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First Timer to SFO Needs Suggestions

NinoHB714 Apr 7, 2007 06:21 PM

Going to the bay area for the first time next week. I'll be staying in Jack London Square from Friday to Sunday. In Oakland, I want to try Zachary's for pizza, maybe Nellie's for soul food and not sure where I should get BBQ. Any other suggestions or alternatives? Looking for casual dining, nothing fancy.

I also want to head over to SF and don't know where to start in terms of dining destinations. I'll probably take the ferry over to Pier 41/Fisherman's Wharf. I'm guessing seafood would be a good call. I want to avoid the tourist traps if that's possible.


  1. Glencora Apr 8, 2007 10:26 AM

    What about Oakland's Chinatown? I'm not all that familiar with the restaurants, but you could do a search. If you're staying in Jack London Square you could walk over there. I've enjoyed dim sum picnics on the lawn at Lake Merritt.

    I would skip the trek to Cafe Fanny.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Glencora
      sgwood415 Apr 8, 2007 10:36 AM

      Here's a decent thread about Cafe Fanny. Not sure what people have against it, unless you're looking for a big portion, sit down, American style breakfast. Then maybe head over to Saul's Deli on Shattuck.


      1. re: sgwood415
        Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 10:41 AM

        Cafe Fanny has some great coffee and food, which is only fair at the prices they charge. Best French-style coffee with lots of milk in a bowl.

        The only things I have against the place are just about everything else: long line, bizarrely slow and disorganized service, (at the times I'm usually there) woefully inadequate seating, and sometimes small portions.

        1. re: sgwood415
          Glencora Apr 8, 2007 10:56 AM

          I have nothing against it, just thought it seemed way out of the way and not worth the bother. I live within walking distance and rarely go there--though I do get the bread at Acme. It's not on a very attractive corner and there isn't much else around there. 4th Street might be a better idea, if the OP has the time.

          1. re: Glencora
            Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 11:34 AM

            Actually, there's more serious and varied chow interest around West Berkeley than in the Gourmet Ghetto, though Fanny's the northernmost spot on the tour:

            grocery stores:

            Tuk Tuk (Thai)
            Indus Foods (pan-Islamic, plus halal butcher)
            Spanish Table
            Montero's Cafe (Mexican bakery)
            Milan (biggest of the several Indian groceries)
            Mi Tierra (Mexican)
            what's that new Indian place?
            Cafe Rouge meat counter
            Grocery Outlet

            restaurants / snacks:

            Vik's (chaat)
            Lanesplitter (great beer, decent pizza)
            Acme Bread (some pastries, e.g. ham & cheese croissant)
            Fellini espresso stand
            Cafe Fanny
            Indus Village (Pakistani)
            several other Indian places
            Sketch (ice cream)
            O Chame


            Broc Cellars
            A Donkey and Goat
            Edmunds St. John
            Takara Sake

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Glencora Apr 8, 2007 12:05 PM

              True, and I shop or eat in most of those places regularly. Not sure that they're worth a tourist's time and effort, though. The OP was rightly steered from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry Building. But West Berkeley...? On his/herthe first trip to the Bay Area?

              Thanks for the list of wineries, by the way. I've only been to the Sake place. Maybe I'll check out the others.

              1. re: Glencora
                Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 01:31 PM

                I'm just saying that for food touring I find West Berkeley way more interesting than the Gourmet Ghetto. Depends on where the tourist is coming from, of course.

                1. re: Glencora
                  rworange Apr 9, 2007 01:46 AM

                  Yeah, I'd go with Glencora on this ... even with a car not really worth the time or effort. I hope the OP will report back about what prices they are looking for and more about the chow class. I mean, there are a bunch of BBQ places in Oakland, but not sure what rings their BBQ bells.

        2. sgwood415 Apr 8, 2007 08:26 AM

          Since you're in Oakland you are right next to a really great foodie experience. Head over to Berkeley. There is a street called Shattuck that you'll want to explore. It's where Chez Panisse is and the whole area is studded with great food options. If you can get into CP, go for it. But don't miss the Cheese Board across the street for cheeses and pizza. Other Hounds can suggest even more favorite haunts.


