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May 1, 2007 08:28 AM

Is Tadich Grill worth the trip?

Going to be in town for a couple of days and thought about a late lunch/early dinner next Tuesday. Is that a good time to miss the crowds? I've read the reviews elsewhere and it varies. I know it can be "touristy", but I don't mind if the food is good and the experience is worth the plunge. Hoping rworange, Lauriston and other locals weigh in on this.

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    1. re: hhc

      I have eaten there several times, and I am always disappointed with the menu selection, the bland seafood entrees and the male waiters who take one look at two women dining and automatically expect us to leave a light tip. They consistantly rush us, give us horrible service and as expected, they get a crudy tip.

      Tadich Grill
      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      1. re: MsJulie

        I've only received rude service from one and I think it was the owner.

        I've eaten there many times, with my daughter, with men, with just women and only that one time was not treated well.

    2. I didn't think much of Tadich ... until I learned how to appreciate it through Chowhound.

      One of the single best things ever written on this site ... one of the many things that made me such a fan of Chowhound ... and Tadich ... was this post by Melanie Wong who captured the essence the grill.

      Since people rarely follow links and I'm going to pull out Melanie's post in entirety ..

      Melanie Wong Jul 06, 2002

      Aw, Patrick, I'm very sorry to hear of your disappointing time at Tadich, since I'm the one who sent you there. Coincidentally, I was in the Financial District Wednesday morning and with so many workers taking a long holiday weekend, it was a good time to pop into Tadich for lunch. Good call, as I was able to walk right in and get a seat at the bar, one in from the front cash register. I had cioppino with garlic bread, which attracted the attention of several tourists/first-timers waiting for tables who asked me for recommendations. I imagine I sold at least 4 orders of cioppino! I also pitched my favorites: pan-fried sand dabs, mesquite broiled petrale sole, oysters rockefeller, seafood ala monza, clam chowder, and when in season, dungeness crab louie salad. That's all I've ever eaten here. It's too bad I didn't think to give you the same direction for what to order.

      I hadn't been to Tadich for nearly two years. I still love it and have a few thoughts on what the appeal is. This is a working man's bar, one of the few places left in SF where blue collar workers and bankers have historically intermingled. The suits and regulars have to wait with the rest of the plebes – no reservations. I like the hooks under the bar to hang my purse, I like the dark wood paneling, I like the energy of patrons standing four deep at the bar having a drink.

      It's a union shop with long-time professional waiters who keep up with the high turnover, hustle-bustle setting. I've never thought of the service as bad or rude - to me, it's very efficient, no-nonsense, and brusque. My lunch server swooped in to refill my ice tea two times without my asking, made eye contact with me from further down the counter to see if I was done (not yet) twice, and brought my bill promptly when asked. I felt well-taken care of. When they tell you the wait for a table is 15 minutes or an hour, they're always right.

      The food stays the same and you know what to expect. Tadich isn't trendy. The menu is still printed daily with whatever seafood is freshly caught. The simpler the preparation, the better, and nothing's better than the broiled petrale with Tadich tartar sauce (love that stuff!). After reading Stanley's link about the ban on bottom fishing, I think I'll need to go back soon for a fix of sand dabs and/or petrale. The "Tadich Bake" sourdough bread is always the same kind of sour with a medium-brown chewy crust. I noticed the decidedly non-modern cooking style in the long-stewed and dried herb flavors of the tomato base of my cioppino. [also the crab meat was frozen and dried out - best to wait until in season] I've become accustomed to a fresher, lighter style than this, but hey, this is Tadich, they're not changing, and that's ok with me. Very enjoyable, though, to dunk with the light crispy garlic toast that was buttered, seasoned and griddled on both sides. There's an occasional flight of fancy on the daily menu, but I just ignore it. I'd go next door to Aqua if I wanted something like that.

      It's a great value for the dollar. There aren't many places downtown with white table cloths and real cotton napkins where you can find entrees for less than $14. The chicken dinner at Merritt Bakery in Oakland is 20% more than the half chicken at Tadich! Fishermans Wharf prices are 20-50% or more higher. Of course, if you order the wrong thing and don't like your food, it's no value at all.

      At Tadich the customers still drink like old time San Franciscans. SF has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the US. Today our numbers are inflated by tourists - it used to be driven by hard-drinking natives! When I first came to the City and started working in the Financial District 18 years ago, the senior partners still kept up the martini(s) at lunch tradition. Looking down the counter on Wednesday, nearly every customer had a glass of beer or wine with lunch. You won't see that in other places. This is a bar with food.

      Tadich has dice cups to shake to decide who picks up the tab. This is a long time San Francisco tradition that seems to be dying out. You don't hear the "ka-thunk" of leather hitting wood any more when you walk past a bar. The website where I clipped the photo has this quote: "If there's no sourdough bread on the table and no dice at the bar, you might as well be in Kansas, Toto", Gil Jacobs, circa 1999.

