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May 28, 2008 08:40 AM

Canadian going to S.F.: suggestions please

I'll be visiting S.F. in late June for a few days. Have never been, but know that it's a top notch foodie destination. Any suggestions are welcome. Here are a few criteria to consider:

-I'll be staying near Union Square
-Will have access to a car
-From Toronto, so not really interested in Chinese suggestions, since we have very good Chinese here
-We'll be going to L.A. afterwards, if that makes a difference
-Looking for wide range of price options. I'd like more mid-range suggestions, but my wife would surely like a special night out
-Also, if you have any food-related destinations to suggest, that'd be great. Markets, breweries, etc. I've already figured out that Napa and Sonoma are nearby.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Here are several suggestions for other visitors from Toronto. The last link are suggestions for a chef from Virginia and it is worthwhile to read the followups by Clicking on uvahustla.

    16 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Thanks a lot. Didn't realize how many "I'm from Toronto" posts there have been...anyhow, that uvahustler one is very informative.

      Another question, not sure about this one, but if I want a great fish taco, do I have a better chance in LA or SF?

      1. re: grandgourmand

        Not so recent thread but with recent updates.
        Read fast because I'm in danger of being deleted when I say will the last person to leave Toronto please turn off the lights.
        Interesting and pertinent list in above link.

        1. re: grandgourmand

          If you have the chance, check out Flying Fish Grill in Half Moon Bay. I have sveral fish-taco-crazy friends that consider it a MUST DO whenever they are in town.

          1. re: grandgourmand

            Fish tacos are more of an LA thing. Save your appetite.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Ok, back to SF places...I read through most of the other threads wolfe posted. Places that seem very interesting are Bar Crudo, Incanto, Chez Panisse and another I'm forgetting. Also Swan' that place good? I think I saw it on Rachel Ray's tasty travels (ashamedly admitting I watched her shows every now and then, if only to complain) and have a bias against it because of that.

              A few other things:
              -Is the Ferrys farmers market only on Saturdays?
              -My wife is pregnant. Bar Crudo, then, not a good idea?
              -Toronado for beer?
              -Is the Steam Whistle brewery tour worthwhile (contradicting myself there on the concerns about pregnant wife)
              -Best place for simple seafood?
              -Is Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store good? I really like sandwiches. Apparently a good meatball one to be had there.

              1. re: grandgourmand

                Ferry Plaza, Saturday and Tuesday but Saturday is best. Many places to eat both temporary and permanent including simple seafood and there is a nice view .

                1. re: grandgourmand

                  The Ferry Plaza Tuesday market is very small, definitely not in the Bay Area top 10 like the Saturday one.

                  Despite the name Bar Crudo has cooked food, if that's what you're asking.

                  Non-Asian seafood places with relatively moderate prices:

                  Alamo Square
                  Bar Crudo
                  Cafe Maritime
                  Fish (Sausalito)
                  La Ciccia (not strictly seafood)
                  Marica (Oakland)
                  Maritime East (Berkeley)
                  North Beach Lobster Shack
                  Plouf (for moules-frites; other stuff's not cheap)
                  Sam's Grill
                  Sea Salt (Berkeley)
                  Swan Oyster Depot

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    Swan's is great for FRESH crab and/or prawn/shrimp salads, cocktails, raw shellfish. Closed Sun and other days after 5:30. Worst lines on Fri and Sat. No line early or after peak lunch time. I love their louie dressing but prefer it on the side. They also have red cocktail sauce.
                    Swan's is very popular with both people who live here and tourists.
                    For cooked fish and shellfish, Tadich and Sam's Grill are excellent. (Tadich closed on Sun, Sam's closed Sat & Sun) Both in the financial district. VERY FRESH seafood -- a few meat choices for those who don't eat seafood. (I like the pan fried sand dabs (a small sole) or petrale sole.)

                    1. re: walker

                      Tadich uses frozen shrimp. Not sure about everything else.

