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Please rate my eating itinerary!

I previously posted that I am a New Yorker who will be visiting San Francisco this month and am looking for good places to eat. Thank you to everyone who offered their recommendations! It was hard narrowing the places down, but below is my planned eating itinerary. Please let me know what you think. Are there places I should skip/add?

Lunch: Burger at In 'n' Out (I know people said there are better burgers elsewhere, but I've never tried and need to see what all the hype is about) and general noshing around Fisherman's Wharf (any good places to visit for snacks and small bites?)

Dinner: Slanted Door (what are some recommended dishes?)

Lunch: Farmer's Market at the Ferry building (which stands/eateries are not to be missed?) and then heading to Mission for a burrito at La Taqueria

Dinner: Osha Thai (this is going to be a huge group dinner, so can't skip. How is the food there? What's good to order?)

Brunch: Bar Tartine if we can get reservations; other option is dim sum at Yank Sing (is the dim sum better than what I can get in Flushing, New York?)

Thanks for any and all input!

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  1. Except for the setting, Fisherman's Wharf is a giant tourist trap. Walk a few blocks along the water to enjoy the view, then head up Columbus to North Beach / Chinatown. Or wallow in mediocrity and get a frozen seafood cocktail and canned chowder in a bread bowl.

    Which branch of Osha Thai? They vary.

    Comprehensive Wharf topic: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/307917

    Ferry Plaza topics:


    Slanted Door:


    1. Its an okay itinerary. I would make some geographic changes, though.
      In general, Fisherman's wharf is terrible. I avoid it. If I have to go with out of town guests I end up wandering out on the public pier... its much nicer/less crowded/less junky.
      There is an in and out at Fisherman's Wharf, so you could eat there. There is no decent food down there. Unless you count chocolate bars from Ghiradelli's.
      Do you have reservations at Slanted Door yet? You should get them now. They book up fast. And they are located at the Ferry Building, so Saturday would be a better time to do the Farmer's market, eat some samples, then have a late lunch at Slanted Door. Five Spice Chicken will change your life. The tamarind sauce is amazing. But the jicima-grapefruit salad is also delicious!
      Will you have a car while you are out here? La Taqueria is excellent. The mission is pretty far away, but if you are flexible, you should also try to have desert at Mitchell's Ice Cream. They have some crazy and absolutely delecious flavors. The lines are long, but it is sooooo worth it.
      Don't much about the Thai restaurant you mentioned, or the Brunch places.

      Our other favorite in SF is Suppenkuche... this fabulous beer and schnitzel German Restaraunt.

      However, if you are here for culinary adventures, you should really try to make it across the bay to Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Its only a 30 minute BART ride from the city. And you can make reservations for the Cafe a lot easier than the downstairs restaurant.

      Have a lot of fun! Enjoy the sights and the deliciousness of the Bay Area!

      1. They don't take reservations for brunch at Bar Tartine (and I don't really think you need them, it's not too crowded). I'll let others comment on the dim sum comparison. There are a few great threads on the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market that give you pointers to stands and eateries: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/503670 is the most recent one. There isn't good noshing around Fisherman's Wharf, I'd go to In n Out for the burger, then head to the Mission for noshing (Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite, maybe do your taqueria stop here instead). Here's a recent topic on what to order at Slanted Door http://www.chowhound.com/topics/507381 with a link to an older one. Enjoy!

        1. I would only do Yank Sing if someone in the party is vegetarian or doesn't eat pork/shellfish - for vegetarian dim sum, I think it's quite good, but for standard dim sum, I think it's not superior to places in Flushing, and it's way more expensive. Koi Palace in Daly City *is* better than the places in Flushing that I've been to, but you'd need a car to get there.

          Also, I really love brunch at Bar Tartine, so a hearty *yay* for me on that one. Getting a reservation shouldn't be difficult. Even without a reservation, you can get in pretty easily... the bar seats a lot of people.

          I like Lamber's idea of ice cream in the Mission, but I'd propose Bi-Rite Creamery instead of Mitchell's. The flavors at Mitchell's are similar to those at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, but I find NYC lacking in super-premium ice cream (I hear the gelato scene is improving, but I'm referring to the ultra rich stuff that Boston excels in). I will always love Bi-Rite's salted caramel and honey-lavender, but there are always lots of interesting flavors. Stop into the Bi-Rite grocery store across the street and pick up a stick of Boccalone Pepato salami to take home. It's by far the best salami I've ever tasted. I keep bringing it to picnics and parties, and people keep freaking out over how good it is.

