Restaurant and Bar Recommendations for San Francisco
July 14, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Restaurant and bar recommendations for San Francisco.

My friend is taking a trip to the San Francisco area and needs some recommendations:

"I’m going to be in San Francisco next week for a girls trip and need suggestions on places to eat and bars to visit. We are in our 30s, so keep this in mind when giving bar suggestions. We would really like recommendations on a great seafood restaurant and good restaurants in Japantown or Chinatown. But really, we will take any suggestions you have. Our hotel is in the Union Square area, but we’re willing to taxi wherever we need to go. Thanks!"

(Previously, although those threads don't really contain the bar recommendations she's looking for.)
posted by Kimberly to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
During a girls weekend when we were staying in Union Square, a cocktail-geek friend and I checked out the speakeasy-style Bourbon and Branch, which we really enjoyed, and Rye, which was good for cocktails but not amazing as atmosphere goes.
posted by olinerd at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2010

go to the ferry building for lunch or dinner -- lots of great spots.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2010

Seafood of various prices and types: Aqua, Pesce, Playa Azul, Thanh Long

Hog Island Oysters in the Ferry Building is also good, as kestrel recommended.

What are you looking for in a bar... dancing, cocktails, beer, people-watching, live music, guys?

If you are into interesting cocktails this list from SF Cocktail Week lists some places with interesting concoctions. I'm partial to Absinthe myself.

Both the Make-Out Room and Rickshaw Stop host some intersting event nights, check their calendars to see what's going on when you're in town.
posted by benzenedream at 11:38 AM on July 14, 2010

This is very difficult without knowing the kinds of things your friend likes, as SF is chock-a-block with all kinds of restaurants/bars of every possible description. That said, I'll just recommend a few that I like, and your friend can pick and choose among those.

Whisky Thieves is on Geary, not too far from Union Square. I'll let you guess what they have there. Can get pretty Bridge-and-Tunnel on the weekends.

Pho Tan Hoa is near Jones and O'Farrell, and has ridiculous Pho. Out of this world. Seedy neighborhood, though.

Amnesia in the Mission near 22nd and Valencia has a really nice Gypsy Jazz band on Wednesdays (called Gaucho), and a pretty eclectic beer selection. It gets packed, though - go early.

Doobu in Japantown is pretty great for Korean food.

Toronado is in the Haight near Haight and Steiner and has all kinds of beer.

Iluna Basque is in North Beach near Powell and Columbus, and has pretty great Tapas and wine. Also, it's across the street from the Rogue Pub, which is handy.

The Beach Chalet is at the end of Golden Gate Park nearest the ocean. They brew their own beer there, and there is nice second-story seating from which you can enjoy your beer and salad while gazing out at the roiling surf.

The California Academy of Sciences is also in Golden Gate park, and has an event called Night Life every Thursday, during which children are not allowed in (yay!), and they serve alcohol while you wander through the museum. Be advised, the alcohol is rather overpriced. I brought a flask last time I went.

Anchor Steam Brewery gives free tours during the day, but you have to call ahead by quite some time. There is a generous tasting/Q&A at the end, which is nice.

Elixer on 16th and Guerrero has some mighty fine cocktails. The owner is a bad-ass and kind of looks like Gerard Butler (sorta...if you squint).

La Cumbre near 16th and Valencia is ridiculous Mexican Food. Ridiculous.

Cafe du Nord near the Castro on Market has some pretty great shows and hands-down the most professional bartenders I've ever seen. They remember what you've ordered, even if you only get 1 drink an hour and the place is packed. They are like cyborgs.

Really, you can't throw a rock here without hitting a place that has something great to eat or drink in it. Your friend could just wander aimlessly around and bump into fantastic eats and great beer.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Eater SF
posted by gingerbeer at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2010

I think part of the fun in San Francisco is where ever you are you can walk into a bar or restaurant you've never been to before and most of the time it's good.

The places I've been to that sucked were still fun and are probably the stories I remember more fondly.

You've already gotten some great recommendations but I just wanted to make sure you don't forget the adventure aspect.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2010

I'm like a broken record in terms of SF bar-recommendations, but:

1) nth-ing Bourbon & Branch, one of my favorite bars on the planet. But make a reservation -- like, now (if she's going next week). Plus, it's near your hotel.

2) Tommy's -- the food's OK, but you're there for the mind-blowing selection of 100% agave tequila. You want to talk to Julio (Bermejo), who probably knows as much about tequila as anyone on the planet. 24th Ave. and Geary (i.e., way out in the Richmond -- maybe $10-15 by taxi from Union Square?). Note that this place closes very early, as in doors-locked-at-11-pm early; go in the afternoon or early evening, and try something you can't get anywhere else.

Those are the two I have to visit on any trip back to SF. Other places you might enjoy: Smuggler's Cove, a tiki bar; Rickhouse, which I mention mostly because it's not too far from Union Square and has some interesting liquors onhand (they also make some great punches for sharing).
posted by chalkbored at 12:58 PM on July 14, 2010

I was just in San Francisco last summer and had very similar requirements. Here are two places that stood out for me:

Zarazuela in Russian Hill (not too far from Union Square area and a cheap cab ride). Some of the best tapas I've ever had.

The Alembic on Haight. It's a bit farther abroad, but the cocktails were fantastic and the food was good too. It's small and gets crowded, so it may be somewhere for an early drink.

I wasn't a huge fan of Bourbon & Branch--it took far too long to get our cocktails, especially since our "reservation" was only for 1.5 hours. I even like the cocktails at the Alembic better.
posted by trox at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2010

In Japantown, i really like Maki for not your usual sushi / udon kind of food. For udon, I like Mifune. Benkyodo is great for fresh mochi.

In Chinatown, you have to go to House of Nanking.
posted by reddot at 2:31 PM on July 14, 2010

nthing Smuggler's Cove if you're a rum fan. and Absinthe if you're looking for a place that's mostly a bistro that serves good cocktails rather than a cocktail bar that serves food.

also, if you're willing to take a taxi out to the Sunset and get your hands dirty, you should head out to Thanh Long for their Garlic Roasted Crab. It is ridiculously amazing and one of the few dishes that I miss whenever I leave SF.
posted by bl1nk at 3:26 PM on July 14, 2010

I really like cha-cha-cha in the haight for food and sangria, then stumble over to alembic to finish the night off with awesome cocktails and scotch.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:59 PM on July 14, 2010

I highly recommend 15 romolo (or the Basque Hotel) for cocktails. It's in a little alley between two strip clubs right off Broadway/Columbus in north beach. Excellent mixologists and a cool space, probably around 10$ a drink.
posted by spatula at 5:08 PM on July 14, 2010

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