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In SF for a Week, Is there Any Reason to Eat in Oakland?

I have all my eating destinations in S.F. more or less planned, but I'm wondering what I might miss if I never make it across the Bay to Oakland (I may be in Berkeley for an afternoon but that will be more for shopping/drinking). Is there any ethnic or ecclectic eatery over there that beats similar ones in S.F.?



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  1. Two quick questions:
    1) Are you travelling alone?
    2) Are you BART dependent?

    And a less quick question - what's currently on your list?

    I can't do a point-to-point comparison, because I tend to do most of my non-European ethnic eating in the East and South Bay, and upscale places in SF, but based on what I've read, I seems like Oakland has better Ethiopian and Korean. Oakland also has Thai-Lao (I'm not sure Lao is represented in SF). However, all three would require multiple people eating, and a car.

    If you're alone and BART dependent, I would get a basket of xiaolongbao at Shanghai Restaurant (Oakland City Center/12th Street stop) and tacos (Fruitvale stop).

    20 Replies
    1. re: daveena

      I will have a car and I like to explore.

      I have a list with the best 80 or so CH/Yelp-reviewed Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Sushi, Mexican/Latin, Nepalese/Indian. I like to have multiple options depending on mood and proximity.

      1. re: Dinsdale45

        Depending on where you're coming from, some of these may be of interest and justify a drive to Milpitas or San Jose:

        - Afghan - Fremont
        - Brazilian - SF
        - Basque - SF
        - Basque tapas - SF
        - Burmese - SF
        - California - SF / Berkeley / Oakland
        - California pizza - SF / Oakland
        - Cal-Italian - SF / Oakland
        - Cal-Moroccan - SF
        - Hong Kong-style Chinese - SF / Daly City
        - Cambodian - SF
        - Cuban - SF / San Jose
        - dim sum (lunch only) - SF / Millbrae
        - Ethiopian / Eritrean - Oakland / San Jose
        - Filipino - SF / Daly City / Hercules
        - Fusion - SF
        - Guatemalan - SF
        - French - SF
        - Hakka Chinese - SF
        - Hawaiian - SF / Milpitas
        - Indian - Peninsula / South Bay
        - Indian pizza - SF
        - Indonesian - SF / Berkeley
        - Irish - SF
        - Japanese (various specialties) - Peninsula
        - Korean - Oakland
        - Lao / Laotian - Oakland
        - Moroccan - SF
        - Muslim Chinese - SF / South Bay
        - Nicaraguan - SF
        - Persian - SF
        - Peruvian - SF
        - Mission-style burritos - SF
        - Neapolitan-style pizza - SF
        - Nepali - SF / Berkeley
        - Pakistani - SF
        - Polish - Walnut Creek
        - Peruvian - SF
        - Russian - SF / Peninsula
        - Salvadorean - SF
        - Sardinian - SF
        - Shanghai Chinese - Oakland
        - Singapore / Malaysian - Union City / South Bay
        - Sichuan / Szechuan - Albany
        - sushi - SF
        - Taiwanese Chinese - SF?
        - Taiwanese-style Sichuan Chinese - SF / Oakland
        - Thai - SF
        - Tibetan - SF / Berkeley
        - Turkish - SF
        - Vietnamese (various regional styles) - SF / Oakland
        - Vietnamese banh mi - SF
        - wine bars - SF
        - Yucatecan Mexican - SF

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Here's what I have:

          Namu Asian Fusion
          E & O Trading Company Asian Fusion
          Irving Cafe & Deli Bahn Mi
          Arguello Super Market best turkey sandwich
          Espetus Churrascaria Brazilian
          Home Plate Breakfast
          Bay Watch Restaurant Brunch
          Barney's Gourmet Hamburger Burgers
          Mandalay Burmese
          Cajun Pacific Cajun/Creole
          PJ's Oyster Bed Cajun/Creole, Seafood
          Angkor Borei Restaurant Cambodian
          San Tung Chinese Restaurant #2 Chinese
          Taiwan Restaurant Chinese
          Hunan Homes Restaurant Chinese
          Old Mandarin Islamic Chinese
          Great Eastern Restaurant Chinese/dim sum
          Woody Zips comfort food (sportsbar)
          Charanga Cuban/tapas
          Assab Eritrean Restaurant Ethiopian
          Palencia Filipino
          Kape @ 16th & Dehon Filipino buffet [Edit]
          Melt Cafe fondue/wine
          Chapeau! French (early bird special!)
          Hawaiian Drive Inn 28 Hawaiian
          Eva's Hawaiian Cafe Hawaiian
          Kathmandu Cafe Himalayan/Nepalese
          Metro Kathmandu Himalayan/Nepalese
          Taste of the Himalayas Indian/Nepalese
          Pakwan Indian/Pakistani
          Chutney Restaurant Indian/Pakistani
          Borobudur Restaurant Indonesian
          Trattoria Contadina Italian
          Aperto Italian
          Ristorante Bacco Italian
          Lupa Italian
          Ristorante Parma Italian
          Capannina Italian
          Han Il Kwan Korean
          Muguboka Restaurant Korean
          Champa Garden Lao
          Mochica Latin American
          Inkas Restaurant Latin American
          Popol Vuh Latin American
          Lime Tree Malaysian
          Singapore Malaysian Malaysian
          V2 Malaysia Cuisine Malaysian
          Truly Mediterranean Mediterranean
          Taqueria Cancun Mexican
          El Toro Taqueria Mexican
          La Palma Mexicatessen Mexican
          Farolito Taqueria Mexican
          Tortas Los Picudos Mexican
          Los Jarritos Mexican
          Mi Lindo Yucatan Mexican (real)
          Aziza Moroccan
          California Street Cafe Moroccan
          Fly Trap Restaurant New American
          Slow Club New American
          Mi Lindo Peru Restaurant Peruvian
          Piqueo's Peruvian
          Goat Hill Pizza pizza (Monday PM AYCE)
          Panchita's Restaurant No 2 Salvadorean
          Giordano Bros. sandwiches (sports bar)
          Cafe Maritime Seafood
          Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen Southern, Cajun/Creole
          Bullshead Restaurant Steak/burgers
          Yo's Sushi Club Sushi
          Sebo Sushi
          Okina Sushi Sushi
          Red Box Sushi Sushi
          Hime Sushi
          Sushi On North Beach - Katsu Sushi
          Zushi-Puzzle Sushi
          Alegrias Tapas
          Jitlada Thai Cuisine Thai
          Tawan's Thai Food Thai
          Yukol Place Thai Cuisine Thai
          Marnee Thai Thai (spicy)
          PPQ Dungeness Island Vietnamese Cuisine Vietnamese
          Pagolac Vietnamese
          Anh Hong Restaurant Vietnamese

