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Christmas in San Francisco


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We (wife, 3 year old son and myself) decided to do something different this year for Christmas and will be spending it in San Francisco, December 22-26.

We will be staying in Hotel Monaco, which is close to Union Square. One evening we will get a babysitter and go out for dinner (this will be the evening of the 22nd or 23rd), I have been looking for a good place for that. The 'best of SF' threads all seem to be quite old (the most recent post I could find was from April this year) so I wonder if I can get some fresh info. So far 'Ame' looks good and 'Zuni Cafe' seems to be a favorite. We are looking for something upscale and interesting that represents SF food. For those familiar with the Vancouver restaurant scene, something like 'West' or 'C'.

In addition, I am looking for good kitchen/gourmet food stores for the inevitable shopping we will be doing while we are there. Anything in the downtown / walking distance area (we don't mind long walks) would be great.

Stefan Posthuma

Beer - Chocolate - Cheese

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Two place I really like are Boulevard and Jardiniere. Both offer great food.

As for shopping, the Ferry Building is a must. Sur La Table is a high end kitchen store that you will enjoy. There are two locations, one in the Ferry Building and one on Union Square. There is also a Williams-Sonoma over by Union Square.

Have lots of fun while in SF!

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I suggest the Sur La Table store for gourmet cookware. It's just off Union Square. http://www.surlatable.com/stores/StoreDeta...m?StoreNumber=5

Zuni Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants. It belongs to the bistro genre. Also, I would recommend the Greens restaurant at Fort Mason if you're interested in gourmet vegetarian food ( http://www.greensrestaurant.com/ ). I suggest you make reservations for these restaurants during the holiday week.

Also, just to throw this out--

As is the case with big cities, once you're away from the downtown area, you'll find more casual (but excellent) neighborhood restaurants that are family-friendly and more reasonably priced. When I lived in SF, these are the neighborhoods where I liked to eat and shop:

- Chestnut Street (the western end) in the Marina neighborhood has many wonderful restaurants and interesting shops. http://www.chestnutshop.com/

- Clement Street in the Richmond neighborhood is the place where many Asian residents go to avoid the crush (and higher prices) of downtown Chinatown. http://www.viamagazine.com/top_stories/art...nt_street01.asp

- 9th & Irving in the Sunset neighborhood. You can take the N Judah MUNI streetcar from downtown and get off here. It's a short block to a popular entrance for Golden Gate Park, close to the Arboretum and the Japanese Tea Garden. Noteworthy for food are Park Chow, Ebisu (for sushi), and the Arizmendi Bakery. The Arizmendi Bakery sells my absolutely favorite pizza in the world, made with a sourdough crust. Thank God I no longer live near this neighborhood, otherwise I would be at the bakery everyday eating pizza. http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/sf/ne...nersunset.shtml

Have a wonderful trip!

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Djyee100, good call on Clement Street -- I've been frequenting a few of the establishments in the area that have pool tables and in between, have been exploring the restaurants and stores (great used bookstore and a Chinese butcher with great meat.

The Ferry Plaza is a must but the entire Union Square experience is quite unique during Christmas; street-side performers, lots of great window shopping, great lights, etc.

Chocoholic, you are walking distance to Biscuit & Blues for some great late-night jazz and the whole stretch around Geary from 49 Geary onward has several dozen modern art galleries.

Food-wise, I have not yet been to Ame but can whole-heartedly recommend Coi as very different, enticing multi-course experience.

You didn't say where you were coming from so it is harder to recommend various cuisines that might be completely different to you. i.e., I wouldn't necessarily recommend Italian to someone who lives in Boston...

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We enjoyed a very nice dinner at Boulevard last May. Our lunch was at the Terrace at the Ritz Carlton, highly recommend this place. The Fixed Price lunch was around $25/pp for 3 courses.

We also love Farallon for seafood in Union Square. Request a table in the main pool room. Union Square should be amazing during the Christmas season. Have fun! :)

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If you are planning on eating in San Francisco I would recommend looking at the local newspaper for restaurant reviews. I like reading in the Chronicle at http://www.sfgate.com. They have reviewed something like 600 restaurants in San Francisco alone.

