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Newbie 'Hound requesting specific recs in SF

Hello SF Chowhounds:

I have spent a number of hours reviewing your replies to requests like mine and have narrowed the field. What I am looking for are specific recs as follows:

arriving 7:30ish on a Thursday evening to stay at Bush and Powell: considering Tadich or Sam's Grill for "old SF" resto experience but partly picked these joints as they are close to hotel. Which is better? Or where would you go in this area for non-Chinese without a reso on a Thursday night when you’re tired from flying?

heading to Berkeley on Friday a.m. (probably after brekky at Cafe de la presse) to check out the gourmet ghetto, Scharffen Berger, bookstores and (gulp) outlet Crate and Barrel. Chez Panisse the obvious choice but any lunch reqs that don't require resos?

Friday night locked in for 7:30 seating at Canteen (woohoo!)

Saturday a.m. is all about the Farmer's Market (chilaquiles from Primavera, mmm), followed by some shopping around Union Square, then maybe Bodega Bistro or Pagolac for lunch in the Tenderloin. I've read solid reviews for BB here and elsewhere but not as much on Pagolac. Thoughts? Preferences?

Saturday night: Chichen Itza (or whatever name it's going by at the moment!) in the Mission for dinner

Sunday: Café de la presse or Le Metro (haven't tried Le Metro yet but may branch out, other, brekky options near hotel a bit thin on the ground) then Mission murals with tacos for lunch (I'm afraid to ask for favourite taquerias as I don't want to start a riot) and Bi-Rite for ice cream
Alternatively, we may go check out the Cliff House and the Richmond with maybe Mandalay or Burma Superstar if the line up isn’t too grim for lunch (hit Larkin Express last trip and loved it; we don’t have Burmese in Vancouver), followed possibly by the Cherry Blossom parade which conveniently ends up in Japantown (anyone recommend a resto that serves onigiri on a Sunday afternoon??)

Sunday night: considering Thep Phanom if we can get a reso (bit worried about the wait even then) but also have heard good things about Brothers Korean. Your comments will help me decide!.

Monday: may try Dottie’s for breakfast as we keep hearing it is great but wondering if we need to get there before it opens to avoid/minimize lineup even on a Monday??

then thought we'd do the view thing at/on Russian Hill since I was a big fan of Tales of the City and the SO craves pre-earthquake architecture. Any good lunch spots in this nabe? If not we might head to Chinatown as I think it is nearby so recs for lunch spots there open Monday would be grand. Finally we'll hit SF MOMA for a return visit before BARTing off to SFO to return to Vancouver.

Thanks in advance for any and all input.

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  1. Looks like you did some pretty good research for a "newbie" hound.

    For your Russian Hill trip, uphill a block from the top of Macondray Lane (where I assume you'll be headed) there's a batch of restaurants like Zarzuela and Frascati on Hyde St., though they may be more dinner-ish than lunch-ish and may not be open on Monday. Once you get down to the foot of Macondray Lane, you're a hop, skip and jump from North Beach, so you might want to re-research some North Beach options.

    As denizens of Vancouver you probably won't find anything epiphanic in Chinatown, but it offers a lot of inexpensive lunch options and it's fun to cruise the delis on Stockton St. and the side streets. You might want to check out Hon's Wun Tun house on Kearny, the blue-collar cousin of the Vancouver Hon's mini-empire, just for the heck of it.

    Another tip for TV fans: when you get to the foot of Macondray Lane, hang a left and go 3.5 blocks north to Lombard St., and just around the corner is the junior mansion that was the setting for a season of MTV's "The Real World."

    http://www.realworldhouses.com/realwo...

    -----
    Hon's Wun Tun House
    648 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    1. The menu and food are similar at Tadich and Sam's. Tadich has more tourists, a longer wait, and more impressive decor.

      1. Friday in Berkeley:

        Lunch: casual, comfort food - 900 Grayson. Elegant, upscale Californian - Eccolo (Chez Panisse alum). Fast, cheap, and tasty - Gregoire. 900 Grayson and Eccolo are near Crate and Barrel. Gregoire is in the Gourmet Ghetto. All are googlable. None require reservations.

        As you'll be visiting Crate and Barrel, you should check out the rest of 4th St - Sketch Ice Cream, Pasta Shop, Teance, and the Cafe Rouge butcher (in the back of the restaurant) are all worthwhile. Depending on when you visit, Cody's books may still be open with an excellent, new food and cooking section.

