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'Dress code', walking & taxis to / from restaurants - and area safety

PerfectPalate Sep 9, 2010 03:39 PM

Thank you sooo much to the people who have given great dinning ideas for our 6 night visit to SF. Sorry that I couldn't eat at all the places but have covered off many / most.

A couple of quick questions.

What is the typical SF dining out dress code for the type of restaurants that I mention below? Sorry to sound silly but it differs so much between NZ / Australia - Japan - Bali etc. we are about to pack our bags but are unsure what to bring over for a foodie (plus some sites) trip.

Also, how easy is it to get taxis to, and from restaurants? Do they book you a cab - and how far before you leave does this have to be done - can it be done when you finish your meal?

We would rather walk where / when possible - taking into account the 'dress code' issues above. We are staying (for most of our stay) at 198 Haight St (cnr Haight and Laguna). Would love comments about the safety in terms of walking around the following restaurant areas (from where we are staying). I know approx how long it will take - but is it OK to walk around these areas at night?
- Absinthe 398 Hayes
- Foreign Cinema 2534 Mission (thought we might have a roof-top sunset drink at Medjool next door first)
- Commonwealth 2224 Mission
- Flower and Water 2401 Harrison
- Coi 373 Broadway
- Prospect 300 Spear (staying at the Ritz Carlton this night).

Thanks in advance - we can't wait to get to SF on Sunday.

2522 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

  1. b
    bigwheel042 Sep 9, 2010 04:12 PM

    It is really quite a hike from Haight and Laguna to most of these places on foot. The neighborhoods where these restaurants are are not "unsafe" per se but you will probably want to use caution when it comes to the routes you take. For example, if you attempt to go to Flour and Water from 198 Haight, it would be advisable to take Guerrero or Valencia down south first, then cut over on 20th St. rather than go east first and cut down Harrison. The former route takes you through a major commercial corridor with lots of pedestrian traffic and interesting things to see, whereas the latter is going to treat you with 15 minutes under an elevated freeway in a rather empty area at night. If I had never lived in SF before, I'd probably feel spooked while traversing the latter route.

    The North Beach walk to Coi is either going to take you through or on the edges of the Tenderloin, which does not have a sterling reputation. The "safest" path is probably going to be similar to what Google Maps recommends, down Market until you hit the Financial District, but be prepared for the grunge of the mid-Market area roughly between 10th and 5th. I would probably just take Muni from Van Ness to Montgomery, then walk the rest of the way. To be honest, if you have the budget to stay at the Ritz, it's probably a better use of your time to take cabs as much as possible to and from where you are staying, then avail yourselves of numerous better opportunities to walk elsewhere in SF.

    Flour + Water
    2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

    5 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042
      PerfectPalate Sep 9, 2010 04:18 PM

      Thanks for the ideas - especially re the right routes. Yes. I was thinking probably a taxi for Coi. I'm keen to walk (to some) of the other places such as Absinthe but only if relatively easy, safe and fun.

      1. re: PerfectPalate
        bigwheel042 Sep 9, 2010 04:26 PM

        Absinthe is by far the shortest walk. Hayes Valley had a bad reputation many years ago but is now much cleaned up, and I'd feel fine about taking the short jaunt up Octavia.

        1. re: PerfectPalate
          artemis Sep 9, 2010 04:30 PM

          Also note elevation changes. I'm not sure of the topography of your home city, but many tourists are very surprised by the hills here - 10 flat blocks is something very different than 10 hilly ones.

          This will certainly over-scare you, but to help you figure out safer areas to walk, you might want to consider looking at http://sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=..., which is the SF police department's crime map, probably filtering for "disturbing the peace" which usually means noise violations, homelessness, or public drunkenness and not typically a danger to a pedestrian; filter out duis, vandalism, and fraud too. Each icon links to the time of the incident, so many of the incidents are during wee hours of the morning when you won't be out anyway. Areas with heavy clusters are probably, very generally speaking, areas you should be very cautious, but check the timestamps of the incidents. Of course we're all happy to help you select safe routes to good chow, but in case your plans change or for some bizarre reason you don't run every single thing you plan to do past us first ;)...

          I want to strongly emphasize that SF is overall a very safe city, and I don't want to scare you - I'm sure any major city would look like that map, or even much worse. Still, in the interest of full disclosure and ensuring tourist safety and enjoyment, use it if you want.