          A few blocks away from Shattuck you'll also find Cafe Fannys, which is a must for breakfast. It's crowded and tiny but worth a visit. It's in the same building as Acme Bread and Kermit Lynch wines. Yum and yum. This little corner in Berkeley is a food paradise.


          Finally, one of my favorite chow adventures in Berkeley is to get Indian at Vik's Chaat Corner. The place is an experience to behold, and sooooooo delicious.


          4 Replies
          1. re: sgwood415
            Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 09:37 AM

            The Gourmet Ghetto's got a lot of crap mixed in with the good stuff. Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board, Cheese Board Pizza, Gregoire's gourmet takeout, and Masse's generally get good reviews here. There have been some positive reports of the expensive places in that horrible Epicurious Garden building. Saul's is what it is. Most of the 25 or so other places are mediocre and fairly expensive.

            Chez Panisse is pretty much the opposite of "casual dining, nothing fancy."

            Cafe Fanny is 20 blocks / 1-1/2 miles from Shattuck. There's little or no indoor seating so it's not a great place to go if the weather's not fine.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              sgwood415 Apr 8, 2007 10:23 AM

              Cafe Fanny is great. Even if it's a little misty outside, which is about the worst you'd get this time of year. While it is small and seating limited, I've always been able to find a place to sit down to enjoy some very delicious food.

            2. re: sgwood415
              lintygmom Apr 8, 2007 01:52 PM

              Cafe Fanny is not a few blocks from Shattuck. It's a mile down Cedar, not really near anything. For Vik's and Fanny from Shattuck you definitely need a car.

              1. re: lintygmom
                rworange Apr 9, 2007 01:42 AM

                Cafe Fanny is find but with so many great breakfast places in the area, not the first place to send anyone. I've always found the atmosphere unpleasant. I'm sorry, but sitting overlooking a big parking lot just isn't a pleasant ambiance for me.

            3. m
              mpalmer6c Apr 7, 2007 07:32 PM

              Yes, as a poster has noted, avoid Fisherman's Wharf, which fishes mainly for tourist bucks.

              For a taste of traditional San Francisco, check out Tadich and Sam's (both around for more than a hundred years, with good reason). A popular seafood joint for lunch (counter seating) is Swan's Oyster Depot.

              A fine dim sum place is Canton (on Third Street).

              A popular BBQ place is Big Nate's in SF, owned by former NBA star Nate Thurmond. Hey, Nate knows his BBQ.

              For trendier stuff (I generally avoid trendy), peruse the just-published Chronicle Top 100 on the Web. Not the top 100, obviously, but a decent guide.

              10 Replies
              1. re: mpalmer6c
                larochelle Apr 8, 2007 03:35 AM

                I completely disagree about Canton. It would be a terrible walk from embarcadero and there's nothing else there. Plus, the last time I was there the food was awful - the shrimp dim sum tasted old and the wrappers were gummy.

                Yank Sing in Rincon is much closer and while expensive at least the quality is very hight. And any number of places in Chinatown would better and the walk would be much more scenic. - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/388461

                1. re: mpalmer6c
                  Gary Soup Apr 8, 2007 07:55 AM

                  I'd say Canton is not as bad as another poster said. It's more affordable and authentic than Yank Sing (the customer mix ought to tell you that) and as close to a Chinatown experience you can get in the FiDi/SOMA area. The dim sum, I'll admit, is middling and won't blow you away the way it would when Canton was still in Chinatown.


                  1. re: mpalmer6c
                    Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 09:27 AM

                    Big Nates is OK but a waste of a meal for a tourist on a short visit. We currently have no world-class barbecue.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      Porthos Apr 8, 2007 11:49 PM

                      How's Hard Knox these days?

                      1. re: Porthos
                        walker Apr 9, 2007 12:06 AM

                        A friend of mine sent back some "off" potato salad and no one apologized or offered a substitute; he's not going back.

