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Must Have Eats for New Yorker?

I'll be visiting San Fran next month and am looking for the city's can't-miss eats. Any kind of cuisine, cheap to moderately priced (about $20 for an entree) and I'm willing to travel to any neighborhood in the area. I'm basically looking for places that offer phenomenal dishes that have no comparison to anything I can get in New York City.

Also, is In-and-Out Burger as good as people say?

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  1. In-and-Out is great when compared to other fast food joints (arches, et. al.). Not a great burger and fries, but decent and freshly made. If you are looking for a fast food fix, it's worth a stop. If you are looking for a great burger, there are better choices.

    Try doing a search on this board to find the answers you're looking for. Burgers, cheap eats, and SF spots for New Yorkers are routinely discussed on this board so there is a lot of info already here.

    1. If you happen to be by an In and Out, I'd stop but I wouldn't make a special trip. A special trip would set up expectations. As a nice side trip surprise I 'n O could be good...as the main attraction, not so sure.

      For other eats, I'd say visit at least one taqueria, sample of the more unique Asian food, Cambodian, Burmese.

      1. I'd also add Oaxacan (dang it - what's Chichen Itza called now?), and Ligurian. Overall, NYC has more regional Italian restaurants, but I read that the only Ligurian restaurant closed, and Ligurian is well represented out here, so I'd get focaccia from Liguria bakery for a snack (get there early) and maybe farinata with a glass of wine at Rose Pistola for a light lunch.

        Also, if you haven't tried soup dumplings outside Manhattan, I'd go to one of the Shanghaiese restaurants to try a more authentic version of xiao long bao.

        5 Replies
        1. re: daveena

          Xiao long bao (XLB) at Shanghai Dumpling King are pretty awesome. They compare very well to LA-SGV and apparently differ from NYC/Queens enough to try.

          1. re: ML8000

            I'd add Shanghai House for XLB, too (just three blocks west of Shanghai Dumpling King).

          2. re: daveena

            You are probably referring to Cinq Terre that closed. (Coincidentally, we have a Cinq Terre in SF). Quartino Organica in the East Village is supposedly Ligurian.

            1. re: daveena

              Oops, I meant Yucatecan, not Oaxacan (re: Poc-Chuc/Chichen Itza). Am I right in thinking that the better Oaxacan places are outside SF? Mexican food is not my forte (clearly).

              1. I think In-n-Out is overrated, it's more of a cult thing with its so-called "secret menu" and the hidden religious messages on the packaging. You can probably find better burgers at many independent neighborhood burger joints. The fact that the In-n-Out people settled on Fisherman's Wharf as the most suitable location in SF to build should tell you something.

                Otherwise, I'd second ML8000 and Daveena's suggestions and add that Vietnamese is another cuisine better represented here than in NYC, as is Basque, although the hard-core sheepherder fare seems to have gone away . And how about Istrian (Albona, betweet North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf)?

                Albona Ristorante Istriano
                545 Francisco St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                1 Reply
                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  A food-obsessed friend from New York eats at Albona on almost every visit he makes to SF.

                2. Ya know, go to In-N-Out. It will satisfy your curiousity. Just realize it is not burger greatness.

                  I'm surprised no one mentioned Aziza.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rworange

                    I think Aziza would go over the OP's price range - I didn't give any of my usual recs for visiting New Yorkers (Incanto, Bar Tartine, Canteen) for the same reason. Although, now that I rechecked the sample menu, most of the entrees (and all of the pastas) at Incanto do come in under $20 (I've never seen the cured tuna heart spaghettini, or many of the offal dishes in any restaurant in NYC).

                  2. If I'm in some blighted place there's nothing else but national fast-food chains, I'm glad for an In-N-Out. It's just like you might make at home with average groceries from a supermarket. You can get a burger pretty much exactly like it at any number of Greek coffee shops in NYC.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      As a tourist/traveler from a non InO area, the parameters are different. I know if I was in NYC and was close to Papaya King, I'd go in and get a hot dog just because I was there. I wouldn't make a special trip but it would satisfy my curiousity.

                      Also the Greek places might be as good or better...but they're going to charge way more then $1.50 for single and $2.50 for a double. I think the price is often overlooked in the equation. $3 bucks for 2 good and fresh burgers isn't so common.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        Papaya King is a NYC institution. In-N-Out is Los Angeles institution.

                        In this case, for someone looking for "phenomenal dishes that have no comparison to anything I can get in New York City," I don't think a few bucks difference in the price of a burger is a consideration.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          The fact remains, you can't get I 'n O in NY, so why not try it while out here if there's one near by. The cheapness only helps.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            1. To save appetite for phenomenal dishes you can't get at home.

                            2. In-N-Out is a Los Angeles thing. For the full experience, you should drive there, and it should be hot outside so you can appreciate the air conditioning.

                            3. It's at the Wharf. Eeew.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              i've had some tasty burgers in the bay area: zuni, pine cone diner (pt. reyes), hamburgers (in sausalito), fish (sausalito), etc.

                              in-n-out at the wharf is pretty good. order as you see fit (i go for a double-double with fries extra crispy). look for mr. magic doing his street performance stuff and park your tray on a table where you can see him doing his stuff outside. i've been watching this guy, off and on, since the late '80's.

