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This one goes to 11: Van Hound tapping Bay Area again in early November

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Lucky us, we're gearing up for our 11th trip to SF since we started coming in 2007. Pretty excited about our eating itinerary this time, nice mix of old favourites and new places to try. One big oops, didn't book in time for Rich Table and they are chockablock the whole week we're in town (I did call but that I think is a faint hope). Here's what we have so far:

lunches:
Bar Tartine sando shop -- new to us
Shanghai House -- gotta have that pork knuckle, they were closed for hols last trip
Inkas -- their chicken still haunts me
Hisago or Poc Chuc or Tortas Los Picudos or Mijita -- depending if we're feeling Japanese or Mexican on the day
Mission Bowling Club -- providing they do the reg burg during brunch on the weekend -- I've emailed but no answer yet; I saw they did it for a board regular once so fingers crossed
Mandalay -- must have Burmese fix!
Cotogna -- this was so great last trip we are repeating

dinners

Lers Ros -- love the appetizers here especially and it's a great choice for our first night as the plane is ALWAYS late and they are so flexible; looking forward to trying their nam khao tod for the first time
Harrow happy hour then Canteen to try their prix fixe for the first time (it will be all that's on offer as of Nov 5)
Seven Hills for pasta -- this was a much tougher reservation that I'd thought, had to change the day of the week to get it
Bar Tartine -- langos, mmm. Haven't been since the full-on menu shakeup
Vientian -- yup, gotta go, so good and such great value -- tempted by Green Champa but...
AQ -- I knew this would be a tough reservation but we got lucky
SOMA Streat Food -- this was our Monday solution when Rich Table fell through. I know, totally different but we don't have this type of "pod" setup at home and I've heard good things. Plus dining outside in November is a cheap thrill for a Vancouverite :-)

Other snacks/coffee etc on the radar:

Blue Bottle Mint Plaza -- yeah, we love it
farm:table -- even without the kouign amann, sigh
V-105 -- checking to see if they do have Starter kouign amann, sandwiches look good too
B. Patisserie for (surprise!) kouign amann
Knead for the Pomme d' Amore -- may call ahead to reserve one!
Viet crepe from Lotus Garden on Mission -- I love these things
Swank Cocktail and Coffee Club -- coffee and cocktails, why not? Depends if we go in the am or the pm
The Social Study -- part coffee bar, part bar bar, cool decor, what's not to like?
Cafe Sophie -- cause I love a good mocha
Starter baked goods at Birite Market, Coffee Bar, Little Vine (weekends only), Ma'velous, Philz, Rapha Cycle Club, Réveille Coffee Truck (this must be new as they only had coffee when we went last time),V-105

Also want to check out Buyer's Best Friend in Lower Haight for independent and artisan foodstuffs.

Have I missed anything obvious? Anything here that makes you shudder? Any and all feedback appreciated.

Cheers,

grayelf

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  1. If you have a car, I'd do Little Yangon over Mandalay.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Since I have had a very kind offer of a car, have just had a proper look at the Little Yangon menu. They have pickled mango salad!!! Really hoping to make this work. A bit of concern re some downhill indications in writeups from a couple of years ago but it looks very worthy to me. Maybe we can get some more bellies rounded up so we can order more dishes -- I still remember with some shame the amount of Burmese goodness we wasted with just two diners at Burmese Kitchen the first time :-).

    2. Looks great!

      Bar Tartine has langos during lunchtime too.

      If you're going to Inkas for lunch, for breakfast you should head to Bernal and get Sandbox Bakery pastries. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/850011

      1. On your snack list, you should add Craftsman & Wolves (could replace your kouign amann deletion!)
        http://craftsman-wolves.com/#

        7 Replies
        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Little Yangon is on the radar but alas no car.

          Thanks for the tip on Sandbox being near Inkas. Any good coffee places out that way? (Now to do some homework and find out what non-food diversions there are nearby to justify staying in the area long enough to be hungry again)

          Craftsman and Wolves was in the mix until I looked at that website (I mean before reading your post, Carrie, which I appreciate). I'm either too old or too grumpy but I can't make head nor tail of it to tell what they actually serve. Mutter mutter...

