Dining and Lodging Suggestions

San Francisco offers virtually every type of cuisine imaginable. Here are a few favorites - upscale and downscale - to help you decide which restaurant out of thousands to select.


Dining and Lodging Suggestions

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

My husband and I live about 300 miles from San Francisco, but we spend several days there every three or four months, just to get a "food and culture fix." We usually go to the Museum of Modern Art to see what the current temporary exhibit is. On our last visit, they had a show about art in the age of technology. One very clever, interactive piece had a large plexiglass box full of electrical items, such as lights, things that made noise (like a radio), and things that moved (like an electric fan). When the person viewing scanned any bar coded item on a scanner outside the box, one or a combination of things inside the box would be turned on. Inventive and fascinating. ${QuickSuggestions} To find out what is going on when you are visiting, pick up a Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and check the Datebook section...or look at the Chron's website . You'll find listings of theater, concerts, shows, art exhibits, etc.${BestWay} Driving in San Francisco is difficult and parking is close to impossible. We always leave the car at the hotel/motel and take the Muni system just about everywhere. The buses seem to use the schedules as suggested times, but if you are not in a hurry, they work just fine. Just build a little extra time into your schedule. The best deal is the tourist pass -- they are available for 1 day ($6), 3 days ($10) or 7 days ($15). They allow unlimited use of the buses, cable cars and trolleys. Otherwise, buses are $1 (with a transfer included) and cable cars are $2 (no transfers). Exact change only, which makes the pass an even better hassle-free option. The only problem is finding out where to get one -- we get our at the gift shop of the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway on California & Van Ness. For additional information about fares, where to get passes, routes and maps, look at the official Muni website/

Chelsea Motor Inn

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

The Chelsea is our first choice for a San Francisco getaway. Not only is the price reasonable for San Francisco, but it has free parking and is conveniently located a few blocks from trendy Union Street (note: not Union Square). The rooms are large enough, and the furniture is typical motel-style. The beds are comfortable. Each room has a coffee pot, iron and ironing board and hair dryer. The rooms facing the street have large bay windows, but are noisy. The rooms on the "inside" have windows with a view of an airshaft but are considerably quieter. In the morning, we like to go to one of the nearby coffee houses for breakfast. Tully''s, a few blocks away, is also a favorite for an afternoon coffee and pastry. Isa restaurant (see separate journal) is walking distance, and there are buses on Union and on Chestnut, both a easy walk away, that will take you to Fisherman''s Wharf, Chinatown and Union Square. If you''re a AAA or AARP member, ask for the special members'' rate.
Chelsea Motor Inn
2095 Lombard Street
San Francisco, California, 94123
(415) 563-5600

Holiday Inn Golden Gateway

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by food&fun on June 28, 2001

This hotel is an ordinary, rather sterile Holiday Inn, but the rooms are comfortable and large enough and the location is good. It has recently been refurbished. The California Street cable car, which will take you to Chinatown, is a block away. Buses that will take you to Union Square, Ghiarardelli Square and other tourist attractions are nearby. There is a Tully''s coffee shop with good coffee rigt across the street, and a number of less plastic coffee shops on Polk Street, a block away. Tommy''s Joynt is a few blocks away (see separate journal) and several other fine restaurants are within a few blocks'' walk. Parking is available for $25/night with in-and-out privileges. The gift shop sells Muni tourist passes, which are a great deal. Unlimited use of buses and cable cars for $6/day or $10 for 3 days or $15 for 7 days.

We stay here when we can get the special rate that is only offered by calling the hotel directly (not the main Holiday Inn 800 number.) It is called ETIX. When you make your reservation, your credit card is charged and there are no refunds for cancellations. Only a limited number of rooms are available. Standard rooms Sunday through Thursday are $69 and on weekends $89 (plus tax). The regular room rate is about $150 or more for these rooms. Upgraded rooms are $89 and $109. It''s hard to find a nice hotel in San Francisco for less than $100 a night. Even the Chelsea, which is our alternate choice (see separate journal) goes higher than $100 during high season. If you''re not looking for a hotel with character or luxury, this is a good choice. An additional hint -- ask for a room on the Polk Street side, it''s quieter than the Van Ness side.

Holiday Inn Golden Gateway
1500 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California, 94109
(415) 441 4000

Original Tommy's Joynt

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

If you're looking for a no-fuss lunch in a somewhat downscale place, this is the place. Tommy's Joynt is one of the San Francisco classics. To say the ambiance is rustic is an understatement. The dark wood walls are covered with ancient beer ads. A scarred wooden bar runs the length of one wall. Diners sit at long wooden tables covered with red-checked oilcloth table coverings. There is a big help-yourself pickle barrel in one corner. When you enter, you line up at a counter and one of the big men behind the counter carves your choice of beef, turkey, pastrami, corned beef or ham for a sandwich on your choice of bread or roll. The sandwiches are served with a cup of au jus for dipping or pouring, and you can further dress your sandwich from the pots of horseradish, hot mustard and sweet mustard on the tables. The price is very reasonable -- $3.95. They also have a variety of home-style side dishes ($1.70 each), like cole slaw that's not too sweet or goopy, potato salad that is goopy (as it should be), mashed potatoes, and baked beans. They also have a daily special, like pasta with calamari, crusty macaroni and cheese, or stewed oxtails. Anchor Steam beer on tap and a full bar complete the picture.
Tommy's Joynt
1101 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, California, 94109
+1 415 775 4216

