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NYer visiting Aug. 21-24

Hello all. I have never been to S.F. and just found out I'll be going to the music festival. The first thing I did was try and get rezzies for The French Laundry, no luck yet but I'll keep trying. Any advice? Also I would love 3 or 4 places that are a must for dinner, any cuisine, any budget. I prefer Japanese, American, Spicy, Seafood, and Eclectic, not overly enthused about steakhouse, Italian or Indian. I want to experience the best of S.F dining. I'm sure I might have a hard time getting reservations so as many suggestions as possible would be great. Thanks so much in advance.

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  1. Grew up in the Bay Area and now live in Brooklyn. One thing we can't get here is yummy crab and garlic noodles like they have at Thanh Long on Judah (Vietnamese food). It's expanded since I lived there but it's still delicious.

    If you can't get into FL (reservations 2 months in advance I think) try AdHoc or Bouchon, which are both also by Thomas Kellern and are nearby.

    Also check out the Ferry Building, which is similar to Chelsea Market or Essex St. Market. They've got this fab bakery called Miette, and their candy store is in Hayes Valley. Macarons yum!

    I'll post more when I think of them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ch_smooth

      I liked Chelsea Market and all when I lived in new york (only 8 months ago), but comparing it to the Ferry Building isn't too accurate I think. The Ferry Building is so so much more, especially during the Farmer's Market (beats the Greenmarket by many miles). Since you like seafood definitely stop by Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building, awesome oysters and a killer view.
      Definitely don't restrict yourself to just fine dining (e.g. French Laundry, Ame, Coi, Manresa...) because creative new American Californian mid-range is some of what SF does best (such as Bar Tartine, Incanto, Range).

      1. re: jsgjewels

        I agree that Ferry Plaza on the morning of 8/23 is worth stopping by, especially in the full swing of summer. Plan on having breakfast and lunch there. I will disagree with Miette, which is so hit and miss for $$$ ... and the misses are way more than the hits. It looks better than it is.

        Aziza is a good choice. The new Murray Circle has a former pastry chef from French Laundry and the Chef won two Michelan stars at a different wine country restaurant last year which he left for MC.

        Are you planning to go to wine country? You do know it is quite the trek to FL and you can pretty much get the same thing at Per Se ... just a different setting. You can try opentable.com which sometimes has FL reservations.

        You can look up restaurants mentioned via Places. The menus and links to reports will be available

        Hope you report back about what you choose.

    2. Look at this search. You'll find the same question from other NYers.


      Any way, the list is long and subjective.

      I'd say: Burma Superstar, Aziza, taquerias, Chez Panisse, Zuni, Slanted Door, Bar Tartine, Manresa off the top of my head.

      1. Don't bother with FL -- they take reservations two months to the day in advance and are usually fully booked within minutes. If you really want a wine-country, tasting menu type experience, it might be worth (and little easier) trying to get into Cyrus. But really, there are plenty of good places to eat without renting a car and venturing into the wine country.

        You might also want to search for some trip reports from other NYers -- there are quite a few of them -- to get an idea what impressed them (and what didn't).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I agree with Ruth. I was recently at FL and the waiter said that cancellations at FL don't happen like they do at Per Se as FL tends to be a destination restaurant. Our trip was contingent on getting that reservation. Once people make a reservation, they will keep it. He said that cancellations happen at Per Se more frequently as it is less of a destination restaurant and because it's in NYC where you have a lot more dining choices than in Yountville. I did go to Cyrus in Healdsburg and thought my experience was superior to FL. Apparently, there are others on this board who view it the same way. You may want to think about that.

          However, if you've never been to San Francisco before, I would just stay there. There's a lot to see and do in that city. You won't be in SF for very long. The Ferry Building is indeed a must. Try to go on a Tues or Sat when the farmer's market is there as well.

        2. First of all, for your personal tastes and coming from NY, my top rec would be Ame: http://www.amerestaurant.com/home.html

          I would almost reccomend A16 (Southern Italian) - http://www.a16sf.com/home.html - or La Ciccia (Sardinian) - http://www.laciccia.com/ - to challenge your view of Italian cuisine, but I recognize you have specifically removed Italian from consideration.

          I am a HUGE fan of Slanted Door (modern, upscale, Vietnamese) and eat there more than any other upscale restaurant in SF - http://slanteddoor.com/index.html --- like any other wildly popular restaurant in a major city, it has its vocal detractors on this board, though.

          My current favorite spot is Laiola (modern Spanish; mostly small plates) - http://www.laiola.com/ --- you should be aware on the weekends it can get noisy and it is avery much a "going out" type place; the type of place where the servers are wearing blue jeans and old rock band t-shirts, and the clientele is dressed to impress.

