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Restaurant Recommendations Needed!


Will be visiting San Fran for first time for 7 days in early August with my girlfriend and am looking for restaurant recommendations.

Have been perusing this board and have found several promising leads for dim sum, pizza, pacific oysters and other things, but am hoping someone can help me find some of the best VALUE (neighborhood type) restaurants in the city, as well as a couple really nice restaurants to celebrate a special occasion.

Am not afraid of spending money, just very value oriented, so please don’t send us to a place with $30 farm raised fish entrees or a steakhouse with $80 wet-aged, choice grade steaks.

We tend to like places that source their ingredients carefully and locally and prepare them simply.

Thank you in advance.

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  1. Hi Joe,

    Happily, you've described half the restaurants in the city. Farm-raised fish and $80 steaks are harder to find than ramps grown and pickled by the chef.

    Where are you staying, and what other kinds of cuisine do you like?

    Also there are a lot of current visitor threads. You might get ideas from seeing what's already been recommended.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      Hi Windy,

      I am staying at a hotel next to the Moscone Center for three days then my girlfriend is meeting me out there and I don't know where we'll be staying for those 6 or 7 days yet.

      I am planning on 3-4 days in the city, one day in Napa and 1-2 days in Yosemite.

      Like all types of cuisine but would like to focus on things unique to the California Bay area and ingredients not commonly found on the east coast (Dungeness crab, abalone, local caught sushi, really good bread, organic local produce...)

      Just want to avoid overpriced places that do fancy things with ordinary, mass produced proteins and produce. We're looking for fresh, local, simple yet creative restaurants that give the discerning San Franciscan chowhound a reason to go out to eat.

      Will also search the visitor threads as you suggest.


      1. re: Joebada

        Start with the Saturday market (or if you're not here on a Saturday, Tuesday or Thursday) Ferry Plaza market. More organic local produce than you can imagine. And perhaps stock up for your Yosemite trip.

        Breads: Tartine Bakery, Thorough Bread, or Acme

        You can hop on the California cable car line to Swan Oyster Depot for a great cash only lunch of local seafood.

        Local crab season is over, but you can get Pacific Northwest Dungeness at many Asian restaurants especially Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants with a visible tank.

        Only a few sushi bars get fish that's not from Japan; the sea urchin is from California but most of the rest is not.

        Tartine Bakery
        600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Swan Oyster Depot
        1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        1. re: Windy

          Thanks Windy, just read some reviews about Swan Oyster, that is the exact kind of place we love, Tartine looks incredible too, I'm getting excited.

          1. re: Joebada

            One other good thread for neighborhood spots is people's favorite bites from last year.

            And if you have time, do get out of downtown/Union Square/the Wharf and into the Mission, over to Poik Street (a few blocks from Swan, you have Moroccan, Tunisian, Vietnamese), and if you have time, to the Richmond District.

            You can hop on the 38 Geary or 1 California bus toward Golden Gate Park and save enough on dinner to pay for a cab back.

    2. Make reservations for Canteen a week prior to leaving.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nopa

        Thank you Nopa, just looked at Canteen’s menu. I have been eating skate out of my Northern New England water for years, tastes just like scallops when done right. Didn't know sea bass took well to salt curing, that's the kind of thing I like to try at a restaurant and then steal the idea and do at home.

        560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

      2. Z & Y in Chinatown is one of my favorite restaurants in SF. Really amazing Sichuan food.


        Oenotri in downtown Napa has delicious rustic Italian food.

        eVe in Berkeley is my favorite new place for well executed excellent California cuisine.


        1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

        1. You might want to consider BARTing over to Oakland and checking out Plum -- sounds like your kind of place.

          1. I think the two best values in the city are both Italian.

            L'Osteria del Forno is a no-reservations cash-only hole-in-the-wall with one oven in North Beach serving some of the most amazing Italian food I've ever had. Pizzas, roasts, etc. Peasant and incredibly good.

            Perbacco is probably the best Italian restaurant I've been to outside of Italy. Downtown, people come in dressed in jeans and t-shirts and also in suits, very long menu, obscenely well treated wild mushrooms and game birds. The most expensive entree on the menu is $26.Taking value into account, I've never seen a better Italian wine list.

            Regarding value, I would add that I think Ame is a value. Not because it is cheap -- it isn't, it is one of the more expensive restaurants in the city. But because it is unique and sublime. Apps are mid to upper teens and mains are mid to upper thirties. Japanese/Italian/French fusion. I think it is a good value for a unique experience, but again, not cheap.

            230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            L'Osteria del Forno
            519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. You should definitely go to a Mexican taqueria. I don't want to set off a firestorm in here -- you can easily search up some great debates on the best burritos in the city. I can only say my favorite is Papalote.

              Also, there's a thriving Food Truck culture in the city. Off the Grid (http://offthegridsf.com/calendar) gathers some of the city's best -- Friday nights at Fort Mason is one weekly event. Lots of fun for any foodie who loves to try new things.

              Off the Grid
              Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

              1. Thank you everyone, your responses here, as well as the other posts I've been reading, have certainly given me many options to choose from. Now it's a matter of forming some time of itinerary and choosing which places to eat at without getting overwhelmed by all the great choices.

                One thing I'm starting to realize is I'm going to have to try another Italian place besides Delfina, which I was going to hit for pizza only. This was not my original plan given I am Italian and have enjoyed very good home cooked renditions of both southern, Tuscan and northern specialties for years. (also lived in Italy for a year) However, after reading some other posts, I'm starting to think it would be a mistake to leave SF without having a traditional multi course Italian meal. What would you recommend as an authentic ingredient driven, rustic Italian option? We love all the regions of Italian gastronomy, but SF seems to do southern Italian and Tuscan the best, is that a fair assessment?

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

                4 Replies
                1. re: Joebada

                  oh gosh, you had to go and mention Italian... we went to Zero Zero a few weeks ago and it was really good. great pizzas and pastas and they end the meal with create-your-own straus ice cream sundaes ;) (that part isn't italian, obviously, but with toppings like olive oil, candied marcona almonds, and salted carmel, you can see why it's my current favorite place -- and in a fairly casual atmosphere.)

                  Zero Zero
                  826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                  1. re: sfwork

                    i LOVED zero zero and recommend it, but i was very disappointed in the sundae (i got the olive oil and vanilla ice cream with bacon - none of the 3 components were up to the task.)

                    And as Ruth says below, La Ciccia is a favorite. I would pick La Ciccia over Zero Zero if I could only do one.

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

                    Zero Zero
                    826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                  2. re: Joebada

                    La Ciccia -- rustic, delicious Sardinian.

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

                    1. re: Joebada

                      "SF seems to do southern Italian and Tuscan the best ...?"

                      I wouldn't say that. Perbacco does Piemontese and Ligurian dishes. A16 and Una Pizza Napoletana (pizza only) do very traditional Neapolitan. La Ciccia is Sardinian. Ideale is Roman. Pesce is Venetian. Cotogna and Incanto are Cal-Italian with no particular regional focus. Quince, Acquerello, and (despite the name) SPQR are sort of Frenchified Italian.

                      I'm not sure there are any particularly Tuscan places in SF these days. Corso in Berkeley is.

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

                      230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                      2227 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1315 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                      Acquerello Restaurant
                      1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                      Una Pizza Napoletana
                      200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133