          I'll also probably make a return visit (I was out there last year) to Z&Y and/or Spices for my Sichuan fix.

          1. re: Dinsdale45

            How did Barney's get on that list? Please don't waste a meal there.

            1. re: Glencora

              Strictly a location thing. I'm not a "Marina type", but that's where my hotel is, and I was looking for some nearby options. Burgers are way down on my meal choices, but I figured I'd cover all the bases...

              1. re: Dinsdale45

                Any way you'd consider staying in a more chow friendly location? Staying downtown would make it easier to get to the Mission, Chinatown, North Beach, and the East Bay. It's six of one, half a dozen of the other for the Richmond (not to be confused with the city of Richmond in the East Bay, for which downtown would be much more convenient).

            2. re: Dinsdale45

              Giordano Brothers has beer and wine and maybe a TV, but it's a deli / sandwich shop, not a sports bar.

              Go to Thai House Express at Larkin and Geary before any of those other Thai places.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for the Thai House rec.

                Yelp calls Giordano Brothers a sports bar. I was just interested in a non-chain joint with decent food and beer (with a low lunkhead population) in case I want to catch a game on Sunday. Any other suggestions?

              2. re: Dinsdale45

                Hmmm ... I'm not super impressed by that list. It's sort of middle of the road: places that are good but not the best. In particular, you can do better than your Italian (A-16, Incanto, Delfina, La Ciccia), Asian fusion (The House, Ame) banh mi and Thai (Thai House Express) choices. Also, Mochica and Inkas are Peruvian, not Latin American (since you have Peruvian as a separate category).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I'll check out your suggestions. If I miscatagorize places, I will blame Yelp. I guess I may lean toward funkier, low key establishments rather than the classier high-end ones. Is it possible to find good Italian restaurants that aren't gussied up for "romantic" ambience?

                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                    A16's not particularly romantic. Spare modern room, jammed full of happy people eating great Italian food. And it's in the Marina.

                    L'Osteria del Forno's got great food (though no selection of pasta due to the tiny kitchen) and no frills.

                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                      I don't think you'll find very many places in SF "gussied up" for "romantic" ambience or "swanky" (as you mentioned in another post). Most places are casual and/or "hip/urban."

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Hmmm, S.F. may not be NYC or even Boston regarding formal dining, but there are many places where I would stand out like Bill Gates at a Biker Rally. I checked out Ame and this, for example, looks to be out of my league. Dressy attire? Valet service? If I can sit and order at the bar, though, I'm OK.

                        BTW, The House looks incredible. Thanks.

                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                          Lots of places have valet service -- it's more about how difficult it is to park than how fancy it is, plus Ame is in a hotel. It probably is a little on the dressy side for SF, though.

                          1. re: Dinsdale45

                            Dinsdale45, I would point out that there are only a few places in SF where you will be treated badly based on your clothes. Any discomfort might be generated by yourself - so, just don't generate the bad feeling. Go local, and don't feel bad. I'm assuming you are legally dressed and don't smell funny. (Since we had the Folsom St Fair this weekend, being legally dressed isn't a given)

                            I remember, in particular, a night at Aquerello where a young couple was in tee shirts and jeans, and that's a fairly stuffy joint. They were treated well and cordially.

                            It's kind of a thing we do here. Separates us from LA. There is a limit, and that limit is shorts. Assuming you're wearing long pants and shoes, you should be treated well. If not, give 'em my phone number. [Tipping poorly is problematic, because they'll think the next person coming in dressed poorly is cheap. You're on your own with that decision.]

                            Sometimes I've gone to dressy restaurants on the way back from a hike fairly grubby. Sometimes I've gone to a hole in the wall in a tux, on the way to a show. At least, that's the way I look at SF dining - any attitude is *their* problem, not my problem. I smile, I'm interested in their food, I appreciate, I tip well. Just like everywhere else, a smile goes a long way - from a back alley in Dunhuang to Delfina.

