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What's the SF equivalent of LA's Animal or NYC's Momofuku Ssam?

I have one night in SF next month and will be meeting up with another friend from out of town. I'm looking for the kind of moderately-priced, casual but fun restaurant that pleases both foodies and less adventurous diners - which, for me, tends to be exemplified by restaurants like Animal or Momofuku Ssam. What'll be my best bet? For what it's worth, I'm going to be staying at the W, and my friend will be coming in from Mill Valley.

Much obliged for any suggestions...

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  1. I hate to say this, but having eaten at both Animal and Ssam, that San Francisco really has nothing like either restaurant.

    Casual and fun in San Francisco tends towards Frances, perhaps Gitane, Ame, or SPQR.

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    SPQR
    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    Gitane Restaurant & Bar
    6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

    1 Reply
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      I would go for SPQR. Have been to Momofuku Ssam and while the food is completely different, it is excellent, and has broad appeal, from pig ears to pasta.

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      SPQR
      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    2. If you're thinking of pricey Asian fusion (I don't think of Momofuku Ssam Bar as "moderate") you might give Heaven's Dog a try.

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      Heaven's Dog
      1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

      1. Pleasing to both foodies and adventurous diners would say Nopa to me.

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        Nopa
        560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

        1 Reply
        1. re: JasmineG

          I absolutlely love going to NOPA, but I wouldn't necessarily consider it adventurous. Their menu is basically familiar "comfort food" done extremely well with innovative techniques (brining the porkchop all day), everything from scratch (making the brioche buns for the hamburgers every day), with extremely high quality ingredients, but it's still just burgers, pizza [flatbread], fries, steak, fish, roast chicken, soups, salads

        2. I had a few dishes at Namu that reminded me of Ssam Bar (I don't think it's as strong of a restaurant overall though). CAV wine bar might fit the bill too - more creative than your average SF restaurant, but with enough familiar tastes and textures to please the less adventurous.

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          Namu
          439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

          1. Frankly I'd screw trying to find something like Animal and Momo and go with SF's strength. Between SF and Marin? I'd go to Aziza. Cal-Moroccan, "exotic", fusion-y and different yet accessible palette, won't get it anywhere else, Michelin starred, NorCal.

            1 Reply
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Incanto has slid the past few years; I suspect that Cosentino has become a bit distracted becoming a local banner boy and whatnot. My last two meals there were less than exceptional.

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                Cosentino's
                San Jose, San Jose, CA

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  Doesn't seem to have gone downhill to me. I've had some great dishes there since the remodel. I was very sad to see that they dropped all the Sicilian wines from the list.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/680347

              2. I would go to Contigo. It's casual and just awesome. Never understood the fuss over Spanish food until eating there.

                For a Marin option, about 15 mins north of Mill Valley is Insalata's. I've always had great meals there.

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                Contigo
                1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                1. One that I just thought of that you might want to consider is FIVE in Berkeley. While the quality of the food didn't absolutely blow me away, everything was delicious and high-quality, and there were a lot of interesting, innovative takes on traditional dishes that worked well (like orzo mac and cheese)

                  1. Looks like we'll have to be hopeful about Plum. Fox appears to have done a stint at Animal recently, and he and Patterson have adventurous streaks a mile wide.

                    Of course that'll be in Oakland and y'all tourists will be thin on the ground (the site's close to 19th street bart though). I shed a quiet crocodile tear.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Plum will be like Coi (and Ubuntu) and be much more focused on vegetables than fish or meat.

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                      Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                      1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                      1. re: Paul H

                        I'm hoping it will be *better* than Coi. My meals at Coi have always been peppered with disappointing dishes that overshadowed the brilliance of the other courses while at Ubuntu, I can't recall ever having a dish that disappointed.

                        It will be interesting to see how much Patterson lets Fox express himself. Will it feel like Jeremy's kitchen or Daniel's?

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                        Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                        1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                    2. Thanks to everyone for their advice... I'm deciding between SPQR, Frances, and Nopa. Of the three, which is the most casual, i.e. the least likely to look askance at someone who wanders in wearing a pair of flip-flops?

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                      Nopa
                      560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                      SPQR
                      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Asperges

                        Definitely NOPA, especially considering how many chefs come and eat there after they get out of work

                        1. re: Asperges

                          Unless you are there right when they open and want to sit at the bar, you can hardly wander into Frances; their reservations are booked solid for over six weeks.

                          Of the three, none will care if you wearing flip-flops...

                        2. I've been to Ssam and Animal and enjoy both. The closest I've come to the vibe of those 2 spots in SF is Wexler's. Low key (went in flip flops) with a tasty, seasonal menu that hits rich and delicious man food- Especially recommend the Cornmeal Crusted Skate- one of the best things I've eaten in months. Also has tasty salads- great seafood salad with very fresh SB uni! Scotch eggs are fun, as is pork plate.
                          Bartenders are doing nice things: "smoked" manhattan rocked and they make a competent corpse reviver #2.

                          This is not upscale BBQ- it's inventive food by a former Michelin Starred chef done in a low key environment, with no entrees over $20.

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                          Wexler's
                          568 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: PAHound

                            does wexler serve the scotch eggs for lunch?

                          2. Thanks again, everyone! I tried to get a table at Frances but, as CarrieWas pointed out, it was booked 6 weeks in advance, so we're winding up at SPQR... Looking forward to it!

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                            SPQR
                            1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Asperges

                              Is it just me?
                              We really didn't care for any of our meal at Frances and the lunch I just had at FIVE was just plain awful!
                              Wexler's on the other hand was very good. Only exception was the hostess's attitude but the fantastic bartender made up for it.
                              The shrimp and grits was one of the best things I've had this year!