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SF- Does the Emperor have no Chowhound clothes?

It occurred to me that, as time has gone on, I now rarely if ever go to SF for what admittedly is my own definition of Chowhound food. SF seems to have become the home of higher end Cal Cuisine. It does have its Viet, Chinese and Northern Indian spots, or higher end "me too" spots such as Dosa, but I can get better and more diverse efforts of those in the cities I now seem to be spending my time in. (San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Fremont, Millbrae, Redwood City, Mt View, Foster City etc). I can also get better efforts of subsets of Korean, Japanese, and Mexican among others.

Seems to me that the Chowhound universe has shifted over the years I have been here. But then again, maybe I have shifted. Interested in others thoughts.

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  1. The population of the City of San Jose is close to a million and the population of the City of San Francisco is about 750,000, so it shouldn't be surprising that the bigger city might have more food diversity. Apart from that, it sounds like you are lumping all of those other cities into a region, but not SF itself. There is no way that Foster City, population about 30,000, all on its own, has more diversity of eating places than San Francisco.

    That said, cuisines in San Francisco that I am aware of that you don't mention include Sardinian, Turkish, Tunisian, Moroccan, Nepalese, Cambodian, Afghani, Argentinian, Indonesian, Filipino, El Salvadorean, Guatemalan, Burmese, Malaysian, Thai, Ethiopian, French, Russian, German, Basque, Cajun, Italian, and Brazilian. Just to name a few. It might be time to do some more Chowhounding!

    5 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf

      mmmm perhaps. But SF has the "big rep" while the South Bay is looked on, in some quarters, as being bereft of adequate cuisine. And certainly, for well known fine dining, SF has it all over the entire Bay Area. And I refer to what is admittedly my own definition of "chowhound".

      So yes I know there is a single Sardinian restaurant, the well know Argentinan steakhouse, the one or two German spots that are implied on that list....Italian I can certainly find outside the city. How Chowhoundy those spots are is another question. I wasnt really attempting to name all cuisines.

      But now that you mention it, of your list, I can find equal or in some cases much better than the majority of that list. I just think that, for what I am defining as Chowlike places, (ie not upscale, well known, higher profile restaurants but the family run hidden gems) my universe has shifted outside of SF and into the vast hinterlands beyond....mainly South.

      I would agree however, that perhaps I need to spend some more research time in SF.

      1. re: tomritza

        "But SF has the "big rep" while the South Bay is looked on, in some quarters, as being bereft of adequate cuisine."

        I doubt that anyone who's familiar with the Bay Area as a whole would argue that SF is superior to the East and South Bay for non-European ethnic food. You're of course more likely to find great ethnic restaurants where the communities themselves are located - Afghani in Fremont, Indian in Fremont and Sunnyvale, Korean in Santa Clara and Oakland, Taiwanese in Cupertino/San Jose, Ethiopian in Oakland, Thai/Lao in Oakland, Vietnamese in San Jose, Japanese in San Jose.

        Every once in a while, you get a great restaurant that seems isolated from where the bulk of the community is - Thai House Express and Angkor Borei in SF come to mind - but those are unusual.

        Anyway, having lived in the South and East Bays, but never SF, I also rarely go to SF for non-European ethnic food. But I think that it's probably you, and not the universe, that has shifted :) Looking forward to hearing more reports of where you've eaten - there are so many undiscovered gems on the Peninsula and South Bay (I loved the South Bay because every strip mall seemed like a potential gold mine), and so few posters covering that region!

        1. re: tomritza

          Dismissing a restaurant because it's upscale is not the chowhound spirit. As Jim Leff says in the FAQ, "Chowhounds ... know certain pleasures come at a price—foie gras ain't cheap, and Château Margaux is one terrific drink. No pleasure is gladly missed."

          1. re: tomritza

            "But SF has the "big rep" while the South Bay is looked on, in some quarters, as being bereft of adequate cuisine."

            If I had a car, or if it were closer, I would eat in the Peninsula all the time. Same with Oakland. I haven't even been to Fremont, but if you gave me a good enough reason, I would hop on BART right now to eat there. In fact, does anyone have any good Afghani recommendations?

