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Need help deciding between Cotogna, SPQR and Bar Tartine... [San Francisco]

prcentauri Feb 5, 2013 10:16 AM

Already have a few break the bank dinners lined up. Have State Bird lined up too. Looking for an additional moderate priced option so I came up with these - Cotogna / SPQR / Bar Tartine. Location doesn't matter. Price doesn't matter. Just want the overall best executed food. I understand tables at SPQR are prob close together. That also doesn't really bother me.



  1. g
    goldangl95 Feb 5, 2013 11:53 AM

    Cotogna and SPQR are both Italian inspired. Bar Tartine is more Central European inspired so that could affect your decision.

    I really enjoy both Cotogna and its formal sister Quince. The food is very flavorful with unique combinations and a little less heavy compared to other Italian inspired restaurants in SF. The setting at Cotogna is warm and inviting but it's definitely loud and the tables are pretty close together. But it's still an "airy" space.

    1. singleguychef Feb 5, 2013 03:32 PM

      I love both Cotogna and SPQR. I only went to lunch at Bar Tartine but the lunch is totally different from the dinner. A friend went to dinner at Bar Tartine and thought it was lackluster.

      Cotogna has great, light flavors with seasonal dishes. Very popular so it might be hard to get a reservations. They will be starting Sunday brunch on Feb. 10 so maybe that's a consideration.

      SPQR is smaller than Cotogna but since it's been around longer, maybe it might be easier to get in. Also, the menu has a pasta tasting if you're interested in that.

      1. Robert Lauriston Feb 5, 2013 03:45 PM

        Bar Tartine's eclectic and doing some of the most interesting and original food in SF.

        Cotogna's one of the half-dozen best rustic Italian / Cal-Italian places in the area and makes maybe my favorite of the local style of NY-Neapolitan hybrid pizzas.

        Haven't been to SPQR since the chef change, I'm not very interested in French-Italian fusion.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Nastallion Feb 6, 2013 09:14 AM

          I want openly second Robert on Bar Tartine. The food us highly interesting and full of depth of flavor. It's rad and delicious. Well picked approachable wine list. Service is comfortable. Go.

        2. b
          benv Feb 6, 2013 01:07 AM

          Having been to all three, and all within the past month I would say go to Bar Tartine. But, if Italian is what you are leaning towards than I would pick Cotogna over SPQR. Honestly, kinda surprised that SPQR got a Michelin Star this year. Go to Bar Tartine, you will not be disappointed.

          Also, just went to State Bird Provisions tonight and I am still extremely happy with the food. This was either my 6th or 7th time eating there and the meal I just had was probably the best one yet. I think it deserves all the applause it has been getting. Glad you are going to check it out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: benv
            Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 08:21 AM

            Michelin gives extra points for Frenchiness.

          2. t
            tjinsf Feb 6, 2013 02:30 AM

            Cotogna, then SPQR and a distant third Bar Tartine. I find the food and service at Bar Tartine to be uneven and boring. Others on the board don't feel that way.
            On the other hand I've never had a bad meal at Cotogna. Great flavours, loud but friendly, relaxed but good service.

            1. p
              prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 03:40 AM

              Actually I just realized I gave up my previous Cotogna reservation and now there's no opentable slots. I guess I could do walk-in as soon as they open. Anyone have any other suggestions for a moderately priced but excellent dinner? This is where we going so far:

              Monday - open
              Tues - Saison
              Wed - State Bird Provisions
              Thurs - Atelier Crenn
              Fri - required dinner not sure where it is yet

              Lunch ideas for the week:
              Boulette's Larder

              Also taking suggestions for lunch

              28 Replies
              1. re: prcentauri
                benv Feb 6, 2013 03:54 AM

                Besides Bar Tartine which I previously mentioned, some other excellent and fun dinners in my book would be:

                - AQ (which is closed on Mondays so you would have to put it in your Friday slot)
                - Mission Chinese (some like it, some don't, but if you have never been I would say you should check it out to see what all of the fuss and talk is about. I am actually in the group that likes the food. They are also open for lunch every day except Wednesdays, where they are closed all day)
                - NOPA (classic, solid, only in SF kinda restaurant. Open late and still have one of the best burgers in the city)
                - Namu Gaji

                My favorite weekday lunch spots:

