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Jul 13, 2010 07:23 PM

Windy's month of lunches - Wharf edition

My new client is down by the wharf, around the corner from my first San Francisco apartment.

Surprisingly, there are lots of great options, and we've only explored a small area, mostly sandwich shops and takeout. Prices are $1-2 more than they would be in a regular neighborhood, but you can still get lunch for under $10.

Tourists: if you're reading this, walk up Columbus two or three blocks!

Our most regular spot is Caffe Sapore aka the bagel place. These are seriously great sandwiches and salads. Foccacia with salmon and capers; a bagel with roasted eggplant, feta, and onion. They're not NY bagels by any stretch of the imagination, but they're good toasted. Giant salads, and a case full of pies. Everything is made to order with care, which can mean a long wait. But it's a sunny place with free wifi. Relax.

901 Columbus Cafe has huge sandwiches and salads. I got a crunchy turkey sandwich with cucumbers; it was okay, but next time I'll try something else. Cash only. We were there during the world cup game between Japan and Denmark. Three busloads of Russian Federation sailors disembarked from their tour buses and peered in the window, looking just like you'd imagine a Russian sailor would look.

Rico's Tacos has been on Columbus as long as I can remember. My chile verde burrito with black beans, rice, and guacamole was awfully good, and I don't even like burritos. Friendly fast service. They have a liquor license for beer and wine.

One Monday I headed to Beach and Jones only to find the Tanguito truck closed. So I had tacos at the Guadalupe truck next door. The MUNI F-line drivers are regulars. They were only okay (al pastor being the wrong thing to order), but at $1.75 each, hard to complain. The tacos at Rico's are $3 each. It was nice to sit outside and watch the tourists buy sweatshirts.

Another afternoon we headed to the Tanguito truck because I was craving a burger. They are the nicest people; they were busy upgrading order with better cuts of meat and goat cheese. The guy at the next table swore by his saffron rice with steak. My co-worker swears by the paella. And we all know the empanadas are hard to beat.

The best lunch I've had was at Cafe Capriccio. A rare roast beef sandwich with horseradish on a dutch crunch roll, and a spectacular cappuccino. Fast service, free wifi, and friendly owners.

What do you like in this area for lunch or happy hour?

Coming soon: I haven't been to Kennedy's Curry House in a while. I keep meaning to walk up the hill to the cafe with the gorgeous view at the Art Institute. There's a Taqueria San Jose branch with pretty terrible reviews on Yelp.

Any gems hiding out in the Cannery? I guess the farmers' market isn't happening there any more.

Happily there's a Trader Joe's on Bay to pick up salads and smoothies. And incredibly, parking turns out be plentiful if you know where to look.

Kennedy's Irish Pub Curry House
1040 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Ricos Fine Mexican Restaurant
943 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

901 Columbus Cafe
901 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Caffe Sapore
790 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94133

2850 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133

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  1. I had lunch a couple years ago at the SF Art Institute on Chestnut between Jones and Leavenworth. They have a small cafe there with great views. The food was pretty good and student budget friendly - worth a walk over there to check it out.

    1 Reply
    1. re: farmersdaughter

      Yes, the views are unforgettable. I've only had a cup of tea there, but will report back.

    2. DeLise Dessert Cafe for their cupcakes & ice-cream. They also have sandwiches.

      La Trappe for Happy Hour

      La Trappe
      800 Greenwich St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      DeLise dessert cafe
      327 Bay St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      10 Replies
      1. re: gnomatic

        I just noticed DeLise's "ice cream cupcake" offering. Is that ice cream + a cupcake, or an actual cupcake with ice cream filling? I was jogging by and did not stop, but the sign intrigued me.

        Are their desserts worth a stop next time I'm running by and not feeling as disciplined as today?

        1. re: Pei

          It's definitely worth dropping by. Their cupcakes is small, but you won't have to to feel TOO guilty. I am very fond of the Nutella banana and the matcha cupcake.

          I believe the ice cream cup cake is call "Gabe's Bomb" (haven't tried it though)'s described on their facebook page as:

          Devil chocolate cake, drizzle of dulce de leche, sprinkle of fleur de sel, and pink pepper corn... Let's add homemade whole wheat graham cookie, and top it with our Four Barrel Espresso ice cream... hmmm, what else... cover it with marshmallow frosting, and give it a toast!!

