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Various & Sundry Q's: Low-key walkable from SF Zoo or L Taraval? Dim sum in City, no carts?

Hiya SF 'hounds! Popping in for a whirlwind visit that will be stressful and mostly beyond my control. For the couple of days within my control, I'm trying to keep it very relaxed.

1. Have you any recommendations for low-key, casual places with solid chow that are:

A. readily walkable from the SF Zoo (I've seen this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/434885 and have been to several of the places mentioned, including John's Ocean Beach Cafe and Bull's Head Too. Also, some deli on Sloat--George's or something like that?-- a block or two from the zoo. Thought they were all okay, not spectacular. They will do again in a pinch, unless you know of better places. Ideas? ).


B. In the outer sunset, walkable from the L Taraval?

2. Absolutely must get my dim sum fix in on this trip, so, I'm seeking a casual dim sum place in the City itself, open on weekdays, preferably no carts. We liked the atmosphere of Louie's 2-3 years ago. Food as good or better than that would be terrific. I'd be willing to drive across town for it, but access by public transit would be fantastic.

3. Also, are the tarts at Golden Gate Bakery still worth going out of your way for? I know there was some angst that it had been closed for awhile but I lost track of how that sorted out.

4. I also must get my burrito fix in on this trip, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it to the Mission. I'd be willing to hop in the car and sneak away for it. Any decent burritos in the Sunset these days?

5. I was thinking PPQ for the garlic noodles and crab OR R&G Lounge for the S&P baked crab. Are either of those a good choice these days?

Thank you muchly. P.S. I'm so sad I wasn't able to time my visit so I could do my share of "Chowing with the 'Hounds." Maybe in 2009. ;-).


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  1. I really like the burritos at Burrito Express in the outer sunset. You can take the L Taraval there.

    El Burrito Express
    1601 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116

    1. Old Mandarin is a few blocks from the zoo. It's worth the schlep out there for the Peking-style hot pot, lamb warm pot, lamb with green onion, or West Lake lamb dumplings. They don't make the usual sesame bread. The "stirred flour ball," "Peking beef pie," and "onion pancake" have their fans, but I found them bland and greasy.

      Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
      3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Old Mandarin would be my pick, or Shin Toe Bul Yi (for dinner, so you can get the fried chicken). However Old Mandarin is not a good place to take people who don't like unusual foods.

      2. Off the L-Taraval, there is more - i.e., Ming's for decent cantonese, Kingdom of Dumplings, and Shin Toe Bul Yi for Korean.

        This won't help you, but there is a sign indicating that a Java Beach is opening up across from the zoo. They have pretty good sandwiches at the Java Beach on Judah, so it will probably be a good zoo lunch option soon.

        1. For very good dim sum, no carts, try Great Eastern in Chinatown. But maybe some of the places out in the Richmond/Sunset would be easier? I haven't been, but there were some very good reports a while back about a place in the Sunset: S&T Hong Kong Seafood on Noriega.

          Great Eastern Restaurant
          649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

          S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
          2578 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

          1. I like the roast duck at Win's. It is right on Taraval fairly far down the L line. The chow mein was good too.

            1. Note that GG Bakery is on vacation until this Saturday (8/23).

              We've liked the dim sum at KL II on outer Balboa in the Richmond.

              KL RESTAURANT
              4401 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA

              2 Replies
              1. re: Xiao Yang

                ...and when Golden Gate was serving them recently they seemed the same...no cornstarch to thicken the custard, just egg, flakey crust, and WARM from the oven! Same as always.....(thank GOD!)

                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  No, GGB's tarts aren't the same as before the master baker passed away. After a few mistakes with soggy centers and flat crusts trying to reproduce his masterpiece, I think they've come up with a solution. The size is a bit smaller and priced lower. With the smaller size, the result seems to be more consistent. Not quite as many layers to the crust as before, but still ahead in quality of the competition by a wide margin. Still served warm.

                  Golden Gate Bakery
                  1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

              2. Here's a few more places along Taraval with links to reports

                1. How are you arriving, via SFO?

                  If that's the case, Koi Palace is along the way in Daly City. There's also a couple of dim sum place inside SFO. Not the best but if you're waiting around, why not? I can't vouch for it but I think it's worth a $5 buck risk if you're there.

                  In the Sunset, on Taraval, there's Ming's Diner and Eight Immortals. Both are good and mostly locals go there.

                  Eight Immortals Restaurant
                  1433 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116

                  Fung Lum
                  San Francisco International Airport, South San Francisco, CA

                  Ming's Diner
                  2129 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116

                  1. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful recommendations. I will do a bit of searching and reading here on the boards on the places you've all mentioned and may post a couple of follow-up questions.

