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Jan 22, 2009 06:30 PM

New Yorker wants your favorites/recommendations for a week in SF

I'm coming to SF Bay Area in about a week or so and I'll be staying for a week. I want your favorite restaurants, cafes, coffee places, bakeries, wineries, vineyards, cool places, markets, etc. all over the bay area so that I can explore all the SF has to offer. I have been twice and have loved it each time. This time, I have a whole week to explore, so I want to make the best of my time there!

Thanks so much!

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  1. I am going to stick my neck out and save the SF Bay Area 'Hounds repeating themselves. These poor folk must get a dozen requests a week like yours, and they are so generous in helping tourists. You are probably familiar with that phenomenon as I notice you post on the Manhattan board. They really need to know more about you and your trip to make it worthwhile. Where are you staying? Do you plan to use transit? What did you love, food-wise, when you visited before? Do you have a budget? Are you interested in ethnic food? What kinds? Where are you coming from? Are there specialities in your home town that you DON'T need recs on? I've probably missed a few but you get the idea. It's also quite helpful if you do a bit of reading up on this board and mention some places that look good to you. This link will get you to the "tips and tricks" posting that has been helpful for visitors including yours truly

    I love San Francisco too and have been humbled by the assistance these hard eatin' 'Hounds are willing to offer travellers but ya gotta help them help you. Have a great trip.

    From a Vancouver 'Hound champing at the bit for her spring fix of the Bay area.

    PS Another way I've found to help ensure a warm reception here is to promise to post on the places you end up dining... and to follow through :-).

    PS 2 And don't call it San Fran or Frisco. That is grumpy-making, I've noticed :-) :-).

    2 Replies
      1. re: JasmineG

        Yes indeed! Grayelf speaks much wisdom, and she's been such a great contributor to this board we've made her an honorary SF Chowhound!

        BTW, for Modesto recs you should ask (if you haven't already) on the California board. The food scene in the Central Valley takes a bit more work to mine out worthwhile nuggets, but they are there.

    1. Where'd you go the last two times that stick out for you?

      1. I know its been said before, but this poster is a homey, yes NYC! So I have to respond. If you are here on a good weather day, and we have more than you think, get yourself to Marin County, Sauselito (sp) to really take advantage of some killer views and killer food if you go to Fish and/or Sushi Ran. Fish for lunch (which lasts until at least 4:00pm), almost completely wonderful, very informal (picnic tables, cash only, on a real waterfront) inventive, very tasty, very Cali. Sushi Ran has no view, but its a block away if you want it. The fish is pristine and careful, the cooked dishes very satisfying. There are dozens of great places in SF, try walking up Fillmore street and you'll find Dosa, (which I have not tried but it looks lovely,)Pizzeria Delfino and SPQR (which I have and they are scrumptious) among many others.

        1. thanks for the kind hints. i will definitely post when i get back in mid-february. ok here goes:

          i'd like to explore marin county, berkeley, san francisco, palo alto, etc.. i will be in modesto for two days for work - any suggestions? and as far as wine country goes, i was in sonoma last time and just LOVED it. so i will return and want to take in the scenery, visit some vineyards, and perhaps have dinner on the early side at a place either in sonoma or in the surrounding area. are there any other towns north of san francisco that people like? i like quaint, small towns with a community feel to it. basically, i just want to know everyone's favorite places that make them love living in san francisco. i want to know what san francisco does well and takes pride in. things that san francisco does better than anyone else.

          fyi, i will have a car.

          as far as meals go, i'd like to go to places that would be okay to eat at alone. i love sushi, i would like to have some amazing dimsum (from what i've read, koi palace is sounding good and i also got a rec for hong kong flower lounge. last time, i went to ton kiang and it was less than stellar). i want to try some truly remarkable seafood and also go to the mission for mexican food. and if you have any places that you cannot live without, please suggest! price range for meals should be moderate to cheap, but i may splurge on one meal that can go up to $100 per person excluding wine.

          coffee places - you know that the west coast always has a leg up on the east coast as far as coffee goes, so i want to try the best coffee you have to offer.