        Since you're into chocolate, you might consider visiting the Charles Chocolate factory in addition to Scharffenberger. It's just down the street. Fantastic chocolate covered almonds.

        Saturday FM:

        Have you done your research on requisite vendors? Fatted Calf, Andante Dairy, June Taylor Jam, Rancho Gordo Beans, Rechiutti Chocolates (indoors), Acme Bread (indoors), Downtown Bakery, Cap'n Mikes Smoked Fish (I'd actually be really curious to hear how his smoked salmon compares to what you can get in Vancouver.)

        1. Friday in Berkeley down near Scharffenberger: Riva Cucina, esp if the weather's nice. Great and affordable Italian, lovely owners.

          11 Replies
          1. re: lintygmom

            Thanks for the great replies so far. I did do a fair bit of research but I can see I need to do more, especially on Berkeley. I still get a bit confused about which neighbourhoods abut, so will revisit North Beach options as suggested. We went to the Ferry Farmers' Market in November but found the crowds a bit overwhelming once we had secured breakfast -- hoping to go even earlier and check out all the vendors listed and more (we did manage to check out all the indoor shops). Particularly keen to check out Rancho Gordo; will try to convince the SO to give you a reading on the salmon. As a born and bread Vancouverite, I love salmon every way except smoked :-(.

            One additional query: any scoop on Cafe Fanny?

            1. re: grayelf

              Cafe Fanny has really good café au lait served French-style in a bowl. Food's good though you don't get a lot for the price. The counter staff can be remarkably slow, even a not very long-looking line can mean a half-hour wait.

              http://www.cafefanny.com/

              1. re: grayelf

                I don't think Cafe Fanny is worth your one lunch in Berkeley. Gregoire does a better version of casual sandwiches, soup and salad with organic ingredients (no coffee at Gregoire, though).

                Rancho Gordo is in the front of the Ferry Building market (west of the actual building). Since most of the action takes place in the rear, it's easy to miss the front-side vendors.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  I second no Cafe Fanny since the ambiance is so bad: sitting outside mostly in a parking lot off San Pablo. A Mexican breakfast/brunch might be just the thing. I love Montero's at Solano and San Pablo for a spicy Mexican breakfast with a side of nopalitos done just right or to Tacubaya, which I think is serving breakfast.

                  1. re: lintygmom

                    Tacubaya now serves breakfast from 10-12 on weekdays and 9-4 on weekends (when they also have menudo). Lunch menu starts at 11am.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      How are the breakfasts at Tacubaya? The dinners can be hit or miss with occasionally things being a bit old/dried out, but breakfast should be safe from that. Montero's breakfast is great as is their mole (and at Talavera Taqueria, which could be Taqueria Talavera.)

                      1. re: lintygmom

                        I had chilaquiles at Tacubaya that I loved, and companions have enjoyed their breakfast a lot too.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Dios, NOT Tacubaya. They do some things ok, but in light of every other wonderful option in the area ... no, noTacuba. The souffle omelette at Bakesale Betty in that area is the best breakfast option, IMO ... haven't tried Eccolo's brunch yet.

                        1. re: rworange

                          You mean Bette's Oceanview Cafe, not Bakesale Betty, and the souffle pancake, right?. I like the souffle pancake but I like breakfast at Tacubuya a lot too, especially since I tend to prefer savory, and not sweet, for breakfast. Bette's does sweet well, but the savory is often a little boring.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            I've always had uninspired breakfasts after long waits at Bette's. Iffy potatoes, my main reason to eat that meal out. Usually I went because visitors wanted to go.

                            1. re: lintygmom

                              I think that the only reason to have breakfast at Bette's is the pancakes -- their pancakes are really good, but I'm usually not a pancake person, so I haven't been to Bette's since I found 900 Grayson.

              2. If you don't have a problem with small, delicate sand dabs swimming in butter, it's Sam's Grill. Some poor souls seem to be paranoid about butter. If so, Tadich.

                3 Replies
                1. re: OldTimer

                  Cafe Fanny out, Gregoire in. Rancho Gordo pinpointed. Sand dabs at Sam's targetted (thou shalt eat butter s/b the 11 commandment IMHO).

                  1. re: grayelf

                    A couple notes on Gregoire:

                    It's a really small storefront, and seating is limited. If you arrive during prime lunch hours, be prepared to sit on the nearby steps.

                    Order the potato puffs.

