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Feb 26, 2013 05:40 AM

3-Day visit to SF from NYC...

Would love a short, current list of must-gos for some great food. Need nothing seriously high-end... just amazing food, cool spaces & solidly delicious. Thanks.

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  1. Chowhound took out lists a long time ago.

    This is a source that covers much of what often gets recommended on Chowhound, and is au courant. I would recommend any of these places.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      SF Eater has a good list. Missing from the SF Eater list that I've really enjoyed or Cotogna (casual) & Quince (more formal). As well as Locanda and Baker & Banker.

    2. Some recent discussions started by other visitors from NYC:

      1. Boudin Bakery: Clam Chowder (Pier 39 or downtown @ Powell St). A San Francisco staple. It's supposed to be nice this weekend too so I would suggest Pier 39 on the Bay for the best overall experience.

        Curry Village: Delicious curry buffet on 9th & Irving. Great service, selection & prices (about $11 for lunch and $15 for dinner). You really can't beat that.

        Straw: Hayes Valley, great different menu - they have a burger with donuts for buns!

        Savor in Noe Valley OR Craftsman & Wolves in the Mission: both amazing for brunch. Craftsman has their staple "the Rebel Within," which is a muffin with an egg inside.

        Smuggler's Cove: Pirate bar in Hayes Valley

        ENJOY!! Let me know how your trip goes :)

        25 Replies
        1. re: ChowDownSF

          With all due respect to ChowDownSF...

          Boudin's clam chowder is thick and pasty.

          And Smuggler's Cofe is *not* a pirate bar... It is a bar that specializes in rums from around the world.

          1. re: CarrieWas218

            Um hello there!

            As an SF Native I must stand by my recommendations:

            Smuggler's Cove actually is pirate themed- the entire venue is intended to be the inside of a pirate ship.

            Not convinced? Search for "pirate" on their Yelp page and 292 reviews come up:

            That's why there's such a great rum selection. And why it's called SMUGGLER'S COVE. Just saying. If you've ever been there and talked to any of the staff/looked around you would know it's pirate themed. Cool, on to the clam chowder!

            This may be more of a subjective experience. I personally think the infamous Boudin's SF clam chowder is delicious - I've been eating it my entire life. And seeing as it's an SF staple, I think it's a perfect SF experience to nosh on some warm thick soup while looking out onto the Bay. Your decision!

            That's just my two cents. :D

          2. re: ChowDownSF

            Also no disrespect, but only one of the places mentioned, Craftsman & Wolves, might fit in with the OP's quest for "must-go to" spots.

            1. re: benv

              With all due respect, "must-go" is completely subjective. These are my recommendations to OP of places I would refer to friends visiting the city. If you have your own recommendations feel free to leave them for the OP.

            2. re: ChowDownSF

              Do not go to Boudin Bakery. New England has far tastier clam chowder just about anywhere.

              Smuggler's Cove is a great bar, and gets recommended here. It's a very high end tiki/rum experience, and often has a line - closer to Pegu Club or even Death & Co. Very serious cocktail guys. "Pirate themed" is a poor description.

              I would only send someone there who really cared about cocktails. It is likely in the realm of some of manhattan's best cocktails places, and worthy if you're interested - but not a place for a casual pirate drink.

              Description from their web site: "
              Traditional drinks of the Caribbean islands
              Classic libations of Prohibition-era Havana
              Exotic cocktails from legendary Tiki bars

              1. re: bbulkow

                Agreed on Smuggler's Cove - it has no "vibe" it's a place with awesome Tiki drinks and culture...if one likes Tiki drinks and culture.

              2. re: ChowDownSF

                are you really sending someone to Pier 39 to have must-have, experience of any kind? and all due respect, a buffet? i'm just a little skeptical, and not trying to be nasty.

                to the OP, i'd say go to Lers Ros for great Thai, to Saigon Sandwiches for great banh mi, sample any number of taquerias in the Mission, La Mar Cevicheria for peruvian, Mission Bowl for the cheeseburger, and Mandalay for Burmese. only La Mar will set you back a little.

                1. re: ChowDownSF

                  Clam chowder has nothing to do with San Francisco, and up to 1975 Boudin was only a bakery. They have a bunch of cafes, no need to go to a tourist trap to experience their fake local specialty:


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I'm not nearly as knowledgeable on the SF food scene as the locals. I would note that there is a Boudin Bakery in the Food Court at SFO. In that context, it's not a bad option in terms of a purchased meal to take on the plane -- I've always been fond of their tuna salad sandwiches. But, except in the context of the airport, cannot imagine going to Boudin while in SF, given all the other options.

                    1. re: masha

                      Their bread is good if you want authentic SF sourdough, but agree with the others that the chowder is mediocre (to be charitable). The concept is clever though: eat clam chowder out of their sourdough bread as a tourist at Fisherman's Wharf. And come on, as a first time tourist to SF you've got to at least check out FW.

                      1. re: Civil Bear

                        civil bear, all due respect, and you know you have mine, but no you do not need to check out FW as a first time tourist! it's like any other theme park-ish attraction you could find anywhere else! i'd send people down to look at the sea lions, but that would be it.

