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KOKKARI or GARY DANKO to impress visitors?

I would appreciate advice on which one to take first time visitors to San Francisco to.....thank you! Would appreciate any other recommendation as well. We are staying at the Orchard Hotel on Union Square.

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  1. Kokkari is a little warmer and friendlier. Gary Danko is a bit showier and over-the-top. Both have great food though most people would seem to give Danko a slight edge in this regard

    Tell us more about your visitors and we'll be able to make a better recommendation for you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: grishnackh

      Gary Danko is much more expensive, much harder to get a reservation. Of the 2, I've only been to Kokkari and really like it a lot.

    2. It depends how much you want to impress them. A place like Boulevard might be enough. Rubicon is a little more intimate and of finer cuisine.

      Of course anybody would be impressed by Danko, that goes without saying. But at the same time Danko might be overkill for your purpose.

      2 Replies
      1. re: RonaldMcDonaldsFrenchLaundry

        I wasn't impressed by Danko. Where are your visitors coming from? You might want to select a restaurant based on something different from where they live. Danko is the type of restaurant that can be found in any large metro area. In the same class of restaurant I think The Dining Room at the Ritz is tops. Right in Union Square is Michael Minna.

        I think The Dining Room compares favorbly with The French Laundry in terms of food and service. I preferred it over FL.

        1. re: rworange

          I agree with rworange. I recently tried Danko for the first time, and wasn't all that impressed. Also, I think it's a great suggestion to pick something that's different from something they could find in their own town. Are you trying to impress them with the food or ambience or $$$$? I like Michael Mina and the Dining Room at the Ritz. I think both are better options than Kokkari, Danko and Boulevard.

      2. The food at Kokkari is great and it's a beautiful space, but they can be a bit patronizing if they take you for a tourist.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          or even if they don't. My last visit I felt I was getting a bit of attitude at Kokkari and given we use a local non-hotel number for reservations etc. I can't think of any reason they would take me for a tourist (unless they assume everyone is a tourist till they are regulars).

          But then, I don't think Kokkari represents the best that SF has to offer. (Still haven't been to Danko). I've had better food and service and thus would much rather go to Boulevard, Perbacco or Myth...just to name three of many.

        2. i enjoy kokkari... i've never been to gary danko.. btu i haven't had the urge to go there as much... i would expect gary danko would be more expensive and harder to get in..... but that's my perception and i could probably be wrong...

          i like the small plates at kokkari and i enjoyed the lamb....very juicy.... i liek the environment too.. very "homey-chic"

          where are your visitors from? what kind of food do they like? are you going to be going to other places besides sf?

          1. I have been to both and if you want to impress your visitors go to Gary Danko. Kokkari is ok but far from what I call impressive. Gary Danko is more sophisticated.
            Neither are out of this world.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ngardet

              Could not agree more. Really, neither one is that amazing. I would take them to Myth or Boulevard.

              1. re: Maya

                Yep... Neither Danko or Kokkari would have made it in my top choices. But both of those should be great.

            2. Our guests are Persians from Canada in San Francisco for the first time. We are from Orange County, just wrapping up a lovely trip to Sonoma continuing on to SF tomorrow. Enjoyed sublime food and service at the General's Daughter....unbeatable value in Sonoma! Thank you all for all the suggestions. Waitstaff with bad attitude are a big turn off! (Since we are all tourists, would we be PATRONIZED?) No food is worth such treatment! I'm looking to make a memorable meal, not necessarily someplace ostentacious and $$$$$.

              7 Replies
              1. re: xanderjoon

                I got the attitude at Kokkari the first time I went until they figured out by the name on the reservation that the s.o.'s relatives are weekly regulars. Humble they are not. However, the food is excellent, the wine list extensive (although this is what always sends my bill for two above $130), and the actual service very attentive. The front dining room and the booths are the places to sit.

                What's your definition of impressive?

                1. re: adrienne156

                  My definition of impressive is....Well-prepared and quality ingredients, good service, inviting atmosphere, and preferably something unique about the cuisine or place. Something to leave an impression on the guests for a long time, not just another expensive meal.

                  1. re: xanderjoon

                    You might seriously consider Ame.

                    1. re: xanderjoon

                      Given those parameters the suggestions of Boulevard and Zuni Cafe would be the best fit. I don't think of Gary Danko as particularly unique and while Kokkari is good, I'm not sure I consider the food there memorable.

