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whiskey?

Cask is definitely worth checking out, for whiskey and other spirits. But it's on 3rd St. between Market and Mission, not 2nd.

Oct 24, 2012
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Family Trip to San Fran...need recs

Hong Kong Lounge is definitely cheaper than Yank Sing, but "way better" in terms of food? No. Both are excellent, and Hong Kong Lounge is clearly a better value, but these are two of the best dim sum places in San Francisco, and neither is "way better" than the other, at least in terms of food quality.

Yank Sing is more convenient for the original poster, who will be in the Financial District, and it's definitely easier to get into, but it's probably 25-50% more expensive (though I haven't attempted a detailed price comparison). For the original poster's purposes, the food quality should not be a distinguishing factor between the two. The differences that Chowhounders argue about are likely to be invisible to anyone who isn't highly familiar with dim sum, and I'd be surprised if the original poster were a dim sum aficionado.

May 21, 2012
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

3 Days in San Francisco

It's a little tough to give detailed recommendations because you haven't included much information. For example, a restaurant appropriate for a teenager, even a picky eater, may be completely wrong for a five year old.

For Sunday brunch recommendations, you're better off just searching the board for "brunch." Maybe someone else can do something with "upscale Modern American," but that seems fairly generic to me, and, depending on what you're looking for, could apply to dozens of restaurants in San Francisco, with a wide range of food types and atmospheres.

The following restaurants are within a couple of blocks of the St. Regis, are all very good to excellent, have at least some food appropriate for pre-teens and teenagers, and are open at 5:00 or 5:30 on Saturday evenings:

Ame
Pazzia
Anchor & Hope
RN74
Salt House

You can research these by searching on this board. I would recommend reservations, though it's possible that if you go early enough you might be able to walk in.

Not clear what you would consider a fun lunchtime spot. Again, that could apply to a very large number of restaurants. One possibility close to you is the Stevenson St. branch of Yank Sing, which serves excellent dim sum. If it's a nice day, another possibility would be picking up take-out at Sentinel (no on-premises dining) and eating in the park at Yerba Buena Gardens. You could also take BART to the Mission and have tacos or burritos. Searching on either term here will give you multiple options. I personally favor La Taqueria for tacos and El Farolito for burritos, but there are a lot of differing views out there. Incidentally, you can definitely find fish tacos in San Francisco, but it's not a local specialty.

Mustards Grill is a fun place with good food and works well for kids. They have a large vegetable and flower garden on the other side of the parking lot that is fun to walk around in. Depending on their ages, you could send the kids out there while you have a drink.

May 21, 2012
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

New Saison Chef's Counter [San Francisco]

Not clear what's actually going to be happening with the non-chef's counter menu at Saison. Grubstake indicates they'll continue to offer the current tasting menu at $198: http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20.... The Chronicle says they'll be offering longer and more "luxurious" tasting menus: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/....

I'd assume a longer menu and higher price, since otherwise the change in seating doesn't make much sense.

I can't offhand think of any other SF restaurants following this model: very small, very expensive, focusing on a luxury, elite experience. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

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Saison
2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

Nov 15, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

A little help, dinner place in SF proper for business interview recommendations

Your example of an interview for a mid-level hire is Michael Mina's in Detroit? Last time I saw those kind of entertainment/recruiting budgets was back in the 90's.

It's difficult to answer this question without knowing more about what you're looking for. Is this the interview itself, or is it a social occasion after the interview? What kind of budget do you have? Are you looking to impress the candidate or for a place that has food you'll personally like? Do you want quiet and relatively private or something livelier? Will you be drinking? What neighborhood are you going to be in?

Personally, I love the food at Perbacco, but in my opinion it's a little noisy for an actual interview. It would work fine for after-interview socializing.

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Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Nov 14, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Pearl's Deluxe Burger, SF review w/ pics

I'm confused. Is the food any good? For example, if I'm halfway between their new Market St. location and SuperDuper Burgers, which is a couple of blocks away, which direction should I head?

Nov 14, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting in December - Thoughts on Current Line-up

Ah, yes, the one-star Yelp review. Generally worth reading for amusement value if for no other reason. There is no establishment in the world so exalted that some yahoo won't trash it on Yelp. French Laundry has numerous one-star Yelp reviews, one of which calls it "French Dirty Laundry." Another reviewer claims the food was so terrible she literally vomited as she walked out the door. You can't make this stuff up.

