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Jan 14, 2009 09:09 AM

Visiting your fine city(SanFran), Need to narrow the options

Hello fellow gastronauts,

Being you lucky dogs are in THE food mecca west of the Mississippi, the options are a little overwhelming. We are staying in the financial district and would like some recommendation if you would be so kind.

The most important meal of the day. Think hearty, or should I say heart attacky?

Lunch...this may vary depending on which sight we are seeing, so feel free to hit all over the map. We typically plan our trips around food anyways. I'm certain that at least one lunch will take place in Chinatown (Think Andrew Zimmerman). Specific recommendations around there are helpful. One day in Napa, where is good place to have a nice lunch? Which winery has a must taste Bordeaux style blend included in their tasting.

Last but certainly not least, dinner. One night of extravagance only. I'm sure I will here The French Laundry thrown out there. What are some places that parallel? We need one great sushi joint. This doesn't have to be drop a load of money good, it just has to be Finally, and other moderately priced must try places I should know about?

I know it's a long list, but if you have places you just can't stop talking (writing) about please consider this a good place to vent that pent up enthusiasm. Thanks in advance for the help.

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  1. Ah, flattery will get you anywhere though you might have negated it in your title. Some of the local denizens get ... cranky ... when 'The City" is referred to as San Fran or Frisco. At least for me the term gastraunauts amused me and granted you a pardon ... this once.

    Anyway, you since you are new to Chowhound, you might read the post at the top of this board to get better responses. We are the land of visitors and get this question 200 or 300 times a day ... I exaggerate ... slightly.

    To get you started ...

    The best of SF fine dining

    In that list, The Dining Room at the Ritz is my favorite

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

    You might check out the SF Chow Digest. While it covers the entire Bay Area there are lots of interesting, lesser reported places in the areas you are visiting and might rub elbows with the species Bay Area natives

    Should you find yourself in the Wharf Area, the best bet is Scoma's 3 course prix-fixe lunch

    Best Bets - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants

    The Mission?

    SF Mission tacos and burritos

    Difficult to tell what your taste may be. Why French Laundry? If it is name appeal and hype, you might be served better throwing away about $600 (for 2) and a chunk of you life try to get reservations ... elsewhere. If you are into a techically perfect dinner ... well, if that is worth it to you, that's your thing. Lately Redd has been getting a lot more buzz from locals with less of a reservation circus and a way better price.

    I also like Ubuntu in the city of Napa quite a lot. The nearby Oxbow Public Market is interesting to check out.

    I'm not a sushi fan, but searching that on the board will give the usual suspects.

    Hope you enjoy your trip and report back about what you tried. That keeps info fresh for others like yourself and gives us a better idea next time you are in town what to suggest.

    The restaurants named can be found by clicking on the name in the lists provided or using this link to search where you will get the website, menu if any and links to reports

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      RWO, from all the posters in SF Chowhound you seem to be the one whose opinions I see to be the most similar to mine. What is it that you like so much about the Dining Room? I'm trying to make one more reservation and the decision is between Mina, La Folie, Fleur de Lys, and The Dining Room. I personally wanted to try Coi, but their menu setup is not to the liking of my fussy companions.

      Looking at the menu, I'll likely do a tasting while they go prix fixe - the reservationist said this would not be a problem. That said, neither of them particularly fancy fish and the new meats menu is rather limited - do you know if the kitchen does specials daily based on market ingredients?

      1. re: uhockey

        If you want high end food with lots of meat, go to Michael Mina. Personally, not my thing and it flies in the face of the modern trend towards lighter eating. But if traditional gourmet meat preparation in a high-end place is what you are after, Mina is the place.

        1. re: uhockey

          I think Siegel does a good job of coaxing every last bit of flavor out of everything. I love the service at the Ritz which is the best in the city. I thought the wine pairing with the tasting menu was exceptional.

          A long ago report

          I liked Minna when I went a few years back. However, that was when it had just opened and before there were a dozen or so copies of the same restaurant scattered across the country. I mean why waste limited dining opportunities in SF on a restaurant you can find elsewhere.

          I forget which other restaurant is expanding its empire, La Foile or fleur de Lys. However, you can get fine French food anywhere. There's nothing particularily SF about it.

      2. You're right, it's a long list. You'll get a better response if you're more specific about exactly what kind of experience and price range you're looking for. It also helps to know where you're coming from, so we can steer you away from things that might be better (or at least, as good) back home, make some comparisons/analogies to places you might be familiar with, or point you to comments from other visitors from your area about what they liked and didn't like.

        And no, no one will suggest French Laundry, since it's almost impossible to get a reservation! Places that might be parallel (and easier to get into) would be Manresa in Los Gatos and Cyrus in Healdsburg.

        What would you consider bizarre/extreme in the way of Chinese food? Really spicy? Offal? Critters not normally eaten in Middle America?

        1. Thanks for the links, they will come to good use.

          As far as prices go, we were looking for one "fine dining" experience during our trip, hence the French Laundry reference. It appears as though you have given me quit a number of choices to research. Got that covered, thank you.

          A name or two of a tried and true Chinese play in Chinatown would certainly help.

          An averaged priced ($100.00 for 2) seafood place that no one should miss while in "The City"?

