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San Francisco to San Diego


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On August 14th I'll arrive in SF with my girlfriend. We'll stay a couple of nights, move on down to somewhere around Big Sur, and then move on down to somewhere within 4 or 5 hours of San Diego where we'll spend the 20th through the 22nd at my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.

Questions:

1) I've been to SF many times, but my girlfriend has not been at all. What restaurant would be a great place to go-- not a tourist joint, but somewhere where the locals go-- something quintessentially San Francisco. Money IS an object, so we're not doing anything French Laundry level.

2) We won't get a chance to go to Napa or Sonoma this time, but are there any vineyards worth checking out on the way south along the coast?

3) Any good food finds around Big Sur?

4) Any good recommendations for areas to stay for a couple of nights between Big Sur and San Diego? We're not thinking of doing anything in L.A. but maybe somewhere relatively close to it? Sorry to be so vague.

5) Are any of you CA eGulleters up for a drink? :biggrin:

I value your opinion. And a complete write up will follow when we get back.

Thanks! :wink:

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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2) We won't get a chance to go to Napa or Sonoma this time, but are there any vineyards worth checking out on the way south along the coast?

3) Any good food finds around Big Sur?

2) A short detour off Highway 1 will bring you to the Carmel Valley wineries. There are several wineries with tasting rooms between Highway 1 and the village of Carmel Valley, and several more tasting rooms in the village for wineries that are hidden up in the hills. Check out

Monterey-Carmel Guide and Carmel Valley Chamber

3) Have not tried them, but both Ventana Inn and Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur are suposed to have good restaurants.

I'll leave your other questions to members more familiar than I with the subject matter. Have a GREAT trip!

Edited by samgiovese (log)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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question 2)

If you're driving down Hwy 1 from SF--you should definately check out Bonny Doon Vineyards (just north of Santa Cruz). It is literally only 5 min from Hwy 1 and well worth the time.

Again, if coming down Hwy 1 another good winery (in downtown Santa Cruz) is Storrs Winery. Great whites (Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay)

question 1) not right in SF, but again if driving down Hwy 1, stop in at Duartes Tavern in Pescardero (~ 10 mi south of Half Moon Bay). Main reason to go there is either cream of green chile or cream of artichoke soup, french fries, home made bread w/butter and homemade pies.... (can't vouch for rest of menu) It is a neat old bar/restaurant about 100 years old from the Santa Cruz Mt. lumbering days. A visit to the bar is a must. Even just stopping by for some homemade ollallieberry, raspberry or strawberry-rhubarb pie is worth it. (only ~ 5 min from Hwy 1).

question 1) Not cheap, but nowhere near French Laundary either: Zuni Cafe. Could go for lunch instead of dinner if desired.

Other great "SF" experience is dim sum--I like Ton Kiang on Geary but you can get lots of ideas by perusing other SF threads.

In North Beach: SF Brewing Company, Brandy Ho's Hunan Cuisine, Cafe Greco or Stella's (pastries, fresh-filled cannolis, cappucino), sandwich and/or browsing at Molinari's Italian delicatessen (could walk up to Coit Tower and eat there), Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, Vesuvio's (upstairs for a cocktail or Campari and soda).

question 3) There was a pretty long thread re: food options in Carmel (just north of Big Sur)

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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For food and lodging near San Diego--

I think La Jolla is way prettier than San Diego, and will impress your girlfriend. Book a room at the Best Western there; it's clean and affordable, and we had sunset views of the water from our room. Go to Point Loma Seafood for lunch-- tons of awesome seafood like you rarely get in DC, for a very low price point.

Restaurant in San Francisco--

I'm a big fan of Tommaso's for pizza in North Beach. You may have a wait to get in, but it's worth it. From what I've heard, Chez Panisse modeled their wood-burning oven after Tommaso's.

