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60 Hours to Eat - Yes, another visitor request... [San Francisco]

Hello Hounds,

First time posting here, although I've lurked across boards for many years, usually when looking for recos when travelling. I'm not anti-social, I just feel like my opinions are usually better worded by better writers on these boards.

Anyways, hoping for some assistance in finalizing my intinary - only 60 hours in the city, so not a moment to spare. Not my first rodeo in SF, and not a tourist trap type of person to begin with, so no need to worry about those (although a mediocre Boudin chowder bowl at SFO T3 always seems to sucker me in).

Coming in from Vancouver, so Chinese is completely off the table. Italian and Mexican are two cuisines not very well represented here, so will be looking for those, as well as anything new/exciting. I've parsed through a few threads, including grayelf's dining opuses.

Last food-centric trip to SF was in 09 where we had notable meals at Zuni and Canteen.

Price range - mid-above average? Really wanted to try Saison but the better half said something about reponsibilities or something or the other, so that's off the table. But we're used to spending on good food.

What I have so far:

Sat AM:
Ferry Market Building - Coffee @ Blue Bottle, Porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti, a meat cone from Boccolone -- anything else that I might be missing?

Lunch:
Heading down to the Mission, going to roam around and eat. Places I have marked down: Taqueria Vallarta, Tartine, La Torta Gorda, Craftsman & Wolves, Rhea's, Bi-Rite, Knead Patisserie, Philz Coffee, Humphry Slocombe

Dinner:
Incanto (kind of leftover from missing out in 09 - is the quality still there? Worth the visit?)

Sun Brunch:
Visiting family in town

Sun late PM:
Not too sure what to do in the time, seeing how...

Sun Dinner:
State Bird (no reservations - planning to show up around 430pm)

Mon AM:
[nothing yet]

Mon Lunch:
Cotogna

Places I'll try to find time for:
20th Century Cafe for their Russian Honey Cake, Waterbar for oysters? (Swan looks nice, but from what I gather not worth the lineup?), Super Duper Burgers (or anywhere for a good burger? I'm partial to something like Little Big Burger in Portland - simple, quick, and medium rare if possible!).

We're staying in Union Square, so any good coffee shops in the area would also be useful, so I can steer the better half away from Starbucks.

Long read, yes - but I know how frowned upon it is to show up without research!

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  1. Best burger I know is Pearl's Deluxe Burger, 708 Post Street (3 blocks west of Union Square). I get the regular, but have also enjoyed the Buffalo and Kobe at twice the price. Fries are coated. Another just-as-good Pearl's branch is at Market and Sixth Street, next door to the estimable and dirt-cheap Tacqueria Cancun. (Chips are commercial.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: mwhitmore

      Thanks! Just looked them up and the onion rings are calling to me. Proximity is good too, a burger breakfast might be in store.

      1. re: incognism

        Yes, the onions rings are second best---after mine!

    2. Incanto's as good as ever, maybe better. Quieter, they added some soundproofing.

      La Ciccia, Perbacco, and Cotogna are my other favorites for Italian.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Good to hear! I recognize your handle from other threads and you seem to have a good beat on things, so I appreciate the input.

        Wish we had an extra day (or week) in town, the octopus stew at La Ciccia has my name written all over it.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Agree that Incanto seems even better now. Always interesting specials.

          2. Have you read fellow Vancouverite grayelf's posts about her visits to San Francisco? She comes a couple of times a year -- here's her most recent trip discussion/report: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9212...

            She would recommend the burger at Mission Bowling Club. Pearl's burgers are good but not great. She also always goes for Burmese food.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I certainly have! Although I do have to go back and go through all her coffee recs. Immensely jealous of how deep she has been able to explore your food scene - I find we are slightly lacking up here.

              Read about Mission Bowling Club - it's on my maybe list, only because my Mission day is already so packed - would prefer a grab and go burger rather than a large sit down one.

              Lers Ros is also on the maybe list - I'm meeting a friend up who is Burmese actually.. Might be a good heat check on flavours and authenticity.

              Thanks!

              1. re: incognism

                Lers Ros is Thai. Burmese Kitchen is a block away.

