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May 26, 2008 02:42 PM

best places for 'flights'?

I'm currently researching and planning my trip to SF in late July. I'm interested to see that there are lots of places that offer flights of wine/cocktails; some with accompanying canapes/small plates. This isn't really something we get here (I'm in London) so I'm keen to try some. Currently on my list is Cav Wine Bar, and Bourbon and Branch. And thoughts on these or recommendations for places that do flights would be great. Am interested in both wine and cocktails/with food or without, and am happy to look at anywhere in San Francisco itself. I don't have a particular budget.
Thanks very much.

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  1. Incanto has wine only (for the bar, that cocktails) to go with their excellent food. They have several flights on offer each night including a great value on their "mystery flight." They do Italian wines (exclusively, I think). Their food is wonderful and they have a wide array of appetizers, a terrific antipasto platter and several pasta dishes which can be ordered in appetizer sized portions. It'd be a great option for just what you've described. (It also gains for being directly on a Muni train line, The "J-Church.")

    Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
    1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

    1 Reply
    1. re: ccbweb

      To Incanto, I'd add Bacar -- -- not only do they have flights, but they have seemingly endless wines available by the glass, or even by the 2-oz. (60ml) pour, so you can always put together your own flights!

      448 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks, I'll add Bacar to the list as well. I was looking at Incanto for a dinner option for one night yesterday as well, so that seems like a good option for combining two things. I'm over for 10 days so have a reasonable amount of opportunity to go to a variety of places.

      2. Jardinere has a wide variety of alcohol flights. Like a calvados flight, reposado flight, vintage port flight, etc. Consider it for desert - they're open on the later side and have a bar so it's at least a little lively later (but, due to its location, isn't very lively - good until about 11:30 or so). I've never loved their alcohol selection, but the breadth you get to taste is fun.

        However, I don't think their wine flights are anywhere as good as Cav --- when I was there Cav had a great german red flight as their special. We don't get a lot of german reds here, so it was both tasty and unusual

        I will also propose, since you mentioned "london" and "cocktails" that mixed drinks in SF (america in general) are better than the UK. I suspect the problem is the strict 50cl/drink rule, which throws most bartenders off (high end joints, and some of the classic martini places in London, are excepted). With the relaxed rules here, the average bartender will gravitate to measures that fit the glassware in use, and get more accurate mixes a greater percent of the time.

        5 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Will also investigate Jardiniere, thanks.

          Good point re cocktails in general being of a higher standard, I think you're right overall. You can certainly get good cocktails here, but it is definitely in the higher end places, rather than your average bar. And actually one of the things about London which is a real shame is the way independent bars/pubs are hugely outnumbered by high-street chains. It seems by what I have read so far that SF doesn't really suffer from this as much?

          It also seems that wines by the glass are of a slightly higher standard in SF, with greater variety (again, you often get this in high end places, but not more middling ones). I love wine so am really looking forward to making the most of this... and the 2 oz or taster glass isn't something I've seen here at all - great idea (though decent places will often pour you a small amount to taste for no charge if you ask).

          It's interesting reading the menus and noticing the differences - oysters as an appetizer are everywhere, and so much cheaper than here, for example. Tasting menus are much more reasonably priced as well.

          1. re: JessR

            The concept of a "chain bar" is frankly perplexing to Americans. You won't find 'em here (well, you'll find the occasional three-bars-owned-by-one-guy, but it's not like England).

            If you like a night out with cocktails, avoiding the glitz, looking for all native-san-francisco, you'd want to head to the mission.

            Cocktails: Dalva, Cassanova, Lone Palm, Doc's Clock, Knockout (haven't been since the new owners), Beauty Bar, Uptown, many more. Many places have live music (Mighty, Makeout Room, Elbo Room, Amnesia (beer only, but what a selection of belgians)) some are next to good music (21 Galaxies->Doc's Clock), some have a good DJ reputation (brunos, Mighty).

            I have no idea where a good drinker's guide to the mission would be. Chowhound tends toward food; fancy "bars of san francisco" reviews don't hit the down-home spots of the mission.

            Bourbon and Branch is great, don't get me wrong, but if you like night of SF style drinking, head elsewhere.

