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Ideas for Foodie Neighborhood Lunches

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I will be visiting San Francisco in May, with husband who will be in meetings for three of the days we'll be there. We've visited S.F. quite a few times, so this is my opportunity to wander around in and have lunches in some neighborhoods, eating ethnic cuisines that aren't found where we live (and that darling hubby doesn't like). I've already compiled a way-too-long list, but I'd love some input on my ideas, and what I might be missing. I love Asian food, Japanese, Thai, Indian (south, primarily; my husband's family is Indian); Malaysian. I don't know much about South American foods, though we seem to eat a lot of Southwestern/Mexican at home; I love Middle Eastern, like Greek, French, Italian (much prefer northern). I have no problem walking into any little place, even with a language barrier.

So much food, so little time, is my problem! I guess what I also need help with is which dishes/cuisines deserve to be tried, given the time I'll have, vs. what will have to wait until the next trip.

The first day, we'll fly in, and have dim sum lunch. I think I've persuaded husband that we can skip Yank Sing this time (once he finds a place he likes, he likes to keep going back); I'd like to take him to Great Eastern. I know that's not the best dim sum in the S.F. area, but it's convenient and will give me the chance to order from the menu some of the dim sum dishes I've researched, but never eaten.

One of my solo days: breakfast (which will be Chinatown on the other days) at Tartine Bakery. Visit murals, wander around, then lunch. Pupusas (which I've never had), or maybe south Indian. Not a big thing in San Francisco, but I love southern Indian food, and it's difficult to find anywhere, really. Maybe I'll be able to fit in some gelato. Pizzeria Delfina sounds great, but I want something more different.

Another day: Legion of Honor, then lunch and (food) browsing in Inner Richmond. Thinking I'll try Burmese food that day, but I have others on my list. I even like SOME Eastern European foods. Or would you recommend another ethnic restaurant, and suggest that if I want to have Burmese, then Burmese Kitchen (near our hotel) would provide a good-enough introduction? (I don't know what day I'd do this.)

Another day: Japantown? I've wandered through this area a bit, but I'd really like to have okonomiyaki or ramen. I've never had okonomiyaki; I've had some ramen. Another idea for if I want to have ramen is Katana-ya, which is near our hotel. Is okonomiyaki interesting enough to devote a meal, or stomach room, to? I love sushi too, but most sushi places are dinner only.

And how can I fit in Naked Lunch - the Artisan Foie Gras Torchon & Duck Prosciutto Sandwich fits so many categories of my favorite foods. Maye this is more important than okonomiyaki.

One day I will also be fitting in the Saturday farmer's market.

Our last morning, Sunday, we'll have time for a quickish lunch somewhere (maybe - our flight leaves at 2:50 pm). Maybe back to the Mission area (we're not big brunch folks)? Too bad Naked Lunch isn't open on Sunday. Any idea how well a Artisan Foie Gras Torchon & Duck Prosciutto Sandwich would keep, if I got one on Saturday for consumption on Sunday?

(I think we have dinners mostly worked out: French Laundry (!!); Boulevard; Perbacco or La Ciccia; and some low-key seafood place. Husband's a bit less adventurous than I am, and we'll have others joining us for those meals.)

Thanks - this is definitely a trip where the time in between the meals/food is merely time to use up calories until the next food.

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La Ciccia
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Great Eastern Restaurant
649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Yank Sing
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

Legion of Honor Cafe
100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA

Pizzeria Delfina
2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

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  1. If you've never had a pupusa, don't miss it. To me, they're mostly a vehicle for curtido.

    Burmese Kitchen's food is better than Burma Super Star's, though the sambusa soup at the latter is worth a visit.

    1. Exactly what dishes are you looking for in dim sum? I don't recall Great Eastern as having much more than the basics, which Yank Sing also has?

      -----
      Great Eastern Restaurant
      649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      Yank Sing
      49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

      1 Reply
      1. re: sfbing

        Yeah, Yank Sing is the place where I've seen the widest variety since Harbor Village closed. Though I usually stick to the classics.