            1. re: Dave MP

              Afghan:
              Kabul in San Carlos (possible on CalTrain) or Sunnyvale
              Salang Pass in Fremont, across the street from DeAfghanan kabobs: not close to BART though
              Helmand Palace in San Francisco

              Helmand Palace is my favorite of the four above. However if you'll expand the cuisine to include Persian, Shalizaar in Belmont is a treat and worth a journey.

        2. I haven't spent enough time in the South Bay to have a strong opinion, but I think SF might have the best barbecue, Burmese, French, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Persian, Peruvian, Salvadorean, Shanghai, Thai, and Yucatecan food in the Bay Area. The following are some SF places that might be the best at various cuisines or dishes:

          A16 (Neapolitan)
          Aziza (Moroccan)
          Angkor Borei (Cambodian)
          Helmand Palace (Afghan)
          Kingdom of Dumpling (Bejing Chinese)
          La Ciccia (Sardinian)
          La Santaneca (Salvatorean - pupusas)
          Larkin Express Deli (Burmese)
          Maykadeh (Persian)
          Memphis Minnie's (BBQ)
          Mochica (Peruvian)
          Old Jerusalem (Middle Eastern)
          Old Mandarin (Peking-style hot pot)
          Paladar (Cuban)
          Poc-Chuc (Yucatecan)
          Shanghai Dumpling King
          Spices / Spices II (Taiwanese Sichuan)
          Sunrise Deli (falafel)
          Taqueria San Jose (tacos as pastor)
          Thai House Express
          Ti Couz (crepes)
          Truly Mediterranean (falafel, schawerma)
          Zone 88 (Sichuan hot pot)

          The best Afghan food's probably in Fremont. Oakland and several other places have better Mexican. The best Indonesian and Turkish are in Berkeley, the best Malaysian / Singaporean in Lafayette. The best Ethiopian is probably in Oakland or San Jose. Oakland ties with SF for best Italian. I suspect the best Filipino and Vietnamese food is in the South Bay.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Actually, I think the best Filipino food is in the North Bay, either Daly City or in the Vallejo area.

            The discussion on this board is the sum total of all the individuals who contribute to it. If there are lots of chowhoundy places in San Jose, you couldn't tell it by what people post here, with the exception of Vietnamese. Why don't you share more of those "more diverse efforts" with us?

          2. I think that in order to justify the SF reputation, you have to look at the bay area as a whole.

            High end: French Laundry, Manreas, Cyrus, Ubuntu.

            All of the ethnic neghborhoods sperad out around the bay. Lots of them are better than in SF proper, some are not. Many restaurants are just getting priced out of the city. Especially the Mom and Pop ethnic places you seem to favor. High cost of living, high cost of help, some new legal restrictions. (I am NOT trying to start a discussion whether those restrictions are good, just commenting.)

            SF is not alone in this. NYC used to be Manhattan and little else. Now you have the rise of Chinatowns in Flushing and Brooklyn, ethnic areas around the 5 boroughs, same as SF.

            Other cities probably share this also. The american dining scene just isn't as 'city centric' as it was years ago.

            4 Replies
            1. re: lgphil

              SF has plenty of cheap mom-and-pop ethnic places, particularly in the Tenderloin, Mission, Sunset, and Richmond.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Certainly, there are some left. Especially in the neighborhoods you mention.

                It used to be, that if you wanted Chinese food for example, you went to the city, ate in Chinatown, etc. Now, you go to the city, or Milpitas, or Cupertino, or Daly City or, Oakland or or or. Not limited any more. Same with other cuisines.

                I got to talking to the owner of a new Chinese place in Milpitas not too long ago. He had originally wanted to open in SF, but ended up choosing Milp because the rents were so much lower and he couldn't see the return in SF.

                I don't think iit is as much that Sf has 'lost it'. Just other places have caught up, moved on.

              2. re: lgphil

                I think the OP is confusing destination restaurants with neighborhood food. San Francisco is a tourist and convention center, and has higher rent than most of Oakland. So it's not surprising to find more high end places here that cater to that audience. Not all are highly regarded. That hardly makes them representative of what's available, only what ends up in Zagat.

                By the same token, you tend to want destination food when you drive half an hour or more. I know I do. It's easier to explore a neighborhood you live in for lunch every day, or dinner twice a week, than say for me to drive to Fremont and work my way around. Maybe I should drive to Napa for tacos instead of Ubuntu.

