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Best neighborhood for restaurants?

Which neighborhood do you think has the best to offer in terms of restaurants, access to groceries/farmers' markets or just overall "foodie" vibe? Does this correspond to being a great neighborhood to live in (money being no object)? This is open to the entire Bay area.

I'm trying to determine if I missed any hidden neighborhood gems during my last visit as I'm heading back out for a longer visit due to work. So I want to stay in an area with excellent food options on my doorstep but is also a nice place to be live in since I will be there for 4-6 weeks. I will be hiring a car so will have no problems getting around the Bay area.

I'm really interested to know if I am missing anything amazing outside of SF city center. I have not been to any of the suburbs except the few streets right next to UC Berkeley and that was very unimpressive. I expected to see a virbant student community with numerous cheap, good restaurants. Instead, saw loads of bums and/or aging hippies strung out on drugs.

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  1. Many people consider the Mission District to be one of the best foodie neighborhoods in the city. They have Tartine Bakery, Delfina, and great taquerias all around (and lots of great restaurants in general).

    -----
    Tartine Bakery
    600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

    7 Replies
    1. re: arlenemae

      I'm a little worried about the safety though - I heard that the Mission district is still in the process of gentrifying. That says to me there are some unsafe areas? I don't want to be worrying about my safety if coming back late from work.

      1. re: SeoulQueen

        There are very few places that aren't safe in SF during the daytime. At night it gets sketchier but the scary factor compared to other large or medium cities is pretty low. Worst part of SF, not that scary compared to NY, if you ask me.

        I'd check out the Mission and Richmond Districts. The Richmond has a large Asian population but many other ethnic groups...Irish and Russian come to mind. There's a stretch of Geary Blvd from about 19th to 25th that has a pretty wild variation of places...Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese,. Russian deli's, a few burrito joints, Irish pubs and oddball/old school and nice neighborhood joints. Aziza is also out there.

        For Berkeley, if you really want the student vibe, you should go during the day and hopefully in session...just follow the crowds. The cheap eats are on Telegraph Ave. Gourmet Ghetto gets busy during lunch and the weekend.

        Urban-planning-wise, no central square but instead neighborhood shopping district (usually a large or well-travel street, all store fronts). Every major neighborhood has at least one...some many. In a small town these would be called downtown but since it's SF that would be confusing.

        1. re: SeoulQueen

          The part of the Mission from the Valencia Street restaurant corridor west is pretty thoroughly gentrified. I think the remaining gang activity is east of Mission.

          1. re: SeoulQueen

            I was talking about this with a friend yesterday comparing US cities. we never had problems with random crime in the Mission if we were cautious. gang? bah no issue, they mostly only hit each other, Norteno vs Sureno or MS 13. if you stay out of their business you're generally OK. I did have a bad scare in 1990, but safeguards at the ATM changed fast (don't bother using one after dusk - they're closed)

            it's an easy commute through BART or the Mission bus and easy access to really good food. (and maybe I'm sheltered, but the first time I saw cleaned nopales was at the market at 17 and Valencia - oh yeah forget the V bus).

            it has its scrungy areas, but jeez, imagine what it was like all that AND junkietown.but still great Mom-n-Pop places for a good pupusa on a lazy Sunday. if you're waiting on the 22 Fillmore at 16 and Mission and the pigeons are freaking look up to see if a condor or other raptor is perched on a lightpole or cornice hunting ITS next meal. passes the time.

            I would echo ML8000's comment except the Richmond and Sunset are SOOO quiet it creeps me. (I'm someone who once walked from Valencia and 16th past the those projects, up lower Haight's Pink Palace and out to 19th Avenue where I sublet then) I was bored that night I guess.

            visually and city-wide access I guess I prefer Duboce Triangle/Lower Haight (transit central)

            1. re: SeoulQueen

              The reality is that any neighborhood in any city can be dangerous if you're not paying attention. I was mugged in the nicest area of Buenos Aires a few years back. If you're really concerned as another person mentioned just stay east of South Van Ess. I walk around the mission late at night by myself no problem. Especially the Valencia corridor as someone said. That's where most of the great restaurants are anyways. Also keep in mind that on weekends the Mission district is packed with people so there are always safety in numbers. It's definitely the best neighborhood to visit to experience food in SF they way locals would see it. You can visit the embarcadero or the wharf or downtown but you'll miss out a bit on the local flavor.

              1. re: SPICESupperClub

                umm correct me if I'm wrong, but you mean West of South Van Ess right? except for that one stretch near the freeway?

                1. re: hill food

                  Yes! Sorry. Correction. WEST of South Van Ess. Good catch Hill. Basically South Van Ess to Church.

            1. Since most of the links focus on SF and Berkeley/Oakland, I will add a suggestion of downtown Mountain View. I don't know if you have any interest in staying in the South Bay/Peninsula area, but It is a very walkable neighborhood with a great farmers' market, dozens of ethnic restaurants, and a couple good cafes. Restaurants range from cheap taquerias to the Michelin star Chez TJ, with good dim sum, ramen, microbreweries and Indian buffet in between.

              I've lived down here for 5+ years and here are some my favorite spots are:
              Fu Lam Mum for very good dim sum (hands down the best between Cupertino and Millbrae)
              Taqueria Los Charros for good, cheap tacos (carbides are especially good)
              Ryowa for good Japanese ramen
              Xanh for fancy Vietnamese (weekday lunch buffet is a good deal)
              Shivas for fancy Indian lunch buffet
              Rose Int'l Market for cheap kabobs
              Shana Thai for moderately priced modern Thai
              Shabuway for very good Japanese shabu shabu (my recommendation: regular with a side imagine bowl)
              Verde Tea for my favorite boba in the Bay Area

              -----
              Chez TJ
              938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

              Ryowa
              859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

              Verde Tea Cafe
              19929 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, CA

              Xanh Restaurant
              110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

              Shana Thai Restaurant
              311 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043

              Fu Lam Mum
              155 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

              Taqueria Los Charros
              854 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

              Shabuway
              145 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

              17 Replies
              1. re: ant_chang

                While the places mentioned for Mission are some of the best in their categories (at least locally), most if not all of the places listed for Mountain View are significantly inferior versions. Fu Lam Mum? Very good dim sum -- if you don't know what real dim sum should taste like in Hong Kong. Ryowa? If you've never had a decent bowl of ramen in Japan. Ditto for Shabuway, Verde Tea, Xanh, etc -- they are all tolerable if you stay within the confines of Mountain View, but average at best once you step beyond.

                1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                  Oakland: Rockridge
                  Oakland: Temescal
                  Oakland: International Blvd.
                  Oakland: North Oakland
                  Oakland: Uptown.

                2. re: ant_chang

                  I haven't been to Mtn View but you've got me intrigued so I will add it to my list.

                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                    There are awesome food areas all over the Bay Area. I would trade that off vs. where you need to be to be close to your work. Long commutes can cut into food time and energy!

                    It's true that some of the Mountain View places listed above are just OK. But downtown Mountain View has one of the top new American restaurants in the entire Bay Area (Chez TJ), perhaps the best overall Indian restaurant in the entire Bay Area (Sakoon), and a great Japanese Kappo restaurant (Nami Nami). The larger area has the best variety of high-quality Indian food in the Bay Area. If you want Korean food you're not too far from the myriad restaurants in Santa Clara. And the weather's warmer than in San Francisco. If you're working in Silicon Valley, downtown Mountain View is indeed one of the best places you could live in terms of food.

                    But it's hard to argue against most of the San Francisco neighborhoods. Except for some of the suburban-type areas in the southwest that don't have many commercial areas, nearly every area has a lot of local gems, plus good transit to other excellent food neighborhoods. Others have mentioned the Richmond; I'll mention Noe Valley. If money is no object I would choose a more upscale neighborhood - they still have great and interesting food - and take transit to visit other food neighborhoods.

                    Have fun - sounds like a great excusion!

                    Michael

                    1. re: mdg

                      This is good advice. If I were you, I'd pick out some places where you might want to live for other reasons (safety, travel to and from work and other activities) and then find out which of those is the foodiest.

                      But just because I can't help putting my two cents in: from your screen name and the fact that you use non-American English ("hire a car") I'm going to guess you're from Asia. If so, I think you would really like the Richmond District. It's not the most convenient if you are completely dependent on public transit, but it's one of my favorite parts of the city.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Ha ha sorry, I'm in the US. It's the Queen's English that's coming out. :)

                      2. re: mdg

                        I can't believe people here are comparing Mountain View and Palo Alto to the Mission in SF -- the latter is clearly a MUCH stronger food spot. I might have reservations about the neighborhood in general but I can assure you that the quality of food in the Mission is very strong, even by national and international standards.

                        The same cannot be said at all about Mountain View and Palo Alto. In fact, the Asian food in these two areas (which are arguably the highlights) are mediocre at best, and the only reason people go there is because there's nothing better nearby!

                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          I don't think anyone's actually saying that MV and PA are comparable to the Mission - I think people are trying to find the upscale community with the most diverse food scene. It's a little like trying the find the most delicious low-fat, sugar-free truffle, but those are the constraints.

                          I agree with Jasmine - given that there is no one perfect community that suits all of the OP's preferences, I think we really need to know 1) what are the things that are the most important to have in immediate walking distance 2) what are the things that are the most important to have within a 5-10 minute drive, and 3) what does she consider essential to her ideal "foodie vibe"? Most of us assume it means a high density of non-European/American restaurants, at a lower price range, but given her reaction to the Mission, I'm guessing she has a different definition.

                          SeoulQueen - what food options would you want to have on your doorstep?

                          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                            It depends on the food you're looking for. As far as I know, Chez TJ, Sakoon, and Nami Nami in Mountain View have no quality equivalents for their cuisines in the Mission. I can't say the same for downtown Palo Alto though - individual dishes, yes, but not for restaurants. Does the Mission have a farmer's market comparable to downtown Mountain View's?

                            Overall the Mission may be superior for food, but not for everything and certainly not for all Asian cuisines.

                            Michael

                            -----
                            Chez TJ
                            938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                            Sakoon
                            357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                            1. re: mdg

                              The Mission has Saison - whose chef used to work at Chez TJ; and also DOSA, which is very much upscale Indian food (albeit South Indian).

                              The other thing about the Mission is that while it may not have every type of cuisine (it is admittedly lacking Asian), it's so conveniently located close to much public transit so that it makes it easy to get to other parts of SF where they are represented. The Mission farmers market may not be as good as the MV one; but when you can get to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market in 10-15 min. via BART, it doens't really matter.

                              -----
                              Chez TJ
                              938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Saison
                              2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

                          2. re: mdg

                            Noe Valley has a fairly decent selection of restaurants in a very compact commercial zone, but having lived there I can attest that parking's a nightmare if you don't have a garage.

                          3. re: SeoulQueen

                            h_k_f is mostly right. MV isn't really a destination. It's got a lot of good places, but no destinations. It's still a nice compact little area with a bunch of eats, and, heavens, a bookstore. Some people seem to like the boba tea. They do a lot of cafe tables, every other restaurant has a suite of tables on the curb. Kind of hopping at night - there's 3 or 4 clubs that usually have bouncers out.

                            If you go, do try to finagle an invite to the famous google cafes.

                            I might actually recommend Palo Alto over MV, although there's a lot of good-natured rivalry. PA has, by simple quantity, more restaurants. If you like geek tourism, you can find the 'lucky building', and, for those of you who remember bang-paths, decwrl. PA places tend to be a bit on the slick and overpriced side, but there's some minor gems. It's a cozy shopping area. MV is a little more "ethnic" / asian. I like MV more, personally, but I would send friends to PA.

                            1. re: SeoulQueen

                              Note I recently posted 50 currently recommended restaurants in downtown MV, link below. The recent history is, this small-town downtown,around a few blocks of Castro St., got a big facelift 20 years ago, and old storefront shops that had failed began remodeling as restaurants. Some good ones of those days (e.g., Jacqueline's, Tien Fu and the adjacent grill) now gone. But some critical mass was reached and the restaurants kept coming and the patrons with them. By 2005, despite some failures, there were 70 total restaurants, coffee, and tea houses within short walk; now there are about 95. Unless they've kept up with it, most Bay Area people don't realize the restaurant density there today, exceeded by no other current neighborhood I know of.

                              Having dined there more than most people you'll hear from, I have to argue for once with B. Bulkow who may have forgotten some "destination" draws: Chez TJ has brought me and others from other cities into that downtown for special occasions for 20 years (long before the Michelin took notice). In recent years Sakoon and Kappo Nami Nami (focus of the linked thread), among the most elegant and unusual there, and to some extent also Sushi Tomi, Xanh, maybe Cascal, and the two established ramen houses have gotten buzz and have brought people in.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3812...

