SF visit this weekend
We’re considering moving to San Francisco later this year and are taking a “check it out” trip this weekend. We’re hoping to eat similarly to what we eat at home. We’re focusing on 3 neighborhoods we might live in, Mission, Noe Valley, and Potrero Hills, but we’re OK with anything nearby those places. Just like at home though, we wouldn’t drive forever for a meal. We’re staying at Le Meridien if that helps anyone at all, but we’re not too concerned with eating in that area since we wouldn’t live there. Here’s what we’d eat at home:
Healthy breakfasts: think oatmeal, egg white veggie omelets, etc
Sushi: even better if there’s some sort of special, all you can eat, happy hour, etc
Vietnamese: not fancy fusion, down and dirty original, we like bun and pho
We also plan on checking out Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton since my job would be in Silicon Valley, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to stomach the burbs. Either way, feel free to give suggestions for those areas as well. Thanks!
Debbie, I'm from the Twin Cities, and what you're probably thinking about when you think of suburbs isn't what the central parts of Peninsula cities like San Mateo, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are like. They're more like Uptown in Minneapolis or Grand Avenue in Saint Paul; not Eagan or Burnsville or Shoreview. Not that there aren't those parts of the Peninsula too, when you need big-box stores....
I took a job in Mountain View and moved here 4 years ago (from Atlanta). I would also describe myself as a city person; however, the peninsula has never felt like "suburbs". To me suburbs are filled with strip malls and chain restaurants. The peninsula is not… it is a series a cute scenic towns (connected by a train). Each town has a ton of independent retailers, fantastic restaurants, and artisanal specialty stores/markets and their own farmer’s market (the MTV market is one of the best). I chose to live in Redwood City (RWC) because I can get to San Francisco in 30 mins (+ 40 mins to park) and to MTV in 15 with no traffic (40 mins in rush hour). Commuting from SF to MTV would kill me....
For what you are looking for the Peninsula is great. The San Mateo area cannot be beat by SF for Sushi and also has a ton of great Mediterranean food.
Sushi: Sushi Sam’s (San Mateo) and Higuma (RWC) are my regular favorite spots (there are dozens more to choose from). Sushi Tomi in MTV is good. For high end ($$$) sushi/Japanese food (I haven’t been yet) Wakuriya has a Michelin star. We regularly make sushi at home because of the abundance of Japanese markets: Suruki Supermarket is fantastic and Nijiya works in a pinch; There is also a ton of other Japanese food (ramen, yakatori, shabu shabu)
Middle Eastern: New Kapadokia (Turkish, RWC), Kabul Afghan Cuisine (San Carlos), Tannourine (Lebanese, San Mateo), Shalizaar (Persian, Belmont), Mediterranean Delite (for falafel, San Carlos), Alhana Foods Mediterranean Restaurant & Grocery (San Mateo)
For Vietnamese food, as other have said, you will have to go to San Jose. (I agree that, San Jose is a big city that feels like a suburb. If you are not a connoisseur of pho, there are plenty of decent places on the peninsula to get some; just nothing special. (I normally substitute my pho cravings with some of the the amazing Ramen and Chinese soups I can find close by).
The peninsula also has a variety of authentic Chinese food, Indian Food (esp. if you can stretch count Sunnyvale), the best tacos, plenty of wine bars, and beer places (I still have so many places to try…) … and better weather (the RWC slogan/sign: “climate best by government test” always cracks me up).
Kabul Afghan Cuisine
135 El Camino Real, San Carlos, CA 94070
300 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002
New Kapadokia Restaurant
2399 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
25 37th Ave, San Mateo, CA
71 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA
218 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401
635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041
1620 El Camino Real, San Carlos, CA 94070
115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA
120 W 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94403
SF to MV is a long commute, you could consider Caltrain if you live/work close to the station on each end. i.e. South Beach King st. and Castro St.
Living in San Mateo is a great middle since they have good food. For ethnic eats, you pretty much have to leave Palo Alto/Menlo Park to get the good stuff in San Mateo, San Jose. There are a lot of good eats on the peninsula that make up for not living in the city.
South Beach near King St. is a fun area now.
Used to be desolate but between the ball park and the train station and a lot of new companies in the area, it's fun and vibrant. There is also a lot of new housing in the area.
You'd be walking distance from the train, and also the embarcadero, which is pretty.
I worked in the area a few years ago (when the safeway opened!), and there was a thai place I liked for lunch, Ko Samui and the monkey.
There's more around there now...
