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Jan 6, 2009 05:57 AM

First time in San Francisco

We will be traveling to the San Francisco area in early Spring and this is a first time trip for all of us. We love good food and are searching for the best in San Francisco. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. We will be touring all of San Francisco and the wine country.

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  1. One place in wine country that I haven't seen recommended much here is Scopa, definitely worth stopping in for dinner. Also, it's in Sonoma, which is a much more pleasant environment than Napa these days.

    As for San Francisco, there are quite a few threads on here on this topic, with a lot of the same recommendations. Quince, Canteen, Ame show up on most lists and my experiences have been excellent. Chapeau and Clementine. If you want to see a nice neighborhood that visitors rarely invade, try Le P'tit Laurent in Glen Park, there's a BART stop one block from it, and Chenery Park almost next door to Laurent's restaurant. Both worth visiting. Mexico DF has good "upscale" Mexican food. Beretta and Delfina for Italian. Lots of people will recommend The Slanted Door for Vietnamese, but I prefer Bodega Bistro, which is in a dicey neighborhood, take a cab. R&G Lounge and Yank Sing for Chinese. Koo for Japanese. It goes on and on, so read up here and get some more opinions.. Some places book up early, especially Quince, frustratingly hard to get into, so book in advance for your top choices.

    5 Replies
    1. re: realspear

      Hope you will post a report about Scopa, realspear. Just a note that Scopa is in the city of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. I do agree about liking Sonoma better than Napa.

      Thos are all excellent SF recs. Have you been to both Clementine and Chapeau? I keep meaning to get to them since the owner of Chapeau bought Clementine and see how they compare these days.

      To the OP, your first question is almost unanswerable without more specifics. You might read this topic at the top of the board about getting more information when posting.

      There's a similar one on the Manhattan board where you have questions.

      As to SF, I put this list together that might be of some help

      First time in SF - Here's where to eat ... or not

      1. re: rworange

        I have been to Scopa twice. I would prefer to write a review after the next time I go, since it will be much more fresh, and I will post one after the next time I go. I will say that it is a pleasant, if somewhat crowded space, the owners (an American woman, front of the house, and her Italian husband, chef) are very visible and attentive, the staff is excellent, and the prices are right. We have tried a variety of dishes, I particularly liked an octopus in light tomato sauce. My wife, a polenta lover (and I'm still working on the perfect polenta at home) thought theirs was excellent. I had the spaghetti with innards, probably tripe although I can't quite remember. It was also a great experience. We liked the starters - including some very fresh mozzarella and some sauteed greens - and desert also. If I remember correctly, corkage was quite low and there was also a winery pouring free samples on one visit. The house zin is quite good and goes well with the food. Fortunately, we have a teenager who serves as designated driver in exchange for great food experiences, so we could take advantage of all that wine.

        Also, since it's on the square in Healdsburg, it's a pleasant after-dinner experience, sitting in the square or even walking across it. For us, it's a change from the city restaurants, back into the middle of it every time.

        One thing to be aware of is paying for bread and olive oil. Given the price of the food, it's not a big deal.

        1. re: realspear


          109 Plaza St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

        2. re: rworange

          Regarding Clementine and Chapeau...I have been to both, but unfortunately not to Clementine since the ownership change. Part of the reason for that is that previous co-owner Laurent opened his restaurant so close to where I live so I go there for French food. The other is that public transportation from where I live to Clementine truly bites, and it's often difficult to park.

          The old Clementine had a truly French feel to the food, at least based on my travels in France. I was particularly fond of the quail. I've seen many positive reports since the change. Chapeau was a terrific experience, had the four course meal and loved every course, and everyone else's courses too :-) The only criticism is tight seating.

        3. re: realspear

          If you are referring to the eponymous cities, not the Counties, I agree with you on Sonoma v. Napa. Napa is a bedroom community at a freeway off-ramp, and looks and feels like it. Sonoma, partially due to lack of freeway access, retains an old California (even "Californio") placidity that pairs well with wine and slow food. Life around the Plaza has a timeless feel about it that's a balm to the soul. Some of the same attributes imbue communities all along the Sonoma Highway (remember Juanita's chicken dinners and her free-range petting zoo in Boyes Hot Springs?).

        4. Where are you staying and how long will you be there? That will make your search here and others advice easier. Also are you comfortable with public transportation? SF has lots of neighborhoods that are well served by "subway" and buses.

          5 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            We are staying at Cow Hollow and will be there for a week. We will have a rental car the entire week. Your suggestions so far have been great. Thanks so much.

            1. re: cjml

              If you're staying in Cow Hollow, then A16 should be on your list along with its sister restaurant SPQR. Plenty of comments here on Chowhound and on Yelp for both of them. It also means that places like Clementine and Chapeau, along with Burma SuperStar, are reasonably easy to get to, although parking is a real problem. If you're going out for lunch, or even early dinner, you want to get a lot of quarters or a parking card, because the going rate in meters seems to be 4 - 6 minutes per quarter in the areas that are tight on parking. Lots are scarce in many areas also.

              1. re: realspear

                Could you please explain the parking card? Being new to San Francisco, your advice is certainly welcomed.

                1. re: cjml

                  You can buy a card that is like a credit card and use it to pay the meters. It comes in $20 and $50 denominations. I buy mine at Cole Hardware, google "san francisco parking cards" to get a list of places to buy them. Given how many San Francisco restaurants are in locations without much parking, I find the card essential for dining out at places not along MUNI or BART. If you only go out later in the evening, it's not such a big deal, but even for food shopping they can be useful.

                2. re: realspear

                  We will be picking up friends at the San Francisco Airport. Could you recommend a seafood restaurant between the airport and Cow Hollow.

            2. Mother lode of excellent chow's from St. Helena, at the tip of the Napa Valley, South. West of the valley, Healdsburg has a joint or two.

              Assume you know the names. Michelin 3 star available - be good at reservations. If you like wine, you've truly arrived - not much in San Francisco competes.

              Pay down your credit cards before making the scene - dinner for two @ Cyrus cost me $640!

              Hot springs located @ Calistoga - mud baths + all the comforts.

              There're a million things to see in'll be back.