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Apr 2, 2008 07:56 PM

Where [in SF proper] should a Chowhound live?

I am in the process of completing a personal move to San Francisco from the east coast. For me, where I live is primarily about the food. Specifically, the question I care most about the answer to is, "How many great restaurants can I WALK to from my home?".

I tried living in Manhattan (specifically for the restaurants) but couldn't handle the cold winter weather, so I'm back in my favorite city. (I lived in North Beach from '93 to '98). But the neighborhoods have all changed, South of Market is completely different, and I need help figuring out where to look for housing if my main criterion is restaurants in the area.

Again, what I care specifically about is how many great restaurants I can walk to. By great restaurants, I mean gourmet food - no denny's or McDonald's, but since I eat out 14 times a week, I over-the-top high end places don't work well. The problem I had living in North Beach was that every place there was too rich and/or heavy for every day dining (Zax was my favorite exception if anyone remembers it). I frequently eat alone, and therefore prefer restaurants that have a comfortable setting for eating dinner at the bar.

Several people recommended the South Beach (ball park) area, but when I checked it out I liked the modern living spaces available there but found the restaurant scene terribly limited. The Paragon (a frequent stop of mine in the 90s) has moved there, but only a few other places were open when I toured the neighborhood and the whole place seemed dead. I'm decidedly not a sports fan either, so the prospect of living next to the park wasn't appealing.

I ended up taking a temporary (3 months) furnished lease in Cow Hollow because I couldn't figure out where to live on my short househunting visit. Although both Union and Chestnut appear "lined with restaurants", on closer inspection it seems like there are only a few places (Betelnut, maybe Osha, Circa if its not thursday night) that I would frequent. But if there is a part of San Francisco that feels like Los Angeles, it's this neighborhood, and frankly I don't like that feeling (no offense to LA intended). I'm more of a down-to-earth kind of guy and prefer to avoid scenes where image and trendiness are considered important to people.

So where should I be looking in the city? I can afford a car but prefer not to drive one. That's why I like the city in the first place, besides the food. First priority is walking distance restaurant selection, 2nd priority is convenient access to public transportation. A lot of people have said So. of Market, but if there is a busy at night/happening part of SoMA, I haven't found it yet. It's sure not around the ballpark neighborhood.

The best advice you can give me is "For XXX, try walking down YYY street around dinner time". I have 3 months to go research neighborhoods before my short-term lease runs out, so I can do plenty of research.



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  1. it seems to me the easiest thing would be to peruse this board and see which places appeal most to you and start mapping them.

    The Mission--both the street itself and Valencia, as I'm sure you already know--has been v. happening in recent years.

    If you like Asian, then there are parts of the Sunset you might find appealing, including Irving and Noriega west of 19th.

    Upper Fillmore and just-plain Fillmore both are areas with lots of places to eat, including some with branches of established faves open or opening.

    I recommend you do a little research on the SFPD web site for crime stats before you settle on a place you plan to be walking in at night.

    That said, certainly Polk and the 'loin have a plethora of lower-priced restaurants of many different nationalities, with an accent on South and Southeast Asian.

    As I'm sure you know, like New York or LA and probably many other cities, SF restaurants don't all cluster in one area.

    You can eat good Chinese all over the city, though there are three or four prime clusters. Likewise Japanese away from Japantown.

    Some parts of downtown (say, Bush or Pine)would put you in proximity to Chinatown and a variety of Union Square district places .

    North Beach, aside from its other charms, puts Chinatown, the Embarcadero, and parts of the Financial District within fairly easy walking distance, along with the Beach itself.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Fine

      Actually, for Asian I'd suggest Clement St. for the full spectrum (Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Japanese) with an admixture of creditable continental and even a bit of Mexican.

      As a neighborhood, I don't think I'd wish 19th/Noriega on anyone.

      1. re: augustiner

        19th and Noriega is very dead, to put it nicely.

        9th and Irving is a nice neighborhood. It's become popular because it's on a Metro line that gets you downtown in 20 minutes. Sleepy by Mission standards but diverse offerings and close to GG Park, the Richmond/Clement St.

        19th/Irving is good for Asian food but pretty much dies at 6 p.m.

