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A 3-Day Weekend in SF in mid-March

Hi, all. I've reviewed variations on my question, especially this thread -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/835337 -- but still I have questions, so here it goes:

This will be a pretty quick trip to SF in mid-March, staying near Union Square, been to SF a few times before, and not interested in mainstream tourist stuff like the Wharf and Alcatraz, no car, from urban Chicago, so totally fine with cabs and the BART, like cool, artsy, fringe-y stuff (small art galleries), really enjoy Chicago's Wicker park/Bucktown and NYC's East Village and Chelsea a lot, if that helps pinpoint my preferences, so what do I do/where do I go? (No real bugetary restraints, by the way.


From the other recent threads I sense that for breakfast I should aim for Mama’s and get there early and, while one of us is in line, the other should get onion foccaccia across the street at Liguria Bakery, or aim for Zazie and then the Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley. Or Brenda’s?

For lunch, it looks like I should try Delfina Pizzeria in the Mission District (though maybe that’s too close to how I can eat in Chicago?), then walk along Valencia and stop at Tartine bakery. Another lunch choice could be Poc Chuc (Mexican). Dessert, maybe Humphrey Slocumbe?

Then, it sounds like somewhere in there I should plan a picnic with food from the Ferry Building—I saw references to the Tanguito truck, DeLise, Café Cappricio, steamed crab curbside, Alioto’s (ask for the whole crab), Acme sourdough batard/cowgirl cheese/salumi from Boccalone (Miss Piggy sandwich)/box of rettuchi, Roli Roti (porchetta sandwich). If it’s still fun and cool the Haight would be fine with me, or Berkeley. I also saw references to Bar Crudo, Kokkari and Perbacco, and I’ve enjoyed Green’s in the past, but saw no recent favorable references.

Yikes, I’m confused!!

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  1. I'm from san diego, but have been to SF almost a dozen times and dedicate pretty much every trip to non-stop eating. In my opinion, Mama's is no better than an average breakfast place down here, and certainly not worth the line. Never had Liguria, but have heard good things.

    Pleasssee...if you want to avoid the touristy crap...skip Tartine and head directly for Knead Patisserie in the Mission. It's a very small bakery run out of another restaurant, but hands down, the best croissants I've ever had. Their other baked good are other wordly and blow the socks off of Tartine. It's not even close.

    Perbacco is decent, althogh, I sense you can get better Italian food elsewhere in the city.

    If you're in the Haight (panhandle area to be exact), Nopa is very solid for an afternoon snack (I have a ravenous appetite..may be more of a meal for a regular person). If you want to class it up a bit, La Folie is excellent, and portion sizes are huge, especially considering they are an upscale place.

    Thats all I've got for now...hope it helps.

    ...SERIOUSLY go to Knead!

    7 Replies
    1. re: yanks26dmb

      While you may have better breakfast places where you live, do you have a suggestion for a better breakfast place in San Francisco?

      Canteen is another highly recommended place as is Foreign Cinema. i'm a fan of Mama's though.

      If you are here on Saturday, do NOT miss the Saturday morning farmers market where you can put together a great breakfast.

      From what i've been reading Ice Cream Bar is more about style than substance. One chowhound report here said they used double rainbow ice cream where you can get in any supermarket. i mean really ... an ice cream bar that doesn't make its own ice cream.

      1. re: rworange

        With so much good and unique food to eat in SF, I find breakfast to be kind of a waste of a stomach space, as well as a waste of an hour standing in line for many of the better places. The upshot of Foreign Cinema is that they take reservations.

        Where did you hear that they used Double Rainbow? It's been reported in the press as housemade, and nothing came up on google or Chowhound's search to indicate that. I've also not seen a single person on Chowhound recommend against going there. The ice cream section seems mainly for kids and is not why I'd recommend going there. The soda fountain in the back serves items you won't find anywhere else in town, possibly the US, and, pricing aside, the substance is as good as the style. Note that the milkshakes are delicious and don't use ice cream--- they're hand shaken and use eggs and cream.

        1. re: hyperbowler

          Sorry, they do make their own using Three Twins Ice Cream is their base ... don't like three twins and not sure how that translated to double rainbow in my mind.