                      I go there more for the atmosphere and history. If the food were the only draw I'd never go back. For the relatively high price I can get better food elsewhere.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Don't most places use frozen shrimp? Tadich's fried shrimp are delicious. Swan's shrimp are previously frozen, not so the crab. (I never buy cooked shelled shrimp, like from Trader Joe. The shrimp salad and shrimp cocktail from Costco is pretty tasteless, too, but, at least, not fishy.)
                        Only places I've had FRESH shrimp were very expensive at special Chinese restaurants like Koi Palace.
                        Tadich and Sam's offers very fresh fish like sole and halibut. Fried or broiled.

                        1. re: walker

                          Fresh shrimp are easily sourced by Bay Area restaurants and they taste better.

                    2. re: grandgourmand

                      Do you mean the Anchor Steam Brewery tour? (I've never heard of a Steam Whistle Brewery except in Toronto.) If so, the Anchor Steam Brewery tour is definitely worth it. Be advised that you need to make a reservation about a month in advance for the tour.


                      Anchor Brewing Co
                      1705 Mariposa St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                      1. re: Euonymous

                        Sorry, my brain doesn't function sometimes. Anchor Steam. Steam Whistle is in Toronto.

                      2. re: grandgourmand

                        Bar Crudo is not a good place to go with a pregnant woman. There is cooked food on the menu, but it's a very small amount of the total so you may as well go elsewhere -- she'll have a very limited selection, and a lot of the plates are smallish plates for sharing or getting a few, so it may make things difficult.

                        1. re: JasmineG

                          Most of the cold shellfish are cooked, so less than half the dishes at Bar Crudo are raw. The dish most often recommended here is the chowder.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Sure, but the chowder has bacon in it, which is also something that pregnant women are told to avoid. Whether or not she avoids it is a question, but it's not a place I'd take a pregnant woman, especially with a limited amount of time in town.

                2. If you can't wait until you get to L.A., try the fish tacos at Taylor's Refresher in the Ferry Plaza Market. I haven't had them at that location, but they are great at the original St. Helena location.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: bobpantzer

                    Thanks for all the suggestions. Please keep'em coming.

                    About the fish tacos, i'm sure I'll get some in SF. Frankly, a bad one in California is better than the best one in Toronto by a country mile.

                    What about Incanto? That one sounded very interesting. Or something that you can only experience in SF. Swan's seems to fit that description.

                    Oh, and my wife eats bacon, but not much. Hadn't heard about that restriction.

                    And Tadich, I've heard of. It seems kind of touristy, though.

                    1. re: grandgourmand

                      Tadich, touristy, I think not.

                      Tadich Grill
                      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      1. re: wolfe

                        Tadich is as much about the atmosphere as the food. Food is OK, mostly not great, but if you order simply prepared food it can be quite good. Probably more tourists at dinner, and locals at lunch. Some people prefer Sam's, of Maltese Falcon fame, but they're both pretty basic old SF style, and Tadich is prettier.

                        1. re: mr_morcilla

                          The lamb chops are at John's Grill as is the Falcon.

                          1. re: mr_morcilla

                            It's John's Grill that's known primarily for Sam Spade's imaginary meals there. It hasn't maintained the affection of locals the way Tadich and Sam's have.


                        2. re: grandgourmand

                          Tadich is probably 50-50 tourists and locals. More locals at lunch, more tourists at dinner.

                          Sam's, which has virtually the same menu, is all locals. Some dishes might be a bit cheaper. Unlike Tadich, which often has a wait, they take reservations for dinner (I think not at lunch).

                          1. re: grandgourmand

                            Most tourists are dying to eat at the wharf. The ones going to Tadich go because they've heard it's great -- at peak times they must wait 45 min for a table. (They don't close between lunch and dinner, as some restaurants do, so that's a great time to go.) Some "natives" have lunch there at least once a week.