                It's a sign of social progress that recent immigrants no longer have to live clustered in urban ghettos to run businesses but have now spread out to suburbs and strip malls.

                But most of the restaurants I patronize in the city are ethnic food, not Chronicle-approved upscale European/Cal-Italian. Significantly, few of them are Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Japanese restaurants in Japantown, or Italian restaurants in North Beach.

                1. re: Windy

                  A destination restaurant isn't necessarily the kind of place Michael Bauer would review. I've schlepped to the South Bay to go to places such as Thirupathi Bhimas, Darda, and Peking Eastern House that have food that's not available closer to home. I've talked with or overheard people at other tables at SF places such as Old Mandarin Islamic and Maykadeh who drove similar distances.

              3. Besides the obvious spreading out of ethnic restaurants and communities, I'm surprised no one has mentioned retail rental costs in SF. Certainly rent has gone up everywhere but I think SF (minus a few premium locations like Palo Alto) still is the costliest.

                Ethnic restaurants largely remain a family enterprise and this pushes people to find less expensive locations. I think this backs up the idea of people are moving out of SF, regular income and particularly mom and pop businesses. There's still a lot but given the cost of doing business and the risk, people are moving out.

                On the other end, places that start up in SF are obviously out to cover costs (like duh). The nice neighborhood place that charges $20-25 for an entre has boomed which is good but I think people are in denial if they don't think there's an effect, long term.

                The ethnic places that have opened more recently almost always open in lower rent districts like the Tenderloin, TenderNob, Nobloin, etc. As it is now, the Mission is tapped out and once places like Blue Plate move into the Excelsior and Silver Ave...not going to be much room left for Mom and Pop.

                Ethnic enclaves will still provide space for businesses within that community but that also has a stagnation effect. When was the last time you heard of a great new Chinese place in SF Chinatown or a great new Taqueria in the Mission?

                The emperor is still clothed but he's not wearing as much as he use to...I suspect he will be nekkid in 20 years.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  The Mission's absolutely not really tapped out. A couple of weeks ago I walked down Valencia from Duboce to 23rd and back on Mission St. While Valencia has been largely gentrified all through there, Mission St. is still pretty low-rent, only a handful of upscale restaurants and bars, and lots of seriously cheap dives.

                  Cheap ethnic Mission District restaurants opened in the last couple of years that have gotten attention here include Poc-Chuc and several other Yucatecan places, the Burmese incarnation of Yamo, Old Jerusalem, and Goood Frickin' Chicken. I saw a couple of dozen other newish places.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Of the new cheap ethnic places in the Mission, if you notice, they tend to replace existing restaurant slots because it's less expensive to re-occupy a place with the required venting, etc.

                    Very few (if any) mom and pops places can afford to pop for $200k (min.) for new venting, fire suppression system, dishwasher, etc., let alone a nice new FOH. OTOH, moving into an existing place usually can get you a code variance. Yamo is a perfect example.

                    In other words, there's only so many slots that mom and pops will likely open in the Mission due to the start-up cost going from scratch. Add in high rents and high risk and new mom and pop places just aren't in the cards very often. I'd say the Mission is tapped out in this manner. The same thing has been going on in Chinatown for years but with tighter geographics...replacement, rotating ownership, etc.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Sure, but those Mission Street and side-street mom-and-pop places fail all the time. A restauranteur looking for one can find a place fairly easily, and judging from the prices, rents haven't gone up the way they have on Valencia.

                2. Up till the mid-1950s, cities dominated discussion of regions. Now it's "population areas." San Francisco gets talked about a lot because it's a "destination city." Visitors don't head for Foster City or or Walnut Creek.

                  People heading for a night on the town often go for the big city.
                  But there's nothing at all new about excellent food being served up in outlying areas. A city gets its reputation partly from routist guidebooks, and after all, who wants to take a 25 mile ride to Foster City when there's a good place 2 miles away?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mpalmer6c

                    Tourist chowhounds head far and wide looking for delicious treats they can't get at home, or that might be better. As far back as 1996 we took a friend visiting from New York on an excursion to Milpitas for Muslim Chinese, and then to Santa Clara for Indian ice cream. He's taken us on similar excursions in NYC.

                    As it says in the FAQ, "Chowhounds ... won't hesitate to go far, far out of their way for even slightly better."

