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SF in February. List of restaurants

I'll be in the Bay area and Napa in the middle of Feb. I want to experience the best of the area. Please tell me if there are any places I should skip and what I should replace it with.

I've read many of the posts and I want to say thanks for all the valuable information as I this is my first trip to the area

Napa Area

The French Laundry (reservation confirmed)
Auberge du Soleil (reservation confirmed)
Bouchon Lunch (reservation confirmed)
La Luna Taqueria Lunch
Bistro Jeaunty Lunch

San Francisco
Saison
Benu
Coi
Contigo
Perbacco
Sushi Sebo
Taqueria Sinaloa (Lunch)

Other Possibilities
Canteen
Ame
Boulevard

Los Gatos
Manresa

Also, other places that might not be high end but one shouldn't miss like an amazing place for breakfast or a place that has unbelievable dim sum etc.

I will spending a couple of days in Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur. Any recs would also be appreciated.

Thanks

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  1. That's awfully Eurocentric and a bit heavy on the conservative and expensive Michelin places. Some of the most exciting food in SF is at mid-priced, less formal places such as AQ and Bar Tartine.

    Where do you live? Without knowing that it's impossible to guess what we have that you couldn't find at home.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      ditto to that. But if $ is no object, maybe try Hakkasan which just opened. Or maybe Dosa, Amber India or Kokkari for a bit more diversity, if still somewhat on the pricier side (though more moderately so).

    2. Robert & Mark Thanks for the quick replies

      I live in the Virgin Islands so we don't have a great diversity of restaurants. Thanks for the recs. That is what I was looking for when I asked about some of the more moderately priced can't miss places. I will definitely try Hakkasan and probably Kokkari as well.

      Also Bar Tartine's menu looks really good I might just give them a try too.Thanks

      Are there any "institutions"? Places that really give me a feel for the San Francisco culinary scene?

      5 Replies
      1. re: tatuaje68

        When I think of institutions I think of older restaurants that have stood the test of time, but are not necessarily representative of the most current dining scene. Places like Tadich Grill for example will leave you no doubt that you ate in San Francisco, albeit could have just as easily been 50 years ago.

        California (farm to table) cuisine began in the area about 35 years ago, and early representative Zuni Cafe is still quite good and probably qualifies as an institution. More contemporary takes on this type of cuisine would be places Robert suggested (AQ and Bar Tartine) or State Bird Provisions, although I wouldn't think any of them would qualify as an institution just yet.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          Agreed on Zuni. Of course there is the major "institution" across the Bay --Chez Panisse.

        2. re: tatuaje68

          I think it's safe to say that both Tadich Grill (FiDi) and Chez Panisse (Berkeley) are institutions. Zuni Cafe (Market Street) could also qualify. Taking mass transit (street car, cable car, electric bus, BART, whatever) to any of these places will only enhance the experience.

          1. re: tatuaje68

            SF's restaurant scene is so diverse that no one place will give much of a feel for it.

            Tadich is the oldest restaurant in SF but that's a mixed blessing. Some of the food is old-school in a bad way, you can eat well there but you have to know what to order.

            Hakkasan's a branch of an international chain.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              My wife and I have sailed the EC and the Exumas extensively, not the Virgins, and I think I get tatuaje68's perspective and appreciate the desire for higher-end places. To that point, the itinerary sounds pretty good. Room for improvement? Sure. But it's sound overall.

              The drive down to Monterey and Big Sur is outstanding. My wife and I have been doing it every year for decades. Food down there is nowhere near as good as San Francisco but I'm reminded of an old saw: When Americans go on vacation, they go to California. When Californians go on vacation, they go to Monterey (there are variations). The California board will help you out.

          2. surprised you have Saison, Benu and Coi but not Atelier Creen which would my preference over Coi and Saison.

            Zuni is an Cal cuisine institution and lunch there with oysters and bubbly is pretty classic.

            To get idea of the modern SF cuisine AQ is pretty good for that and it takes the whole seasonal obsession that's an SF stereotype that is actually true to heart.

            Or do a lunch/snacks at the ferry building.

            Unless you have other things going on in the south bay I don't know if Manresa is worth a special trip.

            of course you have to have a mission burrito each place is different, I would stick to Mission street and not the hipsterized places on Valencia

            Also how about Aziza as an alternative to Eurocentric. Other you might be interested in Burmese at Mandalay, Ethopian at Moya (although the best Eritrean and Ethopian is still in the East Bay).

            1 Reply
            1. re: tjinsf

              I agree with Tjinsf. Having eaten at all four, I would take Atelier Crenn over the other three and move on to other interesting cuisines like Bar Tartine and Aziza (Saison, Benu and Coi are all so similar in their haute-ness...)

              Other "institutions" include Swan for oysters, Top of the Mark for the view and a cocktail, Bix for tartare and their Sidecar, Zuni (as others have mentioned), and a Saturday morning at the Ferry Building's Farmers Market.

            2. Thanks for the great suggestions.

              I have already been convinced to go to Aziza after reading Kelseats. I've just recently been reading her blog and she seems to have some pretty interesting restaurants on there.
              I have known about and respected Alice Waters for 25 or thirty years but I've read so many bad reviews of Chez Panisse that I might just go there for a drink just to see it.

              I plan to drive from Napa to Los Gatos and eat at Manresa, then drive to Monterey the next morning

              1. Just a note that Taqueria Sinaloa is in Oakland. The taqueria itself is not walking distance from BART, but their permanent taco truck station is kitty-corner from the Fruitvale Station parking garage. If going over to Oakland for a taco is not what you had in mind, then perhaps someone can give you some suggestions for a place in San Francisco.

                I think for a foodie on SF institution is the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building (plus the Ferry Building market hall itself).

                Your Napa itinerary sounds heavy on the French side to me, too. I'm guessing one thing you do have in the Virgin Islands is upscale French (or mostly French) restaurants, even if they do cater to tourists (which is what the ones in Napa do, too). I've always thought of Auberge du Soleil as one of those places where you go to sit on the terrace and have a drink/light snack at sunset rather than a dinner destination.

                Finally, check out the California board for Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur.