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July vacation to SF- advice?

We live in Manhattan and are going to SF in early July. So far I have come up with the following, and I would appreciate some feedback and advice: Ferry Building for Farmers' Market (Fatted Calf, Andante Dairy); TWO; Tres Agave; Bar Crudo; Perbacco; Incanto; Firefly; Frascati; Michael Mina; Dining Room at the Ritz; Scala's; Plouf; Zuni; Chez Panisse; PlumpJack Cafe; Hog Island Oyster Co.; Swan Oyster Depot; Range; Boulevard. I realize that it will be physically impossible to do all of this in the time we have (although we're pretty much here to eat). So, any suggestions, subtractions, additions, etc., would be most appreciated. We are not constrained by area and are willing to splurge, at least a few times. Thanks!

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  1. It really depends on what area you are interested in. You should try to the Slanted Door in the ferry building. If you don't have rezzies sit at the bar. Also, don't miss the Acme bread there. It's amazing and they serve the same bread at Michael Mina (which I also just hit up for the apps/drinks in the bar area) Chez Panisse is great but in Berkeley across the bay. A yummy and fun place to go that is downtown in The Salthouse. Hard to get into so make rezzies. Also, brand spanking new in the Mission is a place called Spork from the guys of Range. I think it hasn't been discovered yet and no rezzie taken. Incanto, honestly, I'd skip. We live right by Firefly and Incanto and I think Firefly is better but for a visit I don't think I'd head out to our neighbor. It's pretty low key.

    2 Replies
    1. re: beshug

      Thank you! Sitting at the bar at some of these places is a great idea.

      1. re: sed231

        Yes, it is. Also, Bar Crudo can be reserved through opentable.com now and you should to go to the Tunnel Top next door for a drink. Have fun. Bring your layers!!! It's been the really foggy in May/June so far.

    2. sed231,
      Looks like we are switching places in July...me in NY, you in CA.
      If you are interested in Chez Panisse I say try to book a resi now and then take a look at the menu the week before to decide whether you actually want to dine there. It is across the bay though, so quite a trek. I definitely think you should visit the Farmers' Market...just so interesting! If you have the time, I'd say take a stroll through the Marina and take your time window-shopping, but also maybe stop into one of the more casual restaurants etc. for a bite. There is a good organic place called Lettus Cafe that does good salads and paninis...also up one of the side streets is a cute little shop called Kara's Cupcakes. Cute, expensive, but they try to use local ingredients, which is cool. Hope you have fun!

      2 Replies
      1. re: lj2899

        Thanks lj2899. We are trying to do as much food research as possible- thanks for the tip about Chez Panisse. When you come to NY, you'll be psyched about the food selection- if you have time and want to have a really fun NY Italian experience, go up to the Bronx to Arthur Ave.- the "real" Little Italy- and eat at Roberto's.

        1. re: lj2899

          The trip to Chez P isn't so bad from SF; it's a BART ride and a few short blocks!

        2. It really depends how long you will be here. Of the places listed, I'd eliminate TWO, Tres Agaves, Scala's, Plouf, and Plumpjack Cafe. I'd also definitely add some good ethnic food you can't get in NY, depending on your preferences (but I'd make a point to visit El Delfin for amazing sit-down, homey Mexican). I'd skip Slanted Door except for a drink and hit Bodega Bistro instead, unless you really want to do only upscale-ish places for dinner. I'd also add some dim sum and a trip to Aziza.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Maya

            Thanks, Maya. We are definitely into amazing Mexican, and thanks for the rest of the tips. We will be in town for five nights, so we should be able to do some serious (and varied) eating. Can you recommend places for dim sum?

            1. re: sed231

              Dim Sum is a super-devisive issue in SF and on this board. I am firmly in the Ton Kiang camp.

              1. re: whiner

                I was in the Ton Kiang camp until my last visit a couple months ago. It was pathetically sub par and insanely overpriced.

                1. re: Maya

                  To be fair I haven't been there since November. I hope you just caught them on a bad night, but sorry to hear about your experience.

            2. re: Maya

              Have you been to Plumpjack since the chef change?

              1. re: Chris Rising

                I had PlumpJack on my original list because I had read that the new chef had made a big difference. Any thoughts? Also, for a couple of splurges, what about the following: Fleur de Lys, Quince, Gary Danko, Manresa? Worth it?

                1. re: sed231

                  Stick with the Ritz for your biggest splurge. Or, head up to Cyrus in Healdsburg.

