Another Not Europe Question...San Francisco

I wish there was a Non European Destination page! Since there isn't, I will ask here as TA and Chowhound need a basic condensed version for the non-frequent visitor and there seems to be quite a few posters from this area on the RS forum. I have been to SF a few times but never more than a couple days notice and never more than a few nights. I just booked 5 days over the 4th of July and am hoping to visit a nice place to eat, or two if possible. The hubby ignores the price when food is involved so anything goes here :) Honestly all I have ever done was oyster bar hop, see Alcatraz (at an escalated black market $), cruise the bay, and beg my way into a couple of very good but not great restaurants. Any help from the locals and not so local experts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

For seafood I like Scoma's. it's at Fisherman's Wharf, but if one was to just walk down any street you wouldn't see it. It's located at Pier 37 on Al Scoma's Way. If you like dim sum you're in luck. There are multiple places to choose from in China Town. My Bay Area brothers swear by Tony's Pizza. I'll come back if anything else comes to mind.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
605 posts

Fun question. We don't live in SF, but love a day or weekend there. Here are some of our favorites: 1) Slanted door (Thai)- Ferry terminal (reservations are a must, even for lunch) 2) Scoma's (fisherman's wharf area)- old school restaurant with good seafood) 3) Michael Mina - We ate there for New Year's eve at the bar 4) A16 (Italian)
5) Buena Vista (great place for Breakfast)

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Slanted Door is great, and has great views. It's at the Ferry Bldg which is very fun as a destination in itself, lots of great shops and local artisanal foods. Be sure to drink Blue Bottle Coffee! You can get it at the Ferry Bldg and a few other places. And be sure to get yourself a pastry at Miette Bakery, also at the Ferry Bldg, or other locations. We love Tony's Pizza! It's in North Beach which is a lot of fun to explore. We especially enjoy eating outside if the weather is decent (they have heat lamps) with a wonderful view of Washington Sq and great people watching. If you get there by 5:00-5:30 you usually can be seated right away. If not, you put your name on the list and they will call you on your cell so you can walk around while you wait. Prices are really reasonable. Molinari Italian Deli in North Beach on Columbus Ave is also great. For great Sushi: Tataki at the corner of California and Divisidero. There's another one on Church St. From 5:30 to 7:00 they have a Happy Hour menu with really low prices. Love Tataki. Highly recommend SF Guides walking tours (sfcityguides.org). They're free (donation only if you want - no pressure) and they are wonderful. We do them often. My favorites are: Billionaires Row, Nob Hill and GG Park East. But they have many to choose from and a wide range of times. We also enjoy the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. Picking a neighborhood and just walking around is fun... Fillmore, Hayes Valley, Cole Valley, Castro, Haight, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Union St, Chestnut St.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Continued: Renting bikes down by Fisherman's Wharf is fun. You can ride along the Marina to the Presidio and Crissy Field (beach there) w/jaw ping (won't let me type the word!) views of the GG Bridge. The Presidio also has the Disney Museum which is great. At the northern end of Crissy Field there's a great hot dog stand on weekends, and a nice gift shop. Ft. Point is also right there (in the movie Vertigo) and worth checking out if you like historical sites (built for defense during the Civil War). You can also ride all the way across the GG Bridge to Sausalito and take the ferry back to SF. After you cross the bridge, you can ride down into Cavallo Point... it used to be an Army base but is now a beautiful resort. They've restored all the old buildings and it looks just like it did when it was an Army base. They have a wonderful restaurant (Michelin starred) and a great bar which makes a nice stop. If you like to shop, there's a new store at Union Square called "Uniqlo" that has great clothes for very reasonable prices. A Japanese Co. owns it and it's all the rage right now. I think they're testing the American market and it's the only one in the US so far. Enjoy!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2891 posts

