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Yet another SF first timer...help fill in my plan's gaps

Hello, chowhounders. My partner and I will be in San Francisco from July 21 to the 25th. We'll be staying just a few blocks from The Palace of Fine Arts (out of the way, I know, but it was cheap) and we will have a car. After doing some research on the usual sites, and getting some input from a local friend I think I have some pretty good ideas, but I have some slots that still need to be filled, and I'm always open for changing some of what I've already researched.

We're both in our mid-twenties. I'm an adventurous and experienced eater, he enjoys food but has limited experience with, for lack of a better word, "ethnic" food. I don't have a set budget in mind but we're probably only looking for a couple of spendier meals, and by spendier I mean with the total tab for both of us up to or around $100. Neither of us are big drinkers and when we do drink it's usually beer. Between us we also live within easy driving distance to NYC, Boston, Philly, and DC so food experiences which are uniquely Californian/San Franciscan get higher priority.

The thing I'm looking forward to the most is the Ferry Building. I've seen some recs to go on Saturday - is this definitely the best day, or at least way better than the other days? If it is there is no reason we couldn't go on Saturday but I just wanted to confirm if everybody thinks Saturday is the best way to go. Or if it even matters.

For one of our more special meals I'm set on Incanto. I have a friend who used to work there and the menu appeals to me a lot. My boyfriend is also a big beef eater and I floated the idea of House of Prime Rib which he seemed to like a lot. The old-school vibe looks neat and I think he'd welcome the familiar food, even if I probably wouldn't head here if I were eating solo. I've also considered Frances, Nopa, Salt House, and Flour + Water, so if anyone has strong feelings about those or similar places let me know.

I'd also like a dinner option specifically in the Castro. Chow looks good but I don't feel strongly about it.

Lunch places I've considered are Tartine Bakery, El Farolito, and we both like burgers so Burgermeister and/or Slider's although I'm sure people here have strong opinions about burgers or whether San Francisco burgers are worth the stomach space on such a short trip. If we can fit it in the happy hour at Bar Crudo looks great.

Questions - I have a request for "something Asian" from the bf. I'm pretty dumbfounded on this one, but I'm thinking something cheap and uniquely West Coast, if at all possible. Help.

He's also expressed interest in Bette's Ocean View in Berkeley, but he also knows it's not worth hiking over there just for that. Could we combine a trip there with other things in Berkeley for maybe a half day thing?

Lastly, I think I'd like to do at least one sit down breakfast/brunch meal. We both are Bloody Mary obsessives and we're more into eggs and proteins than waffles and pancakes.

Thanks for suggestions on this. Obviously I'm planning more than any two normal people can eat in just a few days but I'd like to have too many things on my "too try" list than too few!

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Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

House of Prime Rib
1906 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109

Bar Crudo
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Nopa
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Salt House
2 Shaw Aly, San Francisco, CA 94105

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  1. Saturday at the Ferry Building has a very large farmers market in addition to all the inside stores fully manned. It is the day to go and everybody does so it is very busy. Do it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Got it. My reading comprehension skills must have taken a dive, I somehow missed the big farmers market was on Saturday. That certainly helps scheduling.

      1. re: wolfe

        My suggestion is that you go as early as you can. It does get crowded. I go at 8:00 AM when parking is easy and the crowds are fewer.

      2. You may be wondering how the WC Cafe got in the right hand corner. The place link read your post about you "uniquely" request and translated it into a restaurant which you can remove.

        1. For your Castro meal you might like Home. They do classic American comfort food with really fresh ingredients. Slightly upscaled versions of comfort food in a casually hip place.

          Berkely is worth the trip if you want to make a food day out of it. Bette's is okay but expect a wait. After that check out Berkely Bowl and then the gormet ghetto for lunch (Cheeseboard especially). There are tons of Berkely recos on CH, so do a little searching and post back with any questions.

          1. If you want the Chinatown experience, try R&G Lounge on Kearny. Great place for both locals and tourists. Not sure what you mean by "West Coast Asian", but the food there is consistently good. I agree with Shane, Home is wonderful. Farmer Brown is terrific for home cooked soul food. I hear raves about Spork in the Mission. For seafood, I recommend Hyde Street Seafood and for Italian, Trattoria Contadina. Oh, and as crowded and touristy as it is, brunch at the Buena Vista is always a treat. Have fun eating your way through the city, I know I always do!!

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            Trattoria Contadina
            1800 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Spork
            1058 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Buena Vista Cafe
            2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            Farmer Brown
            25 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

            1. >>"Questions - I have a request for "something Asian" from the bf. I'm pretty dumbfounded on this one, but I'm thinking something cheap and uniquely West Coast, if at all possible. Help. "

              You may want to consider House of Nanking (919 Kearny Street). It is universally panned on this board by repeat visitors and Chinese purists, but due to it's quirky uniqueness most tourists and first time visitors come away quite happy with the food and the experience. Odd, I know...

