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Visiting San Francisco 4 1st Time...Major Foodie!!! Need Help!

Hello fellow Chows! I am a 29 year old Bostonian who is a major foodie who will be visiting San Francisco for the first time this Sunday, June 29th till Thursday July 3. That means I am going to need 4 nights of fabulous dinner reservations...and that is where you are going to come in.

The only requirement is that the foob be fabulous! I want the 4 places that when i am talking to someone and I tell them where I went, their reaction should be WOW! Price is not an object, but that also does not mean that the meal has to be 150 a person...although I don't really care how much it is. There will be 4-5 people at each dinner. Some restrictions are that we tend to stay away from ethnic food, infusions is ok, but we tend not to do any of the straight out non traditional stuff (except french bistro and italian (not red sauce) is ok)!

Anywhere in the city is fine. I am not familiar with the layout, and I know ya'll have your different neighborhoods, but I will be staying at the Mandarin Oriental so I think I am centrally located?

So here is what I like...if there are and Bostonians in San Francisco I would love to find restaurants similiar to Stella, B&G Oyster, Union and Rocca in the South End....or the original Figs in Charlestown...or places like Mistral, Teatro, 224 Boston, Excelsior and so on. If there are any Chicago folks in San Francisco places like Blackbird, Agre Doux AND ESPECIALLY Table fifty-two!!!!

AND one last thing...not a fan of tasting menus, fixed menus or super pretentious places (So the Darkos and the Minas can be left out)

So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me!!!! I want this to be memorable!! Thanks in advance for all your help!

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  1. If you don't want tasting menus, fixed menus, ethnic food other than French or Italian, or anyplace as fancy as Gary Danko, you've eliminated almost all the "wow" places.

    Bar Tartine
    Cafe at Chez Panisse
    La Ciccia
    Zuni Cafe

    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I think that part of the problem was including Danko on the short list of "too fancy/pretentious" places. As the tasting menu at Danko isn't really a tasting menu and the food is not precious in any way, I think that the OP made a mistake in using it as an example.

      1. re: lexdevil

        OK...maybe I should reform my restrictions. I KNOW that Danko and Mina and Fleur de Lys are AMAZING restaurants, but it is nothing that I cannot get in Boston or NYC... i am looking more for the hidden jewel, restaurants like Table 52 in Chicago and The Spotted Pig in New York...or to better put it, I want to eat at the places that Danko and Keller and Mina eat when they are going out to dinner...I don't want to have a jacket on...(although I did just work a 6 person reservation at French Laundry and am very excited about it seeing how I have ate at 2 of his other restaurants per se in NYC and Bouchon in Vegas)...

        1. re: Kodiak604

          If you like the food at Spotted Pig, then consider Incanto and SPQR.

          Thanks to Chowhound, there are few hidden jewels in SF.

          I think the French Laundry's the only good restaurant in this area that enforces a dress code.

          1. re: Kodiak604

            If you want to eat where Keller eats, go to In 'n Out. It's nothing special really but he's a fan. If you're in LA, check out Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles..again he's a fan. Many chefs in SF will tell you they go to dives and a lot of cheap ethnic.

            That said, the best place in California right now is probably Manresa. 95% of the places in California don't require a jacket.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          Have to agree...the stated restrictions not only cuts out most or all of the wow but no ethnic cuts out a huge portion of the city.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            ok...now we are getting somewhere...Delfina, A16 and SPQR are both on my short list...as is Piperade...my friend who is a chef loves girabldi's but do not see it posted anywhere....so wondering what the feeling is from the locals...

            1. re: Kodiak604

              Delfina, A16, and SPQR are all Italian. For wow factor, i'd pick Delfina. For new American I really like Conduit right now. Range is another personal favorite. Both remind me of Blackbird. Conduit is a bit more expressive.

              1. re: Kodiak604

                Garibaldi's gets a big meh in these quarters.

            2. 1. Tadich Grill for simple grilled seafood - SF's oldest restaurant with lots of character. Be sure to order a few gin & tonics while you wait.
              2. Slanted Door for Viet/California fusion in a great setting. Not exactly touristy, but extremely popular with out-of-towners, as locals can find comparable, less expensive options around town.
              3. Zuni Cafe for a good representation of one of San Francisco many excellent mid-range restaurants. The oyster starters are great.
              4. Aziza for Morocan/California fusion. Although you mentioned that you are not a fan of fixed menus, a group of 4 ordering the $50pp prefix essentially brings the whole menu to your table, all of which is incredible.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Civil Bear

                agreed with the Aziza recommendation, and just to be clear, the prefix is optional. You can have a wonderful meal at Aziza without ordering it. I thought of it right off, but didn't recommend it because of the 'no ethnic' ...however, if Slanted Door is on the short list, Aziza definitely should be as well.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  Ditto was Susan said. My first thought was the recommend Aziza as well 'cept for that "no ethnic" comment.

