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Old 08-27-2018, 09:58 PM   #1826
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Schroeder's is perfect for this if that location is OK for you.

Closer to GGTR: I forget, can you fit 10 in the upstairs area at Hopwater? If so that's a great pick. Jillian's just reopened, rebranded as Tabletop, but it's been getting killed on Yelp so I won't recommend that.
Ended up at Hopwater tonight and can confirm that bringing a group of 10 would be really tight, Schroeder's is my final answer
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Old 09-01-2018, 04:40 PM   #1827
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Some great advice in this thread, all. It's really helped me narrow my options down.

I've emerged from posting retirement because a momentous occasion has arrived. I can finally tap into the forum knowledge for an El Diablo Bespoke Bay Experience™.

(OK, just a few recommendations/confirmations from any opinionated souls will do.)

Rundown:
I'm attending a conference near Union Square in October. It's my first trip to California.(!)

Traveling alone for work I'm rarely in the mood for fussy, refined dining experiences.

In fact, because I live in a food desert these days, I want to eat good, weird things I rarely get to have as opposed to just fancy ****. Tried to be specific in my choices for that reason. I also have pretty limited time so trying to keep the list tight. It was not easy.

Goofball's day sounds from late 2017 is just about perfect for the vibe I'm going for on my few days to explore. Just being in a large city is its own amusement these days for me.

The List:
I've already added and struck a few places from my list based on recent posts ITT but now I'm looking specifically for recommendations on:

A solid savory breakfast joint or diner option. The Bird is on my radar.

Northern Thai or uncommon Viet cuisine. (i.e., not run-of-the-mill bún chả, phở, bánh mì or similar) I've researched the Slanted Door, seems OK but leaves me cold for some reason. I guess I'm looking for more regional street food, something more casual. Considering Hawke Fare, Farmhouse Kitchen Thai (I know I said northern Thai but the Hai Yai fried chicken will bring back memories of youth) or Kin Khao (khao soi 4--->).

Bars. I particularly like bubbles, bourbon and beer. Thinking: The Riddler, Trick Dog and True Laurel. Stuck on beer joints. While I'm familiar with Churchkey from time living in D.C., didn't see much posted about it here. Black Hammer, Mikkeller and Cellarmaker seem good options, too, especially due to their proximity to Union Square. Places with good people watching are extra welcome.

State Bird vs. The Progress. An assessment on which is better for a solo diner is appreciated.

Japanese: seeking yakitori. Leaning to Rintaro.

Any can't miss dessert places? Ice cream doesn't do it for me and cupcakes can blow me. Japanese desserts, classic yeast doughnuts and pie spots are more my speed right now.

Museums. Exploratorium is on my list and luckily a work function has me there one night. That leaves one day to choose either SFMOMA or California Academy of the Sciences. This seems like a challenging decision.

Much appreciated!
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Old 09-01-2018, 04:49 PM   #1828
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Hey Octopi--

Churchkey in SF is not affiliated with the one in DC (I wish it were! I used to live by the DC Churchkey and its amazing). Cellarmaker is great, Black Hammer sucks, Mikkeler is hit or miss for me but others seem to like it more.

My favorite 3 beer bars in SF are Toronado, Crafty Fox, and Zeitgeist, in roughly descending order. I've been to a bunch of them, let me know if you have specific questions about other ones.
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Old 09-01-2018, 05:26 PM   #1829
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Don’t know about the other questions but State Bird over the Progress for sure.
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:52 AM   #1830
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Traveling alone for work I'm rarely in the mood for fussy, refined dining experiences.


A solid savory breakfast joint or diner option. The Bird is on my radar.
The Bird is really good, but it's not exactly in the Union Square area (I guess it depends, the "union square area" is pretty vague). It's a pretty easy walk, mostly flat around there.