          1. re: grayelf

            Given what I have read of your trips in the past, you should go to Craftsman & Wolves and have the Rebel Within. It really is that special- a soft cooked egg, baked inside a muffin shaped biscuit.
            Also, their brownies are the best I have ever had.

            1. re: grayelf

              Oh, if you're on foot, Sandbox and Inka's are .7 miles apart. A perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse of the city via Bernal Heights park! Not sure if you've been to Bernal before, but Paulie's Pickles and Anda Piroshki are nice stops along Cortland Ave. Check their hours.

              Edit: Not sure about coffee near those parts!

              1. re: hyperbowler

                I just realized that hyberbowler is suggesting Sandbox for breakfast and then to Inka's for lunch....that is mostly downhill (if you don't detour to climb the Bernal Heights Park hill) so that might make more sense, except that if you are on public transit you'd be taking a bus, or walking from 24th and Mission BART past Inka's and then up to Sandbox and then back again.....

              2. re: grayelf

                Cortland is fun to walk along (my old stomping grounds) but while I've enjoyed a few picks at Sandbox, it isn't outstanding, IMO. Sort of hit and miss for me. Anda Piroshki is new since I lived off of Cortland and I haven't tried it, but that might be worth a walk. (I love piroshkis and would have really enjoyed having the place in the hood when I lived there). It is actually a bit more than .7 miles, and uphill going, (and a BIG uphill if you are going to properly do Bernal Heights Park on the way...frankly I am confused by that recommendation: unless you want to do it for the view and a hike I'd just walk up Mission from Inkas to Courtland and turn left) and I wouldn't bother just for Sandbox, personally. (My last visit was perhaps ten months ago when I was back visiting). That said, they pride themselves on their coffee at Sandbox.

                Lotus Garden is almost just across the street from Inka's if you want to really overdo it and get your Banh Xeo fix on the same trip. Then you will need to climb the Bernal Heights hill! :-) Or just skip Inka's and go to LG instead (which is what I would do).

                1. re: susancinsf

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7923...
                  Anda Piroshki is well worthy of the Cortland crawl + Paulie's Pickling.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    I am really curious to try a banh xeo in SF and since you and Cynsa are both recommending Lotus Garden... Maybe we'll head over and suss out the situation at Inka's to see if it is the same chef. If yes, share some chicken and the amazing yellow sauce, then head across to LG to split a banh xeo.

                    Anda's looks good too. As usual an embarrassment of riches to choose from...

              3. At this point, I suspect you know San Francisco's restaurants better than the average San Franciscan.

                I only go to SOMA Streat Food when I'm doing the 11th St thing, but sometimes only half the trucks are there. I'm not sure why that is, perhaps it says on the website, but you might want to check before you go. Once I went and the only food trucks open were a taco truck, a burgers-and-fries truck, and the BBQ truck. This was around 8pm on a Friday, so I'm not sure what was going on.

                21 Replies
                1. re: dunstable

                  It really does do better in the afternoon, crowded with twitter-ites and such, before the cold wind starts blowing under the freeway. I think the right answer is to have a backup just in case.
                  Bar Agricole is very close, but likely jammed
                  AQ is darned close too, but you'll never get in
                  El Toyonese taco truck - just across the street
                  CatHead BBQ - have not tried, suspicious, but ...
                  Nihon Wiskey Lounge - supposed to be good
                  Walzwerk - HIGHLY underappreciated, depends if you have a sentimental spot for eastern european
                  Citizen's Band - haven't been heard it's good
                  ---
                  on that side of town
                  Slow Club, Serpentine, Universal Cafe
                  Central Kitchen
                  Skool
                  Marlowe
                  --- what's interesting about these places is they are a bit more "every day foodie" than most of the places you've been and are repeating. I think that's a good thing, starting to experience the bay area as those of us who eat out almost every night do.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    dunstable, thanks for the heads up. We're thinking of checking on the day as to what's supposed to be open. bbulkow, thanks for all your suggestions. Bar Agricole was on the short list -- I wonder if a walk in on a Monday would work? Also wanted to try Walzwerk for ages, as I do have a sentimental spot... Citizen's Band intrigues but I think is closed Mondays.

