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Overwhelmed by options ... need help narrowing the list!

My husband and I are coming to the SF Bay area this weekend. We are infrequent visitors to the city, and enjoy good food! I did tons of research on the discussion boards for good places to eat in SF and Napa, but am having difficulty narrowing my list. I've been a lurker on the discussion boards for some time and this is my first post...

Well be in SF only one night, staying in Union Square. We arrive Saturday the 11th and then head to Napa on the 12th. We'll be in Napa the 12-15 (taking the red eye home the night of the 15th). We're celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary (I can't possibly be that old!!!) We live in Cincinnati, so we're not in a major food destination... We will have a car, but are certainly open to public transportation (sometimes its easier).

Our budget is flexible...by this I mean price won't eliminate an option, but my thinking is that there are so many 'great' restaurants in the area that we can seriously enjoy that will run the gamut. I don't think the 'top end' restaurants are necessary (TFL, Ritz Dining Room), as anywhere we go will likely impress us.

What we like: variety, tasting menus! (we're pretty open)
Prefer to avoid: seafood focused restaurants (i.e. Bar Crudo), barbecue

In SF, our plan is to go the Ferry Building Saturday for lunch. I tried to get in to Gary Danko but they are booked and we're on the wait list. I tried Commis but they are closed through the 14th. We're currently booked at Aziza. I was also looking at Perbacco and Incanto based on other postings. (the La Folie menu posted online doesn't do much for me...but it is also 2 years old!). Maybe Yank Sing for dim sum prior to heading to Napa on Sunday? Thoughts?

In Napa, we're booked at Ubuntu for the actual night of our anniversary. I'm also looking at CIA as a must...but for lunch or dinner?? Others I'm considering,, maybe Redd or Martini House? But then I'm thinking is it 'too much of a good thing' ... too many great restaurants that they'll lose their luster? I don't want to lock us in to too tight a schedule...we're pretty good at being flexible. Are there any restaurants that aren't mandatory reservations that we could hold off and consider? (and its probably getting too late to get reservations at places where they are needed)

Close to the Inn where we'll be staying, Carpe Diem or Oenotri also look good for more casual. We're doing a wine tour with lunch at one of the wineries. We may do our own picnic lunch one day...is Oxbow Market or Napa General store the best for packing our own?

And general guidance would be appreciated on two other aspects: 1) should we definitely plan to visit/dine outside of Napa proper? (I'm toying with the idea of staying close to home just to avoid driving after enjoying too much wine!). and 2) any 'must see' wineries? (we're not cult wine drinkers...we enjoy good red wines, and some sauv blancs...not chardonnay fans!) The one 'must see' that is on our list now is O'Brien (because we've read good things and its our surname!) I don't know where the wine tour will take us, but I'm looking to hit at least one 'sparkling' house, then some other possibilities are Artesa and Pride Mountain. And is it Hess who has the great artwork? (husband is an art fan).

I've probably tried to cover too much in one post, but in reading all of the other discussion boards, I know this is the right place to ask for help!

Thanks in advance! (and I promise to be good and post after we return).

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Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

La Folie
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

Bar Crudo
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Gary Danko
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

Martini House
1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574

Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

Oenotri
1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

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  1. Hi,
    Welcome! and what a long post.

    Ferry building for lunch is a great idea, and the choices you've laid in for that night seem very nice. Just stick with any of those and you'll have a great meal. It is hard choosing only one restaurant, and every place has its off nights, and you've described what you like only in generalities. I might suggesting relaxing a bit. Those are good places.

    Dim Sum on Sunday morning has plusses and minuses - mostly plusses. The problem is Dim Sum doesn't really start until 10 most places, so you won't be able to get a really early start. The good news is Dim Sum can be eaten quickly because you avoid the whole ordering & waiting thing. From your list, it might be the only asian you have on the trip, so I'd recommend it - if not Yank Sing, then somewhere in chinatown like Gold Mountain if it's a walk from where you're staying. Yank Sing is considered better, but just being able to walk in the morning has plusses too.

    I have never heard a rave for CIA. Regarding where else to eat, two that you haven't mentioned are Cyrus and Meadowood.

    Regarding napa and wineries, pay attention to the posts by Mamma Lorraine, she's got an encyclopedic knowledge.

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    Gold Mountain Restaurant
    644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      Uh...Cyrus isn't exactly in Napa...but it is a fun drive from Calistoga.

      1. re: OldTimer

        "doh".

        By the way, some people are making unoaked chardonnay. If you like Sauv Blanc but not Chardonnay, you might be on the lookout. And my #1 trick for tasting is not taste everything - tell the pourer what you like, and ask them to pick 3. Otherwise they'll pour you 10 and you'll give up after 2 or 3 wineries. Remember, they're trying to sell you a bottle, and they know what people like. And places where the tasting cost is high, it becomes reasonable to buy a bottle at the same cost as the tasting (and get the free tasting with purchase).

    2. Does it matter what Yank Sing location? Is one better than the other? I'm thinking we could sleep in on Sunday (no rush to get to Napa), leave our car parked at the hotel, and walk to Yank Sing...have some leisurely dim sum...then walk back to the hotel, pick up the car, and be off!

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

      5 Replies
      1. re: bigskylisa

        I'd go to the Rincon Center Yank Sing location. They are only a 10-minute walk apart (if that much).

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

        Rincon Center
        121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: bigskylisa

          Rincon Center is the best location. Make sure you order the xiaolongbao (Shanghai soup dumplings)!

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          Rincon Center
          121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

          1. re: cornflower55

            The xiaolongbao alone are reason enough to go to Yank Sing!

            Sounds like you have a memorable and delicious trip planned. I don't think you need to worry too much about reservations in Napa as you will be there during the mid-week. Drive around and be spontaneous, and bring your restaurant list and cellphone with you so that you don't have to plan more than an hour or so ahead. There are so many good restaurants within driving distance that a minimum of planning should virtually guarantee you a satisfying meal. Happy Anniversary!

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

            1. re: pilinut

              Thanks all! Rincon it is...and some xiaolongbao!

              And bbulkow...thanks for the tasting recs...we've had a few unoaked chards in the past and they are certainly more to our liking.

              We may stop by CIA for a glass of wine on the patio. Any other patios that we should consider spending time on? (love being outdoors when it is pleasant!)

              1. re: bigskylisa

                If you can time it right with your other plans, the patio at Auberge de Soliel (Rutherford) is a nice spot for wine or a cocktail, especially at sunset.

        2. I really like CIA. Have brought many out of town relatives there because I think the food is quite good but the building and grounds are really nice. Perfect for lunch (IMO).

          1. My favorites when I travel to to Napa are both associated with Michael Chiarello. His former restaurant in St. Helena and his current venture in Yountville, Botegga both boast excellent service and hearty pastas.

            1. The restaurant formerly owned by Michael Chiarello in St. Helena is Tra Vigne.

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              Tra Vigne Restaurant
              1050 Charter Oak, St. Helena, CA 94574