                    1. re: mpalmer6c

                      For me the question comes down to whether the excellent food is something I can get locally. I *live* in Foster City and frankly there's not a whole lot here. :) This isn't to say that there aren't some good "chowhound" type places nearby (Sweet Basil Thai and Tai Wu, for example, virtually within walking distance of my apartment, and of course all of San Mateo a few miles away), and there's a fair number of less chowhoundy but still acceptable places within a mile or two.

                      But if I really, really want a good Cuban dish, I'm gonna be driving a while. And maybe that's quintessentially Chowhound -- I'm interested in the Big Name Destination restaurants, to be sure, but I'm willing to travel an arguably ridiculous distance to get a truly good Cuban sandwich or Chicago hot dog at a "neighborhood place" that doesn't have any analogue in a neighborhood close by.

                    2. I have no idea what you mean by "chowhoundy" -- but if you've created a deffinition in your mind wich necessarily pecludes SF, then you're just arguing a tautology.

                      Admittedly, my restaurant experiences in the Bay Area are mostly in SF; but based upon what I have tried, SF has far more diverse *high quality* restaurants in it than anywhere else in the area, imo. And far far far more great restaurants in it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: whiner

                        I agree! I was trying to figure out how to express what you said in your first paragraph and couldn't come up with anything as well put.

                        San Francisco is a city that was established when there were still neighborhoods people walked around. The South Bay is a bunch of suburbs that grew together; most restaurants are housed in malls of various types, which makes it hard to identify their type and quality. The restaurant cultures are going to be different. Whether that difference is measurable in any meaningful way is really not a particularly useful discussion. If people think the chow is better in the South Bay, then tell us about it!

                      2. A year ago, I picked up San Francisco magazine for their food guide to the best food in the city and thought it was interesting that almost 90% of the places recommended were located outside the city. I'm exaggerating, but it was kind of funny to me that indeed, the best of San Francisco is often not actually in San Francisco, but everywhere else in the Bay Area.

                        I think many people have left the City for cheaper rents and thus, have more time,energy and money to spend on creating great food.

                        25 Replies
                        1. re: melisky

                          Exactly. I think this is indicative of something happening culturally in San Francisco in general. That San Jose was mentioned as being the "bigger city" is also strange to me. There has long been a movement to redefine San Francisco as the entire Bay Area much like LA.

                          ... and what I think has happened in terms of food is there has been a shift in quality to outside of the city. Unlike the New York Chowhound board which gives Manhattan it's own section, the San Francisco forum is all lumped in, and what's really noticeable is the diversity in suggestions outside The City, compared to posts about San Francisco. This is especially true to someone like myself who will never visit any of the non-SF suggestions...and I'm sure that's true of most tourists who would prefer to find great food in the city they came to visit rather then a suburb an hour away with little attraction beyond the amazing taco, biscotti, or whatever.

                          I'd have to agree, the emperor has no clothes. Most all of the reviews I read about for places in San Francisco do not reflect the reality of the food, atmosphere, experience you actually get. I also think the limitations on San Francisco's offerings are pretty evident by the lack of diversity in suggestions we're coming up with.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Or people are not reporting the little known places ... or stepping in the door.

                            Everytime I'm in SF I see dozens of joints than never get mentioned ... even on yelp. People just need to step in the door of that place they pass by a zillion times. At least grab a menu and read it later to see if there's anything worthwhile. Look past the familiar dishes and try to find the oddball on the menu.

                            Ah ... one example ... Fillmore Mexican Grill ... near Geary.

                            The Asian owner lived in Mexico. The meat selection is limited because he shops what he considers, lean top-quality meat. Food is cooked in olive oil in order to serve healthy Mexican food.

                            Gleaned that from yelp after spotting it.

                            Who knows what is really good in North Beach? Do the same places get mentioned over and over because they are good or because people don't visit the others. I've had Cinecitta on my list for quite a while due to very positive yelp reviews. Thanks to Melanie's recent report it seems like it is good.
                            http://www.chow.com/places/26005

                            I can always predict what will get the responses when I report. It is the flashy restaurant that got a mention in the Chronicle. I don't think SF has any less interesting food. I just think it is ignored.

