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Jul 21, 2011 01:20 AM

Visiting SF in a month, need good places to eat!

Hello! I'm visiting SF for 5 days and 5 nights in mid-August and would love it if anyone could suggest some great places to eat. I am currently an aspiring chef (about a year in the industry) and I'm looking to really broaden/enhance my palette.

I'm on a little bit of a budget, anywhere from $5 to $100/pp is probably the most I would go for, although I'm very eager to try Coi or Benu.

My favourite types of cuisines in no particular order are Asian, Japanese, Italian, American, Seafood, and French.

I would appreciate any and all recommendations from coffee shops to food stands, including where I could get the best Clam Chowder!

Thanks =)

PS. Here's a list of places I'm interested in

Ichi Sushi
Ristorante Milano
Blue Bottle Coffee
Bi-Rite Creamery
The House
Sotto Mare
Sneaky's BBQ
La Folie

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  1. It would help to know where you are visiting from; I might not recommend Mexican places to someone from SoCal just like I wouldn't recommend pizza to someone from Boston.

    That said, you definitely need to seek out and try some Burmese food; either Burma Superstar, Mandalay, or Burmese Express; any or all of them will have a ginger salad (although others prefer the tea leaf salad, I'm a ginger fan) and falafel soup.

    Burma Superstar
    4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      I actually am coming from SoCal =)

      Thanks for your input, I'll definitely look into those places!

      1. re: CarrieWas218

        Falafel soup?

        I also love ginger salad. More Burmese options: Little Yangon, Yamo, and Pagan.

        3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Little Yangon
        6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

        1. re: Windy

          I wonder if Carrie meant samusa soup? The one at Burmese Kitchen has both samusa and mini-falafel-like tasties, IIRC.

        2. re: CarrieWas218

          I'm perplexed - why not recommend Pizza to someone from Boston? I'd wager the house on SF's Pizza scene being more dynamic with more styles and fresher ingredients.

          1. re: uhockey

            UHockey, I have had pizzas in Boston that blew me away and I have yet to be similarly impressed with San Francisco pizzas.

            They are getting just as fresh ingredients and are experimenting more with styles. Just me, I guess, but as only a visitor to Boston and a resident of the Bay Area, I'll take Boston pizza any day...

        3. For god's sake, don't even think of eating the clam chowder in SF.

          Your list is pretty good. I'd add Gitane (5pm bar snacks and a drink), Sightglass coffee, NOPA (at the bar, see how a high-throughput kitchen keeps up quality).

          But ---- a strength here is chinese/asian, because unless you are coming from Flushing, the San Gabriel valley, or Vancouver, you don't have chinese like we have chinese. Here's a really good series of posts to get you started:

          Simply canvassing Burmese, Szechuan, and XLB will keep you busy for a month - with a trip to Mandrin Islamic.

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

          19 Replies
          1. re: bbulkow

            I'm actually coming from the SGV =P But I do love asian food =)

            What's wrong with clam chowder in SF?

            1. re: Teeson

              You want to seek out the clam chowder at Bar Crudo or Swan's.

              What you need to be careful to avoid are the chowder-in-a-bowl monstrosities at the Wharf because those are catered to tourists.

              And I'll concur with others on the Chinese/Asian comment. I am a Northridge transplant and the Chinese food is much better where you are.

              Bar Crudo
              655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

              1. re: Teeson

                Clams aren't local. Clam chowder doesn't come from cans. There is no history of clam chowder here. We have better pizza and philly cheese steak than chowder. I would eat clam chowder just about anywhere else in america, like Pheonix. What gave you the idea that SF has any connection with clam chowder?

                You should look for smelts and sardines. These are local. Crispy fried!

                Pizza is undergoing a renaissance. See the posts on Tony's Detroit style.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  We have good Philly cheesesteaks?

                  The clams at Swan are west coast, but agreed, if you want seafood, get cioppino, not chowder around here. Or oyster stew.

                  I like ICHI but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

                  How about Moroccan or Tunisian? I don't remember a lot of that in LA. At the modest end, Tajine and Cafe ZItouna on Polk are both wonderful. At the high end, Aziza.

                  There's also been a bread revolution in the past few years. Beyond the endless lines at Tartine, you might also check out Thorough Bred, Josey Baker, Arizmendi, and Firebrand.

                  1268 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  1. re: Windy

                    What other Japanese/Sushi Bars would you recommend aside from ICHI?

                    1. re: Teeson

                      Depends on what you're looking for:

                      high-end fish and sake, with prices to match (Sebo), traditional at a great price (Sushi Aka Tombo). creative (Koo and ICHI), delicious marinated raw fish and pages of vegetarian options (Minako).

                      In the creative fish but not sushi category, I'd add Skool, which has sustainable fish-oriented small plates. Great happy hour, and fun things like uni flan that you eat with a spoon. They also have outdoor seating and good drinks.

