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Please critique my Memorial Day weekend agenda!

I'm going to be in SF for Memorial Day weekend for a fun weekend get-away before my wedding. I've reviewed some of the posts on this board in order to put together an agenda that I hope is sophisticated, fun, and delicious.

I'd love some feedback on my choices or additional suggestions to steer me in the right direction, because one thing I did not research is where these places are located. My friends and I are staying at the Westin San Francisco Market Street (50 3rd Street), and we will not have a car, but are willing to take reasonable cab rides (i.e. not 30 minutes) for good food! My friends and I are from Chicago and we love to eat, but some of us have lost our jobs, so I'd *prefer* to keep most of the meals to no more than $50 pp including some wine, if possible. Here goes:

Friday late lunch - Tartine
Friday dinner - 1550 Hyde or L'Ardoise or South Park Cafe
(I'm really trying to go for a neighborhoody place with great food, but it would be nice if we didn't feel completely out of place looking a tad dressed up)

Saturday morning - would like any suggestions for a place to pick up some breakfast snacks or pastries for the ride to Napa.
Saturday lunch - E'toile at Domaine Chandon. (I know there are other great choices for lunch in Napa like Ubuntu, but we're taking a limo up there and also visiting Domaine Chandon, so this works out well. If there is a really compelling reason to avoid E'toile however, please chime in)

Saturday dinner - we'll likely be exhausted from wine tasting, so maybe ordering in (pizza?) or something else fairly low key. Any suggestions?

Sunday brunch - anyone been to brunch at Canteen? I couldn't find their menu for brunch online to assess pricing or food options. Either that or dimsum?
Sunday dinner - Aziza. This is going to be our dressiest dinner night out. Does the atmosphere at Aziza jive with that?

Monday lunch - The Slanted Door. I eat Vietnamese food religiously in Chicago, but my friends are newbies to the cuisine. I have to admit to a bit of sticker shock at the prices on-line, but I was having some trouble finding other good options that were open for lunch on Monday.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. The itinerary looks fun. How many people is it going to be? Canteen is very small, the biggest tables only seat 4 (or perhaps 5 if a chair is on the end?). But their brunch is very good and reasonably priced.

    Aziza should be fun - while you don't have to dress up there, you won't look out of place if you do. It's a bit of a cab ride out there, but it's worth it.

    Slanted Door will be fun. There are plenty of other Vietnamese places that are very good too, it depends on if you want the fusion aspect that Slanted Door provides. Bodega Bistro might be an option, assuming they are open Monday. There's also the Vietnamese place in Chinatown which is pretty good - I forget the name right now - but it could be nice to walk from your hotel through Union Sq and Chinatown to reach this lunch destination.

    1. If you familiar with Vietnamese and taken aback by the prices, I would skip SL. Especially for a Monday lunch. SL is about the buzzing ambiance, the view of the bay at twilight, the intriguing bar selections, the abundance of style... sounds like you'd have more fun spelunking the low-key, low-budget places others will be happy to recommend here.

      And you can catch a whiff of the style that makes SL special on Saturday night by stopping in at Heaven's Dog -- a new place by the same executive chef. I think their menu would work well for a light meal after a long day.

      1. South Park Cafe is good/solid if you're in the area but I wouldn't make a trip to it. In the same general area is Fringale, also French bistro and better in my view although South Park is located in a great place. 1550 Hyde would also be good. If you're coming from Chicago, I'd do SL regardless if you have Vietnamese often. It will be accessible to your friends and they won't feel out of place.

        1. 2 suggestions for your Saturdy morning breakfast...

          Acme Bread Co in Berkeley or Arizmendi Bakery in Emeryville. They are off the freeway a few minutes, but not so much of a detour that it will ruin your plans for Napa.

          Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria‎ - 4301 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville, CA‎ - (510) 547-0550‎

          Acme Bread Co‎ - 1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA‎ - (510) 524-1327‎

          6 Replies
          1. re: jaypeezy

            Those are good recs but they won't have a car. You can get Acme bread at the Ferry Building however and that's worth a stop. Could also hit Arizmendi on 9th/Irving in SF, particularly a good choice if you're heading to GG Park.

