What are your favorite joints in SF? (and nearby environs)

Traveling and dining in other Arizona cities and beyond
misterk
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7 years ago

Hey All - Well, as many of you know, after 6.5 years of being an official Arizona resident, I'm moving back to the Bay Area in 3 weeks. And I know that many of you have taken quite a many trips to San Francisco in the not-too-distant past, and have dined up and down the city. So I'm wondering what your favorite places there are. I'm especially curious about any place that has opened up since the end of 2005.

As hard as it is to believe, I barely get a chance to do much culinary exploring whenever I'm in SF. Because 1) My time there is usually pretty limited and I'm running the Bay around trying to see as many friends and relatives as possible 2) My mom has already cooked 10 years' worth of food for me - and who am I to say no to a giant pot of biryani, and the other 8 favorite dishes that she just felt like cooking? and 3) Once word is out I'm back in town it ends up with me having to find a place to accommodate a large group of people (many with toddlers and young kids), which is pretty limiting in the city.

So - any restaurants, cafes, bars, other spots which you've come to love? Could be in SF or Oakland/Berkeley. I'm not a city snob and give the East Bay its fare share of my appetite.

Don't get me wrong, I do go out a lot when I'm back in SF, but not nearly enough, especially when it comes to dining. Hopefully that'll change now that I'm not going to be scrambling around like a madman. Any pointers that I can add to my list of places to try would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

Don't even want to reply. Too bummed out.

But okay.

Y'know, I did a bunch of traveling to SF a couple of years back, but it was a number of whirlwind trips and I was staying up in Fairfax for most of them, so I got to surprisingly little. The one place I fell in love with, Laiola, unfortunately shut down a couple of years ago. Or, more accurately, was repurposed and turned into some kind of upscale taco joint that everybody seemed to agree wasn't half the restaurant Laiola was.
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Ice Cream @ Humphry Slocombe
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You probably don't need me to tell you about Humphry Slocombe, which is San Francisco's Sweet Republic. When we went, I think I had a scoop of olive oil and a scoop of salt and pepper, with a little drizzle of a sweet balsamic reduction. Awesome. There's plenty of straightforward sweet as well, but I love those savory/sweet desserts.
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Cioppino @ Tadich Grill
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You also definitely don't need me to tell you about Tadich Grill. Man, that place is a trip. Take out the POS terminals and you can shoot a 1930s period piece in there. I've heard the bulk of the menu can be kind of hit and miss, but I had a fabulous seafood cocktail, absolutely killer cioppino and a pretty mean bread pudding. I still think about that cioppino. A lot.
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XO Har Gau @ Koi Palace
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The dim sum in Chinatown really was second rate. Except for Yank Sing (not Chinatown, but close) which does some things fabulously well (particularly the XLB), but they're also fabulously overpriced. I don't remember who turned me onto Koi Garden down in Daly City, but whoever you were, thank you again. Killer, killer dim sum lunch. And they do non-dim sum Cantonese at night. It's been a long time and I never wrote about it, so I don't remember much about it, but I could not possibly forget their har gau, which are amazing. In particular, they have a house special har gau topped with a fairly dry dollop of XO sauce. It could be argued that that's gilding the lily, I suppose, but I loved 'em. This place is near the top of my hit list for whenever I get back. And I need to raise a crowd. I knew I was ordering way too much, but I was traveling solo and I really wanted to try a number of things. But after five or six items, my server cut me off saying, "Too much food!" and walked away. Oh well.

That's all I've got. I've eaten shamefully little in SF.

Happy trails, amigo. Sad you're leaving.

Humphry Slocombe
www.humphryslocombe.com
2790 A Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-550-6971

Tadich Grill
www.tadichgrill.com
240 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
415-391-1849

Koi Palace
www.koipalace.com
Serramonte Plaza
365 Gellert Avenue
Daly City, CA 94015
650-992-9000
Dominic Armato
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Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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BillBuitenhuys
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7 years ago

La Ciccia - finally getting the Bay Area love they deserve

Terroir Natural Wine Merchant The store I wish we had in PHX. Added bonus is the wine bar with some very unique wines btg.