          1. re: artemis
            PolarBear Sep 10, 2010 08:03 PM

            Your link produced an error message, but this one provides some interesting info, apparently there is no crime north of Taraval....


            1. re: PolarBear
              artemis Sep 11, 2010 12:28 PM

              Drat, well it's http://sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=1 and on the left hand side, there's a link to "CrimeMaps"

      2. Ruth Lafler Sep 9, 2010 04:18 PM

        Pack layers. Assuming that because you're packing your bags you're going to be here in the next couple of weeks, you should plan on cool mornings, sun midday, breeze off the ocean coming up in the late afternoon and cool evenings (in the low 50s). We've been having a much cooler than usual summer, but September is usually the warmest time of year here, so it's possible it could hit the upper 80s in the city at some point during your stay.

        Jackets are not required at any of the restaurants you listed. Dress in SF can be pretty casual, although Coi and Absinthe (which gets a lot of pre-symphony parties) might be a little dressier.

        1. bbulkow Sep 9, 2010 05:35 PM

          In general in SF, a nice long sleeve shirt is all you want/need for dinner. Buttons, stylish, no tie. However, I usually wear a jacket, simply because it's often cold outside, and jackets look good. A suit is overkill anywhere in SF. In America, we would call this business casual. San Francisco is exceptionally forgiving in terms of dress. Steve Jobs, for example, often wears a black hoodie sweatshirt. Nice jeans and a sportcoat will feel comfortable too.

          Foreign Cinema would certainly do OK with clean jeans, for example.

          Regarding cabs, I have often recommended cabs, and having the matre'd call. Then I had a bad experience at Heaven's Dog. So as a backup, ask at your hotel for the phone numbers of some of the cab services. Just ask for the largest dispatch numbers - they'll give you Luxor and Veteran's and Yellow. Doing all that without a cell phone will be tricky, but you can ask to use their phone, or even borrow a fellow diner's.

          Regarding neighborhoods, it's hard to have a discussion because it's so personal, and blocks close together can be quite different. There are some generalities, as people here have discussed. I generally feel safe in san francisco, but some parts of town are grittier than others. Walking the waterfront (embarcadero near the ferry building) is nice, as is chinatown. Also depends on the size of your group, size of the individuals, and gender.

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

          7 Replies
          1. re: bbulkow
            wolfe Sep 9, 2010 05:41 PM

            Steve Jobs, for example, often wears a black hoodie sweatshirt.
            As I have said before "and the Dalai Lama wears a robe and flip flops."
            Most of us are not Steve Jobs or the Dalai Lama who probably get a little more slack.

            1. re: wolfe
              bbulkow Sep 9, 2010 05:46 PM

              The bay area really doesn't like shorts, though. Just don't wear 'em.


              [ not to imply that Los Gatos == San Francisco, but I think the attitude holds]

              1. re: wolfe
                JasmineG Sep 9, 2010 06:00 PM

                I think that San Francisco is a place where just about anyone could wear a black hoodie almost anywhere and not get a second glance. Shorts are a no, mostly because it is almost never warm enough here for shorts (especially not at dinner time).

                1. re: wolfe
                  Kim Cooper Aug 27, 2011 08:20 PM

                  We once ended up going to the ballet at the opera house unexpectedly -- I was in jeans, a flannel shirt and real cowboy boots. didn't get a second look.

                  1. re: Kim Cooper
                    wolfe Aug 28, 2011 01:56 AM

                    Let me guess, it was either Rodeo or a balletic rendition of Girl of the Golden West.

                    1. re: wolfe
                      Kim Cooper Aug 28, 2011 09:55 PM

                      Lol. No, I don't remember what it was, but I don't think so. At the time, I was living in the country, and we just happened to be in the city, near the Opera House, and somehow ended up going to the performance -- and in those days the jeans and boots was normal wear. I still have those boots.

                2. re: bbulkow
                  SteveG Sep 14, 2010 06:47 PM

                  Maybe if Steve Jobs had worn some hipper jeans, he would have gotten a table at Flour & Water...

