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May 6, 2008 07:07 AM

Hip in the Tenderloin

I read in someone's post that the Tenderloin area is an up and coming area. My BF and I will be staying in this area for a couple of days and I'm looking for any suggestions as to dining/nightlife.

We're in our early 30's and love going out, live music, dancing (more 'indie' or Soul/Funk than 'Madonna/Timberlake' type of grooves). We're both from Toronto so are very comfortable in an urban setting and love tasty eats in casual or bohemian settings.

Any and all recommendations would be appreciated. As well we're big on transit and an hour walk we consider a if you have any suggestions in other areas, bring them on.

Thx :)

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Hello fellow Canucks:

      FWIW, this was my short list for this area prepared in advance of our trip in mid-April 2008; the comments are all snips from various reviews on Chow and other places. We made it to Larkin Express Deli in Nov 2007 (highly recommended, lunch only, Burmese!) and Thai House Express this time (one great dish -- catfish larb -- the others good to okay). All of these are casual to more than casual, and none will break the bank. If you're looking for a bit more of a splurge (I think we spent $50 each plus tip for dinner), definitely go to Canteen which has been recommended to you already in another thread. Just be sure to get resos. They have three seatings a night but the resto has under 30 seats so they book up fast.


      Brenda's French Soul Food 652 Polk St btw Eddy and Turk 415.345.8100 Closed Sundays. Saturday brunch:8am-3pm; Mon-Fri: 8am - 3pm Breakfast served all day. Lunch menu starts at 11, croquet monsieur, 26 seats, approx $10 Beignets plain, chocolate, apple and crawfish, eggs, pancakes

      Sai Jai Thai Menu offerings include soothing pad kee mao, stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat, and spicy string beans with basil and peppers. The grilled pork really shines - especially the pork shoulder salad, kor moo yang. Winner dishes: the mieng come ($5.95), a funky and refreshing little starter of laloop or spinach leaves that you fill with shredded coconut, dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, and lime juice, plus some ginger and their "special sauce." The preceding was based on takeout orders, the place was found to be a bit neglected upon dining in. 771 O'Farrell St. (at Larkin); (415) 673-5774. Lunch, dinner daily. No alcohol. 2007

      Turtle Tower Weekend lines to choose from more than 10 types of pho in unusually subtle broth, solid selection of bun (vermicelli) and com (rice-based) platters. 631 Larkin St. (between Eddy and Ellis), San Francisco; (415) 409-3333. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner Wed.-Mon. 2007

      Larkin Express deli 452 Larkin St btwn Golden Gate and Turk M-Fri ONLY 10-4; Muni 5, 9, 31 (415) 474-5569 before entering the restaurant you need to check out the whiteboard in the front window, which may list daily specials; go for the Burmese food (don't miss the tea leaf salad) but note they also have regular deli-type sandwiches; owners were extremely keen to help you try their native dishes

      Old Chelsea Fish and Chips 932 Larkin St. (near Geary Blvd.); (415) 474-5015. Dinner nightly. Cash only. Greasy goodness can be found on Larkin Street, where the Old Chelsea makes crispy fish and chips to order. The chips are thick French fries soaked in malt vinegar and seasoned with salt. wrapped in parchment and newspaper, just like in England. Sparse decor; three tables.

      Saigon Sandwich One of the best lunch deals in the city at this hole-in-the-wall specializing in bahn mi - Vietnamese sandwiches with meat, carrots, jalapeno and cilantro tucked into a French roll. Barbecue pork and pork meatballs are standouts, but roast chicken, "fanci" pork and pate won't disappoint. 560 Larkin St. (at Eddy) (415) 474-5698. Breakfast, lunch, early dinner daily. No alcohol. 2007 (see also Wrap Delight at 426 Larkin weekdays only and Baguette Express which has sugar cane juice)

      Pagolac for 7 courses of beef (though we usually just order the raw beef salad, grilled beef, and beef with wild pepper leaf); some say better than Slanted Door This tiny restaurant has some of the freshest Vietnamese food you'll find for less than $12.The wraps - especially the grilled shrimp and sugarcane or the grilled pork - are also good choices; start with #14 shrimp salad, follow with wraps 655 Larkin St. (at Ellis); (415) 776-3234. Dinner Tues.-Sun. 2007

      Bodega Bistro 607 Larkin St at Eddy (415) 921-1218 for Vietnamese shaking beef, green papaya salad, and nems; papaya salad, roasted squab, beef, chicken or crab soup and noodles sublime; 11-3 daily Note: we walked by and this place looks a bit nicer than Turtle Tower above d├ęcor-wise

      Borobudur 700 Post St. (at Jones); (415) 775-1512. Lunch, dinner daily This restaurant straddling the Civic Center/Tenderloin neighborhood sells genuine, home-cooked Indonesian fare with traditional ingredients; flaky, multilayered roti prata with peanut dipping sauce, the sauteed string beans with dried shrimp paste, or the lamb and chicken satays. Karaoke in the evenings?!

