Advice for visit to downtown SF
Hoping to get a few bits of advice in advance of an upcoming trip for early spring 2013. I have not yet booked a hotel, so feel free to advise on that too!
I'm hoping to do a meal at Atelier Crenn, but other than that, I need some other places to check into.
Husband and I are both lovers of fine dining, especially French cuisine, and I really appreciate ethical, local sourcing of ingredients, though it's not a dealbreaker. We will probably avoid Asian restaurants for the most part, since this is something that Vancouver does pretty well. Cost is no object, but restaurants with an inexpensive prix fixe lunch are usually at the top of our list.
For more casual meals, I love sampling Mexican and Cuban food when in the States, it's miles better than what we get in Canada. Also love a really great burger! Any recommendations along these lines would be great.
I would also appreciate any advice on where to get a truly outstanding doughnut.
Thanks in advance, and please let me know if there's anything else I can do to clarify my request.
How long are you going to be here, and what days (of the week)?
Rather than looking for prix fixe lunches (not common) I'd chow down on Mexican/Latin American (not much Cuban in this area) at lunch time.
Don't write off Asian completely -- there are quite a few Burmese restaurants in SF, a cuisine that's rare almost anywhere else. As wolfe noted, check out some reports from grayelf, who knows the local dining scene better than most locals!
re: Ruth Lafler
Y'all are too kind, there's no way a visitor could know the SF Bay area scene that well. But I sure enjoy gathering more intel!
Because I know that starryfork can't get good burgers here (wah!), I'll reiterate my drooling love for the Mission Bowling Club burger. If you go at happy hour (another thing we don't have at home, wah!), it's only a tenner and you could share. But you won't want to.
Also agree that Burmese must be had. My two faves (so far) are Mandalay (carefully avoiding anything that isn't strictly Burmese on the rambling menu) and Little Yangon in Daly City. Both are a bit of a schlep on transit but doable. I'd give a wee edge to LY because of the delightful service, but there is more to do around Mandalay. Both have very worthy food that we really can't get in Van.
If you have flexibility, go for the Thurs/Fri option, as a surprising number of places are closed on Monday. Not a deal breaker of course.
Drop me a line offboard if you want info on the hotel we stay at.
I work in downtown SF and just got back from a midafternoon visit to Barbacco and it was absolutely awesome--my first time going there at this time of day (about 4pm) and they have a great in-between menu. I relaxed with a Linden Street beer (local!) and pork-stuffed fried olives (Ascolani--how have I never had these before, what a revelation).
Anyway, can't get much more downtown and if you sit next to the windows (as I did, there were only a few people in there this afternoon and the space is enormous) you can watch the cable cars go by. For more of "fine dining" you'll want Perbacco, but I have still never been there because I love Barbacco so much.
I never realized that the *bacco enterprises were right next to Tadich Grill--which is another place I love.
I am of no use for SF Burger recommendations--all my favorites are in the East Bay! But I will say as someone who likes all kinds of ground meat in spherical form it is hard to beat the Zare at Fly Trap meatballs--another place close to downtown and their food, wine, the whole experience there is great.
The Mission is the most culinarily interesting neighborhood in the city so staying in one of the handful of places there would be a good location for breakfasts (e.g. Bar Tartine) and nightlife. On the other hand, it's not the most central location for getting to most other neighborhoods.
Downtown within a few blocks of the Montgomery BART / Muni station there are lots of hotels, bars, and restaurants and it's the most central location for public transit. You can get almost anywhere you'd want to go in the city within half an hour.