            There's only two rules --- in small, divey places, call your specific alcohol brand. The well is often *really* cheap booze. Second rule is we tip our bartenders here - standard is about a buck a drink, but some folks bridle at a buck tip for a beer, some tip more for a shaken drink.

            There are also exceptional restaurants with exceptional bars, like Zuni and Boulevard. Rare to have both in the same package.

            1. re: bbulkow

              "all native-san-francisco" ...

              ? You must just mean authentic, non-touristy, right?
              I'm not sure a dive bar in the Mission is what the OP is after, but out of your list I would second the suggestion of Lone Palm, and then add the Latin American Social Club (just don't expect any Latins). The Lone Palm at least has table cloths.

              1. re: sugartoof

                I think you're thinking of Latin American Club (which is across the street from Radio Habana Social Club).

                A good wine flight can be had at 1550 Hyde. I think it changes every week.

                Radio Habana Social Club
                1109 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Latin American Club
                3286 22nd St, San Francisco, CA

            2. re: JessR

              There are lots of restaurants in SF with above-average lists of wine by the glass, and those are the ones getting mentioned here, since that's what you asked for.

              The *average* selection of wines by the glass is not that great. The same is often true of the whole wine list. At many otherwise good restaurants I've had trouble finding anything I want to drink.

              Bar chains per se don't to my knowledge exist here. What we do have are national restaurant chains such as TGI Friday's, Red Robin, and Elephant & Castle, where the bar operation is a major part of the business. Chains in general are a hard sell in SF, but they're all over the suburbs.

          2. Absinthe has dessert flights. The lavender shortbread creme brulee is really good. I guess flights with dessert are probably less of a novelty, but thought I'd mention it anyway.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sugartoof

              Lavender shortbread creme brulee sounds fab. Dessert flights still a novelty really here, so definitely worth mentioning - thanks!

              (PS, hope I'm doing the right thing replying individually? This is my first thread, if it's more usual to do one big reply and it's annoying replying to each one then let me know!)

              1. re: JessR

                If you are going to Bacar, you might stop by the new Orson nearby for cocktails. The reports have been mixed but the consensus is that the cocktails are fabulous. Hangar One vodka is a local product that you might consider trying when you see it on the menu at any of the local restaurants. . You might check the Orson website around the time you visit for special events. Check the report about the Bourbon and bacon dinner which had a flight of mini cocktails, IIRC, matched to small bacon plates.

                Also good in that nabe, not for flights but just food and small plates is Coco500.

                Anyway, since you mention reasonable wine flights, while it is not a wine flight / appetizer type of place, 1550hyde has some intelligent, reasonable flights with dinner.

                A trip to the Saturday morning farmers market at Ferry Plaza is worthwhile and The Wine Merchant has some nice wine flights.

                Welcome to Chowhound. Anyway you would like to reply is fine. Doing individual replies, IMO, are better because it is more likely to float your post to the top and get the attention of a few more people. What is appreciated is reporting back after your trip to keep info fresh on the board. Also if you visit again we have a feel for what you like or don't.

                I see you found the UK/Irland board. There are some great posters with tips on that board beyond the visitor advice. You are likely to find some great new places on your home turf. Two I can think of off the top of my head are limster and haters ... but there are lots of great tips and I'm sure they would look forward to any tips you have in that area.

                Have a fun trip

                1. re: rworange

                  Thanks rworange, I'll definitely look into those recs, and be sure to report back.

                  I've ventured into the UK board to see if I can help and yes, always looking for good new places here as well!

                  1. re: rworange

                    Some other folks from the UK board are howler, oonth and zuriga1, they are pretty knowledgeable from my experience.

                  2. re: JessR

                    I'd recommend the Wine Merchant at the Ferry Plaza too.

                    They have $10 flights which feature their wine club selections. Also, you can essentially build your own flight and you are able to eat food that you can buy from pretty much anywhere within the Ferry Plaza. Cheese selections and charcuterie are pretty decent too.

                    1. re: osho

                      Definitely planning on a trip to Ferry Plaza and so will look out for the Wine Merchant. The Cowgirl Creamery looks worth checking out there.

                2. How do you feel about sake? Both O Izakaya (Japanese bar food) and Ame (high-end Japanese fusion) will do sake flights for you.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    Sake is one of those things I would like to like more than I do...! I'm planning on doing one Japanese/sushi place, so maybe this will be the time I discover some that I actually like.