                3. Robert Lauriston Sep 9, 2010 05:48 PM

                  There are no dress codes in SF. Even at the fanciest restaurants, some people dress like slobs, in some cases because they spend all their discretionary income on food. I know a guy who has eaten in every fancy restaurant in town wearing a T-shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. Any halfway passable outfit and you'll be well in the median.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    PerfectPalate Sep 9, 2010 06:15 PM

                    It's funny. If you wear a black hoddie here in NZ you are seen as a thug / wana be thug / kid trying to look gang cool. We have also done a lot of market research (our business) in Australia for a major hoodie company - there they are seen as casual and comfortable slob clothing for the weekends. Maybe in SF the hoodie is handy for the changeable weather. Just bought a nice North Face windstopper here in NZ on sale. Wonder why they have never done a hoodie.

                    By the way to anyone reading this - I am kinda embarassed by my online name - O just love great food and dinning experiences, no matter what the $ range (as long as good value).

                  2. Melanie Wong Sep 9, 2010 06:55 PM

                    Let me add the links for the places you've mentioned. When the software feels like working correctly, these should be displayed on a map to the right of your post so that you can see where everything is. You might want to consider getting a multi-day transit pass, which will come in handy for those times when you don't feel like walking up one more hill and can just catch the next bus, trolley or cable car.

                    Last week the NY Times did a piece on San Francisco "fashion". Here's the slideshow so you can see how we dress. I'll consider this on topic as several of our local citizens depicted are eating or enjoying some of our favorite eating venues, e.g., Bar Jules, Ferry Building, farmers market.

                    373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
                    398 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    Flour + Water
                    2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Ritz Carlton Ballroom
                    600 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                    300 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    2224 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      Melanie Wong Sep 9, 2010 07:07 PM

                      I'll add the Orbit Room to have a marker that's a stone's throw away from your first address. Once very popular, I hear the cocktail program has faded after some personnel changes, so this isn't a recommendation per se. But it could be your neighborhood bar since you're so close.

                      Orbit Room Cafe
                      1900 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        pane Sep 10, 2010 05:36 PM

                        I live a block from where Perfect Palate is staying, and would not recommend Orbit Room for exactly the reason you mention. The cocktails for the most part are made with cheap liquor and the sort of muddled berry overkill that was popular 15 years ago.

                        If you want to walk from your lodgings to get a drink before or after dining, I would recommend:

                        Toronado, a down-and-dirty bar with an amazing array of beers and a sort of hard rock aesthetic. The bartender won't smile at you, but you're paying for selection and not charm. If you're hungry get a take-out sausage from Rosamunde next door (or a burger on Tuesday afternoon, the only day they make them).

                        Zuni or Absinthe for an excellent cocktail at a restaurant bar--both within a 5-10 minute walk of you. Only these two have food served there.

                        Smuggler's Cove, which I visited with some friends a few weeks ago and was shocked to like. A tiki bar that manages to serve really excellent cocktails as opposed to...every other tiki bar? More crowded and scene-y than the other places I recommended.

                        Have fun!

                        Zuni Cafe
                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        Orbit Room Cafe
                        1900 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
                        398 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        Toronado Pub
                        547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA

                        Smuggler's Cove
                        650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        1. re: pane
                          pauliface Sep 14, 2010 03:36 PM

                          If you are near the Orbit Room, then you are also near Martuni's.

                          This place is a hoot.
                          Piano bar in the back where patrons sing their pretty little lungs out.
                          They specialize in very generously sized up drinks.
                          They clientele is mixed, gay/straight/male/female/old/young.
                          I've not thought of it as a foodie destination, because this is old-school bartending, not fine up-to-the-minute artisanal cocktail making.
                          But the place usually delivers in terms of a fun one-drink stop, or a longer evening of libation and song.

                          Orbit Room Cafe
                          1900 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    2. otis Sep 9, 2010 07:35 PM

                      What a great thread! Intelligent questions, helpful and relevant answers. So much better than queries about "I've got 2 days in SF where should I eat" from people who have never read the board.

                      I will just add that you should consider Zuni, at least for drinks or a late night burger, since it is a few hundred yards from where you are staying.

                      Zuni Cafe
                      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: otis
                        mrs bacon Sep 9, 2010 07:56 PM

                        Can you get the Zuni burger at night? I was under the impression it was only available at lunch or on their "afternoon menu."