                1. re: incognism

                  *Blushing* -- thanks for the kind words, y'all! incognism, the MBC burg is actually not that big, just be sure to nab it during happy hour for a tenner (no fries, which are really what fill you up, right?) They get your order out to you right snappy as well, I've found, so not a giant time investment if you need to be on your bike. Though you may reconsider once you get the chance to sit in their lovely wee patio, which is one of my favourite places of a sunny SF afternoon. Inside is too loud for me (it is a bowling alley after all).

                  Coming from the land of "thou-shalt-not-serve-burgers-that-aren't hockey-puck-cooked" I've had nice burgers at takeaway type places in SF including Super Duper but nothing really stellar or comparable, though perhaps close to Little Big Burger in Pdx -- YMMV of course but to me the MBC burger is special, the rest of its menu perhaps not so much. More than decent cocktails though.

                  Coffee is really fun in SF -- we go to Portland too so it is a kick to compare and contrast styles. Blue Bottle Mint Plaza is our favourite since Wrecking Ball closed. We now make a version of their New Orleans iced coffee at home, sigh. I also can't resist an iced "mojito" at Philz, just be sure to ask for it half sweet. The one sad thing is that coffee of the kind I seek is not really available super near Union Square, as confirmed by SFGourmande below, (and I look constantly). Closest would be Coffee Bar on Montgomery which has no real seating, or Coffee Culture just a block further which does. We tend to hit Blue Bottle Mint which is about the same distance from our hotel.

                  Good call on the Roli Roti porchetta, especially if you can share it with the SO. Much better than any of the porchetta sandos at home, even Meat and Bread's if that is a benchmark for you. A full one from Roli Roti knocks even l'il piggy moi out of food contention for several hours you can't afford :-). Ask for it authentic to get the bun daubed in the meat drippings before construction begins.

                  Agree that the pork tamales at Primavera are worth the candle. I like their chilaquiles a lot but getting the half order sounds smart. Too early I think for the deep-fried asparagus stand to be happening for you, alas.

                  Your Mission list looks good though the only place on it that for me is a slam dunk would be Torta Gorda (admittedly I haven't been to Rhea's, because SF has an embarrassment of sandwich riches, and I also missed the goodies at Knead, sold out).

                  Incanto did not really blow me away when we did a Chowdown there a few years ago but obviously I am in the minority and that was a while ago. Cotogna makes me very happy at lunch which is when I see you've slotted it in (dinner also good but I prefer the space and ambiance in the daytime). Be sure to get a reso ASAP even for lunch!

                  La Ciccia is a favourite, with sauces that just don't quit and hospitality to match. You are right to be jonesing for the octopus stew :-). We have nothing approaching either in Vancouver, although I am a big fan of La Buca if that helps to titrate my tastes against yours.

                  If it helps, the Russian honey cake from 20th C survives and thrives even after being dragged around all day in a cardboard takeaway box (hello airplane snack).

                  We love Lers Ros muchly, having been I think a half dozen times now with groups from 2-10. I really favour their appetizer section, though.

                  Burmese as Ruth mentioned is a minor obsession. We used to love Burmese Kitchen but it seemed to slip a bit so we started dating around. Now the front runners for us are Mandalay (carefully ordering only the Burmese dishes) or Little Yangon (only been once so far). Both are a schlep compared to BK. If you want to hit up another hard/impossible to get in Van cuisine, consider a Lao option (though we can finally get an excellent version of nam khao which I just ate again tonight at Benjarong, I'm not aware of any other Lao-ish dishes at home).

                  That's more than enough rambling; hope it's a bit helpful, and that you have a first-rate feed in SF in your short time.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Thanks! I'm so grateful for a local voice because it gives some perspective when comparing to the same "home field".

                    I think you might have sold me on the burger at MBC. I've thrown it in on the overwhelming Mission list that continues to grow (& grow). Pastries and ice cream to satisfy the sweet tooth of the better half, savory delights for me.

                    Good to hear regarding the Roli Roti porchetta. Big Lou's is my Vancouver gold standard (Meat & Bread's is a bit dry for me), but from what I gather this seems to be a can't-miss for me.