          I also really love Aziza (Moroccan) - http://www.aziza-sf.com/

          Other great (expensive) restaurants inlude
          Boulevard (CA; expensive; business casual
          )La Folie (Modern French; very expensive; business casual)
          The Dining Room at the Ritz (CA-French; very expensive; elegant)
          Fleur de Lys (Alsatian; very expensive; jacket suggested) ---- recent reports are that FdL may not be as good as it used to be, though.

          1. Misnatalie here, thanks so much for the suggestions, please keep them coming. This is just what I was looking for. I will probably be spending another 2 days in Napa, wanting to do something wine/food/ spa related, after the festival so my trip will be extended.

            1. I think you'll like Burma Superstar. It's a good idea to have some classic San Francisco Mexican while in town. I think Yank Sing is overrated, but a lot of people over on the NY board seem to love it, and the dim sum in New York is a bit different. I would make sure you stop by Tartine Bakery. It's one of the few places almost everyone will agree is a good tourist stop, and there's nothing like it in NY. I'd also suggest one of the high end coffee places like Blue Bottle or Ritual. Nobody in New York has really pulled off what's going on with coffee in San Francisco. Rather then go to Miette bakery at the Ferry Building, I would suggest the MIette candy shop in Hayes Valley.

              Speaking of the Ferry Building, I have to chime in with a voice of dissent and say not to make it a priority. The Union Square Market has been superior this season, even with half the square footage available. Ferry Building just has better publicity, and a gourmet food court attached to it. There's nothing mind blowing for a New Yorker there, but it's at least more exciting then Chelsea Market.

              9 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Ferry Building. The Union Square Greenmarket is basically fruits, vegetables, breads, eggs, and meats, and cheeses (and a lot of which I think that the SF market excels in compared to Union Square). Also, they really don't have many prepared foods, which is generally what tourists are looking for. And the prepared foods Union Square has (cookies, pies, pastries) are terrible.

                But I do agree with you that the Ferry Building is a LOT better than the Chelsea Market.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  You basically just confirmed what I said. The only thing the Ferry Building offers a tourist is window shopping for items they probably can't take advantage or balancing $10 breakfasts on a paper plate. Some people like food festivals though. Some people also love to hit the malls while traveling.

                  Most all of the indoor offerings can be found better elsewhere. If we're going by cakes, cookies, and pastries, then Noe Valley Bakery, and Miette get terribly mixed reviews, and that leaves one okay bakery booth, and Acme indoors. Acme is a lot like Amy's bread. There are snacky things you can get at Ferry Building, but none of them warrant the special trip down alone. I didn't say not to go, I just think it shouldn't be a priority. I'd say having breakfast at Mamma's for about the same price is a better option, for example.

                  A New York tourist might as well wait to return home to visit a green market, when they can actually buy stuff. When's the last time you were at the Union Square Green Market?

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    I go to the Union Square market on a weekly basis to buy groceries. I'm fully aware of what it has to offer.. As a tourist, I probably wouldn't get that much out of it except to just look around to see a greenmarket at work, perhaps buying some fruit or some of those awful pastries or get a glass of apple cider.

                    While you may find better examples of some of the offerings elsewhere, a tourist perspective is totally different than a local's perspective. I wish hounds can recognize that. I see posts on the NY board sending a first-time tourist with limited time to Midwood, Brooklyn for pizza saying that if they're not willing to spend an entire afternoon getting a slice of pizza, you must not be truly a chowhound as you're not willing to find the best example of something out there. A tourist doesn't have the luxury of time that locals have combing throughout the city to find many different things, especially if she has never visited San Francisco before.

                    And I have had wonderful $8 breakfasts overlooking the bay on a table. Do I generally spend $8 on breakfasts in NYC? No. I generally eat breakfasts at home and they're very simple. If I would eat breakfast out on a weekday, it would probably be something like a $2 croissant. I just came from the Napa Valley eating at some wonderful, but expensive restaurants. I hope nobody thinks we eat at restaurants like The French Laundry all the time because that is the furthest from the truth. A lot of tourists like to treat themselves when they are on vacation and will do things that they normally do not do in their native city/town. And I also know people in NYC where restaurants like FL are a regular thing for them because they're incredibly loaded. Not us, but people like that are out there. More power to them if they're able to afford that all the time. For tourists, scenery is also a big thing. I've loved my oysters and Vietnamese food overlooking the beautiful bay. I've made myself a great sandwich from Acme Bread and Cowgirl's cheese, sat on one of the benches and happily munched on it while taking in all the beautiful scenery. I've had great peaches and pastries from Frog Hollow Farms. I've had a delicious time sampling your stone fruits from the vendors and buying them because they were so much better than what you'd find in NYC. Union Square Farmers market doesn't nearly have the generous sampling policy that the Ferry Market Farmers Market does. When I'm there on a Saturday, I've purchased great cheeses from Andante's and great pates Fatted Calf -- you can't find that stuff in NYC. I've enjoyed wonderful croquettes from Delica -- far superior to Cafe Zaiya's and Mitsuwa (even though that is technically in NJ). I've purchased the most wonderful truffle salt from Far West Funghi -- haven't found one as wonderful in NYC. The nutella bombolini from I forget where is awesome! You can't find that easily in NYC as well. I know of only one restaurant that serves that. There are more terrific experiences I've had at the Ferry Buildling/farmer's market but I can't remember them all. And I've also had a lot of fun looking at everything, even if I wasn't buying it.