Nov 09, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting in December - Thoughts on Current Line-up

Typical of a "negative" review of Benu: some of the dishes were very good, others not so much, on balance the reviewer was underwhelmed. Three stars is not exactly glowing, but on the other hand it's not terribly negative either.

Quite different from ptrefler's comments. He absolutely hated the place. I don't know of anyone else who's reacted that way.

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Nov 09, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting in December - Thoughts on Current Line-up

Your link shows Benu with 4 1/2 stars, so I'm not really clear where your three star comment comes from.

Maybe you can direct me to some chowhound reviews that characterize the place as awful. Everything I've seen rates it as somewhere on the spectrum from good but not worth it to excellent. And it's present on quite a few lists of the best restaurants in the city.

I'm pretty comfortable characterizing ptrefler's characterization as an outlier. It's by far the most negative thing I've seen about Benu. Possibly your friend feels the same way, but given that he's not posting and you apparently haven't eaten there I'm not sure what your basis is for disagreement.

Incidentally, I'm not sure I'd advise the original poster to put Benu on his list. In my opinion the food ranges from good to superb, but I'm not sure it's worth the price. Or, put differently, there are other places that provide more bang for the buck. But I didn't want him to write it off based on a single post that appears to be considerably outside the mainstream.

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Nov 09, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Thanksgiving Dinner to go in SF

Whole Foods seems to have exactly what you're looking for: www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/PN/do.... I assume other local supermarkets do as well.

Nov 09, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting in December - Thoughts on Current Line-up

ptrefler's opinion about Benu is an outlier. Lots of people comment about the serving sizes there, but I haven't heard many, if any, complaints about the quality of the food or the service (though the decor is sometimes characterized as cold and austere).

A lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of the food at Benu: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/726791. The short version is that some people think the food is excellent, whereas others feel it lacks "soul" and does not quite reach the heights expected. No one thinks the food is "not that great."

I've personally been several times and find the food interesting and sometimes great. If you go, however, you should be warned about the tasting menu: last time I went it was 18 courses and lasted three and a half hours. Not too much food, since the serving sizes are relatively small (a single bite in some cases), but a lot of time to commit to a meal. And be careful with the wine pairing. Unless you have a high tolerance for alcohol, I would advise telling them to pour lightly. Or send it back, though that's a shame given the quality of the wine.

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Nov 09, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Atelier Crenn vs. Commonwealth

I completely agree that you should give up one of the two reservations, since it's basic courtesy to do so. It probably matters a lot more to Commonwealth than Atelier Crenn, however. Commonwealth is relatively heavily booked on Saturday, at least on OpenTable, whereas Atelier Crenn is wide open for both Friday and Saturday.

Atelier Crenn isn't my thing, exactly, but I'd hate to see the place die. Right now it's beginning to look like that. A high end restaurant that as of Thursday night has complete availability for both weekend nights is a restaurant that's in trouble. And this isn't the first time I've noticed this. My impression is you could walk straight in without a reservation on any night of the week and be fairly certain of being immediately seated.

So if you can't make up your mind in any other way, maybe you should consider choosing Atelier Crenn. They need the business a lot more than Commonwealth does. And Commonwealth will probably be there the next time you come through town. I'm not sure Atelier Crenn will be.

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Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Oct 20, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

The Melt - Fairly Epic Fail

I checked the place out this afternoon. They had a fairly good crowd for 2:00 on a Monday: 8-10 customers at any given time and a fair amount of turnover. Mostly Academy of Arts students, I'd guess. On the other hand, there are a number of casual spots in that strip of New Montgomery, and many of the others looked considerably more crowded than The Melt.

As for the food, it's just not worth it. $8.95 for their special, which is grilled cheddar cheese on potato bread plus a cup of tomato soup. They offer free tomatoes on the grilled cheese, which I asked for.

The grilled cheese was at best mediocre. The cheese had the texture of heated Velveeta and little to no taste. The potato bread was OK, but a bit limp from the melted cheese, and not interesting in any way. The tomato soup was memorable, in that I could taste it for several hours afterwards. Not a pleasant taste. I'm pretty sure it had spent quite a bit of time in a vat over a heat source and ended up bitter.

A thoroughly mediocre meal. I have no problem with well-done fast food. Though I don't eat much at McDonald's, for example, they turn out food that appeals to their demographic and tastes good, if that's the kind of thing you like. I can't say the same thing about The Melt. The food simply doesn't taste very good.

