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Sep 6, 2009 11:43 AM

In SF for 4 days for work, but with wife and infant daughter: would love recommendations

I know it's CH anathema to post very general questions...but finding consensus with regards to san francisco dining seems impossible! So many apologies in advance, but would love local CHers assistance. Would be happy to return the favour for any visitors to Boston.

I'm going to a conference at the Moscone Centre next week: arriving Friday, leaving Tuesday. This will be my wife's first trip to san francisco, and my first since backpacking through there c. 17 years ago. I have fond, if naive memories of dining in san francisco: it was there at the age of 10 that I had my first proper chinese meal, as well as my first taste of scallops! Both experiences literally changed my culinary life -- encouraging me to try what at the time seemed exotic cuisines, and sparking the beginning of a lifelong love affair with sea-food.

Anyway, enough of the sentimentality. I've tried reading up a bit about eating options, but have no idea how to resolve very different opinions. Both my wife and I are reasonably adventurous eaters, and eat almost anything, but both of us are teetotal, so wine selections are irrelevant for us. This is our first trip with our nearly 3 month old daughter, but we've eaten out a fair few times with her here in Boston, and she seems reasonably comfortable with the idea: not sure what it will be like for several nights in a row though.

The only thing that seems a 'must-do' is lunch at the ferry terminal building. Otherwise, we would love several reasonably priced recommendations. We can also stretch to one truly blow-out meal -- although a 4 hour affair might not work with the little one. We often go for lunch at fine restaurants, since these seem to offer better value for money. It seems natural to go for Chinese in sf, Yank Sing seems to divide opinion. Lunch at Shanghai 1930 looks good value, but is it any good (e.g. compared with the dinner). I would rather we go to a few good quality, on the cheap side places, and have one or two truly memorable meals, then go middle of the road all the way. Also, for the 'fancy' options, something that we might not get elsewhere would be appreciated. E.g. I've been to a lot of fantastic french restaurants, and (no offence) it's unlikely that anything in sf is as good as the best in London or Paris.

Also, with the baby, not sure how easy it will be getting around the place. We've mostly avoided public transport even in Boston the last few months, but hiring a car is out of the question in sf.

So, I know that I've not been too specific, but any pointers would be most appreciated.


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  1. For your Ferry Building lunch, save it for Saturday during the Farmer's Market. Lots of great stuff to choose from, and wonderful fruits and vegetables and other snacks around. Just try to bring your baby in a backpack or sling instead of a stroller, because it will be crowded! Lunch at Shanghai 1930 isn't worth it, I'd definitely lunch at Yank Sing instead; the food is much better, and they deal well with babies in the restaurant.

    Aziza is often the recommendation for something that you won't get elsewhere, but it's a long ride on public transportation up to Aziza, and may not be the best choice with the baby. I'd recommend somewhere that explores the bounty that we have this time of year in the Bay Area: Zuni, Canteen, and Nopa are examples, and I would normally recommend Bar Tartine, but I haven't seen any reports with their new chef, and haven't experienced it myself. Nopa might be the easiest with your baby, because it's noisy enough in there that if she cries, no one will care, but that will be a ride on a Muni bus for you, so that depends how comfortable you are with that.

    1. I would skip Yank Sing and Shanghai 1930. Instead, you can head into Chinatown for Shanghainese (Bund Shanghai) and dim sum (Dol Ho).

      I like Jasmine's suggestion of focusing on California Cuisine. After all, when you go other places, don't you eat the native cuisine? One suggestion that might sound out of left field would be take BART into Oakland (only about 15 minutes from Montgomery to 12th Street, Oakland) and check out Restaurant B's Sunday dinner, which at $20 is a screaming bargain. It's a set menu, but theypost it in advance (the menu for next Sunday is already up -- go to the menu page and click on the Sunday Supper image).

      1. SF is small, 7 miles by 7 mlles with most places probably a lot closer than that.

        Your wife might consider some of the museums at Golden Gate Park. Though I haven't been, there have been some good reports about Museum Cafe and the Cafeteria run by two of the better restauranteurs in the area, Loretta Keller of Coco500 and Charles Phan of Slanted Door.