                        1. re: Porthos
                          larochelle Apr 9, 2007 09:43 AM

                          The hard knox is Sysco/cafeteria food. If it was in the owner's native Houston, it wouldn't survive.

                      2. re: mpalmer6c
                        jinet12 Apr 8, 2007 05:53 PM

                        I agree with both Tadich and Sam's

                        1. re: jinet12
                          Steve Green Apr 8, 2007 06:19 PM

                          Yes, but keep in mind that Tadich is closed Sunday, and Sam's is closed both Saturday and Sunday.

                        2. re: mpalmer6c
                          rworange Apr 9, 2007 01:37 AM

                          I have a very different opinion of Big Nate's having tried every item on the menu over the years. Forgetablle meat and memorably bad sides. I'd go to Memphis Minnie's for the brisket.

                          Also I never had a very good dish at Canton in the years I lived in that nabe. Out of all the great food in the area, those two places are two I'd never send a visitor ... or a local.

                          To the OP will you have a car?

                          1. re: rworange
                            NinoHB714 Apr 9, 2007 07:45 AM

                            No car... just my feet, the ferry, maybe a taxi or BART. It'll be strictly Oakland and SF.

                        3. Robert Lauriston Apr 7, 2007 07:12 PM

                          Zachary's is mediocre. You can almost certainly get Chicago-style pizza that good (not very) in L.A.

                          If you want to avoid the tourist traps, skip Fisherman's Wharf, which is just a giant one. Take the ferry from Jack London to the Ferry Building on Saturday morning to visit the market.

                          1. w
                            whiner Apr 7, 2007 07:01 PM

                            If you want to avoid tourist traps you'll need to leave Fisherman's Wharf. If you do stop at the Ferry Building, Slanted Door is a great option. You should do a search for restaurants, but moderately-priced Italian restaurants are all the rage right now: A16 (my favorite), Delfina (only raves), Perbacco, Incanto, and La Ciaccia are all good options. Of those, only A16 and Perbacco are really walkable from Fisherman's Wharf.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: whiner
                              walker Apr 8, 2007 01:47 PM

                              No one I know would walk from Ferry Bldg to A16 -- that a pretty long way. It is fun to just walk around the wharf -- Jefferson St. but you can eat elsewhere. For reasonable, delicious Italian food, take a quick cab ride to Aperto at 18th & Connecticut, on Potrero Hill. From ferry you could walk to South Park Cafe, lovely and reasonable. I have not seen it mentioned here. What about Bix? This is pricier but a beautiful place and everyone I've talked to loves the food and they use special purveyors, as does Chez Panisse. In Berkeley, Chez Panisse Cafe is rec. over Chez Panisse because of advance res. and price.

                              1. re: whiner
                                Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 02:02 PM

                                I suspect Slanted Door, A16, Delfina, Perbacco, Incanto, and La Ciccia are all be fancier than the OP is looking for, given the mention of Nellie's, Zachary's, and BBQ.

                                A16's not a long walk from Fisherman's Wharf. Lots of tourists wander through Fort Mason anyway.

                              2. Gary Soup Apr 7, 2007 06:41 PM

                                Note that most the ferries stop at the Ferry Building on their way to Pier 41, so you have options at the Ferry Building Marketplace and in Downtown San Francisco as well.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Gary Soup
                                  Paul H Apr 8, 2007 09:55 AM

                                  Yes, getting off of the ferry at the Ferry Building instead of continuing to Fisherman's Wharf is a good plan. If you want seafood, you'll have a hard time doing better than the Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building. You will be in an area that is populated with tourists, but it is essentially foodie heaven. Yank Sing for Dim Sum is close by, and Slanted Door is also in the Ferry Building (though some may regard it as a bit fancy).

                                  1. re: Paul H
                                    Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2007 10:07 AM

                                    Slanted Door's prices are certainly fancy.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      NinoHB714 Apr 8, 2007 10:37 AM

                                      Being Vietnamese and from OC, I think I'll skip the Slanted Door. Thanks for the suggestion though. I'll definitely have to check out the Ferry Building.

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