          8 Replies
          1. re: daveena

            "Koi Palace in Daly City *is* better than the places in Flushing that I've been to, but you'd need a car to get there."

            Daveena, could the OP BART to Daly City and then bus/taxi to Koi Palace? I understand the BART trip is only 15 min but I can't work out how far away the resto is from the BART stop (selfish reasons for asking too...). Also I've heard the wait is super long and the service pretty terrible. Comments?

            1. re: grayelf

              The wait is super long, the service is pretty terrible. If you're not chinese, you run the risk of them not calling your number, a stunt they pulled on us and then apologized for when we called my MIL who is Shanghainese and screamed at them over the phone for disrespecting us. Even so, we got there at 11 AM and didn't get seated until 1 PM. In my opinion, it's totally not worth the wait, especially when on a short trip and time is precious.

              1. re: SteveG

                To be fair, you could get the same deal at Koi if you're Chinese. The place can be a zoo. Speaking Chinese doesn't necessarily help. It's an interesting note about screaming in Shanghaiese however..given Koi is mainly a Canto place.

                Any way, standing on top of the front person is usual way of getting your table at a crowded Chinese place and and that's why you see a huge crowds at the front of many busy Chinese restaurants. It's a culture thing, better to wait 2 hours and jam the entrance to get the best rather then get subpar...but it can be very tetious and often not worth it. You're right about the long wait on a short trip.

              2. re: grayelf

                Hey grayelf - I would only do it if you have a car. I haven't been to the Daly City BART in a while, and people should correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember there being a lot of taxis waiting outside the BART station... not sure what the bus situation is.
                If you get to Koi Palace when it opens at 9 AM on Sunday, there's a huge mass of people pushing to get in... the restaurant fills up by 9:30 or so.

                I didn't have service problems, but I know other people have.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Grayelf, although it may be better than Flushing, it's probably not significantly better than Vancouver/Richmond and thus not worth your time here. Story: Some friends in Boston asked a Chinese restaurant owner where to go for dim sum, and he told them "Vancouver." I've heard that parts of California are catching up, but still, I wouldn't recommend that someone from Vancouver use their limited time pursuing dim sum in the Bay Area.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I agree (having had dim sum in Vancouver). Besides, my last time having dim sum at Koi Palance it just wasn't that great: partly because of food, and partly because of service. Coming from elsewhere I'd consider it, but not coming from Vancouver.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        I hear and obey :-). Thanks for the insights, and I'll now stop hijacking this thread.

            2. It's a decent itinerary, here's what I would change.

              Nix In 'n' Out and the Wharf. In 'n' Out is good - for a fast food burger - meaning it is better than McDonalds. Compared to the "gourmet" burgers that are common in SF, LA, and NY it is awful. I've read report after report by visitors who insisted on In 'n' Out after reading all the hype, and were disappointed. I never eat there, and I love a good burger. If you were here for a week, I'd consider it. But don't waste one of five meals there. And please don't form your opinion of SF based on the Wharf.

              So many better places to consider for Friday lunch - Canteen, Two (get the marrow bones), Perbacco. Tour best option may be doing La Taqueria on Friday, cuz you'll be eating Mexican for lunch on Saturday and there's now way you'll have room for a burrito between the Ferry Building and Dinner.

              Here's my recent report on the Ferry Building Farmers' Market. For lunch, go to Primavera, no contest. It will be interesting to compare Taqueria and Primavera for two different takes on Bay Area Mexican.

              1. The trip sounds like you have some constraints and a limited time here. You'll have fun at the Ferry Plaza and Slanted Door should be v good. The Mission district, La Taqueria and Bar Tartine will be good to very good as well. It seems the real issue is time and only having one dinner of your choice in SF.

                I'd bump In 'n Out to an afternoon or late night snack to get another quality meal in. This will allow you to satisfy your curiosity and leave you for other places. Maybe do Slanted Door (lighter fare) for lunch and find another place for Sat dinner (or vice versa). There's more then enough restaurants to go to, so it's more about preferences.

