HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Transport to/from The French Laundry from/to San Francisco

  • 99
  • Share

Hi,

I may be going to San Francisco for a week at the end of August and if I can persuade my other half, will try to get a table at The French Laundry. Could someone let me know what the transportation options are like when coming from/going to San Francisco? I assume if we have dinner a cab ride back is the only option? Roughly how much are we talking here? If we go for lunch are there public transport alternatives?

Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. There is no public transportation that I know of. Plan on going by car. You could hire a car through any one of the limo companies. It'll probably be a few hundred dollars. Yountville is 56 miles away from SF, so a city cab would be out of the question unless you were willing to buy out the cabbie's whole day. FIgure an hour drive up, 4 hours waiting time while you dine, an hour drive back.

    I HIGHLY recommend getting a hotel room closer to the restaurant. If you don't want to pay to stay in Yountville, there are lots of options in Napa. From there it's only 20 minutes to Yountville.

    1. You could take the ferry to Vallejo and then the Napa VINE route 10 bus. The trip would take around two hours. Most of the route is scenic.

      http://www.baylinkferry.com/schedule/...

      http://www.nctpa.net/routes/index.cfm...

      http://www.nctpa.net/routes/schedules...

      6 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Works for lunch but what about the ferry at night? TFL dinner would last until after the last boat.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Actually, looking at those schedules it is over 3 hours one way. Ferry is 1:10, and bus is a shade under 2 hours unless there is an express I'm not seeing. Factor in travel time from SF hotel to ferry building, and wait time for connections and you could easily hit 7 hours of total transit time taking this route.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Since the ferry is infrequent, it may or may not be more efficient to do the SF <-> Vallejo legs by taking the BART to El Cerrito del Norte or Richmond (you may find the former more pleasant to hang around), then taking the Vallejo Transit 80 bus to Vallejo.

            Main Bay Area transit site: 511.org

            1. re: bradluen

              The bus from El Cerrito to Vallejo would certainly give a slice of Bay Area life and scenery that few tourists encounter.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                TFL really should have some deal for anybody who takes public transportation over say 15mi to get there. For this particular route though Richmond, you should get
                something like a free glass of champagne with proof. Maybe free caviar if you walk (a la Werner Herzog) from SF.

              2. re: bradluen

                Now that I think about it, I don't think the 80 stops at Richmond. From memory (caught it a few years ago) it leaves the El Cerrito del Norte station and goes more or less straight on to the freeway, which may be for the best for the OP.

                No question that the ferry would be more pleasant, even to dirty hippies.

            2. That's a very good question, as anyone who does wine "pairings" is likely leaving TFL legally drunk under California standards.

              1. If you take the ferry/bus up, maybe try an airport shuttle service for getting back after
                dinner? If you can get to Oakland or SFO, you can get BART back to the city.

                I know nothing at all about shuttle service up there, but google turns up a number of options.

                Napa's a lot further than it seems on a map ... you're talking pretty much a full day adventure here.

                1. rent a car, stay in a hotel up there. if you can afford FL, you can that. be safe.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: melly

                    Sadly we are dirty hippies who don't drive.

                    1. re: Danada

                      Assuming you are rich, dirty hippies, you might search out a local foodie who will chauffeur you to and from Yountville in return for dinner at TFL.

                      1. re: OldTimer

                        Actually we're fairly poor dirty hippies. I just like food. Maybe the bus and ferry is doable for lunch...

                        1. re: Danada

                          Getting to TFL without a car is quite a trek. There are many very nice places that you could try in SF instead. You could for example, try the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton or Gary Danko.

                          1. re: sfbing

                            I'm with sfbing here. While TFL is definitely a worthwhile destination, it's tough to get to without a car. And when there are so many other fantastic options within convenient walking distance of BART stations and Muni stops, you have to wonder whether it makes sense to try to get to Yountville.

                            Then there's the issue of cost. Given that you don't have money to burn, consider whether you might prefer to have several meals at other Michelin-starred restaurants for the same price as dinner at TFL.