I'm not a SF expert, but I was there for a quick trip about 1.5 years ago and thought I'd share some of the things I did. 1) Slanted Door - it is upscale, modern Vietnamese and extremely popular. Book in advance. The food is good but there is not much ambiance. Tables are really crammed close together. 2) If you like foodie tours, I went on one that was fun in Hayes Valley. We visited Smitten ice cream, Fatted Calf Charcuterie, Fritz (for Belgian frites), Taste (a tea shop where we learned about the traditional tea ceremony and drank tea), a sake shop, Arlequin (for wine and cheese) Miette (macarons), and Christopher Elbow chocolates, It was run by Gourmet Walks. There seemed to be a lot of little artisan food shops in that neighborhood. It was fun and you also learned a bit about the neighborhood. They have other foodie tours too. 3) There is a cowgirl creamery shop at the ferry terminal and you can get a great breakfast or lunch there featuring their fabulous cheese. 4) I second the recommendation for the San Francisco City Guides Walks. I took 3 or 4 of their tours. They are by donation only, but the tour guides were all very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers. 5) I would have liked to have gone to Jardiniere, but couldn't work out a reservation. 6) I stayed at the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill (hotel points) and they have this classic bar at the top with a great view out over the city. There is nothing special about the drinks (they are pricey) ... it is all about the view. 7) I got the muni pass and made good use of it. Get a map with the bus routes.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2891 posts

continued ...
8) I also had breakfast at the previously recommended Blue Bottle Coffee (although the one on Mint Plaza rather than the one in the ferry terminal). Great breakfast.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

Susan's post reminded me about renting bikes. When my German cousin was here visiting a few years ago she wanted to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Apparently a friend of hers had done it and she thought it sounded cool. So we did it. We rented bikes at Fisherman's Wharf, road to the bridge and across (very windy) and into Sausalito. We walked around, then took the ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf to return the bikes. It was great fun. One of the highlights of her trip.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

If you like 18th and 19th century paintings, I highly recommend the Palace of the Legion of Honor museum. The building itself is worth seeing, it's a copy of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris and it's location is amazing... on the coast high up with great views of the ocean, the GG Bridge and Marin County across the water. The museum also has special exhibits (now-Oct 13 they have "Impressionists on the Water").

Posted by celeste
ATL, GA, USA
30 posts

Oh, I was all excited because I thought I'd get to be the first to mention Beach Blanket Babylon. I really is a SF institution. Get tickets in advance and get there early - seats are first come, first served. Also recommend Slanted Door - probably the best dining experience ever, not because it was "fine dining" but because it was fun, we had fantastic service and the food was spot on. The stars were aligned. For similar food (French Vietnamese) in a more upscale environment, Le Colonial is very nice and has great food. At Blue Bottle, order a "Gibraltar" - not on the menu, so you'll feel like an insider. :) Honestly, our favorite thing to do is go to Ferry Market, get bread from Acme (or for me, Mariposa - the gluten free place), cheese at Cowgirl, tasty, salty pig parts from Boccalone, a bottle from the wine store, and sit and watch the people. And if you are there on Saturday, you must go shop the actual farmer's market. Have fun - SF is one of my favorite places! (I work for a large company based in the financial district.)

Posted by Mira
Midwest
108 posts

Here's the Michelin Star Ratings for SF. Generally, starred restaurants are the best of the best, with prices to match. I've never been to any in SF, but have used the lists in NY and Chicago as jumping off point to pick a great place. Reservations may be hard to get at the most popular places, of course. The only 3 stars are out in Napa (I've dreamed of going to French Laundry), but there are plenty of 1 and 2 stars in SF proper, and in my experience 1 and 2 are wonderful. http://www.michelintravel.com/michelin-selection/san-francisco-2013/

