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"BEST" RESTAURANTS

We will be in San Francisco for 4 days and would like recs, price no object.
one of the days include sunday.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Here are a couple of sites that might be helpful (the SFgate site has useful maps):

    http://www.sfgate.com/food/top100/2007/

    http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/

    1. Hit the send button prematurely. Among S.F. places often mentioned on this board are (in no partu\iucular ordder:

      Range, Zuni Cafe, Gary Danko, Fleur de Lys, A16, Boulevard, Foreign Cinema, Michael Mina, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mpalmer6c

        Gotta say, was unimpressed by Foreign Cinema - tatty, worse for wear facility - OK but not excellent chow. Best feature is the movie.

        1. re: Waterboy

          I have to agree with that. Foreign Cinema is a favorite on this board, but I too was unimpressed with the place. It wasn't bad, but we left wondering what the big deal is. The food was fine, but not all that spectacular. There are lots of places that are in better shape, in nicer areas, and have better food for the price.

      2. Try Absinthe for brunch...definitely order the potatoes. Perbacco is a new, fabulous Italian restaurant in the Financial District. And if price is no object, definitely try to get into Gary Danko and Fleur dy Lys.

        1. They're all the "best". Are you looking for "most expensive"?

          Best really means absolutely nothing out here. In any of a couple dozen categories
          there are maybe the top ten that get mentioned the most. But even then,
          a big part of this chowhound thing is finding the ones that don't get talked about.

          Usual advice: Scan the SF board back a couple of months. Do work first before
          asking others to do work for you. Give people something to go on: what do
          you like, how adventurous do you feel, do you have any real interests, etc ...?

          1. As mentioned, you will get more info if you read some posts and get a list that you then seek comments on. "Best" is so totally subjective that it is virtually impossible to respond. You should also mention what types of food you like or don't like and what you can get where you live. Does price is no object mean you only want expensive places? If so, check out Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Gary Danko, Michael Mina, Fleur de Lys - those are not in any particular order. More names in no particular order - Ame, Myth, Zuni, Boulevard, Isa and A16 in the Marina. Aziza in the Richmond is fun. Do some searches on the names folks have offered and then ask us about a narrower list that seem appealing.

            1. My recommendation is an older place that actually got mixed reviews when we were planning our San Francisco trip. We decided to give it a try anyway, if only for the view. Overall, we were not impressed with the food in SF, but we LOVED the Cliff House. I wrote a detailed review on TripAdvisor (maybe under a different username), if you want to check it out.

              10 Replies
              1. re: starbucksbrew

                You were not impressed with the food in SF but LOVED the Cliff House??? Where else did you eat?

                1. re: starbucksbrew

                  Can you post the link to your TripAdvisor post? I'm curious to see where you ate and what your impressions are. I'm a little confused by your posting. Glad you liked the Cliff House though, I recommend that to a lot of out of town friends and they always enjoy it, eventhough it gets slammed on this board.

                  1. re: sgwood415

                    Yes, I would like to see a positive post about it. Even with good reports, it is far from the Best in SF. My experiences there have ranged from ok but overpriced to out and out bad with bad service. Love sitting in the cocktail lounge though with a drink.

                    The thing with this site is that it is about the food. So a visitor who is excited about being in SF might love the view and also not be as clued into the fact that there are better restaurants with better prices in the city. But I'd love to hear differently, so I hope starbucksbrew posts the link.

                    Have you eaten there and have recommendations? Is it a place you go above other places in the city when you want to eat the best in SF?

                    So far for me the best is the popovers and drinking in the view in the upstairs lounge with a drink.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I agree, my best experiences too have been in the bar for a drink and a small plate nosh. They update their menu with the seasons, so go for what you like. I do believe this board can extend to the total experience of a restaurant which includes the food, presentation, service, locale (based on a poster's needs), and cost. Hard to separate those when condiering a restaurant IMO. I don't care if a place has amazing food, if the service is lousy I can't fully recommend it without that qualifier (Olivetto's anyone?). So, my recos for Cliff House are to stick with straight ahead dishes and try to order local, go for crab and salmon over shrimp and mahi mahi, for example.

                      It is not a place I'd go above all else, but the OP mentioned a sunset, and that's a good place with that in mind.

                    2. re: sgwood415

                      Here is the long story of why Cliff House was our best meal (it was truly spectacular, and we like upscale food):

                      At Cliff House (the Sutro's part), we started with a crab sushi roll, which was awesome. Then my husband had macadamia crusted halibut with coconut couscous. I had black pepper prawns (huge prawns) on spaghetti with a light cream sauce. I also had an Ocean Dream coffee for dessert - coffee, Godiva liqueur, banana liqueur, Meyer's rum, and cream. It was all excellent, as was the service (which was lacking in many other places).