      What else can I say? The food isn't going to wow you. If you order one of the classics, it will be well-prepared, a solid effort, and not expensive. There are more tourists now and fewer longshoremen, but all are welcome at Tadich Grill for the flavor, sound and look of San Francisco's more colorful past. You can count on that.

      ... Thanks again, Melanie. I've enjoyed my visits to Tadich after that ... and the ciopppino, sand dabs and broiled petrale sole. The oysters rockefeller and seafood ala monza are still on my to-try list.

      From another poster ... Mrs. Smith ... who did a nice job of describing a Tadich experience ...

      Tadich Grill was also demanded, and I went there much more willingly. It's another institution, and I'm usually pleased with their food. We had salads and entree and dessert. Mixed green salad was standard -- I had tomatoes and anchovies -- which was just that -- tomato slices with canned anchovies. Fine but nothing fantastic. The small Caesar was quite good and peppery, but nothing hugely exciting.

      I longed for the comfort of the corned beef hash, but, experiencing vague and irrational fears from watching the news about mad cow, I buckled and got deep-fried oysters and bacon instead. This is a great dish -- so old fashioned and bad-for-you delicious. Good juicy Pacific oysters fried in a delicate and not-too-thick batter. They needed salt and lemon juice and tartar sauce, but together they were great. They folded nubs of thick, not-overly-salty bacon were a wonderful foil. They came with some pretty incogruous slightly greasy green beans -- but you know, I don't go to Tadich for the vegetables. Some long, well-fried, very crispy and brown potato wedges alongside (thick and very light on the inside) provided a surprisingly good foil to the oysters and bacon. I could have been eating this meal in 1910, I know, but that's why you go to Tadich, isn't it?

      Also at our table was the crab a la Monza (a favorite, and everything it should be) and a large, thick, New York steak that was "not as good as Harris's, but pretty darn good for a fish restaurant" according to our companion.

      Dessert was a foot-stompingly good Gianduja Chocolate Mousse (why oh why did we share! we wanted our own!) and a carrot cake that was "more than adequate, but not amazing". Bill was a nice price, too.

      ... if you go, hope you report back.

      10 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        I have heard mixed things about Tadich since moving here from New Orleans. From what I understood, Tadich was the SF equivalent of Galatoires or Antoine's. We had a party of six restaurant industry people and were ready to do it up in a grand style during the December holiday season. First of all, the place has a strange kind of soda shop/drugstore feel to it or a the feel of a tired old warhorse diner. The "atmosphere" comes from the old school waiters...a combination of gruff, salty, charming, busy, and indifferent. Because the place is usually bustling, you have no choice but to be patient there. We ordered a lot of different things. Shrimp and crabmeat salads. BORING. This is the first "fine dining" restaurant that I've seen actually use iceberg lettuce. Please! (I know, "Old School" ...I'm from an old school city but crap is crap.) The fish we ordered was served in copious quantity but only passable quality. Pedestrian. The Oysters Rockefeller were pretty much an embarrassment. The kind of goop you'd expect at a chain. Their Cioppino is passable but not glorious and definitve as I've heard it to be. The lamb chops were fine. This is one of those places where your best bets are dishes that don't require any effort in terms of technique, presentation or flavor. Keep it simple! We brought in half a case of wine and all they had were those dinky glasses that were so small and cheap, you'd think they're still around from the '70s. Our experience there was not awful. We had fun. Just nothing to right home about in a city with a plethora of exciting restaurants far more worthy of your time.

        1. re: Porcini

          So, have you had a glorious version of cioppino that was worth righting home about?

          1. re: rworange

            Yes. I've made it. I've had it many ways and some outstanding versions in SF's North Beach area. The one at Tadich was truly a disappointment and it wasn't cheap, either.

            1. re: Porcini

              My disappointing Cioppino was bland, watery, unreduced, with a wealth of pristine seafood but little flavor.

              It makes me angry to hear locals and transplants blithely recommending this dish at this restaurant after my asst'd seafood in water.

              Makes me wonder if they're eating nostalgia and haven't eaten there for years, in better times, after the less than mediocre dish I had.

              Have had good experiences with simple things there, not the tough Lobster Newburgh. My mistake to order it but I thought I was in a Seafood Valhalla time warp -which I like.

              I do appreciate Tadich for the institution it is even if one of the dishes is uneven.

              1. re: stanbee

                There seems to be two varietys of cioppino. One is a thick almost tomato sauce soup like Scoma's and the other is teh thinner broth like Tadich.

                I found the broth at Tadich anything but bland .. full of herbs and flavor.

                Two questions

                1. Who do you think in SF has good cioppino? It is difficult to judge what your taste is.

                2. Other than Tadich's, when was the last time you had lobster newburg? I find sometimes a nostolgic memory doesn't live up to it.

                1. re: rworange

                  I'm experienced with fish stew ,thick and thin white and red. Frutti di Mare, Ciambotte (Jambotte?), Cacciuco, Bourride, Bouilabaisse, Brodetto Marchigiano....

