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Sep 9, 2010 03:39 PM

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

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

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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, 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

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


            1. re: PolarBear

              Drat, well it's and on the left hand side, there's a link to "CrimeMaps"

      2. 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. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

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

                    1. re: wolfe

                      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

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

                3. 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

                    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. 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

                      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

                        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

                          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