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Suggestions for Hot Spots to hit this coming SF Ghost-Town Week?

larochelle Aug 24, 2013 09:26 PM

So the best week of the year in San Francisco starts on Monday - the week its actually possible to get into some of SF's most popular spots. Last year, we were able to walk into multiple Mission spots WITHOUT a wait and there was barely a line at Tartine!
(This is caused by the many San Franciscans are leaving town (Burning Man) PLUS the Closure of Bay Bridge means fewer incoming East Bay folks (8pm Wednesday until 5am Tuesday) PLUS the normal Labor Day Weekend exodus)
I'm putting together a list of normally uber-hot bars & restaurants to hit this coming week. Any suggestions?
FYI: I was totally bummed to realize State Bird Provisions is closed this week, it would have been on my list.

Current Possibilities
West of Pecos
Dixie
Namu Gaji
Central Kitchen
Flour & Water
Mission Chinese Food
Park Tavern
Foreign Cinema
Commonweath

  1. d
    dunstable Sep 3, 2013 10:44 AM

    I saw a news article saying that Burning Man drew a bit over 61,000 people this year. I don't know if there is any ancillary event that coincides with Burning Man, but if it's just 61,000 people, that is not nearly enough to have a significant impact on the dining scene here -- that is not even ten percent of the population, even assuming they all came from SF, which they probably did not. If that were the case, it would be much worse when the 49ers have a night game.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/mu...

    I'm not discounting the accounts of slightly diminished crowds, but perhaps this is more to do with the holiday weekend.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dunstable
      Robert Lauriston Sep 3, 2013 11:16 AM

      My theory is that many people who work in restaurants in SF attribute the slow week / weekend to Burning Man because that's where most of the people they know who were out of town went, or where they would go if they had the time off and could afford it.

    2. w
      wanderlust21 Sep 1, 2013 08:11 PM

      This was my experience this weekend waiting as a walk-in party of 3. Outerlands lunch Friday - no wait though there were some folks waiting when I left. F+W Friday night - 30 mins (quoted 1hr) no line down the block, just a few people waiting outside the front door. Delfina Sunday night - 10 mins. (There was a wait at the pizzeria and bi rite creamery, but not the restaurant).

      For the dinners we did arrive before 7, but I still think my waits were shorter than other weekends.

      1 Reply
      1. re: wanderlust21
        Melanie Wong Sep 1, 2013 08:43 PM

        At F+W last night, there was no one waiting outside when we arrived. There's always been a line when I've driven by. So I was surprised when our wait stretched so long. Maybe everyone was drinking at Trick Dog like we were since it was less busy then usual.

      2. bbulkow Sep 1, 2013 08:17 AM

        Peninsula report:
        Last night I tried to eat at a number of places, comically rebuffed until finally being served.
        1) Stadt House, RWC - The place was nearly empty at 8:05 on a Saturday night. I've never seen it like this. A schnitzel special was on the board, but we were 5 minutes late - the kitchen closes at 8. ( NOTE TO YELP: KITCHEN CLOSING TIMES! PLEASE )

        2) The Living Room, RWC - Also nearly empty. A hearty hello from the bar on arrival. However, the temp inside was like a meat cooler, and GF rejected the place. Onward.

        3) At this point we should have gone to Chef Chen's, the third element in our Restaurant Roulette, but we were eyeing getting to the Stanford Theater for the late show (pre-code Employee Entrance, which turned out well). We saw a street festival, which turned out to be a Lebanese Festival (I mistakenly thought, from a distances, that the people walking shrouded in the lebanese flag with the tree were wrapping themselves in the New Hampshire "don't tread on me" flag, but as we got closer, all was clear). We found the food area, which seemed very tasty looking, but they were also closing down. We just barely missed the last of some very tasty looking food. A great wish to stay more firmly on top of festivals and such, which appear to happen frequently in RWC - mailing list?

        4) Off to PA, to be closer to the 9:15 movie. Somewhat against known judgement, we tried the Workshop, right next to the theater. The place was half full, but we never got a glance from the waitstaff. Attempting to flag them down failed - they'd just disappear, all of them, even though we were at the bar. We left in under 5 minutes.

