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Just another food geek tourist looking for advice

MGZ Oct 18, 2010 02:52 PM

OK. I’ve studied the posts, added many sites to my favorite places, have a few pages of notes and a general sense of what I want to eat and where I want to go. In all honesty, the myriad Asian offerings are making me drool, as is the chance to drink Moonlight, Russian River, and Bear Republic beers. Tomorrow’s the big day and I still have one nagging question to answer. Where should we go for dinner on Thursday night that might have a little "wow"?

The meal will be a “splurge on a budget.” Here are the parameters:

$40 or so per person.

Chef owned – Mom and Popish, perhaps?

Good value wines. You know a couple of $40 or less bottles that I won’t feel cheap ordering.

I will be comfortable without a tie (maybe even in jeans?).

No Italian.

So, where would you go?

Thanks, in advance, for any thoughts or suggestions and for all the information you have already shared in previous threads.

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  1. JasmineG RE: MGZ Oct 18, 2010 03:19 PM

    Are there places that you have been considering? FYI, you will be comfortable without a tie in pretty much every single restaurant in San Francisco (and comfortable in jeans in all but maybe one or two -- and people wear jeans at those places too).

    Until you said no Italian I was going to say La Ciccia. Therefore I'd say Canteen, but check immediately to see if you can get a reservation.

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

    1. p
      Pandora RE: MGZ Oct 18, 2010 04:28 PM

      Perhaps also the Richmond or Aziza?

      1. o
        OldTimer RE: MGZ Oct 18, 2010 04:47 PM

        Hate to be cynical, but $40.00 meals in SF is no "splurge"...it is merely a fairly good meal on a budget.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer
          ML8000 RE: OldTimer Oct 18, 2010 04:59 PM

          Yup, 10 years ago you could get out of a nice (but not hot) neighborhood place for $65-ish + tip for 2. That seems to have gone up to around $85-ish to $100.

          The rule of thumb I use is double the price of medium priced entree. Example, $26 entree x 2 = $52 x 2 = $104. So for $40, you're looking at $10 entrees. That's a ballpark but it seems to be pretty good indication. Tax is near 10% and there's a "healthcare service charge" in SF.

          1. re: OldTimer
            MGZ RE: OldTimer Oct 18, 2010 11:50 PM

            $40 per is just a reference to the food cost. I was thinking there might be some 3 or 4 course offerings in that range. I could find them in NY or Philly. $150 or so with wine and tip (and taxes).

          2. bbulkow RE: MGZ Oct 18, 2010 05:21 PM

            It would really help to know what else you're considering.

            Also, no one in SF wears ties. no one. I've been at a lot of business meetings, a lot of great restaurants, no one wears ties. I take it back: I saw a guy wearing a tie last week, notably so. You will feel uncomfortable *with* a tie just about anywhere. TFL requires jackets, but not ties.

            You might try Plum in Oakland. Very near the oakland BART station. New and exciting, small plates so you can keep the price down or drive the price up :-), great "flask" wines, true california cuisine, great bar seats watching the kitchen,and you can talk to your friends about it because it's new and hip. Jeans are fine.

            [Oakland is a good idea because you can trip down to The Trappist, which is about 9 blocks south, a very very excellent belgian specialist]

            Namu might be a good choice, and Canteen comes up a lot.

            439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbulkow
              MGZ RE: bbulkow Oct 19, 2010 01:09 AM

              I'm predominently considering less typical ethnic offerings. The Lers Ros menu, for example, has entranced me. Also, collecting ingredients that are not really available on the East Coast to cook myself. I live a half mile from the Atlantic, but fresh sardines or anchovies are practically unheard of items. Thus, one not too pricey "wowish" outing is still being debated.

            2. j
              johnw188 RE: MGZ Oct 18, 2010 10:18 PM

              Chapeau does an early bird fixed priced menu on Thursday for $28 (you have to dine between 5 and 6) that would fit your criteria perfectly. Reservations are through opentable, and last I checked it's pretty popular so I'd recommend booking early.

