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SF with a not-so-typical teen

Greetings, fellow hounds. I'm taking my daughter to your beautiful city the first week in April to look at schools. Now, this girl is one healthy eater for a 17 year-old - no dairy, no red meat, and shies away from heavier food places. That said, she's a very adventurous eater who loves Asian, Indian, seafood, and vegetarian fare. We're staying by Union Square, but will be all over the city via public transportation. And, being a seasoned Chowhounder, I've done a little homework. It appears we have some good bets on Belden Lane, and in the Westfield food court. Here's my short list, so I'd like some feedback:

Cafe Claude, B44, Plouf, Cafe Bastille, Turtle Tower, Dosa, Yank Sing, Greens

I would also like some recommendations for good izakaya and sushi, and any others you want to throw my way. We will do our touristy bit by heading down Embarcadero way, since she's never been there, so any decent places close by would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Welcome in advance to San Francisco, or as I call it, Food Heaven. Definitely hit the Westfield food court. My favorite there is Out The Door. It's a more casual version of the upscale Vietnamese Slanted Door at the Ferry Building. I recommend cruising and noshing at the Ferry Building if your on the Embarcadero. I would go to Boulettes Larder and try the Lettuce Soup if you're feeling adventurous. Everything there is superb. For great vegetarian, try Herbivore in the Mission District or on Divisadero St. You might find yourself in the Sunset District if you're visiting SFSU. You can get great Indian food at Naan & Curry on Irving or Tasty Curry on 9th Ave. She might like Vegan Cafe Gratitude also. For sushi, there is Ryoko not too far from Union Square or Kabuto on Geary Blvd in the Richmond District. Have a great time! SF is a wonderful place for teenagers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mlutsky

      Lots of good recommendations from mlutsky... I'd add to that list: Dosa (Mission location is more hip for a teen, but the one in Japantown is much nicer), also in Japantown is O Izakaya (for izakaya) and Tanpopo (oh the service here is notoriously terrible, but their ramen is great) and I would also take your teen to get Korean BBQ (it's a bit on the meaty side, but they do have tofu soup, veggie and seafood options). The most popular places are on Geary in the Avenues, but even the ones (again in Japantown) are great fun.

      1. re: sfwork

        Which style of ramen do you order at Tanpopo? I've been there three times and find the ramen fair-to-middling. The ramen at Halu on Clement recommended elsewhere in this thread is better, but still far from great. Also note that most ramen stocks have some pork in them, so might not suit a non-red meat eater.

        phee's coming from San Diego which is blessed with a branch of Santouka, so it would be a waste of time to eat ramen in the City of San Francisco. Unfortunately.

    2. I forgot to mention my favorite place lately that she might like, Halu on 8th Ave at Clement. It's a Japanese yakitori place that has a Beatles theme. The grilled veggies and seafood are great.

      1. I rarely like to recommend the Ferry Building, but in your case, it sounds like a safe bet.
        I like Cafe Claude from your list, though I've had hit or miss meals there. She can order a salad, and I'd recommend the croque monsiour....or check out Gitane, their new place. Yank Sing can be on the greasy side, depending on what you pick out. There's also Bar Jules, and Canteen (check the daily menus for both and make sure they're entrees suit you on that given day), Nopa, Slow Club or Universal Cafe, Tadich Grill for seafood and sourdough (pretty close to your hotel, and very historical), Bar Crudo has a raw bar, Ti Couz for crepes and salads, Sebo for sushi, Mission Beach Cafe, Delfina, the obligatory Tartine visit, and maybe even Bar Tartine (though the menu may be challenging), someone else will mention Zuni, for Asian you might try Burmese Superstar, which is pretty fusion-ed, and for Larkin Express for lunch before 3, and the classic brunch/lunch suggestion is Mama's. Bon Bon Patisserie is near your hotel and worth a look. If you're craving Mexican and want to avoid the burrito stands, Nopalito may work. I'll also cosign Herbivore, Grattitude, and Dosa as worth looking into.