              IMO, the hot three ethic cuisines in SF right now are Vietnamese, Peruvian, and Yucatan, so if you have a hard time finding good versions in your area you may want to consider places like Bodego Bistro, Inka's, or Poc Chuc.

              -----
              Inkas Restaurant
              3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              House of Nanking
              919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

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

              2 Replies
              1. re: Civil Bear

                Oh man, you opened the HON can of worms. I'd say go to Yuet Lee for some crab or clams. It's a dive but seafood is very fresh.

                The recs on Bodego, Inka's and Poc Chuc are good. Might also add Burmese, Burmese Kitchen, Burma Superstar, Yamo for unique.

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                Inkas Restaurant
                3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Yamo
                3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                Burma Superstar
                4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  OMG, House of Nanking. Don't do it! Even if I agree with CivilBear that it's better than it's ugly reputation, you can simply do better.

                  Slanted Door hasn't been mentioned. West coast asian, for sure. For meat-loving BF, shaking beef. Cocktails. View of the water. If you want "actual" chinese, the R&G Lounge rec is pretty good. So is Yank Sing. For an actual experience, search Jai Yun.

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                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  Jai Yun
                  680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  Yank Sing
                  49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                  House of Nanking
                  919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                2. Frances is in the Castro and is very good, but tough to get a reservation at. Give it a shot on Open Table, though -- it's usually booked well over a month in advance.

                  I like Bette's but I don't know if I would cross the Bay for it. That said, there's plenty to see and do, food-wise, in Berkeley and Oakland, especially if you have a car. Things that I think are better than anything in SF include Local 123 (for drip coffee and espresso drinks), Berkeley Bowl, Crixa Cakes (for Eastern European pastries) and Lush Gelato (w/ a new location that just opened in the Gourmet Ghetto). The Cheeseboard rec is also a good one (they do a pretty unique style of pizza), or you might even try to squeeze in lunch at the Chez Panisse Cafe.

                  Tartine Bakery is a good idea and is in a fun area to explore. Right across the street is the Bi-Rite Creamery, which is excellent (I rank it second to Lush as far as ice cream / gelato are concerned).

                  For an amazing (if slightly pricey) burger at a more uniquely SF restaurant, consider Zuni Cafe. Lots of threads on this board. The burger's only available at lunch (or late night), so that's when I would go.

                  For a sit-down brunch, I like Canteen.

                  For your Asian meal, you could opt for something like Slanted Door, which from what I gather is like a Cal-cuisine take on Vietnamese food, but that would not be cheap. (For the record, I haven't been, and it gets mixed reviews on this board). Or you can go for some of the less commonly found Asian cuisines that are strong in SF -- Burmese food is really big now (Burmese Kitchen, Mandalay, or Burma Superstar), and there is also excellent Muslim/Northern Chinese (I like Old Mandarin Islamic). You're getting here past Dungeness crab season; otherwise, I would recommend getting some Vietnamese-style roast crab at PPQ Dungeness Island.

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                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  Zuni Cafe
                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Berkeley Bowl
                  2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                  Tartine Bakery
                  600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                  Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
                  3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

                  Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
                  452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Canteen
                  817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                  Chez Panisse
                  1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  Crixa Cakes
                  2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                  Lush Gelato
                  4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                  Local 123
                  2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                  Frances
                  3870 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

                  Lush Gelato
                  1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    I agree with all of these recommendations, and the suggestions for the day in Berkeley are good. Frances also has a bar that you can eat at that is first come first serve, so you could try there if you get there on the early side, or call and see if they have a waiting list for reservations, or keep trying them on Open Table (that's how I got a reservation there). The burger at the new Marlowe has also been recommended lately, though I haven't had it.

                    Canteen has a great brunch, and I am an eggs/protein person at brunch too, you'll enjoy it.

                  2. Francis is excellent--try to get in there and yes, it's in the Castro. Nopa and Flour + Water are also very good. I have been going to HOPR for years and it has hardly changed at all--if you want prime rib (and lots of it--you can have seconds if you want) go there. In the Marina, near where you're staying, Delarosa is great for pizzas, small dishes and lots of beer on tap. Judy's Cafe, also in the Marina on Chestnut Street, has excellent breakfast egg dishes.

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                    Nopa
                    560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    Delarosa
                    2175 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bobpantzer

                      Francis is our patron saint, Frances is the restaurant. Francis gets you hotels, soda fountains,yacht clubs etc. ♂ francis ♀ frances ;-)

                    2. Definitely go to the Sat Ferry Building. I don't recommend getting there at 8am. You aren't there for your weekly shopping, so the mobs of tourists wont get in your way (in fact, they're kind of fun for a one-off visit.)

