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Top 10 Must-visit SF Eateries - The Budget Version

Hi everyone -

Have 2 friends coming in from Wales in August. It's their first time in the Bay Area for both of them - for one, her first time ever in California!

Been trying to think of places to take them while they're here and honestly, it's pretty difficult. I have places that I love, and I've been asking for suggestions with friends, AS WELL as scoping past Chowhound postings (like the one posted by NYC girl mchien623)... and it just succeeded in making me more at a loss. And so I extend my cry for help to you, fellow Chowhounders:

In your opinion, what would be the TOP 10 places in SF to take California newbies from out of the country for LUNCH or DINNER? Here are my requests:

1) All of us are on a budget, and so we want mostly places that are $20/person or less (not counting booze and tips)

2) One of the top 10 could be an all-out splurge restaurant - but just one. :)

3) All cuisines are welcome, especially those that represent what SF does fabulously!

4) Prefer places near the "touristy" areas, i.e. we won't be hanging out much in the Sunset/Richmond areas (unfortunately.)

5) Hole-in-the-walls, trucks, proper restos, mom & pop establishments - all are great. Places that only do lunch or only do dinner are fine too.

I await your wisdom! ... and thanks.

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  1. Swan Oyster Depot.

    Sam Wo Have to smile, was searching UK board for places in Wales and found the phrase "seedy looking Chinese restaurant. Sam Wo would be like a touch of home.

    Mario's Bohemian

    Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Saturday morning.

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

    Sam Wo Restaurant
    813 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

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

    1. Angkor Borei
      Burmese Kitchen aka Larkin Express
      Helmand Palace
      Lers Ros
      Memphis Minnie's
      Saigon Sandwich
      Thai House Express
      Truly Mediterranean

      Splurge on a budget, Plum in Oakland.

      Saigon Sandwich Shop
      560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Angkor-Borei Restaurant
      3471 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

      Maykadeh Persian Cuisine
      470 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      Thai House Express
      901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      Truly Mediterranean
      3109 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      Memphis Minnie's BBQ
      576 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

      Helmand Palace
      2424 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

      Lers Ros Thai
      730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

      Esperpento Restaurant
      3295 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      36 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        A second for Memphis Minnie's. Bring your food across the street to Toronado for an outstanding selection of beers, reasonably priced all day.


        Toronado Pub
        547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA

        306 Broderick St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: tranewreck

          Especially if that day at Toronado is a Tuesday.

          1. re: grayelf

            In that case, you want to stop next door to toronado for a burger at rosamunde.

          2. re: tranewreck

            No, Memphis Minnie's is terrible and has absolutely nothing to do with California. It's only good for satisfying a craving for the actually good barbecue in other parts of the country--a craving this person from Wales doesn't have--and it's barely even satisfactory for that purpose.

            By all means, go to Toronado, but just eat before or after at a decent place.

            Mission Chinese Food
            Taqueria Cancun
            4505 Meats at the Ferry Building on Thursdays and Saturdays
            while you're there, buy a bunch of great produce and cook it that night
            Pizzeria Delfina
            Pork Store Cafe

            Taqueria Cancun
            2288 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

            Pork Store Cafe
            1451 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

            Pizzeria Delfina
            2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

            Mission Chinese Food
            2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            4505 Meats
            1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111, CA

            1. re: barzelay

              Memphis Minnie's makes good spareribs and brisket. It may not be the best in the country, but it's the best in SF, and a good introduction to a classic American tradition.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                the last time I had good barbeque at Minnie's was when it was on Polk St. i've been a half a dozen times to the Haight St spot and have never gotten anything moist.

                one of my friend's loves it, though he concedes the meals we've had there together have been sub-par ("It's not usually like this")

                my current SF favorites are Smokin' Warehouse Barbecue & Sneaky's BBQ

                Sneaky's BBQ
                1760 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

                1. re: drewskiSF

                  I'm not fond of Minnie's, nowhere close to the BBQ I had in the south. Maybe it's great for those who have never had real Southern BBQ. But, once you have, there's no comparison, imo. BBQ in the SF Bay Area, is like someone said about steak here, it's not a BBQ area. We're better at other things. These days I'm not eating much meat anyway, so my heart thanks me. xD

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    same experience here. Dry meats. Not fond of the sides or any of the bbq sauces. Have been going to MM's for 20 years to see if I could ever again hit the sometimes moist sandwiches of yore.

                    Is the smell of musk down at Helmand Palace?

                2. re: barzelay

                  thank you. memphis minnie's is bbq for people who haven't been to any states with real barbecue. da pit/brother-in-laws/whatever it's mostly recently been called is the only authentic place i've found so far in SF

                  1. re: vulber

                    Bingo! I haven't been to Bro-in-law for a few years, good to hear they're still good.

                    1. re: vulber

                      The spare ribs I've had from Da Pit / Lilly's etc. were on a par with the best I've had from Minnie's and not different in kind from any of the other decent barbecue I've had around here. More often than not when I've gone there they were out of ribs and told me to come back in a couple or few hours, which probably helps their consistency.

                      The one time I tried their brisket it was bad.

                      1. re: vulber

                        Please explain what is unauthentic about MM's brisket. IMHO, its simply the best, most consistent brisket I had outside of Texas. They smoke low & slow over real wood (oak), which is better than the majority of gas pits found throughout NC and Tennessee.

                        1. re: Civil Bear

                          MM is in the wrong state and the bathroom is clean.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            LOL. True story though, but if you ever find yourself in Tennessee, every bathroom is spotless - bus stations, parking garages, restaurants, flee markets - it is pretty amazing!

                          2. re: Civil Bear

                            Civil Bear, have you tried the brisket at Double D's, in Oakland?

                            They do mostly catering now, and are hardly ever open during a time when I can go - so it's been a few months. But I think I prefer their brisket to Memphis Minnie's (which, granted, I only tried once). Smokier and more moist.

                            Double D BBQ
                            1240 1st Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                          3. re: scottca075

                            Well stated. It is easy to knock someone else's taste instead of just saying it is not your taste. I don't care for MM but I like Carolina vinegar based "Q" which i have yet to find out here.

                            1. re: budnball

                              the closest I've found is the previously mentioned Looney's. they say the pulled pork is North Carolina style and the sauce is vinegar based, though it was only mildly vinegary to me.

                              They also have a S. Carolina spicy mustard sauce which I like better.


                              1. re: drewskiSF

                                I don't have much faith in Looney's as most NC joints chop their pork shoulders rather than pull them. I stopped going a few years ago, despite its excellent proximity to Cal, when he attempted to serve "brisket" from bottom round!
                                Looney's and Uncle Willies will be competing this weekend at the Oakland Coliseum against some of the top BBQ teams in the State. It should be interesting...

                                Link to teams participating:


                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                  B Restaurant in Oakland occasionally does North Carolina-style vinegary chopped barbecued pork.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    B in Oakland will have "Eastern North Carolina" BBQ whole hog (chopped, in vinegar-based sauce) this Sunday. Reservations essential.