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

You don't say what kind of restaurant you are looking for, but I will suggest a few. Seafood with a view? Waterbar. Romantic? Acquerello. Cool, trendy and pretty noisy? Slanted Door. European Feel? Any of several places on Belton Alley. Something different? My son the foodie, who lives in SF, really likes Foreign Cinema in the Mission District, but that may be off the path for you. ( We ate brunch there, so I can't say about dinner). If you are heading that way, make sure to visit Tartine, an amazing French bakery ( and allow time to wait in line). Italian? We like Rose Pistola in North Beach, but there are lots of good choices. Farmers Market at the Ferry Building is a lot of fun. We love to walk from that area along the Embarcadero until even with Coit Tower, cut through the Levi Strauss area and then climb the steps ( Fillmore Steps I think are the ones) to Coit Tower. Do a lap inside to see the amazing murals. Then outside for a view. ( we've never been up the tower itself). Then wander down the other side of Telegraph Hill through North Beach; by now it is time for coffee or a gelato.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. The only one I've been to listed was Scoma's. We are staying nearby and the husband already said we are going back. I'm going to try and get The Slanted Door booked today. I had friends who went to Napa specifically to visit French Laundry and actually enjoyed this one just as much. As far as type of cuisine goes, there's nothing off the list. San Francisco seems to have a little bit of everything at great quality so that's why we decided to go here. We may even do a day trip or two into Half Moon Bay or Napa since I haven't been there since I was a kid. The bike trip sounds fun too. Thanks for the help!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

If you are considering going to Napa you should consider Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. It is excellent and tres French!!

Posted by Linda
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
276 posts

Another vote for Scoma's. And at Union Square, there is John's Grill (of Dashiell Hammett/Maltese Falcon fame). It's one of the oldest restaurants in SF, so it's a fun experience. Food is good, but definitely geared toward the carnivore... I really want to try Waterbar and Epic. I have heard great things about both. They are both on the Embarcadero with a view of the bay. Giants are in town, 5th through the 10th, if you like baseball. Fun stadium (even if you're a Braves fan) and if sit up in view reserve, you have a great view of the bay. It's worth it just to experience the stadium.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1002 posts

You are coming to foodie land, for sure; and you will encounter an embarassment of riches when it comes to restaurant choices. Good places are often filled, so it's important to make reservations. The Ferry Building houses a large number of purveyors of gourmet fare to take away, as well as some good lunch options. It's fun to shop there for special treats and gifts. Though the food is great, I happen to find The Slanted Door so noisy that I'd never go there again. Note, if you visit the Napa Valley, the towns of Yountville and St.Helena are the attractive places, not the city of Napa. Bistro Don Giovanni and Bouchon are other wonderful choices up there. Last time we ate at Jeanty I thought it had gone downhill.

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

I work in SF a couple of times a week and definitely agree with what everyone said, especially Blue Bottle coffee. Go have a cocktail at the Top of the Mark. If it's not too foggy at night, you get a great view of the city at night. For pure cheese factor, we love the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel. It's just a fun place (food is okay, but the atmosphere is cheesy fun! :) Another vote for the Slanted Door & Tony's Pizza. Yum! If you want to see a fun show, see if you can get into Beach Blanket Babylon. They wear these HUGE fancy hats/headgear, if you google Beach Blanket Babylon you will see examples of the some of the past headgear. Also, since you'll be here around the 4th, it probably won't be super warm, so make sure you bring/wear layers. I think last year it was only 65 in the city on the 4th.

Posted by Kathy
San Carlos, CA, USA
204 posts

Bring some warm clothing. It can be very chilly in SF around July 4th.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

