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Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

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Hi, everyone,

My husband and I are taking a four-day trip to San Francisco in a couple of weeks and I would love your thoughts on our food choices. A little bit of background: We are former New Yorkers currently living in Ohio, so we both (1) have experience with a top-notch food scene and (2) desperately miss that food scene. We are staying on points, so the first night we are at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and the rest of the time we are at the Westin Market Street (which I know is on Third Street). We won't have a car but are very comfortable with public transportation and can take cabs to fill in the gaps (so bonus points for places reachable by public transportation).

The goal for the trip is to eat well but not overly expensively, probably one higher-end, California cuisine, tasting menu dinner and entrees under $25 for the rest. Italian is our go-to, but we like everything. We'd particularly like to eat things that SF does better than (or at least as well as) NY, and things that we can't get where we currently live (which includes most ethnic foods). Good service and hospitality are more important than a "scene" to us, but food trumps all. For reference, in NYC our favorites were Gramercy Tavern (mine) and Babbo (his), we were not blown away by Per Se (way more expensive and overall less enjoyable than our favorites), and we never got excited enough about seafood to make it to Le Bernardin.

My husband likes to dine out as much as I do but has zero interest in planning where we're going to eat (or talking about my plans), so I'm trying to build in a lot of flexibility by having multiple options for lunches and going wherever we happen to feel like on a particular day. We're not really breakfast people, so I think we'll just grab whatever is convenient for that.

With that said, here are my current thoughts. Advice and comments greatly appreciated.

-Monday dinner:

We arrive in the evening and are coming from eastern time, so we might want to stick close to home base. Currently thinking small plates at Sens (same building as our hotel) or Barbacco if we feel up to it. Other ideas?

-Tuesday dinner with local friends:

Mau (their suggestion, so this one is pretty firm)

-Wednesday tasting menu dinner:

Sons & Daughters-- I read a lot of the threads on tasting menus and looked at a lot of menus, trying to find the best cost/value ratio. We will definitely have the wine pairings, so that factors into it. And we're not celebrating a milestone event, so I nixed some of the places at the highest end of the range. I picked S&D over Atelier Crenn (too experimental to count on loving), La Folie (too straight-up French), AQ (not as "special" feeling as S&D(??)), Saison (too expensive) and Quince (more expensive than S&D). Since we wanted California cuisine I didn't even get into the Cal-Ital places. Did I make the right call on S&D?

-Thursday dinner:

Barbacco, unless we end up there Monday. Maybe one of the lunch places as a back-up plan, though a Middle Eastern, Turkish, or Greek place would also be good.

Lunch options:

- Dim sum (on my list of must-dos): Yank Sing

- Mexican: La Taqueria

- Burmese: Burmese Kitchen (closer than Mandalay or Burma SS)

- Thai: Lers Ros Thai

- Yucatan: Poc Chuc

Thanks for the help!

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  1. So Barbacco isn't my favorite of all the cal-italian places, I'd rather go to Perbacco (more formal perhaps than you want) or Cotogna.

    For Thai: Kin Khao is an intriguing option to consider. I find the menu and execution there superior to Lers Ros (but it is also more expensive)

    I haven't been to Sons & Daughters, so I can't really provide much insight there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      +1 on Kin Khao! :-)

      1. re: goldangl95

        +1 to you can do better than Barbacco. It actually feels a bit more LA to me than SF (somewhere in between). The best part about Barbacco is really interesting wine flights.

        I always enjoy Zare at Flytrap a lot more than Barbacco, in the same price range, and same side of town. It's more san francisco, the tastes are more unusual, the cocktails exist (Barbacco is wine only).

      2. I did not like Lers Ros when I went there earlier this month, but I only had one dish (way too salty). I'd recommend Kin Khao on the mid-end (tried and liked a variety of dishes there) or Zen Yai on the "low-end" for their Thai Boat Noodles (haven't had anything else there). Both open lunch and dinner.

        I had great luck with my thread asking for help with my itinerary (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976796). Even though we're coming from different geographies, our goals are similar, to get food that we can't get back home (though I did end up trying more Thai than I expected to, and L.A. has great Thai food). I just posted an index of the places I went to (and my report thread for each day) in that same thread yesterday.

        1. Barbacco is good, but I think it's best for convenience sake, if you don't have other options. It's understated, and visitors will want to be wowed instead.

          Gaspar is a Brassarie nearby getting some good write ups.

          Likewise, Poc Chuc isn't the strongest name on your list.
          I think you're on the right track with La Taqueria.

          I personally would replace Burmese with a Vietnamese, Bahn Mi from Saigon Sandwich, but you are visiting Mua. Burmese had a moment, and I'm of the opinion that most places are coasting now. Yama in the Mission might be the exception.

          Yank Sing... it's a nice time, but unless you want the sit down experience, there are better places for Dim Sum. Wing Lee is even better for most items.

          Sons and Daughters is a good pick... you can also see if the menu at AQ's sister place called TBD interests you. The verdict's still out on the fixed menu though.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sugartoof

            +1 on replacing Poc Chuc. Still mourning the loss of Mi Lindo Yucatan ... Poc chuc is not the replacement I need.

            On Mexican ... there are a number of places doing less cheap but reliably good work ... Nopalito would fit the bill. In Oakland, Tamarindo (they are open late and have a tequila bar too). You'll never make it to 4th St in Berkeley, but Tacubaya.

