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Nov 14, 2011 09:33 AM

A Short Report of our SF Trip

We visit your great city once a year for a long weekend, staying at the Club Quarters in the Financial District. We walk everywhere, or bus, and rent a car for one day, maybe to visit the East Bay or Marin.

I always use your wealth of information to find out where to eat. Never enough time to try everything, but there's always future trips.

I didnt' want to start this post off with a downer, but we have tried Blue Bottle at the Ferry Building for the past two years and found it very disappointing. Drip coffee should never taste that bitter. I enjoyed the cup of Four Barrel at Out the Door much better. We did enjoy some pastries and empanadas bought from some small vendors at the other end of the Ferry Building.

The next morning we rented a car and drove down to the Mission area for the first time. Our stop was the Tartine Bakery I had read so much about. Our order: 1 croissant, 1 pain au chocolat and 1 coconut tart. In LA we have discussions about the best croissants, and we even were in Paris to sample theirs. Tartine croissants were transcendent. I savored every buttery layer with the right amount of crispiness and airiness. My wife thought the tart was the best she's ever had. Nothing we have in LA comes even close. Nearby were Bi Rite creamery and Delfina, which we will have to try the next trip.

A long time favorite place for us in the East Bay is Fentons, not mentioned much here, but we love it. We split a wonderful crab salad sandwich in order to have each our own sundaes. I really had wanted to try the Wood Tavern, but we will try it the next time.

Coming back, we drove to the Presidio area where there was a Let's Be Frank hot dog stand. We do have that in LA, but the dog tasted great against the Golden Gate Bridge background. Just perfect.

We love walking to Chinatown from our hotel, but hate the fact that the food there is so mediocre or overpriced. I have enjoyed City View and Golden Flower, and found R&G way overpriced. This time we tried out Z&Y, discussed much here. What a treasure, as long you order the right items. We enjoyed the cucumber appetizer they serve gratis, potstickers and a surprisingly good Hong Kong noodles. The disappointment was the Shanghai soup dumplings, though not bad. Next time we will try the rice cakes mentioned here, or go there for dinner. it seems like the Chinese menu taped to the tables is translated in English on their website, is that correct?

Walking around Union Square, we hit upon Super Duper and were fascinated by the soft serve. We had their burgers and fries and then the soft serve. Pretty rich tasting. A very enjoyable fast food experience. i prefer this to the Gott's Roadside.

My wife loves Posh Bagel at Four Embarcadero, an easy walk from the hotel and is on the way to the Ferry Building.. It has a nice variety of bagels and serves decent coffee.

For lunch we referenced another website to try John's Snack and Deli. People raved about their kimchee burritos. We each tried one with Bulgogi. It was a dripping mess and delicious. What a tiny place, but nice to find something so unique close to the hotel.

A side comment. Frontera's by Rick Bayless is never mentioned here, but we tried it anyway. I can't imagine why Bayless would have his name on such a mediocre mess. But then he did it with Red O in LA as well. Also we do enjoy Boudin. It may not be the best clam chowder, but it tastes good on rainy days.

Thanks again for posting all your discoveries and opinions. It enriches our annual trips. And it's nice to know we have so much more to experience whenever we come here.

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Fenton's Creamery
4226 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

Z & Y
655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

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

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

Posh Bagel
4 Embarcadero Ctr, San Francisco, CA 94111

Super Duper Burgers
2304 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94101

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  1. Thanks for the report. Fenton's sundaes are fun, though some people on this board find them unnecessarily messy. I haven't tried the food there since I had a terrible BLT more than ten years ago. (It's pretty hard to mess up a BLT.) I wonder if it has improved.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Glencora

      In all the years I have visited Fenton's, I have only had the crab salad sandwich. I'm sure there are better crab sandwiches in SF, but the combination with the sundaes is tough to beat for me.

    2. Thanks for your report! Frontera is probably not mentioned much here because the early reports were very negative, and that's such a touristy area most locals don't go there to eat.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Neither early nor later reports on Frontera (in Macy's) made me want to go there.

        Frontera Fresco
        170 OFarrell St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          It's a shame because Bayless has a casual place in Chicago that serves tortas and caldos that is excellent. High quality meats and delicious salsas, far from bland.

          So either he is just lending his name to this one, or they have deliberately dumbed it down for a mass audience. The sandwiches in Chicago are in the $9-$12 range, so price point might have something to do with it also.

          The place in Chicago is called XOCO and is on the same block as his other restaurants, which are in a touristy part of town.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          I should have figured that if Chowhounds didn't mention Frontera, it wasn't worth it. Do locals really not shop at that Macy's? I think it's an amazing store for sales.

          1. re: Ogawak

            Clearly someone -- many someones -- shops there. But I haven't been inside that store in more than ten years (IIRC I bought the dress I wore to my sister's wedding there, and she's been married more than 12 years). I rarely shop in department stores, and when I do, I shop in the burbs where I can park.

            Clearly someone eats at Frontera, too, but not local chowhounds. Actually, that's an interesting question: do chowhounds who eschew chain restaurants also eschew department stores for similar reasons?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              That is an interesting question. I've been buying more vintage and handmade stuff on etsy lately and going to chain stores less. You could say that's a bit like going to a farmers' market, though not exactly local.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Really, though, even local chowhounds who shop at Macy's or other downtown department stores are unlikely to stay and eat at a restaurant there. Why would they, when there are so many good local options in multiple categories a hop and skip away?

              2. re: Ogawak

                I go to that Macy's all the time, but I never eat in Union Square unless I've been shopping for a long time and am very crabby.

            2. Thanks for the info on the newer, closer to Union Square Super Duper (incorrectly linked here: it is at 721 Market Street, betw. 3rd and 4th streets 415.538.3437). I take it the soft serve is Strauss as per their Castro location.

              2 Replies
              1. re: grayelf

                The Strauss factor did draw us. There is no soft serve in LA this rich, except Strickland's way down in Irvine. Sorry for the wrong link.

                But what we love about SF is being able to walk to many destinations from our hotel. And the more we find, the more interesting our trip.

                1. re: Ogawak

                  Nice! And it wasn't you but the Chow database that added the funky link. Agree entirely about walking to places near your hotel, though we find ourselves Muni-ing or Bart-ing and THEN walking more every trip to get to the good stuff :-).