The Search for Delicious: SF Edition
March 25, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Where should I eat and drink in San Francisco? Specific parameters inside.

I'm visiting SF/Berkley in early June and I'm really excited, in large part because of the food and drink. I have some plans but I'm looking for recommendations, in particular for the following types of places:

-cocktail bars (speakeasy style and places that make their own syrups and bitters are especially appreciated)
-good coffee (I like Blue Bottle in NY, not sure what else is cool in SF these days)
-pastries/baked goods (I went to Dynamo Donuts and Tartine last time I was there and I enjoyed them)
-restaurants (not too expensive, I like most foods, especially Latin American cuisine of all kinds and seasonal hipster kinds of places. I went to Chez Panisse as a splurge last time I was in the area. I have heard State Bird Provisions is really good; is that the case?)

I've had great success with AskMes about this sort of thing for other cities, so I look forward to your wisdom. Thanks, Mefites!
posted by mlle valentine to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I really liked Colibri Mexican Bistro. It's off of Union Square on Geary, right after Post.

Decent prices and the food was really yummy. I loved the bar, 350 Tequilas AND Mexican Wrestling Movies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: Specialty cocktail bars are the latest trend in SF. Ask this question again the week before you arrive because there will be more.

Blue Bottle is still cool.

Baked goods: Arizmendi makes baked goods that are so wonderful they will make you cry.

State Bird Provisions takes reservations up to 60 days in advance. I have never been able to get reservations.

I like Barbacco. Slanted Door is still amazing. And you owe it to yourself to eat at Greens (the only "view" restaurant where the food is so good you don't look at the view).
posted by janey47 at 12:18 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: Kalessin's recs are excellent. Also, for the best speakeasy, Bourbon & Branch in SF. (You need a reservation.) For a nice exotic place (a little spendy), Aziza in SF. Coffee: Ritual & Four Barrel.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 12:21 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am pretty hardened to hip food, living here in the land of $4 artisanal toast, but Fuse Box in West Oakland just genuinely impressed me for affordable, hip, uber-Oakland local, fucking deliciousness.
posted by latkes at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: No reservation needed for Bourbon & Branch unless you're going with a crowd and want a table or several. You just need to password for the library, which I believe is still "books."

Hog and Rocks in the Mission (19th between Valencia and Mission) make very tasty cocktails and have an excellent selection of oysters and cured hams. And other food, too, all delicious. You should stop by Dandelion Chocolate, which is right around the corner on Valencia.

Yes yes Arizmendi.

I've heard good things about the Hideout, a tiny craft cocktail bar at the back of the larger bar Dalva, but I haven't gotten myself there yet. It's on 16th st between Valencia and Guerrero.
posted by rtha at 12:33 PM on March 25, 2014

Coffee: Philz (SF and Berkeley), Four Barrel (SF)

For dim sum, look into places in Sunset/Richmond. Do not do SF Chinatown. Legendary Palace in Oakland is meh. If you're in the East Bay and want to try some no frills places: Gum Kuo (Oakland), Bay Fung Tong (Oakland), East Ocean (Alameda, this place is more pricey dim sum).

Big fan of A Cote near Rockridge BART, and also Wood Tavern.
posted by extramundane at 12:34 PM on March 25, 2014

This top-25 list tallies points for how many "Best of SF" lists a given restaurant appears on. Most of them are in the price-range of State Bird Provisions (which I personally found to be disappointing, I liked Frances *much* better) but there are a few less-expensive options.

Best 25 Restaurants in SF

posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:36 PM on March 25, 2014

I agree that Aziza is fab -- we just ate there about a week ago and it was amazing food and some of the best service I've ever had. And it was $115 per person (tasting menu) plus $65 for wine pairings. I didn't get the wine but I did order an extra side dish. Each couple paid $475 including tip. Do get reservations in advance.
posted by janey47 at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2014

We went a Za Pizza a week or so ago and it was fantastic. (Cheap, dirty, awesome food) (reviews)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:54 PM on March 25, 2014

If you're ready to have every other burrito you ever eat for the rest of your life seem flavorless and substandard, then you should go to the mission district and eat a mission burrito.
posted by mhoye at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with most of the recs so far. On the cocktail front, I have soft spots for both Orbit Room and Blackbird. Smuggler's Cove is a Tiki bar, and is absolutely amazing, with one of the biggest cocktail menus I've ever seen. For restaurants, try Plajā€”it's very interesting plays on Scandinavian food. I'm willing to bet it won't be like anything you've ever had before.