                - Cotogna (maybe get your Cotogna fix during its lunch hours? Pretty easy to get a spot at the counter)
                - Pizzeria Delfina
                - Boxing Room
                - Deli Board

                1. re: benv
                  prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 04:40 AM

                  thats exactly what i was thinking... go to cotogna for some apps/pastas at lunch time. pizzeria delfina is another idea. im a new yorker so i have had my share of good pizza. delfina's pie definitely looks from pics like a nice neapolitan style pie.

                  oh and that friday dinner is not something i can pick. i'm just not sure where we are going for it.

                  i guess i just need a monday dinner idea at this point

                2. re: prcentauri
                  Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 08:22 AM

                  AQ, Bar Tartine (can't imagine how people find that food boring), St. Vincent

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 08:37 AM

                    Thank you for your recommendations. I think AQ is not open on Mondays though.

                    1. re: prcentauri
                      goldangl95 Feb 6, 2013 09:46 AM

                      There's also Frances. I find the food really solid (wine list less so).

                      1. re: goldangl95
                        benv Feb 6, 2013 11:21 AM

                        Frances is good, but also closed Monday's.

                        Seriously though, make Bar Tartine your Monday dinner.

                        1. re: benv
                          prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 01:53 PM

                          yea i wanted to walk in to frances. came highly recommended to me from a san francisco friend of mine. but i found that its closed on monday as you say.

                          sounds like bar tartine is the way to go? i can always do a mid week lunch at cotogna.

                      2. re: prcentauri
                        Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 02:00 PM

                        Go to AQ on Friday.

                        AQ and Bar Tartine are making food that's not like anybody else's. I love Cotogna but the food is not wildly different from first-rate rustic Italian food you might get in New York and maybe a few other places around the country.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          JonDough Feb 6, 2013 02:19 PM

                          I haven't been to Atelier Crenn but wouldn't it be in the same vein as AQ? I don't want to discourage the OP from going there (I had a great dinner there last weekend) but it might be helpful if they need to decide between AQ and another restaurant.

                          1. re: JonDough
                            Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 02:33 PM

                            None of the reports I've read about Atelier Crenn or the photos I've seen of their food reminded me of what I like about AQ.

                            1. re: JonDough
                              tjinsf Feb 6, 2013 03:21 PM

                              No the food at Atelier Creen isn't the same as AQ. The food at Creen is more experimental and creative. AQ is creative too but with more roots in Californian cuisine. Creen is also a higher price point and more of an experience. They both use a lot of the same techniques and inspirations.

                              I would go to AQ before Bar Tartine. I also don't understand people saying the food at Bar Tartine is creative. I find most of the dish to be poor knock-offs of central and eastern European dishes.

                              1. re: tjinsf
                                prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 06:45 PM

                                yeah AQ sounds good but its not open monday and its not open for lunch mon-saturday so i wont have the opportunity to try it.

                              2. re: JonDough
                                CarrieWas218 Feb 7, 2013 08:54 AM

                                Atelier Crenn is not the same vein as AQ - AC is far more innovative and interesting...

                              3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 02:39 PM

                                my fiance has a conference during the week and friday we are eating wherever her colleagues have arranged some group dinner. i don't know where it will be at this time. but i doubt it will be at a place i would have picked for myself

                                1. re: prcentauri
                                  ceekskat Feb 6, 2013 03:00 PM

                                  Perbacco...if you want Italian on Monday.

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                              escargot3 Feb 6, 2013 03:14 PM

                              I've enjoyed amazing meals at Bar Tartine.

                              But after Greyelf's recent experience, I would hesitate to recommend it as a destination for an out-of-towner to take a risk on, until I hear many good reports that Greyelf's dining fiasco was an unfortunate "perfect storm" of errors that nite at the resto, and that the very serious problems have been mended.

                              1. re: escargot3
                                Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 03:56 PM

                                I ate at Bar Tartine last month and the meal was so good I would happily have gone back the next night to work my way through the rest of the menu.


                                I didn't have any of the same handful of dishes grayelf did in November, most of them were no longer on the menu.


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  grayelf Feb 7, 2013 09:57 PM

                                  I *really* hope that our dinner at Bar Tartine was just the perfect storm that escargot3 suggests but sadly it left us wishing we hadn't wasted a meal there of our six dinners. But it was just one meal as over against all the local Hounds who've been multiple times and had great experiences.