              CHAPEAU! EARLY BIRD

              Mesclun Salad with Crème Dijonnaise, Red Seedless Grapes, Pistachio, Fried Camembert & Walnut Bread


              Soup of the Day


              Traditional Escargots de Bourgogne in Butter, Parsley & Garlic


              Trio of Salmon

              Gravlax, Tartar & Caviar, Egg Mimosa, Fried Capers & Crème Fraîche, Micro Herbs with Lemon Dressing


              Prince Edward Island Mussels

              Steamed with White Wine, Shallot & Parsley, Pommes Frites & Rouille


              Louisiana Gulf Wild Flounder, Mashed Potatoes, Braised Leeks, P.E.I. Mussels & Manila Clams, Asparagus en Tranches, Mussels-Saffron Sauce


              Pan Seared Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Creamy Truffled Polenta, Salsifies, Pears & Grapes, Green Peppercorn Sauce


              Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Gratin Dauphinois, Spinach Soubise, Apple-Calvados Sauce




              Tahitienne Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée


              Basil Napoleon

              Maui Pineapple, Manilla Mango, Banana, Kiwi & Strawberries, Champagne-Citrus Pastry Cream, Feuille de Brique


              French Toast, Soft Caramel, Hazelnut Ice Cream
              ons,Jus de Poulet
              Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
              Parsnip Puree, Spinach Soubise, Apple-Calvados Sauce

              Available everyday but Fridays & Saturdays,
              From 5:00PM to 6:00PM

              CHANGES EVERY 2 WEEKS

              126 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

              1 Reply
              1. re: johnw188
                MGZ RE: johnw188 Oct 18, 2010 11:53 PM

                Thanks, that's the sort of thing I was missing.

              2. m
                mindybrew RE: MGZ Oct 19, 2010 12:28 AM

                if I had to pick one restaurant for a nice night out with great food and a semi-casual atmosphere, I'd go with Zuni Cafe (or Foreign Cinema). Depending on the appetizers, salads, etc you add on or not, you can really stay near your price range or go crazy. For great beer after dinner, I'd hop in a cab and check out La Trappe in North Beach. Monk's Kettle in the Mission has a small but nice range of beers on tap and is closer. You could also try Toronado.

                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

                La Trappe
                800 Greenwich St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                The Monk's Kettle
                3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. Robert Lauriston RE: MGZ Oct 19, 2010 10:09 AM

                  Look at the menu at La Ciccia, it's Sardinian and not your usual Italian. Great food, very much a family operation, amazing selection of Sardinian wines at reasonable prices.

                  Or jump on BART and go to Great China in Berkeley. Great Korean-Chinese specialties and one of the best and most reasonably priced wine lists in the area. The chef-owner's son does the wine list and is great at recommending pairings.

                  Lers Ros is stellar but probably best to bring your own wine.

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

                  Great China Restaurant
                  2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    bbulkow RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 19, 2010 11:09 AM

                    Robert is a strong proponent of Great China, I've never figured out the right dishes to order. There's a long thread somewhere with various people chiming in with their experiences. I wouldn't go there underprepared, nor would I consider it a great choice for the one splurge meal of a vacation. All true about the wine list & closeness to bart.

                    I've been thinking about where I go for sardines, and unfortunatly my recs are down on the peninsula. I love sardines out here, consider it a very underappreciated fish, and well worth seeking out. I don't know what the season is. The sardines at Evvia and Flea Street are my 100% favorites, but that doesn't help you much - too far away. I think that's a great idea - go somewhere with sardines. We don't really have portuguese food, which is too bad. A true spanish place should make good sardines - I think I had them at Barlata in Oakland (great wines, got a knockout Priorat) - but barlata's not that easy by public transit. Looking for sardines will bear the most fruit looking at california food place, local and fusionish, but those places change menu so much you'd need good inside info about who is making them on a regular basis.

                    La Ciccia gets RAVE reviews around here, and local sardines is the first thing on the menu. Assuming you can get in, might be just the ticket.

                    After doing a touch of research, you might want to look into Contigo, maybe to stop by for sardines at the bar but not for a full meal. They have wood roasted local sardines, a spanish/portuguese flair, a committment to local sources, and a decent looking wine list. The report by long-time posters is not very positive, so a whole meal might not be a good idea. But the negative comments are mostly about price and service, which should be addressed by having only a few dishes at the bar and not going for a full meal.
                    This perhaps could be snuck into some walking tour, as it's "between" the castro and the mission. Sort of. And there's some serious vertical in the middle to get your appetite up, and good atmospheric san francisco classic houses. A great walking tour destination is the golden fire hydrant (look it up).

                    Bocadillos is specifically mentioned in the Contigo past, and gets some good words on CH. They have local sardines and squid. Might be a better choice for a full meal. Here's a fun thread of "best of" including one sidelong mention.