                                  2. re: Civil Bear

                                    Well, of the three Oakland restaurant teams (Looney's, Q Master's (AKA Chef Edwards), and Uncle Willie's, Uncle Willie's came out on top finishing 24th out of 32 total teams.

                                    There is no way to tell who finished better between Loonie's and Q Masters, as you must place in the top 16 in a least one category in order to earn points. To be fair to Q Masters, they only entered two of the four categories (chicken and ribs).

                                    Link to results:


                                2. re: budnball

                                  Didn't mean to sound arrogant...but I've been consistently disappointed in BBQ in the Bay Area, I've had plenty of BBQ in many parts of the US and when I try a "fantastic" place here, it doesn't hold up, with a couple exceptions. Bros-in-law is one that I had a couple years ago, Leon's on Fillmore and long, long time ago was my fav for many years and another was a place that used to be around years and years ago in San Mateo along 101, even forgot it's name. But, aside from that, everything else hasn't held up. My personal favorite style, although I love all BBQ, is pulled pork and there is absolutely no decent pulled pork here. Low Country pulled pork is served with a lighter vinegar based sauce. I OD'd on that in Savannah on vacation in May!

                                  1. re: isewinsf

                                    Out of curiosity, have you tried KC's Barbeque in Berkeley? My favorite in the Bay Area in terms of the quality of the meat and the technique. Some hate on their sauce, some on their ambiance, but I think they do Q really well. (And for the record, I really like MM, but prefer KC. MM is a tad too smoky for me.)

                                    1. re: BernalKC

                                      for what it's worth, if you toss away all prior conceptions of waht barbecue is supposed to taste like, wexler's is entirely inauthentic and completely deliciosu

                                      1. re: BernalKC

                                        Right on. I have been eating at KC since starting my 1st real job at a nearby office in 1976. I like KC better than any others that I have tried: Doug's, Everett and Jones, Chef Edwards, Mama's, Flints. KC often does the short end of the rack just right.

                                        The only ribs to equal KC for me were done by a co-worker who I later found out was related to the KC folk. I do have to give E & J props for giving out jars of hot sauce on the 4th.

                                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                          I should check out KC again.

                                          I got a beef & ribs combo there last year and had the short end of the rack. It was bad. 6 ribs, but the two smallest ribs were throw-aways with meat dry and harder than jerky. The others were somewhat better though the tips on all of them had similar hard dry meat as the small ribs.

                                          The beef, on the other hand, was really good. Tender, juicy, lightly smokey.

                                          KC's Bar-B-Que
                                          2613 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                          1. re: drewskiSF

                                            I'd give em at least a 2nd chance. They Q nice and slow (unlike, say, E&J), which does risk some unevenness and overdone bits. When their ribs are good (like almost every time I've been) they are delectable.

                                      2. re: isewinsf

                                        Closest I've found was in Buttonwillow but that is another board

                                        1. re: budnball

                                          budnball: Are you saying that Willow Creek place off I-5 at the Buttonwillow exit is real 'Q, as in smoked meat?

                                            1. re: Steve Green

                                              yeah but i'll say more on that board

                                          1. re: isewinsf

                                            That place in San Mateo along 101 -- was it Ma Pinky's? It was still there pretty recently.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Second Burmese Kitchen/Larkin Express.

                                    I've fed groups of three for $40 TOTAL there and gone home with leftovers.

                                    I'll also recommend Takara for lunch in J-Town. Their bento box is the best meal in town; for $10 (including tip), you get tea, salad, miso soup, three slices of California roll, tempura, and your choice of teriyaki chicken, pork katsu, sashimi, or fried fish. Great Japanese food on a budget!

                                    Lastly, the Dim Sum on Clement Street around 5th is another great bargain. I have gotten stuffed there for $5 a person and it is a fun street to walk.

                                    The last recommendation involves a Friday night - at the DeYoung Museum, there are always fabulous Friday night art programs but better than that, the DeYoung Cafe has a kick-ass 3-course prix fixe for $18. The food is amazing for the price and changes all the time.

                                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                                      very mldly flavored Burmese food. Ask for heat and shrimp paste. Dennis the owner loves hot food but doesn't cook spicy for the guests.

                                      1. re: stanbee

                                        Sadly I have to agree agree. On my last couple of visits even the tea leaf salad lacked punch compared to other Burmese places around town.

                                    2. For an unusual experience, try the Basque Center. Menu is on their web site.
                                      The daily specials are enjoyable, filling and very reasonable.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bruce in SLO

                                        The Basque Center menu doesn't describe the dishes. Are they, being Basque, different than they sound?

                                      2. Take them to a taqueria or taco truck. There's a couple of hundred in SF and everyone has an opinion on the best/favorite. La Taqueria, Taqueria Cancun and El Farolito are a few.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ML8000

                                          Taqueria Vallarta is open late, doesn't move around like trucks can, has lots of seating, and there's a guy by the front door grilling up 11 kinds of meat for tacos, using what's basically a street cart. but he's indoors. $1.75 each for tacos, delicious. I won't talk about "best," but the variety of meat and price is hard to beat.

                                          Taqueria Vallarta
                                          3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                          1. re: Pei

                                            If memory serves me correctly, Taqueria Vallarta is also the one with the eccentric murals describing, in colorful broken English, the origins of the names of all the SF sports teams. It's pretty much the Sistine Chapel of taquerias. The tacos may or may not be the best (I like them a lot!), but the atmosphere is definitely one-of-a-kind.

                                            Taqueria Vallarta
                                            3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                            1. re: Pei

                                              was there a recent price increase? i remember them being $1.50...

                                          2. This is scarily easy for me.

                                            All out splurge: Ame. No questions asked. This represents what SF can do that no where else can and it is flat out wonderful, you won't regret the splurge, I don't know anyone who ever has.

                                            In roughly descending order:

                                            L'Osteria del Forno. Amongst the best Italian restaurants in the city. Ridiculously cheap for its quality. Hole in the wall, cash only, no reservations. The best restaurant in North Beach, imo.

                                            Papalote. In the Mission and also by USF. Best burritos in the city -- not traditional Mission style burritos because the salsa is quite unique, but my favorite.

                                            Delarosa. Perfect Italian 'happening' place in the Marina. Especially perfect for the sub 35yo crowd.

                                            Helmand Palace. Afghani. Elegant.

                                            Tacolicious. Loud and young. Also excellent gourmet tacos with great booze and colorful vibe.

                                            The food court at the Westfield Mall. Seriously, the best food court I've ever seen. The Korean place is particularly excellent.

                                            Benjarong Thai. My favorite Thai place in the city. They have a relatively short menu, but what they do, they do really well.

                                            Barney's. Great burgers, fries, and salads.

                                            La Taqueria. Also in the Mission. Great tacos, more classic than Papalote.

                                            Phat Philly / Truly Mediterranean. Neither is worth a trip unless you have a specific craving, but both do what they do very well.

