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Jun 26, 2008 12:29 PM

Help wanted with a tentative itinerary for Yountville/Napa + SF in late August

We're coming in from NY to explore Napa Valley and the Bay Area for about a week (most likely arriving at SFO or OAK on the afternoon of Saturday, August 23). Here's what I have so far:

Saturday, August 23
Dinner – Bouchon

Sunday, August 24
Lunch – The French Laundry
Dinner – Ad Hoc or Redd

Monday, August 25
Lunch – ZuZu
Dinner – Ubuntu

Tuesday, August 26
Lunch – In-N-Out (on the way to SF)
Dinner – Yank Sing (or other Dim Sum place)

Wednesday, August 27
Lunch – The Slanted Door (not sure about this one)
Dinner – Aziza

Thursday, August 28
Lunch – Bar Tartine (not sure about this one)
Dinner – Chez Panisse

We may also stay Friday as well, so if anyone has additional suggestions for a casual lunch and dinner, please speak up! In terms of food preferences, we're up for pretty much anything. However, I'd probably avoid places like Fleur de Lys and Gary Danko, since I can go to Jean Georges, Le Bernardin etc. any other time throughout the year. Probably no sushi places either; Sushi Yasuda is my go-to back home, and Kurumazushi, Sushi Seki, Ushi Wakamaru etc. are also easily accessible.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. After lunch at TFL, I would be surprised if you want dinner. If you do, be aware that Ad Hoc is a fixed price meal with four courses, served family style, and the portions are large. Redd is terrific but, after TFL, you're probably going to want to order light and may not get the full experience. Frankly, I'd eliminate Bouchon (or go there for lunch) and go to Redd that night instead. If you do anticipate wanting dinner after TFL, go to Ubuntu that night.
    You are aware that Chez Panisse, also a set fixed price menu, is across the bay in Berkeley. I don't know what time you're planning on going but the commute traffic across the bay bridge can be frightful. Not sure how close the nearest BART station is, but give that a thought. Though they're really not similar, if you decide to skip Chez Panisse, consider Zuni Cafe--unique to San Francisco, in my view.

    1. I forgot this in my earlier post. Why do you want to go to In N Out? Yes, it's a cut above McDonalds, Burger King and the like but if you really want a burger, fries and a shake, go to Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena or the branch in the Ferry Building in SF. Instead, I'd stop in Sausalito and enjoy the views of San Francisco from one of the restaurants there. Just opened in Fort Baker, right beneath the GG Bridge, is a restaurant lodge called Cavallo Point. No reviews yet, but it's a gorgeous setting.

      13 Replies
      1. re: bobpantzer

        It's probably not the burger, it's In and Out. In LA it's Pink's and Tommy's. In NY it's Grey's Papaya and in Detroit, it's Lafayette Coney Island. "Who can explain it, who can tell you why."

        1. re: wolfe

          Yeah, you're probably right. I just don't want them to be disappointed. I think of them sitting there looking out on the parking lot of a shopping center listening to the roar of traffic on either 101 or interstate 80 (depending on which way they come) while just a few miles away is the picturesque village of Sausalito with it's views of the City. Oh, well.

        2. re: bobpantzer

          Am I the only one who doesn't get Taylor's Refresher? I wouldn't say it's a horrible burger, but it is nothing to write home about. Wine at a burger joint is cool and all, but the only thing impressive about the wine list at Taylor's is that it's at a burger joint.

          RE In-N-Out: You can eat there without leaving Napa!

          In-N-Out warning: In-N-Out gets worse the further you get from Southern California. You really can't get the same experience in NoCal.

          1. re: sunnyand72

            Although with their schedule it may be a little early.

            In-N-Out Burger
            820 W Imola Ave, Napa, CA

            1. re: sunnyand72

              I never quite got Taylor's Refresher either. They do use quality beef and it generally tasty...but the burger is small, the bun weird and it's not cheap. A plain burger, coke and fries runs you $11 bucks. Another bun and 2 more oz of beef and it "could" be very good. The one plus is they're open until 10 p.m. (Ferry Bldg...never been to Napa) and past 6 p.m. it's very easy.

              re: InO...I don't sense much difference between NorCal and SoCal...I grew up in SoCal but I've never compared them $1.50 for's sort of pointless to me.

              1. re: ML8000

                I don't know about the HAMburger but the AHI TUNA burger is tast-y.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  How is the ahi burger? Is it marinated? Ahi tends to dry if not prepared carefully so I tend to avoid it in sandwiches.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    The Ahi burger is my choice as well; disgustingly rare with an unctuous ginger slaw -- all far from dry.

              2. re: sunnyand72

                To me, Taylor's is bizarrely expensive for the average quality. The food's okay, which makes it better than most tourist traps, but as far as I'm concerned that's what it is.

