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Dec 16, 2012 06:38 PM

San Francisco Itinerary

We will be visiting San Francisco January 4-7, and would appreciate your suggestions and feedback on my choices so far.

Day 1:

Dinner at Kokkari Estiatorio

Day 2:

Lunch at The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

Dinner at Perbacco

Day 3:

Lunch at N/A- Will be going to Alcatraz afterward so somewhere near the embarcadero would be nice

Dinner at Gary Danko's

Day 4:

Lunch at Boulevard


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  1. Let me guess -- you looked at Zagat. You know those are good restaurants -- well, except for the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, which is fine for what it is, but not exceptional except for the popovers.

    So my question is -- are "safe" restaurants what you want? If so, then you're doing fine. If you want exciting, vibrant restaurants that reflect the current status of the SF dining scene, then that's a different question.

    I suggest that you read some of the other threads from visitors and get an idea of the range of possibilities.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I actually didn't use Zagat, but I used my michelin guide 2013, frommers 2013, and trip advisor. However, what do you mean by exciting and vibrant restaurants? This will be my first time to San Francisco, and I appreciate your suggestion to go to restaurants that show the current dining scene, but I also want a classic San Francisco experience.

      1. re: lhenry

        I would say there are two different types of "classic San Francisco experience." One would be to eat at one of the historic/traditional seafood houses like Tadich Grill or Scoma's at the Wharf. The other would be to dive into the mid-range dining scene and eat more like the locals. Perbacco is the only one on your list I would consider keeping.

        Do you particularly want a high-end tasting menu kind of restaurant like Gary Danko?

        If you do a search for "5 days" there are four of five long threads with requests similar to yours.

        1. re: lhenry

          Hey, lhenry, you are in for a treat. SF has great dining at pretty much every level. I'll chime in as a frequent visitor to SF who still remembers her first time with great fondness. We too used frommers but no trip advisor back in the day. We did pretty well but I sure wish I'd known about Chowhound back then to get the kind of tips I think Ruth is referring to.

          We've gotten excellent steers here that I don't believe we would have found elsewhere. Burmese and Lao options, specialty Mexican, specific Vietnamese dishes, smaller specialized Italian -- the list goes on.

          In terms of going for a classic SF experience, I'd be thinking in terms of Sam's or Tadich for a late lunch or early dinner. You might also consider Sotto Mare for a plate of petrale sole.

          Perbacco is solid but I think you can do better for Italian if you get your reservations on quickly. La Ciccia for dinner is pretty wonderful, and Cotogna for lunch is spot on (dinner reservations are tougher).

          The other restaurants you mention don't strike me as particularly emblematic of the Bay Area based on menus offered, though to be fair I haven't dined at them. I do have a jones to try the popover at the
          Rotunda but I've never felt well turned out enough to venture in!

          It seems the places you've listed are all more or less in the same area, so if I might suggest you cast your net a bit wider, you won't be disappointed. SF proper is really quite small and very walkable/transitable (is that a word?). We can't do without our multi-day Muni passes, which allow unlimited rides on the buses, streetcars (which are very cool) and cable cars (which are even cooler and $6 one way without the pass). Worth every penny to get us to more great grub.

          Hope these comments from a fellow traveler are helpful, and I'm sure you'll hear more from the excellent SF Bay Area Hounds to help your first trip be a great success.

          1. re: grayelf

            You are a fine culinary ambassador for our beloved City by the Bay, Grayelf, your posts are always most appreciated.



      2. lhenry,

        It really helps to know what your frame of reference is, as well. I see you've asked a lot of questions about different regions on CH - but responded only once, to a manhattan thread, so I don't know what you like. greyelf was very good about stating likes and dislikes.

        Ruth's correct. The places you've listed are very staid and not representative of the current best of SF in any way. You will be bored and disappointed if you eat that list. We always get "I wish I had listened to you guys" reports. You posted, so listen up - if not to me, than to the rest.

        We have a decent chinese scene, and unless you regularly eat NYC, SGV, Vancouver there's probably some good eating for you. But you've avoided everything even remotely asian - maybe you just don't like that kind of food?

        You should also know that the city is very, very small. You can greatly expand your options to cover most of the neighborhoods in SF with only a $5 cab ride, if that's why you're having all of your meals in north beach / fidi.

        Here's a quick list of slightly more cutting edge but upscale places roughly in the north-east quadrant of the city, leaving out some of the more controversial spots, and basically european/californian/whatever except for YS
        Park Tavern
        Yank Sing

        Reply again if you want a more targeted list. I hate seeing people who really like to eat going to the kinds of places you've listed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bbulkow

          Actually, I checked his/her posting history to get some kind of idea where he/she was coming from, and lhenry replied to his/her LA request and his/her Hawaii request. In LA it seems like she ate in the equivalent of the places she listed here. Very safe, very LA.

