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May 15, 2007 11:10 AM

Best area to stay in SF for a chow-centered vacation...

I tried searching for this topic, but was unable to find anything... I'm going to be spending a week in SF in August. I'm hoping to find a housing swap (anyone interested in a studio apartment in Greenwich Village for a week?) but wanted to know what area I should be looking to stay in.

My boyfriend and I will be visiting from NY (neither of us has been to SF before). We definitely want to take advantage of your amazing food scene. We'll probably do one or two splurge meals and then a bunch of good local favorites (another topic for later, but please feel free to give some recommendations too!). Right now I'm more worried about finding the right area to stay in that has some good places around us and transportation that will get us whereever else we might need to go.

Any information that you guys could provide would be REALLY appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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    1. If you put yourself near a Bart station you'll be able to navigate the city relatively easily and inexpensively and find plenty of good food within easy walking distance of the many Bart stops and Muni rail stops all over the city.

      1. You may want to focus on being near a transportation hub. I'm sure you've already come up with your list of places to try. If you have some lodging options, choose one near Market st or BART or a 24 hour bus line. Study this map for the confluence of many routes.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Neilo

          So no preference between the Richmond area versus Financial District?

          1. re: jdream

            One vote for the Mission. I've no idea what lodging options are available here, but it's got fabulous food in the neighborhood and two BART stations (at 16th and 24th) to help you travel throughout town as well as major bus lines if you're heading to the north part of the city. In the neighborhood, you can wake up to breakfast at Tartine, have an expensive dinner at Delfina or Range, and explore the wealth of budget dining options.

            1. re: jdream

              For quality and variety, the Mission #1, inner Richmond #2, Tenderloin #3. The latter's the only one with a lot of hotels.

              Financial District, there are some destinations (Ferry Building, Tadich, Perbacco), but overall it's one of the worst food neighborhoods in the city. Weekdays there are lots of overpriced mediocre lunch places, evenings and weekends it's a ghost town.

              1. re: jdream

                SF proper isn't that large of a place, 7 miles by 7 miles. Life and food tends to focus on neighborhoods, although that's sort of an overstatement given you can get pretty much anywhere in a half hour.

                The Financial District isn't really a neighborhood but it's more centrally located to a lot of foodie-fun (Ferry Building, Chinatown, North Beach, SOMA, the Mission) and BART if you want to go to Berkeley or Oakland.

                The Richmond District is sort of sleepy although it's close to the Ocean, Golden Gate Park and there's great food out there. (I lived in the Richmond for a long time). A friend from NYC compared it to Queens (smaller with more charm), less touristy but more real.

                It's difficult to gauge people's taste but I'd probably stay in the Financial District given the more central location and access to public transpo will be easier.

                1. re: jdream

                  Almost every neighborhood in the city (including Mission, inner Richmond, and Tenderloin, which as Robert notes, are chow treasure troves) are easily accessible from the Financial District -- one train or bus, no transfers. If the goal is to visit different neighborhoods, I would probably stay in the downtown fold, just for the easy accessibility.

                  The Union Square area is just as good as, if not better than, the Financial District in terms of transit accessibility, but it's also walking distance from the Tenderloin, and has plenty of places to stay if you end up needing a hotel. BART from the Union Square area (Powell Station) to the Mission district (16 St and 24 St stations) is a mere five minutes, and a bus ride to the inner Richmond, depending on exact destination, is usually about 30 minutes or so.

                  1. re: shortexact

                    Thanks for all the info. I'm going to be there for work and will be put up in the Hilton at Union Sq for a weekend. After that we want to stay the week and explore as much as possible-- that being said it sounds like Financial District will be a good homebase for exploring. Sorry for all the travel advice (though any and all "must go" places to eat are MORE than appreciated) but would you think that it is necessary to rent a car or just do public transport? I think we plan to do a day trip to Sonoma/Napa and will rent a car for that day, but would it be best to keep it around for the week? Thanks!!!

                    1. re: jdream

                      The Hilton's in the Tenderloin. Lots of great food in that neighborhood: Thai House Express, Bodega Bistro, A La Turka, Canteen, lots of Pakistani places. Check out some of the more recent topics:


                      A car's mostly an annoyance in SF proper. Spend some of that money on cabs instead.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Hmm. I'd stay in SoMa somewhere, or Hotel Triton by Union Square/Chinatown, or even down by the Marina, just for the neighborhood or views, and then do my traveling for food. Guess I am not a true 'hound after all:). If you are up for $$$, stay at the St. Regis SF. It is amazing and also on top of restaurant that people like, Ame. The decor is truly fabulous and if you are a Starwood member and get upgraded into a suite you will think you have died and gone to chic urban heaven. Albeit a monochromatic heaven.

