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Suggestion for tonight, please

We had a reservation for Perbacco tonight, but went to Cotogna last night, had a wonderful meal and now we do not feel like another, more formal, Italian meal tonight. We did make a reservation for Barbacco tomorrow night, though. I guess at this point (on vaction since last Wednesday; started out with 4 nights in Guernevile, etc.) I am feeling a little fatigued from dining out every night. That said, we are staying in the Union Square area, but always willing to travel outside of the area. We are looking for something casual, not Italian and of course good quality. We've looked at some Chinese restaurants since we are so close to Chinatown, but nothing really grabbed us. I know this is last minute, but any suggestions? Price is not a problem. Thanks.

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  1. You could go somewhere in the Tenderloin for good Thai or Vietnamese. Some good choices are Bodega Bistro, Vietnam House, and Zen Yai Thai. Also Thai House Express or Lers Ros, though I wasn't thrilled with my last meal at the latter.

    There are also lots of good choices in the Mission, which is a short taxi or BART ride away. Any particular foods you are in the mood for?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP

      Bodega Bistro was my first thought. Very good Vietnamese food in a more pleasant and cozy atmosphere than most places in its price range.

        1. re: Dave MP

          i'm going to throw my $.2 in about Lers Ros - i've been innumerable times and never had a bad meal, and feel it's the best Thai food in San Francisco.

          I agree with Bodega Bistro for sure.

          and yes, lots of places in the Mission.

          And, ttoomy, you'll love Barbacco. i just had an order of their brussels sprouts to go for lunch - heaven.

          1. re: mariacarmen

            omg you got an order of those magnificent brussels spouts for lunch! am i jealous!

            1. re: mariacarmen

              Looking forward to Barbacco, mariacarmen. Thanks. We walked by this afternoon and it looks like a great space. Are all the tables communal style? That's what it looked like from the window. We have a reservation, but now that I have seen the place, the bar looks great. We love eating at the bar at our favorite restaurants back in NYC. Any opinions?

              1. re: ttoommyy

                A lot of the seating at Barbacco is at communal tables, but they have some two-tops. The bar's very comfortable.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  My fave spot is at the bar, at the far end. It seems a bit quieter back there, and I can be entertained as I watch the food prep and delivery.

            2. I've been to both Perbacco and Barbacco. Barbacco was downright dreadful. I'm fairly certain they were using out of the box pasta, and underseasoned and underwhelming sauces. I would never go back.

              Perbacco was a bit better, but again, the pasta didn't blow me away, nor did any of the other dishes.

              My recommendation to you would be La Folie, if you're interested in French. I've had a very good meal there before. Additionally, I'd recommend Benu which is just a bit east of Union Square..

              9 Replies
              1. re: yanks26dmb

                I've been to Barbacco at least ten times and always eaten very well.

                1. re: yanks26dmb

                  Yeah, I'm surprised to see such a negative opinion of Barbacco. It's one of my favorite places in SF.

                  I was at Barbacco on Saturday, and had a delicious meal. The braised chicken thighs, crostone with burrata, and pesce crudo (petrale sole) were new dishes for us and fantastic. The suppli and the fried olives stuffed with pork were fried a bit darker than usual, but were still great. The lentil stew was also new to us, and rich with umami (though, for this purpose, I'd highly recommend their farrotto instead). For your first (or only) time, you should have something off the salumi menu.

                  I would definitely skip the orecchiette--- their fresh egg based pastas are their strengths, and despite what the waiter told me, a revisit of my leftovers is convincing me they are out of a box.

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    House-made orecchiette aren't necessarily better than or even as good as what you can get out of a box. Rustichella's are great but a lot more expensive than extruding your own in-house.

                  2. re: yanks26dmb

                    Thanks, yanks, but we are set on Barbacco. I have friends who I trust that have gone and loved it. Ain't nothing wrong with boxed pasta; it's served all over Italy at the best trattorias. Just because a restaurant does not make fresh pasta does not mean it is bad. Fresh pasta and boxed pasta are two completely different things and both have their time and place.

                    1. re: yanks26dmb

                      I'll also note that neither La Folie nor Benu fit the informal, casual style the poster is looking for.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Yeah, they're considerably less casual than Perbacco.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I think La Folie and Benu are less casual than Perbacco.

