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What do you think of our Bay Area plans?


I am a longtime lurker but first time poster. My wife and I live in Providence, RI and are coming to the bay area on March 15 at noon and leaving on March 23rd. We are excited by the culinary options and have made a few reservations, but we would love feedback.

We will fly into San Francisco on the 15th and stay at a hotel on Union Square until the 18th. We will stay in the town of Sonoma on 18-20th. We will stay in Yountville on the 21st. Then we plan to spend the next two nights back in San Francisco.

We are both lacto-ovo vegetarians, but are open to eating everything not ruled out by our dietary restriction. We have made reservations at only a few places:

San Francisco: Greens

Napa: Ubuntu

Sonoma: Cyrus, El Dorado Kitchen

Places that we are considering but do not have reservations at include:

San Francisco: Yank Sing, Millenium, Chez Panisse Cafe, Maya, Fleur De Lys, Cheeseboard, Coi, A16, Zuni, Sea Salt, Kokkari, Thai House Express, Foreign CinemaWe W

Napa: Bouchon, Redd, Terra, Bistro Don Giovanni, Julias Kitchen, Cindy's Back Street Kitchen

Sonoma: Girl and Fig, General's Daughter

It would be great if you could let us know if you think the choices that we have made are wise given that we are vegetarian. We both enjoy spicy cuisines and were hoping to have a few great Asian or Mexican inspired meals in the bay area. We love Indian food and are very particular about it, and it seems that no one restaurant is all that outstanding based on previous posters recommendations. Thanks for whatever help that you can provide.

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  1. Honestly, given the unbelievable wealth of vegetables available here in California, your dietary restriction won't even seem as such.
    Certainly keep the Ubuntu reservation while in the wine country.
    Cyrus is very high on my to-do list, as is Redd.
    Personally, I find Bouchon to be horribly mediocre, but others may disagree.
    Fleur de Lys is not worth it. Plain and simple. The food is dated and boring. The atmosphere is stale. Seriously, don't do it.
    Lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe followed by a trip to the Cheese Board would make for a lovely afternoon.
    I really like Yank Sing, though I can't speak to their vegetarian offerings, for most of what I've had was about as far from vegetarian as one can get.
    Kokkari looks like a great option. I've not been, but certainly added it to my list a while back when I saw this post: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s....
    A16 I very much enjoy, especially for eating at the bar.
    I would also put in a good word for Tartine Bakery in the mission district for breakfast one morning.
    Lastly, in my opinion the very best restaurant in the bay area, actually in the entire country for that matter, is Manresa down in Los Gatos. Assuming you will have a car, it's maybe a bit over an hour's drive. But oh so so worth it.
    Hopefully some of this was helpful. Have a great trip!

    4 Replies
    1. re: tupac17616

      Thanks so much for the replies.

      How do you all feel about Maya for a vegetarian? If you don't suggest it, do you have any alternatives for upscale mexican that is veggie friendly..

      What about Coi versus Millenium for a vegetarian? I know they are very different.

      Manressa sounds interesting. We will have to look into it.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: tupac17616

        tupac, what do think of Manresa since their chef(s) left for Ubuntu? have you dined there since?

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Jeremy Fox (now at Ubuntu) was Chef de Cuisine at Manresa. The Executive Chef at Manrese - David Kinch is, of course, still there. The current Chef de Cuisine is James Syhabout. http://starchefs.com/news/press_relea...

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Sorry I didn't see this sooner. I have dined there since, a couple of times in fact. It is as consistently wonderful as ever.

        2. I'd agree with tupac, doing vegetarian at Yank Sing would be a tough act. There is a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Chinatown (Lucky Creation) and a couple of others out in the avenues. Lucky Creation, that I know if, offers vegetarian dim sum at lunch time. Penang Garden, a Indonesian/Malasian/Thai restaurant in Chinatown has some of the more interesting bofa fide vegetarian dishes for a "mixed" cuisine restaurant.

