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Good lunch places along Embarcadero/Levi Plaza area?

My office is moving to Levi Plaza—what's good to eat out there? Looking for casual and fancy, but most important is that it be doable on a lunch hour (so no hiking over the hill to North Beach).

I'll have access to the Levi's cafeteria, which is pretty decent. And I already know about Pier 23, which ain't bad. What about sushi? Burritos? A café other than Starbucks? And something nicer, when our authors come to visit? A wine bar or other elegant place for drinks? (Wul, perhaps not on my lunch hour…)

You know—places foodies like to go!

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  1. For fancy, go to Piperade. They can get in and out in an hour and I heartily recommend the garlic soup.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Piperade also has a casual take out window in the alley behind the restaurant that is worth checking out.

    2. Piperade's good. Henry's Hunan.

      1. How about Kokkari for lunch or drinks (or, with authors, lunch with drinks!)

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodeye

          A few years ago, there used to be a to-go window that was associated with Kokkari located on the other side of that block. As I recall they had sandwiches, salads, coffee.

          1. re: wolfe

            Used to be Fog City was truly mediocre—but it's been years since I last dined there. Has it improved?

            1. re: tsunamimi

              I was at Fog City Diner about two months ago. Still mediocre...

                1. re: wolfe

                  Don't know about the burger - I ordered oysters, crabcakes, and tuna tartare... And a cocktail.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      I'm so Cosmopolitan that way, huh??


              1. re: tsunamimi

                If the weather's nice it's a pleasant place to sit outside and have drinks. Happy hour weekdays 3-6. I haven't had food there in years.

            2. Levi's cafeteria is very good (for what it is) and reasonable in price. If you have access, you'll likely end up there a lot. I did. Cafe Destijl is a nice cafe, salads and sandwiches. Use to get sandwiches at the Deli on Lombard around the corner from the Bay Club. The deli is open all day so good place between meals or when the cafeteria is closed.

              1. All this is great advice—exactly what I was anticipating.

                How about Asian cuisine? Osha at Embarcadero is nice, but a bit too far for lunch—Levi Plaza is about 15–17 min. walk to Market St.; too far for lunch (unless I have extra time).

                3 Replies
                  1. re: tsunamimi

                    Z&Y Garden (Sichuan), Bund Shanghai, Penang Garden

                    Sai's is decent inexpensive Vietnamese, good place if you're with picky eaters.

                  2. When we worked at Levi's, Il Fornaio was always nice, whether for morning coffee, lunch, cocktails or dinner. But that's been 20 years ago. What's it like now? Also The Waterfront at Pier 7 was the "I'm going to offer you a job" place.
                    PS: Which building are you going to be in? I know Home Office has decentralized some of their departments and that's kinda cool that you get to use their cafeteria, which we thought was top notch at the time.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: c oliver

                      Levi's cafeteria is really quite good; they keep the prices down, too (and I'm allowed to bring guests). My office is in the building directly across the plaza from Levi HQ's main entrance (though we face north and east).

                      The other business on the floor is a wine distributor! I don't recall the name at the moment, but I have a hunch we'll be making friends…

                      I wish there were a decent Japanese restaurant in the area. Closest one that gets decent Yelp ratings is a take-out place called Yo Yo's. Anybody familiar with it?

                      1. re: tsunamimi

                        Haven't been in ages, but the udon (or soba) at Yo Yo's was really great, and the owners were terribly nice. Thanks for the reminder, I need to go there again.

                        1. re: foodeye

                          Just filled my belly with Yo Yo's udon—got the large w/everything: seaweed, fried tofu, and tempura batter bits; also bought a mochi-red bean ball, and a bag of senbei. Total $9.75.

                          Portions are good—the full size was definitely filling. The udon was a tad overcooked—next time I'll get soba, which my friend reports was still chewy. The broth was somewhat sweet, not as smokey and savory as I like; but still pleasant—next time I'll get the fresh tofu instead of the fried, maybe that will help (the fried is sweet from its mirin marinade).

                          And yes, the couple who run Yo Yos are darling.

                      1. re: foodeye

                        I hear it's good. Lines are still too long for me—I'll try in a couple of weeks and report back.

                        1. re: tsunamimi

                          A caveat on Parlour 1255's coffee: while they do indeed have Sightglass, it's only pre-brewed in those big thermosy thingies, so no espresso or pourovers.

                      2. Grumpy's pub (www.grumpyspub.com) has decent salads and burgers. Good variety of tap beers and a cider; not too stingy with their scotch pours, heh. The atmosphere is comfy, and folks who work there are really nice.

                        Had lunch there with a large group (8), and the orders came pretty much at once. Only screw-up was one of the medium-rare burgers was served well-done. Not a "best-of-SF burger," but pretty good. Salads were decent, good portion. Fries were a touch soggy; the garlic fries had so much raw garlic that they almost tasted fishy, and it was still oozing from my pours 24 hrs later… but I know most people like it that way.

                        Second visit was with another large group for happy hour. The other patrons are construction workers, office workers, and a few bike messengers; lots of cross-pollinating conversation—not at all cliquish. When folks learned we were new to the area, they welcomed us. I can see this being a regular hangout for my workmates.

                        1. My workmates are saying good things about the soup truck, run by San Francisco Soup Company. I believe it parks on the Battery St side of Levi Plaza Mondays and Wednesdays. I'll try it out next week.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tsunamimi

                            After turning my nose up at SF Soup Co. for a long time I've changed my tune a little. The Organic Southwest Corn Chowder is really pretty good, just be sure to say "yes" when they ask if you want onions and cilantro. I don't know what the policy is at the truck, but in their storefronts you can always taste before you decide what to order.

                          2. A handful of Off the Grid food trucks now set up regularly three days a week on Front twixt Vallejo and B'way:


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: tsunamimi

                              You're giving such great info. I'm sure many 'lurkers' are going to appreciate this. We sure would have back in the Dark Ages when we worked at the Plaza.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I worked down there around 15 years ago and I think options have improved a lot since then.

                            2. Isn't there a small deli/Italian grocery store just west of the Embarcadero that makes good sandwiches?