Not far from Tommaso's is a great Hunan restaurant, called Hunan, on Sansomme. Inexpensive, kickin Chinese.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Ciao,

Down south - on the 101 you can always stop in Santa Barbara - they have a pretty happening wine scene going on and there are a few tasting spots in town. About 10 minutes south of Santa Barbara is Montecito - another small town that is quite famous with the more elite of people. I used to work the line at The San Ysidro Ranch - that would be a great place to stop and get a bite to eat in the early evening. They have a 'Pub' where you can get some pretty good food at an OK price - scenery is awesome and feel free to walk around the property...it is really nice!

North of Santa Barbara about 45 minutes is a small Dutch or Scandinavian town that is ALL TOURISTY but is cool to see - I forgot the name of it but it is off the 101 and about a 15 minute drive - I think the Michael Jackson "RANCH" is out that way too!!!

I think it is a good idea to stay out of LA - not much there!!!

A cool place to eat in SF is The Slanted Door - look it up - it is a really fun place with AWESOME food!

Ciao,

Ore

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The Danish town Ore referred to is Solvang.

Edited by samgiovese (log)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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Hey, Al,

If you want to take your girlfriend out for a great dinner in a romantic atmosphere at a place that's quintessentially San Francisco, you should consider Quince on Octavia Street in Pacific Heights, in the space where the Meetinghouse used to be.

The Chef, Michael Tusk, is an alumnus of the kitchen at Chez Panisse, and before he opened Quince last December was Chef de Cuisine at Oliveto's under Bertolli for several years. I'm really impressed at what he's doing there. The room is quaint and charming as well -- an old apothecary -- and the service is first rate.

It's not super cheap, but certainly not as expensive as the Fifth Floor or the French Laundry. Their own website is just a placeholder right now, but I found a review from February here. If you do decide to go here, be sure to reserve well ahead because it's a tiny room and word is beginning to get around among the locals!

Some others to consider:

Zuni Cafe, especially if you've never been before -- Civic Center

Delfina, great northern Italian -- Mission District

Limon, delicious Peruvian cuisine -- also in the Mission

Chapeau!, charming bistro -- Inner Richmond

I can also second ludja's recommendation of the Bonny Doon vineyard.

If you have other specific questions, feel free to PM me or post here. And, sure... I'd be up for a drink when you're in town!

Cheers,

Squeat

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A few comments:

- I don't recommend fancified and Americanized chinese food like Brandy Ho's. There are plenty of places in Chinatown where you can eat great Chinese food for practically nothing. Yuet Lee, Hing Lung (for Jok), Yee's. Also keep in mind that SF is not a great place for Hunan chinese. I'd stick with Cantonese fairs like the places mentioned above.

- Again with budget concerns, Quince maybe out of your price range. Every time I've been there it was at least $150 for two.

- If you want to try Zuni, do lunch. It's a great place, and more economical at lunch.

- I second Squeat's recommendation for Limon, Delfina, and Chapeau. You might also give the new-ish place 1550 Hyde a try. It's my current favorite. The style is quintessentially San Francisco, on a Cable Car line to boot.

- If you're here on a Monday night, go do the Happy Hour thing at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building. Can't beat that deal and pristine oysters.

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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On August 14th I'll arrive in SF with my girlfriend. We'll stay a couple of nights, move on down to somewhere around Big Sur, and then move on down to somewhere within 4 or 5 hours of San Diego where we'll spend the 20th through the 22nd at my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.

Questions:

1) I've been to SF many times, but my girlfriend has not been at all. What restaurant would be a great place to go-- not a tourist joint, but somewhere where the locals go-- something quintessentially San Francisco.  Money IS an object, so we're not doing anything French Laundry level.

2) We won't get a chance to go to Napa or Sonoma this time, but are there any vineyards worth checking out on the way south along the coast?

3) Any good food finds around Big Sur?

4) Any good recommendations for areas to stay for a couple of nights between Big Sur and San Diego? We're not thinking of doing anything in L.A. but maybe somewhere relatively close to it? Sorry to be so vague.

5) Are any of you CA eGulleters up for a drink?  :biggrin:

I value your opinion. And a complete write up will follow when we get back.