          Lucky Creation Vegetarian
          854 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

          Penang Garden Restaurant
          728 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

          1. You should consider Cha-Ya (vegan Japanese) and Cafe Gratitude (wacky raw vegan).

            Indian vegetarian, Udupi Palace in Berkeley or Dosa in SF. Ganges used to be bad but I haven't been there in quite a while. Most if not all of the other Indian restaurants in SF are Pakistani and relatively meat-centric.

            I'd skip Maya, it's a branch of a New York chain. Check out the menus at Colibri and Zazil.

            I'd skip Thai House Express and Sea Salt if you don't eat fish. If you do eat fish, there are lots more Asian places to consider.

            1. Your Greens choice is great (recommended by a friend) and I also recommend Kokkari. Coi sounds fabulous & am looking forward to trying it.


              I haven't been to Yank Sing in a few years but from what I recall, they had enough variety of vegetarian options to enjoy (MIL visiting from India loved it). Lucky Creation seems like a great idea but from Yelp reviews it appears to be a small hole-in-the-wall, cash only type of place (if you're okay with that...). For other Asian, I recommend trying "tea leaf salad" (w/o shrimp of course) at either Burma Superstar or Larkin Express Deli. Burma also has other salads which looked good but unfortunately we got a disappointing tofu dish and an equally disappointing poori/potato dish. Haven't been to Larkin Express but it is a CH rec & is closer to Union Square.

              Napa - Since you are already going to Ubuntu in Napa (lunch or dinner?), perhaps Redd in Yountville. Haven't been there but it is a refined, upscale restaurant & website states "veg. options available". Nice to be able to eat near hotel. Considering your list is made up of mostly Napa restaurants, perhaps you should split your trip more evenly between the two counties? Really no fun to drive back & forth.

              If you get a hankering for Indian food, DOSA as already mentioned but I'd recommend Vik's Chaat over Udupi in Berkeley (latter is only S.Indian and I am not a fan of their Sunnyvale location). BTW, DOSA is probably the most upscale (read $$) dosa place in the country:-)


              Last but not least I would not recommend Manresa only because of location. You are going to be doing enough driving from SF to Sonoma to Napa that you will not appreciate the one hour trek to the South Bay.

              Have a great trip!

              1. Some of the vegetarian items at Yank Sing:

                Savory Vegetable Dumpling
                Snow Pea Shoot Dumpling
                Spinach Dumpling
                Mushroom Dumpling
                Vegetarian Dumpling
                Tofu Roll
                Snap Peas In Chili Sauce
                Chinese Broccoli with "Oyster" Sauce
                Sauteed String Beans
                Egg Custard Tart
                Mango Pudding
                Sesame Ball

                3 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Thanks Robert, looks like I have to make a trip to Yank Sing soon! Recently tried Great Eastern & Zen Pen but found limited offerings in the non-shellfish category. Enjoyed GE but didn't care for Zen at all but that's another thread:-)

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Curious as to your source. According to the menu posted on menupages.com, the Tofu Roll, Egg Custard Tart, Mango Pudding and Sesame Ball are NOT represented as Vegetarian.

                    I will say, however, that I am surprised at the number of items they do represent as vegetarian, and therefore retract my comment about it being a tough act.


                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      I went by the lists of ingredients on yanksing.com.

                  2. I can only comment on the few places I've been to --
                    Greens, you will like, great view.
                    Redd -- I highly discourage you from going there. It was probably just a kitchen error, but my fish (I eat fish and vegetarian, no meat) had a big piece of pork underneath it, and it ruined my night. Desserts were also mislabeled.
                    A16-- Many vegetarian choices; great pizza, pasta and cheese-based appetizers
                    Sea Salt -- I wouldn't go if you don't eat fish. But, the fact that Sea Salt is on here makes me think you'd liek to go Berkeley/Oakland. If that's true, there are a lot of other ideas we could give.
                    Julia's Kitchen -- Has vegetarian choices, but isn't an amazing restaurant.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: milklady

