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Sep 20, 2012 10:06 AM

Bix or Wayfare Tavern?


In December, a family member and I will be in SF for one night (first night in Yountville - dining at TFL) and would like to dine somewhere in FiDi/NorthBeach for dinner. He is from Luxembourg/France and hasn't been to SF since perhaps 1994. I visit about 1-3 times a year. We have narrowed it down to Bix or Wayfare Tavern due to their location and bustling atmosphere. Both seem to provide that American city feel that I think my uncle would enjoy. I know these are very different restaurants and I am leaning towards Wayfare with a drink at Bix after but would like to hear some opinions.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I should also add that while my top choice would be Saison for the meal, I could not justify the price. A. Crenn looks very appealing too but I think we may want a break from the tasting menu format after dining at TFL the night before and switch up from fine dining to something a little more casual but where we could still get champagne and oysters.

    1. Those are two places with very specific SF atmosphere. Comstock Saloon is another in the same general area, more casual and cheaper.

      Saison's great, but five Michelin stars in two days ... ouch.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        IMHO, BIX >> Comstock.
        Is Luxembourg the country heavily involved in tax fraud?

        1. re: psb

          I believe there was a banker in Lx recently probed for tax fraud but I don't know any more information.

          Thanks for the feedback.

          I am holding back from Saison or AC because want to switch it up from the Michelin fine-dine scene. We are looking for very SF atmosphere. Thanks again.

          1. re: Searching4Dunny

            Mr. S4D:

            If atmospherics are of particular interest, that would incline me even more toward BIX.

            Comstock: food is ok, but otherwise just a loud and crowded (as in densely packed, not just lots of patrons) resto without anything exceptional/uniq on the food side.

            BIX: you walk in and react with "whoa, this is cool". and the fare doesnt disappoint.
            note: i agree BIX has atmosphere, but i wouldnt call it "bustling". again "sophisticated" or "cool" "america" or "sf" ... agree with those. although i've usually been to BIX on the late side ... maybe at a more "proper" dinner hour it is "bustling".

            WT: always too long of a wait and we end up going elsewhere, so i have nothing to contribute on this one.

            re: LUX
            >but I don't know any more information.
            ok i was just checking. i had heard "LUX was a leech among nations".

            1. re: psb

              Thanks you for the feedback, however, I don't quite understand your comment re: LUX? As far as I know, LUX's reputation has always been as a tax haven for the wealthy, similar to Switzerland. It is a banking hub in Europe, so some who consider banks leeches may view LUX that way but I think that issue is far more complex. Standard of living is high there (above say, France) so I don't think it fits into the same "leech" type category that some may ascribe to perhaps, Greece. Not to say Greece is a "leech" but I could see more of a basis for using that kind of descriptor. I don't see this conversation being appropriate on chowhound so I will stop here but I guess I am confused about your statement.

              OR, I may be completely missing a statement/phrase/song/movie quote/etc. you are referencing ;)

              1. re: Searching4Dunny

                I was thinking Cotogna might be good as well -- very different, but also "bustling." And please let me apologize for the uncharacteristic and completely uncalled for rudeness of the prior posts!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Hi Ruth,

                  No need to apologize for another person's post but I appreciate it nonetheless. I have been to Cotogna and enjoyed it greatly. Actually thought about it but I feel that good Italian food is aplenty in Europe, even considering the Cal twist that Cotogna has on dishes. I may just take another look, however, and check up on the menu as we approach December.

          2. re: psb

            Bix should be better than Comstock, given the prices, but to me Comstock's in the same general old-SF vein. You won't see anything like its decor elsewhere and they have riffs on some venerable local specialties on the menu. I've eaten there several times and thought the food was really good and an excellent value.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              To me Comstcok feels "fake old SF"" ... although I havent spent enough time in places like WASHBAG or whatever etc to spell this out in microscopic detail. I am trying hard not to use the phrase "Bridge and Tunnel" in this thread.

              I checked with some people and they confirmed "LUX is a leech among nations".

              1. re: psb

                Comstock is genuine old SF, it has been a bar for over a century and a lot of the decor is about that old. The makeover from SF Brewing Co. was mostly restoration.

