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6 nights in SF - upper mid end and upper dinning list for input

Hi all. Fascinating but slightly confusing reading re all the restaurant options in SF. We looove good food and are prepared to pay for it but also want value (happy to pay a lot for great stuff...). I have worked up a short list and would welcome comments and ideas - it's for 2 of us aged early 40s from NZ who love great flavours, food and wine. We are staying in the Mission for the first 5 nights and at the Ritz Carlton the last night.
- Absinthe first night after arriving mid afternoon (Sunday)
- Foreign Cinema Mon
- Commonwealth Tues
- Flower and Water Wed (but can't get in until 10.15)
- Coi (for the tasting menu) Thurs but can't get in until 9. Is this too late for the menu?
- Boulevard Friday
- Possibly Absinthe Sat for Brunch.

Have also spotted the following for casual lunches:
- Swan Oyster
- Alsembic (looks great)
- Kitchenette
- The Terminal Farmer's Mkt
- Spire
- Maverick.

Also for snacks, Katia's Russian Tea Room & Breda's French Soul Food.

We are looking for an eclectic quality experience and food is a critical factor in our holidays (hence don't go to Fiji any more).

Would welcome any and all thoughts. Also how does tipping work (we don't really have it in NZ, Aussie or Asia except for outstanding service. It simply isn't the norm. Does one tip of there is already an 18% service chg (Coi)?

Finally, we were thinking of a quick day trip up to Napa and the Restaurant train. Should we bother with the train?

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Foreign Cinema
2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

Katia's Russian Tea Room
600 5th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

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  1. Hi,
    Not sure why you'd have Absinthe on your list twice. I'd suggest looking at Wayfare Tavern, people are pretty excited about it & it's new. NOPA as well.

    Regarding COI, call them. I know it's a long way from NZ, but do it anyway. They might offer moving your rez forward if you're effusive about trying the tasting.

    I'm one of the Swann naysayers - go somewhere nice for your oysters, like Hog Island @ the ferry building, or Salt House, or Zuni, but everyone else says go and who am I to disagree.

    Regarding tipping: I'd suggest 15% post tax + booze, right on the bottom line, would be normal. Lots of people in SF do 20% to the bottom line, which is a pretty heavy tip. Tipping is not expected if there is already a 18% service charge. Some people say you should tip before tax, in which case you can simply double the tax and be about right. You should be able to find other guides about tipping - there's some controversy about whether to tip at chain coffee places like starbucks (I don't) and mom & pop coffee places (I do).

    The train is *AWFUL* (search 'wine train'), see other reviews. If you're going to napa/sonoma, the only reasonable way is to rent a car, or engage a private tour that includes a car. I would be very, very leery of something like a hotel-sponsored trip where they bundle you in a van unless you're very certain of the wineries you're going to stop at, and they're good. The best part of napa is following your nose and enjoying the "slow life" - which does not include being bundled on and off a tour bus.

    Boulevard is not considered good value. It's one of the more expensive places, and has lost a lot of sheen. Zuni is a more common req, or lots of other places. Spruce, Incanto, Aziza, are all cheaper and better. I think you'd like Delfina, if you can get in.

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    Zuni Cafe
    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Coi
    373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Salt House
    2 Shaw Aly, San Francisco, CA 94105

    Wayfare Tavern
    558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

    2 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        I agree with your assessment of Boulevard. I was dissapointed the last time I was there. Service was muddy as well.

      2. 9 is not too late for the tasting menu at Coi; you won't be done until 11:30 or so, but what else were you going to do that night? Have fun!

        1. I'm a fan of Baker & Banker - seasonal, local cuisine. http://www.bakerandbanker.com/

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          Baker & Banker
          1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

          3 Replies
          1. re: njtaylor2001

            I'd go to Foreign Cinema for your Saturday brunch. Personally, I think Flour & Water is overrated but most people seem to enjoy it. I'd much rather have Pizzeria Delfina.

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            Foreign Cinema
            2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

            Pizzeria Delfina
            2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

            1. re: tvham

              i agree - F&W is overrated. And i would do Foreign Cinema for brunch on Sunday, and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday.

              And I LOVE Swan Oyster. Yes, the surroundings are not as pretty as Hog Island but it's a good San Francisco experience.

              And Coi is worth the wait.

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              Foreign Cinema
              2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

              Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
              One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

            2. re: njtaylor2001

              I second Baker & Banker!

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              Baker & Banker
              1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

            3. We just had the Coi tasting menu with a 9:30 res last night, and we were perfectly fine. Not rushed at all, had great service, and left around 11:45. Our report will be up soon, but I would recommend it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: a213b

                Thanks for the great input. I have replaced Boulevard with Perfect (same owners) which seems to be getting pretty good reviews and is a bit less formal. I have also added Wayfare Tavern in for lunch on the day where we are dinning out at 10.15 in the evening. I will definitely avoid the wine train experience - and may replace Absinthe in Saturday with a visit the Ferry Terminal Farmers Mkt which sounds like it had a good mix of good food and might be nice and relaxing for the day we fly out (not until 9pm). Also means we can visit Hog Island - although might do this earlier in the week as well. Will post a report once home - and looking forward to hearing about Coi a213b. Too little time and too many choices.

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                Wayfare Tavern
                558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: PerfectPalate

                  I think you mean Prospect not Perfect. It is wonderful, but when are you coming? Last week they had a plumbing problem with the air conditioning system which sent water pouring over the wood flooring. It is now closed, I think at least until next Saturday, while they completely replace the flooring. I guess I'm one of those people who have always loved Boulevard, as well, and have always had good food and service there.

                  1. re: PerfectPalate

                    Sounds like you'll have some great eatin'.

                    If you have any love of oysters, eat early eat often. You'll see oysters on the half shell at many places. It's one of the few seafoods we've still got local and tasty.

                    The ferry terminal is awesome. I think saturday is the day there are lots of food booths. [And the setting there is very dramatic, right by the bay bridge (the unfamous one)]. High end street food has had a revival. Check out 'off the grid' : http://www.sfcartproject.com/archives... - and be prepared to stop anywhere, anytime, for some kind of awesome cart action.

                2. While there are many loyal fans who recommend Swan Oyster Depot, keep in mind that it closes very early, is a retail fish market with a counter and excruciatingly uncomfortable stools. The only hot food is clam chowder, and it is said that canned Campbell's is used. The seafood is fresh, tasty and expensive...but very good.

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                  Swan Oyster Depot
                  1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109