                      Regarding Redd, I don't know if I'd make a judgment call on one incident, especially at a restaurant of its caliber (granted it shouldn't have happened). Similar incident occurred during a GNO at Tamarine (upscale Vietnamese) in Palo Alto. Having fun sitting at the bar, I didn't pay attention to the shrimp appetizer that was served instead of the ahi tuna which was ordered. I think it was covered in seaweed or something so I didn't pay attention & took a bite...one little bite and I knew it was! I spit it out so fast the bartender had a horrific look on his face. I then told him of my life-threatening allergy & he apologized (don't know where the mistake came from). He comped our bill big time! Have I gone back? Yes. I am just more careful now no matter where I go.

                      1. re: ceekskat

                        I'm sure you're right that it's unfair to make a judgment call. But, my meal was ruined, and therefore my husband's meal was ruined, on our most expensive and hopefully most fabulous meal of the year. A $35 entree should not be done wrong. We didn't have to pay for my entree, but we spend a couple hundred dollars (a lot for us) on a meal that I will always look back at with distaste. I wouldn't want this poster to have our experience, especially given so many other great choices in Napa.

                        1. re: ceekskat

                          Pork in a fish dish might not be an error, it might have been a deliberate choice in the kitchen. Several times recently I've encountered meat in dishes that sounded vegetarian on the menu. To me that's a plus, but I did think, wow, somebody might have been surprised.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Oh, it was definitely an error. I had the server repeat all the components of the dish twice (it was a special). When I flagged down the waitress, she acted as if it was impossible. She said she talked to the sous chef and the chef and they were both shocked. It was as if they didn't believe me (until they saw the napkin, yuck).

                      2. Some other great places that I believe are vegetarian-friendly:

                        Angkor Borei (Cambodian)
                        Aziza (Cal-Moroccan)
                        Helmand Palace (Afghan)
                        Incanto (Cal-Italian)
                        Pauline's Pizza
                        Troya (Cal-Turkish)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I agree w/ Tupac all the way!

                          ceekat, that is SO frightening. My spouse has the same allergy and nearly died one night in an L.A. restaurant from eating a dish w/ shrimp. Thank God for a quick thinking ER doc @ Santa Monica hospital.

                          I really enjoyed El Dorado Kitchen. Their outdoor patio is gorgeous and the menu is very ecclectic. Lots of fun drinks where they fuse fruits/herbs/vegetables.

                          Last time I was there I had a cocktail that had cucumber and herb in it. It was a HOT summer day and it was really fantastic.

                          Cafe La Haye is little and tiny, but I think the best place in town. Fresh, lovely local produce prepared in imaginative ways.

                          Girl and the Fig is always fun, and the sister restaurant in nearby Glen Ellen, the Fig Leaf is fab too. And, just a few blocks from the square is the Fig Pantry, which is a fairly casual deili w/ outdoor seating.(another sister to the G and F legacy).

                          1. re: wineaux73

                            Enjoyed El Dorado more than Cyrus?

                            OP, please bear in mind that Cyrus (amazing) is in Healdsburg, in northern Sonoma County.

                        2. Ubuntu, by almost all accounts, is the new "must hit" spot for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. I have not been; however, it is among the restaurants that top my personal "must hit" list.

                          My one venture to Greens was less than inspired, though I have heard positive reviews.

                          Please keep in mind that you very well may come across fish-based sauces or other flavor enhancers in many Asian cuisines. Depends on how strict you are, but you'll definitely want to press the staff to verify (and reverify) truly vegetarian options. Apply that to Yank Sing and other dim sum places as well as Thai House Express (which many proclaim to be the best Thai in SF). It's amazing how dishes listed as vegetarian aren't always vegetarian. :)

                          Millennium has ups and downs - I've been a few times, though I haven't been in years. One trip was very, very good. The following two times were not pleasant.

                          Kokkari is good, but it's definitely geared to a more meat-eating customer... that is, unless you want to focus mainly on mezethes and share many small plates.

