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Need recs for SF/Napa for 2 NYC vegetarians who are serious about good food

I know there are a number of other posts on similar topics, but none of them are really proving to be helpful.

My husband and I will be in Napa, SF, and Berkeley/Oakland in late May/early June. We are both vegetarian and have high standards for food. As a point of reference, our favorite restaurants in NYC are Roberta's, Dirt Candy, Sripraphai, and Buttermilk Channel. We were disappointed by the lackluster vegetarian dishes on Blue Hill at Stone Barns' farmers feast and I make better food at home than most of the restaurants in this new wave of seasonal/local/organic food that seems to be most popular in Brooklyn (where we live), so just having vegetarian dishes on the menu isn't enough - it has to be great. And just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's good - some of our favorite food is served from a truck or a hole in the wall.

I've done a ridiculous amount of research and have come up with a list of all the places at which we'd like to eat (and I've made a lot of reservations!) but I need a little help in refining and finalizing the list and filling in some of the blanks. Basically, I'm looking for places that epitomize California cuisine but also have a good amount of (and good quality) vegetarian dishes. So many of the places that I came upon in my research had rave reviews but didn't float my boat when it came to the selection and/or appeal of their vegetarian dishes, so they didn't make the cut. Also, Thai and Indian food are not options, as there are amazing versions of both in NYC.

So here's what I've got so far:

Napa
Lunches at Oxbow Market and Bouchon
Dinner: Ubuntu; need a recommendation for a Saturday night. I'm considering Oenotri but am not sure I want to have pizza given that we're going to flour and water and possibly A16 in SF. I love good Neapolitan pizza, but I think three nights of it is too much. Considering Redd, but the menu didn't wow me, and I thought Bistro Jeanty was a little overpriced for the vegetarian options. Also, not going to French Laundry, as we have friends who recnelty went and weren't impressed with the vegetarian menu and we very recently went to Per Se (and loved it, but it's a bit too soon to repeat the experience).

Berkeley/Oakland
Lunch at Cafe at Chez Panisse (although I am ambivalent about this...one one hand I feel like I need to eat at the temple of Alice Waters but on the other I'm not bowled over by the vegetarian options on her menus and think I may be passing up on something else that's really good but not as well-known)
Dinner at Plum (definitely doing this unless you can really convince me otherwise, I'm a huge fan of Jeremy Fox and Daniel Patterson, and since we're not eating at Coi now that the lounge has closed, we just have to eat here).

Palo Alto
Need a lunch suggestion

SF
Evening 1: progressive dinner from Orson (dessert first!) to Sons & Daughters (two small plates) and finally Canteen (one of each vegetarian small plate), followed by drinks at Bourbon and Branch.

Day 1: breakfast at Tartine Bakery, lunch at taquerias in Mission, ice cream from Humphry Slocombe, dinner at flour and water, drinks at Beretta (this is already my favorite day!)

Day 2: lunch at Ferry Plaza Market, dinner at A16, Slanted Door, or somewhere else - I'm not tied to either of these options and want something that's uniquely SF so please weigh in on this one. I feel like A16, while great, is too similar to flour + water. I haven't been fully convinced on the quality of the food at Slanted Door and I'm not totally bowled over by other places (also considering Commonwealth, Range, Nopa, although I get the sense that the quality of food there sn't astounding). Drinks at 15 Romolo.

Day 3: lunch at Alembic or Magnolia Brewing - not tied to either of these, so I'd love recommendations for great places nearby (i.e., Haight, near Alamo Square, Hayes Valley), although we do love good craft beer which is why these options are on the list even though there are probably better restaurants (although not sure which ones are open for lunch). We're going to a friend's party for dinner.

Day 4: lunch at Greens (which we have to do, this one is more important to me than Chez Panisse). Another private dinner this evening.

And that's it. What do you think? I'm hoping the expertise of SF hounds will come to my rescue in filling in the blanks and possibly suggesting alternatives to places i've selected in the event that I'm totally missing out on something amazing. Thank you so so so much for your help!

