First Trip to SF (& CA). Where to eat?
The subject pretty much says it all. My fiance and I are taking out first trip out to San Francisco this August, and I'd like some recommendations on places to eat.
We'd like to do at least one great (i.e., semi-expensive) dinner in the city, but other than that, just looking for some great value grub. Small, interesting > scene.
Also, looking for any suggestions on places to eat in/around Napa, as we are headed there for part of the trip. Probably looking to do one fancy dinner out there, too.
I know nothing about California food spots (just starting to research the trip), so please enlighten me.
Chez Panisse (above) will count as your "semi-expensive" dinner. And I second the Tadich rec. for a classic, old school San Francisco experience. Beyond that, you should check out the many threads on Mission Burritos, SF Dim Sum, Vietnamese food (you do not need to go for the high end Slanted Door option to have a great meal), Burmese food, Korean food (across the Bay), etc.
You could also check out any of the multiple NYer in SF queries. Just do a search for "new yorker in san francisco."
Hi Fred! http://www.jardiniere.com/ San Francisco's Jardiniere is my recommendation for your very-nice meal. The food is out-of-this-world; and the ambiance cannot be beat. It is a two-story restaurant, where the second floor is open to below. The ceiling is concave, and painted in gold-gilt. Thousands of microscopic holes were drilled into the ceiling with fiber optic cables placed in each one, so it looks like you gazing into a glass of champagne. Even if you decide to go elsewhere for dinner, at least go there for a drink... it is too exquisite to miss.
In the Napa Valley.... I'll tell you the one thing I was slightly disappointed in, and that is the restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. I had a fantastic meal, but my friend's was .... ick.... Nothing was good. So, it may be a hit or miss place for food. However, make plans to stop by their campus as you are driving through the Valley. It is quite wonderful! http://www.ciachef.edu/visitors/gs/
Enjoy your trip!
I would suggest Slanted Door (modern Vietnamese) as a semi-expensive (main courses are about $18-$28) choice. The views are spectacular, the food is super-awesome, great service, the wine list is incredibly well thought out and well priced, and the restaurant is very casual.
For a more formal and more expensive meal, I would try Boulevard (modern American / CA cuisine) or Ame (Japanese with strong CA-French influences).
For a moderately priced restaurant, I really really like Fringale. And for an inexpensive place for dinner, I think L'Osteria del Forno in North Beach may be the best value in the city. Order the pork roast (if they have it) and you need at least one slice of the porcini pizza.
Napa, try Market for a good, very casual, moderately priced dinner. N.V. and Ad Hoc for not-too-expensive snazziness.
I'd go to Martini House for the fancy dinner but Redd might be another good choice. I assume you're not looking for something like The French Laundry which, obviously, has the reputaion of being one of the greatest restaurants in the world (and is, I believe $190/person set menu -- but service included)
good move on leaving the beltway in august for the bay area. bring a sweater (no joke). here are some thoughts from a frequent visitor:
the farmers' market at the ferry plaza on saturday morning is pretty special. get there around 9 a.m., poke around the stalls, grab some breakfast at primavera and then load up a picnic basket with wine, bread, cheeses, cured meats, etc. to take to angel island, wherever.
mass transit is your friend. sf is the only city in california that gets it right. spend a few minutes on the web and get to know what's at your disposal.
ristorante ideale (on grant) is a decent place for dinner if you like italian food. not expensive and away from the hustle and bustle. recommend you get there early. tadich grill is old school but well worth a visit during the week for lunch. sit at the bar.
hopping the bart to berkeley is pretty simple. once there, you can navigate to chez panisse and grab a table at the cafe.
i'm sure you'll have a great time no matter what you decide.
August weather in SF is often quite chilly. Don't count on dinner outdoors unless you bundle up. It does not rain in August.
Napa can be quite warm, though it gets cool in the evening.
Where are you staying? And will you have a car?
My advice would be to stay in the downtown area without a car -- many good places within walking distance. Then rent a car for a side trip to Napa. SF traffic/parking is not fun.