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What does SF do best ?

PoppiYYZ Oct 14, 2010 07:51 AM

My wife and I are coming to SF (from Toronto) for our 20th. Thanks to other CH threads, I've discovered: Tadich (2pm late lunch of cioppino at the bar), House of Nanking (spicy chicken), Incanto (almost everything), Bar Crudo (raw fish), Sotto Mar (sandabs / cioppino) and Nick's Crispy Tacos (fish tacos). Haven't even looked into street food yet.

Budget isn't an issue, but there is nothing worse than paying big bucks for mediocre food. We have a car but love to walk and explore, so anywhere within 3 miles of South Beach is fine.

Any suggestions for authentic or unique or special SF fare ?

  1. PoppiYYZ Nov 1, 2010 08:23 AM

    SF Visit Report :

    Here are the results of our wonderful, broad spectrum visit to your fantastic city.

    Tadich : 6/10. Late lunch of Cioppino and Sand Dabs. Cool old school ambience, but most uninspiring food. Horrible sides with the Sand Dabs.

    House of Nanking : 5/10. Should have listened to your advice, but I couldn't resist the idea of spicy chicken. Sorry I went.

    Mijita Tacos (Ferry Building) : 6.5/10. Good pork carnitas on corn tortillas. Great pickled Jalapeños.

    Sotto Mare : 9/10. Busling atmosphere, excellent diner of Sand Dabs and Cioppino (both dishes were far superior to Tadich). Best meal on trip.

    Tommy's Joynt : 7/10. Delicious gut busting sandwiches and cold beer.

    Tropisueño : 7.5/10. Great happy hour cocktails and appetizers.

    Scoma’s : 8/10. Very civilized late lunch of martinis, crab cakes, chowder, and crab salad.

    Mustard's Grill (Yountville) : 7/10. Little boring but tasty Mongolian Pork chop and Sole Tostada.

    Bistro Jeanty (Yountville) : 8.5/10. Nice French lunch of Foie Gras in lentils (outstanding), Sole a la Meuniere, Cassoulet, Ratatouille, and the Bouchon Bakery baguette (wow).

    Everyone we met was fantastic. In fact, I couldn’t even pause to look up at a building or take in a boulevard view without some kind soul offering me help or directions. Thank you all for your suggestions and advice.

    PS. Loved Rick’s Architecture walking tour. If you are a local, you must find out about all the fabulous POPOS.

    PPS. Gooooo GIANTS !!

    5 Replies
    1. re: PoppiYYZ
      Ruth Lafler Nov 1, 2010 09:55 AM

      Great report! Now you'll have to come back and try to hit all the places you missed. And thanks for the props on people being friendly and helpful -- from a Canadian that's something!

      1. re: PoppiYYZ
        mcw Nov 3, 2010 09:59 PM

        Sotto Mare, Sotto Mare, Sotto Mare...the BEST Sand Dabs and Cioppino in SF -far superior to Tadich's, Scomas or Sam's.

        Sotto Mare
        552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        1. re: mcw
          PoppiYYZ Nov 4, 2010 06:42 AM

          Agreed. The atmosphere, crowd, and staff were also more interesting at Sotto Mare.

          Sotto Mare
          552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        2. re: PoppiYYZ
          julzl Nov 4, 2010 09:20 AM

          I am not sure that your choices gave you a taste of San Francisco of 2010. Most of the choices are rather long in the tooth and a bit boring. Hope next time, people can point you to some of the creative exciting venues.

          Glad you enjoyed SF.

          1. re: julzl
            PoppiYYZ Nov 4, 2010 11:20 AM

            Thanks Julzl,

            For a first time visitor, I admit I was smitten with the history of SF. In general though, I do find established places with history very interesting (provided they are still good). I promise I'll be more adventurous and experimental next time...

        3. PoppiYYZ Oct 15, 2010 05:05 AM

          Thank you all so much for your wise advice and excellent suggestions.

          The Peruvian theme seems to be recurring and it is one of the few foods poorly represented in multicultural Toronto (and I make a mean Pollo a la Brasa). Peruvian is definitely going on the "To Do" list.

          It also looks like a Mission burrito (and maybe chile relleno) is a must.

