation will have to be in San Francisco - you are lucky to live in such a great city! Thanks again!

                            1. re: gorge_ous

                              Thanks so much for reporting back! I'm glad you had a great trip and that our reccs worked for you.

                              PS: I take cheap used paperbacks on a long flight, then jettison them as I go along.

                              1. re: gorge_ous

                                Yaaaaay! I'm so pleased you had a great visit to our area. It is a wonderful place with lots of nooks and crannies to sift through for memories. Come on back and take cabs to Zuni and do some really high end eating AS WELL as some burritos!

                                And do walk the crookedest street and ride the cable car--though that's better done at night while slightly intoxicated...