Windy's month of lunches 2008
Imagine my frustration returning to the Financial District two years later only one block from where I last ate!
I've been downtown on and off this year, and am now settled in at Market and Fremont. In two years, the average price of a muffin or a cup of tea has risen from $1.25 to $2+, and salads are topping $10. Many more organic offerings especially in the chicken breast family, and of course all manner of quasi-green containers and cutlery.
I have been pleasantly surprised at how cheerful most lunch purveyors are at peak hours, dishing out the turkey sandwiches and bowls of soup.
None of these is meant to be a full review. I'm determined to eat somewhere new almost every day at least until I run out places. Except that I want to go back to Muracci's on Monday.
In general order of preference.
New to me:
• Muracci's Japanese Curry on Kearny. Every bit as good as has been reported. Maybe better. I don't even like curry, and I would happily stand in line for half an hour for a container of that sauce. I had the pork katsu with brown rice (and then took the leftover sauce home and made two more meals). The green tea jelly roll like things were good too. Good luck finding it btw. I had the address and walked by it twice.
• Paladar Cuban on the same block. The $6.50 half sandwich and soup of the day take out special is an amazing deal. Soups can be a bit bland but homemade with care. I love their Cubano. Excellent cortadito, the best coffee I've had downtown aside from Blue Bottle Cafe. I've tried their picadillo and enjoyed eating in too, although it costs more. Warm service. Full bar?
• Boxed Foods Company on Kearny. Call ahead! You can wait 20 minutes in line, and then they make everything to order. Excellent salads, although I love the BLT. Blue Bottle Coffee.
• Morning Brew on Sansome. Looseleaf teas, incredibly good eggs and bacon and cheese on a bagel or muffin, respectable pork bahn mi ($5). I haven't tried the coffee or tapioca drinks. A warning that teas are steeped in flimsy paper cups, and I scalded myself quite badly.
• Mixt Greens on Battery. The kind of place I'd love to hate, encouraging $15 lunches and endless choice, and long lines. But the food's awfully good. I had a Kobe meatloaf sandwich but really wanted the salad with the oranges and toasted pecans. Also a beautiful place to sit, rare downtown.
• Power Source on Fremont. $6 juices? Quinoa? all I know is I was exhausted from cough medicine, and I got the organic chicken breast bowl with whole grains and peanut sauce and greens, and it tasted healthy. This is more about shopping than cooking, but in a sea of sandwiches and hot dogs, a virtuous (and tasty) choice.
• Bun Heaven at Pine and Battery. A weird corner, and a too huge menu of burgers, sausages, and cheesesteaks. I went with the latter ($6.75), which was fine, and immediately regretted it after I saw the hot dog toppings. Super friendly employees. They were playing "Carwash," and everyone was dancing--seriously. I'll be back for the chicken apple sausage.
• Sausalito Espresso on Beale and Mission. Again, gracious owner. I had a shwarma salad, which was just chopped chicken. But the salad part was fresh and plentiful, and the other Middle Eastern offerings looked appealing. Ahmad teas--always a good sign.
• Tokyo Express Sushi off Mission. I got a sushi combo B. Sushi was mediocre especially the rice. Hamachi was clearly frozen. Surly bussers, with signs on the tables trying to guilt you into leaving a tip for self-service. Tables were not clean. Avoid.
• I had a cold my first week on the job and headed right to Tea Garden for their extraordinary won ton soup. It took forever--are they really frying shallots in a broom closet for $4.95?--but it was as luscious as I remembered. Disconcerting to eat there, facing yourself in a giant mirror. Has anyone tried the new pig's trotter soup ($6.95)?
• Thanks to Ruth Lafler for sending me to Focaccia three years ago and posting about the quarter chicken with two sides special ($4.95). I went late, and they were almost out of sides! I was not there for the zucchini. But when I pouted, the chef went next door for a giant scoop of amazing mashed potatoes. I asked if it was all butter and cream, and he said no, high quality roasted potatoes. Great cookies by the register too. Succulent roast chicken--hard to beat, when you need a little Thanksgiving in May.
• Another day I tried the Thai chicken noodle soup at Happy Donuts. I needed a quiet place to read the paper, and my soup arrived in moments. They enthusiastically offered sri racha. Not the best item I've had from their cooked menu, but huge, fresh, and aromatic. ($5ish)
• Birley Sandwiches. Appalling crowd, kind employees, perfect roast beef with horseradish sauce, made to order $6.
• Lee's turkey and avocado leaves you enough money left over to buy a fruit salad and potato chips for under $7.
• Cafe Algiers has a line out the door for their huge sandwiches (under $5). I tried the meatball with provolone; not Italian, but recommended. Looseleaf teas in tins, and their famous coffee drinks, as impeccable as when I first had them 10+ years ago. Espresso is best in the a.m. or after the lunch rush.
• Golden Gate Meats defied the friendly service rule, or the good value proposition. $7 for a pastrami sandwich on a roll. No vegetables, no pickle bar, no wishes of a great weekend, just well seasoned meat and a napkin. You can have a salad for dinner. Good luck finding a place to sit by Book Passage.
• Yank Sing 2 Go at Rincon Center. We got two combos and a walnut and cabbage salad for ~$21 for two. Quality of dumplings, noodles, and buns varied wildly. The same dim sum as inside, just older? Har gow were delicious, as was the crunchy salad. I remember the branch on Stevenson being better, but I'd rather sit by the waterfall.