                      Start the market day with a Blue Bottle Coffee and pastry from Della Fattoria. After ogling at the produce, your focus should be on non-perishables and lunch. For non-perishables, don't miss June Taylor Preserves (outdoors, behind the building), Rancho Gordo beans (outdoors, in front of the building. I know beans don't sound exciting but trust me on this one), Happy Girl pickles (outdoors, behind the building), Boulette's Larder (inside the building) and Rechiutti Chocolates (inside the building). For lunch, I recommend sharing plates from Namu and Primavera, a bag of Chicarrones from 4505 meats, and a dessert of cheese and fruit: any cheese from Andante, Triple Delight blueberries, Dirty Girl strawberries, and Frog Hollow peaches.

                      I spent the last couple of years on the east coast and have entertained a few east coast foodies. For your meals, I recommend focusing on cuisines that SF does better than the east coast. Incanto's an excellent choice for this. House of Prime Rib, less so. The HoPR experience could be duplicated in just about any major urban center in the country. I don't think a burger out here is worth the stomach space, unless you're a serious burger fanatic. The burgers out east are great. Tartine Bakery will be a much more satisfying lunch option. Bar Crudo is great.

                      Please don't waste a meal on Chow. Frances is a great option in the Castro, if you can get in. If not, check out Contigo (technically in Noe Valley, but literally right next door to the Castro.)

                      Since you mention you're into beer, you might consider checking out some of the local beer bars. If you're a serious beer geek, Monk's Kettle, City Beer, and The Trappist (in Oakland) are all worthwhile. Check out some of the local stuff: Russian River Brewery and Moonlight Brewing Co are doing the best work in the state, IMO.

                      Bette's isn't worth a trip out to Berkeley (I live next door to Berkeley and I don't think Bette's is worth a trip to Berkeley.) Your BF probably saw it on Diner's and Drive Inns, but it just isn't that great. I think the best brunch in town is at Camino in Oakland, though it's not traditional. In fact, I'd argue that the Oakland food scene is much better than Berkeley's, if you're interested in the East Bay. Brunch at Camino followed by a hike in Redwood Regional Park and beers at the Trappist would be a fun day trip. That said, I'd consider Napa, Sonoma, or Pt Reyes if you're looking for a day trip.

                      For a really delicious, classic brunch with amazing eggs and pancakes, check out Canteen in SF.

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                      Tartine Bakery
                      600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Della Fattoria
                      141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

                      Rancho Gordo
                      1924 Yajome St, Napa, CA 94559

                      House of Prime Rib
                      1906 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109

                      Bar Crudo
                      655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

                      Namu
                      439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                      The Monk's Kettle
                      3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      Blue Bottle Cafe
                      66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      Contigo
                      1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                      Moonlight Brewing Co
                      PO Box 316 Fulton CA, CA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        I was reading down this thread compiling agrees, disagrees, and additions in my head, but then Morton said it all.

                        Thanks for saving me a lot of typing! What you're describing is exactly the type of trip I plan for my first time visitors.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          I agree with all of these recommendations, except for brunch at Camino (my experiences there have consistently had me leaving hungry and with an empty wallet). Napa or Sonoma are both great day trips, but travel time to either is a lot longer than from SF to the East Bay; a trip over the bridge takes about 15 minutes if it's not rush hour, and a trip to either Wine Country takes upwards of an hour without traffic (and more with) and there's almost always traffic in that direction in the summer, so keep that in mind for scheduling purposes.

                        2. The Ferry Building is fantastic, I would shop there every weekend if I didn't live in Boston. Slanted Door is very good, but very busy, either get reservations or stalk the bar when they first open. If a San Fran person can help me out, a Peruvian restaurant near the Ferry Building is quite good (La Mar?) But 5 days isn't enough time to enjoy eating in San Fran.

                          -----
                          Slanted Door
                          Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1. on lombard there is lhasa moon--tibetan--if you feel adventurous. often overlooked for quaint old style is matterhorn (fondue) on van ness. there are lots of trendy marina/cow hollow places--a-16, etc.
                            away from the marina, the valencia street food ghetto is lively--limon, maverick, delfina, last supper, garcon, chaya veg sushi is a total taste treat.
                            as for berkeley downtown and university ave, can be fun strolls along with maybe a picnic of artisan cheeses and bread somewhere hidden on the campus. there is a small but decent art museum. all of this is accessible by bart.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jujul

                              Lhasa Moon closed more than 5 years ago. When did you last eat there?

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Since you'll be staying in the neighborhood, you might like Outerlands in the Outer Sunset. Great beer selection. http://outerlandssf.blogspot.com/

                                I like Halu in the Inner Richmond for unique and not too expensive Asian. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/529643

                                Another great spot for beer is Rosamunde Sausage Grill on Mission St. Check out the beer menu...http://www.rosamundesausagegrill.com/.... This is walking distance from Bi-Rite and Tartine.

                                Aside from the food choices in Berkeley, the walk along the waterfront at the marina is a great view of the SF skyline.http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentD...

                                -----
                                Halu
                                312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                Rosamunde Sausage Grill
                                2832 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Last Supper club turned into Beretta quite a while ago as well.