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Apr 25, 2009 01:54 PM

Trip to San Francisco from DC

I'm a DC hound who will be in San Francisco for 5 nights in early May and was hoping to get your help for some recommendations for dinner. We like restaurants relying on fresh ingredients prepared in unique ways. One night we'll do a splurge restaurant - what is the best restaurant in the area keeping it to around $100 per person. (If anyone here is from DC, something Obelisk-style would be great). Other nights we'd like to keep it to $50 per person and under. We like all kinds of cuisine, especially innovative. An American, French, and Italian restaurant would be great. Also, places to get the best ethnic cuisine in the area - we're open to all kinds.

I've searched the boards already and Gary Danko, Aqua, Aziza, fleur de lys, and Coi all looked good. Any recommendations on which ones to choose?

Also, the menu at Redd looked very good and the fact that it was on a vineyard sounded good because we were planning to visit one anyway. Any thoughts?

Lastly, are there are any good sandwich shops making their own bread to grab a quick lunch or bread&cheese during the day?

Thanks so much for the help!

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  1. Where will you be staying and where will you be when you are grabbing your quick lunch?

    2 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Staying in Union Square, but will be going all over the city to site see and such, so location isn't particularly an issue. Lunches will be during the week probably around 2pm or so.

      1. re: dcfoodie13

        I'd make lunch at Boulevard a must and would strongly consider Gary Danko for a dinner - both are excellent. Aqua's food was spectacular - the best seafood I've had outside of the remarkable Providence in LA, but the servers and room were so.....rigid.....that it kind of made the experience less "fun" than the more lively Danko and Boulevard (seriously - the bread, the chicken, and anything made with eggs or

        If you're making your way North to Redd, try Bouchon for lunch (and if you've been, offer comparison to Central Michel Richard)

    2. Aziza is a good choice, and you can definitely make it out of there for $50 a person, depending on how much you order (and how much you drink). Bar Tartine, a place not on your list, is one of the first places that I think of when I read "fresh ingredients prepared in unique ways" -- the food is delicious and the ingredients are great. Canteen is also a good idea for one of the midpriced meals.

      Some visitors have recently loved Gary Danko, you can do a search and read some of the more recent posts about it. Aqua is pretty boring, in my opinion, and not really like Obelisk; you might like Perbecco, which is right next door.

      You should definitely stop by Acme in the Ferry Building -- they make excellent bread, and have sandwiches at lunchtime (they go fast). You could also get bread from Acme, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery cheese shop, and meats from Boccolone (all in the Ferry Building) for a great lunch.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JasmineG

        Second for Aziza... It is more California-fied and delicios than Lebanese Taverna (which I loved when I was in DC 6+ years ago). The flavors are fantastic as are the cocktails. The outlying neighborhood is also fun for a walk around while the businesses are open. Many ethnicities that don't have much presence in DC (or didn't when I lived there).


      2. Coi is a little out of your splurge range at $120 for the tasting menu, but I highly recommend it. It totally fits your description of "fresh ingredients prepared in unique ways." Right now, Daniel Patterson is doing a lot with spring: asparagus, spring lamb, rhubarb, favas. Persevere and check out the menu on the mildly annoying website (you have to click on dining room to see the menu).

        I second the Aziza rec--also unlikely to be found elsewhere. He was recently on Iron Chef, if you want to get a good feel for his style of cooking.

        Delfina and Incanto in the Mission do local ingredients in Cal-Italian style. Incanto is known for offal--but there are plenty of other tasty dishes there. Recently, I took my young cousin to Delfina as a present for her high school graduation. She insisted on ordering what appeared to be the most boring dish ever, roast chicken with olive oil mashed potatoes, which was shockingly good. People here also say a lot of good things about La Ciccia for Sardinian.

        For American, please consider Zuni which also does an awesome (and very famous) roast chicken.

