Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jan 3, 2013 08:28 AM

NYC coming to SF

Hi all,

I'm planning on visiting San Fran in a few months with the beau (I like to plan far ahead...hah).

We truly enjoy all types of food and drink and are looking for must-eats/must-drinks in the SF area. Coming from NYC and having great food and drink, I know a few days in SF can't cover everything...but we plan to be there for 4-6 days and want to get a general feel for the food and drink culture here as much as possible.

Our budget is fairly open—looking for hole-in-the-walls as well as fine dining in all cuisines. Also looking for great cocktails bars (heard of a few speakeasies such as Slide and Bourbon & Branch) and popular night time venues/areas.

We plan to hit up NAPA valley also..and hopefully get a reservation at the French Laundry (I know I'll have to [try to] make reservations 2 months in adv.). So any tips about NAPA would be great too!

The only time we will have a car is during our 1-2 day trip to NAPA. Even though I've seen great recommendations slightly outside of SF, I would like to keep suggestions within reach of public transportation.

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. As you might imagine, questions like yours get asked here regularly. It would really be worth your while to spend 15-20 minutes scrolling thru the many threads that are already here. You will find hundreds of helpful suggestions available to you.

    You can also go to the upper right-hand corner of this page and do searches for places (such as Napa) or subjects (such as wine tasting) that might be of interest.

    Here is one thread that should be of interest:

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT

      Thanks for the thread. I did actually look through a few others that helped me find a few places but I figured I posted my own also!

    2. If you're going to be dependent on public transportation, look for a centrally located hotel, i.e., within a block or two of a BART / Muni subway station.

      Some previous topics from visitors from New York:

      1. Sorry, don't mean to be snarky, but had to reply to ask why you cap NAPA like it's an acronym? Napa is a name, it's not like NASA. :) There's a Napa city and then the Napa Valley, which encompasses many small towns with great food like Yountville and St. Helena.

        8 Replies
        1. re: singleguychef

          Haha to be honest, I have no idea. But now I know..and won't make that mistake again.

          1. re: ashleylau

            LOL, no worries.

            So just a few suggestions knowing you're coming from NYC:

            1) I wouldn't bother with Chinese food, because you can get some good ones in Flushing, or down in L.A. We have decent Chinese restaurants but none that I would carve a meal for especially since you're here for such a short period. But if you happen to be strolling in San Francisco Chinatown, then I would say drop in to Golden Gate Bakery for some fresh dahn tat (egg custard tarts). They're best when eaten fresh rather than taking back to the hotel.

            2) I feel the current San Francisco dining scene is farm-to-table or sustainable dining in a casual setting. Some innovative places that do this include: A.Q. (seasonal restaurant), Central Kitchen (same chef as Flour + Water but this isn't a pizza place), Rich Table (book reservations early) and Baker and Banker.

            3) Food trucks are popular and makes for easy dining without the fuss. Depending on when you're exactly coming, you might try Off The Grid at Fort Mason, which is the largest gathering, or SOMA Street Eats, which is a permanent parking lot location with rotating trucks.

            4) For fun, if you time it right, maybe you can do a pop-up dinner? You have to follow the ones you're interested in via Facebook or Twitter to get their schedules, but another easy way might be to get on the newsletter listing for Kitchit, which seems to be planning several pop ups with local chefs. Another popular one is called Lazy Bear, an underground pop-up.(Just Google those names if you're interested.)

            5) If this is your first time to San Francisco, there are some classics that you might want to try just because they're institution. These include Swan Oyster Depot for no-fuss fresh seafood (with lots of old-school charm), Tadich Grill in the Financial District, Zuni Cafe for its chicken dish, or Slanted Door (mostly for the view).

            6) If you're into celebrity chefs, then those restaurants would be Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern (good food, this is not like Guy Fieri's attempts to open a restaurant), Top Chef Master Chris Cosentino's Incanto, Traci des Jardin's Jardiniere, and Martin Yan's new M.Y. China in the shopping mall.