                1. With all due respect, I think you've squandered your Friday daytime slots. You may not be aware how easy it is to get away from the Wharf to better environs. As for In-and-Out, that's just a waste. I'm sorry, but I consider it a Southern California affectation/affliction that's mutated and spread up here.

                  One other thing: The Mission burrito run? La Cumbre is the classic pick. Parking's a tough nut, but you're so much better off there than at La Taqueria.

                  Best of luck,

                  Sushi Monster

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Sushi Monster

                    La Cumbre is a classic pick of whose? Calvin Trillin, perhaps (he likes the T-shirts) but I think you'll find more people favoring T. San Jose, T. Cancun or El Farolito over La Taqueria (which, by definition, doesn't serve a "Mission" burrito.

                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      La Cumbre is a classic pick since they were one of the first. Classic doesn't mean the best...which is subjective any way. Still they do a few things very well -- pollo asada and carne asada.

                      In the hey day when people would line up out the door to get the carne asada and it was great...then for the longest time it sucked, up until about a 1-2 year ago. Then it somehow got better. I think the problem turn over and they didn't salt the beef for some reason. If you see them grill it, ask for that, it's almost as good as the past. Everything else there was never worth getting in the first place.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        By the same token, OP should make a pilgrimage to El Faro at 20th and Folsom, where the Mission Burrito was INVENTED.

                        I found T. La Cumbre's burritos to be OK in the early days, though I was put off by the sight of them putting out ballpark-style machos, pumping the goo right out of a spigot. Later the burritos seemed to go with the ballpark nachos. Glad to hear of them improving, though. Maybe I won't be ashamed to wear my vintage TLC T-shirt once again.

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Like I said, there's a couple of things TLC does well...carne asada and pollo asada. If it's char-broiled it's fine, if not don't even bother. Everything isn't even worth looking at. The carnitas is horrid, the nachos too. I liked the "steak" burrito back in the day but then red meat went out of fashion and I think that pushed the decline at TLC.

                          Any way, if you talk to Mission District homies, there's as much love or more for La Cumbre. It's all subjective.

                      2. re: Xiao Yang

                        Taqueria San Jose makes great tacos al pastor but I think ordering a burrito there is a mistake.

                        I was a big fan of La Cumbre back in the day, but I went there within the past year and was disappointed.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          There was a big lull of disapointment at La Cumbre. No doubt about it. About a year ago I was by and stopped in. Two things I noticed after another couple of visits:

                          1) only order the carne asada if you see them grill it, or ask for a fresh piece...it's a hassle but I haven't been disappointed in several visits using this method
                          2) you need to salt the beef (easier in a taco)...for some reason they haven't been doing this. Ideally they should upon grilling but this is as close as you'll get

                          For all taquerias, they usually only do 2-3 items really well. TSJ, TLC, EF, all of them pretty much go this route. Unfortunately the fall off from what to get and the rest is usually sharp.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            Wow, thanks for all of the input! I will probably split an In 'n' Out burger with my friend and then head over to Mission to get a burrito for my "real" lunch. Xiao Yang posted that La Taqueria doesn't serve a true "Mission" burrito, so where should I go for that? I don't think I'll have time to go to El Faro.

                            I'm especially excited about the Farmer's Market! Sounds like I'll be able to pick up a lot of great things there. Does Primavera take reservations for lunch? Are they needed?

                            1. re: KiwiGirl625

                              Primavera is an outdoor food stand, so no, they don't take reservations and they aren't needed. Look for the enormous line.

                              1. re: KiwiGirl625

                                Burritos in SF are like pizza in NYC or cheesesteak in Philly...everyone has a favorite and an opinion and for them it's right but it doesn't always translate to a traveler on a schedule not immersed in the details of local food.

                                To give you an idea of the detail, loyalty and geekdom, look at these...it'll make your head spin:


                                In SF burritos, instead of talking cheese, toppings and crust, it's about fillings (carnitas, carne asada, chicken, al pastor, tripas, tongue, etc...black beans, pinto, refried) and there's no one right answer.

                                I'd say go to La Taqueria. It's a Mission burrito if you ask me. They've been around for a long time and they put rice in the burrito (one factor in being a Mission burrito). I'd order 2-3 burritos and split them...different filling, etc.