          2. Thanks, everyone!

            - You've got me pretty convinced that I should replace Barbacco. I had written off Perbacco as too high-end, but having taken another look at the menu, it's actually pretty reasonable. Cotogna also looks good. Actually, I just checked Open Table and there's nothing available there before 10pm that night, though that might not be a deal-killer. NYC trained us well. :) I was considering A16, though it sounds like reviews are mixed on that and it's really loud. I also keep going back to La Ciccia, though I think it will end up being more seafood-focused that we are looking for. So... still unsure on Italian.

            - I'm pretty comfortable scrapping both Burmese and Poc Chuc.

            - Zare at Fly Trap looks great, though the mains are a bit above my range. Aziza is in the same boat. I need to do more research on Middle Eastern/Turkish/Greek before pestering you with other options.

            - Saigon Sandwich was on my list until our friends suggested Vietnamese at Mau. Not sure if we'll want to go Vietnamese twice-- though then again, Banh Mi is a whole different animal, so no reason to cross that off the lunch list.

            - As for Thai, I'll admit we're going to be less discriminating here than with Italian places. The one crucial criterion is that the place have Pad Thai, since that is my husband's absolute favorite. Kin Khao's website said the menu selections there were just a small sampling of what's available. Can I count on Pad Thai there? I had read some good things on these boards about Thai House Express/House of Thai as well. Thoughts?

            - Lastly, dim sum. I think I starred Yank Sing because they have a location near the Westin. I had also written down City View, Koi Palace, and Great Eastern, based on the boards. We are by no means dim sum experts (probably goes for all Asian cuisines-- we like them all but aren't experts on any), but it sounds like convenience may have gotten the best of me. Should I keep any of the others on my list?

            Thank you again!

            38 Replies
            1. re: Cuisinescene

              Yank Sing is a solid choice for dim sum - no need to question the choice.

              Kin khao was created to introduce Thai dishes that are unique to the US. If Pad Thai is a deal breaker, stick to Lers Ros.

              1. re: Cuisinescene

                I could be remembering wrong, but when I was there I didn't remember seeing pad thai or khao soi or any noodle dish on the menu that night. On their website, they list crab sen chan, which is like a crab pad thai. I really think it's worth going there even if there's no pad thai, but if it's critical to you, call them first to make sure they have a pad thai or pad thai-like dish that night/week.

                I've wanted to try Yank Sing. My impression is that there are better dim sum at a cheaper price point in SF and environs, but it is kind of a classic choice, so if you're not dim sum aficionados and the price is fine with you, then you'll probably be satisfied and it crosses off something on your must-try list. I'd say go for it.

                1. re: Cuisinescene

                  If you want to slip in a Burmese dish or two, there's a "secret" Burmese restaurant just three blocks from the Hyatt Regency, Sapphire Asian Cuisine. It looks like just another Chinese steam table place when you walk in, but there's a "Made to Order" menu on the wall which consists of mostly Burmese standards. The owners are Burmese and seem especially pleased when you order from that menu. I've had both the "Fish Chowder" (mohinga) and "Coconut Noodle Soup" (ohn no kau swe) there and they are decent versions (for $6.59!)

                  It's lunch only, though they have a Happy Hour with "Burmese Tapas" (i. e. samusas, from what I hear).

                  Sapphire Asian Cuisine... Taste of Burma
                  475 Sacramento St.
                  San Francisco

                   
                   
                  1. re: Cuisinescene

                    You may want to read this current thread about Great Eastern. It's certainly on my list for our next trip down.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9790...

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Thanks for the tip on Sapphire Asian, soupçon! That might be a good option for lunch before we check out and switch hotels.

                      And good to know that Great Eastern is menu-only, c oliver. My husband may prefer that.

                      sugartoof, TBD looks like it could be great if you like that day's menu, but there's not much option if you don't. I'll keep that in mind; thanks.

                      Offalo, Pad Thai is going to be a deal breaker for hubby. :)

                      So now we have:

                      - Monday: Sens (lazy option) or something else (need to do more research on suggestions you guys have given)

                      - Tuesday: Mau

                      - Wednesday: S&D (more feedback from those who have gone would be great)

                      - Thursday: Perbacco (for now)

                      -Lunches: La Taqueria, Lers Ros, Yank Sing (convenience) or Great Eastern (menu only), Saigon Sandwich, Sapphire Asian Cuisine.

                      I need to look up the places near the Hyatt you recommended for Monday dinner and generally do my research on Turkish/Persian/Middle Eastern/etc. so I can ask you fine folks informed questions.

                      Thank you for the help!

                    2. re: Cuisinescene

                      You really can't beat Yank Sing for dim sum.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7321...

                      It's more expensive than most other places but they use better ingredients, have better service (which some people apparently find a minus, like clean bathrooms), and are more consistent. City View's good but a step down. Koi Palace is less consistent and in a wildly inconvenient location.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Robert, your review was one of the reasons why I had originally picked YS. :)

                        Did you find the cart people to be as pushy as other people did? My husband is really off-put by pushy salesmen (used car lots and NYC's diamond district are pretty much his nightmare), hence the thought that a menu-only place might be good. But Yank Sing's XLB do sound awesome.

                        1. re: Cuisinescene

                          More expensive as in three or four times more expensive! The two of us can eat for under $20 at those other places. As far as better ingredients and clean restrooms, not sure where else RL has tried but we certainly have had NO problems in that regard.