        -----
        Yank Sing
        49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

      2. Dosa is a good place for South Indian. Two locations--Mission and Japantown. It seems the Fillmore location is open more days for brunch/lunch, but I've only eaten at the original Valencia location.

        -----
        Dosa
        995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Dosa on Fillmore
        1700 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

        3 Replies
        1. re: carfeng

          On your Legion of Honor day, if you're still in the Richmond around 5 or later - Halu is a pretty good spot for okonomiyaki and ramen. They specialize in yakatori, though everything is great. Especially the mochi wrapped bacon sent from heaven.

          I recently had dinner at Burmese Kitchen and I found it mediocre. Service was painfully slow, food was nothing especially tasty - except maybe the green tea salad. We ended up bringing home a lot of leftovers and throwing them away (which we rarely do). I would only go here if you're curious about green tea salad and want to taste it but don't want to wait in line at Super Star.

          -----
          Halu
          312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

          1. re: scarmoza

            The tea in tea leaf salad (la pat dok) is unrecognizable as related to green tea. Burmese Kitchen uses a higher quality of tea leaf and gives you more of it than Burma Super Star.

            -----
            Super Star Restaurant
            4919 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94112

          2. re: carfeng

            I really can't recommend Dosa on Valencia (in the Mission). I tried it on Wednesday with a couple friends. We started with the Chennai chicken appetizer --- soggy crust, dryish chicken fingers, modestly spiced. Then the dahi papdi chaat, kind of cute presentation, but the green and red chutneys leave a lot to be desired and the chickpeas were musty tasting. I had the rava masala dosa, $11, and the dosa itself was fine, lacy and very crispy. And my friend's paper dosa was done nicely too with the perfect amount of oily sheen and crispness. However, the potatoes were mush, rather than having some texture and smoother mashed parts for contrast. I did like the cashew pieces in the potatoes, but the spicing was too restrained. My biggest criticism would be of the sambhar and the two chutneys: coconut and tomato. All flat and boring as all get out. The tomato one tasted like canned cream of tomato soup. The coconut one had an out of place sourness like it was starting to go off. The sambhar was too thick and had big cubes of vegetables besides being bland. I didn't taste my other friend's shrimp curry, but she said it wasn't very good.

            -----
            Dosa
            995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

          3. Burmese Kitchen is a favorite of this board (I haven't been yet), but if you're going to be in the Richmond anyway, the best Burmese meal I had was at Mandalay. If you've never had the cuisine, though, any of the popular options would make for a fine introduction--even Burma Superstar isn't bad.

            Other great Asian options if you're in the Richmond are PPQ Dungeness Island (for awesome Vietnamese roasted crabs and garlic noodles) and board favorite Old Mandarin Islamic (amazing food, but way the heck out in the Outer Richmond). Unless you're VERY hungry, though, PPQ might not be the best choice for a solo diner at lunchtime--the crabs are huge.

            Will you have a car? Note that the Richmond isn't exactly the most interesting area to wander around (aside from the restaurants) if you're going to be stuck there for an entire afternoon.

            Okonomiyaki can be great, but I don't know if there's a version in Japantown good enough to be worth going out of your way for. But others on the board might be able to be more helpful there.

            If you're going to be in the Chinatown area a lot, consider doing Jai Yun for a weekday lunch one day. Do a search on the board and you'll find lots of threads; make sure you call ahead to see if it's open. It might be problematic if you're a solo diner though.

            Not gelato, but if you're going to Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite Creamery (with its amazing and much-lauded salted caramel ice cream) is right across the street.

            Other hard-to-find (but strong in SF) ethnic foods you should consider: Oaxacan/Mayan (Poc Chuc) and Peruvian (Inkas Restaurant; get the rotisserie chicken and the empanadas). Both are great lunch options in or near the Mission.