                            Barbacco is way more casual than any of them.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Right. I know that, but somehow it got turned around in my head. :-)

                    2. May be some ramen? Really casual Katana-ya on Geary. Z&Y is a board rec for Szechuan4...


                      1. Suggestions offered up for no particular reason other than after reading your post these are what came to mind...

                        Shabu Shabu at Shabu Sen in Japantown?
                        Korean food at Seoul Garden (also in Japantown)?
                        Lolo's (mexican/turkish in the mission)?
                        Dosa (interesting spin on Indian, I think maybe southern Indian?)

                        Or, it's now officially Crab Season.
                        Dare I say go the full tourist and head for Crab at Fisherman's wharf? Anybody got a recommendation for a place? Or maybe head to Scoma's?

                        Or for something clubby and kicky, Bix?

                        Or go sit in a moroccan tentlike and have a fun evening with passable Moroccan food at El Mansour?

                        21 Replies
                        1. re: pauliface

                          pauliface! you're the one who keeps reminding me to go to Lolo's! and i finally went, and LOVED it. just a note, tho, it is no longer turkish - the chef that brought that flare to the place is gone - only the guadalajarans are left. but the food is great.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            I'm glad you enjoyed it!
                            But -- uh oh! My info is out of date. I'm going to have to go back again before posting about them, to keep myself honest.

                          2. re: pauliface

                            Found ourselves near Japantown while visiting St. Mary's Cathedral so we took your suggestion and went to Seoul Garden for lunch and it was quite good. Thanks pauliface. I had the dolsot bibimbap with kimchi and it was excellent. That is one of my favorite dishes and I have it frequently in Koreatown back in NYC and this was just as good. Great, friendly service too.

                            Not sure where we will wind up for dinner yet, but will report back. Thanks again to all.

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              I will be heading to W. 32nd st next month. Any suggestions of which place is similar to Seoul Garden? or better?

                              1. re: escargot3

                                I can never remember the names of the 2 places we go to from work; I work on west 34th. Will get back to you when I get back to work next Tuesday escargot3.

                                1. re: escargot3

                                  Sorry to take so long getting back to you escargot3. If you have not already come and gone, the place we go to from work is Hanbat at 53 W 35th St, (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas). I just found out there is a Seoul Garden here in NYC, but I do not know if it is related to the one in Japantown, SF. It is located at 34 W 32nd St (between 5th Ave & Broadway), but I have never been there. http://seoulgarden32.com/

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    Good to know the place I usually go to, Hanbat, is still good. Thanks.

                                    1. re: escargot3

                                      Ha! What a coincidence. To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca, "Of all the Korean restaurants, in all the towns, in all the world, you walk into mine."

                                2. re: ttoommyy

                                  I'm so glad you liked Seoul Garden!

                                  I'm always so nervous when someone actually takes one of my recommendations. :-)

                                3. re: pauliface

                                  I tried shabu-sen last night, and really liked it. had both the beef shabu-shabu with ramen noodles, and the beef sukiyaki. both were great. want to go back and try other things.

                                  what do you get there?

                                  what do you get at seoul garden? i've been once or twice a long time ago, but never really know what to order.

                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    Glad you liked Shabu-Sen!
                                    I've only ever gotten beef shabu-shabu at Shabu-Sen. I think we go for one of the higher-end beef versions, ribeye or something. And then sometimes get an appetizer or two.
                                    Somehow, this is a place we end up going to in late afternoon, like 4PM, on odd days. We always leave stuffed (I always drink up all the soup at the end). I have always gone for the simple clear broth. Last time my bf went for the spicy broth and I was a little jealous -- it was great.

                                    Seoul Garden is a place I've gone to several times over the years. I've gotten a different thing every time. Once I did one of their course menus (something like 7 or 8) and I swear, by the time I hit course 5 I could barely eat. It was a lot of food. That was like 10 years ago, so it may have changed, but I doubt it.

                                    Last time I went (2 weeks ago) was the first time in a while. But I went with my bf who had never been. We both agreed it was our favorite local Korean (that we've tried). The menu is far-ranging, and the portions are big -- so we've decided we want to return over the months and work our way through the menu.
                                    Last time we tried the grill stuff, 2 orders for 2 people. Marinated beef ribs and spicy pork. THe whole thing was excellent. Also, this comes with banchan (like 9 or 10 different kinds, all excellent) plus rice plus a bowl of clear turnip soup plus tea plus a tiny dessert. So really you just need to order one thing and you are set.

