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Oct 26, 2011 06:04 PM

Restaurants near the Wharf?

Taking our Senior daughter for college visits. Looking for delicious food near our hotel at the Wharf!! Any food, any budget!! Thank You!

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  1. The wharf, by and large, is a tourist trap with expensive, mediocre to terrible food. Expand your search to outside that area and your options improve exponentially.

    Best rec is always the Ferry building on Saturday mornings.

    5 Replies
    1. re: artemis

      Yes, absolutely go beyond the wharf.

      One gem is Delise Dessert Cafe, which has superb ice creams and sorbets, along with cookies, coffee, and light sandwiches. Don't miss their ice cream. Closes early and not open Mondays.

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

      1. re: Windy

        Glad to hear they made it. They were just starting up when I left for a while and it isn't the best location being a tad off the tourist route. I'll have to stop by the next time I'm in the city.

      2. re: artemis

        "The wharf, by and large, is a tourist trap with expensive, mediocre to terrible food."

        And "the Ferry building on Sat. mornings is not? Please! Get thee to SOMA, the Mission and the Avenues ASAP!

        1. re: mginsd

          No. There's a difference between a tourist attraction and a tourist trap. Lots of locals go to the Ferry Building. Most of them seem to think the food is pretty good. It's different from the neighborhoods you mentioned, but it's not only for tourists (if it were, the farmers would go out of business, since most tourists don't buy produce!).

          1. re: mginsd

            There's great food at Ferry Plaza. Anthony Bourdain went there planning to make fun of it but had to admit that Primavera's pork tamales were delicious and a good value. So far as I know, you can't get those anywhere else.

        2. A Muni Passport gains you access to street cars, cable cars, busses, light rail. This, in turn, allows you to escape dining near the wharf if that's what you want to do.

          1. If you truly want to eat at the Wharf, Scoma's may be a good bet. The fish is fresh and simply prepared, although not cheap. Ana Mandara in Ghirardelli Square is also good Vietnamese food. Cafe Pescatore at the Tuscan Inn isn't bad Italian, either.

            Otherwise, walk up Columbus Ave. to North Beach. Ideale on Grant is good Roman-style Italian, Tony's has good pizzas of almost any variety.

            You could also take the Hyde Street cable car up to Russian Hill with a lot of good restaurants - Seven Hills, Leopold's, Frascati, Amarena, Venticello, and more.

            1315 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Frascati Restaurant
            1901 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

            Cafe Pescatore
            2455 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Amarena Restaurant
            2162 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

            1257 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

            14 Replies
            1. re: waldrons

              Thanks, all good suggestions. What about the Slanted Door???

              Slanted Door
              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1. re: MarlaPR

                Slanted Door is excellent!

                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: MarlaPR

                  Slanted Door is overpriced. It's not bad, but it's basically Vietnamese food for people who won't go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. re: Windy

                    Seriously that is overstated.

                    It is Cal-Vietnamese.

                    I don't get why the people who drool over the Cal-Moroccan food at Azizza or the Cal-Basque food at Piperade get so pissed at Slanted Door which is doing the same thing only for Vietnamese food. No it is NOT just Vietnamese food for people who won't go to a Vietnamese restaurant

                    It uses organic produce from the top-quality vendors at Ferry Plaza. While it isn't a wild departure from classic Vietnamese, it is a departure. That is of course, if you consider these standard dishes at your corner Vietnamese restaurant ... a few dishes from the current dinner menu

                    - wild california uni with black tobiko, avocado, cucumber
                    - california sable fish roll with sawtooth herb, turmeric and gingered fish sauce
                    - mesquite grilled lamb sausage and beausoleil oysters with chinese black olive and preserved lemon relish
                    -grilled grass-fed anderson ranch lamb rack with crispy sunchokes and tamarind sauce
                    - hodo soy beanery yuba with glass noodles, parsnips and pioppini mushrooms
                    - allstar organic's shishito peppers with king trumpet mushrooms
                    - spiced sugar beignets
                    - sour worm cotton candy (must be a Halloween thing)

                    Also they have creative cocktails and top-notch Chinese tea


                    I likd Slanded Door. When they were at the previous location about a block from the Ferry Building, I lived next door and went thru their entire menu. They had a shaky start handling the bigger restaurant at the Ferry Building, but last time I was there they had settled in.

                    I recommend it, but I'd go more for the Cal dishes mainly because they are something different and to not do the "I can get shaking beef for 1/3 the price at the Vietnames hole-in-the-wall" game.

                    1. re: rworange

                      No, my point is about the prices and who eats there.

                      The food is fine--but costs two to three times what it should. I'm not comparing it to Tu Lan, but to the best Vietnamese food in the city that's not in the Ferry Building. You're paying for the view and to be surrounded by business account lunches and tourists. I cook with Mariquita and Far West vegetables. Shishito peppers and king trumpet mushrooms aren't that expensive.(Didn't it pass Tavern on the Green as the profitable restaurant in America, during a recession?)

                      When they opened on Valencia 15 years ago, it was great. The cost was also reasonable, and service much better than it is today.

                      Tu Lan
                      8 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      1. re: Windy

                        Well, we just disagree. I think the comparison to the touristy Tavern on the Green which didn't care much about anything toward the end is not valid. As for price, I don't think they are any more expensive than any other upscale restaurant of that category in the Bay Area. I'll give you that service could be better.

                        I didn't look at the prices for the dishes I listed, but I was in some butcher shop today where they will be charging $8 - $12 lb for turkey for Thanksgiving. That's $120 for a small 10 lb turkey. So any restaurant using those boutique vendors is going to have prices that reflect the source.

                        1. re: rworange

                          FWIW: I have no problem recommending Slanted Door to a tourist. It is excellent, interesting, and has become an SF institution. Plus the wine list is very well thought out. My only problem with it is (if you are ordering the red meat main courses) that it is getting dangerously close in price to restaurants like Boulevard and Ame -- both in walking distance. And it is certainly more expensive than several restaurants in SF that I think are a bit better, as well.

                          So... (a) I think it is a great restaurant and worthy of a strong recommendation depending on a tourist's parameters.
                          (b) I don't eat there too often because I feel I can find equal or slightly better food and service for the same price or lower elsewhere.

                          Slanted Door
                          Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1. re: whiner

                            Different tastes. I'm not a Boulevard fan. I'd choose Zuni every time over it.

                            Zuni Cafe
                            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        2. re: Windy

                          Well, count me in as a true hater of The Slanted Door. My problem is that I can't see what they're going for, besides profitable. I was open to going with a friend who was excited about it (and apparently found reservations difficult to get) after being disappointed by both the ferry building and the Westfield locations of Out the Door, which, I believe, is open to, and a legitimate victim of the claim that they are making Vietnamese food for the mass audience, and it is more expensive and less tasty than it should be. If it were just more expensive and used carefully sourced meats, as I'd hoped, I'd be excited about going back, but it just wasn't delicious--they're using the wrong cuts of meat (too lean) and underseasoning to my tastes.
                          But that isn't the question. The Slanted Door is obviously doing something more upscale, and allegedly ingredients-based and interesting. While all the food I ate there was at least good, the overall experience wasn't pleasant for me. First of all, we chose to eat outside, where the tables and chairs are less comfortable, but it was nice, and I don't really understand why people always refer to the views there, as even outside, by the fence to the bay it isn't an unobstructed view, and in looking at the indoor seating, the view is generally blocked by us outside diners.
                          I also don't know if we had a lesser tier of service by dining outdoors, but I suspect not, as it seemed to be an institutional policy. We had a waiter who took our orders, and tried to suggest more drinks and dishes than we needed, and everything else was delivered by bussers,who seemed to be in a huge rush. And looking around the dining room, it seemed to be because there were about 2 bussers delivering everyone's dishes. This lead to things like one of the tastiest dishes we ordered, the clams with pork belly, having one clam that was entirely full of sand that went unnoticed by the kitchen or busser, and by the time I noticed it, plates were whisked away without a chance for me to say anything. The one conversation we were able to have with staff was about how they don't offer bread, though everyone who has ordered the clams dish has requested and realizes it would be perfect with it. It is as though their corporate policy wants to seem "Asian" in some way that refuses bread, though it has quite a tradition in Vietnamese cuisine. Or they're cheap. It is just that all signs pointed to their confusion as to what they are: Vietnamese with a twist, upscale, or seasonal/local. Their manner of compromise leads to be none of these things, rather than a great combination of such.

                          Slanted Door
                          Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          Out the Door
                          1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1. re:

                            Asians are a tough crowd.

                            Slanted Door gets slammed for the same reasons as Yank Sing ... which, BTW to the OP, IMO, is a great dim sum place not far from Slanted Door ... let the hate begin on Yank Sing now.

                            I still don't get why SD gets slammed while places like Piperade and Aziza get almost universal thumbs up. It is the same approach ... not authentic, and with a California spin.