          6 Replies
          1. re: PoppiYYZ
            grayelf Oct 15, 2010 09:04 AM

            Hey Poppi! I used to live in your hometown (after grad school) and I miss Toronto's food scene still.

            It's been a few years but I don't recall any Burmese to speak of in TO. If that is still so it might be worth checking out in SF. There are several options that all have their fans but I like Burmese Kitchen and Mandalay so far.

            If you are a fan of Peruvian-style chicken, we had a lovely version at Inka's mentioned by mariacarmen and Civil Bear. Plus they have the most addictive yellow sauce. By the end of the meal, I was putting it on everything except the picarones (which were also a highlight). It's a plainish room with honest cooking by lovely and welcoming Chinese Peruvian transplants. Although I suspect there is more sophisticated Peru cuisine in town, this place was a real hit with me. And so reasonable, as well, which is always a bonus.

            As for Mexican, it may not be what SF does *best* but coming from Vancouver where it is abysmal, I look forward to hitting at least one such resto/option. The taco trucks are fun and tasty (legions described on other threads) and great tortas can be had (gigante carnitas torta at Los Picudos made me very happy). We have been to Poc Chuc twice (recco'd by mariacarmen, Windy and Civil Bear) for Yucatecan and all involved loved it. I am particularly fond of the corn based offerings that come in the platillo maya and can be re-ordered separately once you figure out which item in that sampler you like best. The eponymous dish has also met with much approbation.

            We tried a Mission burrito on our first trip to SF together in 2003 at La Cumbre, mostly because back in the day it was a favourite of Joey Ramone :-). Be warned that wherever you ingest one of these bad boys, you will be stuffed for the rest of the day. They are the size of your forearm.

            Have a great time in SF and be sure to report back so we know what you decided on!

            PS Sotto Mare is on my list for our upcoming November visit. Sand dabs are a bit of a holy grail for me since I had them in an app at Denis Leary's Canteen (another must-visit for us each trip). When I tried to order them at Tadich our waiter said "Not fresh today, try petrale sole" which was also excellent, served very simply pan fried with lemon butter. But I need me some more 'dabs...

            1. re: grayelf
              bbulkow Oct 15, 2010 09:22 AM

              Great round up. Re: burritos, buy only one for however large your group is, and buy a mess of tacos to taste the meats.

            2. re: PoppiYYZ
              Windy Oct 15, 2010 10:11 AM

              Since you have a car, let me recommend a trip to La Costanera on highway 1, about 25 minutes south, for Peruvian. It's on a gorgeous state beach and has outdoor seating from 5 p.m. on.

              It's the same owners as Mochica and Piqueo's, both recommended Peruvian restaurants in the city.

              And no, not chile rellenos in San Francisco. Or rather, if you find a decent one, please post about it.

              830 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110

              937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

              La Costanera
              8150 Cabrillo Highway, Montara, CA 94037

              1. re: PoppiYYZ
                mariacarmen Oct 15, 2010 10:14 AM

                Grayelf is right - how did i forget Burmese Kitchen? i just ate there day before yesterday! Definitely hit that.

                And Inka's whole chicken is our favorite in the entire City, bar none. We often pick it up to go, with plenty of the aji amarillo.

                Inkas Restaurant
                3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                1. re: mariacarmen
                  grayelf Oct 15, 2010 11:05 PM

                  Ooh, thanks for posting the Inka salsa name, mc. I was too lazy to google. Now I'm doing a little chant in my den: "Aji aji aji..."

                  1. re: grayelf
                    Civil Bear Oct 16, 2010 09:39 AM

                    Whatever you call it, that stuff is incredible. I always make sure I get some to go. Sometimes I get charged for it, sometimes not.

              2. Windy Oct 14, 2010 06:37 PM

                Fish tacos are not a highlight of San Francisco dining.

                As noted above, you're here for midrange or cheaper locally grown food. Even the ethnic food is regional--so Sardinian or Hakka or Islamic Chinese or raw vegan.