                        Zuni Cafe
                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        1. re: mrs bacon
                          JasmineG Sep 10, 2010 12:04 AM

                          It's also available on their late night menu, after 10 (I think).

                      2. Windy Sep 9, 2010 09:38 PM

                        I'm a big walker, but there's a lot of crime in the city at the moment, so if unsure, be cautious and don't carry all your valuables at one time. Personally I think Harrison is safer than Mission near 20th.

                        That's not to discourage you from walking, only to be aware of your surroundings and the rapid changes in neighborhood.

                        Near where you're staying, there's excellent inexpensive sushi at Sushi Delight, next door to the Mint karaoke lounge.

                        Also know that unless you are downtown by a hotel, cabs are rare. San Franciscans call them rather than hail them. Bring a few taxi numbers with you, or ask your restaurant to get you one.

                        Sushi Delight
                        1946 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Windy
                          mariacarmen Sep 17, 2010 04:16 PM

                          Hi Windy! Actually, there are a lot of cabs in the Mission at night - I see people hailing and getting picked up all the time. Don't know about other neighborhoods...

                          Oops, never mind, i think the OP is on their way home....

                        2. b
                          benv Sep 10, 2010 01:44 PM

                          I will also add that there are no dress codes for restaurants in SF. While a couple might mention on there website that they recommend men wear a collared shirt or jacket and no shorts, they have never enforced at the time or looked at me as if I were not suitable. I have dined at all off the higher end places in the city, by myself as well, and have never come across any problems and have always felt comfortable in what i was wearing. I am 20 years old, work at Whole Foods Market so most of my spendable income goes to food. I have enjoyed many meals at places like Coi, Quince, La Folie, FDL, and all the others wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, Dr.Martens Boots with my septum piercing in and my tattoos showing.

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

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: benv
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2010 02:25 PM

                            The one place I know of around here that enforces a dress code is the French Laundry. I don't think anyplace else can afford to alienate the slob demographic.

                            The French Laundry
                            6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              ML8000 Sep 10, 2010 02:43 PM

                              I think the no dress code thing became real during the dot com boom. Poorly dressed "nerds" dropping lots of money couldn't be ignored or asked to leave.

                              1. re: ML8000
                                Ruth Lafler Sep 10, 2010 03:06 PM

                                I'd put it another way: the dot com boom taught restaurateurs that the way someone was dressed had no relationship to how much they would or could spend in their restaurant.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                  Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2010 03:18 PM

                                  Also, I think there has been a cultural shift. Fewer people care what other customers are wearing, and maybe people associate suits and ties with work rather than pleasure.

                                  Harris' used to have a dress code because Ann Lee Harris thought that was an essential part of the atmosphere, but she was 67 when it opened in 1985.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    Ruth Lafler Sep 10, 2010 03:24 PM

                                    It's especially true that in SF people don't care what other customers are wearing. SF has never been a city where fashion was important, and it's less so now than ever (see the NYTimes article Melanie linked, above).

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                      celeryroot Sep 10, 2010 04:44 PM

                                      Masa's requires or they supply and possibly The Dining Room

                                      Masa's Restaurant
                                      648 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                      1. re: celeryroot
                                        wolfe Sep 10, 2010 05:06 PM

                                        I stand corrected, Masa's, Dress Code: Jackets Required but I love this understated at the Ritz, Dress Code: Jackets Preferred.

                                        1. re: wolfe
                                          nocharge Sep 10, 2010 05:45 PM

                                          Last time I ate at Masa's, which was probably two years ago, I saw a couple of diners without jackets looking very "business casual." Maybe they aren't enforcing their dress code very strictly.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      bbulkow Sep 10, 2010 06:11 PM

                                      Agreed, and wonder if we can blame Chez Panisse for some of the shift. They have always had an uber-egalitarian view, and pull a lot of cultural weight.

                                      But certainly pre-boom - I never had any second looks throughout the 90's, when I dressed far worse than I do now. I remember one particular night I dined at Aquerello when I was certainly wearing a ripped and stained tee shirt, and may have been wearing shorts - jeans at best. The usual perfect service.

                                      Chez Panisse
                                      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                      1. re: bbulkow
                                        Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2010 06:49 PM

                                        Yeah, I think as far back as the mid-80s I was laughing about how at Zuni we'd see white tie at one table and black T-shirts and jeans at the next.