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

                                            Truly Mediterranean
                                            3109 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                            La Taqueria
                                            2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                            Helmand Palace
                                            2424 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                            1968 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                            Phat Philly
                                            3388 24th St, San Francisco, CA

                                            2175 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                            2031 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                            1. Shalimar for Pakistani (Seekh Kebab and Bengun Bhujia, also really good garlic naan)


                                              532 Jones St, SF, CA 94102

                                              1. You realize this isn't going to help narrow it down, right? :)

                                                First, you should hit Off the Grid, preferably Friday night, for an overwhelming and awesome food truck scene unlike anything in Cardiff.

                                                Thinking about my past dining experience in the UK, I'd hit Mexican for tacos and sit down meals, and North and Southeast Asian restaurants. And a few bakeries. Fewer meals, more snacks.

                                                few random places in that budget: Poc Chuc (Yucatecan), Spices (Sichuanese), Thorough Bread, Mrs and Mrs. Miscellaneous for ice cream, Tajine (Moroccan), Local Mission (great sandwiches for lunch in a fun and funky part of the Mission), Bodega Bistro (Vietnamese)

                                                I prefer tacos to burritos, but guys in particular are always amazed when they eat their first carne asada burrito.

                                                I'd also be sure to go to a few great cafes/coffee outposts (Blue Bottle, Sightglass, even Four Barrel) for the scene as well as the coffee.

                                                The Richmond and Sunset border on Golden Gate Park, which is surely a tourist destination, so don't give up too quickly given the cheap culinary wonders of Geary/Balboa/Clement. Plus won't they want to see the Pacific?

                                                I'd also consider driving down 1 to La Costanera for happy hour and Peruvian snacks on a drop dead gorgeous state beach.

                                                Bodega Bistro
                                                607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                294 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                                Tajine Moroccan Restaurant
                                                1653 Polk St, San Francisco, CA

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

                                                Thorough Bread and Pastry
                                                248 Church Street, San Francisco, CA

                                                La Costanera
                                                8150 Cabrillo Highway, Montara, CA 94037

                                                Local Mission Eatery
                                                3111 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
                                                699 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

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

                                                1. Wow guys, this is all amazing recs. Keep them coming!

                                                  Definitely thinking that they must do NorCalMexican, Local Coffeehouses, Southeast Asian, Japanese, Dim Sum and as my overseas male friend says "a properly made burger", so on the same wavelength as many of you! And to answer Windy's question, why yes, realize we WILL be doing a GGPark AND Presidio jaunt, so admittedly will be in Sunset for a spell. :) We're heading down to Santa Cruz, Monterey, then down the 1 through Big Sur the week after, so they're sure to get plenty of Pacific Ocean.

                                                  Thanks tons, everyone!

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: shemeansmo

                                                    Be sure to check the road conditions on Rte 1 -- it is closed now south of Big Sur. See


                                                    My suggested places


                                                    Pizzeria Delfina

                                                    Memphis Minnie

                                                    Beijing Restaurant either on Alemany (maybe harder on public transit) or Sunset

                                                    Farmerbrown (Soul food


                                                    Hakka Restaurant

                                                    Ike's Place (sandwiches)

                                                    Lers Ros (high spice, challenging, authentic Thai)

                                                    Spices II (authentic Sichuan)

                                                    Pauline's Pizza or Little Star Pizza (different, but both very Cal)


                                                    various Shanghai Dumpling places on Balboa

                                                    Tartine Bakery

                                                    Please don't stick around the tourist area -- that's a theme park. Get out to the real SF - the public transportation works. You can get a map and multi day ticket -- ask your hotel.

                                                    Spices II
                                                    291 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                                    Pauline's Pizza
                                                    260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                    1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                      Thanks for the update on Big Sur, Thomas. Hopefully things will open up by August... that's when my friends are coming in.

                                                      As for not sticking around the tourist areas - I really really wish - but the pair INSISTS on doing the touristy circuit, - this is their first time in our fair city after all - but believe me, when opportunity arises, the local's experience will be encouraged and practiced.

                                                      1. re: shemeansmo

                                                        Well, there's touristy and touristy. You can go to Alcatraz, take a ferry, see the Golden Gate Bridge, go the Ferry Building, see the view from the DeYoung or SF Moma, drive up Twin Peaks in the fog. etc. All very touristy.

                                                        But somehow manage to skip the fudge shops of Pier 39, the wax museum, and Union Square.

                                                        1. re: Windy

                                                          Yeah, like take the historic F street car, enjoy the view from the ferry building, grab a sour baguette and some cheese from cowgirl, enjoy the maritime park down near the GGBR (and musee mechanique and the water organ), if you're near fisherman's wharf and hungry grab a still-live crab curbside, watch them steam it on the spot and eat it while fending off gulls sitting on a park bench. Just stay away from the pier 39 rat race, ghirardelli square, and don't eat a bread bowl. Ewwww.

                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                            In case visitors insist on the clam chowder in a bread bowl, here's the report with a picture so they can have the virtual version and save their money (and tummies) for something more worthwhile.

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              I know I've mentioned this before. But I was at a fab Indonesian/Dutch joint in Antigua,GT and chatting with someone who asked where I was from. When I said "San Francisco" they said how wonderful the food was. I lighted up for a split second until they followed that with how much they loved the clam chowder in a bread bowl. I'm going to have to try Chowders on Pier 39 to see if it is better than Boudin.

                                                              Anyway, for cheap eats near tourist areas

                                                              1. Ferry Plaza, especially the farmers market on Saturday Morning

                                                              2. Town's End on the Embarcadero for the 3 course prix-fixe. Havn't been there in over a year, but in the 10 years I lived in the area it was always reliable .. and Californian.

                                                              3. Scoma's on Fisherman's Wharf for the 3-course lunch prix fixe (served until 3:30 pm)

                                                              4. Zuni for the chicken which could be the splurge restaurant. I've never had a failure taking out of towners there.

                                                              5. Yang Sing for dim sum ... ok, maybe also a splurge consideration

                                                              6. Banh mi at Saigon Sandwich

                                                              7. Mama's at Washington Square for breakfast. Ok, you just asked for lunch/dinner, but the American breakfast is iconic and Mama's does one of the best.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                Re: Yank Sing: People should not be afraid to ask the price of an item -- you can also ask to see a price list. The little piece of sea bass is $17.50 (I avoid). I did order from the kitchen prawn chow mein -- really delicious, great tasting prawns, chewy noodles BUT it was $17. I would order it again but the price surprised me. (It was enough for 2 or 3 people.)

                                                                Other items, like shrimp dumplings, I consider reasonable for the quality. Soup dumplings are pricey but you get quite a few and I have not had any elsewhere nearly as good.

                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                  if budget is a factor, i like the to-go box at yank-sing2. not as fresh as the main one, but lots of interesting delicious stuff for cheap. or for the real deal go to koi palace and wait over an hour for a table. i'd suggest crab roe dumplings or crab-roe congee.

                                                                2. re: rworange

                                                                  If you're trying to save money, there are the below-yank-sing quality, but still decently tasty, dim sum places. People talk about City View, I often end up at Gold Mountain. Half the price, 70% of the quality.

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

                                                                  Gold Mountain Restaurant
                                                                  644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                              2. re: bbulkow

                                                                Second the Musee Mechanique - this place is GREAT. I also really like Ghirardelli Square since it's been renovated. There are two wine bars there, Cellar 360 and Wattle Creek, both excellent. Cellar360 also has a great view of alcatraz. If you don't have time to take them up to wine country it's a perfect place for them to get the same feel.

                                                                900 Northpoint Suite F301, San Francisco, CA

                                                            2. re: shemeansmo

                                                              If you have to be in the Pier 39 area, put together a picnic, dessert from Delise, empanada from Tanguito, hike on up to Jack Early Park (it's more of a viewing spot then a park, entrance is on Grant, south of Francisco, there is a small set of stairs to the east side) for an amazing (free!) view, and there are a few bunches there, great for a picnic.
                                                              I always take my out of town guests there, they curse at me as we climb up the stairs, but they are always impressed by the stunning view up there.

                                                              DeLise dessert cafe
                                                              327 Bay St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                              2850 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                              1. re: gnomatic

                                                                Two wonderful places at the otherwise dreadful wharf... I love Delise's sorbets, and the saffron rice/paella at Tanguito.

                                                                Or you could walk up the hill to the cafe at the SF Art Institute on Chestnut. Free Diego Rivera mural and a 270 degree view of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, etc.

                                                                2850 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                            3. re: Thomas Nash

                                                              Second the sunset dumpling houses. Kingdom of dumpling is awesome.


                                                              Mr. Pollo, San Tung, Le Soleil, Sunflower, Katana Ya, Cancun (again), Park chow, Hang ha tearoom (dim sum), Starbelly, Bocadillo

                                                              Mr. Pollo
                                                              2823 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                              710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                              3583 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                Little star is amazing, but it's very Chicago, not California

                                                                1. re: jaxonholer

                                                                  Little Star's deep dish is an evolution of the Chicago style, but I think they've improved on the original, or at least on what is currently served at Uno's. I doubt you could get a pie like Little Star's in Chicago (though you can in St. Louis).

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    I have to admit. I really do not like deep dish pizza. Native New Yorker who views it as a travesty.

                                                                    However, I really did enjoy the little star deep dish pizza that I tried. Really excellent.

                                                              2. re: shemeansmo

                                                                Marlowe for the best burger, poulet vert, brussels sprouts chips, fried chicken sandwich, and pear crisp!

                                                                1. re: shemeansmo

                                                                  If you're going to be in Santa Cruz check out Tacos Moreno on Water St.
                                                                  The burrito al pastor is otherworldly fantastic.
                                                                  This place beats any Tacqueria in San Francisco.
                                                                  Another superior burrito joint is Tacqueria La Bamba in Mountain View.
                                                                  Don't take them to Swan's Oyster Depot. It's a tourist trap.

                                                                  1. re: melvin

                                                                    Melvin what alternative to Swan's would you recommend?

                                                                    1. re: benila

                                                                      Hog Island Oyster Bar and Anchor Oyster Bar have some things in common with Swan.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Swan's appeal to me is the old-schooliness, the fact that you can buy other seafood to take home, and the fact that they have louie salads as well as things on the halfshell.

                                                                        Hog Island is lovely as a kind of 'fabulous moment' -- you're at the ferry building, you sidle up to the bar, get a dozen oysters and a glass of champagne, and your transported for a short while. It's a beautiful spot.

                                                                        Anchor Oyster bar is more of a local restaurant that serves seafood. It's in my neighborhood and I have friends who love it but it's just never spoken to me. The food is fine but for some reason I always get fidgety there. Plus, they do often have a line.

                                                                        I'd also consider Bar Crudo. They have a more modern and diverse menu than Swan's, are relatively low hassle. But it's not so much an oyster bar as a seafood spot (same is true for Anchor Oyster Bar, in spite of the place's name).

                                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                                          pauliface - spot on re Swan's and Hog Island. I've not been to Anchor.

                                                                2. Be sure to check out the roster of places in the SF Chronicle's "Bargain Bites" section. You can sort their list by Bay Area location.


                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: DavidT

                                                                    The Chron's list is lame and often misleading.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      That is your opinion and you are certainly welcome to it!

                                                                      1. re: DavidT

                                                                        Hey you kids...get off my lawn!

                                                                    2. re: DavidT

                                                                      THanks David, I was aware of the Bargain Bites section, but my question was asking for people's personal TOP 10, and if you refer to my original post, I knew where to go for references and had tons of suggestions, but was hoping people would help whittle things down... my goal is to see which restaurants kept popping up on multiple people's top 10 lists.

                                                                    3. Palmyra (Syrian in the Lower Haight)

                                                                      Gyro King (civic center)

                                                                      Sushi Time (my favorite japanese in the castro. you can keep it under $20 by ordering a set sushi dinner, which will be delicious. For an extra couple bucks, order an oshitashi or plain cucumber sunomono or hiyayakko to split)

                                                                      Red Jade (chinese in the castro) has a great lunch special. You can be out the door with tax and tip for about $8 and get soup, a main course, rice, and a cookie, and be well fed. Food is good, not amazing, but this place kept me alive for a couple years when I ate lunch there 3+ times a week.

                                                                      Gyro King
                                                                      25 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                      Sushi Time
                                                                      2275 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                      Red Jade
                                                                      245 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                                                      1. I should also mention, since you are making tourist stops:
                                                                        One of my favorite days it going out to the ruins of the Sutro Baths, taking a peek at Ocean Beach, and visiting the Camera Obscura.
                                                                        If you do this, a good place to stop for lunch is Louie's. Don't go to the Cliff House, it's oppressive and overpriced. But Louie's is an old-school diner with lovely views. Food's not great, but it's also not too expensive, and it's an institution.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                                          I'd forgotten about the Camera Obscura; thought it closed when they moved the Musee Mechanique to the wharf.

                                                                          There's a lot of good, inexpensive food near there too: Pagan (Burmese), La Vie, Shanghai House, and Pizzetta 211 are all within a mile.

                                                                          La Vie Vietnamese Restaurant
                                                                          5830 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                          Pizzetta 211
                                                                          211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                          Shanghai House
                                                                          3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                          1. re: Windy

                                                                            The camera obscura is open again! (Or at least it was last time I went there, about 2 months ago).
                                                                            Though now it costs like $5 instead of the old $1, and they do not play that spacey music.

                                                                          2. re: pauliface

                                                                            Check, but I think Louis' may currently be closed for renovations. I haven't been by in a while though. http://www.louissf.com/

                                                                          3. I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned John's Snack and Deli. It's a hole in the wall, but absolutely amazing. I never knew that there was such a thing as a kimchee burrito until I found out about this place. It rocks!! I'm am now a kimchee burrito addict and it's cheap. Take them to go and sit outside somewhere (either up on the over-street levels of Embarcadero Center or on the waterfront).


                                                                            John's Snack and Deli
                                                                            40 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: weshoke

                                                                              I can't imagine going to the Financial District voluntarily. But I love the kim bap at John's and am grateful to whoever here first recommended it. Perfect picnic food.