                      ICHI is open for lunch, but I've had much better quality at dinnertime when Tim is behind the counter.

                      1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      1. re: Windy

                        Thank you so much for your suggestions.

                        Now I can't decide on where I want to try. I want to go into a place and order Omakase, but I'd also like to try a few specialty rolls and some other creative dishes. (When it comes to sushi, I can really eat.)

                        1. re: Teeson

                          Aka Tombo and ISHI are good choices then, or Koo. Just go by which neighborhood you're in. And maybe avoid the weekend, or go early. I find the best omakase is when the chef's not in a hurry.

                          BTW Sushi Aka Tombo has fresh tofu with scallions and ginger--always a treat.

                          Sushi Aka Tombo
                          1737 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                          1. re: Teeson

                            Can one walk unknown into a sushi bar and order omakase? Or, does the chef have to know you first?

                            1. re: jman1

                              You get better results from a chef who knows you (at least from a few previous visits). Otherwise you'll get more mundane items, or what the chef likes, or in a less reputable bar, the most expensive items they can throw at you.

                              Yo of the now defunct Yo's Sushi--now at Sawaii Ramen--told me if you want to establish credibility with a new chef, always order hamachi and maguro nigiri to start. The quality of hamachi will tell you something about the restaurant, and it signals you are a serious, respectful sushi eater.

                              Rolls are the equivalent of umbrella drinks or cosmopolitans; ordering toro and abalone just says you're trying to impress someone. Otherwise you're probably better off with chirashi plus a few unusual nigiri.

                              Sushi Aka Tombo does have omakase as a (modestly) priced item on the menu, so you can get it and then add on nigiri and appetizers without worrying that you're running up an outrageous bill.

                              1. re: Windy

                                I think it's down to either Ichi or Koo. I'm really on the fence with this one, Koo is closer to where I'm staying though. Anything in particular from Koo I should try?

                                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                                    yes! and whatever's on the specials board. Just be sure to reserve so you can sit at the bar.

                                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                                      Intriguing, but a bit of a gimmick, I thought. Not to mention, pricey. But, go ahead an try if you are inclined.

                                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                                        This was my favorite dish at Koo. Traditional it is not, but tasty it was.

                                      2. re: Teeson

                                        Seems like you could decide if you have a preference for or against Japanese run sushi bars. Koo is not traditional, but it is Japanese run; Ichi is not.

                          2. re: bbulkow

                            The chowder at Bar Crudo is a seafood chowder with fish, mussels, shrimp, squid, potatoes, and applewood smoked bacon. I've been a big fan since the Cafe Maritime days. (I guess everything tastes better with with bacon.) Delicious. They have sardines on the menu as well.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              For seafood and clam chowder, try out Anchor & Hope. It's a wonderful east coast meets west coast seafood place, and my current favorite seafood place in the city. Their clam chowder is fabulous. I lived in Boston for 20 years before moving here, and get back to Boston most every year. This is a chowder that would be among the best even on the east coast.

                              I agree that clam chowder is not traditionally thought of as a San Francisco chow specialty, but there's at least one great one in town. It seems like a great place for a visitor from SGV.


                              Anchor & Hope
                              83 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

                        2. We just got back and we really enjoyed Ana Mandara. I'm putting together all my info so I'll post it soon. Service was good, atmosphere interesting and food was great. There is a little wine bar in the same complex that we enjoyed too.

                          I'd also suggest Off The Grid if truck food is your thing. We enjoyed the variety and the atmosphere. Get there as early as you can.


                          Ana Mandara Restaurant
                          891 Beach St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: RedBeans04

                            Off The Grid looks awesome! Which trucks are your favourites?

                            1. re: Teeson

                              CupKate's truck. :) I rarely eat dessert but got a red velvet cupcake and it was just so good.

                              We only tried about 5 or 6 trucks. Hubby really liked the pig truck. (can't remember the name)

                              1. re: Teeson

                                just get there early (5, 5:30) and you'll have time to try tons. i can't remember the names of the trucks I tried, but i sampled from at least 6 or 7 and pretty much liked it all, and loved a good 80 percent of what i tried.

                                OK, just found a post of the time i went:

                            2. I'd recommend skipping Benu's long menu for the time being, especially if you are on a budget, but Benu does offer ala carte, so there's still opportunity to sample
                              the food there (though with ala cart, composing a 4 course meal will run you up about 75% of the way to the tasting menu).

                              Benu is very much Asian-fusion; think traditional asian dishes, but using fancier ingredients -- such as foie gras xiao long bao.

                              22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                              1. If you're interested in Coi but on a budget, jump on BART and go to Daniel Patterson's other restaurant, Plum in Oakland.

                                2214 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612