        5) Cafe 220, across the street. The standard owner guy was at the cash register, and my attempt to pay was interrupted by 3 phone calls (shared line for card auth & incoming calls), but the place was fairly full, and orders took a long time to come. I like the chicken kebabs there, lots of tasty marinade, and hand grilled, I wish the hot sauce had more character but it's OK. Tasty in general. I could have sped up a little, but we ended up missing maybe the first 60 second of the movie. The stanford has no trailers and is prompt.

        That's my data point.... now to the disputed conclusions.

        RWC non-family hangouts were nearly empty. PA was normal-ish, with more last-weekend-of-summer student population (not-burners). RWC has more "burner types" because it's a lot cheaper due to school district issues if you aren't planning a family.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bbulkow
          bbulkow Sep 2, 2013 08:06 AM

          One addition: the line for "Cream" in PA is still insane, easily 100 people in line down the block every night. I've never seen this.

        2. s
          sugartoof Aug 31, 2013 01:12 PM

          First of all - shouldn't he excitement of this phenomenon be all about the luxury of not planning for once? Enjoy the peacefulness of a three day weekend, and if it's emptied out, expect you'll luck out with a walk in.

          Generalizing the demographics of various events by employment or any form of stereotyping is absolutely silly.

          What you can do is figure that certain areas will be effected.

          Some areas will be *more* crowded, while some areas will be thinned out.

          North Beach will likely be more crowded for example due to tourists.

          The Mission will depend which part and which place you go. Think about how often we tell tourists to head to the Mission. Think about how many CH regulars regularly hit up the Mission when a new place opens. It's not all hipsters or Burners.

          Also, if surveying CH is any indication, the bridge could play more of a factor. I would expect destinations in SOMA, and Dogpatch especially effected.

          Otherwise, who can predict? Go out and enjoy it.

          1. p
            Prabhakar Ragde Aug 30, 2013 08:35 PM

            Walked from the Castro along 18th to Valencia and then down to Loló on 22nd, at 7pm on Friday. The usual suspects (Delfina, Range, Farina etc.) were thronged with people. I declare this effect over.

            (Did get a two-top at Loló with no wait.)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
              Robert Lauriston Aug 31, 2013 11:56 AM

              I think Loló normally has a wait of around an hour at that time.

              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                Ruth Lafler Aug 31, 2013 12:41 PM

                I would be interesting to cross-check the factors of "popular with Burning Man Crowd" (however you want to define them) and "proximity to BART station" (since more people are taking BART into the City this weekend).

              2. pane Aug 30, 2013 09:43 AM

                10 person wait for breakfast at Plow at 8 a.m. on Friday. I guess I can believe that lines are reduced during the Rapture (a.k.a. Burning Man Exodus) but even a 20% reduction isn't meaningful at places that are generally packed with wait lists.

                1. bbulkow Aug 29, 2013 10:56 AM

                  Here's another indication Ghost Week might be a "thing" in some parts of the city (and a nice graph of writing):

                  Nice description of a new place called Virgil's next to El Rio, and their cocktails. 30th and mission might seem a natural epicenter of a possible depopulation.

                  The description of the cocktails does make me want to stop by, read for yourself

                  http://www.7x7.com/music-nightlife/we...

                  "
                  Ashley and I popped into Virgil’s the other night to have a drink and kibitz with whoever was bartending. It was a Monday night and the Burning Man exodus had begun; The City already felt empty. No one was outside on Virgil’s amazing patio, and even the din from El Rio next door seemed tame. Tom Temprano was behind the bar, some incredible soul song was swimming from the jukebox speakers, and a handful of friendly, smiling people talked and giggled casually as if they were in their own living room. Even though it had only been open for a few months, Virgil’s already seemed like belonged to San Francisco just as much as San Francisco belongs to us.
                  "

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bbulkow
                    Windy Aug 30, 2013 01:12 AM

                    I've been to Virgil's. It's a new, pretty bar that's much pricier than Nap's, which it replaced, or El Rio next door. The fact that it wasn't busy this Monday isn't because it's ghost week. It's because it's Monday, and they just opened.

