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Planning my first trip to SFO in August 2010.

  • raidar Apr 16, 2010 10:29 AM

First. I know that the SFO board gets hit by a truck load of tourists (like myself), so I’ll try to be as helpful as I can on my end and thank you up front. We don’t nearly get the number of visitors/posts in our Prairie Provinces section here on Chow, so I can’t imagine the amount of repetitive requests you get. I hope this one makes sense….

My GF and I will be coming down in August from your neighbor to the north (Edmonton, Alberta); arriving around 1PM on Wednesday the 18th and leaving Sunday the 22nd around noon. This will actually be my first time to the Bay Area, so I have no pretense or experience to draw on.

I know it’s only April, and a few months away from touch down, but the food lover in me may already be on overload. There are so many shows, blogs and articles about California food that I figured it would be easier. However, instead of narrowing things down, it opened up so many options…where to begin!!

I know I want to hit a taco truck. We don’t get a great selection of taco’s up here, and I’m quite anxious to dig in. Cabeza, sesos, lengua, al pastor, carnitas..you name it. I need to try it. Really, any quality street food is on my radar.
•Will I find something good in SF still, or should I go to Oakland for tacos?
•Will I have to hit multiple trucks/carts to get both the offal and more normal cuts?
•Suggestions or links to help me narrow things down.

Being from the prairies, and loving everything seafood, I’ve wondered about both sushi and cioppino options.
•Are the sushi options light years ahead in SFO? My tummy is in love with well prepared sashimi, so I’m not really into the fusion/new age rolls filled with the kitchen sink.
•Are there a few go-to spots for cioppino? Clams, crab, oysters, squid..once again, you name it. I enjoy it. These treats are probably something I should indulge during my first visit no.?

Fine dining is something I’ve considered putting into the mix, and there is so much.
•French Laundry/Chez Panisse/The Dining Room/Coi/Gary Danko
•Am I missing something? Are these must-dos for a first timer, or just something nice?
•Are there better choices in the mid-price range?

Are there any gems or genres I’m not seeing in my initial planning stages. Neither of us have qualms about eating on a street corner or in a dingy restaurant, so feel free to cover the gamut with regards to what treats you have in your backyard. Any cuisine is welcome, but we have a lot of Indian here, so I wouldn’t worry about that. I think I read about good Ethiopian in Oakland??

I don’t have a hotel as of yet. I will be renting a car, as we are seeing a concert in Mountain View on the Friday night, and I’d also like to head up to Petaluma as the geek in me wants to see the TWiT Cottage and meet Leo (but this might not happen).

There will be so much to do in a short period for a first timer that involves more than food (travel the bridges, Alcatraz, the Pier, Union Square, Nob Hill, ride a trolley car etc…) so I’m trying to make the best of a food situation. And believe me, if there is anything else or some clarification I can give that will make your choices or suggestions easier; just ask! Thanks

Chris
eatingisthehardpart.com

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  1. On taco trucks, I used to always go the one on the corner of Harrison and 20th in the Mission District. Awesome tacos al pastor. It has been a few years though. Maybe somebody else on this thread has current info.

    Chowhound already has numerous threads on bay area sushi. Personally, I'm eagerly awaiting the re-opening of Sushi Sho in El Cerrito (East Bay). Hopefully, by August.

    -----
    Sushi Sho
    1645 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

    1. You pretty much covered most of the info we need to make good recommendations. I have a couple more, though. What's the fine dining scene like in Edmonton? Do you get to other places with good fine dining options? Because while I don't mean to imply that they aren't great restaurants, the fine dining options in San Francisco (with a couple of exceptions) don't tend to be either unique or typical of the San Francisco food scene. We're trying (but not last time I looked, succeeding) in talking one of your countrymen out of a heavy-on-fine-dining visit on another current thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7001...

      I also suggest that you take a look at reports and discussions from/by other Canadian visitors. That might give you a perspective that might be closer to yours than a local's perspective. I'm thinking of greyelf (if you go here and read her posts on the San Francisco board going back over the last year you'll get a really good insight in the SF dining scene: http://www.chow.com/profile/169233?ta...) and this long thread by Halifax: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6767...

      Finally, as a nationally recognized expert on Oakland taco trucks (just kidding, sort of), I think you'll do better in Oakland, especially if you want offal. You might want to post separately asking about taco trucks in Oakland.

      1. Here are some taco truck tips to study before you come.
        http://www.chow.com/lists/344
        http://www.eastbayexpress.com/eastbay...
        A guide to sushi on the Peninsula for your pre Mountain View concert meal.
        http://www.emeraldlake.com/sushilist....

        1 Reply
        1. re: wolfe

          Since Ruth mentioned me, I'll poke my nose in and suggest two ideas for a fellow western provinces Chowhound for things you might not get at home: Poc Chuc for Yucatecan food and one of the many Burmese restos in the Bay area. My faves so far (I've tried four now) are Burmese Kitchen and Mandalay.

          I don't really go for fine dining so can't comment on the options in the Bay Area at all, but if you want a unique experience with great cooking using local ingredients at a reasonable price, check out comments on Canteen here.