                    Slow Club and Serpentine are on the big list for burgers which I'm sadly neglecting this trip (went on a burger bender in Portland last week). Both are open Mondays. Would either be a good backup without a reso (ie) for a lineup intolerant tourist?

                    Universal was on the list for brunch; dinner looks good but closed Mondays alas. Thought about Central Kitchen but the mains did not tempt me much. Skool looks intriguing (my dad would kill for that uni flan which I've read about before, I think from you, bbulkow). Marlowe did nothing for me at lunch so not inclined to return for dinner.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      There might be a lineup at Slow Club and Serpentine, but nothing intolerable. I wouldn't make a special trip for a burger, though.

                      1. re: Atomica

                        Accoustics at the Slow club can be way too noisy for me.

                      2. re: grayelf

                        The "plan B" i'd make would be to have a list of the places in order, and if you don't like the food truck looks, call down the list and see who has space. If you have a car, serpentine is easier to park. Slow club is harder to get into generally, although their back bar often has a seat. I've had both burgers, they're about the same, the mixed drinks at Serpentine are better. But my general idea is have your list and call around quickly --- as it's a "plan b" you don't have to be quite as picky - it's only if the food truck selection disappoints. Even AQ - sometimes you call and there just happens to be a cancellation. It's worth 30 seconds of phone time (assuming you have a US calling plan).

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Good to know re noise at Slow Club, that is an issue for me. Will have all phone numbers at the ready and my fabbity fab new US calling plan should come in handy :-). AQ is booked already another night. Will try to be a bit less obsessive-compulsive for once and make a game-day decision!

                        2. re: grayelf

                          Serpentine wouldn't have a line on Monday, the food is very solid but not amazing (if you want something unique or different I would go to Skool. Right across the street from Serpentine is Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous ice cream shop (only open till 6pm though).

                          1. re: grayelf

                            to throw my two cents in, grayelf - i was very disappointed in Walzwerk for that type of food (things were dry and tasteless). Suppenkuche is much better, and even much better than they used to be years ago. I have not tried Schmidt's, in the mission, though i've been dying to.

                            have also wanted to try Skool, so interested in your report if you do!

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              the uni flan is enough reason to go 'back to Skool'
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/722695

                              1. re: Cynsa

                                it sounds amazing. i remember that report, from 2 years ago! and still haven't gone....

                              2. re: mariacarmen

                                I prefer Suppenkuche to Schmidt's. Schmidt's is very hipster Berlin in style but the food is very Barvarian in selection, overpriced for the portions and the sausages were dry. It's is very noisy. Many of the meats on the butcher platter were imported and they would even high quality brands.

                                1. re: tjinsf

                                  I prefer Walzwerk to Suppenkuche. I think I'd avoid the 'noise' at Schmidt's or try an early seating.

                                  1. re: tjinsf

                                    thanks, good to know.

                              3. re: bbulkow

                                It's easy to get a reservation for AQ if you plan a month ahead, and she already got one.

                                Walzwerk is fun but the food at Schmidt's was better.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  If you do want German / Austrian on another trip, consider Leopold's as well.

                                  Michael

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The menus at Schmidt's and Walzwerk are very different. I like them both for different reasons, but I love the food at Walzwerk and agree that it's underappreciated.

                                    Since grayelf mentions Poc Chuc, I'll throw in Kuuup near 16th & Mission for really excellent Mayan food. This place is flying under the radar. http://eventup.com/venues/san-francis...