                    (It's not at 30th; it's just below Cesar Chavez.)

                  2. foodcoupleSF Aug 29, 2013 09:37 AM

                    Wife and I walked into Flour + Water last night at 6:40, we were seated 20 minutes later. Two 3 tops in front of us when we arrived. Got a bit busier as we ate, but there were open spots at the bar when we left. Had a delicious meal. Of particular note were the crispy trotter with eggplant, almond, confit shallot & pickled mustard seed, carrot farfalle with braised hen, charred scallions & carrot top gremolata (both on the summer tasting menu), and lamb raviolini with pine nut, spring onion & sorrel. Paired nicely with a bottle of 2011 Montalbera Ruche di Castagnole DOCG "La Tradizione".

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: foodcoupleSF
                      Melanie Wong Aug 31, 2013 11:34 PM

                      Quoted 1+ hour wait arriving at 7:30p at Flour + Water tonight that turned into 1.5 hours. Our server said the wait for a two-top on Saturday is usually more than 2 hrs. Got some good tips from hostess on how to get a res there.

                      Server at Trick Dog said it has been really slow all week. Though it looked crowded to me earlier tonight, we were told it's usually even more full on Saturday.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        s
                        sugartoof Sep 1, 2013 07:50 AM

                        Interesting. Hot spots get so overcrowded these days, it's not surprising this is the new ghost town, where popular/trendy spots never truly empty.

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          Melanie Wong Sep 1, 2013 08:42 PM

                          Trick Dog's idea of "not that crowded" is to have some space on the right side of the bar and enough room through the middle of the room that one could walk across without asking anyone to move. Later it did fill up more.

                    2. p
                      Prabhakar Ragde Aug 28, 2013 03:26 PM

                      More data points from 2:30pm Wednesday: about a dozen people in line at Bi-Rite Creamery, three or four in line at Tartine and a seat or two to be had, one party waiting outside Pizzeria Delfina. Not too ghostly but maybe down a little.

                      1. Melanie Wong Aug 28, 2013 03:23 PM

                        Dang, Joseph Humphrey's left Dixie. Haven't tried it and was contemplating a run this weekend.
                        http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                        1. Robert Lauriston Aug 28, 2013 09:08 AM

                          OK, whatever the reason, this is a real phenomenon. Reservations for the weekend don't look much easier than usual, but when I dropped into AQ around 8 last night there was one person at the bar and lots of empty tables. I haven't seen it that quiet except at brunch.

                          On the other hand, I'd looked into Terroir first, and left because it was too busy.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            d
                            dunstable Aug 28, 2013 10:43 AM

                            Sounds like it's worth a shot to take a peek, anyway. (Don't get me wrong, I definitely want this to be true.) I think tonight I will try to drop in somewhere...

                          2. d
                            dunstable Aug 27, 2013 04:07 PM

                            My suspicion is that, in SF, a lot of the sort of young, vaguely boho people who would go to Burning Man are being displaced by techies, who have jobs and such that prevent them from spending a week in the Nevada desert.

                            But where it concerns SF restaurants... I mean, I'm sure there is some impact, but were those people ever the sort of who dined at places like Flour + Water? Also, most of those techies are, unfortunately, also going the opposite direction, and are not much affected by the Bridge closure.

                            So I mean. This might be a good time to try to get into, like, the Hemlock, but I don't imagine the restaurants will be much affected.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: dunstable
                              Robert Lauriston Aug 27, 2013 04:20 PM

                              Many SF hipsters are techies. There are certain bars, coffee shops, and casual no-reservation restaurants in SF where almost every conversation I overhear is about tech business. Many of those people get vacations and can afford $380 for a ticket.

                              http://www.sfgate.com/style/article/B...

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                d
                                dunstable Aug 27, 2013 04:55 PM

                                Well... yes, exactly. There are a lot of techies in SF. And most of those people aren't going to Burning Man.

                                This is a moot exercise. A quick glance at Frances, for instance, shows that it is no less crowded today than usual.