Better than I remembered:
• Kamakura on Beale. I got the spicy pork and vegetables bento box ($6.95, free tea). Run by two kindly women, and always quiet with room to read the paper. At Kamakura on Battery, I always got the tempura and teriyaki combo bento box. This was better.
• Seller's Market on Front. As chaotic as ever, with too many items on the menu, too many $12 salads, and horrible seating options and line management. But my tofu peanut vegetable salad was excellent, and everyone who worked there was so damned happy I left smiling. Nice to be called by name instead of number. Maybe it's just the bad feng shui, living in a triangle. But I doubt it. How's the Cobb salad?
• Il Massimo Cafe, formerly one of my favorite haunts. The prosciutto sandwich was overdone in the press, music wasn't as good, and they've taken out the couches that made this so stylish. Sigh.
Oh, and for farmer's market fans, there are unusual baked goods Thursdays at Crocker Galleria. The seasonal fruit's pricey, but I'm there for the pretzels.
Any recommendations for next month? On my list: Front Door Cafe, Carla's, Lightening Foods, Best O Burger, Sawaii Sushi, and the gyro place on Battery, and revisiting the teriyaki burger at beloved tiny Oishii. Points for any place with seating and fewer than 50 choices on the menu.
Links to 2005-6 are in this thread:
Place records to follow if I get bored enough.
I want to put a vote out for Front Door Cafe, which I have the pleasure of walking by every morning. I only go for breakfast but I've heard good things for lunch too.
The breakfast burrito and the breakfast sandwiches are superb. These guys cook the egg in front of you, on a grill/thing. No microwave, no pre-cooked cake. The other ingredients in the breakfast burrito aren't gourmet quality by far, but the combination of ingredients in the breakfast burrito (egg, cheese, hash brown, sausage/bacon, salsa), is really heavenly.
That wasn't a lunch comment but wanted to link also.
Front Door Cafe
1 Front St Lbby 2, San Francisco, CA 94111
I have to dissent with people on John's Snack and Deli, the Korean burrito/taco place. It sure has been getting a lot of play on CH and Tablehopper and other places, but I think it's kind of a failure. The guy is really nice, its true, but they barely put any kimchi on your taco, and they don't put 2 tortillas on the taco so it falls apart immediately. Seems like real bad execution.
Kitchenette was serving Korean tacos today. What is up with that? How did this trend arise and how can we tamp it down? i don't get it.
[My beef tacos were actually quite tasty, the beef was really good, but I did not get any discernably Korean flavor kick. And the wait was looonnnng. They seemed to have some production problems today. Sigh.]
I thought the burrito was okay to try - I ate the whole thing, but don't think I'd have a craving for it. If I were to order it again, I'd get it without the lettuce (soggy lettuce in burritos drives me nuts). The bits of kimchee in the burrito were a highlight.
The sondoobu and the kim bap were really good. I could have used more heat in the soondoobu, and have heard you can ask for it to be made spicy. It looks like they make the soup to order and besdes plenty of tofu, it had a whole egg. Has anyone had the Kimchee fried rice omelette? Am thinking about trying that next.
I kept meaning to finish up this thread, since I got a new job. (See the new SOMA lunch thread).
Before I left, I did have two more noteworthy expense account meals. Fortunately I didn't pay for either.
The lunch buffet at Gaylord's in Embarcadero One was quite decent. Not a huge variety, but everything hot and fresh. Tandoori chicken and lamb biriyani recommended. The Indians I ate with were less impressed. $14 all you can eat. Good service (and you can order off the dinner menu).
Finally, friends took me to La Mar for my going away lunch. We sat outside and drank chicha morada and VOSS water and sampled all the (tiny bites of ) ceviches. Excellent lomo saltado and anticuchon, although the free potato chips were the best thing on the table. The special of the day was a Peruvian paella. Desserts lovely too. A fine place to sit and drink and forget your woes (and the prices on the menu). The perfect $60 lunch.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111
Another spot to add to the list is Sweet Joanna's on Howard between Main and Spear. They roast a whole turkey every morning and then use it to pump out hot turkey sandwiches with avocado and bacon for lunch. The guy behind the counter takes a ton of pride in each sandwich and it shows. They offer you the choice of dark meat or white meat or a combination of both. They have a great salad bar and extensive sandwich selection but the turkey sandwich is the real star here. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Way back in October, when we were in Fresno for the Hunan banquet, I was horrified to learn that the reason people knew my handle was from these lunch posts. As if anyone would eat overpriced, mediocre lunch in the Financial District willingly!
But since then I've managed to hit a few more spots and expand the radius, thanks to a second office location.
Best lunch was dim sum at City View. I've wanted to try this for some time, but with half an hour, I usually end up with $6 takeout from New Hong Kong. Three of us showed up yesterday, the Friday before Christmas, to half empty tables for two and a waiting horde. The staff was unwilling to add a chair or accommodate us in any way. We put our names on the list and went in search of better options.
Around the corner, Jai Yun was empty and open, but we learned lunch like dinner is multiple courses chosen by the chef ($18/25/more. Has anyone been?).
So we headed back to City View and waited. After we were finally seated, I discovered one of my co-workers is a vegetarian. The first 10 trays to go by all had shrimp and pork, and I was both hungry and beginning to despair when we flagged down a young waiter.
