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Visiting SF with 3 "food obsessed" daughters in May.

Hi. I read the board and know that people ask this same question all the time, but hoped that it might be okay for me to present my question for more specifically targeted results.
My husband and I are bringing our 3 daughters (17, 19, and 21) to SF in early May. Our daughters are big fans of Food Network, have taken cooking courses, read food magazines, etc.
We live in Toronto, Canada, so they have been exposed to some interesting restaurants here.
Since we will only be in SF for 6 nights, I am hoping to arrive armed with a short list of "must try" places, as well as advice on whether we might need advance reservations.
My youngest daughter and I are vegetarians, so the restaurant should offer meatless options.
Otherwise -- everyone is open to just about anything. Mainly, I'm interested in having my daughters come away from this trip with the knowledge of SF's place in the world of food experiences. We're staying at a B&B on Union Street, but are happy to take a taxi anywhere that's not within walking distance. Are plan for the week is to walk most everywhere -- exploring neighbourhoods, crossing over the Golden Gate bridge, etc. Any suggestions you can offer on dining options for dinner or lunch (we generally won't do a heavy meal twice in one day, so light lunch options would be great -- or vice versa). I'm not necessarily looking for fine dining -- just interesting, wonderful dining experiences. Any help you can offer me will be greatly appreciated.
As the "mom", I'm always the one stuck with the research portion of any trip, and it would be heaven to have some tailor-made suggestions.

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  1. La Folie and I think you can even walk there from your B and B. Take a 6pm reservation. Your girls will be delighted. It is an experience and, like its name, very fun. I dont want to write any further about it so as to spoil the surprise.

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    La Folie
    2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

    1 Reply
    1. re: Giselle

      Thanks so much for your reply! The menu looks a bit intimidating for a vegetarian, but I understand they
      will prepare a vegetarian plate, so that's perfect. I appreciate your help.

    2. I think most restaurants in San Francisco offer vegetarian options these days, so that shouldn't be a problem. I also think that you should make advance reservations whenever you can. I've never been to Toronto, so don't know what kinds of cuisine are prevalent there, but I do believe you have a large Asian population, so assume you can get that there. For visitors, my suggestions would be:

      Tadich Grill--old San Francisco, primarily seafood and if you order wisely, can be good. I like the cioppino.
      SPQR - Italian on Fillmore, small, you can walk up the hill from Union or take the 22 Fillmore bus.
      La Mar - Peruvian, largely seafood, in a great bayside location.
      Range - tale a taxi to the Mission or take the 22 Fillmore bus.
      Perbacco - also Italian, next door to Tadich Grill
      Boulevard - very popular, great food.
      Aziza - take a taxi, Moroccan inspired.
      Zuni Cafe - very San Francisco
      Frascati, 1550 Hyde, Luella--all small neighborhood restaurants on the Hyde Street, cable car line.
      Dosa - Indian, two locations, the nearest on Fillmore just up the hill.

      I'm sure you'll get lots of other suggestions. If you're here on a Saturday, the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is a must. Hog Island Oysters would be a nice lunch venue there or try Slanted Door, which these days gets mixed reviews.

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      Slanted Door
      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Zuni Cafe
      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Perbacco
      230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Tadich Grill
      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Frascati Restaurant
      1901 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

      1550 Hyde
      1550 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      SPQR
      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      1 Reply
      1. re: bobpantzer

        Thank you! You provided me with a wealth of information. I so appreciate your reply. Now -- how to narrow this list down ....

      2. As a rather young person heavily into the food scene here...

        I would, as strongly as possible, recommend Perbacco and NOPA. Perbacco, imo, is just a spectacular restaurant, Italian, and amazingly well priced for what it is. Also, while food is straight up Italian, seems to have an SF vibe. NOPA is the epitome of SF -- it is fun, loud, the food is creative and terrific.

        Those would be my strong top 2 recommendations.

        Does 'vegetarian' leave out fish? If you and your youngest do eat fish, Ame should be your splurge. Meat for the meat eaters, but this restaurant really captures what SF food is all about and truly, it is excellent.

