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Help an ex-pat reconnect?

I was born and raised in SF, and left a decade ago - I pine daily, and I come back once a year, staying in the Richmond District, to visit old haunts, and to try places that you amazing hounds recommend - like La Ciccia, Incanto, Tekka - the list goes on. and on. When I come, I usually pack an empty suitcase to fill with piroshki, cheese, chicken bao, and I try to plan my trip to leave Saturday afternoon so I can scour the Alemany farmer's market, packing a load of veggies, and getting a load of bread to get home and freeze.

This weekend, I am flying in alone (no husband, no 4-year) old, for a high school reunion. Go Eagles. Anyhow, priceline put me in the St Francis, and I only have like 40 hours. I am driving myself insane. Let me assure you all that I have COMBED any post that mentions Union Square. My goal is to have as many great food experiences as I can cram in, and still have a relaxing, well-earned, luxurious weekend alone.

The current plan: Friday - go straight to Zuni for a mid-afternoon snack of oysters, caesar salad and a decadent daylight martini. Check in at the hotel and walk around what is sure to be a completely different Union Square area - Gold Coast and Tad's will be calling softly to me, but I want better/different this time. Since I am at the St. Francis, I will more than likely return from my deliciously chilly jaunt and have the bar/lounge menu with wine pairings at Michael Mina. I also plan to ask for truffled popcorn to take to my room. I know MM hasn't gotten a whole heap of love here lately, but they are in the hotel, and the idea of taking an elevator down, eating a great meal, and taking the elevator up is just about irresistable.

Saturday - Ferry Building. I have been, and the fact that Acme expanded their sandwich offerings to three is enough enticement. I will, as rworange has suggested, make my breakfast from the sample offerings. Then, on to SFMOMA, and a late lunch of a tea service at Samovar (...Russian?) after. Back to the hotel, get all fancied up, and hit....??????? for a delicious early dinner so I can make it through a cocktail party with people I haven't seen in, errr, decades. Grand Cafe is close, and looks nice, but without the CH seal...is there another close place to have a solo, light supper? I think I will be in heels, and alone.

Sunday - La Boulange on Market - I will try and hit it before hitting BART back to SFO, and back to the inferno.

This is a ridiculously long post for a request for recommendations. But here are my specific questions:

Should I brave the Friday crowds and hit Perbacco or Bar Crudo instead of "settling" for MM?

Should I find oysters and other salad delights someplace new and exciting instead of Zuni? More specifically, does one of Robert Lauriston's $1- oyster places offer a) a good additional dish and b) proximity to Union Square? Jeanty is calling...what to do, what to do....this would be Friday (oh, tomorrow!) at around 3PM.

Where should I go, in between Union Square the Park Chalet (I'm so excited to see my ocean) for a light dinner - can't be too far off the path - I'm on MUNI. I had thought that I could hit Aziza, but it might be a little off the path.

Sunday AM downtown - is there something better than La Boulange to a) get coffee, b) get a savory, portable, b-fast treat, c) get something to eat on the plane, d) get something to freeze?

I hope some 'hounds will help my quixotic endeavor to have a brief, grown-up, downtown, solo interlude with the city I love and miss so much.

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  1. I'm sure you will get some answers from the Bay area hounds to what seems like a well-researched request but I can offer two tidbits. The first is that Bar Crudo has/will have moved by the time you arrive so that it is no longer in the Union Square area; see second reply here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6116....

    Also I think you could make it out to Aziza on one bus (the 38 IIRC) but it is a bit of a ride. I would think worth it based on my one visit at the end of March, if only for the lovely cocktails and the spreads. I hope you have a brilliant time eating and that your reunion is fun.

    7 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      OP is arriving today, 4/24. Bar Crudo's last service is 4/25 at current location, per RL.

      1. re: grayelf

        Yeah, the 38 goes down Geary, past Aziza -- depending on the day and time there are "limited" and "express" versions that will be a little quicker -- check the schedule. If you're going to be out at the beach, George Morrone (formerly of Aqua, etc.) has been trying to turn Sutro's at the Cliff House into a destination restaurant, with generally positive results.

