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Working dinner near SF's Union Square?


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Hello from Vancouver BC!

I'll be attending an academic conference in San Francisco this weekend. The conference is being held at the Park 55 Hotel, two blocks from Union Square. A sub-group from the conference, probably about six people, needs to slip away and have a working dinner somewhere near the hotel. Now, we're all academics, which means that money is tight. On the other hand, no one will be worried about the decor or the ethnicity of the food as long as it's relatively (say, under $30 a head) cheap and tasty. And remember, some of us live in Vancouver which is, like SF, a gourmand's paradise. And yes, we all like a small tipple with our meal.

Any suggestions? Many thanks in advance.

Paul B

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Hello from Vancouver BC!

I'll be attending an academic conference in San Francisco this weekend.  The conference is being held at the Park 55 Hotel, two blocks from Union Square.  A sub-group from the conference, probably about six people, needs to slip away and have a working dinner somewhere near the hotel.  Now, we're all academics, which means that money is tight.  On the other hand, no one will be worried about the decor or the ethnicity of the food as long as it's relatively (say, under $30 a head) cheap and tasty.  And remember, some of us live in Vancouver which is, like SF, a gourmand's paradise.  And yes, we all like a small tipple with our meal.

Most of the restaurants in the Union Square area are very "basic" or somewhat upscale. Budgetwise, you'll probably fit into one of the basic, mostly ethnic, restaurants. I like Sakana Grill or Sanraku for Japanese (they both serve sushi as well as cooked items), or Ar Roi for Thai. There are also some cafes, like Cafe de la Presse or Le Central, where you should be ok at $30 a head.

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Most of the restaurants in the Union Square area are very "basic" or somewhat upscale.  Budgetwise, you'll probably fit into one of the basic, mostly ethnic, restaurants.  I like Sakana Grill or Sanraku for Japanese (they both serve sushi as well as cooked items), or Ar Roi for Thai.  There are also some cafes, like Cafe de la Presse or Le Central, where you should be ok at $30 a head.

Yeah, Union Square is tough. Either high end or tourist type places. One place that may actually work for you is the restaurant inside Nordstrom in the San Francisco Shopping Center. It's across Market street from Parc 55. The atmosphere is causal and prices are decent for the quality of food. You'll get the basic like steak and seafood. $30 should be plenty.

I've also had a decent meal over at Sears Fine Food. It's famous for the Swedish pancakes, which is served all day. Other than the pancakes, it has the usual like fish and chips and steak. It's nothing spectacular but you'll be able to make your budget.

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I've found Le Central to be a bit pricey for dinner - but I'd try Cafe Bastille in Belden Place - this little alley off Bush. There are three or four other little cafe type places on Beldon Place - It reminds me of a little Paris neighborhood. The steak-frittes or steak salad are my favorites. For lunch, they have quiche which is great, but it sells out fast. Their crepes are very good, too.  Full bar and good wine selection...

I would send the whole group to Belden place and advise them to wander around until you find a restaurant that suits you. The atmosphere and quality at most of the restaurants there are pretty decent, great atmosphere, and within your price range. I'm a fan of the mussels at Plouf and of the paella at R44.

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I would send the whole group to Belden place and advise them to wander around until you find a restaurant that suits you.  The atmosphere and quality at most of the restaurants there are pretty decent, great atmosphere, and within your price range. I'm a fan of the mussels at Plouf and of the paella at R44.

Maybe I am misunderstanding the request. If a 'working dinner' is one where a group is slipping away for a bite to eat, then Belden is a go. But is this groups wants to discuss ideas or a project or even the weather, the noise level at the Belden restaurants will be disastrous. You are lucky if you can interact with your waiter, much less the person across the table from you. IMH experience.

eGullet member #80.

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Just back from SF and, wouldn't you know it, I wasn't able to get to any of the restaurants you guys so kindly recommended. Instead I had three wildly different dining experiences. I arrived on Thursday and went out with some friends from the conference to the Thirsty Bear. Great brew pub with very nice tapas. The next night was the business meeting. There ended up being 14 of us so we turned to the hotel concierge for advice. He sent us to the Popolo. What a pit. A putative Italian restaurant that listed as one of its specialties cheese burgers. The only good thing about it was that they had a reasonable corkage fee so one of us ran to a local liquor store and bought enough wine to kill the taste of the food. At least it was cheap.

On Saturday and friend and I decided to treat ourselves: we went to Jardinaire (sp?). Pretty nice restaurant, and the only restaurant that I've ever been to that had a bottle of wine listed at $1000. I didn't order it. Instead I had the parmesan lemon soup, the beef short ribs, and the sorbet. My friend had the duck live mousse, prime rib, and a chocolate cake. All tremendous. The service was great and the room sparkled.

Thanks for all your advice.

Paul B

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Thanks for the report Paul B. Glad you had a nice experience at both The Thirsty Bear and at Jardiniere. I've always enjoyed both these restaurants, but I haven't been to either for awhile. Yikes on the dinner at Popolo! I've never even heard of that place, sounds like extra wine was a good strategy.

"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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  • 3 weeks later...

I am shocked that you were sent to Popolo, but that is the kind of place a bunch a businessmen who didn't care what they ate would be sent. I think it survives for being kinda cheap and you can do work things for someone's birthday or something at lunch for 12 or 15 with no problem, which is how I went. I didn't think anyone would go there for dinner.

Too bad as you were only a block or two off of Beldon Place (but it might be difficult to seat your party.) You were also within 1/2 block of Medicine Eatstation, a really exciting new place based on Zen temple foods (of course all modernized) and fresh ingredients. It also has nice wines and long long tables that would have worked.

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