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good takeout, informal dine in? travelling with 4 year old and 8 month old

Food is very important to me when I travel. The mere sight of a bright red chili pepper can transport me back to the stunning and beautiful beaches of Thailand, evoking a memory that, when combined with taste and smell, will cause one to rekindle a seemingly long forgotten dream, making it a palpable reality once again. Similarly, cheep rum will also forever remind me of the intense hangover experienced in the bar of an overnight train in Thailand.

That was 4 years ago but, alas, our dining options are now extremely limited due to the addition of our two wonderful kids.

We're visiting SF for a week in early November, staying at 27th and Church in Noe Valley, looking for informal dining / takeout recommendations that are NEARBY or ALONG the transit route of the usual tourist areas.

Sitting down for a formal dinner is challenging as our youngest seems to have an unquenchable appetite and breastfeeds every 2 to 3 hours or so. Dining etiquette with our 4 year old is hit or miss, although he is open minded about food and has a palate for everything ranging from french fries to chicken feet.

Are there any restaurants/eateries/food carts/ect that you would recommend? Looking for establishments that provide fast, unpretentious food that locals frequent time and time again. Takeout is fine. Dine in is ok too so long as it is extremely informal. Ethnic restaurants? Love them! Best p√Ętisserie in town? Pizza? Those will work too! Burrito's? Tacos? Most anything goes so long as food is good and we can make a dash for the doors if kids dictate. No Chinese food though as that is plentiful in Vancouver. Thanks!

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  1. hi!
    Regrettably, a lot of discussion on this board focuses on the michelin star levels and such. I see a lot of the more informal places in SF go unmentioned, but your request is a good one. My information in that area is out of date, but I'll give it a go.

    Pakwan - 16th and Guererro - I've had a couple of dark curries here to die for. Less greasy than shalimar. VERY informal.
    Crepevine - church and market - now a substantional small local chain, known for their hearty breakfasts in a very relaxed atmosphere.
    Ike's Place - 16th and Sanchez - this is a raved about sandwitch place where you should stop and grab provisions for an outing. There has been much raving about their sandwiches; I haven't tried them.
    Truely Med - 16th and Valencia - great schwarma and falafels. Miniscule sit-down space, so it's takeout, usually for people who live within a few blocks. They grill the final roll for a while, which makes it less than fast food, but I love that extra grill. Consider getting the eggplant.
    Little Star Pizza - I hesitate to recommend this. The wait is too long for deep dish unless you call ahead. The scene is a little too hipster. But the pizza is great, and you can get a pie to go, and if you're there really early maybe they'll tolerate a stroller.
    Taqueria Pancho Villa - the most accessible of the burrito joints, and institution, still going strong. Loud enough with mariachis and sex workers and hipsters that no one will bother, and fairly open seating for strollers and such.
    BurgerMeister - Market and Church - one of the informal burger chains that's been sweeping the city. I haven't tried some of the newer ones, like SuperDuper up the street or Pearl's, but I have been to BM and I like them. Just good solid burgers.
    Red's Java House - Red's has a lot of atmosphere. It's right at a park, it has tables outside in the sunniest part of the city, and it's a flat-top grill from the 40's. They'll make any short order you can call for. I always get a fried egg sandwitch and load it up with tobasco, which is deeply satisfying before going sailing. It's a little corner of SF unmolested by hipster. I don't know if it's really on the way to anything, though.
    Soma Streat Food Park - http://somastreatfoodpark.com/ big open air thing. Tables in the center with heat lamps. Super informal. Some good trucks, very hipster, but in an OK way.
    Ferry Building food options - being a typical tourist destination, you'll probably stop by here. Gott's gets a lot of haters, except for the Ahi Burger, I actually like their burgers - but admit they're not tops, just very good. I'd probably send you to Primavera mexican around the back. They have tables outside so you should be able to park a stroller, breastfeed, without anyone caring. It's OK, and you get to see the world go by.
    Ice Cream - if your younger likes ice cream, consider Bi-Rite, it's all about the salted caramel. The mission has been doing street mural walks, which is now a tourist thing. I think one of the bigger alleys is near Humphrey Slocombe, which may tickle the fancy of a youngster, things like salt and pepper ice cream. The problem with HS is the base is rather grainy and not rich and creamy. I've not yet found a taqueria on 24th I love, even though there's a ton of them, so I can't recommend a two-fer.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      You are in a pretty good food area. What tourist attractions are you going to see?
      I think the ferry building would provide a lot of options for you and the kids, and you dont have to eat the same thing.

      A storll threw the mission for tacos, burritos, etc is good. it would be something that your kids can get mezmerized by

      If you are going to GG park, the park chalet is UBER kid friendsly, cant speak for the food.

      While we are not kid friendly in a lot of ways here in SF, our non "high end" eateries are very kid friendly. yes if I am going to a 2 hour big 4-5 course meal at night, i dont want kids disturbing my experince. but if i am in a local thai place or mexican place, etc i dont mind one bit

      1. re: bbulkow

        We will be visiting the ferry building, fisherman's wharf, pier 39, and and golden gate bridge. We will try to visit as may neighborhoods as we can ( from soma up to fishermans wharf, mission, castro, ashbury heights) and simply take it as it comes. We may visit alcatraz, golden gate park, and the USS hornet.

