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On Sale: March 09, 2010
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-1-58008-415-4
Published by : Ten Speed Press Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
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Synopsis|Excerpt|Table of Contents


When it’s time to take your parents out to dinner or your girlfriend on a sexy date, or when you’re looking for a hot venue for a birthday blowout or brunch with friends, who do you turn to for a spot-on recommendation? Why, the tablehopper, of course! Marcia Gagliardi is San Francisco’s cuisine concierge, providing restaurant recommendations and helping thousands of diners find the right place for the right occasion. With her unique blend of enthusiasm, insider knowledge, and sass, Marcia bases her recommendations on the reason you’re going out, who you’re dining with, and how much money you have to burn.
This first-of-its-kind guidebook has more than 580 reviews of the tablehopper’s top suggestions for:
Girls’ Night Out
Dates One, Two, and Three
Cheap Date
Guys Lunch (Dude Food)
Group Dining and Buyouts
Meet the Future In-Laws
Old-School Power Lunch
“Fun Client” Business Dining
Meat Eater and Vegetarian
Late-Night Chow
Flying Solo
Cocktail Quests
Covering a huge range of places for all tastes, ages, and budgets, this insider’s guide also includes sections on the South Bay, Wine Country, top eats in the East Bay, and one-, two-, and three-day San Francisco culinary itineraries. Only a local and no-holds-barred eater like the tablehopper can offer visitors and locals alike such a knowledgeable and comprehensive look at the Bay Area dining and drinking scene.


