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One dinner in SF

Nopa, Locanda, or Flour + Water>

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  1. Nopa, sez i, although I've had great meals at all three.

    1. I prefer Cotogna to Locanda and Flour+Water.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Why do you prefer Cotogna to Flour + Water?

        Is the pasta not as amazing as it appears there?

        I have to say, the pasta tasting menu has become the most intriguing thing on the SF Italian scene to me since I realized that Cotogna is no longer doing their porchetta.

        1. re: BacoMan

          Food's similar, Cotogna's a restaurant, Flour+Water feels more like a bar. I'd rather not eat dinner in a bar. I stoppped ordering secondi at Cotogna, the appetizers, pastas, and pizza seem like their strong point.

          I often make my own pasta tasting menus by sharing small portions.



          1. re: BacoMan

            To offer an alternative opinion, I prefer Flour + Water's pasta to Cotogna's and have never felt like I'm in a bar when I eat there. I have done the pasta tasting menu twice, once with wine pairings, and been very happy with the quality and the range of dishes. I find their stuffed pastas in particular to be very well done and creative, and with the tasting menu there's just enough of the richer dishes without so much that I got tired of them. Their vegetable starters also are often stellar.

            1. re: BAnders

              The ravioli di ricotta in brown butter at Cotogna is incomparable; a dessert island food choice!

              I've had hits and misses at both places though. I was at Cotogna just last week and sampled almost everything on their menu. The raviolo di ricotta is heavenly. The kamut tagliatelle, broccoli pesto, tomato & pecorino was kind of boring; very well made and perfectly cooked yet not very flavorful and rather uninteresting. The lamb pappardelle was a winner and the agnalotti was equally superb as well. We basically ordered every pasta dish except the gnocchi with gorgonzola & hazelnuts or the mezze rigatoni with pork sausage & nepitella - both of which sounded better than the tagliatelle and will get ordered next time. We also ordered several salads, pizza, octopus and deserts. While both places have shown their ups and downs, overall I've much preferred my experiences at Cotogna and their pizza is infinitely better than F+W, for what it's worth.

              1. re: OliverB

                Well. Right now I am scheduled to go to both! Crazy, no?

                A big draw to Cotogna for me is the Porchetta. I just found out that it's only done Thurs/Fri, and is not listed on their regular menu.

                But the pasta tasting at Flour + Water just looks too intriguing not to try, too.

                Maybe I'll change my mind because it's too much Italian in one weekend...but hopefully it'll be ok. Might as well compare the two in one go right?

                1. re: BacoMan

                  I believe Cotogna's menu changes daily. Where did you get the Thursday / Friday thing?

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I directly emailed them about it, and that's what they said.

                    1. re: BacoMan

                      Just a heads up for anyone who is on the lookout for Cotogna's porchetta - it's on the menu for this Sunday's prix fixe dinner.

                      1. re: felice

                        The $40/person one??

                        Anyone from LA wanna carpool up for Sunday supper at Cotogna?!

                        1. re: BacoMan

                          Their prix fixe "Sunday Suppers" are currently $55.

                          1. re: TheOffalo

                            Still pretty good deal isn't it??

                            Also, you should go there on Thursday or Friday night. They told me that Porchetta is usually on off-menu special on those nights.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      They keep many of their staple pasta dishes, I believe, perhaps making slight adjustments week-to-week. Their signature dishes like the raviolli stay the same.

          2. Cotogna is definitely better than both Locanda and F+W. But between those 3, Nopa for sure!!

              1. Those are 3 of my favorite restaurants... But I wouldn't necessarily go to any of them with only one meal in SF.

                Look at AQ, Central Kitchen, Lazy Bear... even Zuni for Cal classics.

                Between the 3 you selected, you really cant go wrong through just depends on if you want more Roman/Italian or Cal influence.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Lord Griffin

                  Is Central Kitchen the same as Flour + Water?

                  1. re: BacoMan

                    Same group. They also own Salumeria and Salumeria #2.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Ah. Ok.

                      What is the difference between Central Kitchen and Flour + Water? (The online menus appear to be the same...the C Kitchen one even says Flour + Water on it).

                      1. re: BacoMan

                        Different addresses, different menus. No pasta or pizza at CK. Their web site appears to be messed up. Here's an actual CK menu:


                2. Of the three, I've only had an extraordinarily good meal at Locanda.

                  1. Recently had the pasta tasting at Flour & Water. The first 3 of the 5 pastas seemed pretty repetitive, but the last two were quite good. A lot of butter! Went to Nopa but surprisingly could not find anything on the menu that day that grabbed me, so ended up going elsewhere.

                    140 Replies
                    1. re: barleywino

                      Some of the items on the Nopa menu are deceptively good. Not long ago i was there and there was a chicken noodle soup on the menu. I only ordered it because I'd never had it there before, and it was surprisingly excellent. Made me reassess the potential of chicken noodle soup.

                      1. re: dunstable

                        I went for brunch for the first time last week (have enjoyed countless dinners before) and I agree that they excel in crafting simple dishes with market fresh ingredients which might not necessarily sound the most interesting or exciting on paper, yet frequently prove to be so flavorful and often surprisingly multilayered, that they completely redefine expectations of what might otherwise seem like a basic standard food. There's no equal in the city for consistently great and moderately priced California bistro fare.

                        1. re: OliverB


                          I've been looking at Nopa, it pops up EVERYWHERE online regarding the SF scene, and yet it looks wholly uninteresting on paper.

                          Maybe it's worth going to in between a Friday Cotogna, and Sunday Flour + Water trip?

                          1. re: BacoMan

                            It really depends on what you're in the mood for. It's greatness lies in it's simplicity. It's not big on "wow" factor and there's little effort and no pretension whatsoever with regards to the menu or concept itself; I like to think of it as a very modest bistro with a very consistent chef-driven kitchen that turns out exceptional meals from simple fresh ingredients at very reasonable prices. You won't find the level of experimentation or fusion flavors that you might see on menus at Rich Table or the like. It's more traditional Cal-fare, but done very, very well. If it weren't for the popularity and thus, necessity of 2 week advance reservations, it would be the perfect neighborhood spot to "fall into" any night of the week. They have their signature dishes (their pork chop is transcendent; among the best I've ever had) but there's also regular turnaround since it's really a market driven kitchen, so there's always something new. I find NOPA more consistently great then similar restaurants like Frances. If you're looking for a truly exceptional multisensory dining experience then I might suggest something a bit more adventurous like AQ or a kitchen with a bit more experimentation and panache. NOPA is a pretty ideal reflection of San Francisco's food culture though, and I think that's why so many locals (and out-of-towners) love it. I've dined with the pickiest of eaters at NOPA and have only had wonderful experiences across the board.

                            1. re: BacoMan

                              And to answer your question more directly: your two current choices are very similar (Cotogna and F+W; though the former is still my preferred choice by a long shot) so I definitely think the addition of NOPA inbetween would make for more varied and enjoyable eating. Cheers!

                              1. re: OliverB

                                I ended up doing AQ reservations. I am very curious about the seasonally changing restaurant. Also, it's a bit more gastronomic right? There's not a lot of that in LA, and would be nice to give it a try. Whereas we have several places doing things similar to NOPA it seems like. For example, one of my favorite places in LA is Salt's Cure, which has a signature pork chop. I was somewhat reminded of Salt's Cure by the discussions of NOPA. On the other hand, I do like the idea of trying the "at home staple, away from home".

                                There is some possibility that I might cancel the Flour + Water in favor of not doing two Italian dinners...

                                ...but that pasta tasting menu keeps calling out to me somehow.

                                Cotogna is certainly unmissable. But I am mainly going for the porchetta. Maybe I am not properly imagining how great the pasta will be there.

                                I have been very interested in doing a brunch at Nopalito, which is related to NOPA right? Are they just as good? Someone said you have to "order carefully" there, but never elaborated on what that meant.

                                1. re: BacoMan

                                  I personally do not believe Nopalito to be as tasty as Nopa. It's not bad, mind you, but it's just not super interesting to me.

                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                    AQ kind of splits the difference between modernism and Alice Waters. They use some "molecular gastronomy" techniques, and the plating can be wacky-looking, but the food always tastes great. They do amazing things with whole grains.

                                    Great wine list, particularly strong in Loire wines.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Is it better to order a la carte or tasting menu at AQ?

                                      How would you personally compare AQ and Commonwealth?

                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                        I don't much care for tasting menus, always order a la carte if that's an option. Never been to Commonwealth.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Whoa...there's somewhere you haven't been??