Gary Danko

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

Gary Danko is one of San Francisco's top restaurants. The menu offers three fixed-price choices: three courses are $54, four courses are $64, and five courses are $74. Danko also offers a five-course tasting menu, made up of his suggested choices from the menu for $74 per person, with half-glasses of wines paired with his suggested menu for an additional $35 per person. The menu is divided into the usual categories of starters, salads, fish, meat and poultry. The unique approach is that you can select any dish for any course, and the chef will size it accordingly. You'd prefer the fish as an appetizer or the appetizer as a main course? No problem.

On our recent visit, my husband and I both selected the 4-course menu. We both started with oysters in lettuce cream with caviar. It was heavenly. The oysters were small, but very fresh and barely poached. The lettuce cream was a pool of almost a cream soup. The sprinkling of caviar provided just the right accent. In the past here, I have had similar oyster preparations -- always with caviar but with a different flavored cream sauce -- and they have all been perfect. My husband had scallops as his next course and they, like the oysters, were cooked to just the right point, crusty and caramelized on the outside and soft inside. I had lobster salad, which was arranged like a work of art. About half a small lobster shared the plate with slices of avocado and citrus fruits. My husband's main course was pheasant cooked two ways, the breast steamed and the leg confit. It was not as good as the previous dishes; the breast meat was as bland as turkey. My main dish was rabbit loin on top of a toasted risotto and hazelnut cake. The rabbit was good, but the risotto cake was outstanding. The outside was crispy and the hazelnuts gave it (what else) a nutty flavor. We both had a raspberry rhubarb tart with creme fraiche ice cream for dessert. It was good, but nothing special. On a previous, I had a chocolate souffle with chocolate and vanilla cream sauces poured in as it was served. It was delicious, but this time I wanted something not as rich. On a previous visit, I had the squab in Moroccan spices as a main course. The squab was cooked properly (not overdone) but the spices were a little overwhelming. The service is extremely smooth, and the servers are knowledgeable about the menu and are friendly without being overly familiar. This is a fine restaurant for a special occasion. Reservations, especially on weekends and at "prime" times are difficult to get. There are 11 seats at the bar, held for people who arrive without reservations.

Restaurant Gary Danko
800 North Point At Hyde Street
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 749-2060

Malee

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

We learned about this restaurant in the San Francisco Chronicle's listing of best inexpensive restaurants. As it is located adjoining a chain motel, we never would have considered it otherwise. We've been there twice for lunch and once for dinner, and it has quickly become a favorite. The menu featured both Thai and Vietnamese dishes. We always order the Thai eggplant salad, which combines chunks of stewed eggplant and lettuce with very firm crumbles of tofu in a spicy dressing that probably features lime juice and Thai fish sauce. The pad Thai, a bellwether for Thai restaurants, is more heavily sauced and a little sweeter than usual, but nevertheless very good. We ordered the "seafood" version of it on our most recent visit and were very pleased with the generous amount of mussels, scallops and shrimp it contained. We had ordered prik king, a Thai curry dish made with green beans and were pleasantly surprised that instead of the green beans listed on the menu, it was made with snap peas, which were in season. We've had the green bean version here and the edible pea pod version was even better than the traditional preparation. Only the chicken with cashew nuts disappointed; the flavors were too mild and the chicken was dry. Craning our necks to see what other tables had, we were impressed with the appetizer plate featuring a variety of spring rolls and vegetable rolls. The pho (Vietnamese beef and noodle soup) also looked very good. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
Malee
1450 Lombard Street
San Francisco, California
(415) 345-9001

Isa

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

If you are not looking carefully, you will miss this tiny storefront restaurant. A few tables are crowded inside the restaurant, but in the back, there is a spacious covered patio, heated with tall gas heat lamps. We've been here twice, and sat inside both times. A warning: if it is cold and windy, avoid tables along the patio fence because the wind can be unpleasant. (Ask for an inside table when you make your reservation.) The menu theme is French-inspired tapas -- little portions made to share. The dishes come out of the tiny kitchen almost at random, depending on when they are done. The server will explain this when you order, so it will not be seen as a flaw. The food is outstanding and the prices are reasonable, especially considering the quality. I don't think anything is more than $15. We had goat cheese on thin slices of tomato that had been roasted lightly in the oven, just enough to bring out the earthiness of the cheese then sprinkled with pine nuts. I scooped up bits to put on the wonderful baguettes. The roasted mussels were some of the best in the city. We went through a whole basket of bread just sopping up the flavorful broth! The sweetbreads were crispy on the outside and creamy inside. (When we told a French acquaintance that we ate at Isa, she exclaimed "Ah, the sweetbreads!") We also had four perfect little lamb rib chops. Dinner finished with tart grapefruit granite, more like soft grapefruit-flavored snow than the chunks of ice that often pass as granite. There is a good selection of wines by the glass that complement the small, varied dishes. By the way, the restaurant is named after the owner/chef's infant daughter.
Isa's Restaurant
3324 Steiner St. (between Lombard and Chestnut)
San Francisco, California, 94123
(415) 567-9588

