Let me begin by thanking all who responded to my earlier posts about what to do and where to chow down in San Francisco. My wife and I got back to Brooklyn last night after nine wonderful days in your great city. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental on Sansome, which was great in most respects and a little disappointing in a few. More about that in a separate post...
And to add our own perspective, this was our 30th wedding anniversary trip. We went to Hawaii on our 25th and chose the great San Francisco for our 30th.
As usual, we kept a diary, but rather than a detailed report, I thought it would be more interesting ro report our snapshot impressions of SF on this visit. I will post a more detailed view of our culinary experiences in the next few days, but here are some immediate thoughts:
Most interesting dining: Bix (not great food, but a terrific space and a really good meal aided and abetted by a really friendly waiter who comped us two glasses of wine and dessert — and we never told hiim it was our anniversary. Plus we sat in a premier booth upstairs that offers a commanding view of most of the restaurant...)
Best meal: Ame, by a lot. Wildly expensive, but wildly great as well. From the service to the knockout food (we'd come back just for the chawan mushi) to the wines, a wonderful experience. This was our restaurant of choice for our actual anniversary night, and neither of us could see how we could have made a better choice.
Most disappointing meal: Maya, our second night in town. In fairness, Chowhounders had warned us off Maya, but we went anyway and we were quite disappointed. The food was OK and the drinks were OK, but it just seemed like a rather plastic experience to us.
Biggest WOW factor: Yank Sing. We tried them both, loved them. How do you not pig totally out at Yank Sing? We loaded up so much the first time that we swore we'd be more patient the second time, wait for more selections... Oink, oink...
Best bargain meal: Acme Chophouse at AT&T Park. We took the ballpark tour (and if you haven't taken it, by all means hie thee to the Park and do it), which gave us an automatic 25% off the entire bill at Acme, so after the tour we sat at the Acme bar and split a Cubano (really good), iceberg lettuce salad with blue cheese (good), side of fries (ok to good — we differed on that), and a couple of beers (great). The tour was almost two hours, led by the amazing Bill Boggie, a seventy-ish Giants fan who knows whereof he speaks. He brings you into the visiting locker room, onto the field to both dugouts (visitors and Giants), the press box, and so on. He is a wealth of trivia and it is an entirely enjoyable two hours whether or not you like baseball. So take a day off, go on the tour and enjoy your 25% discount at Acme.
Best revisit from earlier visits: Hunan Home's, which we love. We walked over from the hotel to have dim sum at Great Eastern on Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, got there around 11:00 AM and encountered a massive crowd waiting, so we went over to Hunan Home's instead, never regretted it. We consider it a really solid Chinatown eatery, equal to or superior to anything in Chinatown in NYC (and we love Chinatown in NYC).
Best SF experience: using our 7-Day City Pass to ride the cable cars and the Muni all over town. We visited the Castro District, Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, many other areas, all on public transportation. Lots of fun and really a nice change for us NYC subway riders.
Overall positive impression: the ubiquitous friendliness of everyone. We did encounter the occasional a**hole, but by and large, we felt very welcome in the fine city of San Francisco.
Overall negative impression: the homeless, especially around Union Square. The numbers of homeless make walking in the Union Square area less than appealing.
Finally, thank the gods for the cable cars, especially where those imposing hills are concerned. My wife and I have visited San Francisco quite a few times over the past forty or so years, meaning that the hills seem to have grown steeper and taller over those years.
This was our first visit since January of 2000, and we could not have had a better time. Thanks to all you great SF citizens for such a wonderful time. Hope to see you again soon...