From this point on, more than one person brought us vegetarian options: spinach dumplings (excellent, if slightly thick wrappers), mushroom dumplings (pronounced gummy so I didn't try them), perfect steamed asparagus with soy and sesame, sesame balls, and finally vegetarian egg rolls, crisp and delicious. On the carnivore side, we shared siu mai (okay), pea shoot and shrimp dumplings (lovely), steamed pork buns (fine).
Total came to $45 for 3 with tip. Not as great as Yank Sing at its heights, but few clunkers and many dumplings to satisfy, including at least 20 more kinds we didn't try. Efficient service once you get a seat. Thumbs up.
I strolled to lunch one day at the Unicorn, an offshoot of the Berkeley pan-Asian restaurant, where I'd previously enjoyed dinner. I was promptly shunted to the worst seat in the back corner, except perhaps the opposite corner where another sole diner was hidden. This really annoyed me--the place was half empty, so it was clearly deliberate. The food is pretty pricey, with entrees up to $20 for weekday lunch. I chose the least expensive clay pot at $11 or $12 and disappointed my junior server by not ordering wine. No one checked on me ever. It took forever to get my check.
Despite all this, the chicken clay pot with rice was succulent--especially after I asked for hot sauce to spice it up a little. Made me want to return to Perilla as a comparison. And I'm still not sure if I'd go back to Unicorn unless I had $30, an hour to kill, and some friends to ensure a decent table. Definitely don't go alone unless you want to be treated poorly.
I ventured into the Beale Street branch of Portico on a cold rainy day and talked the friendly guy behind the counter into giving me a combo of spaghetti and meatballs and caesar salad. The spaghetti could easily have fed a family of 4. Cafeteria food definitely, but served with a smile, for under $7.
Finally, thanks to the pointers on homemade kim bap at John's. They're my new favorite snack. The tofu stew is a hearty rainy day special. And as noted, he's a great guy, if you ever need a bit of friendly cheer in your workday.
More noontime adventures downtown in the new year.
City View Restaurant
662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Unicorn Pan Asian Cuisine
191 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
245 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Moving slightly north has its advantages, namely variety.
My favorite spot this month was New Hong Kong on Commercial. Noodles with spicy meat and bok choy was a huge serving (don't ask what kind of meat), served with a delicious complimentary soup, a bowl of broth to dispel the spiciness, hot tea, and a free watermelon tapioca dessert. Friendly, efficient service. For under $7 with a tip. What should I order next?
We had decent fish tacos at Tlaloc, where you can spend the whole day fumbling with containers at the salsa bar. Tip: there's a separate register inside for takeout orders, despite the line snaking out the door. Not Mission or Fruitvale taco prices, and can take a while, but good stuff.
I tried a middle eastern sampler plate from Manhattan Hub, which was only so so. Cheese steaks seem to the winner here, along with the outdoor tables. Any recommendations?
The new Peet's on Sansome is airy and beautiful, well suited to a business meeting. Unfortunately it's another of their dumbed down stores--more tea bags, no rare teas.
lschow and I stopped in at the original Henry's Hunan on Sacramento for my favorites: #1 rice plate with smoked ham, cold chicken noodles, peanuts, and cucumber salad, and Diana's meat pie. Enough for an army for $20. Salty (get that diet Coke, you won't regret it), greasy, good, with fast friendly service.
Soup and salad at Palio Paninoteca were pricey and not especially satisfying. I had a huge bowl of butternut squash soup for $4 and a side of pasta salad with veggies for $3.75. Pasta was hard. Something not quite right about this place for a relaxing lunch, but maybe there are better choices?
Wells Fargo's corporate cafe advertises the Indian chef and his famous butter chicken on Thursdays. It was pretty tasty for $6.75--not spicy but juicy boneless chicken, lovely pickle, decent samosa, cauliflower--served by a Sikh. I passed the cheerful chef in the hall. The elevator smelled of warm naan. Not sure if this is open to the public.
Another disappointing stop at Thai Corner Cafe. Everything looks so good. The ladies are so nice. But the flavors are bland and everything tastes the same. Maybe I should come earlier. Maybe I should order something different. It's cheap enough. And yet...
674 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111
New Hong Kong Menu
667 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111
505 Montgomery St # 1, San Francisco, CA
Tlaloc Sabor Mexicano
525 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111
343 Sansome St Ste 140, San Francisco, CA 94104
I (sanchow/lschow, whatever!) went back to Henry's Hunan this week with a friend, and we each ordered the cold chicken noodles (#2 noodle dish). She tried our leftovers from our trip last month, and we had both been dreaming about them ever since. I'm glad it's so close!
What do you think of Specialty's? The people at work like to order from there.
I have sworn off Specialties. Their sandwiches have so much lubrication (mayonnaise, spreadable cheese, avocado) that the bread gets soggy quickly and the fillings slip around in a gummy mess. And their cookies -- tasty as they are -- are all margarine, last time I asked.
For a really good sandwich nearby, try Bocadillo's $8 lunch special -- two small sandwiches and a side salad.
re: david kaplan
I agree that Specialties stuff smells and looks much better than it tastes. Their house-baked breads are like baloon bread (I got a turkey cranberry sandwich on "multigrain", which is basically white air bread w/a few flecks of brown here and there. Turkey was stone cold and tasteless, and there was gobs of oversweetened, canned cranberry sauce.
