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8 days in San Francisco - HELP needed

Hi everyone,
I have had a look at the site and every single topic has been helpful...I am staying in SF with my mum for 8 days in May (Union Square) and I am looking for :

Good breakfast places: we love pancakes, waffles etc...best places in town for that?

Cheap and cheerful snack places

Nice and not too expensive dinner places. We love Sushi but would also like to try something different. Nice atmosphere is essential, lively, with music is good.

I need to take my mum out to a "nicer" place one night as it will be her birthday, in New York, i took her to Pearl Oyster Bar...so something like that maybe?

Thanks a lot in advance!

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  1. The itinerary on this thread is pretty great and the places are mostly reasonably priced. So that will cover "not too expensive dinner" places:

    Seafood focused restaurants are not our strongest suit. But we have a few - check out: Farallon or Bar Crudo.

    Hopefully, someone else can chime in on the pancakes/waffles question...

    2 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Also will add, if you like more traditional seafood presentations Tadich Grill or Swan Oyster Depot. Though, they don't have the ambiance I personally like for a special occasion.

      1. re: goldangl95

        Swan also closes at 5:30.

        I think Bar Crudo would be closer in style to Pearl Oyster Bar.

      1. Thanks guys!
        And what about more ethnic dinner? I have heard great things about El Farolito for burritos....is it really good? Where is the best place to get Mexican food?
        Also, is Mission safe to walk around at night?

        7 Replies
        1. re: MariaLND

          I'm not the best expert on the taqueria topic, though I really like La Taqueria which is by the 24th street BART station (because it's convenient and very good...may not be the best though).

          As to the Mission being safe, during the day - it's a non-issue. At night, it depends.

          It is a very urban area that is in the middle of gentrification. If you stay West of Mission St., it's perfectly fine - a little gritty but really the same as any other city neighborhood.

          On Mission (the street), and East of Mission (the street), it depends on your tolerance. There's a lot of drug crime/smashing car windows and grab type crime. I go to this neighborhood frequently, and its never been a problem (I park down that way a lot). But it can feel a little uneasy walking by yourself late at night.

          1. re: goldangl95

            I'll add that the area around 24th feels a lot safer to me than the area around 16th. 24th St. east of Mission has some places I like (La Victoria, El Delfin, Humphrey Slocumbe) and is fine, IMHO. On Mission around 24th are Mr. Pollo (my mom got a kick out of the tasting menu at Mr. Pollo) and Mission Pie (definitely qualifies as a cheap, cheerful snack (sweet or savory) place).

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Agreed. The restaurants/stores in those blocks have made that area much busier over the years - resulting in a much safer environment.

              I would say as a visitor if you are walking around on foot, just be wary on Mission St. and East of the Mission St. after dark. You can tell when you've hit a bad spot - the area will feel dark and a bit isolated. Versus say Valencia, or the area around Humphrey Slocombe which is vibrant and has throngs of people out.

              1. re: goldangl95

                I don't know why people think more upscale means safer. In the 70s and 80s I lived a few blocks from 24th and Mission as did most of my friends. The only place any of us ever got mugged was in the touristy areas around Union Square.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Some often seem to confuse comfort level with safety. Deserted, quiet areas are the most dangerous for any violent crime or maybe any crime (except pick pocketing which benefits from crowds).

                  But people are more likely, for example, to feel unsafe around people from different economic spheres than them than they are on a quiet alley off Union Square.

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    So true! Unfortunately, for many people an "unsafe" comfort level means not just a different economic sphere, but a different skin color and/or language. I'll also point out the obvious, which is that "safe" has a different meaning for a woman than it does for a man.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Most of my friends in the Mission were women. The one friend who was violently assaulted lived in a totally middle-class quiet part of the Sunset, which is far more deserted than any block in the densely populated Mission.

        2. For "nicer," here are some thoughts:

          Campton Place in the Taj Campton Hotel, right off of Union Square.
          Farallon's, just off the Square on Post, and heavy on seafood.
          Ame, not that far away, across Market St. (SOMA), with great food with some Asian influence.

          For breakfast, though not an inexpensive spot, I love Seasons at the Four-Seasons on Market St., and their Lemon Ricotta Gridlecakes are excellent, as is their Applewood Smoked Bacon.

          Do not know Pearl Oyster Bar in NYC, so maybe my recs. are way out of line?

          Most of all, enjoy, and Happy Birthday mum!


          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Pearl Oyster Bar isn't that fancy or expensive.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston


              Thanks for that info. I had just not heard of it, so could not personally reference to it.



          2. Sorry for being unclear….I am far from being the kind of person who thinks upscale areas are safer! I live in Finsbury Park in London….which most people would consider dangerous. I love it, it’s multicultural and very diverse. I do feel safe even coming back home at 2am by myself (although I am careful, obviously). I just don’t know SF!
            Pearl Oyster is a nice place with nice food and it’s far from being fancy. Both my mum and I are big fans of simple, rustic places….we love simple, well cooked, food and we are definitely not looking for posh restaurants with small portions of beautiful looking tasteless food….;o)

            2 Replies
            1. re: MariaLND

              I understand the concept of safety. If one does not know all the aspects of a city, they can wander into some unsafe areas, all too easily.