If you want to stay closer and just want standard greasy spoon stuff, Pinecrest is perfectly cromulent. Sears Fine Food also has a very good breakfast (and the best broiled grapefruit I've ever had).
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:56 AM   #1831
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

SFMoma is fantastic (plus a lot closer to Union Square than Academy of the Sciences). If you've got a free morning, you could hit the Bird then you're just like a block from SFMOMA. If you're really into that stuff, don't miss the Isaia store on maiden lane, it's a Frank Lloyd Wright building and a couple of the salesguys in there are pretty knowlegable about the history of the building and don't mind tourists. It's got a spiral ramp to the 2nd floor that was effectively the prototype for the Guggenheim, and all of the original FLW cabinetry is still intact.
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Old 09-03-2018, 02:02 AM   #1832
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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The Bird is really good, but it's not exactly in the Union Square area (I guess it depends, the "union square area" is pretty vague). It's a pretty easy walk, mostly flat around there.



If you want to stay closer and just want standard greasy spoon stuff, Pinecrest is perfectly cromulent. Sears Fine Food also has a very good breakfast (and the best broiled grapefruit I've ever had).

Dottie’s is one of the best breakfast spots in the city and not far from
Union Square. It’s on a very sketchy block however.
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Old 09-06-2018, 09:09 PM   #1833
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Cheers y'all. Excellent advice and I appreciate you making an overwhelming city a little more doable.

Especially grateful for the Isaia tip, pvn. I am indeed into that "stuff."
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Old 09-07-2018, 08:20 PM   #1834
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

octopi,

I think you would dig the Morris given what you've outlined. As an FYI on the Riddler, it's a small spot that can get busy fast. Zuni or Absinthe would also be great options for bubbles as well (I love both of their bottle selections) if the Riddler is too busy.
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Old 09-17-2018, 02:33 PM   #1835
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Got dinner at El Buen Sabor on Saturday night and noticed something interesting. On the one hand, the carnitas was out of this world. Best I've had in SF and possibly best ever. As im writing this, I am realizing that I'm almost certainly having Buen Sabor carnitas for dinner tonight.

On the other hand, though, the carne asada was completely pedestrian. I'm not sure I could distinguish it from the steak at Chipotle.

Anyone else have go-to taquerias for a specific meat?
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Old 09-19-2018, 02:33 AM   #1836
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

that is spot on re: buen sabor. their chicken is also good if you're not in a carnitas mood. I like the carne asada at el farolito a lot if that's what you're looking for
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Old 10-01-2018, 11:55 PM   #1837
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

If anyone happens to see Southern Tier Pumpking Ale in town, please post here! Not sure if it's only an East coast thing but I used to love it. 90 on beer advocate which is really high, especially for a gimmick-y beer.
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Old 10-02-2018, 02:13 AM   #1838
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Did you check bevmo on van ness (or the website + delivery). 90% sure I've gotten it there in previous years
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Old 10-02-2018, 10:50 PM   #1839
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Never heard of this , sounds dope, but didn't Pumking on the website.
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Old 10-03-2018, 01:17 PM   #1840
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Dan,

My favorite butcher:
http://oliviersbutchery.com
Loving this rec, cheers. Would also take a rec on where to buy fish. I go to a fish monger on 23rd and mission but it's not particularly great by any means.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:45 PM   #1841
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Hi octopi,

A solid savory breakfast joint or diner option. The Bird is on my radar.

The Bird is good for breakfast, but not amazing or anything. I think their regular chicken sandwiches are better.

Northern Thai or uncommon Viet cuisine. (i.e., not run-of-the-mill bún chả, phở, bánh mì or similar) I've researched the Slanted Door, seems OK but leaves me cold for some reason. I guess I'm looking for more regional street food, something more casual. Considering Hawke Fare, Farmhouse Kitchen Thai (I know I said northern Thai but the Hai Yai fried chicken will bring back memories of youth) or Kin Khao (khao soi 4--->).

Slanted Door is pretty Americanized, it's tasty, but I doubt it's what you're looking for.

I'm not a big fan of Hawker Fare, but lots of people seem to love it.

I haven't been, but have head nothing but great things about Farmhouse from multiple people, and it's high on my list of places to check out soon.

