1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12
San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.
What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.
We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.
State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/28/12
This was one of the restaurants I really wanted to try while I was in San Francisco (probably #1 on my list). Opened on the last day of 2011, it was named to numerous lists for best new restaurants of the year, including being the number one best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit. Stories of hours-long lines (yes, multiple hours) and consistently strong reviews fueled the buzz throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, reservations are still very difficult to come by, probably one of the most difficult in the city. I checked their website multiple times per day for a couple of weeks, and the best I could do was a party of 2 at 5:30 (looking for any availability over a week span). The day before, some cancellations yielded a 10:30 table for 4; very late, but it allowed our whole family to dine together.
One of the distinctive features of the restaurant is its use of a dim sum-like cart. It’s loaded up with a variety of dishes and pushed through the dining room, letting diners get a glimpse of the dishes before choosing. And, if you don’t see what you want, anything can be ordered off the menu to be directly delivered to your table. It’s a fun concept that really works with a small plates restaurant, one I would expect to see duplicated…and not just in Chinese restaurants.
860 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 12/27/12
This past year for my grandmother’s birthday, my cousins and I took her to dinner at Oola in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. It’s a tradition we’ve been doing a number of years now, and something I look forward to each holiday season. This year, my cousins chose Oola, somewhere they’ve been a number of times and raved about.
Opened in 2004, the restaurant calls its food “San Francisco cuisine” and a blend of chef Ola Fendert’s Swedish background and French/Italian training. The menu appeared to offer a number of upscale takes on American comfort food classics such as chicken and waffles, burgers, and the restaurant’s signature dish – pork baby back ribs.
199 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 12/26/12
Rich Table was one of San Francisco’s bigger restaurant openings of last year and continues to be one of the hot tables in town. Evan and Sarah Rich are the couple behind the restaurant, whose collective resumes include San Francisco’s Quince, Michael Mina and Coi. Reviews about the restaurant have been very positive, including an impressive 3.5 star review from the SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer.
A decision to dine at Rich Table was kind of a last-minute one. While planning to meet with a friend for dinner the day after Christmas, we scrolled through OpenTable openings and Rich Table popped up with an available table. Knowing that we kind of lucked out finding one, we snatched it up.
Contrary to what the name of the restaurant may suggest, the food isn’t too rich at all. Of course, ingredients are local and seasonal, and the menu is divided into a number of small ‘bites,’ appetizer plates, pastas and main courses.
Sons & Daughters
708 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
Dining date: 11/24/12
Sons & Daughters is a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for some time. Since I spend a limited amount of time in San Francisco nowadays, it’s always been on my list of places to try but never high enough to the point where I’ve actually gone. Until now.
The restaurant opened up in the middle of 2010 and has garnered quite a few accolades in the ensuing couple of years. Some of the most notable have been its one Michelin star, a 3-star review from the S.F. Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, and chefs Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara being named 2012 Rising Star Chefs.
A part of a trend in the S.F. fine dining world, Sons & Daughters has continually shrunk the dining room, added more courses, removed a la carte and gotten more expensive. I’m not particularly against that movement (and kind of wish more in LA attempted it), but the increases in price point need to reflect a higher standard of both food and service. Currently, it’s $135 service-inclusive for around 9 courses. Continue reading
448 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 11/25/12
I’ve wanted to try Alexander’s Steakhouse for some time. I love a good steak and Alexander’s is one of the more highly regarded steakhouses on the West Coast (and perhaps country). The original location, in Cupertino, garnered a Michelin star in the inaugural Bay Area guide and has maintained it ever since. A San Francisco location opened up in 2010 serving up the same American steakhouse fare with a bunch of Japanese influences. I tend to think my favorite steakhouse is Beverly Hills’ CUT, but figured Alexander’s would be a strong competitor to that.
It took a couple of years, but my family and I finally dined at the restaurant for my grandmother’s (surprise!) birthday. Over the years, this birthday dinner has become a bit of a tradition with previous birthday dinners at The French Laundry, Masa’s, Quince, Murray Circle, Cyrus, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. Alexander’s seemed to be the ideal choice for our carnivorous family, and the large restaurant was able to accommodate a private party for our extended family and friends.