BY ALBA DESANTIAGO
Shake off the post-holiday blues–San Francisco Restaurant Week, or otherwise known as Dine About Town, begins this Wednesday, January 15. For those unfamiliar with this semi-annual event, for the next two weeks several San Francisco restaurants will be offering special 2-course lunches for $18.95 and/or 3-course dinners for $36.95. These prix-fixe menus are a great way for diners to experience new restaurants and in some cases new dishes that are not normally offered on restaurants’ regular menu. Dine About Town began in 2001 as a way to encourage San Francisco residents and visitors to dine out during traditionally slow periods in the restaurant business. Some restaurants will offer special DAT lunch and dinner menus, while some will only offer lunch-only, or dinner-only. In almost all cases the restaurant’s regular menu is also available. Reservations are not required but highly recommended, especially for popular restaurants with limited space.
The Dine About Town website features a list of participating restaurants and handy filtering tools to sort by cuisine, neighborhood and even vegetarian options. Even with the nifty filtering tools, navigating through the massive list of restaurants and menus is a bit of a daunting task. Even with a generous two week span of the event, it is important to do a bit of research before making reservations on Open Table. Below are a few carefully selected recommendations which include menus and restaurants that are of a particularly good value and/or have notable dishes that are worth a try.
Special note: Prices do not include gratuity, tax or Healthy SF fee. Sadly, some menus are not yet available on the Dine About Town or on the restaurant websites. Also, please be aware that substitutions are rarely allowed for DAT prix-fixe menus.
Dinner and a show: Asia SF and Supperclub are both offering dinner and a show for $36.95 during Dine About Town, which may constitute the best bang for your buck. The legendary SF drag club, Asia SF serves California-influenced Asian cuisine, which like the show, may not be to everyone’s tastes but is well-worth experimenting. Supperclub is known for serving dinner on giant beds and its artsy, avant guard performances. Their prix-fixe menu features a tempura mushroom appetizer, fillet mingnon and crème brulée for dessert. Both restaurants are great for birthdays or a night out with the girls (or boys).
Variety is the spice of life: North Beach Italian restaurant E Tutto Qua, may offer the largest menu for Dine About Town. Living up to its name which means “everything is here,” the DAT menu offers a whopping 7 options for an appetizer, 10 options for main course and 5 dessert options. With so many choices, it’s a crowd pleaser and great for accommodating different tastes in food.
French Romance: San Francisco has its fair share of French restaurants and it seems as if they are all in competition to give diners the most authentic French dining experience. One of the most well-know and well regarded French Restaurants is Absinthe, which is offering a lunch menu for DAT. The menu features their famous croque monsieur as a main course option, along with a tagliatelle dish or a pork tenderloin. Restaurant Isa in the Marina is offering a generous 4-course dinner, which includes several tasty options including a truffle risotto, seared scallops, braised short ribs and other great California/French dishes. For a taste of grandma’s French cooking, try Chapeau! in the inner Richmond. Unfortunately, the DAT menu for this restaurant was unavailable for review, but the establishment deserves a bit of acknowledgment for their consistently excellent dishes and their love for foie gras. Since the California foie gras ban, it has of course been removed from the menu. Instead expect to find classic French dishes like cassoulet with duck and lamb (perfect for dinner on a cold night), steamed mussels with a white wine sauce and a vegetable Napoleon with green curry.
Classic San Francisco: Let’s ignore that fact that One Market lost its Michelin star last year—dining here is a special treat and for DAT, the restaurant is offering lunch and dinner menus. In fact, there are 2 dinner menus being offered for dinner, a 3-course menu for $36.95 and a second menu for $44.95. The second menu is almost completely different than first and features a tuna carpaccio and duck breast with chocolate among other choices. The menu for $36.95 has several options including their famous house-made parmesan gnocchi, lamb tongue salad and croissant bread pudding for dessert. For dinner with a view there is Fog Harbor Fish House on Pier 39 and Cioppino’s in Fisherman’s Wharf. The food speaks for itself: Fog Harbor has Ahi tuna poke, grilled swordfish and salmon and even a steak option for dinner. Cioppino’s is of course offering their signature namesake dish prepared with crab, clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp. The lunch menu offers a Dungeness crab sandwich on toasted sourdough, which may very well be San Francisco on a plate. Both restaurants’ menus have a variety of seafood choices and are great options for out-of-towners or anyone who wants to pretend to be a tourist for an evening.
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