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YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

I’ll be in San Francisco the first week of June to attend Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) at Moscone Center. I’ll be staying near Union Square and will be getting a 7-day Muni pass to get around in SF proper. I’ve checked out various lists and this recent YALAHAFA thread by zack (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/974111) and have gotten some good information from it. I'm hoping this won't be too much of a rehashing.

Here is a list of places I’m considering: http://foursquare.com/theoffalo/list/.... Do not pay too much attention to the order. I tried to prioritize initially--the first few places on the list are my top picks--but I gave up on sorting them pretty quick. I know it’s all over the place, but I’m hoping you can help me both add to it (if I have any deficiencies) and pare it down (restaurants that overlap each other). As you can see, I’m not looking for any high end dining (Benu, Coi, Crenn, Saison, etc.) on this trip as I don’t really have the budget for it, but I might be interested in something that approximates that in the mid-to-high double-digits. AQ perhaps?

If you couldn't tell from my username, I’m into offal. I am very sad that Incanto is gone, but I’m hoping that Porcellino will have some nice offal-centric specials while I’m there. I also have Bar Tartine high on my 4sq list because I’ve heard great things about their tripe dish, but it’s not currently on their menu. I’ve checked this thread on offal (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/452852), but I will be glad to take other suggestions in SF proper.

I think it’s just statistics, due to the high number of well regarded ones in SF, that Italian restaurants comprise a fifth of my 4sq list. I am not an aficionado by any means; I’ve not tried Bestia or Factory Kitchen or Sotto in LA (I have been to Bucato but wasn’t blown away by it; to be fair, it was only a week or so after they opened). I’ve already mentioned Porcellino for their offal-potential, but I’m also curious about their porchetta. Likewise, I have Cotogna on my list for the porchetta, but it’s not currently on their menu, though I’ve read they still offer it on Thursdays and Fridays off-menu. If I had to narrow these down to one or two out of my list, which should I keep? SPQR seems to be the favorite of my LA chow-friends, most of whom agree SF outdoes LA in Italian.

Despite living in LA for a decade, I’ve only really begun to explore the various Asian enclaves (Thai Town, Little Saigon, SGV, etc.), so I am no expert on Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, but I am very interested. For Thai, Lers Ros seems to be the go-to recommendation, but I really want to try Kin Khao too. I’m getting into Issan dishes, and I’m excited that I found Chabaa, which serves Nam Kao Tod, only a few blocks from my hotel. I’m also looking forward to trying Zen Yai’s Boat Noodles and seeing how it compares to Sapp and Pa Ord. For Vietnamese, I’d like to try Ha Nam Ninh’s Bun Bo Hue, which I’ve never had before, and also Turtle Tower’s Pho Ga.

I’ve heard that sushi in SF/BA cannot compare to LA, but I’m willing to try. I’m a semi-regular at two of LA’s more well regarded sushi-ya (Shunji, Kiriko) but I’d like to see what SF can do. I hear good things about Maruya, and Kusakabe sounds very promising. However, this is somewhat lower priority than the above, since I can get amazing sushi in LA. Likewise, I wouldn’t mind getting a great bowl of ramen while in SF, if one could be had, but it’s no big deal if I can’t.


* Looking for double-digit price range restaurant serving triple-digit price-range cuisine. (Aren’t we all?) Thinking of AQ. Other options?
* Looking for offal-centric restaurants. Thinking of Porcellino. Other options?
* Looking for to focus down to one or two great Italian restaurant (excluding Porcellino), since there are so damn many of them. Thinking of SPQR. Other options?
* Looking for great Thai and Vietnamese. Thinking of Lers Ros/Kin Khao, Ha Nam Ninh/Turtle Tower, respectively. Other options?
* Looking for great sushi in SF. Thinking of Maruya or Kusakabe. Other options? How about ramen?

(For reference, Shunji, Night+Market, Tsujita ANNEX, Kiriko, Tar & Roses, are some of my favorite restaurants in LA.)

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  1. Porcellino is #1 for offal. You've seen this topic, which is where I post updates on (mostly Euro-)offal sightings:


    Great modern food with moderate prices, I like AQ, St. Vincent, and Bar Tartine.

    The most ambitious of the traditional Italian restaurants in SF is Perbacco. A16, La Ciccia, and Farina are also solid. For Cal-Italian, since Incanto morphed to Porcellino I think Cotogna is in a class by itself.

    To me, SPQR, Acquerello, and Quince are more French than Italian.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks Robert. Yes, I linked to that thread in my post. Glad to see you continuing to update it.

      I was thinking of La Ciccia to compare the pasta dish with tuna heart to Porcellino's (if they continue to offer it on special).

      1. re: TheOffalo

        I found the tuna heart dishes somewhat similar. That stuff has a tendency to dominate a dish.

    2. Nothing in L.A. like Mission Chinese Food or Jai Yun. As Mission Chinese Food does not purport to represent authentic Chinese food, it's easy to accept it for what it is, delicious Chinese themed/inspired food. Jai Yun is truly unique restaurant with its master chef and quirky ways, so if you can afford it and catch the restaurant when it's open, go for it. Otherwise there's nothing else chow worthy in S.F. Chinatown. San Tung is an interesting collision of neighborhood, Chinese and hipster diners but looking at the food I don't think it's worth spending one of your meal slots here.

      27 Replies
      1. re: Chandavkl

        Jai Yun is by reservation only. No walk-ins.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Robert, is there any real difference between the $55 set meal and the $100 set meal ?????

          1. re: kevin

            I think the lowest price point is $80 or $100 these days. I'm not sure there's any compelling reason to spend more.


            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Wow. That means the high end is now $150 or $175 per ????

              Thanks for the update. It's been a few years.

        2. re: Chandavkl

          Thanks Chandavkl. I got a few refs for San Tung's dry fried chicken. For some of the places, like San Tung, I plan on having just one or two dishes so I wouldn't be taking up a full meal slot.

          For some reason Mission Chinese doesn't really interest me. Jai Yun does sound interesting. I also have Good Mong Kok to fill in a little bit of cheap eats on my list.

          1. re: TheOffalo

            The dry fried wings are nice but not super earth shattering. My favorite item at San Tung despite its inconsistency the last few years, is the 5 spice beef noodle soup...the slices of beef shank they give you are excellent...and have higher tendon to meat ratio. Jelly in the belly! At $9 it's steep, but far far better than any ramen in the city.

            1. re: K K

              Have you compared with the beef noodle soups at King of Noodles down the block?

              1. re: bigwheel042

                No, but my understanding of King of Noodles is that they are similar to Kingdom of Dumpling in approach (unsure if they are same ownership). There isn't another place in town that offers specifically a 5 spice marination of braised/stewed beef whose flavor is also present in the broth. If I recall correctly the beef noodles at Kingdom of Dumpling, is brisket, not shank.

                1. re: K K

                  Not sure it's worth TheOffalo's time to spend a meal eating beef noodle soup in SF.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    True from that perspective, but if a visit to ST is happening for the wings, the 5 spice beef noodle soup is a good companion if a bowl of rice isn't ordered, and if there is stomach space.

                    1. re: K K

                      If I make it there for the wings, I may just try the noodles. Thanks.

                      1. re: TheOffalo

                        San Tung has a sister restaurant right next door called San Tung #2, supposedly same owners, mostly similar menu, and handles overflow or those who don't want to wait for #1 if it is way crowded. I haven't been, but don't bother there since they do not provide complimentary kimchi/pao tsai like #1, which I find very very strange....

                        1. re: K K

                          San Tung has a SOMA spin off location called SO for the wings. That's where they should go if at all. Otherwise as good as they are, I don't think they're worth going out of the way for, and the rest of their food is just ok.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            how far out of the way is the original San Tung ????

                            Is it like in the outer sunset or north judah ?????????????


                            1. re: kevin

                              It's considered Inner Sunset, which isn't incredibly remote, but it does represent upwards of a 30 minute ride each way. It's reputation is mainly two dishes (the wings, and string beans), and you can get both in closer proximity to the convention center. I know San Tung gets write ups along the lines of it being the best dish in the whole city, but it's Korean fried chicken with a sweet gingery/garlic sauce.

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      Thanks for looking out for me, ipse. :-) As I said to hyperbowler below, it might actually be easier for me to try stuff in SF that I probably should be getting in LA instead. I think I can count the number or bowls of NRM that I've had in SGV on one hand. Still, priorities, priorities, so I probably wouldn't seek it out in SF.

            2. re: Chandavkl

              I love Jai Yun.

              Chafvl can you describe the Chinese fried chicken joint further ??????

              Thanks buddy.

              And I forgot Bombay Ice Creamery for their sauve and blissfully not to sweet cardamom and fig laced pistachio. Saffron shakes.

              Oh man. I want want right now. This was a very early CH fave and very very very good.

              Taritne Bajerys chocolate crossiant very near by on either Vlarncia or Guerrero.

              You might as well hit up La Taqueria for one of those mission sf style burritos and tacos just for tourists sake.

              1. re: kevin

                It's the sweet sticky sauce that distinguishes the dish. They also make dry fried fish the same way. It's fine but I was expecting something more special.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  Fried fish too ?????

                  How's the batter almost Southern fried but with The Chinese sauce ????

                  I'll have to hit it up next time in SF. I can't believe I haven't already heard about it.

                  Is there any joint like it in the SGV ?????

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    And who tipped you off to the place ????

                    Btw offal, koi palace also.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      That's terrible news.

                      I'm tearing up.


                  2. re: Chandavkl

                    I like Golden Gate in Chinatown.

                    But admittedly that's a personal weakness of mine that many do not share.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Personally I find GG bakery's egg tarts far superior to most egg tarts in Hong Kong. Whether the crust is good or not, that yolk center filling is golden.

                        1. re: K K

                          Nah. Tai Cheong in HK trumps Golden Gate.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            The crust styles of the two are apples vs oranges. TC does cookie dough/cookie crust, and GG is puff pastry/soh pei. Two completely different schools.