        Tartine Bakery is a zoo, but makes their own bread and very cheesy sandwiches. Sentinel is a good place for sandwiches downtown. And there are a bunch of Boulangeries scattered all over the city which are good for salad/sandwich plates. I like the space and service at Boulange de Cole Valley.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sfbing

          I really wish Zuni could somehow do the chicken for one. It is the only thing preventing me from making the reservation for my upcoming trip.

          1. re: uhockey

            I once saw a woman eating alone order the chicken; she ate part and took the rest when she left. If you have a fridge in your hotel rm, I bet it'd make a good picnic lunch the following day.

        2. dcfoodie, I assume your price ranges are for food without tax, tip or drinks?

          I moved to SF from DC and know the city (and Obelisk!) quite well.

          For your splurge restaurant, I think you would really enjoy Coi -- it is the most expensive restaurant in the city, however.

          I'm not as big a fan of Aziza as many are. I like it, but I don't love it.

          For *awesome* food that is a steal, I love Fringale (french bistro / basque). For younger (18-45) crowds in "cooler" environements, I love NOPA (modern CA), A16 (southern Italian), Laiola (modern Spanish), Delfina (northern Italian),

          In between the "splurge" and the "normal" restaurants in price are Boulevard (modern CA / French) and Ame (French / Italian / Japanese fusion) which are both terrific.

          Making thier own bread, I don't know. But my favorite sandiwches are at Blue Barn Gourmet in the Marina.

          My favorite ethnic cuisine is at Helmand Palace in Russian Hill -- Afghani. Also, I love Troya (Turkish) in the Richmond.

          5 Replies
          1. re: whiner

            Actually, I think Aqua is the most expensive restaurant in the city. Followed by the Dining Room. Although, really, all the "Tasting Menu" restaurants tend to be bunched together in the same price point. The link below has a long discussion of these types of restaurants for the Bay Area which you might find helpful. In particular, someone thoughtfully lists all of them with prices for tasting menus.


            1. re: sfbing

              Actually, the tasting at Michael Mina tops all the others in price. :-)

              $135 for tasting at Mina. $120-130 at Aqua. Dining Room is $125 for the 9 course. Coi is $120.

              Of course this is ballpark - add some truffles or caviar here and there and I'm sure you can top TFL.

              Having been to TFL and many others (though certainly not a comprehensive list) I can definitely say that Gary Danko is the best "Bang for the Buck" quality/quantity for the price that I've ever experienced outside Providence - LA and Charlie Trotters - Chicago. TFL is a "better" experience, but you pay for what you get.

              1. re: uhockey

                I'm too lazy to look this up, but I seem to remember Aqua having a pretty brief (7 course?) tasting menu. And they were pretty uptight, so it probably made the bill even more painful.

                Of the ones in SF, Coi is the most unique right now. If the OP was looking for a more typical tasting menu experience with truffles, caviar, foie, etc, then Danko is probably the best deal.

                1. re: sfbing

                  I do agree - but coming from DC, the land of Jose Andres........well, let's just say that Patterson isn't re-inventing the wheel compared to something the OP could get in DC - not that Danko is, either, but I'd say it is more a "San Francisco Establishment"

                2. re: uhockey

                  "Actually, the tasting at Michael Mina tops all the others in price. :-)"

                  No. In the city, Masa's is more expensive.

            2. Most of these "high end" restaurant folks are talking about here will be well above $100/person (particuarly once you add beverages, tax, tip). If you are willing to up the limit a bit I would highly recommend Coi, particuarly since you wanted a fairly different food experience. Very ingredient driven. Redd is quite a ways away (in Yountville just down the street from The French Laundry) and that I can recall is not surrounded by a vineyard. There are vineyards nearby though.

              What do other Chowhounds think of Chapeau? I haven't been in awhile but it used to be a great neighborhood restaurant I haven't heard much about.

              Just went to Perbacco last night and had a very nice meal. Portions are fairly large and the pricing isn't all that high. We got out for $143 for two of us including drinks, tax and a good tip.