                          OP, do realize that XLB are not a Cantonese dish, rather Shanghainese so when I see them at a 'regular' dim sum place I'm prepared to be disappointed and now no longer get them. I've never found the cart ladies particularly annoying. I just say no. I prefer menu because it's always fresher/hotter.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Unless you're well versed in dim sum, cart service is preferable to places with menus. Great Eastern's website has great pics---does the menu at Great Eastern have pics too?

                            It's good advice to shy away from XLB at Cantonese places--- some places use frozen ones. How are they at Great Eastern?

                            The XLB at Yank Sing are competitive with most Shanghainese places around here, and unless the OP has a local source that is among the top in the country, YS's XLB will be a treat. You should get the XLB off the menu though-- they're a time sensitive dish, and you might be disappointed from ones that lingered on the cart for a while.

                            As for the ethnic makeup of Yank Sing's customers, it's 50:50 Asian:non-Asian according to the owner. http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2013... .

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              Here are the menu pix:

                              http://www.greateasternsf.com/Dim-Sum...

                              When I have XLB in SF I have them at Bund Shanghai.

                              I think a menu with pix is a great way to go. One may easily know what they like and what it looks like but not what it's called. The cart ladies may not know a ton of English (but some do) but they seem to know enough to figure out what you're asking about. I can't ever remember the name for the bean curd stuffed with pork and vegetables or the eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste but they always know what I'm talking about :)

                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                "anyhow" is thumbs down on the XLB at Great Eastern,
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9790...

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  Yank Sing's clientele may be 50/50 if you factor in weekends, but I've been there at weekday lunchtimes when there was nary an Asian face in view.

                              2. re: Cuisinescene

                                I don't find the service pushy at Yank Sing. They sometimes keep offering the same things you said no to already.

                                As noted in the tips I linked to, the way to spend three times as much at Yank Sing than at any other place is to order the really expensive dishes other places don't offer.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  So Bob and I can both eat at YS for under $20? I had NO idea. Thanks for the tip.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I don't know how you could get out of City View or Koi Palace for $10 a head. Maybe Y Ben House was that cheap. When I was at Koi Palace four years ago, all but one of the dishes were $4.50 and $6.90 each.

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5843...

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      We go to a couple of places in Chinatown and one on Clement and the tab is under $20. And we pay the same in NYC, LA, SEA.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Which places in Chinatown? Not Great Eastern or City View, which are the ones that were mentioned up-thread.

                                        House of Banquet you can get seven items for not much over $20 including tea tax, tip, and tea, but that's a long schlep from downtown.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          When we're staying in Marin or Sonoma, we usually go to House of Banquet. Love it. In Chinatown we have been going to Happy Chinese for the last five years or so. Before that, it was Dol Ho.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The last time I was at YS, as soon as we sat down a waiter came over with one of their "specials"--a glazed Chilean sea bass. One of our party ordered it without thinking, and I think it was in the $20 range, just for that dish. So, yes, be careful what you order.

                                  3. re: Cuisinescene

                                    Yet another vote for Yank Sing. On our most recent visit in April, ladies were very nice, mindful of our shellfish allergy & were even kind enough to take a picture of our family. YS is a must whenever my elderly parents visit from Texas. Yes, do get get the XLB & finish off with mango pudding.

                                    Lastly, call ahead to be safe. I've even called same morning.

                                  4. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Yank Sing's service isn't anything special. The room is nice, and it's clean, but that's about it. Ingredients are mid-level. Dim Sum is so bad in NY right now that Yank Sing isn't the worst choice for the OP, but locals shouldn't be playing it up as if it's really great, top notch Dim Sum. It's good, but nothing they serve is the best version of it in the city.

                                    It's not a bad intro to Dim Sum kind of place though.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      Each to his own. Most things I've had at Yank Sing were the best version I've had of those items since Harbor Village closed. As noted in the topic I linked to, few have gone downhill over the years due to replacing pork with chicken or just leaving it out entirely.

                                      People love to hate Yank Sing, but every time I try a place that people claim is better, it's not. City View is solid but a step down.

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3764...

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        And I'd say it's mostly non-Chinese who love to love YS. Oh, I looked at their menu hoping there would be prices. Do they not have chicken feet?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          On the weekends at Yank Sing I always see Chinese families having a good time at nearby tables. Weekdays it's your typical pan-ethnic Financial District / SOMA / Moscone crowd.

                                          They always have chicken feet, sometimes duck feet as well.

                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I don't hate Yank Sing, I just wish they served better food. Dim Sum can taste much, much better than that.

                                    2. re: Cuisinescene

                                      La Ciccia has a pretty good selection of pastas, so you're not locked into seafood there. I don't think it would stand out if it were in NY, but I recall some NY visitors reporting wild enthusiasm for their meals.

                                      Cotogna's a lot more convenient, and they're a popular choice right now with more of a California approach than La Ciccia or even Barbacco.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        Cotogna's convenient if you can get a reservation.

                                        There's nothing like La Ciccia in New York, let alone Ohio. They'll be closed from June 24 to July 9, though.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          "There's nothing like La Ciccia in New York, let alone Ohio. "

                                          Not true. When was your last trip to NY again?

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            We will be there during the time that La Ciccia is closed, so that takes the option off the table. Cotogna's available reservations aren't terribly convenient, though something earlier than 10 might pop up. It sounds like Perbacco is a solid choice and I have a table booked there for now for Thursday's dinner. Oh, how I've missed living in a place with food worth arguing about! ;)

                                            1. re: Cuisinescene

                                              Some things worth ordering at Perbacco:

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7949...

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6846...

                                              The cheese plate is one of the best I've had in this country. We sometimes go there specifically for that.

