Dear Babe,

My parents are briefly in town from an undisclosed red state location. I want them to have a real San Francisco restaurant experience (eg: not the Stinking Rose), but I also don’t want to scare them with the taco trucks and questionable Thai food that makes up most of my meals.

Also, they’re both retired teachers and don’t have a lot of dough, but will be super pissed if I make any gesture to pay, so I need it to be economical. I know this sounds like an insane, unreasonable set of restrictions, but if anyone can help, it’s you.

The Rose Stinks

Dear The Rose Stinks,

I’m so with you, I can’t imagine anyone thinking The Stinking Rose is a worthy SF experience. Good thing you gave me restrictions because my first suggestion was going to be Cordon Bleu on California St. near Polk. It’s good, cheap and real San Francisco but it did scare my parents, so I only bring friends there.

Tadich Grill on California St, between Battery & Front St., is a great SF restaurant. It claims it’s the oldest and it’s very San Francisco gold rush. But you have to navigate it correctly in order to get the right experience.

1. Go on a Saturday afternoon, when it’s rarely crowded.
2. Sit at the counter so you can interact with the waiters who have been there since I was in diapers, child diapers.
3. Order a bowl of the clam chowder and the crab and shrimp dinner salad. I honestly think these are the best dishes Tadich has to offer.

It’s a whole lot of food, and the total price per person is only $17 plus tax and tip.

Another SF favorite of mine is Swan’s Oyster Depot on Polk St. near California St. It’s owned by a group of brothers whose parents owned it before them. The guys are super nice and fun to watch. It’s cash only and, again, you sit at a counter but you get to watch the brothers do their thing. The clam chowder is amazing and comes with all the oyster crackers you want and the shrimp and crab salads are just a big pile of meat on top of a wee bit of lettuce. Once again, a bowl of chowder and a salad come to about $20 per person plus tax and tip. Some of the items can be really expensive but if you order lobster you should be prepared to pay and it would be money well spent.

My third favorite suggestion is Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store on Columbus between Green & Union St. It has an old North Beach feel and focaccia sandwiches to die for. The sandwiches top out around $9 and they have the best cappuccino I’ve ever had. After lunch you can stroll past any of the Italian bakeries and get a great dessert.

For a good SF Chinatown experience go to Hunan Home’s on Jackson St., between Grant Avenue & Kearny. The food is good, it’s smack dab in the center of Chinatown, the prices are reasonable and James, the owner is a doll.

And remember, if the rose stinks, don’t eat it.

Photo: Brad Coy

Nagging questions holding you back? Babe Scanlon’s got your answer. A SF native, she’s been figuring this place out far longer than she cares to admit, and now she’s ready to share. Email her at babe@sfappeal.com and let the veil of confusion lift. Please do keep in mind: Babe Scanlon is not presenting herself as an expert in anything that means you can sue her or the Appeal if you take her advice and your life tanks. Her recommendations are just that: recommendations. View image

the author

Babe Scanlon is a writer living and working in San Francisco. She's worked as an archaeologist, computer game designer, agent at Agent Provocateur and hypnotherapist. She is controlling your mind at this very moment.

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