                            But I will say that Honolulu cafe's so called greatest puff pastry egg tart, is nowhere near as good as GG. This is the flagship Wanchai location which I had 2 years ago.

                    2. just checked your LA thread, sorry, but Stinking Rose - I can't recommend it, Olive Garden with a weak garlic fixation. better to go across and a few blocks down Columbus to Caffe Macaroni (yeah it's a dumb name) but cheaper, homier and they occasionally have sweetbreads on the pasta menu. are there better places? of course. but they've always been so friendly and turned this eater on to offal beyond liver.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: hill food

                        Stinking Rose, no. It's part of a small chain of mediocre tourist restaurants.

                        1. re: hill food

                          Don't worry, Stinking Rose is an inside joke on the L.A. board (we have one down here). Those recs are not serious.

                          FYI for others, here's the thread hill food is talking about: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976797/. I was hoping to get some inter-board cross-pollination with LA 'hounds posting here but I'll take recs and way I can get them. (Looks like they're starting to post up here now.)

                        2. I think your list is very good, and I will comment on the places on your list that I have been to:

                          State Bird is great if you can get in!

                          Bar Tartine is also great. I really like it best for brunch, where it is more affordable, and you can still have the langos (fried bread) which is basically the best thing.

                          I liked Kin Khao okay when I went, but I would not recommend it to someone visiting from LA. My full report is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9166...

                          La Ciccia is one of my favorite restaurants, especially for the octopus stew.

                          Zen Yai Thai has good boat noodles, but there are a lot of places in LA that have better ones (or at least just as good). I'd skip this.

                          Mandalay is great for the Mandalay Special noodles. You could also consider B-Star in that same neighborhood for Burmese-fusion.

                          I think Mission Chinese food is okay if you're in the mood for that kind of thing. But I think if you are only here for a limited time, you could do better.

                          Ha Nam Ninh - I really like this place, but I still have never had their bun bo hue because they always run out. They only have it Fridays, and by dinner time, it's always gone, so you really need to go on Friday for lunch if you want it. This could be great for you in terms of getting offal in the soup (make sure they give it to you). But what I usually get there is the hu tieu nam vang, dry w/ soup on the side. It's awesome.

                          Hai Ky Mi Gia - I also like this place for the duck noodles.

                          Lers Ros Thai - I haven't been here in a long time. I'm not sure I would really recommend Thai food to anyone visiting SF from LA, since every time I eat Thai food in LA, it's way better than what I get here. But if you insist on eating Thai food, this could be a good option.

                          Bi-Rite is good for ice cream. Also consider Humphrey Slocombe.

                          B Patisserie is great and worth a visit for delicious pastries. I've had luck buying whatever has most recently come out of the oven.

                          I now think that San Tung is really only good for the chicken. My strategy now is to order it take-out and eat it in the park or at home. It could make for a good snack after a visit to GG park. Put the phone number in your phone so you can call in your order. I wouldn't bother having a sit-down meal here, though.

                          Smitten Ice Cream - I am personally not a fan. It tastes like frozen whipped cream, which for some people is awesome, but not for me.

                          Turtle Tower - Good for simple chicken soup. Nice fresh rice noodles. But I think you might enjoy the other Vietnamese options in the TL better.

                          NOPA - I haven't been in a long time, but I like it. Fun atmosphere, good food.

                          A16 - Only ate here once, but I really liked the pizza. Also nice atmosphere.

                          Aziza - Ate here so long ago that my opinion probably doesn't count anymore, but could be an interesting option.

                          Hope this helps!
                          Dave MP

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Dave MP

                            Thanks for the individual assessments. Regarding Thai, like I said, I'm just getting into it even down here in L.A., so I don't mind trying it at other places just to increase my sample size, even *if* as a whole LA Thai might be better than SF Thai.

                            Depending of course on the conference schedule, I plan on hitting Ha Nam Ninh up as close to opening as possible so I don't miss out on the BBH.

                            Thanks again, really appreciate your (and everyone else's) feedback.

                            1. re: TheOffalo

                              Let me personally say that SF thai is so weak that I would really, really not bother eating a single thai meal here. Every thai meal I had in LA was light years ahead of SF. If you are dead-set, don't blame me/us.

                              Have you been to Night Market in Hollywood? That's an honest, full bore thai, in an upscale environment. There's nothing approaching that in SF.

                              I think you're better off eating at one of our best sushi restaurants and comparing that.

                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                If you end up at Lers Ros I recommend getting the basil chicken offal dish. It's like basil chicken but instead of chicken thigh they use chicken gizzards, hearts, etc.

                                I am a big fan of offal but generally prefer the Asian preparations. Like the dry fried intestines at Spices!

                                1. re: felice

                                  Thanks felice, sounds right up my alley. If I do go, I'll give it a try. And don't worry, bbulkow, I won't blame you for any bad Thai experiences in SF. (N+M is one of my favorite restaurants in LA so I'll set my expectations accordingly.)

                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                    The "appetizers" are what I gravitate toward at Lers Ros (be sure to go to the original one in the Tenderloin) after half a dozen visits including a couple of chowdowns. Works better with a small group or as a solo diner too.

                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                      I had missed your N+M reference in the header, but I did notice J Gold mentioning it in a chat today:

                                      Q: What's your favorite restaurant to take friends to when they come to town?

                                      A: It depends on the friends, really. But when food-world friends have come to towan lately, I've been dragging them to Night + Market, Guerrilla Taco, Mariscos Jalisco, Chengdu Taste, and Guelaguetza. They are all specific experiences that you just can't find outside L.A.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        Guerrilla Tacos is fast becoming one of my favorites here in LA. Check http://instagram.com/theoffalo for recent pics of their dishes.

                                  2. re: TheOffalo

                                    Just got back from 24 hours in SF.

                                    Kin Khao is good, is it better than some of the better Thai places in LA? Probably not.

                                    But if you're just starting to explore Thai food, you could do much much worse.

                                    Plus it is close to where you are staying so it might be worth visiting if you are short on time for a lunch.

                                    I will say the ribs are incredible with a funky glaze of fermented fish sauce and nice heat. Just be warned, you'll be smelling of that fish sauce for a good 24 hours after eating them.

                                    But they are surely a dish I will now crave... Have fun!

                                    1. re: zmirzlina

                                      Thanks! I've been back from my trip for a few weeks now. I did go to Kin Khao. My report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977596/

                                      I really like what they're doing, going for a more refined approach without compromising on flavors or spice.

                                2. Stella bakery cannolis and brownies
                                  Firenze by nite rabbit w truffles
                                  Golden boy pizza
                                  The saloon
                                  Mr bings (autospell correctly wants this to be mr binges)

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: jessejames

                                    Stella's cannoli tasted like Polly-O ricotta to me. Gross.

                                    I've read that Ristobar makes the real thing.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Disagree. That spot kicks ass for all sorts of Italian pastries biscotti cannoli cookies

                                      1. re: jessejames

                                        I like cannoli the way they make them in Sicily, with the shell made to order and served warm with a filling made with fresh sheep or goat ricotta.

                                        Some of their other stuff is good, though I think Dianda (which closed its North Beach location) is the best of the remaining old-school Italian bakeries.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          nothing like fresh sheep with a warm creamy filling....

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Dianda is no longer in North Beach.

                                            A. Cavalli fills their canolli fresh. Shells are fresh but not cooked to order.

                                            I think Stella is excellent, but not what it used to be, and there are better items.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              what items are better ?????

                                              sop what's the best spot for cannolis ????


                                              any of you fans of Cafe Jacqueline and is it ok for a solo diner ?????

                                              i might be there in august.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Cafe Jacqueline is probably not for a solo diner, in my opinion. She cooks the souffle to order and it's slow. Pretty sure some of them (dessert?) are made for two. It's an institution most San Franciscans forget exists.

                                                Cannolis? I think I'd go for A. Cavalli if you need to have one. Whole Foods was carrying a locally made mini canolli but I'm not sure if they still do that.

                                                Stella is known for their Sacripantina. Basically, the section where the whip cream cakes are what you should be considering there.
                                                You can also try the Princess Cake at Victoria, and they also have canollis and that kind of thing.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  The brownies at Stella are orgasmic

                                                  1. re: jessejames

                                                    No kidding?

                                                    Not everything is baked in house at the various NB bakeries. I tend skip over the baked goods, but I'll keep an eye out now. Their Pignoli cookies used to be good.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                      Home run standard bearer for my family

                                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                                    suge - it's just so easy to forget Jacqueline's is even there. Telegraph is such a confusing set of streets even if you know them.

                                                    at least nobody is trying to give directions for Julius' Castle much these days (there's a joke)

                                                  3. re: kevin

                                                    Best cannoli in the Bay Area are in San Mateo at Romolo's.
                                                    (Not cannolis: cannoli is plural, cannolo is singular.)

                                                    1. re: foodeye

                                                      hmm, my bad.

                                                      thanks for the clarification on that.

                                          2. re: jessejames

                                            and for once auto-correct is right - it IS Mr. Binges (in a de facto sort of way)

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              lots of fun i don't have memories anymore kind of place...just a great strip there for drinking from chinatown up the hill to the saloon, to some of those spots in north beach that even have free antipasta and such during happy hour....mr binges is a gem and i hope it hangs around

                                          3. Hmm, those of you with Foursquare, if you look at my list in the app, the order may be messed up. I know I said order didn't matter except for the top few, which should be SBP, Bar Tartine, Porcellino, Kin Khao, and Maruya.

                                            (In my 4sq app, the top 5 are showing up as La Ciccia, Porcellino, Mission Chinese, Craftsman & Wolves, and Maruya, for some reason.)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. For Italian, my choice is always Perbacco as a great, and as Robert says, ambitious, Milanese restaurant. La Ciccia is great because it is so unusual (Sardinian) and tasty. Knowing what we've got in LA, those would be my two suggestions for Italian. (The other would be Delfina, which is a neighborhood Tuscan -- excellent, but a little more similar to what is available in L.A.)

