Range, Zuni Cafe and The Slanted Door!
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
I will second Zuni and Slanted Door, both are great and easy to get to using public transport. For old school SF, there's Taddich which is the oldest restaurant in the city. My personal favorite Bay Area place is Oliveto over on the Berkeley-Oakland border. It's a 30 minute ride on BART and almost opposite to the Rockridge station. Easy.
Getting around? You would have to put gun at my back to get me to ride a cable car. On the other hand the street car lines are really, really cool. They use old cars from Milano, St. Louis, Brooklyn... I love that.
June is a trusted source on General Cooking.
Hard to find bad food in San Francisco, in my experience. Love Zuni and Slanted Door. And sue me, but I love to go to Scoma's on the wharf for Dungeness Crab and Cnardonnay and people watching. ;)
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I like Zuni cafe as said above...also for a quick lunch or soupbowl , boudin bakery is also good...
Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking
Zuni and the Slanted Door are definite favorites. You'll want reservations. Hog Island in the Ferry Building (where the Slanted Door is also located) if you like oysters. Their specials are also good. Don't miss Tartine for a snack. I had some recent houseguests who went there twice during a similar 3-day trip.
Pierino's Oliveto suggestion's interesting to me, as they've gone through a number of chef changes. While good, the current darling of the neighborhood is Wood Tavern, just up the street. It's a hard reservation to come by though. The downstairs cafe at Oliveto continues to be a favorite of mine for a quick bite, and Market Hall, in the same building is a great place for you to pick up some of the tuna Pierino loves so much (plus a lot of other FOOD52-type ingredients). Our favorite in the area is Camino, but you'd need a car rather than a BART ride. It's another Chez Panisse alum place.
For a great outdoor lunch spot, Pier 23 is great. Quince is very good, and it's sister restaurant next door is my current favorite. .. Cotogna is very small and much more casual. Spruce is good. The Slanted Door is always good. If you get up to the Napa Valley (not far away) we have a culinary ghetto...French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Redd, Cindy's Backstreet Bistro, Mustards, Brix, Market, and Press, to name just a few.
As a lifelong SF resident, here are my all time favorites:
Nopa and its little sister restaurant, the casual Mexican spot Nopalito. They're both always super packed, but here are the secrets for easily getting into both: Nopa's brunch is even better than it's dinner, and if you get there at 10:45 or so, you can get in line before it opens and almost certainly get a spot. Nopalito doesn't take reservations, but if you call two hours ahead to put your name down, you don't usually wait longer than 10 minutes. Get the carnitas!
For italian food, Cotogna and Locanda are both the best of the best.
For fantastic under- the-radar pizza and a great ambiance with live jazz music most nights, go to Club Deluxe in the upper Haight.
And finally, Mission Chinese Food converted me from a Chinese food hater and a spicy food hater into a lover of both. The lack of ambiance is part of the ambiance, but you can always get takeout - it's free or very cheap delivery depending on where you are in the city.
Also, I've been to both Zuni and Slanted Door recently, and while you can certainly have a good meal at either, I think they've both gone downhill in recent years and are suffering a little from the resting-on-their-laurels effect. If you're only in the city for a few days, and you want to get the most bang for your buck, I'd pass on both.
These are some of my favorite places to take visiting family and friends. They are also some of my favorite places to eat at. (Born and raised in SF!)
Coffee: Sightglass Coffee, BlueBottle
Snacks/Nibbles: Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, Tartine, Boccalone, Golden Gate Bakery (egg custard tarts), Miette
Lunch: Mission Chinese Food, Cheeseboard pizza (Berkeley), Nicks Crispy Taco, Koi Palace (dim sum)
Dinner: Contigo, Flour & Water, Nopa, Nopalito, Foreign Cinema, Anchor & Hope, PPQ Dungeness Island (peppered crab and garlic noodles)
Cocktails: Comstock Saloon, Smugglers Cove, The Jug Shop, Alembic, Absinthe
I second Mission Chinese Food, Nopa and Zuni Cafe, and also recommend:
Check out the food trucks. http://offthegridsf.com/, the Farmer's market at the Ferry Building on Thursdays and Saturdays for the great food stalls.
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Acme Bread at the Ferry Building for their sourdough. What could possibly be more "San Francisco" than that?
good point, though i thought she wanted recommendations for places. Acme is great bread, but you can get it in almost every store and farmers market, not just the Ferry Building.
Which reminds me: Amandajli, check out the farmers markets. They offer some of the best prepared foods around, not just produce.
Garlic roasted crab at Crustacean on Polk St.
3 days is not a lot of time for eating in SF. What type of food are you looking for and at what price range? If you can narrow on what you want, you'll get better recommendations. Also, will you only be in SF or traveling around the Bay Area?
burma superstar, humphrey slocombe, mission burritos (ask any local for a rec, I've just visited family there and let them decide), bi-rite, gelatos and lattes in North Beach, Swenson's ice cream in Russian Hill. gee...looks like i know all the frozen treats places...
I'll second Burma Superstar!
My favorite hole in the wall Chinese restaurant in china town is Sam wo's on Washington.
I would recommend A16, and if you want a good neighbourhood place, try the Nob Hill Grille.
Wow, thanks everyone for the advice and suggestions! We're fans of food truck culture so we'll prolly hunt some down during the day using the link HalfPint posted. For dinner we'll do a nice sit down at either Zuni or Slanted Door, since it seems to be a popular choice =) Thanks so much!
If you have a car, drive over the GG Bridge to Sausilito to FISH -- it's out one of the piers. Amazing seafood! It's at 350 Harbor Drive.
For fine dining, go over to Oakland and try Commis. Chef Syhabout's casual venture nearby, Hawker Fare, is also terrific
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