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Mar 8, 2009 01:14 PM

Pier 33 lunch ideas after returning to SF from Alcatraz

My husband, myself & our 14 year old daughter will be visiting SF in April; we have tickets already purchased to Alcatraz Island leaving SF on the early bird 9am ferry. We plan to be back in SF by lunch time. What can anyone recommend for a lunch destination near Pier 33??? We love all kinds of food, including local seafood. We are from Akron, OH, and we don't have Vietnamese, Malaysian, Ethiopian or Persian restaurants here and those types of restaurants would be at the top of my list. Good food - no chains or burgers. No clam chowder since we lived in Boston at one time & New England is the place to go for local clam chowder. I'm not sure at this point what our afternoon destination for that day will be but I do know we will be hungry after the Alcatraz Island excursion. We are staying in the Cow Hollow area. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Maykadeh in North Beach (Persian) is about eight blocks away if you take the short but steep route over Telegraph Hill.

    Walk down the Embarcadero or jump on the streetcar to Slanted Door (Vietnamese).

    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      The Slanted Door is at the ferry building and takes reservations.
      Also unlikely to find in Ohio, although not quite what you are looking for, are Delica rf (Japanese bento).

      Just a little farther on the street car is Ozumo. (Japanese fusion)

      I think what people are trying to say is, don't eat near fisherman's wharf.

      Slanted Door
      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Ozumo Restaurant
      161 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

      1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thank you to Robert, sfbing, RWOrange and Calvinist for all your recommendations. I'm a little concerned about Slanted Door - seems the reviews are mixed from what I've gathered. We don't have Japanese noodles houses in this area of Ohio - that might be interesting. Keep those recommendations coming! Thanks!

        1. re: CurryLover

          My husband and I ate at Slanted Door for the first time this past weekend. There were some definite hits/misses, but we look forward to a return visit.

          We ordered two delicious but quite tiny cocktails including a fantastic and refreshing ginger limeade made with lime vodka, a glass of riesling, half an order of imperial rolls (they don't say so on the menu, but our waiter offered to let us order a half order when we couldn't decide between several appetizers), S&P shrimp appetizer, shaking beef, lemongrass tofu, both white & brown rice, beignets with creme fraiche dipping sauce and a latte. Total after tax but before tip was $120.

          Next time, I'd replace the S&P shrimp and shaking beef with a whole order of imperial rolls and the carmelized shrimp entree. (We struggled between ordering the S&P shrimp appetizer and the carmelized shrimp entree.)

          The lemongrass tofu was absolutely delicious (even my husband who isn't a huge tofu lover really enjoyed this dish) and we both really enjoyed the imperial rolls and dessert beignets.

          I know there are many fans of Slanted Door's shaking beef, but we weren't terribly impressed, especially when you consider the $29 price tag. Ditto for the S&P shrimp which wasn't much different than the S&P shrimp sold at the deli at 99 Ranch for a fraction of the cost.

          All in all a very enjoyable evening, especially b/c our table had a great view of the bridge. I'd highly recommend this restaurant subject to a few caveats regarding which dishes to order/avoid.

          1. re: cvhound

            Thank you for sharing your experience. I'll definitely consider your comments/recommendations.

            1. re: cvhound

              I think that Slanted Door is best for dishes that aren't the Vietnamese standards and more seasonal. It is not that they don't do a good job of the regular dishes with quality ingredients. It is just, as mentioned, the prices are higher and people feel like they are getting better value elsewhere. I wasn't a fan of the shaking beef either. Nice meat, great sauces, but didn't wow me.

              Looking at the current dinner menu what I'd choose at SD would be
              - wood oven roasted Manila clams with thai basil, crispy pork belly and fresh chilies
              - salt and peppered Louisiana sweet shrimp with chilies, toasted garlic and grilled pineapple
              - mesquite grilled lamb sausage and Chelsea Gem oysters chinese black olive and preserved lemon relish
              - wood oven roasted Becker Lane tea smoked pork belly with roasted organic red grapes
              - grilled Range Brothers' berkshire pork chops ginger, maple, soy and crispy sweet potatoes
              - stir-fried chicken with ginkgo nuts, chinese dates, raisins, walnuts and cashews
              - pan-seared day boat scallops with organic butternut squash, ginger, rau ram and thai chili
              - Zuckerman Farm asparagus with black trumpet mushrooms

              There are a few duck dishes there, but I don't like duck almost anywhere.

              Slanted Door
              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1. re: rworange

                Thank you - those are mouth-watering suggestions!

            2. re: CurryLover

              With regard to Slanted Door, I think it has to do with where you're coming from.

              a) there really isn't much near pier 33, so if you're looking for vietnamese, slanted door automatically pops up. If you weren't constrained by your location, I would head to the tenderloin for Vietnamese.

              b) I think most people who don't get to eat a lot of Vietnamese food are very happy with Slanted Door. If you live in San Jose, CA or if your family is Vietnamese, you're likely to not like it because you have access to home style cooking for much much less. Coming from Ohio, my guess is that you're not going to have that problem.

              c) the food at Slanted Door is not going to suck. It is actually quite good. the primary complaint of most people is that it is too expensive which is a totally different thing. My mom (who grew up in Saigon) doesn't like the place. She has this annoying habit of pointing at a dish like a broken rice plate and saying, "I could make this for 50 cents in Saigon." Are we in Saigon? No. Does my mom ever cook with broken rice? No, because it is poor people food, and also why my mom resents the prices that Slanted Door charges.

