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best places for 'flights'?

JessR May 26, 2008 02:42 PM

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. ccbweb RE: JessR May 26, 2008 03:19 PM

    Incanto has wine only (for the bar, that is...no 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
      zin1953 RE: ccbweb May 26, 2008 04:34 PM

      To Incanto, I'd add Bacar -- http://www.bacarsf.com/ -- 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

    2. Robert Lauriston RE: JessR May 26, 2008 04:17 PM

      Cav and Incanto are tops.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        JessR RE: Robert Lauriston May 27, 2008 02:04 AM

        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. bbulkow RE: JessR May 26, 2008 10:17 PM

        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
          JessR RE: bbulkow May 27, 2008 02:12 AM

          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
            bbulkow RE: JessR May 29, 2008 08:59 PM

            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
              sugartoof RE: bbulkow May 30, 2008 03:57 AM

              "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
                Atomica RE: sugartoof May 30, 2008 04:08 PM

                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
              Robert Lauriston RE: JessR May 30, 2008 08:09 AM

              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. s
            sugartoof RE: JessR May 26, 2008 11:57 PM

            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
              JessR RE: sugartoof May 27, 2008 02:14 AM

              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
                rworange RE: JessR May 27, 2008 10:53 AM

                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
                  JessR RE: rworange May 27, 2008 12:45 PM

                  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
                    osho RE: rworange May 27, 2008 01:49 PM

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

                  2. re: JessR
                    osho RE: JessR May 27, 2008 01:48 PM

                    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
                      JessR RE: osho May 28, 2008 01:18 AM

                      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. Carrie 218 RE: JessR May 27, 2008 02:04 PM

                  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
                    JessR RE: Carrie 218 May 28, 2008 01:20 AM

                    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.

                  2. w
                    weem RE: JessR May 29, 2008 01:19 AM

                    I've never been, so this is obviously a qualified suggestion, but I was just browsing foodie videos on YouTube and came across one about Nectar Wine Lounge which indicates it has flights and food.


                    Nectar Wine Lounge
                    3330 Steiner Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

                    1. singleguychef RE: JessR May 29, 2008 11:13 AM

                      Another place to consider is District wine bar near the AT&T ballpark. (You could even catch a game if Giants are in town.) They have several flights and they serve pretty good food although the food isn't designed to match a particular flight.

                      District Wine Bar and Lounge
                      216 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: singleguychef
                        Robert Lauriston RE: singleguychef May 29, 2008 11:27 AM

                        Yeah, their whole by-the-glass menu except for sparkling wines is organized into three-wine flights. I haven't been for a while but their pours looked to me to be 20% smaller than most places.

                      2. b
                        bobpantzer RE: JessR May 29, 2008 11:21 AM

                        Pres a Vi, just inside the Chestnut Street gate to the Presidio, does numerous wine flights and serves small plates. It's a beautiful restaurant, with a large bar area and outside seating overlooking the new park created by the Lucas Film Organization.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bobpantzer
                          Robert Lauriston RE: bobpantzer May 29, 2008 11:28 AM

                          Reports here on Pres a Vi have been pretty mixed.

                          Pres a Vi
                          One Letterman Drive, Building D, Suite 150, San Francisco, CA 94129

                        2. steve h. RE: JessR May 30, 2008 03:56 PM

                          if you're willing to call your own shots, consider the bar tumult at tunnel top. the barkeep is quite good. cash only. loud and crowded. worth it. get your food next door (bar crudo).

                          1. s
                            StephP RE: JessR Jun 2, 2008 10:37 AM

                            I guess I have more wine recs than food rec places.

                            more of a wine flight place than food:
                            Ferry Wine Merchant (for midday hanging out)
                            Terroir Bar (for nighttime hanging out -- you can try a bunch of small pours and the bartenders have interesting choices).

                            small plates + wine flights
                            Incanto (has potential of migrating into full dinner options if you like. Their wine flights are solid -- eg. you'll see solid producers of the wine style with both traditional producers and more modern options.)
                            A16 (focused on southern Italian wines and pretty interesting. I've liked everything Shelley Lindgren has ever suggested.)

                            All the others people have mentioned haven't been to, but can now explore. Thanks for starting the thread.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: StephP
                              JessR RE: StephP Jun 2, 2008 10:40 AM

                              thanks again everyone for so many interesting replies.

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