          From CH 'Just an FYI Three Twins Ice Cream is their base & their ice cream is Blah! I got to try: sour cherry - no sour cherry taste at all, just looks pink. Honey buttermilk-meh; & a mint chocolate chip flavor - it was better. I picked Sour Cherry Junior scoop $2.75 + $1 more for homemade waffle cone. The cone is a bit greasy, a bit gritty, but I liked it still. It does crumble, so get it in a glass that I saw others get'

          It moved this way down on my list. YMMV

        2. re: rworange

          Ah, I see that "hhc" said that they use Three Twins "as their base" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8295...

          Note that they're not unique in not making their own base--- even Bi-Rite and Humphrey Slocumbe use Straus, a brand that you can also buy in any supermarket.

        3. re: yanks26dmb

          Tartine - touristy crap? really? I've only been to Knead on Sanchez (or is it Church?) and was unimpressed. Tartine is hard to get into, which can be annoying, but it's usually populated by locals (and yes, a high contingency of hipsters), or people who hear about it on this board, but i can't imagine anyone thinking of it as touristy crap. I don't get why people are so hot on Knead - may have to give it a second chance.

          to RonnieO - hopefully for your picnic it won't be raining (as it is now and supposed to do all week). Like most of the rest of your choices, and as RW said, don't miss the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Saturdays, Canteen is excellent, Foreign Cinema is a great brunch place (but only if it's not raining because the best thing is sitting on their patio). Barbacco, in my opinion, is better than Perbacco. Delfina Pizza and Poc Chuc are good pics.

          EDIT: I'm taking back what i said about Knead as i haven't been! Sorry, but the place I went to was NOT Knead - only one Knead exists, as others have said, it's in the Mission, in my very own neighborhood. I'm not sure which place I am even talking about. Very sorry, mea culpa, tail between legs - i will make it my mission to try Knead now.

          1. re: mariacarmen

            I think you're thinking of Thorough Bread & Pastry.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              thank you! yes. and not impressive. to me.

        4. Great info. Thanks. Now I just need to figure out how to slot a lot of this stuff into three days.

          1. You seem to have lumped your Ferry Building (a must for Saturday morning) and No-Fishermen-Left Wharf (best avoided) tips together. They're two miles apart.

            Be prepared for picnic-hostile weather in mid-March.

            1. yanks26dmb couldn't be more on the money. GO TO KNEAD!! Best bakery in the entire city. Get the pomme d'amour and a fresh croissant - some of the best pastries in the city. Get a coffee from Philz next door, one of the best coffee shops in SF. So that's breakfast. For lunch you can stay in the mission, Pizzeria delfina is always solid and if it's a nice day you can take it and sit in Dolores Park which is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. And bi-rite creamery is right there for a great scoop of ice cream (humphrey slocombe is also some of the best, innovative ice cream parlors you can visit, also in the Mission).

              Skip perbacco, replace it with SPQR or Cotogna for dinner for sure.

              NOPA is also very solid, and Bar Crudo is very good if you're a seafood lover.

              Lots of other places I could suggest, depending on which spots you're trying to fill.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KelsEats

                Cotogna's great but much more casual than Perbacco. I'd put both in the top 5 Italian in SF.

              2. Based on comments to my own post and comments regarding other posts, I think my itinerary for later this week looks like this, but am looking for any additional refinements/suggestions:

                SAT MORNING


                Brenda's French Soul Food
                652 Polk Street (at Eddy Street
                )Ph. (415) 345-8100
                Saturday, 8am

                SATURDAY DAY

                Walk the Mission District


                Delfina Pizzeria (totally pizza menu)
                3611 18th Street (at Guerrero
                12 PM-11 PM


                Humphrey Slocumbe (ice cream--flavors look VERY good--http://humphryslocombe.com/%7C_Flavor...
                2790 Harrison Street
                (415) 550-6971


                Knead Patisserie (best croissants) (closes at 3 PM?)
                3111 24th St (between Folsom St & Shotwell St)
                (415) 655-3024

                SATURDAY NIGHT


                306 Broderick Street (between Fell and Oak
                ("While we do not take traditional reservations, we do offer the convenience of calling ahead to place your name on our waitlist. When we're running a wait, we'll take your name and phone number, then call you back when we're setting up a space for your party.
                Call 415-437-0303, then press 5.

