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24 hours in SF

Hi all. A friend and I are doing a mileage run to San Francisco from Chicago and we're thinking about making the whole trip revolve around food. I land at 1:00 p.m. Saturday and depart at 2:15 Sunday. I'll be in the city by 2ish on Saturday and have to leave the city around noon on Sunday.

We're thinking about doing a late lunch, small plate pre-dinner snacks, dinner, drinks and late night ramen or something. Then an early lunch/brunch or Dim Sum so we can depart the city around noon.

I love Incanto and eat there almost every trip to SF. I recently ate at Aziza and while good, wasn't blown away.

While I'd live to try Swan Oyster, I have no intention of waiting in that massive line. We've been thinking about doing lunch at Hogs & Rocks, but aren't sure about anything else yet. We're not looking at spending $200 each on dinner and really don't want some huge 20 course degustation. We like comfortable places with great food. If you've been to Chicago The Bristol, Vera, and Yusho are among our favorites.

For Ramen (something sadly lacking in Chicago) we are thinking about Katana-Ya.

We're staying on Nob Hill and will have a car but have decided to cab it around due to drinking.

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Frances and Cotogna are among my favorite SF places with a local/neighborhood vibe and excellent food. Baker & Banker is up there as well. I really like the food at Locanda but it can be too hectic/loud/hip service wise.

    I'd try State Bird Provisions if you can get in.

    In addition to Hog's and Rock's substitution for Swan Oyster could be Hog Island in the Ferry building (mostly raw stuff).

    Best beer list with good food - Abbott's Cellar

    Best wine list with good food - St. Vincent's

    Cocktails with good food - AQ (though not my favorite food wise - is a favorite with the board), Locanda, Gitane

    1. Namu Gaji
      State Bird
      St Vincent
      Bar Agricole
      ... for oysters, hit the place in the ferry building.

      Also, if you are flexible, hit places right when they open, with no reservation, and sit at the bar. A few places, like Frances, this technique is well known and doesn't work any more.

      Then sketch out where your desert is --- and where your after dinner drinks are --- if you only have one night, you can hit 3 places easy, 4 or 5 if you try.

      ( here's a post regarding a 6 stop day : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/874510 )

      1. Incanto's one of my longtime favorites. AQ, Bar Tartine (basically a new restaurant under the new chef), and St. Vincent are my favorite new places.

        Hog and Rocks is great. Zuni Cafe is open all afternoon and arguably has the best oysters in town.

        Katana-Ya's open until 1am and a fun scene.

        1. This is very possible.
          I like the suggestion of skipping Swan and doing Hog Island.
          Bar Agircole would be a suggestion as well as Range.

          This is my post from a progressive dinner in the mission ..it is possible to do!


          1. Thanks all for your input.

            Here's what we've planned for now. I know it's some back and forth across town but we are fine with that.

            Lunch Hogs and Rocks. Then off to Hog Island Oysters in the Ferry Building. We'll check into the hotel then head to Aub Zam Zam for a Martini. We'll find a wine bar after that or just go to the hotel to freshen up for dinner at Barbacco. After dinner drinks at sites to be determined (Couldn't get in at Bourbon and Branch) maybe Rickhouse? Then we'll wind up the night with Raman at Katana-Ya.

            Trip report to come.

            12 Replies
            1. re: JMLenart

              Hog Island can have a pretty long line on a weekend afternoon. Zuni would be easier.

              Hotel Biron (not a hotel, opens at 5) and Pause (4:30) are two wine bars right around the corner from each other and more or less on the way from Aub Zam Zam to Nob Hill. There's also Terroir, (noon) if you're into natural wine, it's just down the block from the amazing City Beer.

              Rickhouse makes excellent drinks, as do Comstock Saloon, 15 Romolo, and Txoko.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for the Terroir rec. Sounds right up my alley.

                1. re: JMLenart

                  You may want to try Local Edition or Wilson & Wilson (both Bourbon & Branch offshoots).

