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mother/daughter trip to SF - help me make this as stress-free as possible!

hi,
i'm planning four day trip to sf for my mother and i - she turns 60 the same year i turn 30, so we are celebrating our oldness. :) we have found a cute b&b in pacific heights, and we are excited to visit the city (we have both been on separate occassions).

however, i am stressed about finding restaurants that will please both of us. i live in nyc, and i love eating out and trying new food. my mother is not as adventurous as i am, but at the same time, she wants to have that great experience of knowing that you're in a great restaurant. she's more of a chicken/beef person and i love to try pretty much anything. seafood is also an fairly open option for us.

so far on my list i have zuni cafe, the slanted door, flour + water and tartine bakery. please help me come up with a few more places - i'd like to make dinner reservations ahead of time so we're not wandering around at 7 pm, and starting to get crabby from lack of food.

thank you in advance for your help - i want to make this trip a success, and i think some great meals will really add to the special-ness of the trip.

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  1. Sam's Grill for Pacific Coast fish,Sand dabs or Petrale Sole. I would have said Tadich but they don't do reservations.
    http://www.belden-place.com/samsgrill/

    10 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Two people can sit at the counter at Tadich, and seats are available there around 6. I've not been to Sam's since it changed ownership, but in my opinion Tadich is better, sand dabs especially.

      1. re: Michael Rodriguez

        Sam's changed hands in 2005. I went a couple of years ago, didn't seem changed at all, still stuck in the past in a good way. The menu and cooking style is pretty much identical to Tadich's. One big plus for Sam's is that they take reservations.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Count me in the Sam's camp. I like that I can get reservations, they ALWAYS have sweetbreads on the menu (three different ways!), their crabcakes rock, and I much prefer their sand dabs over Tadich's...

          They also have the really cool, back rooms circa Prohibition. Great to get seated in one of those!

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I think she meant booths not the upstairs rooms for more social encounters at Jack's on Sacramento.

              2. re: CarrieWas218

                Alright, you got MY attention. I haven't been to Sam's in decades (literally) but three different preps of sweetbreads (at moderate prices BTW) has assured a visit next time in the City. Thanks SO much for that juicy little tidbit.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I had the charcoal grilled sweetbreads with bacon at Sam's once and didn't like them - they were too dry and may have been overcooked. May try one of the other two preps sometime. I do like the petrale sole and the sourdough.

                  1. re: Mr_Happy

                    My favorite version they prepare is with capers and lemon.... The sweetbreads are HUGE and the serving is ample and I always take some home for later.

                    1. re: Mr_Happy

                      Yeah, I had sweetbreads last time I was at Sam's, and to my taste they could have been cooked less. That's a general problem with both Sam's and Tadich. I would never go to either if the only attraction were the food.

          1. I've brought my not terribly adventurous parents to Canteen (which they enjoyed) and Perbacco (loved). Perbacco is much more a restaurant feeling and Canteen is just a unique adventure.

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            Perbacco
            230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Canteen
            817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            1 Reply
            1. re: margieco

              Concur with margieco -- brought my parentals (who are quite a bit older than your mum) to Canteen and Perbacco and they rated them very highly. Perbacco lost a few points for noise, even seated on the theoretically quieter mezzanine, but gained them for the service/atmo edge that margie mentioned. Both would be quite convenient to Pacific Heights. Canteen is very small so best to get resos ASAP if you choose it.

            2. The ones already on your list seem perfect. I'd also suggest Delfina and La Ciccia, and if you feel like heading to Berkeley Chez Panisse, because it's famous enough to please your mom, and the food will please both of you.

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

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

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

              8 Replies
              1. re: JasmineG

                I would exercise some caution on La Ciccia. While I enjoyed my meal there very much, my mother (who is the OP's mother's age) and my grandparents (in their 80s) did not and thought the cooking was weird. In part I think I had done a bad job of setting expectations that Sardinian food is very different from the Italian places they are used to back home - think lots of veal parmigiana and chicken francese. Still, if your mother's tastes run toward the conservative it might not be worth the risk - I would at least look over a sample menu first.

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

                1. re: bigwheel042

                  I don't think age has any or much to do with this. I'm 64 (almost!) and eat EVERYTHING - especially "weird." :)

                2. re: JasmineG

                  i would love love love to go to chez panisse. how difficult is it to get out to berkeley from the pacific heights area? we are fine with public transit - i make her take the subway with me in new york, so she's game for some bart or bus action.

                  1. re: gallerina

                    It's not hard, it will just take a little while. From the Embarcadero BART station to the Downtown Berkeley station is about a 20 minute trip; you'll just have to take Muni to get yourself to BART first. It's easiest to catch a cab from the Downtown Berkeley station to get to Chez Panisse, it's a 9 block walk, which may seem short, but visitors who walk it always say that it takes a lot longer than they thought it would. You can make reservations a month in advance; the downstairs restaurant is a set menu, and the upstairs more casual (but still upscale) cafe has more choice.

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                    Chez Panisse
                    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    1. re: JasmineG

                      The distance from BART to CP is about the same as from Lexington to 8th Avenue.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        yes, but IIRC (been too long since my last NYC visit!) it is a bit more uphill.

