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Taking a vation to SF in May for three days May 28th-31st. Ive been spending some time searching for a few of the top spots to eat at within the city and I've came up with a list of places that I should try since I don't know when I'll be back. If anyone has any additions or subtractions I would appreciate it . I'm thinking/hoping most of the places should be under $80 or so for two people. Thanks.

Breakfast - Mama's

Focaccia- Liguria Bakery

Mexican- Poc Chuc

Swan Oyster Depot - Seafood lunch

Albona Ristorante Istriano - Italian

Yank Sing - DimSum

Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe ‎

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  1. A lot of your ideas are a little more touristo than local. My recs:

    Dottie's Cafe instead of Mama's (off Union Square a few blocks)

    Hog Island Oysters (in Ferry Building) instead of Swan Oyster Depot

    Farmers Market at the Ferry Building on Saturday am. Total scene with all sorts of goods even if you're not grocery shopping. Personal favorite is Primavera - temporary food stand which is in the far back corner by the bay on Saturday am and has great Mexican breakfast (way better than Mijito which is in the Ferry Building)

    Fish + Farm - eccentric place with the #1 rated burger in SF (and great fish and chips also)

    4 Replies
    1. re: teejaymoore

      Ferry Building is pretty touristy, and I'd vote that Mama's is far superior to Dottie's, but that it's best to avoid it on weekends and stick to midweek..Dottie's along with Brenda's, are really good backups.....the OP did some good research.

      So did the Fish + Farm burger actually measure up? That place intrigues me.

      1. re: sugartoof

        +1 for Mama's

        their selection of housemade breads and pastries, and that ollalieberry jam, bump it to the top of my list

      2. re: teejaymoore

        We hit Dottie's this morning. Short line, and fantastic breakfast. Good rec, thanks.

        1. re: Indirect Heat

          Glad you liked. We're early risers as well and if you're there when they open at 730 or shortly thereafter, you usually get right in or it's not too bad of a wait.

      3. Liguria and Poc Chuc are great picks. I haven't been to Albona, although I like the looks of the menu. I personal faves for Italian in SF have been La Ciccia and Incanto, but am hankering to try 54 Mint.

        I'm not a huge fan of Yank Sing - I don't think the quality is high enough to justify the cost premium (except for their vegetarian dumplings, which are the best I've ever had.)

        Where are you coming from? We can probably do a better job of fine-tuning your menu if we know what the strengths are of your hometown.

        1 Reply
        1. re: daveena

          I'm coming from Seattle, if that helps. I am going to be staying in the Union Square area in SF. Thanks for all the input guys, def. appreciated.

        2. For Chinese food in the city, I think Jai Yun is a must try. You can stay within your budget if you go for lunch--I believe there's an $18 pp option and a $25 pp option. Lots of threads on the board that can give you an idea of what to expect.

          I would also add Tartine Bakery to your list of places to hit, if you're going to be in that Valencia St. area, though more for a sweet afternoon snack rather than a meal per se.

          Tartine Bakery
          600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          Jai Yun
          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          2 Replies
          1. re: abstractpoet

            Nice, it looks like the reviews are great for Jai Yun, Im going to try it for lunch.

            1. re: raymdavis

              Fellow wetcoaster (Vancouver) adding +1 for Jai Yun lunch. Also Poc Chuc is a winner (hope to be there again in March), as is La Ciccia (ditto).

          2. Yup, it would help to know where you are coming from since this is your first post and you don't have a location on your 'My Chow" page. It also helps to know what part of town you are staying. Don't want to send you accross town for breakfast.

            Sat: 5/29

            Breakfast: Ferry Plaza farmers market... seriously don't miss it. I don't care where you are coming from.

            Lunch: Yank Sing Dim Sum ... it's nearby

            Dinner: 1550 Hyde - right on the cable car line. Nice neighborhood restaurant

            Sun 5/30

            Breakfast: Canteen

            Lunch:Poc Chuc

            Dinner: Some other Italian restaurant than Albona. What made you choose that? Will you have a car?

            Monday 5/31

            Breakfast: Mama's with a stop at Linguiria before or after

            Lunch: Tadich Grill

            Dinner: I don't know ... lots of places will open and close between now and then. Sign up for the Chow Digest to see what is new. It covers the whole bay area but there will be lots of SF ideas in there.