            1. re: ML8000

              They said they wanted to pick up breakfast before taking a limo to Napa -- presumably they can have the limo detour into Berkeley.

            2. re: jaypeezy

              Are you serious? You're suggesting that someone staying at 3rd & Market (walking distance to the Ferry Building which has its own Acme) go across the bay to Emeryville or Berkeley for breakfast?

              And "not much of a detour" is completely untrue. While its possible to get to Napa from San Francisco via the Bay Bridge & the East Bay, I have never met or heard of a single tourist who would choose to take a longer route nad MISS driving over the Golden Gate Bridge.

              Capay Organic - consolidated in Ferry Bldg #9
              1 Ferry, Bldg San Francisco, CA

              1. re: larochelle

                Oh, you're right...Berkeley and Emeryville are not on the way to Napa from SF taking the Bay Bridge.

                Please check out a map before making comments that are not correct.

                I merely suggested Acme Bread in Berkeley because it is the original location. If they are paying good money to have a limo take them from SF to Napa, what's the big problem with stopping off and seeing a few other parts of the Bay Area on their way to grab breakfast.

                Anyway, Arizmendi is about 5 min from the freeway, and ACME is maybe closer to 10 min due to stoplights and busier streets.

                1. re: jaypeezy

                  Her point was that although it's shorter/quicker to go to Napa via the Bay Bridge, a tourist like the original poster would undoubtedly prefer to take the undeniably more scenic route over the GG Bridge and through Marin, especially since they can get all the Acme goods they want without going through Berkeley.

            3. I'd suggest trying for a Friday late lunch at Slanted Door (depending on how late), and then getting your morning pastries on Saturday morning at Tartine. You can head to dim sum for Monday lunch at Yank Sing. Or you could try for a Friday late lunch at Zuni, and keep Slanted Door for Monday. Brunch at Canteen is fantastic, but as Dave said, no more than four (only sort of five) can sit at a table comfortably, so if your party is bigger than that, you might want to go elsewhere. As for pricing, I think that I remember the Eggs Benedict is about $11 (someone correct me if I'm wrong), and the main items range from $9 - $15ish.

              For Saturday dinner, you could head to Pizzeria Delfina for dinner (or pick pizza up from there)

              5 Replies
              1. re: JasmineG

                Pizzeria Delfina is *not* a place to go if you're feeling exhausted, they don't take reservations and the wait can be long. It's not close to Third & Market, either.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Yeah, but I can't think of any good low key places for dinner near 3rd and Market. But then, I've never had to wait all that long for a table at Pizzeria Delfina, I've found that the tables turn relatively quickly.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Near Third and Market and suitable for post-Napa-trip exhaustion maybe the lounge at Fifth Floor, Two, or Amber India. Maybe even the Ducca lounge right in the hotel.

                    Fifth Floor lounge menu:


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Hmm, none of those are particularly low key to me, though they're all good. I'd pick Two, of the choices.

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        Have you seen a crowd in the Fifth Floor lounge? Seems like a sort of secret hideaway to me but maybe on a Saturday night it's different.

              2. If you enter the restaurant name from the "Restaurants & Bars' board, you will get a page with lots of info ... map, neighborhood, linked reports, hours.

                My vote would be for 1550. You can take a cable car there. It stops outside the door. It is also great California cuisine with a good wine list. Get the rabbit if it is on the menu. I lived a few blocks from South Park Cafe and maybe went twice in all that time. It is fine, but there is nothing particularily SF about it. Also, it is in a marginal neighborhood at night and while there are bus lines nearby, I would suggest a cab if you go there.

                PLEASE do NOT substitute Tartine for the Saturday Ferry Plaza farmers market. This is one of the best events in SF. There are tons of top notch bakeries, vendors serving breakfast, and samples, samples, samples of everything. You can put together breakfast just out of samples. You can bring along some treats to snack on during your drive to wine country. It opens unofficially at 7 am and is equidistant to Tartine ... and there's a great view of the bay.

