Visiting San Francisco in December
This would be my first visit to SFO. We are staying at Fisherman's Wharf area. My question is:
1) what is the "food street" or food area in SFO, with many options
2) We are vegetarians but not looking for vegetarian restaurants but ones with veggie options
3) What would be be the must have, must go places. for lunch/dinner/dessert
Thanks all in advance.
SF is, in itself, a food area... there are great restaurants in most areas. The tourist areas of Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach and Chinatown will have many bad options and a few good ones. The neighborhoods where we live and work will have lots of good options... the Marina/Cow Hollow, Fillmore Street, Russian Hill, the downtown waterfront, South of Market, Union Square, the Financial District, the Mission District, and more.
Almost every restaurant will have a vegetarian option... it's just not that unusual here. Now, they may only have one option, but at chef-driven restaurants you'll usually be able to get them to amend a main dish (not during a crazy-busy night, though).
"Must have" places depend on type of food and budget -- the "must have" Mission burrito place or the "must have" molecular gastronomy place? Tell us more and we can help.
Avoid Fisherman's Wharf and most Italian places in North Beach and you will eat lots of good food. Most places in the Mission and Soma have veggie choices. In the mission there are two places that do vegan japanese, Cha-ya and Minako. I prefer Minako but it's more expensive than Cha-ya and it is a quirky place. Greens can be hit or miss, Millenium is more traditional food that just happens to be vegan.
If you are looking for high end or tasting menus we've had vegetarian tasting menus at Quince and at Fleur de Lys. I think we had to arrange a head of time for the one at Quince.
Head to the aves for better Chinese than you will find in Chinatown and all vegetarian ones. have to look up the names in english just know them by sight.
Udupi Palace on Valancia is all veg, has the best dosa in SF (although places in the east bay are better) and is cheaper than Dosa a block away.
If you are staying in the wharf area, a fantastic veg restaurant is http://www.greensrestaurant.com/
Greens in Ft. Mason. A beautiful stroll down the wharf, past aquatic park, up the hill to Ft. Mason. Annie Sommerville, the chef, is a pioneer in upscale, delicious, organic veg food. The view is amazing. Check it out online. Millenium is great, but Greens is the grand daddy of them all.
Since you are planning to go to Bi - Rite on 18th Street and looking for a food street, I would say the block on 18th between Guerrero and Dolores is a food street. You have Tartine Bakery (a must visit on every SF trip for me), Delfina, and Delfina Pizzeria and Bi - Rite.
First of all I absolutely LOVED SFO. People are actually nice and do ACTUALLY SMILE...even talk to strangers...very welcoming and open. I felt the warmth.
I had the best of the times in sight seeing and covered pretty much everything, including one day skiing in SugarBowl-Lake Tahoe (artificial snow as it hasn't started snowing yet in L.T).
BEST FOOD: We did not encounter bad food anywhere, however after family survey (kids included), the best food for us was ALI BABA. I have had falafel all my life but never had gone beyond those. When we reached Mission area, for the first time, we were bit exhausted and the vegan japanese (Cha-ya) menu was confusing (we had japanese the day before in JapanTown-Mifune) and confusing. We walked out and the open dishes on buffett display at ALI BABA didn't look too much appetizing and the restaurant itself was hole-in-wall (though clean), so I had minimum expectations. When food came, it looked good on plate. I thought my americanized kids won't know how/what to eat. After we started eating, no one spoke for next 30 minutes. After that all the ahhh--oooouhh z started. We pretty much ordered all vegetarian stuff on menu and ALL of it was good/fresh/delish. Kids loved it...which was a surprise.
THAI: At haigh-ashbury area: was ALSO very good. There was rockstars all over the wall (which made my day). But then I have never had lousy thai food EVER in my whole life! It is always good.
La Bour...: In North Beach: coffee in big bowl: I have never had coffee in a bowl...so it was a first and LOVED it.
China Town: 2 restaurant: one vegetarian on one of the main street (forget name now): was alright. Not good..not bad. Anthor one was underground (Heung or some such name): Had all the menu items in Chinese: Food was so-so. She charged us for white rice ($1;50) and this was not extra-white rice. Tried various bakery items at various chinatown bakeries: red bean paste pastry etc: alright....too oily...but I guess these are not european bakeries. Good for one time taste.
Ice-cream: bi-rite, cold-stone creamery, Ghiradelli: All OK. Bi-rite is over-rated or maybe my expectations were sky high. Still like cold-stone the best for the price.
Pakistani restaurants in Union square area (naan-curry): very good. Love the free tea. Hated the rest rooms (why can't they bleach rest rooms once a day???!!!!!). Even with good food, a bad restroom disgusts me to no end.
Pakwan in Mission: Was ok. The food was slightly more delish at Naan-curry and N-C has better biryani. The potato vindaloo: I have never had in my whole life: Was really-really hot and good stuff (but they still should clean out the rest rooms...yak...yak...can't imagine that chef/cook goes to same disgusting place to wash...YIKES...don't the inspectors say something to them!!!
Apart for few of the restaurants listed below: The fettucine Alfredo at sugar bowl was OUT of this world. Never have had such beautiful, thicj, creamy and delish sauce in my whole life. Being tired after skiing and hungry may have added more value but it was indeed very-very good.
TO Do next time: Visit food trucks and eat mexican: I did not eat a single mexican thing this trip. We tried to keep food as "side dish" to the main event of tourism...somehow where ever we were, we did not see mexican restaurants. Did not get to try any of the dosa places that I had read so much about in chowhound.
O...and the Samosas at pakwan (dinner time) had gone bad...didn't complain or say anything...they take payment first
Sophie's Crepe: Japan Town: Kids loved it. They make crepe which you can see from window (photography not allowed): Long lines. Crepe and ice cream: OK. Some unusual flavors like lychee, really good.