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Sep 8, 2012 10:22 AM

Comments and Suggestions welcomed

I have my agenda set (though trying to be flexible) and want to plan meals around it. There will be 4 of us staying near Union Square. We will have a car for two days, but hope to take public transportation and walk mostly. I'm arranging meals around our locations and trying to get a variety of the best your city has to offer with mid range pricing. We'll grab something very light most mornings and be on our way and eat lunch around 11 and have fairly early dinners - we'll make reservations where we can and hope to get in without more than a 45 minute wait for dinners. My mother is a coffee/sweets person all day, so I'm hoping to fit in pastries, ice cream, coffee bites as well.
Friday night - *Scoma's* (dad wants seafood and is very conservative)
Saturday - we'll start the day at the *Ferry building* and eat our way thru before heading to Golden Gate Park and ending up in Haight Ashbury area for *Little Star Pizza* *Sweetie Cups* possibly sometime in the afternoon
Sunday - walk Golden Gate Bridge and spend some time in the Presidio before brunch at *Blackwood*. Afternoon in Cow Hollow and Marina with a snack stop at *Chestnut Bakery* before the 5:40 Alcatraz Tour Light meal after Alcatraz at *15 Romolo* before heading back to our hotel
Monday - Take a China Town tour and have *dim sum* somehwere that tour guide recommends Afternoon to Coit Tower and exploring North Beach *XOX Truffles* for a snack with dinner at *Sotto Mare*
Tuesday - Explore Mission District with lunch at *Poc Chuc* *Bi Rite Creamery* for a snack Pre-baseball game drinks at 21st Amendment - maybe a bit to eat; maybe eat some unusual outrageously priced ball park food at the game, just because we're there!
Wednesday - We'll be going to Muir Woods and Sausalito - grabbing a sandwich at a deli or perhaps *Scoma* if the weather is nice and we want more sunshine Back to the city for dinner at *Kokkari Estiatoria*
Thursday - We'll leave the city to tour "Benziger" - not for the wine, but for the experience. Purchase a picnic lunch at *Glen Ellen Market* and dine on the grounds; possibly go to Charles Schulz museumm(or another winery just to look) before coming back into the city to eat at our last meal of the trip at *Lers Ros*

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  1. Very well-researched, excellent choices. Hit Golden Gate Bakery (if they're open) in Chinatown for custard tarts.

    There's probably better food in the ballpark than at 21st Amendment if you know where to look:

    1. Little Star pizza is a bit north of the Haight (and there's also a location in the Mission) but well worth a stop.

      Never heard of Sweetie Cups. Yelp has them listed in the Haight, but it's in error AFAIK--- their web page lists them as a catering only thing. Not much good sweets in the Haight. Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley, a few blocks from Haight, makes the best shakes I've ever had, but I'm not as into their esoteric offerings or plain ice cream.

      1. You might want to consider not renting a car until you are ready to go Muir Woods and/or Sonoma. From the beginning of your itinerary, everything is accessible with public transportation and easier if you consider taxis and you won't have to pay four days' worth of a car rental with a city that is only 7 miles from end-to-end...

        Lastly, for Thursday, you are going to spend a lot of time driving if you are going just for one wine tour and picnic lunch just to head back to the city for dinner. I'd consider dining in wine country instead of fighting all the traffic you'll have to contend with...

        27 Replies
        1. re: CarrieWas218

          When would you expect traffic to be heavier ( approx when to when)? Is it mostly in the city or Sonoma Valley all the way in? Thanks so much for the input...traffic hadn't occurred to me at all. That is definitely not the way to spend the last evening of our vacation!

          1. re: mhcpita

            Traffic in the Bay Area is usually from about 3:30 to 7:30 with the worst from 4:30 to 6:30. To get from Sonoma back to the city, you cross over a lot of different freeways, so you won't neatly be going against traffic. I also agree (unless you are a late night dinner person say like 8:30 pm) you should probably eat in Sonoma - makes sense too since you'll want to stay around that area until at least 6:30 pm before trying to make your way back.

            Highly suggest if you have a smartphone getting the Waze app. We use it all the time to get around the Bay Area and it's very useful.

            1. re: mhcpita

              You could stop in Petaluma, San Rafael, or Sausalito for dinner and miss most of the southbound traffic, which is mostly backup at the bridge.

              Do not drive to Santa Rosa after 3:30 or so, it has its own local rush hour.

              1. re: mhcpita

                I spend a lot of timing driving to-and-from Napa and the city so I am comfortable with the commute. If you are game for a long day, you would probably get more out of a day in wine country if you head out relatively early (7:00/8:00 a.m.) and come up first for breakfast. You could hit Fremont Diner or Boon Fly before Benziger and tooling around Sonoma or Glen Ellen for the day.

                You could relax a bit and wander around downtown Sonoma, take the beautiful short hike behind Bartholomew Park, hit another winery or two, and then have a relatively early dinner (6:00ish?) which would put you back on the road to the city at 8:00/8:30 and in bed by 10:00...

                Honestly, for just a tour of one winery, the three+ hours you are going to spend just driving to-and-fro aren't worth it...

