On August 11th Jack and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary with an extravagant dinner at Saison. This Michelin 3-star restaurant started as a pop-up project in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco seven years ago, and quickly garnered a stellar reputation. The restaurant earned its third Michelin star in 2013; it is currently ranked 37th on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Saison is located South of Market (technically South Beach), just a block away from AT&T Park. Despite being the most expensive restaurant in San Francisco, it has a very welcoming vibe. The dining room has a warm, urban feel with exposed brick and dark grey walls, leather and wood furniture, with various mounted animal heads on the walls; natural light from a large window softens the overall feel of the decor. The music playlist was a catchy mix of 70’s and 80’s rock including Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, and Billy Joel. It did not feel pretentious in the slightest.
Bar Crudo is one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Jack and I developed an expensive habit of frequenting this restaurant back when we lived in the NoPa (North Panhandle) neighborhood from 2009-2014. Bar Crudo is a fabulous neighborhood spot with a killer happy hour ($1 oysters, $4 beers, $6 wine), incredibly fresh and sustainable seafood, a lengthy beer menu (including several sour beers), and arguably the best seafood chowder in San Francisco.
You’ll want to make a reservation in advance if you don’t feel like waiting a good while for a table or a spot at the counter. You can usually grab a decent reservation with just a couple days notice, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to snag a same-day reservation (you can also expect to wait in line if you show up for their popular happy hour which starts at 5pm). It’s definitely worth the extra planning to experience the delicious food at this special spot.
A few weeks ago Jack and went to see Finding Neverland at the Orpheum Theatre. We are members of SHN, the theatrical production company in San Francisco that hosts professional national tours and pre-Broadway engagements of various plays and musicals (Hamilton starts this week!) We typically see these shows on Thursday nights, which means that our pre-show meals tend to be rushed at a restaurant near Civic Center or Union Square. However, for this show, I was able to exchange our tickets for a Saturday evening performance, giving us more time for a leisurely dinner at a restaurant further from the theater.
We opted to get dinner at Frances in the Castro, a few blocks from Mission Dolores Park. Frances was opened by chef Melissa Perello in 2009 and it has received numerous accolades in the years since, including a Michelin star from 2011-2013. The restaurant opened right around the time Jack and I were learning to appreciate seasonal, quality food by dining out at different restaurants around the city, and Frances quickly became one of our favorite spots in San Francisco. So, when we moved to the Castro neighborhood in 2014, we were thrilled to call Frances our “neighborhood joint.”
I love downtown San Francisco during the holidays. I have such fond memories of coming to the city with my family as a kid – ice skating at Embarcadero Center, gazing at the tree at Union Square, then grabbing a bite to eat at The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus after a day of holiday shopping. Now that I call San Francisco my home, I find I am less amused by the large crowds of tourists and holiday shoppers; however, I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see the festive decorations downtown, so Jack and I try to make a visit at least once every December.
This year we started our downtown visit with a couple of seasonal cocktails at Clock Bar in the Westin St Francis at Union Square (be sure to use your Starwood card for double points!) There were a lot of tourists admiring the giant gingerbread houses in the lobby, but we had no trouble grabbing a table for two inside the bar. Afterward, we walked past Union Square to get a quick glimpse of the Christmas tree, then continued on to Embarcadero along a less crowded street. The four buildings that make up Embarcadero Center are outlined in white lights this time of year, and they look like Christmas presents. We walked past the ice skating rink at Justin Herman Plaza and admired the beautiful view of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge in the background.
Jack and I celebrated my 35th birthday at Petit Crenn last Saturday and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Petit Crenn (pronounced with a silent “T” at the end of “Petit”) is described as a “neighborhood restaurants inspired by Chef Dominique Crenn’s mother, grandmother, and her home in Brittany, France.” Brittany is surrounded by the sea, so Petit Crenn is a pescatarian’s dream – the menu is teaming with fresh fish, seafood, and local produce.
In 2012, Dominique became the first female chef in the United State to earn two Michelin stars. If you are interested in learning more about her life as a chef and artist, I highly recommend watching the Netflix miniseries Chef’s Table – she is featured in Season 2, Episode 3.