                                                                              1. re: weshoke

                                                                                I wasn't that impressed. OK lunch option if you're nearby on a weekday.


                                                                                John's Snack and Deli
                                                                                40 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                              2. Is Turtle Tower still around?

                                                                                Turtle Tower Restaurant
                                                                                631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: shaolinLFE

                                                                                  Yes. In fact they're opening up a third branch.

                                                                                    1. re: Cynsa

                                                                                      It's open, and the sign up today said that it's now open for dinner as well. That neighborhood really shuts down once the Hall of Justice closes up, so it will be interesting to see how it goes for them. It's a spot that has a lot of turnover, but Turtle Tower is certainly light years ahead of Quizno's, which was one of the last few I think.

                                                                                      Turtle Tower Restaurant
                                                                                      631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                      1. re: jillyju

                                                                                        Link for #3, Turtle Tower:

                                                                                        Turtle Tower
                                                                                        501 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                2. All-you-can-eat Monday nights at Goat Hill Pizza

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: waltmor

                                                                                    Goat Hill is a pretty average neighborhood pizza place.

                                                                                    Their AYCE is fun as something different, but to me it's not a bargain and once was enough. Party of two is $22, that's about a third more than we'd spend for a whole pie, which is more than we can usually eat.

                                                                                  2. Here are some classic places that go waaaay back.

                                                                                    * Tommy's Joynt. --A hofbrau and beer joint with attitude.

                                                                                    * Bill's Place. --A burger palace with indoor and backyard garden seating.

                                                                                    * Edinburgh Castle. --Scottish pub with only one item on the food menu - fish 'n chips.

                                                                                    Tommy's Joynt
                                                                                    1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                    Bill's Place
                                                                                    2315 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                                    Edinburgh Castle
                                                                                    950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                      Edinburgh Castle really have a menu, the fish and chips come from a shop around the corner.

                                                                                      Edinburgh Castle
                                                                                      950 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                        The fish & chips place closed a couple weeks ago.

                                                                                        1. re: isewinsf

                                                                                          So does EC have another source for fish & chips?

                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                            I don't know. I just walked past the Fish & Chips place a couple weekends ago and it had closed. I haven't been to the Castle in a long time.

                                                                                            1. re: isewinsf

                                                                                              Old Chelsea on Larkin? There used to be two F&C places within a block.

                                                                                              Old Chelsea
                                                                                              932 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                    2. Il Pollaio in North Beach for fantastic griddled chicken, great fries, refreshing salads. And you can almost see the Washington Square Park. :)

                                                                                      Il Pollaio
                                                                                      555 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                                                      1. To me, sf food is eclectic and not necessarily expensive

                                                                                        Saigon sandwich shop, mission chinese, broken record, mr. Pollo, nopalito, either church or park chow, and la cumbre should all be on your list.

                                                                                        all express the city's volatile and fun food scene in their own way.

                                                                                        1. very out of the way, but the broken record is totally worth it

                                                                                          1. I always take out of towners to Chow for inexpensive and great food and the San Francisco vibe that visiters enjoy. Park Chow may be more comfortable but the Church St location is my fav. Clean, fresh and unpretentious food with and fun and funky wait staff. One of the best burgers in town!

                                                                                            Park Chow
                                                                                            1238 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: budnball

                                                                                              I wouldn't call Park Chow a must eat but it's a great casual place, diverse enough menu, good prices and you're right about out of towners. When I lived in the Avenues I took people there all the time...even serious food people wanted to go back. Parking in the park in the evening makes it even easier...lots of free parking.

                                                                                              Park Chow
                                                                                              1238 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                                              1. re: budnball

                                                                                                Me too, people really like it and the menu is varied enough for everyone.

                                                                                                1. re: budnball

                                                                                                  I've often promoted Chow/Park Chow but I was quite disappointed with their last menu reform ... they got rid of my favorite item, the short rib, and I didnt find anything that exciting. Frankly I had a better steak at GROVE/FILLMORE than at CHURCH CHOW.

                                                                                                  So are the other endorsements post-Menu Reform? Or has the Menu Reform been undone or re-reformed?

                                                                                                  1. re: psb

                                                                                                    There's nothing wrong with Chow if you live nearby. But hard to imagine why it would make a top 10 list for out of town visitors.

                                                                                                    1. re: Windy

                                                                                                      This is what we take for granted, that causal, quick, fresh food with a decent wine and beer list. For visitors, the menu is recognizable but tweaked enough to be memorable. People from out of town are also looking for places where the "native San Franciscans" can be seen up close. Every lifestyle, age, culture, that we celebrate is on display, eating and enjoying themselves. No one is out of place at Chow. However I would never order steak there.

                                                                                                      1. re: budnball

                                                                                                        When I realized you could spend as much or more at a Denny's, I realized that was part of the draw of Park Chow. I might not drive across town for it, let alone the bridge, but if you're near there for whatever reason, it's a good choice. It's a very good choice to bring visitors because of the menu selection. Just about everyone can get something there that will make them happy. It's a shame about the short ribs being pulled.

                                                                                                2. Hiya Shemeansmo--
                                                                                                  Great question. This is where my foodie knowledge really shines. I hope this list helps you and your friends out-- enjoy!
                                                                                                  1. La Taqueria (order the off the menu "crispy tacos")
                                                                                                  2. Rosamunde's in the Lower Haight (have your sausage next door at Toronado)
                                                                                                  3. Mission Chinese Food
                                                                                                  4. San Tung (dumplings, wings and green beans are our fav dishes there)-- or if you don't want to go to the cold side of the city, SO in SOMA has good, similar dishes.
                                                                                                  5. Lers Roi Thai (if you're going to be in Union Square, its a do-able walk)
                                                                                                  6. Ike's Sandwiches (call ahead so you don't have to wait)
                                                                                                  7. Lahore Karahi/Pak Wan/Shalimar are all great cheap Indian places
                                                                                                  8. The Citrus Club in the Upper Haight; great fresh noodle dishes
                                                                                                  9. HRD Coffee Shop (lunch only, but the kimchi burrito will blow your mind)
                                                                                                  10. Senor Sisig is a favorite cart and typically pretty easy to find at lunch time (have the California burrito!)

                                                                                                  Splurge on Nopa, Zuni (the roast chicken and bread salad will definitely impress) or Commonwealth if you want something a little more outside the box.

                                                                                                  Zuni Cafe
                                                                                                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                  560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                                                                  La Taqueria
                                                                                                  2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                  HRD Coffee Shop
                                                                                                  521 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                                                  Citrus Club
                                                                                                  1790 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                                                                  Mission Chinese Food
                                                                                                  2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                  Senor Sisig
                                                                                                  San Mateo, San Mateo, CA

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: kpatrick03

                                                                                                    what about NOPA is outside the box?

                                                                                                    1. re: Windy

                                                                                                      That referred to Commonwealth. "or Commonwealth if you want something outside the box"

                                                                                                    2. re: kpatrick03

                                                                                                      I would not recommend that a generic tourist walk from Union Square to Lers Ros, through the Tenderloin. For such a walk, one needs to be streetwise.