                              Even though not a deliberately "foodie" nexus like Berkeley's 40-year-old Gourmet Ghetto (whose actual restaurant count is also far lower), the MV downtown has recently gotten two wine shops (one, the new Savvy Cellar location not yet in the CH data base, is a wine bar and the other, Artisan Wine Depot, a serious destination retailer), and developed a large vibrant Sunday Farmer's Market at the Mountain View Caltrain station, which is adjacent to all of this and by which (or by Light Rail from points south) downtown MV is extremely accessible without driving.

                              -----
                              Cascal
                              400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Kappo Nami Nami
                              240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Chez TJ
                              938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Xanh Restaurant
                              110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

                              Sushi Tomi
                              635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Sakoon
                              357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              Artisan Wine Depot
                              400A Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Re: destinations. You have mentioned the two places I think are standouts in MV. Kapo Nami Nami is excellent and unusual, and I have neglected Chez TJ for far too long. When I was thinking about destinations, I had placed a higher bar, like -- would I recommend someone come down from SF just to eat there.

                                Regarding density, University Ave in PA is between 150 and 160 restaurants. That's not tea houses, that's restaurants that serve dinner with sit down and menus. University Ave has more, or at very least is comparable once you throw in density.

                                Look, I love MV, and I greatly enjoy MV food. I've been eating more there over the last few months, as I'm a little bored with PA. I miss Food Street to this day. But I think you're being a tad jingoistic.

                                -----
                                Chez TJ
                                938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  bbulkow, do you have a link to a list of those 150 or 160 restaurants around University Ave.? (I maintain a list of all the restaurants in downtown MV and have already posted 50 favorites, linked above.)

                                  I eat in Palo Alto often, though less often than MV. PA has always had some particular strengths and unique operations (Tamarine, Junnoon; Oaxacan Kitchen RIP; I think of Joya as Mountain View's Cascal "done right," much more interesting food, and it even uses the same musicians). But I did not think the restaurant density was as great. PA's downtown has lots of college-town businesses that MV's doesn't (actually some of my faculty friends at Stanford come to MV for lunch because they prefer the options!), streets a bit dirtier, influx of kids every Fall who dress out of the LL Bean catlaog until they figure out that students at elite schools don't actually do that; etc.

                                  -----
                                  Tamarine Restaurant
                                  546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  Junnoon
                                  150 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  The Oaxacan Kitchen
                                  2323 Birch St, Palo Alto, CA 94306

                                  Joya
                                  339 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    I got to that number a year ago when, by hand, I went through Yelp's search results and found the 30 I hadn't eaten at. I made my sub-list on a physical sticky note and used those notes for 3 years as part of "university ave restaurant roulette". I find Yelp to have the singularly most complete restaurant database, although I hate everything else about their site and don't go there often.

                                    Using their location based map search, I see 137 restaurants around university ave. Our restaurant roulette covered a slightly larger area (we went past the train tracks to pull in PF Changs, the restaurant at the westin, and Macarthur Park). Using the same algorithm around Castro St is giving me 123. Looking through the lists, Yelp is returning non-restaurants for a restaurant search in both cases - but the Univ Ave list is probably around 95, and the Castro list is around 80. My estimate of 150 seems very high, but my statement that the University Ave area is similar if not slightly bigger seems to hold.

                                    In both cases, knowing your area, and all the side streets, opens up the field of play. There are a few places on the MV list I hadn't heard of - but not many. I bet you've never heard of Bistro 412, but the food's decent.

                                  2. re: bbulkow

                                    Further to my question above, CH's data base lists restaurants in PA and MV neighborhoods but with flexible neighborhood tags that evidently overlap, so I couldn't quickly separate out the specific neighborhoods compared here. Yelp's data base was easier to follow, but only easily gave grand totals, incidentally comparable (405 restaurants listed in PA, 415 in MV) again without reliable geographical delimitation. But I remain curious about that claim of large restaurant population around PA's Univ. Ave. -- the presence of many restaurants agrees with my experience, the number 150 does not.

                            2. Let me further add - I love the New England format of having the town square or main street with all the shops/restaurants and then the residential areas nearby. Anyplace like that in the Bay area?

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                I'm not sure your New England template fits San Francisco proper but the neighborhood concept (shops, restaurants, access to mass transit) works pretty well. I'm fond of the FiDi/SOMA area but that's just a personal conceit. Every argument for my favorite areas can be applied to a bunch of others.

                                1. re: SeoulQueen

                                  No. The reason that configuration is special is it's a new england thing.

                                  If you think about the history of california, first boom was brought by steamers and trains. Growth was through rail (like the key system). Only after that was the car. So the oldest and most fun areas are by the ports (JLS and the ferry building), then the old railroad junctions, and places that are car-centric look like any stripmall anywhere (orinda).

                                  On the peninsula, there are little towns clustered around train stations, so you get the train station, and a 10 block area with lots of shops. All from the Caltrain, that part of the southern pacific is a very old line. Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View.

                                  In Berkeley / Oakland, there was this trolly system called the key system. There's a plaque to it at the corner of 40th and piedmont, but you can trace old neighborhood by the old rail lines. There are some streets that are broader, and used to hold trolly lines.

                                  There's a number of town halls (like SF city hall, a very nice building, Berkeley, and Oakland), all of which have plazas, few of which have great food right next to them. With some exceptions.

                                  You should check out the crab, though. Look around on the board for crab - if you're here in the next few weeks, it's at peak of season. Best thing is to just get steamed & cracked from a grocery store and dig in.

                                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                                    Park Street in Alameda has lots of great restaurants and fun shops. SF is just a ferry ride away.

                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                      SeoulQueen, please note that the "New England" model reflects city-planning practice pre-automobile, while the Bay Area's biggest expansions occurred in the era of bedroom communities separated from shopping malls sepearated from workplaces (the 1970s-80s suburbia model). That pendulum has been swinging back, with the result that a few years ago some enterprising developments instead built self-contained compact "villages" where shopping and dining cluster around a central area, residences nearby, and for residents with nearby workplaces, no car needed. Santana Row in San José, and maybe even more dramatically the similar complex (name?) in San Mateo off Hillsdale Blvd., are examples.

                                      The same layout is found, broadly speaking, in the Peninsula's older small-town downtowns, the locally so-called "Train Towns" that were established before autos were commonplace, and have become restaurant clusters. This thread already mentions some of them, which include especially downtown Burlingame, downtown San Mateo, downtown Mountain View I mentioned separately above, perhaps downtown Menlo Park though friends there complain constantly of fewer restaurants than some of these other towns, and a couple of parts of Palo Alto, especially its secondary downtown along California Avenue, near the Courhouse and the California Ave. Caltrain station.

                                      -----
                                      Santana Row
                                      355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                      1. re: SeoulQueen

                                        Kinda, sorta -- Mill Valley, just north of SF... two(!) farmer's markets, but you'll need a car unless you're a dedicated hiker.

                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                          Sonoma CA & Healdsburg CA (both in the California Wine Country) have have this type of development.

                                          1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                            And Windsor and Cloverdale, also in Wine Country, have installed modern versions of town squares for a central hub for their small towns. The plazas rooted in our Spanish heritage. One thing to keep in mind though, businesses outside the urban core of San Francisco and Oakland don't stay open that late. One needn't worry about safety coming home late from dinner because a restaurant dinner won't end that late.

                                        2. Great post. Berkeley - vibrant student eats wanted, instead - stench and bums. Yep, that's UC Berkeley.

                                          The major eat areas near campus are closer to where grad students and faculty live. That would be:
                                          1) Berkeley downtown actual - you probably found telegraph ave. You wanted downtown berkeley - where berkeley bart is. Set 'five' or 'eve' or 'gather' as your iphone coordinates, and it'll all become obvious pretty quick.
                                          1a) cheeseboard. The cheeseboard is a destination unto itself. Add gregoire and linger at the Chez Panisse menu.
                                          2) Solano Ave. Look up 'adjanta', park near there, and walk west. Do *NOT* miss la farine bakery. More like a quick evening trip. Fonda is a favorite, slightly more for vibe than food. China Village is teh bomb, if you like beer, watch for the sign that says 'the pub'.
                                          3) College Ave. There's a cluster around College and Claremont (cole coffee!), and another around BART (market hall). Kind of weak.
                                          4) Piedmont Ave. Start at Lush Gelato and walk in whatever direction smells good. Lush is great, and Commis, but there aren't a lot of destinations.
                                          5) Temescal. Pyung Chang tofu, tara's, lanesplitter, bocanova, and a few others. Start at 51st and telegraph and walk south-ish on telegraph.
                                          6) Uptown. Plum, the new chef at Flora, Luka, Cafe van Kleef. Oaksterdam U. Kind of spread out for walking though. Grab BART to 19th street, and walk "south" toward JLS - which has a nice little view area, and you can catch the Trappist, B, New Gold Medal, etc. If you start at Flora or Plum (plum is my current favorite).
                                          6a) Downtown. You could also simply go to JLS or chinatown. There is also the ferry from oakland to SF, so you can make a big triangle between SF embarcadero, oakland JLS, walk up to the bart, home. The raw amount of stunningly excellent eats on that trip --- well. And you get out on the water.
                                          7) For san francisco, everyone's favorite quick dip into SF is the ferry building, because you've also got Chaya, RN74, Boulevard, Waterbar (oysters!), and the classic view of the Bay Bridge arching overhead - all accessible via Bart (embarcadero). This can also be a quick evening trip, because you've got the lights on the water.
                                          8) Fruitvale - check out the taco crawl link. Daylight hours.
                                          9) the mission - The mission is pretty safe. It's much safer than the tenderloin, I'd rank it closer to Berkeley - more smell and beggars than harm. And the architecture's better. Bart to 16th and mission, and walk over to the corner of 16th and Valencia, one of my favorite nostalgic corners. There's a certain vibe there. Unfortunately, lots of the actual places you'd want to go are long-ish walks, like BiRite, but if you have a muni card or transfer, you can work the 14 mission bus. Daytime, angle toward Dolores Park and hope for cart street food.

                                          Where are the farmer's markets - JLS has one, berkeley near city hall has one, there's the big one at the ferry building. Without knowing what you actually like, hard to make a rec.

                                          I know you said you had a car, but for a lot of these things, you're better off trying public transit.

                                          -----
                                          New Gold Medal
                                          389 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          Commis
                                          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                          Dolores Park Cafe
                                          501 Dolores St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                          Lush Gelato
                                          1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            I live right on the Berkeley-Oakland border, and think it's the best area for food in the Bay Area, but your post makes it clear how the good stuff hereabout is scattered among various neighborhoods. There's not one great neighborhood that can match the Mission, or even the Richmond District.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              I stopped by Cesar on Shattuck yesterday after years away and was reminded how excellent it is. 'migas' with an egg to die for, a great Brussel sprout dish. The egg ranked #2 for the year, above Plum's very good poached egg. I often skip Cesar because it's loud, but at 10:30 it was very cozy. A willingness to browse widely in the bay area is greatly rewarded.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Bay Wolf on Piedmont is one of my favorite east bay restaurants. For ZOMG taco's, Cactus, right by Rockridge BART. Veggie, shrimp and carne tacos are all very very good. Also, Digs in Berkeley has quality food and a nice neighborhood vibe. And dont forget 4th street.

                                                -----
                                                Bay Wolf Restaurant
                                                3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                1. re: The Baconator

                                                  Digs is closing in a week, sadly. I've never liked the food at Bay Wolf, though some people enjoy it. I like other places on Piedmont Ave a lot better.

                                                  -----
                                                  Bay Wolf Restaurant
                                                  3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                            2. all of the great restaurants in the mission are located in mostly safe areas - and even the sketchy areas of the mission are more sketchy because of drug crime - not violent crime.

                                              in terms of overall variety and quality, i'd say the mission.

                                              however, the richmond has quite a few gems that i'd consider among the best in the city for their respective categories - aziza, chapeau!, mandalay (a bit more of a controversial pick on here), shabu house, hakka restaurant, genki crepes....

                                              1. I like mdg's suggestion of looking for an upscale neighborhood with the best foodie scene.
                                                I will feel safer coming home at night. So what's everyone's suggestions if that's what I am after?

                                                I'm thinking I definitely need to be checking out the towns suggested by bblukow and eatzalot. Those train towns sound similar to New England towns and are probably what I am after.

                                                Sorry but I just wasn't a fan of the Mission district. I did walk down Mission from 16th to 24th - didn't really see loads of amazing looking restaurants though I do recall a lot of 2ndhand bookstores. I also walked past Tartine, BiRite and along the street that Monk's Kettle is located on. Overall not as many restaurants as I expected given how everyone rates it as a the best SF foodie destination. Did I perhaps miss another big section where there were streets crammed with restaurants?

