What to do at night in Monterey & San Francisco?
February 11, 2010 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Visiting San Francisco & Monterey this weekend with the boyfriend. We have lots of plans during the daytime – Big Sur, Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, etc. – but nothing planned for the evenings..oops! Please recommend some fun and romantic evening activities for San Francisco & Monterey. We aren't interested in bars or clubs, and we'll have a car. (P.S. - two goals for this trip are to find the best San Fran-style burrito and dungeoness crab.)

I’ve been so excited about our daytime plans that I haven’t made any plans for the evenings. Most things seem to close by 6pm and I’m looking for things to do after dinner. My boyfriend’s fine with winging it, but I’m the type that needs to have a few options lined up. We aren’t interested in bars or clubs, and we'll have a car.

(By the way - yes, I'm searching Yelp and previous AskMefi threads, but I couldn't find much in terms of things to do after 8pm that don't involve clubs or Fisherman's Wharf).

We’re staying in Monterey for 2 nights at Pacific Grove (next to Lover’s Point Park). During the day, we’re going to Point Lobos and Big Sur. We might visit the Taste of Monterey wine bar, but they close at 6pm. The Aquarium also closes at 6pm. Other than strolling Cannery Row, what are other things to do in Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel at night?

San Francisco:
We’re staying 2 nights in San Francisco on Lombard St near Webster. Our daytime activities are the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park and maybe the Jejune Center. We want to explore Chinatown – is it better during the day or at night? Any particularly nice places to walk around and explore at night? The boyfriend isn’t interested in Fisherman’s Wharf.

As for food, we want to have some good, San Francisco-style burritos….the kind we can’t get here in Texas. Based on this thread, Tacqueria Cancun sounds like the place to go. We’re also going to Tartine Bakery, Angkor Wat and Burma Superstar. Where can we get good dungeoness crab? We also want to eat at Greens – is the view better at night or during the day?

Thanks so much!
posted by yeoja to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you might have already made up your mind about Tacqueria Cancun as far as the SF burrito goes, but if you are looking for an alternative suggestion, you might consider Taqueria Chile Verde in SoMa on 6th and Stevenson. (The area is sketchy at best, and the place itself is a hole-in-the-wall, but consider that part of the authentic San Francisco experience.) I've tried a lot of SF places, but I really do think that the Super Burrito at Taqueria Chile Verde is the best by a good margin.

Also, tangentially related - if you are at all into Vietnamese food, there is a place called "Tu Lan," two doors down from the taqueria, that is absolutely fantastic.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 3:14 PM on February 11, 2010

Greens at sunset is totally the way to go. Twin Peaks is cool at night. Chinatown during the daytime.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you are aware of this, but the 2010 Beach Pro Am PGA golf tournament is this weekend in the Carmel/17 Mile Drive area. Expect lots and lots of crowds, potentially spilling into Monterey. Of course, if you are aware of this, then this is why you chose this weekend to visit that area, but it isn't clear from your post if golf is on your agenda/radar.
posted by mosk at 3:35 PM on February 11, 2010

don't miss taqueria pancho villa.

also: don't miss thanh long. crab, vietnamese style.

both are easy access via muni. both are worth traversing the continent to enjoy ... when we were last in sf, we tried to go to thanh long again, but it was closed, being monday. pancho villa, however, is open every day. and just so brilliant. i think we might have gone three times during our last trip out there.
posted by deejay jaydee at 3:36 PM on February 11, 2010

Grrrr... that should read "2010 Pebble Beach Pro Am..."
posted by mosk at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2010

Carmel at night: last time I visited we had a fun/semi-romantic night by heading out to the beach with some wine, warm clothes, and LOTS of blankets. Me, my SO, and two friends. There were several other small groups out that night, so I never felt unsafe.
posted by soleiluna at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2010

Hmm, my vote for Best SF Burrito goes to El Taco Loco, right near the 24th St BART station. That would be the burrito al pastor, which is filled with "shepherd-style" spit-roasted meat. The regular size with everything is plenty enough; skip the supersize extras, which just dilute the barbecue-y goodness. There's another branch around 30th and Mission, but it's not easy to get to by transit.

Greens at night offers a lovely view. You can walk along the shoreline during the afternoon to enjoy the scenery by daylight, then admire the lights on the bay during dinner.

Chinatown is definitely better during the day, when everything is open. On the off chance that you're looking to prowl around a few Chinese grocery stores, be aware that Old Chinatown (around Powell and California) is now mostly souvenir shops and heritage places, for lack of a better term, where Chinese-American families groove on their roots. The grocery stores have mostly moved out to New Chinatown (around 6th Ave and California), a blander but much less crowded neighborhood where said families moved when they became prosperous enough to afford it. Good restaurants there too.

Dungeoness? They have crabs in Dungeons & Dragons now? Or cranky lady jailkeepers? Oh, dungeness crabs. Sorry, can't help you there - I'm not too keen on eating invertebrates.
posted by Quietgal at 3:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a quick reminder that if you like Tex Mex, you are going to be quite disappointed with SF burritos. Go for it to say you've done it. But don't be surprised if you walk away feeling sorry for those poor Californians.

