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Tell me 5 essential things not to miss

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I'm visiting San Francisco next week. I've only been once before, and that was for a quick two-day meeting meeting (although I did squeeze in several burritos, a dinner at Foreign Cinema, drinks at Doc's Clock and a late dinner before my red eye flight at the Globe).

So what are your top five food things that I shouldn't miss? What is essentially San Francisco? Could be a restaurant, a market, a tour of a producer, a particular pastry at one particular bakery... You get the idea.

So far, I know that the Ferry market is a must see. I've also made plans to tour the Edible School Yard and stop in at Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch afterwards (Ok, not really San Francisco, but both seem pretty important to food culture in the area).

Thanks in advance for your list.

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  1. I'm so happy that you're excited to visit! I'm sure that you're going to have fun no matter what you end up doing - but just in case, here are a few suggestions..

    1. Keep expectations low for Chez Panisse Cafe. The food is definitely not the same as the main restaurant, and I went with a couple of friends (all in our early 20's) and we were treated in a less than kind manner. My pasta was cold and I had to ask it to be reheated and the waitress took our wine glasses away before we were finished drinking. I think they spent the time hustling us out because we had a late lunch reservation? Either way, be prepared.

    2. If you are craving a sweeping view of the city, I would recommend the Palace of Legion of Honor (http://www.thinker.org/legion/index.asp). Whenever I have visitors, I love to take them here - even if for a short while. Parking can sometimes be inconvenient though (especially on the weekends).

    3. SFMOMA. I imagine that you will be staying downtown and perfect way to complete your day at the Ferry Building may be a walk down Market street to the SFMOMA. It's not too far of a walk (maybe 7-8 blocks). If you'd rather take BART, you can go one stop from Embarcadero to Montgomery. Anyway, the museum really is a fantastic venue and some of the pieces shouldn't be missed. If you go down Market you can also stop into Fog City News (http://www.fogcitynews.com/). I found that they have a good (exotic) collection of local and international chocolates.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ayama

      Going to pipe up with a dissenting opinion on Chez Panisse Cafe - the menu, while not identical to that of the restaurant is in no way watered down - I brought friends who were underwhelmed by the restaurant to the Cafe, and they loved it. If you're a fan of seasonal vegetables and fruit prepared simply and perfectly, CP Cafe is a must (not to downplay their skill with animal proteins...) I've had several very, very good meals in the last year, where nearly every dish was a winner. It's probably a good idea to get a reservation on the early side, in case service is routinely an issue towards the end of service, as ayama reported (I haven't had any problems).

      Another Top 5 request very similar to yours:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/426595

      And another topic that may be useful:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/424881

      As you can see, the problem with general "Top 5" requests is that EVERYBODY has a different Top 5 - there's so much good food in the Bay Area that it's impossible to form a consensus. It's a good idea to read through these threads, and maybe some others from visitors, and then post more directed questions.

      1. re: ayama

        I had a late lunch (2 pm) with a party of 7 at CP Cafe about 6 weeks ago. I went with very high expectation, and was thrilled. Both food and service were excellent!!!

      2. This might help:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413064

        2 Replies
        1. re: Frosty Melon

          Ayama: Thanks for the tips. Much appreciated. I'm really looking forward to this trip.

          Frosty Melon: I didn't see that topic earlier (although it's now at the top of the page). Thanks. Although I'm looking for more than just restaurants. Great snacks. Perhaps food tours. I don't know. I want a crash course in the SF food scene.

          1. re: Frolic

            This topic posed much the same question:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/427290

        2. If you're going to CP and the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, a tour of the Scharffen Berger Factory is always fun.

          -----
          Scharffen Berger Chocolate
          914 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

          1. Here is my 5
            1. Make a reservation to tour the Anchor Steam Brewery.
            2. Dinner at Canteen
            3. Dessert souffle at Cafe Jacqueline
            4. Shop for picnic ingredients at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market Saturday morning.
            5. Go to Mitchell's for an ice cream

            Have fun

            2 Replies
            1. re: Trevallon

              Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Mitchell's Ice Cream are definetly worth the trip.

              1. re: Fussy Foodie

                Dissent on Mitchell's, especially when getting there involves going past Bi-Rite Creamery.

            2. 1. Roasted Chicken at Zuni Cafe.
              2. Ciopinno at Tadich Grill
              3. Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Bar OR Oysters and Crab at Swan Oyster Depot
              4. Dim Sum at Yank Sing
              5. ?

              Have fun!!!!

              -----
              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              Tadich Grill
              240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              Yank Sing Banquet & Catering
              101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105

              Hog Island Oyster Bar
              Ferry Building,, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1 Reply
              1. re: Fussy Foodie

                I agree with all the fussy foodie's choices. For number 5, I'd have to say an El Tesoro Anejo margarita at Tommy's on Geary

              2. eating a warm egg custard tart from Golden Gate Bakery on Grant Avenue in SF Chinatown....they are sold warm and melt in your mouth. The pastry shatters as you bite into it.... heaven. The coconut tarts are also wonderful.

                -----
                Golden Gate Bakery
                1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                 
                1. If you're into brunch, I wouldn't miss the "crab and jack" omelette at "Mama's Royal Cafe" in Oakland. Real crab - and it comes with everything you could ever want in a brunch. Go early or be prepared to deal with the crowd - on weekends the wait can be hours.

                  http://www.mamasroyalcafeoakland.com/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lkathrynf

                    in my opinion the food at Mama's isn't even worth a fifteen minute wait. I can't imagine putting it on a do not miss list.

                  2. Stop by Liguria Bakery (1700 Stockton Street, SF) to buy a few slices of their great focaccia. Be sure to take a peak at their brick ovens. Get there before noon.