          1. re: Windy

            fortunately (or unfortunately) no...but it's a mom & pop sort of place, and they do pretty unique stuff. Mention it to the owner, it might well happen!

          2. re: gnomatic

            Oh my. This is a *great* spot for ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. I had the Earl Grey and spicy chocolate, both splendid. The texture of the chocolate sorbet was perfect. With a tiny cookie.

            It's across from my gym which means I could be a regular, although those two activities seem to cancel each other out.

            1. re: Windy

              Thanks, was hoping you'd try the ice cream. I'd been wondering about it since reading this.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I also tried a delicious cucumber mojito sorbet.

                The hot flavor (it's a boy) is apparently cigar and Scotch flavored, which didn't appeal.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I really like their toasted rice ice-cream, and have been meaning to get drop by to try their Ube ice-cream. They sell their ice-cream by the pint for around $7 or $8... I think it's a good deal considering the ice-cream are very unique in flavor, made in small batches using organic milk & cream.

                  They are always trying new stuff, and you can get the latest updates on their facebook page.

                  1. re: gnomatic

                    Mmm, I love rice ice cream, e.g., riso gelato, although not that many are done well. Toasted rice sounds interesting.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      If they still have it, I remember the yuzu sorbet from Delise with fondness from a couple of trips ago, nice and tangy... also very happy to hear that this lovely couple toughed it out. We went shortly after they opened. From what they said it was hard graft in a spot that is a bit out of the way. The truffle olive shortbread, nutella biscotti and especially the snickerdoodles were very good, but as gnomatic noted they may not be available with new things coming out.

            2. Since my initial post, we've brought in delicious Indian from the Curry House and gotten pizza delivered from Extreme Pizza (I think on Union Street). Both great options for the neighborhood. The pizza was better than most delivery, hot, not soggy, with a good tomato sauce.

              The chicken tikka masala was yummy, as was a mysterious fried appetizer that looked like leaves. Maybe the spinach pakoras?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Windy

                There was a Brazilian pizza place called Samba Rooms, wonder if it's still there.

                Samba Rooms
                993 NorthPoint St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I've driven by a couple times recently. It looks closed, "For Rent" info posted if I recall correctly.

                  1. re: twocents

                    Yes, Samba Rooms is gone, but there is a pizza place on North Point that claims to be the best pizza in... somewhere.

                    Samba Rooms
                    993 NorthPoint St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              2. An update to this thread:

                DeLise has the best fancy flavored frozen desserts in the city. If you like the idea of Humphrey Slocumbe but are frustrated by the consistencies, head here now. Somehow the ice cream textures are always gorgeous. That said, I tend to stick to their fruit sorbets and frozen yogurts, perhaps because i go right after the gym. The tiny cookies are delicious too, and they serve Red Blossom tea.

                We got Vietnamese takeout from Darren's Cafe at the Wharf. This place does a booming business, mostly American breakfasts and huge sandwiches. My rice noodles with pork and imperial rolls was fine--not the best in the city, but well made and a welcome break from weeks of sandwiches. Thumbs up. I heard the pho was pretty good.

                Miyabi sushi is not as good as Sushi on North Beach sushi (great happy hour special), but their $10 lunch box is a great deal. Just remember to call ahead. We stopped in and got combos with teriyaki chicken, salad, miso, and California rolls, and it took forever. They seemed very flustered by lunch time takeout. Huge portions. The sushi looked quite decent.

                Coffee Adventures is the bargain spot of the neighborhood. My co-worker was afraid to tell me about it, but it's cheap, fast, and they keep your frequent diner card on an index card, like the library when I was a kid. My BLT for $4.75 was not on artisan bread or with Berkshire bacon. It was however completely fine. Loose leaf teas. Handy place when you don't have time or $ for Cappricio or Sappore.

                I made the trek up the hill to the Art Institute cafe and was dazzled by the view as always. Really, you're not here for the food. A Caesar with chicken was lackluster, if cheap and served with compostable forks and free wifi. They did have a pineapple agua fresca. Go for a break and the view. Stop in and see the Diego Rivera mural while you're there.

                Overall, my favorite lunch places were repeat visits: Caffe Sapore, Caffe Cappricio, and the Tanguito truck. There *is* decent, interesting food at the Wharf without resorting to Starbucks or Denny's!

                Darren's Cafe
                2731 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                Sushi On North Beach Katsu
                745 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                Coffee Adventures
                1331 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133