                                1. re: dunstable
                                  Robert Lauriston Aug 27, 2013 05:26 PM

                                  It's not entirely moot. As noted by Prabhakar, there are places that aren't as busy as usual. You just have to get the demographics right.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    d
                                    dunstable Aug 27, 2013 05:58 PM

                                    Yes, it was noted that two places in recently hip neighborhoods were less crowded in the middle of the day. This only convinces me more.

                                    If I'm honest with myself, I probably am still a techie too (I'm a civil engineer these days; does that count?), and while I would not say I am knowledgeable about burning man (nor am i particularly hip), I do think a have a very strong grasp of techie culture... as well as the city I've lived in for nearly ten years. I should also point out that I did not say there would be zero impact; only that sf would not become a ghost town where normally full restos were empty.

                              2. re: dunstable
                                bbulkow Aug 28, 2013 11:45 AM

                                All my techie friends (and me myself) stopped going to burning man in about 2005, when it stopped being about Everyone is a Participant - No Spectators, and started being RVs and tours and required costumes and way too many cops. I probably only know a dozen people going this year, and most of them are working - building the man, DPW, that kind of thing. They all live in Oakland and are musicians and artists and partiers.

                                I was reading the permitting for people serving food at burning man, which is closer to topic although out of region. Gone are the days of Sushi Camp. We always ran an open bar at sunset, were even sponsored by the Black Vodka company, whatever they were called.

                                I can't quite tell yet if the peninsula is emptier than usual. In PA we have the Changing of the Students, which complicates everything.

                                I was in SFO a few times the last 10 days, I saw a huge amount of europeans coming and going, especially italians. Not sure if they (were) cheering the america's cup or what. I bet those vacations are over and that slice of our restaurant going public is heading/has headed home.

                                The conference in town mid-week is VM World, the VMware conference, which is a lot smaller than Oracle World.

                              3. p
                                Prabhakar Ragde Aug 27, 2013 03:31 PM

                                I have my doubts about this effect but there was almost no line for Rosamunde's Tuesday burger from 11:30-12:30, and The Mill was nearly empty shortly after that. Two data points, anyway.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                                  Melanie Wong Aug 27, 2013 04:13 PM

                                  San Francisco feels empty on three-day weekends generally. To add my data points from last year's Labor Day weekend, it was a snap to park in the Mission on Friday thru Sunday. The City felt even more empty that usual for a holiday weekend. My friend ordered delivery from Mission Chinese Food for us, a staple for him, and it arrived in record time according to him. He attributed this to the burners-away effect.

                                  P.S. Everyone I know who's headed to Burning Man (and some already left last weekend) has a job, most in Silicon Valley tech.

                                2. Windy Aug 26, 2013 11:28 PM

                                  Trick Dog
                                  Mission Bowling
                                  St Vincent
                                  Kronnenburger
                                  Hi-Lo

                                  (More of a drinking list. Can't wait till Thursday and Friday.)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Windy
                                    Robert Lauriston Aug 27, 2013 09:18 AM

                                    St. Vincent's never hard to get into.

                                  2. Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2013 11:17 AM

                                    Looking online I don't see that it's much easier to get reservations than usual. Flour & Water has a table at 9:30 on Monday.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      larochelle Aug 26, 2013 05:16 PM

                                      It may be that my initial list is too upscale to be impacted by the exodus?
                                      Looks like we're going to hit some places in NoPa tonight, The Mission on Wednesday, Dogpatch on Thursday, with Tues & Fri TBD.

                                      1. re: larochelle
                                        c
                                        ceekskat Aug 27, 2013 04:28 PM

                                        There is the America's Cup...

                                    2. hhc Aug 25, 2013 11:06 AM

                                      AQ
                                      Rich Table
                                      Biergarten
                                      20th Century Cafe - must get honey cake & chocolate chip cookie - I just reviewed on another post w/ pics
                                      The Mill for Josey's bread
                                      Four Barrel Coffee

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hhc
                                        larochelle Aug 26, 2013 05:12 PM

                                        Biergarten is the perfect example! I would normally never go there because of the crush of people. Today is Day One and we're meeting at MiniBar so a pit stop and The Mill might be nice.

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