Nice to Me(a)t You: An Introduction
Why, hello there. Thanks for picking up this book. You must be hungry, or perhaps looking for somewhere to celebrate your anniversary dinner or host your rager of a birthday party. Well, let’s hop to it.
But first, some backstory. Since I’m the daughter of an amazing cook (my mother) and a former pizzeria and deli owner (yes, my father is Italian, and I’ve got an “i” at the end of my last name to prove it), it would not be an understatement to say my entire life has revolved around food. And even better, good food. Homemade food. Food made with love. A random smattering of childhood memories includes watering our family’s garden full of tomatoes and fava beans, picking olallieberries, cracking crab at grandma’s, coming home from school to a house that smelled of homemade bread (I know, my mother is off the charts in cumulative Mom points), and rolling tiny meatballs for our Christmas lasagna. It’s really no surprise that I figured out how to make a living out of eating.
I’ve been adventuring throughout San Francisco like a culinary swashbuckler for the past fifteen years, and writing about food since 2002. I eat everything, from street food to sweetbreads to stinky fromage, and adore retro diners and four-star restaurants with equal passion. I launched my cheeky weekly tablehopper e-column in 2006 (you can subscribe for free at www.tablehopper.com), and it has since become a trusted insider source for learning what’s new, coming soon, and, of course, delicious in the San Francisco restaurant and bar scene (and beyond). It’s chock-full of news and gossip, covering what’s hot and what’s opening or closing, along with restaurant reviews of both new and established places, mentions of culinary and wine events, weekend getaway ideas, and a very popular section covering star sightings in bars and restaurants. After taking a trip I include write-ups of the restaurants and bars I visited in those cities, from Sydney to New York to New Orleans. I also cover places closer to home, like the Wine Country, for those looking for weekend getaway ideas.
I have been an unofficial concierge for years, recommending restaurants to friends and family since I was a teenager. Once I launched tablehopper, my readers started to ask me for restaurant recommendations, so I launched my “tip please” service, acting as a restaurant matchmaker and answering more than 1,500 dining inquiries. Those recommendations became the inspiration for this book, since I soon realized that both locals and travelers don’t pick their restaurants by category (French, Financial District, $$$), but by occasion: dinner with the girls, first date, lunch with the parents. Diners plan their meals around their lives. Most guidebooks are organized by neighborhood, by cuisine, or even by their rating (and I use them all), but I thought there needed to be a guide organized by how we really eat: by occasion. And based on all the recommendations I’ve made, I think there are some diners who would agree with me.
How to Use This Book (Is This Thing On?)
Before we dive in, here’s a little something you should know about me. No, it’s not that I secretly enjoy eating Lean Pockets with ranch dressing (and, for the record, I don’t eat Hot Pockets either). But you may find this tidbit of information useful while reading my recommendations: I’m thirty-eight, which means I can appreciate places that have some style and verve, but my suggestions for date places might veer toward being too hip or noisy for some folks in their sixties (which is why I have special chapters on quiet restaurants, or dining with the ‘rents, or “serious” meals, like business dining). Only you know where you fall on the age spectrum: are you a night owl in your fifties, or perhaps a very serious twenty-eight? Just a little something to keep in mind. Then again, you’re not likely to find me in a restaurant packed with college kids doing tequila body shots. In fact, it’s not likely at all.
I have tried to include a variety of places for everyone, with all kinds of tastes and budgets, but many fall within the moderate to spendy price range. What can I say? I blame San Francisco for having so many fabulous restaurants (even though I love me some cheap eats, too).
Here’s the price breakdown on listings:
$    Thrifty: average main course under $9
$$    Moderate: average main course $9-$17
$$$    Spendy: average main course $18-$29
$$$$   Very Spendy: average main course or tasting menu $30+
NOTE: Restaurants that serve small plates can be a little tricky, so in those cases the price category refers to what you’d spend on, say, a couple of plates.
This is not a guidebook of every single restaurant in San Francisco (which has about three thousand and counting, by the way). It’s more about my choices for what places are appropriate for which occasions. These are places where I like to go and that I think are worth the money--where I’ve had good dining experiences, and I hope you do too. So did some big-name places get left out? Yes. Your neighborhood favorite? It’s quite possible. And some of them may be very good--but just not right for this book--or a place I don’t know very well, or inconsistent. And besides, I have a word-count limit to abide by (trust, this could have been a three-volume set).
For each occasion you’ll find at least a few minireviews, plus a listing of “Other ideas” about where to go. Many of the places listed in “Other ideas” have reviews elsewhere in the book, so be sure to look at any cross-referenced page numbers for their write-up and additional details. You will also see a “TIP” or “NOTE” section following certain reviews, with special hints, such as which table to request or other insider tidbits.