                            Finally, I do eat at the bar a lot. Most larger restaurants here have bars, and offer the full menu.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              I guess I'm a little (or extremely) odd because I wear shorts and sneakers whenever I'm not at work (there I wear jeans everyday), if the temperature is above 50. I don't own a suit, and I own one pair of pants for the occasional funeral. If I can't eat someplace dressed in shorts and sneakers, I don't really want to eat there. I'm always clean, don't wear wifebeaters, but sometimes wear a baseball hat. Removing my hat would make me look like a raging psychotic. I just want to go to places I don't have to worry about it. If it means I don't get to sample the best of the best, so be it.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Of the better Italian restaurants in town, I think Quince and Acquerello might count as gussied up and romantic.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      BTW, to slightly edit Robert's list - Taiwanese - Fremont / South Bay

                      1. re: gemster

                        what taiwanese joints are there in fremont/south bay?

                        and would you consider richmond (pacific east mall) to have some of the more authentic taiwanese food in all of the bay area?

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Why Oakland for Shangainese? San Francisco has Shanghai Dumpling Shop, Shanghai House, Old Shanghai, Shanghai 1930 (not that I'd recommend it), Jai Yun and the Jai Yun spinoff, Flying Pan Bistro.

                  2. There's nothing like Pizzaiolo in SF, or anywhere else so far as I know.

                    Oliveto's arguably the best Italian in the Bay Area but it's a close call with Incanto.

                    Better Korean, e.g. Ohgane. But there's good Korean in SF, e.g. Han Il Kwan.

                    More good Mexican places but there's good Mexican food in SF if you order the right things, e.g. al pastor or chorizo tacos at Taqueria San Jose. There's great Yucatecan in SF.

                    Champa Garden (Laotian, menu also includes Thai and Vietnamese dishes) is the best in the East Bay but Thai House Express on Larkin in SF is better. Champa's rice ball salad is unique but I'm not sure it's worth a schlep to Oakland on a one-week trip. I'd eat at Thai House Express twice instead.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Does Thai House Express have anything like the Lao-style larb at Champa Garden? That's my favorite dish - prefer it to the Thai-style larb - I like the deep funkiness from the fermented crab paste.

                      Oh, speaking of fermented fish products - Dinsdale45, do you have any Cambodian restaurants on your list? I haven't tried Angkor Borei in SF, only the Cambodian places in the East Bay, but Robert ranks it over the ones in Oakland. They have prahok (spicy fermented fish and pork dip) on the menu - I saw from your original post that you were focusing on spicy ethnic, so I wanted to throw that in the mix as well.

                      1. re: daveena

                        I'm not sure about larb, but Thai House Express's shrimp paste fried rice satisfies the same sort of craving.

                        Angkor Borei's prahok is wonderful. Not very spicy except for the jalapeƱos included among the vegetables.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Hmm. I wonder if they would make it spicy if you asked? I assumed it was spicy because Battambang's prahok ktiss is mucosa-searingly hot, but so delicious I just keep eating through the pain.

                        2. re: daveena

                          I have Angkor Borei on my list but actually, I get GREAT Cambodian food in Massachusetts because I live next to Lowell, which has the second largest Cambodian population in the US. I love the food, however, and I'd be tempted to try any well-regarded spot.

                        3. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Just looked up Champa Garden. This made the list!

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Re Mr. Lauriston's post above:

                            Robert: I'm interested in your statement that there's nothing like Pizzaiolo in SF or anywhere else....

                            Having just had dinner there last week (for the 3d time - 1st time was just after it opened), I found it just okay. Be that as it may, however, plz describe how it is so different from, e.g., A-16, Doppo or Al di La in Brooklyn?

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              The very personal style of the food, the focus on the wood oven, the eclectic wine list, the crowd, the informal atmosphere.

                          2. Oliveto rocks the house. Uzen for Sushi. (both on college)

                            If you don't go to Chez Panisse-you will be missing the best that the East Bay has to offer.

                            Go and get em.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                I'm traveling alone and prefer "ultra-casual" settings, not swanky, but my price range isn't limited.

                              2. So...to recap, there really isn't anything special to eat in Oakland that I can't get in The City. Right? Someone mentioned Korean or Ethiopian. Any real Mexican-different from taquerias?

                                Any good beer bars? Ethnic markets?

                                Does anyone go to Oakland unless they live or work there? Just curious.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: Dinsdale45

                                  Well, yeah, I visit friends, go to the doctor, to movies, shop... And, yes, I go there from Berkeley to eat. Would I go from S.F. while on vacation? Probably not. I'm very fond of Oakland, though, especially the Lake Merritt area, (Fairyland!) and the musuem's nice. Maybe if you return for a longer time you can make the trip.

                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    I just told my SO about this thread and he laughed, saying that the best thing about Oakland is the view of SF -- so I guess we disagree.

                                  2. re: Dinsdale45

                                    I find this a really hard question to answer - there are many, many delicious things to be eaten in the East Bay. Can I say with certainty that they are better than their counterparts in SF? No - because I tend to go to different kinds of restaurants when I go to SF. If I've already found an Ethiopian restaurant (Messob) and excellent xiao long bao (Shanghai Restaurant) that I love in the East Bay, I'm unlikely to seek out the same thing in SF.

