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Authentically San Franciscan

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I'll be visiting San Francisco soon and would like to know any places that must be tried in a four day trip. I have scoured thru dim sum recs on the board and we will be visiting one or more of the places, but is there any place that typifies San Franciscan cuisine? If not, are there any quality restaurants that are into cooking local ingredients?

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  1. More than you probably want to know:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7260...

    1. Greetings florida!

      Here is a very long thread about "authenticity".
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/726039
      In a place with about 120 years of history, authenticity is hard to put a finger on.

      Searching "must try" brought up this very nice thread
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/680123

      What I call california cuisine focuses around locally available ingredients and terroir. The grand dame of these restaurants is Chez Pannisse, and the extra of market-driven food happens at some of the tasting menu restaurants, where the chef makes the dishes and menus on a daily basis. Manresa, Coi, Commis, Ubuntu are some examples, but many other "classic" san francisco places like Zuni follow a similar mold.

      SF has great strength at midrange restaurants as well as a few great high-end dining spots. Being specific about what you're looking for will help this board give you specific recommendations instead of a standard top-100 list.

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

      Zuni Cafe
      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Manresa Restaurant
      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      Commis
      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      1. When asked that question, I always suggest Tadich or Sam's Grill. I prefer Sam's...I like the smaller sand dabs. You can get elegant cuisine at many upscale places over the U.S., but Tadich and Sam's are unique.

        3 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer

          Same here - loved both places, but I seemed to be more relaxed when I'm at Sam's. Cosier atmosphere?

          1. re: OldTimer

            If we are going with SF institutions, then perhaps Tommy's Joynt for lunch. The Thursday lamb shanks are particularly tasty.

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            Tommy's Joynt
            1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

            1. re: OldTimer

              I agree that Tommy's Joint is quinessential San Francisco. Not my absolute favorite food, but authentically typical nevertheless. When I first came to SF, there were 9 or 10 similar places, all over downtown. Mostly turkey, ham and roast beef (often dipped). My good friend would buy turkey carcasses to make soup...ugh. Those places were never empty.

            2. Tadich and Sam's are historic San Francisco restaurants that can be well worth visiting, but the menus are throwbacks that don't typify today's San Francisco cuisine. The place I send people for that within the city limits is Zuni Cafe. But there are tons of other good choices that serve similar California cuisine with local ingredients; Zuni is the oldest (and one of the best) within the city limits, with a great local atmosphere.

              Michael

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              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              1. Top quality local ingredients pretty much define contemporary SF Bay Area cuisine. It's the Chez Panisse tradition, basically.

                One interesting trend is places applying that kind of sourcing and philosophy to cuisines other than the usual Italian, French, and "New American," e.g. Aziza (Moroccan), Namu (Korean), Mission Chinese Food, and Ajanta (Indian).

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                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                Ajanta Restaurant
                1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                Namu
                439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                Mission Chinese Food
                2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                7 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Fresh, top quality local ingredients have been been used when possible by every cuisine in every part of the world throughout history. We just happen to have more around for more of the year. I don't think that defines a cuisine.

                  1. re: soupçon

                    I couldn't disagree more. In the 1970s, restaurants around here used mediocre ingredients and lots of frozen and canned stuff. Alice Waters and her collaborators at Chez Panisse had to develop a network of direct suppliers to make food like they had enjoyed in France, and for a long time the only alternative to Chez Panisse for food like that was a trip to Europe.

                    Even today, careful sourcing is still the exception to the rule. There are still a lot of restaurants that just use whatever's cheap.

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                    Chez Panisse
                    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      You've cited a small blip in post-WWII United States food systems that really doesn't address "every part of the world" or "history".

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        We're talking about contemporary local cuisine.

                        It's true that Chez Panisse mostly recreated and imported traditions rather than inventing new ones, but that doesn't make their accomplishments any less significant. Maybe in the 19th century food wasn't so different from what we have now, but the industrialization of American food dates back to at least the 1920s. In the 1950s through the 70s, things were pretty grim, and CP played a crucial role in the ensuing culinary renaissance, not just in Northern California but nationally.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I think Melanie might be thinking of local authentic Chinese food over the past century. I doubt it ever subscribed to the canned everything/meat cooked until gray philosophy of mid-century industrialized American food.

                          It's a small piece of my family lore that the first time they had rare lamb in a restaurant on American soil was at Chez Panisse. But they didn't know to explore local ethnic cuisines.

                          -----
                          Chez Panisse
                          1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I think Amber India would be a better example than Ajanta

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                    Ajanta Restaurant
                    1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                    Amber India
                    Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: vulber

                      I don't know anything about Amber India's sourcing. Ajanta has reportedly gotten tighter recently:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6637...

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                      Ajanta Restaurant
                      1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707