                                    1. re: pauliface

                                      pauliface, have you ever been to Ohgane, in Oakland? Does Seoul Garden compare well?

                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                        No I have not.
                                        I do need to make clear that I am very far from an expert in Korean food. I've been to a few places but not many. I like it a lot, but traditionally don't have a lot of friends who do also. So I have much to learn.

                                        Is Ohgane a favorite of yours? I'd try it!

                                        1. re: pauliface

                                          it is. i'm no expert either (i've cooked a very little Korean, tho) but i've been to a couple in SF and a few in East Bay and Ohgane is the current fave.

                                      2. re: pauliface

                                        thanks for the suggestions.

                                        i was curious about the higher-end beef at shabu-sen. we had the basic beef and liked it a lot -- next time i'll try ribeye. we asked for the spicy broth late, so they just brought us a bowl and we mixed ourselves after having a few slices without -- so i think you can have the best of both worlds.

                                        beef ribs and spicy pork sounds good -- i'll try that sometime.

                                        dolsot bibimbop with kimchee also sounds like a standard i want to try.

                                        i've had the cold noodle soon-do-boon or whatever, and a plate of pork + oysters there. both were good, but not something i was dying to have again. i think i liked a fish soup there too. but this was a couple years ago.

                                        do you have a favorite place for yakiniku (japanese-style korean bbq)? or is seoul garden your go-to for all korean bbq? (i don't know the differences well -- but i'm curious.)

                                        1. re: Dustin_E

                                          I've only had the bbq at Seoul Garden once!
                                          I also tried Brothers on Geary near 16th. It was excellent as well.

                                          For Japanese style, I've always enjoyed Juban. Their food seems very fresh, and I like their pickles.

                                          BTW -- shabu shabu is really easy to do at home -- especially if you have a fondue set, you can just do it in there. Nijiya and Tokyo fish market both sell the thin-slice beef. Nijiya sells little pre-set vegetable packets, but you can just get the veggies you like and cut them up. The bottled sesame and vinegar sauces for shabu shabu are totally fine. Great for a dinner party!

                                    2. re: pauliface

                                      The best Korean food I've had in SF was at Han Il Kwan.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          and Robert, how does that compare for you to your favorite East Bay places?

                                      1. Wexler's is within easy walking distance for you and a go-to restaurant for me in that area. California casual, subtly smoked food and drink. The smoky chicken liver mousse is a true delight.

                                        1. Thanks everyone. Lots of good choices!

                                          1. Update: we will be in the Castro tonight. We're gay so we have to make a visit to mecca. :)

                                            My partner (not a CH frequenter like me) did a search of his own and came up with Woodhouse for seafood. Any good? Any other suggestions in that general area?

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              Woodhouse is primarily an East Coast seafood place, so sort of an odd choice for someone visiting from NY, but on the other hand Dungeness crab season just started, and they do that as well, as well as the local seafood soup / stew cioppino.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Had no idea Woodhouse was an east coast place; never heard of it before today. Thanks for the heads up RL.

                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                  whoops, wish i'd seen this eariler. anchor oyster bar is far better than woodhouse and one of the best seafood spots in the city, imho - comparable to swan without the hype and lousy hours

                                                  1. re: vulber

                                                    We've been to Anchor many times over the years. Thanks vulber.

                                              2. re: ttoommyy

                                                if you want something a little nicer but not Italian, http://www.eurekarestaurant.com/menu

                                                if you specifically want more casual and seafood, http://www.anchoroysterbar.com/ might be good. it's an old classic. although there is usually a line out the door, even in the rain.

                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                  There'll be a line at Woodhouse tonight, too (Tuesday is $1 oyster night).

                                                  Right around the corner, Chow or Chilango. And Chili Pies right across Church Street, too.

                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                    Thanks mariacarmen. We've been to Anchor a number of times. That is our backup. I think we have been to Eureka.

                                                  2. re: ttoommyy

                                                    Might be too late with this, but I like Eiji in the Castro. They have homemade tofu which they make when you order, served w/ various garnishes.

                                                    A sort of cozy spot which is definitely not scene-ey at all, but still very close to everything in the Castro.

                                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                                      Ah the Castro, my home turf!

                                                      Woodhouse is okay. Nothing wrong with it, but I never seem to feel like going there. Anchor is better, but you know it. That said, Woodhouse is light and informal and easy -- probably just what you want.