                                                                                                      1. re: artemis

                                                                                                        Geary or Post is the best way to go, but there could be a few unpleasant blocks.

                                                                                                        The 38 Geary bus gets you within a block or two. Or a cab from Union Square is very inexpensive.

                                                                                                    3. Brunch at the Thai Temple in Berkeley is a fantastic expereince for out-of-towners (or in-towners, for that matter)....sit outside at long picnic tables behind the temple and sample authentic Thai breakfast dishes you'll almost never find in restaurants.

                                                                                                      I also recommend Old Jerusalem in the Mission...conveniently located just down the street from Mission Pie .

                                                                                                      Good burritos from El Toyanese Taco truck (usually parked near Best Buy over at 15th and Harrison)...

                                                                                                      Old Jerusalem
                                                                                                      2976 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: auntielola

                                                                                                        The scene at the Thai temple is great, but the food is mostly brought in from restaurants and reheated. The only things I haven't seen in a restaurant are the sweet rice cakes, which they make fresh.

                                                                                                        Wat Mongkolratanaram (Thai Buddhist Temple)
                                                                                                        1911 Russell St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                          I hadn't seen the egg dishes before. There was a kind of egg custard that my friend--who spent two years in Thailand with the Peace Corps--said he always orders there beciuase he can't find it elsewhere...

                                                                                                          1. re: auntielola

                                                                                                            Huh, I've never noticed that. Savory or dessert? Was it among the cold items to the right of the steam table where they sell the noodles and rice plates?

                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                              It was a long time ago, and my memory fails as to where the food was dished out, exactly. I asked my friend what the dishes were that he had particularly recommended and this was his response (the second dish is the one I mentioned): "I'm thinking it's the kow neow ma muang...or the sticky rice and mango with custard. yum. and then there's the kanom kroke...which is more eggy than custardy."

                                                                                                              1. re: auntielola

                                                                                                                Kanom krok is the small white coconut rice pudding cake with chives. No eggs. Those are great and I haven't seen them in any restaurants.

                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                  Marnee thai is making a very nice version of kanom krok right now as a special. Topped with chives, cubes of taro and cubes of pumpkin and oozing with coconut cream.

                                                                                                      2. Da Beef- For Chicago style hot dogs and beef sandwiches.

                                                                                                        Turk & Larkin Deli- For great sandwiches and a huge number of salads, all homemade and fresh.

                                                                                                        Myconos Greek Restaurant- For inexpensive Greek food. The $5 Special Sandwich is superb!(pic attached)

                                                                                                        Mi Lindo Peru- Unfogettable Peruvian food.

                                                                                                        Mi Lindo Peru Restaurant
                                                                                                        3226 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                        1431 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                                        Da Beef
                                                                                                        300 Seventh Street, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                        Turk & Larkin Deli
                                                                                                        476 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: arktos

                                                                                                          My expeience at Mi Lindo Peru: Ordered the fried calamari app and the fried seafood combo that came with 90% fried calamari. Not so much as hint from the waiter as to what I was getting myself into. On top of that my lunch partner's chicken & rice dish was dry. We only wish the experience was forgettable!

                                                                                                          Anyway, the soulful Peruvian dishes across the street at Inka's are much, much better IMO.

                                                                                                          Inkas Restaurant
                                                                                                          3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                          Mi Lindo Peru Restaurant
                                                                                                          3226 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                          1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                            going to have to agree with CB on this one. went once to MLP, never again. very sub-standard peruvian food. Inka has, in my opinion, the best spit-roasted chicken i've had in the City.

                                                                                                            Inkas Restaurant
                                                                                                            3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                        2. 1. swan's oyster depot - crab salad, dry-smoked salmon
                                                                                                          2. una pizza napolitano - margherita pizza
                                                                                                          3. san tung - jia jyung mien (for sure) and (just maybe) dry-fried flounder
                                                                                                          4. lers ros thai - papaya salad, pork appetizer, and i'm sure some other stuff i haven't tried.
                                                                                                          5. shalimar, kasa, or al hamra -- some indian food.
                                                                                                          6. koi palace or yank sing2 for dim sum
                                                                                                          7. taqueria cancun and/or la taqueria
                                                                                                          8. i'd splurge at ino, but i'm sure i'm in the minority here.
                                                                                                          9. gorilla bbq (unsure if you're willing to drive south)
                                                                                                          10. lobster roll at sam's chowder house (even more in the minority here i'm sure.)

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                                                            Ooh Gorilla Barbecue. I like their concept, but dislike their sauce. And unfortunately their BBQ needs sauce. Maybe the trick would be to order it without and bring your own. Kraft Original would be an improvement.

                                                                                                            Gorilla Barbecue
                                                                                                            2145 Cabrillo Hwy, Pacifica, CA 94044

                                                                                                            1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                              agree their sauce is not great. but i didn't think it was bad enough, or that their bbq needed it enough to ruin the meal for me. still my fave bbq in the bay. but you're right -- i'm sure there is a sauce i could bring that would make it better ...

                                                                                                            2. re: Dustin_E

                                                                                                              Una Pizza Napoletana might make the most traditional Neapolitan-style pizza in the area, but at $20-22 for a 12-inch (meatless) pie it's probably also the most expensive.

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

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                agreed una pizza is extremely expensive for a cheese pizza. but i think it stands out as something really special. i think a16 has a really great (and larger) cheese pizza for like $13, which would be my best value pick. but i think una pizza is in a different league quality-wise.

                                                                                                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                                                                  I understand the expense Mangieri goes to to make everything just like in Naples, and if that's your favorite kind of pizza, it's cheaper than flying to Italy.

                                                                                                                  I don't think his ingredients are any higher quality than they use at Cotogna, and I prefer their crust and find the toppings more interesting.

                                                                                                                  490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                    suppose to each his own. i have a pretty strong preference for una pizza (and perhaps even a16) over cotogna's pizza. but i'm not going to try to argue that una pizza is a good value. but i do believe it is the lack of novel toppings that gives una pizza some of its appeal. its minimalism and traditionalism is zen-like to me. :-)

                                                                                                                    actually, for value, a single order of (amazing) naan at shalimar for $1 is almost as filling as a $20 pizza from una pizza napolitano.

                                                                                                                    but i still think una pizza is special.

                                                                                                              2. re: Dustin_E

                                                                                                                i'd also say the roli roti porchetta by the pound sliced thin as a local (but probably no more convenient) alternative to gorilla bbq.

                                                                                                              3. One place that I'm always surprised isn't mentioned more often is Caffe Bella Venezia on Post Street near Jones. Not only is it tasty, authentic Italian, but it is SO. DAMN. CHEAP. Honestly the best deal I've found in San Francisco, especially considering it's pretty close to Union Square and could get away with doubling their prices, easily. They give you LOADS of food. Their website is a bit amateurish but shows you the menu: http://caffebellavenezia.com/restaura...
                                                                                                                I recommend it wholeheartedly, moreso than any restaurant in North Beach.

