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3 day itinerary for two vegetarians from Chicago

  • d

Hi all, I've done some research on here so far, and have come up with a general plan for my husband and I for San Francisco / Napa for a few weeks from now. There was another discussion on a similar topic, but it was a year ago so I figured I'd get more up to date info by asking. I haven't been to SF since I had disposable cash and my husband only ever goes on work, so we're generally new to the area. First time in any wine country, so a lot of the discussion went a little over my head (it assumes a certain basic orientation / knowledge that I seem to lack, even after my couple hours of searching online). We have a few gaps to fill, and a couple of overall questions... the other major detail is we are both vegetarians (no fish).

Friday:
- We'll get in in time for a late lunch. We'll have a car, and are pretty open... any thoughts? Maybe food trucks?
- Afternoon we'll be wandering around and sightseeing
- Dinner at Atelier Crenn

Saturday:
- Breakfast in SF... is Tartine still the main recommendation?
- Drive to Napa
- We'll eat after checking in; still figuring out acommodation but will be in Napa or Yountville, so thinking about Oenotri, but open to ideas
- We want to check out a winery (or two) in the afternoon... Any recommendations? I haven't gotten a feel for how many to plan to visit in a given afternoon and whether we can/should make it up to the St. Helena area during this time. Over the day or so we're in Napa I'd like to get a decent variety and set of experiences. I like sparkling wine, we both like chardonnay, and we're generally adventurous. What are some good options to provide an introduction without being too touristy? Also, where would there still be nice scenic views at this time of year?
- Dinner at Ad Hoc

Sunday:
- Breakfast at Bouchon
- Wineries for the morning / early afternoon - again, need recommendations. I'd love some help just planning out these two segments (Saturday pm, Sunday am) to get a good balance at a nice pace.
- Picnic lunch we will pick up at Oxbow
- Head back to SF
- Totally open for dinner suggestions here... what would provide a nice balance and round out the different tastes for our 3rd dinner? A few things that appealed to me were Alembic, Aziza (but feels to similar to the other styles we're getting), Nopa (but too similar to Oenotri?)
- Drinks at 15 romolo or other interesting places not on my radar?

Monday:
- Brunch: We want to do dim sum. There are NO options for vegetarians for dim sum in Chicago... I've wanted to do this for years! Yank Sing came up in another thread, but I just wanted to have another couple of options because it seems like it's a little overrated?
- We'll wander around for the morning
- Early afternoon lunch: Mission area, was thinking of Gracias Madre... is that still good?

And that's about it! Look forward to hearing what you all think, and thanks in advance.

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  1. For starters - and for Napa only - if you are vegetarians, than Oenetri would be a complete and total waste for you; their specialty are their meats, specifically their charcuterie platters. I would recommend, instead, Zuzu, for tapas or Tarla Grill for Turkish. Currently on their menu, Oenetri only has one pasta offering and one appetizer offering without meat. If you are looking for pasta, I would drive up-valley 10 minutes to Bistro Don Giovanni.

    Secondly, you need to check in with Ad Hoc on their offerings. It is family style and a limited menu. You only get what they are preparing and often (I have heard) their vegetarian offering is less than stellar and very, very limited.

    Other restaurants that have decent vegetarian options would be Angele, Goose & Gander, and Terra.

    Alembic and Aziza are miles apart; Alembic is more of a bar atmosphere with fabulous drinks and interesting small bar bites. Aziza is stunning Moroccan haute cuisine food with amazing drinks. Alembic is more bar than restaurant and Aziza is more restaurant than bar.

    Lastly, we have had threads in the past on vegetarian dim sum, but the search function only seems to be showing one or the other so I'm not sure how to find the best offerings of both, but if memory serves, Yank Sing is not the best...

    2 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Thanks Carrie. At Oenotri it was the pizzas that appealed to us - there is a nice looking hen of the woods mushroom and cauliflower one, as well as a number of sides that look good. Since it is for a light lunch we don't require a variety of options on the menu, just a few good ones :) But Terra and G&G also appealed to me, so I will present the options to my husband. I do think we will keep Ad Hoc for the sake of having the experience, recognizing there are other choices.