The Peninsula was once a series of small towns, but today it's an uninterrupted stretch of suburban sprawl. Some of the old Main Street downtowns are pleasant and walkable with nice concentrations of restaurants, as discussed in great detail in this thread (which debbie421 should print out and read on the plane):
I commuted from SF/ Richmond district to SJ for 3 months and all I can tell you is it's freakin' hell. Potrero Hill to PA lobs off a lot from both ends of that...but I know it's still hellish. 280 is literally one of the nicest/beautiful super highways in the world...but 45 minutes means 45 minutes going 80-85 mph...and you will be passed.
I'd recommend looking at downtown San Mateo. Lots of restaurants, basically half way between SF and PA, meaning on weekends or evening a drive up to SF is no biggie, 15 mins during okay traffic.
Thanks for all the great replies! In answer to all of your questions, we would be moving from Minneapolis. For those that are familiar with the area, we love Quang's, Holy Land, Nami, Origami, and The Egg and I. We did pick those neighborhoods to be close to a highway and we hear 280 is a much better commute than 101. (I have a local friend in the area that gave me suggestions.) My job would be in Mountain View, not sure about my husband yet. Those are our favorite cuisines and I'd like to continue eating them when we move. I'm willing to drive 15-20 minutes each way for "every day" casual meals and much farther for special weekend meals (that's when we tend to do nice dinners). I didn't mean to offend anyone with our aversion to suburbs, but we're city people and believe we'd probably prefer to live in SF proper. I won't stay on that topic too much though since I know we have to keep posts about eating. Hope that helps!
I don't think anyone is offended, but I do think that, if you haven't spent time in the area yet, you ought to do some exploring before concluding that the cities south of San Francisco are suburbs. Posters have already pointed out that when it comes to food there are a lot of areas on the Peninsula and in the south bay with a diversity of great restaurants (and definitely including Asian, notably sushi places and Vietnamese) that match or in some cases outshine the food in the neighborhoods you mentioned.
But that shouldn't be a surprise: the South bay isn't only 'the burbs' . San Jose, for example, is the tenth largest city in the US and the third largest city in California after Los Angeles and San Diego. San Francisco is fourth. (and San Jose is only 17 miles from Mountain View, whereas San Francisco is 38 miles.).
If you want to live in The City (and The City can be a wonderful place to live, no question, so who could blame you?), you will be close (walking distance in fact) to many great restaurants, though not necessarily of the cuisines you mention if you choose the neighborhoods that are the easiest commute to the south. However, if you want to live in *a* city with great Vietnamese and sushi, you are doing yourself a disservice if you dismiss the city of San Jose (and other South Bay cities) as a suburb of San Francisco.
San Jose has about 20% more people than SF sprawled over almost four times as much land. The low density makes it feel like a suburb. If you like cities, it's pretty depressing. Same goes for the rest of the South Bay and Peninsula. Yeah, there's some great Vietnamese food, but to get it you drive to a mall.
re: Robert Lauriston
Exactly. San Jose may have a larger population than San Francisco, but its population density is only about one third giving it a much more suburban feel. If you really want urban living, San Francisco is hard to beat in this part of the country.
Having said that, the commute would be a major concern. People who work long Silicon Valley hours and spend another 2-3 hours a day sitting in traffic rarely have much time to enjoy their urban lifestyle other than on weekends. Some Silicon Valley companies do things that make it easier to live in San Francisco: Google opened an office at Hills Plaza, some companies allow employees to telecommute, some have wifi-equipped shuttles, etc. But if I had to drive to Mountain View every day, I would consider it a very serious negative in terms of quality of life.
And when it comes to the immediate neighborhood, I'm not sure that living on Potrero Hill is all that less suburban than living in downtown Palo Alto or Mountain View other than that you may have a nice view of the San Francisco skyline.
you can get around SF by public trans for your short trips easily, from the mission, noe valley, potrero hill, bernal. i think that most people who live in the City itself are willing to travel a few miles to find the foods they like that aren't right in their particular neighborhoods... even to the East Bay - where there is a whole slew of choices in your range of preferences - you can easily get to via BART. If you feel you're a City person, i wouldn't tell you to move to the suburbs just because some of the best examples of food you love are there. Like you said, you can drive further on weekends to get to the South Bay, etc. Come this weekend, walk a few hours in each of the neighborhoods you're really interested in, get on Bart, even take a few cabs so you can see how easy it is.
(Apologise that this post is less about food, and more about living here.)
So this whole driving thing you keep mentioning...
In my experience, driving in SF isn't so bad. Parking can really really suck in certain areas though, especially if you are going out to dinner around 7pm on a weeknight, which is when you would probably be going out after commuting home from South bay. MUNI isn't always a super great system (waiting for the bus that's running late really sucks when it's cold), but it's pretty extensive and most times will get you there faster than driving/parking. Living in SF, you'd get used to it quickly for sure.