                                    1. re: Atomica

                                      Atomica, I come from a land where burgers cannot be had made to order so sadly a special trip for burgers is a treat for me. Do you mean there are better burgs to be had in that area?

                                      Also many thanks for the tip on Kuuup (I think there might be an accent in there somewhere; 7x7 has it as Ku'u Up). I keep forgetting to read Grub Street and 7x7 for SF, duh, relying too much on EaterSF, which doesn't seem to have noticed it. I couldn't find any info on it via the link you kindly provided -- perhaps I am doing something wrong? At any rate, I think we've found our Monday night destination, assuming it is open Monday nights. Unless of course we end up at Izakaya Yuzuki: I am intrigued by the Koji fermentation they are using.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Would love to get an update on Ku'u Up, if you have a chance to squeeze it in.
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849745

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          Wow, sorry. That was the wrong link, obviously. This is the link I meant to post on Ku'uup. Dunno where "Ku'u Up" comes from--which on is correct? I'm going by what their sign says. http://missionlocal.org/2012/02/longt...

                                          I don't have a chance to squeeze in an update, but I can say that it was better than anything I've had at Poc Chuc in all of its incarnations, fresh, salady, delicious. I had panuchos and was very happy. Yelp reviews (for what you think they're worth or not) are generally quite favorable. I have been disappointed by Poc Chuc over and over again.

                                          1. re: Atomica

                                            Thanks for the link, melanie. Once again my searching skills on CH fail me :-).

                                            I have enjoyed Poc Chuc the several times I've been there for specific items, particularly the "appetizery" things on the platillo maya and the salpicon de res which alas seems to have disappeared from the menu. Would be willing to give the variously spelled Ku-uup a try for a change. I think it will be a game day decision on the Monday.

                                    2. re: bbulkow

                                      Cathead BBQ is surprisingly good especially for Bay Area BBQ and it's cheap, under 10 for servings. They serve the meat dressed unless you request it without sauce.

                                      Citizen's Band is very hipster overpriced comfort food. Also HORRIBLE poutine.

                                      Nihon Wiskey Lounge is best for for drinks and small bites than meals.

                                      Skool is great for their uni flan.

                                  2. For a 2nd time, you reminded me about Buyer's Best Friend, so I popped in today. The set up seems settled at this point. Lots of things to sample, and they'll open other things if you're interested. They now have bulk imported Swedish candies at under $4/ quarter lb.

                                    If you want espresso, Stanza is close by. Also, Loved to Death taxidermy is fun if you're into the macabre.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      Thanks for the tip on Stanza, haven't heard of it. Lots of positive posts on that other site. I wonder how it compares to Flywheel, a coffee place that seemed promising in the Haight area.

                                      BTW I was just reading on SF Eater that Buyers Best Friend is about to open a branch in North Beach: http://sf.eater.com/archives/2012/10/... in case you hadn't seen that. Nice to know we will have two options when we come in November! And it looks like a third is planned, location TBD. Nice.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        LOL. My recommendation for Stanza was motivated by the overly sour and unbalanced espresso I'd just gotten from Flywheel. I was hoping they'd have improved in the past few months, but no such luck. Stanza is consistently good.

                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                          Thanks for the up-to-the-minute Flywheel info. It was your May post that alerted me to its existence as well. Stanza tops the list for this nabe!

                                    2. What about Off The Grid? http://offthegridsf.com

                                      Also, if you can make it up to Napa, Redd and it's pizza place, Redd Wood are both great.

                                      Finally, one of the hottest new restos in San Francisco is Frances: http://www.yelp.com/biz/frances-san-f...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cultureclubsf

                                        Thanks, we've tried a couple of OTG events including Ft Mason, most enjoyable. Also been to Frances which unfortunately was not our cup of tea. No Napa this trip.

