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Recs for Boston hound visiting late January, please!

TimTamGirl Dec 10, 2013 09:09 AM

Hi all,

I'm coming to SF on a conference at the end of January, and I was wondering if you could help with suggestions for meals over the weekend. I'll be staying at the Palomar and don't know the city at all, so transportation information to/from recommended restaurants would be appreciated too. I love walking and will do that whenever possible, weather- and safety-permitting.

Also: we really, really want to avoid tourist traps. I feel like on CH that's a given, but I do see recs for them pop up on the Boston boards sometimes, so figured I should make it clear.

What I'm looking for:

Friday night: Tantanmen (ramen) dinner for 1. I specifically want tantanmen, and I want the best you can suggest; under $20 would be ideal but I'll go higher if you tell me it's worth it. I probably won't get there before 9:00 p.m. Please note if I'm likely to have to wait, so I can grab a snack if need be.

Saturday morning: Excellent take-away coffee. My conference starts at 8:00 so I need somewhere that's open early and en route from the Palomar to the Conference Centre.

Saturday night: Delicious dinner for 4 people - 2 adventurous eaters (1 omnivore, 1 non-red-meat), 2 not adventurous (both omnivores). We'd love something that shows off SF's specialties and strengths; we would also MUCH prefer somewhere that takes reservations, as we'll all have been in classes or traveling all day and won't want to wait ages for a table. Good wine and dark-spirit cocktails a definite plus; if we could max around $50 pp for two courses and a drink, that would be ace, but again, we may go over for something extraordinary. Follow-up recommendations for nearby pubs/bars also welcome; prefer somewhere quieter and not clubby.

Sunday morning: Breakfast/brunch for 1-2 people. We have a 10:30 a.m. flight, so it would need to be somewhere that's open early and ideally very close to hotel; a to-go option might be helpful but I'd rather get up a bit earlier and have a sit-down.

Thank you all in advance!

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: TimTamGirl Dec 10, 2013 09:47 AM

    I don't know if there's any tantanmen in SF, but there are lots of places to get the Chinese original:


    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      TimTamGirl RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 10, 2013 10:05 AM

      Thanks for the link, it was interesting reading! Boston has a strong Sichuan food culture but we're much weaker on Japanese food; I can get really good dan dan noodles here, but the tantanmen available is fairly ordinary. SF has a reputation for good ramen, so I thought I'd try to find the tantanmen I've been missing since I left Sydney.

      A quick look through the boards did mention tantanmen at a number of ramen places (Ramen Shop, Yu-Raku, Himawari, Kahoo, etc.), but I didn't see any comments on one version being better than the other, so I wasn't sure which to try.

      1. re: TimTamGirl
        JonDough RE: TimTamGirl Dec 10, 2013 02:01 PM

        Nombe apparently serves a petite Tantan-men on Sundays. I have never tried it and I don't know of any other places that have it in SF. Himawari makes a good bowel but they are located in San Mateo.

        For coffee, maybe Mint Plaza Bluebottle. Line might be crazy.

    2. jupiter RE: TimTamGirl Dec 10, 2013 11:39 AM

      is it safe to assume that this conference is happening at the Moscone Center?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jupiter
        TimTamGirl RE: jupiter Dec 10, 2013 12:31 PM

        Sorry, yes. That's the one.

      2. g
        goldangl95 RE: TimTamGirl Dec 10, 2013 12:41 PM

        Friday Night: I think you may be out of luck =/ The only good ramen places I know (and this just may be lack of knowledge) are in San Mateo or more south (e.g. a 30 minute + drive or train ride out of the city. And Ajisan in SF closes very early.

        Saturday Night: Cotogna, Locanda, Nopa. Maybe AQ - but I didn't really match well with AQ. Locanda is near a bunch of bars. Nopa is near a few. Cotogna is more isolated. Coquetta is fun if you can get the reservation - but it isn't worth any sort of long wait/crazy shennanigans.

        I liked Skool's food a lot but the service can be spotty.

        1. grayelf RE: TimTamGirl Dec 11, 2013 08:19 AM

          Finding good coffee in that area is a challenge. I'd go with Blue Bottle Mint Plaza but alas it doesn't open till 8 am on weekends (and the lines will be long).

          Good breaky early (or at all) on weekends in that area is also a problem. If 8 am is early enough, then I'd suggest Blue Bottle again. Their food is tasty and though it's a café there is seating on tall stools inside.

          Good luck!

          1. t
            TimTamGirl RE: TimTamGirl Dec 11, 2013 09:31 AM

            Thanks to everyone so far, even though this is starting to feel a bit hopeless for Friday night and the mornings!

            I'll broaden my tantanmen request out to ramen generally (pork preferred); could that bring any more recommendations?

            Alternatively, I've seen some good posts about pork/meatball sandwiches at various places; is there anywhere that does a good one at night?

            Based on Goldangl95's recs and posts associated with those, I've come up with a Saturday night group dinner short-list of Cotogna, NOPA, Abbot's Cellar, and Rich Table. Any thoughts on these, or suggestions of other places I should investigate?

            6 Replies
            1. re: TimTamGirl
              Robert Lauriston RE: TimTamGirl Dec 11, 2013 11:31 AM

              If you can get a reservation at Cotogna I say go for it. There are lots of bars a few blocks away. Comstock, Vesuvio, 15 Romolo, and Specs might be quiet.

              I've had ramen I liked in SF, but every ramen snob / expert I know says you need to go to San Mateo or farther south.

              Someone from Boston looking for a meatball sandwich here seems like a recipe for disappointment. Why not go for a local specialty such as house-made salumi, Burmese, or pupusas?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                TimTamGirl RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 11, 2013 12:47 PM

                Are you saying we're a bunch of meatheads out here? :) All of your local specialties sound excellent (though we're pretty good on the salumi end here too); I only mentioned meatballs because meatball sandwiches seemed to pop up often enough in posts that I got the impression they were something of a local specialty.

                Burmese is especially intriguing. Where would you suggest?

                1. re: TimTamGirl
                  Robert Lauriston RE: TimTamGirl Dec 11, 2013 01:50 PM

                  In order of my preference:

                  Little Yangon (longish schlep on BART)
                  Burmese Kitchen
                  Burma Superstar

                  I think meatball sandwiches get discussed at some length here because being an East Coast specialty it's hard to find a good one.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                  walkoffdinner RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 11, 2013 01:08 PM

                  Other bars near Cotogna include Tosca's and Bix.

                  1. re: walkoffdinner
                    Robert Lauriston RE: walkoffdinner Dec 11, 2013 01:51 PM

                    Worth poking your head in Tosca, but it'll probably be packed.

                3. re: TimTamGirl
                  JonDough RE: TimTamGirl Dec 11, 2013 11:49 AM

                  A list of places for ramen in SF (some are pop ups) - these should be accessible based on where you are staying.

                  Ramen Underground
                  Ramen Izakaya Goku
                  Ken Ken Ramen
                  Hapa Ramen
                  Katana-Ya (not a fan)
                  Iza Ramen
                  Ajisen Ramen (also not a fan)

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