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3 Quick Wine Country Questions...promise they are quick! :-)

With regard to item #3 - try the Fremont Diner along Hwy 121 - sort of between Sonoma/Napa.

Fremont Diner
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

late dinner - where to go?

There's also Namu

sunday-tuesday::530p - 1030p
wednesday-saturday::530p - 1200a

House of Shields closing?

I just heard through the grapevine that the House of Shields will be closing. Anyone else have more information about this?

Volcano Curry

Recently tried this place for the first time. I had the pork katsu with medium spicy sauce. The tonkatsu was delicious - really good cut of meat. It could have used a few more pieces of vegetable, but I was pretty happy with it. I also had the seaweed salad, which was good but a little on the salty side. We'll definitely be going back to this place.

Sub-par meal at Sauce

This place is still mediocre. I tried it last night with a few friends, and we were thoroughly underwhelmed. The prix fixe menu looked like a good deal, so all 4 of us chose that option ($30 for 3 courses). I started with the sesame shrimp/ahi tartare salad combo. The sesame oil on the ahi tasted oddly stale. The sesame shrimp was okay, but the shrimp didn't have a fresh taste to it. The mac 'n cheese with chicken was basically limp pasta with a very soupy alfredo sauce with a few stalks of tasteless asparagus thrown on top. I ended the meal with two tasteless strawberries with brown sugar and cream. Not worth the $30.

Casa Hookah in the Richmond

I noticed about a month ago that Cable Car Pizza on Geary near 11th had redecorated its storefront, and added a big new sign - "CASA HOOKAH." Very intriguing. Checked out the website and found that they serve Arabic food in addition to the hookahs out front, and also offer live entertainment (music and belly dancing). Even more interesting.

So, I finally made my way over tonight and tried the food. Not the best in town, but certainly good and a nice, affordable, option for those of us in the Richmond. I had the Kofte Kebab - a single skewer with cooked vegetables (red and green peppers plus onions) and some rice. My partner had a beef and potato tagine. In addition, we ordered the cucumber/yogurt dish as a starter, accompanied by warm, homemade, small, pita breads. We finished the meal with their homemade baklava and Arabic tea (not as strong as Turkish black tea, and not as minty as Moroccan mint; but something in between). In addition to the middle eastern cuisine, the restaurant offers pizza (Cable Car Pizza is still being operated out of their kitchen).

There were quite a few people smoking hookahs in the front patio area (completely separate from the dining area). The place stays open until 2am. Turns out the bellydancing is Tu - Sat at 7pm, and again at 11pm. The place has a funky cafe feel to it, but with pillows and low tables. I'm guessing you would be perfectly welcome to just sit and sip tea for hours on end.

Enjoyed The Bistro at the Cliff House

After working late last night, we decided to indulge and go out to dinner instead of cooking. Since it was a beautiful night, we decided to try The Bistro at the Cliff House so we could enjoy the sunset. We arrived without reservations, and were told it would be a 30-minute wait for a table for two. No problem. We went downstairs and enjoyed AH Hirsh 16-yr old bourbon (a steal at $14/glass), and appreciated the amazing view. About the time we finished our drink, our table was ready upstairs.

I'm not crazy about the ambience of the place, but we had a very good dinner, friendly service, and a nice oceanview table. My partner started with the clam chowder, which he really enjoyed. I'm not a chowder fan, so I'll have to take his word for it. I ordered the pork pot stickers; which were wonderfully flavored and had generously sized fillings. The only complaint was that the "skin" could have been a little crunchier.

For entrees, I had the pan-roasted halibut with macademia nuts over spaghettini with curried sauce. Sounded a little weird, but I felt like having halibut. Turns out the fish was perfectly moist and fresh. Really, truly, very tasty with the mild curry sauce. I couldn't stop commenting on how tasty it was, and made a point of telling the waiter. I guess I was surprised to find something that tasty at the Cliff House.

My partner had the NY Steak, with fries. Good, but not earth-shattering.

All-in-all, we enjoyed a lovely evening at the Cliff House. Amazing! You can find good food and a water view in SF.

Quince replacement?

Regarding SPQR - The one time I tried it, it probably didn't help that we started off on the wrong foot with an hour ++ wait for our incredibly tiny and cramped table, but we found the food to be over-salted across the board, and not all that interesting. Needless to say, I'm not rushing to return.

Review: Lunch at the Fairmont in SF (long)

Thanks for the review. It's nice to know. I used to like going to Laurel Court for special business lunches (nice ambience), but hadn't heard anything in recent years about the quality of its food and service.