                            The fault, dear chowhounds, is not in our SF cooking stars, but in ourselves that we are underexploring.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Cinecittà has gotten lots of reports here. It's OK, food's definitely not as good as L'Osteria but a good fallback if the line's too long.

                              The two times I've eaten there, the pizza was fairly thick and bready, you'd probably have hated it. From Melanie's report, maybe they're making it thinner.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Well I'm as guilty as anyone of not being able to come up with new places to suggest, but that's in great part because I don't feel SF offers a lot of safe options. Quality control is a problem. Too often I suggest a place, and go back a week after, then realize it's gone down hill in a month somehow. There are a couple places in North Beach that are a mystery, but for the most part, it's the same stuff or just doesn't interest me (Frank and Eddie's, Rogue, the Thai places).

                                It's hard to continue to experiment, or go by reviews unless you have an iron stomach, and an expendable income. I don't doubt we have some hidden gems but this is an age of food blogs and review sites where people make a hobby of hitting up even the scariest of dives.

                                Meanwhile, I feel increasingly left out when I read San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, Chowhound, Yelp, etc. because the places out of the city seem to be getting better and better.

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    The Italian restaurant where Moose's was located. Not a lot of enthusiasm from Chowhounds. Reports linked to this Place record
                                    http://www.chow.com/places/29360

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      My question to sugartoof was if the restaurant referred to as Frank and Eddies was in fact Joey and Eddies or am I missing a restaurant. I find it difficult to believe sugartoof got the name wrong since there are 10 sugartoof posts on the thread you linked.

                                      1. re: wolfe

                                        It's obvious I got the name mixed up.

                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                    Actually you have mentioned places others haven't. I have Rosita Bakery on my to-try list after reading a posr of yours

                                    I don't think the quality control is any different anywhere in the bay. You probably don't notice the downhill reports in the areas where you don't live.

                                    After four years in the East Bay and posting a lot about it on Chowhound, it is amazing all the places that have closed, changed owners, gotten better, gotten worse.

                                    This is for the entire bay area, but as of this post 736 places have closed in just the year since the Places database has been up.
                                    http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

                                    Which reminds me East Bay people, Sea Mi closed to be replaced by a tapas bar... Ferrati's, I believe.

                                    Safe? You should see what some of these joints in other parts of the Bay look like.

                                    >>> this is an age of food blogs and review sites where people make a hobby of hitting up even the scariest of dives. Meanwhile, I feel increasingly left out when I read San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, Chowhound, Yelp, etc <<<

                                    That is the problem ... it is self-perpetuating. Everyone is a bunch of lemmings eating where everyone else eats. For the most part I've given up on Bay Area blogs which are like a clicky little circle where they congratulate each other on eating at the same places. There are exceptions, of course.

                                    Currently the East Bay Express is doing nothing but regurgitating what they are reading on food sites like Chowhound and Yelp. Yes, I miss Johnathan Kauffman, but I also miss John Birdsdall. He stepped into a bunch of places others didn't dare. I'm still grateful for the Nieves Cinco de Mayo review of his.

                                    I don't think it takes lots of bucks. It doesn't cost a thing to walk in a door and ask for a menu. I find yelp a valuable resource in that because of that 'first to post' thing, many places have some mention.

                                    That doesn't mean that the reviews are good or reliable. But sometimes when I see a joint that I don't know about, reading yelp ... sometimes something sticks out about the place ... something about it merits looking into ... like that Mexican joint on Fillmore. I mean, you have to sift through a lot of mud to find the small flecks of gold ... but it is there ... Waley's which a lot of Chowhounds like, came from yelp mining. So is Cafe Bean in Unions Square.

                                    There are so many special places in SF. No one makes better Irish baked goods than John Cambpell's. Thourough Bread and pastry has the best sourdough. Europa Express's Russian breads are soooo overlooked. That is just a few bakeries I could go on and on.

                                    And people tend not to talk about old favorites because they think everyone knows. Are there anything more than occasional mentions about places like Little City. Yet the web is all agog over the pig part place of the moment like Fatted Calf or Boccalone Salumeria.

                                    Lemmings.

                                    I will really miss Eat Nopal because he opened up so many exciting places in the North Bay that people overlooked. I still believe that SF has a lot of good over-looked places.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      "Everyone is a bunch of lemmings eating where everyone else eats."

                                      I don't think that's true of many regular posters on this board.