                                  Do try Cotogna for lunch if you can, prcentauri. It is just such a lovely room in the daytime, and the food is special. We've been twice for lunch on our twice-yearly trips, and it's been outstanding. If there is a sformata or a gnocchi dish on the menu, I urge you to sample them. And the pizza is pretty damn fine too, though I don't know how it would compare to what is on offer in NYC as I sadly have never had the pleasure. It will be difficult not to three-peat here on our next sojourn in the Bay Area.

                                  Have a wonderful trip and let all of us know what you eat!

                                  1. re: grayelf
                                    prcentauri Feb 8, 2013 04:20 AM

                                    I'm definitively going to cotogna for lunch. Still not sure where to go for that Monday dinner.

                                    I did find out where the Friday conference dinner is... Brindisi. I've never heard of the place.

                                    1. re: prcentauri
                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 8, 2013 08:52 AM

                                      Brindisi was less than mediocre when I ate there. That was years ago but I haven't heard anything good about it since. Sotto Mare is the current board favorite for Italian seafood.

                                      Places open on Monday: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/858137

                                      1. re: prcentauri
                                        grayelf Feb 8, 2013 09:03 AM

                                        Monday can be a bit tricky in SF, I've found, especially if you are going for the types of places you appear to be after. I'm loathe to mention a place I haven't been able to try myself yet, but top of my list for our next visit is Rich Table, which is open Mondays. You can make a reservation one month in advance (not sure when your visit is)if that interests you, but I do know that it's pretty competitive to get one! I tried for our last trip in November and left it too late alas.


                                        1. re: grayelf
                                          BAnders Feb 8, 2013 09:33 AM

                                          +1 on Rich Table. The bar is first come first serve so you may be able to walk in on the early side, and if you call, you still might be able to get a reservation even if there's nothing on open table, especially on a Monday. I've been twice and have had a great experience both times. Their dried porcini doughnuts made my best of 2012 list.

                                          1. re: BAnders
                                            prcentauri Feb 8, 2013 10:34 AM

                                            Rich Table was on my original list of places but I dropped it in preference after a friend of mine from SF said he had a disappointing meal there but he didn't elaborate.

                                            1. re: prcentauri
                                              Robert Lauriston Feb 8, 2013 10:38 AM

                                              If you struck from your list every restaurant that disappointed somebody you couldn't go to eat out at all. Even the best restaurants have off nights.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                prcentauri Feb 8, 2013 11:12 AM

                                                very true

                              2. re: prcentauri
                                wally Feb 6, 2013 10:50 AM

                                call them--open table doesn't have everything.

                                1. re: wally
                                  prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 01:54 PM

                                  i already have a reservation. just wasnt sure if i should go

                                  1. re: prcentauri
                                    wally Feb 6, 2013 01:57 PM


                              3. b
                                benv Feb 6, 2013 03:35 PM

                                If I was asked to fill in and make up the rest of your itinerary this is what it would look like. Or better put, what I would think would be a delicious 5 days for myself. This is also keeping in mind that you are coming from NY, where I just returned from a 2 week eating spree.

                                Mon - Bar Tartine
                                Tues - Saison
                                Wed - State Bird Provisions
                                Thurs - Atelier Crenn
                                Fri - "Conference Group Dinner"

                                Mon - Cotogna
                                Tues - Mission Chinese
                                Wed - Namu Gaji or Pizzeria Delfina (these are both on the same block and the bonus is so is Tartine, Bi-Rite Market and Creamery, and Dolores park so this would be a fun Wednesday or any weekday afternoon.
                                Thurs - Marlowe (you already mentioned this one and I think its only worth it if you are in the mood for a great burger as personally I think the burger and the brussel sprout chips are the only things worth getting. But damn are those two items fantastic.
                                Fri - Nopalito, Wafare Tavern, or Boxing Room (all good places and all different from what you already have going on)

                                And, if you are looking for any snacks in between:

                                - Tartine
                                - Craftsman & Wolves
                                - Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, Humphry Slocombe, or Bi-Rite for ice cream
                                - Dynamo Donuts

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: benv
                                  prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 06:42 PM

                                  thanks for the suggestions

                                  so, re: mission chinese, theres a mission chinese in NYC and i plan on going there in late march

                                  i meant to also list craftsman and wolves. thanks for reminding me.

