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Apr 1, 2009 06:44 PM

How to spend a free Fri and Sat in SF--wander or plan?

My husband and I will be in SF next week Thurs-Sat. We live in DC and NYC and like to do a lot of walking when we travel, while either noshing along the way or meandering to a destination. I also love food shopping in different cities. We've been to SF several times and love Zuni Cafe (having learned about it years ago on CH!); I was there on business about a year and a half ago and had a great dinner at Incanta (I think it is called) in the Noe Valley.

We are staying near Union Square. I will be working all day Thursday, we are having dinner at Zuni Friday night and we're flying out from the Oakland airport on the redeye Saturday night.

The only item on the itinerary on this point, other than the Zuni dinner, is the farmers' market Saturday morning at Ferry Plaza. Worthwhile? Spring has been a long time coming here in the East, and I am dying for fruit and veg that are not apples and roots (even if I'm mostly looking).

I'm looking for recommendations on what else to do Friday before Zuni and Saturday after the market. We will not have a car but are happy to walk long distances and use transit. We like pretty much everything food-wise including carts and trucks. I love vegetables but find Alice Waters off-putting. Re restaurants, price is not an issue as much as vibe--I am looking for casual and relaxed, not overly precious.

All suggestions gratefully received!

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  1. You definitely shouldn't miss the Ferry Bldg farmers market if you are a fan of fruit and veggies.

    On Friday, consider getting out of Union Square and do a food tour of the Mission- tacos, pupusas, etc. There is also south Indian (Udupi Palace), ice cream (Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphry Slocombe, Bombay), an expensive and impressively stocked food market for gifts (Bi-Rite Market), a bakery (Tartine), and a pizzeria (Pizzeria Delfina). As a New Yorker, you probably won't like the pizza, but the other dishes (especially the cauliflower!) are also very good. There are lots of posts about food crawls in the Mission to give you some ideas.

    I haven't been yet, but people on CH love La Ciccia (Sardinian). Other Italian for a fan of Incanto would be A16, Delfina, SPQR. Or you could go back to Incanto, if the menu is pretty different.

    In your neighborhood, Dennis Leary's Canteen is excellent. Reservations are recommended.

    1. For a long foodie/tourist walk from Union Square, I'd take the 30 Stockton into Chinatown or walk over the hill on Grant. Walking up either street will take you through Chinatown, where you can sample/eat as you wish. That will take you to North Beach, where I'd stop at Victoria Pastry for Amaretti cookies, then down Columbus (stopping at XOX for a truffle and coffee) to the Wharf. Not much eating here, but stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions and meander along the waterfront. The Boudin bakery has a fun shop to browse for foodie things and you can get clam chowder or other fishy things as you wander through the area. If you're so inclined, stop at Ghiradelli for a sundae or Kara's Cupcakes.

      After you pass Ghiradelli Square, continue following the waterline through Aquatic park. The road will take you over the hill to Fort Mason, where you can stop at Greens to Go to pick up a sandwich or whatnot. Continue along Crissy Field/Marina Blvd until you reach Fillmore. Walk up Fillmore Street to Chestnut Street, then meander along Chestnut Street, which has some good/fun restaurants and shops. Stop at the candy place to browse their candy collection (I can't remember the name of it), then down to Kara's for cupcake if you didn't stop at Ghiradelli. Alternatively, you could take the bus up Fillmore for lunch at SPQR.

      It's not a totally foodie outing, but it gives a nice overview of a large area of the city, has nice views, and has some good restaurants along the way.

      7 Replies
      1. re: cyberroo

        Very nice itinerary. And at various points you can easily hop a bus/street car/cable car and get back downtown. Shouldn't be a lot of walking for NYers, either.

        From Union Square I usually recommend walking up Grant (through the Chinatown gate) and as far as Clay before heading up to Stockton (which is less touristy and more foodie). That route skirts the steepest parts of Nob Hill.

        1. re: cyberroo

          If you walk down Columbus to the Wharf and then past Ghirardelli to Fort Mason, you don't come within half a mile of Pier 39. Which is all for the best--that route just gives you a couple of blocks of the gross tourist-trap part of the Wharf.

          Instead of heading up Fillmore, you could walk all the way through Chrissy Field to the Warming Hut and Let's Be Frank.

          1. re: cyberroo

            Very good route. But while you're in the SF-historic area of North Beach you should take advantage of it and make some stops. I suggest these:
            - Liguria Bakery (Stockton Street at the NE corner of Washington Square park) - They've been making their great fococcia since the very early 1900s.
            - Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe (SE corner of Columbus & Union) - Long-time North Beach coffee house and cafe.
            - Caffe Sport (if you want a real restaurant for lunch) - It's been going strong for a long time; funky and quirky. Noted for their Pasta con Pesto and the Scampi All' Antonio.
            - Molinari's - old-school North Beach deli and grocery.

            Molinari Delicatessen
            373 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Liguria Bakery
            1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store and Cafe
            566 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Caffe Sport
            574 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              Liguria will probably have sold out and closed by the time LindaMC gets there.

              Caffe Sport and Mario's aren't old-school North Beach. Caffe Sport was opened in 1969 by a Sicilian immigrant, Mario's in 1972 by an Istrian immigrant.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                "Old school" isn't the same as old, and while the Italian immigrants in San Francisco are mostly from Lucca and Genoa, there's always been a substantial population from other parts of that region (the Tadich folks are Croatian -- most of Istria is in Croatia -- the Aliotos are Sicilian -- my dear, recently departed great-aunt was raised by Sicilian immigrant parents in North Beach in the '20s).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Sure, but I still don't think places opened by immigrants during the Nixon administration are "historic North Beach" in the sense that century-plus-old businesses run by great-great-grandchildren of the founders are.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    *shrug* They are consistent with the historic character of the neighborhood. They are probably more consistent with the immigrant restaurants of 100+ years ago than the ones run by third or fourth generation Americans, regardless of who their great-grandparents are.

          2. I like taking the N-Judah Muni train out to the inner sunset and getting off around 7th and Irving. From there you can visit Golden Gate Park or nose around the neighborhood. Park Chow is great for a mid-afternoon snack and liquid refreshment. I am not sure about the restaurant recs, but I refer friends to this guide whenever they want to know where to visit in SF:


            1. Thanks everyone--very helpful!


              1 Reply
              1. re: LindaMc

                I agree with taking the N-Judah out to the Inner Sunset and walking around Golden Gate Park (if you haven't been). You can also get off Muni at Haight/Waller and walk around the Haight/Ashbury area. There are a lot of interesting, hippie boutiques and you can get some good grub at Magnolia or great, artisan cocktails at Alembic.

                In the Inner Sunset, you can get pastries and coffee at Arizmendi before heading into the park. Head west in the park and you'll hit the ocean (quite a bit of distance but enjoyable). From there, I'd suggest taking the bus to Golden Gate Bridge.

                Before Zuni, head next door to Cav (wine bar).

                Cav Wine Bar
                1666 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1725 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                Magnolia Pub & Brewery
                1398 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                Arizmendi Bakery
                1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA