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Trip to your city: I've picked a dozen resturaurants — you pick the 13th.

I live in chow-exile in a small Canadian city where the number of inspiring restaurants can be counted on one hand and still have fingers left to snap. While most neighbors are natives of the cite city and aren't troubled, I grew up on the fringe of NYC, lived three years in Los Angeles and a few summers in Washington, ate my way through Tennessee and spent considerable time in Italy -- I still dream about a particular restaurant in Parma.

So it is with a sense of excitement that I am planning a week-long trip to San Francisco along with my wife and our kids, ages 11 and 8. Our children are seasoned travelers and are well behaved in restaurants - we're careful to make sure they have something to eat an hour or two before so they aren't ravenous and fidgety.

I also approach the planning of where to eat with some trepidation: The list of places I'd love to try are considerably longer than the 13 dinners/lunches we'll have time for. So I have planned our outings with the following in mind:

(1) I love variety and want my selections to reflect that, both in types of cuisine and atmosphere. I have yet to find a type of cuisine that, when done well, I love.
(2) While there is no upper limit on how much I might spend for a great meal and experience, I have little interest in going to the 13 best fine dining places and prefer a mix that also includes dives, family restaurants, etc.
(3) We will have a rental car in addition to a muni pass for the week and will be based in Pacific Heights. The hotel serves breakfast.
(4) I will have Dungeness Crab even though it will be from northern waters and lived more recently in tanks. I will have to figure out a way to return some day in the winter.
(5) This is our first trip to SF since 1994, when my wife and I came for less than a week.
(6) I won't be going to Napa or Sonoma because it's a lot of time spent in a car for a day trip, which isn't that fun for the kids.
(7) I don't have plans to go to the East Bay though I suppose it's possible we'd hop the Bart.
(8) We will be going to the Saturday market in the Ferry Bldg and will make a pilgrimage to the Mission to Tartine.
(9) La Ciccia is closed during our stay or it would surely have made our list.
(10) After our week in SF we will be traveling, and eating, in Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles -- the latter we'll have time for just 5 or 6 lunches/dinners.

With all that in mind, here's what I have planned (tentatively):

Aziza - Moraccan
PPQ Dungeness Island - crab/Vietnamese
Lers Ros - Thai
Poc Chuk - Yucatecan
Yank Sing - Dim Summ (unless we can get out to Koi Palace)
La Folie - splurge dinner/French
Tdadich or Sams for San Dabs
Canteen - California/Med
Baker and Banker Restaurant
Perbacco - Piedmontese
Delfina - Italian
Mission Chinese Food

That's a list of 12 restaurants and I welcome feedback on what I have picked as well as suggestions on what should be the 13th.

-----
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

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

Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

La Folie
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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

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

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

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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. Please avoid The Stinking Rose. It is nothing more than a tourist trap, and you have some wonderful places on your list. I'm not a huge fan of Baker and Banker, but it's not terrible either. Maybe Zuni for a similar style? I might add a Mission taqueria to your list, but you indicated that you're going to Southern CA, which is really the place for Mexican. You say you're not opposed to divey places. Broken Record in a far-flung corner of the city is my current favorite dive bar with delicious food. Too bad about La Ciccia. Perhaps A16 or SPQR for another Italian?

      -----
      Zuni Cafe
      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

      A16
      2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

      Stinking Rose
      325 Columbus, San Francisco, CA 94133

      SPQR
      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      Broken Record
      1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

      1. re: mrs bacon

        Thanks about the warnings -- just did some searches and it seems many chowhounders agree with you assessment of The Stinking Rose.

        About Baker and Banker, could you explain what left you thinking it was mediocre? I've read limited but good reviews so far and am curious where you felt it fell short. Zuni is a bit of a shrine -- we went there in '94 and I enjoy using the cook book. More recent posts about Zuni seem to be more of a mixed bag.

        Good suggestion about a Mission Taqueria -- I had planned to snack at a few so hadn't listed it as a dinner/lunch. Which specific items at which taquerias do you most enjoy?

        Would Broken Record be suitable for the kids? Can you describe the food?