Cafe Claude Solid French bistro with a wine list that has many of my faves from Loire and Jura
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phxmacbear
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7 years ago

I'm embarrassed to say that even after a dozen or more trips to San Francisco, I'm still not very well versed in the food culture there. In my defense, I'm usually traveling with people who are not really thrilled to schedule their entire day around a food truck being in a certain location at a certain time. Also, I mentioned elsewhere that I'm a big fan of budget-friendly dining and am not a fan of fish, so my San Francisco food experiences are probably not going to match the rest of yours! :)

Having said that, I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting dim sum at Good Mong Kok Bakery, in Chinatown. There's no seating, so I'm not suggesting this be the place for you to do a "meetup" with your long lost friends and family, but someday when you're out and about and want to grab a bag of dim sum and eat in a park (that's right - I said "grab a bag of dim sum"), I highly recommend it. The store is tiny, and you usually have to join a line that is forming down the sidewalk. Single file, enter the store, wait to be acknowledged by the woman behind the counter, and start telling her what you want. She will collect all your goodies in one plastic bag and pass you off to the cashier, who you will misunderstand as saying $18.50 and you will think that's a great deal for the massive amount of food you just selected, but then you will realize she said $8.50, not $18!...and you wonder how they stay in business at those prices!

It's on Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/good-mong-kok-b ... -francisco), so I won't repeat what you can read there. I will just say that the women behind the counter are very nice, and more than happy to assist as you awkwardly point at things you can't pronounce or don't even know the name of. And while it may not provide the more exotic, "pretty" dim sum you can get an Yank Sing, your belly will smile all the same.
petitfromageaz
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7 years ago

I hesitate to mention the place that I loved the most on one of my last trips to SF, because I'm pretty sure that you may have been the one to turn us on to this joint in the first place. For the sake of all others that might be reading this thread, I'll submit that
Shalimar was one of the best meals I've had in SF by far!
I still dream about the Brain Masala.
http://www.shalimarsf.com/menu.htm

It doesn't hurt that it's across the street from Bourbon and Branch, quite possibly my favorite drinking establishment of all time.

Also:
Katana-Ya (great sushi, highly recommend the butterfish) and Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie (Outside of the Ferry building) - worth the wait. Trust me.
misterk
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7 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:Don't even want to reply. Too bummed out.
Thanks, Dom. :) Wasn't the easiest decision to move back, but I felt it was the right time to do so.
Skillet Doux wrote:You probably don't need me to tell you about Humphry Slocombe, which is San Francisco's Sweet Republic
Good call. Heh, I can't tell you how incredibly annoyed I was when all these ice cream joints opened up in SF not long after I left: Humphry, Bi-Rite, and Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous. For eons I lived a block away from Bi-Rite Market (and Delfina, Tartine, etc.) and on a visit back to my old 'hood I asked a friend, "What the hell is that line wrapped around the block?" "Oh, Bi-Rite just opened up an ice cream stand." It was cold, wet, and misty out - but I wasn't surprised because lame weather never keeps San Franciscans from their ice cream. Still to this day whenever I go back the line outside Bi-Rite is ridiculous - and as I usually don't have the time to wait in line for 45 minutes for 2 scoops of ice cream, I've only been a couple times. It's good, though:

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Salted Caramel, Ritual's Coffee Toffee, and Chocolate Coconut at the Bi-Rite Creamery - March 2009

My friends clued me in on Humphry opening up ("You have to try the Jesus Juice!") on one of those subsequent trips home, and so I went and have been a fan - especially with Salt & Pepper and Secret Breakfast (because who doesn't enjoy corn flakes and bourbon together?), and try to go whenever I could:

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Salt and Pepper, Secret Breakfast, and Balsamic Caramel from Humphry Slocombe - Thanksgiving 2009

And if you haven't been to Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous yet, I'd recommend paying a visit there next time you go. Friendly husband-and-wife team and some mighty tasty ice cream:

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Toasted flaked coconut marshmallow, Pink Squirrel (crème de noyaux & crème de cacao), English Black Tea, and Black & Tan (ale and porter) from Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous - taken last June
Skillet Doux wrote:You also definitely don't need me to tell you about Tadich Grill.
Yep, Tadich is an institution - I went quite a few times when I worked downtown, but that was ages ago. A return trip is definitely in order.

