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Manhattan Resident Looking for Lunch & Dinner Rec for San Fran

t
tabby11 May 11, 2009 01:25 PM

My husband and I will be in San Fran during Memorial Day weekend for a wedding and would like to get a lunch and dinner recommendation. We are both foodies who have spent time in San Fran in the past. A lot of people rave about the great cuisine in San Fran but we've never really had an amazing eating experience during our past visits to this city. Can you recommend a must try? We don't care as much about decor and would rather stay away from really stuffy & formal places (reminds us of work related meals). Cost is not an issue but we don't want to be taken advantaged of. We're just really focused on amazing food...where is the great CA cuisine that everyone raves about?

Also, my husband is watching his weight. He can cheat on this trip but unfortunately will put his foot down against tasting menus.

Thanks for your help!

  1. Shane Greenwood May 11, 2009 01:54 PM

    Since there are so many different ways to answer your post, a little more info will help us help you.

    What kinds of cuisines do you like? What places did you try before that you thought weren't amazing? Also, you mention you are from Manhattan. Are you telling us that because you want something like a Manhattan restaurant, or because you want something you can't find there?

    8 Replies
    1. re: Shane Greenwood
      t
      tabby11 May 11, 2009 02:30 PM

      Sorry if I wasn't too clear....and thanks for your help. Here are some more details:

      I mention Manhattan since we have a lot of amazing food options and are very serious about food. We are not looking for a typical Manhattan restaurant...we just want great food in whatever decor. Totally casual, hole in the wall is fine or high end with top notch service is fine too as long as the food is great.

      We're open to any types of cuisines and are not picky eaters at all. Oh, we would love to get a recommendation for a great authentic Mexican restaurant/food stand since Manhattan does not have good Mexican food at all. We love foie gras, uni, sushi, other seafood, bone marrow etc. etc.....basically everything.

      It's been a while since we were in San Fran proper so my memory is a little rusty but we tried Acqua and Slanted Door (food at both were okay). We've been to Napa county a couple of times and have tried Cyrus (food was okay; service was obnoxiously over the top), Auberge du Soleil (very good food but not amazing), Tre Vigne Restaurant (very good food with great outdoor seating).

      Thanks again.

      1. re: tabby11
        steve h. May 11, 2009 02:43 PM

        hi tabby,
        i've never had a great meal in san francisco but i've had a lot of really good ones. bar crudo is informal, tasty and fun. maybe do a few searches and see if this place works for you. next door is tunnel top, a raucous cash bar perfect for after-dinner drinks.

        tadich always works as a lunch destination ( go late). yank sing, too. zuni cafe is our "goto" lunch place.

        enjoy your trip.

        1. re: steve h.
          s
          sugartoof May 17, 2009 08:29 PM

          crudo may still be on a hiatus depending on the visit. they're expanding into tunnel top.

          1. re: sugartoof
            JasmineG May 17, 2009 10:08 PM

            No, it's the opposite -- Crudo has moved, and will open shortly at their new location on Divisadero. Tunnel Top is expanding into the old Bar Crudo space.

            1. re: JasmineG
              s
              sugartoof May 18, 2009 11:57 AM

              Oh my mistake. Thanks for clarifying!

              1. re: JasmineG
                Cynsa May 21, 2009 07:41 AM

                http://www.barcrudo.com/
                655 Divisadero
                Phone: 415-409-0679
                - walking to Bay-to-Breakers on Sunday morning for the view from the Hayes Street Hill, we peered in the window at Bar Crudo's new location on Divisadero - still under construction — call to confirm that they are open on Friday as planned -
                http://www.tablehopper.com/newsletter...

          2. re: tabby11
            m
            mmoffitt May 11, 2009 02:50 PM

            I also don't like Aqua and truly dislike Slanted Door, so perhaps we have similar interests. Try Quince (only has a tasting menu, tho) or Coco500 (beef cheeks and flatbread are a must). Chez Panisse (the Cafe) is another all-time favorite, but that's in the East Bay. The best meal in SF I've ever had (food-wise) is La Folie (once again, that may be prix only, but I'm not sure).