                                            2. re: sugartoof

                                              Excuse me for jumping in, but we've had visitors from NY who raved about La Ciccia and certainly implied there was nothing like it in NY.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                "certainly implied there was nothing like it in NY."

                                                It's one thing for a NY'er to rave about La Ciccia, but I can't begin to guess why they would claim there's nothing like it in NY. Since they're not here to discuss it with directly, I don't see the point in rehashing this.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Here's the old thread that doesn't need to be rehashed:

                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9238...

                                                2. re: sugartoof

                                                  So please name the places in NY (and Ohio?) that you apparently have in mind.

                                            3. re: Cuisinescene

                                              FWIW we liked what was on offer appetizer-wise more than mains at Fly Trap on our April trip to SF which kept the costs down. Almost every dish was sweet that evening, which was not ideal. Try to get seated in the back room if noise is an issue, and do make a reservation if you can.

                                              Cotogna is a standout for me at lunch time, and reservations are easier then (though still difficult). The room is so pretty in the daytime and seems less frenetic.

                                              I hadn't heard of Mau and will be intrigued to read what you think of it. We've tried a half dozen Vietnamese places in SF over our visits and haven't really been blown away, except for the bo luc lac at La Bodega, which is still the best version I've ever had.

                                              I'm a sucker for Burmese, especially the "salads" and the tea leaf one is unique and worth trying. Good idea to go for lunch as it will keep you awake if eaten at dinner. Burmese Kitchen was the first place I ever had it and the best for a long spell.

                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                That would be Bodega Bistro, I presume. La Bodega is a long gone Spanish resto in North Beach that came complete with flamenco dancers.

                                                1. re: soupçon

                                                  those were the days. could stay for the final set at Barkan's club Keystone Korner and catch some flamenco in the early a.m. a few doors away.

                                                  1. re: soupçon

                                                    LOL. Yes, I was confused as to why a Vietnamese restaurant had a Spanish name until I learned it was from "bo" (beef), "de" (?) and "ga" (chicken) in Vietnamese.

                                              2. Lers Ros, Poc Chuc, and Mandalay are places where you can do well if you order correctly, and the specific dishes I've had there in the past year were as good as when I first tried them in 2011.

                                                The pastas were never a strength, but it's disappointing to hear all the negative stuff about Barbacco. I've not been for a while, and many prices have gone up, but I can't think of Cal-Italian or regional Italian place that's competitive with its price point. Pizza places, you can do well for cheap (e.g. Pizzeria Delfina), but not small plates.

                                                La Taqueria: get the tacos dorados. I don't like their burritos, even when it's customized to have no beans and grilled, but there are lots of fans.

                                                Zare at the Fly Trap is an excellent recommendation. Maykadeh in North Beach has the best traditional Persian in SF IMHO. There's also a new place in SoMa, Anar, but I haven't seen reviews so far.

                                                1. I haven't been to Sons & Daughters, but for a good value California menu decently close to public transport, I recommend Central Kitchen. It's not too bad getting reservations, either.

                                                  I went earlier this week, and for $65 a head, we got:
                                                  - quartet of salad-y appetizers (including raw / lightly pickled veggies with boursin, 'dill and seaweed' mini falafel with yogurt sauce, figs with almond buttered bread crumbs, cucumber and melon salad with yogurt panna cotta)
                                                  - a fabulous dish of fresh squid with eggplant, squid ink, and sea beans
                                                  - pasta with sea urchin, mussels, and bottarga (rich and delicious)
                                                  - hen roulade, on a bed of fresh peas cooked with ginger, sesame, and ramps -- the asian notes were very subtle and this dish melded together really well
                                                  - chocolate custard with caramel, coffee ice cream, and little crunchy bits

                                                  1. Barbacco's really good and a great value but to my taste the top Italian places in SF are Perbacco, La Ciccia, and Cotogna. At Perbacco and Cotogna I prefer the appetizers and pastas to the main courses.

                                                    My favorites for California cuisine in SF are Zuni, St. Vincent, Bar Tartine, and Bar Jules. I haven't been to Sons & Daughters and now that the only option is a $100 tasting menu probably will never make it there. There are lots of places where you can have a fantastic meal in SF for less than half that.

                                                    The food I've had at Burmese Kitchen was better than what I had at Mandalay or Burma Superstar, and you don't have to wade through a bunch of Chinese and Indian dishes to find the things you should order.

                                                    Tacos al pastor or chorizo at Taqueria San Jose over or in addition to La Taqueria (same block).

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I love La Ciccia too, but the OP doesn't seem so seafood-focused, and you must like those flavors to enjoy LC.

                                                      Have you been to La Nebbia yet?

                                                      1. re: Torina

                                                        Good point. For a meat lover, Perbacco would be my first choice.

                                                    2. I am surprised by all of the negative responses for Barbacco, especially for your first night. I think it is a great choice for that night -- very convenient to your hotel. Sens is just not worth wasting a meal in SF... you could also look at the places across the Embarcadero for an option that night as that is close to your hotel -- I'm not sure your price point though.

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: The Dive

                                                        Monday we will be spending several hours at JFK before flying to SFO (long story), where we will land around 6. We're planning to take BART from the airport, so by the time we get to the Hyatt it will be late (our time) and we will be travel-weary. Barbacco might be the right thing for those circumstances-- comforting and good is probably more important than transcendent for that night.

                                                        We have a very high tolerance for Italian food, so it's not out of the realm of possibility for us to eat at Barbacco Monday and then Perbacco Thursday. I know they are sister restaurants and that would take away a chance to experience something else that SF has to offer, but you never know what you're going to feel like after a transcontinental flight.