Kin Khao is good but kinda overpriced imo. Also not great for solo diner imo.

I just went to Lao Table and thought it was really good.

Bars. I particularly like bubbles, bourbon and beer. Thinking: The Riddler, Trick Dog and True Laurel. Stuck on beer joints. While I'm familiar with Churchkey from time living in D.C., didn't see much posted about it here. Black Hammer, Mikkeller and Cellarmaker seem good options, too, especially due to their proximity to Union Square. Places with good people watching are extra welcome.

City Beer Store is my top beer rec, just moved to a brand new location, it's great. It's a beer bar with 30 taps plus retail store.

Mikkeller is good, especially for sours and stouts. Def on the expensive side even for a craft beer bar. Great bar food (burger, reuben, sausages)
Cellarmaker is excellent, usually mainly IPAs.
Black Hammer is not very good.
Hopwater is a solid place v close to Union Square.
Crafty Fox, Beer Basement, Liquid Gold are all excellent beer bars.
Almanac Taproom is worth a trip if you love sours.

I haven't been to True Laurel yet, but it sounds amazing, def on my list to check out soon.

Benjamin Cooper is a great cocktail places right by Union Square. Pacific Cocktail Haven is another very good one.

Trick Dog is good, but way too crowded most of the time, I prob wouldn't bother.

State Bird vs. The Progress. An assessment on which is better for a solo diner is appreciated.

State Bird, but it's v hard to get a res there.

Japanese: seeking yakitori. Leaning to Rintaro.

Rintaro is very good, but pretty pricey for an izakaya imo.

Any can't miss dessert places? Ice cream doesn't do it for me and cupcakes can blow me. Japanese desserts, classic yeast doughnuts and pie spots are more my speed right now.

Ton of amazing bakeries/pastries here. Craftsman and Wolves, Miette, Tartine Manufactory, B. Patisserie, Vive le Tarte to name a few.

For classic old school doughnuts, Bob's on Polk.

A lot of those bakeries have pies/tarts too, but for pie specifically, Mission Pie is really great.

Museums. Exploratorium is on my list and luckily a work function has me there one night. That leaves one day to choose either SFMOMA or California Academy of the Sciences. This seems like a challenging decision.

Exploratorium is kinda whatever for adults imo, but their nighttime events are fun. It's really more of a thing for young kids.

SFMOMA and Cal Academy are both great.

Last edited by El Diablo; 10-04-2018 at 06:51 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:47 PM   #1842
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Dan,

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Loving this rec, cheers. Would also take a rec on where to buy fish. I go to a fish monger on 23rd and mission but it's not particularly great by any means.
I'm guessing you go to Sun Fat, which would prob be my default answer. Mainly I just buy fish from Whole Foods, which is also not particularly great or anything.

Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley is excellent.
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Old 10-04-2018, 08:34 PM   #1843
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Loving this rec, cheers. Would also take a rec on where to buy fish. I go to a fish monger on 23rd and mission but it's not particularly great by any means.


Right next to Dogpatch boulders too
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Old 10-06-2018, 05:27 PM   #1844
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Two bars I liked last night that I would recommend

Black Cat in the Tenderloin: they have live jazz on the weekends. Cool spot, but obviously not a great area. I'm a bit of a cocktail snob and drinks were good. Had never had a tequila penicillin before but it was dope.

Only gripe was that was standing room only for quite a while. Probably a good idea to make an appointment.

Evil Eye in the Mission: wasn't too loud, lots of good whiskeys that weren't too outrageously priced ($15-$30 ranges), including some weird stuff i hadn't seen before. They had Springbank which I am a fan of but haven't seen around very often? Not too loud, cool vibe. Seems like it would be a good date spot. Bartenders were good, knowledgable and social.
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Old 10-18-2018, 02:07 AM   #1845
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Am now 2/2 walking in with no reservation, and having a great a sushi meal at the bar at Ichi. Will be back soon.
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Old 10-19-2018, 04:50 PM   #1846
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Any ideas on where to host a big (10-15 person) brunch on 1 week notice? My best idea is http://www.locandasf.com/ ; and I will also be calling Lolo even though that seems pretty hard for them to pull off.
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Old 10-19-2018, 05:05 PM   #1847
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Dan,

Oola can often do a large brunch group.
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Old 10-21-2018, 01:59 PM   #1848
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Thank you all for your wonderful advice. I was able to accomplish just about everything I had planned. Overall, San Francisco is a lovely city but I'm not sure I am in a hurry to return.

