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Jul 3, 2008 01:34 PM

Unique, Weird and Unusual Dining in SF

Hello Chowhounders-
I am the editor of a travel magazine and just posted an article about unique dining experiences in San Francisco. I am curious to know what other spots locals from San Fran would recommend as a 'different' or unusual restaurant?


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  1. Well, if the criteria is simply "different or unusual" then Forbes Island is worth noting. Not too many people on this board would endorse the food. But nobody would argue that phoning a water taxi to motor you to a floating restaurant isn't unusual.

    Also, Joe's Cable Car Restaurant is pretty unique.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Shane Greenwood

      Many recent negative reviews.

      Joe's Cable Car
      4320 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94112

      1. re: wolfe

        Recent or not, has there -ever- been a positive review of Joe's?

      2. re: Shane Greenwood

        Heaven's ... not Forbes Island. Seriously, few self-respecting San Franciscans go there. Just brand a scarlett "T" on your forehead for 'tourist'.

        Just for reference the above link has these as the unique dining experiences

        Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market
        Boulettes Larder
        The Wok Shop
        Red Blossom Tea Company
        Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
        Local Tastes of the City Tour (XOX chocolates, Victoria Pastry, etc)
        Club Fugazi

        Well, I'm kind of torn here. On one hand, one doesn't want to have the local joints overrun by people flipping through guidebooks that tell them what dishes they must eat. On the other hand, I want people to enjoy the city as much as I do, have a good time and throw a little business worthy businesses. ... sooo ...

        - Blue Bottle Cafe
        A serious coffee maker with ... I forget ... a $50,000 coffee maker ... something expensive.

        - Aziza
        California cuisine with a morrocan touch.

        - The Sentinal
        Little sandwich/bakery shop by a top class chef.

        - Jai Yun
        A one-man unquie Chinese restaurant.

        - Cafe Gratitude
        A vegetarian / raw food restaurant with dishes with names like "I am beautiful", "I am estatic"

        - Food on Wheels
        The Korean food truck, the sushi truck, the Cuban sandwich truck, etc.

        A thousand little ethnic restaurants. Follow the boards and it will unearth a treasure trove.

        1. re: rworange

          What "above link"?

          There's no dining at The Wok Shop or Club Fugazi.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            The link in the OP. If you find the SF link, I'm assuming that is what the poster is referring to. There is no Chowhound restriction on food only in that article so those were the only other marginally food-related mentions. It was just a reference as to what the OP considers weird and unusual in SF.

            1. re: rworange

              The "Unique Dining Experiences in the City by the Bay" article I found mentions:

              Foreign Cinema
              Boudin Bistro Café
              Acqua [sic]
              Bar Crudo
              Yank Sing
              Tommy Toy's Cuisine Chinoise
              Pancho Villa Taqueria
              Taqueria Cancun
              Citizen Cake
              Mitchell's Ice Cream


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                bar crudo and yank sing are places i like a lot. unique? i don't know. i'll just keep going back.

        2. "If you're looking for lobster, tuna, salmon, cod, and more, try Acqua"
          It's Aqua,from the Latin for water. Not especially unique, weird or unusual but pricey.

          252 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

          13 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            Plus, of "lobster, tuna, salmon, cod" only salmon is remotely indigenous.
            If you're going to be eating local seafood, that means huffing either up at
            least to Marshall or down to Princeton for barbecued oysters. Or hitting
            Tadich during sand dab season. And if you're heading towards Princeton
            may as well go a bit beyond to Pescadero and have a nice bowl of artichoke
            soup at Duarte's. And don't forget to stop in at Applejacks in La Honda to
            have a beer.

            That would be a weird day unapproachable anywhere else on earth. And tasty.

            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

              I don't know what you mean by indigenous, but there are few places in the world that the fish swim up to the restaurant's back door. Having said that, there is plenty of cod and tuna in California waters.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                XY and CTC
                I was only pointing out that some of the facts and opinions in the magazine article needed some better research. Not only was the restaurant name misspelled but Aqua was neither unusual or unique to San Francisco. As to weird,"It's the use of the word "weird" that makes this impossible and almost bordering on offensive." CTC 7/5/08

                1. re: wolfe

                  To be fair, the OP didn't use the word "weird" in either of the two articles by her I found on the website she writes for, just in her current request for additional suggestion. Offensive or not, I'd consider Supper Club to be "weird."

                  What's weird to me is that SF isn't shown as one of the "Most Popular" destinations on the website's main page, though San Diego, Denver and Portland are.

              2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                If you're going out by La Honda. You'd have to stop at Buck's of Woodside for weird and unusual too (with a heavy dose of eccentricity). For sure you'll have a hard time finding a more unusual decor. And the food is pretty darn good there. The homemade tortillas are killer.


                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                  Coincidentally, today's Tablehopper newsletter reported that La Honda once again has a restaurant of its own, called Sullivan's, apparently servig British (Yorkshire) pub food. Scroll to last paragraph:


                2. re: wolfe

                  I think what's unusual about Aqua is the decor.

                  1. re: Kim Cooper

                    Are you sure you are not thinking of Farallon?

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Yes, you are right, I was probably thinking of Farallon. Oh well.
                      By the way, is Farallon any good? We are thinking of going there soon.

                      1. re: Kim Cooper

                        I've been to Farallon twice, most recently last April for a birthday lunch. Having dined there before, I really tried to convince my friend to go elsewhere, but he inisisted on going there. The decor is something to see, although way over the top and I really felt like I was in a Disney ride with the huge shells everywhere, despite the luxurious fabrics. The food is not good, which is especially sad, considering the expense. The amuse bouche was a fish pudding foam (yes, it was as bad as it sounds -- thinking of it still makes me shudder), the bread was dry and tasteless, the salad was fine, and the entrees fair. Even dessert was so-so. There are definitely better choices.

                        1. re: melisky

                          Just to go and experience the décor, I think the best thing you can do at Farallon is sit at the bar, have a cocktail or champagne and share some oysters; you don't spend nearly as much money and it can be a delightful experience.

                          1. re: Carrie 218

                            Regarding the decor, unless it's dark outside and you're sitting near the front of the room, you'll miss most of it. The larger back of room area is pretty basic. Agreed that the food is only so-so and has a disney aspect to it.

                          2. re: melisky

                            Even dessert was so-so? That's sad. Emily Luchetti is still the executive pastry chef. I guess she's more focused on her cookbooks or something.

                  2. Incanto is different/innovative in its use of offal.

                    AsiaSF would fall under the "unusual" category.

                    1. What's unique about Joe's Cable Car?

                      Previous topic on the same subject:


                      1 Reply
                      1. breakfast at primavera's stall saturday morning at the ferry building is pure san francisco. so is loading up at the best stands for breads, cheeses, meats, terrines, fruits, wines and so on for killer picnics that require walks (greenwich/filbert steps) or water travel (ferry to angel island, walk to the top of mt. livermore). hiking mt. tam to see wizard of oz is pretty cool. san francisco gets mass transit.

                        "j-church" to incanto is cool. the "f" to zuni works. neither is weird, both are wonderful. somehow, they capture the modest vibe that says, "san francisco" to me.

                        beer. san francisco gets beer. magnolia is ok. haven't been since the remodel (tried twice). there are others.