                SUNDAY MORNING


                Zazie (in Cole Valley, easy walk to Golden Gate Park and the Haight from there)
                941 Cole Street (between Parnassus and Carl)
                Take the N-Judah Muni Metro line; the Cole/ Carl stop is 1/2 block from Zazie
                From Downtown:
                Take Fell Street to Masonic
                Left on Masonic
                Right on Waller
                Left on Cole
                Opens at 9 AM on Sunday


                Ferry Building
                Tanguito truck/DeLise/Café Cappricio/steamed crab curbside
                Bocalone (Miss Piggy sandwich)
                Get a little box of Rettuchi, too
                Roli Roti – porchetta sandwich


                Mandalay or Burma Superstar
                There's a lot of talk about Burmese food, and a lot of disagreement about whose is best. Mandalay seems to be the lead contender but it's a close call.

                Walk the Haight District

                Walk the north side of South Side of Haight as far as we want, then head back toward Zazie and stop at the awesome new Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley -- most shops open at 10 AM

                The Lower Haight (whatever that means) is more of a foodie area (more than BBQ and beer). NOPA, Nopalito, Bar Crudo, to name a few (though technically these three are officially in the Western Addition).

                SUNDAY DAY


                SUNDAY NIGHT

                Dinner @ 6:45 PM -- Aziza
                5800 Geary Blvd. (Cross Street: 22nd Ave.)
                Phone: (415) 752-2222
                Casual Dress
                There is no one in the US, maybe the world, cooking the way Mourad Lahlou is cooking. And pastry chef Melissa Chu is a genius, pure and simple. If you go there – it isn't close to anything else you're doing – plan to try at least 4 or 5 starters, and order flatbread (there's little or no starch included otherwise). The entrees are small; you're expected to have several starters. Most of the starters are brilliant, imaginative creations that go far beyond the simple descriptions
                Order the basteeya

                MONDAY MORNING before departure to airport


                2 Replies
                1. re: RonnieO

                  The food trucks are at the Ferry Building on Saturdays, not Sundays.

                  Burma Superstar might be the most popular, judging from the lines, but I'd rank them Little Yangon, Burmese Kitchen, Mandalay, Burma Superstar, Yamo.

                  You can have a really mediocre meal at Burma Superstar or Mandalay if you order the Chinese or Indian dishes that pad out the menu.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston


                    If you want to get the full farmers market/food truck vibe of the Ferry Building, that's Saturday mornings not Sundays.

                    Otherwise itinerary looks great.

                2. Thanks to everyone who offered comments, and here, in general, is what I wound up doing last Thursday evening through Monday morning and how it sized up (and, again, I was staying right off Union Square):

                  I wasn’t expecting to have any free time on Thursday or Friday night, but did, so I was able to do a little more (and get an earlier start on the weekend) than I anticipated. Everything was a bit hampered by pretty chilly weather and rain, at least until Sunday.

                  THURSDAY NIGHT

                  I had a little time before dinner and so I wound up at SFMOMA. I was very lucky. It was a half-price night, and there was live music and really tasty free food (and a young, hip, fun crowd). Plus, the Mark Bradford show really wowed me, but then I’m a huge modern art fan.

                  I then had dinner with a couple of friends at Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission Street, 415-648-7600), then after-dinner drinks at the connected/next door bar, Laszlo. I liked it a lot but was not totally wowed. Definitely a B+ for the restaurant) and a B for the bar.


                  Lotsa rain. I took a cab to Hayes Valley, and enjoyed the cute little shops. I had wine at Arlequin Wine Merchant (384 Hayes Street, 415-863-1104), where, with no seating to be had, Melanie (of Sociale and Avedano’s Meat Wagon) kindly let me share her table and gave me terrific food intel.

                  I went with her restaurant recommendation, Flour + Water (2401 Harrison Street, 415-826-7000), and it was an A+ meal. Well, using Ebay lingo, A+++.

                  I didn’t get to any of the other places she recommended, but I wrote them down, and, with apologies for any misspellings, they were Fish, Perbacco, El Pollo, Blue Plate, State Bird and Commonwealth.


