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Gary Danko, Cyrus, Michael Mina or Chez Panisse?

We'll be in San Francisco (from LA) this weekend and am looking for a fabulous dining experience for Sunday night. I would love to go to French Laundry, but it's a bit out of the price range and there is no chance we could get a reservation.

We're staying at the Westin St. Francis, but thinking of spending Sunday in wine country (Napa/Sonoma/Healdsburg) and we'll also have a car.

I've read good things about Gary Danko, Cyrus, Michael Mina and Chez Panisse. Does anyone have a trong recommendation? It doesn't need to be from this list if I've missed anything. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Fleur de Lys is my favorite in the city. Then comes The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton and La Folie.

    Manresa is out of your way, but they all say it is rediculously awesome. Mina, Cyrus, and Panisse all get mixed reports. I guess a couple of people love Danko, but my feeling, and the feeling of most people I know, is that it is always very good, but never awesome.

    1. Gary Danko and Chez Panisse are both a guaranteed great time in my opinion. I'd skip on Michael Mina if I were you. Neither of my experiences there have been great, or even very pleasant, and it gets a lot of mixed reviews on this board.

      What kind of dinner are you looking for? Romantic? Rustic? Over-the-top? Letting us know will help.

      7 Replies
      1. re: grishnackh

        Something different than the LA scene I guess. Romantic is good, but also rustic. Just really good food and a great wine list and nice atmosphere. We'll be at a wedding the night before (@ the Westin) so probably something relaxing.

        EDITED to add: We love Italian food, but I don't think any of my original suggestions fit that bill. We eat a ton of Italian food, so something different would be nice. Based on these reviews, I'm leaning towards Cyrus since Chez Panise isn't open on Sunday (and might be inconvenient). I hope I can get a reservation there!!

        Does anyone have any thoughts on Auburge Du Soliel? I had lunch there years ago and it was good, but I don't remember it being spectacular.

        1. re: Obessed

          You won't really find "rustic" in our fine dining restaurants, but you will in our mid-range. In that case, I'd recommend A16, Delfina, or Myth - all of which would make for a fabulous dining experience.

          1. re: Obessed

            While there have been chef changes and a positive report here and there I would guess Auburge wouldn't be any different than your lunch experience.

            1. re: Obessed

              Cyrus currently seems to have a big Asian bent to it... don't know if that makes a difference to you.

              1. re: Obessed

                Second on A16 and Incanto for rustic.

                Also La Ciccia.

                Zuni (somewhat similar to Campanile) is open on Sunday.

              2. re: grishnackh

                My experience with Mina wasn't great either, I found it overpriced and not that great.

              3. Chez Panisse.

                Gary Danko isn't that much different than any upscale restaurant anywhere. Since you are staying at the St. Francis, you can stop by the bar at Michael Minna and have a glass of wine and an appetizer to get a taste of the food without a lot of cost.

                1 Reply
                1. See, this is where subjectivity comes into play. lol Short blurbs to follow, though I've posted much longer reviews on a number of these restaurants...

                  Among my circle, Fleur de Lys repeatedly gets bad reviews... and is also viewed as one of the more "stuffy,' and therefore uncomfortable, restaurants in SF.

                  I found the food at La Folie to be good, but not particularly memorable... that is, other than being entirely too full as the portions are not conducive to multiple courses.

                  My experience at Gary Danko was positive overall; though, I haven't been back in ages. I'm not sure if that speaks to the impression it made... or that I'm apathetic about making reservations at restaurants not listed on Open Table. haha

                  My one and only meal at Michael Mina wasn't particularly memorable; however, that was very soon after they opened. A dear friend of mine just raves about the place, though... and I certainly respect his palette. It's on my short list of "to try again" restaurants.

                  I was absolutely not impressed with Chez Panisse. While I found the food to be "good," I did not find it at all innovative. I got the impression that it's "time" has passed and is resting on it's laurels.

