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Fri/Sat SF, Sun-Thu Sonoma

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My husband and I will be visiting SF and wine country from San Diego this coming weekend and next week. We will be staying Friday and Saturday nights by union square, and Sunday-Wednesdat nights in Sonoma near the plaza. We are looking to have some great dining experiences in both areas.

We currently have reservations at Ame on Friday night at 6:30. Question about the time, though... 6:30 is a bit on the early side for us, but the next available reservation wasn't until 9:00 (assuming it's still available). Would one time be better than the other, in general? i.e. do folks in SF tend to eat on the later side?... we prefer a busier atmospher to an empty one, and we like to have a cocktail at the bar (or some other bar) before dinner.

Our Saturday night is currently still open, but last time I was in SF (in October), I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Belden Place and was thinking of taking my husband somewhere there... leaning towards Plouf. However, we are open to other suggestions. I realize this is somewhat last minute and that we may not be able to get into some of the more popular restuarants (already tried Gary Danko). We're looking for great food, great atmosphere, but we're pretty flexible. A view would be nice, but is not necessary. As long as it's within easy reach by foot or transit (but still in SF).

Also looking for recs in wine country. Definitely planning on one dinner at the girl and the fig, and probably one other nice dinner out. Something more casual/less expensive the other 2 nights. We're actually thinking of picnicking on the square during the farmer's market on Tuesday night if that's a worthwhile experience.

Breakfast and lunch recs in both SF and Sonoma would be appreciated, but we may just end up finding something in whatever area we happen to be in at those times (i.e. while sight-seeing/wine tasting). Planning on visiting Golden Gate park on Saturday, so anything in that area would be great. As for wine country, we'll probably devote each day to one particular region. So Sunday (since we arrive that day) we'll probably stick around the city of Sonoma. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we'll explore Russian River, Healdsburg, other further reaches of Sonoma county and some Napa... we've done the "main drag" in Napa a few times already and would like to avoid the crowds (althought that might not be so much of a problem on weekdays), but haven't done much if any exploring off the beaten path, so suggestions along those lines would be great. Food and wine recs in these various areas would be great. Especially less expensive options for breakfast/lunch.

Thanks in advance for the help! Please let me know if additional details would be helpful.

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  1. Hope you visit the bit Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Sunday. It would be a great place to pick up breakfast.

    The city Napa has changed a bit. There is the new Oxbow Market which is sort of a Ferry Plaza mini-me. Ubuntu is a nice new restaurant there.

    I'd link to a couple of places but there seems to be a problem currently.

    The Tuesday Sonoma market is not the best farmers market in the Bay area in terms of vendors, but in terms of little town ambiance it is super.

    1. OK, the site seems to be working better.

      Most restaurants in SF close around 10 ... 11 is practically late night. So I'd go with the earler Ame reservation. Fridays tend to be lively anywhere, but the later the hour the more likely a restaurant will run out of some dishes.

      Usually the breakfast recs around Union Sqaure (and really, have breakfast at Ferry Plaza on Saturday, just jump on the market st streetcar, short ride) are Dotties True Blue and recently Bean Cafe. Some people like Caffe de la Presse, but it is kind of mixed. Skip Sears Fine Food or Lori's Diner ... same owners with mediocre food.

      If you have a car, you might consider Aziza which has great cocktails and atmosphere. It is WAY out on geary. No view, but before dinner you could get a drink at the Cliff House and enjoy a view of the Pacific. The food is ok, but over-priced at the Cliff House, so don't eat there ... just drink in the view and cocktails and head back to Aziza for dinner. Website with menu in this link

      Here's some options near Golden Gate Park

      Park Chow often gets recommended, but there are lots of good Asian restaurants in the area.

      You can search the boards and the Places database on the areas you are interested, like
      -Russian River
      - Healdsburg inexpensive
      - Wine Country breakfast moderate

      It wont catch everything because not all the Place records are completely filled in, but it should give you some ideas. Also if you search Places on restaurant name, there is usually a website and links to reports.

      Healdsburg ... be sure to stop by Downtown Bakery which has fabulous baked goods, ice cream and IIRC, breakfast. Bovolo is another good inexpensive spot for a bite and some lovely gelato.

      Hope you have a good time and you will report back about where you ate.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        Second the rec for Aziza but would stop so far as saying it is WAY out on Geary; about a ten-minute cab ride from Union Square and on the bus, about 20 minutes.

        In Sonoma, you will have a lovely time having a picnic on Tuesday and they should still be doing the farmer's market on Tuesday. I would also add The General's Daughter as a dinner rec; I prefer it over Girl In The Fig and think it is a bit more elegant with better wine-pairings.

      2. In the town of Sonoma casual you might consider Sunflower Caffe for breakfast or lunch, they have a nice outside patio. Better (less crowded) on weekdays. Another local fav for less expensive breakfast and lunch is Basque Boulangerie on the other side of the plaza. Not my personal fav, but lots of locals hang out there. I think you will enjoy grazing the food vendors on Tues evening for a very casual dinner, it is a very small town good deal. If you are out and about and want a casual breakfast or lunch, I like the Creekside (on Boyes Blvd.), great omelets and hamburgers (get the house dressing if you get salad on the side). Up-valley, you can get a nice casual meal at Cafe Citti, sit out at the patio. At lunch, I like to split a sandwich (they are huge and rich) and get some extra salads. At dinner, the roast chicken or ravioli or something off the special board are good. I avoid the Caesar salad because it is too heavily dressed for my taste.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkenworthy

          I don't know ... even years ago when it was the only game in town I never liked Basque Boulangerie.IMO, it is a waste of a meal for a visitor in Sonoma. I read good things about Artisan Bakery from a poster whose posts have always been reliable. It is next on my list to try next time I'm up that way.

        2. I haven't seen mention yet of The Swiss Hotel as a Sonoma recommendation...how do other 'hounds feel about the place? I had a great Mother's Day dinner there this year, the prices seem very reasonable, it's been around for quite a while (nearly a "Sonoma plaza institution") and they have vegetarian options on the menu as well. Might be a good choice for a lunch.

          In case place linking dies on me again: http://www.swisshotelsonoma.com/dinin...

          Swiss Hotel & Restaurant
          18 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476

          1 Reply
          1. re: chocolateninja

            The Swiss Hotel is a great place to sit outside and enjoy cocktails. But I believe most 'hounds (and your's truly) would prefer to eat elsewhere. It is not known for exceptional cuisine...

          2. Ame's very popular, however, if you went through opentable.com, you should call the restaurant, they might have other times available.

            1. Okay, I really like to go to A16 when I am in the Golden Gate area. It is not right next to the park but an easy drive, ride to the restaurant. I went there recently and had the most amazing meal.

              Also, on Sunday there is going to be a Tasting at COPIA from 1-4 in honor of the late Robert Mondavi. They are expecting over 30 wineries and will have some food. It is pricey but might be a good way to try out a few places at one time.


              1 Reply
              1. re: texavi

                A16's great but reservations are essential.

                Their spinoff SPQR takes no reservations.

              2. Ame has a chic bar setup (with fireplace or fire "wall" -- perfect when it's cold)
                Plouf for mussels, recommend it over B44 and cafe tiramisu
                Pres a Vi has a nice evening atmosphere, check out the wine flights (plus it's near the presidio since you'll be around golden gate park)
                Bacar live jazz in the lounge downstairs, not sure how things are since chef change
                I liked brunch at the girl and the fig slightly better than el dorado kitchen, but the the el dorado space is modern