SF Near Union Square
We are coming to SF on Sunday, staying in a hotel 2 blocks off Union Square. We will be on foot, but can do public transportation.
Where are "must eats" that are not too expensive? We like seafood, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian. Where is a really good meal in Chinatown? North Beach? Is Little Joe's/Baby Joe's still happening? The Red Pepper on Sansome? Isn't there a garlicky place on Broadway (Stinking Rose, I think)? Should we try it out?
Also, any good breakfast/lunch places near Union Square that won't break the bank?
Red Pepper Restaurant
130 Railroad Ave, Richmond, CA 94801
I'll be the one this time to point out that House of Nanking is, at best, extremely divisive on this board. There are those who love HoN, and there are those who think HoN is one of the worst restaurants ever (I'm in that camp). Before going there, due diligence strongly suggests reading a few threads to help you decide which camp you may fall into.
Brenda's is great, as is the House, and the Ferry Building.
Stinking Rose is also awful. Little Joe's... are you thinking of Original Joe's? That burned down, and I also think its pull lay more in nostalgia than food.
If you can do public transportation, San Francisco is your oyster. Search La Ciccia, Incanto, Delfina, Perbacco, A16 for Italian. Flour and Water, Tony's, and Una Pizza for pizza. R&G Lounge in Chinatown for very specific dishes - depending on how long you are here, dungeness season may open during your visit and R&G makes a stellar salt & pepper crab. Yank Sing is also excellent, though can get expensive.
Bodega Bistro is one spot for good vietnamese. Slanted Door is divisive as well, though less so than HoN, mostly for price:quality and authenticity challenges. I also like Out the Door, with appropriate caveats regarding authenticity and pricing - I just think it tastes good.
Also consider Burmese, such as Burmese Kitchen or Mandalay. Poc Chuc (Yucatanean) is another consistently recommended choice, and very inexpensive.
You will also be asked what "won't break the bank" means. Everyone's "bank" is a different size. And where you are coming from - it is absurd to make recommendations for Chinese to a Vancouverite, for example.
There have been a lot of similar threads to yours in the past few months, so you will also find many answers there.
I will also point out that if you are coming THIS sunday, you need to make reservations ASAP. It is too late for many places that take reservations - San Franciscans are used to making reservations several weeks in advance. However, many great places don't take reservations.
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123
607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109
3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
1106 Market St, San Francisco, CA
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105
325 Columbus, San Francisco, CA 94133
Original Joe's Restaurant
601 Union St, San Francisco, CA
House of Nanking
919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133
2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Out the Door
845 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103
The San Franciscan
1525 North Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
some things to add to the other helpful comments:
since you're around Union Square, I'd recommend Vietnam House
Sotto Mare for grilled sand dabs and cioppino (vs. Tadich)
stop by Golden Gate Bakery for egg tarts
Golden Gate Bakery
1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Little Joe's has actually moved to 5th & mission - I think this is it's 3rd or 4th location since the original North Beach spot - haven't eaten there in years but still have fond memories of the veal saltimbocca. Another good choice for old school Italian is Contadina in North Beach Union/Mason about a 10 minute bus ride. Breakfast check out Cafe de la Presse on Bush/Grant and Sears is still pretty good and the lines aren't as bad as they once were.
1106 Market St, San Francisco, CA
Because it's been a while since you've been to little Joe's I'm wondering whether the same is true of Trattoria Contadina. Presently the reviews have been less than complimentary.
Recent comments from Chowhound.
Trattoria Contadina a Delusione