                                  i definitely intending on going to marlowe for the burger

                                  1. re: benv
                                    prcentauri Feb 6, 2013 06:46 PM

                                    oh and i do have a saturday lunch open. and breakfast tues thru saturday.

                                    1. re: prcentauri
                                      benv Feb 6, 2013 07:06 PM

                                      My favorite places to grab breakfast are:

                                      - Plow
                                      - Brenda's
                                      - Tartine, Craftsman & Wolves, or Knead Patisserie for breakfast pastries
                                      - Turtle Tower for Pho Ga
                                      - Mission Beach Cafe
                                      - Wise Sons Delicatessen (by no means is this place trying to be a Katz or Langers or anything. This is the Mile End Deli of SF. If you have been to Mile End, it would be fun to compare)

                                      Weekend only brunch spots:

                                      - NOPA (one of my favorite recent brunch experiences!)
                                      - Foreign Cinema (a very unique, and only in SF kinda experience)
                                      - Outerlands

                                      Or better yet, on Saturday for breakfast/lunch you should go to the Ferry Building Farmers Market.

                                      1. re: prcentauri
                                        CarrieWas218 Feb 7, 2013 08:55 AM

                                        For Saturday lunch, head to the Ferry Plaza and nosh your way through our amazing Farmer's Market.

                                        1. re: CarrieWas218
                                          prcentauri Feb 8, 2013 04:17 AM

                                          I definitely want to go to boulette's larder for lunch. Do I really need reservations as their website suggests?

                                          1. re: prcentauri
                                            CarrieWas218 Feb 8, 2013 08:42 AM

                                            Yes, reservations are needed for Boulette's Larder. It is a very tiny space with limited seating (10 to 12?) and fills up quickly.

                                            It is well worth it, though!

                                          2. re: CarrieWas218
                                            prcentauri Feb 8, 2013 04:41 AM

                                            What are your thoughts on breakfast / lunch at boulette's larder versus il cane rosso?

                                      2. steve h. Feb 6, 2013 05:18 PM

                                        My wife and I are big fans of both Cotogna and SPQR. We've enjoyed both many times since they've opened.

                                        At the end of the day, I doubt you could go wrong with any of your options

                                        1. p
                                          prcentauri Feb 12, 2013 06:10 AM

                                          So we are in SF now. Arrived in the afternoon yesterday and walked over to the ferry building. Has half of a meatball sandwich and half of a shredded pork sandwich followed by a latte from blue bottle and a canelé from Boulette's Larder. Everything was great. We ended up going to dinner at Bar Tartine last night. No food or service issues. Actually the food was very good but we were sooooo stuffed and tired that we couldnt enjoy to the fullest. The farmer's cheese dumplings with parsnip purée and chard was my favorite item. Kind of reminded me of gnudi.

                                          Thinking of going over to Boulette's Larder for breakfast. This afternoon Im meeting a friend for burgers at Marlowe. Dinner is at State Bird Provisions. Any items I should be on the lookout for at these latter two places?

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: prcentauri
                                            grayelf Feb 12, 2013 10:34 PM

                                            I remember wishing I had ordered the fried chicken sandwich at Marlowe instead of the burger when we went...

                                            1. re: grayelf
                                              Cynsa Feb 13, 2013 11:52 AM

                                              agree. I had the burger and my friend ordered the fried chicken sandwich - which I coveted. I'd go back for that fried chicken sammie.

                                            2. re: prcentauri
                                              prcentauri Feb 13, 2013 11:18 AM

                                              Breakfast at Boulette's Larder yesterday was delicious but kinda pricey. Poached eggs with pulled chicken and parmesan. Scramble with brown mushrooms, mache and lemon oil. Yogurt with lemon curd and citrus segments. Everything tasted so fresh and bright. The communal table offered a nice view into the open kitchen. The staff was friendly and attentive. We enjoyed it so much we are going back for lunch today with two friends.

                                              Lunch at Marlowe yestersay was good but not great. Started with the crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon and salt. Certainly a nice snack. The little gem salad with avocado, market vegetables and citrus vinaigrette was my favorite item. The flavors were bright with just the right amount of acid. The little gems were super crunchy and the paper-thin slices of carrot and radish were beautiful. You guys have such great produce. My friend and I then got the chicken sandwich and the burger. Sadly the burger was medium-well, maybe even well, which was not our requested temp. The chicken sandwich was good but nothing special. Although the chicken was juicy and the exterior nice and crispy, it didnt really stand out as a sandwich I'll remember in a couple weeks.