      Agree that Alembic and Aziza are miles apart - I was providing those examples to show that I am open to varying ideas as long as they are different from our existing plans... that said, any other ideas that would work well? Sounds like Aziza will be a good option but would love to have a couple of things to look at.

      I also found limited results in the search box for veg dim sum, which was unfortunate! I myself posted on it years ago under an old username and that didn't come up! I scrolled through the first 15 threads that came up, too. I was hoping someone would be kind enough to just throw out an idea or two here :)

      Also still looking for suggestions on wineries that would be good for chardonnay and bubbly, for the new-but-adventurous first-timer, and any guidelines on how many to plan to visit in a given afternoon.

      1. re: deraj

        Keep your Ad Hoc reservation if you have one, but I would seriously suggest you make other reservations as well and call to find out what is on the menu before you commit.

        I have known of other vegetarians leave VERY disappointed because the menu changes so often.

        I'm not a Chard fan, but many like Rombauer and for bubbly, consider the tour at Schramsburg; theirs is the best cave in the valley. I also like Domaine Carneros for the view and Domaine Chandon for the pairings (which include oysters and caviar, so that may not go far for you).

        Your best bet to plan a day is to play with Google maps and chart all the wineries that look good to you and see what is near each other. Schramsburg needs an appointment while Rombauer does not, but they aren't that far from one another so they could be done right after lunch, if you are dining in Yountville. If you are eating in downtown Napa, you want to find wineries that are closer to down-valley.

        You might also enjoy some of the tasting rooms in downtown Napa (Backstreet or Vintner's Collective) where you can taste a wider variety of small-producers who don't have tasting rooms but are preparing great wine.

    2. Breakfast Saturday, stop by the Ferry Plaza farmers market.

      Yank Sing's the only dim sum place I know that is vegetarian-friendly. I think its ratings suffer because of its high prices but if you're ordering vegetarian it won't be expensive.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7321...

      I think some of the vegetarian Chinese places have dim sum, but I haven't heard much good about any of them.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Yank Sing it is. I've only had veg dim sum once in my life (in Sydney) so I will only have one point of comparison anyway.

        Ferry Plaza farmers market is a good idea! There is a chance we have to move Yank Sing to Saturday to accommodate our friends' schedule... in case we do, we will have the "open" breakfast spot in our schedule on Monday when the market is closed. Any thoughts then?

        1. re: deraj

          Try and get your friend to meet you at the Ferry Market on a Saturday; it is *quite* the thing to do in the city. Then, if you are still hungry, it is a very short walk to Yank Sing and since the number of vegetarian dim sum will be fairly limited, you could finish out your visit there.

          1. re: deraj

            We've been going to Yank Sing over the years and have always enjoyed their vegetarian dim sum. If you don't see much coming around in the carts, they do have a menu from which you can order.

            As for Oenotri in Napa, I agree with Carrie that they don't have much to offer for vegetarians. We were there over the holidays & kids ordered a pizza. While flavorful, crust was soggy. If you go to Bistro Don Giovanni, I recommend you skip the pizza there too.

            Exploring the Mission...friend went to Gracias Madre just a few months ago & loved it. Rosamunde Sausage Grill is fantastic and their veg. offerings may be equally good; however, we have not tried them.

            1. re: ceekskat

              I just called & it appears Cotogna accommodates vegetarians for their Sunday Supper. I didn't ask about pricing but you can give them a call. A board and personal fave, can't imagine anything going wrong here.

              http://www.cotognasf.com/

              1. re: ceekskat

                I've had lots of vegetarian dishes at Cotogna that were excellent.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Agree, in fact my only disappointment there was the roasted pork. Am now fearful of ordering anything from "secondi" portion of menu.

                  1. re: ceekskat

                    I don't think I've ever ordered secondi at Cotogna, the antipasti and primi always sound more interesting (just like in Italy) and the pizza's great.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I'll chime in that we were pretty blown away by the veg friendly options we've tried on our (sadly only two so far) lunches at Cotogna -- I believe for example that both outstanding sformatas we had would be suitable for the OP, not to mention the gnocchi and pizza though they might not always be veg friendly. Highly recommended by this twice-a-year tourist. And it sounds like per ceekscat they accommodate vegheads at the Sunday supper which I'm dying to try.