                                              Never been to AQ, but Ame is another option for expensive-but-not-super-so really "high end" and inventive cuisine. Nothing like it in LA.

                                              I suggest grabbing a burrito at Papalote at some point in your trip.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: whiner

                                                Thanks! La Ciccia is rising fast in my considerations, with their octopus stew, spicy pasta w/bottarga, and of course the pasta with the tuna heart. I'll check out Perbacco too and see how it fits.

                                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                                  Ciccia sounds great. Hope u try it and report.

                                                  1. re: jessejames

                                                    Shoot. The other thread was erased and now I'm too lazy too repeat again but:

                                                    Jai Yun
                                                    Jai Yun
                                                    Jai Yun

                                                    And Jai Yun.

                                                    And seriously what steak can compete with the impressive and gargantuan slab of beef that the Stinking Roses purveys ??????????

                                                    Btw. There was an interesting Korean joint on N Judah in either the outer or inner sunset. That is something
                                                    You can't get in LA. But I can't remember
                                                    The name. I think
                                                    One of the dishes was a beef or
                                                    Beef Offaly type with some
                                                    Crazy sauce. But it was home style cooking and not to
                                                    Be confused with Korean BBQ.

                                                    And Swan is definitely overrated.

                                                    I forgot but Cafe Jacqueline is for classic souffles from
                                                    Savory to Sweeet with a myriad of simple salads and a French onion soup thrown in for good measure.

                                                      1. re: jessejames

                                                        Where did the other thread go ????

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          It's here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976797. Same thread number, they just moved it to the SF board. See mod message below.

                                                  2. re: TheOffalo

                                                    Offalo, we had a good but not great meal at Perbacco. Nothing was bad by any means but nothing Wowwed. I think La Ciccia would be a lot more interesting for you.

                                                2. There's a bunch of recommendations here as well http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976797 on the same topic. We've moved it up from the LA board as a result, but we'll leave a pointer on the LA board so the folks can discuss SF chow here.

                                                  1. Looks like you've done some homework, nice list! I've spent time dining around SF and LA (at the same LA places you listed), so I'll share my thoughts. In my opinion, you can skip Mission Chinese Food, Akiko's Restaurant, Swan Oyster Depot, Slanted Door, and San Tung (wings are great but rest is average). I don't like to bash, but simply put, I think SF has a lot of options and you're better off with some of the others you listed.

                                                    For "double-digit price range" restaurants AQ is not bad, but you will likely not be wowed. Maybe I set my expectations too high, but i've been about half a dozen times before they switched to Pre-Fixe and it's decent/pretty good, but if you can get into Rich Table, that is another SF-feeling restaurant with better food, imo (then walk to Smitten for ice cream after dinner). Frances, NOPA, Bar Tartine, and Zuni are also solid and they are very "SF" to me. NOPA is great for brunch (you can go next door to Bi-Rite at Divisadero right after). Note that if you are planning on getting a full meal at AQ, you're basically at the price of Commonwealth, which is another option, imo, and a great value. Their scallop dish (the only constant on their $75 6-course tasting menu) is excellent - it would not feel out of place at some of SF's higher-end dining options.

                                                    Also, I know you want to stay out of SF's top end ($195+ menus), but just below that is Commis in Oakland ($95), which is excellent, and considering how good the food is, it's a relative value in a certain sense. It's semi "high end" but the tasting menu at AQ is the same price. I mention Commis because you listed Aziza, and a meal there will run you close to the same. Anyway, Aziza is also excellent and something unique you won't get in LA (the cocktails, duck confit bastilla, and the incredible desserts are not to be missed).

                                                    For Italian, you have some great options listed: Cotogna, SPQR, and La Ciccia. La Ciccia for something fairly unique in that it's Sardinian cuisine with great neighborhood charm. Cotogna is solid, perhaps a touch simpler than SPQR in style, but not any less delicious. Both imo are better than The Factory Kitchen, and are on par with Sotto in LA. It's ok that Cotogna's porchetta is not on the menu currently, imo their starters and pastas (agnolotti is great, even better than Flour+Water's) have been their strongest for me. And you can get your porchetta fill at Roli Roti at the SF Ferry Building...right after you have oysters and champagne at Hog Island! Can't go wrong with any of these 3. Delfina (there's one nearby SPQR), Locanda, or A16 are good backup choices if you can't get in to the other 3. Perbacco's good and maybe I should give it another try but I never went back.

                                                    Re: great sushi, the best in the city is Maruya at the sushi bar (but I have not been to Kusakabe yet). It is absolutely better than Akiko's in all the salient nuances and details of what makes great proper sushi (it's all about the details), and it probably would not be out of place in LA's upper echelon of sushi (though if one is hyper-critical he/she may nitpick on the rice definition when comparing to LA's best). I was recommended to Maruya by Shunji's. I agree that SF does not compare to LA in terms of sushi, except for Maruya at the bar. However, you mentioned that you wanted to avoid "triple-digit price-range cuisine," and please note that this probably disqualifies Maruya. My last meal there (2 appetizers, 1 itsukuri, and mainly nigiri, no alcohol) at the sushi bar ran $255p/p out the door, and that was with several items comped...it would've been $320p/p. I did an extended "Hide omakase," and I eat a lot but it's still a bit more than any of my meals at Shunji, Kiriko, Mori, Nozawa Bar, Zo Downtown, or Q. Also, there is a distinction between the tables and the sushi bar, which is relevant if you were considering a shorter meal at the tables. I could go on, but in sum, Maruya is excellent and (though I haven't tried Kusakabe) for me it is SF's very best right now, although it's quite expensive. Kusakabe could be interesting though, looking forward to trying it out.

                                                    SF bakeries are awesome - B.Patisserie if you're around lower Pac-Heights, and around the Mission, you have Tartine, Craftsman & Wolves, Knead Patisserie, Sweet Mue, etc. Between B.Patisserie and Tartine, you cannot go wrong.

                                                    Anyway, lots more to say, but you have some great options in SF and good luck with planning, you will have a great time.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: kyee87

                                                      Thanks! Forgot to mention in my OP that I'll only be there from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon (pretty much cuts out weekend brunches). Looks like the only chance I'd have to try Roli Roti at the Ferry Building is on Thursday for lunch?

                                                      Was it Shunji himself that gave you the Maruya tip or one of his other chefs? I had asked Shunji the other day for SF recs and he says he goes so infrequently that he wouldn't feel comfortable giving any. I believe one of his other chefs, Tani maybe, knows the SF scene better but he wasn't there that day.

                                                      I realize sushi would probably push my double-digit limit. Maybe it is best for me to skip it this trip. I may also cut out the prix fixe option like AQ but I appreciate the suggestions for other mid-to-high end alternatives to the really high end stuff.

                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                        Yes that's correct - Roli Roti's only there on Thursdays and Saturdays. On Thursday lunch, you'll catch the tail end of the farmer's market, which is a great place to stroll around and nibble (4505 Meats!). Ah, if you were around on Saturday you could've hit up Fifth Quarter Charcuterie in Berkeley's Farmer's Market for your offal needs. But Fatted Calf in Hayes Valley (by Rich Table, Smitten, etc.) has excellent pâtés if that's your thing.

                                                        Re: sushi, no, I was referred by another itamae during lunch a few months back when Shunji-san wasn't there. He was friends with Maruya's Hide-san when they worked together at Hatsuhana in New York, I believe during the same time as Yasuda-san. Yes if you have limited time, and especially because you're coming from LA, perhaps sushi in SF should not be a priority, as there's plenty of other options to fill your itinerary.

                                                    2. Call to check but I have always been able to get the porchetta on Friday night at Cotogna. Try to get an earlier seating as they tend to run out. After that, there is no need for Roli Roti porchetta.

                                                      If you stop by Ferry Building on Saturday, you can always get the mess piggy and bring it to Wine Merchant next door.

                                                      I always try to do Koi Palace for dim sum on the way back. Yes it destroys LA dim sum. Get the whole Dungeness crab XLB (the one including salt pepper fried legs) and many other items not found in LA dim sum

                                                      Regarding sushi in SF, I would recommend a big pass. KK may be able to give you an update but I'm pretty sure there is nothing on the level of Shunji.

                                                      I recommend adding Commonwealth. Cooking is as good as many high end LA places in terms of taste and creativity but at a great value. I would recommend that as a must along with Cotogna.

                                                      18 Replies
                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        Thanks! Unfortunately I'll have left by Friday evening. I'll call to see if the porchetta is also available on Thursdays at Cotogna. I really do want to try Koi Palace but it would be difficult for me to get there. I'll look into Commonwealth.

                                                        1. re: TheOffalo

                                                          you can do the porchetta at Porcellino for one of your lunches. be sure to come hungry though as it is a large and unctuous portion. Between Maruya and Kusakabe, Kusakabe is a bit more innovative but you will probably have a hard time getting a reservation as they just opened last week. Maruya has a greater assortment of fish (you can order ala carte) than Kusakabe, although not as much as Saru sushi which would be a good less-expensive option. (Surprisingly, neither Maruya nor Kusakabe offered Japanese uni when I was at both last week, which Saru often does.) Re Italian, you won't go wrong with either Cotogna or SPQR although if i had to pick one, it would probably be SPQR (for the uni panna cotta w/ seared toro, squid ink spaghetti w/ uni, etc) I do find Cotogna to be a bit too heavy-handed with the butter sometimes, although that may just be me...