                    If you go in March, I strongly recommend the corned beef, the lamb patty, and the rhubarb bread pudding for dessert.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Another vote on Gregoire over Cafe Fanny.

                2. I was never crazy about Thep Phanom when I lived down there. It was good, make no mistakes, but if you're in Upper Safeway/Lower Haight/Duboce, Thai House #1 on Noe was always my fave in that part of town (doubtless someone will point out better) Thep just never had that "wow" factor for me.

                  and yes Sam's. you won't go wrong with Tadich, but I 2nd Sam's.

                  1. Thep Phanom's nothing special. Go to Thai House Express at Larkin and Geary.

                    The best Korean food's in Oakland.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks for the heads up on Thep Phanom. I think it's officially off the list, given weakening support for it and the aforementioned fear of waits despite resos. I was just reading about Thai House Express on another thread here and it was getting raves. I note there is an outpost of THE in the Castro which might be a good bet for us to meet the Brother In Law for dinner on Sunday, as he lives in the Mission which I believe is closer than the Larkin THE. I'm gonna lick this SF geography yet :-).

                      I also think upon further examination we'll give Korean a pass -- with no car, I think Oakland's out of our reach for a dinner.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        The food at the Thai House Express in the Castro is more Americanized (compare the two branches' specials on the Web site). The Larkin branch is an easy bus ride from the Mission.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Larkin it is -- the BIL has a car and is also Muni guy. Will post a revamped list of all my choices once I've done a bit more homework on Berkeley.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            don't beat yourself up on geography - any City where the numbered streets start North-South then bend around to run East-West and start crossing each other and are repeated as avenues on the other side of town, well...

                            best you can hope to know is that main transit lines and the address numbering system run off the diagonal Market Street (f'rinstance 1200 Vallejo is nowhere in relation to 1200 Geary - same for 700 Kearny and 700 Polk).

                        2. re: grayelf

                          I have lived a block a way from Thep Phanom for 15 years. For the first 10 years or so that I lived here I went there a lot; perhaps once in 6 weeks or so. Then it started alling off of its standard and I started going there less. In the last year I have perhaps been there twice (before tonight) and the meal we had there the last time made me think I might not go back again.

                          However, tonight a friend of mine from Santa Barbara, who has been going there on and off with me over there years, joined me for a meal in the newly renovated Thep, and it was well up to their best standard which earned them the "Best of the Bay" for a number of years in the mid 90s. They have reduced the number of tables and even though it was packed when we left at 8, it was not nearly as noisy as it used to be.

                          I readily acknowledge that over the years I have had to wait despite a reseveration a few times, bur having eaten Thai all over the City I would once again rate Thep as the best around. It is not Thailand (where the food is anyway completely different from any Thai food I have ever had in the states - not necessarily better, but different ) but is is darn good...

                          1. re: Boythefoodtalksto

                            Funny you should reply to this thread at this time, Boy. I am just beginning trip planning for our NEXT visit to San Francisco in November (this thread was from my April planning). Your post is very timely as I'm wrassling about which types of Asian resto to slot in (Burmese for sure but do I go Thai or Vietnamese for the other one?). I will add Thep back to my list of possible Thai restos and post in a separate thread shortly for SF Bay Area Hounds' sage advice...

                      2. Are you driving to Berkeley or taking public transportation?

                        Chez Panisse/the gourmet ghetto is a significant distance from the Crate and Barrel outlet on Fourth Street. I say go to CP if you are checking out that area and can get it. Otherwise go over to Gregoire which is around the corner from Chez Panisse.

                        If you do NOT have a car really forget about Cafe Fanny.

                        In the Fourth Street area, June Taylor opens her kitchen on Fridays. Unlike Ferry Plaza there is little sampling, but it is interesting to stop by.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: rworange

                          Thanks, everyone, for your voluminous and informed feedback on my "list." We are taking BART to Berkeley. Gourmet Ghetto is WAY more of a destination for me than C&B -- I think we just got one here anyway :-). I'm intrigued by the potato puffs at Gregoire and it sounds like it is nearer the Gourmet Ghetto than 900 Grayson which also looks good. (BTW, we'll be visiting from April 17-20.) But since our Mexican offerings in Van are so limited, I am also tempted by Tacubaya if the lunches there hold up. Will ponder further and welcome any other comments.