                A few random places I would take a visitor from Toronto:
                Blue Bottle Coffee
                Poc Chuc (Yucatecan)
                Humphrey Slocumbe or Delise for ice cream
                Arizmendi Bakery
                Bodega Bistro (Northern Vietnamese)
                Off the Grid or one of the other street cart events
                and pretty much any farmer's market or upscale grocery (Bi-Rite)

                Poc Chuc
                2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Blue Bottle Cafe
                66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Arizmendi Bakery
                1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

                Off the Grid
                Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

                1 Reply
                1. re: Windy
                  Civil Bear Oct 14, 2010 07:28 PM

                  Second Poc Chuc, and would like to add Inka's for Peruvian.

                  Inkas Restaurant
                  3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Poc Chuc
                  2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                2. bbulkow Oct 14, 2010 02:27 PM

                  "Thanks to other CH threads, I've discovered " ... "House of Nanking (spicy chicken),"

                  Chowhound is strongly against HoN. A few of the chinatown chinese places are recommended widely, but not that one. If you're from Toronto I'm sure your standard for chinese is *HIGH* above HoN.

                  Jai Yun and R&G are commonly recommended.

                  Re: street food, this video of the pizza hacker (who you can find best using twitter) gives some shots of the street food scene.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bbulkow
                    Robert Lauriston Oct 14, 2010 02:37 PM

                    I believe it's possible to eat well at House of Nanking, but this probably isn't the most appropriate topic in which to discuss that.

                    House of Nanking
                    919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      bbulkow Oct 15, 2010 09:25 AM

                      I really think it's a standards thing. When I went there the first and only time, it was in about '93 and I thought it was a bit overrated. Now that you can go to Old Mandrin Islamic or Jai Yun --- what's the point in sending a visitor to HoN? And one from Toronto, at that? My mom, maybe.

                      Jai Yun
                      680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    2. re: bbulkow
                      Civil Bear Oct 14, 2010 07:26 PM

                      I think what makes HoN good for first time visitors is that as RL said you can eat well there, and it is quite unique. It's the return visits when the uniqueness wears off and you realize everything is prepared the same sweet brown sauce.

                      Regardless of your preference, I doubt the OP will have been to anything similar in Toronto.

                      1. re: Civil Bear
                        Robert Lauriston Oct 14, 2010 07:43 PM

                        If everything were prepared in the same sauce, I wouldn't say you can eat well there.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          ML8000 Oct 14, 2010 09:11 PM

                          RL and CB...so what would you guys order to eat well? And what's unique?

                          I've been twice and found everything super bland and of course you might get the S/M abuse treatment from the owner if you ask for something like a menu or a simple question.

                    3. m
                      ML8000 Oct 14, 2010 02:01 PM

                      Mid-range, some ethnic foods, artisan stuff (bread, pastries, meat, coffee, etc.) and produce.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: ML8000
                        PoppiYYZ Oct 14, 2010 05:52 PM

                        Thanks ML,

                        Any specific suggestions ?

                        1. re: PoppiYYZ
                          ML8000 Oct 14, 2010 07:08 PM

                          Go the Ferry Building and walk around for everything mentioned. Go on a farmer's market day for produce.

                          1. re: PoppiYYZ
                            mariacarmen Oct 14, 2010 09:40 PM

                            Arizmendi (bakery and pizza) just opened this week in the Mission (Valencia & 24th) (original is in East Bay, and is a favorite among many);

                            Poc Chuc in the Mission, Yucatecan-style Mexican;
                            Peruvian - Limon, Limon Rotisserie, Inkas, La Mer Cebicheria, Mochica....
                            La Ciccia for Sardinian food....
                            Z&Y for Sichuan...
                            Bistro Bodega for Vietnamese...

                            I'd skip House of Nanking, personally. I enjoy it but there's too many other places to try.

                            La Ciccia
                            291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                            Inkas Restaurant
                            3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                            Limon Restaurant
                            524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            House of Nanking
                            919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            Poc Chuc
                            2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                            3265 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA

                            Limon Rotisserie
                            1001 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          2. re: ML8000
                            monku Oct 14, 2010 06:41 PM

                            I could eat sourdough bread and butter day and night....Acme, Boudin, Bordenave's.

                          3. steve h. Oct 14, 2010 01:09 PM

                            What San Francisco does best is mid-level restaurants. Bar Crudo, Incanto, Perbacco/Barbacco, Zuni are very good examples. Pizza at Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach is very good, too.

