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Feb 23, 2008 02:23 PM

Hotspot! - Great Food Great Scene: Need Recs


I am coming to San Fran for a weekend from Thursday to Sunday, and I need some dinner recommendations for 3 nights. I am staying at the Clift but I will go anywhere. I am looking for something with great food, a great scene, very popular.. hard to get in etc. I am 22 years old going with my girlfriend, we are from Miami.

Thanks. Looking forward to the posts!

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  1. It's helpful to read this post first and look around a little on the boards and come up with some ideas of places that interest you, and then come back to us with some lists of places that struck your fancy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JasmineG

      Thanks Jasmine. I am fully aware of the specific policies, rules etiquette etc.. I posted because I was hoping some people could give me a quick list of maybe six restaurants with the criteria I detailed above. I will list them again: Great Food, Cool/Trendy Crowd, Very Popular, Money is no object and anywhere with in driving distance of the Clift Hotel. Please as a note do not focus too closely on the trendy crowd, I just don't want to dine at a retirment home, that being said the atmosphere can be more subdued but with good high-end crowd.

      Essentially I am looking for some can't miss place for a first-time 3 day trip to San Francisco.

      Thanks. I await your recommendations!

      1. re: jwurz

        How about some types of cuisines that you prefer over others since we're lucky to have a lot of restaurants that fall into the criteria that you've provided?

    2. Reservations for the type of places you're talking about may be hard to come by for prime weekend times at this point. Without looking at availability I'd recommend A16, Range, Dosa, Slanted Door, town hall... (the styles and cuisines of these places vary widely).

      1. Here are a few recent topics with those sorts of suggestions:

        If you post a tentative list of places you'll get more feedback.

        18 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          You can check availability using

          or I'm sure the concierge at the Clift can help in the hard to get intos.

          1. re: wolfe

            opentable's top 10 list identifes larger restaurants that are hard to get into:


            1. re: Robert Lauriston


              I have made some res' at the following places please tell me what you think...

              Also I am not to familiar with the surrounding area, but what are some cool trendy fun neighborhoods, that would be good to drive too then walk around.

              See restaurants below:

              Michael Mina
              Town Hall

              Another other recommendation for american, italian, trendy asian fare?

              1. re: jwurz

                Good choices. Town Hall's somewhat controversial.

                Fun neighborhood, you should check out the Mission, Valencia Street from 14th south to 24th or so and various side streets. Monk's Kettle is a new and lively place.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  If I were a 22-year-old from Miami looking for a "scene," I suspect that Medjool, which has a rooftop bar, would be more my speed than Monk's Kettle, which is crowded, but not much of a scene, I don't think.

                  1. re: pane

                    I might add Foreign Cinema for weekend brunch, Pizzeria Delfina (and ice cream at Bi-Rite!) to your list. Basically the Mission area would be what you're looking for.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Definitely the Mission. If you're looking for hard-to-get-into, I'd say Delfina and Range, two of my favorite restaurants. Plenty to walk around in the area.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Monk's Kettle has a fantastic beer list, but the crowd is a mellow beer-drinking crowd, not a sceney crowd.

                      Outside of the big fresh pretzel, the food leaves a fair amount to be desired. When we asked where the shrimp were from in the special pot pie of the day, the waitress didn't know. She came back a few minutes later and said nobody in the kitchen knew either. The pot pie came out extremely hot, with the shrimp cooked to a rubbery mess. I thought my flank steak sandwich was fine, but in the future we'll stick to the beer for most of our calories.

                    2. re: jwurz

                      Michael Mina is a more upscale scene with an older crowd than I think you're going for. A16 is great, and I like Town Hall, though a lot of people don't. The neighborhood isn't very fun, but the neighborhood around A16 has lots of great stuff. I agree with Robert's recommendation to check out the Mission, and pane is right the Medjool is definitely a scene, though I've never been thrilled by the food there. Foriegn Cinema is right next door if you want to have dinner there, and Limon (also in the Mission) is fun with good food.

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        Thanks so it seems the mission area is pretty cool, I will have to look into that more.

                        In regards to your suggestions, Range seems good as does Delfina but do you think delfina and A 16 is too much Italian? Medjool looks a bit cheesy and big for my taste.

                        Any other American/Californian recs?


                        1. re: jwurz

                          Delfina and especially Range seem a bit staid to fit into the "scene" category. What's the current take on Frisson? Another place that may turn into a scene, or may not, is Orson. (More anon)

                          1. re: Paul H

                            Wasn't there something in today's Chron about the chef leaving Frisson?