                  Breakfast at Brenda’s French Soul Food (652 Polk Street (at Eddy Street), 415-345-8100). Again, A+++. Basically perfect. One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had, really enjoyed the beignet flight starter and then a kick-ass omelet with a top-notch biscuit and killer grits. (I picked Brenda’s over Dottie’s True Blue Café (28 6th St (between Market and Mission), 415-885-2767).

                  I then spent a good part of the day in the Mission District and had a great time looking at art, the stores, the people, with an afternoon break for wine and cheese at Mission Cheese, a wine bar (736 Valencia Street, 415-484-6553). Also an A+++ for me. Loved it. Perfectly sized, delicious wine and cheese, highly recommended.

                  Then, dinner at Delfina Pizzeria (3611 18th Street (at Guerrero), 415-437-6800). I am a total asshole-pizza snob who dissed all these suggestions that I have pizza in SF, but, again, A+++. We have tons of kick-butt Naples style pizza here in Chicago. Delfina was better. Loved it. Also, VERY reasonably priced. (FYI, I selected Delfina over the other dinner contenders, Poc Chuc (Mexican, 2886 16th St (between Shotwell St & S Van Ness Ave), 415-558-1583), Lers Ros (730 Larkin Street (between O’Farrell and Ellis), 415-931-6917, Swan’s Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St (between California St & Sacramento St), 415-673-1101, Nopalito (306 Broderick Street (between Fell and Oak), 415-437-0303), and Bar Crudo (655 Divisadero St, 415-409-0679).

                  Never made it to Humphrey Slocumbe (2790 Harrison Street, 415-550-6971) for ice cream or Knead Patisserie (3111 24th St (between Folsom St & Shotwell St), 415-655-3024) for bread/croissants).


                  Breakfast at Zazie (in Cole Valley, easy walk to Golden Gate Park and the Haight from there, 941 Cole Street (between Parnassus and Carl), 415-564-5332). Hmmm, I’d give this a solid C. No better than what I can get almost anywhere near me in urban Chicago. Zazie seems like a viable breakfast venue only because of its location, and there are so many other restaurants in SF that it seems like there’d be better options in the Haight area—or, if not, I’d recommend that you go elsewhere, even away from the Haight (and then head to the Haight).

                  Then, a walk through the Haight area, then back to Ice Cream Bar on Cole, near Zazie (815 Cole St., 415-742-4932). I had the roasted pineapple and maple pecan cone ice creams and the (blow-me-away delicious) chocolate sorbet. Unbelievably cheap. From there, a walk back to and through the Mission District, more fun-time at Mission Cheese on Valencia.

                  Next, dinner at Aziza (5800 Geary Blvd. (at 22nd Ave., 415-752-2222). I did the $95 tasting menu. It was interesting and imaginative and I enjoyed it, but liked Flour + Water more. Aziza was reminiscent of (more expensive) tasting menus here in Chicago at places like Charlie Trotter’s or Boku, but I feel like at Charlie Trotter’s or Boku the food is more uniformly outstanding. At Aziza about half of the ‘courses” impressed; the other half were not so impressive. I’d say it’s a B+, and, from me, a weak recommendation.

                  MONDAY MORNING

                  The Ferry Building, early, while things were being set up and it was sort of quiet, and there were no food trucks, but I enjoyed it and had some good food.

                  That’s about it. Thanks again to everyone who offered suggestions and comments!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: RonnieO

                    Thank you for reporting back! I'm so glad you enjoyed the trip. It's a good to get perspective from another great food city on what's unique/interesting around here.

                    1. re: RonnieO

                      "I am a total asshole-pizza snob ...."

                      For clarification, is that "asshole" pizza snob or asshole "pizza-snob"? If the former, please school us in any offal pizza we might be missing.out on. ; >P All kidding aside, thanks for your great feedback.

                      1. re: RonnieO

                        I'm curious why you went to the Ferry Building on Monday (when there's nothing special) instead of Saturday morning as everyone suggested?

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          That's a fair question. I was in town for a company meeting. Lots of business colleagues in town, and, like I said, a hotel right off Union Square. I had a pretty strong sense that the Ferry Building would be flooded with colleagues because it was so accessible, and easy to sneak in before a lot of people headed back to their respective homes later that morning, and to be honest after several days with colleagues I was eager to ... ditch them.