                I think Slanted Door is a wonderful choice to introduce your friends to Vietnamese. That is where I got my intro. The previous Slanted Door was a block from my house and I went through the entire menu. For newbies the jicama salad with grapefruit, imperial rolls, shaking beef, catfish claypot are great. For yourself, you might try one of the seasonal dishes. I find these more interesting since I don't want to order the same thing every time.

                11 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  Second on the Saturday market. Downtown Bakery has great pastries, as does Della Fattoria (though they often sell out very early).

                  1. re: rworange

                    South Park has definitely changed. I worked there pre-ball park/pre-dot com and after. All in all a safe area now at any time. Heck even 3rd St south of China Basin is safe now. Nothing special about South Park Cafe but the park itself is quite nice...but better to grab a sandwich and eat in the park.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Actually South Park is a little worse for the wear due to the economic downturn than it was when I lived there four years ago. I don't think you have been to South Park in the evening ... as I was a week ago ... when the street people come out, still buying their nightly comfort and warmth from the convenience store around the corner. I've seen no upgrade from when I moved. But not to make this about the neighborhood ... the OP has some differing views and can make up their mind.

                      What I can't say for sure is if South Park the restaurant has improved. But even if it has, it is a French restaurant and there's nothing particularily SF about it. Hope the service isn't as snooty as when I lived there. I didn't even bother recommending The Butler and the Chef across the street which I have recently fallen in love with because it is just French food and not anything SF-specific.

                      One thing I did forget to mention. Waiter on Wheels is a restaurant delivery service that for a fee will deliver from many of the local restaurants ... not just pizza and Chinese.

                      While the current list isn't as good in the past, there are a few things worthwhile. Also, some are just lunch things but you can check hours on WOW. I'm not taking time to winnow those out.
                      Town's End (a favorite of mine and near your hotel)
                      Good Frikin Chicken across the city, so there is a possible cooling factor.

                      Not so much
                      Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar ... I like the restaurant, but it is the type of food that never translated successfully for delivery for me.

                      I'm not a fan of Big Nates Barbeque ... went through their entire menu, didn't like a thing, and when I ordered in for a guest and they went 'ack' that was the end. However, some people like it. The restuarant has free delivery, so if you decide on them, just call the restaurant rather than WOW and avoid the delivery fee.

                      Maybe ... either I thought they were ok but nothing special or I haven't tried them.

                      The Pork Store
                      Frankie's Bohemian Cafe
                      Giordano Bros.
                      Izzy's Steak & Chop House ... not outstanding but ok. For me when I lived in the city it was more of an order for something different for dinner than the usual restaurants I ordered from on WOW
                      Perry's ... ok at best. I rarely ordered from them and was usually diappointed
                      Pick Me Cafe
                      Sam's Grill
                      San Francisco Soup Co.
                      Silver Clouds
                      SOMA Inn Cafe
                      The Waterfront ... they changed the chef recently, so don't know
                      Café do Mundo Brazilian
                      Park Gyros
                      Pitas' Cafe
                      daKine’s Hawaiian BBQ
                      Goldilocks Filipino ... tho not the best example
                      Baghdad Nights
                      King of Falafel
                      La Mediterranee
                      Bodhi Vietnamese Cuisine

                      I never got into Japanese, so I'm eliminating them

                      Ditto on Thai ... and Indian. However, there is free delivery from Mehfil which is NOT a restaurant on WOW. It is near your hotel and I liked it well enough. There have been some enthusiastic reports recently on Chowhound. They are on this place record along with the website

                      The Chinese are pretty much your nothing special Chinese stuff. The best is probably Yet Wah. Check the board for reports.

                      Mexican also falls into the only ok category.

                      The Italian places are only average as well. Lots of people like Tommasso's which is one of the oldest pizza places in SF. Stick with the pizza here.