                                          Have you avoided Commonwealth on purpose?

                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                            Just haven't gotten there yet. I had a great meal when Jeremy Fox was at Ubuntu.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Very surprised.

                                              It seems like it must be the only place in SF you haven't been!

                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                Oops, Jason Fox != Jeremy Fox, who is now at Rustic Canyon in LA.

                                                There are lots of places I haven't been to. I probably go to new places only one out of ten meals I eat out, when I go into the city I usually take BART so I rarely get to places that aren't near it, and I won't wait in line for more than a few minutes.

                                        2. re: BacoMan

                                          I strongly prefer Commonwealth, although only one meal at each. Both were at the bar in full view of the chefs, both were with almost no reservation. Commonwealth was tasting menu, AQ was a la carte. Both were good and I would go back to both.

                                          Commonwealth put on a longer menu (not a marathon but longer), the dishes were more complex, perkier, bolder, more current.

                                          But, honestly, I can't remember a single dish out of either of the meals a year later.

                                          I am still puzzled by the "we don't get seasonally changing menus". Really? I'm to the point where I feel cheated if it ONLY changes seasonally --- SLACKERS! What's in season 3 months later is not what's in season now.

                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                          I think that's a good choice; AQ certainly feels a bit more "special" and would probably make for a more fun and unique dining experience than NOPA. When my East Coast friends visit the city it's a different story, as that sort of seasonal Cal cuisine would be considered unique.

                                          As for Flour+Water, while I don't want to dissuade you from trying out a restaurant that you're set on... I personally think it's a waste to do that and Cotogna; especially when Cotogna is (in my opinion at least) the far better choice. LA has no shortage of great Cal-Italian and I really don't think F+W is necessarily any better than what you can get in SoCal. I'm not even sure it's necessarily destination worthy at all to be honest. The truth is that you can just as easily do a pairing/tasting at Cotogna with 1-2 other people if you have a large appetite and order several pasta dishes for the table. I was there with my wife and mom last week and we split 4 pasta dishes, in addition to appetizers and 2 mains. If you're really set on eating that much pasta though, go for it and enjoy!

                                          As for Nopalito, I agree with others that it's nothing special and you can do better with lunch options in the city.

                                          To address another question you posted further downt he page, I've been to Commonwealth three times in the past 2 years... the first meal was exceptional. I did the 6 course tasting menu and it was really terrific. The second time I returned about 6-8 months later and tried the tasting menu a second time and found it to be really hit and miss. I then returned a third time with my wife approx. 6 months later and was disappointed to find that the tasting menu had not really varied much from past visits. We opted for the a la carte menu instead as we were uninspired, and it was really a disaster; both food and service. I haven't been back since. I'm not saying I'd necessarily write it off (though my wife has scratched it from her list) but I'm not sure I would recommend it to an out-of-town visitor with a limited number of meals. It's certainly not in the same league as AQ, on any level. Based on my previous experience, I'd be wary as your milage may vary and frankly, I find that the dining room itself is very plain and the ambiance is better suited to a date night as it's so quiet and feels very intimate the way the tables are laid out... it's not exactly a fun or lively setting, if that's what you're looking for. Even on a slow night, AQ feels more boisterous and energetic and the room is three times as large. I do plan on giving Commonwealth another chance but I'm really in no hurry to return. I'd sooner suggest Rich Table or even something more laid back and casual like an evening of cioppino, sourdough and martinis at Tadich or something similar that is uniquely San Francisco.

                                          1. re: OliverB

                                            Yeah, after thinking about it, I think I am most likely going to cancel my F+W plans. I will stick with AQ though. And Cotogna's porchetta is something that just has to be tried.

                                            I actually am growing quite curious about dining in Oakland.

                                            Is there anywhere more unique that would be worth adding in?

                                            Is Aziza worth going to still?

                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                              Haven't been to Aziza in forever so I'll let someone else answer that, but there is plenty in Oakland. Commis is possibly the most interesting and destination worthy. It's a tiny space with a completely open kitchen concept, very experimental molecular gastro tasting menu with excellent wine pairings. It's essentially one big chef's table. A memorable experience to be sure and I would consider it among the best in the Bay Area, if you like that sort of molecular food art thing. It's definitely an experience and one I would heartily recommend! The only other dinner I've had in the East Bay recently (that wasn't casual ethnic food) was at Wood Tavern and it's excellent as well, though I'm not sure I would recommend that someone visiting SF from LA should necessarily make the drive. I'd say that if you were specifically going to the East Bay for one meal, then Commis would definitely be a strong consideration. It's absolutely destination worthy!

                                              PS - it's worth stopping into Cotogna a bit early and leaving your name with the hostess and hanging out next door at Quince in the bar/lounge area for pre-dinner cocktails. They'll call you next door when your table's ready and you can carry your drinks over.

                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                So Commis is that great huh?

                                                It's difficult to find what has been written about it since the major SF publications don't write about the East Bay apparently.

                                                I have been considering it a lot. Is the food similar to AQ though?

                                                I wouldn't mind trying some molecular gastronomy. We really don't have too much of it in LA, and I've always been intrigued by it.

                                                I appreciate the Cotogna/Quince tip, but I'm not a cocktail person at all unfortunately.

                                                The drive from SF to Oakland is fine to me. Our concept of a "long drive" in LA is radically different from native SF people I think. I drive 30 minutes to an hour to eat at places in LA all the time in LA.

                                                Extending the topic a little, do you have any favorite brunch spots in SF or Oakland?

                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                  Commis is an entirely different experience to AQ; they're really nothing alike and I can't think of another place in Northern California that's similar. It's really all about chef's exploration and experimentation. Dishes are quite elegant both in terms of flavor and presentation while preparation is incredibly intricate with unique ingredients; all fresh, farmed, foraged and mostly locallly sourced. It's certainly a multisensory experience wherein the artistry of amuses and small platings are presented through courses of subtle textures, flavors, temperatures, etc. Plates are topped off with bright flowers and leafy sprigs over delicate sauces and colorful mousses. It's a uniquely Northern Californian take on modern gastronomy. Not at all your typical beet kale farm egg over grains and greens Bay Area slow food menu. There are lots of exquisite foams and mousses; ethereal flavor profiles that play with contrasts. Sometimes to great effect and other times more interesting and attractive then fully satisfying. Whether or not you feel it fully comes together, you can be certain to enjoy a beautifully compelling meal that will impress if nothing else.

                                                  Re. brunch: are you looking for mealtime standards or any early afternoon restaurant suggestions?

                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                    Not sure what you mean by mealtime standards?

                                                    More restaurant suggestions that serve brunch menu's that have unique, but especially great dishes. Maven looks pretty good to me. Biscuits and Gravy Benedict + bread pudding french toast..as good as it sounds? Or not really?

                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                      Never been to Maven but weekend staples would be places like Dottie's True Blue, Zazie, Brenda's French Soul Food, Park Tavern, Mama's on Washington Sq, St. Francis Fountain, Farm:Table, etc. Personally, I don't find brunch to be all that interesting anywhere and would rather have a really great lunch instead. Most of the places mentioned are popular local spots that are usually dependant on what part of town you'd be in. I really don't do brunch that often and rarely as a destination, but if I were visiting from out of town, I'd skip the usual meat and eggs thing and opt for something a bit more interesting and local. Swan Oyster Depot is worth the long wait in line if you show up early enough and I'd suggest that. Otherwise, I'd head out to the Richmond instead for some great dungeness, Chinese, Burmese, etc. I'd also strongly recommend Koi Palace in Daly City (easy access by BART/short drive) if you're in the mood for dim sum, though there's no shortage of that in LA. If you're looking for a solid balance of strong food and atmosphere then the courtyard at Foreign Cinema is always a great option. They also serve whole and 1/2 crabs with cocktails and mimosas which is a nice change from the usual brunch standards. If you're looking for the staple foods then Dottie's does them better than most in the city, but you can also expect crazy lines and waits as a result. I rarely have the patience to wait in line for breakfast/brunch but I'd do it for Swan anyday. If you need a place that takes reservations and is suitable for a leisurely early afternoon meal with a group in pretty environs and with pretty consistently good food, then Foreign Cinema is a good choice. NOPA also does weekend brunch btw (and does it very well!) so you could still potentially give it a shot... though I'd suggest that it's not the most ideal reflection of their kitchen from a first impression.

