Food me in San Fran, Fran
July 17, 2019 6:18 PM   Subscribe

What should I eat in San Francisco?

I’m going to be in San Francisco in a week and a half for a 4 day workshop. I’ve been reading all the previous AskMes and I have a good idea what places I want to visit in my free time, but I couldn’t find any recent recommendations on where to eat!

I’m a pretty adventurous eater, so almost any recommendation will be good, but I especially would like:

- An Ethiopian restaurant (assuming I make friends at the workshop who want to go with me)
- Chinese food. Mexican food. There are no good restaurants of either in my corner of Ohio, and certainly none with regional varieties. I know San Francisco is overrunning with these cuisines, and I don’t know where to even start.
- Also worth mentioning is that this is a teachers’ conference, so affordability is a concern.

Both my hotel and the workshop site are near Alamo Square Park. I will purchase a transit card when I land in SFO and am comfortable using public transit. I won’t have a car.
posted by chainsofreedom to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Club Waziema for Ethiopian, Its on Divisidero near Alamo Park.

Great Eastern in Chinatown has amazing dim sum

Pretty much any taqueria on Valencia will have good Mexican food. I like El Farolita for traditional, Gracias Madre for vegan, and Tacolicious for a modern SF take on it.

Uber and Lyft are your friends when you dont want to wait for a bus.
posted by ananci at 6:24 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's a couple locations for Tadu which is Ethopian, I've eaten at the one near the ballpark. It gets good reviews, it's the only Ethopian place I've ever eaten at and it seemed good to me.

ananci's Mexican recommendations are solid.

And yeah, SF is where Uber was invented, not just because of the tech bros but because of the terrible bus and cab service. Take Uber or Lyft.
posted by GuyZero at 6:27 PM on July 17, 2019

Hai Ky Noodles in Little Saigon. Go during the day. Bring cash. Get the wide noodle soup with duck leg and wontons. You're welcome. :D
posted by ellerhodes at 7:42 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Look this isn't any of the cuisines you mentioned and not particularly economical, but Cafe Jacqueline is a goddamn institution and she's in her 80s and not going to go on forever.
posted by juv3nal at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sam Wo for Chinese food. Tiny, old school, delicious. Very inexpensive. Put your name on the list, wait and enjoy.
Chubby Noodle, delicious and fun. Asian food. Fun brunch on the weekend. Lombard location is more fun than the other, both are great.
Salt and Straw, fantastic pasta.
posted by jennstra at 8:18 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Essential Cheap Eats in San Francisco

and out in the Outer Sunset, Devil's Teeth makes the best breakfast sandwiches.
posted by blob at 8:52 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Cafe Jacqueline and Devil's Teeth. Your personal taqueria is like your Hogwarts house: I am Pancho Villa for burritos and El Metate for fish tacos. Yank Sing isn't cheap but its dim sum is so good, we have breakfast there on Christmas mornings.

At the Ferry Building you can sample Acme Bread, Cowgirl Creamery and Frog Hollow (all made famous by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse) as well as other local darlings like Slanted Door (Out the Door has a bunch of their best dishes to go), Dandelion and Recchiuti chocolates (great gifts), Blue Bottle coffee and Brown Sugar Kitchen for chicken and waffles, all under one roof. I work across the road. It's a blessing... and a curse.
posted by rdc at 9:06 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mexican: Puerto Allegre, Valencia St., a block from 16th st. BART.

Not on your list of cuisines, but worth considering:
Really good Sengalise: Bissap Baobab, 19th and Mission.
Best north-Indian food on the continent: Vik's Chaat in Berkeley, (a 20 minute walk, or a quick bus ride from the Shattuck BART station.)
Great Thai: Khan Toke, on Geary and 24th. (It's a *long* way from where you'll be. But, worth a lyft ride.)

I've had great Ethiopian and Moroccan food in the outer Richmond. . . but, either the restaurants have closed, or I'm not good enough at searching to find them. Best of luck!
posted by eotvos at 10:02 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're staying near Alamo Square Park, you're about equidistant between Chinatown and the Richmond, one of the other traditionally Chinese neighborhoods in SF. If you want to give the somewhat quieter Richmond district a go, you can stuff yourself for $6-8 (cash only, I think) at Good Luck Dim Sum. Unlike most counter dim sum places, you pick up a piece of paper and circle what you want so it's way easier to navigate than most. It and the several other nearby counter dim sum places are easy places to eat by yourself.