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          JMHO, but I find that most tourists like to do tousty things when visiting cities like SF - and FW is about as touristy as it gets!

                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            True! Even as a native we venture down there sometimes for fun and to see the sights!

                          2. re: mariacarmen

                            Do you NEED to see it? No. Is it fun? Yes! And you may be taking our lovely city for granted, because nope our beautiful bay can not be found "anywhere else." Some people may not have had the experience of eating SF sourdough while looking out at the bay.

                            1. re: ChowDownSF

                              I think Fisherman's Wharf is fun the way the basement mall at Les Halles is fun. There are some nice views if you can fight your way through the junk souvenir vendors but there are much more pleasant places to see the bay.

                              The place to eat sourdough is Tadich Grill. The special bake Boudin does for them is the closest to the real old-school thing.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Last time I was at Swan's, they told me that they, Tadich, Scoma's (or Scala's... I forgot which), and Sam's get special orders of bread from Boudin. I know this topic is an old one, but for a refresher, do these specialty orders differ?

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  Interesting question if they're the same. I haven't found Sam's as sour as Tadich's, but that can vary from day to day and I don't eat at either very often.

                              2. re: ChowDownSF

                                But not to someone from NYC. To the OP, you are essentially being directed to our equivalent of South Street Seaport. Except worse. It's basically the same as going to the part of Great Adventure that doesn't have any rides, only places to overpay for things you don't want. There is nothing to be had there except the view, which is not exclusive to the Wharf. Do NOT go there.

                                1. re: dunstable

                                  Actually, I take that back. My sister is very fond of the sea lions that waddle about and sun themselves on the piers. So if you like sea lions (not eating them, just watching them), have a go.

                                2. re: ChowDownSF

                                  Ok, let me correct myself. Looking at the Bay from any vantage point is beautiful, but I personally never find it "fun" to be in the touristy throngs of FW. I personally don't find it fun to be in a man-made spending trap surrounded by a touristy throng ANYWHERE, tho of course sometimes it's unavoidable. But here, you can see our beautiful Bay from many different sites that don't have crowds and that Disney-ish feel, and overpriced, mediocre food. if you like it, fine, but i steer my tourist guests away from there and show them all the really beautiful parts of this City. I hardly take San Francisco for granted - every day i walk by something that makes me go "i can't believe i'm so lucky to live here!"

                                3. re: mariacarmen

                                  I am willing to recommend a walk to the GGBR, which might involve getting off the cable car at the bottom of the hill and walking through the fisherman's wharf district. I am willing to recommend the alcatraz, because of the views and getting on a boat and the creepy history. I am willing to recommend the seaport museum - in fact, I love just going to stand on the back of the Balclutha.

                                  You can hop a 22 bus from right out front of Ft Mason and it will take you through the richest restaurant regions in town - past State Bird, within a few blocks of BiRite. Or, from fisherman's wharf itself, catch the "historic f" which will roll toward the tasty, tasty goodness of SOMA.

                                  I have started recommending - if you want the real fisherman's wharf experience, grab a car for the day and hoof it down to HMB. Beautiful drive, great fish.

                                  SF is a small, small town compared to NYC.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    If you take the Hyde St. cable car and walk to the Golden Gate bridge, you don't go through the gross tourist trap part of FW.

                                4. re: Civil Bear

                                  There's no more reason for a tourist without a time machine to check out Fisherman's Wharf than there is to check out the Barbary Coast red-light district. The only difference was the latter was replaced by office buildings rather than tourist-trap malls.

                                  If you like walking, passing through FW on the way from the ballpark or Ferry Plaza to Fort Mason or Crissy Field is fun.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Ah, the wharf.

                                    There are some attractions I like there (Maritime Historical Park, Musee Mecanique, Maritime Museum, etc.). Not a lot of lunch spots worth a damn in the area. Crab cakes at Scoma's are ok but the place can be pricey so order lunch with care. Further down the food chain (much further down) is In-N-Out Burger, a California fast-food chain with no connection to San Francisco but ok for what it is.

                                    Which brings me to my point that The Wharf is fine to explore but maybe consider taking the "F" to the Ferry Plaza or elsewhere for some decent food.

                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      Agree. And Scoma's actually has a pretty reasonable pre-fixe lunch for about $25.

                          3. Bi-Rite ice cream. Salted caramel & roasted banana are always personal faves but just tried coffee toffee and orange cardamom the other day...oh so good.

                            If you don't live near the Brooklyn outpost of Rosamunde Sausage Grill, give this SF sensation a try. Lamb merguez is our favorite here.

                            Gitane has recently changed their menu format & haven't been since but highly recommend a cocktail & bite at their bar.

                            I 2nd the Ferry Plaza...beautiful space & delicious food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ceekskat

                              I was at Gitane earlier this week and it is still holding up nicely!

                              The Bacon Pops (prunes, stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in grilled bacon) were a huge hit.

                              My SO also liked the roast root vegetable salad a great deal.

                              The pan-roasted dorade with uni was excellent, but a bit too small for an appetizer - only two bites for each of us. I would have preferred a larger portion with more tastes.

                              There was also a special that night, a veal-stuffed pasta then served in a cast-iron skillet, baked with sauce and cheese. So rich I took mine home for breakfast.