        I had considered both A16 and SPQR -- my wife was born in Campagna and we have been to Napoli. But in seeking a balance I thought perhaps two Italian would be enough. I'm tempted by A16 if only to get the Buratta -- I had the real thing in Puglia where it's made fresh each morning.

        -----
        Zuni Cafe
        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

        A16
        2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

        Stinking Rose
        325 Columbus, San Francisco, CA 94133

        SPQR
        1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

        Broken Record
        1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

        Napoli
        869 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

        1. re: spicefinder

          Zuni hasn't changed much since they hired Judy Rodgers in 1987. People love it or hate it for the same reasons as ever.

          In that general Chez Panisse-inspired vein, Bar Tartine might be the most interesting place at the moment. They're doing sort of Cal-Hungarian.

          I'm also a huge fan of Cotogna, which is Cal-Italian somewhat in the Delfina vein and also makes arguably the best pizza in town. And Incanto's better than ever.

          -----
          Zuni Cafe
          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

          Bar Tartine
          561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I may have to add another week to our trip (I wish!).

            Why do folks love about Zuni? What do other folks hate

            Bar Tartine sounds intriguing and closer than Chez Panisse. I'll check out the reviews and web site.

            It may be an unfair question but do you have a preference between Cotogna or Delfina? Incanto sounds like a different beast altogether -- more out there so probably has more devoted fans and skeptics.

            -----
            Zuni Cafe
            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

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

            Bar Tartine
            561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Cotogna
            490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: spicefinder

              I wouldn't say I love Zuni, and I don't think of it as a destination, but I do enjoy going there, probably ever 2-3 months. I tend to go when it's a weird time, neither lunch nor dinner, but I want food, wine or cocktails and a relaxed, San Francisco atmosphere. I usually get a salad and a burger or something along those lines, simple and satisfying. Add some champagne or a bloody mary, a glass of wine, etc., and going to Zuni at 3pm on a Saturday or Sunday is like taking a vacation in my hometown.

              I don't know if that's enough to draw an out-of-towner, though.

              I've not yet made it to Cotogna but I enjoy Delfina and Incanto. I think of Incanto as heavier food but that might be what I tend to order when I'm there.

              -----
              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

              Cotogna
              490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

              1. re: spicefinder

                To me, Zuni's about first-rate ingredients cooked simply, often over a charcoal grill or in their wood oven, same approach as you find in Italy or Mediterranean France. Most of my favorite restaurants are like that.

                People who hate Zuni often seem to be wanting a more haute-Frenchy, chef-driven, creative experience, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. They'll say, "I could cook that at home," but I don't have a wood-burning oven, and I'm a sloppier cook than Judy Rodgers and her crew.

                -----
                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Robert,

                  You put so eloquently what I have always thought of Zuni. I used to go to Zuni a lot a few years ago when I worked near there, and I always enjoyed it. I don't eat out nearly as much now, but I still like to cook from the cookbook, as I have already mentioned. I just made the Boiled Kale over Egg & Toast for lunch. Even though it didn't taste quite as good as it did at Zuni, it was still yummy and I would have never, ever thought of making that dish on my own!

                  I don't like overly prepared food; I like very fresh ingredients, they speak for themselves, right? I think Judy Rodgers does a superb job without the pretension of other places.

                  -----
                  Zuni Cafe
                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

            2. re: spicefinder

              I've only been to Baker and Banker once, so my opinion might not be completely reliable. I honestly cannot remember what I ate there, only that my impression was that I would not be running back.

              Broken Record has a bar in the front and a restaurant in the back. It's all very basic, not very pretty, but I've had a burger, pulled pork sandwich and crawfish and grits that were very tasty. There's nothing intrinsically non kid-friendly about the place, other than the fact that it's a bar.

              If your wife is from Campania, I would recommend A16, and not just for the burrata.

              -----
              A16
              2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

              Broken Record
              1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

              1. re: mrs bacon

                Thanks for the description of Broken Record.

                As far as A16, some of the dishes we enjoy already from my wife's mother - tripa, for example. So my first instinct tends to be food from other Italian regions, though interestingly enough, we enjoyed a great meal last year from a chef from Campania cooking in Venice -- it was largely the food of Venice but there were some touches and ingredients from Campania. What have you especially enjoyed at A16?.