                                    It seems that given the larger number of Ethiopian and Korean restaurants in the East Bay (serving their proportionately larger communities) that they would be of higher quality overall. However, if you are a single person eating only one or two dishes at a time, is it possible that, with careful ordering, you can have equally good meals in SF and Oakland? Probably.

                                    Would you be interested in going to one of those big Asian food malls? I've lived out here long enough that they seem commonplace to me now, but I'd never seen one on the East Coast. Pacific East Mall in Richmond is very close to Berkeley, and might be worth a visit, if you're into exploring.
                                    Here's rworange's master "directory":

                                    Other areas you might enjoy exploring are:
                                    - Temescal district of Oakland (Telegraph between 40th and 51st St) - this is where the majority of Oakland's Ethiopian and Korean restaurants are, as well as a number of other CH favorites (Pizzaiola, Bakesale Betty).
                                    - Fruitvale district - International Boulevard, in the 30's avenues - lots of posts, but here's an article (early 2006) that summarizes its major attractions, and names specific dishes (you can scan those to see if they fit your criteria for Mexican food).


                                    I'm not a beer person, but here's the beer list for Luka's -

                                    Also, don't know if you're into cheese, but if you are, you should spend some time at the Cheeseboard. I'd also strongly urge a meal upstairs at Chez Panisse - didn't name it initially, because I assumed your focus was on non-European ethnic - it's very low-key and casual.

                                    Are you going to stop by Berkeley Bowl? It can be insane in there, but I think it's worth a brief visit, just to see the variety of produce.

                                    1. re: daveena

                                      That Asian Mall sounds like fun, as does the Cheeseboard. I'm going to need another bag to haul some of this stuff back East to my foodie family.

                                      1. re: Dinsdale45

                                        I never thought about our Asian malls as being gastro-tourism destinations, but I guess they are, in many ways, as unique and interesting as the Ferry Building for people who don't have similar places at home. So yeah, if you have a car and aren't pressed for time, I'd definitely do a Berkeley/Richmond swing: the whole "gourmet ghetto" (Cheese Board, Chez Panisse, Gregoire, etc.) thing, then Acme and Cafe Fanny (just for a snack/coffee), then out to Pacific East Mall, maybe hit 4th Street in Berkeley one direction or another (Sketch, etc.).

                                        Oh, and don't forget the Berkeley Bowl -- the produce section is guaranteed to blow your mind. Or as one NY visitor said: "the produce section is bigger then all of Fairway."

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Since you did the NPR interview, sort of surprised you (and a few others) haven't mention taco trucks on International Blvd. Definitely a different scene.

                                          Re: the Asian mall thing...to someone from somewhere that isn't from the West Coast or major-metro it might be very interesting.

                                          The only thing I'd add to Berk/Oakland is the Scharffenberger tour, but only as an add-on, nice leisurely between lunch and dinner type thing.

                                      2. re: daveena

                                        You know, Luka's is a great suggestion. The food is really good. You might be able to find similar dishes of similar quality in SF or Berkeley, but the vibe is uniquely Oakland.

                                        1. re: chompy

                                          And the beer list is really interesting. There are not that many restaurants with that extensive of a bottle list, although the focus is Belgian.

                                      3. re: Dinsdale45

                                        I go to Oakland for Mexican - both taco trucks and taquerias, Chinatown (probably only because it's closer to me although parking is easier), and occasionally to go bar hopping (again, only because it's closer).

                                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                                          There's not much in the Oakland that's better than SF: Korean, sit-down Mexican food, Shanghai-style Chinese, Ethiopian (though San Jose may have better).

                                          I think the main restaurants arguably worth a trip from SF are Oliveto and Pizzaiolo.

                                        2. Oliveto is still superb, even with staff changes, but for an ethnic or eclectic eatery, I would recommend Dona Tomas, the more refined sister of Berkeley's Tacubaya. Delicious, haute Mexican cuisine in a stylish setting. Both Oliveto and Dona Tomas are Oakland/Berkeley border restaurants.

                                          1. I think Berkeley, not Oakland, is a food lover paradise. Just stroll the main streets like University, Shattuck, College, 4th Street.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: walker

                                              I disagree. In Oakland you have Rockridge, part of Claremont, Piedmont Ave., and the new mini-gourmet enclave at Temescal. Plus, unlike Berkeley, you have ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown, "Koreatown," Fruitvale and "Little Saigon."

                                            2. If you have a car then i'd ride down International Avenue which is the closest thing to Mexico City i've seen in this country. You won't find anything like Nieves Cinco de Mayo in SF or anywhere else.

                                              The owner hand-churns ice cream in a wooden bucket using a method unique to Mexico and charges $1 a scoop. Very cool ambiance as the family is usually hanging around. You haven't tried a raspado till you've had one here. My favorite raspado is the jaimaica, though the pineaple with a sprinkle of chile is a real close second (don't put chile on the jaimaica). It is real fruit, not syrup. Of the exotic ice cream flavors I like the minty yerba santa the best. For the less unusual, the strawberry has a clean, fresh light flavor.

                                              Outside is a churro stand. The caramel churro is the best with the custard a runner up. Across the street is a beinet place called Powderface.

