Late Dinner near Wharf? And, North Beach Italian?
Hi. We will be in San Francisco for two nights in May. It will be the first trip for my parents. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Fishermans Wharf (I know, but it's before a 9 night cruise). The first night we'd like to enjoy a nice italian meal (casual) in North Beach. Is that walkable? Suggestions?
The following night--a Sunday, we are doing the night Alcatraz tour, which starts at 6:45. I doubt much will be open upon our return (around 9pm), but if there is something that you can suggest--even fast food or super casual--in the area, we would really appreciate it. We plan to spend that day at the Muir Woods and lunch in Sausalito (suggestions there would be great too), so we won't have much time before the Alcatraz trip for dinner.
Avoid attempting to eat at Fisherman's Wharf. It is possible to not have a tremendously
disappointing experience but that takes some expert local skills you won't have time
to develop. Here's a post from a local expert in a thread that might be helpful:
North Beach is definitely walkable from where you're staying. A little less than a mile
straight up Columbus. No significant hill action.
L'Osteria del Forno is a reasonable place for a casual and inexpensive Italian. Small,
homey, The roast of the day seems to always be pork and is all I remember ever
ordering there. Da Flora seems to be hit-or-miss. My one visit was an absolute hit
but there are so many reports of misses I hesitate to mention it. The owner has a
bit of a personality. Coffee at the Trieste? Dessert at the Steps of Rome? Drinks at
Specs or Vesuvios? You can actually have a full and pleasant evening on Columbus
which, while tourist-leaning, isn't tourist-pandering at all.
Lately I've really been liking Fish in Sausalito. Casual, tasty, outdoor tables on the water
in the less-precious northern end of town. Since it appears you are coming from
Manhattan, the sticker-shock may not be as jaw dropping as it could be.
San francisco is a really small town and a five minute cab ride will cover 80% of what's good in SF. If you persist in your attachment to the tourist ghetto, we can only recommend tourist food. For example, I am fond of The Globe off Broadway for late night - I think they serve to 1am on weekends. Even though it's on that side of town, it's not really a walk. Even House and Koh Samui and the Monkey, or Moe's, is rather on the far side of north beach. Otherwise, you might as well hike down Columbus and eat at whatever looks good. The place with the gummi bears that's the first on the right is about as good or bad as the others.
What would you like to eat? Given where Pier 33 is located and that you're debarking on a Sunday night, I highly recommend a taxi. And if you're taking a taxi, you can pretty much eat anywhere in the city. Since there are a gazillion restaurants here, a little more info about cuisine, atmosphere, and price ranges would help.
Another poster coming back from Alcatraz ended up going to Slanted Door (Vietnamese, gorgeous view) on the Embarcadero and really liked it. I'm pretty sure they take reservations late. Other choices in that area with late reservations are Boulevard (Californian), Ozumo (Japanese), Kokkari (Greek).
You can get some ideas by searching on opentable for places that have late reservations. I just tried looking at 10:00 on a Saturday in various northern neigborhoods and came up with:
North Beach: Panta Rei, Washbag, Albona, Antica Trattoria
Marina: A16, Laiola, Presidio Social Club
FiDi: Gitane, Perbacco, Belden, Boulevard, Anchor & Hope
Fisherman's wharf: (get in the cab, move along, nothing to see here...)
I haven't been to most of these, but these were the ones that sorta matched the Italian vibe, were on the affordable side (mostly), and were places I'm hearing good things about...
Washbag = Washington Square Bar & Grill
FiDi = Financial District
As other people have said, there's a lot crammed into the North-East corner of the city and cabs are relatively cheap, especially later in the evening when they won't get stuck in traffic. Note that of the above, Boulevard is good but very expensive; Perbacco is more upscale "modern Italian"; A16 is regional Italian (Neapolitan) but with kind of a hip, urban vibe, while Antica Trattoria and Panta Rei are more traditional.
Fisherman's Wharf is one of the few areas in the city open late seven days a week every day of the year. When most everything is closed on a holiday like Thanksgiving ... the Wharf is open.
That's the good news. The bad news is like others have said, the prices are too high and the food too average. They depend on tourists so they don't have to try hard. Also, tourists have stars in their eyes and sometimes the scenery makes the food seem better ... or their hometowns have nothing but chains so this stuff is comparable.
That being said, I put together some Fisherman's Wharf lists
Best Bets - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants
Tourist traps - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants
Fisherman's Wharf Places to try
If you click on the restaurant name, it will give you more restaurant info such as hours, the website (if any) and links to Chowhound reports.
Scoma's might be your best bet if you must eat at the Wharf. Do ask at any Wharf restaurant which fish is fresh that day. There is a lot of fish on all the menus that is shipped in from elsewhere and not even local to the West Coast.
I'm putting my list of Wharf places to try with the reasons I want to try them. The only one that matters to you might be Beach Street Grill. While Mama's in North Beach might be the best breakfast option in the area, I've keep meaning to try the breakfast at Beach Street.
Some of this list might be useful as it mentions a few North Beach places to consider
Sausalito - Fish or Le Garage
You can check restaurant info by going to the restaurant and bar database
Here's a search of SF late night. If you add the neighbor hood such as Wharf or North Beach it will narrow the search
Many SF restaurants take reservations until 10 or later on Sunday.
You could grab a cab to Zuni, they're open till 11. One of the best restaurants in town.
Globe is great and open until 10:30. I'm not sure if on Sundays they serve only the "farmers menu" or if the regular menu is available as well:
Albona's near the Alcatraz tour terminal but closed Sundays.
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
290 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94111
For going up into the Muir Woods / Sausalito area, head a few minutes north to Larkspur and check out Pizzeria Picco. Really good neapolitan style pizzas. Margherita and Specialized are my faves. If you're still hungry for dessert get the Strauss soft serve with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Its definitely a favorite place of mine to take people visiting from out of town after Muir Woods.
320 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur, CA 94939
I thought of PIco, but took a look at the OP's profile and they are from NY. That Strauss isn't as good as East Coast soft serve or even the soft serve at a joint in Sonoma. While Pico is better than most West Coast Pizza, I don't know how much it will do for someone from an area with great pizza.
Fish in Sausalito is a good take on West Coast seafood and it is nice to sit on the water. While Le Garage is just French food, it has a California vibe and it is nice to sit right on the water.