And yeah, a lot of people are suggesting that living on the peninsula is not to be discounted, and I very much agree with this. Palo Alto downtown is pretty lively every night due to Stanford being closeby, and San Mateo has so much good food (Asian and other) it's ridiculous. Like other posters have said, they're towns with downtown areas, not suburban-style where you have to drive to a strip mall to find other people. San Jose downtown isn't so bad either. There is a thriving art scene and if you're into urban street culture, the scene is pretty good there as well. Live music is pretty great too. It all depends what else you like to do other than eat.
The nice thing about the bay area is that you could try living in a lot of different types of areas and still have relatively easy access to your workplace in Mountain View.
I live and work in Mountain View; I love it here because Castro St. in Mountain View is just a huge concentration of great restaurants located in their downtown.
For special events and museums, I'll drive up to the city, but the chore of finding parking/taxi/bus for the good eats in the city was just too much for me (especially given how often I ate out).
In Mountain View: (most of these places are open for lunch as well, so if you need places to suggest when it's your turn at the office restaurant roulette, you've got some choices below)
Breakfast places: Hobbee's (a local chain), Country Gourmet.
Sushi: Sushi Tomi is the local favorite; very wide selection of fish; I prefer Kappo Nami Nami up the street -- not as wide a selection, but everything they have is fantastic, and they've got a great lunch menu. On Sunday nights, on the Mountain View/Sunnyvale border Satsuma Sushi down El Camino and across the 85 have an all-you can eat special.
Vietnamese: MV has a good amount of Vietnamese restaurants -- Xanh and Savory are the higher-end fancy sit down places; for more everyday vietnamese: Pho Garden (home of the Pho Challenge - 2lbs of noodles, 2 lbs of meat), and Pho Toa (local chain), Lee's Sandwiches (local Vietnamese sandwich chain), and Pho Vi Hoa.
Middle Eastern: Rose International Market (it's on the other side of Castro, across El Camino) highly recommended for the kabobs -- it's a take your food and go kind of place, as it's inside a middle eastern supermarket . Dishdash in Sunnyvale, and Afghani House in Santa Clara if you want more of a sit down place.
Mediterranean: Gyros House in downtown Mountain View, along with Meditterranean Grill House, Bodrum Cafe and Cafe Baklava.
Delis: MV has Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wursthaus, Esther's German Bakery, Lettuce (sandwiches, local SF chain) and the Kitchen Table (kosher sit down place) .
Kappo Nami Nami
240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Country Gourmet Restaurants
2098 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040
190 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Rose International Market
1060 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94040
Dittmer's Gourmet Meats
400 San Antonio Rd Ste 4, Mountain View, CA 94040
1103 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA
110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA
635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041
341 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Esther's German Bakery
570 Showers Dr, Mountain View, CA
The Kitchen Table
142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
212 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
On a totally different tack, Le Meridien, walking distance to Jackson Square, is pretty well positioned for some good dining while you're out and about figuring more weightier things. Bix has cocktails, food and music, Cotogna has pasta, roasted meats and Italian wines. Quince, the mother ship to Cotogna, has pastas and wines that make a New Yorker like me envious. So much more. All that plus access to serious mass transit. Mercy.
56 Gold St., San Francisco, CA 94133
490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
re: steve h.
Oh, that place. It's also close to Bocadillos, Barrique, Barbacco, Perbacco, Comstock Saloon, and Wexler's. Lot livelier at night than it used to be.
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
461 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
As someone who lives in SF and works in Palo Alto, I highly recommend (as others have said) that you get a real idea of exactly what the commute is like if you'll be driving it. I'm rather averse to driving, and work a very regular schedule, so I prefer to combine bicycle and Caltrain to get to work. I live in SoMa, which makes this easy, but Mission and Potrero Hill would also be good neighbourhoods for train commuting too. A number of companies also have free shuttle lines that pick up at the Mountain View train station.
There are a number of good vietnamese places in the Tenderloin, situated mostly on Larkin near Ellis. If you want to stray from the usual fast-food type Vietnamese, I recommend Lers Ros for non pho/bun dishes. I like Turtle Tower or Pho 2000 for pho, but you should note they are different styles.
Sorry if my recs are too far from your target neighbourhoods. I don't usually think of them being very far away since I usually ride my bike everywhere and Mission to TL is only about a 10-15 minute ride and maybe a 5-10 minute walk from the Civic Center Bart station. SF is quite compact, so it's often easier to get around by public transit, bicycle, or on foot.
