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Will be in SF for 2 nights in Oct, where "must I eat at"?

Li Craig Sep 22, 2007 02:38 PM

My wife and I will spending a thursday and friday nite in SF on late OCTober. Looking for Italian or STeakhouse that is a must. ANy suggestions? What is SF famous for food wise, other than sourdough and Rice a Roni? (Yes that was a joke)

  1. l
    lrhr Sep 24, 2007 10:36 AM

    For Breakfast: Mama's on Washington Square. The most amazing french toast ever. They make quick breads (like banana walnut) and turn that into french toast. Fantastic. Also baguette french toast with sauteed apples. Very casual and with a line (fairly fast) to order by which time a table has opened up.
    Skip Sears Fine Food pancake house which doesn't live up to my childhood memories at all, but which also has a line out the door.

    1. lessleyellen Sep 24, 2007 10:10 AM

      I heartily endorse House of Prime Rib for beef. It's a real old school experience. They toss salad for you at your table, and there is a clubby atmosphere there that's enhanced by the very big cocktails they serve. The meat is great. It comes with creamed spinach, the aforementioned salad, and savory bread pudding. DEFINITELY make reservations, because this place is huge, but always packed with a lonnnnnng wait.

      House of Prime Rib
      1906 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109

      3 Replies
      1. re: lessleyellen
        Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2007 10:17 AM

        House of Prime Rib's an old-school experience, but you can find that old-school style many places in the U.S. I think a lot of its appeal to locals is that it's like a 1950s time-warp, right down to the mediocrity of most of the food.

        Here's a pretty exhaustive thread on the place:


        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          rworange Sep 24, 2007 10:54 AM

          That link has mainly positive reviews about HOPR. I don't have an opinion one way or another as I haven't been there but there was a rerun of a Check Please show about HOPR. It was interesting listening to the owner talk about prime rib. They cure it in rock salt. Anyway it slightly nudged it up on my list of places to try.

          1. re: rworange
            Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2007 11:07 AM

            If you're in the mood for prime rib, it's fun. I believe it's roasted in salt, not cured.

            The beef's not as good as the Niman prime rib that Cafe Rouge dry-ages in-house, but I'm not sure any restaurant serves that--it would be really expensive.

      2. WCchopper Sep 23, 2007 07:08 PM

        Speaking as a visitor turned resident of the Bay area, I think Rose Pistola is a fun place to go. It's easy to find , fun to watch the people walk by and I have always enjoyed the food there. Unless a visitor is deeply dedicated to finding a trancendent food moment in SF (which is not hard to do), ease of access can make the experience a lot more relaxing and enjoyable.

        1. d
          daniellelav Sep 23, 2007 02:49 PM

          There is a great steakhouse called Boboquivari's (nickname is BOBO's) on Lombard and VanNess. They are one of the very few resturants in the city that serve bone in filets. They serve all steaks with a simple, but yummy, olive oil and butter sauce. Their twice baked potatos are a must. You can also get SF crab. Or try Harris' on VanNess and Pacific. They serve steaks from the famous Harris Ranch on highway 5 between SF and LA.

          A great little Italian place off the tourist trap street of Columbus is Tratorria Contantina (union and mason) two blocks off the center of North Beach.

          Brandy Ho's or House of Nanking are two of the best chinese places in China town.

          1 Reply
          1. re: daniellelav
            Ruth Lafler Sep 23, 2007 04:52 PM

            I think most people would consider both House of Nanking and Brandy Ho's to fall in the "tourist trap" category. Also, Harris's in SF is not affiliated with Harris Ranch -- I believe Harris's serves meat from the midwest.

          2. rworange Sep 23, 2007 12:29 PM

            Hi, I took a quick look at your profile to see where your home board is and I'm guessing the NY area. Also it seems your own personal food preferences are steak and Italian ... which may be why they are musts for you though as others have said ... not SF's strength's.

            Here's a list of a few local steak houses from the new Place feature ... it is a work in progress so not everything is there yet

            Other local steakhouses not in the above list that get positive mention are Alfred's Steakhouse and Boboquivari's. I haven't been there, but from what I've read, Alfred's might be your best option. There is also the newly opened Lark Creek Steakhouse but it is in a shopping mall/center and the little I've read hasn't be overwhelmingly positive.

            Though it is NOT a steakhouse, you might enjoy Harris or House of Prime Ribe which make ... Prime Rib. Both are old SF and nothing cutting edge, but for someone who enjoys meat it might be an option.

            Also if you are looking for classic East Coast red sauce Italian joints, SF just can't compete. I'm originally from Connecticut and am still massively dissapointed in that area locally. You might check the websites of places like Perbacco that get recommended and see if that is for you.

            The best, and about only, decent sourdough is at Tadich and a dinner there might be fun.

            What does SF do well ... wine, cheese, artisan bread, coffee (especially if you are from the East Coast .. .thought I'd die from lack of decent coffee on my last trip home).