                    Kokkari is the SF branch of Evvia in Palo Alto, one of my sardine sources. They list smelts not sardines, but I bet they're still good. I don't think a full meal at Kokkari would fit your price range. Evvia has a huge mesquite grill, and for a main, anything cooked over the mesquite is superlative.

                    Great China Restaurant
                    2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    1. re: bbulkow
                      Robert Lauriston RE: bbulkow Oct 19, 2010 12:24 PM

                      Great China's specialties are marked on the menu. My favorites:


                      Great China Restaurant
                      2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  2. s
                    SteveG RE: MGZ Oct 20, 2010 01:39 PM

                    Consider Commonwealth restaurant. They recommend about 5 dishes for 2 people, and the most expensive dish on the menu right now is $16. We ordered 6 dishes, a dessert, a bottle of wine, and a glass of wine and the pre-tip total was $126. We were stuffed, and we're both big tall men with big appetites. Very refined and delicious food. Right now, they have nice marrow-stuffed squid that are probably sourced fresh from Monterey bay.

                    The chef's tasting menu is more expensive, and last night didn't look as tempting as ordering a la carte.

                    2224 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: SteveG
                      Melanie Wong RE: SteveG Oct 20, 2010 01:59 PM

                      Here's the photo I took of the marrow-stuffed squid at Commonwealth last month. The way it's plated, the squid looks like it's still alive and taking a little rest on a bed of pebbles (beans).

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        SteveG RE: Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 02:08 PM

                        They had more tentacles last night, and were even prettier! I think the serving has 2 squid now instead of what looks like one in your photo.

                        Edited to add: if you do go, the uni seafood custard was delicious, and an accidentally amazing pairing with our bottle of Cremant de Jura. Best pairing I've had all year.

                        1. re: SteveG
                          Melanie Wong RE: SteveG Oct 20, 2010 02:19 PM

                          And, here's the uni chawan mushi with lobster emulsion.

                          I didn't get a good reading on this one and shall have to order it again. I loved the squid with all my heart.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            SteveG RE: Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 02:43 PM

                            I have to admit that the uni chawan mushi was not as good last night as what I had previously at Bar Tartine (one of my top tastes of that entire year, and so good that we ordered a second serving after our first taste), though it was still delicious. I'll just have to go back and try it again to see if this is a permanent stylistic change or a fluke.

                            Bar Tartine
                            561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            1. re: SteveG
                              Melanie Wong RE: SteveG Oct 20, 2010 02:51 PM

                              Let me clarify that I didn't mean to say that the chawan mushi wasn't good. I tasted it after it had been around the table, and the mishmosh that was left wasn't a fair judging of it. So I have no opinion about it.

                            2. re: Melanie Wong
                              mariacarmen RE: Melanie Wong Oct 30, 2010 11:44 AM

                              i loved the squid immensely, too, Melanie. i was very disappointed that the whole rest of our meal, including the uni chawan mushi, was bland and unremarkable. ( i posted about it separately.) But if they can make that one dish taste so spectuclar, I'm leaning toward trying them again some time.

                      2. MGZ RE: MGZ Oct 30, 2010 06:10 AM

                        Sometimes on a trip you hit a bump in the road. Thought out plans are abandoned as routes must be changed. Life goes on . . . .

                        Our night out was, of necessity, replaced with delivery from Lers Ros, various bottles of local beer, and cable television movies – not exactly “feel sorry for me” fare. In the end, we ate great while visiting your wonderful city, immersing ourselves in the food and drink culture that has blossomed. We live about 20 miles from Manhattan Island. Nevertheless, it was exciting to actually spend time in a place where notions of "thoughtful consumption" have truly taken root.

                        To call you folks lucky fails to recognize your responsibility for what you have. So, I’ll just say “Thanks, and keep it up . . . We’ll be back.”

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MGZ
                          mariacarmen RE: MGZ Oct 30, 2010 11:42 AM

                          what did you eat/like at Lers Ros?

                          1. re: mariacarmen
                            MGZ RE: mariacarmen Oct 31, 2010 07:16 AM

                            Everything we had from there was fantastic. I have simply never before had Thai food of that caliber - and not for a lack of trying. Of particular note were the pork in gravy, and the stewed pork with 5 spice, oh and the marinated pork shoulder slices salad . . . .

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