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union square hilton and drive along coat to LA

vasiliki Sep 1, 2012 02:25 AM

Thank you in advance to any SF Chowhounders who can set me in the right direction. I know that there are many posts about Union Square restaurants, but after much digging, I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. My husband and I will be in SF the evening of 9/12 and 9/13 for his 50th birthday (he has never been to SF!) and are trying to figure out where to have dinner, esp. on the 13th. Anyhow, I have clearly snoozed on securing reservations for the 12th (Wednesday) and 13th (Thursday) in SF. We are staying at the Union Square Hilton, so ideally, it would be nice if the meal on the 12th was in walking distance of the hotel because we will be beat after a long flight from Nashville, TN, and are not renting a car. The 13th is my husband's actual birthday, so I'm looking for more of a splurge, and am happy to take a cab. This evening need not be in Union Square. We do not need the hottest, trendiest spot, but something wonderful and uniquely SF. Also, a place that might still have an opening that evening! My husband is a food writer and we are both adventurous eaters. No cuisine is off the table!! We plan to work in a great dim sum meal, a Burmese meal perhaps, and maybe Swan Oyster during the day ( I hear there's a long line, but I'm happy to eat lunch at 2 pm if I have to to avoid a line or at least a shorter one.... is it worth the hype?) We will also spend time eating our way through the Ferry building:) We would like to save the evening of the 13th for more of a fine dining experience. If any of you have ideas for me, I would greatly appreciate it.. I should have jumped on this a while ago! In addition to our SF trip, we leave SF on the 14th (renting a car on the 14th) to drive to Santa Cruz via the scenic 1 for one night which will include dinner there, back in the car the next morning to visit the Monterey Aquarium in the morning, play around in tide pools, then 2 nights in San Luis Obispo before cruising into LA to have dinner at a friend's house before taking the red eye home. I'd also love any suggestions for Santa Cruz/San Luis Obispo, and any not-to-be-missed stops along the way. At that point of the trip, we will be wanting low key, great vibe, casual spots on the water if possible, that involve incredible raw oysters. I also don't want to miss other cuisines not found in Nashville, TN., like Sri Lankan in Santa Cruz. If you have any ideas for me, please let me know. I should have jumped on this a while ago! We are very excited for this trip even though it came together last minute!

  1. smatbrat Sep 1, 2012 01:17 PM

    Can you narrow it down a bit.
    Unique to SF is a huge catagory. What on the other posts has not been interesting?
    We have a lot of places you can splurge, is there a cuisine you are looking for?

    2 Replies
    1. re: smatbrat
      vasiliki Sep 2, 2012 05:14 AM

      Hi Smart Brat,

      Let me begin by saying all the SF Chowhound posts are interesting!! I have learned a ton. I have simply waited too long to make a dinner res. for the 12th, and more importantly, the 13th (husband's 50th).
      Hard for me to narrow down a cuisine in particular because I have only been to SF a couple of times and it was with my parents who are not adventurous eaters. I know "unique to SF" is a big category which is why I'm reaching out to this community. In my mind, "unique ton SF" means great seafood, (We live in landlocked Nashville,) Dim Sum, "California" Italian, and Burmese ? We have no Burmese, decent Chinese, or Dim Sum in Nashville. I found all of this out by trolling old posts. PLEASE let me know what I have missed! We are only in SF 2 days and it would be a shame to miss something I'll probably never see in Nashville. Do you all have Indonesian rijstaffel there? Have not had that since a trip to Amsterdam many moons ago. What I did not find, after hours of reading old posts, was a place to take my husband for a really nice dinner on such short notice. This would have been easily accomplished, I presume, had I made a reservation months ago. I'd like to avoid trendy, loud spots. For example, I'm sure State Bird Provisions is amazing, but It's doubtful we'd get a res. at this late date, and I've heard it's a little noisy. I'm looking for a quiet, beautiful restaurant that has delicious seafood among other things (I'm more of the seafood fanatic of the two of us), where we can have a delicious, romantic, and memorable meal. The exact cuisine for this special meal is less important than securing a res. at this late date!. We are not tied to any specific cuisine for this meal. We plan to do dim sum, Burmese, Swan Oyster, and anything else I have missed during the day. What I'm not finding on CH is a place that fits my above description of a special dinner spot for the 13th, (which is a Thursday) that.may still have an opening to us. The choices are overwhelming to me. Bottom line, we love fresh, seasonal ingredients artfully and originally prepared with wonderful service. I want my husband's 50th to be special. We are not renting a car until the 14th when we drive to the coast on the 1,, but cabbing is no problem. We are also looking for a restaurant in walking distance of Union Square Hilton for our 1st night there (the 12th, a Wednesday), simply because we love to walk, and it will give us a chance to stretch our legs after a long flight.. Sorry so broad, even after all the hours reading/learning about your gorgeous city, I'm a bit paralyzed by all of the choices/opinions that are out there on CH. Thank you in advance. And if you ever make your way to Nashville, I will gladly help you with your food itinerary. LOTS of great new restaurants here. Cheers. Suzanne

      1. re: vasiliki
        grayelf Sep 6, 2012 12:33 PM

        This might be a little out there but we had a lovely romantic dinner at Sociale on a recent visit. Be sure to get patio seating for the full effect -- it's a wee garden with white fairy lights. Lovely white tablecloth service, tasty if not hugely innovative food including sea creatures and a nice wine list. Also near the bus line.

    2. Ruth Lafler Sep 1, 2012 09:07 PM

      First, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo are discussed on the California board, so if you haven't already, you should post your questions there.

      My first thought for a nice dinner walking distance from Union Square was Gitane. Getting a reservation for a Wednesday night shouldn't be too hard.