My husband has a good friend who lives in Sacramento whom we go out to visit about once a year, and his favorite place to take us for food is San Francicsco. We found a stand at Fisherman's Wharf, right outside a restaurant called Fisherman's Grotto. The stand sold Dungeness Crabs, steamed, in a basket, with small bowls of drawn butter to dip the crabmeat in. We found picnic tables nearby, and sat and pulled the crabmeat out of the shell and legs and ate it. One in our group had bought a fresh stick of sourdough bread at a nearby stand, and we divided that to have with our crab picnic meal. We have also eaten at Fisherman's Grotto Restaurant (seafood) and found it to be good, with a great view out over the water. This one is more "touristy" than the ones mentioned above by the locals, I think. Walk up the hill to Chinatown. From Embarcadero near Ferry Terminal, walk up Washington Avenue; great Chinese restaurants. Cannot remember specific names; just remember we have gone to a different one every visit and they were all great. One word of caution; these restaurants serve real Chinese food, not the Americanized versions sold in some so called Chinese restaurants. I bit down on a small pepper about the size of a clove in my food one time. I thought my mouth was literally on fire. Our waiter came by and informed us, you are not supposed to eat those; they are for cooking, and you should move them to the side of your plate when you find them! Nearby Chinatown is Russian Hill; you will want to go see Lombard Street in that area. Lombard Street is the crookedest street in the city, a zig zag down a hill, with beautiful landscaping and adorable townhouses on both sides of the street.

Posted by Josh
Frisco, Texas
55 posts

I visit family out there once a year specifically to eat. A few of my favs: Tadich Grill is the standard for ciopinno. Swan oyster depot and hog island oyster company Yank Sing has arguably some of the best dim sum in the country Rose Pistola for Italian
Incanto for celebrity chef (Chris Cosentino)

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Wow! Thanks for all the advice! I'm starting to nail this down. Wednesday, open. Thursday, got a lunch reservation at Slanted Door. It was all they had for a week. Friday, head to Yountville, eat at Bouchon for breakfast. Love the Vegas version. Play around the rest of the day and either Bistro Jeanty or Bistro Don Giovanni. Waiting to see what the hubby wants and what we can get into. Saturday, just informed we must see the Redwoods. Did that as a kid but no idea on time, etc. Hopefully we can be back early enough for another nice place out. Searching Chowhound but I can't find anything those people like! Sunday is open. Thanks so much for all the help for my work in progress.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Just to warn you about the Redwoods... if you're talking about Muir Woods it can take hours just to get there. The traffic is bumper to bumper from Sausalito. Especially if the weather is nice. There's a shuttle from Mill Valley that goes there b/c most days there is no parking available. One of the routes on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus goes to Muir Woods. The botanical gardens in GG Park has a nice grove of Redwood trees if that would interest you.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2010 posts

Bay Area native here who lives (sadly) in LA. Am up to SF monthly though so here it goes. As it appears you have a car I suggest this day being worked into your schedule. Take 280 south out of The City. Nice drive. Picturesque. South of San Mateo take 92 West to the coast and Half Moon Bay. Breakfast in Half Moon Bay. Might pick up picnic staples there. Take Hwy 1 South to Butano State Park. Redwoods there. Also nice walk to the beach if so inclined. Sweet beaches on this route to enjoy as well. Pompino, Bean Hollow. Can then head farther south to Ano Neuvo and even farther south to my favorite beach at Waddell Creek. OR to see bigger Redwoods http://www.bigbasin.org do the above but travel down to Davenport. South of Davenport take the road to Bonny Doon. Lunch at the Bonny Doon vineyard https://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/visitus or if you did take staples drive farther to Big Basin State Park and picnic amongst those Redwoods. From there up to Hwy 9 north (this route is all in the lovely Santa Cruz Mountains, an area not often traveled explored by tourists) to Skyline Blvd which you will follow back up to 92 and back to 280. If you need to walk off lunch about 10 miles south of 92 look for signs that say El Corte Madera open space. Park and take the short trail to see the Methuselah tree. Lastly, and as much as I love the Slanted Door or Thanh Long's Garlic Crab, why not try a completely different dinner suggestion as you return from your long day of exploration. As you enter The City on 280 take the Mariposa street exit and turn right. Mariposa dead ends at The Ramp. http://www.theramprestaurant.com Have dinner there. Always fun. Quality food. Intriguing setting. Enjoy the City By The Bay.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks Susan for the heads up on Muir Woods. I bet being a holiday weekend it will be even more crowded. Thanks for all the tips Claudia. I'm going to frame that schedule! Ending a busy day at The Ramp may be perfect too. Right now we are looking at wine country of Friday and now Half Moon Bay and redwoods south on Saturday. I remember Hwy 1 being pretty busy 20 years ago. Does anyone think it would make sense to switch those days? Maybe being a holiday weekend it won't matter anyway. Thanks again!

