Bay Area / Marin County / Napa County recs?

I’m traveling to California for work again, I’ll be there two weeks, maybe longer. I’d like some intel on the Bay Area / Marin County / Napa County. I’ll be bringing Significant Eater with me.

I’ve been reading the SF board daily, there’s tons of intel there, but there’s no threads devoted to “Best of” or “Essential” or if you want to be less controversial, how about a “When you’re visiting XYZ, try XYZ”?

Or could one point me in the direction of reviewers/blogs from a foodie’s perspective?

I’d love to do an HO trip, I can visit all of HO’s biggest hits. :laughing:

Since you mentioned you are here again, let me ask you- what did you eat on prior trips, and liked/ disliked? And what do you normally like to eat most?

I’ll be in Central California, with day/weekend trips to Central Coast and/or Bay Area.

I like a bargain! Anything under $50pp will be great, but I’m willing to go up to $100-$150pp. Of course I have an affinity for Asian food, but I’m curious about the great Mexican food truck scene in Central Valley. I’m actually going to retrace a lot of the places from this article.

I haven’t been to the Bay Area in decades, on my radar: Tartine, Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for Rancho Gordo Beans and Cowgirl Creamery. But I don’t have to, last thing I want to do is a tourist trap.

That’s all I have planned for now. I’ll add more as I polish my list.

And I happily invite any Central Valley recommendations. Foodie destinations seem scarce, but maybe I’m not looking in the right place? Any farmer market must-haves?

If you find yourself near Salinas, check out El Charrito. They have fabulous handmade flour tortillas filled simply with your choice of meats. They are known for their chile verde. A soft flour tortilla, a swipe of creamy beans, a small scoop of rice, and a scoop of chile verde - hand held delight rather than the over stuffed too much for one meal type mission burritos.


There’s some useful information here:

Since you are coming from Central California, I’ll add some unconventional options that tourists don’t consider:

  • Vietnamese in San Jose
  • Indian in Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Fremont

Here are some favorites that occur to me this moment, and none of these are classic/ essential SF:

  • Nyum Bai, Cambodian, Oakland
  • Dyafa, Palestinian, Oakland
  • Temple Club, Vietnamese, Oakland
  • Kiraku, izakaya, Berkeley

Just keep in mind that some of these places are located in places that no tourist will ever show up, and will make you wonder if you should be there in the first place, good food or not.

If you are in SF/ Napa, you will probably just stick with Californian, etc. Those list are fairly easy to find, unless you have specific preferences.

How about Basque in Central Valley?


Thanks! I added Dyafa to my list, I’ve been wanting to try it ever since I read your review. Palestinian food is under-represented in Las Vegas.

Actually my list is all Oakland except for Dragon Beaux. Maybe I’ll skip San Francisco altogether? Heresy?

Besides work (where will that be?), do you have any activities planned? If so, we may be able to give you some more location. specific guidance.

Also, check out eater’s Where to Eat guide. It’s a good start for ideas, and we can slash and burn through what appeals to you to guide you to the gems :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the link! I forgot about some famous places, like Slanted Door and Bi-Rite.

Not to delve too much into my personal life (I don’t do anything exciting, but I don’t want to be “hounded” at work about my food choices), I’m coming from Fresno, way of Bakersfield and Las Vegas. I’m coming with Mr. Smokey, who is not a foodie and, quite frankly, is cheap, so no $400pp tasting menus.

I’ll be in Central Valley a lot in the foreseeable future and I’ll have to eat out everyday. Honest first impression; it’s very suburban, with a lot of chains, and most my co-workers eat at home. Eating out doesn’t seem to be a big thing. I’m excited to find out about their not-so-well-known Mexican food truck culture.

Our weekend treks will be our yearly vacation outing, so we can splurge. Before HO, I was going to vacation in Calistoga, which is one of my favorite places in the world. But now I want to take a detour and go through Oakland, maybe SF, I’m more excited about Oakland, and probably spend a night in Berkeley or thereabouts.

I’m still in the planning stages, I didn’t expect to head out to California so early. I’ll be there again in October.

The Central Valley is suburban?
Interesting. I used to call it Kansas.


I’m contemplating Central Valley Basque food. Take one for the team?


Some threads I’m sure you’ve seen, but I’ll link since they’re on topic

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Rancho Gordo no longer has a store at the Ferry Building :frowning: but you can get their beans in bulk at Rainbow Grocery and in 16 oz. packages throughout the Bay Area.

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This was perfect! I can’t believe I missed it. Thanks!

Slanted Door is good but not as great as it’s puffed up to be. The Vietnamese food in San Jose or the extremely authentic Central Viet street food at Temple Club is superior, IMHO.