As an ex-Houstonian, I would suggest the indian food. For the sizable Indian community, Houston can not put together a decent Indian restaurant to save its life. And if you can handle spicy szechuan, I'm in love with the Z &Y in chinatown.
posted by politikitty at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2010

Best answer: For Dungeness crab, get yourselves to any of these:

TADICH GRILL in downtown SF (kinda a great old institution, private booths, or a eat at the awesome counter where the waiters clang the plates areound). They have no website, but here's their menu: http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/restaurants/tadich-grill/menu

FISH in Sausalito. http://www.331fish.com/ Actually, if you count sitting on the dock of the bay as thing to do, then eating at Fish will do double duty- outside at the picnic tables eat and watch the boats and birds. Their crab louie salad is one of my favorites (and I LOVE crab). The funky environ tells you nothing about the price though--it's expensive here.

Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco (1517 Polk St) is good for crab too (though I prefer Fish) AND it's atmosphere is cool--simple counter service only. Nice family. I think they're not open at night.

I'm staying right smack outa that great SF burrito debate.

Tartine, you're completely brilliant to not miss. So. Good. SO GOOD. At Burma Superstar don't miss the Tea Leaf Salad. (I dream about it, cross town to get it.) Then, I would skip Greens...meh.

For exploring SF: if you like city walking, maybe check out the Mission in the late afternoon, best time. It's all food (Tartine is in the Mission) and bars and little shops, but if you're just strolling and want to look at the urban crawl, it's tops. Walk to Dolores Park there and check out the view of city skyline.

Chinatown at night! The lights, it's really great at night. I'd access it via Grant St. entrance by Union Square. Then head right after a few blocks to Columbus and hit Brandy Ho's, sit at the counter and get a late night order of deep fried potstickers, watch them being made. Then walk up the block to the famous City Lights Bookstore(open late), if not for the history, for the legitimately good book selection and surly staff. Then walk down Columbus to North Beach and sit in Washington Square, get a coffee at Mario's Bohemian on the corner.

These are some San Francisco treats. Have a blast.
posted by seaward at 4:18 PM on February 11, 2010

The peak time of dungeness crab season is over at the end of December. Most crab now will be frozen unless it is specified that it is fresh.

I like Tacqueria Cancun because they use fresh avocado instead of guacamole and they heat the tortillas on the grill instead of steam. Their chorizo is my favorite, but be prepared for a salt/grease bomb.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:18 PM on February 11, 2010

Indian Summer in Monterey is a restaurant with a large outdoor area with firepits. They have hookahs, and later in the evenings they have a DJ inside with dancing. It tends to be a lot more mellow than a normal bar or club, a nice place to cozy up next to a firepit and chat, and the food is pretty good.

A bottle of 2 buck + beach is always a popular option.

The local rock gym is open until 10pm on weekdays, so if one of your Monterey days is on a week day, I'd really recommend that. It's a small gym, but climbing is a lot of fun and it's very easy to rent equipment and get started if you've never done it before.

The Osio downtown is a small theater that occasionally shows off-beat or older movies, you might check and see if there is anything showing that catches your fancy.

Wish I had more to offer. Hope that helps!
posted by skintension at 4:20 PM on February 11, 2010

I think the best crab is at PPQ Dungeness Crab in the Richmond, which is a trip to visit if you thought Chinatown is the real Chinatown.
posted by kcm at 4:29 PM on February 11, 2010

Looks like Peppers in Pacific Grove is still going.
Latin American cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:29 PM on February 11, 2010

You might want to check out who's playing at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:32 PM on February 11, 2010

Best answer: If you want to try out California-ized Mexican food and really amazing margaritas, you can check out Pepper's. It's within walking distance to your bed and breakfast/inn.

You could take a swing dance class after a few margaritas or just peek in Chautauqua Hall and watch (on a Saturday night).

Take a moonlight walk around Pacific Grove and take in the funny little houses that are crammed on tiny plots of land. It's totally safe and quaint here and you don't even need a flashlight.

Skip Taste of Monterey and head to Bottles 'n' Bins in New Monterey and check out their wine selection... or better yet, stop in The Cheese Shop in the Carmel Plaza and grab a bottle of wine and some snacks to take with you to Asilomar beach or Carmel Beach. Park anywhere and sit on some rocks and watch the ocean. Bring jackets.

If you're hungry, check out Hula's or Crystal Fish. Always, always skip downtown Monterey/the Wharf unless it's for a movie at the Osio, coffee at the cafe inside or beer at the Crown. Seriously.

Oh! And if you are interested, check out the Aquarium. You can walk there on the recreation trail. It's the big draw of this area. That and the scenery/ocean.
posted by thehmmhmm at 4:35 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

For non-bar nighttime in SF - maybe Japan Town and the shops on Fillmore? There's a brilliant chocolate cafe called Bittersweet on Fillmore which is open until 10 PM on the weekends and has really interesting drinks. (Chocolate vietnamese ice tea?) The Japan Town mall is walkable from there and has plenty of interesting stores as well as phenomenal food... There's also Yoshi's for nighttime jazz nearby if I remember correctly.
posted by synapse at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you going to be in SF on a Thursday? Cal Academy Nightlife is every Thursday night. The Jejune Institute is mostly walking around Chinatown so that's perfect. Chinatown is a daytime thing.