                                      2. Even Philz now has Starter kouign amman and a lot of other Starter pastries. My new favorite coffee as of the last month is Front (Potrero Hill). They are incredibly serious about coffee. They roast their own beans and their coffee (iced and hot) is stellar. It's given me new insight into how nuanced coffee can be. As the site says, their storefront is an old loading dock. They usually have b. patisserie kouign amman and a handful of other goodies. http://www.frontsf.com/

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Atomica

                                          I got a list of who has Starter in SF proper and Philz is indeed on it. So far their hazelnut KA is the best one I've tried, with the plain a close second. Adding Front to our coffee targets, thanks for that, especially as they have the b. patisserie KA (will try to get by Leong's bricks and mortar as well this time). Love the gravity of their concise website!

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            just be aware with Front that they are only open till 4 and don't have any other drinks also they don't make latte or americano they say but they do make espresso with milk and espresso with extra water haha. The coffee is very good but they are very very serious about it complete with the facial hair and old timey vest that mark serious coffee I guess.

                                            1. re: tjinsf

                                              They are very serious about their coffee, but that does not translate to attitude, I would like to point out. They are very friendly. Also, no soy milk concoctions available.

                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                Front makes me think of an old Herb Caen anecdote about a San Franciscan who had the temerity to order a decaf at a cafe in Paris. The barista frowned and said "Monsieur, ce n'est pas une pharmacie!"

                                                1. re: soupçon

                                                  good one, soupcon!

                                            2. re: grayelf

                                              Highwire Coffee in the Market Plaza in Oakland (Rockridge BART) has a special Starter Bakery kouignn amann with espresso custard made from their espresso blend. It is fabulous!

                                              1. re: Armoise

                                                I think my heart just stopped! Suddenly rearranging plans to be in Oaktown during the day :-).

                                                1. re: Armoise

                                                  http://rockridgemarkethall.com/highwi...

                                                  1. re: Armoise

                                                    uh oh. i do believe this is one of the more dangerous postings ever... espresso custard! yum

                                                    1. re: escargot3

                                                      I'm thinking of calling in sick to work to try this out...

                                              2. For your lunch itinerary, you may want to include a stop at The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley. They make one variety of sandwich per day, and they are generally pretty great.

                                                http://thelocalbutchershop.com/sandwi...

                                                If you're lucky enough to be here during a week when their Meatloaf!!! is on the menu, then you'll be lucky indeed.

                                                1. With luck, MY China in the Westfield mall may be open by then, and you can get to see how a Martin Yan/Koi Palace collaboration stacks up against Van's Chinese small eats.

                                                  If you have a sweet tooth (which I don't) you might want to check out Yigit Pura's Tout Sweet.

                                                  Both venues are conveniently located for a quick look-see even if you don't want to take the bait.

                                                  http://mychinasf.com/
                                                  http://www.toutsweetsf.com/

                                                  1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/874167

                                                    banh xeo at OTD
                                                    2232 Bush Street
                                                    SFCA 94115 Telephone (415) 923 9575
                                                    or, at Y and Y
                                                    914 Clement St
                                                    between 11th & 10th Avenue
                                                    SFCA 94118

                                                    1. lunch at Salumeria- the tongue sandwich is quite good
                                                      pastries: Tout Sweet Patisserie

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tjinsf

                                                        A quick thanks for all the new ideas you're giving me -- must have been a glitch on CH as I missed a bunch of them till now though I've been checking back frequently. I've noted them all, if not for this trip then next.

                                                        Sorta rethinking my Inka's lunch unless I can get confirmation that the menu and cooking hasn't changed since the recent ownership shift...

                                                      2. Thank you for recommending Vientian, a hard to resist place for the great food and a strong sense of home away from home. I kept expecting some one to sit right down and join our party.
                                                        In light of some of your usual selections maybe try the Nam Prik Gappy tray at Lers Ros, which is quite large (count as 2 1/2 dishes), so bring a few folks or take leftovers as it works really for a few days.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: wewwew

                                                          Sounds intriguing, please tell me more as I couldn't find it on the menu online. Glad you liked Vientian.