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                  As noted above, Mission is not the street. For a graphical presentation, here's a link to the search result for Mission District restaurants (and other food businesses), currently n=331,
                                                  http://www.chow.com/search?query=miss...
                                                  In the "sort by", select "most discussed" to pull the places you're most likely to want to check out to the top. The map on the upper righthand side will show you where you should be walking.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    I did as you suggested and the map indicated places are all over the Mission district - not one particular street. Thanks though! At least it means I didn't miss THE street with all the restaurants.

                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                      Bear in mind that the "spread-outedness" of the map is because only 2 dozen spots are shown at a time. Mission Street has four or more eateries on just about every block on the stretch that you walked. No, not all will be "amazing", and if I were on expense account probably not where I'd be eating. But assuming that you need on the order of 100 restaurants to visit during your 6 week stay, I think if you mapped the "most discussed" 100 restaurants in the Mission District vs. any other neighborhood in the Bay Area, you'd find them much more closely spaced and of higher quality in a defined area right here. The side streets have plenty to keep you happy and as mentioned earlier, you'll probably feel more comfortable west of Mission along Valencia St.

                                                      Even though I probably eat outside the City far more than the typical San Franciscan, I still say that you'll have trouble coming up with another neighborhood that can match this. As "no charge" said, the reason to have a car is for jaunts outside SF where you can park easily.

                                                      From what you've shared of your tastes and interests in the earlier thread,
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/745270 , I'd think you'd want to be able to start your day at Tartine Bakery every morning. :)

                                                  2. re: SeoulQueen

                                                    If you only go for upscale neighborhoods in the Bay Area you'll miss a lot or most of the "best foodie scene". Tastiness, ethnic populations and innovation don't usually start in upscale 'hoods...but end up there if there's money to be made and they can afford the rent.

                                                    There are exceptions like general expansion, expensive restaurants, long time establishments, shifting neighborhoods, but if you're looking for the "foodie scene" I don't think you'll find it there...although you will find some cool stuff.

                                                    The train towns will have old school, mom and pop and other stuff catering to the established past population and new populations (like Asian and Indian food in Mountain View geared towards ex-pat engineers) but I'm no so sure about a "scene".

                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                      Valencia Street from 16th (or maybe now 14th) to 24th (or further) is the Mission's restaurant row.

                                                      To my knowledge, the upscale neighborhood with the least sucky food scene is Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Fillmore (commonly "lower Pacific Heights" but properly called the Western Addition), and Solano Avenue in Berkeley might be tied for second. But typing that makes me fell like I have to take a shower.

                                                    2. Been following this thread for a while. Seems to me if the Mission intimidates you and Berkeley is disgusting, youshould be looking north of Sacramento: Fillmore/Pacific Heights or Cow Hollow or the Marina. perhaps North Beach or Russian Hill. Food is fine. Lots of restaurants. Uber-gentrified. Safe as SF gets. Boring, of course, but safe. And you're unlikely to have to share the sidewalk with aging hippies and bums, or with the unwashed working class.

                                                      Have you considered Portland or maybe Salt Lake City?

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                        North of Sacramento?? I'm assuming you meant San Francisco?

                                                        And for the record, I'd rather be in a "boring" neighborhood with no crime than to risk my personal safety for the sake of being near a "trendy" area. Maybe you're a 350lb, 6'3" male but I'm a petite 5'1" female.. who do you think is the easier target?? Esp walking down the street at night trying to get home??

                                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                          I believe he was referring to Sacramento Street.

                                                          1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                            He meant north of Sacramento St. The Marina for instance has A16, some of the best Naples-style pizza in the country, among other nice choices.

                                                            It does sound though like downtown Mountain View might be what you're looking for. You trade off the excitement of the city for the safety of the suburbs, but it's densely packed with many chow-worthy destinations. Make sure you're near downtown, though. In some Mountain View residential neighborhoods you won't be near anything at all except other houses.

                                                            I lived in the Boston area for a long time before moving out here. Mountain View doesn't remind me of the towns around Boston, but it does have residential areas near downtown. Downtown Menlo Park really doesn't; it has a few scattered good places, but generally is as sparsely chow-worthy as downtown Los Altos.

                                                            Michael

                                                            -----
                                                            A16
                                                            2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                                                            1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                              I'm 5'1" and live in the Cow Hollow neighborhood but rarely eat nearby. However, I have no qualms about coming home at midnight. Also in SF, it's easy to get a cab to drop you off at your front door if you're concerned about your personal safety.

                                                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                Good food and upscale neighborhoods usually don't go hand in hand. If you want an expensive and crime free area (not that that exists), then you're not going to be getting the best food. If you want a New England town, San Francisco is not the place that you should be looking. If you didn't like the food in the Mission District, the question that we should be asking you more is what kind of food are you looking for?

                                                            2. If you are not into ethnic hole-in-the-wall places, bars full of hipsters, burritos, and gritty neighborhoods, the Mission may be less than ideal.

                                                              If you are looking for mid-range to high-end places more than hidden gems, the Embarcadero has by far the best selection in the Bay Area. For a brief stay, I would say that the Hyatt Regency has the best foodie location in the City. (No comment on the hotel -- just the location.)

                                                              Within four blocks, you have the Ferry Building (with the Farmers' Market and places like the Slanted Door, Hog Island Oysters, Il Cane Rosso, Boulette's Larder, etc.), La Mar, Boulevard, Perbacco, Barbacco, Tadich, Michael Mina, One Market, RN74, Ozumo, Chaya, Mexico DF, Yank Sing, Prospect, Cosmo, Perry's, Town Hall, Sense, Osha, and Stone Korean Kitchen.

                                                              Tack on a couple of more blocks to the radius and it will include places like Wayfare Tavern, Kokkari, Epic, Waterbar, Plant Cafe, Lafitte, the Globe, and the Waterfront.

                                                              Some people would probably claim that Coi, Quince, Cotogna, Bix, Jai Yun, and Wexler's are very walkable as well if you would consider a 15-minute-or-more walk.

                                                              Plus, it's right on the Embarcadero Station, so it's easy to get to other neighborhoods using public transportation (BART to the Mission takes 6 minutes, Union Square, North Beach, and Chinatown are short cab rides). Easy freeway access to the South and East Bay as well.

                                                              For short stays, there are several hotels, including the Hyatt and Vitale.

                                                              For longer stays (at least a month), there are furnished corporate apartments at Rincon Towers, two blocks from the Hyatt and across the street from Boulevard.

                                                              For permanent living, there are condos and apartments, but for a single-family home with a garden, you'd want to look elsewhere.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                On the other hand, most blocks in the Financial District around the Ferry Building are dead at night and on weekends, when the less expensive places to eat are mostly closed. I worked down there for years and despite the higher-end restaurants it always felt like a relative culinary desert compared with residential neighborhoods.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Yes, most of the Financial District is dead on weekends, but not the Embarcadero during the day. The entire stretch from AT&T Park to Fisherman's Wharf tends to be pretty popular and, of course, on Saturdays, the area near the Ferry Building is a zoo. At night, there are spots that have clusters of restaurants and proximity to residential housing, but it's not a really late night part of town. (But then, most neighborhoods aren't.)

                                                              2. I second the earlier suggestion of Noe Valley. Depending on location, you get OK neighborhood restaurants with the option of taking the bus or a cab to someplace in the mission with more interesting food. But it's upscale-ish and fairly quiet. I think they have a farmer's market on weekends.

                                                                I find most food in Cow Hollow/Marina aggressively mediocre, but I have foodie friends who think it's great. So it might just be my own pickiness - e.g., I prefer to pick up a taco or vietnamese noodles for lunch as opposed to a salad.

                                                                My other personal pick for best place to live for food is the inner richmond, and perhaps the Laurel Heights/Presidio Heights area. (Not sure about the last two as I might be mushing my districts together, but there is a pocket slightly east of inner richmond that has beautiful houses, but would still be a reasonable walk to inner richmond).

                                                                Inner sunset/Cole Valley is pretty good also if you're looking for a bit of a college town vibe. I think there are a lot of casual places to eat that are pretty good, although not as many destination-worthy places. It's right on the N-Judah train if you want to get to other areas with good food (i.e., ferry building), and it also has a farmer's market. Actually there's pretty much a farmer's market of some kind everywhere in the city at least one day a week though.

                                                                14 Replies
                                                                1. re: Pandora

                                                                  Pandora - your suggestions are exaclty what I am after. The company will pay for a short term rental and I really don't want to be staying in a hotel for that length of time. During my last visit I was in the Financial District and it was dead quiet on the weekends.

                                                                  Having a farmer's market in the neighborhood on the weekend would be great.

                                                                  I'm only surprised no one suggested anything south of San Francisco. The part of the Bay area from South San Francisco to San Jose is a big black box for me, so I was hoping to get some info on any hidden gem of a neighborhood down there ...

                                                                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                    You might like Burlingame - it's not a Chowhound destination per se, but there are some good restaurants (including a very good Burmese restaurant, Mingalaba). It's upscale, quiet, safe, and a fairly easy commute to SF.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Mingalaba
                                                                    1213 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, CA 94010

                                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                      Why not just take a two-month rental at the Rincon Center apartments or a shorter deal on a condo up on Nob Hill. Either way, you'll have a car and be on very cool mass-transit lines.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Rincon Center
                                                                      121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

                                                                      1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                        All the Peninsula recommendations earlier are south of San Francisco. From north to south they are Burlingame, San Mateo, Palo Alto, and Mountain View. All have good chow but I think Mountain View is the best and most diverse of the four. I don't know the Piedmont Ave. neighborhood, but charliemyboy's analysis below is pretty spot on.

                                                                        Michael

                                                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                          You know, if you explained your situation a little clearer (a short term stay and living in the neighborhood), you would have gotten different and specific answers geared towards your concerns. I thought you were just going to hang out and eat.

                                                                          If it were me, I'd stay in a 'hood that has good public transportation and doesn't require a car to get to work. Traffic in and into SF is a MAJOR pain during commute if you're driving. If work is downtown, I'd look at 9th/Irving and Cole Valley. There's no short term corporate housing there however. BART is good but if it's work related and they're paying, stay in the City and don't waste 40 minutes commuting.

                                                                          1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                            As someone who moved from Palo Alto to San Francisco because I was bored out of my skull, here are some thoughts about south of SF. If you are going to dine out every night, any little downtown area -- even good ones like Palo Alto and Mountain View -- will probably feel old pretty fast. That probably holds for most neighborhood clusters of restaurants in San Francisco and elsewhere as well. So then what? You would probably want to try other places and the largest concentration of interesting places is in San Francisco. But driving 30-60 minutes in each direction is no fun. And finding parking in SF can be a royal pain.

                                                                            Staying in an area with good public transportation in SF will give you a vastly greater selection of easily accessible options than any location outside the City. And if you want to check out places in other parts of the Bay Area and you have to drive there, at least parking is likely to be easier than for a trek in the opposite direction.

                                                                            1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                              Not mentioned anything south of san francisco? Perhaps you missed the discussions of Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, and Mountain View? All of these are south of SF, and have little upscale walking districts. I will claim without fear of contradiction that good food stops right around Rte 237 and highway 17.

                                                                              I agree with some of the other posters. It's frustrating that you want a particular experience of density and level of superficial glitz, instead of looking for the best food, without limits. I think you would find Palo Alto - ie, University Ave - very much what you're looking for. It even has a bit of late night, with a half-dozen decent places open till midnight.

                                                                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                "I will be there for 4-6 weeks...." "The company will pay for a short term rental...."

                                                                                That's great, but I think you'll find those are few and far between in nearly all the SF neighborhoods suggested to you, and many desirable residential areas elsewhere in the Bay Area. Within SF, a car can also be more of a liability than an asset in many neighborhoods, where a garage space may well not be provided even if you do find a rental, and street parking is challenging even for a local.

                                                                                Although they're not the "foodiest" parts of town, areas in SF that might have short-term rentals and feel less "urban" would include Pacific Heights and South Beach.

                                                                                1. re: dolcevita_sf

                                                                                  On this subject, the aforementioned downtown MV includes a large modern apartment complex, "Park Place," fronting on Castro St. amid all those restaurants I mentioned. It's used heavily for corporate rentals, relocations, etc. by local firms like Google, but its owners (and many of its occupants whom I've met over the years) promote car-free or "car-light" living, and the nearby train station helps a lot.

                                                                                2. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                  If you need a short term rental, I would strongly suggest finding an apartment. This way you really "live" in your neighborhood and can set down some roots; even for a week or two. YOu'd be amazed at how good it feels to stop in for coffee in the morning on the 2nd or 3rd day and feel like a part of your neighborhood. We rented a great place from a food blogger near the Mark Hopkins back in June and will be out with our daughter to visit Stanford and staying in Richmond in late January. We always use VRBO.com worldwide, but I am sure there are a slew of decent rental sites for SF . Have fun - eat well!