                                If however you can make it to La Taqueria, there's a least 6 other taquerias within walking distance. El Farolito comes to mind on 24th. The question then is what to order. Or if you have the time/stomach do a comparo. Also there's Taqueria Pancho Villa next to the Ferry Plaza Bldg.

                      3. You should try the drip coffee of the day and/or cafe latte from Blue Bottle Coffee's small cart near the front of the Ferry building during the farmer's market. www.bluebottlecoffee.net There is usually a healthy line constantly in front of the cart.

                        For dim sum, an option is to hop on BART for a short hop south to Millbrae. There are decent dimsum places within walking distance. Otherwise, Canteen in SF might be a good option for brunch.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cary

                          As we discovered on our recent visit to FPFM, Blue Bottle has two outlets: one is at the front under the overhang, the other is on the right at the side if you're facing the building (sorry, still get confused with my ordinals in your fair city!). Both seem to attract rather long lineups and for good reason, if the Gibraltar I had at their Linden and Gough outlet is any indication... best coffee beverage ever for me.

                        2. I second the suggestion to skip La Taqueria (they don't have refried beans there, if that influences your decision - that's a deal breaker for me). The places Xiao Yang suggested are all pretty solid. I also really like El Castillito on Mission. And if transportation and/or time become an issue, there is a branch of a Mission-based taqueria right next to the Ferry Building. It's called Pancho Villa, and it isn't considered as good as the Mission location, but I had a decent stewed chicken burrito there recently. I'm not advocating skipping out on the Mission experience, but Pancho Villa would be a good back up plan.

                          As for In-N-Out - don't listen to all the haters. You've gotta try it. Be aware of the secret menu (look it up online if you don't know what I'm talking about). Try the animal style fries (sauce, cheese, and grilled onions) - and most people like their burgers animal style as well (grilled onions + pickle slices).

                          Afterwards (I agree with the suggestions to avoid Fisherman's Wharf), head over to North Beach if you're looking for snacks, coffee, etc. It's great to sit outside at the cafes on Columbus on a nice day. Another fun thing to do would be to walk along Embarcadero and stop at Pier 23 (a bar right by the water that is a great time on sunny Friday afternoons/early evenings). You could stop there and have a few drinks before heading to the Slanted Door.

                          At the Ferry Building on Saturday, definitely hit Primavera. I also suggest the fried asparagus, and the rotisserie meat place near the Blue Bottle stand on the South side of the building. And definitely go to Blue Bottle. And make sure to check out Rancho Gordo's dried heirloom beans - located in front of the building along Embarcadero. Other favorites include Acme bread, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, Lulu Petite potato chips, and Recchiuti caramels.

                          Enjoy your trip!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: CaitlinC333

                            1) Slanted Door sells blue bottle in a press pot. Yum.

                            2) Go mission if you want good eating. And you can tell all your friends who visited SF but were too wussy to go down to the mission how much they missed out. But here's a twist: order tacos. Or, one burrito and a mess of tacos. With the burrito you see what the fuss is about, but the fuss is about the grilled meat. Get four tacos of whatever meat looks good, without busting your belly. A good burrito is *two* meals, so if you have a friend, you can't order 3-4 burritos without throwing away a lot of food. If you hang around the mexicans, they eat a lot more tacos than burritos. Order your tacos "with" - whatever they put on. Usually onion and cilantro and a dollop of hot salsa.

                            1. re: CaitlinC333

                              In-n-Out's "Secret" menu is such a secret that it's published on In-N-Out's web site. I'll let the OP find it, but (Spoiler Alert!) she can look for a button labeled "Not-So-Secret-Menu". It's a gimmick, IMHO, as are the tiny biblical messages printed on the packaging, neither of which makes the food more delicious. The food is probably better, and the gimmicks certainly more comely at the Hooters next door, which probably doesn't have a secret menu.

                            2. with the exception of the ferry building and la taqueria -- you need to completely rethink your itinerary. slanted door is good -- but nothing you can't get anywhere else. Osha thai is the same -- sure it's good but not very unique. And yank sing is very conventional. So -- do some more research and find some better spots.

                              La Taqueria actually has some culinary value -- so i would stick with that.