                                      Personally, most of the time I'll go back to a place where I know from experience that I'm going to have a great meal, or feel pretty certain of that because someone I trust has been raving about it.

                                      I try new places on a regular basis—for example, I'm two or three places away from having tried every Korean restaurant in Oakland—but most of the time the food is mediocre. It's rare that it's good enough that I want to go back, and very rare that it's better than whatever my favorites are for that kind of food.

                                      And on those rare occasions when I do come across a gem, I usually know it as soon as I look at the menu. Popol Vuh / Poc-Chuc, for example, I just stumbled across walking down the street.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        736 is far overstating the case. Your search picks up "Closed on Mondays", for example, in the hours field.

                                        ETA: to stay on this topic, note how many "?" question marks there are on the message board index page, and even those topics without a question mark are actually asking for advice too, to get a lemming to non-lemming ratio. Sure, it's higher during summer travel season, but still pretty sad.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Well ... duh ... thanks. Just searching on title 135 as of this post
                                          http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

                                          Sigh ... looking at what is left it seems like half of those were my own 'discoveries' ... a slight exaggeration ... maybe ... ah well, better to have eaten and lost, than never to have tried them at all.

                                          I'm not saying, Robert that there aren't people like you who give unknown places a try, but even here there's a tendency to report over and over about the same places.

                                          When there is a visitor inquiry ... it is the same responses over and over. Maybe those are the only good places out there.

                                          For example, asking for the best breakfast place in SF gets the same responses, but I've been compiling a list of places I'd liked to try.

                                          That might be the thing why SF doesn't seem as vibrant a restaurant scene as other parts of the Bay Area. Some restaurants are just so good that you don't want to go elsewhere.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            Only a vibrant restaurant scene can allow enough great restaurants to flourish that it's hard to find time to try new ones.

                                            When I post on another Chowhound board prior to a trip, I want to hear the regulars' greatest hits. I think most visitors here are looking for the same. The laziness of the answer is usually proportional to the laziness of the question.

                                            There are 235 Italian restaurants on Menupages. Maybe that list incudes a few I haven't tried that make food I would find as delicious as what I get at A16, Incanto, and La Ciccia, but I doubt it. Word gets around fast.

                                        2. re: rworange

                                          The problem is I haven't been to Rosita Bakery in a couple months... for all I know it's filled with junk now.

                                          Places in the city seem to be missing the consistency and work ethic that make or break them and they can change over that quickly. ChouChou on Lagunda Honda is a great example of a place that was incredible when they had the original French chef. Now, not so incredible. I had one of the best meals of my life one week, went back the next, and the dish was off the menu, and the new cook was struggling. I can relate to the best and the worst reviews for Chou Chou.

                                          I'm sure that goes on outside the city too, but I get the sense the food options have improved in many areas where young food scenes are getting noticed....and the amount of mediocre dinners I'm having in SF (and most cities I visit, actually) are increasing.

                                          I do agree there must be more hidden gems.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            "And people tend not to talk about old favorites because they think everyone knows."

                                            Even when I've posted updates to the old(er) places, there is pretty much no or scant response to these. Examples - Frascati, Adndalu, etc.

                                            "Everyone is a bunch of lemmings eating where everyone else eats."

                                            This sentence made me laugh out loud, because it pretty much sums up my feelings about a lot of food sites in general.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              The "lemming" mentality or whatever you want to call it comes from (in my opinion) the fact that there are a lot of people that like to eat good or interesting food, combined with much tighter eating out budgets for many of the people that read Chowhound and an overwhelming amount of choices. In the Bay Area, I don't feel like I want to just walk into a place and try it- not because I'm not adventurous, but because I don't want to blow a meal out on something disappointing. If I had a larger eating out budget, I would totally take those for the team, because I love trying new places.

                                              A lot of us can't afford sifting through the mud, so we lean on those we trust who do and can, and I hope they appreciate it.

                                        3. re: sugartoof

                                          The places I mentioned above are about as diverse as it gets. There are hundreds of others. SF doesn't have the best of everything in the Bay Area, but it has the best of more things than any other city, and a lot of very, very good options for lots of others.

