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Having a hard time streamlining and deciding on dinners in SF. Here's my itinerary... Help! Please!

b
banquisha May 6, 2008 09:30 PM

I apologize ahead of time for being so geographically inept with the SF neighborhoods...

We have two days in SF and, we'd like to ultimately end up at Absinthe Bar one of the nights but, what place is best for dinner before this?
Also, for dinner, I'm having a hard time deciding between Kokkari, Town Hall, and Luella.
What would you guys do?
I'm not sure if this might be too much to do but, I'd also like to hit up Bi-Rite Creamery sometime during the trip and a wine bar after one night's dinner as well. What we're looking for in a wine bar isn't so much "good wine at cheap prices." I don't really care if its cheap or not. I just want it to be really good wine. What can I say... I'm a wine snob on vacation!

So here's my list of questions:
1) Of the three restaurants, what restaurant is closest to Absinthe? If none are close then, which of the three would be best before Absinthe? OR, would you pick another restaurant aside from the three I've chosen?
2) What wine bar is closest to the three restaurants?
3) Which restaurant is best out of three?
4) Is Absinthe even worth going to?
5) Which wine bar fits what I'm looking for best?

Here's what we've planned so far... can you please help me fit in everything that I'd like to do?
Saturday-
Breakfast: Primavera (Ferry Building)
Lunch: Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building
Dinner: (Trying to decide between Kokkari, Town Hall, and Luella)
After Dinner Bar: Absinthe

Sunday-
Brunch: Zuni Cafe
After Brunch Snack: Bi-Rite Creamery (I hear its close to Zuni, right?)
Dinner: (Trying to decide between Kokkari, Town Hall, and Luella)
After Dinner Wine Bar: (Trying to decide between Cav, Bar Tartine, 1550 Hyde, Hidden Vine, Hotel Biron)

THANK YOU HOUNDS!

  1. Chris Rising May 7, 2008 04:22 PM

    Of the restaurants you requested feedback on... all are very good. Kokkari has great lamb and great mediterranean appetizers. Fairly large restaurant in the financial district so its convenient to just about everything. I enjoy the food a lot, but don't get the sense that it's very chef driven or creative in a way your other choices are. At one point a few years back Town Hall was one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I still enjoy it a lot and it remains very popular. It would be convenient to a new wine bar on 1st called Local. Luella is a modern SF neighborhood restaurant, and a go to spot for me. The menu changes frequently as the chef/owner sees fit. It is more out of the way, Russian Hill, than your other choices. I take most of our visitors there, and most rave.

    As far as wine bars go... 1550 Hyde is a small restaurant with a good wine service. There are only 3-4 seats at the bar, so its not practical for wine only. Hotel Biron is okay. I didn't love the choices, and the room is designed to be a bit dumpy like the lobby of a 1 star hotel. Cav is great, but not open on Sundays. (Thats why I ended up at Biron.) On Polk St, which is just 2 blocks from Luella there is a lively (read crowded) wine bar called Amelie. You can't get in the door on a Fri/Sat, but it might work on a Sunday. There are a few other options on Polk as well, Bar Johnny, and a new place called of course The Wine Bar.

    Bi-Rite is worth a trip.

    1. Pei May 7, 2008 01:16 PM

      It pains me to say it, but I have to say take Hidden Vine off the list. It was recently sold, and the spirit of the place just isn't the same without the original owners. At least, not yet. I hope the new owners will get into their own groove, but right now it just has the feeling of a place that is running on inertia without anyone injecting new life into it.

      Cav has always felt a little sterile though perfectly good to me, but I love the unique feel and interesting selection at Hotel Biron. I haven't been to your other wine bar choices.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Pei
        Robert Lauriston May 7, 2008 01:22 PM

        Hidden Vine's new owners don't seem to have gotten the hang of updating the Web site, the info's from mid-February.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          b
          banquisha May 7, 2008 07:54 PM

          crossing hidden vine off my list... thanks!

          1. re: banquisha
            steve h. May 8, 2008 06:22 PM

            modest thought. go out and have fun. you'll be back.

      2. Robert Lauriston May 7, 2008 11:05 AM

        Absinthe is a restaurant. It was one of the first places to take cocktails super-seriously, but there are quite a few other places around town doing that now:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/487548

        Current topic on wine bars:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514819

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          j
          Joan Kureczka May 7, 2008 12:19 PM

          Yes, if superb cocktails are the reason for your choice of Absinthe, you could always substitute Elixir (a co-founder and sponsor with Absinthe of the SF Cocktail Week), which is very close to Bar Tartine.