                            If you've got your heart set on the place, then by all means find a way to make it happen. But keep in mind that it's not the only game in town.

                          2. re: Danada

                            If you're used to traveling without a car, you've probably done worse.

                            Another possibility might be to rent bikes. It's about 25 miles each way from the Vallejo ferry terminal and the route is flat.

                        2. re: Danada

                          So, are you taking the ferry + bus and staying overnight (several hotels within a short walk) like mr lauriston recommended, or renting a limo?

                      2. *If* you get a reservation, I would ask the folks at French Laundry -- they might have some ideas. If you get the reservation and find the transit unworkable, you can always cancel. But there's no point in figuring out the transportation if you don't know (1) whether you can get a reservation, and (2) when the reservation would be, which would affect the transit possibilities. Since you have a week, you might want to try for Friday lunch -- it's probably the easiest reservation to get, and would also allow for the best public transit options. Most people actually believe that lunch is better -- it's the same menu, you can see the gardens or take a break outside, and you have the rest of the day to digest your meal.

                        The most practical option might be cab from TFL to the nearest BART station, although I like the sneaky "airport shuttle" idea.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Here's the arrival info for the Villagio Inn, which is just down the street from TFL. It suggests Evans Limousine from the airports and advises that private planes and helicopters can be accommodated at the Napa airport.
                          http://www.villagio.com/villagio/dire...
                          http://www.evanstransportation.com/ra...

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            One option is Evans bus transportation from either airport to their terminal in Napa (I've used this service and it's pretty good) and then a cab from the Evans terminal in Napa to TFL. Otherwise you pay Evans big bucks for the transportation from their terminal to Yountville and back. This would only work for lunch, since departure on Evans ends relatively early in the evening.

                            www.napavalleycab.com

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            The nearest BART station is about 40 miles from TFL vs. 25 miles from the Vallejo ferry terminal, and the ferry's a more scenic trip.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              But that assumes your reservation has any relation to the ferry schedule -- BART is much more frequent. As I said, first get the reservation, and then the transit options will be much clearer -- there's no point in researching options until you know what the parameters are.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                A lunch reservation will be between 11am and 1pm on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and if you're taking public transportation, Sunday's not the best choice.

                          3. Is there not a dress code at TFL? If so, bike garb would not be an option. Do you know how much your meal would actually cost--it's astronomical! Since no one hitchhikes anymore, there must be some kind of local "cleaning lady" bus in the Valley.
                            This sounds like a pilgrimage to me to the shrine of Thomas Keller--if you really are hippies, you will be visiting the acme of middlebrow gourmet consumerism with the smartly dressed faithful! Do it right! Stay overnight and soak up a little "terroir."

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: plainfood

                              Hardened bicyclers know how to deal with the dress code issues, although rental bikes might be problematic. [answer: bring your "good clothes" and change - and find out where there's a shower]

                              I'd bet if you asked TFL nicely and explained, they'd let you use their shower.

                              Hitchhiking would be rough - I did actually pick up a hitchhiker a few weeks ago, randomly, for the first time in decades. He said hitchhiking doesn't really work in the bay area, although there he was, hitchhiking.

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                I can only imagine my reaction to picking up a hitchhiker headed to TFL. Hilarious.

                                Lots of people are unemployed right now. I would price out a car service and then maybe look on Craig's List for an alternative, like someone willing to do odd jobs to make ends meet. I know some people wouldn't feel safe doing that, but it's an option.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Hitchhiking would be in the spirit of the way of the dirty hippie.

                                  That said, given it's the 21st century the CL suggestion is good...but I'd look in the ride share listings. If you look there's definitely workable solutions.