                  2. re: xanderjoon

                    Since you bring up the ethnicity of your friends, it is worth noting that there are some similarities between Persian and Greek cuisines - for what its worth. Gary Danko is certainly more sophisticated and $$$$. How about Zuni, Myth, or even Jeanty at Jacks which all have well prepared food and interesting environments.

                    1. re: poulet_roti

                      Zuni is one of the most controversial restaurants in the city...


                      If I were looking to impress visiting guests, it certainly would not be on my list of possibilities.

                      I'll go against the grain here and suggest that Gary Danko is a fine choice for impressing visiting Persians from Canada. The food is excellent, the service is polished, and the space is warm without being too formal. It's not my favorite place in the city, but your odds of having a bad experience there are vanishingly small.

                      1. re: Paul H

                        I know Zuni is controversial, and I happen to come down on the side that views it very favorably. I know I've had some better meals than others and sometimes the service hasn't always been perfect while other times it is just fine - I will admit to being very forgiving of the establishment. I simply enjoy the place.

                  3. i like gary danko but if you really want to experience san francisco i will take them to zuni cafe the food is great, ambience, all kind of people goes there from poliyician to ur homeboy next door. i been to both places i like kokkari better danko's is a little stuffy try Myth as well and slanted door

                    1. Of tose two I would suggest Danko.

                      I'd also reccomend Ame and Boulevard to show them what uniquely SF food is like.

                      I'd also reccomend Fleur de Lys and to a slightly lesser extent La Folie for absolutely awsome food.

                      1. We went to Gary Danko recently for the first time and I thought it was fabulous . . . incredible food and warm, personal service. We love Kokkari, but I don't think it showcases San Francisco. For a sense of place, I agree with the person who suggested Zuni, except for the fact that on more than one occasion we have had horrible service there. I think Delfina's captures something that makes me think of San Francisco as well.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Judith

                          Even tho I enjoy Zuni, a friend of mine who went there recently complained that he saw a steady procession of bums outside the window -- you won't see that at the other restaurants mentioned.

                          1. re: walker

                            Well that would certainly contribute to making it a quitessential San Francisco experience. That said, I believe Zuni normally have a guy outside who keeps those people moving along so as not to distract the patrons.

                            1. re: walker

                              The food at Zuni is great, I can not disagree. The only thing that puts me off about it is the space, or lack of. Their layout is a bit on the cramped side. Which can lessen the whole experience, at least for myself.

                              I totally agree with the comment above about service personell with attitude. I experienced a similar situation at Chez Panisse. The "host" at the reservation desk was not at all welcoming and really rubbed us the wrong way, to the point of cancelling our reservation and going elsewhere. Maybe some day, but I have no plans of returning anytime soon.

                          2. I don't get the Zuni charm, and I don't see what makes Boulevard so uniquely San Franciscan (although I do like the food). It's not "fancy" but I've enjoyed fabulous food at Foreign Cinema. It's kind of quirky in a SF way. If you're looking for something less formal than the Dining Room or Michael Mina, you might want to check out Foreign Cinema.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: kresge86

                              I whole heartedly agree that if you're looking for something uniquely San Franciscan, none of the restaraunts mentioned in this thread would fit that bill.

                              When I think of something uniquely San Franciscan in terms of food, it's the more quirky operations and diamonds in the rough.

                              1. re: kresge86

                                I AM a Zuni fan, but I also found Foreign Cinema to be a similarly great experience for many of the reasons we like Zuni. The recent night we went, we had both exemplary and relaxing/friendly service, terrific food, and very good, decently priced wines. Both a uniquely SF places, IMO.

                              2. Neither Kokkari or Gary Danko are that close to Union Square. Both will require transportation.

                                If you want to stay close by, The Dining Room at the Ritz should work very well. Hotel food is usually suspect but this isn't. It gets consistent top reviews and the service definitely will be great.

                                1. I appreciate all your wonderful suggestions and will try them out on our next trip. After a series of californian, french, and italian cuisine in Napa and Sonoma, our guests were craving Greek food(very close to Persian). Took them to Kokkari and they LOVED it! Everything from the service to dessert was absolutely flawless! We had one of the best waiters there...Michael. The wood-oven roasted seabass(imported from Greece) was a surprise hit! On the other hand, their famous lamb chops were a let-down, especially when compared to the phenomenal lamb we had at General's Daughter just the night before. Moussaka was delicious, as was the goat stew. The flourless chocolate cake was one of the best and I don't even like flourless cakes!