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler



                              Daniel Patterson, the original chef, left because the owners were more interested in running a bar than a great restaurant.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Daniel Patterson was the chef before the current chef who's leaving. He refused to put an upmarket burger on the after 10 PM menu for the lounge crowd. This feeds into his general angst over simple "californian food" that doesn't have enough technique in the preparation--if it tastes good and is simple, he isn't interested. He's much better off at a smaller more focused restaurant like Coi, instead of a big restaurant that was a lounge-restaurant concept from the beginning.

                                1. re: SteveG

                                  There is absolutely no doubt that Daniel Patterson is better off at Coi (a smaller elegant place focused on food and service), than he was at Frisson (a night club in disguise). Coi was just named one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country by NYTs food critic Frank Bruni.


                          2. re: jwurz

                            A16 is very traditional, many dishes just like you'd get in Naples.

                            Delfina is more California-influenced, especially in its entrees.

                          3. re: JasmineG

                            I agree with Jasmine about Michael Mina and Town Hall. I think you're on track with something in the Mission and A-16. But if you wanted to do Italian in the Mission, maybe Isa instead of A-16 (same neighborhood). And for a third choice, what about Bong Su? I'm thinking Asian might be more interesting for someone from Miami than Latin American (i.e. Limon).

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Yeah, I was thinking that about Limon too. I think that either Bong Su or Slanted Door would be good choices for the Asian (and Slanted Door definitely fits the hard to get into theme). I'd agree with A-16, Delfina (which I think has a pretty lively crowd), and one of those two.

                    1. After seeing your other post what is your vegan girlfriend going to eat at these hot, trendy, scene, popular, hard to get in etc restaurants? I know from experience vegan is tough enough without all those other requirements.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: wolfe

                        It is usually pretty easy to have a salad and some sort of a vegetable plate at most places. We eat out all the time, and typically don't have many problems...

                        What is the consensus on Slanted Door?

                        1. re: jwurz

                          Slanted Door has very different opinions on this board. I've always had great meals there, and lots of others agree, some people think that the food is too expensive for what it is. Especially with a vegan girlfriend, I think it's a great choice -- they have lots of good vegan options, including two spring roll options (and I actually prefer the vegetarian fresh spring rolls to the ones with meat), great vegetables, and a really good tofu dish.

                        2. re: wolfe

                          Yikes, that's not good. Jwurz, you need to call ahead to see if they can accomodate your gf.

                          1. re: adrienne156

                            What about Coi, Boulevard or Spruce... they seem to have gotten good reviews.

                            1. re: jwurz

                              Boulevard yes, the other 2 too old a crowd for you, I get it that you and gf have sophisticate palates and money to spend, but you don't want to hang out in stuffy rest/neighborhood, Really, you'll have fun in the mission, and everything is so close, if you don't like one place its on to the next,

                              1. re: sfbecky

                                Boulevard seems like an older expense-account crowd to me.

                              2. re: jwurz

                                The post I was responding to was from another poster (wolfe) referring to another one of your posts about the fact that your girlfriend is a vegan. I was simply noting that you may want to call the restaurants to see if they will have vegan dishes.

                                I'm actually just a couple of years older than you and have my regular places that I enjoy that fit most of your criteria, but I'm not sure if they would be vegan friendly.

                                Haven't been to Coi or Spruce, I find Boulevard lovely, but others seem to think you might get bored there. I tend to hang out in the Mission (Delfina, Range, Foreign Cinema), the Financial District/Union Square (Kokkari Estiatorio, Perbacco), or in SOMA -- South of Market (Town Hall, Salt House). Another option is the Marina/Cow Hollow which has lively nightlife and I've heard others mention that there are decent or better restaurants there (A16, Betelnut - heard it mentioned, haven't eaten there), but it's not really my "scene".

                                Ruby Skye is near Union Square and is popular amongst out of towners. If this is one of you stops, we can recommend restaurants near there and perhaps direct you to restaurants in neighborhoods that you would enjoy.

                                1. re: adrienne156

                                  @adrienne: I have res, at A 16, Spruce, Mina, and Boulevard. I might make one as another option at Delfina... Although from what I have heard it seems A16 is better Italian. I initially had range, and Town Hall, and looked at Salt House but the menus seemed a bit limited... Opinions?

