Brooklynites Chowing Down in SF (Long)
It was our 30th wedding anniversary and our first trip to SF in eight and half years. We were excited to go, had a wonderful time, and wish we could have stayed longer. While I could go on and on about how much we like San Francisco, this is Chowhound, so this is a report on our culinary adventures, from Friday, 5/23 through Thursday, 5/29.
Friday, 5/23 — Began the day with a visit to Yank Sing on Spears Street. Got there around opening time, which apparently is the right time, as the place starts to crowd up soon thereafter, and then it's a bit of a wait for a table. We thought YS was terrific, despite the aggressive selling of the dishes. Great variety, lots of stuff going by, wonderfully prepared, and, for us, very good table service. What's not to like? Maybe the prices, but, truthfully, it wasn't as bad as we expected. What a great place to have in your town.
Dinner was at Maya. Mistake, despite being warned by Chowhounders beforehand. Food was OK, drinks were fine, service was adequate, but we could have been eating at a mall in New Jersey. Nothing particularly attractive or inviting. Our first miss...
Saturday, 5/24 — We thought we'd start with another dim sum experience, this one at Great Eastern. We were unprepared for the overflow crowd already assembled by 11 AM. There must have been more than fifty people waiting for tables, so we gave up and went across the street to Hunan Home's instead. We had been there on our previous visit, liked it very much. Had excellent potstickers, very good vegetable fried rice and very good chicken mushu, all washed down with some cold Tsing Tsao beers. Liked it all very much, back on track now...
Saturday was our 30th anniversary so we went to Ame, one of the highlights of our trip. From the prompt and warm greeting, and the comfortable seating (they gave us a four-top), to the interesting and enticing food and the comprehensive (and expensive) wine list, it was a premier experience. Maureen had the tuna tartare with sea urchin to start while I went with the carpaccio of amberjack. Next we split an order of the truly outstanding chawan mushi, perhaps the snigle best dish we had on the entire trip. For our main courses, Maureen had the Alaska black cod and I the Alaskan halibut. We split a Shaffer Chardonnay with the appetizers, and a bottle of Pahlmeyer Cab for the main courses. It was a great evening.
Sunday, 5/25 — We decided (rather naively) to head over to Sausalito, and after we bought our tickets we had about an hour and a half to kill, so we spent that time at the Market Bar, where we had a very tasty pizza and a couple of beers, and a friendly conversation with the very affable bartender. (Sausalito was a mistake in that it seemed like half of San Francisco decided to head over there. We got there, we had a glass of wine, we went back to SF.)
For dinner we had made reservations at Bix. They gave us a premier table, upstairs in the center, with a commanding view of the entire place. We loved the ambiance, and our waiter had worked in the East Village in NYC for a while, so he was very friendly to us, and ended up buying us a glass of port each at the end of our meal and comping us dessert. We hadn't even told him it was our anniversary. The best dish we had was the firecracker shrimp appetizers. The fried oysters were, well, pedestrian, and Maureen's miniburgers were OK, while my grilled pork chop was also OK. Bix isn't about great food, but for us it was about great ambiance and a really good time, so on that basis we'd go back.
Monday, 5/26 — Day started our rainy, so we walked over to Union Square area and checked out Lefty O'Doul's, but decided to keep hunting. Ended up at Max's, on Geary, a perfectly serviceable deli/restaurant that serves up heaping portions of whatever you order. Maureen had a huge BLT and I tried an equally daunting tuna melt.
We spent the afternoon doing the tourist thing, taking the cable car over to Fisherman's Wharf, and wandering around. Finally ended up in North Beach, where we thought we might try Enrico's, but instead we ended up at Steps of Rome, which we had seen featured on a travel show on cable TV. While there was nothing really wrong with Steps of Rome, there was nothing particularly right about it either (except the very reasonable prices). So if it's a quick and inexpensive meal you want, Steps of Rome would suffice very nicely.
Tuesday, 5/27 — We had purchased tickets prior to arriving in SF for a tour of AT&T Park, so we walked over there from the hotel and took the thoroughly engaging tour. Not only did we enjoy the almost two-hour tour, we ended up with a bonus of a 25% discount if we ate at the Acme Chophouse, located in one of the corners of the Park itself. So that's what we did. We split a chopped salad, a Cubano and an order of fries, had a couple of beers, and got our 25% discount on the entire bill. We liked the salad and the Cubano, but the fries could have been crisper.