                -----
                A16
                2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                Broken Record
                1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

              2. re: spicefinder

                you can see Broken Record's menu here.
                http://www.brokenrecordsanfrancisco.com/

                it's tasty bar food.

                personally i don't think it's kid friendly (it's a kitchen inside a bar) and they seem to flip flop on whether kids can actually enter depending on who is working (i've seen kids there and also heard rants from people who's kids were denied entry citing a 21+ rule).

                i'd scratch it off your list or plan to go sans children.

                -----
                Broken Record
                1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA

          2. Burmese Kitchen or Tony's (sort of a living museum of pizza styles). Or maybe a Peruvian place.

            Good list. Yank Sing is better than Koi Palace. Sam's currently selects seafood more carefully than Tadich does.

            The Stinking Rose is a corporate tourist trap.

            http://www.thestinkingrose.com/otherr...

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

            Tony's Pizza Napoletana
            1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            9 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Thanks for the tip on Sam v. Tadich.

              I guess Burmese Kitchen is your favorite Burmese?

              As for Peruvian, Fresca is near our hotel and Inkas gets a lot of praise for it's roast chicken.

              Not familiar with Tony's -- any style in particular you think they do especially well?

              -----
              Inkas Restaurant
              3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Fresca
              3945 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

                1. re: wolfe

                  I'm afraid I might make a wrong turn and end up back near Ontario. (Bad joke - sorry)

                  What do you enjoy about the Detroit?

                  1. re: spicefinder

                    Detroit has a unique style of square pan pizza - not at all the same thing as the Sicilian square pizza at other places - that is very difficult to find outside of Michigan. Tony's does a decent beginner's version. But it's nowhere as high in quality for its style as, say, A16 is for Napoli-style pizza. If you're from Ontario you'd do better to have it in Detroit from a star place like Loui's or Buddy's. If you're from the west, though, it's something you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere. Tony's makes lots of other styles of pizza that look yummy that I have not yet tried.

                    I think you've put together a great list, and you're getting some excellent suggestions on tweaking it. A16 and Zuni would be my leading suggestions for a place to add, or maybe Gitane to add some Cal/Iberian to the mix. I'll be trying Bar Tartine's Cal/Hungarian for the first time next week; that would also add even more diversity to your list.

                    Michael

                    -----
                    Zuni Cafe
                    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    A16
                    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                    Bar Tartine
                    561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Gitane Restaurant & Bar
                    6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

                    1. re: mdg

                      I love Tony's!!! I've never gotten anything but their Margherita, as I don't see the need. It's near perfection on a plate. :)

                      I'm also one of those who loves Zuni Cafe! I have their cookbook, as I can't eat out that often these days, so I make their recipes at home. I think it's a great place to add to their list of cafes to try.

                      -----
                      Zuni Cafe
                      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                2. re: spicefinder

                  Burmese Kitchen is my favorite in SF. Little Yangon in Daly City is also great, right off 280 if you're heading south that way.

                  Tony's: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/632240

                  -----
                  Little Yangon
                  6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

                  1. re: spicefinder

                    dyed-in-the-crust pizza fans visiting SF should always consider Tony's Napoletana. he has four different ovens and different dough formulas for specific regional styles. we almost always get the classic Napoli-stye that sells out most nights because they make one single batch of dough per day, but everything we've tried, including the non-pizza items, was good to very good. they probably have burrata with one of their appetizers.

                    you probably know from considering the menus that A16 and SPQR are more dissimilar than alike. the latter doesn't do pizza at all, but serve variety of fresh pastas, appetizers (crispy pig's ears, and an asparagus sformato when the spring asparagus was at its peak were two of the best appetizers we've had anywhere), and secondi with fresh and vibrant flavours. after going to both several times, SPQR is the one we'll keep returning to.

                    -----
                    A16
                    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                    SPQR
                    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                    1. re: spicefinder

                      I would say avoid both those Peruvian joints. I've had nothing but lackluster food and poor customer service.

                      1. re: spicefinder

                        Peruvian, La Mar is very good, pricey but has a good happy hour.