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Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

Slanted Door
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

A16
2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

Canteen
817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Range
842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Nopa
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA

Beretta
1199 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

15 Romolo
15 Romolo Pl, San Francisco, CA 94133

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Bouchon
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Oenotri
1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

Chez Panisse Cafe
1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

Sons & Daughters
708 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Commonwealth
2224 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. In Berkeley, consider Gather for dinner rather than Chez Panisse, it was great when I went. I've heard so many "meh" reviews of CP on this board and from friends that I'm not sure it's worth it, but I haven't been.

    In SF, Millennium is amazing for veg cuisine, I've never had anything there I didn't love, especially if you go for the tasting menu. I prefer it over Greens, but that's personal preference. Also consider Dosa for South Indian and Gracias Madre for more upscale Mexican food than you'll get at the taqueria. Both are excellent.

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    Chez Panisse
    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

    Dosa
    995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Millennium Restaurant
    580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

    Gracias Madre
    2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Gather
    2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

    Chez Panisse Cafe
    1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

    8 Replies
    1. re: morningbun

      Not to be a naysayer, but Ubuntu has gone down hill lately (it used to be one of my favorite restaurants). I never did get around to writing up a proper review of the bad experience we had, so let me sum it up: The pasta dish we had was soggy, bitter (like long cooked lemon pith), and had no salt at all. The grit dish was just plain gross (this is especially sad for me since the grit dish that we had when Fox was there was so amazing that I have spent a lot of time recreating it). It was served in some strange hard bread bowl with some overdone greasy fried things that tasted like they were fried in week old oil. The other two dishes we had were a beet dish that was good and a dessert that was just ok. Fortunately we weren't that hungry... We were there about a month ago at 9pm on a Saturday. I hope they were just having a really bad night, but I won't return to find out.

      Also in line with my naysaying... Greens is not that impressive. I know you are insistent on it, but you can get a much more inspired vegetarian dinner at most of the better restaurants in SF.

      Some suggestions:
      Aziza (cal-Moroccan) is very unique to SF, and they are very accommodating to vegetarians. Namu is also unique and a good portion of there menu is vegetarian. Nopa is also a great choice.
      Also, don't hesitate to ask for vegetarian dishes that are not on the menu (my friend does it all the time). Most places are happy to (and used to) accommodating all the vegetarians.
      Finally, I know you are doing Bouchon already (no opinion there), but I love Ad Hoc (my vegan friend really loved her meal). Just let them know you are both vegetarian (when you make reservations), and they will accommodate. The freshness of veggies is really amazing.

      1. re: lrealml

        I've read in a few places that Ad Hoc will do a vegetarian meal if you call in advance, but I've never seen what those dishes were - do you have any insight? Freshness of produce alone is not enough to get me to go....there are plenty of places in NYC that make great vegetarian food with market-fresh ingredients. For $50 I want an inspired, unique meal, not something I could make at home after going to the farmers market.

        I think I'm going to scrap Chez Panisse and go for Gather - I've read so many great reviews of it.

        I cancelled my reservation at A16 and made one for Commonwealth instead. I'm planning to get the 6 course tasting as the 4 vegetarian dishes on the menu won't be enough for the two of us (although I presume they would be about to make a few additional dishes if we called in advance) - anyone have any insight on that?

        I may skip Greens as well, but am not sure where to go for lunch instead - Slanted Door? Or somewhere else.

        Also, any thoughts on whether I should scrap the progressive dinner evening of Orson, Sons and Daughters, and Canteen and just make a full dinner out of one of the latter two? Has anyone made a request for vegetarian options (in addition to those already on the menu) at those places?

        In case you couldn't tell I want to make sure I have the best dining experience in SF :)

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

        A16
        2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

        Ad Hoc
        6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

        Saison
        2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

        Benu
        22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: scarlet starlet

          The dishes at Ad Hoc are not very innovative; they are just good.. and I can't remember what my friend had (I was too busy eating). All the dishes there are mostly simple preparations that showcase ingredients/freshness. Perhaps you could make them at home if you had a garden, but I don't and the farmers market produce around here is great, but doesn't compare.

          I haven't been to all of those places, so perhaps someone else can comment... However, I do think you should consider Aziza since you seem focused on having interesting dishes you can't make at home.