              2. re: Maya

                i second aziza. it's a can't miss, imo!

                dim sum has several major camps on this board: koi palace (of which camp i am a member; it is in daly city, but mostly bart accessible), yank sing, and golden mountain. everyone has an Opinion (capital "O") on this issue, but i think you wouldn't go wrong at any of these.

                i'm not sure of the ethnic food situation in nyc, but thai house express remains a superstar in my book. and maybe old mandarin islamic for muslim chinese?

              3. Favorite restaurant in the city: Fleur de Lys. In this price range, you can also look in to La Folie and the Dining Room at the Ritz. I would scrap Michael Mina.

                Expensive: Boulevard, Ame -- both are very SF-y

                Moderate to moderately expensive: Slanted Door (a must for visitors), A16, Myth, Delfina, Range. Aziza, Chapeau! are both also very good, but out of the way. Fringale, moderately priced, is an awesome value.

                Scala's is great IF you have a specific desire to eat on/near Union Square. There is better stuff out there for the price, but it is certainly good enough that if location is a factor.

                Bring a sweater.

                6 Replies
                1. re: whiner

                  Thanks to Artemis for the dim sum ideas (it seems like it's a pretty hotly contested issue in SF!). Whiner- thoughts on Gary Danko or Manresa?

                  1. re: sed231

                    Manresa, and bring layers because it might be really hot down there even if its freezing in SF.

                    Aziza may be somewhat farther afield, but it's superb and unique- and no more than 15 minutes cab ride from wherever you'll be staying - probably no farther than Incanto. You might also consider La Ciccia - Sardinian - in the same area as Incanto. Personally, I'd take visitors to Luella instead of Frascati.

                    I'd also recommend Burma Superstar or Golden Mandalay for Burmese. Wandering along Clement St is quite a treat, too.

                    Fancy dim sum - Yank Sing.

                    1. re: Maya

                      Skip Zuni. Its the most over hyped restaurant in the U.S., and overated.

                      1. re: donaldkeys

                        Zuni is hotly debated as well. If you're in the mood for some amazing roast chicken and fresh oysters, and ask to sit upstairs, however, you'll have a fabulous time.

                        I'd agree with the recs for Delfina and A16.

                        1. re: donaldkeys

                          Why do you say that? What was your experience? As Maya said, it is hotly debated, but in the decades that I have eaten there and brought visitors, I have rarely been disappointed ... though I'm still ticked about a pink apple salad that I ordered years ago ... four thin slice of pink apple you could almost see through. But other than that, its been great. And even on that visit, the person I took there loved it.

                      2. re: sed231

                        Manresa gets nearly all raves (but the least expensive wine on the list is apparently $80 and there is a high mark-up). Never got down there, though. Danko is an institution, but to me, FdL is noticably better -- I also prefer Alsatian food to modern CA cuisine, though.

                    2. i think you should skip the following, there are too many better: incanto, firefly, frascati, scala's. plouf or one of the others on belden lane are nice because you can sit outside in a place protected from wind and fog (the others are cafe claude and tiramisu) you should eat at zuni, bar crudo, chez panisse, swan (lunch only) and range. blvd i would pass on, plumpjack has nice food and a well priced wine list but do not skip the following to eat at either: A16 ****, Bar Tartine****, Delfina****, Quince*****, Gary Danko*****, they are all spectacular. i would also skip the ritz.

                      1. I'd definitely go to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, Bar Crudo, Zuni and Hog Island. I'd also add Aziza to a definite list (it's a little out of the way, but San Francisco isn't that big a city) and dim sum. I agree with the recommendation to get a reservation at Chez Panisse and then check out the menu online the week before and see how you feel -- July is a great time to go there, though, because there is such exciting produce in the markets then. Plouf is fine, but I wouldn't send a tourist there, there are many more interesting restaurants to spend your time in while you're here, and it's not really an essential SF experience. I also really like Slanted Door, and that would be a good place to do for lunch one day (Zuni is also open for lunch, and might be a good option). Have a great trip!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: JasmineG

                          I would not eat at Tres Agaves again, lousy, but oh those margaritas -- just go for that.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            Thanks JasmineG and jemonks- I know Swan only has lunch, but other than that, what's the diff. between Swan and Hog Island? Both worth it?

                            1. re: sed231

                              Totally different. Swan is an old-fashioned seafood bar serving a variety of crustaceans and shellfish, counter service only, very "old SF"; Hog Island in the Ferry Building is serves primarily the oysters grown by the parent company a little ways up the coast, very sleek and modern, with a great view of the Bay.