                                                          1. re: barleywino

                                                            The chef at Maruya spoke to me at some length about the relative virtues of California and Hokkaido uni. The California stuff I had was delicate and exquisite.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                yes i usually go for Santa Barbara uni but I thought the Japanese uni I had at Saru (side by side with Santa Barbara) was an eye-opener and worth the extra $

                                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                                  Some Hokkaido uni that was delivered to Sebo while I was sitting at the bar was the best I've ever had, but I've had a lot of Japanese uni that was not as good as the Santa Barbara stuff I had at Maruya. The chef said he serves both.

                                                              2. re: barleywino

                                                                Was at Maruya last Tuesday, and was served a humongous round ball (almost temari sushi like) of Mendocino uni. I've had this variety at other places in the past and did not think too much of it, but the kind they served at Maruya was really fantastic and cream of the crop.

                                                                The problem with Japanese uni is that, unless it is immediately air freighted over, still in the shell and moving somewhat, the stuff in the tray can really vary.
                                                                Getting it in quality is a huge challenge given the distance (not an issue in Hong Kong where flights are so frequent that fish orders can arrive same day without being flash frozen and be served in the evening).

                                                                Sometimes local fresh can outperform "exotic import".

                                                                And Maruya doesn't have to rely on 98% of fish shipped in from Japan....some of the other regional items are excellent....tokobushi (ear shell/mini abalaone) from San Luis Obispo, botan ebi from British Columbia, Scottish salmon (the marinated version is incredible). And for this diverse spread, I applaud them.

                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                  so agree on the uni at Maruya and I love how generous they are with it both in dishes and nigiri.

                                                                2. re: barleywino

                                                                  I had Hokkaido uni last weekend at Kusakabe. It was a revelation. Not to be missed.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Yank Sing is not better IMO. Not by a long shot and wouldn't stand up to LA's dim sum.

                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                      Annoying corporate atmosphere too. Id rather have cheap mediocre dim sum on the streets of Chinatown which is a good hang and close to north beach.

                                                                      1. re: jessejames

                                                                        IMO, the best take out dim sum in the City is in the Richmond, and the best of that doesn't come close to Yang Sing (or Koi Palace).

                                                                        1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                          But sf Chinatown more fun. I like Shan dong for handout noodles w sesame and dumplings. Have 6 har gow for 2 bucks in Chinatown then off to mr bings (auto spell now saying bongs)

                                                                          1. re: jessejames

                                                                            "Mr. Bong's" would have worked too back in the day...

                                                                            1. re: jessejames

                                                                              Where is Shan Dong in SF Chinatown?

                                                                              The days of 6 ha gau for $2 are over. More like 3/$2 at to-go places.

                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                Shan dong is in Oakland. I could have been clearer! I just have limited expectations in sf proper for Chinese. More about fun than good compared to Oakland

                                                                3. In addition to those already mentioned, I would consider Namu Gaji, Coqueta and Plaj.

                                                                  Enjoy your visit.

                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Thanks ipse, I was looking at Namu Gaji. Looks interesting. Is it something I can't find in LA K-town?

                                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                      Your first reaction is probably right.

                                                                      Namu Gaji is Korean fusion, something LA does in spades, if not the grandfather of the genre.

                                                                      But I think few places do what NG does, which is combine Korean with a decidedly Japanese accent.

                                                                      And if you go with a group the bo ssäm is well worth the effort. Not as revelatory as David Chang's take on this but still very worthwhile.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Thanks I'll mostly be dining solo, but I will be having a dinner with stravaigint one night so maybe we'll go here and try to get the bossam.

                                                                        Edit: Oops, didn't realize it cost $100 and was for 5-8 people.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          Where can you get food like Namu Gaji in LA actually? Despite the massive Korean food scene, it seems like I've never heard of anything with the refinement of Namu Gaji in LA. Tons of K-BBQ, noodle shops, Korean spins on pho, and an ungodly amount of Korean street and bar food, plus some street Korean fusion like Kogi, or tinted stuff like cheesesteaks in K-town... but somehow nothing that seems like Namu Gaji.

                                                                          What am I missing?

                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                            POT, A-Frame and Chego come to mind.

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              In a very loose way.

                                                                              Choi's aesthetic is still firmly rooted in more street foods, flavor bombs, etc...

                                                                              I've never seen a plate like this from any of Choi's places (or any other Korean place in LA):


                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                It's why I recommended NG in the first instance.

                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  But then you said that the reaction that it was something you could get in LA easily was "probably right". And said it was just Korean Fusion, which you can get in LA in spades.

                                                                                  Kind of confusing =/

                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        It would be fascinating to hear how someone would compare Coqueta to Smoke.Oil.Salt.

                                                                      3. I've studied pictures posted on Yelp of Kusakabe, and I have to say that while some pieces of sushi looked very interesting, others were not terribly so. Big problem is that I ate at Ginza Iwa in Hong Kong (a branch of the one Michelin star Tokyo shop) in December and at a high end kappo ryori....I just think that the big guys more or less get very similar fish (with the exception of Akiko's for some items, but they almost don't carry the more well known hikarimono).

                                                                        Kusakabe runs near $100 ish per person but you only get about 13 pieces of sushi. For me I need 18 to 22, and for something like that at Maruya will run you $160 to $180. I'm sure you can ask for a few more pieces, just like at Maruya, so it will be either leaving hungry or pay more to fill up.

                                                                        I personally think Maruya is really great and top for SF, and it is nice that a sous chef recommended kyee Maruya. While I have not been to Shunji I have also studied pictures/blog write-ups/those various CH posts by JL and others....basically Maruya doesn't have that uber exotic variety like Shunji, like almost unheard of white fish, or Hokkaido hairy crab. But the quality and whatever they get seasonally is pretty much top in the city over many other places and over 30 kinds of fish available. Some are more in line with what you see from the list of seasonally available fish from a wholesaler like True World Foods (website).

                                                                        Turtle Tower (Larkin flagship store only) is worth checking out. Focus on pho ga, maybe a bowl of chao ga if you have room.

                                                                        If you frequent Trieu Chau in Santa Ana, I actually found their rendition of duck leg wide noodle (broth on the side) with wonton better, and less on the MSG aftereffects. I prefer Thai Nghiep Ky Mi Gia on Noriega (owners are ex-Hai Ky so virtually identical menu in some aspects, easier to park, less thirst). But if you do make it to Hai Ky Mi Gia, ask specifically for "Mi Pok" which they can do the Singaporean version (brothless, wide noodles)...and it will have pork kidney to satisfy your offal fix.

                                                                        Porcellino... This is a good place, still reminds me of Incanto, but you put your order down, pay first, then grab a table with a # and they bring your food over. Inevitably you want to order those Boccalone salumi thin slices from Iberico lardo to porchetta di testa, mortadella, and all that other good stuff. The most exotic thing offered was shaved tuna heart spaghettini, but I don't remember any pork offal dishes that night last month. Check out the blackboard near the cashier and see if there's anything that piques your interest. Friend and I blew about $80+ for two that included two espressos and two glasses of sparkling red, so this can get pricey.

                                                                        If you can get there on a Saturday, SF Ferry Building where they have the farmers market, and just check out the vendors inside. The porchetta sandwich at the Roli Roti truck (Sat only) as mentioned, is really good. They also sell a pork knuckle but I haven't had it yet. Skip the roast chicken. The Mess Piggy sandwich at Boccalone (pulled pork and spicy pickled Hungarian peppers) is also a force to be reckoned with. If you can make it to Boccalone, you could possibly skip Porcellino.

                                                                        A16 - if the trippa Napoletana is on the menu (appetizer) this is one of the best offal dishes in town. They usually don't make the dinner menu available until 4 or 5 pm, so call ahead and ask. It's so darn good, I could have had two orders, and very tempted to even request that to be served with pasta. It's basically honeycomb tripe slices but stewed till super tender, and that sauce is total magic dope. Our Mexican waitress told us it was better than her mom's cooking of tripe!

                                                                        You could consider 1760...it's the sister shared plates restaurant to Acquerello. The uni bucatini alone is what every sea urchin/sushi lover raves about. But a lot of their offerings (despite a small menu) are very solid. Book ahead of time, and even if only 9:30 pm is available, take it.

                                                                        Skip ramen in SF. Yamada-ya in SF apparently isn't anywhere close to SoCal's.

                                                                        I would recommend Smile House Café on Taraval if you are into Hong Kong style cafe's. That's probably our best one in town, and would easily cream anything in SGV. Really solid Cantonese braised beef brisket, eclectic HK style western/pasta dishes, Hai Nan chicken rice (HK style with very flavorful chicken rice), and lots more.

                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                        1. re: K K

                                                                          Thanks for the detailed feedback. I think I will likely skip high end sushi this trip.

                                                                          No Saturday stay. You mentioned Roli Roti only serves porchetta on Saturday at the SF Ferry Building, not Thursday as has been mentioned before?

                                                                          Thanks for the "Mi Pok" tip. I love pork kidney. I'll check out our other recs as well.

                                                                          1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                            On Thursday, May 1, it posted on FB that it would have porchetta and chicken that day. The next week I stopped by the Thursday market and there was no porchetta. So it may be variable.

                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                              Thanks, I will have to factor that in and instead depend on Porcellino, which is sure to have it, and then maybe see if Cotogna has it on a day I'll be there.

                                                                              Is this post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/971842) your most recent personal ramen ranking? Should I skip ramen in SF proper as K K suggested? My absolute favorite ramen is the Jiro-style one at Tsujita Annex. I do like the tsukemen at both Tsujitas down here too, as well as the Ebiton at Hayatemaru in West LA. I am not an expert by any means, so I wouldn't mind trying what would be considered a really good bowl in SF proper, though I do have a lot of other potential places and cuisine to try and only 6 days, 5 nights to try it. And I'll actually have to attend the conference I'm in town for...

                                                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                Please heed KK's advice (on ramen and anything else!). SF ramen continues to disappoint me. I have been to three newer places in the City proper beyond what I've posted, and no one from Los Angeles should bother with them either.

                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                  Lol okay okay. Stravaigint admonished me off-board to skip ramen too.