Thanks!  :wink:

Regarding LA - I know I'm in the minority - but I like the city. And if you're on a budget - you can (as in most huge cities) - find lots of ethnic inexpensive eats (like Monterey Park for Chinese). We're not talking the traditional inner city places these days (your Grandmother's "Chinatown") - lots of middle class first/second generation immigrants are living on the outskirts of major cities now (which means you can probably find a decent inexpensive place to stay too).

I think the singularly most important recent building in just about all of California these days is the Getty Museum. What a world class architect can do when given an almost unlimited budget. It's a "don't miss" in my opinion. And it's near a very good dim sum restaurant. Robyn

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A few comments:

- I don't recommend fancified and Americanized chinese food like Brandy Ho's.  There are plenty of places in Chinatown where you can eat great Chinese food for practically nothing.  Yuet Lee, Hing Lung (for Jok), Yee's.  Also keep in mind that SF is not a great place for Hunan chinese.  I'd stick with Cantonese fairs like the places mentioned above. 

:shock: Brandy Ho's was a revelation in terms of Chinese food when I move here fromt the East coast---probably because I like spicy food and b/c it was so much better than what I had had before. I still like Brandy Ho's alot; can only imagine how good real Hunan food would be that is not "fancified or Americanized". (can't say that Brandy Ho's seems fancy to me though the 'americanized' part I can't comment on...). Can you recommend any good Hunan or Szechuan restaurants in the Bay area? (Also, do you know any places in the US w/good Hunan good?)

Good to hear your suggestions re: Cantonese food, which as you say, is what SF is known for. I've been to Yuet Lee but must also try the others.

I moved this query to a separate thread: hunan and szechuan in bay area

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Mr. Dente~

If you decide to spend any time around Santa Barbara, this thread can hook you up with some good eats in the city of Santa Barbara and the town of Los Olivos: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=39399

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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North of Santa Barbara about 45 minutes is a small Dutch or Scandinavian town that is ALL TOURISTY but is cool to see

<snip>

I think it is a good idea to stay out of LA - not much there!!!

Yeah, Solvang is totally touristy. Honestly, if you're looking for good food, I would avoid it. Mostly it's lunch buffets, fudge shops, soft serve ice cream, and places to get a danish (get it? haha). However, the freak factor is in its favor. Solvang is the self-described "The Danish Capital of America" and when you drive up, you see a bunch of high peaked houses. Lots of tour buses. Even more tourists.

I had a lunch buffet there once, and I knew it was going to be bad, and I was not disappointed. I've had the danishes at a couple of places, and they were alright. I liked the fudge shop at the east end of Solvang as a kid, but now, it looks to me like any old touristy fudge shop, in any old tourist pit stop. But the one thing they really push is the aebleskiver. It's described accurately in the Solvang Visitor's Bureau site as "jam-draped, powdered sugar-dusted Danish pancake balls". I have eaten it with the sausages they offer (bockwurst?) and without. I prefer it with sausage, because otherwise you're choking down a very sweet doughball. Oooh, pancake balls with sausage! I'll take two!

Strangely enough, you will see the aebleskiver at some L.A. farmer's markets. I know I saw a stand selling it at Hollywood FM. If you decide not to go to Solvang and regret it, simply drive on over to Hollywood Farmer's Market and get an aebleskiver from the stand.

As for L.A. not having much to offer, I feel that is untrue and unfair. But you definitely need a car. It's not like San Fran or NYC. Everything is spread out.

Edited by jschyun (log)

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Don't go to Solvang. But there is a nice little emu farm nearby, which I always like to stop by because emus are so cool. And I can second (or third, or whatever) the recommendation for Santa Barbara - it's a very attractive city, and although it is a hotspot for tourists, it doesn't go out of its way to cater to them (that is, you can go there without feeling touristy.) Plus it has a very diverse offering of food. If I remember correctly, it's one of those many cities that claims it has the most restaurants per capita of any city in the world, so that tells you something, I suppose.