                          FWIW we have some strange street numbering here as well so I don't take anything for granted but I have noticed that almost everyone IDs cross streets in SF when giving addresses which is much appreciated and obviously necessary! We also sneak frequent peeks at maps strategically hidden about our persons (don't want to look too touristy but also don't want to get lost and waste precious exploration time). I'll revise my itinerary based on all your suggestions and repost shortly.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            It's about a two-mile walk from the Gourmet Ghetto to the Fourth Street area, but along the way you could check out the Thai supermarket (Tuk Tuk), the biggest Indian grocery store in town (Milan), a Mexican grocery store (Mi Tierra), the best beer in town (Lanesplitter), a halal grocer and butcher (Indus Foods), and Spanish Table.

                            On the way from Fourth St. to North Berkeley BART (about a mile) you could stop by Casa Latina (Mexican Bakery), Acme Bread, Cafe Fanny, and Kermit Lynch.

                            1. re: grayelf

                              If you're BARTing I'd stick to the Gourmet Ghetto. I've walked from the GG to 4th St (where Tacubaya is located) and 900 Grayson before and it's quite long, especially considering that you'll only be here for a few days. You'll be happy at Gregoire. I'll post some recs on this thread in April (his menu changes every month).

                              However, if you are dead-set on schlepping out to the Scharffen Berger tour, the factory is literally two blocks away from 900 Grayson, and a short walk from 4th St. I'd take 900 Grayson over Tacubaya for lunch any day. The easiest way to get out there is to take the #19 bus, which picks up at the GG and drops you off right in front of the factory. Scheduled times are limited though:
                              www.actransit.org

                              Not sure why this hasn't been mentioned yet, but while in the GG the Cheeseboard cheese shop is an absolute must visit. The cheese selection is phenomenal. When your number is called, let them know where you're visiting from and how excited you are to be there. They'll give you lots of recs and tons of samples (OK - 1/10 employees is unhelpful, hopefully you wont get unlucky). I'm actually not a big fan of their bread, and would recommend picking up a loaf of Acme at the Andronico's down the street.

                              Enjoy your stay. I can't wait to visit Vancouver and Vancouver island for my honeymoon in June.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                I wouldn't waste your time at 4th St. in Berkeley. It's certainly not worth the walk or hassle of public tranpo. You'll have plenty to do in GG. People tend to forget that you're on vacation and not trying to make time.

                                If you'd like some Mexican food, consider getting some in SF. The usual choices/recs are Taqueria Cancun, El Faralito, La Taqueria and many more. There's a Cancun at 6th/Market and a Pancho Villa near the Ferry Building.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  While BARTing around, the OP could also check out the Fruitvale BART station area for Mexican (taco trucks or sit-down).

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    Ohh ... Gary that's a WONDERFUL idea. Really, instead of Tacubaya which is Mexican food interpreted by California ... go for some real Mexican food.

                                    If you are interested in stopping in Fruitvale, I'll give you some specific recs. Near one Bart stop is this amazing Mexican ice cream maker. Just down the street are the best aqua frescas I've ever had and a taco truck with the best cartnitas I've ever tried. There's a lot more near that area too.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Okay, here's the updated list, taking into account today's comments (Fruitvale sounds great but might be a squeeze -- next trip!!) TIA for any and all further input.:

                                      arriving 7:30ish on a Thursday evening to stay at Bush and Powell: chose Sam's Grill for "old SF" resto experience and proximity to hotel after travelling

                                      Friday a.m heading to Berkeley after brekky at Cafe de la presse to check out the Gourmet Ghetto including the Cheeseboard -- this was a given as I used to work at a cheese store! (BARTing so no car). Will scope the lineup at Chez Panisse on spec but realistically Gregoire’s for the fabled potato puffs.

                                      After lunch we plan to head back into town and hit SF MOMA for a return visit, providing our dogs aren’t barking too loudly.

                                      Friday night locked in for 7:30 seating at Canteen

                                      Saturday a.m. is all about the Farmer's Market (chilaquiles from Primavera, mmm)

                                      then Mission murals with tacos for lunch and Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream

                                      Saturday night: Poc-Chuc formerly Chichen Itza formerly Popul-Vuh in the Mission for dinner

                                      Sunday: Canteen for early-ish breakfast or Nob Hill Grille if we blow it and the line up’s too long

                                      11 am to 1 pm “Downtown Deco” City Guides walking tour followed by a quick deak over to Maiden Lane to ogle the Frank Lloyd Wright designed gallery at #140

                                      Out to the Richmond for a late lunch at Mandalay or Burma Superstar if the line up isn’t too grim (no Burmese in Vancouver, loved Larkin Express last time).

