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Recs for Boston hound visiting late January, please!

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

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8843...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      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

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

      1 Reply
      1. 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. 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. 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

              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

                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

                  In order of my preference:

                  Little Yangon (longish schlep on BART)
                  Burmese Kitchen
                  Mandalay
                  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

                  Other bars near Cotogna include Tosca's and Bix.

                  1. re: walkoffdinner

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

                3. re: TimTamGirl

                  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)