                                  http://sfbay.craigslist.org/rid/

                              2. Why you would need to persuade anyone to eat at TFL beats me. If you do get in, spend a few hundred dollars more, stay in Yountville and walk!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: marcif

                                  Agreed. If your budget is *that* tight, then I wonder whether going there is just a recipe for disaster. I know several people with huge, expendable budgets that went and still didn't find it worthwhile for the money spent. Although, its always a matter of personal experience, palate preferences and perspective. You would be bringing a whole new dimension to the term "bohedonist" if you hitchhiked there though ;)

                                  In some ways I'm glad I didn't get a reso-there's something about hitting redial every minute for 45 minutes while at work that just seemed absolutely absurd to me. That and something about discovering places nobody knows about yet that seems more real and in keeping with the spirit of a Chowhound.

                                  SWS

                                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                    "Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice."

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/manifesto

                                    "Chowhounds ... know certain pleasures come at a price--foie gras ain't cheap, and Château Margaux is one heckuva drink. No pleasure is gladly missed."

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/faq

                                    It's ironic for me to say this, since I have no interest in the kind of experience the French Laundry provides, but as world-famous restaurants go, it's something of a bargain.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Thanks for the reminder on the "manifesto" Robert. I am certainly a person who appreciates a cheap n' cheerful bite to a Chateau Margaux. I don't know, but for me, I don't think a nine course meal costing $480 without alcohol in recessionary times is a bargain-whether its world famous or not. I've eaten at several Michelin restaurants all over the world, and I've come to the conclusion that it just ends up making me feel kinda guilty that I spend that kind of money on a meal when world food resources and production are just so freakin' screwed up. But anyway, I'm getting off topic here...

                                      Now, on the other hand, $480 bucks for a bottle of a great vintage Margaux is a steal! ;)

                                2. Not having a car will make the trek difficult. But it is doable.

                                  I've done the SF-Napa Valley commute using both the ferry/bus combo, and the BART/bus/bus combo and both are loooooong rides -- 3 hours at least.

                                  There is little mass transit service at night and on Sundays, so -- checking the schedules -- your French Laundry meal will probably have to be Saturday lunch.

                                  Here's a possible solution:
                                  From SF to Yountville:
                                  From the SF Ferry Building, take the Vallejo ferry. Catch the #10 Vine Napa Valley Bus right at the Ferry Building to Yountville, getting off at the intersection of Washington and Mulberry, 3 blocks from FL. The French Laundry is at 6640 Washington St. The bus driver will likely drop you closer to FL (at Washington and Creek St.) if you ask nicely.

                                  Sample Schedule for a Saturday:
                                  Take the 9:20 AM Vallejo ferry, transfer to Vine Bus #10 (going north) at 10:57 AM,
                                  arrive in Yountville at the intersection of Washingon/Mulberry at 12:29 PM.
                                  Reservation at FL at 1 PM.

                                  Return:
                                  Catch the Vine Bus #10 (going south) at 5:14 PM -- allowing 4 hours for lunch -- and get off at the Vallejo Ferry. This is the last bus of the evening that goes to the ferry. Take the 6:45 PM Vallejo Ferry arriving at the SF Ferry Building a little over an hour later.

                                  I don't recommend using the Airport Shuttle option -- it's $60 round trip per person SFO to Napa, then you'd also have to pay for a cab from the Evans airporter in Napa to FL in Yountville, AND pay for transportation to and from SFO.This option.will easily cost $150 dollars.

                                  And the BART/bus/bus combo takes 4 hours each way. BART to El Cerrito del Norte, where you'll take the Vallejo Transit 80 bus to York & Marin, where you'll catch the #10 Vine Napa Valley Bus to Yountville. Limited weekend and evening hours.

                                  Ferry Schedule:
                                  http://www.baylinkferry.com/schedule/...
                                  Napa Valley Vine #10 Bus schedule:
                                  http://www.nctpa.net/routes/schedules...
                                  SF Bay Area Transit Trip Planner:
                                  http://tripplanner.transit.511.org

                                  If not mass transit:
                                  If you drive, you could rent a car for the day. Great deals all around.
                                  If you don't drive, you could hire a friend who would drive.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Have you ever taken a cab from or to the Vallejo ferry terminal? That seems like perhaps the most cost-effective compromise.

                                    Return ferries run later on Friday and Saturday than on Sunday.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Cabs are exhorbitant in Napa Valley, so I'd say $50 Vallejo to Yountville one way.

