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Visiting for a week from L.A.

I'm sure millions of these threads have been posted, so I'm sorry to post another. If you know of one that will be useful, please point me in that direction.

I'm interested, as we all are, in the best of the good food. I don't really care about ambiance, though that can be a plus. Ideally I want the stuff that I can't find in LA. Usually not looking to spend more than $30/person, though I can splurge one or two times if it's worth it.

I'll be in the SF/Cupertino/Palo Alto area for a week. I'll be at the Outside Lands Music Festival for a weekend, so anything in that area that I can go to for lunch would be cool. With that said, I'm absolutely willing to drive if necessary.

Here's some places I've been thinking about:

Dim sum - I'm not as big on the dim sum scene in LA as most people. I ate at Hong Kong Lounge last year and thought it was at least on par with Sea Harbour (for those who are familiar with LA)... I would go back, but I'd be interested in trying more. A friend recommended New Asia in Chinatown?

Tartine Bakery- fresh bread, pastries. I've been here, and I'm almost definitely going back.

Bi-rite ice cream because it's near Tartine

El Torro for the "best" burrito? Been to El Metate, thought their salsas were good.

Jackson Fillmore for Italian? I've heard some good things, may take a date there.

Bissap Baobab for dancing and food.

North Beach Pizza for deep dish.

Pizzaiolo in Oakland for pizza.

Mission Chinese worth it? Seems like it might be a little whitified and has a lot of dishes that are great in LA.

Liguria Bakery in North Beach for focaccia

Burmese - Burma Superstar or Mandalay

Ultimately, I don't really know what I'm doing, so I'm looking for any recs for anything that I must eat. Can be literally any food. I like ma po tofu, I like burgers, I like crepes, I like Burmese tea leaf salad, I like Sri Lankan string hoppers, I like Shaanxi knife cut noodles, I like fish tacos, I like Peruvian ceviche, I like Naples-style pizza.

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  1. For deep-dish pizza, go to Little Star. North Beach Pizza doesn't do deep dish. Whatever it once was, it's now an average or below-average chain.

    1. If you have your sights on Liguria Bakery, you know what you're doing . . . maybe a couple items from Molinari Delicatessen to round out your excursion.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BoneAppetite

        Nope - this list is mostly just recs from friends. I'm guessing most of my friends know what they're doing, but not sure which ones know more.

      2. You know Liguria sometimes ruhs out and closes well before noon, right?

        I like Burmese Kitchen better than Mandalay and Mandalay better than Burma Superstar. At the latter two you need to inform yourself about the menu to avoid the boring Indian and Chinese dishes.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I'm lucky enough to have visited Myanmar, so not an issue. Thanks for the Liguria tip

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            If that's the case, you can cross the park and order a focaccia sandwich at Mario's. They get a delivery from Liguria every morning.

          2. Shan, Cupertino - tandoori chicken leg, goat karahi, & naan. Veg dishes are weak.

            Saravana Bhavan, Sunnyvale - veg S.Indian

            Aachi Appakadai, Sunnyvale - string hoppers were dry but goat curry & appam with chicken kheema were quite good.

            Palo Alto Creamery - fellow hound turned me onto their patty melt. They also have tasty but huge milkshakes.

            10 Replies
            1. re: ceekskat

              Taste Buds, Sunnyvale: usually not in the lunch buffet: Fish Pulusu, specialty rices (lemon, curd, tamarind), gongura curries (ask if in season)

              Da Sichuan, Palo Alto: oily, spicy Sichuan (and I mean in the best way). Love the Boiled/Boiling fish here.

              Philz Coffee, (all over): great drip and their mint mojito coffee is a guilty pleasure.

              Blue Line (all over): deep dish pizza

              1. re: goldangl95

                I love the mint mojito coffees at Philz, goldangl, but I always order them half sweet as they are kind of a sugar bomb. One can always add more sweetener but removing it, not so much :-).

                1. re: grayelf

                  Ha! Good tip. The way Philz makes coffee you are out of luck if you wrongly estimate how much milk/cream you want in it - but sugar is easier to adjust.

              2. re: ceekskat

                If there was one or two Indian restaurants (can be South/North/Gujarat/whatever) I need to try, what would they be?

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Anjappar Chettinad is pretty far out of the way and can get quite backed-up/lots of traffic.

                    I'd say Taste Buds for the dishes that I mentioned which are decently unique.

                    Pessarattu if you are not picky about food and can go for lunch (it's a set menu).

                    Sarvana Bhavan is good, it's not particularly unique if you go to say Mayura or Annapurna in LA. It's perhaps a bit better, but it's not worth a special stop.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      What's the appeal of Pessarattu? "If you are not picky about food" sounds like a place to avoid.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I just meant you have no choice. You walk in you sit they put the set meal in front of you - you eat quickly and leave.

                  2. re: thefatknightrises

                    I do believe the Indo-Pak tandoori items in the Bay Area excellent, therefore I highly recommend Shan. Their tandoori chicken leg & fresh, thin naan with the right amount of crisp/chew are hard to beat (DD put this along with the goat karahi on her "top 10 list" for a college app. And I believe their haleem is worth a try as well. Biriyani is o.k.

