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Memphis Chowhounds coming to SF

I'm looking for some breakfast,lunch, and dinner recommendations for a family of six( three teens, three adults) in SF. Nothing too pretentious, just great food and a casual setting! (mid-level price) We're definitely breakfast people, so breakfast recommendations would be greatly appreciated! As far as cuisine goes, we are not looking for anything specific, just a solid meal! Thanks :)

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  1. I'm partial to the Grubstake on Pine & Polk. It's diner-ey, not pretentious. Great food, good prices. I think it opens up in the late afternoon though, so don't know how that fits into your plans (though I think they serve breakfast all day). Keep in mind I'm from a small town in CT (not a ritzy part of CT either). When I go out to SF I tend to get overwhelmed with the "culture" if you will, so I look forward to a good meal (I don't need the foofy food). I don't care if a spot is the place to be seen this week or not, I'm in it to eat.
    Other places I've been to in the Bay Area are Mona Lisa on the north shore (it was OK for italian, but they completely messed up one of the orders so I can't recommend it) and Asia SF (this was a shock for me - a drag show place with tapas - again, I'm more Mayberry than big city). Once I got over that the food was pretty good, just really expensive (for my tastes).

    1. J's Pots of Soul at Octavia & Page gives a solid breakfast/lunch in a cozy, unique setting. It's kind of a soul food type place, but run by an asian family who treats diners like family. Really, really good fried chicken wings that you can get at breakfast or lunch. And good coffee served in mismatched mugs like you'd have at home. D-Jay and Skinny Black would approve.

      1. A fun spot and has been around for a long time is Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack (Mission)
        18 Virginia St. funky, vintage aprons hanging off the walls, dj spins on the weekends.. fun spot for the teens.

        Maverick is one of the best breakfast, on 17th street in the Mission. Sorta SF style meets the South.

        Bluejay Café- (NoPa) 919 Divisadero St - quaint breakfast spot.

        Ella's-Ella's (Presidio) 500 Presidio Ave.-great chicken hash and other very good homely style food.

        Mission Beach Cafe-(Mission) 198 Guerrero, nice lunch spot or dinner, good attention to deal.

        Little Star Pizza on Divisadero St great pizza and kinda a hip little neighborhood joint.

        1. It would help us a lot if you told us where you're staying and if you were a bit more specific about your likes and dislikes.

          Given that, I think that you might like to try some Mexican and Asian food while you're in SF.

          Dim Sum is a good bet -- small dishes, lots of choices. Some good places include Gold Mountain in Chinatown and South Sea Seafood Village on Irving St. in the Sunset district of the city. (www.southseaseafoodvillage.com


          If you're going to be near Golden Gate Park, then the area around 9th Ave and Irving St. just south of the park near one of the entrances has lots and lots of good inexpensive to moderately priced restaurants including Park Chow for an very good eclectic menu, Pasta Pomodoro (part of a small chain -- www.pastapomodoro.com) for Italian, San Tung (http://tinyurl.com/y6l8m6) for Chinese dumplings and pulled noodle dishes, dry fried chicken wings and other excellent dishes, and Yummy Yummy (http://tinyurl.com/2lf4bl) for Vietnamese food.

          If you want to try tacos, burritos, and other Mexican snack foods, then you should try some places in the Mission district, very easily reached via Bart. Some favorite taquerias include Panchito's, La Taqueria, La Corneta, Can Cun, and Guadalajara. There are some websites devoted to burrito reviews -- here's one of them:


          For breakfast, some good places are Ella's (http://www.ellassanfrancisco.com/menu...), Dotty's True Blue Cafe, and Town's End (near the ballpark) . Here's a place that reviews breakfasts in SF: http://mrbreakfast.com/r_city.asp?sta...

          Hope these help.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nancy Berry

            Thanks so much for the help! We're staying around Fisherman's Wharf, but from what I've read the food around there is not great. We'd really like to get a feel for the city and the people. We're definitely not conservative types, so places that are offbeat or interesting would be great. Mexican, Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, American....we're open to the cuisine as long as it gives us solid food, good service, and a feel for SF. And fair prices, but it doesn't have to be cheap. (particularly for dinner) thanks again :)

            1. re: cpeyton

              "We're definitely not conservative types, so places that are offbeat or interesting would be great"

              Good because the places I mentioned are not conservation and a bit interesting.