                                      And, yes, the late ferry is doable for a FL lunch but not dinner. I didn't mention the late ferry at 9 PM on Fridays and Saturdays because I didn't think it feasible for a dinner that lasts 3+ hours and then has an hour bus ride. A FL dinner would have to begin earlier than 5 PM to catch the last ferry.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        or. stay. overnight.
                                        If you're going 100% hippie, what about the park bench across the street?

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          Or go camping...there has to be sme camp grounds around there.

                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                          The last ferry back on Sundays is 5:35pm. Though there are buses at 7pm and 8pm.

                                          http://www.baylinkferry.com/schedule/...

                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                        Excellent, thank you.

                                      3. By the way, since your chances of getting a TFL table are low, you should consider Manressa in Los Gatos. Tables are more highly available, and many consider it a similar experience (michelan 2 star instead of three, granted).

                                        Manressa is covered by Google's transit planner, so for public transit, go to maps.google.com, directions, select public transit, and a destination of 'manressa restaurant, los gatos, ca'. Current travel times from union square are about 3 hours with the longest haul being caltrain down the peninsula.

                                        it looks like you could leave there at 8:30 or so and still make a bus back up the peninsula, so get the 5:30pm seating. I bet you'd get some love if you told them you had to be out at 8:30 to catch a bus! The last northbound out of Los Gatos looks to be 9:11pm.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          It will be easier to find information if she spells it "Manresa."

                                        2. i like this thread. robert's mass transit solution of ferry/bus has great appeal. spend the night at a nearby motel 6 after the meal and laugh the night away before heading back the next day.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: steve h.

                                            A nearby Hotel 6 in Napa Valley??? A nearby inexpensive hotel in Napa Valley???

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              yeah.
                                              back in the day, deb and i had very little money. motel 6 provided financial balance to a pricey food and wine destination. our cheapo digs took the sting out of paying full fare at some decent restaurants.

                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                I have lots of good "back in the day" memories too. When things were loose. Unfortunately, here in pricey Napa Valley, there is no inexpensive hotel. I'd recommend camping for our OP hippie diners, but there are no campgrounds nearby
                                                either, so any camping would have to be, uh, informal.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  motel 6 probably runs $40 or so these days. deb and i spent less than $20.
                                                  mustards was our dining highlight.
                                                  there are a bunch of motel 6 places in the napa area.

                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                    <<there are a bunch of motel 6 places in the napa area.>>

                                                    No, sorry, that's not accurate. There may have been a Motel 6 in Napa "back in the day" but not now.

                                                    http://www.motel6.com/AccorMaps/M6Pro...

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      don't be silly,
                                                      lots of motel 6 places in vallejo. that's "napa area".

                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                        22 miles away in Solano County. OP has no car.

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          ah,
                                                          but it would appear they have an american express card. and access to a phone. and internet access. and maybe silver palates.
                                                          hang in there, maria.

                                                2. re: steve h.

                                                  Yountvile doesn't have a cheap hotel, and the cheap motels chains are mainly near Rohnert Park, American Canyon, or Vallejo, none of which wouldn't make logistical sense. There are of course a good number of hotels in the $60-$150 range depending on if it's a weekend or midweek booking, but most of them require additional travel into nearby towns. It would only complicate things.

                                                  If you can't get a car, I would suggest following the routes using Bart.

                                            2. I think a good idea would be to get the reservation first and then work on getting there. The French Laundry may have some hints on getting transportation. Btw, I've never gotten out of the restaurant in under four hours in the times I have been there. I know you can do it if you try but I'm inclined to enjoy the meal and not rush out.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: skwid

                                                Based on personal experience, when you're planning a trip like that on public transportation, you really want to research all the schedules beforehand.

                                                In this case, for example, the southbound bus schedule pretty much means a 1pm reservation is practical on Friday or Saturday but on Sunday you'd want to start by noon.