                                        Zuni Cafe
                                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          jlafler Sep 11, 2010 12:11 PM

                                          Yes, you do see some pretty dressed-up people at restaurants in the Civic Center if there's an opera or symphony performance.

                                          1. re: jlafler
                                            PerfectPalate Sep 11, 2010 01:39 PM

                                            Thank you to everyone for the great feeback and ideas re my questions. We fly out from NZ today - first dinner out at Absinthe tonight. Have a great remainder of the weekend and week.

                            2. s
                              SteveG Sep 14, 2010 12:51 PM

                              I'll take a different tack responding. Your location at Haight and Laguna is actually one of the more dangerous corners of the city. If you're comfortable walking the first block in any direction from that corner, you'll do fine walking most other places.

                              Dress cleanly and casually for Flour & Water, Commonwealth, and Foreign Cinema if that's your mood. Dress up a bit for Coi, but tie or high heals are not needed. Prospect is not formal--no table cloths. Absinthe depends on the time of day--it gets a huge crowd pre opera and pre symphony, some of whom are in black tie. When you make your reservation, ask for a time when you won't be fighting the opera and symphony crowds if you want to have the time to enjoy your meal, and the opportunity to eat a meal from a kitchen that isn't hopelessly swamped.

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

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: SteveG
                                bbulkow Sep 14, 2010 07:06 PM

                                That's the most dangerous corner in the city? Really? I can't say I've walked that exact corner, but I've been within one block on each side several times, and the nabe seems fine. 6th between mission and market I've witnessed several fights, and there are some alleys off O'Farrell I wouldn't walk down at night.

                                1. re: bbulkow
                                  Windy Sep 14, 2010 07:25 PM

                                  I wouldn't park my car or walk around with a full wallet near either intersection. Or Leavenworth and Market. or 16th and Mission.

                                  1. re: Windy
                                    wolfe Sep 15, 2010 12:38 PM

                                    Does Leavenworth intersect with Market?

                                    1. re: wolfe
                                      Frosty Melon Sep 15, 2010 01:57 PM

                                      No, it ends at Civic Center I believe.

                                    2. re: Windy
                                      bbulkow Sep 15, 2010 03:17 PM

                                      Which is why it's hard to describe to people how dangerous an area is. Very personal. I would certainly park & walk in all of those areas, but some I've got my guard *way* up.

                                    3. re: bbulkow
                                      SteveG Sep 15, 2010 12:36 PM

                                      Not the most dangerous, but Haight from Webster to Buchanan is a place where I keep my eyes and ears open. It's much better down toward Laguna--sorry to the original poster, but I was off by a block, and sometimes in San Francisco one block makes all the difference.

                                  2. t
                                    trespinero Sep 17, 2010 02:26 AM

                                    I live across Market Street about 3 blocks from where you will be staying. It is generally safe to walk around there at any reasonable hour from say 6am to 2am. Basically you are in between the lower haight, Hayes Valley and further away Church/Mid-Market area and the 16th Street part of the Mission. We access the street car to go up to the Castro or downtown/ferry building. I wouldn't walk up Haight at night because of the hill and housing project on the way, albeit much improved to the previous version. There is a bus though. If you like German food/Beer I would recommend SuppenKuchen in Hayes Valley. Skip Sushi Delight and go to Sushi Zone across the street if you go right when it opens, its tiny but great. Morning spots you might want to hit are Blue Bottle Cafe/Garage, terra bakery, delesio sp? and Mission Creek. Martuni's is great, after 2 martinis all the above info won't matter too much. Sorry about the spelling its late, ask if you need more info...

                                    1. l
                                      linjudy Sep 21, 2010 09:07 AM

                                      Have you considered combining Muni with walking? that's what we usually do. It's faster, cheaper, and hassle free. The Haight/Laguna location has good transit. If it gets too late when we finish dinner, we would take a cab home. I've never had a problem getting the restaurant to call a cab after dinner unless it's in a very busy area on a very busy night (ie, mission or castro gay pride weekend).

                                      In terms of places to try, I'll add a couple of Italian places to your list: Perbacco and SPQR. Very different but we love both.

                                      230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

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