Steakhouses for 40th b-day

My partner is a HUGE steak lover, so I've tried most of the steakhouses around here. He swears the best steak is at Bob's, but he thinks it's too expensive and doesn't like the atmosphere of the place. Since you love Alfred's (also my partner's favorite place overall based on price, atmosphere and food), you may enjoy Harris' - it's somewhat old school, and serves consistently good steaks IMHO.

Bob's Steak & Chophouse
500 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94104

Harris' Restaurant
2100 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109

California Roadtrip Restaurants

I totally second the Duarte's recommendation. Stick with the soups (Cream of Artichoke and Cream of Green Chili) and homemade pies. While you're in Pescadero, also swing by Harley Farms for some nice goat cheese samples.

Harley Farms
205 North St, Pescadero, CA

Little Skillet [split from Nonstaurants thread]

Hmm... that's funny. I ordered biscuits and gravy at lunchtime, and was served something that was decidedly not biscuits. More like a dinner roll. The fried chicken and waffle were good, but I was disappointed by the faux biscuit.

Sausalito: Mmmmm Murray Circle and Farley Bar… a nice bay view AND good food

Just tried Farley last night for the first time. We sat out on the veranda on a beautiful, clear evening for a light dinner and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Bay and City (heat lamps, and the server will bring you a heavy blanket if you get cold). Fantastic service - nothing formal, but very friendly and accommodating. Grilled half artichoke with a yummy toasted garlic aioli. Fried young chicken with a harissa-based batter - deliciously juicy, with just a nice heat from the harissa. My two friends had the burger - which I did not get a chance to taste as they both devoured their food. Best of all - dessert. Beautifully presented and delicious chocolate bread pudding - just enough chocolate topped off with a taste of caramel. My friends had the butterscotch souffle and the strawberry ice cream soda. While the desserts may seem like boring classics, they were each a class above. Total bill - $150 for three, including drinks and tip. Expensive for a light dinner perhaps, but we felt it was justifiable for the overall experience.

Unexcited by Troya

I recently went back to Troya for two different dinners - both were stellar. The outstanding items were the lamb dolmas, the grilled halloumi salad (first time with beets, second with asparagus), and the spreads (especially the yogurt and the bell pepper/walnut). I also enjoyed the moussakka - much richer and smokier than the Greek versions I've tried. On both occasions, my friends raved about the food (including one who has spent time in Turkey and is familiar with the food), and swore to return.


I just found this for sale at Whole Spice in Napa at the Oxbow Public Market.

Whole Spice Company
610 First Street, Napa, CA 94559

Moroccan Restaurants that are not Aziza

Cafe Zitouna is quite good. Much more casual than Aziza, and less California-ized. I recently had a lovely dinner at Cafe Zitouna - the Chakchouka Bil Merguez - a Tajine with sauteed fresh tomatoes, bell pepper, onions in olive oil with home made merguez (lamb sausage), eggs and special tunisian spices. Delicious!

Duarte's Tavern

Pescadero is one of my favorite day trip desintations. The cream of green chili soup with their warm sourdough bread is my favorite. The pies are also very good. There are lots of other, low-key activities in and around Pescadero. There is a very nice beach with active tide pools. Also, as someone else recommended, Harley Farms is a fabulous stop - you get to see goats (and they have babies right now) and sample their cheese. There is also some fun window shopping in Pescadero. My favorite is "Made in Pescadero."

Craving fish and chips.

My absolute favorite (at least of late) has been the New Zealander in Alameda. Great beer batter type coating with wonderfully, light, fresh fish.

New Zealander
1400 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

Favorite Free Wine Tastings in Napa?

Thanks baron45 and wolfe. For others out there, I thought I should mention that tastings at Frank Family are still free. I'm not a huge fan of their wines, but the tasting experience is quite nice. They start you off in one room with their sparkling wines, and then you move into a separate room for non-sparkling wines. The location is beautiful, and the tastings are held in a renovated old farmhouse.

Favorite Free Wine Tastings in Napa?

Thanks VenerableBede. I checked out their website, and it looks great. I must be getting old, because I miss the "good ol' days" in Napa when you could find free, low key, tasting rooms, often staffed by family or winemakers. On the other hand, I really prefer the current food offerings :)

Breakfast out toward GG Park

I have to second ML8000's Art's Cafe recommendation. Great little counter-only greasy spoon, that offers some unusual Korean-Am breakfast specials - e.g., Samurai Omelette (omelette stuffed with bulgogi) and a lovely vegetarian bi bim bap omelette. Art's also has fantastic pancakes and regular breakfast fare.