                                              2. Hey, why hasn't anyone said ... get a rental car! Cost very, very little relative to the FL dinner, you can go on time and return at your leisure and don't have to use either a park bench or $500 per night hotel up there.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  OP said they don't drive

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    read back and you will see the OP doesn't drive. . .

                                                    1. re: vday

                                                      Oooopps! Yes, that downthread reply, "Sadly we are dirty hippies who don't drive." was something I admired them for saying.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        zip cars are ubiquitous in san francisco. pity our original posters can't drive/don't drive/whatever.

                                                  2. I'm having trouble figuring out what you're talking about? All of that was clear by the first four posts.

                                                    The larger, general, question, "I'm in SF and don't drive and I'd like to eat at the French Laundry" is actually pretty interesting regardless of any opinions about "played". And it still doesn't have a definitive answer.

                                                    The bicycle idea was a good one. Rent a bike from any of the dozen bike rental places in SF, take the ferry to Vallejo, then two hours of moderate exercise would really work up an appetite. I'd also expect the staff would treat you like rock stars. Google street view is available for the entire ride. It looks like the first half is along a busy road with a wide shoulder and then the second half up the Silverado Trail is really nice. If you get up there before noon and then leave after 4 you can spend the hottest part of the day eating.

                                                    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&amp;s...

                                                    20 Replies
                                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                      Hi Chuckles..
                                                      Had a post removed earlier but my take is when 'Dirty Hippies' came out of Danada post, all bets were off (for me) on thinking of trying to find them transportation..like I stated earlier, no offense to Danada but who in their right mind, thinks that going to one of the top restaurants in the world, not so much as hippies, which I applaud by the way, but 'Dirty Hippies'..
                                                      If I am spending major bank and I have the smell of dirty people and whatever 'Dirty' means, there is no frigging way, I and others are going to be enjoying the culinary delight that I worked very hard to get..along with being on the phone for almost half a day, procuring a reservation..jacket is required along with no jeans, t-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes.
                                                      Plus, the fact that it's almost impossible to get reservations!
                                                      'How to get there' is all the fun, I guess..so have fun you all spinning your wheels..no pun intended!

                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                        It's not almost impossible anymore. "Dirty hippies" was said in the context of people who don't drive, I think that you're the one taking that phrase a little too seriously. The French Laundry isn't just for the elite, it's for anyone, dirty or clean, hippie or Republican, who can afford the pricetag. If they can get to TFL on public transportation, more power to them.

                                                        1. re: Beach Chick

                                                          Sorry, but I take Danada's comments to be self-deprecating, humorous, filled with life and good life choices.

                                                          A friend and I actually hitch-hiked around the US and Canada (Fresno - Tempe - Boulder - St Louis - Tampa - Charleston - DC - NYC - Maine - Sudbury - Ste St Marie – Fargo - Bismarck - Boise - Seattle - and back in 1969. Summer of Man on the Moon, Woodstock, Charlie Manson, and Altamont.

                                                          We were hippies, but not dirty; and we cut our long hair for the trip. We really got to know our great country and its wonderful people.

                                                          We had a multitude of episodes or vignettes with people, all of which I recall, including giving back faith to a priest who picked us east of and took us far west of Bismarck and put us up for the night way out there in nowhere. Our conversation and having breakfast the next morning before he left us back on the interstate somehow renewed his vows. And we got a hundred stories of that type. [and, Keg, I know you were in Vietnam at the time, but I understand that you'll understand that I don't apologize even though I love you].

                                                          Danada, if I were in California - where I grew up - I'd frickin' drive you two up there, go visit some friends, and then drive us all back down.

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            I think the "dirty hippies" have engaged the non-conformist element in many of the hounds. I can relate having come of age in the '60's and 70's in Santa Cruz. It takes a certain adherence to ones own vision to make your way in the world without your own personal internal combustion engine in order to drive yourself solo to TFL or wherever else you have the whim to go . . . Perhaps the value of the experience has some correlation to the degree in which you go off the beaten path. I like seeing all the creative solutions posed on this thread - thinking outside the box. Of all the options posed, I like renting bikes in SF, ferry to Vallejo (love that ferry), bike to the Napa Valley, clean up a bit somewhere, dine like kings, and then sleep it off in a beautiful Yountville grassy spot somewhere (there are plenty of places) as informal campers.