                                              There are lots of reports about the International Ave taco trucks. Don't know your reasons for going to La Palma, but you might give La Boriquena in Oakland a try for a chip comparison. La Palma does good potato chips, but La Boriquena has the best thick corn chips fried in lard i've every had. Their corn tortillas ... 79 cents for a bag of a dozen warm, fragrant tortillas ... are my favorite tortillas in the area. The other food though ... just too Mex-American ... but those two items are what this place excells at.

                                              There are a lot of International / Fruitvale taco truck reports.

                                              For different flavor in Oakland, you might consider Nellie's Soul Food near Jack London Square. Then afterwards venture further into West Oakland and have a drink at Ester's Orbit room. You can search on that further. Esther's has a lot of history behind it. Most if of is mainly memories these days, but still an interesting joint you won't find elsewhere and there's alot to admire about Ester.

                                              I gotta agree with Ruth that even for dive dining your list sounds kind of mediocre. I looked at your profile and it seems you are coming from the Boston area so based on that ... really only eat Italian here if you want to mock us. You might get some fresh foccacia from Liquiria Bakery in North Beach ... a huge slab is $2 and some pizza foccacia with a cup of coffee from one of the North Beach coffee joints is a great breakfast or lunch. XOX truffles around the corner serves Graffeo which is my favorite coffee and you can score a free truffle (get caramel). Or I like Cafe Roma's coffee a lot.

                                              You mention Barney's because of need a sandwich when staying in the Marina, however, Luccas Deli on Chesnut might be the better choice. Yeah, Italian, but just better than Barneys.

                                              I am NOT a Home Plate fan which I consider a greasy version of TownsEnd which does the same thing much better. However, TownsEnd is located near the Ballpark. In the Marina area Judy's has the better breakfast with a great house-baked pumpkin bread. There is also ... I'm probably spelling it wrong ... Bertolii's on Chestnut that has a better breakfast than Home Plate. I haven't been there, but sort of in the area, Rose Cafe on Union Street is supposed to have a great breakfast.

                                              E & O Trading Company Asian Fusion - haven't been but I don' t go to soulless chains like P.F. Changes.

                                              Espetus Churrascaria Brazilian - If you are from the Boston Area, I'm guessing you have better Brazillian everything.

                                              Bay Watch Restaurant Brunch - really? Why? Isn't this another chain?

                                              Cajun Pacific Cajun/Creole - Yeah, we are sort of getting there for Cajun / Creole, but not really there yet. Angeline's seems the best on your list.

                                              Charanga Cuban/tapas - we ain't so strong on Cuban either

                                              Chapeau! French (early bird special!) Yeah, ok. I like Chapeau a lot. Not anything you won't find in Boston, but just a charming place.

                                              Kathmandu Cafe Himalayan/Nepalese
                                              Metro Kathmandu Himalayan/Nepalese
                                              Taste of the Himalayas Indian/Nepalese
                                              We aren't so up there with the above. Maybe Taste of the Himalayas if one must, but I thing Everest is a little better. Still, one of the last cuisines I'd try here.

                                              Popol Vuh Latin American - out of the Yucatan places, this might be the one to try

                                              Tortas Los Picudos Mexican - I like their tortas ... there is one near me. Haven't tried the SF location though

                                              Aziza Moroccan - Love it

                                              Fly Trap Restaurant New American - what is it that appeals to you here? I lived a block away for over a decade. It was ok to drop in occasionally, but really not so New American if that is what you are going for.

                                              Panchita's Restaurant No 2 Salvadorean - if you are going for Salvadorean food, Bolompie is one of the better choices. There are a few others too but what are you looking for in Salvadorean? If it is pupusas, you might query some recent pupusa threads.

                                              Bullshead Restaurant Steak/burgers - yeah i like them. Much better than Barney's.

                                              A breakfast joint you might look into though I've never tried them (on my list) is Curley's in North Beach. They have a few Japanese items but is is mainly standard American. I'm sure it won't be blow me away food, but I'm guessing it is sold food.

                                              Hope you will report back about what you try.

                                              14 Replies
                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Aww Guys, I'm bummed you're all piling on my list :-) I spent a good amount of time on that!

                                                At the risk of damaging my (nonexistant?) chowhound street cred, I'm stuck in the Boston 'burbs with a young family so much of the Boston dining experience has largely been lost on me. The only real chance I have to get out and chow is when my company pays for me to visit some cool city (I usually choose S.F., Seattle, Austin, or New Orleans) with the implied stipulation that I actually attend a few scientific meetings at some conference. I know more about dining in those cities that I do in Boston. So, for example, any decent Italian in S.F. would be better than my Boston experiences because I never get a chance to eat real Italian, anyway (does Bertucci's count???). Mexican is the real scarcity back East. We do have some great Asian and Brazilian, even out where I live. It's an adventure to just get out there and see what's around. I'm only going to eat about 15 meals, anyway.

                                                Much of my list comes from Yelp reviews. Are you guys aware of some of the major discrepancies between CH and Yelp? My guess is that most Yelpers are in the 20-32 range and I think Chowhounders are a bit older and may be more sophisticated. Despite my age (46), I probably straddle both groups in my dining tastes.