          1. re: Joan Kureczka
            b
            banquisha May 7, 2008 05:41 PM

            We might need to check both out then! Thanks for the suggestion.
            The reason why I picked Absinthe in the first place, above and beyond the fact that they are very well known for their cocktails is because I've heard they have an amazing and romantic ambience. What is Elixir like, ambience wise?

        2. m
          ML8000 May 7, 2008 12:55 AM

          I'd pair Bar Tartine for dinner w/ BiRite since they're very close...and no shortage of places to find somewhere for a drink.

          Likewise, I'd pair Zuni for dinner with Absinthe for drinks, maybe Citizen Cake for dessert, all close to each other.

          I'd also skip Kokkari, Town Hall and Luella and find another place for Sunday brunch.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ML8000
            Paul H May 7, 2008 07:48 AM

            ML8000 makes good suggestions, inserted into the OP's itinerary (along with my preferences) we get:

            Saturday-
            Breakfast: Hayes Street Grill Stand (Farmer's Market)
            Lunch: Slanted Door (Ferry Building)
            Dinner: Zuni
            After Dinner Bar: Absinthe
            Dessert: Citizen Cake

            Sunday-
            Brunch: The Terrace at the Ritz Carlton
            After Brunch Snack: You won't need one
            Dinner: Bar Tartine / Bi-Rite Creamery
            After Dinner Wine Bar: Conduit

            1. re: Paul H
              b
              banquisha May 7, 2008 07:49 PM

              Thanks for helping me update my itinerary!! Here is what I've done, mostly based on yours and ML800's suggestions:
              Saturday-
              B: Haye's Street Grill Stand/Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building
              L: Slanted Door
              Snack: Citizen Cake
              D: Zuni
              Bar: Absinthe

              Sunday-
              Brunch: Boulette's Larder
              Snack: Bi-Rite Creamery
              D: Salt House
              Wine Bar: (TBD)

          2. Dave MP May 6, 2008 10:48 PM

            Bi-Rite is almost exactly 1 mile from Zuni - the walk would take me about 20 minutes at a medium pace, since it's pretty flat. Definitely not more than 25 mins. In a taxi or on the bus, it would be even faster (2-5 mins). If it's a nice day, Dolores Park is a fun San Francisco attraction to enjoy as you eat your ice cream (Bi Rite is located right next to the park).

            2 Replies
            1. re: Dave MP
              b
              banquisha May 7, 2008 05:38 PM

              For some reason, I had thought that Zuni was across or down the street, less than a block or two from Bi-Rite! Thanks for the heads up :)

              1. re: banquisha
                steve h. May 7, 2008 06:45 PM

                i believe you're thinking of cav wine bar.

            2. Ruth Lafler May 6, 2008 09:50 PM

              It might help to know what criteria you used to narrow down your choices to the trio of Kokkari, Town Hall or Luella. What, exactly, are you looking for in your dinner choices?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                b
                banquisha May 7, 2008 05:36 PM

                What I was looking for was a crowd pleaser. My husband can be a picky eater, and we have another couple joining us. One of the two is not very adventurous.
                Sent hubby and the other couple menus and had them filter out the list...

              2. JasmineG May 6, 2008 09:47 PM

                Why did you choose Kokkari, Town Hall, and Luella? I like Kokkari a lot, but it wouldn't be on my list for one of two dinners in San Francisco, and while Town Hall is fine, it definitely wouldn't be on my list (I haven't been to Luella). Bar Tartine is more of a full service restaurant than a wine bar, and I'd go there for dinner before either Kokkari and Town Hall. Bi-Rite isn't particularly near Zuni, it's probably a 30-45 minute walk away. Of the wine bars that you've selected, I'd choose Cav, but then I haven't been to the last two.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JasmineG
                  b
                  banquisha May 7, 2008 05:34 PM

                  Hi there. Thanks for the tip re: Bar Tartine being more of a dinner place and Zuni's location in regards to Bi-Rite.
                  How I came about picking Kokkari, Town Hall, and Luella is this:
                  I had a very large list of other restaurants (including all the bars mentioned). I sent my husband this large list and had him look over the menu to see where he'd rather go. Filter #2 was the other couple that will be dining with us.
                  So, after all the filters went through, Town Hall and Luella were the winners. Also, they needed to have tables available at the time we wanted to go.

                  1. re: banquisha
                    Robert Lauriston May 8, 2008 09:37 AM

                    I'm not sure how you're judging when tables are available, but be aware that many restaurants often have tables available for reservation by phone that don't show up on opentable.

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