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First visit to SF, itinerary feedback appreciated!

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We are two travellers from London and Toronto, making our first real food visit to SF (we've been to the city once before but it was by no means a productive food trip.)

We've worked in our fair share of restaurants but don't have particularly refined or discerning palettes. We definitely are not as technically savvy in critique of food, as compared to some of the notes found within these boards. This being said, we like good food. We are pretty adventurous in trying new things, but the focus for our four days in SF will be making sure to not miss out on what is deemed to be done well.

We will be staying in Pacific Heights, with no car, and are not looking for fine dining experiences - no meals over $100. We are after honest, authentic food, made with passion and care.

So to our proposed itinerary!

April 1st:
We'll arrive in the city around noon and dim sum is a must in every new city we explore, so we have chosen Hong Kong Lounge. I know dim sum is a board divider but it will be difficult to get to Koi Palace, and I don't really want to spend more than $50 for two, as might be the case at Yang Sink.

For dinner we thought we'd try Mandalay for Burmese, which neither of us has ever had, and we have a shortlist of recommended items including the tea leaf salad and Burmese style noodle.

April 2nd:
I've seen some great recommendations here for breakfast spots but most seem to be weekend destinations. So I found Mission Beach Cafe. I was hoping B. Patisserie might have some good items but there doesn't seem to be a menu online to check out. I know people rave about the kouign amann so we'll probably grab some for snacks but if anyone has been to B. for breakfast, please do let us know!

Dinner - PPQ Dungeness Island, as opposed to Thanh Long, because I hear it is quite pricey, but the quality is similar.

April 3rd:
Breakfast at Mama's. I know it's a bit of tourist trap, but we are not above this in hopes of discovering what made this place so great and talked about, even if the hype may be disproportionate to flavours.

Dinner - need some help with this one. I have been craving good Japanese food ever since we lived there for a few months last year. I am more interested in izakayas than sushi orientated offerings. I see Ippuku in Berkeley hits the spot for quite a few people, though a bit expensive for what an izakaya 'should' be priced at. Will the bill top $100 for two after tax and tip, if we don't drink? And of course, we don't have a car, but are planning on exploring Berkeley this day anyway, will it be a huge schlep for not much reward? Should we go to Izakaya Roku instead? - we do like yakitori and I note that great things have not been said about the grilling here.

April 4th:
Breakfast at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, hopefully/maybe Roli Roti?

We will be in Sausalito/Marin this day, and I see Sushi Ran gets some good reviews?

Notes: we will also have two days in LA, and it seems lots of people recommend the Japanese/sushi scene here. Is it worth forgetting Ippuku/Roku/Sushi Ran altogether for a 'better' experience in LA, and instead enjoying some of SF's other culinary delights?

Also, I haven't made specific plans for lunch any days, because we want to fill the middle of the day with doing/seeing stuff, rather than going out of our way to locate a good spot. That being said, any recommendations for general areas that have good cheap eats, e.g., Mission, would be well received.

Thanks in advance! (bit nervous about what might be made of my list, eeep!)

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  1. Since you're headed to LA, forget eating Japanese food here and save it for your time there. It's less expensive, much more variety, and multiples better in quality in LA than in SF.

    1. Just a note about dim sum in SF area, the quality of the higher end dim sum is comparable to low - moderately priced dim sum in Toronto. And if you are arriving at noon, by the time you get into the city, it's a bit late for dim sum.

      April 4th is Thursday, the market doesn't start until 10, and it's mostly prepared food for the lunch crowd. Looks like Roli Roti is there at 10:30.

      I walk by Mama's everyday ...I don't understand the long lines (seems mostly tourist and young hipsters) If you go, prepare for a wait, even on week days, the line starts before they open.

      5 Replies
      1. re: gnomatic

        Unfortunately, my boyfriend is the one hailing from Toronto and I've never eaten dim sum there. London's offerings are rather slim these days. I've always gone around noon at home - if we get to HK Lounge by then, that'll be alright?

        Weekday breakfasts seem to be a difficult one! I really wanted some market fare (even though Roli Roti does lean more towards lunch than breakfast). I think then we may go for something completely different such as Out the Door?

        1. re: flaymzofice

          If you go straight there you are okay ...but getting out to the Richmond can be time consuming if you are not taking a cab or driving.

          Dim sum is a breakfast/brunch weekend meal for Chinese families/friends. Most places have less selection the later you go (they run out), and on weekdays. My family in Hong Kong & Toronto do dim sum as early 9 am, though 11 am would be consider late (going early also avoid the crowds).

          One thing that SF does for dim sum, I haven't really encountered elsewhere, are "bakeries" that do cheap dim sum take-aways. They open quite early, kids on their way to school (and occasionally me on my way to work :-P) pick up dim sum to go. Get some dim sum , take it to the waterfront or park for a picnic make for a different dim sum experience for you and your boyfriend.

          How about pho for breakfast, I find the Vietnamese food in SF superior to Toronto, and don't recall seeing much of it on my visits to London. Melanie had a great post on Pho for breakfast recently:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/887660

          If you want outdoor market like food, you might want to check out one of the Off The Grid events (for lunch and dinner) http://offthegridsf.com/

          1. re: gnomatic

            11's not late for dim sum around here. Popular places are full until after 1pm.

            1. re: gnomatic

              Thanks! Off The Grid looks right up our street!

              I suppose the key difference between SF dim sum and that in London, is the trolley factor. I haven't seen a trolley in London...ever? So they never run out. I think we'll stick with HK Lounge for noon, but if the selection isn't great, we'll just come back another day. I'm tempted to come to the city a day early just to be there for a weekend dim sum, but by the sounds of it, it's not a worthwhile trip.

              Pho sounds like a great suggestion for breakfast; how many days in a row can we really eat eggs and French Toast after all.

              Thanks for your help!

              1. re: flaymzofice

                Running out has nothing to do with using trolley. The good places have their own dim sum chef who only prep a certain amount of each dish a day, if something runs out..that's it. The lesser quality places get the dim sum frozen, so I suppose they just heat more up if something runs low.

        2. Chotto on steiner is decent izakaya-style food convenient to pacific heights. without booze it is definitely < $100. fwiw, there are usually a lot of japanese people there. sushi is generally better in la. don't know if the same is true for izakaya.

          I like Jackson Fillmore for casual italian a lot too.

          Ino is good if divisive sushi. My LA friend loves the place.

          I also like the burger at brazen head, and the pizza at a16.

          But all of these places are probably best if you just don't feel like traveling very far. They are a few of my favorite go-to places if i'm feeling lazy -- i live in pac heights.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Dustin_E

            We don't mind travelling, SF seems a lot more negotiable without a car than some places we've been i.e., LA, but good to know there are options nearby if we have a lazy day :)