      For your special dinner some suggestions:

      Aziza (I checked Open Table and they have plenty of availability)

      A bit more extravagant: Atelier Crenn

      Really unique: Jai Yun

      10 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        vasiliki Sep 2, 2012 05:28 AM

        Hi Ruth,

        So very helpful! Atelier Crenn is EXACTLY what I was hoping for! Can't wait until they open today, and I can call to (hopefully!) secure a reservation. My husband will love this. I have heard about Aziza, too. We love Moroccan. Can't get that in Nashville. Gitane completely fits the bill for the 12th. It sound like so much fun! I can't find a website for Jai Yun, but I'm guessing it is dim sum? Will spend time on the board today researching it.. I have a sick six-year-old at home so I have not had much time to plan this trip the way I would have liked to . Very grateful for your help. Many thanks,


        1. re: vasiliki
          vasiliki Sep 2, 2012 08:17 AM

          Hi Ruth,

          I just made reservations at both Atelier Crenn and Gitane! My husband and I are over the moon. Thank you. I plan to check out the California board, next, for Santa Cruz/San Luis Obispo recs.

          One more question: I'm sort of set on trying Dim Sum for the first time. I really want the "cart" experience. My husband told be this morning that he's envisioning chicken feet and lots of doughy buns. Boo. My guess is that Yang Sink would have much more than this! It may come down to either Burmese or Dim Sum since we are both set on Ferry building and potentially Swan oyster. We plan is to skip breakfast (maybe a yogurt/great black coffee), and do 2 lunches each day, esp since both dinners are 8:30 reservations. I love the historical factor of Swan, but would our oyster/seafood craving be better served in the Santa Cruz/Obispo area? I hate to waste precious SF time in a line.

          I greatly appreciate the help, and should you make your way to Nashville, I'd love to help you if you needed it. Sincerely, Suzanne

          1. re: vasiliki
            CarrieWas218 Sep 2, 2012 10:37 AM

            Unfortunately, the best dim places (Yank Sing, Koi Palace and Hong Kong Lounge) have gotten so popular and crowded that they have somewhat done away with the carts as there is no room (except for the soup cart). They do, however, walk around with platters and offer them at tables. That said, since you will be at Union Square, Yank Sing is probably an easier trek for you and has a great selection.

            For Swan Oyster bar, there will still be a line at 2:00, but don't that dissuade you.

            Ateller Crenn and Gitane are tops on my list and perfect choices for you!

            1. re: CarrieWas218
              vasiliki Sep 3, 2012 03:06 AM

              Thank you, Carrie! I may go to the Yank Sing that's close to Union unless you think one of the others has more charm/history.. I've also heard Hod Island Oysters are great at the Ferry Building but don't want to miss the Swan experience. If you have any thoughts about choosing one over the other, please let me know. I'd love to cram in both. Fast begins tomorrow:) Thank you, Suzanne

              1. re: vasiliki
                CarrieWas218 Sep 3, 2012 10:28 AM

                Definitely Swan's over Hog Island - especially since you are into "the experience." (and, in my opinion, better oysters at Swan).

                Yank Sing is fine what you are wanting; honestly, there is very little "charm" to dim sum restaurants because the best are churning through customers so quickly as to be less than charming in atmosphere.

                1. re: CarrieWas218
                  vasiliki Sep 4, 2012 04:50 AM

                  Swan's it is! They do not seem to have a website, so I plan to call today to get their hours. Some internet food sites say 10, some say 10:30, some say 8:30 am! Thank you, again, Carrie.

                  1. re: vasiliki
                    CarrieWas218 Sep 4, 2012 09:04 AM

                    Nope - Swan's does not have a website. The seats and the counter are the same for the past fifty years...

                    The hours often depend on when the shucker guys show up to start work, but 10:30 is the most consistent answer. You could get there at 10:00 and be pleasantly surprised if they are open, but only have to wait a half-hour if they are not.

                    1. re: CarrieWas218
                      vasiliki Sep 5, 2012 08:52 AM

                      Great info - thank you, Carrie.

            2. re: vasiliki
              Ruth Lafler Sep 2, 2012 12:19 PM

              I'm so glad Gitane and Atelier Crenn are going to work for you! Jai Yun is not dim sum -- it's more of a Chinese chef's take on a tasting menu. Unique in the US, maybe in the world. There are conflicting reports on whether he is doing lunch, but again, you might want to call and ask (no website -- it's a very barebones operation, and definitely the funkiest place you will every spend big bucks on a meal).

              Dim sum is always a difficult question. As Carrie218 noted, carts are going out of style; ordering off a menu can be tricky if you aren't familiar with the various items. Yank Sing is a safe choice. The Rincon Center location is nicer, and it's close to the Ferry Building, where you're planning on going anyway. Be advised that if you're going to the Ferry Building on Thursday there will be lots of food -- Thursday is the "prepared food stalls" day there. I don't know how you're going to squeeze Burmese in!

              If you're planning on doing an early lunch and a late lunch, you should try Swan earlier rather than later. I see conflicting info about what time it opens -- best to call -- but I think it's not hard to get in if you get there by 11.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                vasiliki Sep 3, 2012 03:09 AM

                So glad we'll be there Thursday! Ok, I may just need to save Dim Sum for next time and fully enjoy the Ferry Building. Jai Yun sounds wonderful. I'll call and check on lunch. So little time in SF. Already plotting a return trip... I will definitely cue up at Swan at 10:45. Many thanks for all of your help. My trip is already off to such a fun and exciting start thanks to you all.. Suzanne

        2. The Chowhound Team Sep 5, 2012 10:53 AM

          We zipped some non-SF Bay answers over to our California board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8667...

          We hope if anyone has any further suggestions for further down the coast, they'll add them to the new thread. Thanks!

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