Skillet Doux wrote:I don't remember who turned me onto Koi Garden down in Daly City, but whoever you were, thank you again. Killer, killer dim sum lunch.
Agreed. Koi Palace is definitely one of the better places around. Definitely more expensive, too, and given it's in Daly City it was always a hassle corralling my friends to get out of the city to head down there (oh, those agonizing 5 minutes on the freeway). Given whenever I was visiting home and dim sum was bandied about as where my friends can meet and eat, finding a table for 10 or more (plus kids) meant Yank Sing and Koi Palace went straight out the window because no little kid is going to wait eons without going into meltdown mode. We'd usually default to any number of places in the Richmond District.
Skillet Doux wrote:But after five or six items, my server cut me off saying, "Too much food!" and walked away. Oh well.
Haha. I had a similar response at Har Lam Kee in Monterey Park for dinner one time. "You know you order too much food!" I was starving and thought I was hungry enough to eat everything. No, they were right.

And thanks again, Dom. As far as you eating very little in SF, well, you'll just have to visit more often now, won't you. :) Cheers.
misterk
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7 years ago

BillBuitenhuys wrote:La Ciccia - finally getting the Bay Area love they deserve
Thanks for the reminder! Never got around to going to La Ciccia (I usually hit Incanto or Antica Trattoria for Italian whenever I went back to visit) but will definitely check them out, now. That end of Church St by 30th St has definitely become a lot more hopping since when I lived there, which is great to see.
BillBuitenhuys wrote:Terroir Natural Wine Merchant The store I wish we had in PHX. Added bonus is the wine bar with some very unique wines btg.
There's definitely been a wine bar explosion in the City in the past several years. I've only been to a couple newer ones, and haven't even heard of Terroir - so thanks for the rec! Will definitely look them up.
BillBuitenhuys wrote:Cafe Claude Solid French bistro with a wine list that has many of my faves from Loire and Jura
Nice! Cafe Claude is definitely charming, especially when it's nice out and they set up al fresco dining. It was one of a string of French establishments (including nearby Cafe Bastille and Cafe de la Presse) that became the centerpoint for World Cup '98 victory street celebrations. Cries of "On a gagné!" and champagne everywhere. Haven't eaten there in a long time - but I remember having their moules and steak frites for lunch a few times and was always pleased.

So thanks for these recs, BillBuitenhuys. More to add to my list.
Last edited by misterk 7 years ago, edited 1 time in total.
misterk
Posts: 88
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7 years ago

phxmacbear wrote:I'm embarrassed to say that even after a dozen or more trips to San Francisco, I'm still not very well versed in the food culture there. In my defense, I'm usually traveling with people who are not really thrilled to schedule their entire day around a food truck being in a certain location at a certain time. Also, I mentioned elsewhere that I'm a big fan of budget-friendly dining and am not a fan of fish, so my San Francisco food experiences are probably not going to match the rest of yours! :)

Having said that, I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting dim sum at Good Mong Kok Bakery, in Chinatown.
Phxmacbear - Thank you, sir. I wouldn't be thrilled about spending a day around food trucks either (was stuck on Governor's Island in NY for a food truck festival during labor day weekend 2010 - worst decision EVER). As for being budget-friendly and non-seafood oriented, there are still quite a few little places I think you'd enjoy, such as Shalimar (which Lara mentioned). Shalimar truly is legendary among Pakistanis in the US, and it kickstarted to the whole "We're an unashamedly Pakistani hole-in-the-wall. Take it or leave it," joint which served the real deal. Especially if you're a big fan of Zaidi's, you have to come here. Budget-friendly, too, and it paved the way for all the other Pakistani joints (Pakwan, Chutney, Lahore Karahi, Naan & Curry, etc.) that came after it.