If you like drag with your tapas, Asia SF is a good choice.
posted by chairface at 5:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Asking for the best SF Burrito is a holy war and should be avoided. Besides everyone knows that El Farolito is the king. (No matter what you do at least go to one of the places in the Mission, so you can absorb the local flavor) and Cancun is several of my friends favorites.

For seafood I think a trip to Swans oyster depot rocks.

Chinatown is probably more a day trip. There's bars etc at night but it doesn't really do much. The upside is that Chinatown butts up to North Beach for more evening action.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:03 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Highly recommend the Jejune Institute. Takes 2-3 hours, and you'll get to see Chinatown in the process. Go in the morning and have dim sum in Chinatown after you finish. Alternatively, visit the Ferry Building for lunch and then Jejune after.

If you enjoy hiking in Point Lobos, check out the Lands End trail in SF. Awesome views of the Golden Gate, and you can see some shipwrecks if you go at low tide. Swing through the Sea Cliff neighborhood on the way there to see some ginormous mansions. Park along the road right here and hike along the coast until you get to the Sutro Baths. If the weather cooperates, you could be treated to an amazing sunset. Walk by the Legion of Honor on the way back to the car when it's all floodlit and atmospheric.

At night in SF, there are several options if you'd like to catch a show. There are many comedy clubs, as well as productions like Point Break Live! and Wicked.

Many people seem to have low expectations for Alcatraz, but it's definitely a worth a visit. The last boat leaves the island around 7pm, so if you have a late dinner afterwards, that would be a full evening.

Since you have a car, save all the sights that never close and string them together on a night drive. See the view from Twin Peaks or Coit Tower. Check out famous buildings like City Hall, Grace Cathedral, the Painted Ladies, and the Palace of Fine Arts. Drive up and down all the crazy hills and the crooked section of Lombard Street. Fisherman's Wharf is great after everyone's cleared out. If you start after dinner, traffic will not be a problem, and if it's REALLY late, you'll feel like you have the entire city to yourself.
posted by mshrike at 5:08 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, Yeoja!

When I'm not on MeFi, I work for the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, so it's actually my job to know what to do at night!

I spent the past couple of days putting together listings of this weekend's events. Here's all the romantic stuff, and here's all the non-romantic stuff. Also, as Mosk mentioned, the AT&T tournament is this weekend, so there will be a lot of celebs here.

If you like wine, there's several winery tasting rooms on Cannery Row besides A Taste of Monterey. Scheid is excellent, roughly across the street from Taste of Monterey, and closes around 7pm. Baywood Cellars is a little further down Cannery Row, and closes at 5:30pm.

As Soleiluna and Skintension mentioned, a popular evening choice in this area is drinking wine on the beach, especially by a bonfire. There's some requirements for beach bonfires in this area. For example, on Carmel Beach the bonfire can't be any bigger than 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. If you don't want to set that up yourself, there's a local company called Borgia and Associates that will set up a beach bonfire, complete with blankets and other accessories, for you.

I hope that helps. If it doesn't, feel free to comment or send me MeFi mail. It's my sworn duty to help you have a good time this weekend!
posted by rednikki at 5:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

My wife and I have had two great meals at Passionfish in Pacific Grove.
posted by escabeche at 5:48 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Many people seem to have low expectations for Alcatraz, but it's definitely a worth a visit. The last boat leaves the island around 7pm, so if you have a late dinner afterwards, that would be a full evening.

This is me. I had pretty low expectations, but the Alcatraz at night tour is really something special and would lead perfectly into tracking down a good burrito (seconding El Farolito).
posted by dogwalker at 6:39 PM on February 11, 2010

seconding passionfish in pacific grove.
posted by apostrophe at 7:39 PM on February 11, 2010

+1 Thanh Long for crab

Along with Chinatown, go over to the other chinatown in the Richmond district. There's great Dim Sum at Ton Kiang.
posted by mikepop at 5:41 AM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: Hi - back from a wonderful, WONDERFUL trip to Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur/San Francisco. Thank you, everyone, for the great advice and suggestions!

Thanks to Mefi and Yelp, we experienced the wonder that is Tartine's morning buns and bread pudding.

The suggestion of driving up Twin Peaks at night was excellent - definitely worth it, especially on Valentine's night.

We drove through Chinatown during the day....but it was the day after Lunar New Year's, so none of the shops were open. We had to skip Burma Superstar - the wait was over an hour! Being from Houston, we also skipped the Vietnamese restaurants. But we did get a yummy Nutella crepe at Genki's across the street.

And lastly, I won't say which tacqueria we ended up visiting, but it was pretty good. As good as a Tex Mex burrito, though? Don't know about that. ;)

Thanks again!
posted by yeoja at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2010

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