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Tasty treats in the Tenderloin and around?

Greetings SF Bay Area Hounds. A Vancouver friend is going on a last-minute trip to your fair city with her niece to find a grad dress and has asked for some reccos. They’ll be staying at the Hilton (O’Farrell btwn Taylor and Mason) and sticking pretty close to Union Square most of the time, so I’m going to focus on it and the Tenderloin. They’ll be visiting from March 9 to 12 (M-Th), so no weekend involved. Budget-wise, they’re trying to keep things reasonable (think Canteen or less $$-wise) and they’re not afraid of holes-in-the-wall. Oh and they’ll be using transit. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated by these non-Hounds who nonetheless seek tasty treats and are more-or-less omnivorous, though dimsum and sushi are pretty well covered at home. Here’s what I have so far, very thin on the ground for Union Square and I realize I am lacking Indian in the Tandoorloin -- starred places we’ve tried ourselves and enjoyed:

Breakfast options near hotel/Union Square:
Dottie’s: gave usual line caveats and closed Tues heads up
*Café Bean (800 Sutter at Jones)
Brenda's (also for lunch perhaps)
*Café de La Presse (also for lunch perhaps)
Cafe Mason
Cafe Andree in the Hotel Rex
The Nob Hill Grille
AVOID: Lori's or Sear's

TENDER NOB/TENDERLOIN/CIVIC CENTRE:

Sai Jai Thai mieng come, angel wings, the kor moo yang, beef salad

Turtle Tower for pho, especially ga

Old Chelsea Fish and Chips

Saigon Sandwich, Wrap Delight or Baguette Express for banh mi (I know there are others that may be better/more authentic but these three seem safe) – all lunch only??

Pagolac for 7 courses of beef

Borobudur for roti prata, string beans with dried shrimp paste, lamb and chicken satays. ‘Ware karaoke in the evenings?!

**Larkin Express deli only open for dinner Sat IIRC

*Thai House Express go for lesser-known dishes: Kao Pad Ka-Na Pla Kem anchovy fried rice, interesting salads, pork leg dish ***catfish larb***

**Bodega Bistro for shaking beef, green papaya salad, roasted squab, beef, chicken or crab soup and noodles

**Canteen with usual caveats re tiny size, three dinner sittings per night, no resos at lunch, Tues prix fixe

*Asuka for some quick non-sushi comfort food

UNION SQUARE AND AROUND

Sutter Café for tamales/aguas frescas to go

Bankgok Noodles (formerly King of Thai Noodle) chicken in red curry with jasmine rice and the spicy ground chicken or pork served with flat rice noodles, broccoli and eggs

OTHER
*Utopia or The House if they decide to check out Chinatown
**La Ciccia if they get a bit more ambitious Muni-wise and want some kick-ass Sardinian food!

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    1. Your friend and her niece are used to marginal urban areas? And I don't mean Canadian urban.

      The Tenderloin has a lot of great eats and bars, but I would caution innocent prom dress shoppers there's also a lot of homelessness and strung out addicts. My mother would be uncomfortable and unhappy walking much of Geary or O Farrell.

      (Avoid Leavenworth near Market unless you like scary junkies).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Windy

        Vancouver has its share of scary junkies and surprisingly aggressive panhandlers. But the Tenderloin is dirtier than any Canadian city can imagine being.

        There's no Indian on the list, so I'll second the mention of Sultan farther down the thread.

        1. re: Adamsimpson

          Silly me. I thought that was a magical word for protection in the hood but it is a restaurant.

          -----
          Brenda's French Soul Food
          652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. There's a charming pub called the Edinburgh Castle on Geary between Polk and Larkin. They serve fish and chips from Old Chelsea, which is around the corner. You place your order, it gets cooked up at Old Chelsea and hustled down the back alley to the pub. The pub is a more congenial atmosphere than the tiny and garishly lit Old Chelsea, though I've eaten at Old Chelsea. On the other hand, if the niece is graduating from High School rather than college, she's likely too young to be allowed in a bar.

            There's a relatively new restaurant attached to the Hilton where they'll be staying. It's called Urban Tavern. I ate there a couple weeks ago with friends, and we were all satisfied. It might be a little fancier than your friends are looking for, but there's no reason not to look at the menu and prices since it's right there.

            14 Replies
            1. re: weem

              Thanks for the heads up on the "edginess" of the area, guys (that's realtor talk for the scary nabes in Vancouver, anyway). We have unfortunately been having an outbreak of gang crime here, and my friend has spent a fair bit of time in the worst 'hood in N America (Hastings and Main) here in the city, so I think they'll be okay as long as they're careful and don't get unlucky. We've wandered around the T'loin on our last three trips and I was mored scared below Market, to be honest.

              The niece is in fact graduating high school which I should have mentioned re the no pubs fandango. I'm stealing the Edinburgh Castle idea for me and the SO however :-), weem. Will also pass on intel re the in-house resto -- could be perfect after a serious day of shopping!

              I think I will include both Sam's and Tadich just because they are different than anything we have in Van, and because everyone should taste petrale sole and sand dabs before they die, 'Hound or no.

              Re Lers Ros, I've been following the various threads on it for our March trip, and I get the impression that it is more hard core than the other Thai restos in SF, that is to say, there are mostly dishes one wouldn't find at Thai places stateside. Is that so?

              1. re: grayelf

                Lers Ros has 100+ items on the menu, including a lot of familiar fare. You don't hear much about the familiar stuff because the unfamiliar is the big draw. For me at least...