Don’t know if Daughter Thai Kitchen/Oakland is on your list, but they have some good dishes.

Our fav place in Oakland hands-down is Belotti restaurant on College. Closest thing to great French food in the EBay. We stick to the starters (spinach tortino) and pastas, especially the agnolotti in a sauce of cultured butter and glace de viande, and the tagliatelle in wild boar sauce - both exquisite.

If you can catch them before they close up for the night, slip into Chocolate Dragon two doors down for the most amazing hot chocolate or mocha ever. A unique blend of their own with great fruitiness and depth. You’ll never be content with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a mocha ever again, LOL.

We enjoyed Carpe Diem wine bar in downtown Napa last time we were there. Excellent wine and beer list, and the food was not only hearty but amazing in quality and execution; as well as reasonably priced. A rarity in Napa!

The Fremont/Sunnyvale area is also good for Afghani food as well as Indian.


I was thinking about DTK, but thought since the op has places like Lotus of Siam back home she may be somewhat covered in the thai department. (I haven’t been to LoS yet, so don’t have a comparison.)

There’s still plenty to eat in the city. East Bay has Californian of course, but choices in SF in that area is plenty. (Or if don’t want to go all the way in to the Bay Area to eat Californian, I heard Range Life in Livermore, run by ex-SF people, is getting some good reports…)

And I think it really depends on what you want to do in the hours you aren’t eating.

Honestly, I’m going for the sole purpose of eating. :slight_smile:

If it wasn’t for HO, I would’ve bypassed Bay area entirely and gone to Napa Valley via Rte 99.

I like Oakland because it seems more ethnic-centric and it sounds less of a hassle to get in and out of.

And I’d like to make a stop in Berkeley, I have never been to Berkeley.

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If you are in Fresno on a Thursday-Sunday, check out the food trucks and beer at Gazebo Gardens (a nursery).

Fresno has Armenian restaurants and delis, something that’s not as common in the Bay Area. Also, check out the Tower District if you want a break from the strip malls. It has charming cafes and restaurants. There’s also a good brewery, House of Pendragon, in North Fresno. I live near Berkeley, where we have a ton of breweries, and my husband is an avid home brewer, and both of us think HOP’s beers are interesting.


If you’re going to Berkeley, you may want to check out Iyasare, especially if owner/chef Shotaro Kamio is in the kitchen (he has a CA-bistro restaurant next door and splits his time between the two). The kakiage with optional tiger shrimp is always outstanding. When Kamio is there, the food is more on-point than when he’s absent.

Fourth Street is a fun shopping and browsing district about a half-mile long, in West Berkeley. Check out The Gardener store if you go - one of those places you’d move into in a minute if possible, LOL.

Oh, one last thought - if you enjoy a bargain and don’t mind a minimal fast-casual meal, the Israeli food at Ba-Bite/Oakland is amazing. You will never look at hummus as ordinary again.

Don’t know if you’re up for Ethiopian food, but out of the 14 we’ve tried in the EBay, Lemat/Berkeley and Injera/Alameda are our favorites. We like old-style Ethiopian food with the niter kibbeh (spiced clarified butter), not the newer style with healthy but bland EVOO. Lemat is the prettier of the two, but both have the same gutsy, vibrant, spicy stewed meats/veggies we enjoy.


Thanks to everyone again for the excellent recommendations, I read every single one of them, and I sincerely appreciate them. I’m sorry I could not get to them all, but they were taken into consideration.

Just a quick update, I will follow up with a more detailed report next week, the trip to Napa was not what I expected. I was with the Mister and we did mostly tourist things. We went to Pier 1, had ice cream at Humphrey Slocombe, bought cheese at Cowgirl creamery and bought bread at Acme bread. SF prices were astronomical, I wasn’t prepared ($60 for parking!) so we were limited in time and money, but I can splurge on a future trip when it’s just me.
Stopped at downtown Berkeley, but did not eat there. Shopped at the Farmers market, then headed to Vallejo where we stayed, then to Napa in the morning. Napa was gorgeous as always, visited Oxbow market, amazing breakfast at Model bakery, then had brunch at Bouchon (I know there’s one in Vegas but Mr Smokey is a fan and he didn’t want anything exotic, that was a reoccurring theme), next, we bought pastries next door then spent the day at Chandon vineyard.
It was an amazing trip! I wish it was more food-centric but that’s not always thecase with a non-foodie SO.

I’ve also been exploring Central Valley and will have some great threads to post after I get home.

More to come… everyone, thank you! What a tremendous resource HO is!