                      We ate dinner one night at Panta Rei (?), where I had great osso bucco on fettuccine, but my husband's 4 pasta sampler plate was totally bland, bordering on bad. Plus they didn't tell us until after the meal that they didn't take credit cards. Now, I'm sure the reason they didn't take credit cards is because they are located next to 5 banks in the financial district. So while I sat at the table, my husband ran across the street and paid $5 in service fees to get cash from an ATM to pay for dinner. I don't care where they are located, when dinner costs $70 (more specifically, if dinner costs more than $20), people are going to be upset if they don't take credit cards AND they don't let you know until after you've eaten.

                      We also ate at Sauce. I don't recall what we had, but I remember they were both average. The PBJ dessert that was getting rave reviews at the time, was over-toasted, tasted kind of charred.

                      We ate lunch at an Irish place, I think on Geary (or one street over), which was good, but we have equally good, and better, Irish places in Orlando where we live.

                      We had lunch one day at Boudin, which was good but not memorable. We did have amazing Chinese pork buns for a snack one day, but the dinner we had in Chinatown was just okay - nothing like the Chinese food I had in Montreal's Chinatown.

                      We were also struck by how expensive breakfast is in San Francisco. We had a Waffle House or IHOP quality breakfast at an ordinary local diner - it was $30 for the two of us.

                      The worst was we went to Ghiradelli Square for brownie sundaes, and they were out of brownies! You are Ghiradelli for crying out loud, how are you out of brownies?!

                      1. re: starbucksbrew

                        Thanks mucho ... hope you will ask on the board next time your in SF. Did you get the recs from Chowhound? There;s so much better than that.

                        Yeah, I'll tell people to go to Boudin if they insist on eating at the Wharf. There are a marginal few better than that in the Wharf but it is one of the better options ... so there you go. Irish ain't that great in SF ... there's a possibility of it getting better say 10 years from now. There's a big working class Irish group currently that is at the stage where it is a beer after a hard day to relax. Like any group as they get more upwardy mobile they might make an impact on better Irish cuisine.

                        Hope it wasn't Lori's Diner cuz that place sucks big time. Mels ain't that great anymore either. There are some great breakfast places in town ... and some lesser priced ones too.

                        Anyway, appreciate the feedback and will link to your report next time the subject of the Cliff House comes up.

                        1. re: starbucksbrew

                          Please let us know when you're in SF again and we'll all steer you towards some great eats. We have much better to offer than those places!

                          1. re: sgwood415

                            I will! I didn't know about Chowhound when I went to SF the first time. I am currently getting recs on the Chicago board for my upcoming trip there. :)

                            p.s. forgot to mention, on our last night there, we did have a v.v. good meal at Kuleto's. I think that is another older place too. We will have to find some trendy places next time!

                            1. re: starbucksbrew

                              wow starbuscksbrew too bad that you went to some of the worst places, ones that I could not image going to, a local paper would of steered you to better places.. glad you found chowhound, so next time you will have a completely different experience.

                              1. re: starbucksbrew

                                Yeah, there's a lot better than Kuleto's too. It is ok, nice view, good happy hour specials. However, a lot of locals think of it more as the place you go for a business meal that you sort of go to when the company sends you there for events or with clients. Decent enough but nothing too great.

                                That's the thing with Chowhound it isn't about what is trendy, but what is good. That doesn't mean there aren't good trendy favorites.

                      2. Burmese for lunch at Larkin Express Deli on a weekday.

                        Cordon Bleu

                        Aziza

                        Burma Superstar

                        El Delfin

                        1. In my descending order...

                          #1- Fleur de Lys

                          #2 (tie) La Folie
                          #2 (tie) The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton

                          #4 (tie) Boulevard
                          #4 (tie) Ame

                          All that said, I might hit up Slanted Door on Sunday night. Awesome food, service, and views. Not necessarily too authentic, but by far the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. Not super-expensive. A16 is also awesome and unique and not super-expensive.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: whiner

                            I like that its not authentic, but the best Vietnamese food you'd had. Wouldn't inauthentic disqualify it from being the best of? (I should point out I have no use whatsoever for "authenticity" as a way to distinguish food since I think removed from the time and place the food literally cannot be...and besides, I don't care if its authentic if its bad.)

                            For me: Myth, Jardiniere, Quince; Chenery Park, Gialina, Yummy Yummy. I'd avoid the Presidio Social Club as we found the food and service sub par.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              Well, I'll give you that inauthenticity leads to imprecise discussion of 'favorite within a group or sub-group'. However, I still think grouping of similar styles can be useful when discussing food (or wine, or television shows, for that matter). If I were to call it my 'favorite Vietnamese-styled restaurant with a hint of modern and progressive CA-french accents using ingredients generally available in the Bay Area as opposed to those available in Vietnam" I would be comparing it to about 7 other restaurants in the world.