          And for a fun read, try searching on Commis, which has some mega-fans and some on the fence but might be worth checking out for dinner if you are heading to Fruitvale/Oakland for a taco crawl.

          Have an awesome time -- your first trip to this delightful zone is bound to make you happy!

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

        2. Thanks for the links and ideas everyone. This is exactly why I'm trying to get in on this early enough.

          The fine dining scene in Edmonton is probably pretty average. We do a lot of game up here which is nice, but plenty of the 'classic spots' have (IMO) seen better days. I've only included this option, in case there was something very San Fran to do up...who knows when I'll be back.

          It does look like the taco trucks are moving to Oakland, so I'll keep looking, searching, and reading. Are there any other forms of street food that stand out in the Bay area? We don't get anything of the sort up here in Alberta, and after eating through Central America, I have a soft spot of this sort of thing.

          Thanks grayelf, I'll look into what you suggested! Is it wrong that I'm hungry just thinking
          about this trip.

          *Edit. wolfe, those links are awesome!! I missed your Mountain View sushi link the first time through. Sushi and a concert would be amazing!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: raidar

            Here's an interesting take on street food/alley food. :-)
            http://www.littleskilletsf.com/locati...

            1. re: raidar

              August in SF can be chilly -- dress in layers. When I first arrived here it was August (many years ago) and it was freezing cold in downtown SF, but warm and sunny a few miles down the Peninsula.
              Our climate never has a combination of heat and humidity. In August, it might be cold and damp or sunny and delightful.
              http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60...

              1. re: Joel

                Note that the wine country is usually warm and sunny in the summer as well. In SF, if you go out and plan to be out until evening you should always carry whatever kind of wrap you'd deem suitable for 55-degree weather, because even a sunny day in SF can turn cool if the "marine layer" comes in around sunset (as it does most days).

            2. Just wanted to throw in some more thoughts.

              There seems to be so much in this here city, that I've almost been in overload mode. My hopes for a French Laundry reservation fell through, but that's life.

              I'm still very uncertain about breakfasts, and will probably wing it for the most part. Although I couldn't help read that there are some crazy line ups at the more popular places.

              I also bake a lot of bread (everyday here), so I'll be spending some time looking for some yeasty treats.

              I think Incanto, Pizza Delfina, Chez Panisse (maybe for lunch?), and a taco truck tour seem to have lasted through my search. I discovered a glorious looking hamburger (Mission Burger) that no longer exists, and now I have a mad craving for a freshly ground, medium rare burger..thoughts? It seems to be a toss up for cioppino around the board, but I would still love to hear any new, or dependable insights? Tadich Grill?

              I'm counting the days.

              -----
              The French Laundry
              6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

              Tadich Grill
              240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Delfina Restaurant
              3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              7 Replies
              1. re: raidar

                If you want a great hamburger in a sit down place, there are a few options: you could go with Zuni, which uses great meat and cooks the burger perfectly, Marlow, the new burger kid on the block, or Nopa -- all of these would be great choices.

                If you're looking for bread and pastries, definitely go by Golden West, Dennis Leary of Canteen's brand new spot (I think it's soft opening right now?) at 8 Trinity Place in the Financial District. Every pastry item I've had from him is amazing (I still fantasize about the coffee cake I had once at Canteen). Also go to Acme at the Ferry Building and definitely Tartine Bakery in the Mission (for the bread, go in the afternoon).

                -----
                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Tartine Bakery
                600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Nopa
                560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                1. re: JasmineG

                  Is the hamburger at Zuni still only served at lunch and after 10PM?

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Thanks for the specific intel on Golden West, JasmineG -- it has been on my short list for our October trip since I first saw signs of it emerging. I love his brioche longtime :-). Also looking forward to seeing what he does with the House of Shields but that's not relevant for the OP as I gather it won't be ready till fall. Go Chef Leary!

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Yes. Thank you indeed!

                  2. re: raidar

                    SF has a very strong burger scene. Yes, it has a burger scene. One might credit Zuni, or the famous "Mooseburger" at Moose's (the idea that sometimes the rich & powerful don't want fois gras three ways, they just want a great burger like anyone else).

                    Here's an article:
                    http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/10-best-...
                    And a blog:
                    http://sanfranciscoburgerblog.tumblr....

                    Spruce often gets mentioned, as does Serpentine. I rather like Mo's for lower-end. There are enough good burgers that you can choose a secondary characteristic, such as high end/low end, cocktails, neighborhood.

                    -----
                    Zuni Cafe
                    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      You might want to make a reservation now for Wayfare Tavern - that will take care of your burger request as well as give you the option to try a lot of classic San Francisco dishes.

                      Other good burgers include Marlowe, Slow Club, Namu and Fish & Farm.

                      -----
                      Slow Club
                      2501 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Namu
                      439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                      Wayfare Tavern
                      558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        I'd also consider Fish and Farm's burger which is truly decadent with the special sauce!

                        "What I experienced was a purely warm-and-fuzzy, hedonistic moment of deliciousness that wouldn’t allow even a bit of snarky judgment to sneak its way in. If there’s an umami god out there, this burger was built to pay homage to it."

                        http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/2009-bur...