                            La Folie is pretty special. Maybe the most comfortable high-end destination in San Francisco. Lovely French food in a low key, pleasing environment. It's a husband/wife shop. Not cheap. Good wine list. Bring an appetite. I like it a lot.

                            Zuni Cafe
                            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

                            Bar Crudo
                            655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

                            Tony's Pizza Napoletana
                            1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: steve h.
                              Robert Lauriston Oct 14, 2010 01:13 PM

                              Is Jamie Passot working the front of the house at La Folie again?

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

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                steve h. Oct 14, 2010 01:22 PM

                                Has she been ill?

                                1. re: steve h.
                                  Robert Lauriston Oct 14, 2010 01:41 PM

                                  "Diners expecting a warm greeting from Jamie Passot as they sweep into La Folie, Michelin Red Guide in hand, are in for a disappointment. No matter what the prestigious French restaurant guide says, the chef's wife won't be waiting at the door. She stopped working nights when she and chef Roland Passot had their daughter Charlotte—and Charlotte turns 13 next month."


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

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    steve h. Oct 14, 2010 01:50 PM

                                    I took Deb to La Folie on or about October 19 last year. She flagged us a cab after the meal.

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

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      steve h. Oct 15, 2010 07:45 PM

                                      Ah, Robert. Now you have me doubting myself.
                                      If that wasn't the chef's wife at the front of the house on or about October 19 of 2009, then who was that utterly charming, middle-aged women who spoke with authority and hailed me a cab?

                                      1. re: steve h.
                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 15, 2010 08:29 PM

                                        Here's a picture:


                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          steve h. Oct 15, 2010 08:39 PM

                                          No. The woman I saw was older. Maybe 5' 5" with blonde hair. Charming, stern and customer focused. She insisted on hailing me a cab. I was impressed.

                                          I took Deb there for her birthday last year. It was a wonderful evening. Maybe the best meal we ever had in San Francisco. Next week is Pt. Reyes. I'm hoping to pull another birthday rabbit out of the hat. We'll see.

                                          1. re: steve h.
                                            Robert Lauriston Oct 15, 2010 08:41 PM


                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              steve h. Oct 15, 2010 08:47 PM

                                              That's the plan. Is it ok?

                                              1. re: steve h.
                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 15, 2010 08:55 PM

                                                Haven't been yet, but it's high on my list.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  steve h. Oct 15, 2010 08:56 PM

                                                  cool. I'll report back.

                                2. re: steve h.
                                  johnw188 Oct 14, 2010 07:26 PM

                                  La Folie is really great. Very traditional French place, awesome food.

                                  Portions are huge, so keep that in mind if you head out there. I ordered their five course meal and was stuffed by the third. Fourth course was the most delicious rack of lamb I'd ever tried, but I really couldn't enjoy it as much as I would have liked being so stuffed. If I went back I'd go for three courses plus dessert.

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

                                3. ankimo Oct 14, 2010 11:50 AM

                                  if you're restricted within 3 mi of south beach
                                  then you could try Marlowe which is good
                                  SO for chicken wings
                                  Roli Roti at the Ferry building
                                  Tadich cioppino broth is excellent, Sotto Mare is good too, but more tomato based and you peel your own shellfish (but you get a lot more of it), also i liked the sandabs better at Sotto Mare
                                  Incanto excellent
                                  try our ice cream/gelato, i.e. BiRite, Mr and Mrs miscellaneous, Humphry Slocombe, Mitchell's, Gelateria Naia, Marco Polo Gelato, etc.
                                  the House (fusion)

                                  1. wolfe Oct 14, 2010 08:17 AM

                                    I think 3 miles from South Beach encompasses the entire Mission. We do burritos well.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: wolfe
                                      PoppiYYZ Oct 14, 2010 05:53 PM

                                      Thanks Wolfe,

                                      Mission is definitely in range. Any specific burrito suggestions ?

                                      1. re: PoppiYYZ
                                        wolfe Oct 14, 2010 06:03 PM

                                        Difficult to say since the subject rarely comes up.;-)

                                        1. re: wolfe
                                          PoppiYYZ Oct 14, 2010 06:28 PM

                                          Oh Boy. Another gold mine thread. I'd better get to work...
                                          Thanks !

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