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Nov 19, 2010 10:57 PM

Big trip

My splendid bride and I will return to the bay area (SF - lower Haight) for Thanksgiving reunion with her college crowd. Every year, we assemble wherever to celebrate together. Coming from a college house where food was explorational, they range wildly. One year, an appetizer was road-kill fox, which, they say, tasted like rabbit.
We do not insist on macho strange-meat, to be sure, but we are not squeamish. In Seattle, we enjoy drip coffee (Cafe Vita, Victrola, Cherry Street [Marion, mostly]), fun happy-hours (Perche No, High-Life, Alibi Room, Spur, Taste, BOKA, Licorous, Lola, Ponti, Quinn's...), pub-grub (Pacific Inn, Ivar's, Bad Albert's, Jolly Roger, Ray's Cafe [beware trendy ingredient OD]...), and just good meals (Salumi, Paseo, Chez Shea, Mawadda, Lark, Bizzarro, Tilth).
Ten days in the bay area will give us opportunity, and we hope you can help us use it memorably.
For starters, a few years ago, on our last trip to Berkeley, we were stunned that the closest thing we could find, after extensive searching (for days!!???), to decent drip coffee, was Starbucks. Tacubaya cafe de olla saved that trip, for us, and the morning cafe of Pizzaiolo, in Oakland.
We'll be traveling in a mob, likely on foot and transit, and hope you can point toward some good experiences. We'll be looking for coffee (good, Seattle-style drip, no goddam charcoal Starbuck's/Peets...), interesting ethnic, tasting menu's, incredible local deliciosities (did I mention Paseo?), and other things we should not miss. Thank you.

5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

1788 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

Chez Shea
408 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

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  1. Hi, regarding coffee, Seattle is better than the bay area. Sorry. Good spots for drip are Cole Coffee (two locations at least) and Blue Bottle (oakland, downtown, and ?) and Cafe 123 (berkeley only). Philz are drip specialists, spreading and pretty good. Restaurants that make a good drip are few and far between, but you can usually smell them. I often order an americano, which is decent most places. Ritual is often bandied about, I don't like it, and if you don't like burnt, you won't like it either.

    Regrettably, the lower height is off my personal radar. The problem with roaming is if you called me on any given street corner in most parts of town, I could tell you something, but It's rough to try to pick out all the gems in the bay area. Even though you've been very specific you've also been quite generic! Frustrating.

    One thing occurs, though. Look up 'spices' - there's a small dynasty of actual szechuan eateries, which have a blend of dangerous and simply tasty, and accommodate groups well. There's at least 5 around the bay area, and one in the inner richmond which wouldn't be a far trip.

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

    Cole Coffee
    3179 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94705

    2 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      I don't know that this would be funny except in an insidery way, but I find this parody documentary of the "3rd wave coffee" producers in San Francisco hilarious.
      I am likely biased because I live nearby, but Local 123 in Berkeley is the best coffee in the Bay Area. I'm not familiar with your Seattle places, nor am I a drip coffee afficianado (except at home), but to describe the styles of the major players: both Blue Bottle and Ritual roast their beans to what Sweet Maria's would call a "full city" roast at most. (Although this is generally underroasted and lacks most of the characteristic and pleasant bitterness of coffee to my taste, they do seem to be able to remove all the objectionable chaff, so there are no off-flavors, which is generally the cardinal sin of underroasted beans (and one of the predominant flavors in Maxwell House et al.)) Philz's somehow goes a step further and removes nearly all the delicious bitterness of coffee, and I've found that those who love love love Philz' love a very smooth cup, or maybe just the cream. (Also, the best drip coffee I have ever had was at Commonwealth in the Mission, which would be a great choice for experimental/local food, but you'd probably need a reservation.)

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

      Local 123
      2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

      1. re:

        Coffee is great in that there are so many facets. I like a lot of "body" and not much bitterness. Last time I was at Local123 the coffee was stellar, to the point where I'm not sure I want to go back - coffee anywhere else didn't taste as good for quite a few weeks.

        That all being said, I like blue bottle very much and detest ritual. For me, ritual is all "hollowed out" in taste, where blue bottle has lots of complex taste after the front-side bitterness. I think Philz is tolerable but I don't love it.

        Starbucks I can only drink in iced form. The idea that anyone would call starbucks "decent drip" fills me with some fear. I consider it inedible.

        That all being said, it seemed like most little places in seattle would do a very good cup.

    2. You should check out Incanto for non-squeamish palates. Pizzaiolo is excellent for dinners, as well (as opposed to just morning cafe.) somewhat upscale pub grub: The Sycamore in the Mission Dist.

      Ethnic: Try Burmese Kitchen, Bodega Bistro (Vietnamese), Poc Chuc (Yucatecan).

      5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

      Bodega Bistro
      607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

      1. I think you will like blue bottle. There is a location in SF's Mint Plaza that I like - they also serve breakfast (creamy polenta, acme bread toast etc). Gitane is a very lush bar scene or Irish Bank is good for a pub brew and pub chow. Gitane has good appetizers, I especially like the stuffed calamari.

        Boccadillo's, Perabacco are good for Salumi and Tapas, Bi-Rite for Ice cream. Popular spots for Pizza : Little Star, A16, or Delfina. Kokkari is good for groups as they have a lot of fingers foods and good appetizers.

        Delfina Restaurant
        3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Irish Bank Bar and Restaurant
        10 Mark Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108

        Gitane Restaurant & Bar
        6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

        1. Hey Mr. Nelso,
          I am a fellow Seattlite planning a January SF trip. I've been lurking in a few threads and I'm completely overwhelmed...I would love to hear where you ended up over the holiday weekend!