            1. re: tabby11
              daveena May 11, 2009 06:48 PM

              I think overall, Manhattan is the better city for restaurants, but the Bay Area is the better place to live if you love to cook. I think the Bay Area's real strengths are local bread, cheese, wine, and produce - if you're here on a Saturday and can get to the Farmer's Market, grab a loaf of Della Fattoria's levain, some cheese from Andante, Pug's Leap, and Cowgirl Creamery, some salumi from Boccalone, some fruit, and eat it while basking in the sun by the water.

              That said, there are definitely a number of restaurants worth your attention. I would do either Lers Ros Thai, Zuni Cafe, or Taqueria Cancun (for a burrito) for lunch, and either Coi or Canteen for dinner (Coi is tasting menu only, but the fare is actually very light). One Mexican place that gets great reviews is Poc-Chuc (I haven't been). My go-to rec for a long time for great Cal-Mediterranean has been Bar Tartine, although a recent negative review from a reliable friend worries me a bit - they do have some of the best bread in the city, though, and I haven't had a bad meal there yet.

              Definitely get ice cream at Bi-Rite and/or Humphrey Slocombe. NYC may be catching up in the gelato department, but it is distinctly lacking in great ice cream.

          3. m
            Meredith May 11, 2009 03:06 PM

            The restaurant that seems most to impress all my manhattanite frieds has been 5/5 Aziza.
            It is Cal-Moroccan. Very local, market driven but with a clear view point that takes it away from all the other local, market driven food in SF. And I always feel the value for the money is very high.
            I love their mediteranean spreads (very different from what you imagine as spreads), the bastilla is wonderful (though similar to all bastillas) and anything I have ordered with lamb has been great. Other people love the skewers with beef and grapes, but I haven't yet tried them.
            Definitely have a cocktail - the harissa bloody mary is my favorite even for dinner time.

            -----
            Aziza
            5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

            1 Reply
            1. re: Meredith
              singleguychef May 11, 2009 04:04 PM

              I was just about to suggest Aziza, more for the different take on food that might impress the OP.

              Other potentially good places that could provide some "wow" factor:

              A16 in the Marina district because they have creative Italian cuisine, although it might seem like a typical neighborhood restaurant in the Village to you.

              Spruce because the chef has really good reputation, but the decor might be considered stuffy.

            2. s
              sfbing May 11, 2009 04:29 PM

              Great CA cuisine? Coi.

              I think the main dining room is pretty cozy, but if it is too stuffy for you, you can get the tasting menu in the lounge. As for your husband's health, Coi's tasting is very light--no huge hunks of foie, bone marrow, pork belly ad nauseum. Local ingredients, bright flavors, truly imaginative.

              1. m
                ML8000 May 11, 2009 04:41 PM

                California cuisine:

                Chez Panisse in Berkeley is the mother ship of California cuisine, opinions vary but you can go elsewhere, pay more and get less of an experience. If you're unsure, go upstairs on a weekend for lunch.

                Manresa in Los Gatos (1 hour away from SF), on the level of the French Laundry (Per Se) but very California...veggies from the garden, local ingredients, unmatched technique and creative edge. It would be a shame however to not do the tasting menu...it's not more food, just spread out.

                I'd say both are must try for different reason. CP for its history, Manresa for what it brings, won't find it anywhere else.

                -----
                Manresa Restaurant
                320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                12 Replies
                1. re: ML8000
                  t
                  tabby11 May 12, 2009 01:56 PM

                  Thanks everyone for your recommendations. I have made dinner reservations at Chez Panisse for Monday night at the cafe (the main restaurant was booked). We're staying at Cavallo Point for the weekend and I was wondering if we should have Saturday dinner at the restaurant at Cavallo, Coi, Manresa or Aziza. Any advice?

                  1. re: tabby11
                    Ruth Lafler May 12, 2009 02:08 PM

                    The restaurant at Cavallo has gotten very mixed reviews -- mostly good on the food and awful/clueless on the service. For what it's worth, the chef got two Michelin stars at his previous gig, so it's not out of the question.

