Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 20, 2012 10:51 AM

Help me with my SF, Napa, and Big Sur dinner picks?

I have narrowed down dining choices for a special trip in August with my husband, and would love input!

Preferences: Healthier, lighter food (Californian/Italian/Mediteranean/Japanese--yes. French/Chinese--not so much). Great food is a must, but ambiance is important too. We don't want places so loud we cannot hear each other. Sitting next to each other is a huge bonus (but not a must). I would like to mix things up somewhat, while still staying true to our preferences.

AQ or Boulevard.
Would also consider Prospect or Bar Agricole.
*We would prefer to be conveniently located to the Market Street & 3rd/4th Street area this evening--either walking distance or a brief cab ride.

Quince for a Birthday Dinner.
Would also consider Perbacco or Atelier Crenn.

The Farm at Carneros Inn.
*(Probably not subject to change unless somewhere else very close to the Inn.)

*We prefer a Yountville restaurant for this night.

Would also consider Redd Wood.
*We prefer a Yountville restaurant for this night.

Wednesday/Big Sur:
Big Sur Bakery

Thursday/Big Sur:
Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Would nix Bar Agricole and Boulevard as choices. Bar Agricole good for drinks/atmosphere but otherwise Agricole and Boulevard get mediocre food reviews.

    Also, would take a cab to AQ not walk (if at night) as its not the most comfortable area to walk in.

    Perbacco, Quince, and Atelier Crenn are rather different restaurants from each other. Atelier Crenn is very adventurous and earnest fine dining. Quince (my understanding) is more solid, but innovative Italian inspired, and Perbacco is solidly Italian. The vibe at Perbacco is not the best on Saturday nights (being in the financial district).

    I'd also consider Aziza for your Saturday night meal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Thank you. :) Based on your comments, I am inclined to pick AQ for Friday, and Quince for Saturday. But I have been very intrigued by Aziza and would consider it for Saturday's birthday dinner...would you consider it a special occasion place?

      1. re: goldangl95

        I'm one of those who really enjoy the food at Bar Agricole. I've been 3 - 4x and the food just gets better. It also has a large bar in front and outdoor seating so you can continue your evening that way if you wish. That said, Friday in SOMA will bring a certain nightlife seeking crowd so you have to decide if that's your scene.

        I think Atelier Crenn is the outlier in the dining choices you list. AC is visually dazzling yet delicious. The rest will have a similar style/vibe so I say go for something different for one night!

        In Big Sur, I love to eat breakfast @ Cafe Kevah on the Nepenthe terrace outside. Nice breakfast in gorgeous setting right on the ocean at normal prices.

      2. Sierra Mar has an amazing view that is definitely worth seeing, but i wouldn't expect too terribly much food-wise. you might consider lunch or wine / dessert during the day instead of the dinner. (my last visit was a couple years ago.)

        boulevard is kinda like a steakhouse, but less good. but i haven't been to your other 3 alternatives for this night.

        quince is a lot more upscale than azizza or perbacco. you might also consider chez panisse in berkeley -- i'd pick this over quince, which to me feels very "corporate".

        perbacco is loud.

        depending on where you're visiting from, a japanese meal at kiss or kappa could be a good choice.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Dustin_E


          Wonderful itinerary. I particularly like that you haven't overloaded it with multiple places on the same day.

          For the Napa Valley section, dinner at Farm at the Carneros Inn is quite fun. It's romantic at the tables and more sociable at the bar where the full menu is served. We most always meet interesting people there.

          For Yountville, it's Redd for sure. Dinner on the front patio on a warm night is a thing of wonder. Bottega? Not so much. Feels a bit theatrical and formulaic. I'd rather go to Bouchon across the street for the French/California inflection. Definitely can offer lighter fare in a more intimate environment than Bottega.

          Though you didn't ask, here are some thoughts for breakfast/brunch to complement your dinners:
          *. The Boon Fly Cafe at the Carneros Inn. A local favorite. Eggs Benedict, breakfast flatbread or good old eggs, ham and hashbrowns. fun.

          *. Fremont Diner on the road between Sonoma and Napa. Top ingredients, homemade baked goods and a southern inspired menu at this funky, delicious and inventive re-done drive in. Loyal following.

          *. French Blue in St. Helena. Brand new French/ California cafe open 7am-11pm seven days per week. Breakfast is 7-11 featuring delicate eggs and delicious sides. Stunning design by Napa star architect, Howard Backen.

          Have fun.

          1. re: cortez

            Such great advice! Thank you all.
            Rubadubgdub.--I like your thinking...Now I'm thinking Atelier Crenn for Saturday's birthday dinner. It is definitely the most unique and I would love to wow my husband. For Friday, I will have to think more about AQ v Bar Agricole. I have read great things about both. Would consider Italian too if it's somewhere casual and not too far from our base...hmm.
            Cortez--Redd for sure, then, and I will look at Bouchon as a possible substitute for Bottega. And for The Farm--We'll make a dining room reservation, and make an on the spot decision as to whether to sit in the bar instead. We love at-the-bar dining, and do it often. And thank you for the breakfast suggestions!!
            Dustin--Do you have any other suggestions for our last night in Big Sur (if not Sierra Mar)?
            Thanks again, all, you have been very helpful. :)