                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                        I have to agree with everything OliverB has said. Especially about Commis, above (exquisite, and especially for the price. I'd only recommend Atelier Crenn in the City over Commis, but it's a much higher price tag. totally worth it, but a splurge for sure), Swan, and Foreign Cinema.

                                                        I was thoroughly unimpressed with Aziza.

                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                          Yes. One day I will go to Atelier Crenn. I don't think I am quite ready for it at the moment though. It seems like one should ease into that level of dining. I'm not sure I could even necessarily fully appreciate it before first experiencing some of the "lower level" places like Commis, and AQ first.

                                                        2. re: OliverB

                                                          Actually, was kind of hoping to find somewhere that does a brunch on Monday (so daily brunch).

                                                          Is Foreign Cinema as good as everyone says? It seems renowned for pop tarts...

                                                          I have been to Mama's many times actually. It was always nice, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I had a better brunch today at a place called Cook's County in LA without waiting in line for 2 hours. Maybe brunch is a lost cause since LA does it so well. Not sure. I actually like the look at Nopalito's brunch, but no one ever talks about it, so not sure.

                                                          I have no interest in dim sum, or Chinese in general in SF really.

                                                          I love the Burmese food there... but I've eaten at Mandalay so much in my life that I kind of want to explore SF more.

                                                          Maybe I will start a specific Maven thread.

                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                            I don't think even the biggest fans of Mama's (if they exist) would consider it "mind-blowing". It's a pretty decent neighborhood pancake/fruit spot and you're right that it's not worth the wait, but then most brunches aren't. I wouldn't consider Foreign Cinema "mind-blowing" either... I'm not sure if I'd attribute that to any brunch in the city. Anyhow, FC and NOPA only do weekend brunches so they're both out if you're looking for a Monday option. If you're dead set on brunch-brunch type foods, then Dottie's shouldn't be too bad on a Monday and they admittedly serve exceptional breakfast foods which seems to be what you're looking for. I'd say that the hype and lines are certainly more justified there than at Mama's. There's also Brenda's in the TL too. I really don't think either are worth setting aside time on anyone's vacation itinerary for that type of food but since you're asking, they're among the more popular and better options for that kind of take on morning fare in the city. I've enjoyed Park Tavern as well. Personally, unless I was lining up outside Swan at 10:45AM, I'd sooner rather grab a focaccia in North Beach (or the equivalent in any other neighborhood) and walk around and sightsee instead, then fill up on lunch a couple of hours later, which seems more enjoyable and rewarding... but the places mentioned above are some of the better SF brunch destinations.

                                                            1. re: OliverB

                                                              We could skip brunch if there isn't anywhere good.

                                                              I've heard good things about Tartine's lunch/brunch (mainly the Croque Madame), any truth to that?

                                                              Are these especially mind-blowing lunch places in SF (or Oakland / East Bay) worth visiting on the way out of town?

                                                              I'm just not that big a fan of oysters, or else I would consider Swan.

                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                Tartine is a great neighborhood bakery with long lines in the AM. Their croque monsieur is indeed very good (though it's still just a croque monsieur and that's not something that I would ever consider destination worthy) and their morning buns, breads and baked goods are somewhat famous. It's a great option if you're in the Mission, but not really suitable for a leisurely group brunch as it's first and foremost a bakery and cafe. I also wouldn't necessarily go out of my way just to have a sandwich at Tartine, but if you find yourself nearby or want to make a morning out of it, then sure, Tartine is great. You could walk up 18th to Dolores Park afterward if it's a sunny day, and then swing by Bi-Rite in the afternoon for ice cream. Btw, I never suggested that there isn't any good brunch options in SF... there are countless options, many of which I've recommended. I'm just saying that brunch in general is not the most exciting of meals and that even the best brunch (if we're talking staple brunch foods) is rather ubiquitous. I'd rather save my limited meals while travelling for more interesting foods than croque monsieurs for example. Tartine's morning buns should definitely be on your list of foods to try though. I'd still rather wait in line for fresh seafood at Swan's lunch counter than a sandwich and pastry though. Cheers.

                                                                1. re: OliverB

                                                                  Bar Tartine's smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches on rye) are one of my favorite things to get for lunch.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Mine too, but I think he was referring to Tartine Bakery which is cramped and not what the OP likely has in mind for "brunch". I can think of dozens of great lunch spots as well, but it sounds like he's going for more traditional french toast, meat n' eggs, etc. type places.

                                                                    1. re: OliverB

                                                                      I don't think you can get better American breakfast in SF than you can in LA, seems like a waste of a meal to me.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Any other interesting brunch/lunch options besides oysters?

                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                          My favorite breakfast in SF is a toad in a hole (egg & acme bread) with a cup of syphon from Blue Bottle Mint Plaza. It's still light enough to get me going for the day, has some SF flava (our great bread), and doesn't take TOO long (the line wait at Mint can be a bit much but nothing like Dottie's), it's in an architecturally slightly interesting area (outside the old mint building).

                                                                          The problem with oysters is I want a glass of crisp white wine or champain with it, and if I have a solid afternoon of sightseeing, I might not want the alcohol. Hog Island in the ferry building is a good spot, but not the only - Zuni comes to mind (SF flava, good oyster list).

                                                                          Meat & Cheese takeout from 4501 Meats and Cowgirl with a batard of sourdough, eaten wherever, is also available at the ferry building.

                                                                          There are a few brunch places more off the beaten path, at least on weekdays, which depend on the part of town you're in. Near the hotels @ union square I would look to cafe presse, I like Dolores Park Cafe on a sunny morning, every neighborhood has one or two gems. I am not going to wait an hour for brunch when I'm on vacation - I'll eat protein bars and use the travel espresso machine I've packed instead of waiting.

                                                                          Depending on the season, I also love getting a crab from the street vendors near fisherman's wharf - although it's better to take a car to Half Moon Bay. If @ Fisherman's Wharf, make sure you watch them steam the crab, and get a heavy 'un. Obviously, only if they are in season (which they currently still are). Season starts on Thanksgiving (because you need thanksgiving crab!), and the new permitting scheme leads to a longer season (and higher prices during the season).

                                                                          A long time ago, we had salmon runs, and when salmon was in season, boy howdy. I was listening to some commercial guys talking at HMB, they were thinking we would have a real salmon season for a change. A decade ago, salmon would drop to $3/$4 a pound for a few weeks and I'd press 10lbs of gravlax to make it last.

                                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                                            Hog Island is currently closed for expansion.

                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                              " I am not going to wait an hour for brunch when I'm on vacation - I'll eat protein bars and use the travel espresso machine I've packed instead of waiting."

                                                                              Not me. I base my vacations around sampling the food in areas.

                                                                              In my particular case, I'm going up to SF for a few days to relax, do some writing, a little exploring, and go to a bunch of places up there to try them out. So I don't care at all about standing in lines.

                                                                              It seems like nearly every bakery, coffee shop, and ice cream shop I want to try is located within a 5 mile radius of each other (apparently almost all in The Mission District according to Google Maps). So I'll probably start the day at either Blue Bottle, or Four Barrel, and then just wander around from line to line sampling various things at all the places I think. I guess a formal brunch might not even be necessary.

                                                                              The conundrum might deserve it's own thread I guess...not sure...there may be a lot of singular items that one can grab on an all-day sampling cuisine run. I originally thought I had enough places to sample over a few days, but after seeing the map, it seems like I can easily walk to all of them in a single day. I actually need some long lines to help even the day out!

                                                                              "A decade ago, salmon would drop to $3/$4 a pound for a few weeks and I'd press 10lbs of gravlax to make it last."

                                                                              My God...for a brief period SF turned into Heaven On Earth!

                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                A five-mile radius could encompass the whole city. It's roughly a seven-mile square.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  Yeah, you're right...it's actually more of a 2.5 mile square I guess haha.

                                                                                  Well...I'm not entirely sure, but you can't walk in straight lines, you have to go along with streets. All I really know is that there's only about 5 miles of walking to do between all of the places I want to go.

                                                                                2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                  Doing a snack crawl around the Mission is a very fine way to spend the day. I've done a few over the years as a visitor, with one DC, several DCs and once on my own, and have had nothing but good experiences. I forget if you're doing this on a weekend; if yes, you might want to double check when things open, so you don't arrive too early.

                                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                                    Yeah, I'm arriving Friday night for dinner at Cotogna. Then have the weekend to explore.

