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Three nights in San Francisco

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Heading to San Francisco on Friday, January 17 for three nights. Am going with my soon-to-be-divorced friend (and what a story that is!) and we are looking for a fabulously fun women's weekend. She has her plate full so I am attempting to figure out breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner and live music. Based on short notice, I am not getting much love with reservations-I do have Sunday evening figured out. Any advice on eating/drinking well without waiting hours? We like good food, pretty places and are open to most neighborhoods in the city.

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  1. my turn, I guess.

    This gets asked very often on this board, like almost every day, and people usually don't bother responding until after the original poster has done some research and made a preliminary list of restaurant choices. Search the SF board and you will find similar threads for "breakfast" or "best whatever" and you will probably have a good start.

    Good luck...

    1. I want to hear the divorce story.

      1. I have been to Boulevard, Slanted Door, Zuni, Chez Panisse, etc. I didn't love Boulevard. I wouldn't need advice except that the places I want to eat and the ones getting the buzz are not accepting reservations any longer for this weekend (State Bird, Flour and Water, nopa, Foreign Cinema etc). Sorry, I thought that I made that clear. We want GREAT food and a good atmosphere at the last minute. Also, we don't want to spend hundreds on a meal. Although I mentioned breakfast, I don't really need recs there. I already researched bakeries. I just threw that in, in case someone had a good brunch rec or an amazing breakfast not to be missed.

        I am also looking for advice on getting into places that no longer have reservations available, but have dedicated walk-in tables; which ones, for example, are easy to navigate (take cell phone number, have a great bar or there is one nearby) and which ones will be a four hour ordeal. Thanks!

        2 Replies
        1. re: publicdefender

          Similar last-minute question from the weekend between Xmas and NY, same places are good bets:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9290...

          Ongoing discussion of good last-minute bets: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/930861

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Thanks!

        2. Good work on locking in a Sunday option -- I get tripped up by that frequently planning our visits. What kinds of foods do you like? Price ranges? Transit or car?

          Cotogna is pretty (and tasty) for a special lunch in a great nabe, and much easier to get a reso then than at night. Dinner at La Ciccia is always lovely though they may be booked. Where did you book for Sunday? What places have turned you down? Always worth calling rather than relying on Open Table...

          9 Replies
          1. re: grayelf

            Both my friend and I like pretty much everything, as long as it is good. Our price range for lunch is up to $50 per person. Dinner around $100 each. I am relying on Open Table. For Sunday, Zuni had a reservation, so I grabbed it. Cotogna looks awesome for lunch. Thanks! Have you tried Tosca?

            I would love to get into Flour and Water or State Bird Provisions, but don't want to wait for hours. Is there a tip to minimize the wait?

            1. re: publicdefender

              The hostess at Flour + Water told me that less than 50% of the seats are available to be reserved in advance. The ways to get a table there without waiting for hours are 1) Get in line a half hour to an hour before the doors open, and 2) Show up in person one day BEFORE you want a table and reserve with the hostess desk (this is intended to help out people who live in the neighborhood get in).

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The way to get a table without waiting is to wait in line for half an hour to an hour?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Make that "waiting for hours" in line with the OP's request. Usual wait on a Saturday is more than two hours if you show up after the first seating.

                  ETA: Personally, I don't think that Flour + Water is that special.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Same here. I liked Flour+Water a lot, but thought the food was in many ways similar to Cotogna. Which is about equally hard to get into.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I haven't been to Cotogna at night to witness the line. I did see quite a bit of drama in the F+W line even on a slow night. One woman asked if she could skip ahead because her husband was hypoglycemic (no dice). Another couple said that they'd taken a taxi up from their hotel in San Jose and had it waiting with the meter running for them (fat chance). Other woman burst into tears that she was starving after waiting for two hours and would someone please let her have a table because she came here from new york (tough luck).

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Those are hilarious stories!

                        1. re: bobabear

                          And I'm sure there are more that I've forgotten! I hope that F+W's hostess receives hazard pay. Moral of the story is that even if you have to wait, you'll be entertained in the process.

              2. re: publicdefender

                I like using Open Table for the convenience but I've heard many a time from locals that it is worth calling restaurants directly in SF as they often don't put all the tables up on OT. I've had luck that way, though not at State Bird, alas.

                I haven't tried Tosca as if I'm in North Beach for Italian it's gonna be BaoNecci :-). Though it's getting some solid reports and I may have to send the SO there for octopus: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8855...

            2. I would highly recommend Aziza. Also, Pizzeria Delfina. Here is a schedule I made up when I returned from my trip there that may be helpful to you.

              OPTION 1
              Have breakfast at Brenda's French Soul Food (get the beignet sampler and coffee and you'll be stuffed). Take the MUNI to Golden Gate Park. Walk in Golden Gate Park (start at the end that isn’t close to the water, and walk to the end by the water (stop at DeYoung museum, go inside and go upstairs to the observation deck for a great view - it's free), when you come to the end go to Ocean Beach (you could pack a picnic to eat at the beach). Stop at the Cliff House for a drink and snack. Great views here - you will see the Sutro Baths (North America's oldest swimming complex - in ruins now) - very cool. Stay somewhere near and watch the sunset. Take the MUNI to eat dinner at Aziza (you will need a reservation; dress is casual here, but better a sweater than a sweatshirt)- best restaurants I ever ate at. Buy the cookbook - we wished we did. Often the chef is there and will sign it for you (actually if you go and could grab us a copy, I am happy to pay you back)!!

