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Visiting San Francisco from Ireland for 4 Days

Hey all

I'll be in San Francisco for 4 days this August with my family (4 of us). We're visiting from Ireland and we're staying in Hayes Valley. We'd like to get a good idea of the kind of foodie experience SF can offer. I've been trying to narrow down the eating options over the past few days and I've come up a list of places for dinner - how does this look to everyone?

1. Zuni Café
2. La Ciccia
3. Aziza
4. Ame

We don't have any particular preference for cuisine types - basically anything that isn't excessively expensive (Ame would be the upper limit "splurge" level). We're willing to travel to places by car and walk a couple of miles.

Some other places I had on my list: Colibri Mexican Bistro, Incanto, Delfina, Tadich Grill, Slanted Door, Burma Super Star. What are people's opinions on these compared to the ones I've chosen?

We'll have already been in Chicago and will be travelling to Los Angeles afterwards if that affects things.

I haven't really looked at any lunch or breakfast places - we're not big lunch eaters, we'd generally be looking for light snacks at lunch rather than sit-down meals. Although we've never had Dim Sum so I think Chinatown in SF would be a perfect place to rectify that!

Any comments and further recommendations much appreciated.

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  1. I think you have a very great, strong list.

    I really like all of your back-up places as well and many can be had for lunch with equal success (Burma Super Star mostly). And I prefer Ton Kiang for Dim Sum and it is out in the Richmond district (towards the water) versus Chinatown.

    1. Good list. I would substitute Incanto for La Ciccia, for Italian in Noe Valley. There are some great places on your back-up list. Note the wait for dinner at Burma SuperStar can be long. Best dim sum is outside of Chinatown: Ton Kiang in the Richmond district, Yank Sing downtown, and Koi Palace just south of SF are well-regarded options.

      5 Replies
      1. re: bernalman

        I disagree about substituting Incanto or Delfina, as good as they are. La Ciccia is definitely unique -- not easy to find good Sardinian cooking.

        I also would definitely keep Zuni as being classic SF.

        Colibri is okay, but not really in keeping quality-wise with the others on your list.

        1. re: Joan Kureczka

          To me, La Ciccia vs. Incanto's a toss-up. They're both great.

          Sardinian food is rare outside of Italy.

          Incanto's one of the best places to get Italian food strongly focused on Northern California's local, seasonal ingredients. There are a few other Italian restaurants in the Bay Area that work in a similar style, but it's unique to the area.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            "Incanto's one of the best places to get Italian food strongly focused on Northern California's local, seasonal ingredients. There are a few other Italian restaurants in the Bay Area that work in a similar style, but it's unique to the area."

            Huh? Doesn't Delfina fit this description, and perhaps better fit it?

            1. re: Paul H

              Someone else might make that argument. I don't find Delfina quite as Italian or as quite as focused on seasonal local ingredients.

          2. re: Joan Kureczka

            Ditto on all counts (though I haven't tried Ame yet). Have your Mexican food in either Chicago or LA, and don't skip La Ciccia (or Aziza).

        2. I LOVE your list... I would opt for Slanted Door over Zuni, though.

          I also like Ton Kiang best for Dim Sum.

          6 Replies
          1. re: whiner

            I'd put Slanted Door last out of the places mentioned. Good food and great wine list, but to me the overall experience doesn't justify the price. Best times I've had there have been lunch on a sunny day in the glassed-off back room they use for private parties. It's not as noisy as the main dining room, which is like a 60s airport departure lounge.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Yeah, a second vote against Slanted Door over the other options... even though I really like Slanted Door. Also, please don't consider Irish food in SF. That would be like me looking for California cuisine in Ireland ... it might be there, but it isn't going to be as good and a waste of my travel calories and time.

              If you are here on a Saturday morning the Ferry Plaza Farmers market would be a good place for snacks. It is nearby Yank Sing so you cold stop by for a bit of dim sum and get the full experience with dim sum on carts and a beautiful building. It is also very novice-friendly. I had my first dim sum there and it made me a fan. You don't have to order much. I like their sesame balls for dessert.

              Lots of the bakeries in Chinatown serve many dim sum items for take-out ... like dumpling and pork buns and egg tarts. Golden Gate Bakery is one a lot of peole like.

