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mbaldauf's Profile

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Epic Burger?

I just tried the Spruce burger this past Sunday. It was the best burger I've had in the city, hands down - maybe even the best burger I've ever had, period (and I'm from LA, where there are a lot of great burgers).

Everything about it was top notch: high-quality-tasting meat (not sure the source, or whether it was dry-aged), juicy med-rare as requested; housemade bun (soft, buttery, and a teeny bit sweet - prob brioche as well); and what appeared to be housemade accoutrements: pickes and picked onions (kind of like the zuni ones), and a really tasty remoulade sauce, plus excellent grainy mustard on request (even the non-special-request mustard was good and spicy). I will say it is incredibly rich - I was full the entire next day. Also, the fries are not as delicious as I want them to be: I think they fry in rice bran oil, which makes them nice and crispy, but they seem short on flavor (though that did not stop me from eating a whole order with an extra side of remoulade).

I live up the street from Street and have had their burger many times. It's serviceable - not remarkable in any way, especially compared to Spruce. The quality is nowhere near the same. Plus their fries are always underdone and the condiments run-of-the-mill.

Transplanted New York Chefs

Two chefs (I think they are husband and wife) from Prune in the East Village recently opened a place in Sebastopol called Eloise. It's fantasic.

Dry Creek Kitchen & Healdsburg Wineries

Don't miss Iron Horse for sparkling wines. They are fantastic, and their tasting "room" is really an outdoor bar overlooking the vineyard/rolling hills. It's gorgeous. $10 tasting fee (for about 5 pours), no rezzies required. FYI: they close at 3:30.

Fantastic breakfast spot between SF and Calistoga?

Hi there,

I'm driving from SF to Calistoga on Saturday morning for an event at a winery. I'm fearing this event either a) won't have food or b) won't have good food, so am thinking it's best to stop for breakfast on the way up.

Any recommendations on a great breakfast place? Will be heading over the bridge, up 101, and then through the valley on the 29.



Best lunch salad option downtown?

Mixt, hands down. Sellers Market is overpriced and of much lower quality. Their menu talks a big game but the food does not live up.

Sour Cherries?

they (lagier ranch) did have them this weekend, but they were sold out by 8:30am. so if you go, go early!

Need spectacular San Fran business dinner venue

Epic or Waterbar, hands down.

Waterbar report

I think the dish has changed since I first ordered it. I went back again in April and it was nowhere near as good - I could not detect any truffle, and the crab itself was dry.

Your experience sounds even worse!

Sounds like a serious consistency problem...

Where [in SF proper] should a Chowhound live?

Here's something you might want to consider: no matter what neighborhood you live in, you'll probobly get bored of your local restaurants. For example, I've lived on Green and Larkin (Russian Hill) for the past three years, and while there are a ton of restaurants in the neighborhood that people love (cathyt lists them in her post above), I've eaten at them all so many times that they no longer interest me: I know what to expect at every place, and it's just no longer compelling.

So, I find myself going to the Mission or Hayes Valley or NOPA or pretty much anywhere in the city for great food. As long as you're centrally located, you'll be fine.

That said, I understand you want a neighborhood with options. The best one is the Mission: preferably as close to 18th and Guerrero as possible. That way you'd have bi-rite market, birite creamery, delfina, pizzeria delfina and tartine bakery right there - plus it's only a two block walk to a ton of stuff on Valencia. And I find that part of the Mission (near Dolores Park) to be a prettier and safer living environment than some of the grimier streets near the 16th St. BART station.

I would avoid SOMA. To me, it has no energy. The streets are big and wide and on weekends and evenings it can feel like a wasteland: grey and warehouse-y and depressing. I know the area right by the ballpark is livelier, but in that part of the City, you're pretty isolated - it's a lot harder to get outside the neighborhood without a long walk through sometimes-terrible neighborhoods (unless you hop on Muni, but that's not always fun). Plus, it doesn't feel like San Francisco.

Waterbar report

I wouldn't be so quick to discount Epic and Waterbar. They are expense account restaurants, but the food at both can be very good. At Waterbar specifically, I found the marrow bones stuffed with dungeness crab and black truffles to be one of the best first courses I've had in the city - and the pressed lobster is fantastic, despite the misnomer.

As for Epic, I've been 4 times (mostly business dinners), and with proper ordering (oysters, crudo, steak tartare, rib eye for two, new york steak, prime rib, spinach side, chocolate souffle), the food can be excellent. I wrote a very detailed review of Epic on Yelp if you're interested.

Your Graduation Gift to Me (more knowledge)!

