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