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Great food for solo woman near Union Square [San Francisco]

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miss_bennet Jul 13, 2013 12:30 AM

Hello,

I am travelling to San Francisco for a conference, and staying at the Grand Hyatt near Union Square.

I would rather go into a "sure thing" restaurant than walk into one that looks interesting - which I'm sure they almost all will.

I will have 2 dinners, and am ok taking a cable car from my hotel to a place, or walking, although I hear your hills can be brutal. I have a budget of $40 per dinner, including tax/tip/drink. I don't have to spend that much money, though - I just want to eat great food.

I do love Xiu Long Bao, but am a little concerned about going to get it alone... If I can get a group of people from the conference to go for Dim sum with me, I'd be okay with Yank Sing. But are there any places I can get great XLB where I can comfortably eat alone? I'm ok with a hole in the wall.

Thanks for any help you can give!

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  1. Dave MP RE: miss_bennet Jul 13, 2013 12:59 AM

    Sounds like it'll be worth it to have Chinese food for at least one of your meals, especially if you're visiting from somewhere that doesn't have as much.

    One place that comes to mind for xiao long bao is Bund Shanghai in Chinatown, which is walking distance from your hotel. I haven't been there in a long time. Anyone have a report on how it is these days? I do think you'd be totally fine eating there alone, or with a small group. But the latest report in this discussion is from 2011: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588019

    For your other meal, there are tons of options. Any other particular cuisines or types of food you are looking to eat?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP
      m
      miss_bennet RE: Dave MP Jul 13, 2013 10:48 AM

      We have good Chinese food where I'm from but no one makes XLB. Sadly.

      For the second meal... I'd say West Coast? Or maybe really good Italian. We only have one decent Italian place.

      Actually, I'd like to have some really great seafood. I'm more into refined flavours in a brasserie style than, say, huge portions or intimidatingly formal.

      I hope that makes sense...

      1. re: miss_bennet
        Fowler RE: miss_bennet Jul 13, 2013 07:18 PM

        "Actually, I'd like to have some really great seafood. I'm more into refined flavours in a brasserie style than, say, huge portions or intimidatingly formal."

        Are you open to Mediterranean cuisine? There is a place about 1 mile from Union Square called Kokkari. They have among other things great seafood and you can eat at the bar alone and not feel uncomfortable. They also have a nice wine list and you can get in and out within your budget.

        http://www.kokkari.com/home/

        1. re: Fowler
          c oliver RE: Fowler Jul 14, 2013 12:40 PM

          I've never felt "uncomfortable" eating alone and don't feel obligated to sit at the bar, although that can give you someone to talk to if that's what you like.

          1. re: c oliver
            Fowler RE: c oliver Jul 14, 2013 02:28 PM

            Thank you for letting us know that.

      2. re: Dave MP
        c oliver RE: Dave MP Jul 14, 2013 12:36 PM

        I ate at Bund Shanghai, by myself actually, in April and the XLB were as good as always. To OP, one order is easily eaten by one person. I also then ordered braised pork belly. Now THAT was too much for me. I ate some and carried the rest back to one of the front desk guys at the hotel. He and I had been talking about Chinese food. Unlike some Chinatown spots, it's quite attractive. From your hotel, it's an easy LEVEL :) walk. Just one block down to Grant and then enter the Chinatown gates. Walk down to Jackson, turn right and it's just a few storefronts down on the left.

        http://bundshanghaisf.com/location.html

      3. Robert Lauriston RE: miss_bennet Jul 13, 2013 09:17 AM

        I've eaten alone at Yank Sing and it was fine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          c oliver RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 14, 2013 12:37 PM

          I just find when I eat dim sum along I get a little depressed cause I can only eat about two things before I'm full :)

        2. d
          DavidT RE: miss_bennet Jul 13, 2013 05:27 PM

          Fino is a small Italian place in the 500 block of Post Street, two blocks west of Union Square.

          http://www.andrewshotel.com/fino.html

          Perbacco and its more casual offspring, Barbacco, are in the 200 block of California, perhaps a 12-15 minute walk from Union Square.

          You would be comfortable dining solo at any of the above.

          12 Replies
          1. re: DavidT
            Ruth Lafler RE: DavidT Jul 13, 2013 06:52 PM

            Barbacco is a fun place to eat solo. I'm sure Perbacco is fine, but it's quite a bit more formal.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 13, 2013 07:01 PM

              Perbacco's pretty casual if you eat at the bar.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                a
                arepo RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 14, 2013 09:20 AM

                So which of the two (Barbacco/Perbacco) would you recommend for high teens low 20's?

                1. re: arepo
                  Ruth Lafler RE: arepo Jul 14, 2013 11:25 AM

                  Barbacco. I don't know what measure of "formal" Robert is using, but Perbacco has a large financial district clientele, and the atmosphere is commensurate.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
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                    wally RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 14, 2013 11:43 AM

                    But there are usually several people dressed casually.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 14, 2013 12:25 PM

                      I don't feel out of place at Perbacco's bar wearing developer casual (T-shirt, hoodie, wrinkled Dockers) and I'm not sure I've ever been the worst-dressed person there.

                      I'd dress a little better if I were eating in the dining room.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 16, 2013 11:35 AM

                        Yes, but someone "high teens low 20's" as in the post I was responding to might feel out of place. It's just not a fun, hip hang-out for young people, no matter how they're dressed.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 16, 2013 11:39 AM

                          I took arepo's question to be about price, not age.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 16, 2013 11:53 AM

                            I wasn't sure....