        Don't do Grand Cafe! How about Canteen? Although that might be a bit casual. Perbacco would definitely be a more sleek, sophisticated choice.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Instead of the Grand Cafe, maybe Cortez on the other side of Geary. It's a dressy place, a pretty room and I've liked the food there.

            1. re: bobpantzer

              Second on that. Post-makeover, Cortez is pretty elegant.

              Try a Cesar cocktail (like a margarita but with fresh cilantro and jalapeƱo).

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                yes, Cortez is a must. . .absolutely over Grand Cafe.

                i love their bar offerings and their desserts.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I think Canteen would be great, if the OP can get in (and I'm sure it's easier as a single at the counter, especially for the early seating). In the evenings it's more dressy than brunch, though not cocktail dress worthy; Perbecco would also be great, and is definitely more dressy. I like Aziza, but with the short time you have, I'd plan that for the next trip.

        2. The oysters I had at Jeanty last week were some of the best I've ever had, but the $1 special is Hog Island Sweetwaters and nothing else, so no variety, and happy hour doesn't start until 4.

          Grand Cafe's certainly a good room to be dressed up in. They just changed their bar menu or are just about to.

          Aziza's about 30 minutes on the 38 bus.

          Acme has sandwiches?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            A small selection but apparently excellent execution, salami, ham and cheese and perhaps one other have been reported on.

            1. re: wolfe

              I think that was a temporary deal a while ago. Haven't seen them since.

              1. re: wally

                I've seen them as recently as last month -- they only have them at lunch time and until they sell out, so if you're there at another time you might not see them.

          2. The only advice I'll give is *get out of union square* more!

            Don't take busses. With a bus you might have to wait 30 minutes. (the 30 "i been standin'" was my favorite). Not the best when you're on a tight schedule.

            Take cabs. Cabs in SF are the very slightest of a pain, but I've always had professional, safe, reasonable drivers. The trick is to tell your server you're going to need a cab in 10 minutes and they'll call one for you. This will get you out and about in SF, well dressed, without hassle, without parking, without walking far in heels.

            If you're willing to spend for MM and everything else, you can afford a few cab rides.

            7 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow

              Here's a minor secret about Muni, call them for their schedule and actual arrival of buses.

              I was in downtown/fi di district SF a month or so ago on a Sunday night on public transpo and I was thinking exactly what you wrote -- half hour of waiting in deadsville. Then I called Muni and asked when the next bus was coming. The operator said, "My GPS shows a bus should be there in less then a minute." Sure enough the bus appeared down the street. It took me 10 minutes to get to Japantown. I have to say that was cool.

              If you're staying in the St. Francis, the 38 Geary is right outside. On the Aziza side, the walk won't be more then 2 blocks. A cab on the way back however seems like a good idea.

              1. re: ML8000

                I have downloaded www.nextbus.com onto my iphone and my home computer, so I can tell when the next bus is coming while I am waiting. It is the same GPS system that you see in some of the muni waiting kiosks.

                1. re: ML8000

                  I agree that the nextbus tech is a pretty cool optimization - and about the phone call you mention.

                  My real point is there's a hassle factor with public transit. Maybe it's the uncertain arrival time. Maybe it's not knowing if your bus will have seats covered in pee. Maybe it's figuring out how payment works (muni used to accept cash - now they're ticket-n-stamp based? or what?)

                  In this case, the OP was (like many visitors!) restricting their restaurant choices before even arriving based on their hotel choice. Because it's days in advance and they know busses are uncertain in a variety of ways.

                  San Francisco is a small city!

                  A $5 cab ride can cover thousands and thousands of restaurants. And a $15 cab ride covers the rest. 5$ has gotten me from union square to 16th and valencia.

                  Let's get our visitors out of Union Square on a more regular basis....