                                                                            2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                              I remember being asked (in Cantonese) at Hai Ky if I wanted kidney, and I'm sure they also understand/speak English there....so make sure they include kidney in your order.

                                                                              If you are really hungry, you might be able to eat two bowls of noodles, in which case try something else (if not two bowls of Mi Pok). Their Vietnamese iced coffee is drip and very strong which I very much enjoy...unlike Trieu Chau's pre-drip pre refrigerated coffe that I found rather horrendous, offensive, and vanilla caramel latte like tasting (Brodard has this same issue coincidentally).

                                                                            3. re: K K

                                                                              I forgot to ask, why only the Larkin location of Turtle Tower? I think it's a wash travel-wise to either that location or the 6th street location from Moscone West, but just curious.

                                                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                Maybe cuz it's OG?

                                                                                Sort of like DTF Glendale or WP is just sort of ... not ... quite ... there.

                                                                                By the way, as with Taiwanese beef noodle, not sure I would expend a meal on pho in SF.

                                                                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                  Yes what ipse said.

                                                                                  Didn't realize it was out of the way....in that case, please save your quota for other things!

                                                                                  1. re: K K

                                                                                    Not out of the way, about the same distance as 6th street one and much closer than the Geary one. If I do go, I'll do the original location.

                                                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                      The original location is actually no more. They recently moved half a block away to a remodeled place on Larkin. Since the reopening it it has gotten inexplicable long lines at lunchtime.

                                                                                2. re: K K

                                                                                  It would be interesting to get your thoughts on Kusakabe vs. Maruya -- I went to both places recently and while I really enjoyed Maruya, I thought Kusakabe was better.

                                                                                  It is good to see the quality of high-end sushi in SF going up in general.

                                                                                3. Here's a potentially silly question that won't really make a difference for me since I have no basis for comparison: Does it get noticeably, if not significantly, harder, to dine in SF proper during WWDC? I think the attendees number under 2,000, so maybe just a drop in the bucket, but I was just curious if the natives change their dining habits due to the throngs of nerds.

                                                                                  BTW thanks to everyone for their feedback and advice. I really appreciate it. Keep it coming.

                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                    San Francisco has conferences in town all of the time, many of the much larger. 2,000 attendees will not make much of a difference. Most conference attendees will be eating at the conference, in the conference hotel, or immediate vicinity. Since you are willing to branch out and explore other parts of the city you should not have a problem.

                                                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                      Actually, the convention bureau shows attendance at your event at 15,000, which moves it into the significant range.

                                                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                        Per the San Francisco Travel Association, the city has over 33,000 hotel rooms and an average of 134,231 visitors per day. There's a convention that size at least two weeks out of five.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                          Yes you know when a convention is town based on hotel rates. I come to San Francisco a few times a year and the cost of the same hotel room varies by almost two and a half times depending on whether there's a convention in town and how big it is. Restaurant availability obviously fluctuates, too.

                                                                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                            The Fancy Food Show has more of an effect on restaurant reservations than some larger conventions.

                                                                                            I believe Apple WWDC is mostly people coming in for the day so probably less of an impact than most.

                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                              WWDC is a weeklong conference for ticketed attendees, around 5k. Journalists may only be in for the keynote on Monday, but I can't imagine there being more than a couple hundred if it even breaks double digits.

                                                                                        2. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                          Oops, I was a bit off then. Apple supposedly caps the tickets at 5,000, so I assume the 15,000 includes Apple employees and others.

                                                                                        3. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                          No comment on the attendance and how it affects restaurants, but I would start by going to opentable.com and searching for a range of dates/times of some of the aforementioned restaurants and see what works for you (also to check availability) and start booking places you want to check out, like right now. Also consider going directly to the restaurant's website to book reservations there (which usually redirects to opentable), particularly the very popular ones. If you are willing to dine later, 9 to 10 pm, you have better options/availability.

                                                                                          If you do SPQR, some say that the counter/chef's table side is best. Since it is walkable from SF J-town, and if you make it there in time much earlier, drop by Benkyodo Co for some excellent mocha based confectionaries (wagashi). No preservatives, old school Japanese American. There are Japanese tourists who visit, that apparently buy boxes to bring home. If you go earlier you might be able to try strawberry mocha or blueberry, very addictive. Though our Japantown is otherwise not interesting at all.

                                                                                          1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                            It's always a little tricky to predict week-on-week variation. While WWDC might be in town, there might be other things in town too - I don't think that takes all of Moscone. WWDC gathers a lot of locals, too, so not all staying in SF. I would consider WWDC on the light, but would impact some of my favorites (like Flytrap, which I continually pimp on this board because I love the mid-eastern fusion thing Zare does). As someone who last attended WWDC in the early 90's, I did take a walk on the show floor two years ago, and considered it puny compared to Oracle World.

                                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                              Oracle OpenWorld is the biggest convention in SF, they're expecting 60,000.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                Oakland Chinatown sounding better and better

                                                                                            2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                              Having booked many dinners during that period yes it does affect things but as a solo diner you shouldn't be affected especially at places that are further away or not likely to be picked for group dinners.

                                                                                              Natives don't change their dining habits because of conferences here.

                                                                                              1. re: tjinsf


                                                                                                Most natives go to their neighborhood places, and few people live in FiDi and SOMA, which are the only places impacted by conferences.

                                                                                                Only the very largest conferences (like OpenWorld) sway the odds. There are a couple of things I try to remember: don't go near the ballpark if there's a game, stay away from castro & folsom on pride weekend, don't have sunday brunch in the height on bay to breakers, stay out of the city during open world unless I've got an invite to a party.

                                                                                                Conferences are during the week, people often work during the week and eat/drink out at fancy places on a weekend.

                                                                                                As a visitor, you're overlapping more with FiDi/Soma, you're midweek, and you're in the class of restaurants impacted by a convention.

                                                                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                  yeah it's like in that movie "The Others" and the long-dead character counsels a recently dead one regarding the living: "sometimes you'll notice them, often you won't. years may go by, but no matter" (paraphrasing)

                                                                                                  the only time to worry is when there's a major neighborhood festival and just go somewhere else (SFBG and SFW always have them listed)

                                                                                              2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                The places with 20 tables might lose some tables from a larger convention, but the only event I've found extremely disruptive of normal life in SF, would be the Dreamforce convention.

                                                                                              3. It seems low priority anyway, but I would knock Taste of Formosa off the list. I've been there a few times (last time 2012) and never had anything beyond mediocre.

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                  Thanks. And thanks for continuing to check my 4sq list. I just added that last night on a whim. I figure I could have better Taiwanese in the SGV here in LA, but the ironic thing is that, without family obligations and with SF's robust public transit system, it may be easier for me to try places out here than back home. But still, priority-wise Taiwanese is definitely low.

                                                                                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                    Our regional Chinese here isn't bad but definitely pales in comparison to the breadth and depth of SGV. Taiwanese is sadly a big joke, even whatever is left in the South Bay (with the exception of four TW food trucks based in the South Bay that are passable). It's as bad as our ramen.

                                                                                                    If you must have Japanese, and can make it to Berkeley, Ippuku is excellent for dinner. Though I wonder how it compares to SoCal's finest yakitori joints.

                                                                                                    1. re: K K

                                                                                                      Ippuku is indeed very good. But Izakaya Bincho in the southland can run circles around it for less $$s. Japanese food in LA is less costly, besides being better in general than here, so two strikes against eating Japanese in the SF Bay Area.

                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                        izakaya bincho pre- or post- changes which occurred a couple years ago ?????


                                                                                                2. My week is shaping up quite a bit. Here's my current itinerary:

                                                                                                  Sunday 6/1 - Porcellino: Mid-afternoon late lunch/early dinner with stravaigint. Depending on how hungry we are later in the evening, possibly a second meal somewhere undetermined.

                                                                                                  Monday 6/2 - Bar Tartine: Early dinner reservation, solo. Per this thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/929365) I hope to get a nice seat at the bar with view of prep. Can't decide between ordering a la carte or the Friends and Family Menu...

                                                                                                  Tuesday 6/3 - La Ciccia: Late-ish dinner reservation, solo. If the sample menu on their site is still relatively accurate, I plan on getting the sea urchin/tuna heart pasta dish and one other dish. I love bottarga, so I'm considering the spicy spaghetti, but is having two pasta dishes too much? If so, I'll either get the calamari or octopus appetizer instead.

                                                                                                  Wednesday 6/4 - State Bird Provision: Late-ish dinner reservation, thanks to TableSweep! I kinda feel guilty for using TS for whatever reason, but it does work! The reservation is for two people, but I'm going solo. Anyone want to share a table (and the check) with me? Heh.

                                                                                                  Thursday 6/5 - Nothing reserved or scheduled. Apple's WWDC Bash is that night.

                                                                                                  Friday 6/6 - Ha Nam Ninh: No reservation, obviously. Planning on going before noon to try to get the bun bo hue.

                                                                                                  I'm leaving lunches free for now, depending on the conference schedule. I'm a bit of a night owl too, so I have a list of restaurants that close late (11 PM to 2 AM) that I might want to try on any given night: Kin Khao, Zuni, Lers Ros, Nopa, Tosca.

                                                                                                  Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, advice, and information. If I haven't thanked you personally, know that I read and appreciated your comment. (Someone on the L.A. board asking advice said something similar in their thread, so I'm cribbing it, because it was so nicely put.)

                                                                                                  Let me know what you think about the above schedule, and keep the comments, critique, discussions going!

                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                    If the Offalo isn't planning to get the tripe at Bar Tartine you better change either the name or the venue - something is, ahem, off.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                                                      He complained to me already lol - said it's not on the menu right now.

                                                                                                      1. re: chrishei

                                                                                                        I wasn't complaining, just expressing disappointment. But I'm still going, aren't I? I've gotten many recommendations for the place from a variety of sources, so I need to check it out regardless of the state of its menu's offality.

