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Sep 27, 2010 04:42 PM

Southbound and down: Van Hound returning to Bay Area

We’re heading back to San Francisco for our 8th visit in the 2000s from Thurs Nov 4 to Tues Nov 9. Just me and the SO this time. I won’t bore those of you who know me with too much background but briefly, we like to eat “ethnic” reasonably priced food of all kinds. We’re not fussed about ambiance though cleanliness is appreciated, and really loud is out. Our favourite resto in SF so far is Canteen, but we also love Burmese Kitchen. We don’t mind spending money on food but we’re not super enthused about “fancy” dining. Coming from Vancouver. Using Muni/Bart/feet/taxis and will travel for good food.

To change things up, I thought I’d list the places we have short listed by meal – breakfast and lunch will be the most variable as it will depend where we are at the time. If you see somewhere avoidable on here, please let me know. Likewise if you have a better candidate in the same category, love to hear it. TIA for any input y’all may have. As usual, so many restaurants, so few meals...


PLOW potato dumplings and scrambled eggs fried in bacon fat plus buttermilk biscuits and pork gravy

GOLDEN WEST because I love all things Leary

ORALE ORALE hoping for chilaquiles nearish hotel or SAN JALISCO (was Los Jarritos) chilaquiles, huevos divorciados; rancheros


MAMA’S if we can stomach the lineup…otherwise CURLY'S COFFEE SHOP, CAFÉ DIVINE or PAT'S CAFE if in North Beach

SOUL soul food here per the name – not sure if they offer it at breakfast though

Brunch Sunday: MAGNOLIA – hoping for grits! (also buttermilk fried spring onions if we just go for a snack) Or THAI TEMPLE in San Bruno


YAMO or YELLOW PA TAUT part of my quest to try every version of laphet thoke I can

SOTTO MARE sand dabs

NAKED LUNCH fried chicken and other sandos

LITTLE SKILLET biscuits, chicken, waffles

EL DELFIN pozole weekends only, caldo de pollo, molcajete, shrimp in creamy garlic sauce, green mole enchiladas or TORTA GORDA comida poblana


CANTEEN a tradition on our first night in town

OFF THE GRID we’re keen to try as many carts as possible and will be going to OTG early on Friday night for sure, maybe hit one or two of the other smaller ones too for snacking or lunch

CHABAA THAI Secret Menu or BAI THONG for Northeastern Thai (Issan) dishes


A LA TURCA pides, beyti kebap, Sunday only: manti or EDEN or OLD JERUSALEM

SPQR Brussels sprouts, pasta, spuntino or QUINCE pasta, à la minute risotto or BARBACCO arancini, fried Brussels sprouts, porchetta sandwich or INCANTO or FRASCATI gnocchi, duck confit salad , duck breast, bread pudding

DON PISTO’S or GREEN CHILE KITCHEN sopaipillas, frito pie, chile apple pie

WEXLER'S BBQ Scotch Eggs, Sour cream Japanese pear pie smoked short ribs, chicken fried pork, shrimp and grits, dirty rice arancini


HEAVEN'S DOG pork belly sandwich


GUSSIE'S Buttermilk Fried Chicken Livers for the SO

EL MAYA YUCATAN Torta de Cochinita and happy hour

EL GALLO GIRO TACO TRUCK Michoacan-style carnitas

K K CAFE peanut milk


Chinatown: VIP BAKERY lychee gelato and milk tea gelato YEE’S tea time specials (3-5 pm or 2-4??) – fried chicken drumsticks, roast goose, stir-fried veggies NEW MOON roast pork, salt and pepper chicken wings SWEETHEART CAFE for fried milk Hang Ah Tea Room BOW HON Raw fish salad if available


FATTED CALF (Fell at Gough)

ALEMBIC quirky cocktails and artisanal liquors, good wine and beer list.

TROPISUEÑO Happy Hour weekdays 4-6 habanero salsa (also considering this place for dinner)


SUPER DUPER Niman Ranch burgs cooked on flattop

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  1. A couple of comments. First, the Metreon farmers' market appears to be gone. That space has been empty for a while and now looks like it's going to be temporarily filled by a Halloween store. It may have moved somewhere, but I can't recall seeing any evidence of it for a couple of months.