So I don't get the hype. Or, I guess I really do get it, and it has a lot more to do with lots of money and high-profile backers than food quality. As I said before, it reminds me of Chuck E. Cheese: Silicon Valley money, high profile concept, lots of hype, plans to expand everywhere. But they forgot to make the food taste good. Same problem here.

Sep 12, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Ame vs. La Folie 5 Course Tastings

For what it's worth, Ame changes up the menu on a regular basis. They just ended an excellent summer tasting menu, and the lobster-gnocchi dish you had is new. So if you go back, it's likely you'll find something else on the menu to try.

Sep 11, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

I regularly walk through the lounge/lobby area of one of the high end downtown hotels around 5 AM and it's invariably deserted, except for the staff, of whom there are often half a dozen hanging around with nothing obvious to do. But I suppose you're right bbulkow: if you look like a guest they'd probably leave you alone.

As far as late-night dining goes, I'm sure they have no interest in turning their lounges into post-midnight hangouts for drunks leaving the clubs. I suspect that's a major reason there aren't more late night options available in general.

Sep 04, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Luce after Crenn

Went to Luce Friday night. Overall impression: quite expensive, excellent service, good but not spectacular food, but not quite memorable enough for the price.

A couple of non-food notes. First, the place was only about a quarter full at 8:00 on a Friday night. Not a good sign. Second, the staff is clearly very experienced, and the service was as good as at any restaurant in the city. Knowledgeable, helpful, but not obtrusive. Third, they’re pricey. After tax and tip, the tasting menu and wine pairing will run you close to $200 a person. Not the most expensive in the city, but definitely up there.

The food. We had the summer tasting menu and wine pairing. Nine courses, plus a couple of additions. Excellent wines, in my opinion, but be warned: they pour relatively heavily, and if you drain your glass with all nine courses you’ll definitely walk away drunk.

The best dish, in my opinion, was a “sweet and sour” foie gras, with maple syrup and sherry vinegar. One of the better foie gras I’ve had anywhere.

There were a couple of quite good dshes: sea scallop and a vegetable dish featuring beets. Not out of this world memorable, but solid contributors to the overall meal.

I suppose my real problem with the menu came with the last three non-dessert plates: steelhead trout, slow-cooked egg and herb-roasted chicken. Egg isn’t really my thing, though this particular dish was done well. The trout was melt-off-the-fork tender. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and very subtly flavored.

And that’s more or less the problem: three subtle dishes in a row, two of which (trout and chicken) could have been excellent stand-alone entrées. By the time I got to the chicken, however, I wasn’t thinking “subtle,” I was thinking “bland.” Not fair to the individual dishes, but there just wasn’t enough taste or texture variation to keep me interested.

I often find the red meat dish in a tasting menu to be one of the less interesting dishes. But in my opinion the Luce summer tasting menu could have used a bold red meat dish, or something else equally contrasting with what went before. The absence of that kind of dish left me feeling vaguely bored at the end of the meal, but also thinking I really shouldn’t have been, since the dishes were all good to excellent when taken one at a time.

So, my overall impression was that the overall menu just didn’t have the pop to it that leaves me walking out thinking that I’ve just had an extraordinary experience. And for $200 a person, that’s what I’m going to be looking for.

This was kind of the mirror image to my experience at Atelier Crenn, which also had very good food, but in my opinion was all pop, to the point that it interfered with the actual dining. This reminds me of the old Star Trek episode where the transporter malfunctions and spits out two Captain Kirks: one with the good parts of his personality, and one with his evil traits. Following Dominique Crenn’s exit from Luce, both Luce and Atelier Crenn serve very good meals, but Luce is a little too stable to be memorable, and Atelier Crenn is a little too gimmicky to be a first-class food experience. As I recall, in Star Trek they ran the transporter in reverse and got back the old Captain Kirk, with the right blend of good and evil. If only we could do the same here.

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Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Sep 04, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

As far as I know, none of the hotels are serving anything that late, and I'd be somewhat surprised if you could just hang out in the lobby chairs for several hours at that time of night. I'm pretty sure anyone trying it would be politely asked to leave.

Sep 03, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Luce after Crenn

Thanks for the report. Sounds good but not very memorable. I'm going to try it tomorrow night and will report back.

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

The Melt - Fairly Epic Fail

"Reports about the food on Chowhound seem irrelevant to me. They're going after more or less the same demographic as Chipotle."