                                                          1. re: grayelf

                                                            It was on the specials board

                                                            1. re: wewwew

                                                              It is a tray of things to dip in the nam prik, which is a Thai salsa. Steamed and fresh veggies, mackerel, and assorted goodies

                                                              1. re: wewwew

                                                                generous with bamboo shoots, Thai eggplant, pickled cabbage, blanched broccoli, cucumber slices, two deep fried mackerel and vegetable crepe

                                                        2. http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCKxdJq
                                                          Lers Ros Thai - apologies for poor low light pix

                                                          1. toast with coffee for your Snack Lists on the 55-page tome
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859297

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Cynsa

                                                              Josey Baker's toast on Sunday at The Mill was with Apricot & Sage bits. This was a 'new' delicious combination that we hope will be offered often. Build out construction is continuing with progress.
                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859297
                                                              http://themillsf.wordpress.com/

                                                              tastings of Coffee:
                                                              Front Cafe with b. patisserie's kouign amann and espresso, affogato with vanilla bean ice cream from Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous
                                                              http://www.frontsf.com

                                                              Wrecking Ball for espresso + Kalita brewed Nicaragua Nueva Segovia 'El Progreso' and Ethiopia Sidama Shakiso
                                                              http://wreckingballcoffee.com/

                                                              Philz at 4298-24th Street for Starters' kouign amann, with Philharmonic, iced Mint Mojito
                                                              http://www.philzcoffee.com/Store-Loca...

                                                            2. Shanghai House 'pork fest' lunch
                                                              http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCLvABN
                                                              We all were happily sated with Salt & Pepper Pig Knuckle, Tea Smoked Duck, Dry-Fried Green Beans, and the clay pot of salted pork and vegetable rice. The soup today was most satisfying on a rain-soaked afternoon: soy bean, pickled vegetables and shredded pork with handcut noodles — my favorite dish.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                                An excellent meal and excellent company! I've never had the pig knuckle done this way, only the red cooked version. This was the best with the unexpected garnish of crispy sweetened seaweed shreds. The tea-smoked duck was the best version of this dish I've had. The duck was tender and juicy not dry like others I've had, most enjoyable. The handcut noodles in the soup were the height of homey goodness and hit the spot on a chilly morning. Altogether delicious - Thanks Cynsa!

                                                              2. my report with pics on another thread of my dinner last night with grayelf & hubby at AQ: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8158...

                                                                1. had lunch with grayelf and hubby today, at Cotogna. a standout meal, and makes the difference between this and A.Q. stand out starkly. we shared:

                                                                  Nettle, farm egg & pecorino pizza
                                                                  Carrot & spinach sformato with parmigiano reggiano
                                                                  Charred octopus with castelvetrano olive & treviso
                                                                  Chopped radicchio with shaved radish, egg & bagna cauda
                                                                  Green farro with roasted beets
                                                                  Potato gnocchi with Castelmagno cheese

                                                                  everything, without exception, was excellent. the pizza was perfectly charred, thin and wonderful, crispy thin but held up well under the egg, and then the middle square where the egg had rested was delightfully gooey and chewy. the sformato was almost an afterthought - we didn't find the description so terribly exciting, even though we'd had an excellent sformato here before. but wow. creamy, light, so flavorful. even the carrot chip was delicious. the octopus was AMAZING. juicy - !! when do you have juicy octopus? - and flavorful and meaty and chewy but not exactly the usual octopus texture (which i have no problem with) - it was marinated in red wine, braised and grilled. fantastic. the radicchio/egg in bagna cauda dressing - great, fresh, full of anchovy/garlic flavors, yet subtle. the farro/beet - probably my least favorite but still killer. the beets were smoky, the farro had nice tooth. the gnocchi - cheesy puffy dreamboat clouds.

                                                                  some pics:

                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                    Nice. Cotogna is a keeper.

                                                                  2. Uber late and long report post here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885048