While you're there, check out:
- Aroma Tea Shop, a Chinese tea shop with very friendly proprietors who are quite generous with the free samples
- Kamei, a Japanese restaurant supply store full of exciting kitchen supplies and cute plates with cats on them

My favorite Chinese restaurant in the city is Sichuan Home. Excellently prepared Sichuan food, not particularly cheap but also not expensive by SF food standards. If they try to upsell you to a fancier fish, just say no - the "normal" ones are fine as is.

San Tung is rightfully famous for their wings, but everything else on their menu is mediocre. If they have a line, go to the immediately adjacent San Tung 2, which usually has a much shorter line.
posted by asphericalcow at 10:08 PM on July 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Essential Cheap Easts list from blob is great. There's a couple of places on the list that I'm not a fan of but I've been back to all of these multiple times: Wing Lee Bakery, Cholo Soy (it has weird hours, check before you go), Zen Yai Thai, Basa Seafood Express (closes early-ish, get the salmon poke), Tselogs, Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill (closes early-ish and closed weekends), Super Duper Burger, HRD
posted by asphericalcow at 10:14 PM on July 17, 2019

I haven't been to SF in decades, but if I ever go back, I'll head for The Stinking Rose, which I'm pretty sure was recommended to me by MiFite moonmilk. It's a restaurant that makes dishes around garlic. I can't think of a better centerpiece for a restaurant.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:18 PM on July 17, 2019

Eater's recommendations are OK, but I would say (1) La Taqueria is great and (2) Do NOT waste your time or money at Lazy Bear. As for the rest, there are simply too many choices and it very much depends on what you are interested in, how much you are willing to spend, and how much hassle you are able to put up with.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:18 PM on July 17, 2019

Oh yes, definitely ditto Vik's if you end up in Berkeley.
posted by juv3nal at 11:24 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Unlike most counter dim sum places, you pick up a piece of paper and circle what you want so it's way easier to navigate than most

Guess I should have said I’m fluent in Spanish and I also know Mandarin Chinese, which although I can’t communicate in Cantonese, means I can at least read the menu. I’ve also done dim sum before. So, difficult-to-navigate restaurants are totally on the table.

I’m stoked for that Senegalese restaurant. Keep ‘em coming!
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:58 AM on July 18, 2019

In that case, if you want to fall down the rabbit hole of regional Chinese food, you need Hungry Onion’s list of 134 restaurants, sorted by specialty.
posted by asphericalcow at 8:43 AM on July 18, 2019

SF is where Uber was invented, not just because of the tech bros but because of the terrible bus and cab service. Take Uber or Lyft.

I just want to call bullshit on this sentiment because we actually have a really good bus system, despite the perpetual whining. And we used to have perfectly decent cabs, until Uber and Lyft priced them out of existence. And now, thanks to Uber and Lyft, traffic is significantly and demonstrably more terrible than in the recent past and you can't go a block without some dumbass ride"share" blocking a lane with it's blinkers on. Furthermore, a whole new generation of residents now think that their city is un-navigable outside a vehicle and unthinkable if they need to wait ten minutes.

We're also an incredibly walk-able city, so unless you have a legit need for door-to-door automobile rides, you can usually walk, bus, or streetcar it to where you need to go in surprisingly short order. Skip the ride"share" unless you want to spend your time in SF inside some dude's air-freshened Civic waiting in traffic.

Food: you will be in the middle of the city, near the Divisadero corridor, which has plenty of great food. On Divis: the aforementioned Waziema is a classic. Little Chihuahua has decent, cheap burritos; Indian Paradox has great wines and Indian chaat/small plates (but not so cheap). At night, pizza at The Mill is great and cheap. Also pizza at Ragazza and Little Star are both great. In the morning, The Mill is a total scene where you can get the infamous $5 (or $6 or $8) toast which is totally worth it. Souvla is Greek fast food and well-priced for what you get. There are plenty of more expensive places on Divis: Nopa and Che Fico and so on... worth it for splurges but not for regular nights.

You will be easy walking distance from Hayes Valley, The Upper Haight and Lower Haight, The Castro, and the Mission. It's a very compact area - for example I walk from my home in the Upper Haight to the 16th Mission BART stop every day; it's not as far as it seems.