                                                                                    I am not too concerned about arriving too early, if you know what I mean, haha

                                                                                    As a preliminary review, these are the places that are on my list to go to for the Mission crawl:

                                                                                    Baked Goods:

                                                                                    Craftsman & Wolves

                                                                                    Bakery Tartine

                                                                                    Bar Tartine

                                                                                    20th Century Cafe

                                                                                    B Patisserie (this one is outside the Mission...but will still try to get there at some point)

                                                                                    Ice Cream:

                                                                                    Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous

                                                                                    Humphry Slocombe

                                                                                    Bi-Rite Creamery

                                                                                    Mitchell's (old favorite...I know not that great, but have a soft spot for the ube there).

                                                                                    Delise Dessert Café


                                                                                    Four Barrel / The Mill

                                                                                    Blue Bottle (Mint)

                                                                                    Grand Coffee



                                                                                    Also thinking of stopping in at Brenda's French Soul Food for some of those Beignets.

                                                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                      Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous is way outside the Mission. For bar tartine, try making brunch reservations.

                                                                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                        It's like...a mile outside of it? I obviously have a different definition of close living in Los Angeles I guess.

                                                                                        Is Bar Tartine worth eating brunch at as opposed to just stopping in to get the morning buns?

                                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                          Mr and Mrs feels far from the Mission to me. Don't forget to factor in either going over or skirting around hills in your walking plans. Some of the places you have listed for your Mission crawl feel too far for me as well: 20thC Café is in Hayes Valley, Mitchell's is gonna be a schlep and Delise is next to Fisherman's Wharf.

                                                                                          I think you said you'd start at Blue Bottle Mint which is good because it's below Union Square. Even Sightglass is a haul (those SOMA blocks are LOOOONG). But as long as you know and don't mind, it's all good.

                                                                                          The place to get the morning buns is Tartine Bakery. The brunch place is Bar Tartine. They are completely separate, though Bar Tartine does serve the bread baked at Tartine Bakery. Are you confused yet? :-)

                                                                                          Curious why you chose Grand Coffee as I haven't heard of it. It's the only shop where you're not going to the source (they're brewing Four Barrel per the website), not that that is necessarily any kind of deterrent. It's all about the barista, no?

                                                                                          1. re: grayelf

                                                                                            Yeah, I shouldn't have included Delise probably, might have to save that for the following day.

                                                                                            I actually might start out at Sightglass. I'm not entirely sure. Blue Bottle Mint, or Four Barrel might be more desirable given their potential for breakfast foods right?

                                                                                            Alright...well, morning buns at Tartine Bakery then. A croque madame at Bar Tartine?

                                                                                            I guess Mr & Mrs is 2.6 miles from Four Barrel. Maybe I am not properly thinking about hills, not sure. I often make a 2.5 mile walk in LA to my favorite coffee shop, and that's each way, so 5 miles round trip. It doesn't sound too bad to me on paper, but we also don't have too many hills in LA.

                                                                                            Grand Coffee was listed as one of the top 5 coffee shops in the SF area, and I appreciate talented baristas, so I thought I might drop in. Always good to have multiple cafe options to get an espresso or cold brew and use some wifi when needed.

                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                              Croques are at Tartine Bakery. The brunch menu at Bar Tartine has close to zero overlap:


                                                                                              The smoked potatoes are a must.

                                                                                              Between the Mission and Dogpatch (Mrs. & Mrs. Misc.) are Potrero Hill plus two freeways which limit your choice of routes. If you take 22nd St., you'll climb about 300 feet, have some great views, and could detour up the actual crookedest street in the world, Vermont between 20th and 22nd. If you take Army St., it's flat but very industrial.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                I would recommend walking the route of the 22 bus. It misses Vermont St, but allows you to hop the bus when the scenery gets ugly.

                                                                                              2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                If you're going to Tartine Bakery (not Bar Tartine) then that is where you'll find both morning buns and your croque monsieur sandwich. You might as well just have your coffee there with your meal, as Blue Bottle and Four Barrel are nothing special... at least if you're used to European style coffee. Eitherway, it would seem more convenient and enjoyable to order coffee with your meal. Tartine is both a bakery and cafe btw. The food at the other coffee spots (Four Barrel/Blue Bottle) are not particularly good or memorable and you'll be limited to several mediocre croissants/pastries. If you are planning to go to BAR Tartine instead... check the hours first as I believe it opens later and that would be more of a lunch place. They have excellent sandwiches and more 'substantial' meal options. Tartine Bakery is where most people line up for a quick bite in the morning, whereas Bar Tartine is where people in the Mission would go for lunch. If you do plan on going to the bakery, it goes without saying that their buns are freshest earlier in the day.

                                                                                                1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                  Blue Bottle and Four Barrel are high on the list of places people who are into third-wave coffee might want to try.


                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                    I really like the breakfasts at Blue Bottle Mint, and Four Barrel on Valencia carries Belinda Leong's kouign amann and other goodies.

                                                                                                  2. re: OliverB

                                                                                                    I'll most likely go to all three. I am used to going to different places for coffee and pastries here in LA. I have no idea why more places can't coordinate their pastry and coffee programs, but I look forward to walking around to visit many different places in SF anyway.

                                                                                                  3. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                    I live close to Tartine (4 blocks west) and work right by Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. I walked to work today (about 45 minutes). It's good ice cream, but I personally would not walk that far for the sole purpose of getting this ice cream.

                                                                                                    The only other place that might make a good destination for a snack crawl in the neighborhood is Chocolate Lab. Robert's suggested route on 22nd Street would definitely add a nice view, and the detour down Vermont would be fun, but I can't say this is one of my top views in the city either.

                                                                                                    If you do end up going, instead of walking back to the Mission, you could put it near the end of your day and take the KT back downtown afterward.

                                                                                                    1. re: tripit

                                                                                                      Is Chocolate Lab the place that opened about a year and a half ago off Valencia? I was living in The Mission at the time (on 18th Street in fact) and never bothered going in because I was unimpressed by the samples I'd been given by one of the workers while passing by. What kind of chocolate do they do and is it worth giving a second shot?

                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                        Chocolate Lab is Recchiuti's new place on 22nd St. in Dogpatch

                                                                                                2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                  Bar Tartine is one of my favorite places for lunch in the city.


                                                                                                  The morning buns are reportedly at Tartine Bakery.

                                                                                                  Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous is two miles from Valencia St. and on the other side of Potrero Hill.

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                    What are the best things to get for lunch at Bar Tartine?

                                                                                                    Mission Chinese is also in the area...tough competition!

                                                                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                      Mission Chinese is way overrated imo. If you're now looking at lunch and Chinese for that matter... you could do much better. You could also do better with other lunches in the Mission, if you've decided to start your day in this part of town.

                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB


                                                                                                        I'll have a companion, and we're hoping to just go around and try things at a bunch of different places while walking all around.

                                                                                                        I think we would probably just go get a plate of the kung pao pastrami or the mao pa tofu just to see what all the hype is about. It's supposed to be pretty unique isn't it?

                                                                                                        Wouldn't necessarily knock anything else off the list.

                                                                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                          Their ma po tofu is numbingly spicy but it's really no great shakes and the kung pao pastrami is completely overrated and just mediocre imo. It doesn't rate either as far pastrami or kung pao dishes go. Everything on the menu is oversalted and oversaturated with peppercorn and chili. The only thing that I think is pretty good is their salt cod fried rice with Chinese sausage, but even that's not the best version of the dish in SF. Try it out if you want to scratch it off your list, but I'd sooner recommend the many more authentic and regional Chinese options in the city over the most trendy.

                                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                            Mission Chinese is closed till March 13 (can't recall when you're going to SF).

                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                              March 21-24. So theoretically it will be open?

                                                                                                            2. re: OliverB

                                                                                                              Isn't it authentically SF though? The point is that the food there is something unique that originated in SF, not that to be authentic Chinese food...right?

                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                It started in SF but I'm not sure that makes it uniquely SF... I wouldn't consider it representative of the local food scene. It's just a place, as far as I'm concerned. Try it out for yourself though and judge. I personally don't care about "authenticity" because that's so subjective; I care about whether or not the food tastes great and to my palette, Mission Chinese does not. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just not anything special and certainly not deserving of all the praise and attention lauded upon it.

                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                  Mission Chinese is unique, except for its NYC spinoff. There's nothing else like it and if you're wandering around the area it should be fun to try a dish or two. I thought the salt cod fried rice was fantastic and the mapo tofu was really good and different.


                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                    Ma po tofu isn't bad but I wouldn't consider it a destination dish, would you? It's a fine neighborhood place in my opinion and I would have no qualms about eating there if a friend suggested it, though I feel there's much better to be had. I agree that the salt cod rice is very good though.

