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May 7, 2013 11:14 PM

Restaurants and cocktail bar close to Fairmont Hotel [San Francisco]

I will be at a conference next month at the Fairmont Hotel. Since it is hard to make reservations when you can't really predict when the last conference session will end I am looking for recommendations for restaurants within walking distance where you have a good chance as a solo diner to get a table without reservation. I am open to any kind of cuisine from tasting menus to small ethnic places.
In addition I am also looking for good cocktail bars within walking distance

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    1. re: honkman

      The Fairmont is at the top of a very steep hill, so "walking distance" is kind of an iffy criterion. Consider taking a cab (people will say take the cable car, but it's ridiculously expensive) or a bus a short hop down the hill.

      I think your question is both too broad (not enough info about what day of the week and what time frame you're talking about, not specific enough about what you're really looking for) and too narrow (walking distance from Fairmont).

      You might want to look at some of the recent solo diner threads. San Francisco is very solo-diner friendly and there are many, many restaurants where you can get a seat and be served at the bar pretty easily.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Thanks for the reply. Days will be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and I look at places most likely around 7-8pm. Steeps hills are not so much an issue and I would consider at least one mile easily within walking distance. It is a little bit hard to evaluate from Google maps if for example Cotogna is within walking distance and more importantly how likely is it to get a table on these days without reservation. So i was hoping people would give especially advice on some good restaurants where the chance of getting a table is good without reservations.

        1. re: honkman

          To give you a sense of how steep is steep, some of the access streets to Nob Hill (your hotel's neighborhood) are unsafe for cars and are blocked to automobile traffic. The pedestrian sidewalks on those streets are staircases.

          Some recent visitors who stayed at the Fairmont walked downhill to meet me at Canteen Restaurant. Then I gave them a ride back. Canteen has a counter but I have no idea how easy it is to get a seat without a reservation.

          If all else fails, the walk to Chinatown and its many restaurants is short and fairly easy taking Mason Street over to Clay or Washington and onward. My 90-year-old aunt lives near the hotel and walks to Chinatown every day. The 1 California bus comes up the hill on Sacramento St from the Financial District and Chinatown and stops across the street from the hotel if your legs poop out on the return trip.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            When I worked at 50 California, every time I looked up California St. I would think of Tony Bennett singing, "where little cable cars, climb halfway to the stars..."

            If someone is willing to walk down California St. there's Perbacco, the more casual but still delicious Barbacco and the classic Tadich, all of which are good for solo diners.

          2. re: honkman

            Yes, I would consider Cotogna within walking distance, especially since it's in the slightly easier to walk direction (through Chinatown). That's generally a good direction to head, since there are other good restaurants and bars in that general neighborhood.

            1. re: honkman

              " get a table on these days without reservation." Is bar seating okay?

              Haven't been but high end Keiko a Nob Hill, close to the hotel, has received very good reviews. Though not as extensive as the dining room menu, bar area does serve food...hounds? Or you can call them to confirm. This may be a good option for Sunday. Others are Farallon & Wayfare Tavern. Looks like Opentable allows reservations for can check day of.

              For other days, agree with recs for Cotogna, Perbacco...some of the best Italian SF has to offer.

        2. I will toss a couple of ideas in, but it is not possible to know what for you is walking distance, especially since you are staying on the top of a steep hill in a hotel zone with not too many chowy-choices nearby.

          For drinks, Burritt Room or Rickhouse are somewhat close; Comstock Saloon has both food and drink.

          Park Tavern, Original Joe's or L'Osteria Del Forno in North Beach are all likely to have a spot for one for dinner, depending on your timing. You might consider calling on your way, and asking for a last minute spot.

          And though the tiki drinks are not up to the standard of Smuggler's Cove, you should stop in at the Tonga Room in the Fairmont if you have not seen it before.

          1. Tonga room at the Fairmont is a classic..
            There is another place, in the hotel that is higher end that is great for drinks and apps..think its called Laurel.

            That hill is wicked and you will be sober climbing back home.
            Drinks at the St. Francis in Union Square with the jazz in the main lobby is lovely.

            Lefty's across the street is one of my fave's.
            Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista is a must and take the cable car.
            Tadich for sand dabs at the counter for late lunch.
            These are my fave's as a tourist in SF.

            Have fun!

            1. Cocktail bars , of note, a downhill walk from the Fairmont Hotel. My favorite is the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel. The Clock Bar at the St. Francis is a classic. The bar at the Tadich Grill is a great spot. All on the high end and then there is Lefty O'Doul's just across the street from the St. Francis which is lets say more on the other end, but a quite well known San Francisco bar.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bacchus101

                I'll add Gitane to this list. Though not a cocktail bar in the true sense, they have a very nice bar area with fantastic cocktails. Closed Sun.

              2. Don't let the hill intimidate you. The California cable car is your friend and runs with great frequency. A multi-day Passport knocks the per-trip price way down.

                The Tonga Room is for tourists and should be avoided at all costs. Drinks at the bar at Bix are vastly superior.

                You might want to check out Cotogna. I like dining at the bar there. The bar at Quince, the more up-scale brother to Cotogna, is next door and well worth a visit for food and libation. Barbacco is an excellent place for small plates and wine. SPQR, in the opposite direction, is outstanding.

                Lots of other places.

                5 Replies
                1. re: steve h.

                  Walk down, take the 1-California back up.

                  The Tonga Room is a kick and way more than just tourists. San Franciscans worked very hard to save it when the Fairmont announced their new condo tower. Haven't heard what the final result of that was.

                  1. re: steve h.

                    The Tonga Room is a fun campy experience worth doing once, or even once every 10-20 years. Get one drink, see the show, go somewhere else for dinner and/or more drinks.

                    The city rejected the condo conversion plan and the owners who proposed it sold the hotel.


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks for the update. Tonga Room is kinda like Beach Blanket. As you say, gotta do it once. Ooh, btw, is BBB still running. It's not something I've looked for when in NB.

                      Also, thanks for the Fairmont update. Not something I've been following.

                    2. re: steve h.

                      "You might want to check out Cotogna. I like dining at the bar there."

                      Love Cotogna and eating at the bar is very nice. Just keep in mind that eating at the counter where the wood burning oven is located can get quite a bit toasty if seated directly in its path.