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Transcript: San Francisco

Sharron Wood answered your questions on vacationing in San Francisco on March 16, 2004

Sharron Wood: Restaurants right around Union Square tend not to be cheapest in the city. There are several little authentic French cafés on the border between Union Square and the Financial District. I like Café Claude, where you can get baguette sandwiches, charcuterie plates, and a nice glass of wine for a reasonable price. King of Thai Noodle House has a branch near Union Square that has good, inexpensive Thai food. Taqueria El Balazo has a branch on Mint Street where you can get some of the best burritos in the city. Note that to save money at lunch it's a good idea to walk the few blocks toward the Financial District. Many restaurants new Union Square cater to tourists and are pretty pricey. In the Financial District lunch restaurants cater to locals, and the quality and prices tend to be better.

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Raleigh, NC: Was wondering if you could suggest some websites to visit to find out what kind of local activities are going on, like weekly concerts, sporting events and so on.

Sharron Wood: The web site affiliated with the San Francisco Chronicle, our daily newspaper is good. sfgate.com. Click on Entertainment. Also check out www.digitalcity.com/sanfrancisco.

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USA Hello, Could you tell me of any good martini bars in San Francisco?

Sharron Wood: One of the best martini bars is Martunis, on the corner of Market and Valencia, where a mixed gay and straight crowd drinks all sorts of wacky specialty martinis (as well as the original sort). There's a piano in the back room, and people like to stage impromptu singing performances when there's a piano player. Club Deluxe, on Haight Street, is popular with a hip young crowd who likes to dress up and drink swanky cocktails.

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Atlanta, GA: Having not eaten in San Francisco's Chinatown, I was wondering if there was a restaurant you could recommend whose dim sum would be equal to, if not possibly surpassing, that of Jade Villa in Oakland's Chinatown. Thank you.

Sharron Wood: I think the best two dim sum restaurants are, oddly enough, not in Chinatown. Yank Sing has phenomenal (if somewhat pricey) dim sum in the Financial District, and Yank Sing, in the Richmond, is also very good. In Chinatown I like New Asia on Pacific Asia, though I think it's debatable if it's better than Jade Villa, which has excellent dim sum.

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Boston, MA: Sharron, In your opinion, what is the best restaurant for seafood? Best restaurant all-around? We're planning to stay at the Orchard Hotel. How does their restaurant rate?

Sharron Wood: I always have a hard time answering questions about the "best" restaurants--it depends on what you're looking for, the sort of ambience you like, how much money you're willing to spend, and what kind of mood you're in. That said, for seafood the very pricey Aqua is generally considered the best seafood restaurant in the city, and one of the best restaurants in San Francisco period. For a cheaper (and quirkier) seafood experience, consider Swan Oyster Depot, open lunch only, where you perch on these rickety stools to eat superfresh seafood simply prepared. For best restaurant period I'd probably go to Gary Danko for a sublime foodie experience (foie gras, lobster bisque, extravagant desserts and cheeses), or to Boulevard for out-of-this world American food in a beautiful, romantic interior. I haven't eaten at the Orchard Hotel's restaurant, Solea, yet.

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Sooma, CA: What do you think is the most romantic restaurant in San Francisco?

Sharron Wood: I like the very swanky Boulevard, which has a beautiful Belle Epoque feel and exceptional food. But for more reasonably priced romance, try the vaguely industrial but very dimly lit Slow Club, a hip place for hearty American food, or the French-influenced Bistro Aix in the Marina District, where there's a covered patio out back that's made for romance.

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Manasquan, NJ: We will be in San Fran in June for 2-3 days. Where is an inexpensive place to stay near the trolley line and close to the Wharf? We are renting a car on the third day to see wine country. We have 2 weeks. I want to see Carmel, anywhere nice there to stay on a budget?

Sharron Wood: There are a few different cable car lines that crisscross the city, but I'm assuming you mean you're looking for a hotel near the Hyde Street cable car turnaround, which is close to Fisherman's Wharf. Unfortunately, a lot of the hotels in that area are big corporate chains, neither particularly cheap nor charming, but there are a few reasonably priced places to stay that have a bit more character. My favorite in the area is the San Remo Hotel, a European-style hotel (read: rooms share a bathroom down the hall). Rooms are small but charming. Reserve well in advance, though, because it's quite popular.
Visiting the Wine Country is a great idea. For a slightly more relaxed experience, I'd suggest focusing on Sonoma County rather than Napa. The crowds are slightly smaller, and towns like Glen Ellen and Kenwood and rustic and charming.
Carmel is notorious for lacking any budget options, unless you're willing to stay in a neighboring area like Pacific Grove, where the Andril Fireplace Cottages (www.andrilcottages.com) has some good options. But if you really only have two or three days in the San Francisco area I'd probably skip Carmel. You'r' going to have your hands full visiting SF and the Wine Country.

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