One challenge in writing this book was that we’re in the middle of a nasty recession (summer 2009). It’s a tricky situation, because it’s hard to determine if some places will make it. Time will tell. As a result, I went with more tried-and-true favorites and fewer “fresh outta the gate” or “funky” places, since these restaurants are subject to change (or end) very quickly. Which also means you should call a place before heading over for lunch--who knows, they might not serve lunch anymore, even though this book says they do.
I also opted to not mention a lot of executive chefs or bartenders by name since they tend to move around. (So chefs, don’t get snippy with me if I left your name out, sorry.) But in the case of a chef-owner, I sometimes included a name.
There are so many unique and under-the-radar concepts currently happening in San Francisco, from pop-up restaurants to mobile food carts, so I recommend subscribing to tablehopper (at www.tablehopper.com) if you want to keep up on all the very latest.
I have also included a roundup of destination-worthy locations in the East Bay, the Peninsula, the South Bay, and the Wine Country. And if you’re just passing through and want to eat your way through the city, be sure to take a look at the one-, two-, and three-day culinary itineraries, which were designed both for those who have planned ahead and for those who showed up at the last minute. (Locals will want to peek at these itineraries as well--there’s a lot to chew on!)
Note that many of the places listed in this book have also been written up on tablehopper.com, so if you want even more details (or sass), take a look in the archives under “Fresh Meat” and “The Regular.”
My father’s hilarious Vietnam buddy Bob Jaskolka spontaneously came up with a variety of funny titles for this book when I was trying to nail one down. One of them was You Only Live Once, But You Can Eat a Lot! (I agree), and another winner was Fork Your Way Around the Bay. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Let’s eat.
Girls’ Night Out
Girls, they wanna, wanna have fun! Fun scene? Yes. Cocktails and wine by the glass? Natch. Food that’s easy to share, even with your picky friend in tow? Sure! Places worthy of your sassy style, kitten heels, and fabulous handbag? Checkity check check! Whether it’s just you and your BFF or a flock of five, here’s where to go hit the town.
Beretta $$ 1199 Valencia St. at 23rd St., 415-695-1199, berettasf.com
There’s a bunch of reasons this place has taken off like a casa on fire: impeccable craft cocktails, late hours, heart-of-the-Mission location, and well-priced Italian food you don’t have to think about too much while you’re hanging out with your gal pals (think antipasti like the fave eggplant caponatina with burrata, and thin-crust pizzas). The vittles aren’t perfetto, but it’s one of those places where the raucous vibe, cuties at the communal table, and swish cocktails tip the scale. Speaking of the cocktails, since they take a while to make, let alone order, request your next drink as soon as you get your first one in front of you, no joke. The all-day weekend brunch/lunch is a bonus.
TIP: If your group is big enough (six or more), you can reserve a table and avoid the walk-in madness--but try to get an upstairs table, since the downstairs has less of a scene. If your group is smaller than six people, you can call ahead to get your name on the list while you circle for parking.
Dosa $$-$$$ 1700 Fillmore St. at Post St., 415-441-3672, dosasf.com
The second (and newer) location of this South Indian stunner covers all the bases: chic and colorful interior, upbeat vibe, urban crowd, well-composed wine list, inspired cocktails (cardamom and Kaffir lime on the loose), and a unique menu of spiced goodies that’s a pleasure to explore and share--especially if there’s a vegetarian or vegan in the posse. Try the vadas (South Indian crab cakes), Kerala fish moilee (a spicy, creamy, and savory preparation), and the crepe-like dosas (they come with a variety of fillings--the spinach and fennel version is particularly tasty). The tasting menu is also a good way to go. Bonus: The build-out was very eco-friendly (just like the ingredients in the food).
TIP: The Sundance Kabuki Cinemas (1881 Post St. at Fillmore St., 415-929-4650) is right across the street in case you want dinner before catching a chick flick--or you can have a nightcap at Dosa afterward.
NOTE: The original Dosa (995 Valencia St. at 21st St., 415-642-3672) is cozier and more rustic, with wood tables, persimmon walls, dim lighting, and a candlelit bar. This location attracts an upbeat crowd ranging from tattooed vegans to young professionals, so anyone will fit in here. There’s no full bar, but they’ll help you pick out a good wine, like a killer Riesling.
Terzo $$$ 3011 Steiner St. at Union St., 415-441-3200, terzosf.com
We know how much the ladies like to drink vino (hic!), and this spot in Cow Hollow is primed to fill your glass with something liquid (and the Euro-heavy list means your vino will most likely have an accent). The daily-changing menu of seasonal Cal-Med-Ital cuisine can verge on the spendy, but eat, sister--we don’t want you falling off your stool when you’re done with your first glass of rosato. (At least tuck into the swoon-worthy hummus with warm made-to-order pita.) Besides, a couple of small plates is all a girl needs when she’s trying to avoid muffin-topping in her low-rider jeans. That said, just in case you’re a bad girl, the crispy onions are delicious. The look is postmodern rustic hip, just like your sexy boots. Oh, and there’s a posse-perfect back corner table with room for seven, as well as a private room with space for sixteen.