                  Have had great Cioppino at chefs' homes here and in my kitchen.

                  Once and only once there was fine one at Fog City, Novmeber about "95. The dish on return was lackluster with different herbs and a different cook and different season.
                  There's a nice fish stew at Anchor Oyster. Haven't tried their rendition of Cioppino.

                  I grew up on Lobster Newburgh (Newberg?), though i'm never sure how to spell it, and have made it at home and at work last century.

                  1. re: stanbee

                    Sorry if that sounded like I was asking for your seafood credentials.

                    What I wanted to know was what is good cioppino to you.

                    Scoma's seafood in it is better than Tadich's and it gives you an option to order in-shell or out. However, their soup is almost as thick as spaghetti sauce. I preferred Tadich's lighter soup that was closer to boullabaise.

                    Just checking about the lobster. I've had a number of nostalgia dishes and, well, my tastes have changed over the years. That doesn't seem to be your case. I personally would not order Maine lobster on the West Coast being a New England snob. Well, not unless I know the source like Old Port Lobster shack or Woodhouse. Still, is should be better that tough. I wonder if Tadich's is using frozen lobster tails

                    West Coast Cafe
                    466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                    1. re: stanbee

                      none of us know how to spell it.

            2. re: Porcini

              Sweet, crunchy, juicy, and cold local iceberg lettuce is the best foil for the seafood salad topped with bay shrimp and crab meat. With a dab of Tadich's Louie dressing, you've got yourself a mini-version of SF's classic Crab Louie salad for just a few bucks.

              Absolutely keep it simple here. It's a bar and grill, not what I'd call a "fine dining" spot. Lots of good advice in this thread to get the best out of Tadich.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Thank you, lowly Iceberg is the best crunch in town even though it was maligned forever by Craig Claiborne long ago. De rigeur, Iceberg for BLTs and blue cheese or green goddess salads. When I want green crispness, perish the vitamins.

          2. It's very quiet in the middle of the afternoon, walk in and sit down. Definitely a place to try at least once for its unique charm, though you can eat pretty much the exact same meal at Sam's for less money.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Other than price, I happen to prefer Sam's sand dabs...small, succulent, swimming in butter with the ubiquitous boiled potato...perfection.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                good call on Sam's, Robert, I like it better than Tadich, it has a real old san francisco feel to it and the booths and waiters are very cool

                1. re: chuckl

                  What to order at Sam's besides the Sand Dabs?

              2. Might or might not be worthwhile for the chow. But as with the Tour d'Argent in Paris you don't just go for the food, but the history. (A few hundred years less, for the Tadich, but still it's maybe the oldest operating in SF, with reputation as below.)

                Herb Caen, 1970, reported Bn. Philippe de Rothschild asking to be taken to a place "typically Old San Francisco" but then growing impatient waiting for a table at Tadich. M. le Baron: "I dislike doing things like this, but perhaps it would help if you told them who I am." His host: "I dislike telling you this, but I did, 15 minutes ago." (Not from online)

                5 Replies
                  1. re: eatzalot


                    That's Tadich. Some people have called the service "snooty" but they treat everyone with the same sometimes gruff professionalism.

                    BTW, last time I was there I had the cold, steamed artichoke for my appetizer and it was delicious -- great for someone who comes from an area where artichokes aren't plentiful, and it's peak season now.

                    1. re: eatzalot

                      You can 'soak up' history, but, if you can't enjoy eating it, then what's the point unless you are a photographer or a writer? When six foodies go to a restaurant and order damn near everything and sight and the best dishes are the most basic, simple ones, and even those are pedestrian...then yes, the restaurant isn't very good or wasn't very good. I actually KNOW now, because I moved back to New Orleans and I WORK at Galatoire's! I can stand behind what I serve proudly and our customers love the food, not just the history and the atmosphere.

                      1. re: Porcini

                        Hmm, I would not call the petrale sole we had at Tadich's pedestrian. It is difficult to find restaurants that can cook such a delicate fish without ruining it. Tadich's cooks know how and do it repeatedly every night. There are dozens of posts on this board warning potential diners away from anything but the most simply prepared and fresh caught fish there, and many others warning of frozen crab and possible disappointment in the Tadich cioppino. Our waiter steered us away from the sand dabs, our first choice, because he did not feel they were fresh enough. Like many other restaurants, not every dish is a winner but if your order is informed, you can dine like a monarch there, be treated well and enjoy the ambiance while you're at it.

                        1. re: Porcini

                          My favorite Shrimp Remoulade is Galatoire's . I'm humbled!

                          All. I always want it ALL.

                      2. yes!, Yes!!, YES!!!

                        Either order whatever fish is fresh and have it grilled or go for the cioppino.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: DavidT

                          Sand dabs are one of the best things to order. They're pan-fried (too delicate to grill).