              OPTION 2 (do this on a Saturday if you can - we were not there on Sat as we arrived Sat night so we missed the farmer's market)
              Make a restaurant reservation online at Canteen (you will probably have to go at 8 am, but it is worth it - the pancake and french toast are both amazing)!
              After breakfast, take the MUNI to the Ferry Building and visit the Farmer's Market and the shops in the Ferry Building. You can get items (Porchetta Sandwich at Roli Roti is supposed to be amazing) to have a picnic at the Ferry Building (you can get snack items and eat at the Wine Merchant if you ask them), or eat at Slanted Door (San Francisco's most popular restaurant), or get something from vendors - you can get a whole cooked dungeness crab apparently. Visit Fisherman's wharf and Ghiradelli square. Eat a snack before Alcatraz (there is no food on the island, only on the ferry over). Alcatraz! We did the night tour - it was great! Not sure if it is better than the day tour, but some think it is.

              OPTION 3 (not on a Monday)
              Have breakfast at Mama’s. Take the MUNI up the hill and get off at the Coit Tower. Costs around $10 to go up and see the view. Walk down the Filbert Stairs. Walk to the Cable Car (get on at mason street and Greenwich street – this is free with your MUNI pass). Get off in Chinatown. Have a walk around there – if you’re hungry the custard tarts and pork buns are good at Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Ave.). Get back on the Cable Car and take it to Union Square (the end where they do the turnaround – very cool to see). If you are interested in shopping, there is lots of shopping here. If not, get the MUNI bus to the Mission District (very interesting area- murals painted everywhere). Go to Pizzeria Delfina for lunch. Then go to Bi-Rite Creamery for dessert. Also, make sure to get to Knead Patisserie before 3 pm to get a POMME D’AMOUR – the best pastry I have eaten in my entire life! If you like Mexican food, go to Nopalito for dinner. Otherwise I recommend heading back the other way and going to Tadich Grill (try the ciopinno) for dinner.

              Also, here is the link to my trip report:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8401...

              14 Replies
              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                Sadly, Canteen closed in August. Very much missed by this tourist. Had the best fish dishes there, and he was a dab hand with meat.

                1. re: grayelf

                  So, so sad. We really enjoyed our breakfast there.

                2. re: TeacherFoodie

                  Excellent! I have Napolita on my list. Aziza looks interesting and they have availability. Thanks!

                  1. re: publicdefender

                    Enjoy your trip!

                    1. re: publicdefender

                      I still dream about the cocktails I had at Aziza...

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Grayelf, the next time you come to SF, they may have opened their new place in downtown SF... Same cocktails will be served there, they said :)

                        I regularly go to Aziza at opening and have a few cocktails at the bar and the bread/spreads, before heading off to local Asian places nearby.

                        1. re: bobabear

                          I keep hearing rumours about the new place downtown, including that it might replace the original. I'd certainly be game for trying it, as I like the idea of a snack and a couple of savoury cocktails. I wasn't blown away by the other food, and that was before the menu moved more away from Moroccan and the prices went up too.

                      2. re: publicdefender

                        Just so you have two sides to the story, and while I agree with TeacherFoodie on most of the above, 4 of us went to Aziza and were pretty disappointed. the service was terribly slow, the portions were small and the food was not very exciting at all to us. the only thing I really liked, and remember, is the duck b'stilla - which was great. other than that, I wouldn't go back, and I wouldn't recommend it to others. but i'm in the minority on this board.

                        you have a lot of other really great options here, though, hope you enjoy!

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          I am sorry you had such a bad experience. We had great service and food. Was one of our favorite SF meals. The duck bastilla is great.

                          1. re: TeacherFoodie

                            yep, me too, I wanted to love it!
                            and with so many great places in this City, and new ones opening every day, it's very hard to give a restaurant a second chance.

                        2. re: publicdefender

                          Another vote for Aziza! Do some research on what people recommend ordering (spreads, basteeya, love the lamb) and definitely get the cocktails. I'm actually a huge fan of their desserts and would definitely save room for that, too.

                          I went with 2 lady friends for a fancy lady night a few months ago and it was a great spot for that.

                          Also places that have worked well for our fancy lady night (yes, we actually call it that haha):
                          - Barbacco, shareable Italian dishes in FiDi. Stop by Wayfare Tavern after for some drinks.
                          - Cotogna (mentioned by others above)
                          - A16, though it was a strangely empty night
                          - Foreign Cinema outdoors in the fall when it was warm. Not sure it'd be the same indoors.

                          1. re: bobabear

                            Oh yes, Foreign Cinema is a good choice - and they have heat lamps outside, so unless it's REALLY cold, it's totally doable. for the inside is way too noisy to deal with. outside is lovely. for the OP, the patio plays a film silently on the big brick wall. it's nice for atmosphere. the food there is great, too, better lately than i remember it being a few years ago.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              As mc knows, you can also get the whole Foreign Cinema menu next door at Laszlo Bar, meaning you might be able to combine tasty food with a spicy cocktail AND a good jazz combo, as we did one night last trip.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                yes, to be fair, most of my dining experiences of late at FC have actually been at Laszlo. a much more low-key experience, is at the bar next door. still great food. the experience of having dinner on the patio at FC tho, at least once, should not be missed, to me. they also do a great brunch. they have a way with eggs.