Favorite Free Wine Tastings in Napa?

What are your favorite FREE tasting rooms in the Napa Valley? Napa has a reputation for being expensive, but I know there are some bargains available. For example, I love the fact that Heitz Cellars doesn't charge for its tastings, but has some lovely wines/ports. Are there others folks can recommend?

Monday Brunch/Lunch in Napa?

I'm heading to Napa for the day on Monday, Presidents' Day, and am looking for brunch/lunch recommendations. Many places seem to be closed on Mondays and/or lunch. Four foodie adults from SF/Oakland, looking for good food, but nothing crazy expensive, anywhere between southern end of the valley through Calistoga is fine. Places I've tried and liked are Bistro Don Giovanni, Brix (the old version), Boonfly Cafe, CIA, Bistro Jeanty. Any suggestions?

Big Four

I like the Big Four. However, while the food is okay (and occasionally good), frankly I go for the "old school" ambience more than I do for the food. There are so few of the old SF style places remaining, that I try my best to support them when I can.

Dinner in Napa- top choice?

I second Martini House. Bistro Don Giovanni is also quite good.

Breakfest City Of Napa

Boonfly is the best that I've found. It's not in downtown Napa, but it's still quite close to the Outlets. Buttercream offers an old school diner-style breakfast; which is fine, but their food is just not that good. Sweetie Pie has yummy pastries (although they had a moldy pastry on their counter the last time I went), but I dont' believe they serve a proper breakfast.

Best Sit Down Hamburger with a Full Bar

Additional link.

Custom Burger
121 7th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Best Sit Down Hamburger with a Full Bar

Strange as it seems, O Izakaya Lounge in Japantown fits the bill perfectly. The restaurant has a full bar, and the best darn hamburger and fries I've had in SF. Other places to consider - Namu (although their burgers include some unusual condiments) and Custom Burger Lounge (a little odd, but interesting and long list of burger options).

439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

O Izakaya Lounge
1625 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

SPQR - Good, but not worth the wait

Tried SPQR last night for the first time. SPQR does not accept reservations. We arrived at 7pm, were told it would be an hour wait, and then waited an hour and 15 minutes for a table for 3, on a Monday evening. I'm assuming this is typical.

The food was good, but not great. We started with the fried bocconcini balls with frisee and olives. The fried bocconcini balls were bland by themselves, but quite good with the frisee and olive mix. This was followed by brussel sprouts fried in a tangy, lemon dressing. The brussel sprouts were nicely cooked (browned and toasted), but very salty (we couldn't finish the dish).

For our main dish, two of us ordered the spaghetti carbonara. Thick, homemade, chewy noodles (almost udon sized). In my opinion, the guanciale in the dish seemed undercooked, as it was large bits of floppy guanciale. Overall good, but again this dish was quite salty. The third member of our party had the gnocchi, which the server explained in advance is not what most people think of as "gnocchi." Instead of small potato pillows/dumplings, this dish consisted of two large bits of potato pasta. Almost more like a potato polenta dish, topped with a tomato-based sauce. Good, but not great.

The service was quite good. The space was quite tight. It was very difficult to get in and out of our chairs (and we're not large people). The very petite third diner commented that she felt the space was claustrophobic, and she's not the type to normally complain about anything.

Total bill for three people, with a small carafe of wine (which was on the lower end of the wine list in terms of price), came to $88 before tip.

Afternoon Tea Suggestions?

Just had afternoon tea at Crown and Crumpet, which was very nice, albeit a little pricey. The most expensive part was parking. Beware - they validate for parking, but it still cost us $18pp!

Other very nice options for tea - Tal-y-Tara (in the Richmond district, housed in a tack shop); Lovejoy's (probably the nicest traditional afternoon tea in SF); Leland's tea (not traditional, but fun with good food and some interesting options); Samovar (definitely not your traditional English afternoon tea, but nice nonetheless); Secret Garden in the Sunset (very frilly place with decent tea/food). Hotel teas - Sheraton Palace (beautiful room, but the tea and food are just okay); Ritz Carlton (supposed to be excellent, but I haven't yet tried it); Stanford Court Hotel (don't bother - tea bags, bad food and high prices); Fairmont (haven't personally tried it).