Where to eat? (couple in mid-20's, one week stay)
I am visiting San Francisco for a week this summer with my boyfriend. We are looking for great places to eat that aren't expensive. We are staying in Oakland, but plan to be in San Francisco frequently, as well as going to Napa and Muir Woods. We will have a car, and are fairly adventurous eaters. Any suggestions for nightlife would be great too, especially places with live music. We want to have an authentic San Francisco experience. Thanks!
Summers are slow here for music. If you coming in August, there is the Outside lands festival which has good fine and wine booths, good music line up and while crowded - it's not crazy.
Yoshi's if you like jazz (either Oakland or SF locations) is great for music and drinks - food isn't the best.
Also check out what's going on at the Fox in Oakland. Great bar set up, really like the venue, the food they offer is no good - but there's a bunch of restaurants popping up right in the area.
Zero Zero in SF is relatively inexpensive and is a decent snapshot of the current Italian food scene.
While in Napa, Addendum may be a good place to pick up a picnic (or eat at their picnic tables). Food and wine in Napa is expensive, if you are on a budget I'd recommend Sonoma instead.
Summer is slow for music _if you like large festivals_.
The SF experience is all the great little bars and clubs that make the music scene here. There are about 20, and you'll find your favorites. But this is a food site, not a music site - although every club has booze, at least.
The time right before burning man, or right at burning man, becomes interesting because "everyone" is in town. On the other hand, "everyone" is preparing too.
The Hotel Utah, one of the best really-tiny venues, has a small kitchen and I've always enjoyed their burgers. Not a fancy 7x7 best of burgers burger, but always filling. They used to do a sunday curbside BBQ.
Yoshi's, as mentioned, has plausible food. It's worth having apps before the show. The club is large and pricey, compared to the $5 cover places you'll see elsewhere.
Mission clubs, like The Elbo, The Makeout, Amnesia (great belgian beers), The Brick and Mortar, The Lost Church, Mighty, The Rite Spot, El Rio, the Great American are all near a huge amount of food.
In the "old days" a lot of the clubs were on 11th. Still there is Slims and the DNA and Slim's the Holy Cow and two spaces that open only for special events. Check Streat Eats, but generally you eat before and after, cab in and out.
Most of the other places are scattered throughout the city. Warfield, Fillmore, Madrone Lounge, 1015 Folsom, Ruby Skye, The Independent, the Regency, Thee Parkside, Red Devil, Boom Boom Room, Bimbo's are all so scattered you should use a website that does good location search - like Yelp will show you near food, and show you open hours, perfect for "what's near X club at 1am"
Take the Fillmore - it's near State Bird Provisions, Dosa, a touch of good sushi, 1500 fillmore, a couple of other places.
A great SF night is to simply make a round of a number of these places until you latch onto something that sounds good. Some of those mentioned are so big you have to buy tickets and can't (cheaply) do in and out. A local can do this with a car (this Saturday I visited 10 SF art galleries in 3 hours by simply driving between them) but for an outsider - and prohibits drinking - so grab cabs.
Oddly, the idea that a food place might have music has vanished. At best, a few of these bars serve a bit of bar grub.
Thanks for all of the club/music suggestions! I am thinking traditional San Francisco foods would be sourdough, seafood, and something from Chinatown, is this correct? Any suggestions for a place we could pick up some good sourdough to just have at the house for snacking? Or some great seafood places that are more casual? I would love to get some dim sum, and both my boyfriend and I love sushi, though I love good sashimi, and he prefers rolls. Any recommendations for dim sum and/or sushi?
We will probably end up going out for a few more expensive meals, but I would like to keep most of our meals at or around $50. This doesn't have to include alcohol. If this is unrealistic for San Francisco, that is fine. I realize the cost of living there is much more than in Lexington :-)
Thanks for all of the great suggestions so far!
I'm not sure if I already mentioned, but we will be in town from June 30th-July 6th.
At this time, what SF is best at is using the amazing amount of local produce we have to make very high quality, flavorful food. Check out the ferry building on farmer market's days to see it at it's best (Saturday mornings is the big one, but there are smaller ones Tuesday and Thursday).
I mentioned Zero Zero above (which is the most budget friendly(, but also Incanto, Cotogna or Locanda are part of a Cal-Italian wave that I really like.
There's cal-peruvian like Fresca. There's also just cal-cal: Frances, State Bird Provisions, Rich table.
Also cocktails made in the same way: try Local Edition, Rickhouse, Comstock Saloon (for bars) for a more restaurant atmosphere try the Alembic or Absinthe. There's a new place Novela - but I haven't tried it yet.
Coffee is another one (if you like coffee). There's great places everywhere, but Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, and Ritual for espresso and Philz for drip.
Chinatown is slowly dying in many ways - due to the referred to cost of living many of the new waves of Asian immigrants are out in the suburbs. That being said, Yank Sing has better quality dim sum than you can find anywhere else in the country (except for in Southern California). They have a few locations, but their biggest/most organized one is near the water at the Rincon center.
As to sushi/seafood, here's a recent thread on Sushi in SF (basically the scene is not as good as LA or NY but better than everywhere else):
Sourdough - there's a chain called Boudin that makes decent enough sourdough. Acme bread also makes it.
You might check out the Mission district, and restaurants there like Foreign Cinema or Limon (peruvian). Tons of other options there for food/drink. Depending on where you are staying in Oakland, Miss Ollie's downtown is a fun afro-barbados restaurant.
"Traditional" San Francisco as you describe kind of went out with the generation that called the city "Frisco" (don't unless you want to be looked at funny), as the other posters have implied. Also, the classic SF seafood --local dungeness crab-- is not in season in the summer (though it is available shipped from farther north).
If you are going to Muir Woods, you might have fun stopping at the Pelican Inn for a drink and pub food.