                              Plus, I think most people looking for a 'Vietnamese' restaurant don't care as to the exact level of authenticity. They just want it to be Vietnamese, broadly construed... you know, not Thai.

                              So... the best Vietnamese-like restaurant in the world?

                              ;-)

                              I do agree with you though, you can't match the experience of eating a bisteca IN Florence (or.. San Gimignano) or Beef Bourguignon IN Burgundy.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                I'll grant that the term "authentic" is a red herring, and a certain amount of inauthenticity is unavoidable as foods migrate. But I think "I like that its not authentic" is a very telling remark and should be written acoss the foreheads of half the chowhound posters on this board. Cubes of rare Harris Ranch beef in a rural peasant-based Vietnamese dish is obviously deliberate inauthenticity but has done a lot to make Charles Phan rich and famous. He HEARS you.

                                1. re: Gary Soup

                                  Oh, I've actually never eaten at The Slanted Door. That was a poorly constructed sentence by me...I meant that I liked what whiner wrote, namely, that the food is not authentic but then still referred to it as "the best vietnamese" food he's ever had. Goes right to the problems with labelling something "authentic" or not and also calling it some particular cuisine. whiner certainly did a good job of explaining why one must do that at times, though...and humorously so. I can't speak to whether Phan's food is good, authentic or anything else about it. I like food for its own qualities and don't much worry about whether something is "authentic" apart from curiousity.

                                  Certainly, for the OP, The Slanted Door would be a quintisentially San Francisco experience. Gary, you've got a wealth of experience in SF, where would you send someone coming to town?

                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                    "whiner certainly did a good job of explaining why one must do that at times, though...and humorously so."

                                    :: insert smiley greamlin::

                                    Gary, I'm a sucker for the shaking beef... I get it every single time. I actually think that is one of the single best dishes in SF and would strongly reccomend it to anyone going.

                                    1. re: whiner

                                      Breakfast: Mama's (Washington square)

                                      1. re: whiner

                                        I like to pick on the Shaking Beef because I once read an interview where Charles Phan explained the origin. He said he found it in a remote area of Vietnam where the quality and freshness of the beef is generally suspect, so it's minced very fine, cooked to almost a cinder crispness, and doused with a sicy sauce. It seems quite a stretch from there to rare cubes of designer-label beef.

                                        I imagine the Harris Ranch beef cubes don't really shake, they just quiver a little.

                                      2. re: ccbweb

                                        I actually have a very narrow range of experience in SF apart from Chinese food (and I think I know a decent al pastor taco when I see one). I've been to Slanted Door a few times because the company paid for it. Ditto Boulevard, Shanghai 1930, Market Bar, Yank Sing, etc., none of which I would recommend (except possibly S1930 nowadays) except within very narrow parameters.

                                2. If money is no object for dinner:
                                  Ame, Gary Danko, Michael Minna, Fluer De Lys
                                  Lunch
                                  Zuni Cafe, Defina, R&G Lounge, Canteen

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: kleungsf

                                    Boulevard- I thought it was going to be one of those "tourist trap" restaurants, but I was blown away. It's a SF classic, definetly worth it.
                                    Best Chinese ever: House of Nanking. A little gem. Right off Columbus. It's a small place and kind of a hole in the wall. But the food is phenomenal. When the owner comes over to take your order, tell him you'll take whatever he suggests. He does a great job.
                                    Kokkari- Financial/Embarcadero area. Medittereanean/Greek. Awesome.
                                    Perbacco.
                                    A-16: very cool, hip place. Wine list and food are great. I prefer going at lunch for a pizza and a glass of wine and then walk around the Marina district. I went for dinner once and wasn't all that impressed.
                                    Quince.
                                    Emporio Rulli which is down the street from A-16. AWESOME. Great for an espresso and pastry or for 5 star food at a great price. The dinner menu is terrific.
                                    Jardiniere.
                                    Zuni Cafe- I have been ther once and I wasn't overwhelmingly impressed. I guess I had higher expectations because of all the talk.
                                    Ozumo- near Boulevard.
                                    Michael Mina.
                                    Ame.

                                    1. re: adefiori

                                      House of Nanking is a particularly interesting choice. For most folks it always seems to be a good experience the first time around, but loses much of it's luster on the second visit. It probably has something to do with many of the dishes tasting the same, which would still make it a good choice for tourists.

                                  2. IF price is no object for the "best", get a limo to drive you up to the French Laundry. Call 60 days in advance for your reservation--as soon as the phones open.

                                    1. This discussion has been had many a time on this board and, in my mind, there is one obvious answer. Pick up the phone and call Gary Danko and get yourself a reservation. You can thank me later. There are many many amazing restauarants in this city (Fleur de Lys and The Dining Room at the Ritz are more than amazing), but they are all fighting for second place. I would go on but I'll just let you see for yourself.