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Need restaurant suggestions! Looking for Michelin Star(s) & hole in the walls!

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Dear fellow Chowhounders,

I'll be visiting San Fran with my significant other at the end of March. We're both in our mid-20s. We'll be staying at the CLIFT in the financial district.

We're looking for suggestions as to where we can eat for all 4 days! We're not early risers, so brunch/lunch, and dinner would be the times we will dine. We're looking for great food whether it's in a hole in the wall, mom & pop type place, a trendy restaurant, or a fine dining establishment.

Since we're from Toronto and have yet to experience a Michelin Star restaurant, we're extremely excited to do so. Unfortunately, we will only be able to afford a 1 star (2 may be wishful thinking). Excuse my ignorance, but can I enjoy a great Michelin Star meal for around $125? If so, please offer me your suggestions!

Any suggestions of great bars/lounges for a drink after dinner would be much appreciated as well.

Looking forward to your responses!!!
(this is my first CHOWHOUND posting)

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  1. Chez Panisse is $50 to $85 prix fixe depending on which night you go, and in addition to having one of those stars it's a unique experience.

    La Folie is $70 to $105 depending on what you order but you might have more or less similar French places in Toronto.

    As discussed on the Food Media & News board, the Michelin inspectors' criteria are somewhat baffling to many locals:


    1. I think you can enjoy a Michelin 1 star experience at Range in SF for about $125 for two with a few drinks mixed in. Here's the link: http://www.rangesf.com/about.html

      1. Wow! I am pleasantly surprised that you guys have actually recommended Michelin star restaurants for the price of $125 (and cheaper!). However, I think I may have been misunderstood. I meant $125 per person. :)

        Hopefully that will widen the recs. Thanks!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lynn88

          Chowhound suggestions for casual dining for visitors from Toronto.

        2. Lynn, could you go a little bit into detail about what it is you're looking for in a Michelin one-star? Are you looking for a luxurious experience? A quintessentially Californian meal? Are you ok with a corporate-ish dining room, or do you want something romantic? I think you could eat at almost every Michelin one-star in SF for under $125, if you don't get the chef's tasting menu and/or go crazy with wine, so we'll need more criteria to work with.

          Most of us don't put that much weight on the Michelin stars in the US - a number of starred restaurants are acknowledged to be well past their prime (Fifth Floor, Masa's). A number of starred restaurants are good, but no better than 20 other unstarred restaurants (One Market, Rubicon, probably a bunch of the others that I haven't been to).

          Of the one-star restaurants in the Bay Area, only one makes my top 5 (maybe even top 10) for the Bay Area - Chez Panisse. But it's in Berkeley, and it's a relatively casual restaurant (especially upstairs, which I love), so that may not be what you're looking for.

          I liked Ame (upscale Asian fusion) and Quince. (Note: I thought the food at Quince was excellent but am on the fence re: whether I thought it was worth the price... opinions on Quince are split, and it does seem to come down to whether or not people felt it was worth the price. However, most of the visitor reviews on Quince have been very positive). I've had mixed experiences at Boulevard, and a very disappointing one at Gary Danko. The only one-star I'm dying to try is Coi (Japanese-inflected Californian with some avant-garde touches).

          If you've had a chance to do some research, do tell us which restaurants piqued your interest, and we can give more high-yield feedback.

          4 Replies
          1. re: daveena

            Same here, Chez Panisse is the only one of my favorite restaurants that got a star. I don't know what their criteria are (other than that they're obviously biased toward French style) but I can't make any sense of the selection.

            1. re: daveena

              We're not looking so much for a specific dining experience/atmostphere, but rather an exceptional meal. I'm leaning more towards French cuisine. We would also prefer not to stray too far from the area in which we are staying (nob hill/financial district). We will, however, be making a little trip over to Napa Valley for lunch at Bouchon. We're very excited about that.

              A couple restaurants that have peaked our interest after reading through the boards, were: Aqua, Chez Panisse (as you had mentioned), Coi and La Folie. I will look further into Chez Panisse though, since it comes highly recommended.

              Also, do you have a restaurant of preference for good oysters & seafood? Something casual. I'm so overwhelmed by all the suggestions found on the boards. Thank you!

              1. re: Lynn88

                French, go to La Folie.

                Oysters, Hog Island Oyster Bar or Zuni Cafe.

                Search the board for reports on Aqua, lots of them are negative.

                1. re: Lynn88

                  I love Bar Crudo for seafood - I haven't had their oysters, but their crudo are exceptional. It's a very casual place, and not all that expensive. Aside from Robert's oyster suggestions, the other seafood rec that comes up frequently is Tadich Grill, for old-school San Francisco seafood preps.

                  pane's review of Bar Crudo:

                  re: Chez Panisse - I've only eaten upstairs in the more casual cafe, where the menu is a la carte. I've had such good experiences there that I have yet to make an effort to eat at the downstairs restaurant, where the menu is fixed. I've heard a few people express disappointment with their meals downstairs, but consensus does seem to be that the most interesting meals are the less expensive ones at the beginning of the week. The restaurant is also more difficult to get reservations at, so for me, it seems a given that one would eat at the cafe rather than the restaurant. Also, it's open for lunch. And I've never spent over $70 for a single meal there, so maybe that could leave you Coi (or La Folie) for your fancy meal?