    Next: it's possible you have some good intelligence on the House of Shields reopening. Last I heard, it was supposed to be open at some unspecified time in November, and was supposed to be mainly a bar, with some kind of light bar food. If you (or anyone else) has more solid information, I'd love to hear it, but from what I know I'm not sure it's going to work for an early November trip.

    On the other hand, Sentinel is right next door, is also Dennis Leary, and has excellent sandwiches and take-out lunches. If you're looking for an all-Leary day, I'd recommend GW for breakfast, Sentinel for lunch and Canteen for dinner.

    Tropisueno: decent margaritas, greasy chips and food that's a cut above the average Mexican restaurant, but not more than a cut above. I live in the neighborhood and stop by every once in a while but probably wouldn't bother if I weren't nearby. If you go there, they have a pretty good, but not great, mole chicken.

    1 Reply
    1. re: johnq

      Here is a House of Shields update that says "in a couple of months."

    2. Orale Orale is good for Mexican breakfast.

      The chef changed at SPQR, they don't do that great fried Brussels sprouts dish any more.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks for the Metreon info -- when we walked through two trips ago it was pretty dead. Sad I didn't get to try the momos, though.

        I had only heard HOS was slated for a reno starting July 1 and a fall opening and was hopeful it would be ready by our trip. Love Sentinel (my favourite corned beef sando yet) and have indeed done multiple Leary stops on previous trips :-).

        Vancouver has dismal Mexican so your so-so might be our best, sadly. Will take that under advisement though -- thought the happy hour might be fun for a drink and snack...

        I thought I read the sprouts were still there but I was obviously mistook. Drat. Well at least that narrows down the Italian choices a bit.

        1. re: grayelf

          The Tropiseuno margaritas are pretty strong. After about two drinks most people probably couldn't tell the difference between good food and great food anyway.

      2. Hi grayelf, Mama's is great for breakfast, but as you well know, that line!

        1. Hi Grayelf! on a selfish note, which one of these will be for a chowdown?

          29 Replies
          1. re: mariacarmen

            That's not selfish! I was hoping that if there was interest in a Chowdown, it could be Sat or Sun. If Sat, maybe Old Mandarin or one of the Thai places. I also just read that BernalKC likes Angkor Borei for excellent cheap Cambodian, which we don't have a lot of in Vancouver. If Sun, those plus or minus A La Turca (to get the manti, which I have been dying to try for ages -- we only have one Turkish resto here with no manti).

            I'd love to do another Burmese Chowdown. I've heard Little Yangon is great but we won't have a car. These seem like good "sharing" places where more bellies mean more tastes. I'm also liking the look of an awful lot on the Wexler's menu but not sure it would lend itself to dining family style. A Sunday brunch Chowdown at Tai Wu or the Thai Temple (again, no car) also appeals if feasible -- we are not BART averse :-). Any thoughts? Have I missed any places that would be a great Chowdown for a Vancouver Hound?

            A La Turca
            869 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            Little Yangon
            6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

            1. re: grayelf

              Those all sound good. but I tend to agree that Wexler's may not be the ideal chowdown place- to begin with, it's a small space. will keep thinking cap on.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                So a couple of developments: the first is that some food blogger friends of ours from Vancouver are attending FoodBuzz the same weekend in November (4-9). Here's our dinner options as of today:

                Canteen Thursday (with Van bloggers)
                Off the Grid at Fort Mason on Friday (anyone else interested? Also we’re giving up a reso for 2 at Frances at 7:15; if anyone’s interested, email me with Frances in the subject line)
                Possible Chowdown on Saturday (Little Yangon? Yellow Pa Taut? Old Mandarin? Chabaa Thai or Bai Thong for Issan dishes? Somewhere else?)
                Incanto Sunday (finally going, with a bunch of bloggers apparently)
                Monday still undecided -- Wexler's, Green Chile Kitchen, El Delfin or other worthy Mexican spot??? or maybe late lunch in Berkeley (see below)