          cafes/bars - neighborhood places that might be good places to hang out alone and chat or read a book.

          bakeries - i have a serious sweet tooth and want to try the best bakeries you have. if you have a specific dessert that you like, also list that here. i'm not really particular to cupcakes, but other than that, i love it all. also, in addition to western-style bakeries, if you have a good rec for a chinatown bakery, that would be great. in addition to sweets bakeries, any recommendations for your favorite sourdough loaf?

          markets - i LOVE farmer's markets and unfortunately, it looks like i'm going to miss the ferry plaza market on saturday because i will be in modesto... any other farmer's markets in the area?

          vineyards - any recommendations in sonoma or russian river valley or anywhere else? i went to sonoma my first time but only made it to one wine gallery, not even a vineyard. i don't want to go to napa.

          i am VERY interested in ethnic food. i went to massawa, an ethiopian place, last time i was there. it was good, but didn't blow my mind. i liked the area around there, though. i can't remember what the neighborhood was called. but as i said before, i love dimsum, sushi, asian food, mexican, and basically any sort of ethnic food that san francisco really does well. and i know it's not ethnic, but i'll say again that i'd love to try some of the really fresh seafood that san francisco has. i LOVE seafood and may eat it every day if i find something good.

          from a non-food standpoint, if you have any suggestions on things to do for someone alone, that would be great. whether it be a good place to hike, a neighborhood to walk around, shopping, anything.

          17 Replies
          1. re: j.jessica.lee

            Read this thread for suggestions and links for the solo dinner. Kirsten from AZ give a very nice followup on one. Grayelf has a lovely report on a walking, eating tour of the Mission.

            1. re: j.jessica.lee

              As has been pointed out above, there are plenty of recommendations for what you want, so I would just like to address a couple of them that may have fewer comments here.

              Coffee shop: If you want a unique experience, and incredible espresso, try Trouble Coffee on Judah. If you are staying downtown, you can take the N train on MUNI from Market Street to the front door. There is nothing like it anywhere else. For food, they only serve "toast," which I can guarantee will be the thickest and best toast you will ever have. And you can spend hours looking at everything in there and talking to the bizarre mix of patrons. If you do go, it's near the ocean, so dress more warmly than you would downtown.

              For farmer's markets, they are all over the area and you should give some idea of days you would want to visit. However, at this time of year, some are closed.

              For wineries in Sonoma, I really like J. The reason is that you can have a wine/food pairing in the adjoining dining room, but you have to ask. They don't publicize it. I also like their wines.

              1. re: realspear

                I thought of Trouble Coffee too. It's tiny, there's no real menu board, and it's quirkiness is obviously calculated, but along with the toast, and fresh coconut juice they serve up De La Pazz coffee. They're a young company micro roasting and hand delivering their beans. It's the smoothest coffee you'll ever taste. Trouble Coffee also uses Strauss Milk which sets them apart.

                The other coffee standards will be Ritual Coffee in the Mission (go check out Tartine Bakery, Bi Rite Market, Bi Rite ice cream, and Lucca Raviola while there) and of course, Blue Bottle. If you've had Cafe Grumpy's Clover drips then you've had Ritual beans. I'f you've had Gramercy Tavern's coffee recently, that was Blue Bottle. Just to complete the round up, there's Four Barrels (check if they roast their own yet) and several other vendors (Dynamo Donuts, etc.) serving up Stumptown Coffee (but you've had that if you have been to 9the Avenue Coffee, and it's not really an SF thing anyway). Phillz in the Mission, and Castro is a funky shop featuring really unique flavors that transcend the novelty. The stuff is expensive, and in my experience tastes best if you like sweeter coffee drinks, but those of us who like it really like it. There's Cafe Graffeo for an old North Beach roast, and you can buy the beans from them, or a cup brewed across the street at xox truffles. They do a nice darker roast without burning the beans, that's close to La Colombe the Philly company that you've most certainly had in NYC, likely without even knowing it. Finally, there's a place called Coffee Bar in a non-descript part of town that uses their own Italian style wood roasted beans, and the Mr. Espresso brand which you'll find all over town (Tartine Bakery carries it) which is out of Oakland.