                                                                                                                    1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                      That was the best Chinese-ish fried rice I've ever had, and definitely the best kung pao pastrami.

                                                                                                                      I think it's smart to order a couple of dishes that generally get high marks and save appetite for the next place.

                                                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                    If you can't make it to B Patisserie try Knead. I actually like Knead far more than Craftsman & Wolves.

                                                                                                    1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                      Why only if I can't make it to D Patisserie?

                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                        They're all different.

                                                                                                        Craftsman & Wolves is deliberately playful/irreverent - I find it's combinations aren't as tasty as the others - and not as technically accomplished (in terms of pastry, sugar manipulation etc.) more cookies, brownies, bars etc.

                                                                                                        Knead is closer to a boulangerie (bread/croissants/flaky pastry). They must use an absurd amount of butter - it's very rich that way (but not particularly sweet). The Pomme D'amour is amazing.

                                                                                                        B Patisserie has French pastries (cakes, macarons, mille-feuille etc.) Of the ones I've tried so far, they are not particularly innovative compared to other french style patisserie shops in the Bay Area. My favorite of hers is not the cakes etc. but a buttery flaky pastry (her Kouign Amann). So I'd rather just go to Knead.

                                                                                                        So it depends what you like, and what you have time for. Granted this is an abundance of riches in terms of sweets/baked goods compared to 5 years ago, as each one of these opened I was ecstatic.

                                                                                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                          Yeah, I am going to B Patisserie specifically for the Kouign Amann, which is famous even here in LA.

                                                                                                          I enjoy trying irreverent things. The muffin with an egg inside of it looks quite tasty, and unique.

                                                                                                          I have time to go to all of them though, so I can just add Knead to the list!

                                                                                                          Am I reading correctly that your favorite item there is the candied apples?

                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                            Ah no! Pomme D'amour (while has the word apple in it) actually is a reference to French pastry with a custard center (why it's called the apple of love I have no idea).

                                                                                                            1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                              Oh, weird. When you google that name candied apples come up, so I wasn't sure what it was, haha.

                                                                                                3. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                  Different strokes.

                                                                                                  If you want to spend the morning lounging through different cafes and such, nothing beats the mission. These days, I would start at the Valencia Sightglass, then make a plan of working south, east, west to various spots. There's also a lot of murals in that area, as well as both mission dolores and dolores park - and my favorite weird spot in the Mission, the golden fire hydrant.

                                                                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                    Funny, I was planning to start at the Valencia Sightglass! Looks like I can walk from there directly in a straight line to everything else haha

                                                                                                    It does look like a seriously great place. It's something almost unfathomable in LA...to have so many places in such a small area. Rents in that district must be sky high!

                                                                                                  2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                    Coming from Montreal (where I've lived for the past 30 years) I am wholly unimpressed with Blue Bottle and every other coffee spot I've tried in this city. I think starting in the Mission is a fine idea if you want to make a morning out of the neighborhood, particularly around 18th Street, however I wouldn't bother going out of your way for any cup of coffee in San Francisco because there are none worth the time, imo. For the record, Swan is much more than just oysters.

                                                                                                    1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                      Well...I am a coffee/espresso addict/enthusiast, so not going out of the way for coffee is unthinkable for me.

                                                                                                      Vancouver has a decent coffee scene from what I know. I've had a lot of 49th & Parallel in LA, as it seems to be a favorite roaster of a lot of the shops here.

                                                                                                      It's difficult for me to believe that SF has no good coffee, as several nationally acclaimed roasters are there... Blue Bottle is probably a bit hyped. But Four Barrel is probably quite good. One of my favorite shops in LA is considering carrying/serving their beans.

                                                                                                      I just had Ritual's stuff last weekend at the Big Western and it tasted pretty good.

                                                                                                      Have you really tried all of those guys and found them to not compare to 49th & Parallel up there?

                                                                                                      Can you tell me more about how you drink your coffee/espresso, what you look for, etc...?

                                                                                                      1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                        I only drink espresso and I'm used to Italian style lungo or café allongé (Parisian) - Blue Bottle is a complete waste of time in my opinion. Four Barrel is probably among the best of what you'll get in San Francisco, but that said, it's not comparable with even MOR cafés in Montreal/Quebec. I haven't bothered with places like Pete's as I'm not into drip coffee. I've happened into a fair share of SF coffee shops in the past 2.5 years that I've been a resident of this fine city, and I no longer bother to seek it out as I've been thoroughly unimpressed with most everything. I'll now order based on convenience because I've decided that there really isn't anything that I rate high enough to go out of my way for. I haven't been to 49th Parallel (I don't think) so I can't comment on that. If you're a big connaisseur however, you might want to pay a trip to Graffeo Roasting Co. in North Beach. They're one of the oldest roasters in the country and you can buy their freshly blended roasts direct at the counter. The aromas are heavenly. It's directly across the street from Washington Sq. Park. There's lots of great restaurants nearby... Cafee BaoNecci being my favorite for pizza, if you're in the mood. You can also get a cup of espresso at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store which is a charming little historic Italian cafe across from the park. They make excellent focaccia sandwiches too, sourced fresh from Liguaria Bakery each morning. There are tables outside on the street if it's a sunny day, or stools at the bar. It's completely unpretentious and not a hipster scene which is why I like it. You won't find the bearded fixed gear crowds packed in like at Four Barrell and other trendy places. You might also be interested in visiting Buena Vista Cafe near Russian Hill for Irish Coffee... they claim to have introduced it to America back in 1952, though I find that a bit questionable and would take it with a grain of salt. It's a charming and historic setting nonetheless, and while I've never eaten a meal there... they also do what looks like a perfectly servicable breakfast/brunch.

                                                                                                        1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                          I have similar taste in coffee and bought Graffeo for many years. The opinions of throwbacks like us are irrelevant to fans of third-wave coffee, who should try Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel, and Ritual.

                                                                                                          But why are we talking about that in "One dinner in SF"?

                                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                              A lengthy discussion totally unrelated to the title of the topic is likely to be missed by people searching for similar information.

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                Surely the search algorithms run through the individual replies, not just the title's of posts?

                                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                            Yeah, that's me.

                                                                                                            I guess I might as well just come clean and say that I am one of the hated "hipsters". I mean, I don't call myself that ever, but I get the feeling that everyone else on these forums may be significantly older than I am. I also pretty clearly enjoy things that hipster's enjoy. I am hugely into 3rd wave coffee. I often like places that are farm-to-table. I spend a lot of time in coffee shops playing chess, doing work, and writing and i genuinely like the atmosphere of places like Four Barrel. I sometimes wear colorful clothing, etc...

                                                                                                            I'll make a trip out to Graffeo though, if it's still ok.

                                                                                                          2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                            I've imbibed more than my fair share of 49th Parallel all over Vancouver. Fun to know it's popular in LA :-). If you're into that kind of coffee, you'll prolly end up liking one or more of Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel and Ritual (there are a few more worth checking out but your cup already runneth over). Four Barrel to me is the most acidic and citrusy FWIW. We've tried many of the third wave roasters/cafes in SF proper, which was why I was surprised to see Grand Coffee on your list. I try to stay on top of well-received coffee shops but I hadn't heard of it.

                                                                                                            We've also tried some of the more "classic" options, including Graffeo. I actually like this type of coffee more (my SO is the true third waver and the main reason we are coffee hounds on our SF and Portland trips). If you make it to North Beach, you can try Graffeo at XOX, a truffle store whose wares are quite worthy.

                                                                                                          3. re: OliverB

                                                                                                            I should have asked you where to find in Montreal. I had some great smoked meats, I some great bagels, but I didn't find espresso.

                                                                                                            I find there's a 6 month period where I miss my old haunts, then I start realizing the new places are actually pretty cool.

                                                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                              I'm just not that into the third-wave places, so my long-standing favorites are Caffe Italia in Little Italy, Café Olimpico on St-Viateur, Cafe Central Portugais on Duluth, etc. There's really no shortage of good cafes; like Montreal's culinary influences which historically were imported from Europe, it's deeply entrenched in Quebec culture. There are plenty of American style third wave cafes as well though, and I've got nothing but love for them... Café Myriade (they source 49th Parallel beans), Caffè in Gamba, Café Saint-Henri Micro-Torréfacteur, Café Névé (I'm not a fan of this one), and many others. This map should give you an idea of how coffee-centric a city Montreal is: http://gazdata-assets.s3.amazonaws.co...

