Help me tweak upcoming week-long tour: SF and peninsula
Will have group of 5 in two weeks to celebrate daughter's Stanford PhD. Dined many times over last 12 years in the area. Here's what we've come up with; help me refine if you would. Note: I've done a fair amount of due diligence already from your extensive info. We're willing to pay up somewhat but not infinitely, and midday is always a nice way to try the fancy places.
No special needs: daughter no longer vegetarian.
Meals impromptu: In-N- Out, La Tacqueria, tacos in Redwoods City per El Taquistador (MexCal #5 on list already a favorite of daughter), Swan Oyster Depot (need a sub - Locals Corner?), pizza Delfina, Nopalito, Rosamunde on Mission (never been to either location), Schroeders (what besides potato pancakes?) and Windy's list of Asian/Chinese in Tenderloin (Bodega Bistro, Pagolac, Lers Ros, Thai House Express, Burmese Kitchen - are these sit down or take out?)
Mission places that sound intriguing (Delfina burnout reclamation for me): Poc Chuc, Local Mission, Commonwealth, Mission Beach Cafe.
Mission latino to try for first time: Tacqueria SF, La Santeneca, Tacqueria Cancun, Chile Lindo.
Destination and reserved already - should be highlight of trip: La Ciccia
Haven't been lately and never had the chicken: Zuni
Other SF ideas: Range, Bar Tartine, Fifth Floor, Dosa on Fillmore
Also haven't been lately and lunch is affordable: Chez Panisse Cafe
Penninsula destinations: Evvia, Village Pub Woodside
Thanks for any helpers. It gets a bit confusing on this Board when critics of a place are picking at the authenticity of a restaurant, but others like it. We just like good food - don't care if it's exactly like the old country.
The problem with your list is how "celebratory" do you want to be. Some of that list are, er, holes in walls where I'm happy to eat but wouldn't bring my mother.
Lers Ros and Thai House Express are sit down, and just enough upscale that I'd bring a group. Can't speak for the others, expect they are the same. I walked by Anh Hong last night, in that same area, and there was a (short) line and the place was packed. That's now on my "very very interested" list. It looks like they specialize in 7 courses of beef, which I haven't had in nearly 20 years.
Re: RWC taquerias, all of those places are pretty small and/or grungy. There are some changes since Sushi Monster made the list, the most notable is the closing of Casita Chilanga #2, and the opening of Los Gemelos on ECR. To get slightly more upscale, you'd hit Sancho's in Palo Alto, which is clean and tasty but may not have any tables big enough for 5. Reposado in PA is more celebratory, and the Street Tacos are actually near the quality you'll get in most RWC places, surprisingly enough.
You should really try a few places out of the newer restaurants in SF. I had a group at Southpaw BBQ, it's great on the early side at the big window in the front, and the pulled goat is very good with their one house made beer. It's one of many in this category. I put Commonwealth in that general category, and see RL's Incanto words today - a great local place, not "new" per se but not as old as Zuni. And Cotogna, everyone's swooning about that. Gorgeous space, haven't eaten there yet, but you've got your splurge place.
On to your other problem: these place are geographically all over the place. For a family thing, I'd expect you're planning different outings, and you need to be prepared with one or two good ideas for a given geographical region that don't require much in the way of reservation. That's actually a hard "ask" because the classic places will be full up. Village Pub, for example, can be hard to book depending on the weekend, but Reposado can always squeeze you in if you call in the afternoon. Your mobile version of OpenTable can be great, if you have that short list to choose from - and you can get better ideas from us with some specific suggestions on the geographical side.
Your two peninsula dinner picks are good. A perennial favorite for the kind of family dinner is Flea Street, but since she's veg you've probably been there before - if not, it's a solid choice. Get the local fish. You might also consider Station 1 in Woodside. I was there the first week and had a very mixed experience, but people I trust like it.
My wife and I are the oldest in the party so we're flexible. Did go to Incanto a few years back and liked the vibe better than the food. But we've grown up on pork in Illinois and don't look for more of it when on-the-road. And I ordered a pork dish.
Thanks for the tips - I'd seen Cotogna mentioned and wondered about it.
5 is a tough sized group. For La Ciccia we got a 3 and a 2 hopefully next to each other.
Bodega Bistro, Burmese Kitchen and Pagolac are all sit down and quite decent inside but the immediate neighbourhood might feel a bit challenging for a less adventurous mom.
I thought the 7 courses of beef at Pagolac was pretty lame, so I'd do Anh Hong if that interests you. Pagolac doesn't take reservations and seems to attract long lines. Not sure about Anh Hong re resos. We waited in front of Pagolac for a long time and the passing scenery was "interesting" to say the least.