            Here's some more stuff to consider

            Visitng SF. Eat like a local not a tourist.

            Tadich serves two purposes. The only decent sourdough left in SF is made for Tadich. Boudin is now a national chain that you can get anywhere. The cafe itself is fine is someone insists on eating at Fisherman's Wharf (not recommended).

            It also gives the seafood / old time SF fix fo that is more comfortable and centrally located than Swan.

            I am local and for the many years I lived right in the city, I was more likely to frequent Mama's rather than Dotties. Both will have you standing in line. It depeneds where that line is ... charming North Beach (Mama's) or the Tenderloin (Dottie's). I like Mama's food better too.

            There are lots of local dim sum wars. I happen to love Yank Sing. There are others who don't with price being a big consideration. The restaurant is in a pretty building, the food is very good and the staff is very accomodating if you are new to dim sum.

            Mon 5/31

            15 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              I think having the crab salad or cocktail at Swan is a great idea. I really like Tadich, have been going there for years, but the last time I was there I ordered the crab salad and it had absolutely no flavor (I find it hard to believe it was fresh rather than previously frozen).

              I, too, love Yank Sing and think the quality justifies the price (just avoid the sea bass -- about $17). My favorites: shrimp dumpling, chicken in lettuce cups, Peking duck, soup dumplings, egg custard tarts. Every time I've eaten here (been going for years, since it used to be located on Battery) I've been very happy with my meal.

              1. re: walker

                For me, Tadich is all about the Cioppino and the bread which are delicious. And a nice martini or something. Lots of people like the sand dabs, but I can make nicer ones at home. Also, they refuse to substitute french fries for the roast potatoes. Always sticks in my craw.

                1. re: mrs bacon

                  I think the bread at Tadich (and at Swan) is from Boudin but it's the dark bake. (the sourdough has a crispier crust)You can order it from Boudin on 10th Avenue at Geary.

                  1. re: walker

                    walker - i thought the story was boudin bakes that bread at the wharf, and doesn't make it available to the public for sale. have you been able to buy it? that would be exciting news.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      You can call Boudin (as I did) and order it. They are at 399 10th Avenue (at Geary) Phone: 415 221 1210.
                      I went on vacation to Cape Cod, Maine, etc last October and I brought 2 of these loaves in my carry on as gifts (one was to a really helpful, friendly motel owner in Hyannis, MA.) It's great sliced and toasted in a toaster oven.

                      1. re: walker

                        Incredible! Thanks. (though this doesn't match the story that they have special ovens at the wharf location. oh well!)

                    2. re: walker

                      Did you ask for the same bread they provide to Tadich or did you just ask for the dark bake? Like many restaurants, some restaurants have specific recipes just for them. That was my understanding at Tadich. I once tried to get the Tadich bread from Boudin and they tried to sell me the regular bread swearing up and down it was the same thing. It is not. However, a dark bake might be closer.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I do not think I mentioned Tadich, just the dark bake that restaurants order. I think Swan guys told me they get their bread from Boudin. It tastes the same to me. I don't know if they bake it at this location or if it gets brought over from the wharf location.

                        1. re: rworange

                          A dark bake would at least be an improvement, but I want that Tadich bread, darnit.

                    3. re: walker

                      If you're coming from Seattle and familiar with the Cantonese food and dim sum in Vancouver, I would strongly recommend against going to Yank Sing. This place is extremely popular amongst the non-Chinese, particularly with the business crowd in the financial district who want something "ethnic," but it is not even on the radar for most people from Hong Kong.

                      The place to go for dim sum is Koi Palace in Daly City, even though the wait is crazy and the food can be inconsistent at times, and that's the place where everyone from the HK celebrities and dignitaries to visitors and immigrants from HK considers as by far the best in the bay area for Cantonese food and dim sum.

                      Again, this is assuming you are familiar with the scene in Vancouver.

                      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                        I second the Koi Palace rec. It's insanely difficult to get seated quickly here but is worth the wait. Even with a reservation you are likely to wait 45 minutes for your table upon arrival. Yank Sing will cost you about double what Koi Palace will, it seems.

                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          I dont know if I can work a trip to Daly City into the plans, might skip the Dim Sum, since there are a few pretty good places in Seattle's Chinatown.