                              "Worth it" is subjective. I fyou're cramming as much eating as possible into a few days, you can hit Swan for a light "pre-lunch" bite and Hog Island for the $1 oysters and Anchor Steam beer at Happy Hour on Mondays and Thursdays before dinner.

                              While I'm posting, put me in the anti Ton Kiang camp. What I'd recommend depends on what kind of dim sum experience you want: cheap or upscale; traditional or "nouvelle"; in the city or outside; cart service or menus, etc. I'm also not a big fan of Zuni. How are you going to be getting around? Are you going to be doing other things besides eating that put you in specific neighborhoods at specific times?

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Thanks for the info about Happy Hour at Hog Island. Dim Sum- looking for traditional, cart service. We are staying in Union Square, and are going to the All Star Game, but otherwise we'll be walking/cabbing/public transporting around, and we're quite flexible.

                          2. Incanto is the first restaurant I've eaten at in the Bay Area that stifled my moaning and groaning that there's no place here like Lupa (not that the food is the same, but the feel is the same to me). If you have an open mind about eating offal, you will be amply rewarded. If I'm going to grossly generalize, I think that people who ordered "safer" (e.g. non-offal) dishes were disappointed - people ok with tuna hearts and head meat and cockscombs were blown away.

                            I would actually skip "4-star" restaurants in SFproper - I was disappointed by Gary Danko and Michael Mina, haven't been to Dining Room at the Ritz. The thing is that most of the top restaurants in NYC offer excellent lunch specials, so you can get the food without paying an insane amount of money. Once you've experienced $25-$50 tasting menus at Daniel, Le Bernardin, Bouley, and Jean-Georges, paying $150+ for inferior "four-star" food is maddening. I am dying to try both Cyrus and Manresa though.

                            For Chez Panisse, I would make reservations at the cafe instead of the restaurant - it has an a la carte menu, so you can try a lot of different things, instead of playing the "make a reservation then see" game. Although, if you're dead-set on the restaurant, word is that menus are more interesting on Mondays (and early in the week in general). Finally, the Cafe is open for lunch.

                            Definitely eliminate Plouf. You have Cafe de Bruxelles.

                            I like Perbacco but I don't think it's so amazing that I'd call it a must-do for a short trip.

                            I love Boulevard's apps and desserts, have been bored by their entrees.

                            Re: other people's recs - I second Bar Tartine - classic Cal-Mediterranean, nothing like it in NYC. Also in the Mission, consider Bi-Rite for ice cream. The ice cream situation in Manhattan is woeful.

                            Also second Artemis' suggestions for Thai and Muslim Chinese, and Maya's for Burmese.

                            I'm not a fan of Slanted Door, but a lot of people love it. Maybe I just had really bad luck. Twice. Good drinks, great view, but for actual food, I prefer La Vie in the Richmond for upscale Vietnamese (oh, butter-roasted crab with garlic noodles is a Bay Area thing that I'd never heard of before I moved out here - you should really get some while you're here)

                            Quince is very good but not superior to Babbo. It's also more expensive than Babbo.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: daveena

                              Thanks, daveena, for the advice. It is true that the ice cream situation in Manhattan is woeful, but Grom gelato has just arrived on the Upper West Side, so it's improving (even at 4$ a small cup)! We love having lunch at the special restaurants in NYC, and are thinking about doing Cafe Chez Panisse for lunch- are there other worthwhile lunches to be had? Thanks again!

                            2. I would dump Michael Mina and keep the Ritz. I would second Aziza and add Myth. Swan Oyster Depot is just lunch and if you keep Plouf, consider doing off-hour lunch there as well. I'd dump Tres Agave and Scala's in favor of Aziza, Myth or A16 in a heartbeat. As far as dim sum - divisive as noted - I like Yank Sing. And be sure to bring layers, it can get foggy and windy in SF in the summer.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: dinnerout

                                It sounds like we definitely have to try Aziza- all the Chowhounds are saying so. I am off to peruse the websites for the ritzy restaurants, and then will start to reserve- sounds like, at least on this board, the Ritz is the consensus. Thanks!

                                1. re: sed231

                                  Yes, I agree you do need to try Aziza; in part because you probably won't find anything like it in Manhattan. I've taken colleagues from Manhattan and they loved it!

                              2. I would definitely drop Tres Agaves, Firefly, Plouf, Scala's and Perbacco. Agree with the A16, Delfina, Quince suggestions. Myth, too.

                                Get on the Chez Panisse reservation now; I prefer the Cafe over the downstairs.