You may also want to give Yamo a try (http://www.yelp.com/biz/yamo-san-francisco) - tiny (and I mean TINY) place with 8-10 stools at the counter max and that's it. Three ladies behind the counter yelling at each other and cooking up a storm. Food is good and also pretty cheap, but either get food to go and eat in the park or take no more than one other person with you, because seating is near impossible otherwise. I usually go there to catch up with any one friend that I'd contact first before all my other friends realize I'm back and all hell breaks loose. :)

As for Good Mong Kok Bakery, I used to get some steamed buns to go from there on one of those random walks my friends and I used to take on a quiet weekend morning going towards North Beach and the Marina Green. But to be honest, I've barely ventured into Chinatown in the recent years. But it's a good reminder that it's there and worth going back for. Good stuff!
misterk
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7 years ago

petitfromageaz wrote:Shalimar was one of the best meals I've had in SF by far!
Doh...I had quite the lengthy appreciative response to your message. Apparently spent enough time on it that the board timed out when I pressed submit and I lost it forever. But thanks for your reply!

That said, I wholeheartedly concur about Shalimar. I probably did tell you guys about it, as I've been going there since high school days when my dad used to take me. Although these past several years my mom has so much Pakistani food waiting for me at home when I visit that I'm usually ready to eat anything BUT Pakistani when I go out to eat. Hopefully now with me actually living there I'll be able to strike a balance and have my mom's biryani and Shalimar's brain masala, too.
petitfromageaz wrote:It doesn't hurt that it's across the street from Bourbon and Branch, quite possibly my favorite drinking establishment of all time.
I feel like everyone's there been BUT me. Looking forward to finally checking this place out. Any recommendations?
petitfromageaz wrote:Katana-Ya (great sushi, highly recommend the butterfish) and Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie (Outside of the Ferry building) - worth the wait. Trust me.
Have never done Katana-Ya (as far as I can remember). Will put this on the list. Thanks!

As for Roli-Roti, props for reminding me of them. I usually went to their truck at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in downtown Oakland because I usually had no patience for the lines at the Ferry Building. But man, their chicken. And their potatoes with the drippings. I am drooling. Did you try their porchetta?
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

misterk wrote:Doh...I had quite the lengthy appreciative response to your message. Apparently spent enough time on it that the board timed out when I pressed submit and I lost it forever.
That shouldn't happen :-/

If you or anybody else encounters that again, please let me know.
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andrewknoc
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7 years ago

We went to Wilson & Wilson rather than Bourbon & Branch on our trip, and found it amazing. We did the cocktail flight, and I think between the three people in our group, we drank everything on the cocktail list. We also enjoyed cocktails at Alembic. City Beer Store approximately doubled in size in October and added three or four tap handles - definitely a great place to drink or buy beer (have some Pliny the Elder and think of me, will you?).

Phoenix will miss you for sure, misterk.
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exit2lef
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7 years ago

misterk wrote:Hey All - Well, as many of you know, after 6.5 years of being an official Arizona resident, I'm moving back to the Bay Area in 3 weeks.
I have absolutely no dining advice for the Bay Area, but I just noticed this thread and the sad news that you're leaving us. Of course, you've been spending so much time out of town lately that I thought a relocation was inevitable, but now I guess it's official that you'll no longer have your domicile in Phoenix. I remember reading your old "Paki Mac Agenda" blog circa 2006 and then finally meeting you for hiking and Vietnamese food a year or two later. Since then, I've managed to run into you just about everywhere in Central Phoenix without even trying. Even if you'll no longer be a Phoenix resident, I look forward to keeping in touch via the umpteen social networks on which we're connected. Best of luck with your move.
misterk
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7 years ago

andrewknoc wrote:We went to Wilson & Wilson rather than Bourbon & Branch on our trip, and found it amazing.

We also enjoyed cocktails at Alembic.

City Beer Store approximately doubled in size in October and added three or four tap handles - definitely a great place to drink or buy beer (have some Pliny the Elder and think of me, will you?).
Thanks Andrew. Will definitely miss the Valley, too. I'm busy these weeks trying to go to all the places I enjoyed and that I'll truly miss about and are unique to Phoenix.

