New York hound headed to the Bay next week and needs recs
I lived in the Bay Area for 5 years and am returning next week. I intend to eat, drink and be merry. Where should I go in Berkeley/Oakland/SF? We are pretty covered in NYC with Italian, Chinese and Thai, but would love good Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and, you know, "California Cuisine." We are looking for moderately priced places. When I lived out there, I particularly enjoyed The Last Supper Club, Luna Park, La Note, Pancho Villa, Picante, Cesar and O Chame.
Where must I eat? Thanks, 'hounds!
So we went to Incanto last night, and I have to say it was good, but not great. We had the salumi platter, which was nice and fresh, but not mind blowing. I had the handkerchief pasta with pork ragu, and the rau was so overwhelmingly salty, I couldn't eat more than half. the chowfiance had the pork shoulder with mashed celeriac which was quite nice. Our friends had the sausage and beans (really nothing special) and the poussin fra diavolo (pretty good). For dessert we had the ginger cake and spiced chocolate tartlet, both of which I thought were fantastic. Now if only the entrees were equally as great, I would have been sated!
Ohhh... somehow I neglected to tell you to get the spaghettini with cured tuna heart... that's too bad. Did they give you any headcheese with the salumi platter? I really love their headcheese. While the pork shoulder and pork ragu have their fans (sorry to hear yours was too salty - it sounds like their seasoning is inconsistent, as others have complained of blandness), I think that most of Incanto's more devoted fans are people who became converted to offal-eating after trying some of Incanto's more adventurous dishes.
Berkeley: Chez Panisse, of course.
Oakland: Jojo, 3859 Piedmont Ave, tel. (510) 985-3003: dependable, consistent, deliciously authentic bistro fare. Pizzaiolo (dinner only, alas). Oliveto.
San Francisco: Incanto. Zuni. Bacco.
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
737 Diamond Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131
3859 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618
I am also a former resident/frequent visitor to the Bay Area and though I don't know the area as well as some of these folks, I have a couple of suggestions if you haven't been - Delfina Pizzeria would be at the top of my "moderately priced" list - along with Bi Rite creamery down the street, and Tartine in the other direction. I also had an excellent meal at Oliveto Cafe recently, in Rockridge. Chez Panisse cafe now takes reservations and I'm hoping to try it soon. I've been a couple of times but couldn't take the wait. I also used to like Bay Wolf, but I don't know how it's doing these days.
If you moved away before it opened, be sure to check out the Ferry Building Marketplace. I especially like Boulette's Larder for brunch/lunch and Out the Door the Slanted Door's takeout counter - they do a great bahn mi type roast pork sandwich.
I was recently in NYC and really enjoyed The Tasting Room - am hoping to go back and try more soon, I was in a meeting for most of my visit.
Anadyae - what do find at Tacubaya is better than innumerable places in San Francisco, and thus worth a drive? I would never recommend it to a visitor, personally, and eat there only when I'm in the area. Not a destination.
I have been disappointed by DT repeatedly. It's crowed and the food is simply very good - again, not a destination.
Thanks, I missed the followup regarding Piedmont.
Tacos? What kind of tacos? What do you like about them?
First, I would offer as an accessible easy east bay comparison the carnitas tacos at Gordo's on Solano. I'd put the carnitas at Gordo's up with anyone - they've got it all - juicy, subtle, smoke taste. You need them on tacos or in a regular burrito - the large burritos mask the taste. All the other meats are average, nothing to write home about, salsa is an afterthought.
Second, there are some great posts about Fruitvale / International Blvd taco trucks.
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450404 is a recent, huge roundup.
The "taco waddle" is a classic, but is from 2002.
Third, the reference SF burrito is Pancho Villa, such as the fine sentence "La Cumbre has better carne asada but a smaller salsa selection than Pancho Villa" [I don't know if this is true, but is an example sentence.] Explorations of the mission scene should start with PV.
Since my move to Menlo Park, I've been slowly crawling the Redwood City (and, to a lesser extent, San Mateo) taqueria scene. My information is no longer up-to-date on SF. The word down here is that El Gruelense has the lock on the local market, and tracking down the variations of EG is time consuming. EG makes an excellent chimichunga (rare for "SF style"). Grocers often have a small burrito window, and get first pick of meat, so are often excellent.
re: Xiao Yang
Gordo's in in north berkeley, on Solano Ave, not to be confused with Solano County. It's near the much-written-about China Village, although you said no sichuan, it's not a bad twofer. Just order very light at CV or pack your extra stomach.
[Yes, I know, Gordo's is in Albany, but it's just over the line and let's not confuse the guy]
Most would agree that berkeley proper has little in the way of great mexican food.
The last is particuarly good.