          2. Universal Cafe has a nice, industrial casual feel to it. The food is excellent. It's kind of on the small side though.

            Absinthe is slightly pretentious but their breakfast is delicious.

            If you want to get a view of the water, head out to the Ferry Building and grab some pastries from Acme and coffee from Peets and hang out on the pier. I think there's also a sit-down restaurant there but I can't remember what it's called.

            1. My favorite breakfast spot is Mama's. Almost always a line, but it's worth it.


              When I have out of town guests, I always suggest a ferry ride to tiburon for lunch at Sam's Anchor Cafe. It's very fun in the summer when the weather is nice.


              5 Replies
              1. re: Fussy Foodie

                I'm a big breakfast fan myself, and can say that, of places mentioned above, Maverick and Universal are both excellent high-end brunches (by which I do *not* mean hotel buffets, but brunch made with top-notch ingredients and creative flavor combinations at a place one might go for a dinner date). However, both are quite small and might be a challenge for a party of six; I wouldn't try it without a reservation unless at an off-peak hour. I know that Boulette's Larder in the Ferry Building applies their meticulous, creative approach and super-fresh, local ingredients to breakfast; that might be a great stealth option. I second Absinthe, and they're bigger and could more easily take a party of six; two more excellent high-end brunch options in the same line are Foreign Cinema in the Mission (and near a lot of interesting shopping, sights, etc.) and Citizen Cake. Absinthe and CC are a block from one another in Hayes Valley, a fun shopping district not terribly far from you, so if you can't/don't make reservations, you could go there, see which can take you first, and wander a bit while waiting.
                Finally, in the "quality classic greasy spoon diner" category, two San Francisco institutions one or both of which you have to try--and go on a weekday to avoid lines--are It's Tops, which has been in the same location on Market St. b/w Valencia & Guerrero (you can take an antique street [not cable] car from the Embarcadero) since 1935, and is a fascinating pre-chrome diner with an amazing antique waffle iron (try the bacon-waffle); and the St. Francis Fountain (b/k/a The St. Francis) at 24th and . . . Florida? Bryant?, which was built as a soda fountain in 1918, looks much as it probably did then, with lots of amazing preserved woodwork, and now does great breakfasts all day long (plus ice cream and a brisk trade in 1970s and early 80s vintage trading cards for TV shows, pop stars, movies, etc.).

                1. re: readingstand

                  Thanks for the suggestions. I'd like to stay as far away from "hotel" breakfast as possible!

                  1. re: readingstand

                    I HAVE to disagree with you about It's Tops. Not only would I not recommend it to a visitor to the city, I would not even recommend it to a resident who, presumably, would not miss the "wasted" a meal.

                    Its a filthy dive and I have a very high dirt if the food is good, but at It's Tops, well, It's Not. If the bacon waffle is edible, then it may well be the only thing that is.

                    There are plenty of negative reviews of It's Tops, here's one thread in particular -

                    The St. Francis Foundation is decent enough but is nowhere near what is was under the previous owners.

                    1. re: larochelle

                      Do you have any recommendations for dinner? I may have confused people when I said "nothing too pretentious." I'd like to avoid super-trendy places with inconsistent food, but we're not looking for "family" type places either. 20-35 dollars for a main course is around the price range we're aiming for. I feel like sometimes people assume teenagers don't appreciate great food, but that is not the case with the younger members of the group.( Does anybody else experience that?) Thanks again for the help!

                      1. re: larochelle

                        it's Tops was pretty bad the last time I was there.. I wanted to like it just because it's cute and retro..

                  2. for lunch, Yank sing has great dim sum at 2 locations. around the financial/ Market st. areas

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chazzerking

                      To keep it simple, I'd recommend a few of things.

                      Take the F Line from the Warf to the Ferry Building. Walk around. Nothing like it in Memphis.

                      Go for Dim Sum for a late breakfast/early lunch. Either go to Yank Sing or to someplace in Chinatown (look on the board for various options). Yank Sing has its detractors but their main location (near the Ferry Building) is a quality, upscale, experience. Lycee Garden is an option I like in Chinatown, but there are several others as well.

                      Plenty of great places for dinner. Piperade and Boulevard are in the vicinity of the Ferry Building. North Beach is fun and should be checked out. I like Da Flora and there are plenty of other options around there as well.