                            1. re: walker

                              Grandgourmand, we went to Sam's in April as soon as we got in from SFO from YVR. They are only open til 9 but when we arrived at 8:30 in a panic that we were too late we were seated graciously and immediately. They were out of a few things by that time (sand dabs and creamed spinach) but we settled for petrale and were really taken by it. Simply and perfectly prepared on the grill, it was a very generous portion cooked to perfection with just a squeeze of lemon to add. I rarely order fish in a resto as I am so picky about even 20 seconds of overcooking but if this sole was any indication, the cook there knows what he is doing with a filet of delicate white fish! Based on that one visit, we would return in an instant... the service was also excellent, down to the gentle and diplomatic correction of my mispronunciation of petrale which I appreciated (it's 3 syllables, not 2).

                            2. re: grandgourmand

                              Incanto has great salumi, salami, whatever. Cured meats and treats. I love their head cheese, and they sometimes make goose proscuitto.

                          2. If you get a nice day during the week, check out the lunch scene on Beldon Place, an alley parallel to and between Kearney and Montgomery and perpendicular to and between Pine and Bush. The entire block consists of restaurants, all with outside seating and all very popular. My favorites are Plouf (seafood, specializing in mussels) and Tiramisu, though all of them are pretty good. Sam's, mentioned in other posts, is at the end of this same block and does have some outside seating, as well.

                            1. All right, I'm headed to SF next week. Done a bit more research since the last post. So here's the plan:
                              -Will be visiting Ferry Plaza on the Saturday
                              -Swan's Oyster Bar
                              -Sam's Grill (and probably one of the others at Belden Place)
                              -Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
                              -Toronado for beer (sans prego femme)

                              I've got a few more slots open. If there are some must visit places, please suggest. I'm also possibly going to Sonoma for a quick jaunt and this place Shiro looked neat. Finally, if someone can suggest a nice casual place in San Jose, I have to take some relatives out for dinner.

                              Cheers, thanks and I'll post reviews.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                Good choices. Don't order the chowder at Swan Oyster Depot.

                                Habana-Cuba in San Jose has very traditional food. Friendly atmosphere and mostly Cuban staff.

                                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                Swan Oyster Depot
                                1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                Habana Cuba
                                238 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  For real no chowder at Swan Oyster? I heard it was excellent.

                                  And Robert, I checked your posts on the LA board for ideas for my trip there.

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    Apparently not made from scratch but enhanced Campbell's supported by canned soup display. Real cans not Andy Warhol.

                                    1. re: wolfe

                                      One more request...hope I'm not pushing it. Oyster bars. Where should i go? Hog Island?

                                        1. re: grandgourmand

                                          Swan, Hog Island, Anchor.

                                          Oysters play a minor role at Zuni Cafe but they can't be beat for quality and selection.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            If I could add: the oysters at Zuni play as large a role as you want. The oyster menu is deep and wide, true excellence. The oysters *typically* play a small role, because you're already thinking about the chicken or something.

                                            However, I've certainly gone to Zuni for two dozen oysters and a couple of cosmos (the only place I'll order a cosmo), then split to somewhere else for dinner

                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                              I meant a minor role compared with Swan Oyster Depot, Hog Island Oyster Bar, and Anchor Oyster Bar.

                                              At Zuni, later in the evening, I often see chefs from other restaurants making a meal of a huge platter of shellfish and a bottle of Champagne.

                                          2. re: grandgourmand

                                            Definitely Hog Island - the grilled cheese is fabulous (for the wife) as are the steamers.

                                    2. re: grandgourmand

                                      For the San Jose area, I highly recommend going to Gochi (in Cupertino, suburb of SJ). Gochi is a great japanese izakaya restaurant. I believe the full name is Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas, which is quite misleading as they serve quite authentic izakaya dishes. The one fusion dish i did try was the kurobuta pork and wild mushroom pizza which is absolutely fantastic. The place is casual, not trendy but it does get quite crowded so reservation in advance is recommended. Prices are decent, the 4 of us just went a couple of day ago and ordered 8 dishes and 5 glasses of wine and the bill was about $110 which is not bad considering we stuffed our faces.

                                      The San Jose area also has great vietnamese and korean restaurants which you might want to check out.

                                      While I like Havana Cuba, it's not a place I take visitors to. Unless you have had real cuban food and can appreciate its authenticity, I wouldn't go there. I've brought visitors/friends there and they just think it's kind of boring, maybe that's just my friends.