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Aug 20, 2009 11:39 PM

Where in San Fran for a Foodie Couple with College Student Budgets...

My boyfriend and I are driving from Vancouver to San Fran for a 5 day visit, and need come advice on where to eat. We both love to cook/eat and are excited for the restaurants, but are only armed with college student budgets. We'd love to have a romantic dinner one night, and more casual the others. We're staying at the Westin Market Street, but are happy to travel within bicycling distance. So far, we're thinking maybe Foreign Cinema and drinks at the Bourbon and Branch? Thoughts?

Many thanks!

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  1. Casual:
    L'Osteria del Forno (AWESOME N. Italian, cash only)
    Helmand Palace (Afghani)
    Benjarong Thai (self explanitary)
    Barney's (very casual burgers and salads)

    various burrito places -- I like Tacqueria Cancun, La Tacqueria, and Papalote.

    How much are you willing to spend on your romantic dinner?

    If you can afford it, try Ame. Truly unique, and you probably can't get food like that in Vancouver. If that is a little pricey, try Piperade or, for outstanding food but a bit noisy, Perbacco -- awesome N. Italian.

    6 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Benjarong gets relatively few mentions on this board. I'm not sure if that's simply because few CHs make it to the Marina/Cow Hollow area, but you might want to try the Tenderloin Thai places (Thai House Express, Sai Jai, Lers Ros especially) for more downscale (but possibly more authentic) fare.

      I would probably check out the 7x7 Cheap Eats list - I've been to most of these places and very few of them are clunkers:

      1. re: bigwheel042

        bw, thanks for reposting the 7x7 link -- I had lost track of it and it was quite helpful.

        To the OP (and fellow Vancouverite), there is a souffle place in North Beach that has intrigued me for some time and might fit the bill of romantic but not too spendy, based on previous posts. It is Cafe Jacqueline 1454 Grant Ave. (between Union and Green) (415) 981-5565 and has been described elsewhere as "cute and ultraromantic... candlelit country French ambience." Might be worth a look, AFAIK we don't have anything like this at home...

        +1 for La Ciccia. We dined royally here including two bottles of wine for $185. Here's the post if you're interested:
        If this is your first time in the Bay Area, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the wine prices. And as for the schlep, it's one transit vehicle (the J line on Muni) away, maybe 25 mins, if you want to be able to imbibe and not worry about biking.

        Another +1 for Larkin Express which is one of our favourite places to eat in SF. Now that they are open on Friday and Saturday nights, you could do another dinner there if you are in town those days. And as you likely know, there is NO Burmese in Vancouver, more's the pity.

        For lunch or dinner, you can hardly go wrong hitting the Mission (or if you're feeling adventuresome, Fruitvale via Bart) for some Mexican food. As you know, it is pretty thin on the ground at home and when you do get it, double or triple the cost for not necessarily the best. There are hundreds of posts about "best" tacos and burritos here...

        1. re: grayelf

          If you want to make dinner of a salad and two souffl├ęs, Cafe Jacqueline is the place, but outside of the candles I don't find anything romantic about it.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Fair enough, I was just going by previous reports and the price point identified -- I hope I made it clear I had not been yet. I was thinking the same about Bodega Bistro, to be honest; though I had the best bo luc lac there I have yet encountered it didn't feel romantic to me.

        2. re: bigwheel042

          The 7x7 link is great. Also consider:

          - Shanghai Dumpling King: nice bike ride from the hotel. I love it, but I don't know that it's special over what you get in Vancouver.

          - Pizza at Pizzeria Delfina / Pizzetta 211 / Piccino

          - Tenderloin Thai as suggested above.

          - L'Osteria as suggested above.

          - Rosamunde + Toronado for sausages and beer.

          - Limon Rotisserie for great Peruvian.

          When I'm on a budget, I try to eat at $$$ places for lunch - it's a better deal than dinner. Also, keep an eye on deals -- there are a lot of them in the city right now. ie., Namu (which I haven't been to but gets lots of acclaim here) has great happy hour deals:

          Bourbon and Branch is a good call. On your $$ night.