              Most Vietnamese restaurants in SF with the exception of Slanted Door make their plates with whole rice (because we're in America, where everyone is rich and can eat whole rice), which kind of misses the point for me. I love broken rice plates with ACTUAL broken rice and that nubby texture in your mouth. So, yeah it is expensive and maybe not as authentic as eating in my aunt's home, but a plate of broken rice with the juices from the catfish clay pot dripped all over at Slanted Door still tastes very good.

              Just avoid the noodle soups. They are not good.


              1. re: sfbing

                I think you are right in many regards. Thank you for all your suggestions and comments.

          2. Here's everything I know about Fisherman's Wharf

            Best Bets - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants

            Tourist traps - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants

            Fisherman's Wharf Places to try

            Darren's and Ana Mandara are both Vietnamese. Both are fine but not the best in the city. I haven't been to Ana Mandara for ages. It is upscale dining. Darren's is a little coffee shop that has some pho on the menu. He and his wife are really swell (the place is named after their son), but he has to deal with the reality of Fisherman's Wharf where 99.9 percent of the visitors want bogus canned clam chowder in a tasteless sourdough bowl, so the menu is more American with a few Vietnamese items.

            If you like Brazilian food, there is Samba Rooms. I haven't checked in with them since they opened, but they were making a real stab at authenticity at that time with certain beef cuts being flown in from Brazil. Don't know if the Brazilian population found them and kept them honest or if they needed to cave to the local Wharf scene.

            1. Another idea: after your Alcatraz trip jump on the F Market Historic Street Car line and take it down to the Ferry Buliding. It's probably a 10 minute trip. There you have many great options, including Taylor's Refresher and Hog Island Oyster Bar.

              Have fun!

              Hog Island Oyster Bar
              Ferry Building,, San Francisco, CA 94111

              Gott's Roadside "Tray Gourmet"
              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1 Reply
              1. re: Calvinist

                I agree FP isn't far away and a good idea but I would warn against the regular burger at Taylor's Refriesher, a small local chain, which is way overpriced and under-flavored. Supposedly the Ahi burger is the thing to order, but it would take a lot to make me spend another dime there.

              2. Scoma's at the far end of the Fisherman's Wharf area (pier 47) is a good choice. I recently went there after an Alcatraz visit and it was a lot of fun to keep a waterfront theme going in our day. You walk north through the touristy part of FW. Then you'll pass into the area that is still real working fisherman's docks and the restaurant is right there. It's the one remaining piece of authenticity down there and worth seeing if you like that sort of thing. The food is straight ahead seafood and Italian. They do a great job with San Francisco's signature dish, cioppino, which is a tomato based crab & seafood stew. Scoma's is an old time SF institution and worth a visit if you're already down there.


                Scoma's Fisherman's Wharf
                47 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133

                2 Replies
                1. re: Shane Greenwood

                  Agree on Scoma's. You will pay a premium for being on Fisherman's Warf, but if you get whatever fish is fresh or a crab louis, it's good.

                  1. re: Calvinist

                    Thanks to both you and Shane for the Scoma's recommendations. I'll keep that in mind. This was a restaurant that even my pet sitter recommended. My husband loves cioppino. There are so many restaurants in the area that it is going to be hard to choose. I guess we'll just have to make more trips to SF to accomodate all the good food!

                2. You'll want to get far away from the Fisherman's Wharf area and quick. Fortunately, you're a single bus ride and a two block walk from some very good Vietnamese places in the Tenderloin:


                  Alcatraz is a really fun trip. Don't go hungry and do bring a snack; there's nothing to eat and you can easily spend much longer out there than you expect.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    Look, let's be fair here. Slanted door is an upscale vietnamese fusion place with good drinks, a waterfront view, above average food, excellent wait staff, and is in the Ferry Building, which is worth a poke around. There's a number of other food choices in the ferry building that are excellent for lunch.

                    The tenderloin is part of the old core of the city. Drug dealers, transvestite prostitutes, the occasional shooting, the high lonesome stench of pee, and some excellent, cheap food. Wouldn't surprise me if parts of Ohio were similar, although perhaps without the vietnamese food (although - you saw Gran Torino? I know Michigan isn't Ohio....)

                    I don't think the tenderloin is particularly dangerous, not like Potrero Projects or parts of Bayshore. I *heart* the tenderloin. But before inviting a stranger and child into one of the grittier parts of downtown, full disclosure, eh?

                    Besides SD, a common recommendation is Boulevard, nearly across the street from the ferry building. Do a quick search. uhockey's recent review seemed fair and balanced. If you want to do a Fancy Lunch with your family, that's a great choice. And one should mention Yank Sing, a popular chinese / dim sum place in that hood as well.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      The two block stroll from the bus stop to, say, Bodega Bistro, down a wide open, heavily travelled two blocks of Eddy St is roughy, oh, fifteen times more pleasant than walking from the Boylston St T stop to Chinatown in Boston. Just to provide some reference.

                      Google street view should be working on that link I provided.

                      If you do go that way, you could walk back along Polk St, which is
                      pretty interesting all the way, and well off the standard tourist trail.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Few if any of Slanted Door's dishes are fusion. Most are straight-ahead classic Vietnamese.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Thanks - that's helpful advice. We used to live in Boston and Cleveland so I know there are areas one has to be careful. Thanks for the Chinese/dum sum recommendation. I didn't have chinese or thai on my list because we have access to some very good chinese and thai here, but I might consider that.