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AD,

Just about any place you can pull over in Big Sur is postcard beautiful, but I really like a place called Nepenthe. There's a cafe on a deck with a view, and a table service restaurant upstairs. I can't speak for the restaurant, but the cafe is comfortable, offering simple stuff - sandwiches, omelettes, etc for around $9-12 or so.

Depending on the time of day, Santa Barbara would be about 5 hours from San Diego, and has much to offer. That's a good place to stop with lots of food options.

For attractions, besides the Getty, the Disney Music Hall is also designed by Frank Gehry, and also amazing. As robyn says, LA's strongest suit in food is in the many cuisines represented, and represented well.

If you do stop near LA, let's have a drink! Safe travels.

~Tad

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The San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles area, off 101, and close to 1, has a glut of reputable wineries. I've stopped in a few some years ago, but don't recall. The venerable Edna Valley won the weekly's BEST OF:

Edna Valley's tasting room hits the mark:

In our voters' minds, this Edna Valley pioneer makes wines second only to Wild Horse, as it did again this year. But when it comes to the spectacular, panoramic view can you think of another Central Coast tasting room that equals it Edna Valley Vineyard is like an Olympic archer; it hits the bull's eye every time. According to tasting room manager Peter Vandersluis, We think of it as wine with a view. Of course, it takes more than eye candy to bring people back, repeat business requires a good attitude from the people pouring wine.

If you are in the area Hearst Castle is really something to see, and the tour give a great feel of the life and times of WRH...tour will take a couple hours at least-- included is an interesting IMAX film about the making of...we enjoyed a tour recently and afterward rented The Cat's Meow.

The area around here is cute, with a couple small beach towns (Moro Bay, Pismo Beach) and would be a good place to stay overnight. We've been to a U-pick berry farm and enjoyed some decent food. The SLO Thursday night farmers market and BBQ is a MUST. Big Street party with food.

Edited by nutcakes (log)
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I'm up for meeting you & the GF, Al Dente.

Have you got a budget for lodgings?

I've got a ton of good stuff for you, SF-wise. Go to HotelRes.com and book a room at the Hotel Majestic, if it's in your price range. It's an Edwardian era hotel, and looks and feels European inside. The rooms are big and beautiful, and it's in a quiet part of town. It's one of my favorite places to stay, and I have turned some of my best friends onto it, happily. (Be aware of extra costs at certain hotels: parking near Union Square can be exorbitant...and it's so loud there.)

You will of course go to the Ferry Plaza Market? Good. Have oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company: get a dozen sweetwaters with a bottle of crisp white wine: only $38. You can augment that with a salad or sandwich, or just be the hedonists you've always dreamed of: have TWO dozen oysters. Three. The sky's the limit!

If you come down the coast to Santa Cruz, you can have a wonderful meal at many of the restaurants that feature local and organic produce. Oswald, Gabriella Cafe, Ristorante Avanti, Theo's, Bittersweet, and lots of others. I'd be happy to join you for a glass of wine or something...another "don't miss" in this neck of the woods is Gayle's Bakery and Rosticceria. World class, and we're blessed to have them.

Bonny Doon and Storrs are worth a visit; also Pelican Ranch is out there on the west side by the Bonny Doon tasting room.

Hey, there is an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner in a sea cave south of San Francisco, on August 15. That would be wild and unforgettable. Obester Winery in Half Moon Bay is supposed to be good; they're doing the wine for this dinner. Also, in Half Moon Bay, 3 Amigos Mexican restaurant gets my highest endorsement for the "burrito as big as a baby's leg," and the roasted chicken is as good as it gets.

South of Santa Cruz, I found the cabins at Cambria Pines Lodge to be quite charming and not too expensive. The gardens are just lovely. The vibe is welcoming. Just make sure you get one of the little cabins: they're duplexes, as opposed to getting a room in the newer lodge (more crowded, less private). Hearst Castle is nearby and not expensive. We did a couple of the tours (and I recommend seeing the movie beforehand): the one that includes the kitchen is great.