          1. re: scarlet starlet

            $50 doesn't get you much inspiring if you're including tax, tip and wine. I'd skip Greens...nothing good reported there for a long time. I'd get a veggie burrito from somewhere...Taqueria Cancun does a good one.

          2. re: lrealml

            I love Namu, but was wondering what you recommend for vegetarians. I had brunch there recently with a friend who ended up getting eggs because she didn't have a lot of other choices.

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

            1. re: Windy

              From looking at the brunch menu, I guess there is not much for vegetarians. I have never been for brunch, but have been for dinner a few times, and there are ton of items on the dinner menu that are vegetarian (I count 8 plus all the sides):
              http://namusf.com/html/menus/dinner_m...

              Portobello mushrooms are my least favorite food, but the meat loving guys at the table enjoyed them so much that they ordered another plate.

              1. re: lrealml

                Thanks. Yeah, I would never have ordered portobello mushrooms, but I'm there for the burgers and fried chicken.

                A note that their dashi and I believe kim chee aren't vegetarian.

                1. re: Windy

                  You are right... I forgot about the shrimp in the kimchee, but I'm sure it could be left off...
                  The dashi containing dishes I was already not counting ....

                  I haven't tried the fried chicken yet... sounds good.

        2. Plum's great. Very vegetarian-friendly. Jeremy Fox was involved for only a short time before it opened.

          I wouldn't go to Magnolia just for the beer, or take a vegetarian there to eat. Trappist in Oakland is more interesting.

          1. I'm not so sure canteen is a good candidate for a progressive meal. Sometimes the menu is prix fixe with set seating times. It is a very small restaurant, so reservations are usually essential. If the menu is not prix fixe, they usually have one vegetarian option for each course, so there is most likely only one small vegetarian plate option on any given day.

            I like Plum, but I highly recommend the tasting menu at Coi for vegetarians. The restaurant is very good at accomodating vegetarians and their tasting menu is very vegetable heavy in the first place. Saison makes inventive dishes, but the one time I tried to go with a vegetarian, they basically said that they couldn't adjust their tasting menu. You might call--it is possible their policy has changed.

            -----
            Saison
            2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

            2 Replies
            1. re: sfbing

              I made a reservation for Canteen and let them know we'd only need the table for an hour. I've been keeping an eye on the menu and there's always one vegetarian option for each of the first two courses, which is perfect for one item per person and then dessert.

              Coi looks amazing but it's more than we're willing to spend on one meal while we're out there.

              1. re: scarlet starlet

                If you have time at Canteen, don't miss the vanilla souffle for dessert. Sigh.

            2. Definitely keep Plum, I was going to suggest it even before seeing that you already plan on going there. It has the best and most creative vegetarian food that I've had in the Bay Area (more so than Ubuntu, and I went there in the Fox days -- I have not been to Coi). I would keep the Chez Panisse Cafe lunch, because I've always had good meals there (especially the vegetarian items), and if you're going to be in the East Bay that day, it's a no brainer. I've been to and enjoyed Gather, but the star of the menu is the vegan charcuterie, most of the rest of it isn't particularly interesting. You might want to stop at Gather and share the vegan charctuerie and then go on to Chez Panisse for a late lunch, since you seem to like the progressive dining/snacking idea.

              For your lunch in Palo Alto, maybe Evvia, or you could go down south to Mountain View and hit some of the good taquerias down there.

              For one of your lunches, you could go to The Sentinel for their great sandwiches; there are always some vegetarian options, and they're fantastic. Or share a sandwich there, and hit Zuni for a late lunch to have some of their vegetarian options (and their good cocktails).

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              Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
              1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

              1 Reply
              1. re: JasmineG

                I agree, the vegan "charcuterie" is the main attraction at Gather.

                I've eaten there five or six times, and the only other dishes I can recall were the burger and a guanciale pizza.

              2. Thanks for all the great suggestions. I’ve made a few changes (below) but what I really need help with is picking two of the following for dinner:

                Commonwealth
                Sons and Daughters/Canteen (still bent on that progressive dinner)
                Millennium

                Still doing Ubuntu - I've read recent reviews and it seems that Aaron London is doing a great job - and our other dinner in Napa is none other than Ad Hoc. I'm taking a chance on this given that I haven't read very much about their vegetarian options, but I can't pass up the opportunity to eat there.