        2. Ad Hoc seems like a strange choice given how often it gets big thumbs down from vegetarians.

          A few weeks from now it might be a bit too cold, wet, and/or windy for a picnic (you never know that time of year) so best to have a backup plan.

          1. For your SF dinner selection you might want to consider Millenium, or possibly Amber India if you like high-end Indian cuisine.

            For drinks Alembic is a good choice as is Bourbon & Branch.

            1. Thanks for all the great suggestions so far. We are going to book at Terra as well and call ahead to find out what's for dinner. We'll have breakfast where we're staying, and are planning to do a combination of a pastry from Bouchon and cheese pairings as lunch :) Very healthy. Also, planning stops at the aforementioned wineries as well as Frog's Leap, Far Niente, and Goose Cross (though not in that order).

              A few final questions...

              For dinner, we like Aziza (and Cotogna but it will be a Sunday and not sure about Sunday Supper), but wondering what thoughts are on Chapeau? I'm intrigued by a vegetarian French prix fixe menu.

              What should we eat at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market?

              Is Gracias Madre the best choice for Mexican for lunch?

              1. One of the things SF excels at is veg only Chinese and Thai restaurants. I visit Chi very often (I live in NY, and am veg), and while there are certainly veg only Asian restos in Chi, the concentration of so many within the small area of the SF "Chinatown" is a real treat.
                I don't like fancy restos much, altho' I've been to more than my share. I went to Greens over Memorial Day weekend, and hated it. I was so happy to find that "Off the Grid," a meet up of many and various food trucks (some veg and some veg friendly) had assembled in a parking lot in Fort Mason (which is where Greens is located). Was tons of fun! Picnic tables, beer booth, great people, great food and great music.
                Otherwise, I have to say, SF restos in large part, no matter the price point, are extremely veg friendly and accommodating.

                7 Replies
                1. re: mrsdebdav

                  Berkeley/Oakland is a great place to go for vegetarian foods but you may not want to venture that far out of the city. Encuentro is the only Michelin star vegan restaurant in the world. Try Golden Lotus in Oakland for fantastic veggie vietnamese. Cheeseboard does vegetarian pizzas only. I really wish Ubuntu was still open for you up in Napa, it was the best vegetarian meal I have ever had. I'm not sure but also I've heard that Michael Mina has vegetarian tasting menus at all his restaurants.

                  1. re: hungree

                    Encuentro looks like a great option... I don't think we will venture out so far this trip, but I keep telling myself it won't be our last. I feel like I should just move for the food alone. I know, I am a little heartbroken I never tried Ubuntu in its heyday, but I am trying to skim past those mentions as I read all these past threads and not think about it... :)

                    1. re: deraj

                      I was a HUGE Ubuntu proponent and fan and - believe me - its demise still saddens me...

                    2. re: hungree

                      Just about anything Encuentro can be made vegan, but it's a vegetarian restaurant. It's never been a Michelin star, and hasn't even gotten on the Bib Gourmand list. Not sure what you're thinking of. Gather, in Berkeley, is a place with vegan, vegetarian, and meat dishes, and has been on the Bib Gourmand list in recent years.

                      1. re: hungree

                        Encuentro's vegetarian, not vegan, and does not have a Michelin star. Very good, might be the best vegetarian restaurant in the Bay Area these days. You could take the ferry though the last one back to SF leaves at 8:55pm weekdays / 7:10pm weekends.

                        http://www.encuentrooakland.com/menu....

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Ah, thanks for the the correction. Not sure why I thought it was Michelin... Brain fart. Too many vegetables :).

                    3. Friday arrival:

                      Where are you staying in SF?

                      A quick stop in the Mission for your late lunch can give you a taste of what the area has to offer & you can explore further on Monday afternoon. Along with Gracias Madre (great choice), Pizzeria Delfina, Tartine Bakery and Truly Mediterranean are worth a look too. One more option is Mission Chinese Food for a fusiony/modern take (realize you are doing dim sum on Monday but with so few "of the moment/trendy" veg options, I wanted to throw this in). Restaurant looks like an old school place; however, food is not.