Posted by Linda
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
276 posts

Okay, here's another option that could combine Yountville and the Redwoods. Head up to Yountville to Bouchon for breakfast. Then take the drive from Yountville through St. Helena to Calisotga and head out toward the Petrified Forest and Mark West Springs Road which becomes River Road. You can head into Guerneville and go the Armstrong Woods State Park. Armstrong Woods is absolutely beautiful and much less crowded than Muir Woods. It's about an hour and a half drive from Yountville to Guerneville. Then you could head to Farmhouse Inn in Forestville for dinner before heading back to the city. I actually like that idea so much, I may just plan a trip for myself!

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2010 posts

If the previous suggestion for things to do takes away too much of an in SF proper visit then maybe the following. If weather is nice on the 4th take public transport into North Beach. Breakfast at Mama's. (call to be certain it's open) From there spend the day exploring North Beach, the Marina and the adjacent neighborhoods. While in North Beach, see Chinatown. Like many European cities, The City By The Bay, is best seen on foot. You can also rent bikes and do this jaunt. On this leisurely trek you'll have lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Palace of Fine Arts, and Fort Mason.Once you hit the Marina Green find a bench and watch the sail boats and windsurfers on SF Bay or plant yourself on the adjacent Green and watch San Franciscans at play. This neighborhood is one of the priciest and loveliest in The City. Joe Dimaggio used to live there when he was alive. As sun sets find your spot to camp out to enjoy the Chrissy Field fireworks display. While in SF two fun bars to visit are the Redwood Bar at the Clift Hotel and the kitchy Tonga Room and Hurricane bar atop Nob Hill in the Fairmont Hotel. Been going there for 40 years. Still makes me smile. Lastly, the shops and eateries along Fillmore Street. I like The Grove on Fillmore for a nosh but if you see a spot you like as you explore, go for it. If you have any interest in art you might visit Creativity Explored Checkout their website. Lastly, before you leave home check out SF Gate.com to see what's happening in and around the City during your travel dates.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Mama's has a minimum 2+ hour wait to get a table. Unless you get there at 7:00 am (they open at 8). And unlike Tony's, who will call you on your cell, you have to actually stand in line the entire time. They do not take reservations.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2010 posts

Traffic is traffic and the days around the 4th of July weekend will be high. Not much can be done. Just try for early starts to your day especially going North across The Bridge to Napa/Sonoma et al. A charming town to visit and explore in route is Petaluma. What you'll find on Hwy 1, Hwy 9 and Skyline Blvd if you were to take the route I suggested are motorcyclists. I know everyone LOVES saying they've been to Napa Valley and gotten some wines BUT there are some wonderful smaller wineries to visit in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Something to consider as another option. http://www.scmwa.com/winery/ Have a great time where ever you finally decide to go and I really think you need to have the garlic crab at Thanh Long in the outer sunset neighborhood. They have another restaurant on Polk (Crustaceans) but the magic all started in this family kitchen years ago. pricey but after you've licked your plate clean you won't care.

