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Midwest friend needs to be convinced that San Fran is a food destination!

  • d

Hi Everyone,

I have a friend from the mid west who visited San Fran once and has a totally warped vision of the city. Out of crazy circumstances he only visited the Mission and Tenderloin and is now convinced the entire city either smells like piss or is covered in junkies. I would like to take him to some must try places that will win him over. His budget is not large so the cheaper the better I think. His food tastes are kind of conservative but he is starting to branch out a little. Let me know if you have any ideas for places that could change his mind.

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    1. San Francisco just might be the antidote to a modest/conservative palate.
      Sanddabs this time of year can be tasty, a Hangtown fry, too. Neither will break the bank. Tadich can do both pretty well (ask your waiter at the restaurant bar first). There are cheaper alternatives.

      1. What type of "vibe" does your friend like? Off the top of my head, I would say Cotogna A-16, Baker & Banker and Frances are all in very nice neighborhoods - and have a number of conservative options (they are CA local sourced type places with a buzzing atmosphere - not steak houses from the 60s vibe places like Tadich to be clear Tadich is not a steak house). A-16 is in the best walking neighborhood of the ones I listed.

        8 Replies
        1. re: goldangl95

          Tadich has never been a steak house.
          It is, however, quite old (over 100 years in various locations), quite quirky and quite authentic. In short, a San Francisco institution.
          Martinis and oysters, at the restaurant bar, always work for me. The waiters are well-dressed, knowledgeable and willing to tell you what's tasty for lunch that day. There's no phoniness here. It's a serious FiDi stalwart with a serious FiDi luncheon following. Some of us like to keep the same waiter there like we do in New Orleans.

          1. re: goldangl95

            Unfortunately, his "vibe" is normally something like a Chili's or Applebees. I have had luck pushing him to some new places but places that even smell of "hip" are a hard sell.

            1. re: Dybno

              When I hear they like Chili's or Applebees I suggest Park Chow, or similar. The prices are similar to those chains, the food is way better...and at worst you can get something edible. Anything more is probably futile.

              1. re: ML8000

                Pier 23, at the bar, might work. Ideale up in North Beach has good food at a good price.
                I like both places: Pier 23 for it's bar/live music vibe and Ideale for its modest Roman sensibilities and solid food.

                1. re: steve h.

                  I've only eaten at Ideale once but loved it. We had a good sized party for a pre-wedding dinner for our daughter a few years ago. Great vibe and food.

                  Ooh, I just remembered La Trappe if OP's friend likes beer. At Washington Square.


                2. re: ML8000

                  I think Park Chow is a really good idea. Nothing scary about the menu or the place.

                  Just thought of Fino, two blocks up Post from Union Square. Pretty. Easy Italian menu. We used to eat there a lot when working and then later staying in the area.


                3. re: Dybno

                  I think that he might like Fog City Diner then. It's certainly
                  much better IMO than Applebees or Chili's.
                  Tadich was my favorite SF restaurant for years
                  and I still love the service, atmosphere, and martinis,
                  but the last couple of meals here were very
                  uneven food-wise.

                  1. re: jinet12

                    I've always found Tadich uneven. Sam's has a very similar menu and might be more consistent, slightly cheaper too. Some other old-school places:

                    Swan Oyster Depot if he likes seafood.

                    Capp's Corner (Italian)

                    Maybe Original Joe's, I haven't been there since it reopened in the new location.

                    Tommaso's for pizza (oldest pizzeria west of the Mississippi).

                    Tommy's Joynt (hofbrau)


              2. took some midwestern relatives to great eastern in chinatown, ordered all americanized (yet very well done) food, and they loved it.

                hyde street seafood (especially during $1 oyster happy hour) and sotto mare are also great

                1. I would also suggest a visit to the Ferry Building and farmers' market. Just walking around and trying samples should convince him (and be easy on the wallet).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cindy

                    not sure if i agree - i think seeing stone fruit sold for $4 or $5/pound (totally worth it IMO) would add to any negative stereotypes he has, regardless of how much he enjoys it

                  2. OuterLands in the Outer Sunset

                    1. being from missouri i'll just give pallet indications. texture is usless to us we like taste so to us a perfect mirepoix is just fancy cut veggies.