And go visit Smitten for ice cream. It's the best ever.
posted by themadthinker at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: State Bird was fab and worth it to me, but note that I am the kind of die-hard foodie who, upon being unable to get a reservation, arrived at State Bird half an hour before it opened on a Tuesday (usually a quieter night for restaurant-going), stood in line in the (relative) cold behind about a dozen others, and upon being told that for a solo diner like myself, I could possibly get a seat at the bar 90 minutes later, or else nab the standing-room-only slot, chose the latter.

They've since renovated and expanded the space; I don't know if this has affected wait times any.

Also vouching for Mission burritos. I wish the Alameda-Weehawken tunnel was real, and also that it would shoot up to the Callahan or the Ted Williams in Boston. Sigh.

Ice cream, too; Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite will both have lines in June, even if it's a bit overcast and breezy.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2014

You might want to check out UrbanDaddy/SFO. I get their email newsletter and they do a pretty good job of featuring the latest and greatest hipster spots.

Also, if there is any way you can snag a res at State Bird Provisions DO IT! Or, if you really just want to see what all the hype is about you can do like I did and wait in line for a walk-in spot. You really do have to get there at least an hour and half early (I got there at 3:15 for a table when they opened at 5:30), which would normally be a total and complete dealbreaker for me - but like I said, I was curious, so I did it. A friend and I took the Sunday NY Times and a canteen full of wine and just stood in line with the rest of the foodie fools - it was fun! And the food/experience is amazing if somewhat overwhelming - so, so, so many things to try.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: Scroll through Eater SF. They are generally pretty on top of things opening and closing and do good roundups of reviews on newer places.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:02 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: Also, there are no donuts better than Dynamo, so you're really just best off going back there and having some more!
posted by gingerbeer at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My bona fides: I've lived in the city for a year and eat out almost every night. I mainly stick around Mission, Soma, and Financial District but I'll trek out to Richmond and Sunset and Pacific Heights and Marina sometimes.

Cocktails: Trick Dog, Local Edition, Elixir. The creative team behind Trick Dog are actually responsible for a bunch of cocktail menus in the city.

Restaurants: 1760, Lolo, SPQR. SBP is hard to get into and probably not worth wasting an hour waiting when there are so many other good restaurants.

Baked goods: Craftsman and Wolves. Surprised you didn't go there last time since it's practically next door to Tartine Bakery. Dandelion Chocolate nearby also has nice things.
posted by rq at 4:42 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These are incomplete lists, but what jumps to the top of my mind.

Speakeasy Bars
-Hideout (in the back of Dalva on 16th)
-Bourbon and Branch
-Trick Dog (good food too)
-Local Edition

Restaurants with Good Cocktails
-Slow Club at Brunch
-Beretta (recommend brunch for shorter / no wait)

-Sightglass (there are two, one is next to trick dog; now cooler than Four Barrel)
-The Blue Bottle in the Heath store in the Mission
posted by dame at 4:43 PM on March 25, 2014

My East Bay recommendations:

Pizzaiolo has been my favorite place in the Berkeley/Oakland area for hipster food and cocktails for several years now. Gets crowded, so be sure to call ahead or make reservations.

Honor Bar in Emeryville has a very well-priced eclectic/hipster food menu and great cocktails.
posted by mikeand1 at 4:50 PM on March 25, 2014

Not that this makes it all that unusual (for SF bars) but be aware that Trick Dog is REALLY REALLY LOUD. INCREDIBLY LOUD. I say this as someone who as spent many a happy evening shouting with mefites at Mission Bar. Trick Dog is even louder.
posted by rtha at 4:59 PM on March 25, 2014

Response by poster: All these suggestions sound amazing! Maybe a traveler could get a meetup out of all these bars--stay tuned.