Petit Crenn is the less formal sister restaurant of Atelier Crenn, also located in San Francisco. Jack and I ate at Atelier Crenn a few years ago – I remember it being very good, but I can’t remember anything specific about the meal other than that is was tasty, very formal, and the menu was a poem written by Dominique. This likely says more about my memory than the meal, but I do think our dining experience at Petit Crenn was more memorable. The space is bright and inviting, located in the heart of Hayes Valley (in the old Bar Jules location). The set 5-course prix fixe menu is more affordable and approachable than Atelier Crenn. There is also the option of sitting at the counter and ordering menu items à la carte, if you prefer.
Last week my husband Jack forwarded a list of new restaurants on SF Eater to me. The Perennial caught my eye, primarily because of its proximity to the the Orpheum Theatre, as I’m always looking for new places to dine at before a show (we are SHN members). However, I had no idea how stellar the food would be or how environmentally radical this new restaurant was until Jack surprised me with dinner there last night. We were blown away by each and every dish we tried, and I can’t say enough great things about the quality of the food and the philosophy of the restaurant.
The Perennial opened in January of this year. The restaurant team includes head chef Chris Kiyuna, as well as wife and husband co-founders Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint of Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth fame. Regarding the restaurant’s environmental philosophy, the website states that “agriculture has the potential to reverse climate change and our goal is to serve great food and drinks that are part of a positive food system.” With the help of aquaponic agriculture, perennial grains, and carbon farming (which you can read about here), The Perennial is able to serve delicious seasonal food, while keeping their carbon footprint as small as possible.
Earlier this year, local chef Mourad Lahlou opened his new restaurant Mourad, a follow-up to the highly acclaimed Aziza. I was eager for Mourad’s opening after I got a taste of its offerings at Jack’s work holiday party last year (the company he works for owns the building in which Mourad is located). I’ve since eaten there twice, and I was very impressed by the comforting Moroccan-inspired dishes served family-style at this Michelin star restaurant.
Edit 4/22/17: Apparently Cafe du Nord is no longer owned and managed by the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group and the menu and recipes have changed. Rest in peace, Best Burger in San Francisco!
Cafe du Nord first opened its doors in 1907. Located in the Swedish American Hall in the Upper Market neighborhood of San Francisco, the space previously hosted many famous musicians before they made it big (Neil Young, Spoon, and The Kinks, to name a few). In 2015, the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, Aatxe) restored the space and reopened Cafe du Nord as a bar and restaurant offering live music and food until 2am.
Last Friday Jack surprised me with a celebratory dinner at Quince to toast my upcoming move to a new position at work. I had been to Quince once back in 2007 when it was located in Pacific Heights (that site eventually became Baker and Banker, and now Octavia). In 2009, chef/owner Michael Tusk moved Quince to its current location in Jackson Square, and began serving a more formal prix fixe tasting menu. Soon afterwards, he transformed the adjoining space into an Italian restaurant named Cotogna (which means “quince” in Italian), which serves a similar menu to the one previously served by the old Quince.
Quince is no stranger to accolades, and it currently possesses two Michelin stars. From the moment we walked into the restaurant we were impressed by the quality of service, ambiance, and food that made up our dining experience. The dining room has a welcoming and elegant decor, with warm floor to ceiling curtains and exposed brick walls. Quince is definitely a “special occasions” spot.
Jack and I both started with cocktails, and they were gorgeous and delicious. Jack had a whiskey-based drink which had gold leaf in it, and mine was a refreshing gin-based cocktail that was equally beautiful. They were both well-balanced and delightful.
Zuni Café is a San Francisco institution. Established in 1987 and named after a Native American tribe, Zuni continues to impress with its top notch food and classy ambiance. With several James Beard awards under its belt, Zuni serves a strong, tight menu – I’ve never been disappointed by a dish I’ve had there. And its south Hayes Valley location on Market Street makes it a perfect spot for a special dinner before a night out on the town.