Eating My Way Through The Bay Area

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bay bridge SFI’m fine with being called cheap, but I personally think of it as hating to waste money on things I don’t want. I am perfectly willing to pay for things I value. Top on the list are food and travel. On this trip I’m eating my way through the Bay Area of California. Here’s a taste of my culinary itinerary. I tend to prefer smaller restaurants that aren’t too pretentious or overpriced.

East Bay
La Note – Berkeley; Provencal cuisine, excellent breakfast
CheeseBoard Pizza – N. Berkeley; Awesome vegetarian pizza.
Gregoire – N. Berkeley; Affordable French. You must try their potato puffs.

San Francisco
Home – Castro; Homestyle American fare, great mac-and-cheese
Swan Oyster Depot – Don’t recall; Really fresh seafood. Clam chowder, raw oysters, dungeness crab, yum.
A16 – Marina District; Authentic Neapolitan Italian pizza
Slanted Door – Embarcadero; Vietnamese Fusion
Brother’s – Inner Richmond; Korean Charcoal BBQ, Kalbi = divine.
In-N-Out Burger – Various locations; Best fast food burgers in the world.

I’ve still got a couple days left, if anyone’s got any good suggestions. You now know what I like 😉

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  1. If you have a few days drive to Napa. Go eat at Mustard’s. It has been rated a five star restaurant. Do some wine tastings in Napa.

  2. try chow instead of home. Similar menu but chhow has a little more character. They are kitty corner from each other across market.

  3. I’m in the Bay Area this week too. First time west of Chicago for me. My brother in law took us to Ristorante Franchino (Italian) and Mama’s on Washington Square (breakfast). Both are in Little Italy, and both are excellent.

  4. blog reader says

    Forget In-N-Out, if you a great burger in the Bay Area, find a Nation’s Giant Burger. In-N-Out is a SoCal-based spot that invaded the Bay Area in the 90’s. I grew up in ‘The Bay’ and Nation’s is the definition of a great burger! They’re all over, so try it and let me know if you agree.

  5. Coach Brown says

    If you are in the East Bay, in Berkeley in particular, you must go to Zachary’s Pizza. It is the single best deep dish style pizza west of the Mississippi. That has my (and Zagats)highest recommendation.
    In & Out is also excellent, as you stated.
    However, if you really want wine, you won’t go to the over-priced, snotty Napa Valley. Go a little farther north and hit the Alexander Valley. Excellent, 1st Class wine, but without the attitude , and often without the tasting fees. Then have dinner at the north end of the valley in Geyserville at Santi’s.
    Want to make a crazy time of it? Head from Geyserville a little north to the Anderson Valley and taste excellent pinots, and the world class Roederer Estate sparkling wines. End up in Ft. Bragg for North Coast Brewery chowder and brew, both are excellent. Then head down the coast and taste the foods of Mendocino, Pt. Arena, and Bodega Bay.


  6. bizbroker_sfbayarea says

    Try Chapeau. Sunday to Thursday (5pm to 6pm), they have a great three course fixed price deal for about $21.25. One of our favorite SF french bistros.

  7. Napa is a possibility this weekend. Mustards and Alexander Valley is noted!

    I’ve eaten at Park Chow before, it is good too.

    I’m debating between Mama’s and Dottie’s for breakfast *right* now. Leaning towards Dottie’s though.

    You know, I don’t think I’ve had a Nations burger before. Should try it.

    Yes, I’ve been to Zachary’s before, very very good. Other Chicago natives have told me the same thing about their deep dish 🙂

    Chapeau, gotta look that up.

    Thanks for the suggestions! Man, I’m hungry again. Time to go eat!

  8. Mama’s. No question. (unless you’re in a hurry)

  9. Jonathan says

    Hi Jonathan, ( provides some very useful tips from others on where to eat in the Bay Area and other regions.

    If you make it down to the San Mateo area, try Santa Ramen (805 S B St, San Mateo (650) 344-5918), if you are into Japanese ramen. It’s my one of my favorite restaurants.


  10. Ruth Chris Steak House

  11. If your headed to the Valley, you should goto Rutherford Grill… best place in the Napa Valley!!

  12. Don’t forget Gordo’s Burritos. I think the one at 25th and Clement closed, but the one on 9th right above Golden Gate Park is still there.

    Oh, man, I could do with a Gordos burrito right about now.

  13. Jonathan, I can’t tell from your list if you like Indian. But if you’re still in Berkeley, you have to go to Vik’s Chaat House (Allston bet. 4th St. and 5th St.) for South Indian. Mostly snack-size portions of fried foods, but SO GOOD, not greasy, and a great value. I used to go every weekend and it’s the one thing I haven’t been able to replace since moving out of the area. You’ll want to avoid the lunch rush if you can — if you go after 2ish, the wait is usually bearable. It’s really not-to-miss. I personally don’t even like most other Indian food, but LOVE Viks.

