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NY hound looking for the overlooked in SF

malibear Jun 30, 2008 06:23 AM

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!

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 08:22 AM

    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
    Angkor Borei
    Bar Jules
    Bar Tartine
    Bodega Bistro
    Burma Super Star
    Cafe at Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
    Camino (Oakland)
    Cesar (Oakland)
    Champa Garden (Oakland)
    Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
    Dopo (Oakland)
    Eccolo (lunch; Berkeley)
    El Huarache Azteca (Oakland)
    Farmer Brown
    Gialina Pizza
    Gyro King
    Han Il Kwan
    Hayes St. Grill
    Helmand Palace
    Hog Island
    Jai Yun
    Kopitiam (Lafayette)
    L'Osteria del Forno
    La Ciccia
    La Folie
    Larkin Express Deli
    Memphis Minnie's
    O Chame
    O Izakaya
    Ohgane (Oakland)
    Old Jerusalem
    Old Mandarin Islamic
    Oliveto (Oakland)
    Pauline's Pizza
    Pizzaiolo (Oakland)
    Pizzeria Delfina
    Shanghai (Oakland)
    Spices / Spices II
    Spices!3 (Oakland)
    Sura (Oakland
    Taqueria San Jose (tacos al pastor)
    Thai House Express
    Ti Couz
    Truly Mediterranean
    Turkish Kitchen (Berkeley)
    Udupi Palace
    Vik's (Berkeley)
    Wood Tavern (lunch; Oakland)
    Yank Sing
    Zone 88
    Zuni Cafe

    1. operagirl RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 08:27 AM

      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.

      5 Replies
      1. re: operagirl
        JasmineG RE: operagirl Jun 30, 2008 08:04 PM

        A $13 burger is a steal? I love a good burger, but that's pricey under just about any definition.

        To the OP: are you looking for ethnic food, or California cuisine? Something that you don't find easily in New York? It helps if you give us a little more guidance.

        1. re: JasmineG
          operagirl RE: JasmineG Jul 1, 2008 08:17 PM

          Considering the ambience, service, and size of the burger (I could only finish about 2/3 of it), I'd say it's a pretty great deal in a formal restaurant setting.

          1. re: operagirl
            Carrie 218 RE: operagirl Jul 3, 2008 08:44 AM

            The burger at O Izakaya is also $13 and a huge steal as it is a truly amazing burger AND served with some seriously Japanese-spiced fries.

            1. re: Carrie 218
              lotta_cox RE: Carrie 218 Aug 8, 2008 10:08 AM

              i NEED to try the japanese izakaya take on a hamburger.

        2. re: operagirl
          rworange RE: operagirl Jul 2, 2008 08:11 PM


          Market Street Grill
          1231 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

        3. g
          Giselle RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 09:07 AM

          Scala's on Powell St and Spruce

          1. s
            shivani RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 07:28 PM

            two of my favorites that don't come up a lot are la ciccia and da flora. you can find out what others think by searching more on this board.

            blue plate and universal cafe are also generally outstanding, and easier to get into then delfina for example.

            4 Replies
            1. re: shivani
              Robert Lauriston RE: shivani Jun 30, 2008 07:31 PM

              La Ciccia comes up pretty much every time anyone asks where to get the best Italian food.

              1. re: shivani
                wolfe RE: shivani Jun 30, 2008 07:47 PM

                Hard to call La Ciccia overlooked.

                La Ciccia
                291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                1. re: wolfe
                  shivani RE: wolfe Jul 31, 2008 11:42 PM

                  it comes up on this board often, but most people i know don't know about it, or were introduced to it by me.

                2. re: shivani
                  Atomica RE: shivani Jul 30, 2008 09:28 PM

                  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.

                3. s
                  sugartoof RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 10:17 PM

                  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.

                  1. Xiao Yang RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 11:02 PM

                    For starters, I'd say Bong Su trumps Slanted Door in every respect. It may not be completely overlooked, but it's not on the Lockstep List, either. Wish they would kill the music on their website, though.


                    1. m
                      ML8000 RE: malibear Jun 30, 2008 11:47 PM

                      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.

                      1. c
                        ceekskat RE: malibear Jul 1, 2008 11:20 AM

                        Do look into Robert's suggestion of Yank Sing & Ame (board fave for upscale)...


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ceekskat
                          Xiao Yang RE: ceekskat Jul 1, 2008 11:36 AM

                          Ame, maybe, but Yank Sing is just the kind of knee-jerk recommendation the OP is trying to stay away from.

                        2. rworange RE: malibear Jul 2, 2008 08:12 PM

                          Chez Spencer

                          1. wdot RE: malibear Jul 2, 2008 08:33 PM

                            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)


                            1. w
                              whiner RE: malibear Jul 3, 2008 12:11 AM

                              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.

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