                By the way, across from Trouble Coffee is a nice health food store that has started carrying a good selection of locale cheeses, and stuff. They happen to have a pretty good selection of beans for sale at any quantity, including Ritual, De la Pazz, and several other Free Trade ones like Equator, etc.

                1. re: sugartoof

                  Found this really cool recent article about Coffee Bar and other recent roasters such as Blue Bottle, Ritual, Trouble. Sounds like James Freeman is loosening up a bit, which is nice. Now if he'd only grind those beans for customers. The article has the reason why Trouble serves fresh coconut.

                  I forgot, in Palo Alto there is Cafe del Doge which is Venetian coffee. A good coffee roaster in Santa Clara is Barefoot Roasters

                  If you plug the name into the places search you will find more info like websites, addresses and other reports

                  I hate linking to Places just to provide an address because it junks up the information and makes it useless. If people go to places for info and each link they click on just says "go to xxx" without any more info, well, useless.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Also to add - De La Pazz is the stuff they use at Canyon Market, and they also have reasonably priced cardamon biscuits and cookies amongst all the other riches.

                  2. re: realspear

                    You know, I don't really like websites that make you work to find info. I got over novelty websites after about a month on the internet many years ago. My requirement is give me the info ASAP. However, I like the quirkiness of the Trouble website (on the place record). You gotta like a place that lists their hours as "every damn day. seven am to eight pm'

                    Trouble Coffee Company
                    4033 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: rworange

                      The place is ridiculous in that regard. It's not just their website, it's the entire shop.

                      When you have to ask what they've got on a first visit, and that say "I can make you really good toast" you know there's something unhinged about that concept. It works though, and there's a sense of humor to it like their manifesto on a chalkboard in the window. At least I hope that was supposed to be funny. I just can't stress enough that it is a hole in the wall, on a nothing block. Really worth a trip if in the area, but don't drive for hours and pay a bridge toll to get there. Unless you really like toast and coconut juice.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        Re: Trouble:

                        The beach is a few blocks away, and the (golden gate) park is too. Good atmosphere.

                        I personally think the coffee (and espresso) are only decent--not spectacular. Ritual does a much better french pressed coffee. The Ritual location at Flora Grubb Gardens is kinda neat--and definitely worth going to, if you like plants. I like Coffee Bar, too. Blue Bottle's good as well.

                  3. re: j.jessica.lee

                    Coffee: Blue Bottle (Mint Plaza)

                    Cafe: too many to choose from, but I'm certain the one you are looking for is in North Beach

                    Bakeries: Tartine, Acme Bread, Victoria Pastry

                    Sushi/seafood: Ino Sushi, Sebo, Sushi Ran, Fish.

                    Tartine Bakery
                    600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Victoria Pastry Co
                    1362 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    Acme Bread
                    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    350 Harbor Dr, Sausalito, CA 94965

                    Blue Bottle Cafe
                    66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                    Ino Sushi
                    22 Peace Plz # 510, San Francisco, CA

                    Sushi Ran
                    107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, CA 94965

                    1. re: j.jessica.lee

                      What days are are you going to be in which locations. Some places are closed on certain days and it would help to recommend farmers markets. Here is a link on all the farmers markets in California with days and times

                      The best thing to do would be to head up to 24th St for Mexican food. Here's a list of favored taco and burrito places in SF

                      SF has a lot of Yucatan restaurants which might be worth exploring. One of the best is Poc Chuc. Here's a list of those restaurants

                      If you are in Oakland, you could head up to International and explore taco trucks with a stop at Nieve Cinco de Mayo for hand-churned ice cream

                      Here is a Mission walking tour put together by Melanie Wong that explores the many cultures in the area

                      You might read through the SF Bay Area Chowhound digest for some good tips

                      For coffee there is old school and new school. I prefer old school mainly. My favorite is Graffeo dark roast. You can get Graffeo at XOX chocolates in North Beach. They throw in a free truffle with it. Love the caramel. I also like it as a place to hang out for a while. there's only a few tables, but the chocolate maker is there, hands covered in chocolate making fresh truffles while neighbors stop in and chat.