                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              I took dirty hippies as tongue in cheek as well. However in Berkeley, you never know. Most of them have cleaned up however.

                                                            2. re: Beach Chick

                                                              I'm afraid I have deceived you all. The reality is far more shameful. We're students. Not particularly dirty either. And probably can't realistically afford to eat here, but as we probably won't be in the neighbourhood again...

                                                              1. re: Danada

                                                                If you're going to spend $1000 for dinner, why not spend the night in the area as others have suggested? Why make it difficult? It won't take that much longer to pay down the credit card!

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  TFL doesn't cost $1000 for two, unless you get a $400 bottle of wine.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    If they don't drink alcohol, it'll be $480., right?

                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                      Yeah, it's $240 a head including service charge and sales tax.

                                                                      1. re: walker

                                                                        Only if you don't get any of the supplements. They're well-known for their foie gras, but if you order it your dinner tab goes up by $30. $60 if you want some truffles shaved over your pasta. And the Wagyu beef comes with a whopping $100 surcharge.

                                                                        Add to this the fact that the wine list is **very** expensive (the least expensive bottles are around $100, and most of the list is over $250), and a couple can drop $1,000 without even trying.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          Okay, I just spent an over-long conference call listening to people who enjoy the sounds of their own voices (they're the only ones) and entertaining myself with TFL's wine list and an Excel spreadsheet.

                                                                          To my surprise, there were several full bottles in the $45-50 range. From there, prices climbed gradually into the stratosphere, winding up at $12,875 for a 1982 Petrus. The average cost per bottle was $6,460; the median was only (only?) $380.

                                                                          Half bottles were slightly more economical, ranging from $30 to $1,520. The average price was $269, and the median was $170.

                                                                          Okay, back to work...

                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                            I have to say, a few months ago I went to TFL with a friend, and we only had wines by the glass (she is not much of a drinker, so only had one glass, conveniently, she was also the driver). The sommelier could not have been nicer and more helpful to us than if we were picking out one of the $500 bottles instead of the $20 glasses. Well, I mean, he probably could have, but since I've never been in the $500 bottle position, I didn't see any difference, and was really impressed by the friendly and gracious service.

                                                                        2. re: walker

                                                                          Ah, I just assumed it was in Per Se's league which is $350 or so per person, I believe. With wine, tax and tip, I'm guessing (never been) it's a $1000. Boy, make TFL sound like a veritable bargain :)

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            The French Laundry is a relative bargain among world-famous, three-Michelin-star restaurants.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              No tax or tip; they're included. Wine, on the other hand...

                                                                              "Water and air is free. We don't make no charge for it. Now you take gas and oil. That is a different proposition entirely." - Gomer Pyle

                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                I'm sure the tip is included @ $240, but you on the hook for the tax.

                                                                                1. re: Paul H

                                                                                  this has been a most interesting post to read...I have a few thoughts. One, if your heart is truly set on dining at TFL...by all means go. It is a unique place and the ferry idea is by far the most interesting for someone on vacation given your circumstances. I can't help but feeling however, that your $500.00 plus might be better spent on other options. I'm not sure if you are at all familiar with the bay area or this is a first trip and certainly TFL has worldwide acclaim. So as I said if it's just about saying you ate there then my suggestion will not apply...if however you are wanting to make as many taste memories out of this trip as possible the time you are coming couldn't be better. With that money there are several low cost amazing food opportunities here that you can't find anywhere else not to mention some of the world's best farmer's markets that will be at their peak in late August. While I have had the pleasure of eating at TFL several times it is now very expensive compared to what that could buy with the choices that exist here so maybe think about that and why it is you want to go. Also while no one has mentioned this...the napa valley in late August is sweltering and it would not be my choice for such an expensive meal a/c or no a/c. It's just not the kind of eating I would want to do at that time of year but maybe that's just me. There are plenty of taste memories to be had here and possibly if your money is limited you might consider a new plan.