                  Just as a warning. I would not under any circumstances go to Tradition (another Bourbon and Branch offshoot). Almost all the seating area is reserved, and it's not a particularly nice venue - so it seems a waste to box in your evening by reserving. It is a lot like Rickhouse (as in walk-ins are welcome) but the bartenders can't keep up with demand resulting in very long waits, slow service etc.

                  We originally did not realize that the seating at the bar was also reserved and so sat there for a good 15 to 20 minutes. None of the bartenders informed us that they weren't going to serve us...so we just sat and sat until the pit boss/manager told us that since we hadn't reserved the bartenders were not going to serve us. We then moved to the other side of the bar and were ignored by the bartenders until our reserved table arrived and sat down. Left a very bad taste in our mouths.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Does Aub Zam Zam still serve a good martini after the old guy passed? You might consider Tadich, unless you're in the mood to traverse over to the upper height.

                  Warning re: Zuni : the cocktails there are _highly variable_ and recently I've had them more on the downside. It's the only place I'll order a cosmo. Pick a decent crisp white wine or champain with your oysters. Love that classic zinc bar, though.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    So it sounds like the consensus is Zuni for oysters. Is that correct?

                    1. re: JMLenart

                      Open in the afternoon, no wait, high quality, a modest slice of SF-ness, Zuni is a great choice.

                    2. re: bbulkow

                      The new owners of Aub Zam Zam cleaned the place up but didn't change anything. Well, it's probably a lot harder to be refused service.

                      Zuni's hard to beat for oysters and it's very pleasant between lunch and dinner. They always have excellent Champagne and Muscadet by the glass.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I stopped into to Aub Zam Zam about a year ago and was served one of the worst cocktails ever, completely watered-down and tasteless. So if the OP wants to check it out, just for the history factor, well you can take your chances. Remember that the Alembic is just a couple of blocks away and they do excellent cocktails and small plates.

                        1. re: pamf

                          Thanks. I'm thinking Aub Zam Zam is off the board now. Pus its sorts of out of the way for us. We'll likely do Terroir.

                          Food is looking like Hogs and Rocks, Zuni, Barbacco and Katana-Ya. We may try to get into A16 right as they open for seats at the bar just to have the tripe dash too.

                          Thanks again everyone.

                          1. re: JMLenart

                            A16's a long schlep across heavily trafficked parts of town and they don't always have tripe. I hesitate to suggest Bocadillos since the tripe was scorched the last time I was in there, but everything else was great as usual so it was probably a one-time fluke.


                            If you're innards fans, the headcheese dish I had at Txoko was stellar.


                            1. re: JMLenart

                              Hog and rocks, do a walk through the mission to stretch your legs, see some murals, coffee at sightglass, grab a doughnut at dynamo or ice cream at hs, if you want a cocktail there are a bunch of places, then Zuni, barbacco, katanya, good choices.
                              Put that back in, try tadich
                              You have mixed your classic herb caen cocktail thing.

                        2. re: bbulkow

                          If you're going to zam Zam, try Bar Crudo instead of Swan's. Smaller line, if at all and better seafood.

                    3. Thanks all for your input.

                      Here's a brief trip report. After flights were delayed coming into SFO I didn't land until almost 3:00 which got us to Hogs and Rocks at about 3:30. I really liked this place. We ordered a dozen of the $1 Oysters. I forget what kind they were but they were small and mildly briny with a nice sweetness. The mignonette was really great and thats all the oysters really needed, We also had the Chicken liver mousse which was nice but the real star was the deviled eggs with fried oysters and ham. Wow I could have eaten a dozen of these.

                      From there we checked into our hotel and took a cab over to A16. We got there just after 5 and they were already packed but we managed to get a seat at a table in the bar area up front. Here we ate a nice charcuterie plate with pate, coppa di testa and sopresseta. We also had the wonderful trip dish. Super tender trip with a slight spicy tomato sauce but not so spicy that the funk from the tripe was overwhelmed.