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  If you're not from around here, the drive is worth it for its own sake.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Could you clarify? While the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is gorgeous unless it is completely fogged over, the rest to get to sonoma town center isn't particularly memorable until you get within 5 miles of the town. A lot of freeway driving through industrial/suburban areas.

                    Could you (the OP) switch your days? And go to wine country on a weekend instead of a weekday (there's still traffic but it's not as bad). Regardless I'd think of some other stuff to do (like going to the Di Rosa art preserve). If you do go to Benzinger, another winery to look out for is Ram's Gate.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      I'm with Goldangl on this one and am not sure why Robert thinks the drive is worth it except for those last five miles (part of why I recommended up coming earlier in the morning and THEN driving and looking around).

                      DiRosa is a great suggestion and spending a whole day in wine country can be lovely - especially now that fall is coming and the leaves are starting to turn red and orange!

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        You're within a few miles of the bay from SF until the turnoff for Arnold Drive, and in the country once you turn off of 101. It's one remarkable view after another.

                        It's not the usual ugly industrial/suburban landscape that you see along the freeway most places in the US, or even around most other parts of the bay.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          But the OP never mentioned taking a scenic drive or pulling off for site-seeing - just heading to Benziger. The drive from San Francisco to Sonoma is freeway and (right now), dry farmland.

                        2. re: goldangl95

                          I can't switch our agenda and go to wine country on the weekend - I started planning so long ago and am committed to the Ferry Market on Saturday and Sunday evening we have Alcatraz tickets.

                      2. re: CarrieWas218

                        So, things maybe didn't turn out exactly as I had planned. I was too late for a noon tour at Robert Hunter and have a 10 breakfast on the way - other than coffee and a pastry "to go". I scheduled the Benziger Tour at 2:30 thinking we'd finish up at Robert Hunter at 2. So, we can explore and have lunch in the area between noon and 2:30 - maybe in Sonoma? I still have this vision of a beautiful picnic lunch overlooking a winery. So, maybe we'll drive into Sonoma or Glen Ellen to pick up provisions and go to Benziger early (or another beautiful winery in the area)and enjoy lunch.
                        For an early dinner on the way home, how about Caprice in Tiburon? It got me at the view and reviews appear to be good.

                        1. re: mhcpita

                          Benziger's picnic area is nice, but if you have time to kill, Jack London State Park just down the road has some really nice spots.


                          1. re: mhcpita

                            Between the town of Sonoma and Glen Ellen is a real gem of a tacqueria with picnic tables, though the setting might not be as scenic as tables at a winery - but you can get the food to go, too.

                            1. re: foodeye

                              Lots of reports here on El Molino Central, which is connected with the Primavera people who sell tamales at farmers markets.


                          2. re: CarrieWas218

                            Fremont Diner has been a fave for a couple of years now and we just ate breakfast this summer at Boon Fly. Fantastic! May not work for OP but great choices for others hopefully.

                            1. re: CarrieWas218

                              How about Caprice in Tiburon for dinner? It looks like it wouldn't be terribly far out of the way? We'd finish with the Benziger tour about 3:30 and head south for an early dinner. And, then back to downtown San Francisco - hopefully to miss the traffic. I wanted something with a beautiful setting for our last dinner in the area; looks like they have solid food and great seafood. We already will spend an afternoon in Sausalito, so I didn't look there for dinner after wine country.

                              1. re: mhcpita

                                PLEASE weigh in on my last dinner. Per your recommendations, we won't be driving back to the city for parents requested 7 p.m. be the latest we eat and someone suggested with traffic, it will be 8:30. Who wants to sit in traffic anyway?!? Someone suggested a dinner on the way back: Peteluma...can't recall the other towns...Mill Valley? Sonoma? Sausalito? In my post above, I have chosen Caprise in Tiburon. Thoughts?

                                1. re: mhcpita

                                  Good food with views is always a tough combination. Horizons in Sausalito was decent but it's closed for a remodel, supposed to reopen soon as the Trident.

                                  Reports on Caprice:


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The last food "review" there was 2009 and it said the food was excellent. I'm going to give it a try. If nothing else, it will be a great view! And, I hope to post my future travelers can put it on their list!

                                    Will it take us about 1.5 hours to get back into the city if we leave Tiburon at 8 p.m.?

                                    1. re: mhcpita

                                      Nope. Should take an hour at most at 8 pm.

                                      1. re: mhcpita

                                        That 2009 review didn't seem like they had very high expectations for the food.

                                        Tiburon to the Golden Gate Bridge at 8pm on a Thursday should be about 20 minutes.

                                    2. re: mhcpita

                                      How about Mill Valley? Next door to Tiburon. We ate recently at Piazza D'Angelos and loved it. As others have mentioned, great views and great food just don't seem to go together that often, at least in SF. Maybe a less than rock 'em, sock 'em place can make enough money because of the view to stay in business forever. We live at Lake Tahoe and there are only a few spots that are lakefront. They're always packed whether the food is any good or not. You mentioned Sonoma also. A ton of great places there. Hope you like everything you have.


