NY hound looking for the overlooked in SF
I'll be visiting SF later this week (from NYC) and have been pouring through posts. The same restaurant recommendations seem to keep coming up: Zuni, Canteen, Slanted Door, etc. Can anyone recommend places that don't have quite the hype but still deliver the goods? I'm open to all types of cuisine - looking mostly for dinner or possibly lunch. Thanks for the help!
I see no reason to avoid a restaurant just because lots of people think it's great, but here's a partial list of places I've enjoyed in the past year or so and look forward to visiting again:
À Côté (Oakland)
A La Turka
Burma Super Star
Cafe at Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
Champa Garden (Oakland)
Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
Eccolo (lunch; Berkeley)
El Huarache Azteca (Oakland)
Han Il Kwan
Hayes St. Grill
L'Osteria del Forno
Larkin Express Deli
Old Mandarin Islamic
Spices / Spices II
Taqueria San Jose (tacos al pastor)
Thai House Express
Turkish Kitchen (Berkeley)
Wood Tavern (lunch; Oakland)
If you like a good burger, try the Market Street Grill in the Whitcomb Hotel. Nobody's talked it up much, but their food is great and quite a steal! My family went there for lunch yesterday, and the burger, at $13, is a serious steal. It's served on a brioche bun from the Columbus St. Bakery (all their breads are from this bakery, and theyre all wonderful), and was cooked perfectly medium-rare to order.
The rest of their menu is pretty straight ahead California cuisine. And everything the rest of my family had (clam chowder, beet salad, salmon entree, blt sandwich) was great. It won't be a revelatory experience, but it's some really solid food.
We just went to Blue Plate. I've had one good and well-timed (decently timed service there) in the past year with some friends, but tonight they were absolutely off their game. We had to beg for someone to take our food order (waitress was in the weeds--we could totally see it--and not properly supported) and then people who ordered after us got their food first. Very annoying and badly timed dinner, made needlessly stressful by crappy organization on the part of Blue Plate's FOH.
In general I have liked their food (and we live very close by and we have had spotty service in the past), but after tonight I will *never* be able to get my husband in there again.
I know what you mean, but as much as I find it frustrating that so many of the same places get suggested (sometimes when they don't even fit the request) it's really difficult to think of obscure hidden gems which are reliable. It's a pretty small city, especially if you live outside of the city and are prone to only frequenting certain areas after commuting.
Coming from NYC, I'd say your focus should be on getting good low key meals you can't get as good back home. Mexican food, big salads, croissants, good salami, and italian sandwiches, dim sum, blue bottle/ritual coffee, and it's-it bars are just some of the things that pop into my head.
I think you'll also enjoy Burma Superstar, Gialina, Tadiche's, Tartine, Ti Couz, Chou Chou, Universal Cafe, and Sociale for casual good food. Most of those fall into the frequently mentioned pile, and they're far from overlooked but they're a little more off the beaten track.
Taqueria Cancun and Shanghai Dumpling King. Won't get either in NYC. Pretty much locals go here although Cancun gets a Zagat rating. Shanghai Dumpling King -- competes for the best on the West Coast for XLB (soup dumplings).
If you want really overlooked (by visitor standards) go to a couple of taco truck. El Tonayense in the Mission and Los Compadres in SOMA, Spear and Howard.
Might also check out Greens and Woodward Garden.
I shall give you my favorites of the moment:
Foreign Cinema (book early)
Luella (quite possibly my favorite SF spot not b/c the food unbelievably amazing, but b/c it has all the elements of what I think is quintessential SF - good food, casual, hidden in a great neighborhood, overall lovely)
What does "overlooked" mean?
I like Robert's list (at least of the places I've been). I don't think Helmand Palace comes up a lot and I do LOVE that place... Not only is it affordable, but the food is genuinely wonderful and the service and atmosphere are great.
My favorite restaurant in the city continues to be Laiola -- only moderately expensive, casual but a "going out" kinda place, killer drinks, incredible (modern) Spanish food, mostly in small plates.