            1. re: singleguychef

              I like the food trucks, but honestly I'm not sure a tourist needs to spare a meal for them, especially not SOMA Streat Eats, and especially not a tourist from NYC. If any of those trucks had a proper brick location, few would recommend any of them as must-try restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I like them as a cheap and tasty dining option, but if an out-of-towner is vacillating between SOMA Streat Food and someplace like Incanto, then forget it.

              1. re: dunstable

                Yeah, they have the food truck fad in NYC as well. A real non-fad cheap taco truck might be worth a detour.


                1. re: dunstable

                  I threw out the food truck option mostly as just that, an option. I know sometimes when I travel, I get tired of rushing off to a restaurant and sometimes I just feel like grabbing something quick. So that's why I mentioned the food trucks as an alternative. Also, NYC might have food trucks, but I haven't seen them together en mass like Off the Grid.

                  1. re: singleguychef

                    Off the Grid isn't necessarily quicker than a restaurant.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      In case the OP does decide to hit Off the Grid:

                      I believe the big Fort Mason one doesn't start up again till later in the spring...

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Off the grid and Streat are slow and annoying. The benefit of the trucks is when you come across them, so having a couple of names like The Chairman so if you see the truck, you stop, is the right way. And simply let your nose be your guide.

                        Yes, NYC knows food trucks. I was wandering through some part of manhattan a few weeks ago and came across an artesianal ice cream truck, got myself a scoop of burnt banana. It was a little grainy but worth a stop.

            2. Hopefully viewing some of the threads suggested will narrow this down for you and you can post with where you need help/focus. Some basic ideas:

              Bourbon & Branch or Local Edition or Rickhouse for cocktails in a speakeasy type setting. Absinthe for damn good cocktails in a French Brasserie type setting.

              Go to the farmers market at the Ferry Building on Saturday morning or Wednesday morning.

              We are best at the mid-tier $40-75 a person restaurant. Among many are:

              Italian inspired: Cotogna, Locanda, Incanto, Flour + Water
              Innovative/experimental: AQ or Commonwealth
              Neighborhood/local ingredients: Nopa, Frances, Baker and Banker, Rich Table, or Canteen
              Innovative Wine List: St. Vicent's
              Innovative Beer List: Abbot's Cellar
              "Novelty" concept: State Bird Provisions

              You should try ice cream:
              Bi-Rite, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, or Humphrey Slocombe

              You should try coffee:

              Philz, Blue Bottle, Ritual, Four Barrel, Sightglass etc.

              We also have some great Michelin 2/3 star type places. If you can't get French Laundry try:
              Benu (french modern cuisine with an asian twist) or Atelier Crenn (experimental cuisine with a californian/french flair in a more casual setting)

              5 Replies
              1. re: goldangl95

                Saturday and Tuesday morning, not Wednesday for the Ferry Plaza farmer's market .

                1. re: wally

                  huh. So weird, I could have sworn it was Wednesday. Anyway it's actually according to the website Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Thanks for the correction!

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    Thursday has more food booths and less farmers.

                    1. re: wally

                      thanks wally and goldangl95! Really useful info

                      We actually have blue bottle coffee in nyc now. Pretty good :)

                      1. re: ashleylau

                        NY also has a Four Barrel presence too, but like Blue Bottle, the coffee is actually different in character from what you get in SF. Different enough to make it a priority? Depends how you feel about coffee. Still worth going out of your way for one of SF's celebrated small roasters. It's a long list of options.

              2. You have gotten a lot of good suggestions. I'll just note that "in a few months" the situation might be different. Places open, close, chefs move around, etc. So be sure to monitor the scene in the coming months.

                I'll say also that if you have your heart set on a specific high-profile place, you should nail down a reservation, because they can be hard to get on short notice (i.e., Rich Table, as was noted below, or Cotogna).