                      I also like the coffee at Cafe Roma. Cafe Trieste, the original location only, is worth a stop for the atmosphere. The hub of the beat generation. From what I've been reading lately, this might not last too much longer as is. Papa is in his eighties and the son and his supervisor girlfriend have grand plans for cleaning up the joing and expanding. There are already a bunch of Cafe Triestes in the bay area, but the original is the only one worth stopping at.

                      New school, the best still remains Blue Bottle. The location at the old mint has a fancy dancy coffee machine. IMO, Ritual doesn't still belong in the game, but some like it. The new kid in town is Four Barrel. On 24th there is Dynamo donuts that sells it along with thier upscale donuts with flavors like maple bacon and star anise. This is just a counter with a few outdoor tables. I prefer the Four Barrel coffee shop on Valencia which I think is waaay better than Ritual in terms of ambiance. Also on 24th is the best of the Philz coffee shops which is very colorful and Phil is quite the character. The mint coffe brewed with fresh mint is highly recommended.

                      I recently discovered a long-time Sonoma roaster called Barking Dog. Love the stuff and a great place to hang out. There are two locations

                      If you have limited time, in Sonoma there is Cornerstone market a little complex of shops and tasting rooms. Across the street is Gloria Ferrer winery and sparkling wine tours are always interesting because they are different.

                      1. re: j.jessica.lee


                        Don't be overly ambitious. Choose no more than one area per day.

                        We only do food on chowhound. The moderators keep us to that, rightfully so.

                        If you've already gone north, consider going south. The drive along the coast is good - dark, stormy, dramatic - but the food options are only moderate. Local institution Duarte's in Pescadero is worth a stop. I've grown fond of the Best Taco Bell Ever, the one south of pacifica. There's a couple good eats at Half Moon Bay, but nothing astonishing. You'd have to look on the California board for a santa cruz rec, but in general the food scene there is on the weak side. You can head back across rte 9. The best eats around is Manressa in Los gatos, which would be a splurge but you should consider it.

                        The peninsula (south SF through san jose) is a collection of cute town centers surrounded by a moderate suburban sprawl. Burlingame is kind of cute, San Mateo's a little bigger, Redwood city has its moments, palo alto is defined by stanford, and Mountain view gets you into serious silicon valley. For eats, San Mateo has some excellent every-day chinese places and the *excellent* sushi sam's (first rate fish at moderate prices). Palo alto is worth a little walk around, and has lots of little restaurants which are quite good but nothing either outstanding our cheap. Mountain view has far better food - concentrate on chinese, I've been enjoying Fu Lam Mum. Search each town individually, and especially check out 'Sushi Monster' and 'El Taquistador'. Making a crawl of Redwood City's taquerias isn't a bad afternoon - although Fruitvale is a better bet.

                        If you wanted to be eco, consider taking the train. All the cute walking districts are right near the train station of each town.

                        San Jose is extremely inhospitable to the casual visitor. It's a huge sprawl with some excellent stripmall ethnic that's tough to tease out.

                        But compared to the wine country? Let's face it, the peninsula is a very comfortable place to live, has some killer eats, but it's not Gorgeous like sonoma/napa.

                        If I was going to make a short list of "must eats" in general categories:

                        * excellent smaller neighborhood places serving "modern cuisine", like Wood Tavern in oakland, delfina in SF, cesar in berkeley. In some sense it's all echos of Chez Pannise upstairs.
                        * Korean in Oakland, depending on how much korean you get at home
                        * chinese like China Village; or dim sum; or XLB-crawl
                        * Taco crawls
                        * huge sprawling multi-course extravaganzas, like Manressa, TFL, Ritz,
                        * Cocktails

                        I can't really comment on Napa / Sonoma.