                    Yes, XY, I do understand what a farmer's market is about. But I'm talking about the Ferry Building which is not the farmer's market. The closest NYC has to the Ferry Building is Chelsea Market, which is definitely not on par with the Ferry Building. Oh, there are markets around the globe that are absolutely wonderful, far better than the Ferry Building and/or farmer's market. But she's going to be in San Francisco, not Montreal or Paris or wherever.

                    As a tourist, I can say that the Ferry Market is a wonderful addition to misnatalie's itinerary, especially when combined with the farmer's market on Tues or Sat. For anybody who's into food (if you're on this site, I think it would be safe to say you enjoy food), I think it's a not-to-be-missed attraction.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      "But I'm talking about the Ferry Building which is not the farmer's market"

                      Sorry, it appeared to me you were responding to sugartoof's comparison of the FPFM to the Union Square Greenmarket.....

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          I've often thought XS and sugartoof were the same myself, MIss Needle.

                          Probably the best thing for the OP to do would be to look at previous visitor reports linked to the place record to determine if that would interest them. I think as someone from NY you offered the majority (from what I've read) visitors perspective.

                          Links to reports and websites

                          If the visitor is planning to go to Wine Country other than for the French Laundry,this report about Ubuntu might be of interest.

                        2. re: Miss Needle

                          Great summation! I would only add that you can also take your bread, cheese, salumi (Boccalone just opened it's first store there), etc. and sit with them and have a glass of wine -- or even a tasting flight -- at the wine merchant. They'll even provide cutlery, plates, etc.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Brilliant tip, Ruth_L! Now on my list to do at FPFM/FB next trip. I've now been to the market twice and the ferry building four times and I would not miss either on a visit to San Francisco. We find something new and tasty every time (inside or out) and really enjoy chatting with the participants in the permanent outlets and the market stalls. And $10 for a plate of Primavera chilaquiles and a stellar view of the Bay bridge and/or the ferries chugging along is a deal if you ask me :-).

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        "The Union Square Greenmarket is basically fruits, vegetables, breads, eggs, and meats, and cheeses".

                        Isn't that what Farmers' Markets, historically, are all about? That's the steak. The rest is the sizzle.

                        I'll agree the FPFM is more impressive compared to the Union Square Greenmarket, but pales compared to some other N. American venues, like Jean-Talon in Montreal.

                    2. If you have a pal or three to tag along for dinner, I'd suggest Jai Yun, which is sort of tasting menu Chinese (Shanghainese/Huaiyang orientation) from a master chef which doesn't work too well dining solo. You won't find anything quite like it in NY. I'd skip Japanese, as you have so many better options for Japanese in NY.

                      Personally, I wouldn't go out of my way to try the thin, sour brews that so many local Millenials consider haute coffees. They won't trump Gimme! Coffee.

                      1. I used to live at Ave A and 10th - and go back and forth now for work.
                        Whenever I'm gone for a while and get back here - the one thing I find I've missed the most is tacquerias. Getting a good Mission burrito is a must. Some people love Farolito, others swear by La Tacqueria and there are those who live and die by Cancun. Taste 'em all and choose your favorite.
                        Other than that... Dim Sum (Koi Palace in Daly City is a favorite and others love Yank Sing) would be worth doing. If you like good beer - you should go to Toronado. I take a lot of visitors to Panchita's #3 (my favorite el salvadoran food).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: malachi

                          Edited to remove duplicate places link.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            It was the eighth place added to the Places database. Problem is that Google Maps thinks the name is Panchita, Panchita No. 3, or Panchita's.

                            Panchita No. 3
                            3115 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I did multiple searches with different combos (including without the apostrophe). I found Panchita's No. 2 but not three. But then, I'm not quite as conversant with the places feature as I'd like to be. And apparently there's no help or tutorial, even though I asked for one. Google maps hates apostrophes -- just try searching for "O'Farrell" without taking the apostrophe out!.