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Oct 18, 2008 10:39 AM

What should I eat in S.F.?

Hi, I'll be visiting your city next month and I'd appreciate any tips SF chows can offer. I've never been before so I'm not at all familiar with S.F. I'll be staying at a hotel around Lombard/Divisadero. I won't have a car so I'll either be walking or using public transit so the closer to the downtown area, the better.
A couple of other things. I'm on a limited budget so as much as I'd love to try the fine dining places that your city is known for, they're beyond my means. I'm not a wine drinker so the relative quality of the cellar isn't important for me. Let's say around $30 or under for one. I come from a city, Toronto, with a huge Asian community so Asian food, as much as I love it, isn't a novelty to me. Of course if there are Chinese or Asian things that are unique to S.F. I'd love to hear about it. One last thing, I'm not much of a seafood eater, so I'll be taking a pass on that famous aspect of San Franciscan cuisine.
I'm hoping to try things that are unique to the state/area.
I hope I haven't narrowed the choices down too much. Cheers!.

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  1. Your home base is not near downtown but you are in walking distance of the Marina, Presidio and Cow Hollow/Union Street. Search this board for those locations and, of course, Lombard street as well. Here is a link to previous Toronto visiters.

    5 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Is that area good for dining/entertainment options or too far out?

      1. re: ziggystardust

        There are so many places within walking distance. Walk down Chestnut and look at the menus. Steiner between Lombard and Chestnut has an overabundance of places to eat.
        On Union at Buchanan, there's a very popular place called Betelnut, different Asian dishes, not just Chinese. Popular dishes: Chicken in lettuce cups, Spicy green beans, steamed dumplings. Next door is a new place called Nettie's Crab Shack, menu looks good to me, Lobster rolls.

        Where you're staying is a great place to just walk to Union Street and Chestnut. If you just want a nice walk, you can walk around the Presidio.

        1. re: walker

          One thing that's helpful to know is that Union STREET is nowhere near Union SQUARE. The Marina/Chestnut St./Cow Hollow areas have a lot of restaurants, but for what it's worth, the scene there is pretty yuppie.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            First of all, great handle :-). Second, as a fellow Canadian traveler to SF (and former Torontonian) I've got one word for you: Burmese. Do a search on the boards, pick one and check it out. You won't be sorry.

          2. re: walker

            I can vouch for Nettie's crab shack having eaten there a month ago. The crabs are treated with respect unlike on the wharf and are almost indistinguishable from home steamed crab.

      2. Plenty of fine suggestions already, but I might add these.

        First, don't be disheartened that your hotel is not "downtown". One block down on Chestnut Street you'll find the 30 Stockton bus which will take you downtown, through North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, etc., the usual destinations. It's a somewhat long and circuitous ride, but you'll see a lot on the way, and it's certainly faster than walking and cheaper than a cab.

        Second, perhaps Greens? I find it interesting that people on these boards seldom recommend a vegetarian restaurant unless one is specifically sought. I'm not a vegetarian, and I've never been to this restaurant (so take this with the appropriate grain of salt), but Greens is legendary; it's on my to-do list; its founding chef, Deborah Madison, literally wrote the book on vegetarian cooking; it seems to represent so much of what is great about the San Francisco food scene generally; it's not crazy-expensive (though it's not cheap either); and I would argue that it's within walking distance.

        Not sure what you consider walking distance, but you might walk along Lombard as far as Polk Street, and turn right. Many interest eating choices there.

        And for what it's worth, while Lombard and Divisadero is not stricly downtown, it's a nice strolling area, with Pacific Heights, the Presidio, the Marina, etc., all right there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: weem

          People recommend Ubuntu a lot, whether a vegetarian restaurant is asked for or not, but not Greens, mostly because a lot of reports within the last few years have been pretty mediocre.

        2. Specific Recommendations:

          Burmese: Larkin Express Deli for lunch

          Tunisian: Cafe Zitouna on Polk St

          General Recommendations:

          Since you aren't that close to downtown, it's just as easy to take buses/taxis to other neighborhoods as it is to go downtown. So don't feel limited to certain neighborhoods.

          I would definitely suggest visiting the Sat. Ferry Building farmer's market...from there it can be nice to walk up Telegraph Hill, then down the other side into Chinatown and North Beach.

          Also worthwhile is a trip to the Mission. Great taquerias, bakeries, cafes, etc.....all sorts of good food, so search the board.

          The Tenderloin also has great food, esp. at lunch - lots of Vietnamese, Pakistani and Chinese that is quite good and reasonably priced.

          But overall what I think is unique about San Francisco is the variety of neighborhoods that are packed close together. Toronto has this too to a certain extent, but it's more spread out. Most friends who visit me spend their days walking around (one recent visitor walked from my house in Potrero Hill all the way to GG Park!).....and eating along the way! If you walk all over the place, then you will find good things. Have fun!

          1. If you are staying up near Lombard and Divis, you'll have some great options and a more "local" nightlight than downtown! Check out Mamacita, Isa, and Yuzu on Chestnut. Also Emporio Rulli Cafe for the best little Italian cookies and coffee. You've also got some great bus options: the 22-Fillmore will take you down to Pac Heights (the new 2nd site of Pizzeria Delfina, SPQR-go for a weekday lunch), Lower Haight (Rotee, Axum Cafe) and then down to the Castro and the Mission (Delfina, Weird Fish, Dosa, Pauline's Pizza). The 43-Masonic will pick you up on Lombard and take you through the Presidio to Laurel Heights, Haight-Ashbury, and then on to the Inner Sunset (New Eritrea, Marnee Thai). There's also a Real Foods on Fillmore near Filbert if you need any grocery items or takeaway. You'll have MANY choices, and I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself!