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          There's a very slight climb from BART to CP.

                    2. re: gallerina

                      Chez Panisse is ten blocks from the downtown Berkeley BART station.

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                      Chez Panisse
                      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  2. thank you so much for your help! i should also mention that my mom has an intense love of mexican - and i would love some suggestions on places for a perfect burrito! and margarita. i feel like alcohol will be the corner stone of a successful trip....

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: gallerina

                      It's tricky to find margaritas and good mexican in the same place. The ones with the best food don't tend to have the alcohol license.

                      For those evenings when a margarita is required, I have two places I go to. The food is not the best, but it's good enough when combined with good company and good drinks...
                      -- Don Ramon's in Soma -- http://donramons.ypguides.net/
                      -- Tommy's Mexican Restaurant in the richmond -- http://www.tommysmexican.com/

                      Other places you might like:
                      -- L'Ardoise -- french neighborhood bistro but the do a nice steak frites that your mother might like while you order something more adventurous
                      -- E & O Trading company -- good for lunch if you are near Union Square, pan-asian fare, get the corn fritters if you go there

                      Also, are you going to do one special night for the actual birthday celebrations?
                      I might recommend Chez Spencer for this for you two. Ordinarily I'd recommend La Folie but that might be too shmancy-feeling for your mom.

                      1. re: gallerina

                        This isn't s restaurant, but if you guys are planning to go to the Saturday Ferry Building Farmer's market Primavera has great Mexican brunch. It's not a restaurant, but a stand.

                        1. re: rln

                          definitely want to go to the farmer's market. any other suggestions for things of note at the market?

                            1. re: gallerina

                              Great...! Primavera is in the back of the outdoor market. Many of the cookedfood vendors are back there. I love the chilaquiles at Primavera, and generally all their food. Look for the line (it moves fast).

                              Robert Lauriston's links will likely inform you well (or too much!) but the world will be your oyster there, I think. In the building, Delifina Japanese is good. I recently tried the Ramen stand in the front, and it was delicious.
                              Della Fattoria stand for baked goods, Boulette's Larder, Blue Bottle Coffee, Frog Hollow baked goods... I can go on.. Your mom will be greeted by roasting chicken on the right side of the Ferry Building. I hope you have a great time!

                              -----
                              Della Fattoria
                              141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

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

                              1. re: gallerina

                                A great plan for your Saturday (if you're here during nice weather) is to try to hit the market on the early side, breakfast when you get there, and then shop around for bread, meat, cheeses, fruit, pastries, and other picnicky snacks, and plan to do some sort of outdoors thing later that day so that you can enjoy your picnic lunch.

                                1. re: JasmineG

                                  i LOVE that idea! we'll be leaving that evening on the red eye, so that sounds like perfect way to end our trip. would you recommend any area in specific for a picnic?

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      ok, i know i'm planning ahead here (all right, a LOT ahead), but we're going in mid-september.

                                      1. re: gallerina

                                        Dolores Park, Corona Heights, Rincon Park / Cupid's Span down the waterfront from the Ferry Building. If it's not foggy or windy, Chrissy Field or Baker Beach.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          What's the current word on the Dolores Park closure?

                                        2. re: gallerina

                                          Based on this info, regarding your restaurant recommendations, you should definitely check back in at the end of August. There is a lot of chef movement and changes in this city and recommendations that have been made to you in this thread may not be valid in six months.

                                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                                            i definitely will, i'm just very excited and enjoy hearing about the restaurant scene in other cities. i have a running list of restaurants that are contenders for our limited dinner spots, and i'll check back in august before i make my reservations.

                                          2. re: gallerina

                                            Mid sept/October is a great time of year here weather wise.

                                        3. re: gallerina

                                          You might consider taking your picnic goodies, including beer/wine, up either the filbert or Greenwich steps. The views out to the Bay are stunning. The climb is a bit strenuous but there are benches strategically placed along the way. I get a kick out of walking by the private gardens/peeking into the cliff-side cottages on the way to the top. Coit Tower is at the summit and affords an excellent venue for lunch.

                                          Take the Filbert Steps heading down toward North Beach (a continuation of the Filbert Steps that start Embarcadero-side) where you can sit down at a cafe, grab a drink and talk about your adventure.

                                          1. re: steve h.

                                            This is an excellent suggestion for the picnic.

                                            1. re: steve h.

                                              If you're lazy, you can take the 39 Coit bus to the top of the hill and walk down.

                                    2. re: gallerina

                                      Nopalito is near the panhandle, is fantastic mexican with margaritas....if you intend to walk anywhere near there, or up to haight st i'd recommend it.

                                      1. re: gallerina

                                        Tamarindo in Oakland has both good food and drink. Two blocks from 12th Street BART station.

                                        -----
                                        Tamarindo
                                        468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                      2. I would recommend SPQR for elegant small plates and Baker & Banker for a nice, high-end meal.

                                        I am a Slanted Door detractor - too loud and cramped and touristy for my tastes and I have found the food to be overly sweet.

                                        -----
                                        Slanted Door
                                        Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                        SPQR
                                        1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                        Baker & Banker
                                        1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109