                In-N-Out is a Los Angeles institution. Eating at one in the Bay Area is much like eating at the Boudin cafe at the Disneyland Fisherman's Wharf.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  A few questions, Robert...

                  Have you eaten at Taylor's St. Helena location, or the Ferry Building or Oxbow locations? Do you find the food varies from location to location?

                  Did you have the ahi tuna burger?

                  Have you found a difference in the food between the LA and SF Bay Area In-n-Out locations? Can you describe it?

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    The quality and character of In 'n' Out's food is discussed on the Chains board. In my limited experience, their food is consistently mediocre, but I've only eaten there when the only alternative was an even worse chain, such as McDonald's.

                    I ate at the original Taylor's (before people started calling undercooked tuna "ahi") and at the Ferry Plaza branch. Even its fans tend to admit that the food's nothing very special.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      In-N-Out: But I was curious about *your* comment and your personal taste experiences vis a vis LA vs.SF Bay Area In-N-Out locations. Can you comment on the difference in food between the two metropolitan areas?

                      Taylors: It is ahi, is it not? Or is it tuna, not of the ahi type, cooked like ahi tuna? Is this preparation -- slightly seared, basically raw -- that you don't like, or Taylor's preparation of ahi tuna that you don't like?

                      Forgive me for all the questions, but I'm trying to decipher your tone and subtext, and it's better to just ask you straight out.

                2. re: sunnyand72

                  I absolutely don't get Taylor's either. What on earth is it doing in the Ferry Building? It sticks out like a sore thumb. A gross, greasy, fast-food sore thumb. Apparently the original location is supposed to be good, but the FB location was simply awful, and it seems to me to be the antithesis of what the Ferry Building Marketplace is supposed to be about.

                  On my one visit, I had the misfortune to get to the FB after all the other food purveyors had closed, and the only one open was Taylor's. OK, how bad could it be? Answer: Inedible burnt burger. (What part of "medium rare" did the cook not get?). I sent it back; the replacement was not burnt, but was not medium rare either. Lackluster green salad. Greasy fries.

                  With all the other places in the FB, I am flabbergasted that anyone goes to Taylor's voluntarily. In-N-Out is no great prize, but it's better that the FB Taylor's and is about 1/4 the price. (Taylors: burger, salad, fries = $20 without drink).

              3. As has already been said, don't have dinner plans after lunch at TFL, you may not want anything at all, if you do, just have drinks and snacks at the bar somewhere. I'd schedule your Ad Hoc dinner the night before TFL, instead of Bouchon (and make it an early dinner). You can't get dim sum for lunch, so if that's what you want, move Slanted Door to dinner on Tuesday and have dim sum for lunch on Wednesday. (Yank Sing is a fine choice, there are lots of others to choose from, though). Also, Bar Tartine isn't open for lunch, so if you want to eat there, move that to dinner either Friday night (if you stay that long) or have dinner there Thursday night and lunch at Chez Panisse (this would only be the cafe upstairs, which is great, but not the downstairs more formal restaurant). I would stick with dinner at Chez Panisse, though, and have dinner at Bar Tartine either the next night or the previous night.

                1. Before you decide on dinner at Bar Tartine (as suggested by someone above), check out the menu on their website. It's a really casual place with, at least as far as I'm concerned, kiind of an unusual and limited dinner menu. I don't think of it as a dinner restaurant but a breakfast or brunch kind of place. Maybe I'm alone in this. I'd go next door to Delfina for dinner if I was in that neighborhood.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bobpantzer

                    Bar Tartine is not the same as Tartine bakery. Bar Tartine does not have a limited menu, and is only open for dinner most days, and brunch on weekends.

                    1. re: JasmineG

                      Thanks for correcting me. I'll try it for dinner sometime.

                      1. re: bobpantzer

                        Dinner menu Bar Tartine.
                        Better than In and Out.

                        Bar Tartine
                        561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  2. It looks like for you're Napa stay, you're trying to group restaurants geographically. Unless you're somehow limited by your mode of transportation, I wouldn't bother. I agree with the people who say you're not going to want an Ad Hoc/Redd kind of dinner after lunch at TFL. I suggest that your plan for that night be to go to St. Helena and wander around (it's a charming small town), then go to Martini House and have drinks and a light meal on the terrace -- a very California wine country experience. Drop Bouchon (you've got plenty of French bistros in NY), and do Redd/Ad Hoc Saturday.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I agree with dropping Bouchon and I'm a former Bouchon lover. Their kitchen is being remodeled and the restaurant is really off its game. Truly. I'm not sure they'll be back on their game by the end of August. Even when I was a true Bouchon lover, I always sat at the bar (the only place, IMO) as the bad acoustics in the tables area make it so you can't hear your dining companions, but you can hear the person at the table next to you.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        We also used to love Bouchon, especially last year, but do not like the place at all this year: it has gone downhill. Both the service (very uncaring)and the food were disappointing now.

                        We did like Ad Hoc, a lot.