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Mar 28, 2012 11:50 AM

NY hound visiting San Francisco. Must Try Foods?

Hello SF hounders!

I am visiting San Francisco in April, and I am looking for 'must try' restaurants (preferably fine dining).

I will stay only a couple of days so the schedule should be very intensive.

Price is not an issue, and I eat any type of cuisine (be it American, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, etc...) I've already reserved a table at Benu.

Any other suggestions?

I would also appreciate any late night, wee hour snacks too!

Thanks! :)

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  1. Here are some suggestions to get your list started:

    1) State Bird Provisions -- newest opening that's getting a lot of buzz for its concept of small plates being carted around the dining room like dim sum

    2) Swan Oyster Depot -- a classic institution for no-nonsense seafood at a counter-only dining area. Must go for lunch during the weekday, and early, to avoid the line

    3) Mission Chinese Food -- written up by national media (including the NYT) and offering up a new twist to Chinese food in a dumpy, divey, old Chinese restaurant

    4) Ice Cream Bar -- this is more for dessert or afternoon ice cream sundae, just a fun experience for the nostalgia, nothing similar in New York that I can think of

    5) Sebu -- high-end sushi in Hayes Valley, which is an emerging food destination

    6) Bar Tartine -- California cuisine meets Eastern European/German. The bakery in the neighborhood, Tartine Bakery, is also a must stop to try any of the cakes or eclair.

    I'm wary to recommend any Chinese cuisine because you can find some really good places in Flushing. If you have a craving for dim sum and want to see what it's like on this side of the coast, I would recommend Koi Palace in Daly City, just because it's on the border of San Francisco and wouldn't require you going down the Peninsula for some other more popular places.

    20 Replies
    1. re: singleguychef

      I 2nd Ice Cream Bar-- nothing like it in NY or elsewhere. Focus on the drinks in the back--- the ice cream itself isn't exceptional. If you want innovative Ice Cream, Humphry Slocumbe.

      Aziza for Cal-Moroccan

      Mission Chinese Food will be opening up an outpost in Manhattan soon enough, so you might de-prioritize that

      Certainly compared to NY, Mexican is a strength. Nopalito has the best-mid range decent atmosphere place in SF.

      1. re: singleguychef

        Agree with everything here exept for Sebu. May just be me, but I find the Norcal sushi scene to be severely lacking when compared to NYC or even Socal.

        Having come from NYC, i'd recommend both Koi Palace and Yank Sing. Nothing like it in NYC, even in Flushing (Just my opinion!).

        Not as familiar with Mexican in SF proper, but I'd imagine there is much better stuff there than in NYC. Even down in the South Bay, I find the Mexican here to far surpass NY.

        1. re: FattyDumplin

          >> Koi Palace and Yank Sing. Nothing like it in NYC

          no decent dim sum in new york? really? wow, is new york chinese food really that bad?

          1. re: Dustin_E

            New York has a shortage of high end HK style dim sum for some reason. Even in Flushing the places are behind the trends and there is an emphasis on price and quantity over quality. My suspicion is that the Chinese population (and I count my NYC relatives) just won't pay for it.

            On the plus side, if you're missing your favorites from the seventies (black sesame rolls, tamarind spare ribs, snails in black bean sauce) NYC is a good place to find them.

            1. re: Dustin_E

              it's so bizarre. there's a lot of really old school big banquet hall dimsum that is ok, but lots of variety. then there are some newer ones, like dim sum go go, that are good, but pale in comparison to KP and YS. and finally there is chinatown brasserie which is high end dimsum and really good but very limited in menu.

              not all chinese food is bad here, we (sorry, still think as a NYer) have some great cheap eats, but Cali kills NYC chinese food pretty much across the board, in my view.

              1. re: FattyDumplin

                that is bizarre.

                any idea how london compares to san francisco for high end chinese food?

                i found hong kong to be miles ahead of san francisco, so i had kind of assumed sf would be about equal to new york.

                1. re: Dustin_E

                  Why would that be bizarre? Hong Kong is Cantonese food central. Of course, the food would be best in the mother land. (The flip side of this is that it is quite difficult to find good affordable non Cantonese food in Hong Kong. )

                  San Francisco is not in China but has an extremely large Cantonese population. New York is further away from Hong Kong, and has more immigrants from other parts of China rather than from Hong Kong so it doesn't really have a large selection of Hong Kong type places to eat. Great stuff from other regions, though.

                  Unless London has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, Chinese food was pretty crappy IIRC. $10 bucks for a teacup full of soggy noodles and wonton.

                  If you are looking for great Cantonese food outside of Hong Kong and Asia, Vancouver is the place. Lots of wealthy Cantonese immigrants plus great seafood.

                    1. re: sfbing

                      thanks. so you'd say vancouver is a notch above san francisco in terms of high-end cantonese?

                      do you know of any relatively high-end places in new york that specialize in a different region? (i'm thinking jai yun but from a different region than shanghai / huangzhou.)

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        Vancouver is several notches above SF, NY, LA in terms of cantonese. My uncle says toronto is similar but I haven't been so can't compare directly.

                        Check the Manhattan board for high end chinese recs. There are a lot of people who are very familiar with the Chinese scene on that board. I thought about going to Chinatown Brasserie, but NY Chowhounders dissuaded me from doing so since I came from SF. I hear some fancy pants place called Hakkasan is opening up in Midtown.

                        Aside from the obligatory familial dim sum lunch, I mostly frequent places around the Flushing mall and Yunnan Flavour Snack Shop for cheap non Cantonese authentic eats.

                    2. re: Dustin_E

                      For some reason, I remember having some good high end cantonese food in London, but this was many years ago and my tastes may have changed then. I just recall hvaing some really good indian and cantonese food, but again, my memories may just be fooling me...

              2. re: singleguychef

                I'd also recommend the Ferry Terminal marketplace. Chelsea market is nice, but not as diverse or yummy and nothing beats buying some good eats and enjoying them out on the water on a nice SF day.

                1. re: singleguychef

                  Humphrey Slocum, yes! If you find you can't squeeze it in, at the very least grab yourself an It's It ice cream sandwich from any convenience store...yes, it is low brow but as an East Coast native I assure you, there's nothing like it back home.

                  1. re: dulce lover

                    It's Its used to be good but today they're a gross industrial imitation of what was originally a fine handmade treat.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      considering it's industrial, it's still pretty good. better than chipwich, which is all you can get on the east coast.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        our favorite current version is the handmade Joe's It -
                        Joe's Ice Cream
                        5420 Geary Blvd.
                        San Francisco, CA 94121
                        Phone: 415-751-1950

                        go to
                        for the photo of the original menu board at the new location, the $2.95 'Joe's It' sign is posted under the 'Chocolate coated Banana' sign. It's better than the factory-made It's It made in Burlingame.

                        When Mother's cookies reorganized and was sold, the oatmeal cookie was pulled and the Murashige family stopped making their Joe's It. We were devastated. Other cookies were tested and did not meet the standards. Fortunately for us all, Mother's cookies are available again and All's right with the world. Joe's It is back on the Menu Board.

                      2. re: dulce lover

                        I second the It's It suggestion. It's a SF classic, and they taste as great as ever.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          It's It is not the same now as eating it at Playland at the Beach... not the same taste at all. :^(

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            I'm not saying I wouldn't take a fresh made hand dipped one in a heartbeat, but they're still really, really good.

                            It helps to defrost them, or find one that's not rock hard. They're top notch for a retail packaged ice cream sandwich.

                    2. In addition to Singleguychef's fabulous recs:
                      Flour + Water
                      Perbacco (or the less casual next door Barbacco)
                      Ozumo or Blowfish (for sushi)
                      Tony's Pizza Napoletana
                      House of Nanking (I say worth the hype - many others will disagree)

                      1. none of the suggestions thus far are what i'd consider "price is not an issue" "fine dining" that is on a level similar to benu.

                        for dinners look into:

                        jai yun (but they won't accommodate a single diner)

                        the azizza tasting menu might be good, but i've only tried a few a la carte dishes.

                        for lunches look into:

                        one market
                        swan's oyster depot

                        nice places open pretty late.:

                        ice cream bar
                        flour + water (if you wanted a great pasta dish really late at night -- but there might be a long wait.)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          +1 on Quince, Tadich & Nopalito. All are outstanding and offer a quintessential SF experience.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              these posts are from a couple years ago. they don't anymore, or at least haven't the last couple times i tried.

                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                That's what some people said two years ago. Worth a try.

                          1. Must go!

                            1.Plow- Protrero Hill
                            If they have the friend chicken, don't think twice about ordering anything else. Their potatoes are to die for.

                            1. Gary Danko- Fisherman's Wharf $$$$
                            2. La Mar- Embarcadero $$$
                            The octopus is hands down, one of my favorite things in this world
                            3.$$ Mr. Pollo
                            Get there as soon as they open! Go with the tasting menu. Be prepared to be there all night and leave smelling like food but well worth it.

                            Ice Cream-
                            1. Salted Caramel Ice cream.
                            2. Marco Polo

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: freaknut101

                              is there anything about these places that make them particularly suitable for a visitor from new york, or are these just places you've been to that you liked? i like several of these places a lot, but i really don't know if you can't get something very similar in nyc. and apart from gary danko, they aren't particularly fine dining-ey.

                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                I think Marco Polo is a very SF thing, I never was able to find durian ice cream in NYC.

                                There also isn't a lot Peruvian in NYC and La Mar is great for upscale Peruvian.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  Marco Polo's soursop, jackfruit, and black sesame flavors are at the top of my list.
                                  1447 Taraval St
                                  (between 24th Ave & 25th Ave)
                                  San Francisco, CA 94116
                                  Cash only.
                                  Mon-Sun 12 pm - 10 pm

                              2. Atelier Crenn
                                3127 Fillmore Street
                                (415) 440-0460

                                Keiko à Nob Hill
                                1250 Jones Street
                                (415) 829-7141

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Cynsa

                                  I would definitely try to hit one of these places for a blow your mind experience.

                                  For ice cream, I would head to Mitchell's before anything else. Its texture and flavor intensity is what takes it for me.

                                  1. re: weshoke

                                    Indeed, that's the special extra 2% of butter fat in MItchell's ice cream.

                                    1. re: weshoke

                                      I've always found Mitchell's to have a waxy, ice chippy consistency. Agree about their flavors though. Smitten Ice Cream wins the texture and flavor intensity battle by a longshot, in my opinion. You can't beat made to order ice cream.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        I've never had any Mitchell's with ice chippy texture. I would describe it more as a taffy-ice cream thing. Smitten has a different texture altogether, which is consistently smooth and creamy. It's a different beast. Smitten's flavors tend to not be as intense. I do like Smitten though.

                                      2. re: weshoke

                                        Some of Mitchell's unusual flavors, such as buko (young coconut) and macapuno (coconut sport) are really good, but I find the texture waxy and unpleasant, with a greasy finish.

                                      3. re: Cynsa

                                        Cynsa, I did some research about Atelier Crenn and it looks really exciting! I reserved a table... Thanks for your great suggestion! :)