Generally I don't find food shots super helpful with reviews but will share a few select photo highlights with my reports below, in case others find it useful.



Tacorea
This was an unplanned stop since I was absolutely ravenous after arriving and a quick search for lunch places near my hotel lead me here. It was about 15 minutes to closing so there was no line, something I definitely came to accept a part of my visit to the city.

Recently been making my own bibimbap and bulgogi at home so the bulgolgi taco was a serious let down. Pretty flavorless and bland, carried by the cilantro and queso. But Mama Lee's spicy pork was incredible and I found myself thinking about it a few other times during the week.



Farmhouse Kitchen Thai - Mission location
Likely the most authentically Thai dining atmosphere I've ever experienced outside of Thailand, just with better service and fewer dogs underfoot. Generally I would say the food is better than most Thai, but if I lived nearby, it would probably be relegated to occasional fancy takeout level, not a regular stop.

The shambled Halloween decor, festive atmosphere and booming music captured the spirit of many a bar and restaurant experienced through my days living in Asia. I dined with a friend I met while living in Japan. She's pregnant so we didn't spring for the Kick Boxing Bowl.

Because it's so raucous and loud, this is not an appropriate date spot. And the incessant birthday parades with singing and people literally clanging pots and instruments reveal there are many groups who come here to celebrate. There were at least three parades while we there there, and that included one that combined three tables in one parade. Got old, fast. In retrospect, not the best place to catch up with a friend you haven't seen a while.

Hat Yai fried chicken was one of the dishes I was looking forward to the most but I didn't think of it as true Southern Thai style. It reminded me more of Japanese style pari pari chicken with a lighter, flakier batter. While it did not come with fried wahom/onions and sticky rice as is customary, I did enjoy the Panang curry sauce and blue rice it came with, though, so would still rate it highly. We also got an order of tom kha gai soup which was packed with ingredients and rich, creamy and a little tangy, just as it should be.

The server expressed some doubt when we tried to order a few other dishes saying he thought two would be enough. Looking back, should have gotten the beef num tok rolls we were curious about. The ice cream place my friend wanted to visit after was closed so we had dessert at Farmhouse. The menu didn't really spark anything for me other than the durian, which she wasn't into, so I obliged her choice for bread pudding. It was average and I poked at it, but mostly let her finish it.



Kin Khao
When I spied Kin Khao near the hotel I was conferencing at, I knew I had to visit, despite eating Thai the night before. Making my way over at 1130am, I was seated quickly without a reservation at a table. Like clockwork at noon the place started to fill up and a line formed.

I didn't even need to look at the menu to know what I wanted. I've been chasing the taste of a bowl of khao soi I had from Bangkok's Soi Convent several years ago. Despite being 10x the price, this was the closest of many attempts I've made at finding that flavor, including trials in D.C., Seattle, Vegas, and at home.

Unlike most western places, they at least used dark meat and the broth was the perfect blend of spicy, creamy and sour. The crispy noodles on top and thicker than usual udon-style noodles in the soup do not lend itself well to eating in white business wear, but I made it work by fashioning a bib. #noshame

Service and pricing are what you'd expect for a Michelin starred restaurant.

Exploratorium
Brilliant move by the conference organizers to host an event at the Exploratorium since it gave those of us who are introverted or less talented at networking an out. Not all of the exhibits were open and I suspect this place could be a nightmare when full of children but I enjoyed checking things out while drinking beverages and watching others explore. My husband, who had visited previously, mentioned he thought it was a great choice for this type of event and said if I had gone on my own time I would not have enjoyed it as much.