After lunch we took the N train to the Embarcadero and then caught the F trolley to Pier 39 to take our free Bay cruise. It was pretty good except for the hokey music and the narration by the fictional Captain Nemo. A sixth-grader would probably have found it cloying. But the part where they circled Alcatraz was worth the cruise all by itself. Afterward we took the F back to the Ferry Terminal where we decided on the spur of the moment to have a wine and cheese repast at the wine bar in the marketplace It turned out to be exactly what we wanted.
Wednesday, 5/28 — Today it was time to try the other Yank Sing, the one just off Market. Again, we got there shortly after opening, got a nice four-top, and had the same incredible food experience. We tried hard to pace ourselves, but it was no use. We ended up pigging out again. We also bought a jar of their chili sauce to take home with us. I think we'd return to SF just to visit Yank Sing again.
Afterward we split up for a while, something we usually do at least once on a vacation. Maureen went over to Union Square to shop, while I got a haircut, then wandered over to Lefty O'Doul's for a beer and to meet Maureen later. From there we took the cable car to Ghirardelli Square to buy some chocolate and enjoy the terrific view of the Bay. We decided to have a glass of wine at McCormack and Kuleto's, and that glass of wine was so enjoyable that we decided to stay for dinner. They gave us a smashing booth, where we sat side-by-side with a great view of the Bay. The food was good and the wine was good, but the ambiance and the views were terrific. We split two orders of oysters to start (Kumamotos and Hamahamas), and Maureen had half a Dungeness crab, and for me it was the halibut cheeks. This was accompanied by a lovely Frogs Leap Chardonnay. It was a memorable meal.
Thursday, 5/29 — We weren't sure what we wanted to do, so we walked over to Tadich's about 1 PM. Place was mobbed, so we continued walking over to the Ferry Terminal Market, where we decided on Hog Island. We split a dozen of the finest oysters at Hog Island I think we've ever had, six Kumamotos and six Atlanticers. We also split the grilled cheese sandwich and a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris. It was one fine lunch for our last full day.
We decided that for our last meal we'd go have Peking Duck at Great Eastern, which we did, as well as chicken fried rice and snow pea shoots. That was one delicious meat, but we thought the Peking Duck at Yank Sing was measurably better. Still, no complaints.
So, there it is. We ate and drank a ton, but we walked a lot and we feel like we really immersed ourselves in your great city. Besides all our eating and drinking we did manage to wander through the Castro district, Haight Ashbury, Chinatown (several times), SoMa, other neighborhoods. We enjoyed taking the Muni and the cable cars without really knowing where we'd end up.
I'm sorry we couldn't continue our peripatetic ways, but we have to pay the mortgage and other bills, so we had to call it quits. But we do love your fine city...
Thanks for the report. Previous "snapshot" post:
At first I thought two visiting New Yorkers had wasted meals eating at Maya in one week. (Even if the food were better, the original Maya is in New York.)
303 2nd St., San Francisco, CA 94107
Hunan Homes Restaurant
622 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Yank Sing Banquet & Catering
101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Hog Island Oyster Bar
Ferry Building,, San Francisco, CA 94111
McCormick & Kuleto's
900 North Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Great Eastern Restaurant
649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
56 Gold St., San Francisco, CA 94133
Acme Chop House
24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105
re: Robert Lauriston
You were kind enough to point that out in a previous post, and I concurred, but I was outvoted.
One of the reasons we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary is that we have both learned to be very careful in picking our battles, and this was not one for me to pick. Maureen said she wanted to try Maya, so we tried Maya.
My pick was Hog Island, so on balance I think I came out ahead...
Thanks for posting the links. And thanks for posting separate links to the two Yank Sings.
re: Robert Lauriston
No, we've never been to the one in New York. It's on the upper East Side (64th & First), which is outside our usual grazing range. We both work in midtown and we live in Brooklyn, so we tend to go to restaurants in those areas and in between.
What happened was I mentioned Maya to her while I was checking out the various SF restaurants, and she said she'd like to try it. I read your post to her later, the idea being that we would pick somewhere else, but she stuck to her guns.
We don't get a lot of good Mexican food in New York, and her thought was that even a mediocre SF Mexican would probably be better than what we have here. Plus she thought that Maya would be better than mediocre (which, unfortunately, it was not).
I think if we had just gone to the bar, had a couple of drinks and some appetizers we would have liked it quite a bit more, but that's not what we did.
She admittted later that it had been a poor choice.
But that's OK, we made a lot of other good choices.