Their cinnamon rolls are huge and good looking, but again, nothing special. BTW, the best cinnamon rolls are from Destination Bakery in Glen Park.
re: david kaplan
Once, when Specialties catered a lunch at my office, the sandwiches had finger indentations in the bread from whoever arranged them on the platter. The problem wasn't just too much mayo -- it was also squishy bread and careless handling. I just don't think much love goes into their food.
I have always found the panini at Palio to be the main attraction; I particularly like the tuna. The servers will ask if you want it grilled or not, which is a nice option. As for the salads, I usually like the vegetable ones, they have a green bean salad that I really like, and any of their pasta salads with the creamy (and very garlicky) dressing.
Thanks Leadbelly--will give the panini a shot.
I was back at Tlaloc Friday and finally paid attention to the prices. $4.50 for a taco? $5.25 for a crispy taco? !! They're stuffed with meat, but it's a classic example of a place I would boycott in the Mission because of the cost. While in the Financial District, I barely notice.
Another month, and my radius got smaller.
We did have lunch at Perilla. It was full that day, and we had to wait. We shared the crispy chicken salad, which I loved, and the garlic noodles with prawns, which were okay. It reminded me of Pho Hoa in Embarcadero in terms of the quality of meat (decent, huge), but with warmer service and better plates. Not cheap--we spent ~$35 for two including two lemonades. But worth a stop if you're nearby.
Made quick revisits to HotWokExpress and Sapphire for steam table Chinese. Sapphire's quality isn't what it was when they opened. But a lot of variety. Both cheap and filling.
Fortunately I'm working at another office two days a week, so I look forward to broadening the quest north a little, around Sansome and Sacramento.
Forgot one: I stopped in for sliders at Foccacia's Grill(formerly their burger spot). They have a flexible bunch of items they'll grill--chicken, marinated fish, kabobs, burgers. Cooked to order, good fries, reasonably priced. Excellent pickle slices.
Focaccia Cafe & Bakery
119 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Another month...but who's counting? July required a little branching out--breakfast sandwiches, more coffee, frozen yogurt. Few great finds, but a few surprising discoveries.
- As noted on the froyo thread, I really enjoy the plain yogurt at Caffe Ambrosia, topped with sliced mangos. The owners are unpretentious and accommodating, handing out samples, blending multiple flavors, generous with the toppings, and prices are modest ($2.25-2.75 for a junior or small, which are both plenty big).
-Picking up my yogurt on Trinity Place, I noticed Enzo's next door, a cozy cafe with slices of Sicilian pizza, salads, and foccacia sandwiches. The owner greets everyone as a friend. There are no more than five tables, and you can sit on the sidewalk. My pizza wasn't memorable, although the sauce wasn't bad, and the salad was fin. Modest prices. I'd go back, especially if I knew whether the calzone was good.
-Along with a Blue Bottle macchiato (Roman blend), I picked up a sausage and vegetables sandwich and Copa Loca gelato at the lovely Jackson Square Cafe. If I worked a little closer, I would come here every day. The sandwich was excellent, considering it's made in a kiosk no bigger than a Fotomat. Very tempting tiny cookies, which I resisted considering how many treats I'd had that week.
Other stops on the coffee circuit: after an unremarkable but healthy lunch at Arabi in Rincon Center (still my favorite place in there besides Yang Sing, despite the ordinariness of the food), I spread out for a while at NaS cafe for an organic cappuccino. Decent, not overly bitter, served with a smile.
I had never been to the Tully's on Fremont (in 425 Market). Good place for business meetings. Lots of comfortable chairs, attractive snacks, salads and juice in the case, and ice cream. A single cappuccino cost $2.60 with a 10 cent discount because I drank it there in a mug, a nice genuinely environmental touch. The guy who made it even checked afterward to see if I was happy. (If only the beans were richer tasting...but it was well prepared.) Tully's has clearly gotten the message that they need to innovate to compete with Starbucks. In terms of overall experience, from the wifi to the leather chairs and spacious tables, I was very impressed.
The guys on the next aisle get breakfast burritos on Thursdays, so I tagged along to check out Beale Street Diner's offering. For $3.80, I got a huge burrito stuffed with chorizo and a little egg. It was greasy, filling (I finished half and could barely eat lunch), and hit the spot. Too much chorizo though. Next time I'll try the veggie version.
Suddenly I noticed breakfast burrito signs everywhere. This led me to try the breakfast sandwich, offered all day, at Specialty's on Market and Battery. I got a Denver omelet for $3.95 (plus tax--still can't figure out why muffins aren't taxed and breakfast burritos are from the same take out window). It took a little too long, which I think means it was made to order. Perfectly cooked, not overly greasy, and I wasn't hungry again until 2.
I did worse with burgers. I really wanted to like Flames, but they were out of Mediterranean burgers, my medium rare beef burger without mayo arrived well done with mayo, and the giant battered onion rings had no redeeming qualities. They do offer breakfast though. People around me got the falafel and gyros. Maybe this was my mistake.
A chicken peanut burger at Bistro Burger reminded why I hadn't been there in 3 years despite its proximity to my office. That with a soda and onion rings came to nearly $12. They do have a fair amount of seating, and despite my frustrations, the chicken breast was juicy and flavorful. Still, I'm not rushing back. Despite the better quality ingredients for the burger, it feels like expensive fast food.