                                                                                                      2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                                                        Tripe's not always on the menu, which changes daily.

                                                                                                      3. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                        Depending? Possibly? What is this I don't even...

                                                                                                        1. re: stravaigint

                                                                                                          Well I didn't want to assume how hungry we'd be after Porc. We could eat straight until Monday morning for all I care! ;-)

                                                                                                        2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                          I would do one pasta and the octopus at La Ciccia. I could bathe in the sauce that comes with that 8-legged creature. Smart to go with apps here -- the meat mains are pretty large.

                                                                                                          1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                            Thanks grayelf. The mains look great too, but I'm trying to err on the side of not stuffing myself at any one place so I could possibly squeeze more places in, so this works!

                                                                                                          2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                            One person at La Ciccia will mean some tough choices. I have too many favorites, every time I eat there I want to go back again right away to order the stuff I didn't.


                                                                                                          3. Porcellino was great. Porchetta and rigatoni were fantastic. However, you'll be disappointed from an offal point of view (no tuna heart spaghetti). Nothing on the menu was offally, except for the salumi, which you can obtain at Boccalone at the Ferry Building.

                                                                                                            I found Cotogna lunch/brunch to be mediocre. Perhaps dinner is better. I ordered a brunch dish with eggs (barely warm), agnolloti pasta (famous here?), spit-roasted pork loin (slightly dry).

                                                                                                            Loved AQ and Verbena. Reminded me a lot of Taco Maria, Alma, Trois Mec.

                                                                                                            Bi-Rite line was ridiculous on holiday weekend. Tip: if you are in a group, buy by the pint and share or get ice cream sandwiches from the freezer to skip the line, or go across the street to the marketplace for same items. Humphrey Slocombe is comparable, if you happen to be at Ferry.

                                                                                                            Stop by Super Duper for a snack, nearby Moscone. It's like In-n-out on steroids, with juicier thicker patties.

                                                                                                            Finally Foreign Cinema for brunch was completely forgettable. Total pass, waste of a meal. Space/room was nice, only positive I can say.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: zack

                                                                                                              Thanks zack, you were there last weekend? Hopefully they'll add something offal to the menu at Porcellino by the time I'm there to try it.

                                                                                                              1. re: zack

                                                                                                                Did you check the chalkboard at Porcellino? That's where the offal dishes I ordered were.


                                                                                                              2. Forgot to ask, any of the places on my list have a strict dress code? Would jeans (newish, no holes), button down or polo shirts, and shoes (not sneakers) be acceptable attire for the places I have reservations at and any other place I've shown greater interest in?

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                  pfff in the US? as long as you're tidy almost no place cares, the few who do, might still have a few icky jackets and stained ties at hand. ehh if there is an expectation you'll feel like a clown either way. unless you're slumming and even then overdressing a bit is never wrong. (but just leave the Patek Phillippe in the hotel safe)

                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                    Thanks hill food and grayelf. I checked a couple spots using Yelp and pretty much all of them said casual.

                                                                                                                  2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                    You should be fine. The only place I can recall considering in all our trips to SFBA that required more than what you're describing was Masa's and it's closed.

                                                                                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                      There's places I feel a little more comfortable in a jacket - like Acquerello, Quince, maybe Perbacco, Crenn. I'd be very comfortable in high-end jeans and a decent shirt. Polo shirts aren't that common in SF (unlike socal). But SF makes a point of welcoming all - my father wore a ratty windbreaker and stained polo shirt to crenn, we were welcomed warmly.

                                                                                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                        While waiting outside Crenn for them to open, an elderly man with a cane showed up, supported by his wife. There being no place for him to sit outside while waiting, when the manager poked his head outside the door to let us know that they weren't opening for another 15 minutes, I asked him whether the gentleman with the cane could sit inside to wait. The manager seemed very put out by this request but after some consultation with other staff, grudgingly let the old man inside, sternly repeating his mantra that that they wouldn't let customers inside for another 15 minutes. Not the finest demonstration of front of the house hospitality that I've ever seen, I almost left in disgust

                                                                                                                    2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                      The only place I know of with an actual dress code is the French Laundry. Some people dress up at the more expensive places, some people don't. I don't even own a suit or jacket. Michael Bauer noted in his recent update of Saison that one other customer was wearing "shorts, a white V-neck undershirt and Converse high tops."

                                                                                                                    3. On a more serious note, I was reading that the Telderloin is a fairly high crime area. A few of my late night picks, Kin Khao and Lers Ros, are in the Tenderloin. Should I be concerned or cautions about dining or traveling in certain areas/neighborhoods? At least I'll have no car to be worried about leaving somewhere.

                                                                                                                      (When I was in DC last year, a city with I believe a higher crime rate, or at least the reputation for such, I took the Metro everywhere and picked places for meals, most of them mid-to-late evening, without paying attention to neighborhoods and felt generally safe. Maybe I was naive.)

                                                                                                                      51 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                        From a visitor: As a lone female walking through the T'loin on a Sunday morning (!) I once felt ill at ease. Otherwise, we've walked, taxied, driven and parked there many times without concern, though always exercising the common-sense cautions (avoid eye contact, keep cell phone well stashed, don't flash cash, keep your wits about you). Your nose is more likely to be assaulted than you are :-). I haven't been to Kin Khao but Lers Ros is worth the nominal risk, especially the appetizers.

                                                                                                                        1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                          The tenderloin is less sketchy than the sketchy parts DC.

                                                                                                                          It does have a few blocks that have high rates of assault - muggings and such. Depending on your style, size, gender, you'll want the appropriate level of caution. The "bad parts" are really just a few blocks long, so generally you can simply take a detour a few blocks if you are uncomfortable.

                                                                                                                          Lers Ros is a few blocks north of the sketchier area, Kin Khao is a few blocks east.

                                                                                                                          As a 6-foot solidly built guy, I have exactly once felt uncomfortable there - I think it was around sunset on a warm friday evening, and the natives were drinking heavily out of their 40 oz brown paper bags and in the dangerous and unpredictable part of the evening. Still, nothing happened. I don't know anyone personally who had an assault there, I do know people who have been assaulted in oakland.

                                                                                                                          My mother was greeted kindly by a guy shooting up behind a dumpster just off 6th st. He was very pleasant about the whole thing, asked her if she was having a good vacation, suggested that viewing junkies was an important part of a SF vacation, and was pleased to provide the service.

                                                                                                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                            Check out Tommy's joynt in the tenderloin if non gourmet man food and brews ever appeal. Kind of like the old Coles with carving stations and suds. My thought is that you are missing some of the old school classic spots in sf on your itinerary that are historical touchstones. Like Vesuvios for the beat writers and city lights bookstore, or the tonga room on nob hill, or old school north beach action. Can't do it all and focusing on the food that excites you great too. I love the older joints in sf, like Stella.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                              Tommy's Joynt is an old-school hof brau on the very edge of the Tenderloin. The character of that part of Van Ness is more like Polk Gulch or Civic Center, pretty gentrified.

                                                                                                                              I wouldn't send a visitor there unless they were obsessed with hof braus.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                What do u consider the top 5 classic old school sf spots for food or drink

                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                  I think Tommy's Joint is worthy stop for a visitor, just not for one that is looking for strictly great eats.

                                                                                                                                2. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                  Tommy's is not in the Tenderloin. It's located in Cathedral Hill, Van Ness Corridor, or other neighborhood designations. Being two blocks away and perhaps especially on the other side of Van Ness Avenue, it's surroundings have a much different character.


                                                                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                                    To me it's the tenderloin or adjacent. These new neighborhood names didn't exist when I lived in in sf.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                      Tommy's Joynt is on Van Ness. It's never been the Tenderloin.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                        Heh this sounds like the LA board's debates on whether something's in Koreatown or not.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                          Whatever u say. Stagger up to Mitchell bros theatre if it's still there. To me and others it's the tenderloin.



                                                                                                                                          1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                            East of Polk and south of Geary is the Tenderloin.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                              Mitchell Bros. Theater and Tommy's aren't on the same block.

                                                                                                                                              Van Ness has never, and was never considered the Tenderloin. It may have just felt like it. People confusing the two shouldn't be writing guides.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                Close enough dude

                                                                                                                                                Offalo, basically check out some of the old sf while it's still there. City is changing or has already turned but there are still cool spots where food is just part of the fun.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                                  No, it's really not.
                                                                                                                                                  It would be like calling Union Square the Tenderloin.

                                                                                                                                                  It's with respect to old SF that this is a sticking point. Tommy's is across from the site where the Cathedral Hill Hotel used to stand, which at one time hosted special occasions. Polk Street one block away, was a world away. And later places like Stars were never thought of as fine dining in the Tenderloin. I don't recall Trader Vic's ever being considered Tenderloin either.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                    Correct if I'm wrong but isn't Union square very close to the Tenderloin ????

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks. But of course the two respective areas are wildly divergent in character.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                      Exactly. They're very close, and you may experience similar characteristics at any given moment, but still different areas, and not just in name.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                        I think I walked from the Macy's to Canteen, which is near the Tenderloin ???

                                                                                                                                                        Can't remember.

                                                                                                                                                        Though it seems like its slightly rough and tumble even in the daytime.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                          Canteen was on Sutter, in the Tenderloin, though real estate types like to call that Lower Nob Hill. North of Geary has been substantially gentrified, largely by the Academy of Art buying up buildings for student housing.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                            This was about 5 or 6 years. Was it already gentrified due to the academy of art, etc. ????

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                        Union Square is adjacent to and east of the Tenderloin.

                                                                                                                                                        East of Larkin Street was originally the Western Addition.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                          Does the Western Addition also encompass the lower haight ????

                                                                                                                                                          I may be guessing but it seems like the city of SF has dozen of varying names for different sections of the city and growing.

