- Hungrierthanever Feb 14, 2012 10:55 AM
Visiting San Francisco next weekend. I'll be staying downtown, it's my first time in San Francisco(and second time visiting the west coast, ever). I'd love to know where the best places to eat are( I know I should have a certain type of food I'd prefer eating but I'm a 25 year old guy who eats whatever you put in front of me). I'm working with a medium budget ($45-50 per plate ), and I'm on the fence about renting a car but if the food is worth traveling for I'm willing to travel after it. So I'd like a little help please, where do i go for "good eats".
I'm afraid you probably won't get too many responsed to this post since it's just too general and it's a question that gets asked literally hundreds of times on this board. Maybe if you searched a little on this board with a narrower idea of what you'd like to experience you could find an existing thread, or perhaps specify a little more about your tastes, locations, etc. With hundreds of good restaurants in the Bay area in that price range within walking, driving and or BARTing distance from downtown, it's hard to give any useful reply.
On Saturday, before 1 p.m., stop by the Ferry Building. They have a great farmers market, plus a lot of great, small foodie shops and restaurants inside. It's a good place to get a feel for the produce and foods of CA (though on the expensive side).
I'm afraid need to know a little bit about food preferences in order to give restaurant recs. Italian/French? Steak? Ethnic Foods? Preferences for urban/scene-y versus hole-in-the wall/divey?
Some ideas (first warning - eating in SF often requires reservations or long waits):
The Mission neighborhood (btween Dolores & Van Ness - 15th & 25th). You can take BART to 16th & Mission.
This was a high crime neighborhood where many Latin American immigrants lived. As SF gentrified, a ton of great restaurants have moved into the area. It's a very appealing mix now of great Mexican and El Salvadorean eateries as well more upscale Californian/American cuisine. It's still somewhat grimy/sketchy in parts, so a lot of non-city folk don't like it. Nightlife scene is rather hipster fantastic. If you love food, it's an awesome neighborhood. Some suggestions:
Ice Cream (flavors like Balsamic Caramel, sage etc.):
Bi-Rite or Humphrey Slocombe
Good Food + Good Beer (Gastropub):
Exotic/Interesting Take on Chinese food (must like spicy food to really appreciate):
Mission Chinese Food
Sangria in Pitchers + Great Ceviche + Roast Chicken + Warm and Really Loud:
More Upscale Places (vibrant as opposed to hushed over white tablecloths):
Range, Delfina, Bar Tartine
The Marina (need to take a cab or bus - BART doesn't go there)
The opposite of the Mission. Beautiful neighborhood by the bay, tons of upscale little boutiques, where investment bankers live. Has a very "Bro" nightlife scene. Still retains SF charm - great architecture, nearish to the Palace of Fine Arts and some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge:
Upscale decent (but not amazing) takes on Latin American food. Fun places:
Tacolicious or Mamacitas
Great Steak at a good price:
You're a 25 year old - get on Bart and head to the Mission District. Get off on either 16th St. or 24th St. and walk up and down Mission St. and Valencia St., and all the side streets in between. There you'll find dozens and dozens of restaurants in all price ranges, styles, and cuisines. check out this thread.
grab a sandwich at Rhea's Deli (or Bi-Rite if you've got more $$) and head to Dolores Park (if it's not raining) and spend the day amongst other youthful folk in one of our most beautiful spots (and we have a ton of them).
plus, there are tons of bars/clubs in the Mission, and it's just a fun place to walk around, day or night.
Wow, really... medium budget ... $45-50 per plate?
I can't think of a restaurant that charges that much unless your get into tasting menus. Did you mean per day?
Definately Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning not only for the food but for the ... San Francisconess of it.
Exploring the Mission is good and maybe Zuni for Dinner. Canteen for Sunday brunch or Mama's in Washington Square.
You wouldn't need a car unless you wanted to get out of the city and drive up to wine country on Sunday to check that out.
To be honest, it's not about high end, it's about finding good food. If I spend less but get a great plate of food that's what I'm looking for. Putting what I'm willing to spend might've been a bit much. I just don't wanna look like a tourist aimlessly walking into every store asking "can I see the menu"
it would be to your benefit to define what good eats is to you.
if creative dining is your thing then places like coi would the way to go. if straight foward excellent quality California cuisine then Zuni-like joints would be it. A coi person would be bored by zuni and a zuni person would scream about the silliness of coi.
