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Dinner on Sunday in Union Square Area or off the BART line to SFO

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I am traveling to San Francisco for a conference and most of my meals are planned for me. I have been searching the boards so I have some direction- but I thought I would ask the experts. I need a restaurant for eating at the bar or for a 5pm reservations for 1 near Hotel Nikko(Union Square Area) or right off of the BART line (taking it back to the airport for 8pm flight).

For perspective- I live in Seattle and I am in my late 20's. I love fish, duck, and some beef. I like restaurants like Spring Hill, How to Cook a Wolf, Quinn's, La Spiga, Salumi's, Art of the Table, Crush, The Palace Kitchen, etc. I will be exploring the Warf and doing tourist things on Friday afternoon and hitting Dottie's up for breakfast. Saturday I will be in the Ferry building. The plan is to explore the Mission for lunch and eating after a conference farewell brunch on Sunday.

So far I have ruled out- Fleur de Lys, Gary danko, Michael Mena (they were all a little much- but I would have splurged if I felt like it). I am looking for the 15-30 entree price range and would love to try a few things if possible.

I would love any suggestions and advice (Sunday early dinner & Mission eats). Thank You!

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  1. Your hotel is off the Union Square area, and south of that direction past Market Street is a new alley area called Mint Plaza. There are two really nice restaurants there that have fun vibe. 54 Mint is an Italian restaurant with a beautiful room. There's also bar seating and you probably won't have problems finding a seat there if you go early. Also in Mint Plaza is Chez Papa Resto which is French bistro but high-end looking. Really fun staff with French accents. The Mint Plaza is within walking distance of the Powell Street BART station. (BTW, despite what the link says, 54 Mint is not at 54 Mint. Check it's Web site for location.)

    There are many options in the Mission District, and the nearest BART station is 16th Street. Just a block east of the BART station is Bar Bambino, which is an nice Italian spot. Maverick is a popular Sunday brunch destination with reinterpreted American fare. Up the street from the BART station is Valencia street where you'll find the reopened LIMON restaurant serving Peruvian food and Bar Tartine, which is California comfort food. Bar Tartine has an excellent counter bar seating.

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    Bar Bambino
    2931 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

    Chez Papa
    1401 18th St., San Francisco, CA 94107

    Bar Tartine
    561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Chez Papa Resto
    4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

    54 Mint
    54 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1 Reply
    1. re: singleguychef

      Gitane is not too far away and has a delicious Moroccan/French/Spanish/Basque (I know that generally that many cuisines is a red flag for a restaurant menu, but not here) menu with a great vibe/atmosphere

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      Gitane Restaurant & Bar
      6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

    2. Any thoughts on Absinthe? I found it on a few lists and they have a 5pm reservation open... Nopa opens to late...

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      Nopa
      560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

      2 Replies
      1. re: natalie.warner

        I don't find Absinthe that exciting and a touch overpriced to boot. Have you considered Zuni which is close to Van Ness Station?

        Alternatively, there is Ame within walking distance and Boulevard (close to the Embarcadero), but both of those can be pretty expensive.

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        Zuni Cafe
        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

        Boulevard Restaurant
        1 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105

        Ame Restaurant
        689 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

        1. re: natalie.warner

          It's been awhile since I've been to Absinthe's restaurant, but I was at the bar lately and I have to say it felt a bit tired. And the hamburger I had at the bar was just OK. Absinthe is a bit of a walk from the Civic Center BART station (about 3-4 blocks).

        2. Now thinking Zuni? Thoughts?

          8 Replies
          1. re: natalie.warner

            Zuni is a great place for a meal for a visitor, and from what you've said it would be up your alley but it's not right off BART (as you asked for in your initial post). It's just over half a mile from the Civic Center BART to Zuni, so you should account for that. I think you'd also be happy at Boulevard, especially since it's a great place for a single diner to eat at the counter, though it doesn't open until 5:30, which may cut a little close to your flight time.

            1. re: natalie.warner

              If you're eating alone, it might not be that fun at the bar. Zuni doesn't have seating along its bar counter. Instead, they have tiny tables on the side of the bar. You might feel a bit self-conscious surrounded by couples and such having dinner at the bar. Seems like if you're going to walk from the BART station, you might as well check out Jardiniere, especially on a Monday night when they have a prix fixe. They also have a nice bar with a lounge feel.

              1. re: natalie.warner

                I find Zuni to be fairly staid as well. Near Union Square you could hit Ame, Anchor & Hope, or Canteen. Also, the touristy thing of going to the wharf is exactly that: VERY touristy (think of shops selling San Francisco tschotskes and Alcatraz-striped sweat shirts. It is a place best avoided (especially for food).

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  I adore Canteen, but their first seating is at 6, which is too late for her to catch her plane.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Also. Canteen is closed on Sundays.

                    1. re: sfbing

                      Except for brunch, not that that's relevant to natalie.warner.

                  2. re: CarrieWas218

                    How about Bar Crudo - interesting raw and cooked seafood, relatively close to Union Square.

                    1. re: RichInMV

                      Not anymore. Bar Crudo is on Divisidero now.

                2. 5 pm is still cutting it awfully close if you eat in SF, even a block from BART. It leaves you no more than 75 minutes. BART takes roughly half an hour, but trains can be late, and they run less frequently on the weekend. You also will need a few minutes to walk from BART to the domestic terminal.

                  Many restaurants that open at 5 are not completely ready in the kitchen to have you out by 6:15.

                  So I'll suggest either somewhere very close to BART in SF that's open late afternoon (Bar Bambino used to be; I don't remember if Bar Tartine closes between brunch and dinner Sunday) or eating very close to SFO. I'd have recommended Poc Chuc near 16th Street BART which has marvelous Yucatecan food, but they are closed on Sundays.

                  There are several decent options within walking distance of Millbrae BART, 5 minutes from the airport, including Hong Kong Flower Lounge and Shanghai Dumpling House, which would at least let you enjoy a less-rushed later meal.

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                  Shanghai Dumpling Shop
                  455 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

                  Bar Tartine
                  561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Poc Chuc
                  2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103