                    I would then choose Anjappar so you can try the mutton dishes (based on Robert's rec/link, keep meaning to go haven't made the trek; have had original in Chennai). Otherwise, I was going to say Aachi Appakadai so you can get dosas/appam with the goat curry, but this thread surfaced today http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/983534. Have not been to this new place.

                    Lastly, if you have time (avoid rush hour) when you are in Palo Alto, you may want to try chaat at Chatpatta Corner just over the Dumbarton bridge.
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8661...

                    Tough decisions, enjoy your trip!

                    ps. forgot to mention that I'm addicted to the sticky jasmine beef fried rice as well as the veg. five crop rice at Steam in Palo Alto. http://steampaloalto.com/

                1. There's good Neapolitan-style pizza not far from Cupertino:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/755006

                  1. Little Yangon on the border of SF and Daly City has some Burmese items on the menu that they don't sell elsewhere IIRC.

                    The Mission Chinese stuff you can get in LA is exactly what you wouldn't want to get from their menu. You want the experimental stuff. But it's crowded during peak hours, the food is inconsistent, the head chef is leaving soon, so it's gamble for a visitor:

                    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                    That said, though there are plenty of places to get traditional mapo doufu, their tweaked version had more tradition going for it than nominally Sichuan places: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922472

                    You might want to check out Shaanxi dishes and hand-pulled noodles at Terra Cotta Warrior http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/968821, which offers lots of other cool stuff.

                    Shanxi knife shaved noodles in Palo Alto: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549353

                    More Chinese things:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/975114
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/923572 (Cupertino place)

                    The only place in North Beach that does deep dish is Capo's. Blue Line, mentioned by someone else, is an offshoot of Little Star (deep-dish) pizza and there are lots of locations of both. Yes, you want to go here. But I don't know if they do deep dish by the slice at lunch-- they don't at night.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      I don't believe Little Star does slices at all any more. The Mission location has "personal-sized" pies from 12-5.

                      Little Yangon's my favorite Burmese place. Easy stop if you're driving between SF and Cupertino.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Thanks. I meant those dishes more as examples - I like Shanxi food, but I'd be just as excited to go after, say, Yunnan food. What Chinese spot would you have me go to if only 1? The Tibetan spots are admittedly tempting.

                        1. re: thefatknightrises

                          Yum's Bistro in Fremont for Cantonese seafood:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673106

                          Great China in Berkeley for Korean-Chinese specialties and more:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/928067

                          Yank Sing in SF for dim sum:

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

                          1. re: thefatknightrises

                            Ah, I see. Looking over this thread from LA http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/872852 , I'm not sure there's a Chinese cuisine that we have that you don't have, or necessarily do better! Sichuan chefs here tend to be from Chengdu, but I don't know what that means practically speaking. If you're in SF, I would recommend Terra-Cotta Warrior or Z & Y (Sichuan), but I'll let the Peninsula/South Bay hounds give guidance for their stomping ground.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              LA is a little weak in dim sum, at least compared to HK - though there are people who disagree with me. LA has no good peking duck. But yeah, LA is very strong for Chinese food. Apparently (according to my Indian friends) the Bay is significantly better for Indian though, so I may go after that. Thanks for recs.

                              also, Chengdu food is a little lighter/subtle/less oily than Chongqing food (which doesn't take much). I like both.

                              1. re: thefatknightrises

                                David Chan (Chandavki on Chowhound) listed Koi Palace and Yank Sing in his list of the top 10 Chinese restaurants in the US.

                                http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/best...

                                I disagree about Koi Palace:

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8549...

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Yeah, he's one of the people who disagrees with me. He IS heavily biased toward Hong Kong food, and he proceeds to explain exactly why after claiming he's not. He doesn't have a good palate for spicy food. Having been to all three, I would as soon eat the food in Yunnan or Chengdu as HK. There's obscure villages in Southern China that have crazy good, fresh food, with ingredients that would be acceptable at Le Bernardin. In the East much more so than the West - with the exception of maybe Italy - it's a mistake by the rich to assume their food is an ounce better than the poor. But that's the futility of trying to name the best 10 restaurants anywhere. With that said, we have different taste buds, but I trust him (to an extent) about dim sum.

                                  1. re: thefatknightrises

                                    Actually personal taste is only part of what I say about Cantonese food. It's also partly observational. For example, Atlanta has had a Chinese community for about 30 years, mostly Taiwanese, almost no Cantonese. Yet, until very recently, virtually all of the authentic Chinese restaurants (and all of the large, popular restaurants) have been Hong Kong style. Ditto for places like Dallas and St. Louis.

                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      Oh, absolutely. I meant it more as a general complaint at the difficulty of making a reasonable list rather than a rant against you personally - enjoying Hong Kong food is not a sin in the least. I love it, and it's refreshing to see an Asian cuisine (Japanese and Hong Kong banquet food) widely accepted as a great haute cuisine.