                            1. re: rworange

                              rworange, I completely agree with you that there seems to be a double standard re: authenticity on these boards when it comes to European and Mediterranean food v. "Asian" food. (Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) And I agree with Robert below that it has an outstanding wine list, location, and for many seats, view. My only complaint is that in the past 2-3 years prices have gone up 15-20%, and, as a local, that means it is not, for me, the value it used to be.

                            2. re:

                              "It is just that all signs pointed to their confusion as to what they are: Vietnamese with a twist, upscale, or seasonal/local. Their manner of compromise leads to be none of these things, rather than a great combination of such." -- I agree. It's not that it's not authentic, or that it's fusion (if you want to classify Aziza and Piperade that way), it's that it's a muddle. My impression (having only eaten there once) is that they are stronger on their fusion dishes and they should stop touting themselves as Vietnamese.

                              In other words, if you want Vietnamese food, don't go to Slanted Door. If you want Vietnamese-inspired Cal-fusion food, in a Western style restaurant (with pedigreed ingredients, cocktails and wine) then by all means go there, but order accordingly.

                              Slanted Door
                              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        3. re: Windy

                          Saying that Slanted Door is overpriced and "costs two to three times what it should" is tantamount to saying that they should not have a world-class wine list or cocktail program or use first-rate ingredients and that the location and view are worth nothing.

                          That said, I think it should be better, and was better on Valencia, but since it's the highest-grossing restaurant in San Francisco and gets high marks from restaurant and travel guides, they're not under much pressure to change anything.

                          Slanted Door
                          Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I agree, and one more point: with all of the borderline awful "view restaurant" food served at similar prices, SD is the place I go when I want a view and food that's quite good. Don't compare it to Tu Lan, compare it to Waterbar, Alioto's, and Cafe Pescatore.

                            Tu Lan
                            8 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                            Alioto's Restaurant
                            8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            Cafe Pescatore
                            2455 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    2. I'd second Ana Mandara. Try the fish with snow peas.

                      Gary Danko is close and wonderful, but you have to be in the mood to shell out $100 pp. Getting a reservation less than 60 days away is difficult. If you go very early to the bar (say 5:30), you might get lucky and eat there, which is fun.

                      Your next best bet is to walk up Columbus: Rose Pistola is good food and attractive. More moderate with OK food and a good "feel" is DeLucchi. Both are on Columbus. Then there are countless others which are good close by.

                      Gary Danko
                      800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

                      Rose Pistola
                      532 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133-2802

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tersf

                        Respectfully disagree on Rose Pistola. We ate there Monday night. The grilled octopus app was good, the house-made pappardelle not so good and the crab cake entree left uneaten (frozen crabmeat). It was a disappointing meal. Our server was polite and attentive but not very knowledgable about the food. I'd skip Rose Pistola, there are better restaurants at the same price point nearby (Cotogna near Jackson Square and Ideale in North Beach come to mind).

                      2. Caught a glimpse of place on (local restaurant show) "Check Please" called Tanguito and have been dying to try it for days now. It is a small Argentinean hole in the wall working out of a stationary food truck. The service is reportedly slow, but the food looked great and the prices were cheap. All three visitors raved about the place, particularly the empanadas and the chimichuri.

                        2850 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                        4 Replies
                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            LOL, for getting such good reports it sure doesn't get much hype! I'm still waiting to go, btw....

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Okay, made it to Tanguito on the way home tonight.

                              Fluffy and flavorful empanadas
                              Moist and tender chicken thighs with saffron rice
                              The friendly owner willing to work with you.

                              Tough, overdone steak
                              skuzzy plastic dispenser bottles on the patio.
                              crepe was too sweet, though others may appreciate it.

                              The Odd:
                              -The apparent tight reigns on the chimichuri sauce.
                              -My order of ribs and fries. I asked what kind of ribs and got a shoulder shrug in return.
                              "Are they pork?"
                              "Oh yes, pork for sure."
                              "Spares or babybacks?"
                              "Huh, oh yeah, kind of like babybacks"
                              me: "okay, give me an order."
                              What I got was a long strip of meat kind of like the rib tips trimmed from a St. Lois cut sparerib...except there was no cartilage or tips! The strip of pork was tender and well marinated, but probably could have use a sauce. Pretty tasty though.

                              The prices were pretty fair, and the service wasn't bad unless there was someone in front of you. It’s almost like they wait until they finish preparing an order before they take the next one. Odd place, but I will likey be back when I find myself in the area.

                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                Along with the empanadas, the burgers are great and they make saffron rice with steak or seafood that's delicious. Great place for lunch.