                        Regarding coffee, rworange is on the mark.
                        Ethopian - berkeley's covered with it, nothing's that great though.
                        Bakeries - we concentrate on breads and savories, not sweets so much.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Pescadero is really one of my very favorite very small towns; destinations there include Harley Farms goat cheese, Phipps Country (amazing heirloom beans) and Duarte's Tavern (a historic roadhouse with good local seafood).

                          So I agree that if you've already gone north, you might want to try going south down Hwy 1, though the scenic-but-scary Devil's Slide area, through Half Moon Bay (the main street off the highway is a nice place to stroll), and then farther down the coast. If you're going to be in Palo Alto, then the San Mateo coast is just a hop over the ridge, although (major warning) unless you're up for a long, windy, scenic drive, do not give in to the notion that taking 84 is shorter than going up and around 92. It's not. Trust me.

                          Oh, and you asked about Chinese bakeries, and no one yet has mentioned Golden Gate Bakery. People will tell you the egg custard tarts aren't what they were before the old baker died a little over a year ago, but they're still darn good; less renowned but equally good, IMHO are the coconut macaroons and coconut tarts.

                          Golden Gate Bakery
                          1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            To make up for my "quelling" post above, here's a link to the half-day trip we did to Fruitvale for Mexican in November. If you can do it on a day other than Monday, you will be even happier, and it is so easy and cheap to do by BART even if you have a car -- I daresay it is faster too as you don't have to worry about traffic. We got back downtown in time to hit the Mint Plaza Blue Bottle for an afternoon restorative and tour the Jewish Museum, though bbulkow is right to beware of being overly ambitious.


                            1. re: grayelf

                              I love it when you speak Canadian but
                              k'velen - Glow with pride and happiness, beam; be delighted
                              quell -Middle English, to kill, quell, from Old English cwellan to kill; akin to Old High German quellen to torture, kill, quāla torment, Lithuanian gelti to hurt
                              to thoroughly overwhelm and reduce to submission or passivity

                              1. re: wolfe

                                Hey wolfe just to "quell" your fears I meant definition 2 from a Yank dictionary (Merriam-Webster). I leave it up to you to decide who I was trying to quell :-):

                                2 entries found.

                                1quell (transitive verb)

                                Main Entry: 1quell
                                Pronunciation: \ˈkwel\
                                Function: transitive verb
                                Etymology: Middle English, to kill, quell, from Old English cwellan to kill; akin to Old High German quellen to torture, kill, quāla torment, Lithuanian gelti to hurt
                                Date: 13th century
                                1 : to thoroughly overwhelm and reduce to submission or passivity <quell a riot>
                                2 : quiet , pacify <quell fears>

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Aha! It was the "s that confused me.

                          2. re: j.jessica.lee

                            Glen Canyon Park is a good place to hike in the city, and can be followed by a good meal at Le P'Tit Laurent (country French, their neighborhood Menu for $19.95 is one of the better deals in town.) A great way to spend 2-3 hours when not raining.

                            We also like Chenery Park Restaurant and Gialina in that neighborhood.


                          3. If you do make it over to Half Moon Bay/Pescadero (in this season it's bound to be pretty chilly and windy, but nothing compared to new york of course) make sure you stop by Harley Farms to sample some goat cheese. It's so good I would even order some to ship back to New York (it's better than coach farms which I used to love at the Green Market in Union Square).
                            I'm all for savories, but I think our bakeries do sweets pretty darn well too. Tartine for the Bread Pudding. I'd suggest the original Blue Bottle on Linden street and then you can walk over to La Boulange de Hayes which has really good pastries (the macarons aren't so good). I personally go for the raspberry hazelnut mini muffins which taste like heaven.
                            My absolute favorite in SF right now is Bar Tartine. Get the gnocchi in whatever incarnation they have at the time, you won't regret it.
                            In Sonoma another good wine/food pairing value is Mayo Family. Other wineries I enjoy around there: Landmark, The Cornerstone tasting rooms (Artesa), Gloria Ferrer for bubbly.
                            If you have specific interest in cheese and/or chocolate I'm sure we can all go into greater detail in those areas.