As for your list, I haven't been to any of your suggestions - so they're definitely on the list! Thanks for those. I walked up and down the Tenderloin over Thanksgiving and am surprised I missed both W&W and B&B. I must have walked right past both of them without even realizing it. Then again, there were crack deals blatantly going on right in front of me in broad daylight, and I also had my giant DSLR in my hands, so maybe my attention wasn't as focused, but that's a discussion for some other board (because, yes, there's that San Francisco that I'll be coming back to as well. :) )
exit2lef wrote:I remember reading your old "Paki Mac Agenda" blog circa 2006 and then finally meeting you for hiking and Vietnamese food a year or two later. Since then, I've managed to run into you just about everywhere in Central Phoenix without even trying. Even if you'll no longer be a Phoenix resident, I look forward to keeping in touch via the umpteen social networks on which we're connected. Best of luck with your move.
Thank you sir. And that's right! You and SethChadwick are probably the only ones here who know me from those PMA blogging days. That was a fun blog to write about my new adventures in Phoenix. I still look at the pictures I took during those first few months of 2006 and am amazed as to how much it feels like a different era (I guess it was - pre-light rail, the only late night places to eat near downtown were Fate and My Florist Cafe, etc.) . It's been a pleasure to meet you online and also during that Da Vang lunch/North Mountain hike (which I just re-hiked along with Shaw Butte three days ago). Will definitely keep in touch!
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MyLifeOnVacatio
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7 years ago

We've got a trip to SF planned for the fall. It looks like Quince might be a nice option for a Saturday night anniversary dinner. Any other suggestions for such a celebration in SF proper?
DesertDoc
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7 years ago

Just got back from a weekend conference in SF...utilized the restaurant advice of UHockey who is a future phx food nerd moving to town this summer from Ohio.

Had two amazing celebration type dinners at Saison and Benu.

Saison- Amazingly fresh (vegetables had been foraged that morning) and exciting food in a romantic and welcoming space (I think the kitchen was twice the size of the dining room and they maybe sat 20 people the whole night). Chef Skenes is not Mr. Friendly, but he is putting out some amazing food. $$$$$, though, but worth it.

Benu- Urban French Laundry with asian influences. The dining room is very modern and less cozy than Saison. Chef Lee trained with Keller...incredible detail and perfect execution.

Both were great meals, completely decadent. I would hate to have to choose which one was better. They were both excellent and different types of experiences. The rumor is that Skenes is planning on moving Saison downtown for a larger space so that he can chase a 3rd Michelin star...I would worry that they are going to lose the cozy, special feel of their current location.

Other experiences...

Lers Ros- Great thai, not as good as LoS, but it hit the spot.
Wayfare Tavern- Great burger, kind of cheesy old english gentleman club atmosphere.
Ino Sushi- Old school nigiri/sashimi place. No silly rolls. Mostly Japanese clientele. Very fresh fish, excellent rice. Maybe a bit too much wasabi.
Canteen- Brunch was yummy. The make an egg dish called "chupacabra" that was great. Dessertdoc loved the blueberry french toast.

Overall, very impressed with the SF food scene (I lived in NYC for 6yrs before moving to Phx).
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MyLifeOnVacatio
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7 years ago

Thanks, Doc, for the great info! I also checked out uhockey's website for more details. Of course, now there are WAY more restaurants on my list than available meal times, but there is plenty of time to decide.
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

DesertDoc wrote: Benu- Urban French Laundry with asian influences. The dining room is very modern and less cozy than Saison. Chef Lee trained with Keller...incredible detail and perfect execution.
Corey Lee is a badass. This is at the top of my SF stack.
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misterk
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7 years ago