                                                                                  1. re: cakebaker

                                                                                    As a graduate student myself, I can totally understand the quest to eat at TFL. I think they should go for it. Camp or get someone to drive you back and forth. Also, when I stayed in Napa last summer for a conference, there were a few hotels in the $150/night range but I actually found a very comfortable vacation studio for about $100/night, so that could be an option. I think that the adventure and effort to get a res, to get there, and make it happen are part of the whole experience of making a pilgrimage to one of the top rated restaurants in the world.

                                                                                    I do very much want to eat at TFL and have eaten at a few 3 star places in Europe but I have to say that eating a few lesser meals in exchange for TFL is not the same. I would rather save my money and wait until the time is right. That's just me though. I think the best advice is to try to get a res and see if they can make it work. I'm sure the memories will last a lifetime.

                                                                                    1. re: Candice

                                                                                      I'm not sure you understood the intention of my post nor what being a student has to do with eating at TFL. As I said, if the experience of saying you ate there is that important then by all means do it. But it's not as if that is the only place of value in the bay area. There are so many ways to make taste memories with a limited budget. It's not as though the choice is TFL or eating a few burritos and In n out burgers. There are many options that are amazing here and even more so in late summer. All memorable food experiences do not solely come from 3 star restaurants...most in fact are at surprisingly modest places in my experience. I was just pointing out there are some other options.

                                                                  2. Re all these discouraging comments about whether TFL is worth it or whether Danada & other half would be better off going to Manresa or whatever:

                                                                    A Michelin three-star restaurant is the only place where you can find out what it's like to eat in a Michelin three-star restaurant. There are only six in the US, the French Laundry is the most famous of the group, and for the full treatment it's the least expensive.

                                                                    So to me, it makes sense for students on a budget to splurge on the experience. If the only way they can afford it is to spend six hours on ferry and bus getting from and back to wherever they're couch-surfing in SF, I've done that sort of thing when I was on a tight budget and my only regrets are the times I decided not to.

                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      I concur, now that we know a little more about the OP.

                                                                      With the original post and the "dirty hippie" comment, I had constructed a view of the OP as eccentric baby boomers who had been to many fine restaurants over the years.

                                                                      This impression was pure conjecture, and false.

                                                                      Now we find they're students on a formative journey, who couldn't really afford the place to begin with.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        The internet is kindof funny that way -- whenever somebody shows up and and asks, "what's the best way to do X?" there's always somebody else who pipes up with a, "why would you want to do X in the first place? do something different!" forgetting that it's likely the first person has already gone through that thought process and decided that he, in fact, wants to do X. It's not hard to interpret this as being, rather than helpful, slightly disrespectful.

                                                                        Anyway, the price of a meal at the French Laundry is about 4 times the price of a nice meal at a second or third tier place. So if there's a budget involved, just eat at home 4 extra times. The Home Cooking board is filled with ideas for making that a chow-worthy experience.

                                                                        Five years from now your bank account will be the same whether you do or don't drop $600 on a meal today. The only difference will be the memories.

                                                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                          The $240 price tag really isn't that bad if you consider other entertainment options like good seats at a concert or pro sports event. Very good but not the best seats at a Warriors game goes for $350 and that's not including food.

                                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          Point well taken. If these folks were just looking for a way to get to a restaurant for dinner, it might not be worth the hassle. But it sounds as though they're making a bit of a pilgrimage. In that case, the arduous journey may actually enhance the experience.

                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                            Brilliant.

                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                              Words to live by.
                                                                              Willie Sutton - "Go where the money is"
                                                                              George Mallory- "Because It's There"

                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                I think that's where the risk lies, as well.

                                                                                Pilgrimage aside, when you spend way more money on a meal than you ever have, you have extremely high expectations for it. Add in a 6 hour round trip, and those expectations are almost unmeetable.