                          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                            Koi Palace is good, but I found their dim sum less consistent than Yank Sing's and not much cheaper. Yank Sing particularly kicks Koi Palace's ass on Shanghai dumplings and taro cake.


                            Koi Palace Restaurant
                            365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                            Yank Sing
                            49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              The last time I ate at Yank Sing was on a Saturday. The place was half empty, despite the ad they are always running in the Chronicle's Pink Section. By contrast, the last time I went to Koi Palace for dim sum, there was a large queue of mostly Asian patrons. Of course, the correlation between queue length and food quality is often pretty tenuous. But when comparing two restaurants with similar prices and ambience, queue length is not a bad indicator. I have to go with crowd on this one. Overall, I find Koi Palace's dim sum to be noticeably better than Yank Sing's, particularly when it comes to classics like sui mai and har gau. However, I have always thought Yank Sing had the most creative dim sum offerings in the area. The jello mandarins are just plain fun!

                              As for xiaolongbao, a Chinese-American friend recently chastised me for ordering Shanghai dumplings when eating dim sum, since they are not traditionally Cantonese. I think that's pushing it. But Mario Batali has made a fortune emphasizing the regional differences in Italian cuisine. And as a rule of thumb, I try to avoid restaurants that are pan-Italian, pan-Chinese, pan-Indian, or just panned.

                              Koi Palace Restaurant
                              365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                        2. re: rworange

                          thanks for all the help, might try another Italian rest.

                        3. >Albona Ristorante Istriano - Italian
                          did nothing for me. it might be ok if you are in the immediate neighborhood
                          and didnt want to walk far -- and wanted a small over priced dessert (my main
                          memory of eating there) -- but i dont believe it a must-try, especially if you have
                          limited time in SF.

                          i suppose if there is some istrian special you've been itching to try, that might be
                          another might be another reason to go there, although it doesnt sound like the
                          case for you.

                          1. I think you can do Perbacco for Italian close to $80 for two before tip (if you only have 1 glass of wine each). I also think Slanted Door is doable as is Delfina at that budget.
                            For a bakery, go to Tartine instead of Boudin...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: vis

                              Thanks, I'll check it out, I will def. have to go to Tartine.

                            2. Aziza

                              5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: ML8000

                                I second that recommendation. Applying French haute-cuisine techniques to ethnic food is about as SF as it gets. Mourad Lahlou's Moroccan cuisine at Aziza is revelatory and inexpensive enough to fit within the given budget. That budget probably excludes Ame, where Hiro Sone's fish (raw and cooked) and shellfish preparations might be some of the best in the area. The Slanted Door fits within the given budget, but I can't recommend the food there. It's a view restaurant now, right?

                                1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                                  >>> The Slanted Door fits within the given budget, but I can't recommend the food there. It's a view restaurant now, right?

                                  No. The critisism that SD gets is because people can get Vietnamese cheaper and better ... while not factoring in the superior ingredients being used and the same principle that you seem to admire in the other two restaurants mentioned.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Sorry rworange, but the meal I had there was poorly executed. Maybe it's the old Yogi Berra saying: "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

                                    1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                                      Sorry to hear that Dave, but I'm with RW in that I think your meal was hopefully an anomaly. I go on a relatively regular basis. Touristy? yes. Deafening? yes. Food? still good in my view. I know a lot of people bemoan that it's no longer hip and in the Mission, but I still think it's great food with quality ingredients (as noted in the Chronicle article today with the Chicken Claypot recipe).

                                      1. re: teejaymoore

                                        Tee Jay, let's chalk it up to an anomaly. You obviously eat there a lot more often than I do.

                                        1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                                          When they first opened in the Ferry Building they couldn't handle the space. I was so put off by the poor execurion it was two years before I went back. Generally, they handle things well. Every now and then a dish will misfire. Then again, I never order the stuff like shaking beef, but whatever seasonal thing they are into. I sort of think of it as California Cuisine with Vietnamese influence.

                                          I don't think SD is particularily a must try for out of towners, but it isn't in my book just chalked up to a view restaurant. For that little part of the city, to me it is a good choice amoung a lot of good choices.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            You can serve all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot serve all of the people all of the time. Abe Lincoln, more or less.

                              2. Here are some common recommendations that I give to people visiting San Francisco:

                                Hangtown fry: One of the best breakfast ideas conjured in San Francisco, the oyster and bacon omelette / scramble. Good renditions at Brenda's, Just for You, and Tadich. I think Brenda's is my favorite, excellent biscuits there as well. Be prepared to wait in line for a long time on the weekends.