(I didn't go to Craftsman and Wolves last time since I think it didn't even exist yet, rq, but I sure will now, looks fantastic!)
posted by mlle valentine at 5:43 PM on March 25, 2014

Response by poster: (Also, can't believe I misspelled Berkeley in my question. It's been a long day, sigh.)
posted by mlle valentine at 5:50 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: If you're staying in Berkeley, there are a ton of great places in Oakland:

craft cocktails: Flora, Fauna, Dogwood, Tribune Tavern, Plum Bar, Boot and Shoe Service. All have really excellent food as well.

good coffee: we still like Blue Bottle, and there's a new one closer to us in a building I have always coveted. Modern Coffee serves a rotating menu of great beans from Verve, Sightglass, &c.

pastries: Donut Savant makes Seattle style donuts. I love them. Donut Dolly makes cream donuts filled to order(!!!).

food: All the places under craft cocktails (food can be pricy though), as well as Hopscotch, go for happy hour or brunch; Hawker Fare well priced, Asian fusion-y; Kingston 11 , amazing jerk chicken, yummy drinks, easy prices; Homeroom, for mac and cheese; Portal to sit by the lake for brunch or dinner; the Hi-Life for build-you-own slices, wine on tap, and pinball upstairs; Stag's Lunchette for brilliant sandwiches.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:11 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For a specific recommendation for a mission burrito: it cannot get any better than El Metate on 22nd and Bryant. I used to live a few blocks away and now that I live in Berkeley I sometimes make the trek into the city just for their delicious, amazing fish burritos. Also, if you get lucky, the mole burritos are heaven and made from an old family recipe.

In Oakland Burma Superstar is ridiculously crowded but so worth the wait. The trick (shh don't tell anyone) is to get there right when they open, or else you will be stuck waiting for a table for 3 hours. ask me how i know.

Also, +1 for Thorough Bread, I worked across the street from them for 2.5 years and ate there every chance I got. Probably the best baked french bread in the city.
posted by ruhroh at 6:50 PM on March 25, 2014

I was also disappointed by State Bird Provisions

The last OUT OF THIS WORLD meal I had in SF was at Atelier Crenn- incredible. The menu is a poem, with each line being a course. I thought it'd be kind of silly and pretentious but each dish is a miniature piece of art (and delicious too!). The amount of work that goes into each course really blew my mind. It is a splurge but one of the few restaurants I've been to where I paid a lot but still felt like I was getting a deal given how intricate each dish was. It's a real experience. I would go again.

In Berkeley I love the Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe (great tri tip sandwiches!!) and Cha-ya (Vegan japanese that is so much more than it seems)
posted by raw sugar at 7:16 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loved The House. My meal (2 appetizers, 2 entrees) came out to about $75, and everything was delicious.

Burma Superstar was worth the trek to the Richmond District. The prices are very affordable, and the food is awesome; get the tea leaf salad! If you get bored waiting for it to open, grab some egg puffs from Genki Crepes across the street... they won't spoil your appetite, I promise.

You didn't mention ice cream, but Bi-Rite is always a good idea, especially the ricanelas flavor (it reminded me of snickerdoodles).

Senor Sisig's burritos are cheap and tasty. I stalked their truck pretty much the whole time I was in SF, and I regret nothing.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by constellations at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: Note that if you do decide to try State Bird Provisions it may be a little easier to get a res these days: State Bird Provisions Combats Reservations Bots (via sfist).
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks as always, Mefites, for a great list of suggestions! It's kinda embarrassing to admit how many of these places I actually made it to in just a few days.

First off, I did get a reservation for State Bird (thanks for the info about how to do that). I overall enjoyed it. The desserts and the quinoa-sunflower seed salad-type bowl and the pork belly were the best parts and the bread-based stuff was less good, IMO. The service was friendly and not too pushy (maybe they understood I had already eaten a bunch that day and couldn't be goaded into ordering more stuff).

Some highlights:
-Having a leisurely lunch julep-esque drink at Tribune Tavern (and stopping off at Modern Coffee) really made me believe I was on vacation, for the first time in far too long.
-Blackbird's drinks are good enough on their own, but even better in the company of Mefites.
-Dandelion's chocolate factory was a lot of fun.
-The pastries from Craftsman and Wolves blew my mind, as did the hot chocolate and horchata.
-Preordering a half dozen Campari-grapefruit doughnuts from Dynamo wasn't bad either.
-My speakeasy-devotee host already had Bourbon and Branch and Smuggler's Cove in mind; SC in particular was really enjoyable.
-Hog and Rocks had a fun concept and a candy-cap mushroom drink.
-My burrito-seeking boyfriend really enjoyed El Metate.
-Blue Bottle is as good as ever.
-Sightglass beans taste just as good when you take 'em home to the east coast.
(We somehow also made it by Chile Pies, Trick Dog, Humphry Slocombe, and probably more. What can I say, we were dedicated. Plus we walked around so much that the exercise sorta balanced everything out.)
posted by mlle valentine at 9:43 PM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

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