                                                                                                                                                          Are some of the newerish names Dogpatch and SoMa because I don't think South of Market was known as SoMa until it became considerably more gentrified and fashionable.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                            The Western Addition originally ran from Larkin to Divisadero. Civic Center, Hayes Valley, NOPA, Lower Pacific Heights, Japantown, Polk Gulch, and Cathedral Hill are some of the modern names people use for that area.

                                                                                                                                                            Dogpatch is an old name, Irish steelworkers called it that back when there was a steel mill there. SOMA is relatively recent, used to be South of Market, before that "south of the slot."

                                                                                                                                                      3. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                        Whatevskies sugar. I don't agree with you. Tommy's is a great spot for beer and sandwich if you're in the tenderloin.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                                          "Tommy's is a great spot for beer and sandwich if you're in the tenderloin."

                                                                                                                                                          Well it's a short enough walk away from the Tenderloin, so ok.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                            I think this picture says it all sugar.


                                                                                                                                                            I miss sf Offalo. Some of it still exists.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                                              That guy is no expert on San Francisco. Mel's isn't in the Tenderloin, either.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                                            i may definitely go next time i'm there.

                                                                                                                                                            i am a fan of hofbrau.

                                                                                                                                                            btw, are there any other joints, hofbrau ones that are pretty good. ok, i'll settle for just ok.


                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                              It's better than ok. Loads of fun

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                                  Harry's in nocal

                                                                                                                                                                  Ever been to sams dtla? If spearmint rhino not skanky enuf

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                                    Hofbraus are a rarity. Lefty O'Douls exists. It's pretty bad.
                                                                                                                                                                    There's Pluto's which has carved meat stations, but the beer selection is limited, and the ambience is far from a Hofbrau.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                      A dying California type of joynt. I love em too.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                                                      I am a bit embarrassed to say but the chicken at the Chicken Coop is pretty darn good. The BBQ sauce is actually phenomenal (Mission St location only).

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                Trader Vic's / Cosmo Alley was absolutely in the Tenderloin until the modern invention of Lower Nob Hill.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                  Right, I meant the Golden gate address.

                                                                                                                                                                  That said, Tenderloin expanded, before the Lower Nob Hill banner, there was still a Nob Hill, and also with stuff on the border like David's, Salamagundi, ACT, etc. they were never really thought of as Tenderloin, just Union Square.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                    My friend who lived at Cosmo and Taylor before Trader Vic's closed definitely thought of it as the Tenderloin, as did the hookers, pimps, johns, and vice cops who frequented the corner of Post and Taylor.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                      Oh yeah, but people used to pick and chose how they talked about a place and it's location and the crowd it would draw. You would also see hookers and vice cops across from the cable car pretty regularly too.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                        From well before Trader Vic's opened until the mid-80s, when some real estate agent came up with "Lower Nob Hill," the area south of Bush and west of Union Square had no name but the Tenderloin. Before that, "for rent" ads used to dodge around that by saying, "near Hilton."

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                          " until the mid-80s, when some real estate agent came up with "Lower Nob Hill,""

                                                                                                                                                                          Your timeline is off.

                                                                                                                                                                          There were many locations in the area you described that nobody would have considered the Tenderloin. Lehr's Greenhouse comes to mind.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                  Cathedral Hill is not a new name it was called the Cathedral Hill Hotel as that's where the old Catholic cathedral stood until I believe it burned and the 'new' St. Mary's was built.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you. I was trying to convey that.
                                                                                                                                                                    Likewise, the Jack Parr hotel was considered fancy, and when it was replaced, they named the new hotel after an existing neighborhood. It wasn't marketing.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                      The cathedral that burned in 1961 was down the hill at Van Ness and O'Farrell. "Cathedral Hill" dates from the construction of the new one in the 70s. The Jack Tar was renamed in 1982.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                        OK so I was off by a block...
                                                                                                                                                                        instead of "Lower Nob Hill" I prefer the "Tender Nob"

                                                                                                                                                                        a friend who used to live near Franklin and Ellis called her nabe "Tenderloin Heights"

                                                                                                                                                                        but back to the OP, just use a modicum of street smarts and you'll be fine pretty much anywhere you're likely to go.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks, I survived my harrowing journey into the Tenderloin as I walked into the Parc 55 Wyndham to get to Kin Khao. :-)

                                                                                                                                                      4. re: jessejames

                                                                                                                                                        I love Tommy's. A staple of my childhood.

                                                                                                                                                        I have no idea why most of the people on the SF boards hate it so much.

                                                                                                                                                        Maybe I just haven't been back since I've gotten more into food...maybe it really isn't that great...idk...I have such fond memories of it though. I feel bad that I haven't been in a few years.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                      Google San Francisco crime map if you want to see for yourself. Muggers go where people have money.

                                                                                                                                                      There are parts of the Tenderloin that are total skid row (the Vietnamese places in those blocks tend to close by 8pm) but some of them are right near expensive hotels and art-student housing. Mikkeler Bar shares its block with hobos drinking out of paper bags.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                        The Tenderloin is going through a transition, and getting hip, but you should certainly be concerned and cautious. If you're street smart, you won't feel in danger.

                                                                                                                                                        Most of it's peaceful now, but the bad blocks (you will see a lot of loitering) are still there. You're basically going to be passing by a lot of single occupancy hotels, and shelters, rehab type programs. You'll see a lot of loitering, and some sights out of a bad crime drama. More often than not, you'll catch a bad smell, and have to swerve out of the way from one or two people down on their luck, and that's about it. Not that bad. It's not like a warzone, it's a block by block thing.

                                                                                                                                                        The area from Jones to Larkin on the streets closest to Market Street is the worst of it. Post is a good street to walk down.

                                                                                                                                                        As a rule of thumb with all major cities, avoid desolate streets, especially at night.

                                                                                                                                                      2. If you're looking for a night off from spending dough I really liked the Korean Chinese at San Wan in Jtown. I ordered the San Wan clam and it was the freshest pile of clams I've ever had for that price. Very good tangsuyook and jjajjiangmyun too. If you hit SPQR you can order lite and save room for the clams.

                                                                                                                                                        I usually do a compulsory stop at the ferry building for Far West Fungi - we just don't have anything comparable in LA. And you can swing by Boccolone to stock up on offally goodness to take home.

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                                                                                                                                                          There are many variant spellings (San/Sam Wang/Wong) but not "San Wan" is not one of them.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                            felice says porchetta on this Sun at Cotogna if you're still here then TheOffalo: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9617...

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                                              Thanks, I saw that when I was researching. Unfortunately I am out by Friday.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                                Delfina Pizza (both SF sites) has a cold tripe small dish that I enjoy. (ymmv). Chile oil on the side.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: tranewreck

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks! Maybe I'll stop there for a quick snack of tripe and house-cured local anchovies.

                                                                                                                                                            1. It's too late now, unfortunately, but I just found out that Nopa serves porchetta every Tuesday. I don't know how I didn't turn this up in my research. There doesn't seem to be mention of it on CH, at least not when I search on "Nopa", "porchetta", and "Tuesday" in combinations. Looks really good: http://www.nopalize.com/2014/01/how-t...

                                                                                                                                                              BTW, my Day Three report is up: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977838/.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                                But it's Cotogna that serves the mythical version that is idolized by all LA hounds!


                                                                                                                                                                (You can try to get it Thursday/Friday night as an off-menu special btw)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                  Probably won't be able to hit Cotogna Thursday night and I'll be gone Friday afternoon. I was perfectly happy with Porcellino's.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Day Three and all of Day Four reports (including a long-ish one on State Bird Provisions) are up!

                                                                                                                                                                Day Three: Turtle Tower, Lers Ros, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, La Ciccia -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977838

                                                                                                                                                                Day Four: Craftsman and Wolves, Happy Moose Juice, Xanath, Zen Yai, Smitten, Tosca, State Bird -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977961

                                                                                                                                                                1. Sorry, forgot to update this thread when I finished the reports, but in case someone who commented on this thread had not seen them yet, my Days Five and Six reports are up!


                                                                                                                                                                  Here's an index:

                                                                                                                                                                  Day One: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977596
                                                                                                                                                                  - Part One: Porcellino (Italian), Bi-Rite Creamery (Ice Cream)
                                                                                                                                                                  - Part Two: Kin Khao (Thai)

                                                                                                                                                                  Day Two: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977726
                                                                                                                                                                  - Bar Tartine (New American), Fujiyoshi (Ramen)

                                                                                                                                                                  Day Three: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977838
                                                                                                                                                                  - Turtle Tower (Vietnamese), Lers Ros (Thai), Mitchell's (Ice Cream), La Ciccia (Sardinian)

                                                                                                                                                                  Day Four: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977961
                                                                                                                                                                  - Part One: Craftsman and Wolves (Bakery), Happy Moose Juice (Juice Bar), Xanath (Ice Cream)
                                                                                                                                                                  - Part Two: Zen Yai (Thai), Smitten (Ice Cream), Tosca Cafe (Italian)
                                                                                                                                                                  - Part Three: State Bird Provisions (New American)

                                                                                                                                                                  Day Five: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/978329
                                                                                                                                                                  - Hai Ky Mi Gia (Chinese-Vietnamese), Pig & Pie (American), Humphry Slocombe (Ice Cream), Three Twins (Ice Cream), Nopa (New American)

                                                                                                                                                                  Day Six: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/978474
                                                                                                                                                                  - Ha Nam Ninh (Vietnamese), Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (Ice Cream), Boccalone (Italian)

                                                                                                                                                                  I posted a quick little list of factoids at the end of my Day Six report, which mentioned that I visited seven ice cream shops while in San Francisco, and I also had 'ice cream' (frozen sabayon) at SBP on Day Four. So to provide some "new" content in this comment I thought I'd do an unscientific and non-rigorous ranking of the ice cream flavors I had on my trip:

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Humphry Slocombe's "Secret Breakfast" (Bourbon Ice Cream, Corn Flakes)
                                                                                                                                                                  2. Bi-Rite Creamery's Roasted Banana
                                                                                                                                                                  3. Three Twin's Chocolate Orange Confetti
                                                                                                                                                                  4. Bi-Rite Creamery's Strawberry Balsamic
                                                                                                                                                                  5. Smitten's Olive Oil with Lavender Shortbread
                                                                                                                                                                  6. Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous's Pink Guava
                                                                                                                                                                  7. Xanath's Mexican Vanilla Bean
                                                                                                                                                                  8. Mitchell's Ice Cream's Ube (Purple Yam)
                                                                                                                                                                  9. Three Twins' Lemon Cookie

                                                                                                                                                                  Those who know the SF ice cream scene may be surprised how "low" I ranked Smitten and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. I was very impressed with the "build quality" of their ice creams, but the flavors that I had just didn't work for me. They would have easily moved into 2nd and 3rd place had the flavors clicked. Also, I decided not to rank SBP's dessert, as it had other components, not just the 'ice cream'.

