Suggestions for dinner with co-workers
I'm coming into SF next week for a conference and would appreciate recommendations for dinner. We'll be a party of 4 looking to stay in the area around the Hilton Union Square (though, for the right meal, I'd arrange a taxi to get out to the Embarcadero or Fisherman's Wharf). Tuesday through Friday night; price range... medium I suppose? $$ on Urbanspoon kind of thing, verging on $$$.
I'm bringing some Canadians who are usually inclined to simple food, but I'm determined to liven things up. A mix of cuisines and locations would be perfect. Where can we find memorable meals and have a conversation?
(If there has already been a thread that covers this scenario, I apologize for the repeat and ask that you point me in the right direction.)
Bonus points if you can point me in the direction of nearby food carts for lunch. Thanks so very much in advance!
You won't find food carts in downtown SF. Health regulation issues and the restaurant lobby is ferociously against it (and since SF has more restaurants than any other city in the US, money talks LOUDLY here).
Make reservations ASAP. Really. You can't get into anywhere good or even semi-good on weekends, without a reservation. Locals eat out constantly, and peak times are just that: "wait time is one hour, minimum, sorry."
Getting our own Canadian relatives to be adventurous in food is like pulling teeth, LOL. My first choice is a long walk or short ride: B44 Catalan food at 44 Belden Place, on the edge of the Financial District. Belden Place is a little alley near the Bank of America headquarters building, with half a dozen different little restaurants side-by-side. The Spanish tapas and paella are tasty and different without being too overtly "weird" for conservative eaters.
My long-time lunch favorite Maxfields@Palace Hotel (a survivor of the 1906 earthquake) has morphed into the Pied Piper Bar & Grill. Basic menu, not the greatest food in the world, but they always did a decent job with salads and meats, and the atmosphere is genuinely old SF. There is almost no place left in the city that still has its original dark wood paneling intact like this; it's gorgeous. Add in the stained glass ceiling (from the old-time SF Glassworks Company that did the antique stained glass rotunda in the Neiman-Marcus store) and intricate tiled floor, and it's an excellent place for a relaxed business dinner.
A splurge? If you need someplace not deafeningly noisy, I'd go to Fifth Floor. We love their food better than Boulevard/Prospect, which were our former favorites but now seeming to decline noticeably. Fifth Floor is stylish, contemporary, and set up to be much more moderate (and physically comfortable) on the noise level than Perbacco, RN74, One Market, and Bluestem. Fifth Floor's cooking is contemporary but would still be recognizable so not too uncomfortable for your associates.
I love Cafe Claude which is in the Union Square neighborhood: http://www.cafeclaude.com/. It is tucked away on a side street and I have always had lovely meals there.
Also, Borobudur has fantastic Indonesian food. Just a 5 to 10 minute walk from Union Square: http://www.borobudursf.com/