                                                        That said, the goal for Monday is to go somewhere not too fancy (would be wasted on us at that point), not too expensive (entrees under $25), convenient to the Hyatt (walkable-- within a mile or so-- is preferable), and at least "quite good." That might be all we're up to. Then again, my husband is a night owl and may just be hitting his stride by the time we're done with dinner, so he could be looking for post-dinner drink options.

                                                        Dive, was there a particular restaurant across the Embarcadero that you would suggest?

                                                        1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                          I think Sens should be fine if you are tired and don't want to leave the hotel. Some other Monday night options within a mile, Osha Thai is right next door, food's pretty solid though not in the Lers Ros league, more comfortable than your average Thai place. Schroeder's just had a radical makeover, could be very good. Aquitaine, really good southwestern French. Trou Normand, despite the name, is Italian, kind of like Barbacco, actually, but with a full bar. Rickhouse if you want cocktails after dinner.

                                                          BART costs $8.65 and is kind of a pain to get to from the domestic terminals. I suggest you spend the extra $7-8 and grab a shuttle van right outside the baggage claim.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Shuttle vans can add another hour or more to your travel time.

                                                            Osha Thai isn't worthwhile at that location unless cold soggy egg rolls, and reheated pad thai are your thing.

                                                            Bourbon Steak, Tu Lan, Box Kitchen, Harrow, Super Duper, come to mind for backups in the Union Square area.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                              We learned that the hard way. Going from the hotel to SFO is fine but one time we took Super Shuttle from SFO and they made a lot of stops, quite far apart. I'd spring for a taxi. BART for two people isn't cheap.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Circa 6pm on Monday there should be enough arrivals going to downtown SF hotels that the stops won't be far apart.

                                                                Personally, after a long domestic flight I'd rather get in a van than deal with getting to the SFO BART station. I like BART fine for international flights since it's right there and you don't have to go through the garage twice.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Getting to BART just takes a ride on the AirTrain, no? We have a lot of practice on JFK's AirTrain to connect to the subway, so we are undaunted by that (or at least I am). More money to devote to food and beverage! :) (But if it's a really rough day, we'll take a cab.)

                                                                  Robert, a one-two punch of Aquitaine and Rickhouse sounds fantastic. You may have just solved Monday for me. Would we need a reservation at Aquitaine on a Monday evening?

                                                                  1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                    I took the BART into town from SFO, really easy, and not expensive. I think it cost me $8.65 each way to get to Powell St (should be the same to get to Embarcadero). On arrival at SFO, you can take either the Red or Blue AirTrain to reach the BART stop, so just grab whichever comes first. On the return to SFO, you'll want to catch the Red unless you don't mind a trip to the car rental center...

                                                                    http://www.flysfo.com/services-amenit...

                                                                    1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                      You could call Aquitaine and ask but I doubt it will be busy. Monday's a slow night just about everywhere.

                                                              2. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                Not to dissuade you from Aquitane, but if you get in and are especially tired, you could do worse than MarketBar, across the street, or the bar at Slanted Door. Both are delightfully SF experiences, and even though this board turns its nose up mightily at SD, new yorkers in particular seem to flip for it. Both should be walk-in on a monday. Both are within your price range if you either eat light or eat the cheaper items.

                                                                Regarding airport transport, I find bart tiring. It's simple, but it's a long 35 minutes with the noise - and up to a 20 minute wait. However, the fact that you're going to the Hyatt which is on top of the bart station makes it the sanest choice (as you're price sensitive).

                                                                I have now taken to NOT the supershuttle, but simply showing up at the shuttle stops at the airport. During normal hours (before midnight) this seems high traffic, well scheduled by the walkie-talkie guys.

                                                                Finally, why aren't you eating at californian restaurants? Why keep as your categories other people's food? Let me suggest for your thursday dinner Serpentine, Bar Tartine, Namu Gaji, Maven, Rich Table, Marlowe?

                                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                                  Yeah, when I saw where they were staying, BART looked a lot better. We've never been close so it can be a trek with luggage.

                                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                                    I think Serpentine is much better for brunch than for dinner -- always a bit disappointed at dinner, and always wondering why we don't go more often when we go for brunch. Plus, reservations are easy. Order the savory bread pudding.

                                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                                      bbulkow, would you not consider Sons & Daughters to be Californian? Our goal was to make our high-end dinner Californian cuisine and to spend other meals eating things we can't get where we are living now, hence all the ethnic options. But please educate me if S&D isn't a good example of what you mean by a Californian restaurant.

                                                                      And thank you for the other suggestions. I think we will keep Italian for one of our dinners because it is a favorite of ours and we can't get the kind of high quality Italian food that SF has where we live. But we will keep the other places you suggest in mind for a lunch or Monday's dinner. We won't be in town over the weekend, so we wont' get a chance to test out the various brunch options that have been suggested.

                                                                      1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                        Yes, absolutely S&D is californian, my mistake.

                                                                2. Because Tuesday dinner was spoken for, I didn't mention this earlier, but I'll throw it out there anyway: if you like porchetta--first, Porcellino does a great one and would work for a lunch any day...except Tuesday actually--but I missed the opportunity to try Nopa's porchetta, which they only do on Tuesdays.

                                                                  Surprisingly, I couldn't find any reports on Nopa's porchetta on CH, but if it's as good as their other stuff, I have to think it's gonna be pretty damn good. Looks legit: http://www.nopalize.com/2014/01/how-t...