                                    3. re: mhcpita

                                      If you're done at 3:30pm on a weekday, I'd say go back to the City for dinner.

                                      Recently I took some visitors up to Sonoma Valley for a day trip on a Friday (when traffic is worse than other weekdays). We finished at DiRosa's art preserve when the doors closed at 4pm, hopped in the car and were over the bridge and in San Francisco's Marina District by 5:10pm to stop at the butcher shop. From there we continued to SOMA, where I had to pick up my car by 6pm from the service shop and had no trouble getting there in time.

                                      Admittedly, I had one advantage because I brought my toll transponder and could avoid the delay at the toll booths. But if you're foregoing better eating experiences in Wine Country or SF because you're concerned about traffic, a below-average dinner in Tiburon at Caprice is not a worthwhile trade-off.

                                      Edited to add: I believe you've misunderstood an earlier timing post.. If you ate dinner at 6pm in Sonoma, you could finish a meal and be back on the road in SF by 8:30pm. I suspect that you could actually eat and depart by 7:30pm, if your parents aren't into long meals, and be back in SF by that time. Not that it would take 2.5 hours to drive back.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        So, we have 2:00 Benziger wine tour reservations -finish at 2:45. Head back to the city and drop off our rental car before 6 p.m. (big points there) and head to Lers Ros for an early'ish dinner. I appreciate your patience on these boards. I have spend at least 40 hours on the itinerary and another 40 on dining; and thenb about 20 on wineries...only to choose what was obvious from the start. But, if you're not from the area, it is all so foreign. I appreciate that you are patient with us tourists! I believe the rental car will do the tolls without stopping...only an extra $2 which is nothing.

                                        1. re: mhcpita

                                          Yay for picking Lers Ros! It is one of our favourites when we are visiting. We have been particularly pleased with selections from the appetizer part of the menu and have made several very tasty meals just from them, allowing us to try more tastes.

                                          1. re: mhcpita

                                            Oh good point, many rental cars will handle the tolls. That's the biggest delay crossing the bridge. Your goal should be to be on the Golden Gate Bridge no later than 5pm, and you should be fine.

                                            Do make a res for Lers Ros and study up on which dishes to order as there are some inconsistencies.

                                            Oh, and my visitors enjoyed the stop at Vella cheese in the town of Sonoma. Worth checking out and tasting some local cheeses if you have time. In fact, here's rough outline of what we did:

                                            Arrived at 11:30a in downtown Sonoma:
                                            Friday farmers market in Sonoma, purchases to cook dinner that night
                                            Lunch at El Molino Central in the Springs
                                            Tasting at Loxton cellars in Glen Ellen
                                            Stop at mercado to buy Mexican spices
                                            Tasting and purchases at Vella Cheese
                                            Di Rosa Art Preserve (we didn't have a res for a tour so just looked at the galleries and grounds for about 3/4 hour)
                                            4:00p, left to return to San Francisco

                                  2. Very respectable list. And i greatly appreciate your research.
                                    the only thing i would add is that in addition to 15 Romolo (love the big mamma burger) is txoko about 20 steps away. they have some amazing small dishes.

                                    1. I like your list. Of the places that I have visited, the only thing I might dispute is Poc Chuc. The food is OK, but if your goal for the afternoon is to explore the Mission, it's a block or two out of your way in a direction with mostly barren streets, and for me it's not enough of a destination restaurant to merit the detour.

                                      If you are specifically looking for Mexican sit-down, you might try La Oaxaquena (tlayudas, mole, and tamales are excellent; burritos and tacos are subpar). If you just want a nice lunch, maybe Bar Tartine or Udupi Palace. If you want Mexican food but don't care too much about the ambience, try El Farolito, Taqueria San Jose, or any of the taquerias near the 24th and Mission BART stop. If your mother is a sweets and coffee person, you might even consider making a little bit of a hike down 24th St to visit Knead Patisserie (admittedly more of a walk than Poc Chuc, but I think 24th St is more scenic) at stop at Torta Gorda for lunch.

                                      Don't get me wrong--the food at Poc Chuc is fine, and it's a cuisine that you can't find everywhere. I just think you could do equally well at many other restaurants in the Mission.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: tripit

                                        I so appreciate your input. I have to find a somewhat middle-of-the road choice for my parents. It seemed to me that the Mission was particularly known for Mexican ... so I went for that and some of the places did seem like there may be no room to sit. I like the 24th street suggestions - we can eyeball it on our way to Knead!

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              There is a review on Yelp from July, perhaps it is still around. I looked at their menu on line (San Francisco page) and it looks perfectr for us - though it is from 2011. We will definitely check this out on our way to lunch on our way to pastries at Knead! It kneads a Chowhound update! I couldn't resist that dumb play on words!

                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                I just phoned them.. I don't know if the plans for them to move to Mexico went south, but they'll be open at least as far as October (the person answering the phone was confused by my question, so I didn't probe further than a month from now)


                                          1. re: tripit

                                            tripit, I agree with your point about the location of Poc Chuc. There's a lot more to see, do and eat in the Mission if you're closer in.

                                            Just tried to find grayelf's Mission crawl but couldn't. Anybody?