El Tonayense truck in SF always gets good reviews -- and the truck experience is muy typico -- I love mexican small town late night street stalls.
The truck has lousy guac and no option to pay more and get real avocado -- I'd only like this place if I needed cheap prices. My favorite is La Taqueria on Mission near 25th. The quality of the meats is outstanding but this place is pricey, I'll admit. I like the burritos at Farolito on 24th St about Folsom, I like that they grill the burritos with cheese before they add other stuff. I usually order the chile relleno one. I can get real avocado, too!
I probably couldn't list 10 that I would return to. For sit-downers in the Mission for burrito/taco fare, I can make do with T. San Jose, T. Cancun, or El Farolito, not to mention sundry taco trucks and varied side trips to Salvadoran (Balompie for pupusas), Yucatecan (Yucatasia and El Maya Yucatan), etc. Then theres Oakland Fruitvale...
My recollection of Pancho Villa was that they had standard comfortable choices of fillings, and not much in the way of "variety" meats, but that was a long time ago.
In the East Bay (Oakland/Berkeley) I would recommend a Korean meal, as Korean restaurants have really blossomed in the Temescal to Downtown corridor since you left. If you are not familiar with Korean food, the folks at Sahn Maru are extremely friendly and will steer you clear of major mistakes. They have my favorite Black Goat Stew in the area. A bit more accessible is the pork stew (on the bone) with potatoes and dates (a huge fave of mine). If you're more into BBQ, Ohgane is a strong option, though their prices have been going up of late. I also think their soup selection at lunch is excellent. My current favorite overall is Sura. The Oh Sam Bulgogi (Korean bacon and squid) is addictive, and their banchan assortment is the best I've had anywhere.
I concur with Daveena's China Village recommendation. I would also recommend a visit to the Pacific East Mall on the El Cerrito/Richmond border. It's loaded with a variety of Chinese regional options that may be less common in New York (including Macau Cafe, a nice Chow Jew noodle place called VH Noodle, Taiwanese at 168, and a solid Cantonese restaurant called Daimo).
3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611
4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
Sahn Maru Korean BBQ
4315 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
3288 Pierce St # M126, Richmond, CA
Hi chompchomp - you're probably not getting many responses because your question is too broad. To help us give more useful recs:
1) Will you have a car?
2) Where will you be staying? (There are lots of restaurants in the East Bay that I would definitely recommend if you're staying here, but wouldn't necessarily recommend a special trip from SF). How far are you willing to travel?
3) re: Chinese - any region in particular? Here's a link to the chowdown report at China Village, an excellent Sichuan restaurant in Albany:
4) re: Japanese - I assume you're talking about non-sushi? Here are some very positive reports on izakaya at Sebo in SF:
5) re: Mexican - are you looking for burritos/tacos, or sit-down Oaxacan?
6) re: Italian - it will still be worth it for you to try Cal-Ital - I find that in NYC, the good Italian restaurants mostly either take an anthropologic approach to recreating authentic dishes, or they add a nouveau flair. Cal-Ital takes local, seasonal ingredients and applies Italian techniques and flavors. Per the Incanto website: "...the food we serve at Incanto represents the part of Italy that is called "California".
7) Is it safe to assume that your definition of "moderately priced" is entrees roughly in the $15-25 range?
8) re: Thai - do you have Lao-Thai in NYC? Is it something you'd be interested in trying?
For what it's worth, I routinely recommend Canteen, Bar Tartine, and Incanto to visitors (I find that New Yorkers - and former New Yorkers - seem to have a particular affinity for Bar Tartine). Bar Tartine and Canteen are both Californian - both have upscale food in a casual setting (Canteen takes it to an extreme, as it's housed in a former hotel coffee shop). Incanto, as I mentioned above, is Cal-Ital.
Also, take a minute to look over our Places page to get an idea if there are other cuisines you'd be interested in trying, that you hadn't considered.
I'd point out that Izakaya at Sebo is reportedly a once-a-week affair (Sundays only, with the rest of the week for sushi) and that Incanto's strengths are in use of offal (not that there's anything wrong with that!)
For Chinese, I'd say that SF still trumps New York (sorry about that, Donald) in dim sum and in top-grade Cantonese dinners (a little searching will turn up reams of discussion on these). Vietnamese, too, is probably head and shoulders above what NY has to offer (and I'm not talking Slanted Door here -- try something like the Beef Seven Ways at Pagolac).
Thanks, Daveena. Here's the scoop.