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
914 posts

I vote to stay in town. I love the redwoods (and trees generally, I'm an Oregon girl) but there's so much to do in SF you don't need to drive out of town (during a holiday weekend - blargh, the traffic there is awful as it is). I've been to SF dozens of times, so my suggestions are a bit off the path. I loved the Cartoon Art Museum (currently featuring Superman). Unfortunately the SFMOMA is under renovation - though they have art all over town (see sfmoma.org). I also love the views (and art) at the Palace of the Legion of Honor (take a picnic and watch the wedding parties take photos up there). One of my favorite things to do is walk to Lombard street, find a safe spot at the bottom, and watch the crazies try to drive down (especially fun at night- great photos). If it is nice, rent bikes and ride through Golden Gate Park. Ride the cable cars - really, it is actually fun and totally unique. Another unusual stop on Pier 45 is the Musee Mecanique http://museemecaniquesf.com/. Kate's Kitchen has excellent breakfast (go early, cash only) and the best cornmeal pancakes in the universe. Ditto the "take a sweater/jacket" recommendation - "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." (attributed to Twain, but he was actually talking about Paris)

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
605 posts

If you go to Yountville, one of our "top five" restaurant experiences we ever had was lunch at Domain Chandon, sitting outside on the patio. Sounds like you already have Bouchan scheduled, but Chandon has an outdoor patio and you can order a couple glasses or bottle of sparkling wine and appetizers and just enjoy the sunshine and setting. Good tour also if you've never taken a "champagne" winery tour. Another great Yountville restaurant is Bottega. (had lamb chops there tonight!)
Also another piece of advice. Just stay in the city on the 4th and Sunday. No matter which way you drive, you'll sit in traffic unless you are on the road early either day.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3314 posts

My Italian take (all suggestions below are in North Beach): Forget Scoma. Best Italian seafood restaurant is "Sottomare" on Green street in North Beach. Order Cioppino (Ligurian Fish Soup). And since you are there get a focaccia at Liguria Bakery a few blocks away near the St.Peter and Paul Church on the piazza (corner of Stockton and Filbert). A friend of mine from Milan lives right there and she always brings some when we see each other. Tony's Pizza on Stockton is very good. The Ideale was very good (on Columbus), don't know now, since I haven't been for a while.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks everybody! Looks like SF is going to be worked into our regular trip rotation :) I ran through this with the hubby tonight and he is way excited. Too much to see. Thanks for everyone's input. I'm saving this thread on my phone for reference while we are there. I'm planning on doing half of it, expecting to do a quarter of it, and will be pleased to do any of it. I'm pretty sure I will be back. Happy 4th to the rest of you!
Leslie/Atlanta

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I don't want to be rude, but I've only read half of the first page and the recommendations for Slanted Door and Scomas were enough to make me need to interject immediately: Don't ask other tourists for recommendations about serious food cities in SF (or NY, or LA, etc) Slanted Door's reputation with locals was crap when I left the bay area and that was nearly 3 years ago. Scomas? NOoooo way. Read and ask on Chowhound. Seriously. that's where the serious local foodies are, not on this board. You've got a husband willing to splurge on food? (Lucky!) Don't take tourist recommendations. The SF food scene is so fast-paced and complex that no one aside from serious foodie locals - and by locals i mean people who dine in SF at least a couple times a week, not just northern californians from relatively afar who are basically tourists themselves. I'll be in the bay at the same time so if you fancy crossing the bay to go to some of Oakland's amazing restaurants (more exciting food scene than SF right now), let me know.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2010 posts

Yes SF's food scene and favored restaurants change quickly as chefs come and go. Chowhound can provide some insight but if you wanted to be helpful instead of taking pot shots why didn't you suggest reading Bay Area food blogs. I find reading local food blogs before I travel to any city very beneficial.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

I will say that whether a person is a local or a foodie or a tourist, you cannot go wrong taking walks in Chinatown and searching out your own restaurants that look good to you. My friend who lives in SF tells me there are technically 4 areas there known as Chinatown, so get a good map, and do some walking around in those neighborhoods, and be adventurous...choose for yourself. There are also several Walking Tours for the Chinatowns, led by people who live in those neighborhoods. I would take one of those tours and ask your guide for some nontouristy recommendations. I posted earlier about walking up the hill from Embarcadero on Washington to reach some of the Chinese restaurants. When you first begin in the financial district, on Washington, you will see the TransAmerica Building. Look at the base of the TA bldg for a small but very pretty park that contains redwood trees. Yeah, they are not giant redwoods like the ones you were going to drive out of town to see, but they're still a redwood forest. Transamerica Redwood Park. Great place to sit down and eat a sandwich or just rest and enjoy the shade.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3298 posts