                                      Non-food related question: After lunch can’t decide whether hitting the DeYoung Museum which appears to be close by/walkable or continuing on transit out to Cliff House and the camera obscura is the better bet. Thoughts?

                                      Sunday night: Thai House Express at Geary and Larkin

                                      Monday: Café de la presse again for breakfast, or Nob Hill Grille if we’re fancying the North American coffee shop experience

                                      then Russian Hill for views/Tales of the City/pre-earthquake architecture.

                                      grab a 19 bus down Polk to Bodega Bistro for lunch, followed by a visit to City Hall, then back to the hotel to check out.

                                      If we have any time left, we’ll do a bit of a shopping stroll around Union Square before BARTing off to SFO to return to Vancouver.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Cliff House and Camera Obsura is a nice view for about 15 minutes. There's not much else out there, maybe walk around the Sutro bath ruins. I'd skip it. If you're in a car it would be worth a stop by. The only caveat is if it's a super clear, super nice day...you could spend 2 hours there.

                                        The DeYoung is a better choice since there's also the Japanese Garden and Strybing Arboretum near by. Just south of the area is 9th & Irving, a nice little neighborhood where you can get a cup of coffee, rest/hang out, get more food if you 'd like and catch the Metro (street car) back downtown (much, much faster then the bus, like 20 mins).

                                        1. re: ML8000

                                          De Young it is. We "did" the Arboretum and Japanese Gardens in 2003 but wouldn't mind a return trip... good tips re 9th and Irving and taking Metro back too. Fantastic, thanks, that is exactly what I was looking for!

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            A nice place on 9th and Irving to do a rest stop is Wunder Beer. Across the street from it is Arizmendi, a highly regarded bakery.

                                            My only comment is that Cafe de la Press isn't all that. I'd head toward Dotties ... there's a reason there is a line there. Or you might consider pastries at Emporio Rulli in Union Square. The Union Square location of ER has sort of really sucky service, but can be ignored. Also, Mama's in Washington square might be another breakfast option. I like Nob Hill Grill well enough ... probably ate there monthly when I lived in the city when I wasn't having breakfast at Towns End, but it is a good for locals type of joint.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              Does the Union Square Rulli have a good selection of pastries? The one time I looked in it seemed like a very small subset of the Union Street and Larkspur branches, but that was a few years ago.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                just FYI on Nob Hill Grille it changed hands close to a year ago and I think the owners intended to make some changes. I haven't eaten since the change but i know the interior now includes a plasma tv and it's open for dinner. They may be moving away form the local vibe, but hopefully the food hasn't suffered.

                                              2. re: grayelf

                                                Since you seem to be interested in architecture, I think you should check out the new De Young then walk over to the new Academy of Sciences. It isn't open yet, but the building itself is basically completed and has some really neat architectural features. http://www.calacademy.org/academy/bui...

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Thanks for the tip. We loved the exhibits at the old Academy when we visited in 2003.

                                            2. re: grayelf

                                              Looking good. My only quibble would be eating two meals at Canteen. I mean, it's a great restaurant, but there are so many great restaurants in SF that it seems silly to eat at the same one twice. I'd eat Sunday brunch at Canteen, and consider some rustic Italian food at Incanto for Friday night.

                                  2. Excluding Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board, Cheese Board Pizza, Cesar, the Thursday afternoon farmers market, and maybe Gregoire (not a fan), I don't think there's much to occupy a foodie tourist in the Gourmet Ghetto. Not a lot of interesting browsing.

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      The original Peet's and Walnut Square are right there. Not much food related stuff but it's a nice place to hang along with Black Oak Books. Sounds like it's a half day deal.

                                      1. re: ML8000

                                        I don't see how it could fill even half a day. Maybe combine it with a walk across the campus (and a ride up the Campanile?) and out Telegraph or College, with a stop in the Rockridge market hall, and then BART back from there. That way at least the OP would see something of Berkeley/Oakland.

                                        1. re: Glencora

                                          I guess it depends on you define half. I call a half day 4 hours + travel time. But you're right there's not that much unless you putter slowly. A walk through campus, the view from the Campanile and Telegraph Ave are all easy and still close to BART. I'd call Gourmet Ghetto, campus and Telegraph "the full Berkeley", well not quite but it sounds good.