                                              Now dinner at State Bird. That was memorable. We had a nice spot at the bar seats on the dining room side rather than the waiting area side. The place was bustling even though they were to be closing their door in 30 min. My fiancé and I had the sea urchin pancake, a small order of the state bird, then nine of the passed around "provisions" and then finally the ice cream sandwiches and the cocoa pudding with milk chocolate pistachio crunch. Man that crispy quail was fantastic. I also really liked the pork belly with winter citrus although I had a very similar dish at ABC Kitchen in NYC back in 2011. Both desserts were solid. We broke apart the milk chocolate crunch and stirred it into the chocolate pudding and wow hat was good. Rich chocolate with crunchy, nutty bits.

                                              This AM we tried Tartine's quiche and then bread pudding. Followed by some coffee at Ritual.

                                              This afternoon will be our return to Boulette's Larder for lunch as I mentioned. Saison tonight. Not sure where to go for breakfast tomorrow. Maybe Plow as was offered as a suggestion. I think I will do lunch at Pizzeria Delfina and then some ice cream at Bi-Rite and then dinner with my fiancé at Atelier Crenn. Friday I may go to Craftsman and Wolves in the AM. We are having lunch with friends at Cotogna on Friday and then that conference dinner. Mid-day Saturday we are headed home. Maybe I can get some dim sum prior to taking off for the airport?

                                              1. re: prcentauri
                                                Robert Lauriston Feb 13, 2013 11:37 AM

                                                How are you getting to the airport and what time do you need to check in?

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  Cynsa Feb 13, 2013 11:56 AM


                                                  Hong Kong Flower Lounge/Millbrae
                                                  Asian Pearl/Millbrae
                                                  Zen Peninsula/Millbrae
                                                  Koi Palace/Daly City

                                                2. re: prcentauri
                                                  grayelf Feb 13, 2013 05:17 PM

                                                  Sorry to hear about Marlowe. We were kind of underwhelmed too, but I would have gone back for the chicken till your report. My burger arrived in a pool of liquid and had to be sent back but that was a while ago.

                                                  1. re: prcentauri
                                                    tjinsf Feb 13, 2013 11:32 PM

                                                    If you do go to Plow which is on Potrero Hill take a 10 minute stoll to Dogpatch and check out the cheese at
                                                    La Fromagerie, ice cream at Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous.

                                                3. p
                                                  prcentauri Feb 13, 2013 07:50 PM

                                                  So following some afternoon tennis in Russian Hill my buddy drove us over to Deep Mission for a coffee at Philz, then some Humphry Slocombe. He also got some carnitas tacos at Taqueria Guadalajara. Damn Humphry Slocombe is good. Had a mix of the "secret breakfast" and "Vietnamese coffee" with their whipped cream. Such a great texture to the ice cream. Light. Smooth. Airy. No ice crystals. Good flavor. It's beer week so my buddy tried one of their beer ice creams and he seemed to enjoy it. I had a bite of his carnitas taco and that was great too. That's his spot for carnitas tacos. He said he goes to another place for lingua and yet another place for carne asada tacos.

                                                  Since I went to Slocombe should I still go to Pizzeria Delfina followed by Bi-Rite tomorrow for lunch? He mentioned that he likes Roli Roti and Ike's.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: prcentauri
                                                    Melanie Wong Feb 13, 2013 07:55 PM

                                                    I'm a Slocombe partisan, but I encourage you to try Bi-Rite too so you can be part of our on-going debate in SF of which is better. And I'll mention that I actively hate Ike's . . . aka Quizno's with a line.

                                                    1. re: prcentauri
                                                      tjinsf Feb 13, 2013 11:34 PM

                                                      I would pick Pizzeria Delfina over Ike's. Ike's sandwiches are usually swimming in sauce. Either way stop and try Bi-rite's ice cream.

                                                      1. re: tjinsf
                                                        Melanie Wong Feb 14, 2013 12:59 AM

                                                        The goopy sauces, and the signature "Dirty Sauce" are what give Ike's sandwiches their character. Otherwise, they're just ordinary bread and commodity lunch meats/cheeses priced at a premium. If you order them dry, might as well go to a Safeway deli instead and save some money.

                                                        ETA: to offer an alternative, I'd recommend Pal's Takeaway for sandwiches instead.

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