                        I have had great meals at Mochica but have not been back recently and have heard some reports that make me think the chef is concentrating on his newest spot, Costanera, which is also pricey but has a great view.

                        -----
                        La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
                        Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        La Costanera
                        8150 Cabrillo Highway, Montara, CA 94037

                    2. Suggest Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphry Slocombe and Thorough Bread(chocolate bread) as additional stops near Tartine, all within a mile or so.

                      -----
                      Bi-Rite Creamery
                      3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: wolfe

                        What's a croissant without ice cream and chocalate bread -- I like your tastes! What flavors do you recommend at Bi-Rite Creamery and Humphry Slocombe ?

                        -----
                        Bi-Rite Creamery
                        3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. re: spicefinder

                          If you're driving, skip both Bi-Rite Creamery and Humphrey Slocumbe and head over to Mr and Mrs. Miscellaneous in the Dogpatch, on 3rd St and 22nd Street.

                          Bi-Rite Creamery is known for its salted caramel. I'm not a fan of their ultrarich style of ice cream. Humphrey has weird flavors from chili lime to prosciutto and is always interesting.

                          If you get to Mr and Mrs, stop by nearby Piccino Cafe for a wonderful cup of Blue Bottle coffee, or get a glass of wine at Yield.

                          Tartine and Bi-Rite Creamery are also known for their lines. There's no line at Thorough Bread; the chocolate bread is worth a visit.

                          If you're adding Peruvian (or upscale Latin American), I'd go to Mochica or Piqueo's or Pasion over Fresca and Inka's. I love Inka's, but it's a neighborhood restaurant rather than a destination.

                          Pasion is the new restaurant run by the Fresca owners, and I think better; it's on Irving and 9th Avenue in the Inner Sunset, near Golden Gate Park.

                          And you should find a way to hit one of the food truck events, either Off the Grid on Fridays or some of the many other popups around the city. Your list shows a lot of great choices and research; but especially with kids, you'll appreciate the creativity of young chefs trying out new things.

                          Oh, and I thought Mission Chinese Food was awful. If you want food from Sichuan, go to Spices or Z&Y. In both SF and LA, lots of great real Chinese food.

                          -----
                          Fresca Restaurant
                          2114 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                          Bi-Rite Creamery
                          3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Inkas Restaurant
                          3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Piqueo's
                          830 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Fresca
                          3945 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

                          Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                          1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                          Blue Bottle
                          151 Third St, San Francisco, CA

                          1. re: Windy

                            Thanks for laying out some of the differences among ice cream choices. Is Mr and Mrs. an easy walk from AT&T? We're going to a Sunday afternoon's Giants game.

                            Thanks too for the advice about Peruvian places. We'll be spending some time at Golden Gate Park so Pasion may work well.

                            Off the Grid sounds fun and we're not that far from Fort Mason. Would you suggest that for sake of variety? Favorite trucks and bites?

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

                            1. re: spicefinder

                              There are threads devoted to Off the Grid, but the vendors change, so it depends on when and where you go.

                              I loved the fried chicken from Namu, the chicken tikka masala burrito from Curry Up Now (I think), and the Malaysian banana fritters. And the whole experience of both low-end and high-end food sold from trucks. I've rarely seen so many people having a fun time, and despite the reputation, it's a pretty diverse crowd in all regards. It's a great food scene.

                              You can easily hop on the T train (light rail) down to Dogpatch before a Giants game for ice cream at Mr and Mrs. They often have baseball-inspired flavors. Warning that they close by 6 p.m. It might be 5 on Sundays. You could walk back up to the ballpark, but it's industrial so not especially pretty.

                              You could get brunch beforehand at Serpentine or Piccino, or for something less fancy, walk up to 20th and 3rd for delicious pupusas from The New Spot. They have both Mexican and Salvadorean offerings.

                              I'm among the Zuni detractors. I find it boring if well executed with sometimes snooty service. It's a pretty enough place, so not a bad spot on a sunny day. I would especially hate it if I were a kid :)

                              And I'd choose Incanto over Delfina any day; much more interesting food. I like Delfina but it's ridiculously hard to get a reservation. Pizzeria Delfina is always great, including the salads, sides, wine, and desserts.