              1. re: rworange

                I third the motion on skipping Slanted Door. Food is good but the atmosphere/service on each occasion I've been there hasn't justified what you are paying. If you really want to do it, make a lunch reservation.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                I guess it depends what type of restaurant experience you enjoy. Slanted Door, overall, may be my favorite restaurant in the city and I certainly dine there more than any other "upscale" restaurant in the city (of course, part of that may be due to their stellar wine list that is perfect for the food they serve). I don't find the main dining room too loud at all, and I like that it is a bustling type place. But, my standards are only that I want to be able comfortably to hear everyone at a 6 person table and I do not want to to be knocked into by other guests and servers -- if you are looking for a serene expereince, I will surely grant you, it is not that.

                1. re: whiner

                  Both lists are great - I prefer Delfina to Incanto. Comment on the Slanted Door: try it for lunch some day. Make a reservation for sure but wander around the Ferry Building (fun SF foodie stuff) and grab a small snack, a nice drink, and enjoy the view.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Normally I'd agree. But I can't imagine there's much -- if any -- good Vietnamese food in Ireland. How about Slanted Door for lunch? Enjoy the view, check out the Ferry Building, etc.

              3. Great list, nice combination of restaurants. I also like all of the places on your backup list (except for Colibri, I haven't been there), so you're doing great. You might want to come up with some ideas of places to grab snacks at lunch (depending where in the city you are), since 's easy to accidentally grab some bad or boring food.

                1. Good stuff - won't empty your purse:

                  For a fun time, stop by the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar for Happy Hour - check the twice hourly indoor rain storm - http://www.yelp.com/biz/tonga-room-sa...

                  When the band floats to the center of the indoor lagoon, you'll know you've had a San Francisco experience.

                  Also, munch at Rose Pistola just before seeing Beach Blanket Babylon - you really haven't seen this town until you've attended a performance. Note that Club Fugazi [Beach Blanket B.] serves no food - only drink
                  http://www.rosepistolasf.com/
                  http://www.beachblanketbabylon.com/ ---> Reservations required!

                  Up for oysters or more? Check O'Reilly's Holy Grail - the place is entirely decorated with antiques you might enjoy - parking readily available across the street in multi level parking garage, a huge plus in San Francisco
                  http://www.oreillysholygrail.com/

                  1. Your list is great! I'd take Colibri off your back-up list and save any Mexican till you head to LA. Other than Mission-style burritos, Mexican is better in LA.

                    Get to Burma Superstar right when they open or it can be a long, long wait.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: norjah

                      Norjah makes the most sense -- If you are heading to Los Angeles, you want to eat Mexican food there, NOT here! (This is from someone who grew up in San Diego and has slowly migrated north over the past 44 years; the closer you get to the border, the better that cuisine is!)

                      1. re: norjah

                        I went to Colibri once with a friend. We expected to like it, wanted to like but did not and neither of us would ever return. Not even the tableside guac was great.

                      2. Aidoscuz,

                        "with my family (4 of us)"...is that with kids? How old? The reason I ask is that it may help in restaurant selection given location, ambiance, etc. For example, Incanto is in a quiet, charming neighborhood with no activity whatsoever (may be boring for teenagers). However, Delfina is in the bustling Mission District. I am afraid I am not familiar with La Ciccia's location. Just my two cents.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ceekskat

                          La Ciccia is just a few blocks from Incanto. Very accessible via the Muni btw (J Church runs right by both restaurants)

                        2. Thanks for the replies everyone. I went for La Ciccia over Incanto and Delfina as we've got lots of good Italian restaurants here in Ireland, but no Sardinian. I'm curious to try it out and I don't know of any other places I could. I'll scratch Colibri off the list - I've decided on Mexican places in Chicago and LA which I'm guessing are better than what SF has to offer. Zuni is near our hotel and we'll be getting late from Chicago the day we arrive, so it'll be handy to be able to walk to it. Seems to get better reviews overall than the Slanted Door as well. I will look into it for lunch though, thanks for the advice.

                          I'll try to get to Yank Sing for Dim Sum. The location's quite handy. I saw people saying it was expensive - around how much would lunch for 4 people typically end up at? Also is either branch better than the other or are they basically the same?

                          Unfortunately we won't be in SF on a Saturday so we'll miss the market. I'll definitely have a wander around the Ferry building, sounds fun.

                          I forgot almost about burritos and tacos. I'll do some looking on the boards but does anyone have any particular recs to get me started?

                          Also any good breakfast places, preferably in/near Hayes Valley?

                          ceekskat - I'm 19 and my brother's 17, we're going with our parents. We certainly won't be bored by quiet restaurants! We're fairly adventurous eaters and have eaten in all kinds of places.