Scala's Bistro

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

When the Sir Francis Drake changed owners and underwent a massive refurbishing several years ago, the owners decided they wanted an upscale but casual restaurant. Scala Bistro fit the bill. It looks like a classic San Francisco restaurant, with wooden booths and a high tin-plated ceiling. There is a rack of magazines and newspapers for solitary diners, but I don't know if anyone ever takes advantage of the convenience. During lunch, you'll see business suits and more casual attire. Reservations are recommended -- we were turned away one day at 1 p.m. but were seated without reservation another day at 2 p.m., after the lunch crowd was gone. The service was pleasant and attentive. My husband had excellent mussels cooked in white wine, which were accompanied by crisp French fries, served in a newspaper cone. I had a shrimp and goat cheese pizza topped with arugula. Each slice had a big, fresh-tasting shrimp. The cold arugula was a nice contrast to the hot pizza. For dessert, the "Bostoni" cream pie is a signature dish. It is Scala's highly-caloric version of the classic chocolate-topped cake and custard combination. If you have room, don't miss it.
Scala's Bistro
432 Powell Street
San Francisco, California, 94102
(415) 395-8555

Antica Trattoria

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by food&fun on April 26, 2001

The restaurant is designed to resemble a rustic Italian trattoria. Unfortunately, the tables were too close together and the noise level of the restaurant too high to contribute to a pleasant ambiance. The menu is broad, with many selections for each coarse, but I found it very uninteresting. Even though I was hungry, little looked tempting. My husband had a spinach salad with goat cheese to start. It was simply that -- spinach topped with crumbled goat cheese. I had carpaccio, drizzled with horseradish cream and sprinkled with shavings of cheese. There was too much sauce and the beef had a watery taste and texture. I know it has to be partly frozen for it to be cut as thinly as required for the dish, but I think someone left it in the freezer too long. My husband had sliced beef drizzled with balsamic vinegar, served with arugula and greasy fried potatoes. The meat was good, but the vinegar overwhelmed it. I had veal ravioli in tomato sauce that was lacking in flavor. My panna cotta for dessert was the highlight of the meal. It was creamy and light, with a nice tangy taste balancing the richness. My husband's tiramisu was good, but very ordinary. Service was rushed and inattentive. Not worth a return trip.
Antica Trattoria
2400 Polk Street (at Union)
San Francisco, California
(415) 928-5797

Yuet Lee

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by food&fun on June 28, 2001

This is your prototypical hole-in-the-wall Chinese seafood joint. Absolutely nothing fancy about this place. The tables are formica, the floor is linoleum, the napkins are in a holder on the table. Tea is poured from a Bunn-type coffee pot brought to the table and is served in plastic tumblers, not delicate teacups. But the food is the real thing. Crowds wait at the door and spill onto the street, police officers in uniform dash in for styrofoam to go containers, families sit at the large tables in back. One thing we always order is salt-and-pepper squid. The squid is dry-fried is a very light coating of flour, then is salted and peppered. Squirt it with a bit of lemon and it is wonderful -- hot, crispy, simple. My husband and I always argue about whether to order one or two pork and oyster clay pots, our absolute favorite. Cubes of pork butt are fried until crisp, then stewed in a brown sauce (probably has oyster sauce in it) with generous slices of ginger and scallions. About six huge fresh oysters -- the 3-bite kind -- are added and the whole thing is brought sizzling to the table. The scallions taste sweet and almost buttery, the oysters are just heated through, and the pork is rich from the sauce.

They have a live fish tank and will cook a whole fish or crab to order. The black bean sauce and garlic sauce is good on either. Ask the price first -- it is market price and can be about $20. My favorite story of one of our dining experiences involved the fish tank. A nearby table ordered a whole fish and the waiter brought it over in the net for the diners to examine. They poked it with their fingers and apparently they complained that it wasn't lively enough. The waiter hurled it out of the net and onto the floor to show how lively it was!

No reservations are taken, so you may have to wait for a table. Cash only. A great experience. The place is easy to find -- it is right on the corner of Stockton and Broadway and is painted bright apple green. The 30-Stockton bus from Union Square goes right by.

Yuet Lee
1300 Stockton St
San Francisco, California, 94133
+1 415 982 6020

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