                      If you search on the board for any of these place, you can get an idea for what they are like.

                      But most of all, have fun!

                      1. re: Calvinist

                        Ok. One more. Tadich Grill. Just up California Street a few blocks from the Ferry Building. Old school (open 1849) San Francisco seafood grill. Fresh and simple dishes -- petrale sole, Crab Louie, cioppino.

                        1. re: Calvinist

                          Here's a little Fisherman's Wharf guide if you find yourself stuck eating there.

                          Eagle Cafe changed owners and is no longer recommended.

                          You would be better going to North Beach nearby for breakfast with Mama's, as mentioned, as one of the better options.

                          As mentioned, get on the street car that runs along the Embarcadero and go to the Ferry Building. The best time to go is on Saturday morning when there is a Farmers Market with some good vendors selling prepared food and baked goods. You could have stellar fresh fruit along with maybe a Hobb's bacon BLT from Hayes Street Grill with tomatoes bought that morning from one of the top produce vendors in the market. Wash it down with Blue Bottle coffee, Strauss milk, or a fresh juice. During the week, Boulette's Larder in the Ferry Building has stellar breakfast / lunch with a outstanding view. There's Slanted Door for pricy but top-quality Vietnamese food.

                          Nearby the beautiful Rincon Post Office has Yank Sing which serves excellent dim sum.

                          As mentioned, Tadich on Califorrnia is a great old-time SF fish house with the best sourdough in SF. Stick to cioppino or sand dabs or oher simple fish preps.

                          Boulevard is another highly thought of restaurant near the Ferry Building.

                          An earlier stop on the street car line would be Piperade a Cal-Basqe restaurant.

                          Further up on the Embacardero, near the ballpark is TownsEnd, my favorite breakfast joint from when I lived two blocks away for a decade. I still stop by when I'm in the city. They have their own bakery and breakfast comes with a basket of seasonal mini muffins, yeasty rolls and house-made fruit butter. They also have a nice dinner special ... 3 courses for $18 ... the lemon merangue pie is very good.

                          More down scale and nearby on the Embarcadero is Java House

                          This is your basic no-frills breakfast, for great prices with a million dollar view.

                          Not to be confused with Red's Java House which is nearer the Ferry Building. Million dollar view too, known for their cheap burgers. I prefer the other Java House for breakfast.

                          If you take the same street car to the train station on 4th, just beyond the ballpark, you could eat at one of my favorite SF restaurants, Coco500. It is a 3 block wal from the train station.

                          Be sure to share the vacheron for dessert. Good battered fried green beans, flatbreads,wood-fired oven meats, veggies, salads. If you are into squid, any preparation of squid is alway excellent. I was never a fan of the soups.

                          Hope you will report back on what you tried. Next time you are in the city, we will know your tastes. It will also help other visitors to SF. Speaking of which, scroll down the board for the many, many posts similar to yours for additional ideas.

                    2. For those staying in Fisherman's Wharf, I usually recommend walking west along the bay to Greens in Fort Mason. It's vegetarian, but has rich pastas and good pizzas, a nice view and setting. I prefer lunch there, but they're open for brunch and dinner, too. Other options for casual dinner: Bistro Aix in the Marina and, with four teenagers, we recently had a fun dinner at Liverpool Lil's near the Presidio--pub grub, but everyone had a good time.

                      Greens: http://www.greensrestaurant.com/
                      Bistro Aix: http://www.bistroaix.com/
                      Liverpool Lil's: http://www.liverpoollils.com/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: c112

                        For a "feel for SF" don't miss Swans Oyster Depot on Polk St. Amazing crab salads and a great group of servers. Limited seating, believe only about 10 seats at a counter.
                        Doubt anything like it in Memphis. Interesting neighhood.

                      2. The Mission district between the 16th and Mission Bart Station and the 24th and Mission Bart Station has lots of very good restaurants. Delfina (and Pizzeria Delfina) are on 18th St. (www.delfinasf.com) serves very high quality Italian food, Tartine on Guerrero at 18th St. is a fabulous bakery, Ti Couz on 16th St. between Valencia and Guerrero (http://tinyurl.com/2twc7o) serves very nice Britanney-style crepes, both savory and sweet.

