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Feb 6, 2011 06:54 PM

Am in SF now - First Impressions

For everyone who was nice enough to give me advice on best foodie neighborhoods for my extended visit, I've been here a few weeks and wanted to give some quick first impressions. I've ended up staying in the city near the Financial District/SOMA since the company arranged accommodations for me so I wasn't able to provide any input on location preference! It's not too bad during the day but it's dead on the weekends but at least I have a car so can drive around.

I've had a chance to visit the farmers' market at the Ferry building and that is got to be the best farmer's market I have ever seen! I think it's better than the one in Union Square in NYC because the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit was oustanding! Organic satsumas! I can't find any satsumas over on the East Coast right now and when I do they taste terrible.

Here's quick impressions of some places I have eaten at - no rhyme or reason on why I ate there besides I was probably nearby and hungry at the time!

Boccalone - salame sandwich was very tasty with lots of salame, great for a quick lunch

Thirsty Bear - fantastic beer selection (yes much better than what you see in NYC) but patatas bravas were not so good -cut like home fries (leftover from breakfast?) and the sauce tasted artificial

Barbacco - yummy bruschetta, delicious chicken thighs and roasted potatoes,the only missteps were the polenta which tasted sweet and red wine served too chilled - it make the wine tight and not very good until I warmed what wine was in my glass with my hands. this is a restaurant I'd expect to see in Manhattan.

Han's Korean (Palo Alto) - in the mood for Korean and this casual place did the job, nice cucumber kimchi but the food was nothing to write home about, am definitely seeing more Korean restaurants just randomly located throughout the peninsula and SF compared to NYC where it's basically Flushing or K-town on W.32nd St.

Paxti's pizza - I love deep dish but living in the NYC metro area makes finding deep dish pizza nearly impossible. The pepperoni, mushroom and roasted red pepper pizza I ordered was delicious! Nice greek salad too. Definitely coming back here for more deep dish pizza.

Mijita - great soft tacos! would love to have this over on the East Coast!!!

Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised by the SF dining scene - there's a lot more to choose from than what I was expecting and even experienved during previous, brief visits. Prices (for the most part) are lower than NYC metro area, which was another nice surprise. Looking forward to trying out more restaurants - feel free to post reccs and I'll do my best to visit them and report back!

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  1. The best Korean is in Oakland -- mostly along Telegraph between 27th and 48th. Worth a quick drive over the bridge if you really like Korean food. Lots of discussion on the board (hopefully if I add a couple of links it will generate some threads at the bottom of the page).

    4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    Pyung Chang Tofu House
    4701 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    Seoul Gom Tang
    3801 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    6 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Second on Oakland (or San Jose) for Korean. I think Han Il Kwan's the best Korean I've had in SF proper. Toyose for fried chicken wings. My Tofu House for soondubu jjigae.

      I haven't tried it, but there have been some good reports on Stone Korean Kitchen, which is in the FiDi and open for dinner.

      First Korean is an excellent Korean market. Best kimchi I've found retail. If you get down as far as Sunnyvale, check out HanKook.

      My Tofu House
      4627 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

      Han IL Kwan Korean Restaurant
      1802 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

      3814 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

      Hankook Supermarket
      1092 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA

      First Korean Market
      4625 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        How does Oakland or San Jose Korean food stack up against Manhattan's Koreatown restaurants?

        1. re: steve h.

          At least as good, and I've liked the places I've been in Manhattan. Queens would be a harder battle.

            1. re: Windy

              we need Kyochon fried chicken in SF.

      2. I'm jealous. Snow up to my armpits here in Connecticut and there you are in San Francisco, SOMA no less, and living large. With a car! Mercy...

        Maybe visit Tony's Pizza Napoletana up in North Beach when you get a chance. Pizza Margherita from the wood-fired oven is pretty good. Leave the car at home and take the J-Church out to Noe Valley so you can eat at Incanto. Do drive to the Marina so you can try A16. SPQR on Fillmore is a related and very good spot. None of these places are expensive. Lots more. Keep exploring.

        2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

        1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

        Tony's Pizza Napoletana
        1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        8 Replies
        1. re: steve h.

          It was 80 degrees today -- we were all sweltering while buying our organic satasumas at the farmers market.

          1. re: steve h.

            I managed to leave between snowstorms #5 and #6 (or was it #6 and #7??) The night before, I spent 3hrs shoveling snow so I feel for you with that massive snowstorm that came through last week!

            Very surreal walking around with warm weather and seeing all the fresh produce that CT only gets during the summer. I don't know how I'll go back to the dinky Darien farmers' market after seeing the one at the Ferry Bldg.

            1. re: SeoulQueen

              Timing is everything. February in the Bay Area is the best.
              Keep us posted as you keep exploring.

              1. re: steve h.

                February in the Bay Area is often seemingly unceasing rain. We had a rainy December but it's only rained once in the last month, which is actually not good! Also, to get back on topic, we have some very confused plants (I have poppies blooming in my garden and in fact, almost everything in my garden leafed in the last three days) and if the fruit trees bloom early and then we get some cold weather and rain, it could be a bad stone fruit season.

                Just for you, steve:

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  The cherry trees are already blooming on the peninsula and I had the same concern - really beautiful but what about the stone fruit season?