I get Chipotle. I'm not much interested in eating there, since there are much better Mexican options in town. But the idea of organic Mexican that's uniform and safe makes sense to me as a business model, particularly in areas that don't have many Mexican options.

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, on the other hand, doesn't immediately make sense to me, at least not as a national chain. My guess is this is basically a vanity project, and the professional restaurant guys are there for the ride. Anyone who was anywhere near Steve Wozniak in the US Festival days will recognize this syndrome.

I'd like to say I wish them luck, but if the food isn't that good I'd probably prefer that they fail, for the purely selfish reason that I'd prefer something better to open in that spot. Either way, I'll try it out in the next couple of days and report back.

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

The Melt - Fairly Epic Fail

Very odd. If you google "melt restaurant sf," this doesn't show up, at least in the first couple of pages. Googling "the melt" pulls it up.

Also, I'm having a little trouble understanding a restaurant web page that includes a detailed media fact sheet but no menu or store hours. If the damned thing weren't already open down the street from me I might be tempted to believe this was some kind of ironic joke in the nature of an Onion story designed to be utterly ridiculous but just close enough to reality that people might actually believe it.

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

The Melt - Fairly Epic Fail

Well, I guess we'll see. But if the food's not that good, they're going to have trouble with the affluent clientele they're looking for.

Another early warning sign: there's already a cheese-oriented Melt restaurant in SF: http://www.melt-cafe.com/ and a small grilled cheese chain with the same name in Ohio: http://meltbarandgrilled.com/. I'd never heard of either of these, and ran across them trying to track down Melt's menu on-line, something that appears impossible, since they don't seem to have a website.

So a couple of issues. First, what's up with a technology-oriented restaurant that doesn't have a website prior to opening? Particularly a restaurant that's been building up hype around their app. If I were an investor, that would make me wonder a bit. A restaurant app is a gimick. A restaurant website is a necessity.

Second: it looks like no one cleared the name before they opened up. Different restaurants with the same name is not unknown, but there's no way they'll be able to build a chain with that name without dealing with the other Melts. Given the publicity they've built up, at least in San Francisco, they've simply handed the other SF Melt a golden opportunity to hold them up for some significant money.

That, plus the negative reports about the food, would lead me to believe that these people aren't quite ready for prime time yet.

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

The Melt - Fairly Epic Fail

Reminds me of Chuck E. Cheese: a tech entrepeneur's fantasy of bringing technology-based food to the masses. I'm having some difficulty believing there's a lot of money to be made in supplying app-driven cheese sandwiches in the Midwest. I suspect they'll be too techy and expensive for most of the country and not gourmet enough for places like San Francisco and NY.

Pity: like the OP, I was hoping for a really good grilled cheese option in the neighborhood. I'm not terribly impressed with the Grove's. I'd be interested in Canteen's take on grilled cheese, but I've never seen it there.

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Luce after Crenn

Anyone been to Luce since the departure of Dominique Crenn? Is it still worth going to?

Sep 01, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

Cafe Mason is not a bad choice. The food is about one notch above Denny's. Sort of a generic diner. It's where I go if I'm not going to make it to Dottie's before 7:20. Doubt they have wifi, but who knows these days. Relatively safe walk from 2nd and Mission, though you're getting towards the edge of the Tenderloin.

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Cafe Mason
320 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Aug 31, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

The donut shop is All-Star Donuts, which, oddly enough, serves lots of food other than donughts, including some pretty good chicken, though I'm not sure they're still serving it at 3 AM. Somewhat of a dicey neighborhood, though, at that time of night. I'd think twice about walking from 2nd and Mission to 5th and Harrison after midnight. Not as dangerous as some other parts of the city, but definitely spooky.

Aug 31, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

Odd, since the internet seems to think there is wifi there: http://usatoday.jiwire.com/wi-fi-
wireless-hotspot-San-Francisco-California-
CA-US-Denny-s-Restaurant-1364139.htm. (url broken up because it's the only way to get it to post

)

So possibly Yelp has again established that it's not actually good for anything. Or maybe there's wrong information on the internet. Been known to happen. Either way, it's the only 24 hour place I know of in safe walking distance from 2nd and Mission.

Aug 31, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Anything open all night? with Wifi?

Sparky's is too far to walk, particularly at that time of night. Not a good idea to walk much past 5th St. after midnight.

Better choice would be the Denny's on 4th and Mission. It's open 24 hours and I'm pretty sure it has Wifi.