            -----
            Burma Superstar Restaurant
            309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

            Tartine Bakery
            600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

            Jai Yun
            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Inkas Restaurant
            3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
            3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

            Mandalay Restaurant
            4344 California St, San Francisco, CA 94118

            PPQ Dungeness Island
            2332 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

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

            4 Replies
            1. re: abstractpoet

              Old Mandarin Islamic is way out in the Outer Sunset.

              -----
              Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
              3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

              1. re: sfbing

                Right you are. Always get those neighborhoods confused. =)

              2. re: abstractpoet

                I ate alone at lunch at Jai Yun - no problem, but yes, make sure it's open.

                i am also going to second Poc Chuc and Inkas.

                -----
                Jai Yun
                680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                Inkas Restaurant
                3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  I'll third Poc Chuc and Inkas. Two my favorite SF lunch spots.

                  -----
                  Inkas Restaurant
                  3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

              3. During your Sat Ferry Bldg day, you can easily hop over to the North Beach and eat at Naked Lunch. It's a nice walk through the hills. Also the food vendor Namu will be at the Sat Ferry Bldg and often have okinimiyaki, but their menu changes often. Do try their Korean tacos though! They always serve that.

                Or maybe go to Naked Lunch first, then to the Ferry Bldg, split it with hubby and then snack on the numerous other food vendors out there.

                During your day in the Richmond Dist there are several choices of ethnic foods in that hood. It's predominantly Chinese, Korean, and Russian. Piroshkis can be found in many of the Russian bakeries. I've heard Cinderella Bakery being the favorite. There's a great ikazaya near the Legion of Honor called Oyaji's. Skewered meats, ramen, etc. HK Flower Lounge and Mayflower are decent dim sum joints in this neighborhood too. Shockingly SF has just so-so dim sum.

                -----
                Oyaji Restaurant
                3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                Cinderella Bakery
                436 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                2 Replies
                1. re: Keesey

                  Naked Lunch doesn't open until 11:30. If you go to the Ferry Building after that, things will be winding down. Walking from the Ferry Building to Naked Lunch you don't pass through any hills. Most of that is bay fill and thus pretty flat. The last few blocks take you a little ways up the base of Telegraph Hill.

                  Oyaji's good but is not open for lunch.

                  -----
                  Oyaji Restaurant
                  3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  1. re: Keesey

                    Pierogies (dumplings), not piroshki (filled pastry, usually Polish)i, at Cinderella Bakery.

                    Namu's restaurant is across the street. I don't recommend their okomiyaki--too greasy-- although lots of other things are good. Izamiya at Japantown has decent okonomiyaki.

                    A great place for pupusas is New Spot, on 20th Street off 3rd in Dogpatch. There are other interesting spots in Dogpatch, if you drive or take the T streetcar down to 20th and 22nd.

                    I don't like Oyaji at all, but do recommend a long walk on Clement or into the Presidio if you're out that way.

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                    Oyaji Restaurant
                    3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                    Namu
                    439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                    Cinderella Bakery
                    436 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                    The New Spot
                    632 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                  2. Oh, thank you all, this makes all the decision-making so much fun, and has helped me narrow down some of the possibilities!

                    No, I won't have a car, but I'm a big walker (and runner). And since I'm coming from Denver and the mountains, the San Francisco hills aren't a problem (all the better to burn off calories). I plan to take the bus to the Legion of Honor, enjoy that, and then walk over to the Richmond and wander that area. The Russian bakery sounds good; I'm happy with anywhere that might have anything that includes poppyseeds. So maybe, or maybe not, Burma Super Star.

                    On Great Eastern vs. Yank Sing and dim sum generally. Whatever so-so dim sum San Francisco has, I think I can safely assume that it’s generally better and more extensive than dim sum in Denver. I've probably had most of the standard items, but only by pointing. So I've found that I don't know names of different dishes, and I can’t keep the different dishes straight if I don’t know their names. So I think it will be easier to try things I haven't had yet by referring to a menu. Here are some I’d like to try: lotus wrapped sticky rice, Shanghai steamed buns (though it seems Yank Sing’s are quite good, and I have had them here in Denver), sticky rice, steamed or fried tofu. I recently tried turnip cakes, and like them a lot (I also like taro dumplings). And dim sum on our arrival day, in Chinatown, works the best because that's when the husband will be free from meetings.

