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Aug 3, 2012 04:04 PM

San Fran for Three Days - Need "Experience" Reccomendations - Beyond the Food

Visiting San Fran this week and could use suggestions on anything from breakfast to lunch to dinner to drinks - but specifically looking for anything that's an "experience" (beyond the food). It could be a dinner show or an outrageous brunch or a killer view or just some old cheesy theme-spot that's over the top and worth the trip. We generally like fun, lively spots. Music is always great.

Also interested in Chinatown for lunch. We're two adults and two kids but we generally drag our kids along even if it's not necessarily kid-friendly. We may have a babysitter one night as well, so don't hold back :) Thanks.

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  1. Suzu's in J-town (or the manga cafe on the bridge). Advise against Chinatown.

    1. some of these suggestions will be touristy and some are old time SF

      Drinks at the top of the Mark or Starlight room.

      Sushi boat style eating can be fun if you have never experienced it before.

      Starlight room does a Drag brunch on Sundays.

      Tommy's Joint might be fun. its cafateria style with a huge selection of food, including buffalo.

      State bird provisions is a dim sum style service for non asian food.

      If you drop the kids one night, supper club is pretty interesting. the food is not great, its ok, but the experience is pretty interesting. from walking in the door, to eating dinner in bed. good entertainment while you are eating in bed.

      if you are kid free, bourbon and branch is a good drinking experience. check the web site before going. just to know the rules.

      The only place I eat in Chinatown is Hunan Homes, dont know if they are open for lunch. but Naked Lunch is a few blocks away for a killer sammie

      1 Reply
      1. re: smatbrat

        Great recs. Thanks. The Starlight drag brunch looks great (checked it out on yelp). Not sure about bringing the kids though.

      2. Sounds like Beach Blanket Babylon in North Beach would fit your itinerary to a T. Drinks with atmosphere and good osso buco can be found nearby at Capp's Corner.

        1. How young are your kids? If the weather is nice, Park Chalet is a fun spot. I've only had drinks there, I imagine the food is fine but not amazing, but it's really pretty, right by the beach (and the park), and the kids can run around on the lawn while you drink.

          3 Replies
          1. re: possumspice

            Kids = 9 and 11. I don't think I'm ready to have a "drag queen" conversation with them - but the drag brunch looks like fun. Park Chalet looks nice and yea - the kids can run around. Thanks.

            1. re: fullmix

              Here in SF - the drag queen converstion will come up on its own :)

              Musee Mecanique is awesome

            2. re: possumspice

              yes if it is nice, then the Chalet, park or beach are nice to be at. I do not recommend you eat much there. Its the type of place where your burger does NOT come with fries, you must order them seperately. Drinks yes! its a brewery with great beer

              I second Beach Blanket babalon

              and I will say that your kids are going to be exposed to all kinds of things here that may create a need to ave a "talk" with them.

            3. Tonga Room. Eat elsewhere.

              Tadich Grill or Sam's Grill. They're quite similar, I prefer the latter as it's easier to get in, not as touristy, and the food's not as old-school-in-a-bad-way.

              Tommaso's for pizza. Line up with the locals.

              Capp's Corner for the last hurrah of old-school North Beach dining.

              Blooms Saloon on Potrero Hill. Best view in the city. Look down on the Top of the Mark and other tourist bars. 21 & over though. While you're out there, walk or drive down Vermont St. between 20th and 22nd, the crookedest street in San Francisco and hit Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous for ice cream.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Mr and Mrs is great, and The Ramp for brunch is fun, you're overlooking the shipyard.

                I would strongly skip top of the mark in favor of the Starlight Room. TotM is great for white suited waiters, but the windows are small by modern standards and you can't really look out. When there's a live swing band that's worth it - you might have to call. Mr Lauriston is correct about Blooms, but doesn't mention Farley's across the street - a neighborhood gem of a coffee shop, with board games and such. Dates from the 60's post-beat period, similar in time to Vesuvio and City Lights (good atmosphere at Vesuvio, never had a drink I liked there - would probably recommend the Irish Coffee).

                Skip tommy's joynt - the food is cheap, the atmosphere isn't that great. Add House of Prime Rib, for dinner assuming the entire family likes a good prime rib - there's nothing else really on the menu - it's a "my way or the highway" kind of place. Unassuming on the outside, big Zepplin of Prime Rib on the inside - and martinis. It's somewhat all-inclusive, so the place doesn't end up being that expensive.