                              Incanto is always ambitious. Go there if you want food that surprises and challenges you. Ditto for SPQR. Delfina and Incanto are only sort of Italian restaurants. Enjoy.

                              -----
                              Zuni Cafe
                              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

                              Namu
                              439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

                              SPQR
                              1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                              Pizzeria Delfina
                              2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

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

                      2. The original comment has been removed
                        1. I love Yank Sing; much prefer it to Koi Palace for dim sum. I go to the 101 Spear location, nice that they take reservations .. more selections on weekends.

                          Much prefer Tadich; I no longer trust Sam's after a really bad lunch there .. among other things, they could not even get a plain boiled potato right -- it was half raw. Since Tadich does not take reservations, it's best to go for late lunch or early dinner .. no wait.

                          I'd skip Stinking Rose .. awful bread, crab had been frozen even tho waiter said it was fresh. (or, maybe it was just "old.")

                          -----
                          Koi Palace Restaurant
                          365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                          Stinking Rose
                          325 Columbus, San Francisco, CA 94133

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: walker

                            Spear St. Yank Sing takes reservations and has free parking on weekends.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              @walker More selections on weekends at Yank Sing -- is that just for the 101 Spear location of the other location as well?

                              @Robert Lauriston Thanks for letting me know about the parking.

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

                              1. re: spicefinder

                                There is more selection on the weekends at virtually all dim sum restaurants. The Rincon Center location is much better than the Stevenson location.

                                -----
                                Rincon Center
                                121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

                                1. re: sfbing

                                  Might make for a nice meal Sunday morning before walking to an afternoon Giants game.

                                  1. re: spicefinder

                                    That is an great idea for a Giants game. (I've done that with out of town friends myself). The walk along the water is excellent. And the walk makes a little room for ballpark food--AT&T park is pretty decent in that regard if you know where to look.
                                    My recs there: bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut at standalone grills scattered through ballpark (there is one in the lower boxes near the left field bleachers, and another one in the lower boxes near the arcade), the incredibly expensive and tasty dungeness crab sandwich behind the bleachers, the chacha bowl also behind the bleachers. The fry bread underneath the bleachers are a much better value than the churros everyone gets. The garlic fries are famous, but some stands are better than others so eyeball the trays people are getting before you commit. If it is miraculously warm, you can get a ghiradelli ice cream sundae by the stairs near the arcade.

                                    1. re: sfbing

                                      Thanks for all the suggestions for food at the Giants game, though if I eat everything you suggest, I may have to join my kids in running the bases after the game We have seats in the upper deck, first row, a bit down the right field line with great views of the Bay. It's a long walk to the bleachers but that will be needed to walk off some of those calories. Besides, I think the kids will enjoy the slide and walking around.

                                      1. re: spicefinder

                                        The good food at [Your Name Here] Park is all the way to the left on the bottom level and all the way to the right on the top level. Most of the concession stands sell the same pathetically bad garlic fries.

                                        1. re: spicefinder

                                          If it is your first time at the park, you're going to want to walk around anyway. Just don't block my view when you're in the bleachers. (Please don't be one of those people who stands up when someone is at the plate and says, "Can you see me now? I'm the miniscule ant waving a cell phone!")

                                          I'm not a big fan of the garlic fries, preferring the fat fries that come with the fish and chips at the Irish Pub stand, but I think the huge stand on the 3rd base side of home plate has the best turnover.

                                        2. re: sfbing

                                          The best bargain for Giants game food is get a sandwich at the donut shop before the game and take it in with you. It's about $5.00 and it's huge. I think you get potato salad too, I might be mistaken with that. But it's better than anything at the game.

                                          1. re: isewinsf

                                            Second on the donut shop across the street. Actually, the fried chicken is surprisingly pretty decent too. You can take any food into the ballpark, except cans, bottles and booze.

                                    2. re: spicefinder

                                      If you go to Yank Sing (101 Spear, of course) don't sit in the lobby .. it's better in the main dining room, carts travel through there first. Read other threads on what to order .. we all have our favorites. (If you don't see what you want on the carts, ask your "head" server to get you the item.) I also go there before 1 pm, later, they start running out of stuff.