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Recommendation for 1 night in SF

Im flying into SF next Friday, renting a car, and planning to grab dinner before I hit the road to San Jose. Im looking for a good meal at a place that is not too serious (like Michael Minas), but not looking for bar food either. Somewhere in the middle of that if you get what Im sayin. I enjoy the small plates thing so that could be a plus. Any recommendations?

Also, any recs for San Jose?

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  1. Do you mean to drive into San Francisco from the airport and then drive back down to San Jose? Or are you looking for places on the way to San Jose?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Sharon S.

      Drive into SF, chow, head to San Jose. :)

      1. re: Blind Mind

        Do you specifically want to eat in SF? Because that's 20-30 minutes the opposite direction from San Jose. There are good places to eat that aren't out of your way and where you'll be able to actually park your car.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Yes, I want to eat in SF or else I wouldve said, "Near the airport". I have one night there and I wanna take in a good meal along with the sights and sounds of a Friday night in SF.

          1. re: Blind Mind

            Just a warning...not to dissuade you but traffic into SF on a Friday evening can be very unpleasant to just plain bad.

            Any preferences beyond not serious and something in the middle? Any specific likes in cuisine? I'm asking because In SF that middle part is a very wide band...perhaps the best part of SF...the mid-priced, well-executed casual place with good grub. BTW, dining alone?

            1. re: ML8000

              Ill take the mid-priced, well-executed casual place with good grub for $500, Alex.

              I know about the traffic but the few times Ive had this flight to SF Ive driven into the city/wharf area and the traffic wasnt that bad. Plus, no way its worse than Miami or LA. Also, Im dining with one other person.

    2. Incanto's great, you can treat the appetizers and half-portion pastas as small plates, and it's closer to the airport than most places.


      1. Canteen is a great place to eat on your own, and the food is fantastic. The Incanto recommendation is a good one too. Or SPQR, which has gotten good reviews on this board for the antipasti, since you like the small plates.

        1. Traffic into SF doesn't usually back up as far as 280, where you'd turn off to head to Incanto. You could be sure of avoiding traffic by taking 380 to 280.

          SPQR would add a lot of time--it's on the far side of town, parking can be difficult, and on a Friday night the wait could be over an hour (unless it's one person at the counter).

          Canteen, reservations are essential, even for a solo diner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            But do you think Incanto satisfies the poster's need to experience "the sights and sounds of a Friday night in SF" which is the entire reason he's driving into SF instead of heading south? If he wants more of a scene, this might be situation that calls for Zuni or something in Hayes Valley, which is an area with decent freeway access and not-impossible parking.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Now that Blind Mind has added sights and sounds, Incanto's not a great fit.

              For that, I'd recommend Valencia Street. Park in the New Mission Bartlett Garage if you get tired of looking for a street space.

          2. Thanks for the replies so far. Im not worried about traffic or parking really. Traffic wasnt that bad the past few times Ive done this and if parking is bad I can always valet at a hotel with no problem. The last trip to SF I did Americano @ the Hotel Vitale. The time before that I did that restaurant in the wharf that looks out at Alcatraz (its famous I believe but I foget the name cuz it was a few yrs ago)

            I pretty much like all types of food with the exception being Indian/Ethiopian food. I like that stuff occasionally but overall Im not really a fan. French and Japanese are probably my favorites if I had to name them. Im going to go to Blowfish in San Jose, most likely on Saturday night, so Japanese on back-2-back nights might be a bit of overkill. I also plan to go to Arcadia in San Jose.

            Keep the suggestions coming!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Blind Mind

              Well, I was going to recommend Bar Tartine, because the food is great and the area will be a lot of fun on a Friday night -- I held off because the parking around the Mission is not at all fun on a Friday night (or really, at any time) but if you're not worried about parking, then go for it.

              1. re: Blind Mind

                Bar Tartine and the Mission is current SF. You could walk around a bit too.

                If it's French and Japanese, you might check out Ame...French/Japanese fusion. It's a little beyond mid-range at $35-ish for entres...might be too serious however. Do a search for reviews.

              2. My suggestion is Rose Pistola in North Beach
                It will be easy to get to, 280 all the way till the end, then the embarcadero till Broadway. The neighborhood will be quite the scene on a Friday night.


                1. Thanks for all the suggestions. To further clarify, I am dining with a female business companion so Id like it if you could weed out the quiet or more intimate spots because that would be awkward. Incanto seems to fit that mold. Im looking for good eats with a good bar scene. Trendy is good. I really liked the scene at Americano but the food was blah. A place with a similar scene and better food would be ideal. I also liked the Embarcadero area.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Blind Mind

                    I don't think Incanto has the bar scene that you're looking for. A16 would be a lot of fun, it's very bustling around there on Friday nights, The Mission area is fun on Friday nights too.

                    1. re: JasmineG

                      A16 is impossible on Friday without a reservation, so not very good for someone flying in.

                  2. So far, Im considering Bar Tartine or Ame. Is the scene at Ame quiet or is it more lively? Im leaning towards Ame because of the menu but Bar Tartine sounds pretty killer too.