                  I adore Cyrus. My first meal there was beyond memorable... and it's on my special occasion short list. I would go more often, though it's difficult to set aside a day to travel to Healdsburg. Going again in early July, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

                  The fact is that there isn't a universally loved restaurant in the Bay Area (hell, if anywhere). It's all incredibly subjective. I think your best bet would be to give us an idea of the type/style of food that you're looking for... as you could find a "fabulous dining experience" in many different avenues. Fine dining doesn't necessarily have to be your route. As is said, "Help us help you." :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jrhsfcm

                    Cyrus or Danko hands down. Mina is in a hotel lobby lwith high ceilings and is not quaint, Chez Panisse has its supporters but it is across the bay, is not stylish and is not my thing. Danko and Cyrus are similar (they should be with many crossover employees), but Cyrus is 70 miles north.

                  2. Chez Panisse is closed on Sunday. I don't know about Gary Danko, but the one time I tried to go on short notice (and this would be short notice, espeically since there is a lot going on in the City this weekend, notably that it is Pride weekend) I wasn't able to get a reservation....

                    1. I'm about to do something weird... going to recommend a restaurant I haven't been to, and a restaurant I wasn't blown away by (but that many reliable posters love).

                      I vote no for both GD and MM for the same reasons other people have already listed.

                      I've read enough glowing reviews of Cyrus for that to my rec among the list you gave - there aren't any available openings on Opentable for Sunday right now, but maybe if you call you can get something.

                      I'd think about Quince - their pastas really are excellent. I think I wasn't blown away by it because I found it more expensive than comparable restaurants in NYC (quality to cost ratio always factors into my analysis, even if I try consciously not to do it), but the food is really good. And it's very, very romantic - small room, glowy lighting, etc.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: daveena

                        The menu at Quince looks great! Thanks for that reco. I think I'm going to try to get reservations at both Quince & Cyrus --- and then see what we feel like on Sunday.

                        1. re: Obessed

                          Good luck getting one at Quince (I don't mean that sarcastically, its a difficult but not impossible table to get, and very much worth the effort). My wife and I were thrilled with our meal at Quince, as daveena says, the pastas are exceptional. The service was also quite excellent and they have a nice selection of half bottles, which is always a plus in my mind.

                          We're happy its a hard reservation...otherwise, we'd have to take out loans for the frequency with which we'd eat there.

                          I'll wade into this one, too: don't make two reservations knowing you're only going to keep one. Decide which ahead of time and go for it; you really can't go wrong with either choice you mention.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            Thanks for all the suggestions --- I did in fact get a reservation, but for 9:30. I am on the waiting list at Cryus, but learned they serve their full menu at the bar/lounge starting at 5:30pm.

                            I know, I hate people who double book, but as I mentioned we are going to be up north wine tasting during the day so not sure we'll drive back or stay up there for dinner. I will definitely call the not-choosen restaurant early enough to cancel the reservation.

                            1. re: Obessed

                              Go to Cyrus. It has the best odds of providing a "wow" meal. All of these places have reviews from folks that love them and hate them, but few have the raves on the upside that we see from folks who liked Cyrus.

                              1. re: Obessed

                                My two cents votes for Gary Danko. Be there at 5pm when it opens, sit at the bar and have a drink, order dinner from the bar starting at 5:30.

                        2. I just wanted to thank all the SF Hounders for all the suggestions and input...we ended up at Quince and it was fabulous!!! My only complaint was our reservation was for 9:30 and weren't seated till close to 10. It was worth the wait :-)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Obessed

                            So glad that worked out! What did you eat?

                            1. re: daveena

                              I started with squash blossoms -- so yummy; SO had a avocado/citrus salad. We split the pillows of various meats (can't remember what exactly it was called --- this was fabulous!! Then we had (I think) sea bass. We had been snacking and drinking in Sonoma all day, so this was the perfect ending to a great day. Thansk again!

                            2. re: Obessed

                              Yeah, we had a wait too (not that long). I think the atmosphere encourages people to linger and the restaurant hasn't yet adapted their reservation times to that fact. Or perhaps they have no interest in adapting their times. As you say, though, totally worth the wait. Quince is our current favorite.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                I've only been to Gary Danko on that list so I can only speak from my experience there. You can probably find a place with better food, but from start to finish the entire dining experience at Gary Danko is first class. The waitstaff is very friendly and knowledgable, and make you feel at home from the moment you step in. Some places the staff is very efficient but a tad mechanical, I found the staff at Gary Danko to be that perfect mix of efficiency and friendliness. Some friends of mine went back and came back with the same reviews - lots of places have great food nowadays, but Gary Danko does a great job providing an entire dining EXPERIENCE.