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    saticoy said, "Where should I go, in between Union Square the Park Chalet (I'm so excited to see my ocean) for a light dinner - can't be too far off the path - I'm on MUNI. I had thought that I could hit Aziza, but it might be a little off the path."

                    Aziza's right on the path of Muni from Union Square to the beach.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      I agree SF is a small city, but if you hit some traffic you can rack up a much bigger cab bill than $15. Figuring out how payment workson Muni is not a big deal for any reasonably competent person -- fyi Muni still takes cash, or at least they did last time I took it a couple of weeks ago. MuniMetro takes cash, too, although figuring out how is a little trickier.

                      That said, I'd probably take a cab back from the Outer Richmond -- it just makes for a much nicer, more relaxing end to the evening, and traffic isn't so much of an issue.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        saticoy says she was born and raised in SF, so she probably knows how Muni works. Hasn't changed much.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Understood. I was explaining just that to bbulkow. There have been changes, but they've been mostly *adding* payment options, not replacing them.

                2. On the way between Park Chalet and Union Square is the New Nopalito by the owners of Nopa. It is across the street from the DMV on Broderick. If you don't go for Aziza, this might be a nice choice. There is also Delessio's in the attached Market so there's some baked goodies there.

                  1. Thanks all you wonderful hounds. I have been following the discussion from my iPhone, but unable to post.

                    My flight landed late, so I opted to check in and walk to Jeanty - the Hog Island Sweetwaters were plump, briny, well-shucked, and an amazing value. The steak tartare was delicious and enormous - I think it was a two-yolk pile, but they only served one, so I mixed it into the top half and it was great. The Hendricks martini was made perfectly to my specifications. The room was perfect - all the molding, and the vertically stacked room, with vintage photos and menus - it was the perfect old-school downtown vibe. It was also filling enough and late enough that it was my only SF meal yesterday.

                    I'm on MUNI partially because I miss it. Where I live now, there is no real public transportation to speak of - I'm aware of the perils, but as RL pointed out, with 25 years of MUNI experience under my belt, it was an informed choice. I also chose to make this brief interlude downtown-centric, since I don't usually spend too much time downtown when I come with my family. . . and I worked downtown for so long, enjoying Sam's, Tadich, Cafe Claude, Yank Sing - I miss Lee's and Peets too....just wanted to be downtown for most of this little trip.

                    I took the vintage F streetcar down to the Ferry Building this AM, and despite my promise to myself to only get bread and mushrooms, I also got asparagus, peas and artichokes. I had the Acme salame sandwich, which is on a par with the jamon iberico flauta at Cafe Viena in Barcelona for pure excellence of ingredients and sheer deliciousness. The green garlic one was also delicious, although I only had a couple of bites...it is wrapped carefully and I'm praying it will be edible tomorrow. They also offer one with Mt. Tam cheese - only from 11AM until they run out.

                    I had coffee from Blue Bottle which actually was worth the 1/2 an hour wait (!), and a custom salumi cone from Boccolone - the prosciutto was very good, a little dry for my taste. The sopressata was excellent - incredibly flavorful with complexity, a little spice, a nice chewy texture. The porchetta was a flavor and texture RIOT - sooooooo good.

                    Thanks for steering me away from the Grand Cafe. Canteen's 6PM seating is every so-slightly too late, and Bar Crudo doesn't seem to open until 6 - I won't be able to relax. I'm checking out Cortez, and I think that Aziza and Nopalito might be a little to hard to navigate in heels on MUNI. THANKS for the nextbus app tip...Google Maps also provides MUNI schedules - although my experience has been that the phrase "MUNI schedule" is an oxymoron. I think I WILL take a cab back!

                    Off to MOMA now....thank you all SOOO much for your input.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: saticoy

                      Glad you are having a good time. Thanks for reporting back.

                      -----
                      Acme Bread
                      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      Jeanty At Jacks
                      615 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      Boccalone Salumeria
                      1 Ferry Building # 21, San Francisco, CA