Will be staying at the Marina Inn (Octavia at Lombard) mid April. Would like recommendations for neighborhood spots with excellent food. Cuisine is not an issue; not too casual and in the $50 or less range per person. Would like to be able to walk to the restaurant so I would say within a mile. Also any lunch suggestions
Originally was going to stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center but CH concerns were raised about walking around at night in that area. Can I assume this area is safer?
Well, you should definitely have a meal at Greens at Fort Mason, which is right there, at Laguna and Marina Boulevard. The food is vegetarian, but is definitely very good. You could probably walk in for lunch, but I'd recommend reserving for dinner.
The area is very safe.
Just to really confuse you, my advice is that you take a look at some overview of SF neighborhoods and see which one is most "you" - perhaps check out http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/...
Personally, the only way I'd stay in the Marina is if it was free and I had a car. There's some great restaurants in the Marina - A16 is one shining example - but the whole vibe of the neighborhood creeps me out.
I'd rather walk past a few stinky homeless people on the way to a tasty cheap dive in the Tenderloin, then walk a block in the Marina. But then, I live the Lower Haight which is too "edgy" for some people.
Tom Yum is very good Thai food a few blocks down Lombard westward. Everything I've had there was very good to excellent except the yellow curry, which was a little tame. Zushi Puzzle (Lombard @ Buchannan) makes interesting non-sushi items but if you like nigiri or sashimi this is my favorite place. The live scallop and medium-toro and albacore are unrivaled imo. Orgasmica Pizza on Fillmore at Greenwich has slices good enough to seek out. Lettus on Steiner at Chestnut has a decent breakfast, and a tasty wild salmon on soba noodles dish. Home plate on Lombard at Pierce has good greasy spoon breakfast choices. Cafe Maritime (Lombard around Scott) has basic fish choices that are worth eating. A16 has great pizza, burrata and wine ( as well as other things),
Re-reading your post, none of these places are anything but casual, except A-16. And the Marina is shiny but innofensive to open minded people not scared of rude rich people.
I'll add Hime for Japanese food in a trendier setting (on Lombard near Cafe Maritime), Isa (Steiner at Lombard) and Terzo (Steiner at Union) for small plates, both doable in your price range if you don't have expensive wine. Mezes (on Chestnut) has decent greek food. Pane e Vino (Union near Gough) for pasta and pizza.
If you don't mind walking somewhat uphill on the way there, on Polk street I like Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen for seafood, Pesce for small plates, Antica Trattoria for Italian, and Petit Robert is pretty good for neighborhood french. If you don't mind a steeper uphill walk, Luella, Frascati and Sushi Groove are on Hyde Street, near Union.
If you want to splurge, Plumpjack Cafe (Fillmore St.) has gotten good press lately, although I haven't been there yet. And Gary Danko really is within easy walking distance :)
There are Boulangerie bakeries on Union and Polk street for breakfast and snacks and Nectar wine lounge on Steiner for interesting wines by the glass.
You are much better off in the Marina, no question. Tons of places: A16, Terzo, PlumpJack, Isa, Kime ... and even Baker Street Bistro, the new Pres a Vi and Presidio Social Club (these three are a bit of a walk). Try the Balboa Cafe or Rose's Cafe for brunch. With the exception of the latter two, all will likely require advanced reservations. You won't be disappointed.