                Wayfare is totallly ersatz, Rubicon was in the same space and its decor was spare and modern. Bix is in an historic building but it was the assay office and later the Assay Office bar, which was not so swanky.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I agree with Robert especially since you are going to TFL the night before. I would choose it over the other two.

        2. Wayfare Tavern reminds me of New York (not sure if that's apt - but it just did for some reason), and the food is American comfort food re-imagined. Wasn't super impressed with the place.

          1. Hands down Wayfare Tavern. The ambiance is excellent. The food keeps getting better with every menu incarnation - now several healthier options too - and the service is impeccable. Great wine list. And beers on tap. Impressive desserts - especially the Chocolate Cream pie and Peach pie. I do know that they only offer limited seats on Open Table so I always have much better luck getting a reservation if I call them. Comstock is not close to being in the same league for food or atmosphere. Bix would be my second choice (but IMHO not nearly the value or fun vibe that Wayfare offers. Also feels much more "mature" and slightly "upper crust" if that makes sense).

            1. For me, no contest, it's Bix. I have been to WT a ywar or so ago, sat at bar for dinner so didn't really see the whole place. Food, ambience all good, but Bix wows you from the first step inside. The alley entrance is charming, encouraging the mystery as if you know a secret, but of course Bix has history aplenty. Sit at the bar, sit at a table upstairs, downstairs, doesn't matter as you can take in the whole place from nearly any seat. The mural over the bar gives much to think about and the incredible weekend live jazz adds yet another layer. The food? Well, always amazing, tending toward American fare and menu changes slowly. Just go!

              9 Replies
              1. re: walkoffdinner

                Wow - two strong recommendations for each separate place. This makes the decision a bit harder and will resonate on it for a while since we have some time (trip in December).

                It seems like the food is better at WT while the ambiance/experience is superior at Bix. True?

                Thanks again for the feedback.

                1. re: Searching4Dunny

                  I would disagree with the idea that the food is better at WT. Every time I've dined there, I've found the food to be "good but not great". The food at Bix is at least "good" and a bit more sophisticated.

                  1. re: nocharge

                    Good to know. Bix does strike me as having a more sophisticated menu. We are both big seafood fans so great seafood apps or mains would be a plus. WT's app menu also appears to include interesting seafood fare (local squid, local sardines). Coming from Europe, I know my uncle is looking for local seafood that he can't eat back home so WT has a slight edge (seemingly so) on that specific focus. I was considering Sotto Mare at one point for the cioppino and sand dabs but I think we ultimately looking for a great overall dining experience (nice room, more sophisticated service, etc.) so I dropped that. Thanks for your thoughts.

                    1. re: Searching4Dunny

                      Wayfare Tavern is more informal than Bix.

                      I like the food and atmosphere better at Wayfare Tavern. I agree with the earlier post that WT could feel a bit like a NY place. If you want something more upscale (or as another poster said, "upper crust") Bix might be better. I find Bix a bit more stuffy, but in an old-school San Francisco way.

                      1. re: Searching4Dunny

                        Do remember that we have very little great seafood in SF. NYC gets much better. It's just an issue of where the fish are in the ocean, and you're better off grabbing the sardines and squid and uni. Be very particular and don't bother unless it's fresh local line caught - and ask where it was caught. If they can't tell you, try another dish.

                        I do not have an opinion on bix vs wayfare, I haven't been to either.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          The sardines/squid/uni selections were what drew me to WT (they all appear to be on the menu at various times). Local petral sole is also something we would want to try. I may have to hit Tadich for that on a separate trip.

                          1. re: Searching4Dunny

                            A lot of the seafood in NY comes from the airport, just like here. Monterey Fish's Twitter feed and the menus at Chez Panisse are good places to find out what's currently available.


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Great link. Thanks for that. I am actually coming from LA area, where I believe there is even more of a dearth of fresh local seafood than the Bay Area. Spiny lobster and Santa Barbara urchin are probably the two highlights of SoCal seafood. The Bay seems to have more squid, crabs and sardines than SoCal.

                              1. re: Searching4Dunny

                                Local Dungeness crab will be in season in December. Wayfare's crab Louis was really good.