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DC Foodie Needs LOTS of Help to Feed Picky Non-Foodie Mother in SF

I will be going to SF with my mother from DC over July 4 and need your help to pick out restaurants! So far, it is a blank slate as to where we will be eating.

We land on Friday (July 2) just in time for dinner. We are staying at a hotel near the airport (which I realize is a good 30 minutes outside of the city) but we will have a rental car. As we will have been flying for the majority of the night and jetlagged, and I will be tired from working all day/week, do you have any suggestions for a restaurant that serves good food and is close to the airport area? I don't think either of us will be in the mood to battle traffic/parking and eat in SF.

On Saturday (July 3), we are headed up to Napa for vineyard tours at the Rubicon Estate and the Hess Collection. I have tentatively made reservations at Bouchon for lunch. Is this a good or bad choice? The last time I was in Napa, I wanted to head to French Laundry or Bouchon, but was unable to make it. In addition, we need a place to eat dinner at, either in Napa area or SF. What are your suggestions? The last tour ends at 2:45 pm and after hanging around the estate for a little bit, I think we will be ready to leave by 4 pm. With holiday traffic in mind, I'm thinking it may be wise to head back to SF versus staying in wine country. Thoughts?

Sunday (July 4) we will be visiting a friend of mine in San Jose. I realize this is a SF board, but if you have any suggestions for lunch and dinner in San Jose or between SF and San Jose, please let me know.

Monday (July 5) we are leaving in the middle of the afternoon so we will be needing a place to eat lunch. As my mom is a stereotypical tourist, we are doing the morning tour of Alcatraz and possibly stopping by Boudin Bakery at the Wharf to see bread being made through the windows. Any wharf restaurants that you suggest? I know there are plenty of them.

My mom is a VERY picky restaurant goer, so here are some stipulations -
1. The restaurant cannot be loud.
2. Servers must be polite and preferably not wear perfume.
3. She does not like sitting at cramped tables so keep space in mind.
4. She does not like hole in the wall restaurants even if the food is amazing. (We have had many battles about this point before as I am the opposite and cherish hole in the wall places.)

This is her first time to San Francisco and I would love for her to try cioppino and sanddabs. I know that Tadich is the touristy place to go for both...but I have seen some very unflattering reviews from many SF hounds on Tadich. The other places mentioned on some boards have also had comments about the restaurant being "loud" (please refer to Mama rule #1). In addition, my mom does not like ethnic food, so no Chinatown visits for dim sum (this is something that makes me cry as I love dim sum from SF). She likes the basics - seafood, steak, sandwiches, and salads. Regardless of all of this, I would like for us to enjoy our eating SF experience as I know there is so much delicious and amazing food there.

I realize this is a lot to ask for - please think hard for me SF hounds!

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The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Rubicon Estate
1991 Saint Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA

Bouchon
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

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  1. That is a tough set of requirements. My parents are non-foodies and but are a bit more flexible on hole in the wall and noise. The places they remember and request to go back to have been House of Prime Rib and Chow. People on the board usually recommend Scoma's on the warf to eat but my parents really loved the resturant at Boudin's (the upstairs portion) and it was definitely quiet, spacious and with gracious staff. I have to admit that I enjoyed my clam chowder in a bread bowl there, the clam chowder wasn't anything spectacular to begin with, but when the sourdough started melting into it and you could spoon that up along with the chowder in your bites, it was happy eating for me.

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

    Chow
    215 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

    Scoma's Fisherman's Wharf
    47 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe
    39 Pier # Q5, San Francisco, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Meredith

      I usually melt the complimentary butter I get with the bread into the chowder to make it palatable

    2. Maybe Fog City Diner?
      They have booths and non-fancy but solid fare.

      Maybe Postrio? Or is that too fancy?

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

      Postrio Cafe & Bar
      545 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94102

      2 Replies
      1. re: pauliface

        Despite its name, Fog City Diner is definitely foodie fare.

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

        1. re: pauliface

          Was in San Fran in January and went to Fog City twice. Good food, good drinks, good staff, not to loud. For a picky eater, they shouldn't have a problem there.

        2. Might look at Tadich Grill. Old school SF, 100+ years in business. Get some kind of simple fish, sand dabs. Zuni Cafe is also very SF but safe for mom.

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          Zuni Cafe
          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

          Tadich Grill
          240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          6 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            How about Hayes Street Grill?
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6616...

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            Hayes Street Grill
            324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            1. re: wolfe

              Good idea. My grandfather, an unadventurous eater who has a hard time hearing sometimes, likes Hayes Street Grill. The fish is very, very fresh, the fries are great, and the salad is good. I find it pretty boring in atmosphere and seasoning, and a bit pricey for its lack of ooomph for my taste, but there's something to be said for simple, quality seafood. If you time your reservation to not be right before a performance at the Symphony/Opera/Ballet, you will have plenty of personal space.

              Another place I've successfully taken my grandfather is Bacco. I think the food is great (focus on the housemade pasta), plenty of space, nicely dressed classic waiters, etc.

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              Hayes Street Grill
              324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

              1. re: wolfe

                You mean the nunnery? :) Hayes Street is a nice quite place and the fish is very good and always fresh...but it reminds me of a convent and to me that means a nun might pop out and whack me on the knuckles.

                1. re: ML8000

                  That's why I recommended it based on your previous post that I linked to.
                  "Take Granny to Hayes St. Grill. It's quiet, you'll be able to have a conversation and the interior is like a nunnery or a church hall in the Scottish countryside."
                  ML8000 Oct 24, 2009 12:57AM

              2. re: ML8000

                Yes to Sand Dabs and Longbranch Potatoes - a type of steak house fry soaked in sugar water before frying.

                Recently the much touted Cioppino stood only on nostalgia. An undistinctive stew of great ingredients that in hot but unreduced "broth". Little flavor despite the ingredients.

                Maybe mine was the only one like that they ever served? New cook?

                The Cioppino at Anchor Oyster so far is the best I've tasted but it's too tiny for Mom.

                I've never tried Cioppino at the Wharf.

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                Anchor Oyster Bar
                579 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                1. re: stanbee

                  Not sure if you were referring to the dish Cioppino at the wharf or the restaurant Cioppino's, but Cioppino's the restaurant actually makes a pretty tasty cioppino (thankfully), and is not too extravagantly priced at around $25-$26.

                  Not surprisingly, it's one of only a few good dishes they have, stick to their dishes with crab.

              3. I'd also look at Firefly in Noe Valley. I consider it quiet, not cramped, and the food is kinda sorta basic. Street parking only, though, which might not be such a big deal on a holiday weekend. Dinner only.

                http://www.fireflyrestaurant.com/menu...

                1. Recommending places around the airport is hard (except for near-by excellent Chinese).

                  Not far by car is the very unpretentious but solid Boulevard Cafe in Daly city. It's like a good Greek diner, if you find yourselves needing a "normal' meal.

                  Tadich is great but there is usually a line -- and no reservations.

                  Sam's Grill is old-school like Tadich but smaller and quieter (also downtown).

                  Bacco is a very nice, calm Italian neighborhood place in Noe Valley.

                  Acquerello is very nice, upscale, quiet northen Italian. Great wine pairings.

                  Scoma's or Boudin are fine if you going to be at the warf. You can get your SF seafood requirement at Scoma's. It's just a bit expensive due to tourist location.

                  BTW I'd recomend bringing or renting a GPS for the car.

                  Hope you manage to have some fun!

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