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Help me narrow 4 SF restaurants down to 2

I'm a decent cook / foodie who doesn't get out much (little kids + no $!) My mom and her boyfriend are coming to town for Thanksgiving, from Venice Beach (their taste: Tasting Kitchen and Gjelina's.) We'll eat out twice at dinner, once at either:
Commonwealth or AQ
The other time at either:
France's or Flour + Water

I've never eaten at any of them (tho I live here), but last year we enjoyed our meal at Cotogna. We'll probably branch out for lunch to something more exotic, but that's not part of this post.

We're looking for excellent food, casual / stylish people and digs, and prices at, well, the price level of the restaurants mentioned. Thoughts? Am I missing something exciting?
Thanks!

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  1. I would pick AQ over Commonwealth (AQ is more vibrant and has cocktails). I really enjoy both Frances and Flour + Water.

    1. Flour + Water feels to me more like a bar than a restaurant, which could be a plus or a minus depending. If you don't have a reservation the wait can be over an hour.

      1. Personally I think AQ over Commonwealth is an easy choice, although Commonwealth does some interesting and enjoyable things.

        1. AQ far over Commonwealth
          Commonwealth doesn't always deliver with it's dishes and the service isn't the best.

          and Frances by far over Flour + Water.
          I've liked the food I've had at Flour + Water but do not find it execptional or unique.

          1. Thanks everyone for your thoughts. AQ it definitely is. Not to overthink this, but the choice between the other two is more of a puzzle, for a few reasons. 1) the only reservations I could get at either, still 2 months away, is 5:15 for Frances and 5:45 for F+W. Not a killer, but hardly ideal. 2) Flour+Water has the fresh pasta slant I think the parents could get behind, but Frances, not sure how to excite them about yet another intimate CA restaurant. Aziza they loved, because it was so fresh for them. Am I missing an option at this price point, while staying stylish, and without heading to Asian or Latin?

            11 Replies
            1. re: leeinsf

              For example, I'm now thinking of Incanto or La Ciccia instead, and the reservations would be easier.

              1. re: leeinsf

                If Chris Cosentino wins Top Chef Masters, that might be a selling point.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Which he did -- get your reservation now!

                2. re: leeinsf

                  La Ciccia is an awesome place, but the food is traditional Sardinian and the vibe doesn't in any way echo the hip/experimental type of thing you get at Gjelina.

                  1. re: leeinsf

                    I think going Italian is a good idea. It is really shinning in the Bay Area at the moment. I would say Incanto if you and your family would be down for the more rarer-exotic parts of an animal. Locanda for more of a bar scene and Cotogna for a very fresh open California-Italian restaurant.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      We took them to Cotogna last year, but Locanda sounds great. Locanda or Incanto? They both sound great to me.

                      1. re: leeinsf

                        Locanda is loud - a bit LA in vibe. The service can be a bit chaotic/distracted. I liked the food at Locanda more than at Incanto. That's a personal preference mainly because I'm not the biggest meat eater (esp. exotic parts). I like to try it -but I don't hear the specials/look at the menu and am like tongue! awesome!

                        Incanto has the CA vibe-so it still has that buzz -but it is quieter (in a quieter micro-neighborhood - quieter crowd) Most of the specials will feature tongue, offal etc. Finding a vegetarian item for one of our table wasn't the easiest -though it was one of the best dishes of the night (a beautiful tomato dish). Our service there was great.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          Every time I've been to Incanto in recent years half the appetizers, a couple of pastas, and one entree on the daily-changing menu were vegetarian. The chalkboard for limited-quantity items is mostly offal.

                          http://incanto.biz/food-wine/sample-m...

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            It's true it's a little better than what I remembered. Part of the problem too was in this case, the vegetarian did not eat egg. So it knocked out way more of the options. (and also a restriction I realize that many vegetarians do not follow).

                        2. re: leeinsf

                          I enjoy both as well because I think they offer really nice dishes not found at the other Cal Itals. I think goldang makes a good point about the environ diffs. So I'll just throw in some other factors that may tip you:
                          - Locanda: portion size was good for sharing, they're open until 12 midnight-1a and get a late night crowd (and in the Mission), they have a full bar and nice cocktail list, the only thing we didn't like were their meat preps (except for the awesome pork jerky)
                          - Incanto: stronger on meat, will def find offal, wine/beer only I think, in Noe Valley (pretty quiet after 8p)
                          I don't think you will go wrong with either. I def prefer both to F+W.

                    2. re: leeinsf

                      "Am I missing an option at this price point, while staying stylish ..."

                      Maybe Barbacco.