                Secondly, the SO has uncharacteristically come out with a strong request for a visit to Berkeley, particularly the UC Botanical Gardens. We’ve never been to Berkeley before and it’s time we went. Using my (not) excellent map reading skills, it looks like BART to Downtown Berkeley and then cab might be our best bet, with late snacks/lunch at Gregoire's (I can't stop thinking about the potato puffs there, described as ethereal by more than one reliable Hound, though I understand it is basically a takeout joint).I know I should be wanting to go to Chez Panisse but I think we need something less scheduled re the garden visit. I doubt will have time but if we do is it worth backtracking down Shattuck to Berkeley Bowl, possibly via the AC Transit F Bus after late lunch/GG (must figure out if it is even open Monday – Cheeseboard is only open till 1 pm on Monday, sadly)? We could either return via Ashby BART or get back on the F again to the Transbay Terminal as I’ve heard that is more scenic when it’s running on the upper deck of the bridge (will have to research that option further though as the F bus only seems to go every half hour).

                Any suggestions for a sitdown lunch in that area-ish of Berkeley would be great too in case we’re too tuckered from our garden hike to do the stand up thing.

                1. re: grayelf

                  Well, I don't think Cheeseboard has pizza on Mondays and the cheese/bakery side will only have pre-cut cheeses. I don't think it's really worth a trip just for breads and pastries. Sadly, the other great Berkeley bakery, Crixa Cakes, is also closed on Mondays. I don't suppose there's any way to schedule your Berkeley trek for a different day?

                  I do bring out of town guests to BB, but that's just me. (And while I much prefer the new West Berkeley location, I can see how the original store has a bit more character and historical interest if you're just going to have a look rather than to shop). That said, if I had to take a separate bus trip just to go to Berkeley Bowl, I don't know if I'd bother. Again, especially with Crixa Cakes (the other destination-worthy site in that area) closed on Mondays.

                  If in the Gourmet Ghetto area, I would definitely stop by the newer Berkeley location of Lush Gelato--can't recall if you tried it on your last trip to Piedmont Ave., but it's the best gelato I've ever had. Gregoire + Lush sounds like good snacking to me, and in my opinion the lunch menu at Gregoire is the restaurant's most appealing feature, so you can get something more substantive too--not just the potato puffs. But yeah, quite possibly standing or sitting on the curb. =)

                  Also within walking distance from downtown, and perhaps of some interest to you, are the newly opened Slow Restaurant (though I can't find online if it's open on Mondays and, quite frankly, it's pretty similar to Gregoire) and Chocolatier Blue.

                  Within fairly easy walking distance of the North Berkeley BART (though it's a bit of a boring walk) are the original Acme Bread and Local 123. Those two are definitely destination worthy, but the neighborhood they sit in itself isn't much of a tourist destination.

                  Acme Bread
                  1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                  Berkeley Bowl
                  2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                  Crixa Cakes
                  2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                  The Cheese Board Collective
                  1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  Chocolatier Blue
                  1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

                  Local 123
                  2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                  Lush Gelato
                  1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  1966 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    Thanks for the reminder about Lush, drool. Unless I can figure a way to rejig and do Berkeley on either Friday or Saturday, I'm thinking we'll make it a longish half day of Garden, Gregoire and Gelato. The three Gs. And maybe some chocolate :-).

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Gregoire does have a couple of picnic tables out front, and i think 2-3 counter seats inside(?), so you might get a seat. I think your 3 Gs will satisfy you.

                      I do like visiting Acme Bread, as abstractpoet mentioned, because it's right next to Cafe Fanny (Alice Water's takeout - named for her daughter) which has a fantastic bread pudding, and a couple of tasty light sandwiches. some people think it's too precious, but i like the care they take with everything. And Kermit Lynch wine shop is in the same lot, which i adore. (They have a great monthly news letter which you can get online, personally written by Lynch and several of the employees.) But, if you had no plans on buying some rather non-mainstream French/Italian wines, no real reason to go.

                      Also, if you really can't get a seat at Gregoire's, right next door to Chez Panisse (Gregoire's is right around the corner) is Cesar's. I don't think they get a lot of love here, but I have always had a good time there, with really tasty tapas/cocktails.
             It's a good place to while away an afternoon.