When I was traveling regularly to San Francisco on business I always tried to squeeze a dinner at Boulevard Restaurant which is located very near the Ferry building. I used to eat at the Chef's table and I seemed to be always overlooking the desert prep. : ) Also, just down the street on Steuart is Ozumo. I had some of the best sushi I've ever had there. Pam

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Guys, guys - remember Webbie's post the other day. I'm so glad to see that Yank Sing is still going great guns. We used to love their dim sum 30 or more years ago. Is Hang Ah still going? As you can see I like simple, unpretentious places. As I read once in a SF chinese cookbook, everything above a certain point is paying for style, and you can't eat style. Everybody's opinions are valid. Different maybe, but valid.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

I haven't been to Yank Sing for awhile, but if I'm remembering correctly it was very good, but was more upscale and expensive than most dim sum places. A sign you have found a good dim sum place is if there are predominantly Asians eating there. I like the places with carts, but some smaller places don't have the space for them.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

My son ( mentioned above) has lived in the Bay Area since 1994 and in SF for the last ten years. He and his wife are dedicated locovores and serious about their food. My recommendations for Foreign Cinema and Tatrtine came from him. He and his wife will only go out for Dim Sum with his Chinese mother-in-law. And yes, they go to Yank Sing ( the new one, I think it is Spear St?) She does the ordering and I am sure we had things that are only offered to "insiders".

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

I think there is more than one Yank Sing. The one I went to was in the financial district.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

That's the onea short walk from the Embarcadero BART station, Ferry Building, etc.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

My wife used to work in the Southern Pacific building as it was called than right near number 1 Embarcadero so it was a very quick walk.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks again everyone for all your thoughtful replies! I usually think myself dumb-luck or savvy when figuring out the food scene somewhere but SF is the biggest moving target I've ever come across. I am a huge fan of Chowhound but every time I read of a great place somebody else says that was cool twenty minutes ago and if you want to eat the best meal ever now you must order your meal in a paper sack from the back of a warehouse in a bad part of town...and you must know how to order it or will be told to get lost :) I'm printing all this out and taking it with me. So far I have lunch at Slanted Door (I know, tourists love it, but I went to Paris Disney this past fall so I have no cred there), and Bouchon for brunch. I was also informed I may be able to get into French Laundry but just on a waiting list. I also hear that is a 'Tourist Trap' from the SF foodie gang. LOVE China Town so I will be spending my free time ordering stuff I never heard of and don't want to know what it is and loving every minute of it. Thanks to all! I will fill in the rest with all your recommendations.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
129 posts

Since you have some lead time, check the discounted events on Goldstar San Francisco -- sometimes the hop-on hop-off bus or bay cruise can be done for about half the walk-up price. Also, for anyone over 65 Muni has a $0.75 senior fare (versus $2.00 for regular fare), no advance purchase required. Fireworks over the Bay on the 4th!