                      2. re: jdream

                        I would strongly suggest not renting a car. Your best bet is likely to be picking up a weekly Muni pass which will give you unlimited rides on the Muni rail/bus system, I think they're $15 these days. Parking in SF is a nightmare and, when you can find it, fairly expensive.

                        You can find more info about the weekly Muni passes here :

                        If you do start trolling around on the Muni, my favorite "hop off the train and eat" spot is in Cole Valley: Burgermeister. Good beer selection, fabulous 1/2 pound burger and really good fries. Its literally at one of the stops on the N-Judah line.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Muni pass should allow you to ride the BART as well from the Embarcadero to Glen Park so trips into the Mission would be easier than just using the Muni system..

                          1. re: jeffreak

                            Only the monthly Muni pass does that, but you're right about what it will give you: unlimited Bart rides within the City of San Francisco. Those go $45 (that I'm sure about because I buy one every month). So, if you're planning to go to the East Bay several times, it might be a good idea; otherwise, you're probably ahead to pay for each Bart trip as you need to.

                            There's good dim sum to be had in Oakland just a block or two from the 12th St. Bart stop across the street from the Marriott Courtyard....but I cannot remember the name of the place. Anyone?

                            Glen Park has also turned into a gem of a spot for good chow just blocks from the Bart station. Gialina for pizza, Eggettes for a wacky experience, La Corneta for a good taqueria, Chenery Park for great neighborhood feel, terrrific drinks and very good food. There are also a couple of cool bookshops. Good spot to spend an afternoon/evening.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              There's no reason to go from SF to Oakland for dim sum. Mexican or Korean, maybe.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                Muni pass is useless in the East Bay.

                                1. re: Neilo

                                  Good point, I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that about the East Bay...the Muni pass will only get you as far as the Embarcadero. Thanks for pointing it out.

                                  Where in the East Bay for Mexican or Korean, Robert?

                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                    Oakland. International Blvd. (Fruitvale BART) for Mexican, Telegraph (MacArthur BART) for Korean.

                      3. re: jdream

                        The Richmond is a great place for chow, and a nice place just to live (my choice if I were living in the city), but the public transit options there are limited.

                        Thus, if you manage to do a swap (tried craigslist?), I'd vote for the Mission: fun neighborhood, good and varied chow options, and close to BART, so you can get around.

                        Most of the hotels are clustered in the FiDi/Union Square area (including the edges of SOMA and the Tenderloin). There are lots of restaurants, but the food shopping is a lot more limited (unless you head into Chinatown) and the restaurants are more "desination" than "neighborhood." If you're on your own dime, there are some really great hotel deals if you bid on Priceline -- the single best tip I ever got on chowhound was , which if you take the time to absorb all the info on the site, takes all the risk out of bidding on Priceline.

                        You might also want to consider spending more than one day outside the city. I love SF, but if you're from NYC, you might find it more of a change of pace to spend more time in the "country" -- there's some serious food stuff going on in both Napa and Sonoma, and a drive up the coast could include stopping in Tomales Bay for oysters, Pt. Reyes for Cowgirl Creamery, etc.

                    2. We just spent a weekend staying in the Financial District (Galleria Park Hotel -- great rates and terrific service) and used public transportation to really get all over the City. It was super accessible to a lot of bus lines, the BART, the streetcars (for Ferry Building fun) and while there weren't neighborhood restaurants in the area, there were a lot of good options for a nice dinner.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Amuse Bouches

                        What'd you do for breakfast?

                        The Hilton and nearby hotels are even closer to major food neighborhoods, but the Tenderloin's a real neighborhood with around 25,000 local residents and lots of mostly inexpensive cafes and restaurants serving them.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          We walked to the Emporio Rulli Cafe in Union Square on the weekend, but we wanted a fairly light breakfast. It was only a few blocks (and coffee was served in the Hotel.) The restaurant in the hotel also served breakfast. On Monday morning, there were a lot of options open for a quick breakfast -- bagels, the Boudin Bakery on Market street, and any number of cafes.

                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                            On weekdays there are lots of places open to serve the hundreds of thousands of office workers. They're just mediocre and relatively expensive compared with residential neighborhoods.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Well, yes, and we actually went back to the cafe in Union Square. But I don't usually choose a location solely for the breakfast options. I'm just saying that the financial district was very accessible to a lot of public transportation and there were some good places in walking distance (we had a surprisingly good lunch on Belden place -- I didn't actually have high expectations, but our Italian food really surprised me) including some "splurge" places, and breakfast was doable.

                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                Good Italian on Belden--was that Cafe Tiramisu (middle of the block) or Brindisi (corner)?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Cafe Tiramisu. It didn't really look like much, but we had a surprisingly good calamari dish (stuffed with crab and potatoes in a tomato sauce) and I had a terrific risotto with corn, shrimp and jalapenos.

                      2. The original comment has been removed