                        The Ferry Building is a must visit for food loving folks, particularly on Saturday mornings when there is an incredible farmers' market filled with the best of Northern (and some Southern) California produce and artisanal foods like jams, olive oils, olives, salumi, smoked fish, cheese, baked goods, etc.,etc. You can have great breakfasts or lunches at some of the outside stands like Hayes St. Grill or inside at places like Boulette's Larder. It really is worth spending a morning there.

                        Other restaurants that I like are Boulevard (www.boulevardrestaurant.com) for delicious upscale American dishes, Hayes Street Grill (www.hayesstreetgrill.com) for pristinely fresh fish and GREAT french fries, Firefly (www.fireflyrestaurant.com) for an excellent eclectic often changing menu, and Aziza (http://www.aziza-sf.com) for delicious Moroccan/California dishes.

                        Other areas to visit if you're interested in food are the Richmond district around Clement St. or on Geary for great Chinese, Russian or Korean food. Frankly, there are good food places all over the city. I would check out the messages here on the San Francisco board -- just look for something that catches your interest. I'm sure that you'll have a great time.

                        1. If I were visiting SF, I would want to eat lots of seafood, fresh veggies, Mexican and Asian. Don't miss out on the taquerias in the Mission District. I'm partial to Pancho Villa and Taqueria Cancun. If you hang out by Golden Gate Park, you should swing over to Ebisu for some sushi and Japanese food. Also, call ahead and make a lunch reservation at Slanted Door. The food is not that expensive, very fresh and inventive, and you get to sit right by the water. Alternatively, you could stop by Out The Door while shopping at Westfield (run by the same owners of Slanted Door). The food court in that mall is amazing. If you want a nicer setting, head upstairs and dine at Straits Cafe. I usually go to Berkeley for my veggie fix so hopefully someone else can suggest a decent place in SF to grab great salads.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: yehfromthebay

                            I'd consider Mandalay or Burma Superstar (both Burmese) after hanging out in Golden Gate Park.

                            Also, Thai House Express gets recommended a lot, if you're looking for good Thai.

                          2. No one has mentioned Memphis Minnie's barbecue place, so I will. Of course you're from a hotbed of good barbecue and that isn't this area's forte. But MM's is the best we have (in my opinion) and as good as any I've had anywhere (lots of Kansas City bbq, some Texas). So if you want to give your namesake place a try, it's in a funky but interesting and safe area and is something between a "joint" and a restaurant. I (usually) love the brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork. Three sauces (red, mustard-based, and vinegar-based) on each table, none served on the meat.

                            Memphis Minnie's
                            576 Haight, between Steiner and Fillmore
                            San Francisco

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Mick Ruthven

                              It would be a waste of a meal, being from Memphis, to eat at Memphis Minnies in SF. The BBQ doesn't compare at all to what you'd get in Memphis or KC.

                              1. re: Big Larry

                                >The BBQ doesn't compare at all to what you'd get in Memphis or KC.<

                                I don't agree. I'm from Missouri and have had much bbq in Kansas City, including all the "name" places and some not-so-"name".. I'd put MM's up against any of them. A food-service-major and chef (also from Missouri) agrees with me. That's not to say others don't have other opinions, just that for some of us, MM's bbq is (usually) right up there with the best.

                                As far as whether the OP would want to have a meal of something that's great in their own area, that's up to them.

                              2. re: Mick Ruthven

                                When a S.F. resident goes to Memphis would you recommend restaurants that serve Dungeness Crab?

                                For the Original Poster, I would focus on Chinese, Vietnamese, Latin food and California Cuisine. Those items Not indigenous to Memphis.

                                Yank Sing for Dim Sum is a good call. Good Dim Sum, a little price (compared to other locations) but user friendly.

                                Ana Mandara, Bong Su, Slanted Door for contemporary Viet cuisine (I am sure you can access pho, bun etc. in Memphis so I would focus on the new wave of contemporary viet cuisine)

                                For Latin, try Limon of Mochica for awesome Peruvian ceviches and other dishes. Or Mexican options.

                                For California cuisine try Myth, Bix.

                                1. re: grubber4

                                  grbber4's post is the kind I want for when I travel. I totally agree.

                                  1. re: yehfromthebay

                                    Thanks for all the input! I gotta admit though, BBQ is the last food I'd eat in San Francisco. I can have great BBQ anytime.

                                    I can't wait to try the wide variety of cuisine SF has to offer.