If you are going to the ferry building Here are a couple of places that I would recommend.

1 the Slanted Door. Amazing Vietnamese food. They have gotten so popular that they have moved into larger facilities three times.

Slanted Door

1 Ferry Building, No. 3

San Francisco

(415) 861-8032

2. Hog Island Oyster Company. Not only do they sell them but they raise them, too. A trip worth making up the coast if you have the time.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

1 Ferry Building, 11 A

San Francisco

(415) 391-7117

I would agree that Zuni is a great restaurant, too.

It would help to know your budget. There are some great restaurants in town that are much more expensive. If money were no object I would look at going to:

Fifth Floor


Michael Mina



I could name more, but I think that should give you a great start.

Enjoy your trip.

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Well since your name is Chocoholic I would have to say without a doubt that you can't miss "Recchiuti Confections". Michael Recchiuti is one of the best Chocolatiers in the nation and he is right there in san francisco. Here is there information below...



One Ferry Building, Shop #30

San Francisco, CA 94111

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm

Phone: 415-834-9494



Hope everything goes well,




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Great idea, Robert!

Chocoholic, if you ever want to cross the Bay into Berkeley, you can do the factory tour for Scharffenberger Chocolate. The tour's great, I've done it twice. Then maybe lunch or dinner at Chez Panisse Cafe, with a visit across the street to the Cheese Board?

(Excuse me for promoting the East Bay, where I now live. :wink: )


http://www.chezpanisse.com/ (though this is not a restaurant for 3 yr olds)


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Hi, Chocoholic. I'll second Recchiuti at the Ferry Building as a good place for a chocohol fix. Also, it might be good to have a few cheap eats in mind. If you make it out to the Scharfenburger tour (which is pretty informative, but not a must if you have other plans), try to get lunch at Vik's Chaat (Allston and 4th), which is Indian small plate food. Not too far from your hotel at Eddy and Larkin is Turtle Tower, which has north Vietnamese pho (which is cleaner tasting than the more common, anise-flavored southern kind). Go there for lunch b/c they close early and are in a part of town you don't want to be walking around in when the sun goes down. Both of these places are dirt cheap and serve excellent food; along with Cheeseboard Pizza and Tartine Bakery, they make up the standard tour on which my wife and I take all our out-of-town guests.

I see you're from Vancouver so I won't bother recommending any Chinese places. I suppose you don't have any trouble getting good sushi either.

As for pricier joints, the only ones we've been to lately are Rubicon, Range and Gary Danko. I would rank them in that order, descending, in terms of how happy we were with the meal. We have been meaning to go to Ame but haven't yet. I have heard only praise for them.

A side note: I think Union Square is completely wifi enabled now so if you have a laptop you should bring it. It will probably make deciding what to eat next a lot easier.

I hope you enjoy the city!

[edited because I'd forgotten to mention Rubicon]

Edited by fellowpeon (log)
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If you go over to Clement St, the name of the used bookstore-- which specializes in cookbooks-- is Green Apples.

I think a strong case could be made for Zuni being the best representation of "S.F. food."

And off-topic-- there's a website by the Golden Gate Mothers Group that would help you find fun stuff to do with your three-year-old-- they list all the playgrounds in the city, as well as listing indoor activities if it's rainy: http://www.ggmg.org/index.html

Have fun!

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Thanks for the replies everyone, great information. We plan to make this a eating/shopping/relaxing trip and this helps a lot.

And yes, I will be going on a chocolate hunt :smile:

Stefan Posthuma

Beer - Chocolate - Cheese

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I just returned from a similar trip (although I had only a weekend :sad: ) and thought I'd chime in...

I had a lovely time browsing the shops in Noe Valley (24th between Church and Castro)--lots of stocking stuffers and small gifts for the home. We also wandered around Fillmore and Sacramento and there are some lovely shops with home-type gifts (although a little on the pricey side). We didn't make it to Laurel Heights, but wanted to--as I recall from my days living there, there are some great little shops on Sacramento and a few on California.