      Thai House Express 901 Larkin btwn Cedar and Geary noon-midnight 7 days (415) 441-2248 The lesser-known dishes are our favorites at this unpretentious but politely serviced corner restaurant in the Tenderloin. Kao Pad Ka-Na Pla Kem is an anchovy lover's fried rice, a comfort dish for many Asians. Gui chai are aromatic garlic chive dumplings deep-fried, [Note: we found these too starchy and gelatinous inside] while the large salad category will reward the adventurous. Also at 599 Castro St; For noodles, larb, other salads, the Tenderloin location of Thai House Express is thought to be slightly better. (Larkin location accepts resos)

      1. re: grayelf

        Most of that seems to be copy-and-paste from SF Chronicle capsule reviews.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          As I mentioned and FWIW, it was an amalgation of snips from reviews/comments in several sources (Egullet, CH, Chron, Patricia Unterman pocket guide, Time Out SF), apart from the notes on THE and LED. Trying not to copyright infringe :-).

          1. re: grayelf

            I've enjoyed meals at every place on that list except Borobodur. Muddled flavors, lukewarm food, empty restaurant. Their set dinner was an impressive amount of food, to be sure, but after a few courses it was just more and more of the same bland stuff. To me, it's not a good value for the area.

            I much prefer eating a buffalo burger, medium rare, a few doors down at Pearl's, and then grabbing one (or two, or three) of the many amazing cocktails at Rye Bar a little further down (next door to OSHA).

    2. Since you mentioned transit...If I were you, I'd hop on BART and get off at 16th & Mission. Valencia street runs parallel to Mission and the corridor between 16th and 24th streets is teeming with bars, tasty eats, and other various bohemian delights. Great area to roam around, drink and nosh.

      1. fyi - i go to school in this area. the TL may be up and coming, but it's going to be a long time before it 'arrives.' it makes me nervous when tourists come to the TL without having an understanding of the area. be *very* mindful of your surroundings (pretty much fine in the day but a sharp eye is needed after dark), don't wear anything flashy or expensive, and watch wear you step (literally and figuratively). i wouldn't wear open toed shoes in the TL because of the ick factor.

        examples abound in the sf police department crime map:

        that is NOT to say that the TL should be avoided. there are many really great and inexpensive family run restaurants in the area (i agree particularly with pagolac, larkin express, turtle tower, thai house express, and bodega bistro, and also enjoy dottie's true blue cafe (breakfast/brunch)). i have been in school here for the past three years and regularly trek into the TL for wonderful meals (pagolac especially), but you must be careful for your personal safety.

        the civic center farmer's market is wednesdays and sundays. morty's offers a solid sandwich. gyro king has pretty good gyros. also check out reviews of farmer brown, fish & farm, saigon sandwich, asiasf (not really in the TL, but close), lahore kahari, and brenda's soul food (my friend's favorite).

        check out bourbon & branch or ambassador for drinks.

        soluna, golden house, and lalita are lousy. tulan is terrible.

        4 Replies
        1. re: artemis

          Thank you all! Great suggestions. Canteen keeps popping up, I'd love to check it out but our trip is pretty organic with little to no schedule so I'm hesitant in make a reservation. Although I have a feeling a little structure to the day may be worth it!

          As for the area I appreciate the info, as many tourists will get caught up in being away and forget to use common sense. Good thing is SO and I live downtown TO which I wouldn't compare to anywhere in San Fran, as this is my first time there, but we do have our 'street smarts' and will keep them on our trip!

          Thanks :)

          1. re: FeelinFineSunshine

            You can drop by Canteen for brunch on the weekend and lunch during the week without a reservation.

            1. re: FeelinFineSunshine

              Downtown Toronto is 100 times safer and cleaner than San Francisco. As artemis cautioned, the Tenderloin has a lot of good food and bars, but it is not where I would send unwary visitors.

              Suggest you walk around in the day time to get your bearings first. Avoid Leavenworth, esp near Market.

              1. re: Windy

                Valencia looks right up our alley, we will definatly make it a 'mission' to go there ;-) Will also try to hit up Canteen for brunch. Wish us luck in getting a seating!

                Again thank you all. This site and the people who take their time to share their opinions and suggestions is going to make our time in San Francisco all the much better (and tastier!).


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