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Heading to San Francisco in Mid April from Boston

I will be in San Francisco for a few days with my girlfriend. Looking for a suggestion on Saturday Night. So far we are going to head out to Absinthe Bar, Swan Oyster and Incanto. We may try Barbacco on Saturday-but not 100% sure. We are staying off of Market Street. Looking maybe for something that has great cheese, salumi, oyster, charcuterie to start and then into roast chicken or meat protein (Bistro type). Enjoy both wine and cocktails. Not restricted to budget or taking a taxi outside of San Francisco if 'must try' We also will be heading out to Sausalito on Friday. Also if there is a must try ice cream shop-heard mixed reviews. Thank you-

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  1. Well, I don't think you can get better roast chicken that at Zuni Cafe. Plus they have a great oyster bar. If you're into a Belgian restaurant for mussels, Plouf is fantastic. Nice little European-feeling area where you can sit outside or in by the fire.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mousse

      Range's roast chicken is, to me, better. Tho i do love their oyster bar.
      Agree with Plouf!

      1. re: mousse

        The mussels at Plouf are fine but a recent visit reminded me that you're also paying a Belden Alley tax of sorts. A bowl of mussels, fish and chips (not good), salad, dessert, 2 drinks was high $80s and after tip over $100. You can eat a lot better for that money in this town IMO. I'm also not a fan of the BA hawkers who wave passersby into their restaurants; it only heightens the touristy sensation.

        1. re: rubadubgdub

          ohhh, counterpoint - i happen to LOVE their fish and chips - variety of fish, less batter than most fish & chips i've had at other places... yeah, Plouf is not cheap but i still like it, recommend it. i do still think it's a fun atomosphere, despite hawkers, which are a non-issue once you're seated. i've spent many a day, as a non-tourist, whiling away the hours in that alley.

          1. re: mariacarmen

            I could swear we had frozen fish. It was completely even, flat with panko breading, like a Gordon's fish stick. Tasteless. Fries are odd little limp nubbins that they seem to favor in that alley (same as Bastille).

            1. re: rubadubgdub

              wow, that's so weird! when i've had it they've served a combo of fishes - salmon, cod.... maybe it's changed... that's too bad...

          2. re: rubadubgdub

            I don't know if it's fair to generalize about Belden places' prices. Sam's is cheaper than Tadich. I'm pretty sure B44 is cheaper than Contigo.

            Plouf's online menu lists mussels as $15.50, is that right? Fries add $5. That's not very expensive by SF standards. I've always had bad luck ordering other things there.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I haven't looked at the prices recently so that bill did catch me by surprise (it felt like all we ate was a bowl of mussels with a small side of fries and dessert since we didn't enjoy the fish). I'm also not remembering any great meals I've had in that alley. It's gotten to feel like they depend on the alley ambiance to supply what's missing in the food and to me that feels very much like a touristy place.

              1. re: rubadubgdub

                I think Belden is a place you definitely have to pick and choose. i've had good dishes at B44, Plouf, Tiramisu, and Cafe Bastille, reliably, the same ones. For instance, I adore the merguez and eggs with frites at Bastille. That's all i ever get there. Love the mussels gratinee at Plouf, as an alternative to the other "normally" prepared mussels (all of which i love). their potato wrapped scallop used to be a stand-out, and a stand-by, but i think the last time i had it, it had gone downhill a little. at Tiramisu, i love the Pappardelle with Wild Boar. At B44, the faves are the oxtail, the grilled lamb brochette, the churrasco steak, the B44 paella, the baby octopus!! You do have to go enough times to find the gems, but they are there.

                i'm not trying to convince YOU, rubadubgdub, per se... just trying to tell people there are very worthy dishes there in a very festive setting, frequented by many, many locals (especially at lunch, which is when we always went.)

        2. Zuni does seem to fit the description well, but the chicken at Zuni takes forever. It's like an hour or something; the menu even warns the diner about it. Personally I'm not into it (I'm not really a chicken guy), but it can arguably be called a signature SF dish, so, your call.

          For charcuterie, my choice is La Folie's little lounge next door. They've got pretty good charcuterie, among other things. Casual but elegant, tasty snacks. That can be like your pre-dinner place, perhaps.

          I think Barbacco is okay, I go there sometimes for a quick dinner, but I don't know if that's the place I'd pick if you've only got one restaurant left, especially if you're already going to Incanto. My recommendation would probably something very "California," like Foreign Cinema (although last time I went they seemed to be flirting with Moroccan a little), or Nopa, or Starbelly. Somewhere like that. Of course if money is no object, there's always Coi.

          Anyway you're probably going to get several dozen recommendations right now; probably most of them will be good, so here we go...

          1. You mentioned oysters. There is one place you must NOT go: Skool. They have cheap oysters but everything there is bland and very disappointing. Their lamb dish was devoid of muttony flavours. A friend thought it tasted like pork. To take mutton and turned it into mystery meat is a feat. On second thoughst, maybe you should try it for the novelty of what an over-priced restaurant should not be. I went there fooled by their 5-star reviews on Yelp.

            1. Be aware of Swan Oyster's hours... they close at 5:30 pm, so you might want to start out there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: waldrons

                yep, get there by 10:45 to get first seating at 11:00. otherwise, there is a line.

                1. re: waldrons

                  Swan's isn't worth the hassle, and there's really nothing special about it.
                  The hours are for senior citizens.
                  The line is for masochists.
                  The no-credit card policy is for tax cheats (not to mention being a cheesy form of customer abuse).
                  The oysters are just as good, if not better, elsewhere.
                  If I was coming in from out of town, I'd make a reservation at Zuni instead.
                  It's much nicer.

                2. I agree that Zuni serves a great roasted chicken, and it does take 45 minutes, but I think its well worth the wait. It comes with a fantastic bread salad that's dressed in the chicken drippings, and the chicken itself is perfect.

                  While Barbacco isn't a bad choice, why not go to Perbacco next door? IMO their food is much better, and only a little pricier than Barbacco. If you are interested in Italian, I'd also highly recommend Delfina and Cotogna.

                  Some great choices for ice cream are Bi-Rite (love the salted caramel), Humphrey Slocombe (known for their "secret breakfast" ice cream with bourbon and cornflakes), and Smitten, who makes each cup to order, with different flavors seasonally. I think all three are equally good, but different, and I'd probably make the decision on where to go based on which neighborhood you might want to visit.

                  If you have time, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays is always a good food destination. Even if you can't go on Saturday, the Ferry Building has a great cheese shop called Cowgirl Creamery with an incredible selection.

                  Have fun!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LaBuonaForchetta

                    I think the food's equally good at Perbacco and Barbacco (the salumi are the same), the former just has more elaborate stuff, and is quite a bit more expensive, more of a special occasion / blowout place.