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Dinner stop on the way to SFO

Greetings, I will be dropping off friends at SFO on Wedensday evening and would love any recommendations on a good dinner stop in the city. We will be traveling from Berkeley and would be looking for a semi-casual spot, mid-range in price ($20-$30), and someplace fun to finish up the visit. Parking that is somewhat possible would be even better. Thanks!

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  1. The list of restaurants in the City that fit your criteria (fun, semi-casual, mid-range in price, decent shot at parking) is very long indeed, so I'm assuming you are looking for places that not only fit those criteria but also are easily accessible from the freeway so that you make the most of your time.

    We live in Bernal Heights, and that's a good place to get off the 101 South (at Cesar Chavez) and enjoy a classic SF neighborhood restaurant and then have easy access back to the freeway. Exit to your right onto Cesar Chavez and head into the City. You'll be right in the middle of some good eatin' within only a few blocks. One of my favorite restaurants anywhere in the City is Universal Cafe. It rivals Zuni in my opinion and is only eight blocks away (turn right off Cesar Chavez onto Alabama and go to 19th). Or, there's Blue Plate (stay on Cesar Chavez to Mission, go left two blocks to the intersection of 29th/Valencia/Mission). On Cortland in Bernal Heights, there's a Peruvian restaurant that's quite popular with neighborhood folks called Piqueo's. All of these are hip places to hang out with good food -- for a classic SF send-off.

    The "gourmet ghetto" on Valencia betwen 15th and 21st has numerous fabulous restaurants, any of which would be a perfect send-off. And there's a city parking lot just off 16th and Valencia. Stay on Cesar Chavez to Valencia, then go right -- and in 10 blocks you'll be right in the middle of one of the largest concentrations of good restaurants in the City. These include Bar Tartine, Range, Maverick, Spork, Garcon, Limon...the list goes on and on. It all depends on what you're in the mood for.

    And, of course, if you haven't been to Zuni, you could always try to get a reservation there or grab a bar table (depending on what time your friends flight is, it may be very crowded). That's more of a production, however. But it's a quintessential SF experience, and one that your friends will love. Take 101 South but take the earlier Fell exit before Cesar Chavez and you're right there.

    These are all solid options for "easy off" and "easy on" freeway access. But remember that the City is only 7 square miles. If you have more time, and are willing to get off the freeway and drive around the city for a bit, virtually every restaurant in the City is an option for you. And if you're willing to entertain ANY restaurant in the City that fits your criteria, then get prepared for a long list indeed! I wouldn't even know where to begin...

    Have fun and good luck! I hope your friends enjoy their stay.

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    Universal Cafe
    2814 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    5 Replies
    1. re: foodiesf

      Freeway access is what I thought of as well.

      A 2nd on Universal, very good food and the place has an unique balance of being casual, industrial yet elegant. Not many places can pull that off.

      There's also Slow Club in the same area, on the noir-ish /club side but very good food. Also, Chez Papa, more neighborhood-ish, on Potrero Hill.

      All are close to the freeway.

      1. re: foodiesf

        There's a city parking lot near 16th and Valencia? Where? Parking's often been a deal-breaker for the restaurants in that area.

        Piqueo's is a spinoff of Mochica, which in the evenings has really easy street parking and easy access from and to the freeway.

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        Mochica
        937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Yes, if you're going North on Valencia, take a right at 16th. About half a block up on 16th there's an alley street to your right that runs between 16th and 17th. Turn right onto that street. The parking lot is halfway down that street on your right hand side. The lot is owned by the City, but it's managed by a private company. You pull in, they give you a ticket, and you park yourself...but you leave your key. When it's busy, they will park it for you.

          Yes, parking is difficult in the area. If this city-owned lot fills up, which it sometimes does on Fri/Sat nights, your best bet is to circle for street parking or pay $10 and park in the bank parking lot on 16th (between Valencia and Mission) which is open to the public in the evenings.

        2. re: foodiesf

          Thanks for the great tips - we ended up going to Maverick on the way to the airport and Universal Cafe for the drop-off. Both were perfect choices.

          1. re: suebette

            Great! Glad to know that it worked out.

        3. Not the city but on the way to the airport and unusual is the Basque Cultural Center. Parking should be easy.
          http://www.basqueculturalcenter.com/r...

          1 Reply
          1. re: wolfe

            Basque Cultural Center's not bad.

            Villa del Sol (Argentine) is another good place in SSF.

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            Basque Cultural Center
            599 Railroad Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080

            Villa Del Sol Argentinian
            423 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080

          2. We often take people to airport and overshoot slightly and go to Millbrae to one of the many restaurants there. It is quite simple to get back to SFO.

            6 Replies
            1. re: wally

              >go to Millbrae to one of the many restaurants there<

              Please, some specifics. Friends for the East Coast are driving up the California coast and arriving Monday evening at a hotel in Millbrae. They asked me to suggest some places because last time they did this they wound up in a not-very-good place. One of them uses a wheelchair, and they won't be able to make reservations because of their uncertain arrival time.

              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                We usually go to the Kitchen. There is also Honk Kong Flower Lounge, Zen Peninsula, Fook Yuen and Asia Pearl. All Chinese.

                1. re: wally

                  Thanks! Does anyone know of any good non-Asian places in the Millbrae/Burlingame area? They may not be up for Asian that evening.

                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                    It's only 5 miles or so to the Basque Cultural Center.
                    Basque Cultural Center
                    599 Railroad Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080, USA
                    Sorry closed Monday.

                    1. re: Mick Ruthven

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/451981
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/362179

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Thanks, Robert. That second thread especially seems to have some good suggestions for them.