                              bottom line? in-n-out is good food at a good price in an area that has a tad of low-rent character. i'm ok with this.

                        2. re: ML8000

                          Papaya King is actually decent, to great, and people suggest it because they think it's one of the top dogs.

                          In and Out has a following but nobody thinks it's one of the best burgers in SF...and more importantly, the Wharf location is a poor representation of why anyone finds the Southern Cal. chain to be so tasty.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Okay, perhaps Papaya King is a bad example.

                            I'll use White Castle instead. Being from the West Coast, if I never had White Castle before, I'd try them if one was near just to see what they're about. See what people are talking about.

                            I have had White Castle before and while I didn't seek it out, I did want to try it and since one was right there. I'm glad I did. Do I crave them, do I miss them in a nostalgic way...no. Would I go on adventure like Harold and Kumar, no. Are they the best, certainly not. But going did satisfy my curiosity and it gives me a reference. I can see why people like them.

                      2. As a NYer, I wouldn't go out of my way for In n Out. It's a good burger, but similar to what you can get at Shake Shack or Five Guys. If you happen to be around it, fine. But nothing worth hunting for.

                        Don't miss the Farmers Market. It blows Union Square Market out the water. In addition to the awesome produce, the SF Farmers Market sells food (more than a couple of scones and pies). Love Primavera -- the Mexican here tends to be a lot better than the Mexican in NY. And don't miss the cheeses at Andante Dairy -- really really good. I wish some shops in NYC would carry her stuff.

                        And I'd probably do Yank Sing. I'm sure some people on this board would say it's not that good or overpriced. But there really is no place in NYC that offers the same variety of contemporary dim sum that Yank Sing does.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          There are numerous farmers markets in San Francisco. The one with Andante Dairy is the Saturday market at Ferry Plaza.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Yes, that is the one I was referring to. Thanks.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              What time does the farmer's market at Ferry Plaza go until? I definitely want to check that out.

                              1. re: Syphrite

                                Info here:

                                Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
                                One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

                          2. I agree with the above suggestions especially the farmer's market. Some local places I like (though they may not be "must haves"):

                            La Taqueria or Tonayense Taco Trucks - burrito or taco
                            Poc Chuc (formerly Chichen Itza/Popol Vuh mentioned above) - panuchos
                            El Delfin - shrimp dishes
                            Lolo - fusion, huitlacoche dumplings, octopus tiradito
                            PPQ Dungeness Island - Vietnamese has a crab family dinner deal
                            Little Nepal - Nepalese
                            I'd also throw in ceviche at a Peruvian place.

                            Have a nice visit.

                            PPQ Dungeness Island
                            2332 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                            Little Nepal
                            925 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            La Taqueria
                            2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            El Delfin
                            3066 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            3234 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            Poc Chuc
                            2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: wanderlust21

                              I would skip the Peruvian, as NYC has a pretty large Peruvian population (around 50,000) and a plethora of Peruvian Restaurants.The same would be true of anything else South American, though SF would probably beat them out or match them on Mexican and anything Central American

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                Good point, I was thinking more of the ceviche, not Peruvian per se. On the seafood note, you might stop at Hog Island Oysters in the Ferry Building (or go up to the farm at Tomales Bay and BBQ if you have the opportunity).

                                Hog Island Oyster Co
                                20215 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA

                            2. There is a topic on another board on food you would go out of your way to eat, and someone mentioned raw oysters and clams for the SF Bay Area. You can probably get that in SF, but if your trip allows, Bodega Bay (you buy them bulk, then can eat them or barbeque them right there) is a nice place to do that.

                              Also, another perhaps out-of-the-way suggestion (if time allows)-- but if you happen to venture to the South Bay, I think it is one of the Vietnamese food meccas. There is Hue food, Banh Xeo at Grand Century Mall (I think) and Vung Tao is also quite good. However, it's a bit of a ways from SF, so I'm not sure if it's worth the drive just for that.

                              I also think we have better South Indian food than anything I can find in SF, but I'm not sure about compared to NY/NJ. However, one of my Indian friends said that Vic's in Berkeley has better Indian food than anything she's tried in NJ/NY. I haven't been, so I can't vouch for her, but she is Indian. Her (non-Indian) husband agrees w/ her.

                              Ok, more totally random suggestions (don't like make a special trip for these, but if you happen to be in the area. . .)--and I'm sorry I don't have names or exact locations.

                              There is a boba tea place that I am convinced makes the best boba tea in this area. It's on Irving and 22 or 23. It's on the same street as Marnee Thai (also a great resto, imo, though I haven't been there in years), sort of diagonally across, put past the Well's Fargo ATM (same street and side). I think it used to be next to a Rainbow Ice Cream.

                              No sense in suggesting Pizza, since you can't get any better than NY.

                              If you happen to be in the Mission district around early evening-ish (after 5), Tartine Bakery (18th and Guerro) has really good bread that is really good when it is piping warm out of the oven. Incidentally, their restaurant, Bar Tartine is also really good.

                              And someone already mentioned the Farmer's Markets.

                              1. *Taqueria Pancho Villa
                                *Yank Sing
                                *Slanted Door