TIP: Terzo has a petite front patio (twenty seats in all), and did you know you can reserve a table there ahead of time? Heh, now you do.
The alfresco restaurants on Belden Place and Claude Lane (two pedestrian alleys near Union Square) could be a fun place for a night of touring with a culinary Eurorail pass (of sorts). For example, you could go to Café Claude (p. 31), Gitane (p. 24), and Plouf (40 Belden Pl., 415-986-6491) for drinks and bites (flirting with accented hottie waiters at each destination).
Other Ideas: A16 (p. 58), Bar Crudo (p. 121), Bar Tartine (p. 33), Betelnut (p. 82), Bocadillos (p. 102), Contigo (p. 49), Delfina (p. 137), Destino (p. 24), District (216 Townsend St., 415-896-2120), Farina (p. 127), Florio (p. 57), Gitane (p. 24), Heaven’s Dog (p. 74), J Lounge (p. 15), Laïola (p. 30), Mamacita (p. 16), nopa (p. 17), Oola (p. 55), Ottimista Enoteca-Café (1838 Union St., 415-674-8400), Range (p. 59), RN74 (p. 128), SPQR (p. 51), Umami (p. 57)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments   ix
Nice to Me(a)t You: An Introduction   1
How to Use This Book (Is This Thing On?)   2
For the Ladies   4
Girls’ Night Out   4
Bachelorette Blowout (No Hairdryer Needed)   6
Bridal or Baby Shower (Brunch or Lunch)   7
Take Your Girlfriend/Wifey/Mistress Out for Her Birthday   8
Ladies Who Lunch   10
Ladies Who Lunch Like Dudes   11
Two for Tea   12
Fancy Mom/Stepmom Dinner   13
Lesbian Hangouts   14
For the Fellas   16
Guys on the Town   16
Bachelor Party Patrol   17
Take Your Boyfriend/Beau/Hubby Out for His Birthday   19
Guys’ Lunch (Dude Food)   21
Just Wanna Watch Sports and Eat My Wings   22
Bromance (We’re Not Gay, Just Friends)   23
“Actually, We Are Gay” Dinner   24
Romantic Gay Dinner   25
Just the Two of Us   27
Let’s Meet Up: Online Dating ;)   27
No Table Needed: Date One (or Two) at the Bar   29
Date One   30
Date Two   31
Date Three   33
“Morning After” Breakfast   34
Romantic Date   36
Super-Important Date (Anniversary, Honeymoon, Big Birthdays)   38
Late Date   39
Cheap Date   40
Offbeat Date Spots   41
The One-Two: Drinks and Dinner (a.k.a. Slap and Tickle)   43
Casual Midweek Date Spots   48
Date and Dine at the Bar   50
Lunch Date (Another Kind of Nooner)   52
Sexy Dinner   53
Eat and Cheat   54
Shituations   56
Dump Him or Her: The Last Supper   56
Drowning Your Sorrows (Just Dumped)   57
Dinner with the Ex-/Old Flame   58
Just Laid Off (What Color Is Your Parachute, Yo?)   60
Flying Solo   61
Good (or Hip) Spots for Solo Dining   61
Midweek/Casual Counter Dining   62
Midweek Casual and Cheap Eats: No Counter Needed   63
Out with a Friend   64
Hip and Moderately Priced   64
Fun, Cool, and Cheap Eats   66
Hip but Not a Total Scene (Slightly Spendy)   67
Catch Up with a Good Friend (Less Ruckus)   68
Groupthink   70
Affordable Birthday Group Dinner   70
Twenty- to Fortysomething Group Dinner (Hip/Spendy)   73
Offbeat or Ethnic Group Dinner Locations   75
Just Drinks and Bites (Private Rooms/Areas)   77
Double Date   79
Big Birthday Group Dinner (Private Rooms)   80
Child’s Birthday   81
Sweet Sixteen Birthday Dinner   82
Rehearsal Dinner (Private Rooms)   83
Good for Buyouts   84
City Hall Wedding (Civic Center Lunch or Dinner)   86
All in the Family   87
Dinner with Your Parents (Conservative or Cool Ones)   87
Quiet Dinner with the Grandparents   89
Cool (or Bad) (or Gay) Aunt or Uncle in Town   90
Meet the Parents/Future In-Laws   92
Kid-Friendly (Other Kids Will Be Throwing Food)   93
Cool Parents (and Well-Behaved Kids)   94
Dinner with Teenagers   95
Lunch with the Grandkids   97
Graduation Dinner   98
All Business   99
Power Lunch   99
Old-School Power Lunch   100
Power Dinner   101
“Fun Client” Business Dining   102
“Just the Guys” After-Work/Business Dinner   104
Conventioneers/Large Groups: Banquet Dinner   105
Popular Private Rooms   106
Get Happy after Work   107
Co-Worker Birthday Lunch   108
Coffee Date with a Client or Colleague   109
Playing Hooky   110
Special Diners (Read: I Have Needs)  111
Inexpensive Vegetarian   111
Moderately Priced Vegetarian   112
Meat Eater and Vegetarian Coexistence   112
Veganomics   113
Gluten-Free Eats   114
Picky Eaters/Nothing Weird   115
Hungover   116
Hungover (Can’t Leave Bed)   117
Restaurant Special Features   118
Late-Night Chow   118
Monday Dinner/Industry Night   121
Late Lunch during the Week (Open Continuously)   122
Nice Friday Lunch   123
Late Saturday Lunch   123
Sunday Brunch without Lines (Reservations Accepted)   124
Just Dessert   125
You’re Not in Charge (One-of-a-Kind Tasting Menus)   126
Rubbernecking   127
Music, Maestro, Please!   128
Fit for Cork Dorks   128
Food with Yer Pooch   129
Outdoor Dining   131
San Francisco Style   135
Farmers’ Market Freshy Fresh   135
Big City Dining   136
Where to Impress Manhattanites   137
Under the Radar   138
Food That Rates as Good as the View   138
10 Tasty Bites for Those on a Budget   140
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things   143
Burger (Cloth Napkin)   143
Burger (Paper Napkin)   144
Burger (Vegetarian)   144
Burrito (Super, Baby)   145
Chilaquiles   145
Couscous   146
Dessert   146
Dim Sum   147
Eggs Benedict   147
Espresso   147
Falafel wrap  148
Fried Chicken   149
Hot (Diggity) Dogs   149
KFC (Korean Fried Chicken)   150
Noodles/Ramen   151
Oysters   151
Philly Cheesesteak   152
Pho   152
Pizza (Deep Dish)   153
Pizza (Neopolitan/Thin Crust)   153
Pizza (Old School)   154
Pupusas   154
Salad   155
Salumi   156
Sandwiches   156
Steak   157
Sushi   158
Tacos   158
Specific Locations   160
By Cuisine   160
By Location   161
One-, Two-, and Three-Day Itineraries   163
One Day in San Francisco   163
Two Days in San Francisco   166
Three Days in San Francisco   168
The 510: Twenty-Five Things Worth the Drive
Across the Bay Bridge   171

