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Apr 10, 2012 08:19 AM

San Francisco/Napa 40th Birthday Trip - June 7/8/9/10

We're coming from Vermont to San Francisco for 2 days, Napa for 2 days, and I have two questions for this most esteemed board:

1. We have a lunch reservation at the French Laundry on Saturday, the 9th. We originally planned to spend Saturday and Sunday nights in Napa - should we stay in Yountville? (Do we need to spend Friday night too? FL is at 11:30 am.) I found what looks to be a somewhat nicer place to stay in Calistoga, but for convenience - any thoughts on the best location to position ourselves in Napa, given that we're doing the FL lunch thing on Saturday, probably doing wineries on Sunday? Thoughts on where to eat Sunday?

2. Can I get your best, cheap, unpretentious but awesome recommendations in SF for breakfast and dinner to provide the counterpoint to our Keller experience on Saturday? I'm a public defender, and I have every intention of loving the French Laundry, but given our budget, if we could be pointed to the opposite extreme in deliciousness for the beginning of our trip, I'd be most appreciative.

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  1. Calistoga's much nicer than the city of Napa, which has a lot of ugly suburban sprawl and industrial neighborhoods.

    Cheap eats in SF:

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      We always stay at the Napa Valley Lodge in Yountville - you can walk to French laundry - a big plus after wine - no driving.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I think we were between staying in Yountville (site of our BIG lunch) or Calistoga. It might not matter much, I suppose - I have been through Napa on two other occasions and so I knew that Napa was ugly, and that Sonoma is a lot prettier, but no way to compare Calistoga, Healdsburg, or Yountville.

        Cheap Eats in SF is too overwhelming - I've apparently been living in Vermont too long (after 2 years in NY, 3 in DC and 3 in Chicago, it seems I've been here for almost 10 years. . . ) If I narrow it to say Mexican and something like dumplings or any variant of Asian because those are things that seem California and are definitely NOT Vermont (though I can eat delicious cheese, pizza, locally sourced meat here), tell me like your three favorites . . .

        1. re: country mouse

          Asian: Shanghai Dumpling King, Old Mandarin (west lake dumplings), hand-pulled or knife cut noodles (a great treat, but I can only recommend places in the East Bay so see
          )Mexican & Salvadoran: cheap enough that you can hit three places for their specialties in one night: Poc-Chuc (appetizer plate or the Poc-chuc for a meal), La Santaneca for pupusas, carnitas taco at La Taqueria or Taqueria San Jose for pastor taco.

          1. re: country mouse

            Calistoga, Healdsburg, and Yountville are all nice. Yountville's maybe too nice, feels a bit like Carmel.

            Old Mandarin doesn't have pulled or knife-cut noodles, they have these gnocchi-like dumplings ("stirred flour balls") which to me are not one of the better things to order there.

        2. Calistoga is a bit out of the way from the more easier accessible wineries (say about 10 miles). This thread explores what wineries are somewhat around the area and has a very nice itinerary:

          Napa Valley is crawling with wineries, and really is only 25 miles across. As there's limits to how many wineries one can visit in a day, wherever you set up home base in Napa Valley will be close to an excellent set of wineries.

          1. I second the suggestion of staying in Yountville. We were there last month and stayed at the Vintage Inn, which is practically accross the street from the FL. The room rate includes a very generous buffet breakfast, which may be of interest if you are on a budget. Yountville is about 1/2 way between Napa and Calistoga, so it is a good midway point for winery visits, including many that are in or just on the outskirts of Yountville.

            1. You are only going to have coffee or tea before your lunch at FL, right? (Gotta be hungry for this place!)

              In SF, I love Dumpling Kitchen on Taraval (bet. 29th Ave/30th Ave). Closed Wed, opens about
              11 am and does not close in between lunch and dinner. (Closes at 9:30 pm). Delicious food, esp. dumplings. Get # 1 (soup dumplings) and # 8 (wontons steamed w/chili oil. Everything I've had there is great. They are very generous and reasonable. You can take the L Taraval streetcar to get there if you don't have a car. (Parking is easy.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: walker

                That sounds great - I will check into Dumpling Kitchen. Vermont has many pleasures, but really good Asian food and/or Mexican is not particularly among them. SF/Napa is as overwhelming as NYC, but we are there more frequently.

              2. I think you should spend Friday night in SF, get up early Saturday (you'll still be three hours ahead, anyway) and drop by the Ferry Plaza Farmers market (which opens at 8 a.m.) then head off to French Laundry.

                For dinner ... you're from Vermont, so how about hitting some taco trucks in the Napa area? Can't be more different (or cheaper) than that!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I love the idea of taco trucks and will not miss the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Thanks.