HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

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!

-----
The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Rubicon Estate
1991 Saint Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA

Bouchon
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  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.

    -----
    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?

      -----
      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.

        -----
        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.

          -----
          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...

            -----
            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.

              -----
              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.

                -----
                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!

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

                  1. Fog City Diner and Zuni Cafe look like very good prospects. I am thinking about reserving one of those for dinner after Napa, as I think escaping Wine Country before the dinner rush is probably a good idea because of traffic.

                    I actually went to House of Prime Rib during my last visit to San Francisco because I have an open mind...but even that popular/highly rated restaurant could not convince me into liking steak. I dislike very few foods, and steak is one of them, so a restaurant dedicated primarily to steak is not a good idea for me.

                    We are definitely renting GPS, and parking in garages, so no worries about that.

                    What would you recommend eating at either place?

                    -----
                    Zuni Cafe
                    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

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

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: panchy

                      The crabcakes at Fog City are great. I am not a burger fan but my sister loves their burgers.. Just peeked at the memu and I would totally go for the fried green tomato sandwich.

                      Zuni favorites are the caesar salad, teh polenta w/mascarpone, and the roast chicken

                      -----
                      Zuni Cafe
                      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                      1. re: pauliface

                        So you don't think Zuni is loud? I changed the reservation because someone mentioned that earlier.

                        -----
                        Zuni Cafe
                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        1. re: panchy

                          Zuni got a four-decibel rating (one less than the highest/loudest) from our local restaurant critic, but I've never found the restaurant to be loud in the least -- however, I've only ever been for lunch. I think if you were to go for lunch or an early dinner, you'd be fine, but if you went during peak hours or later at night, then it probably wouldn't be suitable, given your stated concerns.

                          If you do go for lunch (though that doesn't seem likely to fit into your current itinerary), definitely consider getting the burger. It's excellent (and only available at lunch or late night). Zuni has one of the better selections of oysters in town as well.

                          -----
                          Zuni Cafe
                          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          1. re: abstractpoet

                            Zuni has a very underrated Sunday brunch, and it is quite peaceful then.

                            Nonetheless, the design definitely lends itself to a very noisy interior when busy, for many of the same reasons why NOPA is so noisy

                            -----
                            Zuni Cafe
                            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          2. re: panchy

                            Yes I think it's too loud, and besides which I don't give it a terribly strong recommendation (others recommended it, not me).

                            But if you do go, those are my favorite 3 dishes there. :-)

                            1. re: pauliface

                              Hmmm...okay I will stick with Fog City Diner since the dinner reservation has been made for 6:45 pm.

                              Any suggestions for what to order there, anyone?

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

                              1. re: panchy

                                Zuni can be loud, but there are a number of little side rooms/alcoves upstairs that are definitely quiet enough for easy conversation. If you request a quiet room when you make your reservation, you'll likely get a table in one of those areas (I did recently and it was perfect for my group).

                                If you stay at Fog City, I've long been a fan of their snapper sandwich.

                                -----
                                Zuni Cafe
                                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                1. re: JasmineG

                                  I didn't know that before, but when we ate there tonight we were seated upstairs in the back, where there are just a few tables and it was indeed quite quiet. Not all upstairs tables are the same; the front upstairs room can be pretty loud. So yes, if they can seat you in a quiet room upstairs, that would work.

                                  Dinner itself was fabulous - house-cured anchovies and caesar salad for appetizers, salmon and a great roasted squab with cherries for mains, and cherry granita for dessert. Fabulous Chablis Grand Cru and Cote-Rotie by the glass. Yum!

                                  Michael

                      2. Hi, Panchy, I feel for you. Who among us has not been your shoes?

                        For dinner on July 2, I'd suggest Stella Alpina in Burlingame, around 10 minutes from the airport. Consistently good, fresh Italian food--and you can order a light supper or a multi-course feast.
                        http://www.stellaalpinaosteria.com/me...

                        In San Jose, Michael Mina's Arcadia should fit the bill for your mother--and it may even have some things to please you. ( I wonder if they still have the whole chicken fried in duck fat. . . and the rootbeer float and chocolate chip cookies?
                        )http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurant...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pilinut

                          how's Emile's? I haven't been there since the 80's
                          Emile's Restaurant
                          www.emilesrestaurant.com

                          -----
                          Emile's Restaurant
                          545 South 2nd St., San Jose, CA 95112

                        2. What's your budget like? If you want good food together with these requirements, that tends to be expensive - both for the cramped requirement (less tables / square foot = higher prices) and the quiet requirement (quiet tends to go with upscale, though not vice versa).

                          Acquerello should certainly meet all the requirements, and it's expensive. Zuni's one of my favorite restaurants in the city but I'm afraid it would be too loud. Hayes Street Grill should be quiet enough, but could get cramped. Make sure to go when there aren't performances going on, both for noise and so they can get you a bigger table and not a 2-top.

                          Le Papillon might work for dinner in San Jose - I haven't been in a while but I'm pretty sure it meets your requirements. It's upscale French and has a pretty nice wine list.

                          Enjoy your trip!

                          Michael

                          -----
                          Zuni Cafe
                          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

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

                          Le Papillon
                          410 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                          1. If your mom is okay with Northern Italian, Rocca Ristorante on Broadway in Burlingame has good food and is relatively quiet for conversations.