    My favorite dishes are:
    (here’s the menu
    – bhatura cholle (#9, left column), a big puffed bubble of dough with curried chickpeas and onions YUM!
    – veggie pakoras (#10, left column)

  14. If you’re up for Afghani food, go to Helmand’s in S.F. They serve primarily vegetarian and lamb dishes, and everyone raves about the pumpkin dish.

  15. conchita says

    a great italian place in north beach is michangelo’s cafe- it’s at the bottom of north beach (where north beach meets the financial district) on columbus. they have two locations practically across the street from one another- one is kind of a big annex- eat at the tiny cozy one – they have amazing italian food and such a great atmosphere. enjoy your trip! i’ve never posted here, but read your blog almost every day- it’s wonderful!

  16. If you go to Napa/Sonoma you may just enjoy going into one of the local grocery stores (i.e. one of the yuppie type ones, Oakville(?)) and just picking up some wine, cheese, bread, and/or fruit and have a picnic. BTW, it has been awhile since I’ve been to the NAPA area so Mustard’s was not cheap when I was there but I thought it was reasonable and the food was very good. Can’t remember who gave it the four or five star rating anymore but it was singled out in a People Magazine piece a couple of years ago.

  17. Anonymous says

    French Laundry – try it.

  18. Dottie’s True Blue Cafe was excellent.

    French Laundry? I’m not going to that dump 😉

  19. Check out Bistro Yoffi on Chestnut Street in the Marina!

  20. Susannah says

    Caffe Focaccia on Spear Street in the financial disctrict.

  21. I live within a mile of an In-n-Out Burger, but it seems a bit overrated to me.
    I’m not sure it’s really that big of a distinction between a Double Double vs. any ol’ double cheeseburger. For some reason out of towners die for these things though…

  22. House of Nanking in (S.F.) Northbeach Area
    Cha-cha-cha- great carribean restaurant, always packed but worth the wait. Wait is at least 1 hr. go there late for lesser wait time.
    Nations Giant Burger (great burger and pies, better than in-n-out in my opinion)
    If you have time, Mustard rest in napa is good, also the Greystone restaurant.
    visit Sterling Vineyard($15 or $20 per adult and $5 coupon before 12:30PM), , the place is nice to tour high in the mountain with the view on the vineyards also visit Mondavi ($20 per adult) too, one of the best known wineries there.

  23. also for a good price there is Buca Di Beppo (good for large parties) near Metreon, and there’s a fast food thai restaurant close to it which is pretty cheap and their food is good.
    P.F. Changs is good too if you find one, I don’t think there’s one in S.F. though. But there are nice ones there with good prices, walk around, shop around and eat around 😉

    If you can go visit the east bay:
    Cafe Esin (San Ramon- nice tiny restaurant but great food and desserts)
    Big Horn Grill (San Ramon- good price for the food, good wine and I would say price/satisfaction ratio is great, I’d perfer here than Ruth’s Cris)
    Bridges (Danville, where they shot Mrs. Doubtfire)
    Amber (Danville, really cozy and nice, food is great)
    Faz (Danville, pretty ok fusion restaurant, nothing special but price and food is ok)

    There are a lot of restaurants in the city (S.F.) too that have good views like Julius Castle but the price is pretty premium in a way. Food is good but not really memorable, I guess the price goes hand in hand with the vertical placement of the restaurant.

    Enjoy your stay in the Bay Area.

  24. Slanted Door used to be so good, but now it’s just overpriced and so-so. Get takeout from them instead and eat it on the bench outside by the water…

  25. If you like burgers, try Bulls Head in San Francisco. Also for cheap Indian food, try Shalimar.

  26. warriorSF says

    Thai Time – 8th and Clement. Good thai food. Especially if you like it spicy. If not, its still good!

  27. warriorSF says

    Felafels: Oasis Grill @ Sacramento and Drumm, opposite the Hyatt (next to embarcadero center). Their shwarma is supposed to be good as well. If you like spicy, let them know.

  28. You may want to think about saving your bucks on eating by visiting It offers $25 dinning certificates for $10 at many locations nationwide. Bon App?tit!

  29. Four Seas for Dim Sum in China Town…mmmm!

  30. Anonymous says

    if you are in san francisco, i would like to recommend the following restaurants.

    1. the house – fusion food
    2. stinking rose
    3. mo’s burger
    4. golden boy pizza – $3.5 slice of combo or clam & garlic
    5. sushi hunter – $23 all-u-can-eat; you tell them what you want to eat. $10 all-u-can-drink sake.
    6. cafe trieste – if you love strong espesso
    7. san tung chinese restaurant – love their deep fried chicken wings & fish.
    8. julius castle – if you want a good view of the bay. it’s right behind coit tower.

    skip these restaurants:
    1. mama’s – expensive, avg. food and always have to wait.
    2. cafe divine
    3. cafe greco
    4. cafe roma
    5. cafe jacqueline
    6. molinari deli

  31. One suggestion – Nann & Curry. Some of the best (and cheapest) Indian food in Bay Area! The Inner Sunset location on Irving street is the best.

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