DesertDoc wrote: Had two amazing celebration type dinners at Saison and Benu.
Thanks, DesertDoc, for the reminders of these places! Both on my list. I used to work a few blocks away from where Saison sits now, and can't even imagine a high-end restaurant on that stretch of Folsom. Definitely need to try it before it moves downtown (if it does). As for Benu - man, both the tasting and a la carte menus look so tantalizing.
DesertDoc wrote:Lers Ros- Great thai, not as good as LoS, but it hit the spot.
Agreed. Went there for lunch last November to meet a friend who worked down the street at City Hall. Really enjoyed my food there. Also a great spot for lunch on a budget nearby is Burmese Kitchen.
DesertDoc wrote:Wayfare Tavern- Great burger, kind of cheesy old english gentleman club atmosphere.
$19 burger, eh? I'd be hoping it's great. :) The menu looks pretty solid, though. I noticed it driving around downtown once but hadn't really thought about it since. Will put it on the list.
DesertDoc wrote:Ino Sushi- Old school nigiri/sashimi place. No silly rolls. Mostly Japanese clientele. Very fresh fish, excellent rice.
Agreed. Ino is pretty much the antithesis to Blowfish in the Mission. Solid sushi without all the hype and scene and craziness so many other sushi joints in the city are in inundated with.
DesertDoc wrote:Canteen- Brunch was yummy. The make an egg dish called "chupacabra" that was great. Dessertdoc loved the blueberry french toast.
Have never made it to Canteen. On the list!

Thanks again!
sinosoul
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7 years ago

A while ago, I did the following in 1 nite. Don't recommend it to anyone else, never wrote about it, but I was in a friggin massive time crunch:

apps: RN74
apps: Zuni
mains: Flour & Water
digestive/dessert: CPanisse Cafe

That was really fun. Given 2 days, I would do the same again.

I've eaten several brunch/lunch+dinners at SPQR. It's one of my faves in SF, fell in love w/ Accarino's cooking when he hoisted up Craft Bar LA's menu. Don't chase chefs much, but this guy? Really talented, and the style is just perfect for me; not too fussy, but complex enough. Not chasing bacon/foie. His gf/wife's desserts at Craft were also excellent, but she has since left his kitchen.

Frances -- I love the Castro + Mission. France's amuse cocktails + that one winter's chestnut soup will forever be on my mind. I know it's popular / loud / crowded as hell, but I love the cooking there.

Nopa -- only if you get to sit in front of the wood burning oven.

Absinthe -- cougars on a Thursday 1130pm? Great for SD who doesn't start the night til 9:30pm. Perfect for a soup + swingers pairing. It's so sceney in the wrong way, but it's so interesting. Don't go. Or go.

Outerlands -- when SF decides it's in a good weather mood, I don't know know too many places that offers a matching environs for a toad in a hole.

Ferry Market: Disgusting. Just some commercialized trite crap, save for Cowgirl/Acme Bread. Compared to the rest of the world, these bleached American market spaces make me gag. Warorot/Borough/Boqueria this isn't. It's only good when you can actually catch the farmers market.

Bar Agricole: has its detractors, is no longer "new", but the combination of cocktail + design is tasty. Also have done brunch here.

EDIT: Ice cream: ZOMG ice cream!
Bi-Rite is just "OK". Prefer Slocombe. Mr/Mrs is rather new, but it's just trying SO hard to be I'ci. Then there's Scream, Scream Sorbet. There's another joint in Brooklyn doing all Pacojet, but I have it on good authority it's nothing compared to Scream. I ate Scream Sorbet for dinner 1 night last summer. 6 scoops of Scream. Having never experienced Berthillon, it'd be excessive to say Scream is the world's best ice cream. Still, it may be?

I don't "get" Three Twins. I "get" Bi-Rite, but I'ci... Every town deserves I'ci. Powered by Straus, SF is a great, GREAT ice cream town.

The East Bay probably deserves its own thread.
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mjmartinez72
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7 years ago

Dom mentioned the Tadich Grill, and I love it there. I agree, you could shoot a period piece in the there and it is touted as SF's oldest restaurant. I have eaten there many times and always had a solid experience. I also get seafood every time.

I've always wanted to try Incanto, and haven't yet.

In Berkeley, I had an incredible meal at the Chez Panisse Cafe, the affordable little sister upstairs from Chez Panisse. Next door to the Hotel Durant across from the UCB campus is a great little hot dog joint. Choose your meat, bun, toppings. Perfect.

Could use a cool breeze off the bay...
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