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SF for 1 foodie + 1 non-foodie

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My friend from Boston is coming to visit, and she loves formality and atmosphere more than food, but I'm just the opposite. I've already taken her to Farallon and Aqua, which she enjoyed, but now that we're having a girls' night w/o our hubbies, I'd like to take her someplace less formal. I know she'd love WaterBar and Epic, but I just can't bring myself to pay those prices for non-foodie fare, and Cyrus (my all-time favorite) is out of my budget right now. Can you suggest anything "showy" for her, but affordable and yummy for me? TIA!

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  1. bar crudo. cocktails next door at tunnel top after the meal (cash).

    1. Aziza? Zuni? Both of those places have good food, as well as a nice decor, though I'm not sure what your price range is. Ame is formal with good food, but might be above the price range.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JasmineG

        Yeah, my first thought was Aziza. Zuni isn't "showy" in that sense, IMHO.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          You're right, it isn't, but it's in a lot of magazines/travel books as a great restaurant to go to in SF, so it's impressive in that way for a visitor. I also think that the restaurant itself is showy, especially if you get one of the tables upstairs.

      2. Kokkari? Shanghai 1930? Chez Spencer?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Kokkari is a good idea, but I had a very average meal the other day at Shanghai 1930, I wouldn't recommend it .

        2. Showy but casual but very good food. Showy is subjective but if you're using Epic as a price reference, you could do The Dining Room at the Ritz and do the prix fixe (non tasting menu).

          The food would be at least good, although yeah, maybe that's an odd/old/formal kind of showy. Any way, a friend mentioned the prix fixe meal for $75 bucks (starter, entre and dessert) and when you compare it to places like Epic, it's in the same price range. Funny how new places with overhead changes things.

          Otherwise, a third on Aziza.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone! I love Chowhounds. You guys are right about Aziza: showy , delicious and well within my price range, but am I the only one who gets tired of sweet food after just a few bites?

            With a precarious job situation, my budget these days is only about $100/person, including drinks, so I'm surprised about the Dining Room since we dropped a bundle the last time we were there (albeit with wine, and completely worth it). I'll have to check it out.

            I love Kokkari, too, but I'm already taking her to Dio Deka in Los Gatos, which has a great party atmosphere to match the food. (What is it about Greek restos? I love Evvia, too.)

            1. re: Claudette

              I generally dislike fruit in my savory dishes, but you can avoid that at Aziza by picking carefully (no bisteeya for you!).

              How about Ame? I usually get out for about $75pp if we order cocktails and avoid wine, so that might fit your budget. And the atmosphere is pretty dramatic.

              1. re: sfbing

                Second on that, if you order carefully you can avoid Aziza's sweet dishes. I got confused and ordered the wrong lamb dish once. Ugh.

                Their bisteya wasn't sweet when I had it. I'm not sure if we told them to hold the powdered sugar or if he just doesn't do that.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The last time my husband and I went, the basteeya had powdered sugar on it, but it wasn't sweet inside. I second Aziza for fabulous, showy atmosphere, along with excellent food at fairly reasonable prices. The five course tasting menu is only $55.

              2. re: Claudette

                I was curious about the prix fixe, so I looked. This isn't bad at all given the quality. You certainly could do worse. I guess even the Ritz must adjust: http://www.ritzcarltondiningroom.com/...

            2. Showy but casual seems like somewhat of a fine line to toe.

              Zinnia
              Salt House
              Slanted Door
              Absinthe
              Foreign Cinema

              1. Looks like "bargains" can be had in the higher end, see last post in following link.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/603292

                Also, Perbacco & Piperade may fit your criteria.