first san fran trip in a long time - need help all around.
I used to spend about a few weeks each year in san fran when i was young, but have since not returned. i am going to be in san fran, with girlfriend, for a few days in early january and am needing some recommendations.
i need advice in these areas (one of which i know is not dealing with chow - please allow me):
noteworthy chinatown haunts - i'm not looking for restaurants as much as quick stop, great eats. also, any banh mi?
dinner places - generally american (new and traditional) restaurants. wine and tapas. my mom recommended zumi (sp?). other restriction, do not want to travel too far.
hotel - please allow this... can someone give me an honest review of the clift hotel? i like schraeger hotels normally, but need some advice. any other suggestions - i've looked at the ritz, among others...
and any other advice, pertaining to anything.
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I put together this list which will answer some of your questions
First time in SF - Here's where to eat ... or not
Zuni, Canteen, and 1550 Hyde would satisfy your dinner requirements ... especially 1550 Hyde which is located next to a cable car stop.
If you click on the restaurant name in the restaurant, it will take you to the Place record which has websites and Chowhound reports. If you are here on Saturday morning, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a highly recommended stop.
While I haven't stayed there and it is out of the scope of this board as the mods mentioned, The Ritz has the best service in the city. If you have the big bucks for it the perfect night would be dinner at The Dining Room in the hotel where you could indulge in the tasting menu with wine, champagne cart and then just go upstairs to your room.
I love the Zuni Cafe, which has been a San Francisco icon for over two decades. Zuni's menu emphasizes great ingredients, a wonderful woodburning oven, and California and French/Mediterranean cuisine. At dinner, one specialty is the whole roast chicken and bread salad for two, maybe with oysters or a Ceasar salad to start. I've enjoyed amazingly light ricotta gnocchi there. At lunch or latenight, a fantastic burger and ultrathin crisp fries. Well worth visiting.
Another legendary place to consider is the Tadich Grill, which claims to be the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi. Wonderful simple seafood -- definitely order the petrale sole or sand dabs, simply grilled or sauteed. Crusty old bartenders and servers who have worked there forever. No reservations, so avoid the lunch crush or expect to wait. Some locals prefer Sam's.
Also don't miss Tartine bakery for sweets and maybe a sandwich. Very popular with long lines, but worth it. And for a tiny chef-run place with topnotch food for breakfast or a surprising lunch or dinner, check out Canteen. Search this board for dim sum or Chinese, though many will send you out into the suburbs rather than Chinatown. There are a number of threads and blogs debating the best tacos or Mission-style burritos. Don't miss the stands inside the Ferry Building or the farmers' market there -- a great fun attraction.
If you haven't been to SF in some time I'd recommend that along with the usual tourist destinations (Chinatown, Union Square) you take some time for these neighborhoods and the great places you can eat in each one:
- Mission: the area around Valencia and 16h have great shops and tons of great places to eat. Our favorites include Dosa, Spork, Delfina, Foreign Cinema. Also, Mission Dolores and Dolores Park are all walking distance.
- Hayes Valley: great shopping and some great eats: Absinthe, Suppenkuche, Jardiniere (I've never eaten there), and Zuni is walking distance.
- Ferry building: this is the epicenter of great food in SF (in my opinion) love Slanted Door (Vietnamese), La Mar (Peruvian), Delica (casual but upscale Japanese takeout), Yank Sing (over at Rincon, but famous dim sum), and Taylors Automatic Refresher (is there such a thing as upscale diner food?)
It *sounds* like you are looking for slightly more laid-back places as opposed to more romantic or formal places. If I am right in that assessment...
Ame (CA/French/Italian/Japanese fusion)
Boulevard (New CA)
Modern, Casual, Awesome Food:
A16 (Southern Italian)
Laiola (Tapas, Modern Spanish)
Delfina (Northern Italian)
nopa (Modern CA -- note *LOUD*)
Slanted Door (Modern Vietnamese -- note, a bit overpriced, but a great experience)