                                                                  1. I would go out of my way to eat at Yank Sing. It's that good. There's another place out in the Richmond area that usually gets mentioned, along with Yank Sing, but for my money, it's the place to go.

                                                                    Is YS more expensive than other places? Yes, compared to Chinatown. Well, as Robert Lauriston wrote on this board, the quality of the ingredients seems higher and the bathrooms are clean.

                                                                    Furthermore, it is in a downtown primo location. You pay more for location. But remember, if you go somewhere else far away, you will have to factor in transportation costs, not to mention inconvenience.

                                                                    Yang Sing is one of my five favorite restaurants ever. The food is as good as anything I had in Singapore when I lived there. The variety is unbelievable. Per sure and go there.

                                                                    30 Replies
                                                                    1. re: gfr1111

                                                                      "The food is as good as anything I had in Singapore when I lived there. The variety is unbelievable. "

                                                                      Seriously?

                                                                      It's typically $30-45 per person for lunch.
                                                                      Selection is standard, very few inventive dishes.
                                                                      Quality and skill level is fine but not upscale.
                                                                      Dishes are sometimes served cold.
                                                                      Feeling overcharged/robbed is not rare.

                                                                      Also, why do people keep mentioning the bathrooms specifically? Because it's Chinese?

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        I disagree with everything you say except that items do sometimes get cold on the carts, in which case, as noted in my tip sheet, I send them back.

                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7321...

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          You disagree with the $30-45 per person estimate?

                                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                                            I rarely spend over $30 a head. Certainly you could easily spend $45 or more if you pay no attention to the prices and order whatever strikes your fancy.

                                                                            Except for the XLB, I usually like the less expensive dishes the most:

                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7321...

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              Your post describes a $40 per person order, and you called it a splurge.

                                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                Yeah, because we ignored my usual rule against ordering specials. Also it was about the same amount of food we'd usually get with three people.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  Less the specials, you're still pushing at $30 a person. For Dim Sum, and for a lunch, I would agree it's a splurge.

                                                                                  At this point the OP should certainly consider dropping by an order a couple items just out of curiosity, after all this discussion, but I'm mainly replying because a fair amount of people are being given wrong expectations of Yank Sing. That it's coming up as a recommendation for a budget minded visitor is proof.

                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                    Yank Sing didn't come up as a recommendation, it's in the opening post as a must-do. It's not a student budget.

                                                                      2. re: gfr1111

                                                                        Yes, yes, go to Yank Sing. Go to the 101 Spear location (at Mission St) the better of their two locations. It's walking distance from Hyatt Regency. Skip that fish dish since it's so pricey. Love the shrimp dumplings, just read what Robert has written in previous threads about what to order. They take reservations; I like to go at 1 when it's a bit less crowded but go later and they have run out of stuff.

                                                                        You have to ask one of the supervisors for a printed menu .. it has prices. If there is something on the menu you want and don't see it on a cart, ask the sup to get it for you. Don't get more than 1 or 2 things at a time so you can enjoy and move on to fresh stuff when it comes by. Get the egg custard tarts fresh from the kitchen; ask the sup.

                                                                        Once a friend ordered the shrimp chow mein from the menu .. it was $17 but really delicious and good quality shrimp.

                                                                        At La Taquerita ask for the crispy taco; I get the salsa on the side so it stays hot and crispy. All the meats are good; I get the chicken and ask for the white meat only. It's moist, cooked in a light red sauce that's not hot. Their green sauce on the tables is excellent.

                                                                        Have you considered Tadich (primarily seafood but there is much more on the menu)? It's at 240 Cal, walking distance from Hyatt Regency. Closed Sundays. No res. Easy to get in for late lunch or early dinner since they don't close in between.

                                                                        1. re: walker

                                                                          Tadich's menu is a minefield and the few safe things to order are all simply prepared seafood.

                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/850791

                                                                          1. re: walker

                                                                            I think Tadich is a great suggestion, but they might have to stick to chowder or a shrimp cocktail, on a budget.

                                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                                              From reading her statement, I don't see where it's that tight a budget. How much is a plate of sand dabs (sole) or petrale sole, or fried or sauteed shellfish? They don't need an app or dessert here. If they like a cocktail or wine with dinner, it won't break the bank. It's a 2 block walk from their hotel so they are saving cab/bus fare.

                                                                              (I don't rec the shrimp cocktail. Others love their cioppino but I only order what I listed above.)

                                                                              Re: Yank Sing .. I've been going there for many years and have always enjoyed every single meal. When my daughter buys dim sum from Clement St or Irving St, to me, it's not worth eating. I have heard good reports on Hong Kong Lounge II on Geary/Parker but it's pretty busy now that it's on Michael Bauer's list. Dim Sum at lunch and menu of Chinese food at night.

                                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                                Sand Dabs are about $24, Fried shellfish $29-36, Pertale of Sole is $28. Cioppino is $31.

                                                                                I've tried eating at Tadich on a budget and found it challenging. I think it's responsible to point out it's not the most budget conscious option.

                                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                  I love Tadich but have not been there in a year or two. There is a high minimum wage in SF and other high expenses. I eat out a lot less often but when I do I want it to be great quality, value. I still think Tadich is a great choice if you like really fresh seafood, very San Francisco atmosphere, mixture of locals and tourists.

                                                                                  Next door to Tadich, you can pay $75 and up (Market Rate) for lobster pot pie. I'm sure it's delicious but I can't afford to pay that much for one meal. With any wine, tax, tip and an app or dessert, that's really getting up there.