        Slanted Door is also great and a great SF experience but I think it is getting somewhat overpriced.

        La Folie is my favorite restaurant in town, but it is French (Provencal) -- As good as any French restaurant I've been to outside Michelin **/*** in France, but it is French, which I'm sure you have in Toronto. Vegetarian tasting menu. $$$$

        Go to the Mission and get burritos for lunch at some point. The most famous are La Taqueria (not certain if they have veggie) and Taqueria Can-Cun, though my favorite is Papalote.

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        Slanted Door
        Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

        Perbacco
        230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        La Folie
        2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

        La Taqueria
        2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        3 Replies
        1. re: whiner

          Thank you so much for all your advice! I'm going to look into all your recommendations and plot out our
          eating adventure in SF! So many choices, so little time ....

          1. re: whiner

            Along the Mission neighborhood lines, Tartine Bakery and Delfina Pizzeria, and Bi-Rite Creamery are all within a block of each other. If the food is not special to you being from Toronto, it's at least a show of a "food obessesed" neighborhood too. RE: Bi-Rite, I am a Mitchell's Ice Cream fan, but Bi-Rite is special!

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            Tartine Bakery
            600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Mitchell's Ice Cream
            688 San Jose Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Bi-Rite Creamery
            3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

            1. re: rln

              Okay -- we are from Toronto but that doesn't mean we're not going to appreciate good food wherever we find it! We recently had the best meal at a run-down little Italian eatery in Scottsdale Arizona. It was cheap, cheerful, and allowed us to taste the best pasta we've ever had! We went back twice during our one week visit. So -- I'm blocking in a visit to the Mission neighbourhood! Thanks so much for your advice.

          2. Canteen for brunch/lunch (hours of service vary day-to-day).

            If your girls are food obsessed they might enjoy exploring some food-rich areas (the Mission, Clement St., even Chinatown once you get off Grant St.) and making their own discoveries.

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            Canteen
            817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            12 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Great -- a lunch place, and some food-rich areas to discover! Thanks so much for your help.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                If Clement makes the list, Burma Superstar may be of interest.

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                Burma Superstar
                4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                1. re: rln

                  Thanks! I'm keeping notes of all these places as fast as I can! I'll be sure to look into Burma Superstar.

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                  Burma Superstar
                  4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                  1. re: alhanson

                    Their samusa soup & their signature salads/noodle dishes are some the menus best veg. preparations. We've ordered some of the other dishes such as tofu tower (i believe) & the poodi and have been disappointed.

                    I also love, love Perbacco. Please be sure to tell the server you are vegetarian & to steer you accordingly. I recently had a pasta w/ wild mushroom dish which which was sooo good, I could have licked the plate clean; however, I suspected later it may have had a meat based sauce. I am not a vegetarian but am wary of such things as I often dine with vegetarians.

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                    Perbacco
                    230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    1. re: ceekskat

                      Okay -- that's 3 recommendations for Perbacco, so it's a definite! Thank you for weighing in on this. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good restaurant on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge?
                      We'll probably walk across it one day (how touristy is that?), so would likely be looking for a place to
                      have lunch.

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                      Perbacco
                      230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      1. re: alhanson

                        My husband & I went to Perbacco for dinner this past Saturday (4/17/10) and loved it. As mentioned, it has a hip, "buzzy" vibe but the food was excellent. Save room for dessert! Their menu is updated online, so it gives you a good idea of what to expect. Have fun!

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                        Perbacco
                        230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        1. re: alhanson

                          Murray Circle at Cavallo Point is a restaurant on the North side of the bridge, down beneath it. It might work for you. You could also walk into Sausalito, which is a bit of a hike but doable, where there are a number of choices. Then you could take the ferry back to San Francisco which is a beautiful ride on a nice day.

                          -----
                          Murray Circle
                          601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

                          Cavallo Point
                          601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA

                          1. re: alhanson

                            Just realize that it's a fairly long walk across the bridge (1.7 miles from south access point to north access point), and then you have to figure out how to get back. One thing to consider would be renting bicycles (there are places in the Wharf area -- here's one: http://www.blazingsaddles.com/maps-an...) and riding across and then into Sausalito, then taking the ferry back. Also, plan to do it mid-morning, when you're likely to get the optimal weather conditions.