                                                I wasn't aware I had any chains on that list. E.O Trading is a chain?

                                                Sorry to see so many cuisines ranked way down the list of what S.F. does well, too. But I will try some anyway simply because I can't get it in Boston.

                                                Don't forget, I'm traveling alone and don't plan on spending 3 hours eating in a restaurant when it's me, the bar, and a newspaper for company. Many of my choices reflect places that I think would be a bit more comfortable.

                                                Thanks for all the great suggestions, though.

                                                1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                  Go to Taddich Grill!!! It's on lower California. Your remark about you and the newspaper made me think of it.

                                                  Sit at the counter. Stay away from gussied-up dishes and stick with broiled, sauteed or grilled fish - sand dabs, swordfish, petrale sole, etc. Get a small seafood salad on the side with HOUSE DRESSING. You'll be in another world as the Croat waiters make jokes to each other.

                                                  It's one of the most famous places in SF and a tourist trap. But it's also a local favorite and you rarely have to wait for long for a seat at the counter. If you sit near the back, you can watch the frenzy in the kitchen and the wait station.

                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                    I wouldn't call Tadich a tourist trap. Tourists are maybe half their business, but they maintain a higher level of quality than the Wharf places in order to attract locals.

                                                  2. re: Dinsdale45

                                                    Dinsdale45, it sounds like you might find Pizzaiolo worth the trip. It's informal and in a working class hood, the bar is as good a place to eat as the tables (you might have a longish wait at peak times) but the quality of the ingredients and prep (distinctively regional+premium Italian staples) equals fancier and more costly places. The music can be loud but it's the chef/owner's personal mix (open kitchen). cheers

                                                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                      Eh, no one's putting down your list, only trying to steer you to better eats. The only reason I bothered to answer one of the gazillion visitor queries is because of the list and you did some homework.

                                                      I'm still curious about Fly Trap and what appeals there. It sounds like everything you have said you don't want in a restaurant and from personal experience I can tell you that is what you will get. It is one of the few places in the city I never enjoyed dining alone. Though the music can be nice and the staff is usually friendly. I read the Yelp reviews and I'm more on the side of the three stars and below ... though I wouldn't go as far as dubbing it Fly Crap as one yelper did. The gushers were more about the ambiance.

                                                      E & O is still a small chain with four restaurants, but if Asian Fusion is the point, The House would be a tastier option. I've never read an enthusiastic report here on E & O.

                                                      The difference in Yelp and Chowhound is that Chowhound is about the food and yelp is about Yelping. They make that very clear with a lot of carrots to do that. Be the first to write a loud, sassy review. Don't get me wrong, I read yelp more than Chowhound these days but I take the hints with a grain or two of salt so I don't get disappointed ... again.

                                                      Take that review of the new Filipino place as an example. The first fiew reviews were the cheerleaders ... HEY, HEY, HEY ... look at me I was the first one here and it blew me away. Then there are the 'never at Filipino food before' but it was yummy group. I guess what I'm saying is pay attention to the low stars on Yelp first and then read the raves keeping the bad stuff in mind. After reading the reviews, my take on the joint is that it is a pricy joint that is appealing to non-Filipinos for the most part ... there are always the handful of "I'm Filipino and I know what I'm talking about' reviews. Filipino food can be hard to love so if it is your intro to that cuisine, it might be a good way to ease in. Please though ... don't pay $3.50 for four pan de sal roll.

                                                      It is funny, more people think of Chowhound as dive dining rather than a place to read about pricy dinners. It is a mix of both. I'd say the majority of Chowhounds are below 50 age-wise but that doesn't become apparant because Chowhound encourages people to talk about the food rather than themselves like Yelp.

                                                      You might pick up a copy of The Chowhound's Guide to the SF Bay Area which has a lot of the type of dining you are saying you like. It culled the best of these boards.The book is two years old but most of the places are still relevant. You can scan a lot of the book online at Amazon.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        The info in the Chowhound Guide is about three years old at this point.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          I'm still finding good stuff there and not a lot that has passed. on.

                                                          For more recent additions check the online Chow Digest

                                                          That's where most of the stuff in the original book was compiled from. God, I love the Chow Digest. Even when I was reading chowhound more they always caught great eats I bypassed.

                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                          Hmm...in hindsight, I don't know how Fly Trap ended up on my list. I think I was using the sanfrancisco.citysearch.com website and looked for decent examples of "new American" around town, just to cover all the bases. You're right, on further review it doesn't sound like my kind of place.

                                                          I went to E.O. on a trip back in '98 but it was so crowded, I could barely get up to the bar to get a beer. I thought I'd give it another shot, but not if there are better options. The House was recommended earlier and sounds great.

                                                          I try to filter out the weirdos and hacks on Yelp reviewing the waiters' looks or the pleasures of drunken eating, but it is a more convenient site for looking at specific restaurants, without having to go through long threads for a mention of the place you may be looking for. Since I'm mostly looking for places specifically in S.F., some of the CH threads are a little too much to sort through since they cover the whole Bay area.

                                                          If I want to try some food I've never had before, like Filipino, all I can do is read what I can, make an educated choice, then decide to take a shot. Maybe it won't be my thing but at least I'll be able to say I tried it. If I happen to be in Daly City, maybe I'll stumble upon some ultra authentic hole-in-the-wall Mom & Pop joint. Maybe I'll like the Americanized Filipino better? Who knows?

