Any suggestions on nice but not too pricey hotels to stay at downtown SF ideally situated where we can walk to most places that tourists usually check out. Haven't been to the area in almost 4 years so I don't remember what's good.
Also, suggestions for things, places to check out/do? And of course, places to dine? In particular, best sushi downtown? I've btdt before but it's been a while and my gf has never been to cali at all.
Lastly, WINE COUNTRY. The reason I am visiting in the first place. The gf digs teh wine and stuff thus the trip. Recommendations for wine tours to take if any?.... or perhaps bed & breakfasts to stay at in napa or sonoma?.... or just good wineries to visit not necessarily for the best vintage or what not, but for the overall wine country experience.
please email me at lvelano at mac dot com if you'd rather not post here.
07-31-2006, 09:01 AM
07-31-2006, 09:07 AM
You also gotta go to one of the taquieria's in the mission- awesome stuff.
there it really is the place to stay. There are countless restaurants in the area. Some standout areas with great restaurants clustered together are Belding Place...a very european-like little alley with several great places to eat outside, or have wine in the afternoon...and The Ferry Building...tons of good eats and stands that would make every foodie drool. If you like oysters you have got to check out Hog Island Oysters there....their sweetwaters are the best oysters I have ever had!
It's pretty hard to go wrong in SF no matter what you do...have a great trip!
07-31-2006, 10:56 AM
It sits way up on a hill, and is a pretty sweet place to hang out for a while. Not sure about their wine, but their winery is awesome!
07-31-2006, 11:15 AM
further away, but much less crowded and more enjoyable...will never go to Napa again after spending a weekend in Dry Creek last year.
07-31-2006, 01:02 PM
Several places in their downtown square to eat. There's also a hole-in-the-wall cheese shop that's reasonably priced and several shops that sell Gelato. There are a few wineries with tasting rooms there on the square (don't skip Rosenblum). Also hit Seghesio and Ridge (mmm Lytton Springs...), both a short drive away.
Also if you're into food in the city, don't skip the Ferry Building.
07-31-2006, 01:12 PM
They take people on a tour through their biodynamic winery on a tram pulled by a tractor (small fee).
Probably not my most favorite wine, but decent and kinda cool place to take visitors to wine country.
07-31-2006, 01:28 PM
07-31-2006, 04:19 PM
08-01-2006, 07:57 AM
08-01-2006, 09:32 AM
I saw your recent post on Audiworld and thought that it would be better to email you directly as well as reply on the boards. First off, the NorCal forum is a bit slow these days, as you've probably noticed. Second of all, I saw from the responses that the folks weren't really being specific to your requests. As one of the few folks actually born and raised in San Francisco, I figured I'd try to help out and offer some real suggestions.
The guys are well meaning, but if you you've checked out the room rates for the Westin St. Francis then you've probably discovered that it is not the cheapest place to stay. I also think that, while historically significant, there are better more intimate hotels than the "big three" (four if you count the Ritz) of the St. Francis, Fairmont, and Mark Hopkins. Here are some good suggestions (in no particular order). Note that not all are in the Union Square area as I think that it is only one of the neighborhoods that you should consider, but most are.
1. Commodore Hotel http://www.jdvhospitality.com/hotels/hotel/4 - right in the heart of Union Square. Nice rooms and frequently run promotional rates. Bonus: attached bar (the "Red Room") is cool and a good place for a nightcap.
2. Hotel Metropolis http://www.hotelmetropolis.com/ - another great smaller hotel. Great modern vibe and located downtown near Union Square. Killer new restaurant "Farmer Brown" is located in the lobby.
3. Phoenix Hotel http://www.jdvhospitality.com/hotels/hotel/12 - Funky, retro, ultralounge hotel. This extensively converted former 50's motel is one of the favored hotels among the club scene. Attached restaurant and nightclub, Bambuddha is stylish and lively with local turntablists mixing it up most every night. Neighborhood is close to Market St. and Union Square, but is a bit rough around the edges, but then again, you're from Chicago so no worries. If you've hung out at the Cubby Bear by Wrigley, then you can handle yourself. Seriously, give this one a check/see.
4. Hotel Griffon http://www.hotelgriffon.com/ - located on the Embarcadero, i.e. right on the water overlooking the bay and Treasure Island. Walking distance to Union Square, this hotel is excellent and intimate. Check their running promotions. It's also close to the ballpark, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown and the South of Market (SoMa) district which has some great restaurants (Coco 500, Bacar, Koh Samuy & the Monkey, Acme Chophouse), galleries SF MoMA, and clubs/live music venues (Slim's, Supperclub, Paradise Lounge, Utah, CIP, etc.). Attached restaurant Faz is pretty decent and has killer views.
5. Hotel Palomar http://www.hotelpalomar.com/ - Even if you've stayed at any of Kimpton's boutique hotels, you'll still be blown away by their killer digs in San Francisco (btw, NEVER refer to it as "Frisco" or "San Fran" as these are dead giveaways that you are a tourist ;). One of the best (and unfortunately pricier) restaurants in town is also located here. The "Fifth Floor" (guess where it's located) is excellent and consistently ranked among the nation's top line. If you've been lucky enough to visit Charlie Trotter's, this is at the same level. The rooms are very stylish and this is located right in the heart of Union Square on Market St.
Well, those are my suggestions for hotels that I consider reasonably priced, very stylish, and most of all, uniquely San Francisco.