                      After that we had drinks at The Tonga room which was kitchy and fun. We followed that up with a martini at The Top of the Mark. We walked down the hill (foreshadowing) to Barbacco. We arrived about 15 minutes early for our 8:30 reservation. When we checked in at the Host stand the young lady seemed frazzled and a lot of people were waiting around in the foyer area. She informed us that they were still waiting to seat 8:00 and 8:15 reservations before us. So we sdhould either weait outside or go somewhere else for a drink. Gee, that's hospitable. "Welcome, you're going to have to go somewhere else" So we went outside and hung out for 15 minutes. At 8:30, our reservation time we walked back in and she told us that they weren't ready for us yet. Don't take my reservation if you are unable or unwilling to honor it. She must have noticed my displeasure and she said she had several seat about to open. 10 minutes later she walked around aned came back saying there were 5 people who have paid but haven't left and that "I can't tell them they have to leave." While thats true there are ways to handle tables that are slow in leaving when the table needs to be turned. Obviously management here doesn't believe in that.

                      Finally at 9:00, 30 minutes after our reservation, we were graced by the restaurant with a table. We were hurridly given a paper menu and an I pad with no explaination. The screen on the Ipad listed several (about 8) wines by the glass, quartino and bottle. I couldnt seem to get the ipad to do anything else so when a waitress came by briefly I asked if this was the entire wine list. She snapped "yes" before hurrying off.

                      Sitting there confused we debated just getting up and leaving when a sommelier came by asking if we had any questions about the list. "Yes, is this really the whole list?"

                      "Why no, here's how you access the list..." Oh well thats not waht your staff told me. After perusing the list of too young, uninteresting wines I decided on a beer. Now, I don't like hoppy beer. So, when I saw a beer brewed in Oakland where the tasting notes read something to the effect of "Malt forward...." I wasn't expecting the hop bomb I got. I asked if this was in fact the beer I had ordered. Yes it is. OK. You'd think that someone would have asked what I thought of , or why I wasn't drinking it but no. I guess they just aren't interested. So onto food. First was a fluke crudo. The fact that the fluke was losing freshness (anyone in the kitchen with a nose could have told you this) the beet garnish complete dominated the dish flavor. I guess they were trying to hide the fishy smell of the fluke. Next was a burrata that was OK but was served on tasted bread that was over salted and topped with flavorless pear and arugula. We split an entree of over cooked braised chicken thighs and mushy over cooked roasted brussel sprouts. When asked what we thought of the entree (my practically full beer still sitting there) I explained to the waitress that both the chicken and brussel sprouts were over cook. "Oh, I'll tell the kitchen" she said pleasantly. When she came back to ask is we'd like dessert I couldnt get out of there fast enough. No, just the check.

                      She brought the check back, my nearly full beer still sitting there and informed us that they have removed the brussel sprouts from the bill. I protested briefly because the comment was not intended to get anything for free but rather to answer the question.

                      Anyway, we paid and left. I would not recommend Barbacco unless you're looking for a wholly bad dining experience.

                      Zfrom there we made our way to Local Edition for drinks. Promoted as a speak easy it was a little more clubby feeling. But coming from me take that with a grain of salt as I am not a club goes so I have no idea what I'm talking about. The staff was pleasant and well trained and the drinks were really good. We each had 3.

                      Around midnight we headed out to Katana Ya for ramen. All I have to say is; WOW this place is awesome! I highly reccomend it. Go, go now. There's a reason why, at 12:30 a.m. the joint was packed.

                      All in all a fun trip. Thanks for your recommendations.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: JMLenart

                        Those iPad wine lists are annoying but if you didn't find anything interesting I think you must not have found all the pages or weren't really in the mood.


                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          This list was NOT the list on the iPad. Some items were there but not all of this list was on the iPad I received. There are a number of very nice wines on this list.

                          1. re: JMLenart

                            Actually that list's from January. I'll go by and check out the current list, I'm going to be in the neighborhood today.

                        2. re: JMLenart

                          sorry you didn't enjoy Barbacco! it's usually very good. especially those sprouts.
                          sounds like you had a good time otherwise.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            The chicken dish on the menu (last updated Nov. 8) says cavolo nero (Lacinato kale) and polenta. Did they substitute Brussels sprouts? The regular sprouts fried in duck fat with anchovy and capers is great.


