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Looking for a Few Dinners in/near the Castro [San Francisco]

The husband and I will be heading up to SF for my birthday this summer. It's been a few years since we've been to the City, so I'd appreciate some suggestions for chow-worthy joints in and around the Castro (where we will be staying).

Last time we went we found L'Ardoise and loved it, so that kind of tucked-away gem would be welcome.

Pretty much any and all cuisine is fine. Heart issues (mine) mean that I'm careful about certain menu items, but I've got that handled. Naturally we're both trying to lose weight, so we can't overload on the bacon-and-butter temples of cholesterol. Well, not any more. Dang it.

Oh wait-- one cuisine is kind of out: Mexican. We get that all the time at home, and honestly were a bit underwhelmed by what we sampled in the City. Unless there's some super-wonderful place....

We'd like to keep to a budget: mostly under $50 per person, including wine, but $100 per for one splurge is OK.

We are open to venturing out of the neighborhood (gayborhood?) for at least one dinner, so don't feel too limited geographically.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Poesia's very good.

    Do you have vegan Mexican food at home?

    13 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Poesia is pretty bland and average and overpriced.

      1. re: tjinsf

        Hmm. I don't see any of the unusual regional dishes on the menu any more. Maybe I'm out of date.

        1. re: tjinsf

          I absolutely disagre. Poesia makes some excellent house made pasta. I live in the area and it's entered my semi-regular neighborhood rotation.

          That said, if I were coming from out of town, I would not make it a destination.

          As others have said, nothing in the castro is a true destination, with the possible exception of L'Ardoise (keeping in mind that I despise Frances.)

          1. re: pauliface

            not quite a destination, but starbelly is certainly solid

            1. re: vulber

              I can also back Starbellly. Would have mentioned it myself, but it's been a few years since i've been there.

              There are a couple of cheap eats in the Castro that are decent, if you just want a quick meal:

              1. Super Duper burger
              2. Kasa Indian
              3. Thai House Express (not quite as fast as the other two)

              There is a sandwich place called Ike's that is immensely popular locally (I like it), but the Castro location moved around a bit and I don't remember what's up with it now.

            2. re: pauliface

              We ARE planning L'Ardoise for my birthday dinner-- my husband is still craving their coq au vin.

              Now just out of curiosity-- what makes you despise Frances...?

              1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                Okay perhaps despise is too harsh a word. But I don't like it and I won't go back. Here are my thoughts from when I went:
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6784...

                Also, understand that I am in the vast minority on this one. So unless my article hits some of your personal hot-button issues, you may just want to ignore my opinion here. :-)

                1. re: pauliface

                  I was underwhelmed with my experience at Frances as well. Firefly in Noe Valley is a much better choice.

                  Bacco also in Noe Valley has pretty great Italian food at a reasonable price. I always joke with my boyfriend about just going for mash potatoes, green beans, and creme brûlée. All 3 the best I have ever had.

                  1. re: Ashley12

                    I am fond of both Firefly and Bacco -- though I have not been to either for a few years. Looks like we agree...

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            We do not have vegan Mexican near our house (Long Beach isn't a hotbed of veganism). I'm sure I can find it in the greater LA area, but I can't say it sounds that enticing.

            I do think we might give some Mission Mexican a try. There's always lunches to take care of, right? :-)

            1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

              gracias madre is the best vegan mexican food i've ever had....but it's still vegan mexican, which i never crave. like most vegan places, a lot of stuff eventually starts to all taste the same; i can only handle so much cashew cheese.

              for mission taquerias, i like cancun, for an authentic sit-down meal, there's sanjalisco. or tacolicious for delicious tacos with sustainably raised meat

              1. re: vulber

                I liked Gracias Madre more than I normally would have, but only because the only other vegan I have ever had was Herbivore. Somehow they managed to make a truly awful vegetable stir fry and my friend got mashed potatoes that not only tasted horrible, but were accompanied by a speech, via my friend, on how they were the "essence of the potato." I don't know how I didn't tip the table over and run out screaming.
                At least at GM you get rice and beans that are perfectly edible. But I also agree that I do not need to go back.

                1. re: vulber

                  I'm not sure i agree that it's a problem particular to being a vegan restaurant, but much as I enjoy Gracias Madre, i find it hard to eat there often. The menu is too same same from the appetizers to the entrees. I don't know if it's a lack of creativity from the kitchen or maybe an effort to keep costs down by limiting the ingredients, but it makes it hard to put together a truly satisfying meal. Also, food is heavy. most taquerias put a wee bit of greenery on when you order a platillo

            2. Yes, L'Ardoise is lovely. I really think the destination place is NOPA on Divis. And I'm a big fan of Ragazza, also on Divis. I'm generally not a fan of cuisine in the Castro. It's gotten better, but doesn't hold a candle to the better places around.

              1 Reply
              1. re: blackpippi

                NOPA's in the Western Addition, the part realtors like to call NOPA (north of the Panhandle).

                If that's not too far, all the places around 18th and Valencia are even closer: Delfina, Bar Tartine, Gajalee ...

              2. Frances will go over $50 per person with alcohol but is one of my favorites.

                1. I highly recommend the freshly made Oboro tofu at Eiji (317 Sanchez St). Their sushi is just ok.

                  1. Do yourself a favor and don't confine yourself to the Castro. As Blackpippi said, there is *much* better eats in the city and San Francisco is only seven miles across, so you don't have to travel that far to get much better food, with the exception of Frances (hard to get reservations, but well worth it).

                    Barracuda sushi is respectable and somewhat memorable, but I don't know if it is birthday-worthy for out-of-towners.

                    Other thoughts would be Bar Tartine, Delfina, and Incanto, which aren't too far from the Castro 'hood.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      Don't worry-- we're not confining ourselves to the Castro, I'm just making sure that reasonably good dining options exist for at least a couple of nights when we don't feel like venturing too far away, or don't feel like hailing a cab (does anyone still hail a cab?!).

                      Everyone's suggestions are appreciated. Thank you so much! I'm making a list...!!

                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                        Depending on where in the Castro you're staying, Delfina and Bar Tartine might be within walking distance. And Incanto might be within walking distance if you don't mind climbing a large hill. I second the recommendation for all three of these, and I think they are all better than options you'd find right in the Castro.

                        And yes, people still do hail cabs, and fortunately the Castro is generally a pretty easy place to hail one! :)

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          How did you do like Fable or Canala Dave? What was your experience eating at those places?

                          1. re: tjinsf

                            I haven't been to Fable or Canela. What I know about them comes mainly from Chowhound, and nobody has talked about either very much yet. But they both look interesting, so thanks for posting about them!

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              I've been to Canela twice - it's great. tjinsf - I agree with your summary about the place. It has a great neighborhood feel and an extensive menu.

                        2. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                          We had a fantastic dinner at Incanto recently. I would definitely recommend it for a celebration.

                        3. re: CarrieWas218

                          Sometimes a person has to eat in a particular neighborhood and would just like to find someplace good there. Recommending that they travel to another neighborhood where the food might be better is only self serving if the person needs/wants to stay in the Castro.

                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                            " We are open to venturing out of the neighborhood (gayborhood?) for at least one dinner, so don't feel too limited geographically."