          1. re: Fig Newton

            Shanghai Dumpling King is at 35th and Balboa. That's quite a bike ride and includes hills. I'd take the 38 Geary which you can catch on ..... Geary :)

      2. Lers Ros for sure. Best Thai food in SF.

        La Ciccia (Sardinian), Helmand Palace, Bodega Bistro (Vietnamese), or Maykadeh (Persian) might be good for a romantic dinner on a budget. Nice atmosphere and great food without high prices. La Ciccia's a bit of a schlep but there's a good bike route.

        Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen for lunch.

        Memphis Minnie's for barbecue.

        Bike route map:

        7 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          For what you were planning to spend at Foreign Cinema, why don't you go for Delfina. Probably about the same cost and many of us consider it the best. (Of course some don't). Very San Francisco, very good, plenty romantic, friendly. Be sure to book in advance!

          Agree about Lers Ros. You have lots of good Chinese in Vancouver, but for authentic Sichuan try Spices II (you will need to take the bus). Agree about Memphis Minnie -- as close as you can get to real southern and Texas BBQ. Lots of cheap Indian (check threads) in Tenderloin near Union Sq. Saturday breakfast at the Ferry Bldg farmers market (Hayes Street Grill). Don't forget Mission Mexican - La Taqueria or La Tonayense Taco trucks. Also Korean bar: Toyose. Have fun.

          1. re: Thomas Nash

            It's arguable whether Spices counts as authentic Sichuan - the food is definitely spicy but my understanding is that it's actually more like a Taiwanese interpretation of Sichuan cuisine. I generally prefer Panda Country Kitchen for an "earthier" take on this style, for lack of a better word.

            For a more mid-range place I like Lavash on Irving quite a bit - the food is Persian and it may fit the bill for the romantic dinner. The Canadian college students I've met have been especially penny-pinching, so in general I'm reading your request for places suitable to "college students budgets" as "even the romantic place shouldn't be much of a splurge."

            1. re: bigwheel042

              Well I can't lie... I certainly don't have the dining budget I'd like to for this trip! I think for the romantic evening, I'd like to stay under/aroundish $200.

              1. re: L.Orr

                Easily can stay under $200 at Delfina for 2 unless you go nuts on wine.

                1. re: L.Orr

                  How much do you want to spend on wine? Are we talking $60/p for three courses just for the food or are we talking $40?

                2. re: bigwheel042

                  Spices II is the closest to the food we had in a week of eating in Chengdu -- which was authentic Sichuan...

                3. re: Thomas Nash

                  Z & Y Garden in Chinatown is good Sichuan and maybe cheaper than Spices.

                  Z & Y
                  655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

              2. I wouldn't recommend Foreign Cinema on a budget, as I find it to be a bit of a ripoff.

                If you find yourselves in Golden Gate Park, nearby Park Chow is one of the best values in the City.

                1. I'd agree with other posters that you should skip Foreign Cinema. There are so many other places you could go instead that I think would be better value (and probably better food and more romantic too). I love La Ciccia. Also liked Range. I have heard/read mixed things about Delfina - some friends of mine who just visited SF for their anniversary almost ate there, but then because of the wait ended up at Pizzeria Delfina instead, and they loved it. So while it may be less "romantic" it is certainly still delicious and probably about 1/3 or 1/4 the price of the full restaurant.

                  Bourbon and Branch is fun.

                  For casual: Lers Ros Thai, Thai House Express, Larkin Express Deli, El Delfin, Cafe Zitouna, Poc Chuc.....

                  The 7x7 link is great too.

                  Have fun and report back!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dave MP

                    Pizzeria Delfina's not romantic at all. It's good if you want upscale pizza but there are lots of other places.

                  2. When will your 5-day visit begin? On August 30, Piccino will celebrate Ferragosto - roasting a whole pig!

                    Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                    1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      good timing! We'll be there from Aug 26-31! That sounds fantastic.

                      1. re: L.Orr

                        nice day; sunny, good wines, relaxed crowd, and PIG