                                                                                  1. re: BDM1

                                                                                    I know of a least a few near the Mark, and as long as it's not the top of Nob it can be very neighborhood-y, but it can vary a lot.
                                                                                    for food I'd steer towards the West and East slopes, West has grocery stores and East has Chinatown and the markets on Stockton. for quiet and view the North, although North Beach is just a short walk from there. the only part I'd avoid living in (still would visit, great Asian places) is the TenderNob, sort of the Southwest side. but it seems like the "line" of what's ok changes daily and by the block. the higher you go the cleaner it gets (drunks don't do hills well) despite its central location, getting outside of the Van Ness/Market quadrant can be a pain, I don't think of that area as a good food hotspot, and don't really recommend it unless you work downtown.

                                                                                    1. re: BDM1

                                                                                      You know, I never thought of using VRBO for the Bay Area.

                                                                                      Anyway, I don't think this discussion is going anywhere: people keep touting the Mission, which SeoulQueen clearly doesn't feel comfortable with, and Mountain View, which we don't know is going to be practical for her logistically.

                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                        SeoulQueen still hasn't seen Valencia Street or the yuppified residential areas up the hill, so I wouldn't write off the Mission.

                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                          SeoulQueen hasn't told us the city or neighborhood she's working, so we don't know if anything works logistically! If she's working for Google in Mountain View that's a whole different set of choices than working for Autodesk in San Rafael.

                                                                                          Michael

                                                                                  2. I would pick Rockridge in Oakland. Upscale and safe ("urban-lite"). Some good restaurants, shops and bars within walking distance (A Cote, Wood Tavern, Oliveto, Soi4), along with some lesser, but still okay places (Catcus) and an overpriced, but good market hall (Pasta Shop, Marin Sun). Close to Tesmescal for walking (or driving if you feel more comfortable), with the rest of Oakland/Berkeley drivable. The easy access to BART makes the City accessible as well.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Wood Tavern
                                                                                    6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                    Oliveto Cafe
                                                                                    5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: The Dive

                                                                                      Agreed. There are lots and lots of good restaurants that are in the neighborhood. The Sunday Temescal Farmer's Market is easily one of the best in the Bay Area and you can do all of your shopping there. There is also a Trader Joe's on College. You can orient yourself around 51st and Broadway and have easy access to Rockridge and Piedmont Ave to add Mama Royals, Xyclo, Gregoire, Cesar Latino and Commis to your dining destination list. If you are a copy snob, there are 4 choices: Cole for drip coffee, Subrosa, Remedy and Bica for espresso and specialty coffees. For tea, L'Amyx is pretty good.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Bar César
                                                                                      4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                      Commis
                                                                                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                      Xyclo Restaurant
                                                                                      4218 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                      1. re: The Dive

                                                                                        Also Rockridge has easy BART and freeway access to Berkeley downtown, North Berkeley and points eastward in Contra Costa County.

                                                                                        Regarding car rentals, also consider City Carshare and Zipcar Share for those jaunts into the areas further from public transportation -- Marin, Sonoma, & Napa Counties all have wonderful places for a foodie to explore.

                                                                                        Regarding farmers markets, when will you be here?

                                                                                      2. Based on all your comments, SeoulQueen, you seem to be looking for something that is close to my ideal neighborhood.

                                                                                        My recommendations below are based on my best fits for the following ideal—

                                                                                        Live in a nice, upscale neighborhood within a few blocks of the main food street in the area. The street is very walkable (attractive, not too wide, traffic doesn’t intrude too much). There is good variety, quantity and quality of restaurants within just a few blocks. There are coffee shops, dessert places, and good markets. The neighborhood will have charm beyond plain-vanilla upscale ambience. I personally would sacrifice some upscale to get more charm. From your mention of New England towns I assume charm is also a priority for you.

                                                                                        I have one last desire which is not likely to be found in an upscale neighborhood-- ethnic markets filled with strange and wonderful food, making me feel I’m in another country without having to use up my frequent flyer miles! As long as my neighborhood has lots of good places to eat and shop I will settle for having to take a short drive to find the cheap funky ethnic markets and restaurants.

                                                                                        You didn’t make it clear if you will be working in San Francisco proper but I’ll mention commute issues.

                                                                                        My choices for the best fit for this ideal—

                                                                                        1) Richmond District near Clement St.

                                                                                        Clement St. has one of the greatest concentrations of diverse restaurants and markets along a single street in the entire Bay Area. It’s busy enough to be interesting but feels more relaxed than the Mission. It has great ethnic markets where you can get all sorts of specialty items. If you have the money and desire you can live a few blocks away in very upscale Presidio Heights. The residential streets right next to Clement St. are not especially gorgeous but there is beauty nearby. The Inner Richmond is bounded by two great parks— The Presidio to the north is only 7 or 8 blocks from Golden Gate Park to the south. Move a little west and you’re in Central Richmond with great restaurants including Aziza on Geary St. Further west is Lincoln Park and the beach.

                                                                                        Pros- Greatest quantity and diversity. Lively scene. Great ethnic markets.
                                                                                        Cons- Least desirable weather due to marine influence. Even this relatively safe area in the City will be less safe and noisier than the suburban recommendations

                                                                                        2) Mountain View

                                                                                        Of my recommendations, Castro St. in Mountain View is second only to Clement St. in the quantity and diversity of food places on a single street. It’s upscale and very walkable. Also gets you within striking distance of great South Bay restaurants. Many restaurants have tables outside on the street.

                                                                                        Pros: Good quantity and diversity, many outside dining options. Upscale but not horribly expensive
                                                                                        Cons: far from San Francisco if you will be working or dining out there.

                                                                                        3) Mid-Peninsula Train Towns (Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, San Carlos)

                                                                                        No one train town area has the quantity and variety within a single compact area to compare with the Richmond or Mountain View but there are some great walkable areas with ample restaurants and you are only a short drive from many other good choices in the other towns.

                                                                                        The first several blocks on Broadway Avenue in Millbrae north of Millbrae Ave. contain a growing Chinese food scene that has reached critical mass. There’s good variety and quantity of Asian food but non-Asian (even non-Chinese) options are more limited. It’s a narrow street and very walkable. A block away is the wide and not so walkable El Camino Real with many additional options. Millbrae is the dim sum capital of the Bay Area.

                                                                                        Just south of Millbrae is Burlingame Ave., another street full of restaurants and interesting shops. More upscale. Housing in Burlingame has a reputation for being more expensive than the surrounding cities.

                                                                                        Next stop south is San Mateo, with several good restaurants including some of the top ramen places in the area (Himawari, Ramen Dojo, Santa) and my favorite Shanghainese place in the whole Bay Area, Little Shanghai. There are areas with good walkability but not much quantity, such as W. 25th Ave. For greater variety (but more intrusive traffic) live near the downtown area between 2nd and 4th Streets. There you’ll even find an optometry shop with fantastic yogurt.

                                                                                        San Carlos has a nice small-town feel along with a very good selection of restaurants on Laurel St. and San Carlos Avenue.

                                                                                        Pros: All these train towns are upscale, very livable and walkable, easy commute to the City, great weather
                                                                                        Cons: Fewer funky options than in the City, less variety within a small area, some areas are very expensive.

                                                                                        4) Piedmont Ave. in Oakland

                                                                                        I don’t have much recent experience of Piedmont Ave. so I may be off base here. It has always seemed a bit “white bread” to me, not especially interesting, but it is a very pleasant upscale street where you can enjoy a variety of restaurants, coffee shops and markets and it’s close to lots of interesting places when you want to get adventurous. You’re only 10 minutes by car from Oakland Chinatown. Should you need some holy basil or keffir lime for your Thai recipe head down to International Avenue, also 10 minutes away. Within a 15 minute driving radius is an enormous array of foodie treasures including the Gourmet Ghetto. The residential area around Piedmont Ave. is very attractive but expensive.

                                                                                        Pros: Very upscale neighborhood, centrally located for East Bay food attractions
                                                                                        Cons: Expensive, commute to SF is over the bridge

                                                                                        5) Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley

                                                                                        If I weren’t including charm as a factor the Gourmet Ghetto might not make the cut, because there just aren’t very many restaurants in close proximity here. What is here is truly outstanding, including icons like Chez Panisse and The Cheeseboard. Also you are just blocks away from the not-so-charming University Avenue with more great places, and not far from Solano Avenue in the other direction. One does not live by food alone and the area uphill from Shattuck/Vine toward the Rose Garden and beyond is one of the most appealing residential areas on the planet. Many of the houses here were designed by leading architects of the Arts and Crafts movement including Julia Morgan (designer of Hearst Castle) and Bernard Maybeck. On top of that you get the Rose Garden, Codernices Park and all the fabulous pedestrian walkways between streets.

                                                                                        Pros: Great quality, foodie icons, beautiful area, close to other food ghettos
                                                                                        Cons: Limited quantity, commute to SF is over the bridge

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Little Shanghai
                                                                                        17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                                                                        Ramen Dojo
                                                                                        805 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                                                                        Chez Panisse Cafe
                                                                                        1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: charliemyboy

                                                                                          Actually, now that you mention it, Solano Ave. (Berkeley) is a great foodie neighborhood and a very nice place to live.

                                                                                          1. re: charliemyboy

                                                                                            I'm going to have to stick up for University Ave - Palo Alto again, and I'll be specific compared to MV.

                                                                                            * Thai - tie, since Amerin and Bangkok Cuisine are sisters (although Thai Orchid might tip the balance to PA).
                                                                                            * Chinese - MV, because of the dumplings at Yulong and FLM.
                                                                                            * Tapas - Cascal vs Joya? PA
                                                                                            * Med - Baklava vs Zan Keman, Med Wraps, Evvia, Cafe 220, Baklava - uh, PA.
                                                                                            * Japanese - Namo, Tomi vs Kampai - MV
                                                                                            * Fusion Viet - Xahn vs Tamerine? ha. PA
                                                                                            * Beer - Rose and Crown, Empire Tap vs Tied house? PA, hands down
                                                                                            * Cocktails - Mantra + Chocolate vs nothing - PA
                                                                                            * Indian - Sakoon + New Sue's + Shivas vs Darbar + Janta + Junoon - tie, maybe MV by a nose
                                                                                            * Fine Dining - Chez TV vs nothing - MV
                                                                                            * Italian - Strada, Renzo, Vero, Osteria vs Zucco, Vaso Assure - PA like crazy
                                                                                            * Burgers - peninsula creamery + Old Pro vs Tied House - PA
                                                                                            * Californian - St Michael's, Zibbibbo vs nothing - PA
                                                                                            * Coffee - Doge + Blue Bottle @ Fraiche vs Red Rock + Dana Street - PA
                                                                                            * Ice cream - both are poor, but PA has Michael's - PA
                                                                                            * Korean - both lose.
                                                                                            * Mexican - reposado + la morineta vs la fiesta - PA
                                                                                            * Wine - wine bar + Vino Locale vs nowhere - PA
                                                                                            * Pizza - Paxti's, PMH, Strada, CPK vs Amici - PA
                                                                                            MV oddities:
                                                                                            Ramen, Pho, Okonomiyaki, Mongolian BBQ, Dive bar, chinese buffet, HK army food.
                                                                                            PA oddities:
                                                                                            Burmese, crepes, new orleans, Venezuelan, sliders, Caribbean, mechanical bull riding, cheesesteaks, sake bombs, Brazillian

                                                                                            I was very suspicious of PA for a long time. It's too clean, and prices are too high. But scratch the surface, and there's a lot more good eats than at first glance.

                                                                                            In terms of your list, MV is a very livable city, unlike PA.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Cascal
                                                                                            400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

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

                                                                                            Vero
                                                                                            530 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            Red Rock Cafe
                                                                                            1010 Lincoln Ave, Napa, CA 94558

                                                                                            Cafe 220
                                                                                            220 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            Osteria
                                                                                            247 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            Vino Locale
                                                                                            431 Kipling St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            Sakoon
                                                                                            357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                            Bangkok Cuisine
                                                                                            407 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            Old Pro
                                                                                            541 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                              * Med - Baklava vs Zan Keman, Med Wraps, Evvia, Cafe 220, Baklava - uh, PA.
                                                                                              Do you know all the other downtown MV places for those things? Med. Grill House (!), Gyros House, Bodrum, Zucca?

                                                                                              * Korean - both lose.
                                                                                              What do you think of MV's friendly small inexpensive Totoro and recent (2008) more elegant Ginseng BBQ ?

                                                                                              * Wine - wine bar + Vino Locale vs nowhere - PA
                                                                                              "Nowhere?" Haven't been to Savvy Cellar, I gather (not to mention Artisan Wine Depot, giving even VVW competition; has license but it's a shop rather than wine bar).

                                                                                              Also, downtown MV has "sliders" too (beef, lamb, or salmon, with garnishes) -- Cantankerous Fish's bar menu, famously good value at "happy hour" times, draws lots of locals.