                                                                                  1. re: walker

                                                                                    I'm a big Tadich fan. It doesn't get much more San Francisco, but it's still seafood, so that's not the most economical lunch. A chowder and a martini works though.

                                                                                    I'd be more inclined to send them to Anchor Oyster Bar for a lunch.

                                                                            2. re: walker

                                                                              Ah, see, there's another hangup for us. We have dim sum for breakfast, never later than 9AM. Like to be there with the old Chinese men reading their newspapers :)

                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                You will not find "old Chinese men reading newspapers" at any time, at Yank Sing. And most dim sum restaurants don't open until 10a., people eat it for lunch here.

                                                                                And as you're not looking for seafood, suggestions of Anchor Oyster and Tadich are probably off-base for the OP.

                                                                                1. re: jaiko

                                                                                  I think you were replying to both me and someone else (re seafood).

                                                                                  I've had dim sum in SF dozens of times over 25+ plus years as early as 730AM. We almost never go after 9AM.

                                                                                  1. re: jaiko

                                                                                    The discussion of seafood was in response to Walker's suggestion of Tadich. It's a different ballgame from Le Bernadin entirely so no harm in mentioning it.

                                                                                2. re: walker

                                                                                  "At La Taquerita ask for the crispy taco; I get the salsa on the side so it stays hot and crispy."

                                                                                  is the shell crispy or the meat crispy?

                                                                                  1. re: macsak

                                                                                    Hopefully the meat. Didn't Taco Bell invent the crispy one ?!?

                                                                                    1. re: macsak

                                                                                      Just so you go to the right place: it's La Taqueria, on Mission near the corner of 25th St.

                                                                                      You can get regular tacos, 2 soft tortillas with meat, etc. inside or you can ask for "dorado" (means golden) so just say crispy. One of the tortillas gets put on the grill until crispy. When I get a chicken taco, the chicken is not crispy since it's poached .. they don't have grilled chicken at this place. They have carne asada, carnitas (pork), chorizo, chicken or you can get a bean/guac one if you don't like to eat meat.

                                                                                      They don't have chile relleno .. for burritos of those I go to El Farolito at Mission/24 St or 24th St/Alabama.

                                                                                      1. re: walker

                                                                                        Burritos at La Taqueria are good too. Chicken portion is generous, much like the tacos, so they're not for everyone, but the beans and overall taste/texture, is classic.

                                                                                  2. re: gfr1111

                                                                                    I agree. YS is as good as the solid places in S. E. Asia and is as good as the local touristy recommendations in Hong Kong.

                                                                                    Frankly, you're not going to find better Dim Sum in a more convenient location (e.g. not a 45 min- hour commute from where the center of the city is) in the entire United States. LA has better more diverse dim sum, but it's very much out of the way if you are a visitor.

                                                                                    1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                      I would tend to agree (at least in my experience). MIght have to go to outlying areas of Vancouver or Toronto to find comparable...

                                                                                      1. re: barleywino

                                                                                        I think we will have to go to the Rincon Yank Sing on our next trip. The SO has been to the Stevenson one and thought it was pretty good, but as barleywino notes in Vancouver we are spoiled for dim sum, and furthermore I believe the Rincon location is the one to go to. As it happens, my two favourite places for yum cha are within 10 minutes of our house, that is, they are in town. They also use premium ingredients and charge more but you're still looking at $20 a head vs $10-15 at a "regular" spot, so I think we win on pricing too. As I said, totally spoiled.

                                                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                                                          I'd love to get your comparison of YS Rincon compared to Vancouver. My gut would be that there's no point going to Yank Sing if you live in Vancouver, but to get some item comparisons would be great.

                                                                                          1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                            I just checked with the SO and he thought the Yank Sing Stevenson offerings were on par with our top options at home, but that the prices were much higher (and he rarely notices prices on anything). I've only had outstanding dim sum once in SF and that was way back in 2007. I still remember that we paid $30 US/$45 Cdn a head with exchange rate of the day which horrified me, despite the delicious eats.

                                                                                            1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                              That is my impression as well.

                                                                                            2. re: grayelf

                                                                                              I don't find the food quality different between the two branches of Yank Sing. Rincon might have a bigger selection on the weekends and the decor is fancier. Don't sit in the atrium by the stinky fountain.

                                                                                      2. one option for Mexican food with SF specificity would be Nopalito. typical dishes, executed at a high level, with top quality fresh and local ingredients. the ingredients used set it apart from most other SF Mexican spots -- basically the same stuff as the Calif cuisine affiliated restaurant Nopa.

                                                                                        1. I don't wanna start a new thread on basically the same topic, but I'm going to SF with my DH and kids in about a month and would like to try some of these places too! I was raised there as a child and haven't been back in 20 years or maybe more. So I'll piggyback off Cuisinescene's thread if that's ok.

                                                                                          Is Clement street still a thing? My earliest memories are getting Char Siu Bao or eggrolls from little Chinese bakeries... an ice cream shop called Toy Boat, and dim sum from places that I can't recall too clearly. I remember my mom always talking about going to Clement Street but I don't know if that's like an area, a block, or what...

                                                                                          Are any of these recommendations TOO fancy for kids? Mine are well behaved and fairly adventurous eaters but then again I never take them to fine restaurants so that's another story.

                                                                                          I want them to experience Dim Sum, though, preferably in Chinatown so our day can sort of have a theme to it. Assumed Chinatown restos would be too touristy until I saw some recs on this thread.