                                          1. re: Glencora

                                            I think the real gourmet ghetto these days is in West Berkeley, between Allston and Dwight, more or less:

                                            Acme Bread
                                            A Donkey and Goat (winery)
                                            Albatross
                                            Bombay Spice House
                                            Cafe Fanny
                                            Cafe Rouge
                                            Cafe Rouge meat counter
                                            Casa Latina
                                            Eccolo
                                            Grocery Outlet
                                            Halal Food Market
                                            Indus Foods
                                            Jamaica Soul
                                            June Taylor
                                            Kermit Lynch
                                            Lanesplitter
                                            Milan (huge Indian grocery)
                                            Mi Ranchito
                                            Mi Tierra
                                            Pasta Shop
                                            Sketch
                                            Spanish Table
                                            Tacubaya
                                            Templebar
                                            Vik's

                                            And that's not even a complete list.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              I like a lot of those places but more then half aren't gourmet in any sense. Ethnic and interesting yes, neighborhood yes, but special, not really. Perhaps it's semantics but I don't find any of these places gourmet, ghetto yes, foodie maybe.Seriously, how are any of these gourmet?

                                              Albatross
                                              Grocery Outlet
                                              Halal Food Market
                                              Indus Foods
                                              Jamaica Soul
                                              Lanesplitter
                                              Mi Ranchito
                                              Mi Tierra
                                              Templebar
                                              Vik's

                                              Geographically you're also mixing 4th St w/ San Pablo, that's stretching it a bit. One is rather yuppie and the other not. I'd call these gourmet although I don't go there very often.

                                              The Pasta Shop
                                              Sketch
                                              Spanish Table
                                              Tacubaya
                                              Cafe Fanny
                                              Cafe Rouge
                                              Cafe Rouge meat counter
                                              Eccolo

                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                My point is a foodie tourist could easily spend half a day or even a whole day wandering around that area.

                                                Some of the places are of interest more for being ethnically exotic than for quality, but yuppie places don't have any monopoly on great food. Indus Foods has some of the best lamb I've ever tasted, and the best price on hot ajvar. Beer doesn't get better than cask-conditioned IPA on hand pump at Lanesplitter. Vik's catered a party for Alice Waters.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Nothing like inciting controversy with an innocent l'il ole list :-). I was anticipating max two hours in G Ghetto then lunch and back to SF proper. We've never crossed the Bay bridge in the daylight so that is part of the fun. I agree about the def'n of gourmet being dicey; I would include any well-stocked, interesting food/food gear shop in that loose category, at least for my purposes.

                                                  As for the proposed double ups: I have had my heart set on dinner at Canteen since we couldn't get in last time (vanilla souffle, mmm) and have heard the breaky menu is pretty good too; it is also one of the few places I could find that does a nice (but not TOO nice as in stuffy) breakfast near our hotel, and where there is a chance we will dodge a massive lineup. Will travel for food but not before 11 am, and lineups are just not our thing! And as for the Cafe, it was the place we "discovered" together on our first trip to SF (before I turned into a Google-monster), not to mention that the non-foodie SO loves the coffee and the ambiance so I think we will have to go more than once. I must say also that I really enjoyed the eggs benedict there and the SO dug the oeufs a la meurette (don't know how to do accents, sorry) with the accompanying superb pan fries in November -- if all is as it was, then I won't complain about going back, even twice...

                                                  Once again, thanks to all of you for your time and suggestions. As we plan to return as often as humanly possible, I will capture all of them and put them in a file called "Future SF." And of course I will write up our trip when I get back to add to the databank here.

                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                    Are you taking BART to Berkeley? Because that goes under the bay, although it comes up above ground in Oakland. The bus goes on the bridge, but is a rather round about route.

                                                    And you are right about inciting controversy. Whew!

                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                      Yeah, if you want a view, take the AC Transit F bus from the Transbay Terminal. The route is pretty much the same as BART's, you're just above ground the whole way.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Or rather, take the F bus BACK on the return trip, when it's running on the upper deck of the bridge. Much better view.

                                                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                          I agree -- I really prefer to take the bus rather than a subway when I'm travelling. I've been taking the bus into the city for work for 12 years now, and I never, ever feel jaded about the view. Although the sun setting behind the city is amazing, I'm partial to the more subtle beauty of the morning, with the light from the east creating an interplay of light and shadow on the buildings and the never-the-same-twice fog effects.

