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SF, a graduation dinner - one more try for recs

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I'm trying once more for recs to plan a celebratory dinner for my sister who is graduating from Hastings in a couple of weeks.

Please chime in as the budget, at least, has changed since my first post a week ago (?). I'd like to keep the restaurant either between the Marina and Hastings, or not too far a drive (and not too much a hassle parking). Budget approx $30-40 pp food only. Cuisine - american, regional, or european. Not ethnic asian, due to some more euro-centric folks in the party (self not included). One less adventurous eater, 2 somewhat well behaved kids (6 and 2), on a Sunday night. Group of 11-12.

I've gotten consistent recs for Zuni cafe and A16. Mixed recs (yea and neh) for Bar Tartine and Two (mostly because of the kid factor). Chez Panisse is closed. Lots of recs on the board for Aziza - is this going to be too "edgy" for any of our group's conservative eaters or should it go on the short list? We're generally openminded and adventurous, but some certainly more than others.

Please help! My family is relying on me, and I am relying on you :) I've looked briefly through the boards, but everyone seems to be looking for a dinner in Oakland, Berkeley, or Palo Alto.

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  1. Check out Restaurant Lulu. Interesting enough not to bore foodies, accessible enough for the elderly, non-edgy and the like. Do a search.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      i would advise you to avoid lulu. i have been several times with groups of varying size, and have found the service to be the worst i have encountered in the entire bay area each and every time - i'll never go back there.

      1. re: sfoperalover

        Perhaps the service got bad. I've never had a problem there. I went with a group of 20 and 12 on busy nights and everything was fine.

        1. re: sfoperalover

          I also am not a LuLu huge fan (went with groups and with just hubby): service was pretty good with the group, not so good when it was just hubby and the food was not that great. and it is noisier and less intimate than Aziza.(plus out side the parameters in terms of location, though I guess Aziza is too, and if you aren't willing to shell out for the valet, parking can be a hassle at Aziza)

          If reservations are still available, I'd go to Aziza, and don't consider it too 'edgy' ....more mainstream dishes might include their lamb chops or chicken, with one of their salads. Unlike the reports from visitors that JasmineG mentions, I've had good luck taking visitors there (in fact, it is one of 'go to' places for out of towners, because it is somewhat unique).

          Edited to add: I don't know why Two would be a problem with kids and Lulu wouldn't, unless it is just that Two is quieter if the two year old decides to raise a fuss.

      2. i guess your sister and i are classmates!

        disclosure: i am a huge aziza supporter. it's also a straight shot from nob hill masonic (where graduation is) down california, which parallels geary. so, down california, left at franklin, right at geary and off you go to the richmond.

        aziza is not too "edgy." if you do a board search for posts, you'll find several recent ones on aziza, including my own. you can also pull up their menu online at aziza-sf.com and see for yourself. there are lots of "recognizable things" there. to give you an idea, i would be ok taking my "meat and potatoes, italian or french, no asian food" grandfather there. it would be a bit of a stretch, but i know he would end up liking it.

        the spreads are great, and everyone understands grilled bread with creamy spread. couscous aziza is wonderful, and the spicy harisa is on the side. nothing "weird" in that dish, for example. maybe talk to the staff ahead of time and voice your concerns, see what they recommend for unadventurous eaters. this can't be the first time they've encountered that!

        firefly isn't convenient, but would satisfy everyone. a classmate of mine is going with his family to bacco, a great italian restaurant, also in noe valley. i'll probably be at mayflower (chinese). frascatti is small, but very near graduation (and is my conservative eater grandfather's favorite), and very good.

        if i think of more while i sit here studying, i will edit.

        2 Replies
        1. re: artemis

          That's so funny. I think she's probably studying too - some wills/trusts final :). I'd hook you up, but she's the kind of foodie who thinks she is, but really isn't, not so much.

          I checked out your remaining suggestions - do you think they're all good for the grad/celeb/with kids atmosphere?

          1. re: artemis

            The disclaimer on the bottom of the firefly menu is hilarious!

            All Our Meat Comes From Happy, Never Mad, Drug Free Animals;
            no Hormones, Antibiotics or Crack Cocaine

          2. Have you called around yet to see if you can get reservations? Because I would do that asap, to see if you'll have choices, because those places are going to fill up fast, especially on a graduation weekend (and for large parties).

            I think that yes, Aziza may be too edgy for some of the conservative diners, but you should check out their menu online to see: http://www.aziza-sf.com/dinner_&_... I liked Aziza a lot, but a lot of the meats are on the sweet/cooked with fruits side, and many people may not like that, and it's gotten some iffy reviews on the board by visitors.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JasmineG

              Yes, I guess it's May already! I'll get right on it - thank you.

            2. Chez Panisse closed = this is a Sunday night?

              Lulu's basically a knockoff of Zuni, so I'd do Zuni if you can get a reservation. Lulu has had its ups and downs over the years as regards both food and service. On the plus side, they put large groups in the room behind the bar (former Lulu Bis), which is quieter.

              The enclosed back patio at A16 would work if you can reserve it. Otherwise, I would not go there with a group of more than four, since it's so noisy that conversation would be limited to the immediately adjacent diners.

              Luella might work if you can get a reservation.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Oooh, I second the Luella rec, plus if the kids (big or small) are still hungry they can go across the street to the original Swensen's afterwards. I've mentioned Bistro Aix somewhere awhile back on another post. They have a lovely covered patio in back and can handle larger groups of mixed ages.

                -----
                Luella
                1896 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

                Bistro Aix
                3340 Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Yes - a Sunday night. Thanks for the tip on the A16 patio. Pardon my ignorance on SF weather, but will it be warm enough? Or do they have the heat lamps going?

                  1. re: sasha1

                    A16's patio's enclosed and heated, might as well be indoors except there's a wall of windows blocking off the noise from the dining room.

                2. If it's a Sunday night, then Firefly offers a very nice deal -- any appetizer, entree, and dessert plus coffee or tea for $35.

                  http://www.fireflyrestaurant.com

                  1. Well - I waited too long. Availability at Bacco and Frascati only. So the question is - which would you choose, and what are the things to order at either?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sasha1

                      those are both excellent options! you are doing just fine.

                      my recent post on bacco: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/509510. at bacco, get the housemade pasta. it was all fantastic. my friend is going there with his family after graduation too. maybe hastings alumni can take over the place! it's in a quieter neighborhood, so it would be easy to take the little ones outside to run around if desired (there's actually a nice park nearby).

                      frascati has my favorite gnocchi in the city (better than the excellent ones at bacco, i think). i usually get fish entree when i go to frascati and the gnocchi app, but i'm not a red meat eater. lamb is popular, with good reason. also, sardines.

                      i think your decision will more come down to non-food details. frascati is smaller, closer to graduation (walkable if one has no mobility challenges), a bit noisier, a bit nicer, a bit more expensive, and california-esque food. parking is nasty around there, fyi. bacco is farther, more spacious, more quiet, italian, slightly less expensive, and parking should not be challenging.

                      either way, you should have a great meal.

                      1. re: artemis

                        I haven't been to Frascati, but heartily endorse Bacco. Their risotto is the best I've had in the City, and should be high on your list of what to order. Another 'don't miss' if it is on the menu is the fava bean crostini. I also love their stuffed squid appetizer.

                        -----
                        Ristorante Bacco
                        737 Diamond Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

                        Frascati Restaurant
                        1901 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109