                                                                                                          4. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                            Also, I'm like you when I travel (in certain cities) in that I often base my plans around food. I don't think anyone here is dissuading you from that; quite the opposite in fact. We're simply offering advice on how you might make the most of your time. Breakfast/brunch in SF is no different than LA. That isn't to say there's nothing "good" to be had... just that there's nothing exceptionally interesting or unique. There are many great restaurants that would offer a very uniquely San Francisco experience... however, none that are based around a menu of fried eggs and potatoes. You can get that anywhere. What is more interesting and more worthy of devoting your morning to, would be the many great Asian restaurants, seafood counters, etc. You could even just wander around the Ferry Market Building sampling local products from the different shops and stalls. Even a restaurant like Original Joe's in North Beach dishes out their Joe's Special which is very much Bay Area / Northern California. Foccacia at Liguaria Bakery and a tour of North Beach would be equally worthwhile. But any other brunch that you'll seek out, will be rather ubiquitous. That said, I've offered some of the best suggestions for that type of food... Dottie's, Brenda's, Zazie, Park Tavern, St. Francis Fountain on 24th in The Mission, FC + Nopa on weekends, etc. You will have terrific breakfasts at any of these places, however they will still just be breakfast... the same as you can get in any other city. If your plan is to spend your morning in The Mission then a morning bun and coffee at Tartine will serve you just fine. Don't go out of your way expecting mind-blowing destination worthy meals from any Mission bakeries or coffee shops though. They will offer perfectly serviceable fuel to your morning, but if what you are asking for are recommendations for truly superb and worthwhile DESTINATION places, then take our advice and replace your 10am brunch with an 11am lunch... or you can go to Swan at 8am for an experience unlike anything in LA. When I go out of my way to eat while travelling, it's important for me to seek out places that are both interesting and reflective of the culture and environment of the city. What you are asking for seems to be a bit contradictory in that sense. Anyhow, I've offered you some of the best of both so hopefully you'll find something well suited. Cheers.

                                                                                                            1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                              Other than Swan Oyster Depot, is there any other destination place for uniquely SF lunch?

                                                                                                              Maybe I'll just try Swan, but I am not really that big of a fan oysters, so it feels like it would be wasted on me.

                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                Tadich Grill and Sam's Grill are old-school only-in-SF.

                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                  I love both institutions but I have a feeling that Sam's might not be suited to the OP based on his posts in this thread. While it's a personal favorite, I also feel that the food is a step down from Tadich. That said, a bowl of cioppino with garlic bread, a chunk of sourdough, and a wet martini at Tadich is as SAN FRANCISCO as it gets! I take all out of towners for their first experience.

                                                                                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                    I think the food at Sam's has gotten better. The big counter at Tadich is a plus if you're solo. At both places you really need to be careful about what you order.


                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                      I only ever go to Tadich for the cioppino, it's the best in the city in my opinion.

                                                                                                                      I ordered a hamburger steak once when I popped in unexpectedly at lunchtime, hoping it would be similar to Original Joe's. It was terrible and I immediately regretted it and have never ordered anything but cioppinos (and ocassional louies) since, which is okay by me because they're outstanding! I always prefer to sit at the bar if there's space available, whether solo or with friends... might seem a bit socially awkward with a group but it's my favorite counter in the city! :)

                                                                                                                      At Sam's, I usually stick with their salisbury steak, seafood cocktails and crab louie. I like their sweetbreads too. I think the last time ordered I went, I ordered the grilled san dabs and it was just okay. My wife got one of their charbroiled fish plates which looked a lot better. I enjoy sitting in the private curtain booths and am happy just ordering a few small staples and lots of cocktails!

                                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                        I don't order anything but sand dabs, rex sole, or petrale sole at either place. Tadich overcooks its shellfish to my taste. The best cioppino I've had in a restaurant in SF was at Rose Pistola but I haven't been there in years.

                                                                                                                2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                  There is always Tommy's Joint for a SF lunch institution. Although most of the food itself is unremarkable the Sunday (& Thursday) lamb shanks are pretty good.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                                    Yeah, I've been to Tommy's countless times. I'll probably stop in there at some point, or get pastrami sandwiches for the road back home. It's a childhood favorite; many memories there. But I kind of want to branch out. I love the lamb shank, and I would put the pastrami there up against the beloved LA Langer's even. So to me, the food is pretty remarkable, especially given the rather obscenely low prices.

                                                                                                                    I have actually been to SF many times in my life, but have hardly eaten anywhere there because every time I go back I would just make the rounds to my favorite places: The Cheeseboard, Tommy's Joynt, Mandalay, Mitchell's, Zachary's...

                                                                                                                    I feel a bit silly/guilty about having never really explored it more.

                                                                                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                      I live approx. 6-7 blocks from Tommy's and I enjoy it tremendously (primarily for the atmosphere and cheap drinks, though the food is more than servicable) but comparing the pastrami at Tommy's to anything at Langer's is blasphemous young man!

                                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                        Yeah, you can count me as blasphemous. I truly have no idea what people are talking about when they praise Langer's so much. I don't even think it's the best pastrami in Los Angeles (Greenbaltt's is more consistent, more available, and just better in about every way; fattier, juicier, spiced better...)

                                                                                                                        Maybe I don't know what a good pastrami is supposed to be in some wild objective sense, but I would gladly take a $6 Tommy's pastrami over a $19 Langer's any day. Tommy's pastrami is always thick cut, just like Langer's, but I've never had anything but beautifully fat-laced, juicy slices of peppery meat from Tommy's. It was my introduction to pastrami though, so maybe I just "imprinted" on it as they say. Still, just as good as Langer's to my tastebuds, and texture palette. And at less than 1/3rd the price, it kind of blows Langer's out of the water in my opinion. (Why, I ask myself, does good pastrami cost $6 in SF and $19 in LA when SF is supposed to be the more expensive city?...)

                                                                                                                        Langer's has to be the most overhyped place on Chowhound imo. Completely undeserving of all the praise. It's barely worth visiting because of the huge lines... visitors could go to Greenblatt's, have more fun, get a sandwich without a line, and some awesome pickles, and a great bottle of wine to go with it.

                                                                                                                      2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                        Umm, sorry but the pastrami at Tommy's isn't even in the same league as Langer's.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sunnyside

                                                                                                                          Subjective conjecture. Langer's is just an overhyped institution that has a kind of special myth surrounding it.

                                                                                                                          If you ate the two pastrami's in a blind taste test, I don't believe you would find any difference. Given my experiences at both, you'd be more likely to find Tommy's pastrami to be superior in a blind taste test actually. I've never had dry pastrami from Tommy's.

                                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                            You're certainly entitled to your preferences and you can debate east coast vs. west coast delis or defend your favorites in L.A.... but comparing Langer's to Tommy's Joynt is like saying the Outback Steakhouse is better than Keens or Red Lobster is better than Joe's Stone Crab... that's just completely and utterly bonkers! I love Tommy's; I live 5 minutes away and eat there often. Perhaps not as regularly as House of Prime Rib, which is directly across the street from my apartment and infinitely better than anything at Tommy's, but often enough to offer a reasoned judgement. The hand carved meats are passable, the prices are cheap, and there's plenty of character to spare! It's a fun blue collar working class watering hole with lots of personality and utilitarian food. I often stop in for a quick plate and beer on my walk home. It's not remotely in the same league as Langer's; it's not even in the same game! If you had maybe suggested Wise Sons, it could be chalked up to subjective opinion, however unpopular... Tommy's Joynt is a run-of-the-mill cafeteria that just happens to be inside of a lively, kooky old San Francisco bar. It's a great place worth discussing on S.F. Chowhound, but it's not a culinary destination by any stretch; not even if you were two blocks away. Perhaps your past memories are selective or you simply haven't been in many years. There is nothing served at Tommy's Joynt that stands out enough to discuss in the same room as the mention of even the most prosaic menu item at Langer's.

                                                                                                                            Also, I like Greenblatt's just fine... but it's not even half as good as Nate N' Al's or the many other Jewish Delis in greater L.A.

                                                                                                                            1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                              Nothing in your post was about the pastrami at Tommy's. Are you just talking about the atmosphere of the two places?

                                                                                                                              "but it's not even half as good as Nate N' Al's or the many other Jewish Delis in greater L.A."

                                                                                                                              Based on what exactly?... I'm pretty much just evaluating the pastrami.

                                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                There's nothing to talk about... it's entirely forgettable. Tommy's is a conveyor belt that turns out cheap ordinary pedestrian food factory-style. Their pastrami is characterless.

