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Recommendations? Best Restaurants in L.A./ San Francisco/ Napa Valley!

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Hello,
We are travelling to L.A./ San Francisco with mini stays in Camarillo (going to the outlet mall); Carmel by the Sea; and two days in Napa Valley for wine tours/ tastings while in San Francisco. Most of the time however will be in L.A./ San Francisco doing touristy things and we will have a car. We love to eat amazing food when travelling, and would appreciate some recommendations on best restaurants in L.A. and San Francisco. Looking for a combination of 'fancy' places/ 'foodies' top picks (love the food network channel/ Top Chef shows and tried to get reservations at Curtis Stone's 'Maude' restaurant in L.A. but they were fully booked/ 'casual' but still delicious/ and since we are visiting California for the first time, would love some tips on where we might be able to dine and spot celebrities at the same time :) Thanks in advance!

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    Here is something I posted about a year ago.

    First, I should briefly describe the type of restaurant we seek out. We like food & presentations that we can't/won't do at home or find at hundreds of other restaurants in San Francisco. We like something clever & unusual. My wife loves fish - sardines, anchovies, squid, scallops, Dourade, etc. We don't order sole, beef, or crab - because those are things we have at home quite often. I'm not a pasta lover - so I stay away from pasta unless it has some special "stuff" on it. Then I might have it as an appetizer. We spend 2 months in France most years, so we go there for our French cuisine.

    Given these food preferences, we find ourselves dining at a lot of ethnic restaurants (I don't consider "ethnic" to be French or Italian).

    We won't dine at any restaurant that has a "bomb" noise rating from the San Francisco restaurant critic.

    It is near the end of 2013, so here are the restaurants that we liked and dined at this year. Ones we won't return to are not on this list.

    - Aziza, where we dined this past Saturday. Way out on Geary. Moroccan/California cuisine. This is a Michelin 1 star restaurant and one of our favorites. We've dined here maybe 7-8 times.

    - Farallon, where we dined last Wednesday before a musical at the nearby Curren theater. Near Union Square. Seafood with an amazing interior. Lots of tourists & businessmen. Basic menu - and a little pricey. We've dined here 3 times & a good choice of you want to eat in the Union Square area.

    - Delfina in the Mission, where we dined a week ago - Saturday. Italian, but not a North Beach red-sauce type place. Very popular. We've dined there 6-7 times.


    - Osha on Union Street. Thai. Very loud. We get there early when there is less noise, and we sit next to the window so we can people-watch on Union Street.

    - Pasion in the inner Sunset on Irving St. Peruvian. Perhaps the last remaining Fern Bar in the City is across the street. We've dined here 5-6 times - 3 times this year.

    - Zare at Fly Trap in SOMA. Calif cuisine. We had one excellent meal here & one "good" one. Quiet with nice interior.

    - Fattoush in the Noe Valley. Middle Eastern. You won't find this in any guide books. Order the Mansaf. Very reasonably priced.

    - Pomelo in the Noe Valley. World food. We've dined here more often than any other restaurant. Excellent Paella on the Fri, Sat, & Sunday closest to the 15th of the month (based on Friday's date). I had an excellent brunch here yesterday - different than the "standard" brunch/egg/pancake offering. Very reasonably priced.

    - Contigo in the Noe Valley. Spanish. One of our favorites. Have the tasting menu. We've dined here 6-7 times

    - Foreign Cinema in the Mission. Calif. Very nice interior, and quieter than most restaurants in the Mission. One of only 3 restaurants that we frequent in the Mission. We've been there 4-5 times, and have rewervations again for November..

    - Spruce, way out on Sacramento Street. Calif cuisine. Kind of a splurge. More formal and much quieter than most restaurants. You might see some sport coats here. Nice area - most tourists don't get out here.

    - Skool close to Potrero Hill. Seafood with an Asian twist. One of our favorites. Dined here 5-6 times.