                                                                                                                                                                  Once again thanks for all your help! Couldn't have done it without you!


                                                                                                                                                                  25 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                                    Great post.

                                                                                                                                                                    Regarding your ice cream rankings, it seems you like sour/sweet / salty/sweet / and similar combinations ( strong/sweet in terms of secret breakfast, roasted/sweet ... )

                                                                                                                                                                    It seems you didn't pick a flavor like that at MMM, I wonder if they had anything on offer that day?

                                                                                                                                                                    My friends who dislike that kind of flavor up-rate MMM. I love that kind of flavor myself, like you.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                                                                      I wish I had taken a picture of the flavor board. I don't remember there being stronger flavors or interesting flavor combinations, more classics, but even if there were, I'm a sucker for guava. What I should have done was ask for samples, but I was in a bit of a rush. I'm absolutely willing to go back next time I'm in SF. That Dogpatch area looked really interesting.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                                        Mr and Mrs have some interesting combinations, but they're still ice creams first and foremost, similar in approach to Bi-Rite, as opposed to Slocombe.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                          I finally just went to Humphry's yesterday, and am beyond shocked by everyone's whining that they are not "first and foremost ice cream". Every flavor I tried was first and foremost ice cream, second incredible flavor, and third fascinating combination of flavors.

                                                                                                                                                                          Easily destroys any ice cream in Los Angeles, that's for sure. Genuinely did not expect it to be so great with all of the apprehensiveness displayed on these boards...

                                                                                                                                                                          At least it was a pleasant surprise!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                            What could be foremost at HC other than ice cream? That's what they make. I like it the best of the high-end ice cream places.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                              People make it sound like Humphry makes ice cream that makes you say, "hmm, this is interesting..." but will never want to eat again.

                                                                                                                                                                              Whereas I found that the ice cream was incredibly crave able, and not really weird in an over the top kind of way at all.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                HS tends to have a few "interesting" flavors on hand, beer week moving it into "hmm, this is fascinating" territory, but their staples have crowd-pleasing potential.

                                                                                                                                                                                I respect HS's willingness to reward a small fraction of their customers with obscure tastes. I like HS enough to keep a few pints in my freezer for guests, but it's always amazed me that anyone likes Jesus Juice or a few of their other flavors.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ha, I can't imagine who would like Jesus Juice either, but apparently a lot of Spanish speakers do. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...
                                                                                                                                                                                  I first encountered the calimocho amongst young partiers in the plazas of Toledo (Espana) and assumed it was just for young drunkards, which isn't a terrible description for some of the lines in the Mission these days.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I've always seen the majority of comments on Humphrey Slocumbe as positive, as you'll never find 100% consensus on anything--tastes are variable. Often times the dissenting notes BacoMan has picked up on deal more with the question, "Do I want to put up with the hassle/line of this place?" rather than whether it is good. I'm an avid avoider of the long lines/difficult plan sort of hassle.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ...tm...

                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh shit...now the flavor makes 100% sense to me. It's the exact same flavor as the awesome Mexican sodas that are served at all the taco trucks down herein SoCal! I love that stuff too, and I am normally not a soda drinker. Ah, that is a hilariously well-thoguht out name. Jesus Juice = red wine = blood of Jesus Christ, but if you took Jesus as a Spanish name, that is quite common, it could just refer to that juice (soda) popular among the Spanish community!

                                                                                                                                                                                    Are the lines at places mainly off-putting to locals? I just went to something like 10 places in one day this last Saturday, and there were lines galore in SF. I don't think I have stood in that many lines since my last trip to Disneyland like a decade ago...

                                                                                                                                                                                    But the lines seem to move pretty quickly at least.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The line at Humphry took like 15 minutes to get through I think. Ice cream of that magnitude is easily worth that wait I'd say. Unless you are pressed for time I suppose.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                      That is one possible etymology, but googling "Michael Jackson Jesus Juice" provides one that is more likely.

                                                                                                                                                                                      San Francisco loves lines. It's definitely not tourists standing in line for 2 hours at Dear Mom for bagels imported from NYC, or for mac-'n'-cheese-filled burritos. I get cranky standing in line 90% of the time, but on the right evening I'd wait a bit for Bi-Rite or Nopalito or something.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: hyperbowler


                                                                                                                                                                                    I thought Jesus Juice was as good a flavor as I've tried anywhere else. I tried all of their flavors, and didn't find any of them wanting.

                                                                                                                                                                                    What do you find strange about Jesus Juice? Other than the name of course. I guess I could see someone being offended by it lol

                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think you misconstrued my comments.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Nobody is whining. It wasn't a negative or dissenting opinion at all, I'm a huge fan, but I was trying to give a comparison.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Slocombe leans more towards bold interesting flavors, none of which melt away after a few bites. You better enjoy the flavor combination at Slocombe, or else you're not going to make up for it based on texture, and ice creaminess alone. The Lavender burnt white chocolate was an example of that (I think it's changed, and rarely featured now). I'm one of those people who loves the Jesus Juice flavor, and I order their less traditional flavors first and foremost. I think that's what defines them. Maybe if you just stick to the coffee or bourbon corn flakes, and never venture to the hibiscus beet, or the odder flavors, ALL of which they've dulled down once they hit the regular rotation, then sure. Bi-rite and Mr. Mrs. misc, by comparison are much more traditional ice creams. How you chose to describe those differences and make the distinction is up to you, but there is a difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                    And I will stress, these flavors go through transformations, and some versions have really tasted like failed lab experiments. The original Secret Breakfast for example used better quality booze, and was much saltier. I like the current version best.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                                      At Humphry Slocombe I was particularly pleased with the wide variation in textures and with how the ice cream was the perfect temperature, neither icy nor melting. Whether they're consistent about that I don't know, I've only been two or three times.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                        Your observation about textures is pretty spot on in my experience. Some batches have their own personality, and some of the sorbets are more like granitas, but that's usually with the newer flavors they're toying with or don't have control of yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, that's the perfect description of the texture, neither icy nor melty. Really fantastic.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, you're right, I suppose I am coming in at the late phase when they've probably worked out a lot of the kinks. Maybe that's what accounts for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, but you also didn't recognize Jesus Juice as a strange potentially polarizing flavor. Have you been to the other places discussed?.... Bi Rite, Misc.?

                                                                                                                                                                                            (I think you're right about Sangria soda thing for the Jesus flavor)

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                                Aw, how disappointing to learn that Fetal Kitten isn't a real flavor =(

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess the Jesus Juice could also be from Michael Jackson putting wine into Coke cans for kids... but everything I read said it was white wine, not red. It tasted just like the Sangria soda I have at taco places though!

                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess it would be as polarizing as the soda?

                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been to Bi-Rite before, but, for context, Mitchell's was always my favorite ice cream place growing up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I liked Humphry way more than Bi-Rite. I guess the flavors at Bi-Rite are obviously a little more "middle of the road". Maybe my tastes are just way too attuned to weirdness? I usually don't like weirdness for the sake of weirdness though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                It seems to me that if you like the flavor of red wine and coke you would like Jesus Juice for example. If you don't like red wine, I doubt you would enjoy it. So does that mean that red wine is a polarizing food group?

                                                                                                                                                                                                People have individual tastes, of course, so what does it mean for something to be polarizing exactly?

                                                                                                                                                                                                Sorry if this comes across badly...I'm genuinely trying to understand what constitutes something as being polarizing. I'm somewhat autistic, and sometimes don't ask questions well, please read my inquiries with confused innocence as opposed to biting sarcasm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Freezing mutes certain flavors of liquids, and when freezing wine and Coke, I find the flavors that remain too harsh. Sprite and red wine, that's another story...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Jesus Juice was purposely made from Rhone Wine, and Coke, a gourmet tribute to MJ's notorious cocktail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It doesn't naturally please wine lovers, or soda lovers so I wouldn't figure liking those separate ingredients would add up to a natural appreciation for them in combination. The original version was heavier in wine, but they now error on the side of the sweeter, cheaper ingredient. I think they're using a cheaper red wine in place of Rhone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Slocombe is known for whimsical, and sometimes challenging combinations that go off script a bit. That's not a knock against the place, it's what makes them special. It sounds like you looked past all that and just enjoyed them as an ice cream, rather than focus on the novelty aspects, which is cool.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe they just aren't as geared towards being novelties anymore because of the popularity though? =/

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I went in expecting novelties galore. A lot of stuff sounded like novelty flavors. I was pleasantly surprised to find just a slew of amazing ice cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Completely the opposite of my experiences at some places in LA like Sweet Rose Creamery that everyone loves here. Innocuous, but somewhat interesting flavors that sound ok...but then ice cream that just sucks to eat qua ice cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe my tastes are just so weird that to me Slocombe's oddball combinations just make perfect sense though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: BacoMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today is the fifth anniversary of the original batch of Jesus Juice.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                                                                                                        The BBQ and beer place next door is pretty good, and I do like me a good BBQ.