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Aug 15, 2012 09:52 PM

Thoughts on my rough itinerary, recommendations for an LA/OC hound?

Been to SF a few times and really want to experience the unique dining scene in SF. I imagine Thai, Vietnamese, pizza, and sushi I can skip?

I'd like to try new places, where I've been include: Tartine, Sotto Mare, Alembic (drinks and dessert), Aziza, and Dopo.

My rough itinerary (Friday thru Sunday)

Friday snack?
Friday dinner: Gary Danko (on the waitlist), back up is La Folie

AM: Ferry bldg farmer's mkt, any other must haves besides porchetta sandwich (I recently had a good version at Meat and Bread in Vancouver)
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Incanto, State Bird Provisions?

AM: Brenda's French Soul Food
Light lunch?
Pick up pastries/snacks for drive back: Anywhere else besides Tartine? Dynamo? Or Ike's Place worth a shot?
PM: ?

Cocktails: Absinthe, Agricole? Ok to just pop in for drinks or anywhere else?

I'm open on the dinners, just really want to do Gary Danko for sure. I've looked at the Michelin star guide, but would like to keep the other 2 dinners around $100 for 2 for just food. LA and OC has a lot of gastropub like fare these days, anywhere interesting? Mr Pollo worth a shot for lunch or dinner?

Also dessert/snack: Is Bi Rite a good choice vs Humphrey? I've done Fenton's but I thought it was more atmosphere than anything, although the bf has never been....

Thanks in advance! I looked for a thread specific to LA hounds, but couldn't find anything too recent for reccs for people from my neck of the woods.

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  1. You need to do a cal-italian place. Incanto works and some others would be Cotogna, Flour + Water, Locanda or Perbacco.

    Either Bi Rite or Humphrey is good. Bi Rite is more classic and by the park but the lines are insane. Humphrey's lines are a little better but the flavors are super bold and can be a tad overwhelming.

    Pastries - modern - Craftsman + Wolves.
    Pastries - more classic - Knead

    Cocktails - try Local Edition. Agricole is a good one too. Absinthe makes awesome cocktails but is more low key.

    1. Personally I would do Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous over either Bi-Rite or Humphrey if you are planning on an afternoon snack/dessert (they close at 6 p.m.).

      I strongly recommend AQ -- great food and great cocktails. Do you really want Danko/La Folie? Good as they are, if you want something unique to the SF dining scene, those don't qualify.

      I wouldn't dismiss pizza out of hand. San Francisco is having a pizza renaissance.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Agreed on Mr & Mrs over Bi-Rite or Humphrey.

        And big yes to AQ! Went for the first time two weeks ago with four others. Everything was delicious, and everyone was delighted. I haven't been to State Bird. Can't get a reservation.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Agree not to dismiss pizza in SF. We are having our own pizza renaissance down here in LA. Unfortunately it is hindered by the misunderstanding that Neapolitan pizza is best thin and crispy.

          Back to the OP. The Mess Piggy pork sandwich with peppers at Boccalone makes it easy to skip the line for Roli Roti's porchetta. I usually take it to wine merchant and open a bottle of wine from their store.

          Regarding Gark Danko you sound pretty set on it. I went a few times when I lived in the bay area. I think Morton the Moose best characterized it as comfort high end. It's not terribly exciting. I'd say the cuisine is no better than Hatfield's. Maybe not as good and seasonal. I would easily recommend Commonwealth and Cotogna (killer porchetta) over it. And you'd save yourself at least $50-100pp.

          For something really special in SF try Atelier Crenn. The closest thing we have down here is some of the things Chef Khan does at Red Medicine.

          1. re: Porthos

            Even around here the term "Neapolitan" gets applied both to the tender traditional style and the crisp version that evolved in New York. The trendy local style (Delfina, Cotogna, Zero Zero, Flour + Water, many others) is somewhere between the two.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              At least here on the SF board, no one has to explain on a weekly basis that the wet center isn't "raw" or that cornichon isn't bread like "wonderbread" and that the solution isn't to "ask for it well done".

        2. I love, love, love Dynamo's doughnuts, but they are best bought and consumed first thing in the morning. The longer they sit around (i.e., your drive back), the less interesting they become.

          If you are up early, I heartily recommend hitting Dynamo for bite or two, but then go to Tartine for take-home nibbles.

          1. Thanks, will definitely check out some ice cream places and the bars mentioned. I go back and forth on the fine dining since I feel like at least from menus, the cal-italian is done down in LA and OC a lot along with gastropub like fare. Any other suggestions I guess for unique to SF from an LA perspective?

            13 Replies
            1. re: groover808

              Groover - I lived in L.A. for almost 18 years...

              What you will want from the Bay Area is Burmese food! Also, consider Aziza; there is nothing else like it in the country (and I've eaten around!)

              Also, the Ferry Plaza Saturday morning is incomparable. I've got friends from L.A. who come up just for the Roli Roti pork sandwich...

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                Yes, definitely get some Burmese food. The tea-leaf salad is amazing. Aziza is one of my favorite restaurants ever.