        As people mentioned, Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning. As you said, there are lots of opinions about Yank Sing. I'm in the pro camp. The food is very good, the restaurant is pretty and the staff is gracious and helpful to all. The problem some people have is price. Expect to spend about $30 each and ask for a price list so you don't order one of the jaw-dropping expensive dishes.

        Canteen and Zuni (order the chicken) should top your list as they are near Union Square and excellent examples of California Cuisine.

        Public transporation in SF is good, but nowhere near as good as Boston. I lived 3 years in Boston without a car. I personally would not be able to do that here. I would not even consider going to Oakland with a baby. For the same money (not counting BART fees), there are restaurants of equal value and quality in the city.

        Town's End which is extremely child-friendly has a three-course meal for $22. It is not amazing food but it is near you, reliablle, organic and some of the items on the current menu .... where you can choose almost everything ... seem as good, if not better, than what B is offering.

        Another favorite of mine is 1550 Hyde. It is right on the cable car line, so very fun.

        I don't know, I'd pick Nopalito over Nopa if you are going to get that far away from Union Square. Same people and it is Mexican. As much as I recommend Aziza, not for you. Way too far and it doesn't strike me as baby friendly.

        There are lots of food vendors at the new Metreon "farmers market" which is right near the Moscone center.

        Another thought in Chinatown is Jai Yun (for lunch rather than dinner).

        All of the links to reports and more are in these lists

        What price range are you looking for? The bad economy is resulting in some good bargains so, especially with a baby where you might be eating earilier, there might be soe recs for deals that are available.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Why not go to Oakland on BART with a baby? Something wrong with Oakland? With BART?

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            No. It is just a bit of a haul with a kid that young and not necessary given all the restaurant deals everywhere lately.

            I'd say the same thing with Fruitvale Mexican. While I prefer it and would recommend it over the Mission in a heartbeat to two adults, I just don't think there's enough of an advantage to drag people who are unfamiliar with the area after a long flight, a brand new mother and a baby that that is ALMOST 3 months old. On top of it they don't take public transporation in Boston which is a lot better than SF.

            In the Chronicle today ... I thought of this post ... they mention Cane Rosso is now holding Sunday suppers in the Ferry Building. Three courses served family style for $25 bucks ... plus a bay view. Last week there was farro salad, fresh cannellinin beans, Calabarian chil-glazed fresh ham, rosemary roasted potatoes, basil green beans and peach and almond cobbler.

            The reporter wrote "chatting with other diners we had never met before, it was a cozy experience, reminiscent of big family meals with rustic fare"

            For the OP, this restaurant is run by Daniel Patterson who also has COI, one of the top restaurants in the Bay Area. The website doesn't seem to mention the Sunday supper yet.

            Oh wait ... they posted it on Twitter ... tonight's supper

            09/06 - Menu for Sunday supper- Fresh Cranberry bean salad, Maple/Mustard Glazed fresh ham, Polenta, Seared Yellow Beans, and Warm Chocolate Chipper

            Hey, since moving to the East Bay, I'm more partial to the food on this side of the bridge, but with a baby in tow ... it seems much to do the commute.

            Who was it that was having those special Monday night dinners? Quince?

        2. Here's a recent link that you might want to review. I second the suggestion for saving your Ferry Building lunch for Saturday. Also check out my suggestions for R&G Lounge in the link below. I know I sound like a broken record with my recommendations for R&G Lounge, but every visitor I've taken there have been blown away by R&G's S&P crab, because it's so different than anything they've had back home.

          1. Consider taking BART to Oakland Fruitvale district during the day -- I have found ethnic restaurants enjoy infants, and at 3 months, your daughter probably sleeps a lot. A search of this board should reveal cuisines you might not find in Boston.

            Just be sure you have a stroller because she'll get heavy during all your Bay Area walkabouts.