I'd say Chez Panisse in Berkely but the coi types just spit at its boring-to-them excellence.
Even a joint like Waterbar tops out at about 35 for an entree. What kills you in SF is apps which can run 10-20 , dessert and booze. That can run a meal at a good place around $100 with tax and tip.
Even though I vowed to stop giving tourist tips, your enthusiasm for your trip got to me. I love California (originally from Connecticut). I want people to love it as much as i do.
I wonder if you are a drinker as your profile says your drink of choice is water.
Are you looking interesting small eats like taco trucks or great little mom and pops. Your plate costs indicates that wouldn't be your focus.
Then there is your age. Are you looking to socialize too.
Given all that here's what I'd suggest for a first time visitor to the area to get a feel for Northern California.
Spend two days in SF. Do not miss Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning. Considert Slanted Door (Cal-Vietnamese), Zuni (Cal cuisine classic), Tadich (old school SF. Stick to the cioppino and martinis). Have breakfast at places like Mamas, Canteen or Brendas.
Take a day to explore Berkeley. Go to the Gourmet Ghetto. Have breakfast at Bette's Oceanview. Try the cheeseboard pizza for lunch. Have dinner at Chez Panisse. That can be done on public transportation. If you want to tool around Oakland too, then get a car to cover more territory.
Spend a day in wine country and throw in a winery or two. That you need a car for. Visit Oxbow Market and have oysters at Hog island or a creative upscale taco at C CASA. Maybe wander down from Napa to Sonoma and stop by Freemont Diner.
Spend a day driving down the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz. The West Coast is like nothing you will ever see back East. Miles and miles of nothing but free open road and beach. Maybe stop at half moon bay for lunch. Or continue down and stop at Duartes in Pexcadero for the artichoke soup. this isn't amazing food but it is sort of the coast equivalent of tadich ... a long time institution that is worthy checking out. see the goat farm in town. Further down the coast stop at Swanton berry farm. From santa cruz take the road back over the windy hills to Los Gatos and eat dinner at Manressa.
Put together an proposed itinery
That will get you a lot more information.
You wont see and eat everywhere, but you will have a good taste of California. Be prepared to tell your family when you get home that you will be moving to California
What about the suggestions you got when you posted in December? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/821267 Do any of those appeal? You are getting a lot of great responses here (as a frequent visitor myself, I know how helpful the local Hounds are) despite your posts being a bit vague :-).
One thing that SF has that I can't get at home and crave is good Thai, Burmese and Lao food. I would recommend those cuisines to you, unless they are really awesome in Philadelphia. Check out Lers Ros, Mandalay or Ventian in Oakland respectively for good examples.
Well, if you go to North Beach - (across from Mama's) is the most delicious foccaccia known to Italy. It is a 100+ year establishment - family run - get the pizza foccaccia and you've died and gone to heaven - it is a tiny storefront on the corner across from Mama's. It is hauntingly delicious. No other place like it. Gary Danko - Benu have been highly-rated. if you like Greek - Kokkari on Jackson St. Ferry Plaza is slanted door - For amazing, expensive fish - Farallon near Union Square.
Rules for tourists
- No person from the East Coast should eat in Bay Area Greek restaurants
- No person from serious BBQ areas in the South should eat at places that replicate that
- No person from Philly should eat a cheesesteak here
- No person from serious steak eating areas like Chicago should bother with steak here
Focus on those areas that California does best.
And that is just my two cents and i hope people won't get off topic discussing this because that is what happened to the other thread from december.
But still ...
I truly thank you guys/ladies for your opinion. Clearly you all know San Francisco better than I do. What I'm gonna do is re-read all of your posts again, check out the different menus. I'd like to treat this trip (food wise) like a sampler and try to try some of everything mentioned in this thread.
If you are only here for a weekend, skip the rental car. There is plenty to see and do in SF in two days without the hassle of parking.