                      I'm in for whatever chowdown dinner you do Saturday!

                      Chez Panisse
                      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      Acme Bread
                      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      Cafe Fanny
                      1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                  2. re: grayelf

                    I wouldn't rule out Chez Panisse. I was with a buddy hanging out in Tilden Park (UC Botanical Garden is next to it.), drove down to Gourmet Ghetto on a Sat at 1p.m.

                    Despite it being a zoo with long lines at Cheeseboard and Gregoire and kids lounging on the grassy street medium, we walked upstairs to CP and asked if they might have a table. They cooly said no.....but if you wait 10 mins maybe. So we sat down and in literally 12 mins we had a table in the back.

                    The other options were a taco truck or Top Dog (hot dog) and indecision. Considering it was low effort, probably the best outcome one could get. Also found a free parking space very close by. Cesar next door for tapas or a drink is good too. When the sun comes in during the afternoon, it's a nice place.

                    There's a regular shuttle from the UC campus to the Botanical Gardens.

                    The old Berkeley Bowl is a pleasure to go to now. I went on a Weds evening around 6 p.m. a week ago and there were less then 3 people in any line and room to push a shopping cart with no bumper cars.

                    Berkeley Bowl
                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                    Chez Panisse
                    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Cafe Fanny sounds nice -- I do love me a good bread pudding. I was wondering about doing a walkup at CP upstairs since we'll be so close. If it doesn't pan out the 3Gs or Cesar are looking good :-).

                      I am drawn to Berkeley Bowl for the history and I love poking around in places like that. Is it weird to stare fondly at veggies even when you're not buying any?

                      I've been thinking about places for a Chowdown on Saturday (assuming someone down there is willing to set one up for me) and I keep coming back to Old Mandarin and Little Yangon, partly because these are places we're unlikely to go with just the two of us.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        you should check out CP - being so close you almost have to!
                        Re BB: It is not weird to stare at almost anything in Berkeley, so ogle away!

                        I'll be happy to help you out with arranging the Chowdown on Sat. 11/6. just tell me in the next week or so which you decide on, (my vote is Old Mandarin because I've heard so much about it, but either would be great), i'll call the place and make sure they can accommodate - what, 6, 8, 10 people? - and then send out the Chowdown invite, ok?

                      2. re: ML8000

                        You know, we ate at Chez Panisse (downstairs) last weekend: Lovely meal, made more lovely by the fact that my friend was treating. But when we arrived our table wasn't ready, and we went upstairs for a glass of wine. The maitre D upstairs thought we were wanting to dine there, and was ready to seat us without a reservation. It was fairly late (8:30 pm), but a busy Saturday night. So ML8000 is right....

                        Chez Panisse
                        1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      3. re: grayelf

                        well, I guess it may depend in part on what else you are doing Monday evening...but If you've never been, I'd say go for Chez Panisse. Not getting why you wouldn't have time to do it (check out the shuttle someone else mentioned, and for that matter, once you get to CP it will only take 15 or 20 minutes, downhill, to walk back to the Downtown Berkeley BART station.)

                        I really like the UC Botanical Garden but it isn't huge.(though actually, I like the BG in Golden Gate Park better, and if it were me, I'd visit Berkeley but mostly walk around the campus and then the GG area, and hit the garden in GG Park instead if you haven't been.)

                        Besides, while granted it has been years and I went to the Oakland location and not Berkeley, I am no fan of those potato puffs:


                        Chez Panisse
                        1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                        Downtown Berkeley BART
                        2230 Shattuck Ave, C Berkeley, CA

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Thanks for the encouragement to check out CP. I was under the impression that we'd need a minimum of 2 hrs at Bot Gardens, hence the hesitation about CP resos (if we could even get them now). I think we'll try the walk in with Gregoire/Cesar's as our backup plan and a deak over to BB if time permits. BTW Susan, we loved the GG Bot Gard (been twice) and are somewhat garden happy.

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Champa Garden is also a worthy option.

                            Champa Garden
                            2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                            1. re: Cynsa

                              true, although a bit problematic perhaps without a car...

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                A car may be in the mix for that day...

