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Cool / offbeat romantic in North Beach/Chinatown/FD [San Francisco]

marot Aug 20, 2012 12:24 PM

I'm taking the boyfriend up to SF for his birthday and I want to take him somewhere cool for dinner the first night in the North Beach/Chinatown area. (I love that part of the city and we're going to hit the Tonga Room, his favorite, after.)

So I want something special and romantic-ish but not white table clothes and roses. More like a hidden gem, something with personality, instead of just expensive and fancy.

I haven't lived in SF for years so I'm not up on what is still open.

Any tips?

  1. m
    marot Aug 22, 2012 11:48 AM

    I'm leaning towards Txoko or L'Osteria del Forno, though the wait at del Forno doesn't sound that fun. Has anyone been to Sodini's Green Valley?

    1 Reply
    1. re: marot
      Robert Lauriston Aug 22, 2012 12:47 PM

      I'd do Capp's Corner over Green Valley, I think it preserves a little more of the virtually extinct old-school North Beach style. But they're similar.

    2. smatbrat Aug 21, 2012 04:30 PM

      I would second the Txoko recommendation. Im biased as it is my favorite new restaurant in SF.

      2 Replies
      1. re: smatbrat
        Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2012 09:47 PM

        What are you liking at Txoko these days?

        (Did you get some of the foie gras giveaway today?)

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          Melanie Wong Aug 22, 2012 12:58 AM


      2. hill food Aug 21, 2012 04:13 PM

        Sam's Grill is good (very old school/Dashiell Hammett) but consider l'Osteria del Forno (tiny).

        <edit> extremely casual and no reservations IIRC

        3 Replies
        1. re: hill food
          Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 04:22 PM

          I like L'Osteria del Forno, great food and unbeatable for the price, but the wait on the sidewalk for a table can be long, and it's a very casual and funky place.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            marot Aug 21, 2012 04:58 PM

            I've been here before, and it was awesome, so I have it on my list, but I do remember a long wait.

          2. re: hill food
            grayelf Aug 22, 2012 11:43 AM

            Sam's Grill takes reservations for dinner only, I believe. Tadich doesn't take reservations at all. Either could be romantic if you score one of the private rooms, otherwise not romantic at all especially Sam's with the bright lighting.

          3. m
            ML8000 Aug 21, 2012 03:42 PM

            Cafe Jacqueline for souffle. Offbeat because that's pretty much the only main course.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ML8000
              Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 03:49 PM

              And the only dessert. It literally has white tablecloths and roses.

              1. re: ML8000
                marot Aug 21, 2012 03:51 PM

                I went on a date with a guy a looong time ago who worked at Cafe Jacqueline. Haven't thought about it in forever. Looks super charming and I love the pic of the Madame Jacqueline on Yelp.


                Offbeat and not trendy for sure.

                1. re: ML8000
                  saffrongold Aug 21, 2012 04:37 PM

                  Be prepared to spend 3 - 3.5 hours at Jacqueline.

                2. m
                  mindyb Aug 21, 2012 03:06 PM

                  Check out DaFlora on the outskirts of North Beach. Definitely not your typical North Beach experience.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mindyb
                    hyperbowler Aug 21, 2012 04:06 PM

                    I've seen reports elsewhere that the owners are wonderful if they like you, but rude if you don't follow a particular protocol. Is there any truth to that or is their reported "old world charm" part of the reason one would prioritize them?

                    1. re: hyperbowler
                      mindyb Aug 21, 2012 04:41 PM

                      I have never had a problem with them, but I always have a reservation and always show up on time. I have seen others that were late be turned away, and one should NEVER ask for olive oil for their foccacia. I heard someone do this, and they got a bit of a scolding!

                      That being said the food is delicious, and they have a great ecclectic wine list. We usually tell them how much we want to spend, and they choose a wine for us. It is a nice, quaint, romantic restaurant in an area of the city I don't typically associate with having the best food.

                      1. re: hyperbowler
                        amydeastbay Aug 21, 2012 04:43 PM

                        I don't know about a "particular protocol" at Da Flora, but the service at our table was perfunctory at best whereas I noticed that people who seemed to know the owners also seemed to get a warm welcome and a wonderful experience. This was very disappointing because I'd enjoyed my meal the first time I went there (the owner was somewhat gruff but more friendly that first visit) and looked forward to returning. But the second experience was bad enough that we never wanted to go bac again.

                        1. re: hyperbowler
                          Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2012 09:47 PM

                          Are you a gambling man?

                      2. r
                        rubadubgdub Aug 21, 2012 11:35 AM

                        Drinks @ 15 Romolo. Tapas @ Bocadillos. Dessert chocolate souffle @ Cafe Jacqueline.

                        1. bbulkow Aug 21, 2012 10:58 AM

                          What about Park Tavern, in the old Moose's space?

                          Moose's was one of the greats of SF, with old Ed Moose and his "always Mooseburgers". The new folks come from a trendy background - Marlowe - but Marlowe really has soul.

                          The other Ed Moose space was the old WashBag, which is now Bottle Cap, anyone care to comment on current quality?

                          Another option would be Sam's or Tadich. These are the two really, really old school SF places with tons of character. Special places. Tadich gets more tourist traffic, but these aren't generic places.

                          If you get creeped out at the Tonga with the kitch, consider hitting a cab over to Tradr Sam's or around the corner to the Tunnel Top, a real local's place, which has a good off-the-beaten-track cocktail program going.

                          (I don't get over to that part of town much, but I do like an eggplant parm at the counter of Mario's Bohemian. That's a local, special type of place - more lunch, though)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bbulkow
                            marot Aug 21, 2012 11:26 AM

                            Is Tadich good? I checked it out before but I've never eaten there.

                            As far as Tradr Sam's, I used to live near there (@ 9th & Clement) so I thought about it but I wondered if it was really worth the long trek out to the Richmond. I'm not going to have a car and it's a long cab or bus ride for some fun drinks but the atmosphere is lacking. Tonga is too much for more than a drink or 2, but I think Tradr Sam's is not quite enough, unless you happen to be nearby.

                            Tunnel Top looks good.

                            1. re: marot
                              Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 12:05 PM

                              It's possible to eat well at Tadich if you order right and aren't unlucky. Otherwise:


                            2. re: bbulkow
                              hill food Aug 21, 2012 04:09 PM

                              Tunnel Top? ehh they went clean. when they got rid of the broken fold-out sleeper couches and the broken karaoke machine upstairs, took Waylon Jennings off the juke box and actually started stocking the bar, it just went downhill (I still think there was a secret staircase to the massage parlour downstairs)

                              1. re: bbulkow
                                calumin Aug 21, 2012 05:19 PM

                                If you want to stay near downtown for drinks you might want to try bourbon and branch. There's also a place a block away on O'Farrell called Jasper's that has equally impressive cocktails.

                                If you like the feel of Tadich but want something a bit more modern try Wayfare Tavern.

                                I have to try Txoko. I've always liked the ambiance there, it sounds like they now have good food as well.

                              2. a
                                amydeastbay Aug 21, 2012 09:47 AM

                                How about Txoko? It's in the old Enrico's space and has character without being fussy/fancy, and I always enjoy the chef's food.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: amydeastbay
                                  marot Aug 21, 2012 09:56 AM

                                  That place looks great. It looks nice without being too trendy, which he has a very low tolerance for. Thanks for the tip.

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