In the don't go there category, I finally gave Sushi Bune, the kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi place a try. It was late in the lunch hour, but almost nothing that went by was appetizing--an awful lot of mystery fried nuggets and rolls with too much mayo. I got three safe plates (one of them tamago), drank my Diet Coke, paid my $7.60 and fled. I noticed a couple of patrons ordering from a menu, which presumably got them fresher fish from the Mexican chef.
I also tried to go to Sawaii Sushi, but it was too chaotic, and I couldn't figure out the line or system. Any recommendations?
Finally in the place I've walked by a million times but never gone in category, I got a competent turkey club at Regency Deli on California. Sandwiches aren't cheap (~$7.25 versus 5 at Toaster Over), but they have Greek food too. And breakfast sandwiches. Comfortable seating, old fashioned hosts. I went to a place like this (although it might have been where Rado's is) 20 years ago as a tourist, at the cable car turnaround. You could do a lot worse.
Discovery of the month: tiny Oishii cafe on Market sells Patisserie Phillipe fruit bread pudding ($3.50? I wasn't paying attention I was so pleased). The sweet guy who works there also works at the Patisserie. This was a divine bread pudding, moist, with berries, cinnamon, and lots of vanilla.
14 Trinity Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104
101 Spear St # 222, San Francisco, CA
201 Mission St # 110, San Francisco, CA
Sawaii is in my regular lunchtime rotation. The people there are very nice. Usually I get the gyu-don, but sometimes I do the bento box with broiled salmon. I like the seaweed salad, the cucumber and avocado rolls and the california rolls (not generally hot on the other rolls).
Naan 'n' Chutney on Third between Harrison and Bryant is good. Mehfil and Chaat Cafe are a bit closer to the FiDi.
There's a Naan 'n' Curry on Jackson near Columbus. Also a place called Tandoori Mahal near there.
I presume you've tried Gaylord?
533 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
320 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Mehfil Indian Cuisine
600 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Naan N' Chutney - CLOSED
474 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Gaylord India Restaurant
1 Embarcadero Ctr Ste Pl3, San Francisco, CA 94111
941 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
I don't think there's much good Indian downtown, and most of Robert's recommendations are beyond my personal radius. (Also, if you're in Mountain View, you probably have better Indian food there--I can't stand bad Indian food.)
Hop on BART to Powell and go to the lunch buffet at Sultan on O'Farrell and Taylor for $12. Naan N Curry is next door.
Also I think there is/was an Indian restaurant in Rincon Center. Is there one at Westfield Centre?
re: Robert Lauriston
Thanks all - I actually ate at the Indian place in Rincon Center yesterday, and it was mediocre, being very charitable.
I'll check to see if some of the other recommendations are in walking distance. I have walked to the Columbus area so Naan'N'Curry is probably doable from my office at One Market.
BTW, the "MV" is not Mountain View, but Mill Valley, so I'm more North Bay centric ;-)
re: Robert Lauriston
If you're cruising up to Kearny and the Chinatown area, you're just steps away from Siam Kitchen on Sacramento just below Kearny. My recommendation there (and the only thing I've ever ordered in easily over 100 trips there since the mid-90s) is the claypot rice (#18 unless they've changed their menus). It's more Chinese than Thai, but it's a heavenly mix of rice cooked in a claypot with chicken, Chinese sausage, shrimp, mushrooms and some cilantro sprigs layered on top. The rice gets crispy similar to Korean dol sot bi bim bap. Summer's not necessarily the best season to enjoy, but any cool day will work just fine to fully enjoy this comfort food.
668 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111
As I recently started working downtown at 1st & Market, these reports have been invaluable - thank you. Really looking forward to eating my way through the FiDi, and it's always neat to spot a place as I stalk the streets midday and recognize it from these reports.
Now my question - has anyone by the luck of God run into pupusas in these parts?
I'm guessing not, but that would make my Friday and then some.
re: Annie S.
El Faro on Kearny has papusas but I haven't yet dared to try them...could be more dissapointing than not having papusas.
Side note: I've been in love with Soup Freaks for lunch (one at Mission & New Montgomery and one on Pine near Battery, I think); they have a very tasty mushroom soup with a rosemary broth occasionally - you can look up the days specials online before you bother heading over there - and the pesto on the veggie sandwich got so addictive I figured out how to make it at home.
The tacos at el Faro are not my favorite. I hate to say it - the ladies are nice. The corn tortillas are store bought. The carnitas have the crunch, but not the softness. The lengua is bland. The carne asada is burrito-quality, but not taco worthy.
The breakfast burrito is solid; it wont knock your socks off but is serviceable.
re: Mr. S
I've really like the breakfast burrito since working in area in the mid 80's. How can you go wrong with bacon, jalapenos and that soupy bean sauce?
On a recent escape from Oracle World, I tried the chile relleno burrito. It tasted exactly like what it was, a chile relleno wrapped in a tortilla w rice and beans. It was kind of bland and would have benefited from a major application of salsa. The relleno itself was buttery and fine.