                          Fleur de Lys is pretty universally getting panned these days. Given the recent track record, I'd probably save your money for elsewhere.

                          As for Cyrus, they are very VERY willing to accommodate food restrictions. When making a reservation, explain you are ovo-lacto and what you do and won't eat (including the exclusion of stocks, etc. if this applies, as I assume it does). A friend of mine had a rather long list of "can't eat" ingredients during my first visit: no mushrooms, cheese, shellfish, fish, etc. Absolutely no problems.

                          This was actually fun to think about this response. I was a ovo-lacto for 6 years, but it has been some time since I've really taken a close look at a restaurant based on those guidelines. Ironically, I started eating meat again once I moved to SF (too many wonderful meat options): a city that readily accommodates a veggie crowd. :)

                          1. anandrshah13 - I'd love to hear your report when you get back. TIA.

                            1. Too late for the OP, but this may become my go-to reference thread for vegetarians, so I'll add my two cents:

                              Yank Sing: a vegetarian friend of mine from NYC went to Yank Sing and could not stop raving about it. And actually, the one time I went (on a weekday, and in the outer atrium, so I probably had a limited selection to choose from), the best dumplings by far were the vegetarian ones (I remember a mushroom one, and a snow pea shoot one). The rest of the items were good, but not superior to much cheaper ones equivalents at most dim sum places.
                              Greens: I've had two very disappointing meals here, and can not recommend it. I found the flavors uninspiring and the presentation amateurish.
                              Cyrus and Ubuntu: big yesses
                              Chez Panisse Cafe: big yes
                              A16: yes (limited vegetarian selection, but what they have is good).

                              I'd also add Pizzeria Delfina and SPQR to the list of veg-friendly restaurants (SPQR probably has the best selection of veg antipasti I've seen in the Bay Area).

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: daveena

                                I also missed this thread (I think because the title didn't say veggie, I just passed on it...). I, too, haven't had good experiences at Greens, but I always enjoy Millennium. Golden Era is all veggie (and mostly vegan) Vietnamese. Kokkari, Luella, Minako, and Aziza are other "mainstream" favorites for my inner and outer veggie. Lastly, I've never found Incanto to be at all veggie friendly.

                                1. re: rahir

                                  I took a vegetarian to Incanto and she said it was the best meal of her life.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I'd absolutely say go to Chez Panisse and try the Cheeseboard another day. Cheeseboard is not open for pizza on Mondays.

                                    You might also consider Vik's in Berkeley for good veggie Indian Food. Google for their hours.

                                    Dosa in SF, any of the taqueria places on Valenica is worth your try..simply because you live in RI! Have a bean,cheese and salsa burrito..heaven!

                                    1. re: roxie

                                      Most of the best taquerias are on Mission, not Valencia, to be sure. Taqueria Cancun (Mission & 19th) is considered to have the best vegetarian burritos in the City.

                                      Taqueria Cancun
                                      2288 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Interesting. The few times I've tried to go (on other, non-veg friends' recommendation or request), the waiter or host have given me attitude about vegetarian options, and once even told me if I wanted to eat veg I should have gone someplace else. Each time, I ended up not eating at all. As a 7-year vegetarian, it's not someplace I would definitely recommend to 2 other vegetarians visiting the city. I'm glad, though, that your friend enjoyed her meal. Maybe it's hit or miss.

                                      1. re: rahir

                                        My friend had the advantage of my doing the ordering.

                                        Lots of appetizers is usually the way to go. Pastas and main courses vary depending on how inspiring the chef finds the current seasonal vegetables. Sometimes there are several exciting choices, sometimes they seem perfunctory.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          "My friend had the advantage of my doing the ordering."

                                          But of course. Would that we were all so favored.

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Do you remember what she ate? Incanto's one of my favorite restaurants, but I've been hesitant to recommend it to vegetarian friends because it doesn't seem to reliably have good veg options.