        1. If you're considering Dosa (the one on Valencia, that is), I'd reconsider and go to a few steps away to Udupi Palace, which is completely vegetarian and has stunning food and is very affordable. One of my very favorite restaurants in the Mission (I'm not a vegetarian). I took a vegetarian visitor there a few days ago and she was blown away. We've actually eaten at Udupi twice this week. Warning: Cash only.

          P.S. It's in a neighborhood your teenager will probably really enjoy.

          Udupi Palace
          1007 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          4 Replies
          1. re: Atomica

            Seconding Udupi over Dosa - less scene and better food.

            To add to Atomica's note about enjoying the nabe, walk down the block and check out Paxton Gate and 826 Valencia for some truly off the wall shopping/browsing (taxedermy suplies/finished products and a pirate store, how can you go wrong)

            1. re: tex.s.toast

              I second those recs. 826 Valencia and Paxton Gate are cool and unusual and completely worth a trip. Also, the excellent Aquarius Records is right by Udupi. I would have died for that store at 17. For dessert, you could go to the Bombay Ice Creamery on Valencia between 17th & 16th, and there's tons of other great stores up there too.

              1. re: Atomica

                or bi-rite! wait a minute - just reread the OP, the no-dairy situation would make amazing ice cream less desirable. maybe they have sorbet, but i wouldnt know.

                1. re: tex.s.toast

                  i'm involuntarily dairy-free. bi-rite makes soy ice cream, which is pretty good, but might be amazing depending on where the OP is from. they do also have sorbet which is very good.

                  the mecca of dairy-free great ice cream is maggie mudd on cortland in bernal heights. the local whole foods also carry a good selection of maggie mudd pints if cortland is too inconvenient.

                  903 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

          2. Other than being based in Union Square, you might mention the schools you will be visiting so that you get good recs for those nabes.

            Please don't consider Naan N' Curry. It's only charm is cheap. I will conceede they make excellent naan, but is it worth, carelessly prepared chain food swimming in way too much sauce? What a waste of a SF eating opportunity.

            If you are here Saturday morning, you should definately go to the Ferry Plaza farmers market. I lived in the San Diego area for a while and sooo missed that Saturday market. It was one of the first places I visited when I moved back.

            I haven't read a good thing about Greens in a long time. If you are just going for the view ... that's all you will get that is good.

            Yank Sing has a lot of detracters for being expensive, but claims of greasy food is a new one. IMO, I've never experienced that. In fact, the sesame balls are one of the least greasy in the city.

            I would only select one Beldon place restaurant. I worked in the financial district where they are located for a decade and always find those restaurants expensive and the food not all that. People like that sidwalk, alley cafe thing that goes on, but to me that alley always was dirty and smelly (beer smell). The chef at B44 has just opened a new restaurant where he is focusing his attention, so take that for what you will.

            If you list the schools you will be visiting, then I'll give recs in those neighborhoods. There are so many restaurants in SF. If in North Beach, she might enjoy The House. Here's the Place record with website and links to reports

            7 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              You guys are the best! I'm taking copious notes because I ALWAYS trust CH recs over most published material. As for schools, she wants to check out the Academy of Art, SFSU, and FIDM. I realize SFSU is way off our beaten path but this city has one of the best public transit systems and I haven't been out that way in several years (I used to go up alot on business).

              Regarding ice cream, she can usually handle non-fat frozen yogurt but has no problem indulging mom's occasional ice cream fix, so thanks for the rec on Bombay! And the two of us head up to Amoeba records in L.A. all the time, so Aquarius Records sounds like a must-visit to me.

              Thank you again - and keep 'em coming! This is going to be an adventure, one where we're doing ALOT of walking, so having a healthy list of potential dining spots is greatly appreciated.

              1. re: phee

                I agree with the Belden Place comments. I haven't liked B44 or Plouf at all in several visits to both. It's a cute street to look at in the evening, but that's about it.

                We had some fantastic dim sum at City View a week ago. It is also somewhat expensive (but not Yank Sing expensive).

                1. re: phee

                  San Francisco has the original Amoeba Records, on Haight near Golden Gate Park. Sadly I can't recommend too many of the restaurants in that immediate neighborhood though.