Hmm, I hadn't noticed them on their menu before. As you say, this is a disconcerting possibility. I've walked twice now into El Faro, gotten in line, and then left 45 seconds later after not being able to ignore a final wave of enormous doubt. Things look a little grim. However, I was skimming the Yelp reviews for the El Faro on 1st briefly before today's lunch and amongst a good deal of negative posts, there were some very enthusiastic reports about the breakfast burrito. (Alas, it was 1pm, and hankering for a simple sandwich I went to Lee's - where I received a turkey sandwich with no turkey. I was never one of those people to crane their head over the counter to ensure that all was right in the world of sandwich-building, but that might change.) I will report back on the papusa situation to be sure.
New to me:
• Sentinel. I finally understand what the fuss is about, almost enough to trek over to New Montgomery and plunk down my $11.50 for no choice. Canteen has always left me disappointed--and it's the kind of place I want to love. I've been to Sentinel twice for the lunch special. Cured salmon with green beans and avocado was subtle and glorious. Chicken salad much less impressive. But it's the desserts that made me swoon. Once a rhubarb and berry compote (with mulling spices?) that made me scrape every drop out of my eco-friendly carton. I nearly abandoned work to call and find out what was in it and beg for another portion. Another time a polenta rice pudding.
• Boccalone in the Ferry Building. Like Incanto, hints of greatness coupled with frustration that this is not a meal and it costs too much. Despite being the only customer, it took three people 10 minutes to help me get a three-meat assortment, which for $9.50 is served without bread or even a lettuce leaf (although the mustard is excellent). I picked up an epis over at Acme. Ciccioli, a delicate terrine, is sensational. A huge slice of Lonza was too much fat by itself; I like my heart. Salame pepato was okay. Their meats are exceptional, just not really lunch. But if you want an antipasti platter at home, you're talking.
• Chez Carla. There is a reason the spicy chicken sandwich (or any of Carla's sandwiches which come with a tossed to order salad) is famous. They are very very good. Attentive employees, excellent bread, delicious veggies, and huge portions for $6.95. This despite terrible feng shui! Twice I walked in, looked at the board, the salad bar, the mass of people and ran out. Don't make my mistake.
• John's Snack Shop for bi bim bop. Thanks for this recommendation. Greasy, brightly colored, flavorful with an egg fried on a burner behind the news counter, just like in Asia. Hit the spot on a foggy day. And they have round take out containers.
• banh mi from Les Croissants. They were out of meatball, so I ended up with that weird steamed pork. But the bread was crusty, pickles generous and crunchy, and only a trace of mayo. $3.75, which for the Financial District is a deal. How are any of the other fillings?
• YoCup in Rincon Center. Popular, friendly owner, cute toppings, but the yogurt was too sweet and not tangy enough. $3.50 for a small with one topping.
• Toaster Oven on 2nd. What a production! Kind of exhausting line, with too many choices. Still $4.95 for a high quality sandwich made to order is hard to beat. I had meatball, with the bread hollowed out, which meant it fell apart as I ate it. Their house-cured peppers alone are worth a visit. Not a great place to sit, although they do have seating. Anyone checked out the branch on Spear?
• Caffe Ida and Peet's in Embarcadero BART. Caffe Ida is a tiny window on Sacramento that serves Caffe Trieste coffee. A $3 cappuccino was too harsh for my taste. A free coupon for Peet's meant an afternoon trip into the BART station. The employees were hopeless, despite the fact that I was their only customer! They had tea samples I could sniff but not order--they only have tea bags. The woman behind the counter said something irrelevant, like they're a subfranchise, so they can't get loose tea from the Peet's branch directly up the escalator. Skip these clowns and head over to my new favorite coffee bargain: $1.25 for a perfect macchiato at Cafe Algiers.
• Pho Hoa in Embarcadero 1. Better than I remembered. Service is still haphazard and takes longer than it should. Huge portions. Rice vermicelli with pork and imperial rolls is perfect. Fresh lemonade on a hot summer's day...Runs ~$13 with tip.
• Golden Gate Fish in the Ferry Building. I had a fried soft shell crab po boy for $9. Hard to fault but not divine, made me wish it came with something.
• Thai Corner. Don't go after 1, when there are only two or three choices left. Bland food, served kindly. Not bad, just not very Thai.
• Thai2Go in Rincon Center. Looks better than it tastes. Still, 3 for $8 is a decent deal, and they have a few choices with vegetables.
• What's Up Dog on Beale and Howard. Got a kielbasa with grilled onions. Sat outside in the wind, pointed out they forgot my onions, waited while they refried them, ate my chips, drank my soda. Added mustard and sauerkraut, and watched my newspaper blow in the wind. Not a lot of health food for $5, but they know their dogs and buns.
• Yank Sing on Richardson. This was probably the best meal of the month. It was certainly the most expensive, at $65 for two before tip. Fried soft shell crabs were delectable; we fought over every last leg and fried chiles with garlic. Xiao long bao pricey but delicious. We upgraded our tea to pu errh, and repeatedly resisted attempts by the staff to push black cod. Fine shu mai and har gow. Spinach dumplings had too thick skins. Surely we had more? Go when someone else is treating you.
One note on the explosion of creativity in eco-friendly packaging (a contradiction in terms). Most places insist on handing you a fork, napkin, bag, which even if they're recyclable are still unneeded. I've enjoyed many of the boxes, no two the same, enough to wash them out and take them home to reuse. Even brought my lunch once or twice in them. Sentinel and Boccalone's boxes are particularly nice.
