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Best (cost no object) American food in SF

A friend on mine has visitors coming from China who want the best American food in S.F. Price is not a problem. I suggested Gary Danko (I know that is a little French). Any other suggestions?

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  1. Maybe Michael Mina and Boulevard. I like BIX too.

    1. A newcomer to the scene is Epic Roasthouse. Its pretty much what you would consider high end American. I haven't been yet.


      Epic Roasthouse
      369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

        1. That's sort of a tough one. High end hotel seem sort of logical, Michael Mina, the Diningroom at the Ritz, etc...but they all have a French touch. Maybe the Big 4, although I've never been.

          Epic Roasthouse sounds like it could work. Lulu might also -- although a med influence. If it were in wine country, I'd say Ad Hoc. (Family style at Ad Hoc or Lulu might be welcome if they're from China.)

          1. What could be more American than Homard American and Steak? Price no problem then
            Ruth's Chris or Morton's. My wife loved Ruth's steak and they say they have 2+ pound lobsters available.

            10 Replies
            1. re: wolfe

              Ruth's Chris and Morton's are both national chains, waste of a meal in San Francisco. And, like Bob's (a branch of a Texas chain), they both wet-age their beef, so no way they're the best in town.

              For dry-aged steak, Acme Chophouse, Alfred's, or Harris'. El Raigon also dry-ages its beef, but it's Argentine-style.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                As I said my wife loved Ruth's steak and Maine Lobster is as American as apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.I am sure the price will impress them.

                1. re: wolfe

                  Morton's and Ruth's Chris both have branches in Hong Kong.

                    1. re: PeterL

                      I think most Chinese who can visit the U.S. on a "price is not a problem" basis get to Hong Kong on a regular basis.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        It depends on who's paying. I used to be involved with hosting visiting Chinese delegations of professionals, many of which had never been out of China. It was the company I worked for that picked up the tab.

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Regardless of whether they have been to one of those chains....it is hard for me to imagine them enjoying it more than somewhere like Acme Chop House for example, just because of the Acme location. What could be more American than eating in a ball park? (and the location is also nice for a short stroll to water's edge afterwards or before).

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            I wasn't implying we ever took them to a steakhouse chain. I was replying to RL's comment about whether they might have been to HK or not before.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    Ruth's Chris is better than Outback, but that's not saying much.

                    And it is so far from measuring up to the best of what SF has to offer as to seem absurd....

                2. re: wolfe

                  Yeah I can't imagine how the SF locations of national chains like Mortons with 74 locations, 4 of which are international, and Ruth's Chris with over 110 locations, 3 of which are in Asian markets, can be the best there is to offer.

                  Not to say you can't enjoy a meal there, or that some people aren't impressed by price tags alone, but .....

                3. My suggestion for the best high-end American restaurant is Coi.

                  See this thread for some research:

                  If this doesn't sound like what you are looking for, my second recommendation would be Boulevard.

                  1. this probably calls for a high-end hotel meal. ritz would work. same for the mandarin.

                    1. The inclusion of "cost no object" leads me to believe that perhaps simply paying a lot of money would contribute to a "best" evaluation from the foreign visitors -- I would suggest just going to The Dining Room RC.

                      If they are true foodies though, my list would be:

                      Salt House
                      545 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                      Slow Club
                      2501 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Firefly Restaurant
                      4288 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                      Maverick Restaurant
                      3316 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: johnvey

                        Concur - if "cost no object" means impress the out-of-towners, I'd say a limo to french laundry with apps from Boulevard in the car along with a few years' vertical of late 80's Silver Oak. Other choices are downstairs at Chez Pannise and other's rec of RC.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          French Laundry's style is pretty French.

                      2. I've spent time in China (Beijing and Shanghai) on business, so I'm basing this on what I think someone would expect an "American restaurant" to be.

                        I'd go with a steakhouse (Acme, but Ruth Chris or Morton would be OK too) or the Dining Room at the Ritz. Another option would be to take a limo down to Manresa in Los Gatos, if you are up for a full evening's event.

                        Other good options would be Gary Danko or Boulevard. All of these have been popular with my international coworkers for a good expense account experience.

                        I'd skip places that focus on seafood.

                        Chez Panisse downstairs does not offer enough choice, in my opinion, and the upstairs is probably a little too intimate for business.

                        French Laundry reservations are too hard to come by to be a reasonable option.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: alis

                          There was no mention of this being a business meal.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            true. I forgot the key line "but it would probably be nice for a friendly get together"

                            my bad!

                        2. From my experience and knowledge of visitors from China and my own dining experience in China, I can tell you that a steak place may be the wrong place to go. Chinese in general are not used to having a huge amount of meat, and certainly not rare meat, for their meals.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: PeterL

                            I completely agree. You might as well take a Hindu visitor from India to a steak house. It's an exceedingly poor idea. Even the smell of the food would probably make the visitors sick (since they've not been acculturated to that cuisine/smell), it would be overwhelming.

                            Unfortunately I don't have any specific recommendations for SF, but if the visitors are truly interested in "American" food, take them to a Cajun or some place that specializes in "soul food." Or even a BBQ joint (yeah, I know, SF doesn't have anything decent). Even Tex-Mex would be a better choice than a steak house.