Aug 31, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Holiday lunch for 40 near Union Sq

Looking for a restaurant, preferably within walking distance of Union Square, that can serve 40 for lunch during the holidays. Price is no object.

I'm thinking a private room would make the most sense, but would certainly consider a public dining space if arrangements could be made to sit 40 people together.

Suggestions appreciated.

Aug 04, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Benu / Crenn / Coi / Saison [San Francisco]

Agree completely with KS1. Atelier Crenn is a fascinating place, and I'm glad it's here and I hope it survives. But for me the experience was more aesthetic and intellectual than food-related. I had the full tasting menu about a month ago, and a couple of dishes stood out (pork, plus the desserts). Mostly, however, it reminded me of a really interesting art exhibit the subject of which happened to be food. For me, the presentation and concept overwhelmed the actual taste, possibly because I ended up thinking a lot about the presentation and whether it was truly interesting or just over-the-top pretentious (not clear that eating off actual logs enhances the food experience, even when accompanied by dry ice fog).

Again, I'm glad Atelier Crenn has opened in San Francisco. Right now, however, I'm finding it memorable, but the food itself isn't enjoyable enough to put it on my personal list of top restaurants in San Francisco.

Personally, my current favorites are Saisson, Benu and Canteen. They're different experiences, and I'm not sure it makes sense to try and rank them. All three have excellent food and all three almost always knock it out of the park deliciousness-wise. Which is what I'm personally most interested in.

On the other hand, re-reading the OP, if you're looking for wow-factor, Crenn is probably the place to go. I can pretty much guarantee a highly memorable experience. On that scale, I'd put Benu second and Saisson third. Again, this is based on overall memorableness of the experience, rather than strictly based on the food.

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Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Jul 16, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area

Service problems at Orson

I was at Orson the other night, for the second time in the last couple of months, and had a similar experience both times: good to excellent food (especially desserts and drinks), but the meal was marred by service breakdowns that left me uninterested in returning.

The first time we went was a couple of months back. The place was packed, and they missed an 8:00 reservation by an hour and a half. I can live with a 20 minute wait for a reserved table at a popular place, but an hour and a half is evidence of a complete failure in planning. The manager recognized the problem, and comped our drinks, which made me feel somewhat better, but I’ve eaten in lots of restaurants in the city and this is the worst I’ve seen (though Saisson was a close second).

However, I’m a reasonable guy, so I figured I’d give the place a second chance, hoping that either we’d hit them on a bad night or they’d since worked out the kinks.

We had an 8:00 reservation last Saturday night. No problem being seated. The place was only about a quarter full, which is a bad sign on a Saturday night, particularly compared to the crowds the last time we were there.

Our problem this time was amateurish service. About three minutes after our soup plates had been put down, a waiter, or possibly a busboy, brought out our entrees. We weren’t done with our soup. We weren’t close to being done with our soup. Our table was a smallish two-top, and the guy stood there trying to figure out how to wedge in the entrée plates. He finally gave up and asked us where we wanted them, as if we had a spare table lying about someplace. When we explained that we were still working on the soup and would actually prefer to wait on the entrée, he took them away, presumably to wait under a heat lamp until our soup was done.

Five minutes later our waitress came by to ask how things were doing, and was shocked when we told her the entrees had come and gone in her absence.

When the entrees came the second time, they were missing a side I’d ordered (the duck fat fries), something I know the waitress heard because I talked to her about it.

To add insult to injury, the next day I got an email from OpenTable, stating that Orson had reported we didn’t show up for the reservation, and asking whether anything was wrong. Note that when we showed up I'd checked in with the front desk at the restaurant, telling them we had a reservation and giving them my name.

In the overall scheme of things, unprofessional service is not the biggest deal in the world, but Orson is not terribly cheap, and this is the second time I’ve had a problem with the service there. I’m left to wonder whether the entrees we ended up with were shoved under a heat lamp for fifteen minutes while we worked on the soup, and why they would have prepared the dishes a solid 15 minutes before they could possibly be served. Again, the restaurant was less than half full, so I can’t believe the kitchen was under any significant strain.

I’d like to like this place. The drinks are good, the food is good, and the desserts are excellent. But San Francisco isn’t exactly lacking in dining options, and I’m having trouble figuring out why I should continue to patronize a restaurant that doesn’t seem to be able to get its act together.

Jun 20, 2011
johnq in San Francisco Bay Area