                1. re: TeacherFoodie

                  I know everyone always recommends the Tea Leaf salad, but being a huge fan of ginger, I'm a sucker for the "Gin Dok" salad which is similar to the Tea Leaf but predominantly ginger. Also look at the samosa soup - AMAZING.

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    I'm into the ginger salad as well. First had it at the original Nan Yang location in Oakland Chinatown in the mid-'80s. BSS does a good job with it as well. BTW, many years ago Philip Chu of NanYang was interviewed in the Chronicle and gave them his recipe for ginger salad:

                2. re: CarrieWas218

                  Yes, will definitely do Roli Roti and the farmers farmers markets. I did Aziza a couple of years ago, delicious and the best spot prawn I've ever had, so fresh. Looking to try something new and not repeat. Any moderate dinner suggestions, $100 total for food only for 2?

                3. re: groover808

                  I would also say, that maybe things have changed in LA in the last few years (so I'm getting a little out of date) but the breadth and depth of cal-italian here is rather exciting. All I remember of good cal-italian when I was in LA was Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza.

                  I'm not going to declare it's an ultimate must have if it doesn't excite you...maybe do AQ? Or one sizeable price step up, the smaller tasting menu at Atelier Crenn?

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    I thought Osteria Mozza was great, as good as any of our top Cal-Italian places, but different.

                    On the other hand, the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza was at best second-rate by SF standards.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Really, interesting..... So if I only had to go to one pizzeria, where would it be? Any place that would be open for lunch on Friday?

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Would be great to get a real Neopolitan style pie or anything thin and crispy with properly charred edges and bottom.

                          1. re: groover808

                            Hardcore Neapolitan style:


                            New York-style thin, crisp, and charred, I'll start a new topic since there's a new contender:


                4. So here's the plan so far:

                  Light lunch - Tartine pastries?
                  Ice cream - Mr & Mrs Misc
                  Dinner - Gary Danko (early like 6 PM)
                  Drinks - Agricole or Local Edition....walk around Mission District?

                  Dynamo Donuts
                  Ferry Building Farmers mkt, nibble around and share porchetta sandwich
                  Lunch - Tony's Pizza Napoletana
                  Dinner - Got reservation at Baker and Banker and AQ, which should I cancel?
                  Ice cream - Bi Rite

                  Grab stuff for the road and others - Craftsman and Wolves and Golden Gate Bakery
                  Brunch - Brenda's French Soul Food

                  Any further suggestions or swaps? Anyone know if Golden Gate Bakery is open right now? Thanks!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: groover808

                    Baker and Banker v. AQ

                    Banker and Banker is a buzzing, happening neighborhood spot, with solid food, and really good desserts. This being SF, "neighborhood spot" still means California style food that is well-crafted and satisfying. It's comfortable and not touristy at all.

                    AQ does not have that neighborhood feel. It's a more open, modern space. The food pushes the boundaries more and is more innovative (really unique combinations like asparagus and white chocolate plus a bunch of ingredients I am not familiar with). It has cocktails (Banker + Baker is beer and wine only). There have been service gaps when I have been there. I appreciate what they're doing and think it's an interesting SF food experience at a reasonable price point.

                    It all depends what you want. I'd say you are less likely to find a place like AQ in LA, on the otherhand I have a soft spot for these SF neighborhood restaurants that are so unassuming and yet turn out great food. It's what makes SF a great food city. But again, I think you can find places like Baker and Banker in LA (Gjelina, Hungry Cat, Lucques and Nook came to mind as similar places).

                    1. re: groover808

                      Give GG Bakery a call beforehand: (415) 781-2627

                      I didn't see where you were staying. If you're going to be in that neighborhood anyway, you might as well stop at Knead Pastisserie, or instead of, Dynamo. When their croissants are good, they're amazing, but they're inconsistent. Their pomme d'amour is one of the best pastries in the city. They can run out fast, so I would prioritize them, and use Dynamo as a backup.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Thanks, bf loves a good pain au chocolat!

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          Definitely get a pomme d'amour - best pastry I've ever eaten - better than the ones I ate in France!

                        2. re: groover808

                          I curious as to where you're staying, too, because you're kind of wandering around (from Gary Danko in North Beach to SOMA or the Mission). You're from LA, are you assuming you're going to be able to find parking or that there will be valet parking wherever you go?

                          Everyone who has commented on your choice of Gary Danko has suggested that you skip it. Is there some reason you have your heart set on it?

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Sorry left location out. Will be staying within a block of Union Square Park and will have a car (parking garage with ins and out a couple blocks away). Planning to take the BART when possible to Mission District and back up to Ferry Building and walking to Coit, Chinatown, and North Beach. May have to drive to a few places, which we don't mind but will try to minimize.

                            As far as Gary Danko, I feel like it's a place to cross off my list and I'm looking forward to the cheese service. I went to Michael Voltaggio's Ink recently and I think I'm more into less crazy techniques and plain good food, not to say if there's something truly original I do want to try. State Bird Provisions looked interesting but I don't know if it's worth the fustration trying to walk in. Might check out what Atelier Crenn and Cotogna has to offer. Thanks!