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Mar 17, 2011 07:30 AM

First timer to San Francisco and the Wine Country

Hi Chowhound Friends...I need your help. Best friend and I (fun loving late 30s) are traveling to the Bay area for a few days vacation. I'm a foodie (chef by trade) and she isn't...I love Sushi and she doesn't...that said we are looking to have a great time. We are planning on going to the wine country for a day trip...napa or sonoma undecided...I would love to visit Robert Mondavi and Beringer wineries.

As this is my first time visiting San Francisco...any must see, must eat, must do suggestions?

Breakfast spots, people watching lunches, not to be missed dinners??? Also, looking for cool, hip lounges...

Thanks for your help!

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    1. I see from your other posts that you are coming from Atlanta correct?
      I'm from Atlanta too, and I know that when I first moved out here I found the prices quite daunting (a casual meal in SF is the same price as fine dining in Atlanta); however, there are great affordable options as well, so it would be helpful if you specified your budget, where you are staying, and what kind of cuisine you like. Btw, some things that SF has that Atlanta does not is fantastic Italian food, authentic mexican food, and California food (of course). Also, since you are a chef, you should definitely check out some farmer's markets.

      Will you be driving to wine country ? Keep in mind that places like Robert Mondavi and Beringer are known very commercial and touristy (which is why I've never been). There are an overwhelming number of wineries that are more intimate with fantastic wines (and cheaper tasting fees). Where you should go depends on what you are primarily looking for (a great tour? beautiful grounds? memorable wines? whites, reds, or sparking?) and how much time you will have.

      4 Replies
      1. re: lrealml

        Yes you are correct:-) Had not really thought much about dining budget...on average most entrees in Atlanta are $20+ though of course there are exceptions...not a big problem when its worth it. Well it turns out that my best friend is a vegetarian for lent....however, as long as there is a vegetarian option available on the menu we will be okay. I love Asian, authentic Italian would be great, etc etc Mexican and true "California"... Though I am flexible...I absolutely love seafood...isn't San Fran known for Cioppino. And what about dim sum in Chinatown? My only prerequisite is great food, great ambiance (no romantic restaurants)...Trendy with lackluster food is not appealing.

        In regards to the wine country, preferably a day trip wine keep it safe. Thinking of Saturday or Sunday. We are flexible...those two wineries were recommended to me. However I like your idea of non-commercial/non-touristy and unique. Is it doable in a day returning to the city later that evening/afternoon?

        My tastes: full smooth cabernets for red; rieslings/gewurtraminers for whites, and anything sparkling...

        Also, we most likely will be staying at the Palomar Hotel.

        Citizen Cake and Crustaceans has been recommended so far. Any thoughts?

        1. re: angeljoy

          Italian: Perbacco, La Ciccia
          Mexican: Walk around the Mission and have tacos, and/or eat at Poc Chuc for Yucatecan.
          California: Canteen, Range, Zuni Cafe
          Cioppino: People love Tadich. I love the place, didn't love the cioppino myself, but it wasn't bad, and the place is worth it - an institution.

          Zuni Cafe
          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

          230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

          1. re: mariacarmen

            Agreed with all of these recommendations, and Slanted Door is also one that may work for you (it gets up and down reviews on this board, but most visitors like it a lot, and it has excellent and well marked vegetarian options). Dim sum is challenging with a vegetarian, though Yank Sing would be an option, because they'll be able to tell you which of the dishes are vegetarian.

            Slanted Door
            Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

          2. re: angeljoy

            In the Palomer is 5th Floor, which used to be a great, but recently had a chef change; however, I know that that their cocktails are still fantastic (I was there 2 weeks ago). They have a really nice lounge/bar area.

            Many others have already posted some great suggestions; to add to them (although some may require a car):
            Italian: SPQR, Acquerello (if you want to break the bank; although it is worth it);
            Mexican: El Delfin (and definitely have a taco at truck/stand if you see one in the mission)
            California: Nopa, Foreign Cinema, Pacific Catch (for affordable CA style fish tacos; I can only vouch for their marina location; they do have veg options)
            Fusion: Aziza (cal/morocian), Dosa (cal/indian), Namu (cal/korean/asian)
            Others: Limon Rotisserie is good and affordable Peruvian with veg options

            Also, other things that SF does well that Atlanta, IMO, did not (as of 4.5 years ago): Pizza (Little Star's deep dish is amazing) and bakeries/bread. I am a bread/pastry fiend, and many of the breads/baked goods here are to die for... Tartine and Acme are my favorites.

            Unfortunately, I also have no idea where to get good cioppino and agree that Dim Sum and most authentic Chinese/Asian will hard for vegetarians.

            As for wine country, if you are interested in farmers markets, I would go to the Ferry Building market on Sat: you can eat breakfast there (Acme or another bakery stand, cowgirl cheese, and blue bottle coffee) and then lunch at Slanted Door (which is worth doing IMO, just make reservations). Then on Sunday you can do wine country...
            For a short day trip, you can hit Sonoma; my recs: Gloria Ferrier (sparkling), Imagery, Benzinger (nice tour), Artesa (beautiful grounds), and Sunflower Cafe for a garden lunch.
            Napa Valley is a longer day trip, but very doable if you don't go to any far away wineries. Also, I think there is better wine and food in Napa; my recs: Elizabeth Spencer (need appointment, lovely patio, good cabs), Darioush (great viognier, which is as close as you will find to Gewurztraminer out here), Frog's Leap, Domaine Chandon and/or Mumm (sparkling), Trefethen (the only place I know with a Riesling), Cakebread (app. only), and Goose Cross. For food there are many amazing options, I love Ad Hoc (which does accommodate Vegetarians), Bouchon Bakery (for pastries), and Redd.

            Just do some more research with your friend, and I'm sure you won't go wrong.

        2. Ame is a fairly upscale restaurant in SF and my current #1 must for out-of-towners, because it is excellent but also because it is an 'only in SF' type place. All things considered, Perbacco is my favorite Italian restaurant outside of Italy.

          Nopa is excellent casual CA cuisine.

          230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117