And please, take the bus. The real San Francisco takes the bus. You'll be close to these lines: 21 (downtown to GG park via Hayes), the 24 (Pac Heights to Outer Mission via Divisadero), the 6 and 7 running up Haight Street from Downtown (7 goes way out to Outer Sunset), the 5 and 5R (to/from the beach & downtown via MacAllister and Fulton).
posted by niicholas at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2019 [10 favorites]

Not on your list of cuisines, but worth considering:
Really good Sengalise: Bissap Baobab, 19th and Mission.

The SF location is closed, sadly, but the Oakland location has reopened. It's a couple of blocks from BART.
posted by Lexica at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you find yourself in Golden Gate Park visiting museums -- or just visiting the fog -- there are a lot of great places within walking distance. I like San Tung for Chinese (arrive when they open to avoid waiting in line), Marnee Thai, and Arizmendi for wonderful for fresh baked goods (and amazing pizza from 11am).

If you're here Saturday morning and your schedule is open, go to the ferry building and pick up whatever looks good. I recommend you go to the Primavera stand for Mexican.

(Not near Hayes Valley, but worth taking a bus ride!)
posted by grandiloquiet at 12:00 PM on July 18, 2019

Since moving back from East Africa I've eaten at every Ethiopian (and Eritrean) place in the '49, and you should not waste your time on going anywhere but Tadu. And I strongly recommend the one on Ellis in the Tenderloin - it's the first one the owner opened up and still gets the majority of his attention. It's small, and he's gotten so popular that you may wait if you go at peak hours, but the food is top notch. Our standard order:

1) Veg combo platter
2) Regular kitfo, medium rare (it will still be mostly uncooked, only reason we don't get the special is because it's too spicy for the mrs.)
3) Lamb tibs (we've had all the tibs, the lamb are by far the best)
4) Shiro wot

Hopefully you have someone to dine with so you can try all of that. Food is so fresh and tasty it even makes good leftovers. I shit you not.

Best Indian in the city IMHO is Keeva in the Inner Richmond.

While I support the sentiment between taking the bus, for someone with limited time in the city, I have to second the idea that blowing too many your waking hours on public transit is a waste. We very certainly do NOT have a great muni system in SF. I road rage at Lyft/Uber drivers blocking traffic every day, I even do it on the bus! Motherfuckers are blocking all of us! Certainly take muni if it's going where you need to get to and running on time and such, but don't feel guilty over taking a shared Lyft when Muni isn't a great option (which can be often, if you are criss-crossing the city). And I say this as someone who commutes cross town on the bus. It's a time suck.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:07 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Marnee Thai is ho-hum IMO. Head out to Vanita Thai in the Outer Sunset for the real deal. Also Hook Fish Co. on Irving is great seafood.

Fiorella in the Outer Richmond is great Italian, but go to the one on Polk because it's closer to you and we don't need tourists in our nabe ;). Han Il Kwan is great Korean BBQ also in our nabe.

House of Prime Rib is kind of an SF establishment tradition. Best Jewish Deli IMO is Miller's East Coast Deli on Polk. Best brunch I would say is still Sweet Maple or Zazie if you want frufru, but if you want decent w/o the terrible wait The New Spot on Polk is pretty good.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:36 PM on July 18, 2019

Just a reminder, San Francisco is a city that was founded by bachelors, so it has ALWAYS had lots of good restaurants.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:49 PM on July 18, 2019

If you’re a fan of hot and sour soup, the best I’ve ever had was from Hong Kong Clay Pot in Chinatown.
posted by mefireader at 8:06 PM on July 19, 2019

Response by poster: Hi, just popping in with a followup!

I ate at Hai Ky Noodles - I did in fact get the wide noodle duck leg soup with wontons, and it was amazing.
I also got a banh mi at Saigon Sandwich: highly recommend.
Apparently I am easy to please because I went to Pancho Villa and I was in heaven over the refried black beans, the salsa verde, and the agua de jamaica. I mean, the main dish was good too, but those three things tasted exactly like Mexico.
I got pizza at Little Star - tons of toppings!
No one wanted to eat Ethiopian food with me. :-( I'll just have to get my fix the next time I'm in DC with my husband.

Sadly, I just stopped into a random restaurant in Chinatown that was not on the list of recommendations. It was ok.

Also, I took the bus everywhere and had normal bus experiences. I did take a Lyft to and from the airport though.

Thanks everyone! My trip was awesome and it was all thanks to you guys.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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