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seeking feedback on ideas for casual(ish) setting w/outstanding food. early 30 somethings reconnecting.

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Hey everyone, i'm flying into SF from Boston at the end of march to meet up with a few old friends for a week. One lives in Oakland, another's going to school in Davis, and the other's coming in from Brooklyn. They're all graduate students and I want to treat them to at least one fine meal during my weeklong stay. I've done some research and have thus far come up with the following ideas.

Maven, Haven, Wood Tavern, Park Tavern, the Slanted Door

nopalito (we all love mexican)

outerlands (perhaps too much of hassle getting out there)

SF and Oakland works.

I come from Boston --frankly, not the BEST for seafood --but still not feeling like i need to go that route, especially. I've researched cocktail bars and the mission pretty heavily, so i feel pretty comfortable in that regard. Just wanna make sure i pick a great place for our onetime upscale(ish) dining experience. Again, looking for great atmosphere and unique dining experience. no white table cloth business. Hope this gives a clear enough idea of what i'm looking for. . . and also open to suggestions!!

here's a map i created for the trip that might have some ideas I left out. . .or that ya'll might have some feedback on. really really looking forward to this vacation. i'm staying at villa florence in Union square for a few nights, so as not to overburden my oakland friend. going to big sur's deetjen's inn for a night, as well. I have a few nights in SF, likely by myself, where i'll *perhaps* hit up some restaurants my friends can't really afford at the moment. any feedback on all this is helpful!

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=2...

thanks so much!!

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  1. Nopalito doesn't take reservations, so your friend from Davis might be unhappy waiting after a long drive. The food there is great though and short of your Oakland friend, I doubt anyone is going to get Mexican like that where they live.

    Maven doesn't take reservations either. I wasn't impressed with Maven shortly after they opened, and haven't heard any reports on Chowhound since: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826725 . It was also pretty loud.

    Bar Agricole, which I noticed on your google map, leapt to mind when I read your post. The interior, cocktails, and food meet the criteria you're looking for, and it's easy to share plates if your friends are into that. On the small plates front, there are a few good Izakaya places, but that may be less interesting to your Brooklyn friend.

    Park Tavern is very good, and I really liked the organization of the menu.

    You have better cocktail places on your map, but if you head to Vesuvio, it has a 2nd floor which is less crowded than the first.

    Woops... you put someone's address on that google map... you might want to take that off! If you want to keep a copy of that map without deleting the personal info, click the "KML" button, and then import that KML file from your computer into a new map.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hyperbowler

      thanks! i'm all too used to restaurants that don't take reservations here in Boston (a change from Minneapolis where i moved from). waiting's not so bad -- and oftentimes worth it for the right place-- if that's what you're expecting. . . so Park Tavern and Nopalito are def possibiliies. And obviously, my friends will help us arrive at a decision, as well.

      Also, i've only spent a couple days in SF (with my folks), so i don't know it very well at all, and haven't seen much. i'll likely be checking out a couple touristy spots like City Lights, which vesuvio is close to. . . so thanks for the tip on that one, too.

      Appreciate the heads up on my map. Thanks for checking it out.

    2. Wood Tavern's great. Informal and totally unpretentious but first-rate cooking and service.

      You should consider À Côté as well, similar but more of a celebratory atmosphere. It's the only place I can think of with great food where the wine, spirits, and beer lists and cocktails are all first-rate.

      Slanted Door's kind of noisy and sterile. Reports on Haven sound like they're still getting their act together.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        i forgot to mention Plum, as well.

        how's plum vs park tavern vs wood tavern?

        I've decided on making Nopalito a must-do, but maybe not for this dinner. Or maybe i should?

        1. re: minneapolite

          I second A Cote. Cozy, calm and delicious all around. To be in SF, and about a mile from your hotel is Perbacco where I just had an incredible meal. Delicious wine service and every dish that we had was spot on. Would be a fun one to share with friends. Also in SF is Gitane -- best cocktails I've had in SF and a killer menu. A delicious place to reconnect. For Mexican, though I love Nopalito, I'd also consider Tamarindo in Old Oakland.

          1. re: dcfb

            would concur in re. to Gitane ; more unique both in atmosphere and food than Wood Tavern, which is more like a gastropub doing elitist-slanted comfort foods.

      2. Went to Haven again last night and I'd say check it out. Quieter than Wood Tavern (which I love btw), more creative food and easier to get into plus a much larger bar. Meal last night rocked.

        I like A Cote but really only for the mussels/fries. The rest of the menu, the last two or three times I have been, has been really average.

        2 Replies
        1. re: TonyVelebil

          Some things on À Côté's current menu that I've had and would order again include the mussels, croque monsieur (my favorite since Eccolo closed), grilled skirt steak, merguez flatbread, fries, and ricotta frritters. I tend to really like the soups and vegetable sides and they have great cheeses.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Cool - I've just given up on them unless Traci and I are going strictly for the mussels and fries.