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Jul 24, 2012 10:46 PM

2 days in San Francisco: what/ where to eat?


I've never been to San Francisco and I'll be there for a weekend.

Any recommendations for food? I don't want to screw up and eat at a tourist trap chain.

I'm staying downtown/ lower nob hill, I like to walk.

I have the day alone to explore on Friday (fortunately I love sitting at the bar alone for meals) and I'd like to make a reservation somewhere awesome for dinner Friday/ Sat.

My husband and I live in Portland, we'd like to get food that we can't get at home. He doesn't eat seafood but I love it.

Any advice?

Thank you so much!

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  1. Just started visiting your home city and it is a food cornucopia! We also do two gastrotrips a year to SF. If you want to stay within reasonable distance of your hotel, see if Canteen has space for you for your dinner. This is comfort food, elevated with hyperlocal ingredients in an old hotel cafe. The menu descriptions don't quite do the food justice. Tadich Grill (no resos) and Sam's (resos for dinner) are also reasonably nearby if you are craving some simply prepared local fish such as petrale sole or sand dabs in an old school kinda setting. Barbacco and Perbacco are also walkable for you. The former is (dare I say it?) "younger" in atmosphere and for me has more interesting dishes, while the latter is more of a dining experience. Both are solid but maybe not thrilling. For Italian nearish by I preferred Cotogna if you can get a reservation (I understand dinner ones are challenging -- we had no trouble getting one for lunch with a bit of notice).

    Apart from Canteen these reccos are all based on one visit so YMMV. You might want to provide a bit more detail about your price range or other types of food you like to help the local Hounds help you! There are lots of great places for you to lunch if you're willing to cab or take transit, for example. Have a wonderful trip, it's a great city.

    1. Let us know what you like in Portland - It's one of my favorite destinations.
      I'd probably direct you to more Chinese/Hakka/Sichuan/Beijing cuisine - if you're interested.
      How spendy do you want for the weekend? A.Q. is delightful. Bar Tartine is fun and good for sharing plates.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Cynsa

        Thanks for the feedback! My favorite Portland places: Tasty N Sons, Navarre, Wildwood, Lovely's 50 50, Biwa, Pok Pok, Meriwether's, Laurelhurst market (I usually get the fish there) and bunk bar. It's hard for me to guess price, I lived in NY before Portland and I know Portland is super cheap. I am less excited about fancy places, I like the idea of someplace with specific local flavors and smaller plates. Younger more interesting setting sounds better (I'm not as interested in formal). I'm happy to take a cab.

        1. re: mariospeedwagon

          I think places like Bar Tartine, Frances, Flour + Water, Delfina etc. would fit the bill. Also Bar Crudo or Nopa (the neighborhood has a little less to do than say the Mission - but there are a string of bars/restaurants in the area).

          Make sure to either get reservations, or go super early or late if it's a weekend. SF's popular eateries fill up fast.

          1. re: mariospeedwagon

            Canteen is always at the top of my list for dinner. Brenda's French Soul Food. Mission Beach Cafe. Little Star for deep dish pizza (you have great pizza in Portland at Apizza Scholls). A La Turka or Old Jerusalem.
            For a Friday neighborhood walk: Clement Street between Arguello and 12th Avenue; Irving Street between Park Presidio and 25th Avenue; Irving Street between 3rd Ave. and 10th Ave. and between Judah and Lincoln Way at 9th Ave.; 24th Street btw Potrero and Mission St.; Valencia btw 15th Street and 24th Street more or less. San Francisco is a walking city. Walks through North Beach and Chinatown are easy and convenient. MUNI is easy transportation.
            Saturday morning farmer's market at the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero.

            1. re: mariospeedwagon

              I wouldn't worry about formal settings; SF is a lot closer to Portland than NY with respect to restaurant casualness. A typical NYer going out to dinner would look unusually dressy going out to a meal of a similar caliber in SF.

          2. Tadich's Grill is my favorite.

            1. i host visitors (parents / brother) from portland several times a year and try to take them to places they don't have access to.

              swan's and tadich are very old-school seafood places that would be great for your friday lunch. if you were ambitious you could do both (appetizers at swan's, entree at tadich, etc.) or you could instead do tadich for a dinner -- they have plenty of non-seafood options as well (but seafood is their specialty.)

              i'd strongly recommend jai yun for dinner, if you aren't price sensitive. (~100pp all in.)

              don't miss the ferry building farmer's market on saturday morning.

              yank sing is upscale dim sum -- a bit of an sf institution. good for lunch one day.

              boulette's larder serves upscale brunch on sundays.

              perbacco, barbacco, cotogna, flour+water, delfina are all good italian places. though i'm not convinced portland doesn't have good italian food. fwiw i like farina more than any of these, though farina is more italian-italian than cal-italian (and a bit more expensive.)

              pakwan or old jerusalem are great choices for indian and persian, respectively -- more downscale. more upscale is amber india -- they have pretty amazing tandoori chicken.

              hakkasan, r&g lounge, z&y are other nice chinese restaurants.

              i'd say japanese at ino, kappa, or kiss, but since your husband doesn't do seafood, i'd skip.

              there are of course also plenty of michelin starred many-course fancy mostly-french places (i don't think portland has many of these), but it sounds like this isn't what you're looking for. but if it is, gary danko is a crowd pleaser and keiko's has the best food imo. saison, crenn, benu, coi have two michelin stars and are a lot like other 2-michelin star places around the world (so if you've never been to one, they'd be representative.) crenn is probably the best of these.

              oh, actually, come to think of it, the lounge at keiko's could be an okay choice if you wanted some japanese food -- they have good meat options as well. chotto could be good too.

              oh, there's also han il kwan for korean food.

              fwiw, i've been to all the ones i mentioned several times each, and taken family from portland to most of them.

              swan's and yank sing are my brother's favorites.

              chotto and han il kwan are my parent's favorites.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Dustin_E

                Neither Swan Oyster Depot nor Tadich Grill takes reservations, so going to both could mean a lot of waiting in line. Sam's Grill is very similar to Tadich and takes reservations.

                I don't think there's any need to get the top-price menu at Jai Yun. I think the sweet spot is the second-lowest price, which I think is now $55 or $60 per person.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  don't bother with swan's on a weekend -- the line is miserable. i don't know how it is on weekdays.

                  where did you hear jai yun lowered their menu price? for two people, their website lists the lowest price at $98pp.

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    What web site? is abandoned.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston


                      not entirely sure this is official or up to date, but it matches what they told me last time i called iirc.