                                                                                                                                Langer's uses the navel cut of beef, which is why it's more costly. When the beef is steamed, it shrinks 25 percent. Figure that with an 1,800-pound steer, you get two pounds of navel meat. The square cut is then sugar-cured, seasoned with spices, and then after it's steamed and the fat and sinew is removed... you're left with 1.5 pounds of edible meat.

                                                                                                                                What kind of cut of beef do you think Tommy's is sourcing? Nevermind the meticulous steaming process that Langer's employs... Do you think Tommy's has a custom-made steamer like Langer's? Fat chance. Langer's has a constant live steam going at three hours, as opposed to the traditional 45 minutes, so it shrinks and becomes extraordinarily tender. They maintain an internal temperature of 210 degrees to break down the tissues of the meat, which is key. It's then hand carved, across the grain.

                                                                                                                                Tommy's Joynt is perfectly servicable for a cheap neighborhood bite, but you cannot possibly compare the exceptional quality and uncompromisingly detailed and thoughtful production of Langer's pastrami to the run-of-the-mill indistinguishable stuff that Tommy's serves.

                                                                                                                                Langer's also has their own fresh double-baked rye delivered daily (60% baked – and finished onsite) which knocks even Katz's, and certainly every other delicatessen in Los Angeles, out of the game.

                                                                                                                                It's all int eh preparation, the cut of meat, and the way it's sliced. Langer's pastrami is perfectly tender, chewy, peppery, sour, and smoky beef. Tommy's doesn't even rate.

                                                                                                                                1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                  "There's nothing to talk about... it's entirely forgettable. Tommy's is a conveyor belt that turns out cheap ordinary pedestrian food factory-style. Their pastrami is characterless."

                                                                                                                                  I think you've been spoiled by SF.

                                                                                                                                  There's not pedestrian about the pastrami there, or really any of the food, except the prices I guess.

                                                                                                                                  "What kind of cut of beef do you think Tommy's is sourcing? Nevermind the meticulous steaming process that Langer's employs... Do you think Tommy's has a custom-made steamer like Langer's? Fat chance. Langer's has a constant live steam going at three hours, as opposed to the traditional 45 minutes, so it shrinks and becomes extraordinarily tender. They maintain an internal temperature of 210 degrees to break down the tissues of the meat, which is key. It's then hand carved, across the grain."

                                                                                                                                  I have no idea. I just eat the two meats and see how they taste. If Langer's is doing all that just to end up with some shit that's only as good as Tommy's, then it would seem they are wasting a great deal of time and money.

                                                                                                                                  "Langer's pastrami is perfectly tender, chewy, peppery, sour, and smoky beef. Tommy's doesn't even rate."

                                                                                                                                  I would say the exact same sensations are present in Tommy's pastrami sandwich.

                                                                                                                                  "indistinguishable stuff that Tommy's serves."

                                                                                                                                  Indistinguishable from what exactly? I could pick Tommy's out of any store-bought, thin-shaved shit pastrami with a blindfold on easily. I have a hard time believing this is a genuine sentiment...

                                                                                                                                  Seems to me like Langer's just just being pretentious about it if you can get the same results with less money.

                                                                                                                                  I guess if you get off while eating your food thinking, "oh yeah, this is some navel right here, man, yeah, they only get 1.5 lbs of this, and they use that specialized steamer...man, this is awesome!"

                                                                                                                                  That's not what I think about when I eat food. I just think, "mmm, this flavor is incredible, this is delicious!".

                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                    I agree that the comments about TJ's meats were a bit harsh and over the top. They take the time to roast their meats the right way and are generally pretty good albeit not cutting-edge. The one beef I have with them (pardon the pun) is the bread to meat ratio on their sandwiches, so I stay away from them.

                                                                                                                                    I haven't been to Langer's (on my list due to the hype) but I imagine them doing doing a Jewish deli style pastrami, ala Katz, etc. which is quite different from what TJ is putting out, so comparisons between the two are rather pointless, IMO. I do wonder were both locations are getting their smoke from though.

                                                                                                                                    If you like TJ's pastrami them I would highly recommend hitting up Memphis Minnie's on Pastrami Wednesdays.

                                                                                                                          2. re: sunnyside

                                                                                                                            Tommy's pastrami comes from Roberts in SF. It's quite a bit saltier than Langer's, sweeter and has more artificial liquid smoke. All of those are flavor boosters that give an initial punch on the palate if you're looking for cheap thrills, but not really the essence of pastrami. Some people may prefer that. I don't, by a long shot. I enjoy Roberts product, and it's terrific value, but Langer's is a great deal better in my book. And Langer's bread is a stand-out.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                              Thanks for the explication Melanie I was rendered so speechless by the assertion of Langers-Tommys equality that I could not respond.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sunnyside

                                                                                                                                It wasn't a response though. It was just a statement saying, "I like this place more than this place."

                                                                                                                                Doesn't really explain anything.

                                                                                                                                If liquid smoke, and a deft carving hand can produce as much peppery flavor, and glorious fatty texture as non-liquid smoke, then theres not much difference besides an arbitrary preference for paying $19 for one sandwich and $6 for the other one in terms of actual gustatory experience.

                                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                  The pastrami sandwich at Langers is actually $13.50

                                                                                                                              2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                                What do you mean by "better"?

                                                                                                                                No one is really saying anything about what these opinions constitute.

                                                                                                                                I assume Tommy's must be somehow cheaper, of lesser quality, etc... and yet, I cannot taste it. I would love it if LA places could make their low-quality stuff taste that incredible.

                                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                  Better pastrami gets down to the essence of the beef, fattiness ratio, nuance of the cure, and judicious use of smoke to build complexity.

                                                                                                                                  Lesser pastrami uses more salt, sugar and artificial smoke, the same tricks that processed food manufacturers use to make cheap food taste better on first impression until you realize that there's no there, there.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                                    Well, unless Tommy's has gone downhill recently, I have always had very beefy tasting pastrami with a beautiful fat-to-meat ratio, succulent meat.

                                                                                                                                    I am usually pretty picky about eating processed foods (I pretty much never do). If they're doing something entirely fake, and processed...man are they doing it well.

                                                                                                                                    I suppose I will retry it in a few weeks to see what's up.

                                                                                                                        2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                          For the record, I rarely order oysters at Swan. I can't think of anything more San Francisco than their combo seafood louie and cocktails, fresh cracked crab and sea urchin, a bowl of chowder and a chunk of sourdough, smoked salmon, etc. Oysters are just one item on the menu, along with every other kind of shellfish.

                                                                                                                          There's PPQ Dungeness Island in The Richmond for another uniquely SF treat - Vietnamese style whole peppercorn crab, garlic noodles and imperial rolls.

                                                                                                                          There are literally dozens of places, it just depends on the type of food that you're in the mood for and/or the neighborhood that you'll be in.

                                                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                            What is it that makes Swan so unique? I've had tons of crab cocktails, smoked fishes, etc...etc... at various Fisherman's Wharf joints throughout my childhood. What makes theirs different exactly?

                                                                                                                            The peppercorn crab sounds somewhat more interesting to me.

                                                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                              Well for starters I can't think of any place near Fisherman's Wharf (with the exception of maaaybe Scoma's) that serves anything half as fresh. It's the oldest restaurant in San Francisco for one thing; the atmosphere alone makes it worthwhile. It's a true timewarp lunch counter and there are few, if any like it, left in this country. It's an institution, like the S.F. version of Katz's, Barney Greengrass or Grand Central Oyster Bar in NYC. Where else can you prop yourself up on a wobbly bar stool at a 100+ year old marble countertop alongside a row of strangers at 9am, break off a chunk of sourdough from a fresh baked loaf (the palatable symbol of the Golden Gate!) and sop up the deliciously goopy mustard guts, innards and fat from a plate of cracked dungeness crab shells with a tall ice cold Anchor Steam?? It's absolutely one-of-a-kind luncheonette style market fresh seafood without equal, in a boisterous historic space filled with interesting and lively characters... it simply doesn't get more local than that! You really can't compare whatever you ate at touristy Fisherman's Wharf when you were a kid with Swan. I don't need to convince you though... if that doesn't sound appealing, skip it. I can't imagine how anyone on Chowhound would pass that up though, unless you hate seafood.

                                                                                                                              As for PPQ, it's my favorite place for dungeness in the city, though there are quite a few Asian places both in Chinatown and The Richmond who do them quite well. PPQ is my recommendation if that sounds at all interesting.