Museum of Ice Cream
WTF is this place, even? Walked past at a late hour and am sad to report I was drawn in by the unicorn in the window. I was surprised to see it still open at close to 11 p.m. As far as I can tell it's just Instagram eyecandy and a place for influencers to do shoots at? I nearly fell over when the staff told me it was $38 admission for anyone over the age of 2. Did a quick tour of the very Millennial pink gift shop and moved on.

Mazarine Coffee
I was fading fast midday at the conference so skipped the lukewarm carafes in the lobby in exchange for a quick stroll and nitro cold brew from Mazarine. Worth the walk, wish I had time to wait for a pour over.



Benjamin Cooper
Popped in for a pre-conference event and to meet a fellow conference attendee for a drink. She was impressed to drink at such a hidden place, h/t to ED for the recommendation on this one.

Lots of small groups of people so I was lonely for a bit until my colleague joined me but did have interesting conversations with the bartender who said they changed the menu every two weeks. Also chatted with the only other solo drinker, some former tech investor from NYC who now sold health foods on Amazon.

California Academy of the Sciences
Went Friday afternoon to avoid crowds and had a decent time. Pretty aquariums with enough space to enjoy them. The highlight was watching a new science film in the planetarium about coral reefs.

As a science communicator, I thought they did a great job telling the story of coral. As someone prone to motion sickness who suffered through five weeks of vertigo in August, the immersive experience was a little intimidating but I was okay in the end, just sat close to the top. Loved to learn they do all their animation in house.



State Bird Provisions
The timing was just about right to try for a seat at this place after visiting the Cal Academy. Advice online says on Friday and Saturdays to start lining up at 4:30 if you are trying for a walk up spot. I was first in line at 4:25 with people joining soon after. It looked like the next eight to 10 people in line after me got a spot. Another singleton who arrived at 5:30 was seated next to me at the bar. She was probably only able to dine because I had been first in line, there were many pairs and quads in line. Everyone else was relegated to the 7pm seating or headed elsewhere. The line for next door's The Progress started at about 5.

For those unfamiliar, the kitchen pumps out trays and carts of small plates that circulate the room, dim sum style. Servers tell you what the dish is when they arrive. Pricing is between $3 and $12, noted by a steel number on the tray. The concept is ripe for poor execution but they make it work so well.

Also, as a solo diner, it was refreshing to find out most of the items they create are available as half orders, so I was able to sample the maximum number of things with limited waste. My tip is to grab anything you are remotely interested in because chances are it will not come around again and they may not be able to make the item again at your seating.

I selected from the dim sum options often but also dipped into the regular menu as well. Their menu changes so frequently it's not worth going into everything I ate but the highlights included poppyseed buckweat pancakes with beef tongue pastrami, a positively inspired chanterelle-yuba al amatriciana, duck liver mousse with almond biscuits (less dainty Madeleines, imo) and a guinea hen shiitake dumpling in aromatic five-spice broth.

The woman next to me was an absolute beast, she packed it all in and then found room for dessert. I wasn't counting closely but probably 11 dishes? She said she lives in L.A. now but misses State Bird like crazy. I was uncomfortable for the rest of the evening on the amount I ate — seven dishes, many of them half orders, so can't imagine how she felt. Clearly I was an amateur.

Ferry Building Market
Disappointment! I started my only full solo work-free day at 8am with a mocha from Blue Bottle, a cheese wheel from Acme Bakery and a tamale from Primavera. Sampled a few California fruits (you have no idea how crummy the produce is in Canada, generally) and then walked and walked and walked — close to 13 miles. Generally would say this market is a nice experience but I probably should have just committed to a real breakfast somewhere.



Musee Mechanique
A friend who knows how much I love the Pinball Hall of Fame in Vegas suggested I pop in. An entertaining few moments and joke snaps to the husband were worth the trip. If you're too cheap to throw a few bits in the machines, there are enough people are plopping coins in all over that you can get the experience. Also always love finding out there is some old metalhead in the back running these places.