                                Crab: You will be visiting at the tail end of the crab season. R & G for salt and pepper crab, PPQ for Vietnamese crab.

                                Oysters: Swan and Hog Island.

                                Dim Sum: There is always going to be debate on this topic, the three places I think of not too far from Union Square are Yank Sing, Cityview, and Great Eastern. I like Great Eastern. If you are willing to drive and brave the crowds, Koi Palace in Daly City.

                                Burrito: I really like the choice of Poc Chuc for Mexican, but San Francisco is a burrito town for me. El Farolito for carne asada, Taco Loco #2 for carnitas.

                                A place with history: Tadich.

                                The big name (or "I read about that place in the New York Times"): Zuni, Delfina, Range, Slanted Door. I'm not a huge fan of Slanted Door, but my impression is that it's the most famous San Francisco restaurant, every visitor mentions it. You cannot go wrong with Zuni, Delfina, or Range (especially Delfina). These might push your budget, but just a bit.

                                Odds and ends: Tartine for baked goods, Bi Rite for ice cream, Alembic for a well made cocktail, Whiskey Thieves for, well, whiskey, Toronado for a beer.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: david de berkeley

                                  Hangtown fry: One of the best breakfast ideas conjured in San Francisco,
                                  I believe it's hangtown fry because it originated in Hangtown, now Placeville.

                                2. One place I never miss in my yearly - bi yearly trips to SF is "The Ferry Plaza farmers market". Hog Island, like teejaymoore said is perfect everytime.

                                  1. The only good Chinese food I've ever had outside of my own home is Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant. I would go for the hot pot, you can have it spicy or not spicy or split in half, I would add to that: lamb, fish, and saur kraut (which is also the only authentic northern Chinese saur kraut I've had outside of my home). If you don't get the hot pot, you can order the saur kraut as soup. Other things that stand out are are ciboulette (don't know how to say in english) filled pockets( jiu cai he zi); beef pancakes; slow roasted lamb are worth ordering because you wouldn't find them in most chinese restos.
                                    If the owner is there you can ask him for recommendations, he's chubby and talkative but speaks a pretty bad english, hard to miss.
                                    Just don't ask for pork dishes, that might offend them. Owner is muslim, so all food is Halal. =)

                                    Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant: 3132 Vicente St. (between 42nd Ave & 43rd Ave)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kerosundae

                                      Just a disclaimer about Old Mandarin Islamic - out of towners should probably be braced that the place is a little funky, and located in a former garage that probably had an in-law apartment at once time. It can be a bit off putting if you notice the remnants of it's previous use and aren't prepared.

                                    2. I would not miss Swan Oyster Depot, for everything,not just oysters. They'll give you the fatty yummy crab roe (for free) in the shell for dipping their really great bread, they make an amazing dish of tuna sashimi with olive oil, capers and lemon, the crab and prawn cocktails are wonderful - and i even love their chowder. Totally worth the wait - just get there by 11:00 and you should have a seat within a half hour. anytime after that, the wait can be an hour or more. and they close at 5:00, i believe.

                                      Poc Chuc is another great choice. The Platillo Maya gives you a nice sampling of their appetizers,and their Poc Chuc itself is a good version.

                                      1. The Buena Vista Cafe for breakfast...and an Irish Coffee of course.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          What did you have for breakfast at the Buena Vista and how recently? I had one of the worst breakfasts of my life there and it has discouraged me from ever eating anything there. It was like something from Denny's, though lots more expensive and not as tasty. If it has improved, I might give it another shot. No faulting the Irish coffee though.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            A couple of years ago. Can't remember what we had, but it was very good. The two Irish coffees we each had with the breakfast may have made it a more memorable experience than it was though. ha!

                                        2. Honestly either Mammas or Dotties will give you a fine breakfast, but they are a HASSLE.
                                          It is going to be the better part of an hour to get a plate of eggs. Dont get me wrong I am ready to say that they are the best egg breakfast in SF, but it wont be something you can't get back home (wherever that may be).For a more San Francisco specific experience try specialty bakeries and coffee shops. Personally I love the Canele de Bordeaux at Boloungerie, and highly recommend you hit the syphon bar at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza.