My SF Trip Recap and Thanks
I got back Wednesday afternoon from my short trip and wanted to thank everyone here for the helpful advice on my itinerary. I didn't get everywhere I wanted, but I had a great time and got some delicious food.
Sunday: We took the BART from the airport to Powell with the goal of going to our hotel, quickly dropping off our bags and heading to Mission for some shopping and food. Well, the Huntington, while a nice hotel, is way at the top of the hill, and we walked it. By the time we got to the 16th St. stop, it was nearly noon and we were starving. We went to Tartine and the sandwiches looked great. I wound up getting the Sopressata and Fontina grilled sandwich, along with some assorted baked goods, and we were able to snag an outside table and enjoy lunch.
I didn't know about Sunday Streets, but we were in the thick of it, what a fun scene. We walked and shopped, stopped at Four Barrel for a delicious iced coffee, and eventually made our way over to Humphry Slocombe. I had a double of Secret Breakfast and Vietnamese Iced Coffee and enjoyed every bit of it.
By the time we were done with ice cream they were taking down the barriers, so we went back to the hotel to check in. We took the streetcar up this time, but we didn't really want to go too far for dinner. We found the Nob Hill Cafe right there on Taylor, and we had a nice pasta dinner there.
Monday we went to Ferry Building and what a happy place that is...I want to come back for the Saturday market. We had grilled cheese at the Cowgirl Sidekick, baked goods, bread, salumi, coffee at Blue Bottle, and thoroughly enjoyed everything they had there.
Monday night we went over to Pican in Oakland for dinner for my birthday. I had a cocktail they called the Black Hand, which was Bourbon, basil, balsamic reduction and ginger beer. It was delicious and refreshing. We split an appetizer of pork meatballs with an apple kimchi and spicy sauce - the server told us they had a new chef who is Cambodian, so they were trying out some new specials with a goal of revising the menu.
My wife got their fried chicken, and I went with the duck breast, which was very good - it came with a sweet potato hash, and broccolini sauteed with spicy sausage. We also split their roasted cauliflower. Dessert was an apple dumpling, really more of an apple galette with buttermilk spice ice cream. We definitely enjoyed this dinner, it's worth the short trip over.
Tuesday we rented a car and first went to Brenda's French Soul Food for breakfast. We split a beignet flight - which was amazing, especially the crawfish one - and I had the hangtown fry. The oysters in that were really tasty and crispy. Good strong chicory coffee, New Orleans jazz in the background...we'll be back here.
We drove up to Sonoma, which took virtually no time, and we tasted wines at Cline and Jacuzzi, which were both very enjoyable - friendly, free tastings, reasonable bottles. We bought several bottles at both wineries. We tried tasting at Gloria Ferrer - they don't do tasting, just full glasses. We decided to break for lunch around then.
We drove to El Molino Central, which didn't really look all that inviting, I thought it would be more of a table service place, and nobody greeted us for about five minutes. It may have been a little early for them, who knows. We tried a couple of other places, and decided to go for lunch at the Fremont Diner. We liked the middle-of-nowhere feeling, and the food was very good. I had the Nashville spicy chicken, which came out an angry red-orange and was super hot but delicious. Their horchata shake went well with that.
We tasted a couple other wineries including Gundlach Bundschu, and decided to stop off at Ram's Gate before heading back. They had just renovated, and were doing both tastings as well as wine and food pairings in their beautiful open-air setting. We were charmed by the breezy glassed-in seating area, and shared a sit-down tasting, more of a flight of small glasses of wine really. We also got some spiced carmelized almonds to go with the wine. We could have hung out there all afternoon.
We got back to the hotel, and by this time my stomach was letting me know that my spicy chicken wasn't the best idea. My wife was a little hungry for dinner, so we went back to Nob Hill Cafe and tried a pizza from them, which was also very good, not too thin on the crust with nice ricotta. I didn't want to repeat a restaurant, but it was so close and reasonable there.
On the way out of town Wednesday we stopped at Dottie's for breakfast, which was also very good. I had their cornmeal blueberry pancakes, and my wife had their pulled pork scramble. Both were excellent, and I can see why that place is so popular.
I had a great time visiting San Francisco, and I'm eager to get back soon.
>We drove to El Molino Central, which didn't really look all that inviting, I thought it would be more of a table service place, and nobody greeted us for about five minutes<
For future reference, El Molino Central is not a table service place. You place your order at the cash register and then go to a table; they bring your order to you. I describe the food there as Mexican food in the way that Fremont Diner is diner food, definitely kicked up a very good level or two.
Oddly enough, we never did have a meal there, but we did have coffee there nearly every morning, and we had a drink or two at the end of the evening. I liked the dark, quiet clubby atmosphere and I will definitely try Big 4 sometime for food. They were super nice there, usually didn't charge us for coffee.
re: Malcolm Ruthven
I agree with your assessment of the food. However, do have to say that on two separate occasions at El Molino Central I have had the same experience as the OP: standing around waiting for someone to greet me, or even acknowledge my presence in the place, even if I stood right in front of the cash register. Both times (after waiting quite some time) I finally spoke up to ask, "excuse me, is there anyone who can take an order?", and then they did. One of those times the person who took my order apologized and said they thought I had already ordered and was waiting for take out; the other time they just came over and took the order with no comment, explanation or apology. It was definitely off-putting.
Whether we agree or disagree, are hurt you took our recommendations or are privately happy you like what one of us said, THANK YOU for reporting back!!! It means more than you think. You get to the point of "Why even bother offering suggestions to visitors if they don't even report back?" And bless Melanie for tying the original request with the response (it helps if they stay tied together). My hat off to you , sir! I had nothing to with your thread but my appreciation that you took the time to offer your opinion and experience you had based on what others took the time to offer means everything. I just wish more people would do the same. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip here and I hope you come back soon.