                                                                                                                Bella Venezia
                                                                                                                3215 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                                Caffe Restaurant
                                                                                                                1854 Euclid Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: SarcasticFringehead

                                                                                                                  What do you recommend?

                                                                                                                  Have you been recently? Took a glance at the yelp reviews ... throwing out the service only rants ... and one regular seems to think it has gone down hill.

                                                                                                                2. i'm just going to add my report here about Local Mission Eatery (24th Street and Folsom):

                                                                                                                  ate here for the first time Thurs. night and LOVED IT. we had:

                                                                                                                  brussels sprouts with thickly cut prosciutto
                                                                                                                  marinated squid and white bean salad with pickled peppers and mint
                                                                                                                  polenta cooked in whey with a poached egg, ricotta, goat gouda and smoked greens
                                                                                                                  braised pork shoulder with turnip puree, roasted carrots, fava leaves and bread crumbs

                                                                                                                  the first two items were starters. the next two are entrees but come in a small plate size and a regular size. we'd heard that the portions are micro, and our waiter urged us to order "a couiple of starters, and 2 half plates and a full sized entree each." thank goodness we paid him no heed. we shared the two starters and each had 1 small-sized entree (the polenta and egg) and split the half-sized entree of pork, and if we hadn't received that last dish, we would have been fine. i loved the freshness of everything. the sprouts and prosciutto were very good, the pork nicely crispy and fatty. the squid and beans were outstanding - i don't know what kind of white beans they were - they were delicious and very round, great texture, creamy yet springy - nothing i'd had before. but the egg dish was the best. at first bite, without mixing everything together, the egg, polenta, and cheeses were very bland tho comforting (i couldn't taste the gouda at all), and i wished i had salt. however, once you mixed in the smoked greens - oh my! huge burst of flavor! smoky, herby - wonderful. the texture of the greens contrasted nicely with the baby food texture of the rest of the dish. i would go back just for this dish. and the squid. the pork was lovely too, incredibly tender and porky, atop its silky turnip puree, but the stars were the squeakily fresh squid and the rich egg dish. the halibut coming out of the kitchen looked fantastic, too. we almost had dessert but they took a little too long to bring it (it was clear the chefs forgot to make it) so we cancelled.

                                                                                                                  for wine we had a wonderfully refreshing crisp and cold Il Campo white, a California central coast blend of chardonnay (unoaked, no butteriness at all, thank goodness) and malvasia blanca. Looks like you can get it for $14 retail: i'm going to stock up on this for summer.

                                                                                                                  a word about service. friendly servers, courteous, on top of things (except that last lapse, which was fine, we really didn't need dessert, tho the grapefruit parfait with black pepper really intrigued me) - but the chefs were odd. we sat at the counter, which is right in front of the very open kitchen, and we were the first people to arrive when they opened, so they weren't busy. the two young men cooking up front chatted/joked with each other but were pretty reserved and actually seemed almost a little put off by the couple questions i asked about the food they were preparing - MY food (and i mean literally two questions before i got the hint)! i don't need them to fawn all over me, but really? it felt a little attitude-y. i'd go back but sit elsewhere.

                                                                                                                  small plates yes but plenty of food for two, and 3 glasses of wine (they cheerfully split the last one for us into 2 glasses) was $89. i can't believe it took me so long to get here.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                    and since i'm newly in love with this place, i went to the bakery this morning, Knead Patisserie, located at the back of the restaurant. I tried the much touted "pomme d'amore". from the SF Weekly: a high-lipped golden round of pastry, with the center filled with a pool of rum custard capped in a thin, transparent pane of burnt sugar. The pastry seems to implode when you bite in, custard sluicing into the mouth, carrying with it the feathery flakes of disintegrating pastry and nanometer-thin shards of sugar." The hype is much deserved. I don't care about sweet and this vies as one of the best things i've ever eaten. I don't know if they do slightly different versions of it, but the ones i bought today had a distinctly salted caramel flavor - a favorite of mine. The croissants were wonderful as well - not as "butter forward" as the ones I've had in France, and a little darker than I might normally like, but light and airy and crispy on the outside, and fluffy and tender on the inside. the chocolate one has schmears of dark chocolate through it, and the pecan one has that salty-sweet thing going on. They really know what they're doing here.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                      I have liked everything I have had fro them. The pomme is wonderful, though my favorite for regular consumption is the plain croissant. My daughter loves the lemon ricotta poptart.

                                                                                                                  2. http://woodhousefish.com-Crab sandwiches, cole slaw, oysters in the half shell, and clam chowder.

                                                                                                                    http://butlerandthechef.com-Weekend brunch.

                                                                                                                    M & L Market-Pastrami sandwiches
                                                                                                                    http://www.homeplatesf.com-Homemake scones, waffles, polenta, and house made dill chicken sausage.

                                                                                                                    http://rnglounge.com-banquet style dinner for family and friends.

                                                                                                                    *Location doesn’t matter, the food is good!
                                                                                                                    http://www.ppqsf.com-Imperial rolls, PPQ beef combo noodle soup, Five spice or pork chop over rice.

                                                                                                                    http://www.marneethaisf.com-Pad Thai Noodles, yellow curry chicken, spring rolls, young coconut ice cream.

                                                                                                                    http://www.ebxsf.com/- Best Steak nachos!

                                                                                                                    Irving Street Cafe-Breakfast & lunch with affordable prices and generous portions.

                                                                                                                    *Maybe slightly over budget of $20 per person, but worth it.

                                                                                                                    http://www.broadwayprime.com/- Select cut or Broadway cut with creamed spinach, and garlic mashed potatoes love it!


                                                                                                                    http://www.pizzeriadelfina.com/-Wood oven brick pizzas.

                                                                                                                    http://www.locandasf.com/-Really good drinks and cocktails.

                                                                                                                    For additional information (location and hours of operation) visit yelp.com

                                                                                                                    Have a wonderful time in the Bay Area!

                                                                                                                    1. On a road trip from Montreal. Must be cheap. Excited.
                                                                                                                      mr and mrs miscellaneous
                                                                                                                      la taqueria or taqueria cancun
                                                                                                                      lttle star deep dish zza
                                                                                                                      saigon sandwich
                                                                                                                      turtle tower
                                                                                                                      l' osteria del forno
                                                                                                                      swan's oyster depot

                                                                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: benila

                                                                                                                        I prefer la taqueria to cancun, but note that LA Taqueria doesn't put rice in their burritos, something most other places do

                                                                                                                        I'd nix Turtle Tower and search threads for Pho in SF. TT's broth is weak, which I've heard explained as appropriately "northern style" but I'd prefer flavor to authenticity.

                                                                                                                        At l'osteria, get the Emilia Romana specialties there. They have a few southern or generic Italian things on the menu (eg caprese salad) which aren't great.

                                                                                                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                          i'll second the vote for La Taqueria over Cancun.

                                                                                                                        2. re: benila

                                                                                                                          If you're driving from Montreal, I'd skip the Little Star and just make a side trip to Chicago if you want deep dish. (no need to revisit that little debate here, I'm just putting in my two cents). If you want pizza in San Francisco, then I would stop in somewhere like Pizzetta 211 or Pizzeria Delfina. Pauline's Pizza is very California, in that the vegetables on the pizza come from the restaurant's own garden.

