Limited time & neighborhood
Hiya fellow foodies,
I will be in San Fran on business for four days, staying at Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (1500 Van Ness Ave). I will not have access to a car, and I do not want to waste my food money on overpriced taxis. I'm fine with walking, as long as I don't run any risk of being mugged or starving before I get there. Please tell me what my best dinner options are. My fav restaurants (of the moment) to give you an idea of my tastes: Au Pied du Cochon, Montreal (a MUST); Heartland, St. Paul; Chino Latino, Minneapolis. I've been disappointed with the rave restaurants in NYC & DC. Raised in MD, so crabcakes are like hamburgers.
I love trendy original food, but it has to be substantive (no tenuous towers of garnish for me). I'm a sucker for an incredible saucier. I once asked one to run away with me. I like gamey food and I'm willing to try anything once. (Ever had ostrich teriyaki? Or pickled whole octopi? I have.) I absolutely adore sushi, but I've had so much that it would start to get boring, if it wasn't so orgasmic.
I've heard San Fran is known for its seafood, local/organic produce, and Thomas Keller. Can't afford FL or Denko's joint, but am willing to spend $2-300 on a great meal.
p.s. - My dad's a chef, now a chef instructor. He says I've eaten like royalty all my life. I don't think I'm picky, but some do.
The two things that immediately come to mind are:
The Dining Room at the Ritz: some say it's the best tasting menu in SF, and you can spend under $200 there depending on what you choose to drink. It's been awhile, but the sauces were amazing in general.
Kokkari: I don't know where you're from, but good Greek isn't found everywhere and when I went to Kokkari a few weeks ago I had lamb (sheep?) innards for the first time. It might not be exciting for everyone, but for me it was a nice first because I love lamb.
Skip sushi in SF. It's expensive and not exciting if you've had it so much it's gotten boring.
Well, I haven't been but Sushi Ran in Sausalito is supposedly where all the Bay Area top chefs go when they have a craving. It's hard to get to without a car (care to ferry?) and difficult to get in because of odd hours. It's worth researching if you really want top notch sushi.
I actually haven't lived in SF for over two years, but while I was there the only place I went that I'd consider exciting sushi was Ame. It's slightly fusion and portions are precious beyond believe, though, so it might not be what you're looking for. Where was your best sushi meal? That might help. For me, it's a toss up between a few places in Taiwan and Sushi Zo in Culver City (Los Angeles). In general I find SF sushi more expensive than LA sushi, which is a big turnoff for me.
At Kokkari, the grilled octopus is also exceptional.
I love your post! Kiss Seafood for sushi not that far, small cab fee great sushi.
1700 Laguna St (at Sutter)
Incanto- yes yes
This town is 7 x 7 and you are staying in the middle so cabs will not cost too much.
So close to Swans for counter style good seafood lunch. Order crab and oysters.
Given your mention of Au Pied de Cochon, consider Incanto. The chef, Chris Cosentino, has a similar appreciation of unusual pig parts and was one of three chefs Anthony Bourdain mentioned in his introduction to the English edition of Martin Picard's book, the other two being Fergus Henderson and Mario Batali. You can get there cheaply on public transportation.
Helmand Palace nearby is a great Afghan place.
Given your location, the best restaurant you can walk to in the city (and one of my favorites), is Canteen at 817 Sutter St - a little more than a half-mile and a little more than six blocks. This is the Chez Panisse of the city, offering a different menu each week (versus each day) and the most impressive, fresh ingredients in imaginative ways.
Seafood - Swan's Oyster Depot...crab, shrimp louie, etc. On Polks street, one block over from Van Ness. Pretty much a lunch thing however...10 seats at a bar. Old school but they get the best shellfish and seafood.
Whatever you do don't eat the complimentary (still?) breakfast at that Holiday Inn.
I would walk down to Geary and catch the bus to Aziza (Cal-Morrocan) for one dinner. Long-ish ride. Or walk up to California Street and catch the cable car to 1500 Hyde which is a good example of fresh and local Cal-cuisine.
Danko is really one of the least expensive in the top-tier dining options ... maybe slightly over $100 with a decent glass of wine for one. I'm not a Danko fan, but others are.
If you don't want to run any risk of being mugged or starving ... or at the least tagging yourself as an out-of-towner ... don't call it Frisco ... or San Fran.
Hope you will report back on where you ate. Then next time you are in town we'll have an idea on better recs in relation to the local food scene.
I would suggest Ame, Bar Crudo, Canteen and Aziza. I've never been to Incanto, but it sounds as if it is something you may enjoy. Your neighborhood is not the greatest, but it is not the worst, either. You can easily walk to Bar Crudo and Canteen. You can take a bus to Aziza if you don't want to hop a cab, but if you take the 38, don't go at rush hour! Also watch out for the 38L (Limited, which doesn't make the same stops). You should also be able to get to Ame easily by bus. Helmand Palace was mentioned - you can easily walk, straight shot down Van Ness. Enjoy your stay!
re: Ruth Lafler
You could always get on the cable car and ride it to the end of California. Then take the street car that runs along the Embarcadero to the just-opened Waterhouse. Pretty impressive looking from what I saw tonight (didn't eat there) and killer view ... could Roast Haus and Waterhouse break the good view-bad food curse?