Judging from your posts, your tastes slant American (breakfast, BBQ, seafood, pie, sandwiches, little mention of non European ethnic cuisine). Regardless, I agree with a lot of other people in this thread about spending a Saturday morning at the Ferry building farmers market to get a feel for the SF food scene. The porcetta sandwich at the Roli Roti food stand sounds right up your alley.
Other suggestions based on your stated preference for busy, youngish, mid-range places:
Breakfast: Mama's or Brenda's
Alembic or Magnolia brewpubs in the Haight
Nopa for American, or Nopalito, Nopa's little sister for Mexican
Mission Chinese Food, for trendy hipster Chinese American food
Barbacco, for casual Italian and wine
Swan's Oyster Depot, old school SF seafood
Ike's Sandwiches, for huge sandwiches with crazy names
I suggest going to the upper right-hand corner of this page and do a search for "seafood." You will find many, many discussions already here for you to review.
The Tadich Grill and Sam's Grill (in the Financial District) are 2 of the old-school SF seafood houses that serve lunch & dinner. Tadich has a long counter where you can feel quite comfortable dining solo. Swan's Oyster Depot (on Pol Street) is another old-school place that serves lunch only.
Tadich Grill, Sotto Mare and Swan Oyster Depot are old-school style seafood places of note. Swan is really just a counter. Search and you will find plenty written about each. I like them all a lot for what are. As of now Sotto Mare is my favorite.
Hog and Rocks is a fun restaurant /bar in the Mission with oysters, small plates and drinks. Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building has great oysters but is not cheap.
SF is kinda on a raw seafood/cooking seafood to honor the fish kick (which I appreciate). So I am having trouble actually think of a place with good fried fish or calamari, that I actually enjoy.
Despite its name, Bar Crudo does have great cooked seafood dishes - so you may want to check that out. The emphasis is still on raw fish though.
Hog Island Oysters also has an excellent "deconstructed" clam chowder if you are not opposed to shellfish. It's cooked!
Yeah, don't get East Coast fish and preps or you will sorely be disappointed as i was my first year here. Other than calamari and fish and chips, restaurants aren't into fried seafood that much.
Salmon is good. Sand dabs are a nice local fish if in season. Hog Island oyster is great for oysters and and the clam chowder is more of a bowl of steamed clams in broth so if you go have that expectation.
Cioppino is the local fish stew and Tadich does it well, but you can search and get other recs. Clam chowder is not local, often from cans and if it is served in a sourdough bowl get a tattoo on your forhead with the word 'tourist'
Other seafood places mentioned often
- Anchor and Hope
- Hyde Street Bistro
- Sotto Mare
- La Mar Cebichería Peruana
Scoma's is certainly no real destination, but the one thing they do well is fish. They have their own boats which pull up in front of the restaurant where the catch is processed. For all its faults, Scomas still has my vote for freshest fish in SF.
That being said, it is in fisherman's wharf which is pretty much tourist junk.
Scoma's prices are too high, the portion are way too large and the sides are boring. The sourdough sucks and is not as good as Tadich which has the best sourdough in SF. But the fish ... to me it is worth it to stop by now and then for that. They have a nice lunch prixe fixe which is a reasonable price and sane portions. They also do a cioppino that is super filling and almost like pasta sauce. I like Tadich's broth better, but the fish in the cioppino at Tadich's better.
I finally get to do my review of the city. I've been quite busy planning for my next adventure, but here goes nothing.
I didn't know what expect when I touched down in San Francisco. For the person I was traveling with it would be their second time, so I decided to go with flow of the day. We touched down around 9:30 am and took a taxi straight to the our hotel (Hotel Metropolis, it wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst either). My friend thought it would be cool to have mexican as soon as we got settled, so we ditched the bags and headed over to Nopalitos like SFBING suggested. The food was very good. The vegetables in the burrito I had were fresh and they weren't overcooked. The flavors came together nicely, we truly enjoyed it. We didn't go out for dinner we just order out and the place was pretty good (i forgot the name of the place). Saturday was in my opinion the best day for eating. I didn't want to seem like I was choosing every place we ate so i gave in for Saturday's lunch which was at Tarantinos on Fisherman's Wharf. The seafood was extremely fresh, and we were also provide with a bit of comedy. There was a man sitting on a crate hiding behind a branch scaring passing tourist and locals.