Pacific Cocktail Haven
Ah, yes, another ED recommendation. Great vibe, service and decor. One of my favorite cocktails of the year was served up here: the Shogun (above). I also had a Sho' Nuff and a few pours of the negroni bull dispenser some Martini and Rossi reps from were showing off.



I love vermouth-based cocktails but it seemed most of the room did not. If I was hanging around I probably would have ordered off the special one-night menu.



Asia SF
Made plans with another friend who now lives in the Bay area. We wanted to see a drag show and in the end went to one of her favorites, the trans cabaret dinner show at Asia SF.

I wasn't looking forward to the food but endured it because it was more about entertainment value but the meal turned out to be OK. Juicy, hot chicken satay and a filet cooked rare and bang on. Dessert was meh.

After Benji Cooper and PCH I couldn't bring myself to pay $12 for a cocktail that seemed off a menu straight out of 1998, so stuck to water.



Lots of bachelorette parties and large groups which make for an energetic, if shrill, atmosphere. I wish there had been one or two more numbers, but the ladies are great at what they do. They definitely pump the people in and out there, though, it's not really a leisurely experience.



Bob's Donuts
I was itching to head home Sunday morning and had time to burn I was ready so early so I made the quick 15 minute walk to and from Bob's Donuts. Even at 8am there was a line.

People were ordering all sorts of monstrosities, but I just got some raised glazed and have no idea why anyone would mess with anything else. (Except maybe the apple fritters.) ****ing perfection. I haven't had a doughnut that good in ages. Yeasty, chewy, slightly larger than usual. I bet it's what this guy had.



Crossing the border back home I declared some food items and the customs officer was amused at my description of a "single doughnut" I brought home. "Only one?" he said. "Yes, but I should have got a box," I said. He seemed intrigued and wrote something down after asking the name of the bakery again. I hope it was "Bob's Donuts" and not a note about me.



SFO
The international A terminal is a pile of hot garbage but I did grab some subpar tacos before going through security. However, there's a lot of construction and looks like a Tartine and Kin Khao are arriving there soon. My husband is on a super-restrictive diet right now and can't eat a lot of things, but real sourdough bread is okay so I took a chance and got a little loaf from the only decent post-security option, Boudin. I suspected tourist trap but this bread is the real deal and was excellent.

No ragrets
Didn't make it to any beer bars or breakfast joints, but that's okay. Missed Rintaro because when push came to shove the idea of paying $9 for a stick of yakitori was hard to swallow after my State Bird experience. Decided against a reservation to the San Francisco Champagne Society since it didn't seem great for a solo drinker, but would return in a heartbeat with my husband in future. Ran out of time to check out the Isaia store!

Thanks again, all, for the excellent advice. Made a business trip a little more fun and helped it from going off the rails by letting me know what was likely a waste of time.
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Old 10-21-2018, 02:27 PM   #1849
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Re: San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Old 10-21-2018, 03:03 PM   #1850
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San Francisco Bay Area: Your favorite things to do or places to go

O,

This beautiful city sure is dirty as ****, isn’t it? Hopefully that finally starts getting addressed soon as it’s becoming a major social, financial, and political issue.

Great trip report. Some quick thoughts:

Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
Def going soon based on your review, and hopefully late on a weeknight can avoid some of the craziness.

Museum of Ice Cream
There is now also a candytopia as well. Yes, these things exist in major cities now specifically for people to take colorful pretty social media pictures! And always lines. So dumb.

State Bird Provisions
That almost makes me want to go wait in line to eat there again, but not really.

Ferry Building Market
It’s nice enough and there is some legit excellent stuff there, but this is very much a tourist trap retail thing.

Bob's Donuts
Plain glazed (chocolate optional) and apple fritter are the two expert options there.

Missed Rintaro because when push came to shove the idea of paying $9 for a stick of yakitori
That’s in a nutshell why I never go to rintaro haha
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