                                      Other cities don't have what the SGV or Flushing or the Bay has. I just think putting Sea Harbour (or Lunasia, or Elite), as great as it is, definitively above the cooking at a place like Chengdu Taste (or, more controversially, Yunnan Restaurant or even Dean Sin World) just comes down to personal preference. It's a wash because they're different styles of food and fundamentally different cuisines. We label them Chinese rather than Cantonese or Sichuanese because it's easy, not necessarily because it makes any sense.

                                      So you're still recommending Koi Palace as the go-to dim sum spot?

                                      1. re: thefatknightrises

                                        Yes, overall I'd rate Koi Palace the best Chinese restaurant in the US. Their strength is at dinner, but the dim sum is the best in the Bay Area and you need to try it to conclude if it surpasses all of the SGV places.

                                        1. re: Chandavkl

                                          I thought Koi Palace's dim sum was good but a step down from Yank Sing, and dinner was hit and miss. Service ... what's the opposite of service?

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

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7096...

                        2. I visit LA at least once a year after having lived there for some time (though that was more than a decade ago now). Here are places that I don't believe have good LA area analogs: Wakuriya (Japanese kaiseki); Bar Tartine; Sawa Sushi (some people love it, others less so); La Ciccia (Sardinian); Mission Bowling; Kin Khao (Thai); Garaje (over the top Mexican-inspired calorie bombs... in a good way).

                          I really enjoy Nopa. The menu doesn't necessarily look all that different from any number of other spots, but I think their execution is impeccable. I'd say it's worth going.

                          For an Italian date place, I'd vote for La Ciccia or Cotogna.

                          Two patisseries in SF that are worth going out of your way for: Knead and B Patisserie. The kouign amann at the latter is crazy good.

                          +1 on Blue Line Pizza. There are branches in Mountain View and Burlingame which should be relatively convenient for you.

                          +1 on Burmese. I like Burmese Kitchen a bit better than Burma Superstar but I'm not an expert by any means.

                          I personally wouldn't trek to Oakland for Pizzaiolo. It's good, but I prefer their pastas and other dishes. Una Pizza Napoletana is the gold standard for Neapolitan pizza IMO. Other pizza places (not necessarily Neapolitan) that I also really like are Pizzeria Delfina and Tony's Pizza. PD has a relatively new branch in Palo Alto. Tony's has at least a half-dozen ovens at different temps for various pizza styles.

                          I really like Da Sichuan but I don't think it's necessarily worth taking up a slot assuming you're in reasonable striking distance of the San Gabriel Valley.

                          I prefer LA's dim sum scene over the Bay Area by a reasonable margin so I wouldn't waste my time. I've been to King Hua, Lunasia, Sea Harbour and Elite in the past couple of years and I prefer each to Koi Palace. But others disagree.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: bouncepass

                            Pizzeria Delfina's pizza isn't Neapolitan-style to me.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Agreed. I meant to say that more generally for pizza, not necessarily Neapolitan, I like PD and Tony's. Edited to fix the poor writing.

                            2. re: bouncepass

                              Add to the Los Angeles list--newly opened China Red (Arcadia) and Shi Hai (Alhambra) rank with the second tier just below Sea Harbour.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                Thanks for the heads up on these new places. Both will be on the list for my next visit for sure!

                              2. re: bouncepass

                                Thanks for the thoughtful response.

                                I'm reading good things about Kin Khao - I was under the impression that L.A. definitely has a better Thai scene, but this looks like a great spot.

                                1. re: bouncepass

                                  After getting a cali steak zapatos at Garaje, for dessert walk 2 blocks south to the bar at Saison for a clarified milk punch or white negroni (warning: the drink will cost you more than your dinner)

                                  1. re: bouncepass

                                    I would not do Japanese kaiseki or sushi here. LA is so rich in that arena - even if it was a debatable contest, I don't know if it's worth the OP's time.

                                  2. I've tried lots of Bay Area dim sum. Koi palace is the only Bay Area dim sum place I have tried that makes dim sum on the same level as dim sum I have had in Taiwan and Hong Kong. It's consistently good for dim sum and not overly MSG laden. I was just theta last weekend. It was fabulous. The XLB are delicate and addicting. I highly recommend it! I am not a fan of yank sing.

                                    Another recommendation is Dosa for Indian food, Kokkari for well executed rustic Greek food and lately I can't get enough if the food at Terra Cotta warrior.

                                    1. Pizzaiolo in Oakland is good, but not good enough to make Oakland a destination imo. I prefer Caffe BaoNecci in North Beach.

                                      Skip Mission Chinese if it hasn't already been suggested. If it was ever worthy of the hype, it's long past it's prime. I find it below average at best, even for a casual neighborhood spot.

                                      Unless you love oversized San Francisco burritos stuffed with filler, I can't see how that would be worthwhile coming from L.A. There's nothing that you can get in NorCal for Mexican that you can't get better down South.

                                      1. You mention Tartine bakery but have you tried Bar Tartine? We went last night and LOVED it. Very unique influences: Scandinavian, Greek, Japanese mingle in vibrant food where use of fresh herbs like mint and tarragon mingle and play off of spices like coriander and cumin. Not for everyone for sure- the table next to us was befuddled by the food, but except for one dish I thought the food was unique and vibrant.