Saturday, October 24, 2009

Best Restaurants in San Francisco - 2009/2010

The new "Zagat 2010 Bay Area Restaurants" and "The Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area, and Wine Country Restaurants 2010" were recently released. So it's time for Blue Heron's annual summary of the critics' choices for the best restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Zagat's list of the five most popular restaurants includes Gary Danko, Boulevard, The French Laundry (Yountville, Napa Valley), The Slanted Door, and Chez Panisse (Berkeley). The top rated for food are Gary Danko, Cyrus (Healdsburg), and The French Laundry with 29 points. Kiss Seafood, Acquerello, La Folie, Masa's, Erna's Elderberry House (Oakhurst, south of Yosemite National Park), Kaygetsu (Menlo Park), Chez Panisse, Sushi Ran (Sausalito), and Coi received 28 points. All restaurants are in San Francisco unless otherwise noted.

Once again, Michelin awarded three stars to only one restaurant in the Bay Area: the French Laundry in Yountville in the Napa Valley. Two stars were awarded to Cyrus in Healdsburg, Coi in San Francisco, Manresa in Los Gatos, and the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena in the Napa Valley. Former two-star restaurants Aqua and Michael Mina lost two and one stars respectively. Thirty-four restaurants in the Bay Area received one star.

The "San Francisco Chronicle" awards four stars to the top restaurants. Current recipients are Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Cyrus in Healdsburg, Manresa in Los Gatos, the French Laundry in Yountville, and Coi, La Folie, Michael Mina, and The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco.

While I have not dined at all of these restaurants, I did return to Gary Danko a few months ago and it remains my favorite in San Francisco.

Come to San Francisco and you'll have a chance to pick your favorite. Be sure to make your reservations well in advance as these top restaurants frequently well in advance. If you wait until the last minute, you may not be able to get a table or may have to dine at 5:30 or 10:00 p.m.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Coffee and Sweets Along the Way to Monterey

The drive from San Francisco to Monterey along the coast takes between 2.5 and 3 hours, depending on how many times you stop for photos. You may also want to stop for some caffeine and sugar to keep the body going. There are two places I recommend.

About 30 - 40 minutes south of San Francisco, you'll come to the town of Half Moon Bay. It has a nice downtown with some interesting shops and a few galleries. At the north end of Main Street, in a small shopping center, you'll find the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company, home of strong coffee, espresso drinks, some yummy pastries, and full breakfasts. To get to HMB Coffee Co., take the left turn off of CA 1 onto Main Street. You'll come to a stoplight at CA 92. Go through the light and turn left onto Stone Pine Road. (You can see the Stone Pine Center and HMB Coffee Co. If you cross the Main Street bridge, you've gone too far.) Turn left onto Stone Pine Road Then turn right into the Stone Pine Center parking lot. The coffee shop is at the far end of the parking lot. Once you've fueled up, continue south on Main Street to see the town of Half Moon Bay. Main Street ends at Route 1 and you can continue south to Monterey.

Closer to the halfway point of your journey is the very small town of Davenport. Don't blink or you'll miss it. On the inland side of CA 1 is the Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill. As the name implies, you can get sweets, full meals, coffee, and more potent beverages. It's a friendly spot to sit and enjoy a coffee and sweet. If it's a nice day, take your snack outside to the patio. Be sure to check out the surf shop next door.

If you would like to take a private tour from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel that includes a stop at one of these bakeries, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Alley - Two Restaurants

Last post I wrote about Belden Place, a block-long alley with eight restaurants. Less than a block away from Belden Place is Claude Lane. This block-long alley is just west of Kearny running between Bush and Sutter.

Café Claude and Gitane not only share the alley, but also have the same owners as well as both indoor and outdoor dining. Café Claude serves French cuisine and feels like a Parisian cafe. Many French classics such as salade Niçoise and coq au van grace the menu. Café Claude has live jazz from 7:30 - 10:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The restaurant is open for dinner nightly and for lunch daily except Sunday. Café Claude features a happy hour from 4:00 until 6:00 p.m from Monday through Saturday.

Gitane serves food with influences from the Basque region of Spain and France and has a more modern feel to it. Here you can dine on chicken or vegetable tajine, paella, and other tasty dishes. It's easy to make a meal by sampling a couple of appetizers. Gitane is open for dinner from Tuesday through Saturday. You can dine until midnight or hang out at the bar until 1:00 a.m.

If you're staying near Union Square, atop Nob Hill, or in the Financial District, both Claude Lane and Belden Place are a short walk from your hotel.