            Check out some of the local wine bars. Stop by the Ferry Plaza building and stop at Cowgirl Cheese and Acme bread. There's a nice little wine bar in there too ... The Wine Merchant. Stop by some of the cafes in North Beach and enjoy a cup. I like Cafe Roma. Graffeo remains my favorite coffee despite all the fancy new roasters that are in town. Stop by the shop in North Beach, inhale the intoxicating aroma and bring home a pound of beans. XOX truffles across the street serves Graffeo and you can get a free truffle with a cup of coffee ... get a caramel truffle.

            Hope you have fun and report back about where you ate and what you thought.

            11 Replies
            1. re: rworange
              Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 01:19 PM

              If the poster's from New York it definitely wouldn't make much sense to go to a steakhouse.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Tay Sep 23, 2007 01:25 PM

                Sometimes, people just feel 'safer' in their food "comfort zone"
                I'm not sure why, but apparently for a lot of people, that means Steak.
                I just reread the OP.. There is no way he is from NY...No possible way...

              2. re: rworange
                susancinsf Sep 23, 2007 01:30 PM

                RW: re your first sentance: I completely agree that steak is not a strength here, which is what I suspect you meant, but just to clarify, I think there is very good Italian in SF...

                1. re: susancinsf
                  rworange Sep 23, 2007 01:50 PM

                  Yes, but the Italian here is closer to Italian Italian rather than Italian-American. In the later, SF suffers.

                  1. re: rworange
                    steve h. Sep 23, 2007 02:55 PM

                    'Yes, but the Italian here is closer to Italian Italian rather than Italian-American."

                    ouch! as a native new yorker i must respectfully disagree.

                    1. re: steve h.
                      rworange Sep 23, 2007 04:08 PM

                      Please point me to a place that has Italian American food as good as on the East Coast. I'll rejoice. So far it has been a highly unsuccessful search.

                      1. re: rworange
                        steve h. Sep 23, 2007 04:47 PM

                        hmmm. maybe i didn't understand your post but here goes:

                        deb works on the 1600 block of broadway and son chris works in mid-town. i seldom work but when forced trend to the les. we know nyc but don't stand as experts.

                        my take is that nyc has both italian and red-sauce (american italian) restaurants in abundance.

                        we love san francisco. visit/work there with great frequency. most (not all) italian i've enjoyed in your fair city is what i would describe as california-italian. this is a good thing! true italian (italian italian)? not so sure.

                        not arguing, just trying to clarify.

                        1. re: steve h.
                          rworange Sep 23, 2007 05:02 PM

                          Yeah ... an even better description ... California-Italian.

                          California-Italian = Very good ... Perbacco, Quince, A16, etc
                          Old school Italian American - North Beach Restaurant, Tommasso's, etc ok, but just not in the same class as what is found on the East Coast ... translation = not the Italian food I grew up with and miss. It is hard to describe except after coming to peace with ok Italian-Amercan in the Bay Area, every time I go home I get blown away by how much better that type of food is and it annoys me that SF can't do something that simple as well.

                          1. re: rworange
                            steve h. Sep 23, 2007 05:17 PM

                            got it.
                            comparing cities will make you unhappy.
                            enjoy your beautiful weather, outstanding produce and ever-expanding food and wine choices. visit my noisy, too-hot, too-cold place to tune up your red-sauce taste buds.
                            it's all good.

                            1. re: rworange
                              daveena Sep 24, 2007 08:20 AM

                              I think A16 qualifies as "Italian-italian", no?

                      2. re: rworange
                        Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2007 09:13 AM

                        Cioppino is a product of the local Italian-American tradition.

                        San Francisco's Italian-American food comes out of a different tradition, since most local immigrants here were from Liguria rather than southern Italy.

                        Most of the old-school places in North Beach have closed, I think because people's tastes changed and they didn't want to eat such big, heavy meals that often. Sodini's Green Valley and Capp's Corner are two places that have survived by modernizing somewhat. Rose Pistola is sort of a modern riff on the tradition.

                  2. c
                    CAgirlinTX Sep 23, 2007 11:35 AM

                    trattoria contadina...it is absolutely delicious...I eat there every time I am home!! Also, try Betelnut(amazing Asian-influence food) or Cafe Kati.

                    1. coconutgoddess Sep 23, 2007 11:25 AM

                      I really like Town Hall in SF. I have eaten there many times and I am always very pleased. I agree with the seafood on fishermans comment... not really the best.

                      I also really love JUBAN in Japan Center. It is a hibachi place where you grill your own meats and seafood. The quality is impeccable, the amiance is nice... all around a great meal. (have the kobe for sure!)

                      In the Ferry Builiding though.. there is a place called Hog Island. My favorite oytsers hands down. (also in SF)

                      There is also a place in China town.. i apologize i dnot know the name, I am sure someone here does! It is supposed to be the chinese french laundry?

                      If you are willing to drive out of the city (and this place is WORTH IT)
                      Consuelos in San Jose (on Santa Row) is divine. Regional mexican food, sort of "Rick Bayless" in its style. Not tex-mex.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: coconutgoddess
                        Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 11:33 AM

                        There are great eats in San Jose, but I don't think that drive is a great way to spend 2-3 hours of a three-day trip.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          foodwich Sep 23, 2007 11:41 AM

                          btw do recommend good eats in san jose too. thank you.