    - Plaj. Civic Center at the Inn at the Opera. Swedish cuisine. Excellent venison. Civic Center area can be a little "threatening" at night.

    - Thanh Long way out on Judah. Vietnamese. We go here quite often after returning from one of our vacations and need an "Asian fix". Noted for their Dungeness Crab - which we do not order (see above). Excellent appetizers. "Must order" their Drunken Beef and Garlic Noodles. We've dined here 8-10 times.

    - State Bird Provisions in the Western Addition. Calif Cuisine - dem sum style. Currently, the most difficult reservation to get in the City. May be impossible.!!!. Recently named "best new restaurant" in a food/travel magazine. They just remodeled and will re-open soon. We've dined here twice.


    For a special occasion, or if someone else is paying:

    - La Folie on Polk St. French. A Michelin 1 star. We went here on my birthday. I am a big fan of the chef. We've dined here 5-6 times.

    - Acquerello in Polk Gulch. Italian - perhaps the best pure Italian place in the City. We've only dined here once.

    - Quince downtown. Italian/Calif. Perhaps our best meal in the City in the past 5 years. We've dined here 3 times (twice when it was at another location).


    Other restaurants we like, but didn't dine at this year.

    - AQ in SOMA. Calif cuisine "Best new restaurant of the year" a few years ago. Area a little dodgy. We've dined here 3 times.

    - Chapeau! in the inner Richmond district. This is the "other" French restaurant that we frequent. Excellent menu with a fixed-price option. Congenial owner. One of our favorites. We've dined here maybe 8-10 times over the last 20 years.

    - Betelnut on Union St. Asian food. This has been here a long time. It changed its name/menu this year - and then changed it back to the "original" when there was a flood of protests. Outside dining. We've dined here around 9 times.

    - Marnee Thai in the inner Sunset close to Pasion, on Irving just off 9th Ave. This is a very popular hole-in-the-wall place with excellently presented Thai cuisine. Reserve ahead if you don't want to wait in line. We've dined here twice.

    - Commonwealth in the Mission. Calif/creative cuisine. Very popular. A little "rustic". We've dined here twice.

    - La Mar near the Ferry Bldg. Peruvian. Nice ambience. We've dined here 3 times.

    - Gitane. Downtown/Financial district. French/Spanish. One of our favorites. Cozy/clubby atmosphere. In an alley. We've dined here 4-5 times. Will do so again before the year is up.

    - Perbacco. Downtown/Financial District. Italian - with some unusual twists. We've dined here 3-4 times.

    - Padrecito in the Cole Valley. "New" Mexican. This is a newly opened off-shoot of Mamacita in the Marina, which has excellent "new" Mexican food - but is VERY loud. We love the food, but have to take ear plugs with us when we go to Mamacita. We have reservations for Padrecito for the week after next - hoping it is not as noisy as Momacita.

    - Zuni on Market near Civic Center. Calif. cuisine. Well known female chef, noted for her rotisserie chicken - but we don't order it. This has been around forever - and is still packing them in. Sometimes we find something "new & original" on the menu, and sometimes we don't. Been here 5-6 times. (8/16/14 note - the female chef (Judy Rodgers) passed away this year).

    - Frances in the Castro. Excellent Michelin 1 star restaurant. Reservations are difficult to get. We've dined here twice.

    Stu Dudley

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    In San Francisco, since you are a Food Network fan, Tyler Florence has opened Wayfare Tavern.
    I second Delfina, Foreign Cinema and Zuni Cafe. For restaurants on the waterfront where the food is above average, try Coqueta, Slanted Door and Waterbar. Have a great trip and welcome to California!

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    Wow, thank you so much everyone for the recommendations!!
    Stu Dudley - thank you so much for all of the details, your message is amazing, we will definitely look in to these!
    Gabrielle - I have already googled Wayfare Tavern, thanks for the suggestion!!
    And thank you Michael for the website, we will check it out!
    Thanks!!! :)

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