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Coming from Louisiana

40th birthday surprise from husband - a trip to the San Francisco area (Carmel, Monterey, and Sonoma) in mid-July. Started searching for the best (unique to area) places to eat and am more confused than ever. We're on a moderate budget ($100-150 for both of us per day). We're staying in the downtown area, but will have a car and will go anywhere.
Love Italian and seafood, want a good hamburger at some point and want to avoid "touristy" dining experiences. Was considering Bar Tartine for a brunch. Any help would be appreciated. thanks!

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  1. That's awfully vague. This might help you focus your request:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/469166

    Inexpensive places in SF:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359937

    Carmel and Monterey are discussed on the California board:

    http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

    1. Wow! I thought I was being so specific - small town thinking I guess. I've seen info about Phoenix Pastificio and Pizzaiolo and might want to try one of these two for Italian??? I've read very negative reviews of the In-N-Out burger so will avoid, but would love a recommendation for a good gourmet burger (Barney's Burgers?) How about Aqua for seafood?
      I would love your opinions on the choices I've listed and thanks for replying.

      8 Replies
      1. re: denisesimon

        Skip Phoenix Pastificio and Barney's. Search this board for burgers and be prepared for confusion. It is one of the more contentious subjects and it depends on what you consider a good burger vs an upscale burger.Aqua may blow your budget but I have not been there for sometime.

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        Phoenix Pastificio
        1250 Addison St, Berkeley, CA 94702

        Aqua
        252 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Barney's Gourmet Hamburger
        1600 Shattuck Ave Ste 112, Berkeley, CA 94709

        1. re: denisesimon

          I love Pizzaiolo (it's in Oakland, but an easy drive from SF), and would definitely recommend there for dinner (call ahead and make reservations). Italian places that I really enjoy in SF are A16, Incanto, La Ciccia and Delfina. You should glance at the menus of all of these places (their websites all have menus) and do some board searches on each place to get the details on them. SF Italian tends to be more California influenced Italian, just so you know. Don't go to Aqua, it would blow your budget and it wouldn't be worth it -- go to Bar Crudo instead for great seafood in a tiny little place, very unique to SF, definitely not touristy. Zuni has a great burger, and is a very fun place for visitors and locals alike.

          1. re: JasmineG

            I believe the burger at Zuni is available until 6PM (5PM Sunday) and after 10:00pm.

            1. re: wolfe

              I LOVE Zuni's burger and incredible caesar salad.
              Eccolo, on 4th Street (very foodie area) in Berkeley has a delicious burger as well as fresh pasta. (They, like Zuni, grind their own meat.) Eccolo is what I like a restaurant to look like. You can look at their changing menu on line.

          2. re: denisesimon

            Pizzaiolo is a great choice. Very local take on Italian food, maybe the best wood-oven pizza in the area, only-in-Oakland crowd and atmosphere. Best rustic Italian in SF, Incanto, La Ciccia, A16, SPQR.

            Phoenix Pastificio moved and no longer has a restaurant. They sell pasta and baked goods wholesale and at stands at some farmers markets.

            Barney's is nothing special. Lengthy best burger discussion:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/321947

            Aqua gets very mixed marks here, check the reports in the archive.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              If you make it out to Pizzaiola, walk down the block and get a lemon square from Bakesale Betty's. You'll know you're close when you get to the ironing boards on the sidewalk.

              1. re: WCchopper

                Bakesale Betty's is closing by the time Pizzaiolo's first customers have finished dinner.

                -----
                Pizzaiolo
                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Not Saturday when I was there at around 7. That lemon bar really helped stave off the low blood sugar while we waited for our table

          3. What days exactly will you be here? If you are here on a Saturday morning, there is the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market that is highly recommended. You will also pick up some relatively inexpensive food at the vendor booths and it is a good opporutunity to get picnic supplies. Are you taking daytrips to areas outside the city or planning to spend time in those areas and return home at night?

            If you are driving down the coast to Monterray, then Duarte's Tavern in the tiny town of Pescadero is a nice stop along the way. It is not life-changing food but the artichoke soup is lovely. In that same town is Harley's Goat cheese shop which I really recommend a stop at. The little goats are in the field right outside the door and the delicious cheese is beutifully decorated with real flowers. Around the corner in the same town is Phipps a great bean shop that sells too many too count. Further down the road (not in Pescadero) is Swanton Berries. Links to all these with websitare on the Places database.
            http://www.chow.com/places/regions/1

            However, check the days of the week that they are open.

            Eh ... with all that driving ... get an In-N-Out burger on the road ... spit a double double with your husband so you can satisfy your curiousity and decide if it deserves the hype

            4 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              Will be driving down the Pacific Coast to Carmel, Monterey, et. al on a Thursday/Friday with a return to San Francisco on Saturday morning (may also drive up to Sausalito on Monday morning).
              Thanks for all the good advice and links.
              A few more possibilities????? Island Cafe? Bella Vista? or Sotto Mare instead of the too expensive Aqua???

              1. re: denisesimon

                Relatively inexpensive seafood (if that's what you have in mind):

                Alamo Square
                Anchor Oyster Bar
                Bar Crudo
                Cafe Maritime
                Fish. (Sausalito)
                Hog Island Oyster Co. (Ferry Plaza)
                La Ciccia (not strictly seafood)
                North Beach Lobster Shack
                Pesce
                Plouf (for moules-frites; other stuff's not cheap)
                Swan Oyster Depot (don't order the canned chowder)

                Plus any number of Vietnamese and Chinese places.

                1. re: denisesimon

                  Two more "moderately priced" seafood places

                  Anchor & Hope (new)
                  Hayes Street Grill (I personally think it's a bit old and tired)

                  -----
                  Hayes Street Grill
                  324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Anchor & Hope
                  83 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                  1. re: Paul H

                    Second the suggestion that you go to at least one of this trio: Incanto, La Ciccia and Delfina. Zuni would be good too. Unique and not tourist oriented.

                    Yank Sing would be a good Dim Sum experience, but can get expensive.

                    For seafood you can get a real old-time SF feel by going to Tadich or Sam's. Both are old institutions. Locals eat there, not just tourists.