                  And I would take Aziza over Slanted Door any day of the week. My current favorite dish is the vegetable couscous with the lamb shank (not the lamb chop!) a close second.

                  FABULOUS cocktails too.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    Agree strongly with Piperade for superb Basque food, Aziza for california-influenced amazing lebanese, SPQR for "roman tapas" or A16 for southern italian done right. Among the most consistently excellent. For wow factor Hiroyen is often among the tables at Piparade, which should get you excited if you ever needed the perfect duck confit recipe (buy his cookbooks!). If you want new and hot, try to get into Commis on Piedmont Ave in Oakland. Hard booking though.

                    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                    1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

                    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                    1. re: Steveinoakland

                      Steve, welcome to this board. I'm not sure how you happened on this particular thread, but you might want to note that you're replying to a post from 2008. Also, Aziza is Moroccan, not Lebanese, as you've now posted twice.

              2. I agree with the other posters, the restrictions cut out almost all of the memorable places. The ones left are linked below...

                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                Boulevard Restaurant
                1 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105

                Acquerello Restaurant
                1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                3 Replies
                  1. re: Paul H

                    Chez Panisse has a fixed menu.

                    If Gary Danko's too "pretentious," I don't think Boulevard or Acquerello fit either.

                  2. We are foodies also from Boston and recently ate at Bar Tartine. I liked it much better than Mistral, Teatro and B&G Oyster, all fine restaurants. We also enjoyed the Slanted Door and highly recommend that restaurant.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: veggielover

                      thanks V.....i am trying to go for the smaller gourmet that you see in the boston neighborhoods rather than the go big restaurants that seem to be so dominant in san francisco....We are going to the slanted door because it was recommended to me by my friend who is a 3 time James Beard nominee...he also gave me his other suggestions, but want to hear what people in the city say...

                      1. re: Kodiak604

                        If Slanted Door's not too ethnic, then you should definitely consider Aziza.

                        1. re: Kodiak604

                          I think you're completely misunderstanding the SF restaurant scene if you think that "big restaurants are dominent." Over and over on this board you'll see that people believe the mid-range restaurants are the strongest segment of the Bay Area restaurant scene. It's just that you put so many restrictions on what you wanted, and used the word "infusions" (did you mean "fusion"?) that people are confused as to just what you want. You said no ethnic (except French and non-red-sauce Italian) and then said you wanted to go to Slanted Door and Piperade.

                          Why don't you just let us recommend some non-pretentious, non-fixed menu places and then you can sort out whether they meet your idiosyncratic criteria?

                      2. Whoa, you're cutting out a LOT of restaurants with your restrictions. Besides the restaurants already listed: Range and Canteen (for brunch as well) might be possibilities.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Cary

                          Five people at Canteen would be a bit tough, no?

                          1. re: Paul H

                            Yes, but I thought it should be a place to be thrown in to the mix for consideration. A party of 2-3 would be easier.

                            1. re: Cary

                              They can do five at Canteen if all five agree to sit at the counter. Concur with the others that by nixing ethnic, you are doing yourself a disservice by eliminating some of the best and most memorable restaurants that this city has to offer.

                              Besides Canteen, major thumbs up on Aziza, Cal-Moroccan that has no equal anywhere else in the country.

                        2. My recommendations:
                          Piperade - basque food - very good http://www.piperade.com/
                          Isa- very fun small plates place: http://www.isarestaurant.com/
                          Sociale- great Italian -http://www.caffesociale.com/

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: compass


                            I live in Boston now. formally of SF...LONG time ago...but on my visits there. maybe Globe??? I have No idea how it is felt from current SF peeps, but it reminds me of a B and G or Stella.

                            I actually second Taddich grill

                            might I recommend the Union Street area as something similar to the South end.

                            I have not been to Fog city in a long while but kinda like a Dinner and Pops combined?

                            Beatlenut is like Pho Republique but MUCH much better

                            1. re: marthayou

                              I agree with the suggestion of Globe. Small and unpretentious, but with good food. (Last dined there in March with a party of seven, and everyone was satisfied.) And if nothing else, it's within walking distance of the Mandarin Oriental.