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              no idea, just going by what the OP said. i assumed they were the fried in duck fat sprouts.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                No, the over cooked Chicken dish was as you said, with polenta and kale. Sprouts were a side dish and roasted till mush.

                                1. re: JMLenart

                                  Sounds like the kitchen and staff were having an off night. Two weeks ago, we had the same chicken dish, and the burrata and crudo dishes listed on RL's linked menu.
                                  Two fried things we ordered were darker than usual and some pasta was undersalted, but otherwise everything was great. On other threads from the past few weeks, there was a user underwhelmed by the the pasta and another person reporting a problem with the bread accompanying the burrata. I hope these are not representative experiences... it's one of my favorite places in SF.

                            2. re: JMLenart

                              I went to Barbacco last night, the ascolane, Brussels sprouts, and chicken liver crostino all seemed as good as ever. The sprouts were only slightly cooked as usual.

                              The wine list is much shorter than the January list on the Web site. Still some very interesting wines, e.g. "orange" Vermentino and Pecorino, but not as wide a selection. On the bright side, they added a choice on the menu to see all the wines on one page.

                              1. re: JMLenart

                                Sounds like your iPad may have been broken. Actually the first time I ever used an iPad was the wine list at Barbacco, and I found it fairly easy to navigate. The problem was more that it was tedious to do so. After browsing their wine list app for like a minute or two, I just told the bartender, "You know what, here's what I'm eating; you pick for me." She matched it well, whatever it was.

                                1. re: dunstable

                                  They've changed the software, the UI's no longer very iPad-like. I had a lot of trouble finding the "go back" command.

                                2. re: JMLenart

                                  You know, on my one visit to Barbacco (I don't get up to that part of the city as much as I should, and there are a lot of new openings) I was not overimpressed. I didn't have the awful stinkbomb of a time you did - we were seated on time, we navigated with wine list, no one snapped at us - I was a bit "what's the fuss about". The wines were interesting - I had a flight of "orange wine", which was educational but I didn't actually like the style (not a knock on the restaurant), the food dishes I thought were good but not up to the level I had expected from CH.

                                  In all of life's paths chosen, sometimes I walk out of a situation like that and go down the street to whatever's open, and wonder later about what could have been. Your report points out the benefit of moving on - after that first half hour wait it's hard to recover - "it's all bad" - what if you had walked right into tadich next door, and if they had a table open up for you right then (possible at 8:30), kept the martinis going? Who knows.

                                  That area is very sparse in dinner restaurants - there aren't 10 in a few blocks - so if you weren't lucky at Tadich, I don't know what would have captured your eye.

                                  It sounds like the rest of your trip was solid, and Local Edition did a good job on the drinks. Regarding "clubbiness", if you can hear yourself think, it's not a club. If you can sit down without paying a multi-hundred-dollar fee. For a while, it seemed that everything was a "Lounge" - a place where you could sit and have a drink and enjoy yourself. Now lounges are speakeasies. I'm sure in a year it'll be something else.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    I don't agree that the area is that sparse in restaurants. There are four well-known ones on that block alone (Barbacco, Perbacco, Tadich, and Michael Mina). And it would only take a few minutes to walk to Brasserie S&P, Wayfare Tavern, Georges, Wexler's, Unicorn, Credo, Schroeder's, and Harrington's to name a few.

                                    1. re: nocharge

                                      Bob's Steakhouse too (though I personally would never recommend Schroeder's or Harrington's to anyone). and only a 5 or 6 minute wakj away is Belden Place. http://www.belden-place.com/ (i'm not saying the places on Belden are on the same level as Barbacco, Perbacco, Michael Mina, Wexler's, et al, but you can have a very good meal there.)

                                      1. re: nocharge

                                        In 2005 when worked a block from Tadich there were few choices for dinner nearby. A whole lot of restaurants have opened in the meantime, though they're scattered around so if you were just walking down a random street you wouldn't come across most of them.

                                        I don't understand how Bob's stays in business. They don't dry-age their meat and Alfred's is only three blocks away.