                                                                                              And for Pizza's sake, if you're going to mention chains like CPK in PA, you might at least give a representative list of downtown-MV pizzerias: Not just Amici's but the competing hip chain Zpizza and the independents Frankie Johhny & Luigi, Kapp's, and Fast Pizza Delivery nearby, from all of which I've gotten excellent interesting pizzas several times each. That's five of MV's 18 (going on 19) current pizzerias and most of those _not_ in the downtown area deliver to it.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Totoro
                                                                                              841 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                              The Cantankerous Fish
                                                                                              420 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                              Gyros House
                                                                                              212 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                              Artisan Wine Depot
                                                                                              400A Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                * Med - good to know about the others. Gyros House always smells good.
                                                                                                * Korean - I tried Totoro about 3 months ago and thought it awful, about as bad as Han's in PA - but Totoro was cheaper. Ginseng BBQ is new to me and will try it - castro is closer to me than Tofu House, and the atmosphere at Tofu House leaves much to be desired.
                                                                                                * I have a thing about Cantankerous Fish, because I had a very bad meeting there a year ago. I shouldn't ding it so badly - the food's OK. I prefer it greatly to Cascal for food. I still give PA the win because Old Pro's is far better than anyone would expect - and they have Opus One by the glass.
                                                                                                * Pizza - you're right, I'm short-changing MV. I didn't list PA's round table, though, but CPK is actually not bad. FJL I consider out of castro range, perhaps arbitrarily. Kapp's was an oversight. I still think PA has the edge, because of La Strada, and the "nan-izza" at mantra. Or tell me where the wood fired pizza oven in MV is.
                                                                                                * "kosher" - I am very curious about "the kitchen table" in MV. The place looks 100% unique.

                                                                                                My statement about MV vs PA is simply they're much more similar than you think. The density levels aren't that different. I've lived in MV for a few years (early 90's) and worked in MV offices for 5 years and eat down there regularly. Your statement that MV is massively denser and/or better simply isn't true.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Cascal
                                                                                                400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                La Strada
                                                                                                335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                Totoro
                                                                                                841 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                The Cantankerous Fish
                                                                                                420 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                Old Pro
                                                                                                541 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                Gyros House
                                                                                                212 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                Tofu House
                                                                                                2788 Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley, CA 94546

                                                                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                  Thanks for elaborating. In what follows, please allow that I'm currently writing at a disadvantage, having made (awaiting dinner) a current CH recipe for a drink that might be better dubbed "Corpse Maker." *

                                                                                                  First BB, you and I are longtime Bay Area food opiners and, I hope, are above sweeping assertions like "simply isn't true," preferring demonstration. I'm still hoping for a comprehensive list of University-Ave. area restaurants. A longtime weekly lunch group often goes there (furnishing a portion of the dining data I report here) and welcomes suggestions. I've poked around University Ave. (even lived nearby) these past three decades but my experiences specifically in the last five years continue to support my recommendation of MV as the best bang for the buck in the fewest blocks. Some up-peninsula friends even insist on going there by preference.

                                                                                                  "Or tell me where the wood fired pizza oven in MV is." Both Amici's and Zpizza (recommended to your attention; a recent comprehensive local article on MV pizzerias noted its good value) cook their pizzas on bricks, dark and toasty. Applewood (Menlo Park) is the only place I know traditionally to use wood all the time but I haven't been there since about 1995. Is wood used in PA places you mentioned?

                                                                                                  " 'kosher' - I am very curious about "the kitchen table" in MV. The place looks 100% unique." It was planned out by a well-known local chef (and restaurant manager and CCA instructor -- Vivaca Grill, The Agenda, if those resonate with anyone). Press and online discussion seem inevitably to focus on the novelty of Kosher instead of on the food. In several visits I found it to be a fairly upscale, creative Amurrican menu notable for in-house preserved meats and vegetables. Distinctive Pastrami sandwiches. Actual Russian dressing (not its dumbed-down latter-day Kraftoid variant, the despicable "Thousand Island"). Pickled local seasonal peppers. Classy French fries. Elegant salads with sensitive use of fresh vegetable shavings. That sort of thing. As a bonus, impromptu entertainment by visiting New Yorkers who, rather than remarking on the pastrami's distinctive spicing or the use of local produce, grumble that their sandwich is inferior to the True Version from {Rapaport's, Stage Door Deli, take your pick}. Though unpredictable, this side show can be entertaining.

                                                                                                  * http://www.chow.com/recipes/29171-the...

                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                  The Kitchen Table
                                                                                                  142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                    Since you asked for it ---

                                                                                                    Here's a list I just made up of restaurants on University Ave, and Restaurants on Castro Street. I used the same criteria: places that serve dinner and are currently in business. I have not edited for quality. I am a little confused about what's in that block where zPizza is, there has been some turnover there. I'm pretty sure of the accuracy of the Univ Ave list - I've eaten at all but a couple of them (New York New York, Bucca di Beppo, Madame Tan). I have been more liberal with MV since I don't get down there as often.

                                                                                                    Palo Alto Restaurants

                                                                                                    1. Garden fresh
                                                                                                    2. Evvia
                                                                                                    3. Sancho's
                                                                                                    4. Pampas
                                                                                                    5. Tamerine
                                                                                                    6. Paxti's
                                                                                                    7. Sprout Cafe
                                                                                                    8. Pluto's
                                                                                                    9. Bistro Maxine
                                                                                                    10. Coconuts
                                                                                                    11. Palo Alto Creamery
                                                                                                    12. St Michael's Alley
                                                                                                    13. Taipan
                                                                                                    14. Loving Hut
                                                                                                    15. Coupa Cafe
                                                                                                    16. Darbar
                                                                                                    17. Crepevine
                                                                                                    18. Mediterranean Wraps
                                                                                                    19. Rose and Crown
                                                                                                    20. Baklava
                                                                                                    21. Vero
                                                                                                    22. Spot A Pizza
                                                                                                    23. Mantra
                                                                                                    24. China Delight
                                                                                                    25. La Morenita
                                                                                                    26. Osteria
                                                                                                    27. Pluto's
                                                                                                    28. Junnoon
                                                                                                    29. Rangoon
                                                                                                    30. New York Pizza
                                                                                                    31. Reposado
                                                                                                    32. NOLA
                                                                                                    33. Jing Jing
                                                                                                    34. Bangkok Cuisine
                                                                                                    35. Mango Caribbean
                                                                                                    36. Gyros Gyros
                                                                                                    37. Cafe Epi
                                                                                                    38. Cafe Renaissance
                                                                                                    39. Cafe Renzo
                                                                                                    40. Siam Orchid
                                                                                                    41. Thaiphoon
                                                                                                    42. Kan Zeman
                                                                                                    43. Kanpai
                                                                                                    44. Janta
                                                                                                    45. California Pizza Kitchen
                                                                                                    46. New York New York
                                                                                                    47. Joya
                                                                                                    48. Shokolaat
                                                                                                    49. University Cafe
                                                                                                    50. Lavanda
                                                                                                    51. The Old Pro
                                                                                                    52. Bistro 412
                                                                                                    53. Three Seasons
                                                                                                    54. Sliderbar Cafe
                                                                                                    55. La Strada
                                                                                                    56. Pizza My Heart
                                                                                                    57. Zibibbo
                                                                                                    58. Mandrin Gourmet
                                                                                                    59. Cafe 220
                                                                                                    60. Il Fornaio
                                                                                                    61. Gordon Biersch
                                                                                                    62. Bucca di Beppo
                                                                                                    63. Pasta?
                                                                                                    64. Han
                                                                                                    65. Madame Tam
                                                                                                    66. The Cheesecake Factory
                                                                                                    67. Round Table Pizza
                                                                                                    68. Siam Royal
                                                                                                    69. Empire Tap Room
                                                                                                    70. Hydrabad House
                                                                                                    71. Krung Siam
                                                                                                    72. Miyake
                                                                                                    73. Sushi Tomo

                                                                                                    Non-dinner food places
                                                                                                    1. Michael's
                                                                                                    2. L'Amour Frozen Yogurt
                                                                                                    3. AG Ferrari
                                                                                                    4. Prolific Oven
                                                                                                    5. The Wine Room
                                                                                                    6. Haagen-Daz Shop
                                                                                                    7. Fraische
                                                                                                    8. Peets
                                                                                                    9. Cafe del Doge
                                                                                                    10. Red Mango
                                                                                                    11. House of Bagles
                                                                                                    12. Vino Locale

                                                                                                    There are currently several vacant spaces. Blue Chalk Cafe, Bela Luna, Taxi's/Abbey's, Halu Grill, Zao's.

                                                                                                    Mountain View

                                                                                                    1. Taqueria Los Charros
                                                                                                    2. Vaso Azzurro
                                                                                                    3. Xanh
                                                                                                    4. Sushi Tomi
                                                                                                    5. Kappo Nami Nami
                                                                                                    6. Chez TJ
                                                                                                    7. Fiesta Del Mar Too
                                                                                                    8. Z Pizza
                                                                                                    9. Sakoon
                                                                                                    10. Maru Ichi
                                                                                                    11. Ryowa
                                                                                                    12. Shabuway
                                                                                                    13. Taqueria La Bamba
                                                                                                    14. Cafe Yulong
                                                                                                    15. Gyros House
                                                                                                    16. Cascal
                                                                                                    17. Shenzan (when did this happen?)
                                                                                                    18. Cafe Yulong
                                                                                                    19. Hunan Chili
                                                                                                    20. Amici's
                                                                                                    21. Cantankerous Fish
                                                                                                    22. Mediterranean Grill House
                                                                                                    23. Shiva's
                                                                                                    24. Kirin
                                                                                                    25. St Stephen's Green
                                                                                                    26. Queen's House
                                                                                                    27. Bushido
                                                                                                    28. Bodrum
                                                                                                    29. Fu Lam Mum
                                                                                                    30. Chef Liu
                                                                                                    31. Hangen Szechuan
                                                                                                    32. Casa Lupe
                                                                                                    33. The Kitchen Table
                                                                                                    34. New Mongolian BBQ
                                                                                                    35. Don Giovanni
                                                                                                    36. Bella Vita
                                                                                                    37. Baklava
                                                                                                    38. Ginseng Korean BBQ
                                                                                                    39. Amerin
                                                                                                    40. Bangkok Spoon
                                                                                                    41. Pasta?
                                                                                                    42. Zucca
                                                                                                    43. Tied House
                                                                                                    44. Hong Kong Bistro
                                                                                                    45. Pho Garden
                                                                                                    46. ShaLaLa
                                                                                                    47. Los Caxcanes (inside the monte carlo club)
                                                                                                    48. Totoro
                                                                                                    49. Pho To Chau
                                                                                                    50. Yakko
                                                                                                    51. Thaiphoon
                                                                                                    52. Barracuda
                                                                                                    53. King of Krung Siam
                                                                                                    54. Tsunami
                                                                                                    55. Molly Magee's
                                                                                                    56. Temptations
                                                                                                    57. Pho Hoa
                                                                                                    58. Sono Sushi
                                                                                                    59. Kapp's
                                                                                                    60. Savory

                                                                                                    Non-dinner food places
                                                                                                    1. Verde Tea Cafe
                                                                                                    2. Tapioca
                                                                                                    3. Neto
                                                                                                    4. Mountain View Bakery
                                                                                                    5. Le Boulanger
                                                                                                    6. Bean Scene
                                                                                                    7. Red Rock Cafe
                                                                                                    8. Dana St Roasting

                                                                                                    Empty Spots - Scratch, Food Street, New China Delight

                                                                                                    Unknown - "Villa 88" - near tied house

                                                                                                    Please let me know any errors. I don't remember there being 3 pho places, so think there must have been a name change in the middle. I found a couple of errors, but may have made more.

                                                                                                    I hope this answers your question regarding whether there is a dense and vibrant scene in on University Ave similar in scope to Castro St.

                                                                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                      Thanks BB, this is excellent. Between us we should end up with very useful and comprehensive lists presently, perhaps a separate posting. (If I knew how to contact you offline, we might spare the poor readers some of this intermediate detail.)

                                                                                                      I'll check your MV list with my own (which is alphabetical and includes lots of notes). Couple quick separate comments:

                                                                                                      1. Your MV entries total 68, whereas the standard local MV count is 94 or 95 now. (Derived from a list originally maintained by a local family online.) That includes not just the side streets for some distance, but a few places on ECR near Castro, such as FJL you mentioned earlier. Of those on ECR, only places still easily walkable are included in what are customarily considered downtown-MV restaurants by me, by the family that started the list, and by MV's Central Business Association which puts out local guidebooks. I'm not suggesting that you must include all 90-odd but I'll identify which sites are missing above.

                                                                                                      2. Re density, the large majority of the downtown MV restaurants are in the 100-400 blocks of Castro (i.e. Evelyn to Mercy). They thin out rapidly but not totally as Castro addresses exceed 500. When I refer to the high density I mean in that 4-block core, which I'd compare with a similar stretch of University.

