Recommendations for visiting European colleagues
I need some recommendations for three lunches (catered/delivered) and three dinners, for eight European work colleagues who are coming to town in a few weeks. These are all group events with a total of 10 people at each. Please help!
* This is everybody's first visit to California, so cuisines or settings unusual to the region would be nice. Obviously we would like good food :-)
* English is no-one's first language, so a quiet environment is important. A high level of background noise just makes our communication problems worse :-(
* Work is paying, but we're pretty cheap. To use sushi as a yardstick, Blowfish or Hotaru or Higuma is fine; Kitsho or Ino or even Sushi Groove is too high-end.
* We're in SOMA; ideally it would be walkable or an easy cab ride.
* I'd be really happy to hear unusual ideas - like, a particularly interesting seafood restaurant, or an unusual and good caterer.
* I have heard Towns' End, the Delancey Street Grill, Hayes Street Grill and Sam's Grill might be suitable, but I would love more opinions and ideas.
Upshot: the wharf is too tacky and touristy, Chez Panisse is too far away and expensive, and the taco trucks aren't conducive to good conversation. But if we triangulate all that - somewhere in the middle is what I'm looking for. Please help if you can :-)
Difficult request because of the noise requirement. Most restaurants in your price range are going to be on the noisy side, unfortunately. Maybe plan on going to dinner early, before 7 p.m., or later, when it might be quiet. Definitely try dim sum for lunch - do a search on the board for dim sum in the city for recommendations, as everyone has their favorites and this is frequently discussed. I prefer Yank Sing in Rincon Center myself, but opinions vary. And they do cater.
One option for dinner -- California cuisine -- would be Zuni, which is a short muni ride down Market Street. It might be a little too pricey for your group, but it depends on how you order.
I always liked Town's End and think given your requirements it would be an excellent choice given your criteria. It is a neighborhood type of place, the food is Californian, the bread basket is nice the prices are amazing and It is not noisy ... even a little bay view.
Not sure why, but the two names that popped into my mind first are Le Charm and South Park Cafe. I'm not sure about the noise issue, but since you will have to talk to the restaurant when you are making arrangements, maybe you can ask them about where you could be seated so as to minimize the issue. Both places are small, so I don't even know if they could accommodate a party as large as yours.
Have you thought about Maya? It's on 2nd/Folsom. You can definitely hold a conversation there. It's Mexican so they won't find that at home. The dinner options are better then the lunch and fish is pretty good. The only downside is it's in a modern office building but at night it's very hard to tell. I hear Happy Hour there is pretty good too...nothing like a few drinks to help. I'd use it for the first or last and slot something casual and fun in-between.
Also have you thought about R&G Lounge, a quick ride from SOMA. If you can get upstairs, you could look pretty good. Downstairs isn't as nice and it has marble floors. Expensive for Chinese food, but probably $30-ish per/person.
We had dinner at R&G a couple of weeks ago and it was quite noisy upstairs. They do have a couple of small private rooms with tables for 10-12 that you might be able to reserve. We had a pretty lavish dinner and it came to $36/person with tax and tip and corkage on a couple of bottles of wine.