                            Just remember, Chinese in general prefer variety rather than one gigantic course for a whole meal. That's one of the reasons for family style dining (and dim sum), where diners won't have to dwell on a specific course for too long.

                            1. re: damyth

                              I guess there is no meat smell in a BBQ joint or a Tex-Mex restaurant. How about American vegetarian tapas?

                              1. re: wolfe

                                It's not just any random "meat smell." In particular, I was referring to the smell of burning/burnt beef fat, which is literally revolting to those who are not used to it. Most Chinese eat pork, and even have their own version of BBQ. They eat beef too, but they don't have or even appreciate the notion of a steak or even hamburger.

                                American BBQ consists mostly of pork (baby back ribs). Beef brisket generally is cooked long enough that there isn't much fat left. At least they would find that palatable and not too far removed from their own experience.

                                1. re: damyth

                                  And carne asada is pork? Besides we are only making suggestions for
                                  the opening poster. Perhaps he can let us know what what works for him.

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    The original poster already did provide guidance. He was looking for the most upscale American food he could find, and since he is asking on Chowhound, presumably he is looking for it to be very high quality. His original suggestion is actually quite good even if just a bit Frenchified. There are a few other suggestions here that are helpful, but not many! --:)

                              2. re: damyth

                                another reason Coi would be a good choice

                            2. I'd take them to get burgers...real burgers. Do a search but that's about as American as it gets. Mo's, Burgermiester, Chez Maman, Bix, Zuni...the last being the best all around.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: ML8000

                                ML to go with the above comments on Ruth's in China consider there is a McDonalds in Beijing. How do you say "Do you want fries with that" in Mandarin?

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Yeah, okay there's Mickey D's in Beijing...but I wouldn't call what they serve burgers...in fact they don't. They call them sandwiches. Any way, perhaps not a full dinner but lunch at a real burger joint could be enlightening.

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    Like maybe they could get a "A Royale with cheese!" No not the Pulp Fiction Royale but this one.


                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      There are about 2.5 KFC's for every Mcdonald's in China, and expats are mainstays of the McDonald's venues in China, just as they are of Starbucks. (Shanghai has more Starbucks outlets than San Francisco, even though few Chinese drink coffee.)

                                      They indeed do call hamburgers (and sometimes other sandwiches ) "han bao bao" (汉堡包).

                                  2. re: ML8000

                                    I had the same thought, but I'm not sure if that counts as "the best American food around". I agree though, if you're going to show them a truly mythical American meal, I wouldn't worry about cost or technique, I'd take them for a good old burger, with a frieds AND a milkshake.

                                  3. I think that most of the respondents may be taking "American" too literally; the Chinese may have said "American" but really meant "(Western) food that Americans eat" so I wouldn't just focus on just steaks and burgers.

                                    A couple of caveats here: unless they are from a new sophisticated generation of diners, most traditional Chinese would shy away from uncooked greens and rare red meats (they can be horrified by the sight of a bloody roast beef).

                                    Seafood might be a good choice; I haven't seen any reviews on Waterbar yet, but it or Scoma's might make a good impression, Chowhound shibboleths notwithstanding.

                                    1. One aspect of Chowhounds that makes it entertaining is the loops and twists that threads can take. Like this one, for example: OP's query about truly American dining for visitors from China becomes a debate about American fast food IN China.

                                      I also read with interest but did not not respond to recent postings on 1300, the newly-branded "Fillmore Jazz District" spot that features Southern US standards with newish/California takes. For my part, I had a great dinner experience there recently but did not participate in discussion because I had been there on an occasion--my birthday, with my two sons and brother visiting--and I know very well that the joys of company can often improve the food being served. However, if the OP wants to furnish his guests with very American cooking, this is the place.

                                      We loved the bourbon braised pork belly app which takes an ingredient familiar in Chinese cooking and gives it a Kentucky taste, the onion/ham-hock braised greens side, which does likewise with a more deep south taste, the fried chicken which (despite having no bones) is so far beyond KFC that the guests would go home forgetting about the chain store version, the tasty rabbit which was definitely not Asian...

                                      What I mean is that while there may be legitimacy to complaints about some 1300 dishes, it is really American. And that does not even get into the jazz district atmosphere, setting and music. And I should mention, that this crowd (and it was crowded and lively on a Saturday night) had a more racially and aged mixed makeup than any other restaurant I can think of having dined in in SF over the past 25 years; many African-Americans, young hip Asians, whites young and older (me) and tables with all of these mixed. And that is American too, is it not?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: alfairfax

                                        Adding Link

                                        1300 On Fillmore
                                        1300 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                          1. re: alfairfax

                                            Agreed. Seafood is a good choice. Chez Panisse might also be a good choice.

                                            Though not North American, Peruvian such as Limon or Fresca might suit them.

                                          2. Odd, John has not posted a thing since this started. Perhaps we should get back to restaurant recs? I would second Gary Danko. Where ever you end up I would think a chef's tasting menu would be the way to go. That way you get a multi-course meal usually focusing on the best of the season.