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
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                        nocharge RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 14, 2013 12:26 PM

                        While Perbacco is more formal as a restaurant concept, it's not stuffy, especially not the bar. I go there all the time casually dressed and I've never felt uncomfortable or out of place. It's enough of a destination restaurant that there will be plenty of people there who are not Financial District suits. I don't think that "formal" should be a factor when deciding between Perbacco and Barbacco. Michael Mina would be a different story.

                      3. re: arepo
                        Robert Lauriston RE: arepo Jul 14, 2013 12:21 PM

                        Barbacco's definitely the cheaper of the two.

                  2. re: DavidT
                    c oliver RE: DavidT Jul 14, 2013 12:38 PM

                    We haven't eaten at Fino in a few years but also loved it.

                  3. free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: miss_bennet Jul 14, 2013 10:54 PM

                    If you like Mussels then I'd like to suggest Plouf. It is in your price range and the ambiance is lovely. I have eaten there about three times on my own and have had a great time/meal. It's a short walk from where you are staying. I have also dined at Perbacco and cannot say enough about the food and service. Another suggestion is Kokkari. Their small plates/apps are generous. Last time I was there I saw a couple of solo diners in the bar area. It's on my list of places I'd like to return to.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                      c oliver RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L Jul 15, 2013 07:42 AM

                      Second the rec for Plouf. And Belden Alley is fun.

                    2. Dave MP RE: miss_bennet Jul 15, 2013 12:45 PM

                      Very recent report on Bund Shanghai XLB. Sounds like they were pretty good: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9078...

                      1. m
                        miss_bennet RE: miss_bennet Jul 15, 2013 10:57 PM

                        So I went into Chinatown and was going to go to Bund, but then someone walked out of Z and Y as I walked past and I smelled the greatest smell. So I went there.

                        I ordered the Wontons in Peanut Sauce, Tiger Skin Jalapenos, and Chicken with Exploding Chilis.

                        The wontons tasted very like a dish I had in Chengdu 8 years ago. At least, I think they did. I honestly can't remember the exact taste, I just remember thinking they were the best dumplings I'd ever eaten. And these were amazing. The peanut sauce consisted of a peanut oil-chili oil blend with garlic and peanuts and a little ma la. I might go back to get more before I leave.

                        The Tiger Skin Jalapenos were delicious, and the spiciest thing I ate today.They were just pan-fried jalapenos in a delicate sesame-soy sauce. Very delicate. The chicken was battered in a paper thin batter and deep fried, then wok-fried with about 18 million dried chilis. The chicken tasted of very fresh ginger, and was fantastic. Because every dish was spicy, I avoided the chilis as the chicken cooled my mouth down.

                        All in all, an utterly fantastic meal. Authentic Sichuanese food is not available in BC, and so this was the best Chinese food I've had since I was in China in 2005. My only issue was a general lack of ma la, but I feel that may be their way of catering to Westerners. That said, I have to run to Walgreen's to get some heartburn medication now.

                         
                         
                         
                        2 Replies
                        1. re: miss_bennet
                          bbulkow RE: miss_bennet Jul 16, 2013 01:56 AM

                          You chose well. Z and Y is a board favorite. Not mentioned due to your comment about XLB.

                          1. re: miss_bennet
                            Fowler RE: miss_bennet Jul 16, 2013 11:12 AM

                            Thanks for the report. It sounds great.

                          2. m
                            miss_bennet RE: miss_bennet Jul 21, 2013 06:17 PM

                            I thought I'd write again to say two things: my second meal and my attempt at cooking those dumplings I loved at Z and Y.

                            First of all, after an evening of trying to spot the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog (vaguely successful), I arrived in Belden Alley at about 9:20. I went to Plouf, and decided - crazily - to order the whole crab. It was delicious. It claimed to be chili, but I scarcely tasted any spice. The butter for it was very good. Because of a quinoa intolerance (red, puffy skin), I went with the horseradish cheddar grits. They tasted of sweet corn and horseradish; no cheddar. I ate regrettably little of them. Overall a pleasant experience, and no problem eating alone.

                            One thing I must say is that I wonder where I could find microbrews in San Francisco. At home in Victoria, nearly every place has microbrews on tap - as in, multiple - and it was strange to be offered Coors and Heineken.

                            Now for the wontons! When I arrived home, I googled Z and Y's online menu, and did a google of the Chinese title of the dish: 紅油抄手. It's called "Wontons in Red Oil," and is actually relatively easy to make, although I did have to buy an assortment of unusual (for me) spices. I dutifully made the "red oil" using peanut oil, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilis, star anise, black cardamon and cinnamon (as I could find no cassia bark).

                            I let the oil cook at too high a temperature, and all the chilis burned black. I don't believe this had a deleterious effect on the oil. The oil was very strong on the Sichuan peppercorn flavour, which my boyfriend likened to pine trees. I will be diluting the oil with additional peanut oil in future use.

                            I followed this recipe for the oil.

                            As I was making the chili oil this time, I elected for store-bought dumplings instead of homemade. Using this recipe, I made the "vinaigrette" for the dumplings. Unfortunately I went from memory and added twice as much red oil as the recipe called for, much to my and my boyfriend's misfortune.

                            Overall, the dish was fantastic, and not too hard. The red oil can be used for many Sichuan dishes, so I will have a fun time experimenting in the coming months. Also, it feels fantastic to make something so authentically Chinese with my own hands.

                             
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