Unless you really like mall shopping, I'd avoid Union Square altogether. The new mall for Bloomingdales/Nordstrom is huge and beautiful, as malls go, but it's incredibly crowded, doesn't appear to have much that any urban mall doesn't have, and was waaaaay too much stimulation for me. IMHO, if you're going to SF to shop, there's no need to subject yourself to run-of-the-mill commercialism--much more fun to poke around the many beautiful and unique neighborhoods the city has to offer.

As for meals, we had a fantastic meal at Andalu, a tapas place in the Mission. The Crab Rangoon was really tasty, as were the Lamb Cheeks (perfect size, perfectly tender, mmmmm...). The Tuna Tacos were very good as well and my dinner companions enjoyed the sliders (I don't like burgers of any type, so I can't report on them personally). The cheese fondue was tasty, but is better with the bread (which they brought us as an afterthought) than with the toasts and pears that accompany it. The pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon was indifferent, though, as were the polenta fries. For dessert, the doughnut holes looked good and I had the banana split--nothing new, but very tasty none-the-less.

I also ordered the bubbly flight and liked the two white sparklers (prosecco and something else), but really disliked the sparkling shiraz--it tasted a bit like sparkling port, if you can imagine, and had a bitter aftertaste. Not my favorite drink ever.

Have a great time!

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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  • 3 weeks later...

We returned yesterday from what turned out to be a wonderful stay in SF over Christmas. The weather was extremely cooperative so we did a lot of walking (including some serious uphills!) and saw a lot of the city. Some of the highlights:

Visiting the Ferry Building, certainly a foodie paradise. Recchuiti chocolates were fantastic and the lunch we had at Slanted Door was great. On the way back we found the Sur La Table in Maiden Lane where I scored a Chef's Choice electric knife sharpener. Hard to get in Canada and a lot more expensive so I splurged. My knives are now razor sharp again :smile:

After checking into babysitting services and concluding that the total bill would come to well over a hundred dollars for a few hours we changed our dinner plans. We decided to take our little one along instead, after some research and advice decided to go to One Market. Great choice, the place is big and boisterous enough that a 3 year old blends right in but the food was of great quality. I still remember the starter I had, an 'egg and bacon' salad with a poached egg and the best pork belly I have ever had. The cocoa-rubbed duck breast was also delectable.

On the 24th we expored the Golden Gate park / Haight area and ended up at Absinthe for a small bite and some drinks. I love that place, I wish we had something like it in Vancouver!

At the end of the day we nipped back to the Ferry Building to get some supplies for Christmas day since we planned a leisurely morning in our room with some improvised breakfast (which was good with a loaf of bread, some quality cheese, salami and jam) and opening some of the presents we brought along.

We had dinner at the Grand Cafe, a restaurant next the hotel we were staying in (hotel Monaco, very nice place). It was good, not anything spectacular, the beef stew I had was tasty enough.

Christmas dinner was held at the Grand Hyatt, on the top floor restaurant. The food was what can be expected from a buffet but some of the dishes were quite good and I enjoyed my carved slab of prime rib. My son loved it as well, being able to pick his own food and the trip to the dessert table was eagerly awaited. The tourist factor of watching the day fade over the city and the myriad of lights unfold below you is something special as well.

On our last day we decided to follow the Chestnut Street advice and headed out there, a slight miscalculation in cable cars meant we had to slog it up the hill, which when pushing a 35 pound toddler in a stroller becomes quite the workout! We were rewarded with a lovely neighbourhood to stroll around and found a great place for lunch called The Dragon Well on Chestnut street. Great Asian themed food, a big steaming bowl of wonton soup, some tea smoked duck breast and potstickers certainly hit the spot after all the walking we did.

It was a great way to spend Christmas, thanks again for the help, I had the printout of this thread handy during our travels through the city. We intend to repeat the experience some time next year in the summer.

Stefan Posthuma

Beer - Chocolate - Cheese

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