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6699 posts

Leslie, nice to hear that you are headed for Bouchons. What a treat. You will stand in line hanging out the door but the line moves fast. Just to let you know a few things to try. 1) the bouchons. It's an actual bakery item much like a narrow cupcake. You bake them in a bouchon pan - imagine that. You can get the pans online at Williams-Sonoma. 2) Thomas Keller was quite distraught that Hostess went bankrupt and the Ho-Hos went off the market. So, he back engineered the recipe and he now sells Oh-Ohs at Bouchons. We have some in our freezer. One bite and it all comes back. After your breakfast at Bouchons, you can walk 2 blocks north to the world-famous French Laundry restaurant. It won't be open in the morning but the treat is their large garden across the street. You can walk through it (no fences). They grow much of their produce there. Then, you can go through the Vintage 1890 shops. I second an afternoon lunch at Domain Chandon. It's across Hwy 29 but its outstanding. In fact, its been rated the number #1 winery with restaurant in the U.S. Go for the short ribs. If you need a local B&B, I recommend the Oleander House in Yountville. It's about 1.5 miles up Hwy 29 just past Mustards restaurant but it is most reasonable and great. Funny, we just did all of this about 3 weeks ago.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks Laura B and Larry. I actually own some Bouchon pans :) My favorite for my most infamous Sunday brunch Shrimp & Grits. You bake it for a few in a parmesan crust ...yet I digress..Don't even get me started on my Bloody Marys! Good to know about the Oh-Ohs. Sounds like a must to me :) Thanks so much!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4868 posts

@ Larry, I think you need to bring Oh-Oh's to a meeting. Not July though. I won't be there. August would be great. :-)

Posted by Carole
San Francisco, California, USA
88 posts

Hi Leslie, Welcome to San Francisco! Right now it's foggy, misty, damp. Bring a warm sweater, windbreaker, warm hat esp. if you are going to Alcatraz, ride a cable car or take the Hop On, Hop Off. Certainly looks like winter. I'm staying indoors with my hot coffee! If you happen to be in Chinatown, try our personal favorite restaurant: Capital at 839 Clay St. Homestyle Cantonese dishes, many to choose from, fair prices. The owner photographed the dishes and posted them around the walls which makes it easy to try something different. Of course, they also have the most popular Cantonese dishes: won ton, chow mein, chow fun, fried rice. Menu's in English. Very popular place, nothing fancy, formica tables, linoleum floor. Over the years I've watched Capital become more popular with more tourists and
non-Asians, particularly after Will Smith made Pursuit of Happyness nearby. Hope you enjoy your visit here!

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Thanks to all! We had a most successful and enjoyable trip and used a very large percentage of everyone's suggestions (really did). I'll write a trip report if there's a pact on no judging on the amount of time wasted in bars :) We put 500+ miles on the rental car. We had very little trouble getting back even with the SFO tragedy. Just an awful and sad situation but I was impressed how the airlines and airport staff handled it, and about 95% of the passengers. Not so much by a loud small minority (most not from SF). The Bay area has officially been added to our London-Paris-Rome-FWI repeat visits list. I appreciate everyone's help! Leslie/Atlanta

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

An old time, "unpretentious," classic... Hang Ah...well recommended.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

So glad you had a good trip Leslie, and glad the weather was great while you were here. I can't wait for your trip report, the more detail the better...;) And I promise, there will be no judging from me...I enjoy hearing about other people's vacations. Plus, you might have discovered things I don't know about!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2891 posts

I look forward to the report ... I hope you name the best bars :)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Talk about carts being authentic and some places not having room enough to bring them around. Hang Ah used to put all the dishes onto trays and carry them around and up and down. They couldn't have got carts around if they could have flown. You'd go past the kitchen on the way in and see the cooks all making the dumplings in front of you. It was wonderful. They used to have a sort of an inexpensive dim sum sampler plate. They would bring all sorts of dumplings and neat various dim sum pieces and you'd push your chair back and think that that was a really nice meal, if just a bit much. Then they would bring out a vast plate of noodles!!! Another fun and wonderful thing at Hang Ah - as you ate you just piled up the little serving dishes. Each shape and colour meant a specific price so at the end the server would just come and count up the dishes to reach a total. Best dishes in the years we went there were (apologies for poor spelling - Cantonese not one of my languages, I can pronounce these pretty well but forget the spelling) Chow Fun, shrimp or cha shoo; the custard tarts; the cha shoo bau; the sticky rice; the har gau. I need a TARDIS to see if I can see what's down the stairs - is it still there; is it still the same? Can I get some of their delicacies? Herb Caen used to like it.