                                                          I'm not a really finicky eater and I can't tell a six-dollar bottle of wine from a 30 dollar bottle (beer is another story, though...) but to me, the cardinal sin for food is "boring". I can't eat the "normal" Chinese food anymore that my family loves but they can't handle the larb I like with serious flavors like fish sauce and herbs. Intense flavor is what I crave, so my tastes lean more toward Asian/Latin American. Reviews that mention this get my attention above all else. I added other more conventional places, like burger joints, to my list just to have that option if I'm in a particular part of town.

                                                          I love the vibe that S.F. has, and I like to make the most of my trips out there. There's so much to offer, and so little time. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

                                                          1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                            OK. I was just wondering the Fly Trap appeal so I could steer you to something better in that category. It's not that it is bad, but it is pretty average for its class. If I had beaucoup bucks I might have eaten there more often when I lived in the nabe, but I always thought my food dollars could be better used elsewhere. In that nabe, Brickhouse gets some good mentions. There's also 21st ammendment which brews its own beer. The beer gets good mentions, the food gets mixed results. Haven't been lately but I imagine the burger is decent enough.

                                                            If you do get up to Oakland, Lanesplitter Pizza has good beer. They have some sort of cask-conditioned beer. One of their locations is in Temescal in the area of PIzzolio / Bakesale Betty. Also in that area is La Calaca Loco which really does have some of the best fish tacos around. They are the same as Nick's Crispy Tacos which is about as good as it gets fish taco-wise in SF.

                                                            One place I haven't tried for beer and I want to ... almost did yesterday but I'm recovering from a cold and ran out of steam ... is Presidio Bowl. It is near the Marina in the Presidio and they have a restaurant that serves burgers and about 50 beers. There was a good show about them on Check Please (online) and though the Yelp reviews focus on the bowling the beer gets a few favorable mentions.

                                                            Don't I know about family. Ditto here. I eat out alone alot because the taste of those nearest and dearest gravitates to Olive Garden type of food. The food honeymoon with my SO was over about the time I was into my Filipino food crawl. Like I said, a hard cuisine to love. I do, expecially the breakfasts with sausage and garlic rice. I'm sort of into halo-halo since it is totally different at each place. Love the baked goods especially the bilbinka. There's a really good bakery on the Daly City border. One of the local Brazilian joints I like the best is nearby

                                                            If you are into sampling different cuisines, Grubstake in SF has some Portuguese dishes on the menu. It is mainly American diner but there's a half dozen Portuguese dishes. Of the three local Portuguese restaurants, thier kale soup is my favorite. It might be amoung the dishes I like best in SF.

                                                            Also different, If you go to Aziza there's a new Russian place that serves a nice Kvass, sort of a drink that tastes like sparkling apple juice but it is amazingly made from bread. A deli called Gastronom across the street from Aziza sells a decent version that is close to the kvass at the new place, Sadko

                                                            Hopefully the next time you visit the Places section will be more developed. When it gets up and running, IMO, it will kick yelp in terms of finding good local eats for someone who doesn't want to wade through alot of threads.

                                                        3. re: Dinsdale45

                                                          I wouldn't cull a list from Yelp's highly starred restaurants - aside from 1) people randomly choosing a star rating for restaurants they haven't been to so they can be the first to review and 2) many star ratings primarily reflecting the decor, the ambiance, and the hotness of the wait staff, you also have a lot of good ethnic places that get slammed for 1) decor and service and 2) dishes that don't reflect the primary focus of the restaurant (people ordering General Tso's chicken at Taiwanese restaurants, etc). I go to Yelp to look up places that haven't been extensively reviewed on CH (usually non-European ethnic places in outlying areas), and then I target reviews that name specific dishes in their language of origin. Yelp's strength is that many of the reviewers are immigrants or children of immigrants who have an intimate knowledge of the cuisine they grew up with. However, for European, European-influenced, and Californian food, I trust CH.

                                                          1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                            I wouldn't rely on Yelp as opposed to CH, ever. The difference is the breadth of knowledge of the most delicious spots: yes, you will find lots of reviews of the better known places on Yelp, but it tends to be more focused on better known spots, in my experience. and, if your list is any indication, a lot of mediocrity with a few outstanding choices (and you would find all of the outstanding choices on CH, so why not start with a more focused search). Lupa but not La Ciccia? Los Jarritos but not El Delfin? That reflects what is what is limiting about relying on Yelp, IMO.

                                                            You might also try googling some of your spots. A quick search reveals that EO Trading is indeed a chain;


                                                            Yes, it is only 15 meals. All the more reason to find the best!

                                                            If you really want good Mexican and don't have time to head to the South bay, leave San Francisco. Yes, Oakland really is better (and a quick BART ride),, so by dismissing it as you did in your post above, you are missing out. I say this as someone who lives walking distance from most of the places in the Mission.

                                                            Or, if you do wish to stay in the Mission, go to El Delfin, on 24th street....very close to BART.

                                                            La Ciccia
                                                            291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                                            El Delfin
                                                            3066 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                              My 2 cents: I didn't like El Defin at all and would not return.

                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                  The best I have to say that it was edible; I'd like it to be better than that when I eat out. A chile relleno burrito from El Farolito is much more satisfying. Just my opinion.