                              Globe Restaurant
                              290 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          2. Yes, you do seem to define the word foodie. Here are some places you might appreciate ... and I will upteenth the rec for Aziza. It is also open on Sunday and Monday nights when other places may be closed

                            If you look at the Places database and key in the restaurant name, for the type of restaurant you are looking for there will be a link to the restaurant website with menu and many, many reports. Key in Aziza and take a look at the menu

                            If you look at the Places record you will see that you can search by category. Since it covers the Bay Area, you can narrow that down by adding SF ... so

                            cuisine:"california cuisine" SF
                            cuisine:"american (new)" SF

                            You can look at other categories listed below the the main Place board for SF to see if anything else strikes your fancy.

                            Some places you might enjoy ... Orson, Coco500, Bacar, Fringale, South Wine Bar ... all located in the same vacinity. Maybe Rose Pistola in North Beach.

                            An 'unknown' place that might get you a wow factor and put you ahead of the curve is Murray Circle. It is new, nothing yet on Chowhound, but the chef last year won Michelan stars for opening a Napa restaurant. He moved to Murray Circle this year.

                            One other thought ... a place that doesn't come up much but has great food and in a sense is hidden ... Chez Spencer.

                            Since you are dining with a group of people with similar tastes, I won't convince you to go out of your comfort zone for a place like Poc Chuc that serves great Yucatan food with a presentation that rivals many upscale restaurants.

                            However, I see you are new to chowhound. I hope you stick around and maybe read the Boston board. Even look at some of the joints outside your current preferances. The descriptions of what to order and how delicious the food is might change things so that instead eating at places that make others go 'wow' you'll start eating at places that make you go 'wow'.

                            Anyway, have a nice trip and hope you report back. It helps others like yourself and when Chowhounds get to know your tastes the recs get better and better to suit your tastes.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rworange

                              Murray Circle is a hotel restaurant on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

                              Murray Circle
                              601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

                            2. >> when i am talking to someone and I tell them where I went,
                              >> their reaction should be WOW!

                              Is that how they do it in Boston? Out here when you tell someone where
                              you went the reaction is more, "how was the food?"

                              I'm going to concur with the pretty near universal eyerolling above: if you're
                              going to approach things by projecting a Boston/Chicago "foodie" fantasy
                              all over them, you're going to leave disappointed and with a much lighter
                              wallet than necessary.

                              Here's a great thread and followup from last year that did a good job of
                              solving almost the same problem you're trying to solve. Although it's a
                              bit old, there's almost no outdated information:


                              2 Replies
                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                  Thanks for bringing our attention back to these great threads.

                                2. My recommands would include ...

                                  Chez Spencer - for amazing food (Californian/French), very cool space - and great ambiance ...

                                  Nopa - for ambiance, food (Californian) - and great cocktails ...

                                  South Park Cafe - for reliably good quality at an amazing price - always with a twist on fresh ingredients on the daily changing menu ...

                                  Chez Spencer
                                  82 14th St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                                  560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                  South Park Cafe
                                  108 South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                  1. We went to Gary Danko this past weekend and it was fantastic. Was not pretentious at all and very accommodating in regards to the menu.Service was by far the best we ever have had anywhere

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Scoot174

                                      Here are my recommendations, echoing some of the others:

                                      1) Slanted Door (preferably on Sat after the farmer's market for lunch but you can do dinner too)
                                      2) A 16 (I like the casualness of the bar but for 6 people the dinner tables are fine too)
                                      3) Yank Sing for dim sum
                                      4) Delfina (I think Keller has mentioned it as one of his favorites)
                                      5) Nopa (I love it and the mayor's been there)
                                      6) El Raigon (Argentine steakhouse in North Beach)
                                      7) Bittersweet (try the spicy hot chocolate. it will clear your sinuses)
                                      8) Bocadillos (Spanish wine bar)
                                      9) Medicine Eatstation (Japanese vegetarian - good for detoxing from too much rich food. Maybe for lunch.)
                                      10) Primavera (on Saturdays only at the Ferry building Farmer's Market for the best chilaquiles breakfast)
                                      11) Blue Bottle Coffee (at the Farmer's market of you can try their cafe)

                                      See my reviews for Delfina, A 16 and Medicine Eatstation on www.fooddigger.com - http://www.fooddigger.com/Profile/Pub...

                                      1. re: tdo

                                        Medicine Eatstation's no longer open for dinner. Lunch M-F only.

                                        1. re: tdo

                                          Note for visitor. FYI, Bocadillos is a tapas-oriented, more casual feeling restaurant by the same chef as Pipperade, Gerald Hirigoyen one of my cook book heros and master of Basque food (mispelled in my earlier post...sorry Gerald).

                                          Whoops, noticed your have already visited. How did it go?

                                          710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111