                            1. re: alhanson

                              You can take the 28 SF Muni bus to the south end of the Golden Gate, from there it's three miles to Cavallo Point and another mile to Sausalito, where you can get the ferry or a Golden Gate Transit bus back to SF.

                              -----
                              Cavallo Point
                              601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA

                              1. re: alhanson

                                I've done the Golden Gate Bridge walk many times. I try to time things so I hit the middle at dawn. As others have pointed out, getting to the south side is pretty easy: you can bus there, cab there or walk. Sausalito, on the other side, is downhill and easy on the legs. A ferry ride home makes great sense.

                                I like FISH in Sausalito. We generally grab a picnic table there overlooking the marina. Food/drink is pretty good, cash only. It's very casual, great way to kill an afternoon. Not cheap. Hamburgers, on Bridgeway, can be pretty good but it's a meat thing.

                                Whatever your choice, enjoy the walk.

                          2. re: rln

                            I think Clement St. is good for a tourist because it's between two top tourist sites: the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park.

                            I think visiting Berkeley is a great idea, too, especially with girls that age.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Okay -- we'll have to rethink a visit to Berkely. The last time my husband and I went, we were both so impressed with the subway system -- I would like my daughters to see that (given that they HATE the subway in Toronto!)

                        2. If your daughters are food obsessed, you should take them across the Bay to Berkeley -- take them to Chez Panisse for lunch or dinner (the cafe is probably better than the restaurant, and great for vegetarians), and spend some time wandering around the area. They'll have likely heard of it or Alice Waters, and it's fun for a teenager or young adult to go to a "famous" place. I second the recommendation for the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. An exploration of the Mission will definitely be fun, especially given their ages: Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphrey Slocombe, a variety of taquerias and pizza places are all around there, and they'll hit things that they find fun and tasty.

                          -----
                          Tartine Bakery
                          600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Bi-Rite Creamery
                          3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Chez Panisse
                          1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: JasmineG

                            Thanks for taking time to reply! Unfortunately, we won't be in SF on a Saturday, but I'm happy to see that there is a market on Tuesday and Thursday. Really -- we only have 5 full days :-( so I need to start narrowing down our plans for each day. I think the Mission district is a must (plus my husband and I never saw it last time), and the girls seem interested in Chinatown. Any shopping they can sneak in along the way will be a bonus!

                            1. re: alhanson

                              The Ferry Building inside will be fun for them no matter what the day, so you should stop in there. The Tuesday and Thursday markets are much much smaller than the Saturday market, but they're still fun -- Tuesday is more produce oriented, so maybe do that one and then go inside for browsing. The Mission has some great shopping as well as great food, so your girls will love it.

                              1. re: alhanson

                                Chinatown has some places with decent mostly-cantonese food, but I think that if you are just there for the food, you can easily find comparable or better cantonese food in Markham/ Mississauga.

                                That said, the streets, especially on Stockton where all the produce/ meat markets are, are likely a little more colorful/ crowded and noisier than the chinatowns in Toronto and the big suburban chinese malls.

                              2. re: JasmineG

                                Yes, come to Berkeley. They'll enjoy the trifecta of Cheeseboard pizza, Love at first Bite cupcakes and Lush Gelato.

                                -----
                                Lush Gelato
                                1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                1. re: nicedragonboy

                                  Well, I'd take the cupcakes out of that equation, I've never had a good cupcake from them. But the pizza and cheese from Cheeseboard and the Lush Gelato are all fantastic.

                                  -----
                                  Lush Gelato
                                  4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                    yeah...my last cupcake there was kinda dry actually...but come on, at the risk of sounding sexist...but girls and cupcakes just go together.

                                  2. re: nicedragonboy

                                    Oh, if you're there, you HAVE to try out Masse's Pastries - share a small cake or tart, you won't be disappointed.

                                    -----
                                    Masse's Pastries
                                    1469 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709