                    Have a reso at Cotogna already, and am very excited to cap off our trip with it. We will be dining at La Quercia in Vancouver right before we depart for SF, so I'm curious to see how Vancouver's recently revigorated Italian scene stacks up.

                    Sadly looks like La Ciccia will have to wait until the next trip, hopefully it won't be another 5 years afterwards.

                    Not being super mobile this trip (we decided to forego our usual rental car), I'll keep Burmese Kitchen in mind. Would have to go without our Burmese dining companion, but I think we might be able to go Monday AM and then push our Cotogna resos to a very late lunch...

                    Thanks for the ramble! You've definitely put a few more wrinkles in my brain :)

              2. Sat am - don't miss the chilaquiles from Primavera in the back of the market (all their stuff is good!). Maybe just eat half that Porchetta sandwich? And here's a tip - Ask for a half order of chilaquiles. A much more manageable size. And you could also do oysters at Hog Island at the market. They're closed for renovation inside until spring.

                I haven't heard anything about Incanto lately - nothing good or bad. They're cruising under the radar for now. Probably still good though.

                Ike's is supposed to have a fab burger, and there is always a line, but I've never tried it. I find the fad place a bit tiresome. But everyone says it's great!

                If you're staying near U Sq, there is a Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza down on Mission and 5th. Its a few blocks down the hill. Otherwise, not a ton of great coffee right at U Sq that I know of.

                2 Replies
                1. re: SFGourmande

                  Thanks! Chilaquilies are definitely on the list now. I have a feeling I'll be splitting most of everything on that first day, seeing how it's so jam packed.

                  Any input on the Porchetta sandwich? We have a couple places up here that do a pretty mean one - wondering if it's the stand out at Roli Roti or should I opt for the chicken (& potatoes) ?

                2. Sounds like you have a good plan!

                  I was going to suggest 20th Century Cafe for Monday breakfast, but it looks like they are closed on Mondays.

                  I don't think you should eat at Super Duper. The burgers there are good, but it's not really destination-worthy in my opinion. I'd probably head back to the Mission and try things that you didn't have room for on Saturday. Or get Burmese. Or if you really want a burger, go elsewhere (others have suggested places).

                  I haven't had the chilaquiles from Primavera in years, but I used to love them. I'd probably choose that over roli roti, especially if it's still breakfast time.

                  Glad you posted, and looking forward to reading about what you decide!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dave MP

                    Primavera's pork tamales are great and to my knowledge Ferry Plaza is the only place they sell them. (The vegetarian ones are all over.)

                  2. Seems Cotogna is going to be your most popular pick here.

                    I can't dissent more on Pearl's for burgers. It's simply not a good burger in my opinion, and nowhere a visitor should be wasting a meal on. I much prefer Super Duper, which is solid, but I think there are better burgers in the city, all around, unless you really like that style.

                    20th Century Cafe... the hot butterscotch has even won over a skeptic like me. It's good. I'm sure you've read the talk of the variation in honey cake slices.

                    Coffee.... Farm Table is as good as ever. Sugar Cafe serves Bicycle Coffee. There's a Nespresso Boutique (can't say I entirely understand these places, but they are popular), I like Coffee Bar a lot (there is some outdoor seating), Machine Coffee has Four Barrel, as does Otis in Maiden Lane, and Tout Sweets in Macy's has a full coffee menu. You can detour yourself to Contraband on Larkin, and of course, the much beloved Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza, just be prepared for the possibility of lines.

                    I'm sure Incanto is what it's always been. The backlash against the place was well earned.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Good call on the butterscotch drink at 20thC.

                      Another thing to remember about coffee places near Union Square is to be sure to check their hours. Coffee Bar there, for example, is only open M-F.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        You're right, and I believe both downtown locations close at 7pm, if not earlier.

                    2. I love Super Duper. It's one of my favorite burgers in the City. I get the super burger with cheese (two patties.) The kid size milk shake goes well with that. I also love the California burger at Mo's Grill on Upper Grant. I really don't like Pearl's after giving them several tries.

                      For dinner near Union Square, try Tropisueno on Yerba Buena Lane. Great Mexican food downtown. Too busy at lunch (long lines) but you can make reservations for dinner.