As to wine country, there are many who favor Sonoma Valley over Napa Valley, but, as a true fan of wine, you simply cannot write off the entire Napa Valley. What people like about Sonoma, in general, is that it has a more rustic country feel to it. Napa Valley is definitely more polished and cosmopolitan. There are pluses and minuses for each to be certain, but you should decide based upon what you and your girlfriend's tastes favor. If you wish to stay in Napa Valley, I wholeheartedly recommend a little bed and breakfast in Calistoga (North end of the valley) called Chateau de Vie http://www.chateaudv.com/ . It is fantastic. It resembles a small French chateau and is located right in the middle of a vineyard. It is reasonably priced and intimate. (if you don't get the love here, you're doing something wrong ?) Be aware that most places will have a two night minimum on the weekends, but many offer great midweek rates, so be sure to ask.
Also note that the Napa Valley is smaller and narrower than neighboring Sonoma Valley. I mention this so that you take it into consideration when planning travel time and tour itinerary. The Russian River AVA (wine appellation) that others mentioned is quite good and scenic just off the town of Healdsburg which is on the North end of Sonoma Valley, but it much further off than the town of Sonoma. This region is particularly praised for its excellent Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. If you follow the river on Westside Road, you'll encounter some very good wineries such as Gary Farrell, Porter Creek, Davis Bynum, Selby etc. I've attached an itinerary for that region that I put together for a barrel tasting that I organized this past Spring. There are some notes, and websites to check out. Restaurants of note in the area are, Bistro Ralph, Cyrus (amazingly executed), Ravenous. Be sure to stop by "Barn Diva" for a martini. Cyrus is located in the Hotel Les Mars which is fantastic, but a bit pricey though, again be sure to check for midweek packages.
In Napa Valley, I recommend the following restaurants and wineries:
Napa Valley Restaurants:
1. Bistro Jeanty - Yountville
2. Bouchon - Yountville
3. Cuvee Napa - Napa
4. Cole's Chophouse - Napa
5. Taylor's Refresher - St. Helena
6. Catahoula - Calistoga
7. Brix - St. Helena (Sunday brunch is fantastic)
8. The Dining Room at CIA Greystone - St. Helena (this is the graduate campus of the Culinary Institute of America and if you have the time, a fantastic place to tour. It was converted from one of the oldest and grandest wineries in the valley)
Napa Valley Wineries:
1. Luna Vineyards (Silverado Trail) - Cal-Ital varietals
2. Clos du Val - Silverado Trail
3. Robert Sinskey - excellent Pinot Noir
4. Pine Ridge - Cabernet Sauvignon masters
5. Neibaum-Coppola - if you're a Coppola fan, this is a great place to stroll the grounds as it is converted and restored from one of the oldest wineries around and the architecture is stunning. Plus, F.F. Coppola has many of his Oscars and movie memorabilia displayed. As to the wine, only the estate reserve wine, Rubicon (yes, he also co-owns the eponymously named restaurant in the San Francisco Financial District), is truly excellent, but this is more of a destination than a jewel winery.
6. Hess Estates, a.k.a. the Hess Collection - located in a fantastically scenic venue atop the Mayacamas Mountains overlooking the entire Napa Valley, Hess is unique in that its founder is both a winemaker, as well as one of the top collectors of modern art. The winery is thus a combination of his passions with a three story museum/gallery attached to the tasting room and winery.
7. Mount Veeder Winery
8. Prager Portworks - St. Helena, rustic, tiny, family run (plus there's a very small bed and breakfast run by Mrs. Prager ontop of the tasting room. They specialize in fortified dessert wines from local grapes. If you favor a tawny port, try their Summer Port.
Well, I hope that helps you out with your visit. I don't normally go into such depth, but again you seemed to asking for some specific suggestions and I do love my hometown and the surrounding area. Plus, the next time I visit Chicago, I'll hit you up for some new recommendations in your neck of the woods. Feel free to hit me up if you have any other questions. I've lived here most of my life and I still haven't seen and done everything that I'd like to, so maybe I'll see you around.
*Note, that for all restaurants I have mentioned, be sure to call ahead well in advance for reservations. Places such as Restaurant Gary Danko, the Fifth Floor, Cyrus, etc. will require a couple of weeks advance notice.
08-01-2006, 10:00 AM
08-01-2006, 10:07 AM
From San Francisco, take the ferry boat over to Alameda. Beautiful in itself. Then walk over to Rosenblum Cellars and check out their excellent wines, including some of the world's best Zinfandels.
08-01-2006, 10:31 AM
08-01-2006, 11:33 AM
Downtown there aren't too many great sushi places, so beware the majority of them in the Union Square area. Exceptions are Sanraku on Sutter St. http://www.sanraku.com/sanraku.html. Given their rep, you may have a wait, but it's quite good. Not open that late though, so I'll also hip you to a local favorite that is unusual, quirky, but has pretty damn good sushi (and not much else). Ryoku is on Taylor between Post and Sutter (just around the corner from Sanraku) at a little alley called "Trader Vic's Lane" which actually leads to the West Coast outpost of your hometown Franco-Vietnamese eatery, Le Colonial. Ryoku is located in a former dive bar and you'll have to decend some blood red carpeted stairs down from street level. The bar is now mostly the sushi bar. There are still red pleather booths, but pony up to the bar and ask what's fresh. They'll tell you straight and make some killer nigiri and maki til 2am in case you need something to soak up the booze from earlier in the evening. That's about it for the downtown sushi recs.