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Recommendations for Interesting Upscale/Mid-Range San Francisco Restaurant

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Hi Everyone -

My wife and I will be in San Francisco for one night in June and I'm looking for guidance in choosing a place for dinner that night. I am most interested in an upscale/mid-range (not quite fine dining) restaurant focused on local, seasonal ingredients and with a very good wine list strong in smaller, lesser known Napa, Sonoma wines that we would not necessarily be able to find at home. We are from Boston but have visited San Francisco quite a bit over the years (last visit about 5 years ago, however).

Based on my research so far, here are some of the places I am considering:

-- Nopa
-- Quince (I have read that they have moved recently but haven't heard many reports)
-- 1550 Hyde
-- Piperade
-- SPQR
-- Boulevard (I ate here years ago but my wife has not)
-- Incanto

I haven't completely ruled out going up a tier on the fine dining/price scale (I have to admit that Coi looks pretty interesting), but I am leaning more towards mid-range for this particular meal. This is the first night of a 4-day trip in the area and we will have just arrived in San Francisco from the east coast so I'm not sure we'll be up for a more elaborate meal. In the past, we have eaten at La Folie, Michael Mina and Fleur de Lys (with La Folie being our favorite among those three), so if we do go the fine dining route, we would probably want to try some place new.

I would love to hear any of your thoughts on the above places or suggestions for any others that we should consider.

Thanks very much.

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

Piperade
1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

Nopa
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

1550 Hyde
1550 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

SPQR
1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

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  1. I would revamp your list of considerations. I would eliminate Nopa, Piperade, SPQR, and Boulevard. Maybe even 1550 Hyde but I haven't been so maybe someone else can add their 2 cents on that one.

    I would leave Quince and Incanto in the mix.

    I would add the following:

    A16 instead of SPQR
    Delfina instead of NOPA
    Perbacco instead of Piperade
    Acquerello instead of Boulevard

    Maybe even a Range or Aziza might be of interest.

    -----
    Perbacco
    230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    A16
    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

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

    Piperade
    1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

    Nopa
    560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

    1550 Hyde
    1550 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Acquerello Restaurant
    1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

    SPQR
    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scott M

      I disagree with A16 over SPQR. While I like A16 because of the atmosphere and the wine list, the food is much more pedestrian (e.g. wood fired pizzas and simple oven roasted meats) than the food at SPQR under the new chef. I think the new chef of SPQR, Matthew Accarrino, is doing some of the best food in SF, particularly his housed made pastas such as his tortelloni stuffed with straciatella with artichokes or his buckwheat spaghetti with suckling pig ragu. In fact, the pastas at SPQR rival Quince's for half the price.

      I would change Piperade for Contigo as there are too many Italian suggestions already and for high end dining Coi is the best of the lot.

      -----
      A16
      2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

      Piperade
      1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

      SPQR
      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      Contigo
      1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

    2. The request for local wines eliminates a fair number of places, e.g. Incanto and SPQR have only Italian wines.

      1. I would definitely go with NOPA.

        The innovation of their wine list has been recognized in several publications.

        Moreso, if you want to understand just about every current trend in the San Francisco dining scene all at the same time, NOPA is your place: local ingredients, small menu, familiar foods, artisanal cocktails, open kitchen, communal tables, burgers, pizza [flatbread], generally casual atmosphere and service

        3 Replies
        1. re: vulber

          I like Nopa but there is a downside in that the menu can be hit and miss, the desserts are weak, the place is very loud and the bar scene can spill into the main dining area creating an obnoxious environment. I took some out of town guests to Nopa recently and wish we had gone somewhere else since it was very loud and the bar crowd spilled out into the main dining area when made for a less than relaxing dining experience.

          For those reasons I think that for someone having just one night to choose a place for dinner it would not be at the top of my list.

          -----
          Nopa
          560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

          1. re: Scott M

            I'll absolutely agree with you about it being very loud and the environment, but I'd have to disagree with your comments about the food

            While some desserts are certainly better than others, I have never had a weak dessert there, and I've found the food to be fairly consistently good (the tagine and the burger are always on the menu and consistently great, as well as a seasonal flatbread, seasonal pasta, etc.)

            1. re: Scott M

              The criticism I hear the most about the food is that it's not incredibly original or innovative, which I agree with to an extent, but that's also the reason why it's so popular, because it offers people superb renditions of food they're familiar with

          2. My suggestion:
            Quince.( 540 Pacific) Execellant food,service and beautiful interior.
            Gary Danko.one of best in the city.
            Always checkout their websites. That will give you idea of pricepoint.
            Another one is Spruce in Pacific Heights.
            I am sure you will not be disappointed.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Peters17

              note that they want something that is "not quite fine dining", which definitely rules out gary danko, and potentially quince

              1. re: vulber

                I agree, I consider Quince more upscale, and they do offer tasting menus. So if they don't feel like going that route, Quince might not be the best match although it is a fine restaurant to dine at.

            2. You might look into the wine-on-tap trend. Those wines are all local. Some of the wines are very hard to find, even custom blends served nowhere else.

              http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...
              http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/din...

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I haven't been to Frances, but from what I hear, it would seem to fit your criteria.

                1. re: vulber

                  When I was reading the OP's description of what they're looking for, Frances came to mind. That's if you can get a reservation. If you're coming for just one night, not sure you'll feel good about waiting for more than an hour at the bar. But if you're coming late June, you may still be able to get a reservation (maybe later like 9 p.m.?) Frances has a nice casual but pleasing feel, food is well done although some may say boring, and pretty good wine program with the former wine director from COI.

                  -----
                  Coi
                  373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  1. re: singleguychef

                    In looking at the Frances wine list online I wouldn't consider it strong in smaller, lesser known Napa, Sonoma wines. Overall, it may be a well selected wine list but I don't consider it very strong in regards to either depth or breadth of smaller lesser known Napa/Sonoma wineries.

              2. From your list, Boulevard is the best but by far the most expensive and most 'upscale'. Apart from that, by far your best bet, especially given your peramiters is NOPA. I love NOPA and eat there all the time, as do many in the restaurant industry in the city.

                5 Replies
                1. re: whiner

                  Thanks to everyone for the great recommendations and ideas. Frances sounds perfect but unfortuately they have no availability before July 2 (we are visiting in June). Quince also looks really good, but they have nothing on our night other than 5:30 so that one is out as well.

                  Nopa is a definite contender and we are also now looking at Spruce. Spruce seems to have a strong wine list, which is important to us. However, I'm having a hard time getting a read on the food there. Seems like reviews are mixed. Can anyone provide a little more feedback on their experience there?

                  Thanks again.

                  -----
                  Nopa
                  560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                  1. re: Tennyson

                    The food at Spruce is phenomenal, the reason I didn't recommend it is that I would consider it to be fine dining; unless you sit at the bar (which has its own menu that's gotten very good reports)

                    1. re: Tennyson

                      If you're just going by Opentable, always follow up with a phone call.

                      1. re: Tennyson

                        I'm not a fan of Spruce at all. They use animal fat to make things taste better as opposed to using actual good cooking. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with duck fat french fries; but I find they go overboard with animal fat to compensate for lack of technique. The room is nice, though.

                        1. re: whiner

                          What non-potato dishes do they use animal fat for?

                          Even so, I find nothing wrong with that. Fat will make any food taste better. Even the ultimate "let the ingredients speak for themselves" restaurants wouldn't have the stellar reputation they have without the use of copious amounts of butter.

                          Is a traditional peking duck preparation lacking in technique because the best part of the taste is the fat?