My friend had her b-day dinner at the chef's table a few months ago, and believe it or not, I did not love it. We didn't get any special attention, much less special dishes, from the chef and our waiter was indifferent. And frankly, it was kind of an ugly utilitarian environment (I know, it's a kitchen, but still!). I much prefer eating in the dining room. So don't worry so much about saving up for this one!

Your Graduation Gift to Me (more knowledge)!

Aziza is not THAT great. Several times my experience has been barely mediocre. If you go with limited expectations, it's fine, but nothing knock-your-socks off. And the space is tacky.

If you want an amazing experience, go to Quince. Hands-down best pastas, anda very elegant overall experience.

Hyde Street Bistro vs. Frisson?

I dislike the food at both Frisson and Hyde Street Bistro, for the following reasons:

Frisson: Trendy, poorly executed, and like you said, small portions.
Hyde Street: Terrible-quality food (Sysco-esque). No seasonable/sustainable element. High prices for what you get.

Now Frascati on the other hand, that's a spot worth eating at. Leagues beyond the above two. And super charming - especially the cozy private room.

Chowish day trip ideas...?

I third this suggestion. My boyfriend and I did exactly that last weekend: 11-mile loop at Butano followed by a 5:00 dinner at Duarte's. Butano is great because it's only a few miles up the road from Duarte's and was incredibly quiet: we only saw one other hiker during our 4-hour trip.

It was an absolutely perfect day.

Chef's table for New Years Eve?

Hi there,

Any suggestions for a great chef's table for a party of ten on New Years Eve? I know it's a horrible night to go out, but the group is pretty insistent...

We've done Quince for a b-day in the past, and are looking for something similar: intimate, but not stuffy. We'd like to stay within the City. Not putting a cap on price at this point.

Thanks in advance for the help!


Frogs leap winery ..just to go.. no tour.. worth it?

have you tried to make a res for the tour? it only lasts about an hour, and it's wonderful. best experience I have ever had in Napa. I wouldn't recommend dropping by without reservations. is they're all booked, try calling at the last minute - there can be cancellations.

From SF to LA

I can't believe no one has mentioned Quince, which to me, the most elegant and special restaurant for people who truly know food. The chef has a Chez Panisse-level reverence for ingredients and a more formal French-Italian approach to his dishes. Pastas are best in the city, hands down. Wine list is sublime. Expensive.

Other go-to's are similar to what's been listed already: NOPA, Delfina, Bar Tartine, Range, A16, Zuni. Also, Salt House: fabulous and fun. Boulette's Larder for lunch.

You sound really excited about Aziza. Not to burst your bubble, but it may be best to keep expectations in check. The board loves it, but I've been 4 or 5 times and have never been wowed. Some of the food is interesting, but as a whole is uneven. A lot of sweet/savory interplay, which can be good, but often doesn't work. Plus the decor is cheesy and service can be beyond slow.

I grew up in LA, and am in agreement with most of the places you listed. Lucques is still my favorite restaurant. After three years here in SF, I would say there's a lof of great food, but there's also a lot that doesn't live up to the hype. I ate great food in LA on a more regular basis.

RE: Frascati: it's on my corner and used to be delicious. The recent ownership change hasn't done any good. I'd skip it.



Any other Pinkberry wannabes in SF

The liquor store on Union and Fillmore - I'm sorry I can't remember the name - recently started carrying new frozen yogurts (allegedly made with Dannon nonfat yogurt as a base). Their "plain" variety is as good or better than Pinkberry (I'm from LA, so I am very familiar with that taste). I was shocked at how good it was - no comparison to awful Yogurt Bar. I didn't notice if they have fresh fruit, but the yogurt is so good it needs nothing. I had been excited about Honeydoo opening, but now I don't care in the least.

housemade granola in SF

Frog Hollow at the Ferry Building has amazing housemade granola - really fresh and buttery. it's probobly pricey to buy in bulk, but worth it!

Looking for a great cake in SF proper

Hi there,

My birthday's coming up soon and I'm trying to find the most delicious cake for me to eat.

The only catch? I'm not interested in chocolate... or lemon... or coconut really - which are mostly all I see on the websites for Tartine, Delessio, Noe Valley Bakery, and Citizen Cake.

What I'd love is a vanilla/white/yellow cake with lots of berries and whipped cream and/or custard - something lighter and more summery. If anyone's familiar with Sweet Lady Jane in LA, I'm looking for something like their Triple Berry Cake or White Chocolate Raspberry Cake. Gosh, I miss those.

Any advice for me? It's looking like I may have to bake one myself!

Duarte's Olallieberry Pie is all that!