                          1. re: foodwich
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 11:53 AM

                            There are hundreds of San Jose topics in the archive:


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              foodwich Sep 23, 2007 02:17 PM

                              thank you very much. will check it out.

                              1. re: foodwich
                                daveena Sep 24, 2007 08:23 AM

                                Robert started a Sunnyvale-Milpitas thread a few months ago that's my current go-to reference for South Bay eats (not sure how familiar you are with the area, but both of them are just north of San Jose):


                                1. re: daveena
                                  foodwich Sep 24, 2007 09:21 AM

                                  thanks did check it out. very helpful.

                      2. Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 11:12 AM

                        Steak's not a local specialty. Neither is sourdough so much any more.

                        I think the following are the things we have here that should be high on most tourists' lists (depends on where you're coming from):

                        - Afghan
                        - artisanal bread
                        - Basque
                        - Basque tapas
                        - Burmese
                        - California (Chez Panisse, Zuni Cafe, etc.)
                        - Cal-Italian (Pizzaiolo, Oliveto, Incanto, Dopo)
                        - Cal-Moroccan (Aziza)
                        - Cambodian
                        - cioppino
                        - dim sum (lunch only)
                        - Ethiopian / Eritrean
                        - Ferry Plaza farmers market (Saturday 8am-2pm)
                        - Hong Kong-style Chinese seafood
                        - Indian pizza
                        - Mission-style burritos
                        - Neapolitan Italian (A16)
                        - Peruvian
                        - pupusas
                        - sand dabs
                        - Sardinian (La Ciccia)
                        - Shanghai Chinese
                        - Sichuan / Szechuan
                        - sushi
                        - Thai (Thai House Express @ Larkin & Geary)
                        - Vietnamese banh mi (lunch only)
                        - wine bars
                        - Yucatecan

                        Well-known but skippable:

                        seafood at Fisherman's Wharf
                        soup in sourdough bread bowl
                        It's It
                        Hangtown fry
                        Joe's Special
                        Mitchell's ice cream
                        Bud's ice cream
                        Joe's ice cream

                        Current topic on best Italian:


                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          foodwich Sep 23, 2007 11:40 AM

                          thank you for the info. i too am coming to SF end of october for a week. a couple of days in san jose and the rest in san fran. curious about the 'afghan' place.could you elaborate ? will definitely want to do that and also aziza. DH sounds excited too about the food choices.

                          1. re: foodwich
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2007 11:52 AM

                            Helmand has been closed due to a landslide but will be reopening soon at a new location at 2424 Van Ness.


                            In the meantime there's another place called Kabul City:


                            1. re: foodwich
                              charliemyboy Sep 23, 2007 01:29 PM

                              If you don't mind going to a strip mall halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, Afghan Kabul on El Camino in San Carlos is very good and has a nice decor. It's not related to the one in Sunnyvale which isn't as good. I particularly like the kadu (pumpkin) or the combination plate which includes pumpkin, eggplant and spinach. For meat I prefer their dishes with ground meat mixed with other ingredients (aushak and mantoo) but that may reflect my personal taste more than the quality of the dishes. If you don't get kadu in your main course definitely get a side order.

                              1. re: charliemyboy
                                daveena Sep 24, 2007 08:20 AM

                                I love aushak and manti too, but I'll be honest - I don't think they're very good at Kabul.
                                My review from June:

                                Their kebabs are good, and it's an ok choice if you happen to be in the area, but I wouldn't recommend making a special trip to go there.

                                1. re: daveena
                                  charliemyboy Sep 24, 2007 07:03 PM

                                  Can you recommend an afghan place (preferably on or near the Peninsula) that has aushak and manti you really like? For a really good place Fremont would not be too far.

                                  1. re: charliemyboy
                                    daveena Sep 24, 2007 07:55 PM

                                    I wish I could - Kabul's the only Afghani place I've tried in the Bay Area - my favorite places are in Manhattan :(
                                    I promise to post if I do find good ones - it's a latent craving that's been surging recently -

                          2. w
                            waldrons Sep 23, 2007 12:40 AM

                            Personally, I don't think having a steak in San Francisco is a "must eat"... the city isn't that well known for steaks. You'd be better off with something a bit more unique... Nuevo Latino, seafood, Asian, etc.

                            There are several different SF "famous" food styles, depending on which version of San Francisco you want. Old-school SF would be seafood at Tadich Grill (very simple style, straight-forward, no bold flavors, in a very traditional atmosphere). California cuisine SF would be Myth, and Postrio (one of the original California cuisine spots, owned by Wolfgang Puck). And then each ethnic group has its own picture of "their" SF.

                            Too many choices, too little time!


                            1. o
                              Otts Sep 22, 2007 02:57 PM

                              Perbacco on California Street is a new favorite of mine. Jardiniere on Franklin Street is great before Symphony, Opera and Balet. And for lunch Anjou just off Union Square is a very nice little french place.

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