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Jun 21, 2009 12:34 AM

Union Square - Must Eats?

Going to be headed to SF on Wednesday and will be staying 5 nights at the Handlery Union Square Hotel. I'll have a car and am familiar with the city, but haven't been in a long time

Where can we go have a nice relaxed meal somewhere that offers a multiple course (6+) tasting menu? Open to any cuisine. Would like to spend no more than $175/person, including wine.

Also, are there any hot new restaurants generating a lot of buzz for their great food? We're going to be there 5 nights, so need to get a list of places to try!

This doesn't have to be limited to Union Square.

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  1. Well, for 6+ courses I think you are best off at Coi. It is a little north of what you want to spend, though -- The 11 course set menu (only option) is $125/p for food, before wine, tax, tip. I believe the Dining Room at the Ritz has an option of a 6 course set menu that is a bit less, and that is also an excellent, excellent, restaurant, but I've only ordered a la carte there. Then there is the old 'tied and true' Masa's, which offeres a 6 course tasting menu with limited but existent choice (like, each course you have 2 options, or something like that). That is also in your price range and also an excellent restaurant, but I would not say it is as good as the very best SF has to offer. (note: I haven't been there in a long time.) If you are willing to do a 5 course meal, I'd say your best bet is La Folie -- lots of options, more casual than The Dining Room at the Ritz and Masa's. (Coi, in its own way, is also more casual than those two restaurants.) Only other down side to, really, all these places other than Coi is that they aren't very "San Francisco". If you want a non-Coi 'San Francisco' tasting menu experience, you could go to Gary Danko (5 courses, TONS of options as you could literally order 5 main courses as your meal) or, I believe Ame does a tasting menu -- I love Ame and it is certainly unique to SF.

    Anyway, for your non super-splurge meals... this is such an open-ended question because SF, as you must know, is such a food-driven town, BUT...

    Downtown / near Union Square:
    Perbacco (Northern Italian / *exceptional* charcuterie)
    Ame (Japanese / Italian / French fusion)
    Boulevard (CA - French)
    Slanted Door (Modern Vietnamese)

    are the four that really spring to mind. Slanted Door is a modern SF staple and where I take *all* my out of town guests. That said, as its prices have crept up, it has become less of a stellar value than it once was. The wine list is incredibly well thought out and the food is the best (though not the most authentic) Vietnamese food I've ever had... by a lot. Boulvard and Ame are my two favorite "second tier" restaurants in the city, both have a Michelin star. Perbacco is just an excellent urban N. Italian which is specifically known for its house made cured meats and salumis.

    Places worth the drive:
    A16 (S. Italian)
    Delfina (N. Italian)
    Laiola (Spaish tapas - scene)
    Helmand Palace (Afghani - value)
    NOPA (Modern CA)

    A16 and particularly Laiola are frequented by people under the age of 45 who are dressed casually, but also to impress. The food, however, is exceptional at both restaurants. A16 is a really unique take on excellent Italian food as it focuses only on the south, but it isn't red sauces at all... the first main course I had there, for example, was Osso Bucco of wild boar with juniper berries. Laiola is, all things considered, one of my very favorite restaurants in the city, but I'm single and in my late twenties, so that might color my enjoyment. Over half the restaurant is walk-in and the servers are in t-shirts. But the food is genuinely amongst the best in the city and I really like the atmosphere there of being comfortable even striking up aconversation with the people at the table next to you.

    Delfina is classic SF Northern Italian done right in an inviting, hip, casual, setting.

    Helmand Palace is my favorite restaurant in town for value. Of course, if you have to cab it there, it may lose some of its value, but appetizers are about $6, and mains about $14, and it is *really* unique and just, imo, truly awesome food.

    NOPA is classic SF cooking in a large, loud, bustling location but really friendly people and *terrific* food. IMO, it beats the longer-running Zuni hands down for this "classic" style of modern SF cooking. Upstairs is quieter than downstairs, iirc.

    Another option is Aziza which is upscale Cal-Moroccan, way out in the Richmond. I only like it, while many posters here swear by it. But it is quiet, relaxing, and unique.

    2 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Thank you for your suggestions! I'll report back with how it went!

      1. re: turnerz

        Nice round up.

        As I keep mentioning, if you're going soon, call Coi in person for a reservation. They have a guest chef thing going on, and a kitchen closure for a remodel or something.

    2. It might be too pricey, but Michael Mina is right there at The St. Francis Hotel (Fairmont). Or maybe just a drink at the Clock Bar?... adam