Turtle Tower Restaurant
631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109
I agree that you should live as close to Caltrain as possible. I love living in the city, but believe my quality of life is best if I am near work. I hate to commute it eats away your life..... I now work in FIDI and moved from Laurel Heights (Cal X bus was great) to Alameda where I can walk to the Ferry and be at work after a lovely 20 minute boat ride. That said I have friends in Menlo Park and I love hanging out in Palo Alto and food hopping in the area - PA and Berkeley both benefit from a well educated and cultured population which seems to breed good food offerings...
Chances are that living in the city, you will probably end up taking the bus or the BART to travel around. Parking is a pain. I'm not sure where you're moving from and could probably give you more information if I knew.
The places I'm listing are 1-2 Bart stops away from Mission
Pho: Turtle Town - Pho Ga
Bun Mi: Saigon Sandwiches (better than the ones I had in LA) - I like the combination, but people rave about the roast pork
Turkish: a la Turca
Breakfast: SF seems to love diners and brunch. You'll easily be able to find somewhere that will serve you fresh, local egg white omelettes..
Are you concentrating on those neighborhoods for proximity to the freeways? You also wouldn't have to live in PA etc. Mid-peninsula has some nice areas also. Some of the cuisines you favor may not get alot of attention in the nabes you mention. Remember too that SF proper isn't very big so driving within it is pretty easy. And public transportation is great. We used to live in Noe Valley but ate all over the city.
re: c oliver
I can't completely agree. San Francisco may be compact, but it won't seem that way after an hour plus commute to or from the OP's work. In particular, the neighborhoods OP is targeting aren't that great if one wants to eat in the Sunset or Richmond. From my old house near where the Mission, Noe Valley and Bernal Heights came together, to those areas often took 45 minutes by car, particularly at dinner time. The Tenderloin, mentioned in another post, is a better suggestion, but parking there is a pain, and a lot of people won't want to ride bikes in that area (both for safety reasons and because of hills!
I think the biggest issue is that the cuisines OP is most interested in are *not* the strengths of the neighborhoods OP mentiones, and indeed, San Jose is a much better bet (and may be a much easier commute), particularly for Vietnamese.
Now, if OP wants to live blocks from a delightful and unique Sardinian restaurant, by all means choose Noe, Bernal or the Mission. La Ciccia is reason enough to choose a neighborhood, IMO. :-)
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131
I don't disagree with you. I'm also assuming after that long commute home, OP is probably not going to want to go out at all :) We did love NV for that reason. We were a two minute walk from 24th and Church so it was easy. Our daughter and SIL are at 16th and Dolores so same for them. But as you and we have said, those aren't the nabes for the types of foods they're wanting.
Palo Alto area has a nice vibe and a lot of good restaurants due to Stanford University. I would definitely spend some time down there before committing to the commute to SF.
Just for you Cafe
So many breakfast places to choose from. Usually something walking distance from where ever you settle.
Are you looking for California Deli's or NY Style? There is an abundace of these in the city.
Polk Street Deli
You might want to try the commute from SF to the Silicon Valley (on a weekday) before you decide you can't stomach the 'burbs'. You won't drive forever for a meal but you are willing to put up with a very, very long commute? Apart from that issue, VIetnamese and Sushi in the South Bay tends to be better overall with more options than in SF proper, particularly in the SF neighborhoods you mention.
For Vietnamese in the Outer Mission/Bernal Heights, I do like Lotus Garden. They only serve pho at lunch, however, not dinner, so that doesn't do you much good with your potential commute.
Fattoush on Church is very good for Middle Eastern.
Just FYI, this board does get a lot of requests that are similar to yours, so it really would help if you take some time to look at the suggested threads and narrow it down a bit.
3216 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Everything depends on whether the OP can take 280 or has to take 101. My office is right next to 101, so driving from SF to 101 in PA took about 45 min at 7:10am, and 60+++ if I left any later than that in the morning. It took 90 minutes if I left at about 7:50/8. Plus the nightmare of driving home. I couldn't stand it, so I moved to the mid peninsula. OTOH, my friend lives in the southwest corner of SF and can take 280 to her office in PA - in bad traffic it takes her an hour to get home, but usually not more than that, and 35-40 minutes if she times it well.
Tataki South (1740 Church) for sushi. Happy hour 5-7.
I'm not sure there's any good Vietnamese in that area. Angkor Borei is great for Cambodian. Yamo is a Burmese dive.
Old Jerusalem for Middle Eastern.
Bi-Rite has a great deli in the sense of cold cuts, cheese, and prepared foods for takeout.
3471 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
3639 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
2976 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110