                          Thanks again everyone, this is great feedback.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Aidoscuz

                            Burritos and Tacos:

                            My favorite are at Papalote HOWEVER it should be noted that Papalote's burritos are not the classic Mission-style burritos: they are a little more "modern" or CA-influenced, for lack of a better descriptor.

                            I like Tacqueria CanCun and La Tacqueria for more "traditional" burritos.

                            1. re: Aidoscuz

                              Bar Jules is on Hayes, has a great Sunday brunch, and good lunches. I live near Zuni Cafe and tend to get my weekday breakfasts at Delessio on Market(accross from Zuni, great pastries and lots of good take-away options) and La Boulange. These are primarily pastry/coffee places, but have some other options.

                              -----
                              Delessio Market & Bakery
                              1695 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                              La Boulange
                              500 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                              Bar Jules
                              609 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                              1. re: Aidoscuz

                                Yank Sing is one of my top favorite places to eat; I only go to the 101 Spear at Mission (called Rincon Center) one, I think it's the preferred location. If you don't eat much, you can get by with $25, otherwise, count on about $35 -- more if you get the more costly specials like sea bass. I always get: shrimp dumplings, chicken in lettuce cups, Peking duck, soup dumplings - called XLB I think - and egg custard tarts. Go at 11am or noon. If you go later, around 2, sometimes they've run out of stuff. If you don't see something go by that you want, just ask you server and they'll make sure you get it.
                                I like the crispy (dorado) tacos at La Taqueria. Very casual but good quality.

                                1. re: walker

                                  I assume you mean per person? I can't imagine dining at Yank Sing $25-$35 for a foursome.

                                  1. re: ceekskat

                                    Yes, $35 per person, including tax & tip. Could go higher if you go wild. I think the cheapest glass of wine is $8 -- that can add up in a hurry.

                                2. re: Aidoscuz

                                  Oh good, you'll be going to Zuni late, so someone will be able to order the burger (it's available at lunch and after 10 PM). People rave about the Caesar salad, the oysters, and the roast chicken, but for me, Zuni is all about the burger and the Bloody Mary.

                                  I like your list and wouldn't change anything - I think you hit a very nice cross-section of things SF does well.

                                  If you're interested in Burmese but aren't dead set on Burma Super Star, there are several other options, including Mandalay (in the same neighborhood as BSS) and Larkin Express Deli. I've only been to Mandalay, which I like, and which *never* has the long lines that BSS does.

                                  1. re: daveena

                                    Well, didn't the OP say she was 19? So, OP, sad to say you won't be able to enjoy a Bloody Mary (legal drinking age in the US is 21...)..but you could always ask for a Virgin Mary (same thing but without the alcohol....). It should taste good, even if it doesn't pack the punch.

                                    I do think its great that you are planning the meals for the family, even though you're one of "the kids."

                                3. For breakfast you could try J's Pot of Soul - it does not open until 9:00 though. It is at
                                  203 Octavia St (between Lily St & Page St) Great pumpkin pancakes. In a pinch there is also Stacks, 501 Hayes St., All-American Breakfast seven days a week, just okay.

                                  1. Great list - these are some of my favorite spots, except that I haven't tried La Ciccia. I agree with the others, Colibri isn't worth it and you will find much better Mexican in LA. Tadich would make a fun lunch - they don't take reservations so it works well if you go at a slightly "off" hour. Also, order something very simple - sand dabs, sole, something grilled. I like Slanted Door but would definitely try it for lunch and wouldn't substitute it for Zuni, which I love. I'm a huge fan of the Caesar salad, roast chicken and espresso granita! Enjoy your visit!

                                    1. I've been to spots 1-3 on your list -all good choices and all really different from each other.
                                      You'll be near Blue Bottle Coffe in Hayes Valley if you're a coffee drinker - check it out. Also it's a little bit of a hike but won't be too far from Brenda's for breakfast. http://www.frenchsoulfood.com/breakfa...

                                      1. Apologies for not replying for the last couple of weeks, I've been in Barcelona (lots of excellent food there too!). Anyway I think I'm pretty much set for the trip, I've got loads to go on here.

                                        As regards Slanted Door, I think I've decided to leave it out for dinner. We actually have a good few Vietnamese restaurants in Ireland, including one five minutes from my house. I think I'd rather try the other stuff on the list though it's still an option for lunch.

                                        The breakfast and Mexican places sound great, hopefully we'll get to some of them. I had heard about the Zuni burger, should be a nice reward after a long day's travelling!

                                        Thanks again for all the helpful advice. I'll report back afterwards to let everyone know we got on.