                            I have eaten there a couple times when meeting an out-of-state friend staying at an airport hotel. Burlingame is just south of SFO and across the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). Depending upon your hotel location, you actually might not need to get on the freeway because Broadway has its own overpass across 101.

                            A public parking lot is around the corner on the east side of the restaurant. You can check their website: http://www.ristoranterocca.com/

                            -----
                            Rocca Ristorante
                            1205 Broadway, Burlingame, CA 94010

                            1. So...I have a confession to make. I cheat on Chowhound with yelp. After I get the restaurant recommendation from Hounders, I go to Yelp and see what the layman has to say. I looked up Arcadia because I absolutely adore Michael Mina's restaurant here in Georgetown...and it got awful yelp reviews. Has anyone else tried it?

                              After mdg's comment that Zuni Cafe was loud, I changed the reservation to Fog City Diner, as a few of you have mentioned it. I also like that Fog City Diner has small plates, as we may not be very hungry since we will have eaten our way through Napa earlier that day. Is there a close BART stop to Fog City Diner? We are staying at the Hyatt near the airport, and apparently they have a shuttle to drop people off at the closest BART! That sounds a lot more easy than driving around, getting inevitably lost and looking for parking.

                              Stella Alpina Osteria sounds perfect after a long day and flight. I'm relieved that there are decent places near the airport for us to drive to. Thank you pilinut!

                              Any more suggestions for restaurants near the Wharf on July 5 and San Jose lunch and dinner? I would like our budget to be mixed beteween middle of the road and high end.

                              Thanks!

                              -----
                              Zuni Cafe
                              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                              Stella Alpina Osteria
                              401 Primrose Rd, Burlingame, CA 94010

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

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: panchy

                                The BART stop is a good distance away from Fog City but there is an excellent and in fact picturesque method of transport to the Embarcadero stop, a vintage streetcar the F line.
                                http://streetcar.org/f-line.html#emba...

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  The streetcar looks adorable, and a great scenic way for us to get to dinner. Do you know if it picks up near a BART stop though?

                                  1. re: panchy

                                    The Embarcadero stop is one block from the Ferry Building. The trolley stop at Greenwich Street is near Fog City.

                                2. re: panchy

                                  I must confess that I also check on Yelp when I don't find sufficient information on Chowhound, so you were absolutely right to check on Arcadia. (I haven't been to Arcadia in years myself, which is why I don't know if they still have that wonderful fried chicken. And I couldn't get the menu from their website, either.) DH was there more recently for a business dinner and said that the steak was quite good, but a good steak is not really compelling to some of us.

                                3. Are you having dinner with your friend in San Jose on Sunday? Otherwise, you may want to look at somewhere between San Jose & your hotel.

                                  Also, it appears that many restaurants will be closed on the 4th so your choices will be limited. Check out La Pastaia & Scott's Seafood in San Jose...not great, but perhaps safe. Le Papillion as suggested above is probably the best choice but call first to see if they will be open.

                                  If you are able to dine on the way to hotel, I highly recommend Donato Enoteca in Redwood City. Good food & good wine list too. Restaurant is divided into several seating areas so call & ask to ensure a quiet table/area.

                                  -----
                                  La Pastaia
                                  233 West Santa Clara St., San Jose, CA 95113

                                  Scott's Seafood
                                  855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  Donato Enoteca
                                  1041 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: ceekskat

                                    Oh, yes, I almost forgot about Donato's. I'd second that recommendation: very nice place with delicious food!

                                    And around halfway between San Jose and SFO, there's another place I almost forgot about (perhaps focusing too much on dimsum lately), Evvia Estiatorio. It's basically Greek, but I wouldn't call most of the menu exotic: some of the best things are simply grilled meats and fish, nicely seasoned with olive oil, a bit of lemon, and a sprinkling of herbs.

                                    http://www.evvia.net/home/

                                    -----
                                    Evvia Estiatorio
                                    420 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                    1. re: pilinut

                                      I go to Evvia for business lunches sometimes. I agree that it would satisfy the OP's criteria. And the OP can order the trio of spreads appetizer for a dish that's chow. It is really delicious, though possibly too unusual for the mother.

                                      1. re: pilinut

                                        Evvia's delicious, all right, but it can be deafening, at least at dinner! I'm generally not too sensitive to noise at restaurants, but it's an issue there. If pizza/salads are OK, Howie's Artisan Pizza might fit the bill in Palo Alto, but I don't know if they'll be open on the 4th. Vero is one of the quieter restaurants in downtown Palo Alto but they are closed on Sundays. Ethnic foods tend to be the strength in the San Jose area (e.g. Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Peruvian). If higher-end, non-hole in the wall Mexican / Cal-Mex is OK, there are some options that meet your other criteria.

                                        Michael

                                        -----
                                        Vero
                                        530 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                        Howie's Artisan Pizza
                                        855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                    2. Try Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. http://www.alexanderssteakhouse.com/ which is close to San Jose. It's pricey, but gets consistently high ratings. Good luck!!!

                                      -----
                                      Alexander's Steakhouse
                                      10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: heart2bake

                                        Alexander's was just featured on a Check Please episode. It looked great and is now on my to-try list..