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I may have to pull the shades, sit on the floor in the dark and eat cold pizza until March (apologies to Jason Gay).

              2. re: steve h.

                In Noe Valley area, also put Contigo on your list of places to try. Refreshing tapas with clean, hearty flavors.

              3. Greetings! Thanks for posting on your original thoughts.

                You ate at Han's Korean? For the record, I consider Han's nearly inedible. There's a passible korean place on the south end of palo alto, but it has negative ambiance.

                There are a dozen quick lunches in PA that I would recommend. On the casual side is Med Wraps - get the schwarma or the falafel, and the hot Moroccan tea is a great surprise.

                And the beer selection at Thirsty Bear is average at best.

                Paxti's I'll agree with you on.

                If you're spending that much time in PA, make sure to get a lunch at Evvia. Order something that's been on the grill.

                8 Replies
                1. re: bbulkow

                  I'm coming from CT where there's ONE korean restaurant within a 30 minute drive of my house. Otherwise, I have to drive down to Flushing. The cucumber kimchi was decent but the bulgogi marinade was pretty weak, but like I said, I was really craving Korean food and given I hadn't had any Korean food in almost 2 months, anything remotely Korean is better than nothing.

                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                    The place you want is So Gong Dong tofu house. It's a bit far afield for lunch, but when you've got that korean itch.

                    You should also get over to Mayfield Bakery.

                    And since you like beer - hit the Rose and Crown. Assuming you're ok with british beer (and belgian). Otherwise, there's a peculiar dearth of good beer in PA, but hop-skip to MP and you've got the small number of fresh and well curated taps at Cafe Barrone, or British Banker's Club across the courtyard which has a very good selection of west coast, the world's slowest service, and very passible food. Either way, a one-stop-shop. (Palo Alto has Gordon Bierch, which only does their own beers and is only OK, empire tap room which has a peculiar selection and few west coast favorites


                    Yes, the peninsula's pretty good for 'burbs, and has a peculiar mix of mid-range and ethnic, and mid-range ethnic. It's not a bad place to eat (although, as we found in your other thread, it ain't the mission). I can't think of an area in the greater NYC area that's like the south peninsula.

                    Mayfield Bakery & Cafe
                    855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                      In Palo Alto you might want to check out So Gong Dong Tofu House. I'd say it's above average for the Bay Area and probably a lot better than Hahn's Hibachi. Seafood pancake is pretty good, kalbi is in the sweet side and not as charity as I like but decent, and as you'd suspect, soon dubu is good. I've only been there once for dinner and the staff were generous about checking and refilling panchan.

                      And if you need a Pinkberry fix, there's one in the Stanford shopping center. That said, if you like froyo, there are local, organic shops.

                      There is a loose cluster of Korean restaurants in SF's Richmond district and along the Geary corridor. But if you have time to drive further, do check out the places Ruth recommended in Oakland. There's a bigger and better Koreatown in Santa Clara also.

                      So Gong Dong Tofu House
                      4127 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        In downtown PA, the froyo is all about fraiche. That place is great. And Blue Bottle coffee.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Fraiche is one. I preferred Culture Organic on California Ave.

                          Along Korean lines, besides Pinkberry, there's a Red Mango on University Ave.

                          P.S. For autolinking to work, you need to capitalize.

                          644 Emerson St Ste 110, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                          Red Mango
                          429 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                          Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt
                          340 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            +1 on Fraiche. Had it on Friday. Delicious as always, but I'll have to try Culture Organic now too.

                            1. re: artemis

                              When I was on California Ave. last week, I stopped at Culture Organic. The seasonal flavor, tangerine, is available again and i still love it.

                              Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt
                              340 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

                          2. re: bbulkow

                            There's also a Fraiche on Fillmore in the city in Pacific Heights. Could get a fro-yo after trying SPQR or Dosa.

                    2. If you're a beer lover, you'll want to study the schedule for San Francisco Beer Week.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Wow. It looks like R&C is doing something cool every night, then there's a beer-train-crawl.

                      2. What part of the Financial District Soma? I lived on Harrison and Main for over a decade. One of my favorite breakfast spots was Town's End.

                        Speaking about traveling over to the other side of the Bay, you must ... MUST ... go to Berkeley Bowl West. I found out tonight my families papers were just approved by the American Embassy and I'l be home soon ... home. To say I left my heart in SF, is an understatement. Berkeley Bowl West is the first place I'm planning to go. Ok ... it ain't SF, but close enough. There is nothing like BB in SF ... Rainbow is good ... but not in the same league. And Cheeseboard in Berkeley with it's 400 or more cheeses.

                        You might spend some time up in Wine Country. I like that more than the Penninsula.

                        Thanks for posting. I've been away for the last nine months and this will be useful in giving me ideas on new stuff to look forward to.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: rworange

                          Congratulations on your papers! I hope you do a thread on the first few restaurants/shops you go and things you eat when you come back - it would probably be a spectacular read.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Cheeseboard, Acme Bread and Tokyo Fish Market...the fivefecta of Berkeley shopping eats. Once you go BB there's no where else you'll be happy with.

                            Acme Bread
                            1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                            Berkeley Bowl
                            2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703