Greens or ???
We have some good friends flying into town for an overnight layover on Thursday, August 25th. It will be their 10th anniversary, so they'd like to go out to somewhere with good choices for vegetarians (we're not, they are), and they're arriving SFO at 8:30 PM, so I figure we have a dinner start time around 9:30 PM in SF (best case).
I've reviewed all of the usual vegetarian suspects - if I had to choose I'd figure out a way to get them to stay an extra day and take them up to Ubuntu in Napa, but lacking that option, the only place that sounds vaguely interesting is Greens (it's an SF classic, if not spectacular food). I have not been impressed with Millennium, though it's been a few years.
Any suggestions for a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, nice atmosphere for a special dinner, quiet enough for conversation, open and serving late hours?
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558
580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Bld. A, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123
I couldn't find anything more recent, so posting my review here.
I went the other night with 3 friends for a celebration dinner. It had been probably 20 years since I'd been there before, and i was very presently surprised. I don't remember being overly impressed by the food on my first visit, all those years ago, but i remember loving the room and the service. The room is still a stunner, the service excellent.
For starters we had the sampler platter, the pupusas, and the tofu spring rolls. The spring rolls were mostly unremarkable - just very standard, but fresh and tasty. The sampler platter consisted of sweet potato, a cranberry/pear relish, pickled golden beets with mint and arugula, roasted cauli with lemon oil, and a quinoa salad with pomegranate, pistachio, apples and persimmons. it was a little reminiscent of Thanksgiving, which i'm sure was intended. Everything was light and lovely, very distinct flavors, gorgeous colors. The pupusas were my favorite of the starters - delicious bean and cheese, and the masa was tender and very corn-y and fresh tasting, and not at all greasy. the filling was flavorful and cheesy. i want to say these were some of my favorite pupusas ever - and i've had a lot. i could have eaten two plates of these for my dinner and been happy. they were served with an addictive, almost buttery green salsa made with serrano chilis, garlic, cilantro and olive oil, and slices of avocado and golden beets.
for mains, i had the garlic parsley linguini with cauliflower, almond pesto, pecorino sardo, spring onions and toasted breadcrumbs. very good, loved the contrast of the crunchy cauli and breadcrumbs with the creaminess of the pesto.
two in our party had the mushroom shepherd's pie - a blend of wild mushrooms capped with a cheesy mashed potato dome, with roasted veggies on the side. very homey and good.
the 4th in our party had my favorite main of the night - apparently they do latino flavors very well - a stuffed fire roasted poblano pepper in a hearty broth of spicy and smokey chipotle and rancho gordo beans. the chili was stuffed with butternut squash, quinoa, pumpkin seed salsa, goat cheese, and creme fraiche, with avocado on the side. the beans were outstanding - the whole dish was.
i don't remember the dessert though i know we had one, but i'm just not a sweets person.
We had two bottles of wine and one cocktail, and the tab with a 20% tip was about $300 - which I felt was very appropriate.
While Greens may not be doing cutting-edge food, I'd definitely recommend it to vegetarians and carnivores alike as a special occasion restaurant.
How about Indian food? For a special occasion All Spice in San Mateo should fit the bill, and it's only 15 minutes from SFO. Haven't been there but the chef has a good reputation--
All Spice Restaurant
1602 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94402
Maybe it's just me, but I am wowed by Millennium every time I go.
You might try Gracias Madre in the Mission - they don't take reservations for less than 6 people, but you shouldn't have a problem getting in at 9:30/10.
2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
My wife and I are definitely neither vegetarians nor vegans - we'll eat almost anything. Our friends indicated a preference for vegetarian, so a place that offers good options for all of us would be ideal. Also, our friends are French, so it would be good if the place has a bit of a "special event" feel for their anniversary.
I checked out Gracias Madre and it looks too casual for them, I think.
Millennium's menu really doesn't sound that appealing to me, but I'd try it again if recent visits have shown good and interesting cuisine.
If there is an omnivorous place with good options for vegetarians, that would seem to be ideal. I was trying to think of places but can't seem to put my finger on places with good vegetarian options that will be satisfying for my friends, while I enjoy a nice pork chop or some chicken ;-)
I looked at Zuni, Chez Panisse, and a few other California standards, but so far haven't found the right mix.
Seems like this should be easier than I am finding it, so all suggestions are gratefully welcomed!
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Greens isn't especially interesting, and I share your hesitation about Millenium.
But the real challenge is finding a nice place that has reservations closer to 10:30 or 11 on a weeknight.
La Folie has a vegetarian tasting menu and takes 10:30 reservations.
Absinthe should still be serving that late; I've never eaten there with a vegetarian.
I was just at Jardiniere, and while the space is elegant (circa 1999) the food's not the same caliber as La Folie. On the other hand, they do have plenty of quality vegetables and flights of dessert wines.
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109