                      we love gravy so a place with a awesome beschemel is a key

                      we like sweet but not to sour so look for a place with a balanced gastrique

                      we like a good salting nothing worse then insulting a chef by salting his/her dishes

                      were bread to think prime is the only meat worth more then $30 so some grass fed organic beef if it aint prime we wont pay for it. we know the older well marbled is really better but we grow and sell beef and prime cost the most no matter what.

                      a smoth polenta better be as good as our indin ancesters or we will fuss and stop callin corn mush polenta.

                      we grow real vegatbles at our house on all the acres we own, don't even pretend it's fresh unless it came from your backyard today we know fresh.

                      thats about it

                      and their better be apple pie

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: elkahani

                        Based on this post and my friends' experiences of St. Louis (I am here assuming that you are near there, or that your area of Missouri is similar), I think for the most part you will get on okay in San Francisco. Many San Francisco restaurants are similar to the St. Louis restaurant Farmhaus in concept -- most locals would argue that this sort of dining was born in the Bay Area decades ago. My friends who recently dined at Farmhaus have also dined with me in San Francisco, and their opinion is that the Farmhaus experience is similar to a typical good San Francisco restaurant of that ilk. Fresh ingredients are not a concern in the Bay Area -- even at most burger joints, fresh, often organic ingredients are the minimum standard. Of course nothing can compare to vegetables plucked from a personal garden, but I can at least say that compared to what one might find at high-end restaurants across the country, the quality of ingredients here is extremely high, probably the best in America.

                        You might be given pause when you see our prices, though -- the prices here are second only to New York. The prices won't necessarily break $30 that often, but it might seem very expensive if you are accustomed to giant portions of food -- that is a complaint that seems to arise often from tourists; that our portions are too small (The local retort would be that the average, non-Olympic swimmer human shouldn't be eating giant plates of food in the first place, which is probably medically true, anyway.). If you're in a steakhouse, then the prices can easily soar above $30 for an entree, which might not even include the sides.

                        My friend who is actually from St. Louis (not the same one who dined at Farmhaus) says that the key advantage of San Francisco over St. Louis is the variety of cuisine. I'm not from St. Louis, so I'm not sure what you have or don't have, but it might be worth your while to check out some different cuisines while you're here, if you are interested in new foods. Do some research, see what catches your eye, I guess.

                        1. re: dunstable

                          That kind of dining was born in France and Italy generations ago, but the first place to do it in the US was Chez Panisse.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            And in Asia centuries before that. And that's also why CA does well in the pull the produce from your backyard cuisine.

                            Any way, I'd take the Midwesterner a couple of places and leave it alone. The guy doesn't sound like he wants to have any fun so the best you can do is lead the horse to water.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              100% this. Speaking as a transplant from the fly-overs: if your friend has already made up his mind, you're not going to change it unless he wants it to be changed.

                        2. re: elkahani

                          @elkahani: awesome summary. love it.

                        3. I live near San Francisco and think your friend's impression is not far wrong. There is some good food here and there despite that, but there are cleaner cities with lots of good food.

                          1. i think a lot of san francisco does smell like piss and is covered in junkies. especially the areas with the best cheap food. and the best cheap food is suited towards a somewhat adventurous palate.

                            pizza @ 16
                            sand dabs @ tadich
                            chilaquiles @ mijita in the ferry building
                            dim sum combination @ yank sing 2 go (but maybe this is too adventurous)

                            would probably be my suggestions for clean, nice, not too expensive, not too adventurous places.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              DE, that's a good point. Also NYC, CHI, LA, etc. He might be more comfortable in Marin or the Peninsula.

                            2. Ah. How about Umami Burger; that seems safe. It's in a "safe" neighborhood where no one is "hip," either in the NY or Portland sense of the word. And if he can't handle a burger, then there's nowhere you can take him. Maybe there's a Chili's in the Peninsula.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dunstable

                                Agreed about Umami. The Marina has good options. Fillmore Street is nice for cafes and shopping and has good food options as well: Delfina Pizza on California and Fillmore, Dosa on FIllmore, Troya on Fillmore.

                              2. I would recommend Aziza. The neighborhood seemed safe and the food and service there are outstanding.