                1. re: BernalKC

                  Lers Ros has most of the basics covered pretty well. And the squeamish things are pretty easy to avoid since they are not shy about using words like "entrails." For example, the papaya salad with SHRIMP (not the crab or the salty egg), the silver noodle salad, the fish cakes, the fried trout, the fried/roasted meats, the basic curries, stirfried noodles are all safe choices. Also, I just found out their Thai iced tea is tasty.

                  As for Chinatown, I was once a Chinatown brat, so here are a few places that may not have been covered in CH.

                  1. Hon's Wun-Tun House, a true hole in the wall with countertop seating. Lunch only with an interesting mix of business people, little Chinese senior citizens, and workmen. Try a large bowl of the won ton noodles (with or without BBQ pork), the chinese broccoli, or if feeling adventurous, the curry beef over rice.
                  During lunch rush, expect to share your table with several total strangers.
                  2. New Woey Loy Goey--this is the kind of place Tony Bourdain went to in the Disappearing Manhattan episode. A hole in the ground rather than the wall. Open up the menu, point to the Chinese only set menu for $29 on the inside cover and be surprised. (If you want to spoil the surprise, it is soup of the day, garlic mustard greens, poached chicken with ginger and green onions, steamed meat patty, salt and pepper shrimp, real sweet and sour pork)

                  3. Red Blossom Tea. The kids have taken over the old apothecary and are very knowledgeable and friendly. They have added some newfangled things like organic teas, rooibos, mint, etc to their top notch collection of Chinese teas. Unless it is crazy crowded, you can probably swing a free traditional tasting of several teas. (Although it would be nice if you bought a little something afterwards, which nearly everyone seems to do after tasting a few!)

                  As for North Indian, I love Shalimar, but all my Indian friends are like, "Yuck!" Someone recently told me that Sultan near Union Square is actually pretty good, but I haven't been. I like Udupi Palace for South Indian, but that's definitely a schlep--there is also a new Dosa on Fillmore.

                  Oh and Muracci's is very Japanese if you like curry. The katsu curries usually run out towards closing time.

                  -----
                  Red Blossom Tea Company
                  831 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  Sultan
                  340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant
                  699 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  Hon's Wun Tun House
                  648 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  Shalimar
                  532 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill
                  307 Kearny St, San Francisco, Ca

                  Dosa on Fillmore
                  1700 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                  1. re: sfbing

                    Thanks for the clarification on Lers Ros, sfbing and bernalKC. I'm keen to try it myself on our trip later this month, but now feel more comfortable including it in my recco list for the non 'Hound!

                    Also intrigued by NWLG, and thanks for the other feedback. Can anyone compare Muracci's to Asuka?

                    1. re: grayelf

                      At the risk of starting another Chinese food war, with your busy list and as a Vancouverite, I would save New Woey Loy Goey for a "I'm wandering around Chinatown and I'm hungry" spot near the bottom. But so many tourists eat at traps in Chinatown, it is a good place to know. And I stress, insist on the CHINESE only set menus.

                      Muracci only serves Japanese curry with various toppings over white rice, brown rice, and noodles. Japanese curry can be an acquired taste (like the beef curry at Hon's) as an Indian postdoc I know called it an "offense against God" after trying my lunch.

                      1. re: sfbing

                        "an Indian postdoc I know called it an "offense against God" after trying my lunch"

                        Phew, good thing I wasn't drinking liquid when I read that -- LOL.

                        NWLG is in my back pocket for just the reasons you said -- we stay near Chinatown and it's not an unlikely scenario. Gotta be better than HONK, which we did go to in 2003 before I discovered the sanity that is Chowhound :-).

                        I think I will pass on Asuka rather than Muracci if only because it offers a wee bit more variety. It is not a "must" but rather in the good-to-have-nearby-when-your-feet-hurt-too-much-to-go-farther-afield category.

                    2. re: sfbing

                      Hon's is based in Vancouver, so no need for the visitors to try it in SF.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        One wonders if the food tastes the same in the two places? Hon's has been doing their thing here for over 30 years. I've been worried what I would do if the senior citizens who run the place died and I couldn't get their curry beef stew any more. I have no clue how they make it taste like that, but if they're making it in Vancouver I can rest easy!

                        1. re: sfbing

                          I've wondered if the Hon's in SF was connected to the chain in Vancouver. If so, I probably wouldn't bother. It doesn't get a heck of a lot of love here :-).

                          1. re: grayelf

                            It is but with a limited menu. If you have been to the one n the Richmond or even in Vancouver do not brother going to the one here. Not as good as what you have up there.

                            1. re: yimster

                              I agree that grayelf shouldn't bother, but they don't seem to have the curry beef in Canada.

                              1. re: sfbing

                                The one in Richmond has maybe a four hundred item menu with Beijing Duck (or it maybe spelled Peking) and a full kitchen. Great place and puts to shame the simple won ton house we have.

                                1. re: yimster

                                  I like the simple won ton house--it reminds of the little places in HK that only make one or two things.

                                  And, to me, it is not the same place at all if they don't have that curry dish. Which is bizarrely unreproduceable.

                          2. re: sfbing

                            At last, someone like the same thing I do. If anyone knows how to duplicate the curry beef, PLEASE let me have it.

                            Their curry beef is very unique, tender and so addictive especially after months of not having it. It is a comfort food.

                            With their chili hot sauce, the combination is really delish.