200 Pine St Ste 180, San Francisco, CA 94104
2 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Toaster Oven Sandwich Shop
145 2nd St, San Francisco, CA
55 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105
101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Pho Hoa Noodle Soup
101 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Thai Corner Express
545 Sansome St Ste 4, San Francisco, CA 94111
Hi Windy - Check out the Korean lunch specials at John's Snack & Deli (owned by Min Park) on Battery between Market & Pine. The food is mostly homemade (by Min's mom). Ask Min for recommendations - he's a great guy and can tell you what's particularly good that day. They also have great breakfast sandwiches in the morning.
John's Snack and Deli
40 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111
I noticed they're serving a small selection of Korean lunch specials also at the Store On The Corner (from what I can figure out, that's what it's actually called), a smoke shop/convenience store right across from Chipotle on New Montgomery. Looks like it's homemade food as well best I can tell. I'm not a Korean food expert by any means, but the bulgogi tasted fine to me (probably should've taken some of the hot sauce to liven things up). Dishes are in the $6 range and include rice and a salad.
This is a really helpful list, I am going to start trying more of these places!
One question - I get the sense that most of these are places you order at the counter and then they may or may not have seating. I'm looking for ideas of where to meet a friend for lunch where they have table service but is not too expensive. Perry's on Sutter used to be my typical spot for something like that, not because it was great but it was OK for the price range. There's another place I go in that same block on Sutter but I can't think of the name (a door or two West from the post office). Let's say entrees under $15, where you can order a glass of wine and have a reasonably quick lunch. Location - anywhere between the Embarcadero and Kearney within a block or two of Market. In this case I'm not thinking of Asian food. Any ideas?
Metropol is the place LauriLF is thinking of.
The options for table service but not expense account prices usually mean pretty ordinary food (Osha Thai in Embarcadero 1, The Window on Pine near Front, Yank Sing for better food but a splurge).
Paladar does have table service and a liquor license, and is highly recommended if you haven't been. Be sure to try the coffee.
Another month goes by.
New to me:
• Hadi's Cafe on Battery. I stopped in for the branded Kronos gyro special with fries and a soda. Tasty if processed "meat" served in Kronos-logo paper. Friendly people, cheap lunch (under $7), clean tables. Get the spicy sauce.
• Front Street Cafe inside One Front has cheap sandwiches, salads, and soups. Fast and friendly. I had a half-turkey sandwich with a bowl of tortilla soup and was given a choice of light or dark meat; I took both. Under $5.
• Best O Burger. There's still a line, but it moves fast. I got a bag of two sliders with 50 cents extra for lettuce, ripe tomato, and pickles for $6. I like my meat rare, so these are a little overdone, but they're flavorful enough. Knockout onion rings, good luck if they last all the way back to your office. Next time I'll skip the fries. Any word on their gelato?
• Sushi Fantastic. Decent lunch time option. There's always a special under $10. Order at the counter, and they deliver to your table. Not exceptional, but fresh fish and comfortable seating.
• Next door, I was happy with the chicken salad at Spazio, although I really wanted to pick at the fresh turkey carcass behind the counter. (They said no.) $6.95 is higher than several of the sandwiches above but cheaper than $9 at Sellers Market. What else is good? There were several Korean options along with a not exciting salad bar and two boards of sandwiches.
• On a hot afternoon, I stopped in at Leah's for a small frozen yogurt. With sprinkles, it came to $4.55. I like ice cream and other frozen treats, but this $5 frozen yogurt business is preposterous.
• Jackson Place Cafe off Battery makes a perfect Blue Bottle cappuccino. An elegant collection of treats too in the courtyard of a beautiful old building.
• The teriyaki burger at Oishii cafe is as juicy as remembered. Where do they cook it? Thick cut fries aren't perfect, as if reheated in a toaster oven. Call ahead and have your white paper bag with napkins and ketchup waiting. Under $6. Yum.
• Cafe Tomo hasn't changed either. Healthy if bland food in quiet surroundings at a modest price ($6-7). I ordered cold soba noodles with chicken and vegetables and immediately regretted not getting the ubon. One morning I'll get there in time for the chicken rice porridge.
• Oasis has raised its prices slightly, and the line was shorter the day I went by. I had chicken shwarma for $6.95 and liked it, but wished I'd gotten a side salad or something to wash down all that protein.
• Hodo Soy at the Tuesday farmers' market. I had spicy yuba (bean sheets), which was tasty if pricey in combination with tofu fa and ginger sauce. $10 without a drink, and you will need one.
215 Fremont St Ste 2A, San Francisco, CA 94105
388 Market St Ste 107, San Francisco, CA 94111
Cafe Leah II
77 Beale St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Spazio Soma Cafe
215 Fremont St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Glad you are back in the general vicinity, Windy--I definitely followed some of your suggestions two years ago or so, when I started getting bored with my few regular spots after a year on 2nd between Mission and Market.
I have a few more suggestions for you: the old greasy burger joint, Flames, on 2nd Street, has undergone something of a redo. They have a good selection of Mediterranean food, and now feature Niman Ranch beef in their burgers. My coworkers love the burgers, but for me the big attraction is the felafel, which they make from scratch and fry to order. Same with their french fries--cut from whole potato and fried to order. Fattoosh salad is delicious, with a pomegranate molasses-based dressing and seasoned with sumac.