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  As I remember the bus/shuttle schedule from memory, it runs either every hour or every half hour during the weekend, goes from Berkeley Bart and runs near CP/Cheeseboard, and works great. But the granularity can be a problem - you don't want to wait 15 mins for a bus up to CP, then more time for the shuttle. But - you'll have trouble getting a taxi from CP/Cheeseboard.

                                  Car has the downside of navigating the bridge traffic, which is 90% of the time fine, 10% OMG why did we do this. Your best friend is Google Maps/traffic on your phone, or calling 511, but requires a strong working knowledge of the freeway structure and alternate routes.

                                  A perfect solution would be if you have 'zipcar' membership or similar hourly rental, because you could BART to your car, wander aimlessly/aimfully with much eating through the east bay and gardens, drop the car and bart back. Or, if you're feeling studly, grab a bicycle rental from Missing Link at the corner of university & shattuck. This only works if you're down for a 1500 vertical climb to get to the gardens - works off those cheese calories!

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    oh greyelf, not to complicate things, but i've been dying to try Champa Gardens! friends have been and love it. but obviously, i can try that anytime, this is your trip!

                                    Champa Garden
                                    2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                            2. re: grayelf

                              Chiming in on Wexler's. It's a nice example of regional American fusion -- sort of southern/BBQ with lots of Asian and Californian thrown in. That short rib chili, mmm. The place is too small for a large group, but you could get a table for 4 or 6 if you go at 11:30 for lunch, and they're happy to split up dishes for sharing. Sort of a mini-chowdown.

                          2. re: grayelf

                            Fun coincidence, Grayelf, I've followed your advice many a time in Vancouver (from Seattle, so up there often) and will happen to be in SF that weekend as well. Will keep up on this thread about when/where its going to be. My Saturday is pretty busy so if you end up deciding on Sunday, I will certainly be there! Excited about it.

                            1. re: dagoose

                              Thanks David for the confirmatory recco on Wexler's. That Scotch egg is now starting to call to me too after reading a detailed description of it on tablehopper :-). But I loves me some short ribs so it may be chili.

                              dagoose, this is a popular w'end for PNWers to head to SF. There's a group coming down from Van to attend FoodBuzz too. Drop me an email (see profile) if you have some spare time on Sunday and want to hang out in the Mission at all... I hope the advice you followed from me worked out!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                You might consider the short rib sandwich that's been on the menu for a while at Dennis Leary's Golden West. That sandwich is sweeter whereas Wexler's short rib chili is smokier, and the sandwich has more chunky short rib texture than the chili, which contains shredded short rib.

                                Golden West
                                8 Trinity Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                1. re: david kaplan

                                  The finer points of short ribs, much appreciated :-). I am hoping to fit in Golden West as well and will nab the ribwich if it is available.

                                  Golden West
                                  8 Trinity Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Note that by default it comes with mayo, and they invite requests to hold the mayo. The sandwich itself isn't overly fatty, so the mayo doesn't make it excessively rich, but the sandwich is sloppy, which the mayo accentuates. I say add the mayo for taste, but hold the mayo on aesthetics. Forewarned is forearmed. (And you might need four arms to handle the mayo-ed version.)

                                    1. re: david kaplan

                                      Good advice. It never would have occurred to me that they would put mayo on an already-saucy sandwich, but when I asked they said they did. Also, given the reports of it being served with different breads, it might be a good idea to ask if there is a bread option.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        I would put mayo on cereal if I could get away with it, so shouldn't be a problem but I will be sure to pick up some extra serviettes :-).

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          I wouldn't be surprised if Dennis offered that as an option soon.

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            grayelf: i knew i loved you for a reason.

                                            I had a ground lamb sandwich from AU with mayo on it and it was delicious and not a bit of overkill. Messy? a tad, but worth it.

                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                              LOL! And now I'm hungry... and looking at my itinerary again to figure out how I'm going to fit GW in. maria, you seem to be going there a lot so I take it you work nearby. Any chance of a lunch meet up there?

                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                Yes! if it works with your schedule!

                          3. For those of you who following the culinary adventures of grayelf in the City, there are three spots at a dinner we planned at Old Mandarin Islamic. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Email me at the address in my profile.

                            Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
                            3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116