          Lunch for 2 in Napa area for under $50.00?

          A winery with a good Bordeaux blend included in there tasting?

          7 Replies
          1. re: eatmedrinkme

            I would go to Sebo for sushi. Be aware that Sunday nights, there is no sushi-just izakaya, which is also good.

            I second Ubuntu in Napa. It is amazingly inventive vegetarian. (And I love meat)

            As for Chinatown, the most common recs are Great Eastern and R&G. After years of cold family multi table dinners at Great Eastern, I personally prefer R&G, but I recommend making a reservation for their upper room. Downstairs is kind of claustrophobic. To be honest, I prefer Millbrae for the higher end Cantonese and dim sum. After the quake, Chinatown got kind of dead food wise.

            If you want to eat old SF Chinatown and/or be adventurous, I recommend having the chinese language set meal (wo choy) at new woey loy goey. (I think it is on the inside front cover of the menu). More food than you can shake a stick at for $30, I think. Avoid the English language stuff. Ask if they have snails available. I've babbled about this place on another post on CH. Old fashioned toishan country cooking. Afterwards, check out Golden Gate Bakery for egg tarts or Red Blossom for excellent tea.

            1. re: sfbing

              Sure, go to Golden Gate but realize that they are no better than anywhere else. Golden Gate is skating on the reputation of the old baker who died. The current baker just doesn't have the knack.

              1. re: larochelle

                I agree that Golden Gate is not as good as before. However, they're still way better than most of the other Chinese bakeries in that area.

            2. re: eatmedrinkme

              If you're only going to be in Napa for one day, then Ubuntu is a good choice (although getting out for $50 might be hard). It's delicious and unique, and a true expression of California cuisine. The caveat is that it's in the city of Napa and thus at the far south end of the valley, so if you're visiting wineries farther up valley, backtracking for lunch might be poor logisitics. My second choice for lunch in the Napa Valley would be Martini House, although they're only open for lunch Fri, Sat, Sun in the winter.

              Chinese in Chinatown, sort of depends on what you want, but some of my recs would be Dol Ho for dim sum (lunch); Bow Hun for fish salad; Z&Y for Sichuan; and Great Eastern for Cantonese seafood. You can find more info about all of these by doing a search.

              1. re: eatmedrinkme

                There are three of the often recommended Chinese joints to try in the list about first time in SF.

                It is a bit odd, but seafood in SF isn't all that should not miss. Tadich is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and gives a great old time SF feel. It is fine if you stick to the cioppino and ask what fish is fresh that day ... a good question to ask anyplace in SF.

                Since you are going to Napa, you might consider Fish in Sausalito on your drive up for lunch. Probably one of the best seafood places in SF and a very picturesque West Coast seafood shack on the bay. Don't let the casual look fool you. Bring lots of cash ... they don't take credit or debit cards. There's a link to the website here and Chowhound reports

                I'd really consider Ubuntu for lunch in Napa if you choose not to eat at Fish in Sausalito. Dont' be put off by the vibe you will initially get from the website .,.. and really ... let me stress this ... if you like cheese, eggs, cream, butter ... all applied with a light touch ... put your reseravations aside and get a reservation. Depends on the day if they are open for lunch. You might read some of the reports ... there are a few people who really don't like the place ... but that is a matter of dining style ... just as there are people who like and don't like the French Laundry.

                Oxbow is very casual but there are some good restaurants there. It is sort of Ferry Plaza light. There's a great place for wine and cheese. The rotisserie place is great, there's a Hog Island oyster bar and a bunch of other places. Think of it as an upscale food court.

                After scrolling down the board for some recent wine discussions similar to that question, I personally would break that out into a separate topic with the word Bordeaux in the title. The people who know wine on the board are really unlikely to open a post for a standard SF visitor request.

                1. re: eatmedrinkme

                  I will say it again:

                  There are few good seafood restaurants. There are a few restaurants (like Aqua) that specialize in seafood, and you can visit Fisherman's Wharf and get served the same plate of fish you'd get elsewhere for twice the price. We have some good sushi joints, but the LA folks feel they've got the sushi all sewed up, and they might be right. Listen carefully to the fish specials where you're eating, exactly where it's sourced, and sometimes you'll hit a real winner. But few seafood restaurants. Coming to SF for the seafood is a common misconception.

                  You should, instead, add a "new cuisine" restaurant. Slanted Door is a common recommendation, and is great. NOPA. Zuni. Italian places like Delfina (very fresh, new italian, very northern) or SPQR. Trekking over to berkeley and seeing where it all began - Cafe at Chez Pannisse (upstairs) - is an interesting trip. These are the kind of restaurants we eat at.

                  $100 with wine and tip does not go far out here. You can get in and out of these restaurants for that price, but it means one glass of wine each, and more careful picking over of the menu than I enjoy. I usually set my once a week "nice meal out" budget closer to $150 and am pleased if I happen to hit a bargain and get out for $80 (which happens sometimes).

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Chez Panisse cafe offers a 3 course prix-fixe dinner for $29

                2. If you can get into Jai Yun for your chinatown trip, you'll be well rewarded. Rumor has it they are starting to do lunch (I've only been for dinner) and reservations are a must. But if Andrew Zimmerman is your muse I think you'll really enjoy it.