                    Udapi Palace is the south Indian place in the Mission that I had in mind; Dosa is open at lunch (brunch) only on the weekends, Udapi Palace does have one of my favorites, dahai vada, but now that I look again at the menu, I'm not so interested, and neither it nor Dosa has pongal. Pupusas and the new suggestions, Inkas and Poc Chuc, sound more different and appealing to me.

                    I did know that Namu has okonomiyaki , though opinions here on the S.F. board seem to not rate them very highly. As I’ve never eaten them before, would I know the difference between good and bad? So I could do that if I didn't make it to Japantown; maybe that could be Sunday's choice (plus Korean tacos). Sounds like Naked Lunch goes higher on my list than okonomiyaki.

                    I'd love to have izakaya, but it's basically a dinner thing, and all of our dinners are spoken for.

                    I hope you locals realize what a treasure you have in the Ferry Building farmer's market, or any other similar farmer's markets. We went on our last trip to S.F., and I was dumbstruck by the quality and variety of farmstuff, and the pride of the vendors in their products. As it was, we bought too much, including some zucchini blossoms that we carefully flew home with us to saute and have with pasta.

                    I'm happy to add all other ideas to my already-too-long list!

                    -----
                    Inkas Restaurant
                    3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Great Eastern Restaurant
                    649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    Yank Sing
                    49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    Namu
                    439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

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

                    Legion of Honor Cafe
                    100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA

                    Super Star Restaurant
                    4919 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94112

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Lexma90

                      I'll throw in City View to the dim sum mix. I like it better than either Great Eastern or Yank Sing, and it's a pretty place with a lot of variety.

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                      Great Eastern Restaurant
                      649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                      City View Restaurant
                      662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      Yank Sing
                      49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                      1. re: Lexma90

                        i didn't know anything about okonomiyaki and i absolutely LOVED Namu's at the Ferry Building.

                        My favorite pupusas are in the Mission Street Food Mall, between 21st and 22nd on Mission Street, where El Perol is (a decent but not destination-worthy Peruvian place) at a place called Antojitos Salvadorenos.

                        Be careful about what day you go to Naked Lunch - twice I tried to go and they were close - once just randomly.

                        -----
                        Antojitos Salvadorenos
                        911 E Duane Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94085

                        El Perol
                        2590 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. re: Lexma90

                          I think the best approach for your first time with Burmese food is to the "classics," most notably things like tea leaf salad and samusa soup. If it's your first time, these dishes should knock your socks off--even at Burma Superstar, where I guess you could say the food is a little bit more toned down for western palates. At many Burmese restaurants you'll likely see some menu items that seem vaguely Chinese--for the most part, you should avoid ordering those.

                          A big reason to choose Burmese Kitchen or Mandalay over Burma Superstar, though, is to avoid the crazy lines.

                          In any case, one of those + Poc Chuc + Inkas sounds like a great lineup of weekday lunches.

                          -----
                          Inkas Restaurant
                          3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                          Burma Superstar
                          4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                          1. re: Lexma90

                            Yank Sing has menus. They give you one if you go late on a weekday after the carts stop, other times you can ask for one. Their taro dumplings are the best, though they're gross if not fresh out of the fryer.

                            I wasn't impressed by Namu's nori "tacos."

                            -----
                            Yank Sing
                            49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                            Namu
                            439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I love the ones that I have had at the restaurant that are made with beef. I don't love the ones I had the other week at the Ferry Building that were made with chicken.... so I think they vary.

                              1. re: lrealml

                                The Namu "tacos" I tried were the short rib ones at the restaurant.

                                -----
                                Namu
                                439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118