    2. This discussion has come up before but for the life of me, I can't tell you how to search for it...

      Every time, I have touted my neighborhood; Western Addition/Japantown. I live on the corner of Webster and Geary and I have within a 10-minute walk all of the new restored Fillmore Jazz District (Yoshi's, 1300 at Fillmore, Rasella's, Sheba's Lounge, and Jubili yogurt), the Fillmore (SPQR, Vivandi, Toraya, and about ten other restaurants including some under construction like a new Dosa's as well as an Out The Door (quickie version of Slanted Door), and then there is Japantown (Kiss, Kappa, and more than two dozen Japanese/Korean). Michelin-starred Bushi-Tei and Quince are also walking distance.

      For groceries we have both a Mollie Stones and a Safeway. Pizza-wise, I stick to either Extreme or Mozzarella di Buffala (good Brazilian food also to be found there!). Bay Bread and La Boulangerie supply bread, macarons, and other baked goodies. Bittersweet Cafe can warm you with unctuous chocolate treats and Tango Gelato can cool you down.

      Honestly, the *only* thing I can't get is good Middle Eastern. Caveat though - it IS not a cheap neighborhood and I am guessing that most studios and single-bedroom apartments are in the $2,000 to $3,000 a month range.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Carrie 218

          I live in the same area (though on the other side of Geary St) and I also love it here. On top of the reasons Carrie listed, it's also walking distance to the great cheap eats in Tenderloin. On my side, I can also walk downhill to Hayes Valley. And it's in the middle of SF with quick access to all the other neighborhoods via Geary St/Fell St/Bush St for east/west and Franklin St/Van Ness St for north/south.

          1. re: junesix

            Thanks for reminding me, Junesix; with the change in the weather, I've started dining a lot more in the Tenderloin (Canteen, Farmer Brown) and walking home. It takes a half-hour to 45 minutes and makes for a nice breather after a filling meal.

        2. Need to weigh in here...
          I was born and raised in SF and lived there for over 30 yrs, although not since 1998. As much as some things change, others don't. During my SF tenure I lived all over town and each area has it's own offerings and problems. My advice to you is to find a place to live that makes you happy in an area that suits you. The food is everywhere, even if secreted away and that is the fun of it!
          I was driving through town from the Cow Palace a couple of months ago, motoring along Geneva to Mssion; even out there, there is food to be discovered.
          Just find a home/don't overthink this.

          1. There is no area better then another in San Francisco. The Muni is very decent and will take anywhere. In the city. I think the area in the upper Market is nice and has great link by public transportation. If I think you should pick a area that you like and then you can travel to the food. Also SOMA may have lofts available too. I have a friend who live in a converted warehouse. High ceilings and lots of room.

            I pick an area out the city be have been know to travel to eat there a lot. But will do so less now that gas is this high. I like the idea of having more than one car parking at home.

            2 Replies
            1. re: yimster

              Yimster, I don't know, the Sunset has a paucity of good restaurants and also, for a good part of the year, that large yellow ball in the sky.

              1. re: wolfe

                Despite your stated reasons for North Beach not being your cup of tea I, as a many times visitor, would still pick that area for myself. I also spend a lot of time in restaurants during periods when my wife is away working and find it very easy to develop rapport with restaurant owners and managers and have things that are off menu prepared to my liking. I live in a small town in Arizona without a lot of choices and find myself sitting at the bar at Outback many nights enjoying two for one wine (Yeah, I know, far from CHish) and the chefs in the kitchen make me quesadillas with fresh chopped salsa, with fresh jalapenos and cilantro, and great tacos and as all of you know they are not on the menu. It seems they are more than willing to accommodate me and the proximity to the Italian and ethnic choices (proximity to China Town in particular) and extremely frequent and accessible transportation by bus would make that the area of choice for me. You would not find me out by the beach spraying the inside of my closets with bleach every three months to kill the mold, that is for sure. Just my two cents.

            2. Can't beat the Mission for walkable restaurants. No other neighborhood offers as much variety in a compact area. Ideally, make Bi-Rite your corner store.

              Here are some related topics:


              At least two previous long topics on this exact question have been removed by the moderators, so I'm not going to go on at length.