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goto "last minute" restaurants [San Francisco]

In the usual pattern, I've been asked to find a restaurant for 4 for Saturday (early or prime time).

As usual also, all the "hot spots" we tend to discuss here are full. Yes, I called them, not just OT search. Many have late-side tables (9:30 at Cotogna, for example).

Where do you go in these circumstances?

My answer, more and more, is Zare at Flytrap, where I now have a 6:30 reservation (which I can change), but ... I would love to hear the "secret neighborhood spots" other people choose.

[ In this particular case: + on good booze, - on fish, + on western-side of SF, price no issue ]

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  1. I hate to not have reservations honored and be forced to wait to eat, frequently stuffed into a corner of a crowded bar so as a rule I do not go to trendy/popular places on a Saturday (amateur) night. Instead I look for neighborhood "ethnic" restaurants that have excellent food & reasonable prices.

    1. Aquitaine has been slow on Saturday nights. Broad and deep southwestern French wine list with some standout values if you know how to spot them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Sweet looking spot, but looking for more of a dinner menu than a bistro menu.

      2. My "last minute" goto place has always been One Market. While it's not an absolute favorite when it comes to food, it's OK and they always seem to be able to squeeze you in on nights when every other restaurant is completely sold out.

        1. Wexler's in FiDi (I see openings on OT right now). Unusual food, good cocktails, easier pace on weekends.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rubadubgdub

            huh, wexler's. I had always crossed that off because "BBQ in SF????", but I see there's a nice catch of the day menu and some decent apps. Will keep that in mind for next time.

            1. re: bbulkow

              All of the food has a lightly smoked component but I wouldn't call it bbq. some notes: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8385...

          2. Aziza has late-ish availability (8:45), and Piperade has way early and later (5:30 & 8:30).
            Not sure if those are your style of dining, but both are good.

            1. My usual last minute spots are Contigo, Blue Plate or Coco500.

              2 Replies
              1. re: absc

                You can get early or prime-time Saturday reservations at those places on Friday?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I have, more than once at all three.
                  Scanning Open Table right now:
                  A 6 pm table for 4 is available at Blue Plate tomorrow.
                  Nothing early for Coco500, but I've had really good luck calling there even day of and getting a table.
                  I generally have a party of two and not four at Contigo, so it may be harder with for a larger table, but Open Table lists both a 5:30 and 5:45 for two available for tomorrow.

              2. Chez Papa Bistrot, Town Hall.

                  1. Zare at Flytrap did not disappoint. Hoss was "in the house", delivering dishes to many tables. There was some kind of World's Largest Meatball dish that was great, great salads, the braised short rib, and a deceptive mai tai that got two of our party voluble.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Awesome! You've mentioned Zare in a few previous threads, and it's well deserving of attention.

                      BTW, thanks for the update on the giant meatball! As it was last reported, it was only available on Mondays. Was it a daily special?

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        It was listed as a daily special. They said "since it is saturday, we have this giant meatball". That implies it's every saturday, not sure what other nights they might have it.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Did it have lots of herbs in it? I have a Persian recipe for four softball-sized meatballs that calls for eight cups of herbs.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            The meatball is a riff on Kufteh Tabrizi. Hoss Zare says the one he grew up with had a whole roast chicken in the center.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Yeah, that was it. I don't know if it really had a whole roast chicken, but there was a bunch of roast chicken. And it was large - my previous "largest meatball" was probably any number of Lion's Head meatballs, such as Su Hong Palo Alto (I like their clay pot version).

                      2. re: bbulkow

                        Thanks, on my list to go with friends. Do you know how the vegetarian fare is? Also, any lots for parking?

                        1. re: ceekskat

                          I've been to Zare with a vegetarian friend and there were many choices of small plates for us to share.