                      One mile from Atelier Crenn is DOSA...you can drop in here for a nice cocktail before dinner. Bustling, contemporary, upscale Indian.

                      -------------
                      Saturday:

                      Ferry Bldg - Great place to browse & people watch. Primavera at the Sat. market *may* have something veg. Among the shops inside, highlights are Blue Bottle Coffee, Recchiuti chocolates (fleur de sel caramels!!), Olive Oil places, Acme Bread & Cowgirl creamery. For food, Out the Door/Slanted door recs are veg. papaya salad, crispy veg. imperial rolls & Vietnamese coffee.

                      - Drive to Napa
                      In addition to the recs you already have, check out Elyse winery (call ahead)...love their C'est Si Bon (rhone blend) & Le Corbeau (grenache). Soft, easy going reds you may enjoy. Small tasting room, easy access right off main hwy.

                      I know people who like Cakebread (need appt) & ZD for chardonnay and reds too.

                      No appt. necessary...Honig, Robert Sinskey (good pinot, nice view), Pine Ridge (pretty locale).

                      If you are pressed for time, check out Artesa on the way in or out of Napa. Decent wines & have heard winery is worth a look.

                      -------------
                      Sunday:

                      Aziza & Cotogna are destination restaurants while Chapeau is just a good neighborhood place with challenging parking I might add. While Aziza has good food & great cocktails, the decor leaves something to be desired...just wait 'til they move into their swanky new digs downtown. Cotogna fires on all cylinders...food, service, decor, drinks, location.

                      Alembic - Not sure why you chose this but rest. is not in a great area.
                      -------------
                      "Drinks at 15 romolo or other interesting places not on my radar?"

                      May be Comstock Saloon; bar at Cotogna; Rickhouse; bar at Gitane; bar at Epic Roasthouse (drinks are okay but gorgeous view of Bay Bridge)

                      Okay, off to Montana...

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: ceekskat

                        Thanks for the helpful thoughts. We are staying in union square Friday, but could drop off our stuff and head out to Mission area. We have booked at Aziza so looking forward to that! Glad to have other drinks options. Alembic was on one of the other veg friendly threads so we threw it into the mix of options, but sounds skippable. I think we are in good shape!

                        Also love the recs on wineries that don't require appointments... We have a few potential gaps in our time in Napa and will be great to have those in our back pocket.

                        1. re: ceekskat

                          I don't know about Mission Chinese for a vegetarian.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I'd recommend it. Several of their dishes have a "V" next to them to indicate they can be made vegan. I ate with some vegetarians last time I got takeout from them, and none of the vegan dishes would have made me think I was missing something (e.g. the vegan thrice cooked pork was a fantastic dish).

                            http://www.missionchinesefood.com/sf/

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Shanghainese rice cakes, a scant amount of bitter melon, tofu skin, and chili oil. Here's my report:

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7566...

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  Wow, that's pretty much lost all connection with the original 梅菜扣肉. It should have either preserved vegetable or reconstituted dried mustard greens.

                          2. re: ceekskat

                            I'd forgotten about the promised changes at Aziza, it was announced so long ago (nearly a year). Any updates on whether they will make the Jackson Sq location a more casual version and keep the original?

                            1. re: grayelf

                              In my fantasy world, Mourad opens the Jackson Square location for the "fancy version" of what Aziza has become and reverts the Geary location back to what Aziza was when he first opened it....

                              I miss *that* Aziza!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Jackson Square is out. Lahlou has a lease on one of the two restaurant spaces in the refurbished 140 New Montgomery. He also has 20+ years to go on Aziza so he's probably planning two restaurants.

                                http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                From what I've heard, there are only hints of Morocco in most of the Michelin-friendly dishes at Aziza these days.

                            2. >>> but wondering what thoughts are on Chapeau? <<<

                              While I love Chapeau! for many reasons, I definitely would not recommend it for a vegetarian seeking that type of cuisine in San Francisco.