                    Any other suggestions? If your suggestions are more chill, name a good bar nearby to stop off for some pops before/after dinner. From what I gather, the Mission area seems to be where its at...

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Blind Mind

                      Ame is wonderful, but on the quiet side. There is a bar around the corner inside of the St. Regis (where Ame is located). On the whole, I think the Mission is more lively and thus Bar Tartine may appeal to you more. Parking in the Mission can be a pain - if you go to Ame, you would probably want to valet park your car. (Acutally, parking in most parts of SF is a pain!)

                      1. re: dinnerout

                        Bar Tartine is a lively scene. The Hoff Street garage is just around the block.

                        The Valencia Street area has the most dense and diverse restaurant / bar scene in the city.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Any reccos on Valencia Street? You mentioned that earlier and I thought it was the name of a restaurant. No wonder I couldnt find it on Google haha...

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Ok, then I guess thatll be it. I thought there would be more options. Thanks!

                              1. re: Blind Mind

                                There are many other places (Range, Monk's Kettle, Delfina, Limon, Maverick, Foreign Cinema, Spork, Conduit, Bar Bambino ...) but I think Bar Tartine offers the best combination of great food and lively scene.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston


                                  280 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                  1. re: Paul H

                                    Thanks Robert & Paul!

                                    Any help on where to find a menu online for Conduit? I checked Menupages and got nothing...

                                    1. re: Blind Mind

                                      There's no link from their opentable entry, so it's probably not online. You can enter an add request on Menupages.


                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Yeah, thats cool. I actually think we're gonna go to Limon. I love Peruvian food and the menu looks great. Atmosphere looks pretty cool too. I made an 8pm rez so we will likely grab a cocktail nearby before the meal. Thanks for all the reccos, I'll be sure to report back.

                                        1. re: Blind Mind

                                          Quick travel question... Is the 101 northbound a nightmare around 630-7p? Would I be better off on 280N? I took 280N last year but we went to the wharf so it made sense.

                                          1. re: Blind Mind

                                            101N should be fine between 6:30 & 7:00 p.m.

                                            1. re: Blind Mind

                                              To avoid traffic, get off at Cesar Chavez. 101 gets pretty backed up on weekend evenings but usually not that far.

                      2. I had dinner at Limon last night and thought Id let you know what I thought of my meal. First off, definitely shouldve taken Cesar Chavez off the 101... Wasnt too bad of a delay though and I didnt have directions that way anyways. Turns out the directions I had werent too hot either but we got there eventually. Oh, and parking was a total bitch but we found a spot in a lot at an old theater about 4 blocks away on Mission because the one on Gibb(or was it Goff?) was full. Transportation woes aside, we finally got to Limon and the place was packed.

                        The restaurant was a lot smaller than I thought from the pics Id seen on the website, but we were seated in their elevated section that looks down on the bar and crowd below and that was cool and didnt have a cramped feeling at all. Thanks to the website, I pretty much knew what I was gonna have ahead of time. We started with a mixed seafood ceviche with aji amarillo sauce. It was awesome. I think I like the ceviche I get at my local spot in Miami a bit better, but this one was filled with octopus, shrimp, and fish (likely corvina). If I had to say a negative it would be that the fish was a little chewy but it wasnt unsettling at all. For my entree, I opted to go with 2 apps because I wasnt really feeling anything on the entree menu. I started with an app that combines two of my favorite things on this earth - scallops and foie gras - and then went with the tuna tartar. My coworker selected the ribeye which comes churrasco style with a chimmichuri sauce. The scallop dish was excellent. Unlike what the menu said, it didnt come with a yucca puree but rather a blend of mixed mushrooms (my fave veggie) and greens which I really dug. The fig sauce was an awesome compliment too. The only buzzkill was that for a $13 it was 2 very small sea scallops with equally tiny pieces of foie gras. If there was a 3rd, Id have been 100% pleased. The tuna tartar was also incredibly tasty and came with a killer spicy sauce presented in little dime-sized dots on the plate. I think this was a sub for the "aji amarillo" that was indicated on the menu. Again, while the dish was very tasty, I didnt really see or taste any Asian pear in there (as indicated on the menu) which was a bummer because that is my favorite fruit and I was really looking forward to seeing how it meshed with the taste of fresh tuna. Overall, I was completely satisfied at the end of my meal and would definitely go back if I lived in SF. Oh, I almost forgot... My coworker's steak was ENORMOUS!! She and I looked at eachother and started cracking up when the waiter came and plopped this behemoth down in front of her, still sizzling on the hot plate. I forgot to grab a bite of the other half that she couldnt finish but she said it was really good and cooked to a perfect medium.

                        Thanks for all the reccos and if you ever plan a trip to Miami and want to know where and what to eat, stop on by the Miami board!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Blind Mind

                          Thanks for reporting back. Sounds delicious. Looking at the website it seems Limon is now open for lunch during the week.

                          Limon Restaurant
                          524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110