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Seeking recs for two days in San Francisco - specific questions

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Hi, Hounds!

I know there are a million threads for what to eat in SF, but I thought I might have better luck by being specific. I'll be in town for two days (midweek) in March, I'm staying at the Chancellor in Union Square and won't have a car. I'm from LA, so I'd rather avoid Mexican food and eat what the locals do best. I'm thinking one splurge meal and moderately priced the rest of the time. I'm open to all cuisines, but not a particular fan of shellfish.

Also, what do you guys think of these places specifically:

Blue Bottle vs. Philz for coffee?
Delfina vs. Una vs. Tony's vs. Caffe BaoNecci for pizza?
Is Sam Wo a tourist trap, or are there good cheap eats to be had there?
Are Roli Roti or Chairman Bao worth a look if we run across them?
Any specific recs for a bakery/cafe at breakfast?

Thanks so much for any help! Hounds always know the best places :)

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  1. If you like Indian food, I would recommend Dosa. Nothing like it within LA city limits. Peruvian may also be interesting. In addition to Mexican, would avoid Sushi and Korean (all better and more plentiful in LA).

    As to Blue Bottle v Philz. I would try both if you had the time! They are rather different. Coming from LA, I would go with Philz. It has much more of a Nor-Cal SF/Berkely vibe, completely drip coffee based.

    With Intelligentsia, Demitasse etc. there are plenty of sophisticated Blue Bottle types in the LA area - though Blue Bottle is an equal and different competitor to those.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goldangl95

      Thanks, goldangl95! I appreciate the advice to skip sushi and Korean food. I really like Korean, so that might have been something I would have tried. Philz seems to be the choice for coffee, though I'd certainly like to get to both if I can.

    2. Blue Bottle vs. Philz: Philz only serves drip and no espresso drinks. I enjoy both but the BB @ Mint Plaza has all the cool Japanese coffee gadgets that tip the scale IMO.

      My fave pizza in town is Pizza Delfina bc they have very thin crust, really nice tomato sauce, great sides and wines by the glass. Tony's has all kinds of diff crust/pizza style options.

      I've gotten food at Roli Roti twice and both times had dry meat. I know others love it, but I just can't seem to hit it when it's good. Chairman Bao is tasty enough but not memorable for me.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rubadubgdub

        Thanks for the reply! Delfina seems to be an across the board favorite. It looks like I can't go wrong with pizza.

        1. re: rubadubgdub

          Yup, Blue Bottle and Pizzeria Delfina. Pizzeria Delfina is especially enjoyable in the afternoon.

          Lots of wonderful bakery cafes all over town. Two great choices are Tartine (near Delfina, always crowded) and Thorough Bread. But don't limit yourself.

        2. Sam Wo was a destination when Edsel was alive. Now it's just nostalgia and inexpensive Chinese food. I did like the raw fish salad.

          2 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            Thanks for the tip about Sam Wo, wolfe. TBH, I first heard of it when Conan O'Brien did a week of shows in SF - when he mentioned Sam Wo, the crowd went nuts, I figured it must be a local favorite. Your description makes it sound a lot like Pink's in LA - decent enough food, but it's the nostalgia and the name that makes the line long.

            1. re: FMWarner

              I'm not sure the food at Sam Wo is decent enough unless you're drunk, and if you're looking for a place to go after the bars close, New Sun Hong Kong and Yuet Lee have better food.

          2. Delfina vs. Una vs. Tony's vs. Caffe BaoNecci for pizza?

            They're all good but different styles. I like Delfina but Cotogna's my favorite for that sort of Cal-NY-Naples hybrid style. Seems like UPN usually gets the highest marks from people whose favorite styles is traditional Neapolitan. Tony's does a huge variety of styles in five (?) different ovens. BaoNecci's real Roman-style, thinnest crust in town except for Pizzetta 211.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Thanks for the pizza breakdown, Robert! I'm glad to know they're all good...I'll have to confer with my companion and see what style she likes.

              1. re: FMWarner

                UPN has a short menu, short hours, long waits, and high prices. The prices are arguably justified by the expensive imported ingredients but if Neapolitan pizza isn't your favorite type the overall experience might be disappointing.

                http://www.unapizza.com/sf/
                http://pizzeriadelfina.com/
                http://pizzeriadelfina.com/pacificHei...
                http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/i...
                http://www.cotognasf.com/
                http://www.caffebaonecci.com/

            2. Thanks for the help, everyone! I just thought I'd report what we ate.

              Pizzeria Delfina:
              Pizza was very good. Crust was outstanding. Got the panna (tomato sauce, cream, basil, shaved parmesan) and it was truly one of the best pizzas I've had. Also got the salsiccia (fennel sausage, tomato, bell pepper, onion, mozzarella) and was kind of disappointed. The fennel sausage was tasteless. Also got the meatballs served with grilled bread, and they were fantastic. I think meatballs are deceptively hard to do well, and these were great with a strong beefy taste and an excellent tangy sauce. Worth noting that the quarters were so cramped and the atmosphere so chaotic that unless I could sit outside, I would not return despite the food.

              Bar Jules:
              Had dinner here with local friends on their recommendation. It was a small place like Delfina, but had a more laid back chill vibe. Small menu, but you can tell it's all fresh. I had ribolleta, which was brothier than I'm used to, but was absolutely delicious. I also had the burger (was just in the mood for one) and it was flavorful with a great bun, but overcooked. Others at the table got the lamb chops and thought they were great. Desserts were just okay, but coffee and espresso were fantastic. Service was meh, we had an 8pm reservation and weren't seated til 8:25. There's nowhere really to stand around and wait either, the place is pretty small.

              Z & Y Chinese Food:
              Hands down best meal we had in San Francisco. Recommended by the same friends that took us to Bar Jules, it's on Jackson in Chinatown. A lot of the food is Americanized, but the quality is leaps and bounds above what you'd expect. The Chicken With Explosive Chile Pepper was probably the best single dish I've had in a Chinese restaurant. Chunks of spicy chicken on a huge pile of red chile peppers, it had a sneaky heat that crept up on you cumulatively. I first thought it wasn't that hot, but by the end I was red and sweating. Great flavor too, not just heat. We also had the dry sauteed string beans (which were the best I've had) and scallion pancake (a little greasy as these go, but delicious.) Service was curt but efficient and the bill came to just around $30. A great value and a better meal. Highly recommended.

              Boudin Bakery:
              I know, I know, it's a chain. We had a recommendation to go to The Sentinel sandwich shop, but it was raining and The Sentinel is only a takeout counter. Boudin was around the corner, and I'd remembered their sourdough bread as the single best food available at Disneyland. I had a grilled cheese with bacon on sourdough. The place was pleasant, cheap and delicious. I usually don't like to frequent chains when traveling, but I'm no snob, and this was good.

              Thanks to everyone for their help, we had a blast and ate great!

              1 Reply
              1. re: FMWarner

                Thanks for reporting back. Your friends were spot on with Z&Y, one of the best -- and arguably the best non-Cantonese -- restaurant in Chinatown.