                    I think it really depends on what kind of experience you want for your weekend. Manresa is a bit of a trek from Sausalito; Aziza is pretty close, right over the bridge, but it's more of a neighborhood and won't give much of an "out on the town Saturday night" experience; Coi is a bit more "urban." I think you'll be happy with the food at all of them, so it really comes down to what you think you'll be in the mood for in terms of the total experience.

                    1. re: tabby11
                      m
                      ML8000 May 12, 2009 02:32 PM

                      Manresa is a long drive, 50 miles, at least an hour each way, more if there's traffic. Frankly I'd go somewhere in the City if you're just here for the weekend.

                      I agree that Aziza or Coi would be very, very nice. The experience will be just as nice, both places get very good reviews. You also save 3 hours that can be spend elsewhere.

                      For drinks or small plates before/after Chez Panisse, Cesar is basically next door to CP. Very Californian, gets busy and noisy.

                      1. re: tabby11
                        bbulkow May 12, 2009 08:47 PM

                        If you're interested in "only the best" it's a pretty short list, and you've got the high points, minus cavallo. Manressa is a really long drive - it's an hour, but it's a long hour at 85 mph on a rather beautiful freeway (I-280). Go read uhockey's recent reports - great writing, hitting the high points.

                        CP cafe will likely be a disappointment. It's casual, the food is good, the service is uneven (befitting the lower price) but the food is just not in the same category as the others - go for the history, and get a cocktail next door first, don't let your expectations ruin a good meal. It will be a good meal, it won't be the best of your life. Not even top 10. If you get to Cesar at about 4 you might be able to sit at their open window, which is fairly glorious that time of day.

                        Is beijing food strong in NYC yet? It's starting to come on here - there's been a few long-time favories, but a few new up-and-comers.

                        1. re: tabby11
                          singleguychef May 14, 2009 01:24 PM

                          You might check a week before you arrive to see if there's any cancellations at Chez Pannisse (or even check that day). After the menus for the week are posted, some people might cancel based on what's being served.

                          1. re: tabby11
                            Senor Popusa May 16, 2009 06:21 PM

                            I happen to love Murray Circle, but I will agree with the poster below (Ruth) that the food is wonderful as is the ambiance, but the service is frequently subpar - anything from great to clueless and anything in between.

                            If you are staying at the resort, it is a very nice option. The chef Joe Humphries is very talented and the menu is structured in an affordable way. The pea gazpacho is a standout. The room has a pressed tin ceiling and you can sit outside and have a glass of wine before or after your meal on the veranda. Cuisine is very california fresh. not fussy though.

                            1. re: Senor Popusa
                              rworange May 21, 2009 12:51 AM

                              I like Murray Circle too but I wouldn't pick it for dinner. However, do NOT miss the breakfast pastries in the morning. The croissants are especially wonderful.

                            2. re: tabby11
                              Paul H May 17, 2009 07:19 PM

                              If you want to try light, imaginative California cuisine you need to go to Coi. It's not far from Cavello Point (15 minute drive).

                              1. re: tabby11
                                s
                                sugartoof May 17, 2009 09:05 PM

                                Out of that list, I would say Coi. It can be a little ridiculous with the foams on a spoon, and sensory cuisine but I can't think of anything like it in NY. (though if you have an aversion to molecular places like WD50, this not might be for you either). I've personally never understood why an East Coaster would be thrilled by Aziza. Neither is a bad choice but my suggestion, from reading your past experiences with past picks would be to skip the fine dining and focus more on mid-range casual or even cheap eats

                                1. re: sugartoof
                                  s
                                  sfbing May 17, 2009 09:30 PM

                                  You know, aside from the very first dish with the perfume, I don't think Coi is really very molecular gastronomy at all. At least not to the extent of WD50, which was more like "let's do crazy things to the food because it is SOOO cool and to hell with how it actually tastes."

                                  Coi is more about simple cooking to bring out the essence of the local ingredients. To me, philosophically, it is much more similar to kaiseki than it is to molecular gastronomy.

                                  1. re: sfbing
                                    tupac17616 May 17, 2009 10:08 PM

                                    Agree completely, sfbing.

