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Nov 3, 2008 11:41 AM

Thanksgiving in San Francisco

We are traveling to S.F. for Thanksgiving to visit our daughter who works at a restaurant there. We would like to go out for an afternoon dinner but do not want to go the hectic, buffet route. Any suggestions? Price doesn't matter, as long as it relaxing and great food. The Ritz carlton dining room is closed that day but I did check out the Sutro's at the Cliff, which looks interesting. Any and all suggestions highly welcomed. PS- She is working the night before and the day after Thanksgiving, so she'll be tired and probably won't feel like taking a trip to Napa.

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  1. opentable currently has a listing of places taking thanksgiving reservations and links to the menus. We thought the one at Epic Roasthouse looked intriguing. Mecca and One Market also looked interesting.

    6 Replies
    1. re: margieco

      Not on the opentable list but I know is open and offering a special Thanksgiving meal is Balboa Cafe in the Marina/Cow Hollow area.

      Balboa Cafe
      3199 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

      1. re: singleguychef

        Thanks singleguychef and margieco. I just checked out the menus of all four restaurants and all look very interesting. I'm passing along the suggestions to my daughter to let her check out the menus and decide. This is just what I'm looking for- low key, good food, interesting neighborhood spot. No hotel craziness. Thanks.

        1. re: kmsarch

          FYI, of the restaurants Margieco mentioned, I'd be wary of Mecca. It used to be a good restaurant, but the chef left and it's been off radar since. The restaurant has been doing a lot of promotional nights, so you know they're trying to drive business there. I'd try any of the others mentioned before heading to Mecca.

          1. re: kmsarch

            I would be very surprised if hotels in the city were crazy. San Francisco is typically a ghost town that weekend, and anyone who stays open is likely to place a high value on the quality of the experience.

            1. re: Windy

              In theory you're right, but many of them have their B teams on staff, or don't want to be working the holiday, recommendations are really important in this case.

              1. re: sugartoof

                I simply meant the OP seems to have an impression of a different city or suburb at Thanksgiving. I'm sure you could find a mediocre meal or worse, but there should be a number of hotels and restaurants offering good value turkey and fixings without being hectic or a buffet.

                Recommendations are always worthwhile.

      2. You might keep checking opentable as restaurants often add on as it gets closer to turkey day. Also the SF Chronicle often puts out a list of who is serving dinner.

        A note about the Cliff House. They have dinner at Sutro and also a buffet. So if you don't want the hotel ambiance, I would skip Cliff House. The place will be crawling with people waiting to get into the buffet. The view from Sutro isn't all that. There have been a few postive non-holiday reports from tourists about Sutro, but I suspect that is just because they haven't been to good SF restaurants.

        I went for the Thanksgiving buffet one year at Cliff House. They didn't have cranberry sauce for the turkey. Enough said. It has been a while, but I wasn't all that impressed with Sutro.

        Epic has had mixed reviews on the board. I had Thanksgiving dinner at Lark Creek long ago, another Bradley Ogden restaurant like One Market. They did a very nice job. Ogden restaurants seem to be into Thanksgiving Parcel 104 in San Jose always has a nice-sounding buffet that I've wanted to go to. I know you don't want to go to Napa, but maybe consider Lark Creek. It is such a pretty restaurant and the ride there is so Thanksgiving-y. It is as far from a hotel experience as I can imagine.

        I put together this list from two years ago to keep in mind who is open. A few places have since closed. Many are on the opentable list. But it might give you a few more places to look into.

        Hope you report back about where you eat. There are not a lot of holiday dinner reports on the board.

        1. Beware of the Turkey roll!....and the slimey electric knife sliced Turkey Breast that was never cooked on a bone. Some really reputable places will serve real slop on Thanksgiving so it's best to find a review specific to their holiday dinner itself. The menus will sound delicious but it often depends who they leave managing the place, and what seating you're there for. It's a hard recommendation because the menus/service can change year to year. The less traditional the menu, the safer you are, in my experience. My family gave up trying to find buffets that weren't madhouses of lukewarm sloppy trays, and jello molds. I still have nightmares of the scene at Lehr's Greenhouse for example.

          I really thought in past years The Ritz had one of the other rooms open and the menu sounded super nice. I've also had holiday buffets at Hotel Nikko that were impressive, without being hectic, so you might look into Anzu or any options there. I'd say it's best to avoid the steakhouses, and Campton Place specifically. We had much better luck with some old style French places though. I'd also wonder if someplace like The Brazzen Head might do a Thanksgiving dinner.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sugartoof

            I know that the OP is not interested in a buffet, but for anyone who might be reading along and interested in one ... we have really, really different tastes in buffets sugartoof. One memorably bad buffet was at the Nikko ... though quite a few years ago ... the room was the cold, sterile hotel banquet room, the food uninteresting. When my mom got sick mid-dinner (NOT due to food), the doorman who got us a cab made a snotty remark because I forgot to tip since I was so worried about my mom and focusing on her. There was a look of panic on my face and it was obvious how ill she was (not to mention the wheelchair we were dealing with ... swell guy ... making it clear I had ingnored HIS stipend).

            It's neither here nor there since it is closed, while the food wasn't the best at Lehr's (though far outshinig the Cliff House), it was a good price, the place was festively decorated and I had a lot of success bringing people there who would have not appriciated fancier venues like The Ritz. There was a recent 'meh' report about The Ritz buffet which didn't sound all that different from my experience a few years back. I'd rather hit the Garden Court.

            Have you ever tried the buffet at the Marine's Memorial? That is one I have on my to try list due to the music program afterward.

            1. re: rworange

              I had the Christmas buffet at the Garden Court a few years ago and what I remember best was not just how beautiful the room was, but that the waiter was really really nice and not snotty at all. It felt relaxed and elegant (for a buffet).

              1. re: rworange

                Your Nikko Hotel experience just sounds like bad luck of the draw, though I admit the room was pretty sterile. Lehr's looked like it had been trampled by 500 families you would never want to share a dinner with, and soup kitchen level food at that.

                Garden Court is lovely, but really pricey, and their menus tend to be a zoo with pastas, dim sum, sushi, a kids station full of junk food appetizers.

                Haven't tried the Marine's Memorial but would be curious to hear reports.

            2. The Thanksgiving buffet at the RitzCarlton in San Francisco is unbelievable. I would strongly encourage you to go there.

              1. I know that you don't want a buffet, but the brunch buffet at noon at Marines' Memorial Club looks different from most. There's live classical music, the space is nice (the Commandant's Room) and it looks like they're using quality ingredients like Diestel turkeys.

                $49 for adults
                $29 for children 12 and under