There are a great many wineries in Paso Robles (about 30 miles from Cambria), so you might like visiting them.

Anything else? Definitely I'd like to meet y'all.

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To further confuse you, let me throw in my two cents. I didn't sense you were looking for the cheapest places, only that you weren't looking for the most expensive. In San Francsico, I had a great dinner at Piperade a while back at a very reasonable price. It's a relatively new place, but I think it captures SF. Another place like that, although a little older, is the Slanted Door. Zuni may be the quintessential SF restaurant of the present, and you can eat there fairly reasonably. Chez Nous is a fun place. Clementine and Chapeau! are superior neighborhood restaurants that have a long tradition in the City. Antica Trattoria and Pesce are in the same tradition. In North Beach, L'Osteria Del Forno is a terrific bargain place. And for my money, a lunch upstairs at Chez Panisse is always wonderful. Not cheap, but not French Laundry prices either.

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Santa Barbara = very expensive lodgings. Be forewarned. I'd skip it, personally.

And about the Slanted Door...I recently had chef Charles Phan's food at a farm dinner. Sad to say, I was not impressed, and I feel guilty saying so. It was okay, but that is damning it with faint praise. There are better eats at the Ferry Plaza Marketplace.

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I agree that San Luis Obispo is a necessary stop.

The food scene is not highfalutin, but it’s a great place that I happily called home and I visit friends there as often as I can. One of them cooks at the Mission Grill, which is for better or worse, on a good day, one of the best restaurants in town.

If you happen to feel like sushi in San Luis Obispo, you might want to try Tsurugi’s in the historic creamery. The folks are friendly and mostly imported from Japan by the owner.

For simple, cheap eats you can’t do much better than Firestone Grill on San Luis Obispo’s Higuera Street. They make a pretty good tri-tip sandwich, cobb salad, rib, hot dog, and a solid burger. The Mainstreet Grill in Cambria (a stone’s throw from Hearst Castle) is of the same pedigree and also features quality food at slightly lower prices.

If you happen to be cruising along the coast on Highway 1 and come upon the sleepy town of Cayucos (just south of Cambria), Hoppe’s Garden Bistro is a must stop. Wilhelm Hoppe delivers what is arguably the region’s best food and certainly the best fine dining. As I recall, he often features a Chef’s tasting menu that includes a glass of wine with each course (local wines, of course).

Just north of San Luis Obispo, in Templeton, there is AJ Spurs. It’s a pretty solid steak house although it doesn’t hold a candle to Jocko’s in Nipomo (more details below).

In Pismo Beach, which should probably earn a stop on any tour of the area, the food scene can be a hit and miss affair. Splash Café, just a block or so from the pier, has a pretty good clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, fish and chips, and other such faire. It probably won’t be the best of any of these items you’ve ever had, but the atmosphere is nice and on a sunny day the line of eager patrons goes out the door. As you drive through along highway 101 you will see a large statue of a Cowboy with an arrow sticking out of its chest. That’s when you know you’ve found McClintock’s. Dinner service is friendly and the servers perform various feats of high-water pouring, which always delights the customers. At dinner the food can be quite good, but I’ve had the misfortune of eating there for lunch and I don’t recommend it. The décor is a combination of Applebee’s style kitsch, with all sorts of crap adorning the walls, and an old west saloon/whorehouse. Overall the food is not nearly good enough to justify the time you would likely have to wait for it and the prices are definitely inexcusable.

Jocko’s in Nipomo (a town roughly between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara) easily wins my vote for best steak in California, but be sure to go for dinner because they don’t fire up the oak for lunch. Be ready to wait a while for a table on most nights. I can't say enough good things about Jocko's steaks. However, the sides are simple, the salads are iceberg, and the house wine (an inglenook I seem to recall) tastes of the large jug variety. The steaks more than make up for any shortcomings.

In the same vicinity you can also find the legendary Far Western in Guadalupe. The Far Western is said to be the birth place of Santa Maria style tri-tip barbecue and would definitely deserve a spot on my tour.

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