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Nov 12, 2012 11:32 PM

visiting from Australia

My family of 4 (kids 15 & 13) will be in San Francisco for 4 nights in Jan. It is our first time in this area & I'm looking for some good tips for great dining experiences. I'd like at least one fine dining experience, a couple of good dinners & some must go to local lunch spots. Any recommendations would be appreciated. My kids are very experienced diners, so they will be comfortable in any environment.

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  1. that's tough, OZ (I hear, never been) has so much good seafood and Asian.

    one place I always like is a California take on German - Suppenkuche. not "fine" dining but rather refined rustic-y, very laid-back, casual and not the typical heavy.

    1. We do an eating trip to SF from Vancouver, BC twice a year (just back from 11th in last five years). It seems to me that the Bay Area's strong point is not fine dining but rather a rung or two down eg Canteen, still great despite a very recent (as of last Wednesday) move to prix fixe dinners only.

      They are also pretty strong in certain types of "ethnic" food (sorry, still haven't figured out a good way to reference these) such as Burmese, good Thai or Laotian that I can't get at home. These are good for lunches or dinners. See Little Yangon in Daly City, Lers Ros in SF proper (the Tenderloin outpost NOT the one on Hayes) or Vientiane in Oakland.

      If you like Italian, you're also in luck. Barbacco is lively (lunch is nice there), La Ciccia is unique (dinner only, book well in advance), Cotogna makes me very happy (two lunches have been stellar) and there are many others. For really casual and family friendly, check out Bao Necci's pizzas in North Beach.

      Don't miss the corned beef sandwich from Sentinel in the Financial District. It's to go only but a short walk to the Yerba Buena park which is a can't miss for people watching on a sunny day and also adjacent to the SFMOMA which you should check out if you can as they are closing for three years in June.

      A Mission-style burrito should be on your list, especially if your teens are big eaters, otherwise split one between two. I won't venture to suggest a best spot to get one as that is controversial :-).

      Another fun thing with the young uns could be Mission Bowling Club, where you can actually bowl while you ingest good food (check for when the kids can be in there -- I think it's all day on the weekends). Their burger is one of the best I've had and between three and six daily it can be had for $10 without fries, at dinner for $15 with spuds, not typically available during brunch though you could ask.

      If you're here on a Saturday, you might want to check out the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. Great produce, lots of local products good for food souvenirs, samples and prepared food options. Gets VERY busy as the morning wears on so we try to go early. A Roli Roti porchetta sandwich is the breakfast of champions :-). Primavera does lovely Mexican-style breakfasts as well (they are outside on the plaza itself near the water).

      1 Reply
      1. re: grayelf

        burrito opinions can cause fistfights, but a handful of likely good ones can be found between 16th and 17th along Valencia. there may be better around, but it's only one block from a BART station, and even a crappy one there is better than you'll find in other cities claiming "CA-Style Burritos" (they're not).

      2. To me, the most interesting "fine dining" here these days is at the relatively moderately priced, sort of anti-Michelin places such as AQ, Bar Tartine, and St. Vincent. AQ seems to have the widest appeal.

        Italian is very strong in SF. There's a distinct local Cal-Italian style (Incanto, Cotogna) as well as a number of places that stick closer to the original (La Ciccia for Sicilian, Perbacco for Piemontese and Ligurian, A16 for Neapolitan).

        In January, the weather may not be the best for trying the world's most expensive takeout windows and food trucks.

        You might look at this list and let us know which cuisines you're most interested in:

        11 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          but haven't "relatively moderately priced, sort of anti-Michelin places" always been SF's strong point? my god the easily found, high quality in the mid-range price-point just blows other cities out of the water.

          </high horse and exiled dissatisfaction>

          1. re: hill food

            thanks for the input thus far. A name I keep hearing from my mates back here in Australia is "The Slanted Door". Is this worth going to?

            1. re: ppmcg

              I've always liked Slanted Door, starting with the original location, sheesh was it that long ago? they're not traditional VN per se, but a great setting, inventive. Lers Ros has been getting better comments (as grayelf posted) and the menu looks intriguing. but then I haven't been back to SF in a while. (dang I really NEED to - I miss the Sutro Bath ruins and the food, but now that there's no Pronto Pup, the appeal has diminished)

              1. re: ppmcg

                overrated, expensive, and it's a scene. it has nice views, but it's loud as hell and in my opinion not worth the money. the original was better, and even their outpost at the Mall was better, but that's closed too...

                I was just at AQ and not super impressed.

                Lers Ros is excellent for thai, and you can get things you've never heard of as well as pad thai.

                A fun little place i just discovered (shamefully, 5 years after living right by it) is Lolo, in the Mission. wonderful food, small plates, reasonably priced.

                Tony's Pizzeria in North Beach would be fun for your family - and the pizza is FANTASTIC. just make sure you get there for an early dinner - maybe 5:00 p.m. during the week? always a wait.

                Cotogna is amazing - everything is a standout.

                Barbacco is good, or if you want Italian to be your "fancier" dinner, try their sister place, Perbacco.

                Take your kids to the Mission and just walk up and down the streets - you'll find shops and taquerias and all manner of restaurants to choose from.

                and in general, grayelf's suggestions are all good ones. she knows this City like a local (a local who gets to eat out a lot!)

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  I love the idea of Tony's but I think they have a problem with consistency: seven ovens and 17 different styles of pizza may be overly ambitious. The only pizza I've had there that ranked with the best in the area was the only-73-per-day Napoletana Margherita. On my last visit, the best thing we had were the meatballs.


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    i haven't gone enough times to give a fair assessment, it's true. but i can't get over the utter deliciousness of the coal fired New Yorker - mozzarella, hand crushed tomato sauce, natural casing pepperoni, sliced italian fennel sausage, ricotta, chopped garlic & oregano. i've had it twice - years apart - and it still continues to amaze me with its richness, and yet, subtlety.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      The allegedly coal-fired New Yorker I got in August was what really clued me in to the consistency problem:


                2. re: ppmcg

                  Out the Door (same chef) gets more love on this board than Slanted Door. The one in the Fillmore District is still open. The one in the Ferry Plaza is a takeout place with a very limited menu.



                3. re: hill food

                  The midrange has been SF's strong point for a long time, but the food was not as original and inventive as what AQ, Bar Tartine, et al. are doing today. Daniel Patterson's 2005 NY Times piece sums up the prior situation pretty well:


                  And Adam Sachs gives a good overview of the current scene:


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    well dang, you're just getting me more worked up.

                    I gotta get back.

                4. re: Robert Lauriston

                  For the OP, La Ciccia is Sardinian, not Sicilian, but I'm guessing that was a typo :-).