There’s Gold in Them There Suburbs: Fifteen Gems
in the 650 (and 408)   174

Top Picks North of San Francisco (The Wine Country
and More)   179

North Bay   179
Wine Country   181
Drink Your Dinner   192
Blind Date or First Date   192
Date Night   194
Birthday Drinks   194
Private Party Rooms   195
Girls’ Night Out   196
Bromance   197
Get Lucky (by Neighborhood)   198
Wino Meat Markets   202
Cougar Dens   202
Drink with Industry Folks   203
Dive-o-Rama   204
Open Early (Dawn Patrol)   204
Cork Dorks   205
Suds   205
Some of My Favorite Go-To Bars   206
My Favorite Gay Bars   207
Lesbionic   208
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes   208
Specific Cocktail Quests   209
Only in San Francisco: Classic Cocktailing Locations   209
Culinary Cocktails, Handcrafted with Love   210
Drinks and a View   212
Jazzy   213
Tequila!   213
Other Ideas   214
Index   223
Notes   229
Marcia Gagliardi

About Marcia Gagliardi

Marcia Gagliardi - The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco

Photo © Andrea Scher SuperheroDesigns

Marcia (rhymes with Garcia) Gagliardi is a freelance food writer and culinary personality, known as the tablehopper. Marcia and her free weekly e-column are among the Bay Area’s most trusted resources for thoughtful recommendations on where to eat, drink, and hobnob. She has appeared on Oprah & Friends: The Gayle King Show, Playboy TV, the Martha Stewart Living Today radio show, and many local programs. She has been zipping around the Bay in her red Alfa Romeo since 1994, and has been writing about food since 2002.


"Zagat, move aside, because the 'hopper is in the house!"
--Cooking with Amy, 3/24/10

"An irreverent, but terrifically practical guidebook."
--San Jose Mercury News, 3/17/10

"Marcia Gagliardi, aka the Tablehopper, has earned serious cred as a trusted industry insider who knows what's new, hot and delicious in the city's restaurant and bar scene.  Fans of her cheeky e-newsletter which posts every Tuesday have been chomping at the bit for this day." 
--San Francisco Restaurant Examiner, 3/9/10

"Marcia Gagliardi, The Tablehopper foundress and sassy food writer extraordinaire, has managed to pack nearly 600 of her favorite spots into a handy 5”x7” guidebook."
--SF.Eater.com, 3/9/10

"Truly the best restaurant guide we've seen dedicated to the city by the bay."
--Splendora.com, 3/8/10

"Redefining what a city guide should be, Marcia Gagliardi's first book has got to be the hippest, on-the-money, and smartest guide to eating out in San Francisco ever published. . . . [A]bsolutely mandatory reading for Bay Area eaters."
--Edible San Francisco, Winter 2010 issue

  • The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco by Marcia Gagliardi
  • March 09, 2010
  • Travel - Restaurants; Travel - Reference
  • Ten Speed Press
  • $16.00
  • 9781580081283

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