Duarte's pie crusts don't provide a big butter hit because they don't use butter - they use all vegetable shortening (I asked last time I was there). Kind of puts a damper on my enjoyment, but the pies are great nonetheless.


I'm sorry you had a bad experience.

I had my first lackluster Delfina dinner two Saturdays ago - hopefully this is not the start of a trend. In sharp contrast to every other meal I've had there (I've been 6 or 7 times in the past year), our food was very unexciting. It was the first time I wasn't wowed by anything (except the panna cotta - good as ever!).

I think sticking to weeknight/off hours is key, as is ordering the 4th entree on the menu (which they were out of this past Saturday) - it's ever-changing, usually lamb/duck/pork, and has been the standout every time.

Pres a Vi or Foreign Cinema?

Foreigh Cinema, hands down. Pres a Vi has a very suburban-corporate chain feel (an upscale Cheesecake Factory?) with a menu that's all over the map and poorly executed to boot. FC is much more hip and has a lot more character, in terms of both the setting and the clientele - plus, their menu is well-edited and seasonally appropriate - they turn out good food.

A16 What to order?

I find it's best NOT to order the burrata. You can get the exact same cheese, from the same producer (Gioia) at Cowgirl Creamery for $13 for a 1-lb tub. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and you've got A16's dish. There are much more interesting apps (the calamari bruschetta was a standout two weeks ago), especially for the price - $10 for a small portion of the cheese is just not worth it.

SF Chowhound has one night in NY - help me choose between...

Thanks all, for the suggestions. Especially Blue Hill - that was one I was trying to remember - though good point, it seems very SF-style. I think I get trapped in a Bay Area food mindset. Off that path, Degustation sounds really interesting.

I'll run them by my host and post back once we eat!

Jun 20, 2007
mbaldauf in Manhattan

SF Chowhound has one night in NY - help me choose between...

Will be in NY on a Friday night. Our host has suggested Gramercy Tavern or Gotham Bar and Grill; I suggested Cru or Gusto (Prune, a first choice, will be closed).

Any thoughts on the above? I tend to like more intimate, chef-driven places with rustic fare, as opposed to corporate-stuffy tasting menu-type spots (though I know Cru is more on the formal tasting menu end of the spectrum, I've heard the food is fantastic, so it would be worth it).

Basically, what I'm trying to avoid is generic fancy food with no sense of place.

Can anyone offer advice?

Thanks so much.

Jun 19, 2007
mbaldauf in Manhattan

Zuni, A16, Foreign Cinema

another note on the burrata - you can buy the exact same burrata that A16 uses at cowgirl creamery. it's by gioia, made near long beach, and sells for $13 for a 1-lb tub. best to confirm when they recieve their shipments and use within a day or two.

drizzle with good olive oil and fleur de sel and there you go - plus, a much better value than spending $10 on a tiny portion.

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero) Report

Thanks all, for the tips on Duarte's.

We ended up there for dinner on Saturday. Following such a nice day, it was a mistake to arrive as late as we did - 8pm, seated at 8:30 - because by then, they were out of almost everything we wanted: steamed artichoke, both salmon preparations, olallieberry pie, blueberry pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake - the waitress mentioned that they had been slammed all day.

We ordered: artichoke/green chile soup combo; baked oysters with butter and garlic; mussels in white wine; and the only available local fish on the menu, the sablefish. At the outset, I was disappointed: I would have liked to see more local fish and more local vegetable offerings.

Highlights were absolutely the soup - great intensity of flavor - and the sourdough bread. Oysters were well-prepared and very fresh, but didn't wow me; the mussels were gargantuan yet low on flavor - I ended up sourcing out only the smallest ones.

The sablefish itself was excellent: pan-fried perfectly with classic tartar sauce and lemon, but it's accompaniments were a let-down: french fries redeemed only by the perfect aioli we requested for dipping, and strangely soggy out-of-season zucchini. I think they may have ran out of other vegetables, because we saw a better mix at other tables.

I'm sure if we had arrived earlier we would have had a more positive experience. I sense we missed out on the better dishes and recieved the ends of what was still available. I'd like to return when pickings aren't so slim.

Any recent Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero) experiences?

Actually... when I was there on Friday I asked where their bread was from: it's not exactly "local" to Pescadero in that it's a special recipe made by Bay Breads and then baked in-house. I was sort of disappointed given that Bay Breads is so prevailent in the SF area, but at least you can't get this specific kind anywhere else.

Any recent Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero) experiences?

Hi there,

Was thinking of stopping at Duarte's in Pescadero for dinner this weekend. Any recent reports? I know they're known for their artichoke dishes, and it's the season, so expectations are high there. Assume I'm out of luck for the olallieberry pie though?