                                                                                                      And there are indeed three Pho houses (Pho Garden opened last year) and unless I'm badly confused at the moment, Neto, the place with the big outdoor seating on a corner, serves very substantial meals like multiple kinds of freshly grilled kebab platters; most people who've eaten them, including me, class it as a full restaurant even if (which would be news to me) it doesn't serve supper.

                                                                                                    2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                      La Strada uses actual wood for their pizzas.

                                                                                                      MV is your best bang for buck - absolutely. My issue has been your statement that no other dense cluster of restaurants exists.

                                                                                                      "Unless they've kept up with it, most Bay Area people don't realize the restaurant density [in Mountain View] today, exceeded by no other current neighborhood I know of."

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      La Strada
                                                                                                      335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                        Thanks for the lists!

                                                                                                        The area your Palo Alto restaurants cover is larger than the area that the Mountain View restaurants cover, isn't it? If you divide numbers by area I think eatzalot's claim is correct - exceeded by no other current neighborhood, though downtown Palo Alto comes close.

                                                                                                        Michael

                                                                                                        1. re: mdg

                                                                                                          For peet's sake. Etazalot asked for data, I provided. Here's more.

                                                                                                          The distance from Mandrin Gourmet to Savory is 600 smoots, according to Google Earth.

                                                                                                          The distance from Rudy's Pub to Tamerine is 450 smoots.

                                                                                                          So, counting by the walking distance along University Ave vs the walking distance along Castro Street, Mountain View is bigger. And has fewer restaurants. Even if you throw out some of the PA outliers - like St Michael's - PA would still have more restaurants.

                                                                                                          I call these numbers roughly equal. Palo Alto has 20% more restaurants in 30% less linear space - by, of course, using the side streets. Trying to come up with a rival density calculation would be even sillier than the current thread, but so is saying that MV is conclusively denser based on these numbers.

                                                                                                          [A good density calcualtion might account for restaurant floor space vs non-restaurant floor space, instead of restaurants-per-square-smoot. Or perhaps the number of dining seats.]

                                                                                                          If you want an *actual* answer, and you work at Yelp, Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo (who have the geo coordinates of every restaurant in america), please reach out - I'll write some code and we'll find out where in America is denser - because I'm sure there's a place.

                                                                                                          PS. Smoot - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoot
                                                                                                          PPS. I forgot Scotty's in PA - they have pretty good quesadillas.
                                                                                                          PPPS. PA should lose two points for The Cheesecake Factory. Ewww.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Rudy's Pub
                                                                                                          117 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                            OK, I'm not going to argue with geographic data provided in smoots! :-)

                                                                                                            Michael

                                                                                                      2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                        Sorry, Amici's and Applewood are not wood fired.

                                                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                          Thanks for the La Strada woodfired pizza recc, BB. And no need to apologize, Melanie: no contradiction. I mentioned that both Amici's and Zpizza use brick ovens (both gas-fired IIRC) producing toasty thin crusts. Applewood I had no current information about, but thought it was perhaps wood-fired before 15 years ago. I gather it isn't now, anyway -- thanks.

                                                                                                          Incidentally the local Papa John's (a not-bad moderately-priced chain IMO) uses a little electric oven with a conveyor belt that runs pizzas through continuously, cooking them in 4 minutes 30 seconds.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          La Strada
                                                                                                          335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                        2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                          Worth noting that the talented chef who built the rep at The Kitchen Table has moved to Israel. Posts on the Kosher board say quality has fallen off a lot.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          The Kitchen Table
                                                                                                          142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                            I haven't seen that board, my info is only first-hand. But it sounds like you're describing (IIRC) Moishe, who left quite a few months back, after which I saw slight menu simplifications, but no great general quality change in the few months following the transition, so I didn't think it was worth mentioning at the time. Tried the place some three times before and three times after his departure. I haven't been there in a few months.

                                                                                                            While I don't know that it was the case here, I notice sometimes a new and creative chef explores a wide range and becomes a succès d'estime rather than succès d'affaires -- critically popular, but "food costs" poorly controlled and the business money-losing. There was talk of that when chef Chopra was obliged to depart Sakoon after contributing a lot to its reputation, immediate Michelin-guide notice, etc.

                                                                                                            Will have to try "TKT" again. So many restaurants, so little time (to paraphrase one old Oaklander), and already there's major news for a couple of neighboring restaurants which I'll post on the spun-off MV/PA topic.

                                                                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                              Don't know about Moishe. Chef Chaim Davids is on leave in Israel.
                                                                                                              http://www.thekitchentablerestaurant....

                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                Yes, that's the guy. (So either I Didn't Recall Correctly, or it was a nickname. Evidence for the importance of Fact-Checking.) He departed quite some time ago. This was the guy who switched to real Russian dressing after I gave my tirade about Thousand island* to Steve Long (the planner I mentioned earlier) who passed it to Chef Davids.

                                                                                                                * (Russian dressing, traditional US thick cold condiment for shellfish, Russian-style salads [of arrays of sliced vegetables and meats, common in US cookbooks I have from around 100 years ago], aspics, and later Reuben sandwiches, and made classically of mayonnaise, "chili" sauce or another tomato sauce, and little savory bits like chives, minced green olives, a little shredded horseradish if you really want to be historical, etc.) can be traced in popular cookbooks to a degenerate variant after WW2, thinning it down with lots more mayonnaise and, in case any flavor remains, unsweetened whipped cream to mute it further. That's "Thousand Island" dressing, originally made at home and later sold bottled with God knows what shortcuts, sweeteners, etc. added. Brrrrrrr.)

                                                                                                2. Stay in the city and if it's me I would stay in the Mission. There's Bart, Muni and better chance of grabbing a cab in this neighborhood. I don't get the Mountain View or even the Palo Alto suggestions. Do you enjoy suburban life and strip malls? Do you want to get into your car every time you want to get a bite to eat? Also, what's nice about staying in the city is that you can really extend your mealtime adventure. If you're in the Mission you can get started on happy hour, have a cocktail and app at one place, have your meal at another and choose to have dessert somewhere else. If you were in Mountain View or Palo Alto that would be harder to do. You can also choose to eat much later since restaurants are open later in the city.

                                                                                                  And if you want a less hectic city life, than my 2nd recommendation would be Rockridge, where I live. It really offers the best of walking and driving lifestyle with plenty of great restaurants and markets near by.

                                                                                                  19 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: lucymom

                                                                                                    lucymom: "I don't get the Mountain View or even the Palo Alto suggestions. ... suburban life and strip malls? Do you want to get into your car every time you want to get a bite to eat?"

                                                                                                    There's what *I* don't get. I already mentioned people being way out of touch with these specific neighborhoods some of us recommended, which are small-town downtowns. And yet still willing to give advice about them, evidently. (Strip malls? suburbia?? late-20th-century experiments in places like Sunnyvale!) lucymom, I urge you to check out what I'm writing about, it will be a big surprise. The whole point of recommending downtown MV or the other peninsula downtowns is that they're small-town neighborhoods just as in SF, built up circa 1910, before cars were common. Those 90-odd downtown-MV restaurants (counted from a list, not some guess) are all within very short walk. As is the local train station (and farmer's market), not some trip across town.

                                                                                                    I already mentioned the car-less "train town" culture fashionable among 20-somethings in recent years. You can also find plenty of testimonials here from respected board regulars on worthwhile dining experiences in places like downtown PA and MV. Isn't that what Chowhound is about? Random sampling:

                                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/399097 May 2007
                                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/427295 Aug 2007
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/595762 Feb 2009
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/599555 Feb 2009
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/630306 June 2009
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700022 April 2010
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/675413 May 2010
                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/733386 Sept 2010

                                                                                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                      eatzalot and I will agree that lucymom doesn't have any clue about how decent the MV and PA eating scenes are.

                                                                                                      "If you're in the Mission you can get started on happy hour, have a cocktail and app at one place, have your meal at another and choose to have dessert somewhere else. If you were in Mountain View or Palo Alto that would be harder to do. You can also choose to eat much later since restaurants are open later in the city. "

                                                                                                      This is supremely false, because places in the mission are quite spread out. In PA and MV you can easily walk from one place to another and spread a meal out. For something like that, PA would be more conducive, because there are more-better multicourse places (mantra->tamerine->NOLA->wine place).

                                                                                                      And open later - sure, the mission's better, but PA's not bad. PA at midnight I'm choosing between Renzo, SliderBar, Cafe 220, Pen-Crem, and Old Pro depending on the day of the week - but I'm usually driving down to MV for late night dim sum - always hopping until midnight. At 2am on the peninsula there's nothing other than the RWC denny's, where Faralito is going until 4am. One does miss institutions like that.

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Cafe 220
                                                                                                      220 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                      Old Pro
                                                                                                      541 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                        A couple late night updates:

                                                                                                        Care Renzo at midnight is alas no more; they are closing at 10 now. Friends tried it around 10:30 a couple weekends ago and had to make do with Gordon Biersch.

                                                                                                        I'm not sure if Sunnyvale is considered Peninsula, but Shah is now open until 3 am on Friday and Saturday.

                                                                                                        I enjoy eating both in downtown Palo Alto and downtown Mountain View. In downtown Palo Alto there are more places we return to regularly, but in downtown Mountain View there are more best-of-breeds for the entire Bay Area (a 3 - 0 advantage in my book). Downtown Palo Alto has some best of breed dishes, but not so much entire restaurants.

                                                                                                        Neither downtown is good for pizza. As far as I know, Howie's beats anything in either downtown by a long ways. I wouldn't consider FJL to be downtown Mountain View either, but in any case their main advantage is being open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday.

                                                                                                        Either locale would do well for SeoulQueen's needs, assuming the geography works. When you take markets into account, though, I think downtown Mountain View is the winner with such high points as the farmer's market and the wonderful Artisan Wine Depot.

                                                                                                        Michael

                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                        Artisan Wine Depot
                                                                                                        400A Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                                                                                        1. re: mdg

                                                                                                          Very sad to hear of Renzo's late night demise.

                                                                                                          Next time you want late night eats in PA, do try The Old Pro - but I tried there a few days ago, and was turned away. The neon that says "dining until 1am" was turned off, but they haven't taken it off the wall. The food at Old Pro is better than GB, although the stench of stale spilled beerzooka is a turn off.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Old Pro
                                                                                                          541 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                          1. re: mdg

                                                                                                            Strongly concur with you on the quality of Howie's Artisan Pizza, mdg -- though he has had to tone down some of what we thought were his more interesting specials that didn't sell as well.

                                                                                                            If you've tried MV's Amici's and Zpizza a few times each, then I'm sure you have had a good dose of downtown MV pizza. But in the course of trying 17 or so of the town's pizzerias I did find good ones, and found, as many others do, the two I just mentioned pretty damn good in the types tried, and Zpizza attractively priced (unlike Amici's which had the second-highest price per unit area in town).

                                                                                                            -----
                                                                                                            Howie's Artisan Pizza
                                                                                                            855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                          2. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                            Sorry if i offended but I don't think seoulqueen is looking for "decent" eats. I was basing my suggestion on some of the tid bits of info she provided which made me to think there were more similarities between us (5'1 female, safety concerns, etc.). In which case if someone told me to stay in MV over SF and I did that during a short stay I'd be disappointed.

                                                                                                            1. re: lucymom

                                                                                                              How can you say that you would be disappointed in MV when it appears you haven't been there, at least not very recently? Your description of downtown Mountain View and Palo Alto is far off the mark factually, not just a disagreement about food quality (unlike bbulkow's and eatzalot's PA/MV debate).

                                                                                                              Michael

                                                                                                              1. re: mdg

                                                                                                                Can we stop trying to pretend that Mountain View is comparable to San Francisco? Yes, it has a nice density of restaurants, but the midpriced restaurants in San Francisco are much better than the midpriced restaurants in Mountain View, and that doesn't factor in that Mountain View is a boring town in comparison to San Francisco. It's a perfectly nice and safe place to stay, and if you stay there you can eat well, but that's no reason to recommend it over San Francisco. And yes, I have been there recently, and in fact lived there for a while. There are good places to eat in Mountain View, but that doesn't mean that it's preferable to San Francisco for a tourist who will be there for a few weeks.

                                                                                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                  I agree. I don't think mountain view is better than palo alto, and neither are as good as the mission.

                                                                                                                  It would be pure trolling to point out MV has a michelin star, and the mission doesn't.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                    The Mission does have a Michelin star -- Saison got one this year. (Well deserved for food, in my opinion, service is a different story.) But clearly, the strength of the Mission is not in mid-range to high-end dining and Michelin stars. On the other hand, not everyone is into the kind of food that is supposed to be the Mission's forte and there are quite a few people who don't like the gritty environment, something that some of the Mission's backers seem to fail to understand.