                                                                                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                Most of the restaurants at the wharf aren't good but there are lots of places elsewhere in SF where you can get seafood as good or better than Swan's without waiting in line or avoiding the line by going at breakfast time.

                                                                                                                                Tadich, Sam's, Schroeder's, Fior d'Italia, and John's are older.


                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                  Tadich is the place with the great ciopinno right? I am a huge fan of cioppino actually.

                                                                                                                                  It's one of the few dishes I've ever cared to learn how to make myself. I made a big pot for Christmas once, and everyone thought it was spectacular. Truth be told, I am actually almost too good at it, as I have been very disappointed by the vast majority of restaurant ciopinno's I've eaten compared to the one I make myself.

                                                                                                                                  I don't claim to be a great chef though, maybe I just got used to the way I do it..haha

                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                    Tadich is probably the best-known place for cioppino in SF but it's not everyone's favorite:


                                                                                                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                      Cioppino is pretty simple, it just depends on great ingredients.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                      Robert, if I'm not mistaken, not all have existed in their original locations... The current location of Tadich only dates back to the 1960's. Sam's has existed in it's present location since 1946. John's is unquestionably the oldest, though I'm not certaint hat it predates Swan, which has been around since 1939. I think I recall hearing that it is presently the oldest restaurant in San Francisco in it's existing location. Tommaso's is probably the oldest establishment, though it only took on the name sometime in the early 1970's, after the original owners who had ran it since the '30s sold it on.

                                                                                                                                      And yes, I've had very fresh seafood at Crudo and Waterbar... probably elsewhere too, but those are fancier dinner spots. There's nothing like Swan in S.F. or elsewhere!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                        Swan's the second-oldest restaurant still in its original location. See the topic I linked to for dates, some of which are wrong in the opening post.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                          So Schroeder's is the oldest? Didn't I read somewhere that it was either closing or undergoing some sort of recent renovation? I thought I had read some worrisome news about it... anyhow, thanks for the link! I don't know why I wrote Swan's had been around since late-30s up top when I knew it dated to 1912. I think I may have been thinking of John's Grill.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                            Schroeder's was sold and is being renovated but they're planning to keep the bar pretty much the same.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                      Hmm, it sounds interesting. I do like seafood other than oysters. I'm just not sure how it sounds as breakfast food.

                                                                                                                                      I guess you have to go in the morning to get it fresh though right?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                        There are plenty of places in SF that serve good oysters and fresh sea food. Why stand in line for an hour on Polk St. when you can get the stuff in more convenient settings without wobbly bar stools? And without the homeless people on Polk laughing at your folly while you stand in line for an hour with a bunch of tourists. Is there something particularly interesting about a restaurant just because it's slightly more that 100 years old, which isn't all that much even by San Francisco standards?

                                                                                                                                        And yeah, Anchor Steam is pretty much available all over SF. Hardly not something that you need to wait in line for an hour to get at Swan.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                          So your impetus is purely convenience?

                                                                                                                                          Why go out at all when you can order delivery?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                            Oyster delivery? What places do that? But, yes, there are places that serve good oysters and fresh seafood that are more convenient than Swan. I went by the Ferry Building Farmer's Market some months ago on a Saturday and shook my head at the line outside Hog Island. But at least the people lining up had a nice Bay view, far nicer than Polk St. If I want oysters, I'd go to places like Waterbar, Farallon, Zuni, Bar Crudo, etc. More civilized and less need to fight for space with the tourists.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                              Those are entirely different types of establishments at entirely different price points that can't be compared. You can't possibly stack Waterbar against Swan's, it's apples and oranges. I love all the places you mentioned and have dined often at each, but I'd take the unique and inimitable ambiance of Swan's over a ubiquitous place like Bar Crudo any day of the week. You might consider brutalist architecture to be crude and unrefined; perhaps even ugly looking with it's rough and striking concrete surfaces. Fair enough... but you can't possibly compare it to some uninspired modern lego stacked building. Swan's is an original; rich in history yet still alive and bursting with character. It's the very embodiment of a local fixture.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                                No! Standing outside Swan for an hour is simply for amateurs. Waterbar has comfortable seats, a full bar, and if you look at the menu, the hours when Swan is open pretty much overlaps with the happy-hour pricing at Waterbar. That means that for maybe 50 cents more per beer you could get your $1-per-oyster in a much nicer environment without standing in line with tourists for an hour while elbowing with homeless people on Polk. Same goes for many other oyster/seafood places being compared to Swan. Why would anyone in his right mind stand in line for an hour outside Swan? Beats me, for sure!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                  I've eaten at Swan at least a dozen times in the past two years and never stood in line for over an hour, any time of day. I've also never elbowed with homeless people (and I live 3 blocks away on Van Ness) and I would wager a bet that the ratio of tourists to locals is significantly lower than you believe. Most often, the crowd are regulars and familiar faces. I observe the servers behind the counter greeting them by name, and socialize with other patrons due to the neighborly spirit of the establishment. Waterbar is just fine, but it's no Swan. I don't even understand how you can compare a 1920's neighborhood lunch counter to a grandiose waterfront restaurant in a fairly homogenized and non-residential part of town.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                                    I don't see why anyone would care about whether a place was created in 1912 (which I believe is the case for Swan rather then the 1920s), but that's not really essential. I don't judge a place based on whether it's been around 5 years, 10 years, 50 years, etc. You would have to go way over 100 years to make that a factor even to mention that you have been there as far as I'm concerned. As in, yeah, I just went to
                                                                                                                                                    Stiftskeller St. Peter (803) – Salzburg, Austria
                                                                                                                                                    Then number (803) is not an area code but the year A.D. when it supposedly opened.

                                                                                                                                                    I've never been to that place, but could consider going there just to visit a place that opened in A.D. 803, just out of curiosity. A place in SF that opened in 1912? Meh!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                      One less person I'll have to stand behind in line... suits me just fine!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                                        You're more than welcome! Sometimes I walk by on Polk so maybe I'll say "Hi!". But no, you wouldn't have to worry about standing behind me in line for an hour.

                                                                                                                                    4. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                      Swan's is too crowded for me. At 8am... that might be something.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                                        Perhaps from the perspective of a local who wouldn't regularly frequent Swan's due to the bustle and crowds (though I'm local and eat there monthly) but from a tourist visiting the city and surely looking for something interesting, lively, distinctive... I'm sure you ate at Schwartz's when visiting Montreal; that's not exactly a serene scene. Anytime before 10:30am at Swan's is fine. Foot traffic and lines only starts to pick up right before 11am and mid-week is usually not bad at all.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                                          I did takeout at Schwartz's and ate in the park nearby. Wouldn't have taken the time to sit and eat when takeout was easily available.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                                            I hope you got it from the main restaurant rather then next door, with a side of nash (karnatzel), homemade fries, pickled peppers, slaw and a black cherry!

                                                                                                                                            I do take-out often... from both Schwartz's and Swan's!

                                                                                                                                            There's something to be said for the experience (at least once) of a sit-down meal in both of these places though. I'll never fault a tourist for eating on the go; especially if it involves a picnic lunch in a park on a sunny day.

                                                                                                                              2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                I like Farmer Brown for brunch. It's a southern-style buffet with fried chicken, biscuits and gravy etc. Reservations critical.

                                                                                                                                For a real San Francisco experience, though, go to their other place, Little Skillet. It's basically a window in an alley, and you can sit on the loading docks and eat your fried chicken and excellent grits while people-watching. Good coffee at the place next door.

                                                                                                            1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                              The food writing in the East Bay Express is pretty good. It's the local Village Voice free paper, but they're the only people covering the east bay food beat regularly.

                                                                                                              THis mentions Commis but is really about Box and Bells

                                                                                                              Here's their older review, I wouldn't expect much has changed

                                                                                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                In the Express, I find John Birdsall and Luke Tsai very reliable, Matthew Stafford fairly so. Some of the other post-Kauffman reviewers were useless.

                                                                                          2. of the three i prefer Locanda. after dying to go there for many years, i found Nopa too noisy and the food overhyped - and i know i'm in the minority. the famed pork chop was good, but certainly not the best i've had. the place is big, loud, not cozy... just not my scene. F+W was not worth a return visit to me. Everything was fine, but nothing stood out. I really liked Locanda a lot - but, agreeing with Robert, I much prefer Cotogna. The feel of it, the pastas, the apps, everything. it's a memorable place.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                              Also, it should be noted that if you do end up at Flour+Water, avoid the pizza and stick with the pasta. Not sure if I'm in the minority but I find their pizzas awful.