                  1. re: Joan Kureczka

                    Well, not like they have to eat in every neighborhood they visit but there is Citrus Club, Kezar, Zazie, Alembic, a good Burgermeister and they're pretty close to Nopa which is where I'd go.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Or Nopalito which I want to try. Not walking distance, but in the area and near a bus stop.

                    2. re: Joan Kureczka

                      Berkeley is the original Amoeba, then they took over the old bowling alley in the Haight.

                      1. re: Calvinist

                        Calvinist is very right - berkeley had amoeba for years first, although the SF one is quite large and cool.

                2. If you're visiting SFSU, you won't be too far from Beijing Restaurant, a wonderful new Chinese place, not too far from the 29 bus route (about 3 minutes walk from the bus stop.)
                  You can board a 29 bus right at the 19th Ave. entrance to SF State.

                  This link describes the restaurant very well -- lots of great reviews:

                  Beijing Restaurant
                  1801 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94112

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                    How well is English spoken there? If it's like China Village, I'd say "good rec", if it's like Everyday Beijing or Old Mandarin Islamic, I'd say "no no no!" Someone with strong food prejudices will want to know what's in everything, and some places you get enthusiastic shrugs.

                    I would also step away from Korean. "A little meat heavy" is an understatement.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Actually, their English is pretty good and they're quite friendly.

                      1. re: sfbing

                        Might be a great spot for the OP then...

                      2. re: bbulkow

                        They came here from Beijing via New Zealand, where they went to college.

                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                          English was excellent, as was the food, the one time we've been there.

                        2. re: bbulkow

                          There are plenty of Korean dishes with just vegetables...

                      3. My list is growing, thanks to you all! So, three recs here for sushi are Kabuto, Ryoto, and Sebo, and two of my coworkers recommended Sakana and Blowfish. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these, as we'll probably go for sushi at least twice in the four days we're there.

                        Thanks again!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: phee

                          Sebo is likely to be featured in an upcoming episode of No Reservations, so that might be fun to check out for that reason alone. It's pricey, and hype doesn't always mean the best fish, but this place has a die hard following. If you go, make sure you pick a night they're open. There's also Domo around the corner, with a large sake list.

                          1. re: phee

                            Sebo does mostly no frills classic nigiri. Very fresh fish, perfectly seasoned rice. Expensive. Nice space, pretty quiet when I've been. Note that on Sundays, there is no sushi-just izakaya dishes. Currently my favorite sushi place in the city with Hama-Ko.

                            Kabuto used to be my favorite place, but it is not the same since Sachio-san sold the business. Although if you are looking for fancy rolls with funny names, it might still be a good choice.

                            Koo in the inner sunset is pretty good, and they also have a nice selection of other plates.

                            1. re: phee

                              Blowfish is off my list - haven't eaten there in a long time. It's got a lot of scene, some unusual appetizers (I remember the tempura grapes), good bartenders, but the fish itself is only slightly above average.

                              Kabuto was the place about 10 years ago. I had a below-average meal there around 8 years ago and never went back.

                              Also remember the friday night rule. Sushi's always best on friday nights. Most of the meh sushi I've had has been monday and tuesday. Of course some high end places break this rule, and some low end places use nothing but frozen anyway.

                            2. There's a Japanese restaurant up Powell right before it intersects at Bush...I can't remember the name! But it's very good. There are TONS of places around Nob Hill, and if you haven't been to Genki Ramen or Chutney's on Jones St. you should check it out.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: mels88

                                Genki's ramen is quite mediocre. What do you order there?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  We eat at Genki Ramen perhaps once every couple of months and like it just fine. What do we order? All sorts of different things. Ramens, apps, cold ramen salad.

                                  1. re: Atomica

                                    The broth at Genki doesn't strike you as lacking character or the noodles too soft? Is there a particular appetizer that you recommend? Maybe those are executed better.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      I think I had the Eel Bowl. I like Genki Ramen. =) It's adventurous enough for the shy eater.

                              2. I want to thank you all for your suggestions. We now have a wealth of places from which to choose, and I promise to do my CH duty and report back on our dining experiences. We leave Monday morning!