                                                        4. If you are in Berkeley or Oakland, Cesar is fun and has great tapas and Spanish wines. In Berkeley, it is right next door to Chez Panisse, and they opened a second location in Oakland in the Piedmont Ave. shopping district. Also, Dopo on Piedmont Ave. has excellent pizza and other Italian. Pizzaolo on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland has really excellent pizza, too.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: beeber

                                                            I much prefer the Piedmont branch of Cesar. Longer menu, tables spaced farther apart, not as noisy when full. But in SF there's Bocdillos, which is much in the same vein.

                                                            Dopo's one of my favorite restaurants but given all the equally great Italian in SF I don't think it's worth the trip on a one-week visit.

                                                            1. re: beeber

                                                              Cesar may be worth trying once, but not for a single person as you'd probably only get through two little plates.

                                                              Despite similar small plate worries, I'd say Betelnut - pretty great and much closer.

                                                              1. re: Maple

                                                                I don't follow your reasoning. Seems to me that small plates mean a solo diner can try more things.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  I guess for me, small plates are more festive with friends, but if I dine solo, I'd like to be fed one good thing.

                                                            2. While I certainly defer to others on their comments on East Bay dining, I have lived in the Marina for many years and I see that many of the places on your list are in the neighborhood. With that in mind, let me offer a few thoughts on places you will be able to find near your hotel - I am not saying that these places are the best *whatever* in SF, simply that I like them and they are close to your hotel. My favorite place in the Marina is Isa - it is a small plates place, neighborhood and casual. You mentioned Italian - I have enjoyed Parma in the past but haven't been in awhile. It is also on Pierce, so you may want to check it out. Bistro Aix is also in the area and is excellent. Someone mentioned Lucca's for sandwiches - excellent idea. I'd go there before going to Barney's. Jake's Steaks is also an option - Philly cheesesteak, but don't ask me how authentic they are, I wouldn't know! There is a steak place on Lombard - Boboquivari's that I've heard many speak highly of - I haven't tried it myself, however. As far as breakfasts go, someone mentioned both Judy's and Bechelli's on Chestnut and I think those are two very good suggestions. I've never found Black Watch or Home Plate very appealing. A-16 is also in the Marina and is excellent but it can be hard to get in - if you try to drop in, go for a slightly off hour.

                                                              Enjoy your visit!

                                                              1. We live in Oakland. For ethnic, here's our favorites:

                                                                Vietnamese - Ba Vo and Pho 84 (both Downtown) better than Slanted Door
                                                                Burmese - Nan Yang (College Ave)
                                                                Cambodian - Phnom Penh House (Downtown) casual dining

                                                                There are no decent Chinese restaurants in Oakland.

                                                                For sushi, we like Uzen and Tachibana, both on College

                                                                For upscale destination dining: Oliveto's, Acote / Citron, Bay Wolf and Garibaldi's On College are the best Oakland has to offer. Some also serve lunch.

                                                                We personally think Chez Panisse Restaurant and the Cafe are over rated and over priced and we no longer go. But, that's Berkeley and not Oakland.


                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: tanglenet

                                                                  When you say there's no decent Chinese restaurants in Oakland, are you only counting "upscale" and not including Chinatown?

                                                                  Just wondering since there's a half dozen good Chinese restaurants in Oakland Chinatown, ranging from dives to very formal. It doesn't compare to the Richmond or Sunset, but it does well. Examples: New Gold Medal, Chef Lau's, Shan Dong, Shanghai Restaurant, Peony. Also, it does depend on what you order.

                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                    Agreed. Add in Spices III, and Oakland Chinatown has a better mix of Cantonese and non-Cantonese restaurants than any compact area of San Francisco, not to mention peripheral cuisines like Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao in the same part of town.

                                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                                      Shanghai is great. Is there equally good Shanghai-style in SF?

                                                                      Legendary Palace is good Hong Kong seafood. Not worth a trip from SF.

                                                                      Shan Dong's got a handful of unusual Shandong dishes worth a visit but a lot of the food looks pretty dire.

                                                                      Unless Nan Yang has improved it's inferior to any of SF's four Burmese choices.

                                                                      Spices!3 is fun but there are two branches in SF.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        *sigh* I want to like Nan Yang, but I'm still haunted by the ghost of its former Chinatown incarnation. When they moved to Rockridge and yuppified, they lost a lot of their soul (and one of the best damn noodle dishes I ever ate).

                                                                        However, the comments on Chinese restaurants you're responding to were in response to the statement that there is "no decent Chinese food in Oakland" which is a separate topic from whether said restaurants are enough better than their counterparts to warrent a trip from SF.

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler


                                                                          New Gold Medal
                                                                          389 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                          Nan Yang Rockridge
                                                                          6048 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                          Chef Lau's
                                                                          301 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                          Restaurant Peony
                                                                          388 9th St Ste 288, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                            The chinese restaurants in Oakland tend to be full of chinese people. To me this is a good sign...

                                                                    1. Don't know if this will be open by the time you get here, but here's a report of a Belgian beer bar, opening soon:


                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: daveena

                                                                        Thanks. I'll check into it. I'm not a Belgian freak like the late Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the pedophile), but that sounds like a unique place.