        2. Contrary to popular belief asian cuisine is one of my favorites. I feel a bit over whelmed with SF amount of Chinese restaurants, and don't feel like paying the price for yank sing. If you could help me sift through an authentic SF chinatown restaurant that would be great. Also, I am willing to change all the restaurants on the list except Rotunda and Gary Dankos unless a better michelin is available. And I keep forgetting how condensed SF is so I wouldn't mind reaching out to other areas, but not to far because we don't have a car. My tastes vary and don't mind super cheap ($10 pp) or too expensive ($100 pp), and like most ethnic foods.

          13 Replies
          1. re: lhenry

            Would Great Eastern chinease be a good option?

            1. re: lhenry

              Great Eastern is a good option for Cantonese/Hong Kong seafood. There are also some pretty good restaurants featuring other regional Chinese cuisines in Chinatown, including Z&Y (Sichuan) and Bund Shanghai. The hot ticket for dim sum in Chinatown these days is Lai Hong Lounge.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Would the overall food be better at Z&Y or Great Eastern?

                1. re: lhenry

                  Apples/oranges. I'd pick Great Eastern if I was going to order fresh/live seafood; otherwise, I'd pick Z&Y.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    then Z&Y it is, we get enough fresh seafood here in the northwest :)

                    1. re: lhenry

                      Well... I know you asked for an authentic SF chinatown restaurant, but if your plan is to remove Boulevard or Kokkari and replace it with Z&Y, I wouldn't do that.

                      Especially since your first inclination was to put those restaurants on because you didn't want to pay high prices for Yank Sing (Yank Sing is less expensive than Boulevard). I think you'll get a good experience at the restaurants you had before.

                      Remember -- people are just expressing preferences. Lots of people really like Boulevard and it is a great restaurant. If you were to replace Boulevard with Hakkasan, then you'd be switching to Asian cuisine at a comparable level of overall experience. I'm not saying you should - just that you should know before switching from a Michelin star restaurant to a Chinese restaurant with good food.

                      1. re: calumin

                        I'd rather eat at Z&Y than either Hakkasan or Boulevard (except for the novelty factor or if someone else is paying). If I'm going to spend that much money there are better places to spend it (IMHO). I'm more interested in food than trappings!

                        I guess my point is that you don't have to eat in an expensive, Michelin-starred restaurant to have a good meal in San Francisco.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          I don't think it's accurate to say that people who like Hakkasan or Boulevard are more interested in trappings than good food.

                          There are great offerings at Hakkasan that appeal to foodies that you cannot get anywhere else in SF. But it is expensive -- and I agree that if the point is to get great food at a low price, neither Boulevard or Hakkasan are good choices. I'm not sure that's what the OP is looking for though.

                          1. re: calumin

                            The SF branch of Hakkasan (international chain with 10 restaurants) has been open only a couple of weeks so it's a bit early to make any generalizations about who likes it and why. The two reports so far don't inspire me to rush over there.


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Exactly. I think it's a bit premature to judge Hakkasan on its merits (rather than its PR).

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Ruth - if you go there then you can judge Hakkasan on its merits. Since I've been there, I can say that I'd rather eat there than Z&Y - no reliance on PR.

                            2. re: calumin

                              If you choose Z&Y, realize that it's a Sichuan style restaurant and the food will be spicy. Look around at what other people are eating--- there are specials not listed on the English menu. Do some searches for other stuff to order. I'd recommend the Chongqing style chicken (chicken with 1000 chiles or something like that) and the red oil dumplings.

                          2. re: calumin

                            We just got our plane tickets and it will be January 3-6. We arrive early in the morning so we are able to fit in Rotunda the first day leaving now 2 open places for lunch. Also, we won't be able to go to Boulevard now because our plane leaves too early for lunch. Lastly, I would not take out Kokkari for Z&Y, fortunately I am able to have both.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. Also, what would be a better michelin substitute for gary dankos?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: lhenry

                    Michelin is stuck in the past and has an intense French bias. If I had to pick an SF-proper restaurant from their list, I'd go to Frances.

                      1. re: lhenry

                        Keiko's a nob hill is similar, but imho better, than gary danko. atelier crenn is (much) more experimental, much less classic, "internationalized" french.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          Keiko is high on my list of places to try. From what I hear, also a good choice.