                                  1. re: jwurz

                                    I think you're on target with A-16 and Spruce. I think you're off target with Mina and Boulevard -- both are really for an older crowd and Boulevard is not very veg friendly. Sure, they can accommodate you, but it won't be what they're really good at, so why not choose something that will be more than just accommodating?

                                    If you want a "hot spot" for twenty-somethings you're crazy not to be following everyone's advice and choosing some place in the Mission. Salt House suffers from the same problem as Town Hall, in that the neighborhood around it isn't really a hopping scene at night.

                                    1. re: jwurz

                                      I agree with Ruth, I don't think Boulevard or Michael Mina fit the "great scene" request. I haven't been to Spruce but it's in a quiet wealthy neighborhood with a lot of older people.

                                      If you want lively places with a crowd more your age and some life on the street after dinner, you should head to the Mission, e.g. Bar Tartine.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I don't know why I overlook it all the time for dinner as it's one of my favorite brunch places, but Bar Tartine is a great suggestion. And you certainly won't be bored by the neighborhood.

                                      2. re: jwurz

                                        Agree with Ruth about A16 and the Mission. You really should go to the Mission - good food, lively atmosphere, and more hipsters than you can shake a stick at - would fit your bill nicely. Especially over Town Hall and Salt House and you would be in the Mission. Did we mention the Mission?

                                        I have friends that come into town on business often who insist on staying at the Westin St. Francis, but never eat at Mina. Went with them once and although I thought the food was rather clever, they thought it was a bit stiff and would be a good place to take clients on an expense account. You will most likely be the only person under 25 in there other than the staff.

                                        Edit: Also strongly second Robert on Bar Tartine.

                                        1. re: adrienne156

                                          I definitely agree with all of the above -- Mina and Boulevard are really the opposite of what you're looking for. Unless a hotel guest brings a child, then I think that adrienne is correct that you'll be the only person in there under 25 at Mina, and that's a distinct possibility at Boulevard (I went there when I was just that age, but only because I was taken there by work). I've never been to Spruce, but you really really should be in the Mission -- Bar Tartine and Delfina are my favorites), or try the takes no reservation but is definitely a new hotspot SPQR.

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            k Ok, and can see a concensus when there is one. So lets have it... please give me your top 3 for the mission. I will stick with A 16, and the others for now but give me some places in the mission that I can mull over?

                                            How is Mamamcitas?

                                            1. re: jwurz

                                              In the Mission, look for reports on Bar Tartine, Delfina, Foreign Cinema, Front Porch, Limon, Maverick, Range, Spork.

                                              1. re: lgvw

                                                As implied by the name, A16 doesn't claim to serve only the cuisine of Campania. They draw on regional cuisines from all over southern Italy, including Calabria.

                                                The Gioia burrata they get flown in daily from southern California is in better shape than any imported Italian burrata I've had here.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Actually, Robert, A16's homepage very specifically states "A16 transports the cuisine of Campania & the wood fired pizza of Naples to San Francisco's Marina Neighborhood..." Go on the website & see for yourself. BTW, The Gioia version of burrata is like the Polly-O of the burrata world; a serviceable but vastly inferior product to the original & a ripoff at $11 a slice. jwurz, go to Mamacita's, great food, great scene, great drinks, a little loud for a twosome but almost any place short of Acquerello's ( a beautiful romantic intimate place if you want a very quiet dinner for two) is going to score high in decibels.

                                                  1. re: lgvw

                                                    Gioia's burrata is a great, artisanal product. It's not an inferior industrial substitute like Polly-O. There may be better burrata in Italy, but it doesn't travel well.

                                                    Story about Vito Girardi, the cheesemaker, who learned to make burrata at his family's factory in Puglia:


                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Don't be offended. I do eat Gioia's burrata when I need a burrata fix & can't get freshly flown in Italian burrata. (I ask my cheese purveyor when) I know all about Mr, Girardi, a great story. As I'm sure you know, cow's milk just lacks the depth and nuances of buffalo milk which unfortunately does have a very short shelf life & must be eaten immediately. My husband like you prefers Gioia because it is blander or sweeter as he likes to characterize it. Vive l'difference!

                                                      1. re: lgvw

                                                        I prefer Gioia's burrata because it's fresh. Italian burrata has lost its distinctive quality by the time it gets here. For buffalo milk, I prefer regular mozzarella, which doesn't go off as fast.