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Sep 7, 2012 10:59 PM

DC Grubhead needs itinerary review and suggestions

Coming to the SF area for the first time Oct 12-20. Spending 4 nights in SF Union Square, 2 nights Yountville, and 2 nights Healdsburg.

In SF, no car, but will travel anywhere via BART or Muni to get to good grub. In wine country will have car and willing to travel.

I love bold flavors, offal, experimentation, and don't mind spending $$$ if its a good value but not for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. I love wine, mostly Pinot Noir and sparkling, and a well balanced cocktail (whatever the hell that means). I have a recent fascination with Fernet Branca.

The items that I am missing in DC are: Chinese Food, good bakeries, bagels, Mexican., Vietnamese.

My SF itinerary is as follows: Swan Oyster Depot, Yank Sing, Slanted Door, La Taqueria, Commonwealth, Incanto, Frances, Tartine Bakery, Mission Chinese Food, Tony's Napoletana, HopScotch (Oakland), Bi-rite Creamery, and Ferry Bldg/Farmer's market on a Sat.

My Yountville/Napa itinerary: Bottega, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Morimoto, and Carpe Diem (HH).

My Healdsburg/Sonoma itinerary: Cyrus, BarnDiva, Girl and the Fig, and Spoonbar (cocktails).

I am wait listed for TFL for my 4 nights in Napa/Sonoma and will cancel Cyrus ( my last night) if I get in for TFL at any time,

Please correct my itineraray or recommend something that I missed.


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  1. Warning: I am very picky
    For dim sum in SF I would go to Ton Kiang in the Richmond instead of Yank Sing. I have been going there for 16 years and it is very good and very reliable. I admit that Ton Kiang is not the most authentic but Yank Sing is even less so...

    Slanted Door is really not what it used to be, I would skip. The rest sound great although I have never heard of the Oakland selection.

    I would skip Bouchon and try Redd or the pizza place Reddwood instead. They are much more modern and fun. Bouchon bakery is ok but it is not worth the lines if you encounter them. Now that foie gras is illegal there is really no reason to go to Bouchon since the food is bleh and Thomas Keller thinks he has better things to do....also the tables are really cramped at Bouchon, I really did not appreciate my neighbors spittle in my onion soup the last time I ate there.

    I would skip Cyrus as well...maybe try Farm at Carneros Inn instead? They are trying for a Michelin star and the effort really shows. We had the tasting menu in May and it was excellent. Last I heard, Cyrus is closing in 2013 so they have no incentive to make a good dining experience....I was there about a year ago and they tried to pass off disgusting Australian truffles as real truffles, shame! The cheese tray was covered in flies, I am not even kidding you! Only the beignets at the end of the meal were remotely memorable (everyone knows that even a deep fried shoe would taste good!). I have not dined at TFL in many years although both times that I was there it was very good,

    Sorry for any incoherence as I typed this on an iPad.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tessari

      I am taking your advice and switching out Bouchon for Redd. I did not know Cyrus is closing, and will probably cancel it. I'm thinking about replacing it with Scopa even though its a completely diff menu/feel. What do you think?


    2. As to bagels check this article and then do bagel search in upper right hand corner. No one seems to feel too strongly about them. (irony intended)

      1. On the Napa part of the journey, I would recommend some drastic changes...

        Both Bouchon and Bottega are getting mediocre reviews here lately. I had lunch at Bouchon about six weeks ago and $70 later (dining solo), I was left really wanting the Bouchon I knew a decade ago. Bottega is coming across as rather pedestrian as well.

        Lastly, I've eaten at Carpe Diem once a month for the past year and they are wildly, wildly inconsistent = some times the dishes are entree sized and worth the price and sometimes the servings are significantly smaller and a bit of a rip-off.

        I would recommend you consider Redd instead of Bouchon, Don Giovanni instead of Bottega, and Zuzu instead of Carpe Diem.

        Lastly, what kind of pastries are you looking for? Sweetie Pies in downtown Napa has some giant sandwich cookies, caramel pecan buns, and Morning Bunz that are much, much better than the French-style pastries as Bouchon.

        2 Replies
        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Based on your rec and Tessari above, I've changed out Bouchon for Redd. I took a look at Redd's menu and it indeed looks fun with some of its Asian-influenced dishes/ingredients.

          Carpe Diem was probably only going there for a couple of glasses of wine at the bar to check out the happy hour scene. I'd switch to Zuzu if the bar scene is better? I do get great Spanish tapas here in DC-Jaleo, Estadio, and Boqueria.

          Pastries-probably looking for morning buns, pecan buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. Should I pick those up at Sweetie Pies? I'm staying 2 nights at Hotel Yountville and figured Bouchon bakery for convenience sake.

          Bottega might be nixed anyway as a family friend works at Morimoto as a sommelier, and I might head there if he is scheduled to work.

          Where would one go in downtown Napa to get a nightcap or a cocktail, assuming 10pm+?


          1. re: drewster420

            Sadly, there really isn't a "bar scene" in Napa and Carpe Diem's bar is SMALL (six people and it feels crammed)

            What you might want to consider is Fagiani which just opened a month ago in downtown and apparently has quite a bar scene (I walked by and noticed the crowd was a bit too young and "beautiful" for my tastes...) I don't have other reports of it yet but it IS getting a crowd.

            You are right about tapas in D.C. and Zuzu is not a bar scene - just a good place for small plates.

            Another place to consider is 1313 on Main Street. Keep in mind that all four of these places are within six blocks of one another and you could easily walk around to all four and settle in at the one that gives you the vibe you are looking for!

        2. I like Tony's but it's a long wait and their execution is inconsistent.

          Swan seems not too different from what you could get close to home, not worth standing ln line.

          I suggest the very traditional Taqueria San Jose at half the price of La Taqueria, which for some reason was for 20 years or so the only Mexican place in the Mission taqueria that the local newspaper ever wrote about.

          Yank Sing is great. People love to hate it, but in over 30 years only once has someone convinced me to try somewhere they claimed is better and it was (and that place closed).

          Forget about bagels unless maybe Schmendrick's happens to pop up at a convenient place and time and you can either order ahead or like lines.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Is Taqueria San Jose in the Mission or San Jose? I was trying to stay in the Mission for tacos, so I could also make it to Bi-Rite for dessert. I figured to get to Tony's for lunch right when they open at noon on a Friday. Will there still be a wait?

            Also is the porchetta sandwich at RoliRoti worth the wait? Food trucks have caught on here in DC in the last 2 years and wanted to try what you have in SF.


          2. Unless you know something about Hopscotch and have a rave recommendation, I'd go to somewhere more established, like Plum, Pican, Mua, in Uptown

            Their menu doesn't wow me.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow

              I am headed there to catch up with the manager/owner who I used to work with here in DC. The BART station to use would be Oakland 19th?


                1. re: drewster420

                  As an aside, tacos at many of the Oakland Taco Trucks are much better than most you will find in Taquerias in SF.
                  Also there is very good Laotian and Vietnamese in Oakland.