            Delfina Restaurant
            3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Axum Cafe
            698 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

            Pauline's Pizza
            260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

            995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe
            2300 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            Marnee Thai Restaurant
            1243 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

            Weird Fish
            2193 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

            2317 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            3324 Steiner St., San Francisco, CA 94123

            400 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

            Real Food Company
            3060 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

            Pizzeria Delfina
            2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

            3347 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

            New Eritrea Restaurant & Bar
            907 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

            1. Some foods unique to Northern California:

              SF Sourdough - Tadich Grill $$$
              Super Burritos - Mission Street $
              Grilled Tri-Tip - Memphis Minnie's on Haight $
              BBQ Oysters - Ferry Plaza $
              Cioppino (Italian seafood stew) - Tadich Grill $$$
              Steamed Dungeness Crab - Fisherman's Wharf (or for a twist Vietnamese roasted crab over garlic noodles) $$
              Artichokes - ?

              19 Replies
              1. re: Civil Bear

                Thank you so much for the recs and keep them coming. You guys are not just helping find places to eat, but helping me map my way around your city. I'm not sure if it flies with the CH mods, but it's a huge help to me. cheers!

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  Don't miss the sourdough bread! It's pretty unique to the SF Bay area, and is really good -- the fresher the better. when it's really fresh it doesn't even need butter....

                  1. re: Kim Cooper

                    i agree! i'm a huge fan of the bread at acme in the ferry building.

                    Acme Bread
                    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    1. re: Kim Cooper

                      I fully second that one, but it's important to note that Tadich's is pretty much the one stop left for the authentic tasting sourdough natives were raised on.

                      Thorough Bread, and Acme are good breads, and you can luck out and get a batch that's sour enough to fit a craving, but it's really not the same.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        I think Mexican is a good thing for me to focus on as it's sorely lacking where I'm from. I keep hearing about "Mission burritos" Are they unique to that neighbourhood? Is there a particularly good place to go to get cold beer and good Mexican?

                        1. re: ziggystardust

                          It is the style supposedly invented in San Francisco and available at almost all of the "Mexican" restaurants that make burritos. Here is the Wikipedia blurb and some examples of burrito obsession.

                          1. re: ziggystardust

                            Mexican is a no-brainer, sure thing suggestion for anyone visiting California. Mission Street is known for a high concentration of burrito place, but they really mean San Francisco (or Bay Area) style.

                            Everyone has their favorites, and it really depends on your own grunge level.
                            I'll suggest El Toro, El Burrito Express, or La Cornetta ... I've had some scrappy fillings at some of the other more popular places, but there are more get down choices with a wide range of reviews. These places are going to be casual, and most have cafeteria style service. Most sell beer or really good aqua frescas made from fresh fruit juices.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              I'll second the carne asada super burrito at La Cornetta. It's just a block from the Balboa BART too.
                              My all time favorite is probably the carne/shrimp combo at Pancho Villa just off the 16th St BART.
                              ...or if you want to skip the rice, the carne asada with guac at La Taquaria just off the 24th St BART. While you are there, you may want to try an al pastor (bbq pork) taco across the street at San Jose Taquaria.

                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                Oh yeah...

                                Taqueria San Jose
                                2830 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                La Taqueria
                                2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                Pancho Villa
                                3071 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                La Corneta Taqueria
                                2834 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                La Corneta Taqueria
                                2731 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                  I always forget about Pancho Villa's shrimp. La Corneta's steak and prawn is really good too.

                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                    Doh! Correction:

                                    La Cornetta is off the Glenn Park BART stop, not Balboa!

                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                    I've eaten at streetside stalls in industrial cities in China. No level of grunge scares me as long as the food is good.
                                    As it's a legendary novelty and something we don't have, I plan on visiting an In n' Out burger place too.

                                  3. re: ziggystardust

                                    I'm a huge fan of Papalote, which makes some amazing burritos. Sure, they're yuppie-fied, but still delicious and inexpensive! Also check out Little Chihuahua's plantain and black bean burrito.

                                    Papalote Mexican Grill
                                    3409 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                    Papalote Mexican Grill
                                    1777 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                    The Little Chihuahua Mexican Restaurant
                                    292 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                    1. re: rahir

                                      Oh, and Papalote in the Mission is accessible by the 22 to the J. The Fulton location is just steps away from the 43 stop. You can get to Little Chihuahua by 1) taking the 22 to Oak and walking west about 5 blocks. You can also take the 43 to Haight and either walk or take the bus 6 blocks to Divisadero.

                                      1. re: rahir

                                        I want to check out the Day of the Dead festival on Sunday, that should put me in proximity in the Mission and some good Mexican?

                                        1. re: ziggystardust

                                          This falls slightly out of CH territory, but where would you recommend as a good place to drink in the area I'm staying, Cow Hollow, or not too far (staggering distance? : ) . Perhaps a grungy place, rock/punk, that sort of thing.

                                          1. re: ziggystardust

                                            Ziggy what makes you think that question is out of CH territory when this thread has 68 responses.

                                            1. re: wolfe

                                              Wolfe, because it's not food related. Cheers!

                                            2. re: ziggystardust

                                              Cow Hollow isn't the most punkrock kind of place but, Black Horse London Pub is pretty punk providing you aren't prone to claustrophobia.

                                              There are a number of old boozer bars that can be fun when they're on the emptier side.