                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                      Assuming you're working in downtown San Francisco, what about the Castro? It's got some good eateries, but its main virtues are that's it's quite safe and very central. And it's pretty--lots of fixed up Victorian houses. It's considerably closer in than Clement St. There are people on the street until late at night. The Muni Metro light rail lines to downtown come through there along with some buses, so transit is good. The Castro is within walking distance or a short drive/cab ride of restaurants in the Mission. It is a substantially, but by no means exclusively gay neighborhood.

                                                                                                                      When you've got time you can drive down to Palo Alto or Mountain View, or take BART over to Downtown Berkeley and the adjoining "Gourmet Ghetto", which are much more attractive and have better restaurants than the immediate campus environs.

                                                                                                                  2. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                    Thank you, Jasmine. The whole idea of a visitor coming to the Bay Area for a few weeks and staying in Mountain View the whole time makes me even sadder than the idea of that British visitor who only wanted to eat "native" SF foods like turkey tetrazzini.

                                                                                                                    1. re: daveena

                                                                                                                      Yes, thank you, Jasmine. It doesn't matter if there are thousands of restaurants in MV and PA -- they almost ALL suck. Trying to compare those eateries to what you find in the Mission is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                                                                        daveena and h-k-f, I've lived around the Bay Area for 50 years, mostly not in the South Bay, and discussed local food on the Internet for 25 years. (Incidentally my family has been here since the Civil War and I grew up hearing first-person accounts of The Earthquake). It's obvious from this thread that some people here disagree with you in a positive way (recommending places you're dismissing offhand) and it's my impression so far that they have vastly more basis for judgment than you do.

                                                                                                                        I'm very eager to read your comments if you can add something constructive.

                                                                                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                          eatzalot, I've had some good food in both Mountain View and Palo Alto (although most of the South Bay places I consider destination eats are in San Jose and Santa Clara). I do not agree with h_k_f that all food in these places suck. However, I would not recommend either MV or PA as a destination for someone visiting SF. As others have noted, we still don't know where SeoulQueen's work is based, but I assumed that as she stayed in the Financial District that she was working in SF. I do not think the food in MV is good enough to justify having someone make the commute from MV to SF every day for work.

                                                                                                                          1. re: daveena

                                                                                                                            Thanks for clarifying, daveena. I completely agree SeoulQueen needs a convenient as well as gastronomic location. The Bay Area is rich with restaurant neighborhoods -- many of them pointed out in this thread. Some, like Solano Avenue in Berkeley and Albany, are low-key with little high-profile attention, but are extremely livable and satisfy some very experienced food people who don't post online. I consider SF the Bay Area's restaurant capital, its food scenes and sensibilities and sophisticated diners are unique.

                                                                                                                            I'm merely amazed at the transformations in the lower Peninsula and South Bay in the last decade. The SF Chronicle and national media also spotted this some years ago. When OP expressed interest in the whole Bay Area and also the contemporary "train-town" phenomenon, it stimulated some of us to give more details that we have, that's all.

                                                                                                                            This situation somewhat parallels East Bay development into a high-end restaurant region in the 1970s, which so to speak moved the center-of-mass of notable Bay Area restaurants eastward -- from the days in my grandparents' time when SF was the de-facto downtown for the whole Bay Area. First the pioneering Potluck, Hank Rubin, Narsai David. etc. (Rubin gave a cooking demo to my brother's third-grade class in the 1960s and my brother came home and cooked fried pies.) Then Narsai's (1969), Panisse (1971) and its many spin-offs, some pioneering ethnic restaurants, Bay Wolf, etc. I also recall some short-sighted sneering and condescension initially from SF in the 1970s -- look at the provincial East Bay, actually getting a restaurant or two. It didn't last.

                                                                                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                              I've thought about this thread the past couple of days. If I were visiting from a part of this country where Asian food was lame and I craved a wide variety of decent Asian cuisines (*decent*, not something that would rival the corresponding cuisine in its native country for say a Michelin star), I would be in heaven living for a few weeks just blocks in walking distance from downtown Mountain View. And many of the Asian restaurants in downtown Mountain View are perfect for solo diners, especially those who don't want to spend $$$. Yes the SOMA and Mission neighborhoods offer higher-quality (especially in service) restaurants at higher but still affordable prices, but they tend to be European and so comparison isn't exactly fair.

                                                                                                                              1. re: vincentlo

                                                                                                                                I have to disagree. I live in Mountain View and find the restaurant scene here totally uninspiring. A nice suberb to live yes but for dining i would go elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                Maybe for Indian/Pakistani i have a choice in Shezan. For taco, i might try Los Charros or La Bamba. If i'm seeking Chinese, I would rather drive to Milpitas. The many Chinese restaurants downtown are both pricey (with the exception of Kirin) and forgettable. Japanese I'd rather eat in San Mateo, Izakaya/ramen in San Jose/Santa Clara and so on. For Italian/French/etc, Palo Alto works better.

                                                                                                                                In short, there are probably only a handful of restaurants worth stepping into downtown and the list is not terribly long.

                                                                                                                            2. re: daveena

                                                                                                                              I would suspect the OP has left the building by this point.

                                                                                                            1. Since this has become a catalog of food neighborhoods, I feel compelled to make an entry for mine: South of Market in San Francisco (SoMA). SoMA has a reputation of not even being a neighborhood, but things are changing fast. I made a list of places I can walk to in 10 minutes and came up with the following list.

                                                                                                              25 Lusk
                                                                                                              Alexander's Steakhouse
                                                                                                              Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
                                                                                                              Brickhouse Cafe
                                                                                                              Butler & the Chef Bistro
                                                                                                              Cha Am Thai
                                                                                                              Chavo's Mexican
                                                                                                              Chili Lemon Carlic Thai Cafe
                                                                                                              Coco 500
                                                                                                              D'Urso Italian Delicatessen
                                                                                                              District Wine Bar
                                                                                                              Fringale
                                                                                                              Hotel Utah Saloon
                                                                                                              Iron Cactus
                                                                                                              K&L Wine Merchant
                                                                                                              Koh Samui & The Monkey
                                                                                                              Le Charm French Bistro
                                                                                                              Little Skillet
                                                                                                              McDonald's
                                                                                                              Mijita
                                                                                                              Mo's Burgers
                                                                                                              Mochica Peruvian
                                                                                                              Nama Sushi
                                                                                                              Oola Restaurant & Bar
                                                                                                              Orson Restaurant Bar & Lounge
                                                                                                              Ozone Thai
                                                                                                              Pazzia
                                                                                                              Primo Patio Cafe
                                                                                                              Public House
                                                                                                              Restaurant Lulu
                                                                                                              Safeway
                                                                                                              South Park Cafe
                                                                                                              Subway Sandwiches
                                                                                                              The Creamery
                                                                                                              The Wine Club San Francisco
                                                                                                              Tsunami Japanese
                                                                                                              Victor's Mexican
                                                                                                              Whole Foods
                                                                                                              Zero Zero Pizza
                                                                                                              Zuppa
                                                                                                              Caltrain
                                                                                                              I80 on- and off-ramps
                                                                                                              I280 on- and off-ramps

                                                                                                              You will note that there is a mix of neighborhood and destination places on the list, and if you are willing to walk for 20 or 25 minutes you can get to virtually any foodie stop from Hayes Valley to Potrero Hill, to the Ferry Building, to North Beach. This larger area includes virtually every top restaurant in the city. I think SoMA is easily the best foodie neighborhood in the Bay Area.

                                                                                                              -----
                                                                                                              Wine Club
                                                                                                              953 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Mochica
                                                                                                              937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Zuppa
                                                                                                              564 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Fringale Restaurant
                                                                                                              570 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Oola Restaurant & Bar
                                                                                                              860 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Le Charm French Bistro
                                                                                                              315 Fifth St., San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Pazzia Restaurant
                                                                                                              337 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Mijita
                                                                                                              1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                                                              Hotel Utah Saloon
                                                                                                              500 4th St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                              Primo Patio Cafe
                                                                                                              214 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Alexander's Steakhouse
                                                                                                              10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

                                                                                                              South Park Cafe
                                                                                                              108 South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Brickhouse Cafe & Bar
                                                                                                              426 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Nama Sushi
                                                                                                              227 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              Public House
                                                                                                              24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94101

                                                                                                              Zero Zero
                                                                                                              826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: Paul H

                                                                                                                gonna have to disagree; as a mission resident; there's really only a small handful of those places that have no equivalent (or superior) in the mission.

                                                                                                                however, where i do think SOMA is far superior to any other neighborhood (or anywhere in the bay area) is the coffee scene

                                                                                                              2. I would definitely walk from north to south, and then east to west in Berkeley! I

                                                                                                                1. There are a lot of short term rentals/corporate apartments in Nob Hill. Not a foodie destination, but there are some nice little neighborhood places. It's very safe too, and the location is very convenient to many other areas of SF. The area around Grace Cathedral is cab central, it rarely takes me more than 5 minutes to hail one. I can pretty much get anywhere from here either by bus or cab. It's also very picturesque here.

                                                                                                                  And despite what people think It definitely feels like a hood. I know all my neighbors, and we are all friendly to one another.

                                                                                                                  No it's not the perfect foodie destination, but there are nice places to stay for 4-6 weeks, many with awesome views,, has some nice local places, is safe, and one can get to many different areas of the city quite easily. You can get downtown, SoMa, Financial District, Mission, the Richmond, North Beach, Chinatown, Polk Street, Union Square, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, the Marina, Cow Hollow, and more from here in less than 10 minutes in a cab. Many of these locations have a direct bus line to them as well. And you can walk to many of them. Oh the cable car runs through here so it's a great alternative to a smelly bus.

                                                                                                                  You can get to the Ferry Building farmers market very easily too, you can walk down to it and then grab a bus back up the hill.

                                                                                                                  And while some may not agree that this is a great place to live, I personally love living here! Don't dis my 'hood! :)

                                                                                                                  1. This subject recently came up elsewhere...

                                                                                                                    http://sf.eater.com/archives/2010/12/...

                                                                                                                    ...while the Mission was mentioned a lot, SoMa is hot on its heels and may be pulling ahead.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Paul H

                                                                                                                      There are lots of good restaurants in SOMA, but they're scattered over a fairly large area, much of which is dead at night. There's no dense restaurant row like Valencia St.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                        Will Mr Lauriston be challenged to produce the exact restaurant density of Valencia Street?

                                                                                                                    2. SeoulQueen,

                                                                                                                      Speaking as a 10-year Noe Valley resident and a lover of food, I’d like to make the case that my area fits your “safe, gentrified & neighborhoody” needs while also offering very serious & varied dining opportunities. Even though we are only 6 blocks from the Outer Mission, my wife (of similar statue to you) feels totally safe here at all hours with our young children, as the area has become very residential/family focused in the last few years as folks who spent their single days in the marina, pac heights, SOMA or the Mission all moved here because they wanted to have a little more bang for their housing buck and room for the kids but also valued staying close to the pulse of the city. With that, many Million $ buildings in the neighborhood are being razed and replaced with $2-$3M homes. The area has great infrastructure w/public transport on the J-Church and 24th Street BART station, as well as easy access to both 101 and 280 Freeways. More importantly, the food options are amazing.

                                                                                                                      I’m going to start with the Church Street Corridor in between 22nd and 30th Streets, with my home base being close to Church & 28th (or “Upper Noe,” even though it is south) and move my way out. This is by no means a complete list, but I will add my own ratings of good (G), very good (VG) or best of class (BOC).