                    I'm glad to hear the tarts at Golden Gate Bakery are still good, even though they aren't as good as they used to be. I'm glad I had the chance to try them under the odl master baker, at least. However, I am guessing even in their current state they are better than what I have access to where I am now. We have lots of wonderful chow in the Twin Cities, but, no great egg tarts, alas. (Please come visit us! We on the Midwest board will steer you in the direction of all the good chow!)

                    Does anyone have any thoughts on whether PPQ for garlic noodes and crab OR R&G for the S&P baked crab would be good choices?

                    rworange, that is so cool about the places "search" you linked for Taraval. We don't have full functionality of the "places" feature on the Midwest board (yet, I'm still hoping they get around to it some day), so, I confess, it never really occurs to me to try that when visiting boards that do have the fully functional "places". Thank you!

                    Oh, a new question: lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe. Any recommendations or words of wisdom? I've only been for dinner at the restaurant previously...


                    4 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        AHA! That explains why I couldn't figure out how to access their lunch menu from their website... Thank you.


                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Since you'll be near the zoo, I'd pick Riverside Seafood on Vicente over the Chinese spots on Taraval since your time here is so limited. Spend an extra $2 per person. Here's my post, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/550488 , and I hope someone can tell us about the dim sum there as I've only been for dinner.

                        R&G Lounge charges a premium price for the salt and pepper crab. I'm only willing to pay that during the local crab season. You'll need to wait until November.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Oh phooey (about the crab). I was hoping there was a way to get a my crab fix in on this trip and have it be spectacular.

                          I guess I'll have to do that on another trip, then.


                      3. Thank you everyone, for your thoughtful recommendations. As is typical, I was a bit too ambitious and didn't quite get to all of the places I'd hoped to (no dim sum, no Golden Gate Bakery *sob*), but we did get to try:

                        ~La Avenida (on Irving around Sixth) for burritos--okay, but not great, they didn't have their whole beans or hot sauce ready. I don't know, but something's just not the same about this place since they've moved next door.

                        ~ Riverside Seafood on Vicente --very nice, we liked this a lot. Very good service with a high staff to customer ratio. I hope they get enough business to keep afloat. We tried: salt baked chicken appetizer (came with only one dipping sauce, garlic in oil, I think)--very nice; mixed seafood with HK style crispy noodles; and our favorite, the braised bean curd with dried scallop and vegetables. They also brought these little almond jello squares (okay, I know that's not what they are called, but I don't know exactly what they were) for dessert, which was lovely.

                        ~Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch. Lovely, as expected. We tried lots of things from pizza to salad to pasta to various seafood entrees, but I have to say that our favorite dishes always turned out to be the ones recommended to us by our server. So, moral of the story, listen to your server.

                        ~John's Ocean Beach Cafe for breakfast--okay enough for the price (affordable) but we are always so turned off by the indifferent service.

                        ~Bull Head Two for breakfast--again, just okay. I don't know why we bothered with this or John's again.

                        ~Guaymas in Tiburon--we stopped here for sentimental reasons and because it was a glorious day and you just can't beat the view. We tried the trio of tamales and the chiles en nogada. I don't know if Guaymas has changed or I've changed or what, but I just can't overlook how mediocre the food is here anymore. I used to like the place a lot, even knowing the food wasn't exceptional, but now I just wish i were elsewhere when I'm there, in spite of the glorious view.

                        ~The Hawaiian Cafe or whatever it's called at 19th Ave and Taraval--for breakfast-- we liked this a lot (much better than John's or Bull's Head Too), although we really only tried the spam dishes (I had the aloha burrito--I just couldn't resist the Hawaiian/San Franciscan fusion opportunity). I can't comment on the kahlua pork or plate lunches or anything like that, but based on the solid breakfasts, I'd at least give it a try.

                        ~Cafe Bastille--we had a lovely dinner outdoors. Nothing earthshattering chow-wise, but solid, and you couldn't beat the charm of the place on a perfect summer evening. Might have been the wonderful company, still, this place is still just adorable.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Thanks for reporting back. I'd choose l'Avenida over any other inner sunset choices (gordo's or la fonda) but not as good as Burrito Express in the outer sunset (26th and taraval). If your ever back in that neighborhood, Nick of Nick's crispy tacos opened up the Taco Stand on 19th and Irving.

                          I'll have to give the Hawaiian Cafe a try for breakfast. We're always looking for new breakfast options.