                                                      Eiji, as mentioned, is great for the Tofu. But if you feel like Japanese other than Tofu, I would steer you to Sushi Time (downstairs on market street, to the right of Books Inc.) Good sushi, good appetizers. And if you feel for crazy complicated rolls, I'm kind of hot for Barracuda right now. Turned my nose up at it for a couple of years but finally tried it around Halloween and for that sort of thing (the crazy rolls) it was actually nice.

                                                      Also in the neighborhood is L'Ardoise , a lovely French Bistro.

                                                      1. re: pauliface

                                                        Wound up at Woodhouse. It was just what we wanted. Had to wait about15 minutes. We started with dingeness crab cocktail and wedge salad and then went on to whole dungeness crab and the stuffed grilled artichoke. All were very good. Bread pudding for dessert was outstanding. Simple, good place.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          Sounds like a good choice. Can't get much more SF than dungeness crab and artichoke!

                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                            Yum I could go for that right now. Will give it another try...

                                                      2. re: ttoommyy

                                                        A little surprised no one brought up Starbelly. It's been a while since I've been there, but I've had enjoyable meals there. Has it gone downhill?

                                                      3. I see you've had tons of recommendations and it looks like you're set up. However, if you have another meal to arrange still (breakfast or lunch even) I suggest trying Greens if you haven't already. Our family loved it and none of us are vegetarian. We haven't been in about 5 years though as we don't live nearby.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Linda_W

                                                          We really only have dinner at Barbacco left tonight, but thanks Linda_W. We went to Buena Vista foe breakfast today (yes, I know what you are all going to say), but on a morning like this morning, the cable car ride there is beautiful and they really do have great Irish coffee. We also like their breakfast (I can find no wrong with it at least) and the waitresses are abolutely lovely and fun to chat and joke around with. After all, until we move out here in a few years, we are tourists! :)

                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                            and it is a GORGEOUS day for a cable car ride!

                                                        2. If anyone is still reading this, we do have a quick lunch left for this afternoon. Breakfast was filling and dinner is at Barbacco, so we are looking for something light, inexpensive and somewhat in the vicinity of Union Square. We might just wind up wandering down to the Ferry Building for something quick.

                                                          14 Replies
                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                            Saigon Sandwich, Lers Ros, Bodega Bistro

                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                Golden West, in Trinity Alley - Denis Leary's take-out sandwich place (one of). http://theauwest.com/

                                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                  Nibbles at the bar at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants.
                                                                  You can source your own from the plaza or let the good folk at the Wine Merchants save you the trouble.

                                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                                    Thanks steve h. Didn't realize you could do that. I'll have to remember that. We wound up not really having lunch and saving our appetite for dinner tonight.

                                                                    Thanks to everyone; you were all very helpful and had a lot of great suggestions. I look forward to moving to your great state in a few years!

                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                        Just got home to NJ on the red eye. Did not have wifi at my partner's parents' house for the last two days of the trip so did not report on Barbacco, but we really liked it and I will expand on this once I am back on shedule here at home. Give me 24 hours. Thanks again to everyone!

                                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                          I'm still trying to get over some jet lag, but I do want to say about Barbacco:
                                                                          While we really did enjoy our meal, I felt a certain level of freshness lacking. Not in all dishes, but in some. For instance, the crostini served with the nduja were such an afterthought. I realize they are just toasted pieces of bread, but these seemed liked they were toasted last month and just sitting around.

                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                            No excuse for stale toast, but the day after Thanksgiving lots of restaurants may not have their A team working.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              It was the day before Thanksgiving, but the same thought occurred to me. The nduja was excellent, though!

                                                                              I have to say our favorite meal this trip was dinner at Cotogna. Not one mistep from food to service to wine. All excellent. Our second favorite meal was lunch at Osteria del Forno. We love that place and always have lunch there at least once per trip.

                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                oh, i missed it - did you write about it above?

                                                                                Cotogna is fabulous! so glad you liked it. and yes, it's much better than Perbacco and Barbacco, it's just perfect.

                                                                                i'll have to check out Osteria del Forno sometime.

                                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                  Osteria del Forno is very simple but very good. It really does remind me of an osteria in Italy. No bells and whistles, not much ambience, the kitchen is tiny and in full view, but they serve very good quality food.