                Definitely doing Chez Panisse and Plum in Berkeley/Oakland and also getting breakfast at La Farine and Blue Bottle Coffee.

                In SF, I added a dinner at Aziza and lunch at Burma Superstar because I haven’t encountered places like them in NYC and they have great reviews. I can live without The Slanted Door and A16. Definitely keeping Greens on the list.

                -----
                Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                A16
                2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                Ad Hoc
                6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                La Farine
                6323 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

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

                Burma Superstar
                4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                7 Replies
                1. re: scarlet starlet

                  I'd put Burma Superstar in the third rank of local Burmese places, after Little Yangon and LEBK, though their samusa soup is fabulous and vegetarian. The SF branch is my least favorite of the three. Also, a lot of their vegetarian dishes are Indian or Chinese, and not as good as you'll get as an Indian or Chinese restaurant.

                  -----
                  Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
                  452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Burma Superstar
                  1345 Park Street, Alameda, CA

                  Burma Superstar
                  4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                  Little Yangon
                  6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

                  1. re: scarlet starlet

                    Good Luck and have fun! Please report back!

                    1. re: scarlet starlet

                      scarlet starlet - given the standards you're setting (nothing that you could make at home yourself), I have to strongly discourage you from going to Greens. The cuisine is seriously dated and reminds me of the stuff my vegetarian friends and I would make out of the Moosewood cookbook in high school. There's no evidence anywhere of the huge advances that have been made in veg cooking - it can't even come close to touching Plum or Ubuntu. I didn't even find the quality of the vegetables all that amazing (as opposed to Chez Panisse or Camino, where the preps are always fairly simple but the ingredients are stellar).

                      Other options to consider in Oakland are Camino (they have a very limited menu, but their veg option is always so good I usually end up choosing it, and I'm not vegetarian) and Encuentro (haven't been, but it gets great reviews).
                      http://www.encuentrooakland.com/menu....

                      Also, if you're planning to have a car, I think the zucchini pupusas at Tamales Mi Lupita in Oakland are fantastic. You could probably grab pupusas there on your way up to Napa. Well, you'd have to take a short detour, but it wouldn't be too bad.

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                      Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                      1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                      Chez Panisse
                      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      Tamales Mi Lupitas
                      3340 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                      1. re: daveena

                        Tamales Mi Lupita is just a few blocks / half a mile from BART.

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                        Tamales Mi Lupitas
                        3340 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                        1. re: daveena

                          Although I'm sure those pupusas are great, there are excellent pupusas to be found in Brooklyn, including ones made with zucchini, loroco flower, jalapenos, and a variety of vegetarian fillings, and they're within a half hour walk from my home!

                          I do like the menu at Camino, but I don't eat at restaurants that have just one vegetarian entree - not much fun when neither me or my husband eat meat.

                          I'm now considering skipping lunch on Thursday at The Slanted Door for the Off The Grid - although we have a ton of food trucks in NYC, there are definitely more in SF and dare I say some better ones. I would've considered the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market but we're going to Alcatraz that morning and not getting back until 1, so by the time we get to the market at ~1:30, the vendors will be getting read to close at 2.

                          I may also skip Burma Superstar and just do some grazing as we walk around, some snacks with drinks at Alembic, Citizen Cake for desserts, and....any suggestions for good places in Hayes Valley/NoPa areal? Also, thoughts on Nopalito? The menu looks good enough, but not terribly exciting.

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

                          Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
                          One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

                          Burma Superstar
                          4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                          1. re: scarlet starlet

                            Yes, you should check out the food trucks as well as Ferry Plaza or one of the markets.

                            The best thing at Nopalito is the carnitas.

                            1. re: scarlet starlet

                              Sounds like you've already made up your mind about pupusas, but I'll just make one last case for them - I brought vegetarian friends from LA to Tamales Mi Lupita, and they swore Mi Lupita's were better than any they've had in LA. I've also tried the famous pupusa place at Maxwell Street Market in Chicago, and think Mi Lupita's are better.

                              -----
                              Tamales Mi Lupitas
                              3340 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601