                                          It's almost as good a place for a chowhound to live as Oakland. Better, if you don't have a car.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Robert, there's nothing diverse about a list of ethnic eats with your top suggestions in each category. Diverse is multiple solid suggestions. Classic version, new experimental version, high end version, bargain versions.... San Francisco does not have that. Are we more sophisticated in our expectations? Yes, but San Francisco is just not keeping up. If anything, our diversity is limited to certain cuisines.

                                            Plus you admit it's 'almost as good as Oakland". As Oakland? Oh how the mighty have fallen. It's clear that the focus for chowhounding has turned to outside the city. Much as I'd like to snob it up like the city slicker I am, it's time to admit San Francisco needs a food revival.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              Delicious food in a wide variety of cuisines is the only kind of culinary diversity that matters to me. SF beats everyplace else in the Bay Area and most other places in the US on that score.

                                              I was mostly joking about Oakland. We have better Korean, Mexican, Ethiopian, farmers markets, and grocery stores, but most other things are better in SF. Food-wise we have a lot more reason to go into SF than SF residents have to come over here, or than we have to go in any other direction.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Well I'm sure it's just easy to idealize what I don't know, if only just to keep hope. As I said, we are all far more sophisticated about how we approach food then we were even 10 years ago, but with all the variety, and artisanship something is still lacking.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  I don't understand that attitude. Many of my favorite places remain great after 20 or 30 years, and every month or two I find a new or new-to-me place that's great and exciting.

                                                  My perspective might be different partly because I reached my peak of culinary sophistication around 20 years ago.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Which 20 and 30 year old establishments are you talking about?

                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                      Angkor Borei
                                                      Chez Panisse
                                                      Helmand Palace
                                                      La Folie
                                                      Maykadeh
                                                      Oliveto
                                                      L'Osteria del Forno
                                                      Pauline's
                                                      Taqueria San Jose
                                                      Tommaso's
                                                      Vik's
                                                      Yuet Lee
                                                      Zuni Cafe

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Some of those haven't hit the 20 year mark, but in any case...I can't imagine that list really represents anyone's peak of culinary sophistication. A few of those (Zunis, L'Osteria, San Jose, Tommaso) aren't really pushing the boundaries of culinary maturity, so much as they just do what they do and it's stable.

                                                        The way the average consumer speaks about ingredients is entirely different then even 10 years ago. People are more exposed..... but while the level of food talk has improved , the food itself really has not. Maybe your list above helps illustrate my point.

                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                          By my standards, Zuni's cooking is as sophisticated as it gets. It hasn't changed much in twenty years, and why should it? The rustic Italian and French cooking that inspired it hasn't changed much in a hundred years. Most of the basic ingredients and tools date back farther than that.

                                                          I prefer classic food done really well to chef's experiments.

                                      2. On a density basis (eateries per square mile), SF proper probably has more diversity and quality than any other area in California, including other localities within the Bay Area. In fact, I might even go so far as to suggest this is true on a per capita basis.

                                        Immigrants used to move into the cities. Nowadays, they tend to move into the suburbs. Which is where we now find a lot of newer, more contemporary and/or more specific ethnic cuisines. Sure, other Bay Area communities have some nice ethnic food, but diversity is definitely lacking compared to the city.

                                        1. After sufficient travel and food research, wherever I go, I've come to a conclusion: San Francisco is the culinary capital of the US. There is actually empirical evidence to support this conclusion. For a whopping 16 consecutive years, Conde Nast Travel Magazine's reader poll places SF as the #1 travel destination in the US (2nd only to Sydney globally)---unprecedented by any destination. A major criteria for this accomplishment is SF's worldwide Restaurant Score of 93.1. Frequently when travelling, San Franciscans are perplexed by undrinkable red wine, dumplings without fillings, tasteless pasta, oil-dripped meats, mundane dishes priced as royalty..... We take for granted the pioneering history of San Francisco's culinary scene, which has rippled throughout the Bay Area, California and the US. Fueled by nearby fresh bountiful agriculture, ranches, ocean seafood, vinyards, orchards and imported foreign food products, even average chefs have a higher probability for quality cuisine. But add the spark of culinary creativity and cultural variety---and San Francisco's food scene IS remarkable. SO,, for visitors to San Francisco, stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, buy a whole roast duck in Chinatown, dungeness crabs at Fisherman's Wharf, sourdough french bread and a bottle or two of California Pinot Noir---AND ENJOY!