                                                                                                                      Upper Noe, 5 min walk
                                                                                                                      Incanto- Italian- BOC
                                                                                                                      La Cicca- Italian/Sardinian- BOC
                                                                                                                      Erics’s- Chinese - VG
                                                                                                                      Clay Oven - Indian – G
                                                                                                                      Henry’s Hunan – Chinese – G
                                                                                                                      Pomelo – Global Fusion – G
                                                                                                                      Drew’s Bros – Butcher – VG
                                                                                                                      Church Produce – Grocery – G
                                                                                                                      Tataki South – Sushi - G
                                                                                                                      Noeteca – Wine Bar – G
                                                                                                                      Marth Bros Coffee – VG
                                                                                                                      Omnivore Books – Cookbook Store – BOC
                                                                                                                      Toast – Breakfast/Diner – VG
                                                                                                                      Chloe’s Café – Breakfast/Diner – VG
                                                                                                                      Mitchells Ice Cream – BOC

                                                                                                                      Central Noe/24th Street, 10-15min walk
                                                                                                                      La Boulange de Noe- French – G
                                                                                                                      24th Street Cheese Co. – BOC
                                                                                                                      Haystack Pizza – G
                                                                                                                      Noe Valley Saturday Farmers Market- VG
                                                                                                                      Fresca – Peruvian - G
                                                                                                                      Whole Foods Market – VG
                                                                                                                      Plumpjack Wines – Wine Store – VG
                                                                                                                      Paxti’s Pizza – VG
                                                                                                                      Savor – Breakfast/American – G
                                                                                                                      Le Zinc – French – G
                                                                                                                      Noe Valley Bakery – VG
                                                                                                                      Hahn’s Hibachi – Korean - G
                                                                                                                      Contigo – Spanish – VG
                                                                                                                      Hamano Sushi – VG
                                                                                                                      Ristorante Bacco – Italian – G
                                                                                                                      Pasta Gina – Italian prepared foods – G
                                                                                                                      Firefly – American – VG

                                                                                                                      Outer Mission, 10-15min walk
                                                                                                                      Blue Plate – American/Comfort – VG
                                                                                                                      Front Porch – American/Comfort – VG
                                                                                                                      Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack – G
                                                                                                                      Tacqueria Cancun – Mexican – G
                                                                                                                      Baby Blues – BBQ – G

                                                                                                                      18th Street, 20+min walk or 10min on J-Church
                                                                                                                      EAST
                                                                                                                      Delfina – Italian – BOC
                                                                                                                      Pizzeria Delfina – VG
                                                                                                                      Bi-Rite Market – BOC
                                                                                                                      Bi-Rite Creamery – Ice Cream – BOC
                                                                                                                      Tartine Bakery – BOC
                                                                                                                      WEST
                                                                                                                      Starbelly – American – VG
                                                                                                                      Ike’s Sandwiches - BOC
                                                                                                                      Urban Bread – Bakery – G
                                                                                                                      Frances – California - BOC

                                                                                                                      Glen Park, 15 Min walk or 8min on J-Church
                                                                                                                      Gialina – Pizza/roasts – BOC
                                                                                                                      Osha Thai – VG
                                                                                                                      La Corneta – Mexican - VG
                                                                                                                      Le Petit Laurent – French - G
                                                                                                                      Cheese Boutique – VG
                                                                                                                      Destination Baking – VG
                                                                                                                      Canyon Market – VG

                                                                                                                      Hayes Valley, 15-20Min on J-Church
                                                                                                                      Zuni – American – BOC
                                                                                                                      B Spot – Wine & Cheese Bar – VG
                                                                                                                      Sauce – American/Comfort – G
                                                                                                                      Fatted Calf – Butcher/Charcuterie – BOC
                                                                                                                      Absinthe – French – VG
                                                                                                                      Sebo – Sushi – BOC
                                                                                                                      Bar Jules – French – VG
                                                                                                                      Domo Sushi – VG

                                                                                                                      While some on this board may disagree with my ratings, I think my point remains fair- You could go to a different place for every meal every day for 6 weeks and still be experiencing good quality dining without ever having to get in your car (for every restaurant mentioned here there are 2-3 more worth trying…I can’t believe Beretta, Spork, Dosa, B3, Range, Maverick, La Tacqueria, and many others that I adore and fit the bill didn’t even make it on the list). FWIW, we feel totally safe in the Mission and Hayes Valley (the two most urban areas I have mentioned), but they take getting used to. I’d start out going there during the day on weekends or for breakfast, then to early dinners. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you feel comfortable once you get your bearings.

                                                                                                                      Finding the right place to rent in this specific stretch may take a little work, but VRBO and a few local RE firms (Droubi, etc.) may be the best place to start. I hope this helps and that you enjoy your upcoming trip.

                                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                                      Gialina
                                                                                                                      2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                                                                                                      Zuni Cafe
                                                                                                                      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                      Tartine Bakery
                                                                                                                      600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      Fresca Restaurant
                                                                                                                      2114 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                                                                                                      Ristorante Bacco
                                                                                                                      737 Diamond Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Bi-Rite Market
                                                                                                                      3639 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      Bi-Rite Creamery
                                                                                                                      3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      Church Produce
                                                                                                                      1798 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

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

                                                                                                                      Sebo
                                                                                                                      517 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                      Blue Plate
                                                                                                                      3218 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      The Front Porch
                                                                                                                      65 29th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      Plumpjack Wines
                                                                                                                      3201 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                                                                                                      Spork
                                                                                                                      1058 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                      Canyon Market
                                                                                                                      2815 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                                      Pasta Gina
                                                                                                                      741 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Urban Bread
                                                                                                                      3901 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Bar Jules
                                                                                                                      609 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                      Osha Thai
                                                                                                                      149 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                                                                                                                      Cheese Boutique
                                                                                                                      666 Chenery St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                                      Haystack Pizza
                                                                                                                      3881 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Domo
                                                                                                                      511 Laguna St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                      Pizzeria Delfina
                                                                                                                      2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                                                                                                      Contigo
                                                                                                                      1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Hamano Sushi
                                                                                                                      1332 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      Le Petit Cafe
                                                                                                                      6045 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

                                                                                                                      Clay Oven
                                                                                                                      2436 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                                                                      Church Street Cafe
                                                                                                                      262 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                                                                      La Corneta
                                                                                                                      1147 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos, CA 94070

                                                                                                                      Fatted Calf
                                                                                                                      320 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: rwgourmande

                                                                                                                        Noe Valley is definitely gentrified, but I can think of only three restaurants in Noe Valley proper (i.e. in the 24th St. commercial district from Church to Diamond) worth a detour from out of the area: Firefly, Contigo, and maybe Bacco (haven't been there since the chef died). Living up the hill from the Mission is great, but Dolores Heights puts you closer to the action.

                                                                                                                        24th St. Cheese Company is a good cheese shop, but it hasn't been the best in town for 25 or 30 years.

                                                                                                                        Eric's is highly yuppified Chinese food. Not bad, just boring.

                                                                                                                        Mitchell's is the In-N-Out of SF ice cream parlors. They have some great flavors imported from the Philippines, but the basic mix is generic industrial crap.

                                                                                                                      2. Sorry everyone - I was off on Christmas holidays and then that blasted blizzard caused cancellation of my flight and it's taken me 3 days to get home. When I head out next month, I will definitely be looking forward to SF's more temperate climate vs NYC's freezing temps and no doubt additional future snowstorms.

                                                                                                                        I will be working mostly in Palo Alto and South SF. Also, there MUST be an excellent coffee shop either within walking distance or within 5 min drive, same with a Whole Foods (or something just as good sinceit's where I shop back here at home so would be nice to have it out there). Ideally would like to be able to run out the door and have access to good running routes (a park or beach route instead of just roads with cars exhausting their fumes).
                                                                                                                        Within 10-15min drive I need a good bookstore, a decent selection of restaurants and maybe a few restaurants that stay open late on a Fri or Sat night so I can go out for dessert at 11pm if I want to. Does this help?

                                                                                                                        I've heard good things about Marin county but don't think it's realistic since it seems the Golden Gate is the only commuter route and worry about lack of alternate route if there is an accident.
                                                                                                                        .

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                          there is that excellent coffee and hot chocolate place in the palo alto caltrain station whose name escapes me....

                                                                                                                          1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                            Then you should look into living around the California Avenue neighborhood in Palo Alto; it's where I live now. Lots of different stores and restaurants within walking distance on California Avenue. I can walk/bike to Mollie Stone's (smaller version of Whole Foods) for groceries. Some of the best Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the area, and decent French, Italian, Mexican, etc. eateries, even one with a Michelin star. Farmers market every Sunday. The only downside is the high rent.

                                                                                                                            It takes 10 minutes to drive to the Palo Alto downtown, where many more options await.

                                                                                                                            I often run/jog around my neighborhood, into and out of the Stanford campus, where many runners do the same thing. Once in a while I drive 10 minutes to the BayLands close to the Palo Alto Airport to run, and the scenery there is truly breathtaking.

                                                                                                                            1. re: vincentlo

                                                                                                                              Vincent mentions an excellent neighborhood for restaurants, sort of a secondary Palo Alto downtown and somewhat quieter and less university-dominated than University ave. (It is also all too familiar to county residents called for jury duty because one of the count courthouses is nearby.)

                                                                                                                              When I started frequenting Pensinsula and South-Bay restaurants for both personal and business meals in the 1990s I soon identified two main hot spots with exceptional average restaurant quality: California Ave. in Palo Alto and Castro St. in Mountain View. Both have continued to develop nicely in that way. California Ave. has long had a little group of independent restaurants near each other -- Bodeghita del Medeo (Cuban more or less). Bistro Elan (tending toward modern high-end European), and the Cafe Brioche (casual place much like the neighborhood bistros where locals actually eat out in France, and moreover, sometimes you'd find that everyone in the place, servers and patrons included, happened to be speaking in French because of the French-language day school located nearby). Had multiple worthwhile dining experiences at all of those. (Last two by the way each seem to have duplicate entries in CH restaurant data base.) The restaurant population has since grown and diversified.

                                                                                                                              Vincent, would you care to summarize the neighborhood's current restaurants in a list? (Perhaps in a separate thread, or added to a related thread like the one below?)

                                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/755376

                                                                                                                              -----
                                                                                                                              Cafe Brioche
                                                                                                                              445 N California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                                              Bistro Elan
                                                                                                                              448 N California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                                              1. re: vincentlo

                                                                                                                                There is no excellent coffee along california ave, or even passable coffee -- or, enlighten me.

                                                                                                                                If you are going to be working equally in SSF and PA, I would suggest downtown san mateo, because your quality of life will be driven by your commute. You can eat in PA after work and drive home, you can eat in the mission on days you get off work early from SSF. Downtown San Mateo has a solid handful of good choices (Central Park Bistro, Sushi Sams, the two taquerias, little sheep, champagne, little shanghai, 321 ellsworth). Coffee at 3 B's. If your work is near a caltrain, even better.

                                                                                                                                If we focus again on the coffee, I think you're in Palo Alto. Between Fraiche (drip blue bottle), Coupa Cafe, and Cafe del Doge (espresso), you'll be in OK shape to find one you like. Mountain View has some good coffee too, but commuting the extra distance every day isn't a good idea.

                                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                                Coupa Cafe
                                                                                                                                538 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                                                                                                                Sushi Sam's
                                                                                                                                218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                                                                                                            2. Thanks everyone for all your advice and suggestions. I will go with something in San Mateo area. My posting has been extended to 3 -4 months so that gives me even more time to check out all the dining recommendations for SF and the surrounding suburbs.

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                and your assumption about Marin is spot on, that would be one hellish daily commute even if all conditions are clear. nice place for a few day trips though.

                                                                                                                                1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                  Thank you for catalyzing and suffering through one of the more epic peninsula threads in recent memory! If you're here a full 3 or 4 months, I hope to see some posts as you find which places you like. Don't be a stranger.

                                                                                                                                2. San Mateo does really tick all the boxes for me. There are enough restaurants there and in nearby towns like MV and Palo Alto to keep me happily fed the first few weeks and SF is not too far away. In subsequent weeks, I can expand to explore Berkeley, Oakland and Marin country.

                                                                                                                                  Plus San Mateo has a Whole Foods, my gym has a location there and someone mentioned it has some of the better ramen noodle shops (so I can try to satisfy my Ippudo and Momofuku cravings).

                                                                                                                                  I am definitely looking forward to trying all the places that SF chowhounders consistently recommend and posting my findings. It will be interesting to see if an unbiased out of towner agrees with everyone else on the SF board or whether I find that my East Coast palate is different.

                                                                                                                                  Thanks again!

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                    San Mateo will be an excellent base for you, welcome aboard! I worked in San Mateo for 5 years (commuting from San Francisco) and the chowing scene has only improved since that time. Japanese food, including ramen, is very solid there, including Wakuriya which just earned a Michelin star. There are at least two very good Japanese markets, and two large Chinese supermarkets. A better alternative to Whole Foods would be Draeger's (locally owned), the San Mateo branch being the flagship.

                                                                                                                                    Here's the auxiliary thread that has more information about downtown San Mateo.
                                                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/754302

                                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                                    Takahashi Market
                                                                                                                                    221 S Claremont St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                                                                                                                    Draeger's Supermarket
                                                                                                                                    222 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                                                                                                                    Marina Food
                                                                                                                                    2992 S Norfolk St, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                                                                                                                    99 Ranch Market
                                                                                                                                    1070 Foster City Blvd, Foster City, CA

                                                                                                                                    Suruki Supermarket
                                                                                                                                    71 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA

                                                                                                                                    Wakuriya
                                                                                                                                    115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA

                                                                                                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                                                                      As Melanie said, Draeger's is even better than Whole Foods, so check that out. San Mateo has two main chow areas - downtown and 25th Ave - plus many interesting places on El Camino. It's right between your two work locations and is an easy drive to the great southern San Francisco chow neighborhoods of the Mission / Noe Valley / Glen Park etc.

                                                                                                                                      Have fun and please share your discoveries!

                                                                                                                                      Michael