                        -----
                        Fish and Farm
                        339 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    2. So if I'm taking the BART from downtown across to Fruitvale..am I going to have to venture far from the station to find my taco fix? or will I have a decent selection near by?

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: raidar

                        Here is an old taco truck map which would work much better if some how there wasn't a flag on the east coast. Some are probably no longer there and there may be new ones but it will give you a head start on a search.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4504...
                        In that link there is a newer report on grayelf's 2008 Fruitvale crawl.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5718...

                        1. re: raidar

                          You can do just fine nearby. Here's the advice I gave another visitor: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7135... -- for you, of course, I'd specify the tripas taco.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Here's a better map in case you want to taste several.
                            http://www.chow.com/lists/344?tag=pos...

                            1. re: wolfe

                              Thanks again everyone. I'll have my camera at the ready and taste buds turned to 11.

                              1. re: raidar

                                Did anyone ever answer your question about Ethiopian in Oakland? There are quite a few places -- we were actually doing a chowdown series checking them all out. The three that seem to get the highest marks are Cafe Colucci, Enssaro and Addis. I can vouch for the first two as having a good hand with complex spicing; I have a slight preference for Enssaro. Addis is often mentioned as having the spiciest food, but although I had lunch there once by myself (and thought the dish I had was quite spicy), we haven't done a chowdown to explore the menu fully there yet. Enssaro is a longish but doable walk from 19th Street BART in Oakland. For Addis or Colucci you'd probably want to take a short cab ride from MacArthur and Ashby BART, respectively.

                                Finally, I noticed that in April I noted that SF can be cold, even in the summer. We've been having an exceptionally cool summer, so you might want to take that advice about making sure you have layers and a medium-weight wrap for evenings to heart.

                                -----
                                Addis
                                6100 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                Cafe Colucci
                                6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                Enssaro
                                366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Yes. I will remember to bring layers Ruth. Thank you.

                                  I don't suppose there is any San Fran Chow meals next week...that would be something grand to partake in.

                                  I've booked into Incanto for next Wednesday night, so I have my first reserved meal in place.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Also..As we'll be heading to Mountain View on Friday..does anyone have a favourite food joint, along the way, or in MV? Could be anything really (minus high end)..

                                    1. re: raidar

                                      Search for "Mountain View" and you should find plenty of leads - thanks, new Chowhound search feature! (Just watch the dates, as some posts can be a few years old.)

                                      Indian food is particularly great in Silicon Valley, and Sakoon in downtown Mountain View has been the leader for the past year or so.

                                      Michael

                                      -----
                                      Sakoon
                                      357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                      1. re: raidar

                                        Drop me a line (email in profile).

                                        1. re: raidar

                                          Taqueria La Bamba in MV has exceptional carnitas. If I'm remotely by or with friends I stop. La Fiesta also is excellent for Cal-Mex.

                                      2. re: raidar

                                        There is a very good Taco Truck within half a block of the Fruitvale BART station at 12th and Fruitvale (north east corner). If you walk east two blocks on Fruitvale to East 14th (also known as International) there are lots of taco trucks up and down East 14th/International.

                                2. Pretty decent taco truck near Best Buy on Harrison and 12th not far from the Costco. For a seafood lunch - Tadich Grill or Sam's Grill. Tadich has pretty good CIOPPINO but I like the one I had at Fog City Diner better. For North Beach Italian Food - L'Osteria Forno has pretty good pizza. Chinatown - the salt and pepper chicken wings at Capital restaurant on Clay Street are superb. Out the door in the Ferry Terminal is great for a quick snack.. But the kicker would be great schnitzel in a beer hall- like atmosphere at Suppenkuche in Hayes.

                                  -----
                                  Tadich Grill
                                  240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                  Fog City Diner
                                  1300 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                  Suppenkuche
                                  525 Laguna St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: odee

                                    That's the El Tonayense taco truck usually next to the Best Buy. There's also another ET on Harrison and 21st (or so). Closest taco truck to downtown is Los Compadres at Spear and Folsom (about 4 blocks from the Ferry Building). All of these are busy so the product turn-over should be good and thus the quality fresh. Both are as good as most in Oakland.

                                    -----
                                    El Tonayense
                                    2598 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA

                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      We are in town for the next few days touring the city. We had a private tour guide today who made a stop at the El Tonayense taco truck in front of the Best Buy. It was an excellent, inexpensive meal. I had grilled chicken tacos, my son had the chicken burrito, my husband had a beef burrito & my daughter had the chicken quesadilla. We aren't highly adventurous eaters but if we were they had options of tongue, tripes & a few other selections. I would give this taco truck a try while you are in the city. Have fun & be sure to dress in layers so you can stay warm!

                                      -----
                                      El Tonayense
                                      2598 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA

                                      1. re: sadiebell

                                        In order of popularity, I'd say pork is highest, beef second, chicken third. Chicken doesn't slow-cook with an internal meaty taste, nor can you really char it (the skin isn't used in any of these preps). The two best pork preps are Carnitas and Al Pastor. Both have *no* scary bits. Assuming a visitor doesn't have anything against pig, I would strongly suggest including tastes of Carnitas and Al Pastor.