Flew up on Friday afternoon and stayed at the Marriott Union Square. Was hungry and didn't have our first reservation until 8, so I checked out what was around the area. I browsed Yelp for nearby restaurants and recognized Canteen from a previous thread.
Canteen: We didn't have reservations and showed up at opening (6pm). It seems like this place is packed all the time, but the waitress called someone who hadn't shown up yet, and next thing you know, we were sitting at the bar. Started with an amuse bouche and a brioche roll (that was so buttery it was shiny inside). Had a sweet corn soup and the hen w/ sweet corn polenta w/ thyme jus. They were both delicious in a homey, soothing way that I've been missing in a lot of meals recently, but they also had a little something that elevated the dishes. I wanted to order more, but we were up against the clock.
Commonwealth: is where we had a reservation at 8. The food was very interesting, and it felt similar to, but also a notch better than Red Medicine in LA. The style of food was a bit too precious for me, and with both Commonwealth and Red Medicine (except maybe the porridge), I never got a spoonful of food that was just viscerally satisfying. Our halibut was cooked perfectly and the spring peas were good, but the peas felt like they were trying to do something that Ubuntu would execute. The Cobra Kai aperitif was pretty interesting and delicious. I don't think I'm in a hurry to go back, but it was a neat experience.
Had late night drinks at Wilson & Wilson, and particularly enjoyed being introduced to sarsaparilla aromatic bitters. Fun time and great service.
Ferry Building: Tried to do as much there as possible, starting with the porchetta from the Roli Roti. Still thinking about it and I wish I could have one in my face right now. Also tried stuff from Blue Bottle, Boccalone, Hog Island, and Frog's Hollow. All solid places, and what a great way to experience a bunch of different things in one area. Got to sit outside at Hog Island and enjoy the beautiful weather we had that just seemed to clear up for Saturday (Friday's and Sunday's weather was dark, misty, and cold)
Atelier Crenn: Went with the Chef's tasting and had a spectacular meal here. A lot of different and interesting tastes. I've had ash in quite a few dishes, but I've never really enjoyed it... Their use of ash in 1 dish + the dessert actually felt like they made sense and contributed to the dishes rather than just being some kind of trend/gimmick. We weren't sure what to expect from the meal as a whole, but we got a lot of seafood dishes up front. Usually the SO is not too into seafood, but here, she enjoyed everything minus our 1 sashimi dish. Wouldn't hesitate to come here again for a special occasion. The chef came out and greeted everybody, which albeit brief and canned, was still nice, particularly for someone at the table next to ours who became starstruck at the sight of Chef Crenn.
Sweet Woodruff: Really wanted to go back to Canteen for their brunch, but the SO didn't want to go to the same place twice in 1 trip. We walked by this place and thought it might be worth a shot, especially after learning about their tie-in with Sons & Daughters. Nothing really stood out for me, but everything was done right. The SO is not a fan of grits but enjoyed their cheesy jalapeno grits. I think it's a good, quick option for the area, and couldn't find much else nearby that seemed to be chow-worthy. Should note that this was a Sunday, so we couldn't get to Cotogna for brunch.
Also made a stop at Golden Gate Bakery for the egg tart. Very good, but left a little frustrated because they were making them fresh at the time, a long line had built up, and we could only buy 1 per person. I had planned on buying a few dozen to take back home for friends and family.
I had a great time in SF and look forward to my next trip. I'm not one to review each and every dish at a restaurant, but it should suffice to say that I had a positive experience at every establishment we visited (some more positive than others). Thanks to the SF Board for the great recs.