Good, proper "sitdown" Mexican seems to be a bit elusive in SF. I wasn't super excited about our lunch at Nopalito, though it was fine.
Poc Chuc is so far my favourite Yucatecan place that we've tried in SF. Nice and more upscale than your average taqueria inside (I'd call it sitdown) but again the approach is a bit dodgy -- best to come by BART as you get out right nearby.
Another "nicer" taco bar is Chilango, the one in the Castro with the green corn tortillas (cactus added IIRC), very nice carnitas too.
For a family meal in a nice setting, take a look at West of Pecos if you don't have southwestern fare in your neck of the woods. We were quite pleased with it for our group of six on a Monday evening and they take reservations.
We enjoyed Local Mission Eatery but it is much more upscale than Poc Chuc. Range and Bar Tartine I would not return to, especially the latter, but we may have caught them on a really off night. YMMV. Range was just okay and very loud and crowded. Would not take a group there.
Loved Chez Panisse Cafe for our late lunch. Would go back for sure (hello wild nettle pizza!).
Schroeder's is a fun bar with great decor and the food can be good: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/335273
It's fine if you're looking for something in that area but for German food I'd go to Suppenkuche, Schmidt's, or Walzwerk.
Bar Tartine is great, one of my favorite newer restaurants.
All those Asian places are sit-down but can do takeout. Saigon Sandwich is takeout only.
re: Robert Lauriston
Wow - those German places all have interesting menus. While I never would've expected to come from Chicago/Milwaukee to SF in search of good German food, let's just go for it. I'm a sucker for most German preparations. Would you know of anyone who will do a Paris ("Pariser") schnitzel? Is Schmidt's kalbschnitzel sandwich kind of close? <Paris> is veal, dipped in egg, lightly coated with flour, and then sauteed. It changed my life the first time I had it. Don't tell my wife.
Also, Bar Tartine is the controversial one I referred to in OP. I don't mind a mix of styles. But my kids don't like it if the service is uneven, as I tend to get cranky.
Would you make Cotogna a destination, or just a good option?
Thanks. This is all helping a lot. We plan to stay the first 4 nights in PA, then go to the city for the last 3, although Priceline is not cooperating. Our main city activity besides eating is walking at Crissy Field. Are any of the motor lodges in that general area noteworthy? I'm very picky about mold-free ventilation. This isn't off-topic. If we don't stay over in the city it's a lot of work going back and forth.
If you are going to be in PA for a few nights, I would recommend the lunch and brunch buffet at Amber India in Mountain View. Stellar, well-spiced food and very nice folks. I really like how they rotate their veggie dishes. They have lamb on Friday and goat on Sunday. Fun do-it-yourself chaat bar on Saturday and Sunday.
If you need some cake, try Prolific Oven in PA.
Lulu's has a very good chopped chicken salad with an addictive lime cilantro dressing. It's in Town and Country shopping center, close to Stanford if you need a quick lunch. Both Mayfield Cafe and Bakery are solid too (same location), and run by the same people who own Village Pub.
Cafe Borrone is always great for breakfast and brunch.
Mayfield is a very good breakfast/brunch/lunch spot, as well.
On a more casual side, the pizza place there, Howie's, is the real deal. Very, very good thin crust italian style - eclipsed in my mind only recently by Vesta in RWC.
I didn't know about the chaat bar at Amber. I've kind of given up on Amber because there are so many indian places I haven't tried, with all kinds of crazy dishes. Amber seems staid by now, even though all my meals there have been very good. Perhaps it's worth a revisit.
I also heartily recommend NOLA in PA for unusually pleasant food in a festive environment. Not michelin grade, but the gumbo and jambalaya are first rate, the marinated skirt steak, the clover burger, various things. These guys really punch above their weight for the neighborhood, and have a solid bar. I prefer them now to Evvia, simply because Evvia - while better food - has a limited menu and is somewhat staid. At Evvia, I just get the grill special of the day, and decide between fish and meat. That and a glass of retsina.
Could use some cake for certain!!
Staid is definitely what I'm trying to avoid. [And I feel successful in my prior investigations that Delfina now seems staid to me, although it's the first place I recommend to people heading that way.] The Mayfield is exactly what I'm looking for. Great food, not as fancy as the mother ship, but still nice for the whole group. This may be unbelievable, but in 12 years I've been to none of these alternative rec's in PA. May have been to Amber. There was an Indian elegant restaurant on ECR in MV, where we had 12 different waiters. We'll see if this was it. I think we've gone to Darbar which is a little spartan to me.
Evvia is like Nopalito and Incanto up north. Great to hang out at not-quite-peak hours, but I can't remember what I've eaten there.