                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                            Toy Boat is still there at 5th Ave/Clement St. Clement St is in the Richmond District; GG Park is a few blocks away. There are a lot of Chinese grocery stores here (very interesting) and Chinese restaurants. Very close to here is Hong Kong Flower Lounge II at Geary/Parker where they have dim sum at lunch time. I haven't tried this place yet so don't know if they have carts but I know people who love it.

                                                                                            My preference is Yank Sing (lunch), at Spear/Mission near Embarcadero/Financial .. see above comments.

                                                                                            1. re: walker

                                                                                              I think Walker means Hong Kong Lounge II. The main HK Lounge location is on Geary and 18th, actually closer to Clement than the Geary/Parker location. Always a line, though.

                                                                                              1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                Yes, you're right .. I got confused. At Geary/Parker it's Hong Kong Lounge II.

                                                                                                1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                  From what I understand, Hong Kong Lounge and Hong Kong Lounge II are under separate ownership now and HKL II has the good stuff.

                                                                                              2. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                I don't think any of the places discussed are too fancy for kids. I can picture some attitude at Cotogna, butthat's just because I've never seen kids there, and tables are pretty tight. Barbacco's seating might night be the most kid comfortable.

                                                                                                Clement is still a thing.

                                                                                                It's great that you have that frame of reference. Dim Sum over all has declined, so the stuff people rave about from Yank Sing is no better than what places were serving from steamers on the cheap from Clement 30+ years ago.

                                                                                                Clement was always a mixed bag though, and still is. Most of the places that were good then, aren't the same now, and they are mostly geared for takeout. Different places make different things well, but that's part of the fun. Wing Lee and custard tarts from Alex Bakery were a great combo for lunch last week. Everything was better than I expected, with fresh racks coming out at 3pm. Honkg Kong Lounge, or Ton Kiang on Geary have sit down service in the area if you want the best of both worlds.

                                                                                                It also depends if you want the experience with the carts?

                                                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                  I do want carts, but mostly for my kids to experience, and a bit of my own nostalgia. They have cart-service dim sum down here in SoCal, and I like it but the food isn't as amazing as I remember it as a kid, but who knows, it's hard to trust my child-memory. I think my boys would get a kick out of it though.

                                                                                                  1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                    Oh, you're from LA. I'd probably nix dim sum then as the SGV puts to shame just about anything anywhere :)

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      I have heard this but I'm unlikely to ever go out that way.

                                                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                        Really?????? We were doing a house exchange in Laguna Beach a few years ago and made the trek up and out. Soooo worth it. If I lived down there it would be a regular for me for sure.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          Thanks, I will give it a try. Sounds worth the trek actually :)

                                                                                                    2. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                      The carts are great fun. Not at the expense of eating mystery meat, but everyone's first dim sum experience should be with carts, I think.

                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                        This should probably be a General Topics discussion :) I think carts work best for those who don't know the 'cuisine' and can point to things they recognize. For me anyway, a menu gives me generally much fresher dishes.

                                                                                                  2. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                    House of Banquet on Clement at about 10th is our favorite SF dim sum place.

                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883483

                                                                                                    A couple of blocks east of there, on the same side of the street, is New May Wah a wonderful Asian market that I know your kids would love. Live fish, all manner of meats, produce, etc. We just love to wander the aisles there.

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      Once I was in an Asian market on Clement and there were live fish in tanks and cut fish on ice. There were 2 fish side by side (bass? rock cod?) with their heads cut off and discarded. The tail of one of the fish was swishing back a forth. It was like a horror movie but I couldn't look away; I didn't know this happens.

                                                                                                      1. re: walker

                                                                                                        WOW :( I'd be like you. Shiver.

                                                                                                        1. re: walker

                                                                                                          Anybody who grew up fishing and cleaning fish themselves knows about this. Chickens will literally run around with their heads cut off, too. I was always amused by this at my grandpa's farm whenever he dispatched an over-the-hill biddy for chicken and dumplings.

                                                                                                    2. Can anyone who has been to both weigh in on Sons & Daughters vs. AQ? I know AQ has both the four-course option and the tasting menu, and S&D has just the tasting menu. I'm assuming we would go for the tasting menu at AQ, but I'm happy to hear your thoughts on that vs. the four-course menu.

                                                                                                      I'm specifically interested in a comparison of their:

                                                                                                      - Food execution, ingredient quality, overall enjoyability (subjective, I know)

                                                                                                      - Service/hospitality

                                                                                                      - Atmosphere

                                                                                                      - Wine pairings (we will almost certainly opt for these)

                                                                                                      - Anything else that would be the deciding factor for you.

                                                                                                      Since their price points are very close (AQ: $92 + $58 for wine; S&D: $98 + $68 for wine) and they both have their fans and detractors on the boards, I would love your thoughts on a head-to-head comparison.

                                                                                                      Thanks again!

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                                                        hey! I am also trying to decide between AQ and Sons & Daughters for our 'nicer' dinner in SF during our trip. What did you end up deciding on? I had booked Atelier Crenn originally but my BH said the $195pp was too much. Then I thought about Chez Panisse, but wanted something a bit more inventive. Would love to know what you decided on!

                                                                                                        1. re: nonibear

                                                                                                          We ended up going with Sons & Daughters and had a very nice, though not mind-blowing, experience. You can check out my trip report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9828.... Enjoy!

                                                                                                          1. re: Cuisinescene

                                                                                                            thank you!!!