                              do some searches and more research and stay out of fishermans wharf for sure.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: pointthemoon

                                While I've enjoyed upscale Vietnamese meals more elsewhere in the Bay Area (Tamarine in Palo Alto and La Vie in SF), I would keep Slanted Door for the convenient location and the ambiance. Don't forget the OP is coming from NY, where Vietnamese food is not a strength. Most of the reports I've seen from NYC visitors on Slanted Door have been positive.

                                1. re: daveena

                                  Bong Su in San Francisco is a sister restaurant to Tamarine and might be a better option than Slanted Door price-wise, reservations-wise, and maybe even food-wise. I have yet to try Bong Su, but I would not dine at TSD on my own nickel.

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    Bong Su is OK, but I wouldn't confuse it with actual Vietnamese food. It's quite fusion-y and lacks the strong tart! spicy! herby! characteristics that differentiate Vietnamese from other Asian cuisines. If you're okay with fusion-y, I'd actually recommend Ana Mandara instead - nicer atmosphere and near the godforsaken Wharf. But I'd probably brave the Tenderloin and go to Pagolac instead. Mmmm, beef 7 ways.

                              2. A warning about In-N-Out. Even though I usually go there every time I return to California, the non-initiated usually say that it's overrated. This is partly because they don't know how to order off of the "secret" menu. I would suggest getting a "double-double animal style" (double patty, double cheese, with their delicious runny sauce. If you don't get your burger animal style, you won't have tried the real In-N-Out. You can also get your fries animal style.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: jsteingarten

                                  There's nothing about In-N-Out's burgers that a minimally competent cook couldn't duplicate at home with fresh food from any average supermarket.

                                  The place's reputation is based on rising to that level, as if it were some sort of miracle for a fast-food chain to use fresh ingredients.

                                  1. re: jsteingarten

                                    You mean "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese..."

                                    Mmmmm.... on a sesame seed bun?

                                  2. Re: burritos
                                    Totally agree that everyone has a favorite and we tend top have many disagreements about which place is best. The main things I would point out about La Taqueria (my husband's fav) is that their burritos don't have rice in them. I prefer rice in mine but have to agree that LT is quite good. I would particularly rec the carnitas. Also, their agua frescas are delicious. My fav is pineapple (pina). Enjoy your trip and please skip the wharf. Enjoy your trip out here!

                                    1. Unless you have a compelling reason to go to Fishermans Wharf, skip In-N-Out and save it for a visit to LA or Southern California. In general, FW is disgusting.

                                      Friday: Hit the Mission and have lunch at Pizzeria Delfina and ice cream down the street at BiRite Creamery. Shop Valencia Street. Keep your dinner res at Slanted Door, but start out with a plate of oysters and a glass of Muscadet at Hog Island Oysters, also in the Ferry Building.

                                      Saturday: Go back to the Ferry Plaza Market, if possible no later than 9AM. Proceed to the back of the market and get in line for Primavera. No burritos, but the best Mexican breakfast in SF. The Market's a great place to wander and shop. Try Blue Bottle Coffee, Recchuiti chocolates, and Fatted Calf.

                                      I like Yank Sing at Rincon Center a lot, even on a crowded Sunday. The problem is with who's ordering. I go with friends who will take stuff that's been sitting on the carts forever, and remember those little Chinese ladies are there to move the stuff and get you out the door. So chose carefully from the carts and order something off the menu, like gai lan, which is a Chinese vegetable not unlike broccollini, and Shanghai dumplings. Also order Chrysanthemum tea before they bring you the standard stuff.

                                      And although they don't do brunch anymore, Zuni is still outstanding on Sunday. They open at eleven. The kind of classic, rarified preparation that lots of people just don't grasp. Incredible oysters and wines by the glass.

                                      And above all, have a good time!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: RoccoPizzoferrato

                                        Zuni dropped brunch? It's still mentioned on their opentable page as 11-3 Sundays only. More understated than rarified.

                                        1. re: RoccoPizzoferrato

                                          I had brunch at Zuni yesterday. It would be a shame if they ever stopped doing them - their Bloody Mary is the best I've ever tasted.

                                          1. re: daveena

                                            Thank you for this mention....I've enjoyed lunch at Zuni, but not brunch, but a Bloody Mary that good is worth seeking out!

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              Meant to add a link, will try one more time...