                      No ... just say no
                      East Coast West Delicatessen
                      Joe's Cable Car Restaurant
                      Lefty O'Doul's ... haufbrau stuff. ... ok ... it is nearby ... but nah
                      Marie Callender's ... chain ... bad chain
                      Max's on the Square chain ... bad chain
                      Max's Opera Cafe chain ... bad chain
                      Mels drive-in chain that has declined
                      Quiznos ... I'm just going to eliminate all the other obvious chains in the list
                      Wolfgang Puck
                      Zao Noodle Bar
                      Gaylord Indian ... yes, Indian ... but I have a particular dislike for this place

                      1. re: rworange

                        One of the best lunches in the whole City, barring none, is a cold drink, a sandwich or salad from Caffe Centro, South Park Cafe or Bulter and Chef and sitting in the park on a nice day. One of the best 45 min attitude adjusters in the City.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Is Caffe Centro on the upswing? I always really, really liked it. About a year after I moved, I recommended it to someone with major food cred who was visiting and they said it wasn't much. It was probably true since the cafe was feeding off the dot com glory days and this was a little after the bust. It lost a lot of the local business. I was a little embarrassed about my recommendation. It would be nice to hear it is better these days.

                          1. re: rworange

                            It could have been what that person ordered. Overall, perhaps 70% of the menu is good to very good but there's weirdness and I can see how someone could order something and think..meh.

                            I'm not a big coffee person so I can't speak to that but others seem to like it Their sandwiches are very good on balance, lets say very pleasing but not ga-ga . Their salads are similar, very well made, quality ingredients, satisfied in a simple way. Their soups are usually very good to excellent, made daily, not some kind of mix or service. My usual picks are tuna on toast, the cobb or nicoise salad. The pre-made ham, cheese and bagettes...meh. Some of the baked goods are also meh (outsourced) but they sell alfajores.

                            Caffe Centro from my view has held steady for past 12 years. The quality has stayed the same and the prices have leveled due to being around so long. In fact now that the prices seem more reasonable, I like it more. The other thing, I never ate there. I always took it to go, 70-80% to eat in the park regardless of weather...this I think is a big, big factor in the overall enjoyment. Cool staff too.

                        2. re: rworange

                          Why pay the WOW fee when you can use grubhub.com - most of which provide free delivery?

                          You just plug in your address and it tells you who is open and will deliver to your location.

                          1. re: larochelle

                            Misunderstanding I guess...my apologies..

                            btw...never heard of gruhub...very cool site... =)

                          2. re: rworange

                            Do hotels allow outside delivery services?

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Yes. Look in the yellow pages at almost any pizza restaurant and there is a mention of delivering to hotels. If not in the yellow pages, on their website.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Frankly, it didn't even occurred to me it could be a problem. I've never seen a "no outside food" notice at any of the hotels where I've stayed and I have stayed at a wide range of places.

                                I have a cell phone so I just give them my phone number & direct instructions to my room. I suppose the delivery person could get stopped at the elevator by hotel staff but its hasn't happened to me yet.

                        3. For your low key dinner on Saturday night, there's a couple of places that might not be too far of a walk , have good food and mellow atmosphere.

                          Tian Sing Chinese - good service, nice food
                          Sultan - one of my favorite Indian/Paki joints
                          Johnny Foley's Irish House - good, solid food in a fun pub

                          The three above places are all within a block of each other and are 0.3 miles (6 minute walk) from 3rd & Market.

                          If you decide to order in, use http://www.grubhub.com/ - I checked, it looked like there are over 150 places that will deliver, 48 of which are pizza places.

                          Tian Sing Chinese Restaurant
                          138 Cyril Magnin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          Johnny Foley's Irish House
                          243 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          1. LOVE 1550 hyde. also, you should try maverick for sunday brunch.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: woofer

                              Love Maverick's brunch, especially their cajun benedicts, but it's a fairly small restaurant and geared towards smaller parties. If you have more than four in you party, I would advise securing reservations in advance. They serve complimentary acme bread upon request.

                            2. You SF Chowhounders are awesome! There will be 5 total in the group that is making the trip out to Napa, so not a huge group. I'll be looking into your suggestions and adjusting the itinerary shortly. Again, I appreciate all the suggestions! As you can tell from the fact that I'm planning my meals months in advance, I am very excited to visit your fair city!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jn2001

                                Since you'll be exhausted from your wine trip to the valley why not eat right in the hotel at Ducca.