True that. However, there are a couple of obvious areas, especially if you like Chinese food. One is the Millbrae (just five minutes from the airport) cluster of HK/Cantonese restaurants that includes The Kitchen and Zen Peninsula. The other is Solono/San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley/Albany, where there are lots of places, including China Village (arguably the best Sichuan food in the Bay Area).
As for the traffic ... who knows? I checked and there isn't a 49ers game, so that eliminates one potential traffic source, but otherwise, it depends on a lot of factors, including the weather (it's supposed to rain Sunday evening). In general, traffic going north and east on a Sunday evening is better than the traffic going south and west, but that's a very big generalization. It might be best to have a couple of alternatives and decide where to eat based on whether (and where) you want to wait the traffic out. You can get traffic reports on you phone at 511.
1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030
279 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030
re: Hugh DeMann
re: Melanie Wong
Right. I was thinking that if he took the route through Walnut Creek (80-580-24-680-80 maybe a couple of miles longer, but a nicer drive, IMHO), that brings Rockridge and Temescal in Oakland into play.
Anyway, it would also help if he could broaden "chowish" just a little. Does he want something fast and cheap? Mid-range and full service? Asian? French? Italian? Californian? Mexican?
re: Hugh DeMann
If the weather forecast is accurate then your flight may well arrive late due to the fact that rain closes one runway. Then you might be hungry. I suggest you walk over to the international terminal where there are 2 food courts with just about any cuisine you want. It is better than most all airports as there was competition to get the concessions.
If not, and you have time, go north to South San Francisco grand ave exit to Bertoluccis over on the west side of 101. A true Italian Tony Soprano experience.I would suggest you not go to Milbrae since that is the opposite direction you need to go eventually. And yes, there is traffic!!!!!!!
I would suggest Millbrae for dinner, as traffic in the northbound direction on 101 is a bear. I's likely that the rental car pick up is in Millbrae anyway and if not, it's only a few minutes from SFO. Avoiding routes that transit the City and the Bay Bridge will make for an easier drive. And, since I was stuck in the Caldecott Tunnel for nearly 30 minutes last week on Hwy 24, I'd avoid that too or know how to go over the top.
Iif not dinner in Millbrae, then a short drive south on 101 to the San Mateo bridge to cross the Bay. Then there are three main options to get to Sacramento from there. Taking either 580 eastbound then either 680 or I5 north will be the least congested. Or as Ruth suggests taking 580 north opens up options in Oakland.
re: Melanie Wong
I travel through the 92/880 & 580/680 interchanges frequently on Sunday around 5, 6, 7 p.m.
Just be aware the that 92 east/880 north & south interchange has ongoing construction so it may be a little slow. But 101 south to the San Mateo-Hayward bridge (92) to the East Bay is still the route I'd take.
Also, there is a Raider/Patriots game at the Coliseum at 1 p.m. on Sun., 12/14 so traffic may be slow in that portion of 880 around the end of the game, which also could impact the 238 connector between 880 & 580 to 680.
Personally, I'd take 101 south to 92, continue on 92 (Jackson street) through downtown Haytown and pickup 580. You can then either go towards Oakland/Berkeley for a meal while traffic dies down.
re: Stephanie Wong
I drive 92 on Sunday evenings fairly frequently, and it's often a mess -- you can be stuck on 92 between Industrial and 880 for a long time. I got stuck in post-Raiders-game traffic on 880 a few weeks ago long after the game was over (I don't remember the time exactly, but it was after dark in mid-October, so after 6 p.m.), so I agree that area is a big "avoid" on game days.
If you know the routes and alternates it's workable, but for a visitor I think the more straightforward route over the Bay Bridge is a better idea -- the traffic is a toss-up, and the route has fewer possibilities for error.
As I said, my first choice would be the Bay Bridge/Walnut Creek/Benicia route, with a stop in Temescal or Rockridge, where there are lots of very pleasant options.
I'm assuming you will be going up I-80. The Gilman Street exit is an easy on-off and will take you to T-Rex BBQ, a California-influenced BBQ. It also has a big parking lot, so no hassle there. It seems T-Rex has finally settled on their nitch ... from the website
"Our menu is “Berkeley Barbecue” with a traditional twist. We use only antibiotic and hormone free meats and our fish is sustainable. Our produce is organic when possible and our menu changes seasonally. "
The fried chicken gets high marks as being only second to Ad Hoc. The corn bread has its fans. Hmmm ... looking at the menu, seems like they have chicken fried bacon, something I've developed an interest in ...anyway, skip the deviled eggs, they are ordinary. IIRC, someone liked the Dungeness crab salad.. and it is crab season... one of their other restaurants is seafood place. I like the burger there,but wasn't thrilled with the hot dog. They are always playing with the side dishes, so I have no reliable rec there. They have good desserts.
Pacific East Mall has lots of good restaurants, especially Daimo and is SORT OF an easy off of I-80. Take Central and at the gas station, take a right. Daimo is open until 3am, so should your flight be delayed a good option. The map on the place record will show you about the right to take. There are no signs, until you get to the big mall, so that is the reason I would say despite it's proximity, someone new to the area could miss the turn.
Most of the Bekkely exits eventually hook onto San Pablo which has a bunch of good little restaurants,and you will see a number of signs for getting back on the freeway. However, I'll skip those as it might be a hassle after a long plane trip.
Here's a bunch of Place records marked as either in the airport or near SFO
Not even near haute cuisine, but it might do if you are hungry, is Grand Avenue near SFO. I see you are from NY, so maybe you might be interested in Mexican. There are a bunch of little places on that street.
I liked my visit to El Charro, an old school Mexican restaurant. The owner is Bolivian and has a half dozen simple Bolivian dishes on the menu ... we are talking a combo of rice, beans, egg and steak ... but satisfying and for simple, done well. The chips are thin and good and the margaritas aren't bad here. Across the street is a paleteria which is very good so you could pick up some hand-made Mexican ice cream for dessert. I've heard their tortas are good as well, but I haven't tried. them. A few blocks off Grand is George the Mexican Rooster Bakery, a panederia that is open and baking till 9pm.You could get some pan dulce for the road.George is in a run down nabe tho.
Hope you report back about what you choose.
Yeah, Grand is a target-rich area. Does anyone know if the Hong Ha, the Vietnamese place on Linden is still there? I used to get lunch -- a delicious duck curry noodle soup -- from there when I worked at Oyster Point, but that was more than a decade ago. Okay, I looked it up -- looks like it may be under new management, so I can't vouch for it anymore!
Okay, here's some South SF places from a list of places near the airport I made a while back:
La Perla Café, 224 Lux Ave
La Morenita Restaurant, 207 Linden Ave
Restaurant Bar Mazatlan, 203 Linden Avenue, Salvadoran
Darby Dan's Gourmet Sandwiches, 733 Airport Blvd
Hong Ha Vietnamese Restaurant, 427 Linden Ave
Jo Ann's Café, 1131 El Camino Real