              We spend a great deal of time in Mayfair, London, and feel safe traversing many near-by neighborhoods, BUT have felt unsafe, just above Soho, and also not too far out of Belgravia. It just depends.

              Not that long ago, we walked to a restaurant, only about 12 blocks from our SOMA (South of Market) hotel on 3rd Street. Just beyond the general area of Hallidie Plaza, things changed, and pretty drastically. Now, we were headed to a nice area, but had to cross a "not so nice area," where drug deals were going down, with some frequency. Let's say that we cabbed it back.

              We lived in New Orleans for many years, and knew the various areas of the city, especially around the French Quarter and the Central Business District. When friends would travel, I would take the NOLA Tourist Administration maps (got those by the dozen), and mark up where to NOT go, under any circumstances. It is a great and fun city, but there are neighborhoods, right near major tourist areas, where it is NOT safe to travel, even in broad daylight.

              It just differs, city by city, and local knowledge can be very important.

              My thoughts were for the upper-end of the spectrum, but that is what we usually seek out. Though we are in SF about 20x per year, we enjoy fine-dining, and good to great wines, so much, that we seldom pass up an opportunity.to indulge. We try to add a new spot each trip, but what happens is I get to dine with my wife on Sunday night, and then she's in meetings with dinner on Monday, and often Tuesday, so that is when I go out and explore other restaurants, with plans to take her to those, on the next Sunday foray. We miss a load of great, though lower-scale places. Same for New Orleans, where we have not lived for 30 years. OTOH, many here can fill in the blanks, and these folk know their restaurants.

              Most of all, enjoy!


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Hi Bill...funny you say that..my boyfriend and I are planning a road trip in October, 2 weeks driving between New Orleans and LA! Would really appreciate you recommendations!

            2. For breakfast/brunch:

              zazie (great french toast)

              bar agricole (brunch only on sundays)

              tartine (yummy bread pudding and morning pastries. great place for a snack also)

              outerlands (best to go on a weekday afternoon to avoid a LONG wait. i once waited 2 hours on a saturday morning)

              for coffee:

              blue bottle

              four barrel

              for casual lunch or dinner:

              mission chinese food

              saiwaii ramen (spicy garlic tonkatsu ramen is the best!)

              nice dinner place to take your mom:


              chaya brasserie (really really good and fresh sushi)

              frances (really hard to get a table so check first if a table is available)


              2 Replies
              1. re: itsmebaba

                This is a really good start list. The only thing I would mention is that Chaya Brasserie is a fusion-y place, not a straight-up sushi bar.

                1. re: goldangl95

                  Chaya's also a branch of a small Los Angeles chain.

              2. A really great brunch in your area is Zero Zero - gives you a great taste of SF's spin on "americana" food like chicken and waffles, french toast, etc. Pizza here is also amazing! On Fourth and Folsom.

                For a cheap and cheerful, snack - definitely go to the Ferry Building (walk all the way up Market Street to Embarcadero). It's beautiful and has so many options to suit your taste ... also, it's a little known fact that the Ferry Building Wine Merchant lets you bring food in from any of the merchants in the building. So you can pick up a sampling from the various shops (Cowgirl Creamery Cheese, Acme Bread, sushi ... whatever you like) and eat it there. Great way to sample! Or you can just grab a table at Hog Island Oyster Bar and enjoy some great seafood. There is also a farmer's market hat is awesome. Do not miss the Roli Roti porchetta sandwich! Farmer's Market is only there on Saturdays and Thursdays.

                Another cheap(ish) cheerful snack place could be Plant Cafe Organic on the Embarcadero. Maybe not "cheap" if you are eating a full meal but great organic food and great, scenic space on the water and not touristy at all.

                If you want something fun and different for happy hour, you might want to try the Tonga Room at the Fairmont for a drink. Somewhat tourist but definitely an experience!

                For a nicer sushi place (on the more expensive side), one of the best sushi places is Ozumo (Steurt and Mission). Great, hip atmosphere and upscale. Less expensive but also great is Osha Thai (Embarcadero Center)

                If you are also looking for a unique "nicer" place, you can try Foreign Cinema. It's in the Mission and such a unique venue (they play foreign and old moves on the wall in the courtyard).

                Have fun!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: brewhaha11

                  I would add that, in my opinion, Ozumo and Osha are not exemplars of sushi or thai.

                  Ozumo is very flashy, the sushi is fine, it is very expensive.

                  Osha Thai is about the same quality as any good neighborhood Thai place in the Bay Area. Depending where you are coming from, that could be trip worthy or not.