There is a Seller's Market on 2nd at Stevenson now--they have much more seating area (outdoor seating, too) than the Front location, and though I like their sandwiches occasionally, I usually get the chicken gumbo. They have a great happy hour deal on Thursdays, 3 to 6, 20 oz Anchors for $2 and a nice patio with large picnic tables. The outdoor space is large enough and semi-recessed from the street to feel like a real place to hang out, rather than an afterthought.
Finally, I cannot rave enough about the Sentinel on New Montg'y and Stevenson, I am addicted to their mochas and blueberry muffins. I bring in my lunch a couple days a week, and then feel ok splurging on their $8 sandwiches or the lunch combo.
I'm excited to check out Flames. Actually I'm excited there's a place in the vicinity I never noticed.
Have you tried the sliders at Sellers' (Seller's?) Market? They looked good going by, but I'm usually disappointed with my orders there.
Sentinel is definitely on this month's list. It's a block too far, and I rarely get out before 1, so I hate the idea of trekking to New Montgomery in vain. Maybe tomorrow. Will report back.
I'd recommend Tomo Cafe for (healthier) soups on 1st St between Market and Mission. They also have decent chicken jook.
Also, I just had a pretty good blackened catfish sandwich at the SF Fish Company at the Ferry Building - for $8. Paired with some Blue Star for the princely sum of $3.32 :-)
Sawaii sushi - serves the purpose, and is definitely a notch above the likes of Tokyo Express.
Also recommend Muracci's Japanese Curry on Kearny St between Bush and Pine.
Love these reports.
Paladar Cafe Cubano
329 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
114 Sansome St Ste 120, San Francisco, CA 94104
Golden Gate Meat
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111
515 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
200 Pine St Ste 120, San Francisco, CA 94104
475 Sansome St, San Francisco, CA
50 Beale St # 102, San Francisco, CA
Boxed Foods Co
245 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Focaccia Cafe & Bakery
119 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111
222 Front St Ste Stlev, San Francisco, CA 94111
Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill
307 Kearny St, San Francisco, Ca
Powersource Juice Bar
81 Fremont St, San Francisco, CA 94105
50 Beale St, San Francisco, CA 94105
160 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105
100 Bush St # 101, San Francisco, CA
100 Drumm St, San Francisco, CA 94111
77 Battery St Lbby Lbby, San Francisco, CA 94111
Il Massimo Del Panino
441 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Morning Brew Cafe
401 Sansome St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Since you've been kind enough to do all the hard work...
Funny how the addresses only vaguely correspond. Birley is in Embarcadero 5, while Il Massimo is on Market St. Sellers' Market is on Front & Pine.
And Cello's on 1st, a few feet from Julie's Kitchen, which is listed as 50 Fremont.
Sellers Markets Inc.
595 Market St # 160, San Francisco, CA
Cello Kebob & Pizza
75 1st St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Il Massimo Lounge
5 Embarcadero Ctr, San Francisco, CA
Glad you're back at it again!
Here are some more links, including the one for Seller's at Front and Pine, i.e., 388 Market.
Did you try Morning Brew (rwo included a link)?
388 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94111
250 Montgomery St Ste St3, San Francisco, CA 94104
50 Fremont St Ste Pl1, San Francisco, CA 94105
Good to have you back in the nabe!
A few comments:
IIRC the roast chicken combo at Focaccia isn't $4.95 anymore, but it's still both delicious and a good bang for the buck.
I usually end up at the new branch of Julie's Kitchen (by-the-pound salad bar/prepared foods), which is tucked in the courtyard of 50 Fremont. You can run up a tab if you overload your plate, but the selection is good and the quality is decent -- they even switched to organic lettuce (both spring mix and romaine) a while back. Recently they've had lamb rib chops, which I find irresistible, almost every day.
I had a pretty decent falafel sandwich at Sausalito Express, but not as good as the one at Oasis on Drumm. And I swear the Oasis guys are the nicest guys in the FiDi -- I went in there after not having been in for several months, and never being a frequent customer, and the guys recognized me immediately and noted I hadn't been in.
When I go to the Ferry Building for the Tuesday farmers market I bypass the hot food vendors and go for the tofu salads at Hodo Soy. The kung pao tofu is delicious!
re: Ruth Lafler
I think 1/4 chicken with two sides is $4.95; 1/2 is $6.95. Goood Frikken Chicken near my home charges twice that.
The courtyard of 50 Fremont reminds I forgot one: I had a surprisingly delicious lunch at Cello (pizza and kabobs). $4.95 for one Kubideh Kabob with fluffy rice and free Persian tea, plus $2.50 for a mango lassi that was thicker and less sweet than most Indian restaurants. What else is good? It's a comfy place to sit, with kabobs cooked to order, chairs, and silverware. I wasn't tempted by the reheated slices of pizza, but appreciated the shakers of sumac.
Lamb rib chops at Julie's Kitchen sound awfully good. Will add Oasis to the need-a-pick-me-up list.
re: Ruth Lafler
I just finished the Hodo Soy kung pao tofu salad for lunch. Thanks for the recommendation, Ruth. Ruth is correct, that salad is delicious (and very spicy!). I recommend some rice or bread to mop up the juices. Since a side of brown rice at Out the Door is a whopping $4 (!), I opted for a roll at Acme, which did the trick nicely. Polished off a bunch of baby carrots from McGinnis Ranch to go with it. Great lunch.