                                                                                I actually remember quite clearly after my (somewhat disappointing) meal at TFL that while it was good, I would never recommend it to someone who's been saving up their pennies for one special meal, because the risk of disappointment was too high.

                                                                                1. re: daveena

                                                                                  I couldn't agree more Daveena. While I appreciate all the hounds who are being truly helpful on this board with respect to finding transportation for Danada, its just a HUGE amount of money on a student budget. That, and there does seem to be pretty dissenting opinions on this board (and elsewhere) about the whole FL experience in the first place. It could be the best meal they ever ate, or, the biggest disappointment. And when you don't have money to lose in the first place its a big risk (no disrespect intended to the OP at all). I can't help but think they are better off saving their money, and making the pilgrimage when they have more expendable sources of income.

                                                                                  1. re: daveena

                                                                                    I got hit by the over-expectations thing at TFL. It's hard not to given what you read and friends tell you. The food and prep were excellent the first time but no way it could meet my imagination. The second time was much, much better, could enjoy things for what they were. It's a tricky thing to hold back expectations however.

                                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  It might be easier and cheaper to just take a trip to NYC and have lunch at Jean George, or maybe Joel Rubochon in Vegas if the goal is just to experience a 3 star.

                                                                                  I don't think anyone should be discouraging them, but it's a good idea to warn them this will be a difficult voyage.

                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                    Having made the voyage several times, I don't think it will be difficult.

                                                                                    Even the first time. Ferry to the bus. Bus to the ferry.

                                                                                    It will be a bit long, but the OP and friend will have one another for company. A book and their adventurous spirits will fill in the gaps.

                                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Amen, Robert.

                                                                                    I've been reading your entries and couldn't agree with you more, across the board.

                                                                                  3. After reading all of the suggestions, it occurs to me that unless you are fanatically driven to FL, your might try Cyrus in Healdsburg...much easier to get to. While I have been to neither, my daughter-in-law (the food maven) thinks it is as good as FL. A bit cheaper, too.

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: OldTimer

                                                                                      ot..I was going to suggest that too. they can take the Sonoma County Airporter to Charles Shultz airport then cab it to Cyrus. Healdsburg is a charming wine country town..spend the afternoon walking around then have an early dinner.

                                                                                      1. re: energy

                                                                                        I suggested only that there were many possibilites here in late August meaning no disrespect to the original question. Only to respond to the OP's seemingly being unaware what TFL really costs and the comment about being "students with little money". I will say again, if it really is about the 3 star experience then by all means go. I was just thinking that if budget is an issue we have so many possibilites here in particular that time of the year. I agree with Daveena in that TFL is wonderful but sometimes more wonderful than others. I would never assume what is expensive to someone else in particular a student so I was simply offering I thought some perspective if in fact the cost was too much.

                                                                                        1. re: energy

                                                                                          Energy,
                                                                                          The Sonoma County Airporter would be $128 round-trip,
                                                                                          and the taxi $90 to and from Healdsburg. That's $218.

                                                                                          I really get the idea the OP and friend want to visit "Mecca" (the word used metaphorically), and are simply planning their pilgrimage to Mecca. It's a gastrononic quest. Sounds like they have FL firmly as their destination.

                                                                                          The SF to Vallejo Ferry round trip for two people would be $48 (adult day pass is $24), and the bus ride would be $8 ($2 each way, for two persons), or a total of $56.

                                                                                          I live here in the Napa Valley, and I'd love to help these two out. I'm racking my brain how I can. I even mentioned this thread to a wine industry friend last night, and he said, I'm tempted to drive them to and from San Francisco myself.

                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                            Possibly the OP was an internet thumb out.
                                                                                            http://image.examiner.com/images/blog...

                                                                                            1. re: wolfe

                                                                                              Love that movie. Love the doughnut scene, one of my favorite food scenes in all of movies. Love the ending.

                                                                                          2. re: energy

                                                                                            Healdsburg is a straight shot on public transit: Golden Gate Transit to Santa Rosa (2-1/2 hours), Sonoma County Transit 60 to Healdsburg (45 minutes).