We do have a car, but aren't willing to travel terribly far. We will be in SF for a wedding and to see old friends. Food is a priority, but not the priority. We are staying in the Piedmont area of Oakland. NYC (read Flushing) has some divine Sichaun restaurants, so we are looking for other regions of Chinese. Definitely talking about non-sushi Japanese. Re: Mexican -- tacos, please. I used to haunt Pancho Villa and found myself disappointed with La Tacqueria and Cancun. You got it with the price range, and we'd be up for "Cal-Ital" especially if it involves gratuitous amounts of pig. And no, we don't have Lao-Thai in NYC, but maybe we'll save that for the next visit.
Places I am currently considering are O Chame, Incanto, the Ferry Building (but where to eat lunch?) and a superior taco place. Oh! And where to get Vietnamese? And banh mi? Sounds like Slanted Door is on the outs on c'hound...
Thanks so much!!!
Good, moderately priced Cal-European in Piedmont:
Cesar - the Piedmont branch is fairly new, much larger than the Berkeley original, and has a larger menu (some items are definitely Californian and not Spanish - sand dabs on arugula, anyone? But they were delicious). If you liked the original, you'll like this one even more. Service can be spotty, though.
Dopo - very good Cal-Ital - lots of veg options, great pastas and pizzas, and they encourage tasting and sharing by offering tasting plates of all 3 veg contorni, all 3 salumi, etc in portions for 2, 3, or 4 people.
Wood Tavern - excellent Californian. Make reservations.
A Cote - reliably delicious Cal-Mediterranean small plates, great desserts, eclectic wine list.
Other East Bay go tos:
Pizzaiolo - pizza with a Chez Panisse pedigree
Cafe at Chez Panisse - I doubt this needs any introduction.
Tacos trucks in Oakland:
Tacos in San Francisco:
Vietnamese in Oakland:)
(personal fave dishes: bahn mi at BC Deli, pho bo kho at Pho Hoa Lao, the Cambodian version of bahn xeo at Battambang
re: Chinese - what do you think is lacking in NYC? I feel like Queens must have everything covered. I haven't eaten Chinese food in Queens since I was a kid, and I rarely choose Cantonese when I eat Chinese here, so I can't weigh in on Xiao Yang's assertion that Cantonese and dim sum are better here.
5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607
4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618
Pho Hoa Lao
333 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607
As always, I am going to have to second daveena's Bar Tartine and Canteen recs especially for visiting NY'ers.
I am also going to back up XY's statement that SF still trumps NYC (Flushing included) for high end dim sum and cantonese. The caveat being that Koi Palace (Daly City) is the trump card and that Yank Sing is maybe only slightly better than Ping's on Mott. The regional Chinese and Taiwanese in Flushing is probably as good as what SF has to offer in those areas.
As for non-sushi japanese, I'll have to recommend Kappa (koryori) and little else since NYC has sushi, izakaya, and kaiseki covered.
Definitely focus on Bar Tartine, Canteen (for the overall experience), mexican, Koi Palace, and cal-italian.
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
Kappa Japanese Restaurant
1700 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115
I'll have to defer to the experts for mexican in SF and Oakland. I liked Taqueria La Bamba in Mountain View if you're ever in that area. You could choose from carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, grilled chicken, lengua, chile colorado (beef simmered in a red sauce), and chile verde. I liked getting 4 soft tacos each with a different filling. The pupusas and tamales are also delicious.
Here's some great photos of the place:
Incanto is my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area. It never fails to wow. Perfect if you're into eating offal - at my last dinner there I had calve's brains, chicken liver ravioli, and braised lamb's neck. The chef is also a master with pork.
On Piedmont, Dopo is excellent. Rustic Italian, phenomenal house made pasta, very reasonable prices. The menu changes daily so it's hard to recommend a specific dish. It's my favorite restaurant in the East Bay. If you're looking for pig, they have a great house made salami and pate platter. As you're coming from NYC, I'd skip the pizza and focus on the rest of the menu.
O Chame is very good as far as non-sushi Japanese options go. The chef is incredible at balancing soup broth.
For the Ferry Buildng, my favorite lunch option is to go on a Saturday during the farmers market and assemble a lunch from a bunch of different vendors. Some Fatted Calf pate, Andante goat cheese, fresh fruit, Acme bread, Recchiuti chocolates, and you'll be in heaven.
For Vietnamese, Out the Door in the Westfield Mall. Really good food - incredibly fresh, slight California influence with farm to table ingredients, but the flavors still deliver. Same owner as Slanted Door, but more casual with prices that are far more reasonable (high prices are the most consistent criticism I hear about Slanted Door.) There's also an Out the Door location in the Ferry Building, but the Westfield Mall has a larger menu, places to sit, full table service, beer and wine- it's much better overall experience. If you like O Chame, you will probably enjoy Out the Door.
For tacos, watch the threads on Fruitvale taco trucks. I enjoy Tacubaya, but it isn't the most "authentic" California taco experience.