                                                                                                                          1. re: dunstable

                                                                                                                            I second this, but I would substitute all the above alternative suggestions for Gialina, or Raggaza.

                                                                                                                            Reading that Little Star does slices makes it slightly more worthwhile, but I don't understand the idea that it's a standout must visit pizza spot. Delfina isn't blowing my socks off lately either.

                                                                                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                              Little Star's a must only if you're interested in deep-dish pizza in the Uno's tradition, in which case you probably want to decide for yourself if it's the best in the world, and probably also want to swing by Pi in St. Louis coming or going.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                I like deep dish pizza, but I've never found Little Star worthy of it's praise. If you're on a deep dish tour through the country, then sure hit it up as a completist, but if you're looking for the best pizza with the best ingredients, and technique in the city, there's no reason to bother with Little Star, in my opinion. What they serve is not standout good.

                                                                                                                              2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                Based on the price point of the other places the ~OP listed, I think the only pizza place they'd find value at is Little Star. But I also agree that a stop in Chicago, if possible, would be preferable (Art of Pizza rules and serves individual slices).

                                                                                                                                I'd wouldn't go to any of the Cal-Italian, wood-baked, Neapolitan style, etc. pizzas that you can find around here unless you're a pizza enthusiast. They're not cheap and there's a chance you might not like their style. Personally, I don't like Neapolitan style, I agree that Delfina's quality has been declining, and my favorite "Artisan" pizza (Caffe Baonecci) is probably too expensive for their trip.

                                                                                                                            2. re: benila

                                                                                                                              Pizzetta 211, Delfina, and Pauline's are all great, but if you're a fan of deep-dish pizza in the Uno's tradition, you really want to try Little Star's version. They have slices at lunch, though usually of the Little Star (spinach) rather than the Classic (sausage), which I think is the best.

                                                                                                                              1. re: benila

                                                                                                                                La Taqueria is good but a bit Californicated. Tacos better than burritos.

                                                                                                                                Taqueria Cancun, burritos better than tacos, al pastor very good. The rice makes it a Mission burrito. Quesadilla Suiza very good as well. Both are inexpensive so you could try both.

                                                                                                                                Might try Shanghai Dumpling King or a similar XLB place. Also try some Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)...usually super inexpensive eating.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ML8000

                                                                                                                                  really, californicated? never would have said that. but i agree, tacos over burritos. but "rice makes it a Mission Burrito" is as californicated as you can get!

                                                                                                                                  for Al Pastor, the winner in the Mission is Taqueria San Jose, hands down. and they have decent Chilean wine now, and sangria!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                    What does "Californicated" mean in relation to a classic Mission Street burrito, which is what La Taqueria is. It's not an updated, trendy burrito, it's one of the few places who have done it the same way since burritos were popularized in SF.

                                                                                                                                    I second the Bahn Mi suggestion.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                      Since LT doesn't put rice in the burrito, it's not a classic Mission burrito even though they were one of the first in SF.

                                                                                                                                      Californicated = no lard in the beans

                                                                                                                                      Take this for what it's worth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Fran...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ML8000

                                                                                                                                        Sugartoof, i was unclear. I am a fan of La Taqueria. i was referring to La Taqueria not putting rice in its burritos, therefore not a Mission burrito, therefore not Californiacated. A Mission burrito, which ML800 defines as having rice, is what Cancun serves, and therefore to me that is much more Californiacated than La Taqueria.

                                                                                                                                        and i didn't know about the no lard in beans at LT. i never get beans anyway since i usually eat tacos.

                                                                                                                                        and i third the banh mi suggestion

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                                                                                                          I couldn't tell you if they use lard (is there a sign?), but the refried beans there are classic tasting, with the same texture/taste needed. What they serve tastes like what you would get in the 70's.

                                                                                                                                          "Californiacated" would suggest french fries, carrots in the rice, flavored tortillas, organic black beans, vegan tofu options, and that kind of thing... and I don't know of a single SF burrito place that doesn't offer something similar.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                        2nd Taqueria San Jose for excellent al pastor. La Altena also has very good al pastor.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: benila

                                                                                                                                      I dunno about Swan's. Definitely overrated, and given the length of the line, way not worth the effort either.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: timeo

                                                                                                                                        Timeo what alternative to Swan's would you recommend?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: benila

                                                                                                                                          You'll find a lot of argument about Swan's. It's a fave for me. Feels very old school, and I love their food. it's not cheap, but no seafood place here is. and if you go early (11:45), you can absolutely avoid the line - I always do. For me it's a fun San Francisco experience.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: benila

                                                                                                                                            Alas, I don't have any particular recommendations for North American-seafood here in the city. My initial post was more of a gut reaction to the suggestion that visitors should stand in line for a restaurant that's expensive and not particularly good. There are just too many other good restaurants around for me to justify recommending it to others, but of course, there are many people who do love it. In the end, I think it really depends on whether you think the food is going to pay off all the costs you incur.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: benila

                                                                                                                                              Upon first moving to the Bay Area we tried Swan's and the lines were just too ridiculous. Then we discovered Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro. Just like Swan, no reservations, put your name on the board and wait... Still a wait, but shorter lines... If you go right when they open at 4 pm on a Sunday, you will most often luck out and head right on in, no wait. I have been in love with almost everything in the menu. Besides oysters, I heart their cioppino and clam chowder.

                                                                                                                                        2. In no space-time continuum will you get out of Nopa, Helmond Palace, or Bocadillo for under $20 for a meal (w/exception of Nopa burger). For a splurge, esp in/near touristy areas as wanted by your guests, Slanted Door is my pick over Zuni
                                                                                                                                          Lers Ros highly recommended
                                                                                                                                          Osha Thai on 2nd (great looking restaurant, better than the Osha on Embarcadero)
                                                                                                                                          Cafe Flore great people-watching patio
                                                                                                                                          A16 (semi-splurge in the Marina)
                                                                                                                                          Calzone's- I had an accidental great time here and they are open very very late
                                                                                                                                          House- great hole-in the wall with amazing fusion though not CHEAP
                                                                                                                                          Saigon Sandwich
                                                                                                                                          Deli Board

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: demitasse04

                                                                                                                                            Calzone's is certainly open late, but it's a bit of a tourist trap, owned by the Stinking Rose people. Not exactly a bargain for the quality either.

                                                                                                                                          2. I take visitors from the UK for Mexican/Latin American and dim sum, two cuisines that are virtually unheard of outside of London.

                                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, two of the places I took the lads around to are closed or closing: Gold Mountain and El Delfin.

                                                                                                                                            They really enjoyed pupusas and dim sum with cart service (maybe City View?), neither of which will set you back anywhere near $20/person.

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                              One of the owner/chefs of Dumpling Kitchen (Taraval bet. 29th Ave/30th Ave) was a dim sum chef at Gold Mtn for 18 years. (I love Dumpling Kitchen.)