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            Which is of course why Benjamin drove the wrong way on the bridge to get to Berkeley.

                                                    2. re: grayelf

                                                      the bridge is much more thrilling on a semi-foggy night semi-tipsy in the back seat of a sober driver...

                                                    3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      As a foodie tourist place you could spend a half day there and have fun. That point is well taken. Except for the hardcore I don't see a lot of repeat visitors however, not at University and San Pablo any way. There's not enough semi-open spaces and sidewalks to just hang.

                                                      It would need another name however, just like Temescal, Rockridge, etc have distinct names that you associate with a different vibe. A lot of people call that stretch Little India. I'd call it Uni and SP or USP or some such nonsense. Given it's highly ethnic however, yet diverse, I sort of doubt a name would stick. Given the super high traffic flow, I also don't see it as such a destination.

                                                      I'd keep 4th St separate, a whole different world.

                                                      1. re: ML8000

                                                        The local boosters have labeled it the International Market District. Traffic's similar to Temescal's.

                                                        You want someplace to hang out, walk over to Fourth Street. The patio / walkway between Peet's and Tacubaya is private property, and they don't let bums or beggars hang out.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          I went to the first (I think it was the first) food fair at that intersection last year and enjoyed it -- more than the Solano Stroll, the 4th Street fair or the one on North Shattuck -- even though in this case the streets weren't closed off. The variety and reasonable prices and the fact that they were mostly small, local businesses made it much more interesting to me.

                                          2. fyi..Dottie's closed on Mondays (and Tuesdays)

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: marinrain

                                              Are you sure about Monday? Is that something new? Almost every source on the web say it is only closed Tuesday.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Thanks once again to everyone for their comments (including the bonus transit tips!). I am overwhelmed by how generous you all have been. Thus armed, we will come to your your fair land in April, sally forth and eat, eat eat... oh and of course, report back upon our return!

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  Based on further research and especially the discussion on this thread:

                                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/496115

                                                  I think we're abandoning our plans to visit the Berkeley GG. Back to researching what to do on Friday morning, I guess...

                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                    That is out and out silly. All that thread is about is old-timers whining about 'the good old days" and how the current doesn't measure up to their memories.

                                                    You should see for yourself.

                                                    It reminds me of an old film called "Atlantic City" where Burt Lancaster looks out at the ocean and says somthing like ... you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in the old days. It was really something then.

                                                    Don't let that thread rob you of a delicious experience.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Noted. You obviously know the area (and the posters). The problem is that I have got it in my head that we should go to Zuni for lunch on Friday, which kinda puts the kibosh on the Berkeley idea... feeling very lucky and spoiled for choice :-).

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        It reminds me of an old film called "Atlantic City" where Burt Lancaster looks out at the ocean and says somthing like ... you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in the old days. It was really something then.
                                                        rw and he was only looking at the top.
                                                        ex-submariner

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          As one of the whiny oldtimers who dislikes Berkeley for not being what it used to be (politically and socially, more than culinarily) I'd still urge anyone who has never been to Beserkeley to go there and tread the hallowed ground at Sproul Plaza as well as Shattuck and Vine and at LEAST wolf down a Top Dog.

                                                          If anything, I'd say the referenced thread enhances the Berkeley of today by underscoring the venerability of its gourmet credentials.

                                                        2. re: grayelf

                                                          Lunch at Chez Panisse is definitely worth the trek across the bay. Lunch at Gregoire and shopping at Cheeseboard, eh, I probably wouldn't bother with just four days in town (much as I adore both places). If you had a car and could visit other foodie-centric parts of the East Bay that would be different.

                                                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                            Once again, thanks to everyone for continuing to help me decide on my plan of attack. As is often the case, the more I read, the harder decisions become. Rather than bailing on Berkeley, I am going to check in with the brother-in-law to see if he would be willing to chauffeur us around and do the whole day in the various areas, anchored by lunch resos at Chez Panisse and maybe dinner at Grayson's (sp?). Alternatively, we will do this the next time we come, either with BIL's wheels or via car rental for a day. That will satisfy my Berkeley urge and I hope make it more fun for the SO who is very patient with my snacking/food item looking/comestibles in general obsession and deserves to see some non-food related things :-).

                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                              900 Grayson is breakfast and lunch only.

                                                              http://900grayson.com/

                                                              As discussed above, there's great Korean food in Oakland:

                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/490903