                I would not suggest Park Chalet. The best part is the murals and romping on the surf, but then you should go up to the cliff house or Louis'. My favorite beach is Baker beach, where you get a naval gun emplacement and an amazing view of the bay bridge (the best oceanside view that's not from marin). No food there.

                The best fisherman's wharf view is at The Franciscan, but you'll leave unhappy about the food. Have a beer & a coke in the afternoon after tromping through the museums (like the musee mechanique).

                The bar/joint Pier 23 is hopping on a Sunday. Motorcyclists, blues bands, burgers. Not quite as fun as taking the ferry to Tiburon and hitting Sam's, but pretty happening.

                +1 on Tommasos.

                Easiest place to catch music is Yoshi's. Good kitchen, shows all ages, very spiffy place. The restaurant / lounge in the front often has smaller acts, too, so you can go and get decent food and music without sitting through an actual performance.

                I'm sure you already know about the Exploratorium. You may not know about the Wave Organ a short walk away - one of the best untourist SF spots. If you can finagle your way into the St Francis Yacht Club, you're a better fakir than I. There's not a lot to eat down there otherwise, just assume you're catching a cab elsewhere.

                The food inside the Academy of Science is supposed to be good now - Phan took it over - and I like the ever-touristy tea in the tea garden across the way. Sometimes you catch Lindy in the Park at the bandshell - I think that's sunday mornings.

                On the same side of town as the Exploratorium is the Union Street shopping district. It doesn't get a lot of love here, but one place I've been wanting to try is Umami Burger, the LA import. Not good enough for dinner, but perhaps good enough for lunch. Is Netty's any good?

                The Off The Grid franchise of trucks has events. It's a royal pain these days, with slow food service and long lines, and occasionally good food. It is atmosphere.

                Bix fills your bill - music most nights, food is OK but doesn't get a lot of love, that barbary coast feel. Not very tourist, but some tourist.

                If there's a street thing in the mission, go, for sure. Walk down 24th to Humphrey Slocolmbe. Get tacos somewhere - one of the classic hole-in-wall around 24th is El Faralito at the corner of mission and 24th.

                For chinese, a couple of the classic dim sum places like Gold Mountain have closed. Empress of China is a chinatown place with big views, an authentic menu, and pretty fun. Just make sure you get a view - small groups get placed in the nice looking but non-view side. There are multiple floors as well. You can't say the food is great, especially if you just drop in and you're not second-cousin-once-removed from the chef, but it's an upscale and fun experience. Chinese people will tell you it's too expensive. Make sure you find a fortune cookie factory and watch the machine.

                Trust Chowhound over Yelp. Yelp ends up being the tyranny of the majority - 23 year olds who don't know anything - Chowhound is people who have lived and eaten san francisco for decades.

                I can't really understand not being able to talk about transsexuals to an 11 year old. 8 is a little young, maybe 9 - but 11? Perhaps that's why I'm every parent's favorite Uncle, and not a Dad. The area you might really avoid if you don't want to have those talks are the Tenderloin, if you don't like that kind of thing, even though you get Bahn Mi and the best cheap indian (TandoorLoin, including Shalimar and Pakwan, definitely Joints) and a real Experience. And avoid the Haight, especially the Drug Tunnel (the underground walkway at the west end of the Haight).

                That's a few things for you. Report back!

                1. re: bbulkow

                  bbulkow, I'd "like" your post if we had that feature (not that I want that feature, but you get my drift). Very useful IMO as a gastrotourist myself.

                  Another fun thing near the wharf is the boats at Hyde Pier, including Balclutha. Best $5 spent in town IMO. And not far from the empanadas at Tanguito which are tasty, reasonable and fun to eat.

                  Also love the (free) cable car museum that is not that far away.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    And the Musee Mechanique, Jeremia O'Brien, and Pampanito submarine are all right there...

                    I've never had anyone not love the Musee Mechanique!

                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      as a native, it is one of my most favorite things to do. Hyde pier, sea lions and that cool maritime museum.

                      1. re: smatbrat

                        Agreed. I love just standing on the back deck of the Balclutha, looking out to GGB and Marin.

                        I had a great experience with the jeramiah o brien back when it was at Pier 3, where they were pulling a main engine bearing that day, and getting to walk the shaft galley. Not sure if either of those things are regular.

                  2. re: bbulkow

                    bbulkow said:
                    "Trust Chowhound over Yelp. Yelp ends up being the tyranny of the majority - 23 year olds who don't know anything - Chowhound is people who have lived and eaten san francisco for decades."

                    Very well stated.