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First time in SF - Need (specific) recs!

The BF and I will be in SF for the first time for the long weekend (Fri night to late Mon night). We’ll be staying in Union Sq. (no car) but we’re willing to take public transportation/cabs anywhere that’s worth it.

Planning this trip has been overwhelming as there seems to be a lot of great places to try. Some specific things we’re looking for: (I don’t care about ambience. Just needs to be good and not exorbitantly priced. )

-We’re both originally from the east coast but now live in Dallas, so we’ll take any opportunity to get some great authentic Chinese food. I’m looking for a good dim sum (har gow) place and some good Cantonese/Hong Kong style cooking—pan fried noodles to be exact. Seriously, how crazy will Chinatown be for Chinese New Year? Should I expect long waits?

-The BF lived in Japan for 3 years so he’s always on the lookout for authentic Japanese, but NEVER finds it. I know LA might be better for this, but I thought it was worth a shot. He’s looking for the non-sushi staples: ramen, katsu curry, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, etc.

-Best clam chowder (BF’s fam is from Boston) and seafood generally. Saw that Swan was popular on the boards, but what else? How about some place w/ a bigger menu?

-Saw La Cumbre and Ike’s Place on Man vs. Food so we were thinking of trying those. Also thinking about Slanted Door as it seems to be at the top of everyone’s list. Thoughts?

We’re just looking to enjoy the great food SF has to offer so any other recs would be great. Sorry about the long post but after surfing the boards it seems that people always want specifics, so I thought I’d just lay it all out.

Thanks!

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  1. Chinatown is only really crazy if you are there during the New Year's Parade. Better food outside Chinatown (e.g., Koi Palace) but since you are in Union Square without a car, you can walk to R&G Lounge in Chinatown, among many others.

    You might try Nombe, a new place in the Mission, for non-sushi izakaya food.

    Slanted Door is fine if expectations aren't inflated by the difficulty getting a table. You might try lunch. Also, La Mar, an upscale Peruvian seafood place, is next door at Pier 1 1/2, and is a good alternative if you want to eat on the water.

    1. Thanks for your specificity!

      I don't think a Bostonian will be satisfied with chowder in SF -- clams are much more an East Coast thing.

      The Saturday morning farmers market at the Ferry Building is a must.

      I think it might be fun to just embrace the craziness of Chinatown and go with the flow. For a table for two you might not have to wait too long, anyway. Great Eastern is good for both dim sum and non-dim-sum dishes, but if it's crazy you might also want to look into Louie's, which is smaller and configured such that it's less likely to be crammed with large parties.

      There's a lot discussion about where the best "Mission-style" burrito can be found -- a lot of people like La Cumbre, so if you want to try it, I wouldn't tell you otherwise.

      Slanted Door is over-rated, IMHO. It's not bad, it's just not worth the money or the hassle.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Agreed, clams are more of an east coast thing, but I think the clam chowder at Hog Island is lovely (not traditional), especially if you get some beautiful west coast oysters to start.

        I'd skip Slanted Door too. La Mar is more interesting for sure.
        Not that you asked for it, but if you're willing to go to the Mission for a burrito, I'd go over to Noe Valley and have dinner at Incanto, that's not a meal you're likely to have elsewhere.

        1. re: jsgjewels

          The clam chowder at Hog Island is, indeed, delicious, and I say that as a woman who grew up in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The only problem is that it costs $14.00 a bowl.

          And just a fair warning to the OP, Swan is a great place for a casual meal (only cold food, though, as they don't have a kitchen), but their clam chowder comes out of a can labelled Campbell's.

          1. re: Euonymous

            As someone who grew up in Connecticut and lived in the Boston area, calling Hog Island's chowder untraditional is a major understatement. It is a bowl of clam still in their shells in broth. If you are lucky you'll find one diced carrot piece in it. Also they are some weird West Coast clams ... well, weird in relation to littlenecks and Ipswich clams.

            Woodhouse Fish would be VASTLY better for someone looking for real clam chowder, fried clams and lobster. There are two locations
            http://www.woodhousefish.com/

            What is nice about Woodhouse is that they also carry West Coast seafood, so you can be chowing down on Dungeness in its various forms while your BF satisfies his New England seafood craving.

      2. Hong Kong Lounge (take the 38 Geary) is where I would go for dim sum and noodles. If you don't want to travel, consider Yank Sing if price is no object or Great Eastern in Chinatown.

        It is likely that it will be extremely difficult to get in to many of the good Chinese restaurants for dinner New Year (Sunday) and New Year's eve (saturday). You must make a reservation for a place like R&G, and I suspect that the service and food might be a little rocky due to chaos.

        Check out Muracci's near Chinatown for curry and katsu.

        1 Reply
        1. Chinatown is crazy practically 365 days of the year! But yes it will be even more crowded then usual during this weekend. R&G Lounge is one of the most popular restaurant in Chinatown. Good for their salt n pepper deep fried crab. Go to Golden Gate Bakery for their famed egg tarts... long wait btw. Get extra for breakfast.

          For ramen and japanese hot foods, Katana-Ya is located around Union Sq. Not the best Japanese food likely, but convenient and pretty decent for a very touristy area.

          Clam chowder? I think you'd enjoy Boudin's at Fishermen's Wharf. Super touristy yes, but even as a native, i still don't mind their clam chowder. I also really enjoyed Bar Crudo's seafood chowder... extremely fresh seafood and the chowder isn't that thick gloppy kind. They serve mainly raw fish, but not necessarily in sushi style. Just great raw seafood. I've never tried Swan's but you will have to wait in a very long line outside w/o seats in this particularly cold/damp weekend.

          Ike's is good and the line will prove it. Sorry lots of long line warnings in this post. But you can call well ahead and they will tell you a time when you can pick it up. It's usually 1 - 1 1/2 hr wait from the call to the pickup time. I stood in line for 1 hr for a sandwich... wish I thought to call ahead myself. I believe Man v Food ordered the Menage Trois sandwich.

          Delfina Pizzeria in the Mission is a SF staple. Really, really great pizzas there. Bi-Rite Ice Cream is 2 blocks down and you must have heard of their Salted Caramel. Delfina restaurant (next door to their pizzeria) is a wonderful restaurant too, but it's likely all seats are booked. But call just in case. Worth a try!

          Other restuarants to look into: NOPA (American), Blue Plate (American), Park Chow (American), Farmerbrown (Southern), Memphis and Minnie's (BBQ), all pretty affordable and solid places. Good luck! 30 years in SF and I still get overwhelmed with the food scene here. And SF is perfect for Valentine's Day. You will love it here.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Keesey

            They can also buy a can of Boudin's chowder because it is the same thing.

          2. Thank you guys so much! Great info!