        On another note, this trip came about on a spontaneous whim, otherwise I would have cherished the opportunity to make the pilgrimage to French Laundry. In lieu of this, is there a must eat restaurant near Noe Valley? I may indulge in an act of selfishness and dine there on my own for one evening. Does not necessarily need to be Michelin star rated. A multi-course tasting menu would be nice.

        1. re: curryjello

          Dare I ask what a sewer dog is? If a sonora hot dog is wrapped in bacon, a vancouver sewer dog would be .... ?

          1. re: bbulkow

            Sewer dog dog would be a hotdog that has been soaking in a lukewarm water bath to hold its temperature and then "delicately" grilled on a propane bbq by one of our many hotdog vendors downtown, served on a cold sesame seed bun. OK...it's not that bad. Oftentimes it come accompanied with grilled onions and an assortment of condiments ranging from spicy mustard to corn relish.

            We are apparently famous for the JAPADOG however. This hot dog stand has a large following from both locals, tourists, and even celebrities. Imagine a premium hotdog with toppings such as japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce, shredded seaweed, bonito flakes, grated daikon radish, ect. They've now expanded to Seattle and Japan.

             
            1. re: curryjello

              Nice. I'll keep an eye out. We get a few sonoran dogs here, which are grilled street side wrapped in bacon. Some discussion of what the toppings should be, but it's irresistible walking out of a club at night smelling that grilling bacon.

          2. re: curryjello

            Hi- here's what I like with my little kids-

            Ferry building / anywhere, but especially Gott's so you can sit and relax

            Pier 39 - it's all terrible. But it's wonderfully memorable to pick a spot with crab and sourdough - eat outside or sit - with your kids. Then get a pic with the big crab sign

            GG bridge - if you're down below at Crissy field, the warming hut is your place to nosh

            Mission- too many great spots. Burritos easy and great w kids. Nice meal / Foreign Cinema has this lovely kids menu - just go very early.

            Noe - my fave nice place (no kids) is Firefly.Or try Incanto, you could walk there. La Ciccia (also walk able ) is amazing, I think kids would be ok early, it's not snobby. Lots of casual places on Church or 24th for kids. Toast is an updated diner always w families

            1. re: RBofSF

              Oh and in the Castro - head to eureka valley playground. Kids can play in sun, while one parent gets takeout from Firewood or the taqueria on the corner at 18th. Or eat in either place. Great way to relax w kiddos after all the adult Castro sightseeing. They both have good, fast, consistent food (to me, a must when I've got my kids)

              Ps - moms here breastfeed everywhere!!

          3. re: bbulkow

            Thanks for the long list of recommendations. Soma street food park is an interesting option as the foodcart scene in Vancouver is still relatively new. Our city introduced new legislation no more than 2 years ago that allowed venders to cook up offerings other than sewer dogs and roasted chestnuts. The general populace in Vancouver, I think, is still somewhat apprehensive about the new food trucks. We still have a long way to go.

          4. La Ciccia (Sardinian Italian) does takeout and is about 6 blocks from where you'll be.
            Angkor Borei (Cambodian) and Spicy Bite (Indian) both deliver.
            Inka's (Peruvian) seems like it'd be fine for kids, and also does takeout. There's been a change of owner recently, however, and I haven't heard if the quality has been affected.
            Mitchell's ice cream.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bluex

              Thanks bluex ffor the recommendations. I love ethnic food, with the exception of Chinese. We used to own a Chinese restaurant...can no longer stand the sight of another spring roll.

            2. Don't worry about kids in the lower end places :)

              If you're looking for Thai Lers ros is good there are lots of reviews here on there two locations. I've only been to the new one and it is close to the food I am used to in Thailand, abeit not expensivebfor san Francisco prices but not what you would pay in Thailand:)
              Not sure if it is in the right area but MOZZA has great pizza and is run by deaf owners with a lot of deaf clientele. They are friendly to hearing guests, but might be more relaxed about kid noise! The food is amazing it is no relation to the one in los Angeles.

              3 Replies
              1. re: estnet

                Thanks estnet. loved the idea of mozza but it is a bit out of the way. Do you know where I can find northern thailand cuisine? I had these noodles in Chang Mai and have since never had it again. It is very similar to laksa. Apparently this was a specialty of Norther Thailand. The crispy things you see are deep fried versions of the noodles used in the dish. Noodles were of similar thickness to hand cut noodles found in northern chinese cuisine. Soup was made from a shrimp base with curry I believe. Oddly enough, this was one of most memorable meals I've ever had. Not sure if it was the company present or the dish itself. $6 for this and a Chiang beer. Yummy!

                 
                1. re: curryjello

                  I knocked around north of Chang Mai for a week, ate a lot of good noodles, haven't really found the likes of them locally. The Burmese and Lao styles are probably closest.

                  1. re: curryjello

                    "khao soi" as answered by another chowhound member!