                                    1. re: sfbing
                                      s
                                      sugartoof May 18, 2009 12:14 PM

                                      Oh I agree as well, it's not molecular but if one were to have an aversion to WD50 style deconstruction at all then Coi still might not be their choice. There are similarities.

                                      Simple cooking would suggest it's in line with NYC places like Craft or Blue Hill, which it's really not. This is a place that serves foams, gelatins, and emulsions, bone marrow jellies, edible flowers.

                              2. k
                                katya May 12, 2009 06:26 PM

                                I always hear Manhattan is death when it comes to Mexican food, but actually my favorite Mexican place is in Manhattan! Zarela has simply the best fajitas I've ever had. I rarely (ha! RAREly) eat beef anymore but I make an exception there. The lunch fajita platter comes with all sorts of yummy sides. The Aztec Treasure Pie (sort of a chocolate pecan pie) can't be missed either.

                                In SF, go to The House for their sea bass (served with sesame noodles and garlic green beans). It's incredible.

                                -----
                                The House
                                1230 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                Zarela
                                953 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10022

                                1. tupac17616 May 15, 2009 10:35 PM

                                  To me, the two best restaurants in the Bay Area right now are Manresa and Ubuntu. I've never ordered a la carte at Manresa, so I can't comment on what your experience might be like if your husband would prefer not to do a tasting menu But Ubuntu is absolutely worth a look whether you do the tasting menu or not. It's light years better than Chez Panisse Cafe, in my opinion.
                                  Aziza is also a better bet, I think, if you're looking to replace that Monday night dinner at Chez Panisse Cafe.

                                  1. l
                                    lrealml May 15, 2009 11:51 PM

                                    The dining scene is so awesome in NYC, that I think the only place that would blow you away that I have been to is Ubuntu... If is farm and vegetable focused and it is much better than Blue Hill in NYC IMO even without meat. Then, I haven't been to Coi or Maneresa yet... I do agree that Aziza is great, but I don't think some one who dines out regularly in NYC would be blown away,

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lrealml
                                      tupac17616 May 16, 2009 04:21 PM

                                      I don't know of anyone (myself included) who has been blown away by Aziza. But I know tons of people who have really enjoyed it. I can't think of an equivalent cuisine (California-Moroccan) in Manhattan.

                                      I also agree that Ubuntu is better than Blue Hill in Manhattan. I also find it better than Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, actually.

                                    2. b
                                      batchoy May 17, 2009 06:30 PM

                                      Anywhere in the Ferry Building, because it is so much fun to just walk around there, and because of the great views . . .

                                      In Pier 1 (next to the Ferry Building), there is a great Peruvian restaurant, La Mer... (Have to reserve in advance, it gets crowded). Try the ceviche sampler, and also the creme brulee sampler . . .

                                      1. k
                                        kshennessy Mar 2, 2010 08:24 PM

                                        As I read this thread, I am thinking that you might actually be going to the same wedding I am that weekend!

                                        My two cents, as a complete SF foodie (recently returned from a NYC trip full of FOOD!)... hit COI for an amazing evening of food, tasting menu, but light and fresh if that's possible. RN74 is Michael Minna's newer spot and is more casual, but still really good with an awesome ambience. La Mar is also quite good, but definitely more casual. aziza is great, but won't knock your socks off...however, a dish I had recently was quite possibly the best thing I have eaten in a while.

                                        Ubuntu is not worth the trip - they had a major shakeup in the kitchen and the top talent is now gone. I imagine they will be reeling for a while, and am not confident that they will ever be what they were.

                                        For mexican, please go to the Ferry Building on Saturday for the farmers market and get a mexican breakfast at Primavera...the menu changes, but it is always amazingly delicious. If you can't do that, go to La Taqueria in the mission for lunch. My NYC friends require it every time they visit.

                                        If you are going to do Murray Circle, do it for brunch... too many other good options for dinner in the city.

                                        Have fun!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: kshennessy
                                          s
                                          SteveG Mar 3, 2010 10:13 AM

                                          This thread's nearly a year old. Probably a different wedding.

                                          1. re: SteveG
                                            wolfe Mar 3, 2010 10:37 AM

                                            "Probably" Is that irony?
                                            Mon May 25 2009 Memorial Day

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