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Mix Editors' Restaurant Picks

Oyster Heaven
Swan Oyster Depot at 1517 Polk, near California, is my favorite seafood dive. It's tiny, has only counter seating and there's always a line, but it's worth the wait. They have cold beer and the seafood is always fresh. There is a wide array of oysters to pick from, as well as seafood salads, fantastic chowder and other assorted goodies. Double up on your Lipitor and enjoy yourself! It doesn't get much better than this. —Kevin Becka

Lose the Frappuccino
Usually when I see a bunch of people skulking around in an alley, I head the other way, but in this case, I know they’re all just harmless coffee freaks like me. There’s always a line outside the tiny Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk in Hayes Valley, and for good reason: The Oakland-based company takes “microroasting” to the extreme, offering various brews (including) espresso lovingly crafted with organic beans locally roasted that same morning and ground to order. Try any blend, I guarantee you’ll want to lick the cup. Visit the Hayes Valley location (look for the stand built from salvaged materials) or stop by the Blue Bottle cart at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. —Sarah Jones

Red's Java House
Possibly the greasiest (and cheapest) hamburger you'll ever eat, but it's FABULOUS! Make sure you eat outside. Pier 30; they don't accept credit cards, so put your AMEX away. —Sarah Benzuly

CLOSE TO MOSCONE

Big, Huge Pasta
Yeah, it’s a chain. Yeah, the food is only ok. But where else (at least in this town) can you feed a dozen people for chump change, with meatballs the size of your head? Buca di Beppo, that kitshy “Italian” restaurant famous for its gigantic portions, friendly service and crazy décor. There’s one right down the block from Moscone, making it a convenient pit stop if you’re looking for a fun place to fill up a hungry crowd. The restaurant can have hours-long waits during trade shows, so it’s best to book ahead—ask for the Pope room. 855 Howard Street—Sarah Jones

CLOSE TO MOSCONE

Lunch With Warhol
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (www.sfmoma.org), with its sleek, imposing brick façade and cylindrical tower looming over Moscone, houses not only a full scope of world-class contemporary art, but a hip, classy café offering surprisingly good eclectic fare. Caffe Museo is located adjacent to the main museum entrance on Third Street, making it a convenient stop for a quick bite to eat—no admission ticket required. They’ll even make you a take-out box if you give them 48 hours’ warning—but then you wouldn’t be tempted to bail on booth duty and take in an exhibit, or two, or three…—Sarah Jones

A Taste of France in Hayes Valley
Two favorite spots in my ‘hood, Hayes Valley, bring a touch of chic Paris to a gastronomically decadent night in SF. First, visit Hotel Biron, located down an alley called Rose, near the corner of Market and Page (near Zuni Café). The tiny, bistro-style bar offers an extensive wine list, mostly French and Californian, with many rare varieties. Sample imported cheeses, olives or truffles if you wish, and be sure to study the local art before you go.—Heather Johnson

After savoring that hearty Bordeaux, go about four blocks to the corner of Gough and Hayes for dinner at Absinthe, an upscale, yet unpretentious brasserie serving classic French fare with a Left Coast twist, and an impressive list of wine and vintage cocktails. Sorry, no absinthe. 415/551-1590.—Heather Johnson

Zeitgeist Tamale Lady!
Okay, I already used Zeitgeist as my entertainment pick, but if you're looking for a midnight tamale that is killer, head over to Zeitgeist (199 Valencia St.) for a well-deserved tasty treat! Look for the lady rolling the happy food cart -- though you might be waiting a while. While waiting, enjoy the atmosphere and grab yourself a cool beer!—Sarah Benzuly

Magnolia Pub and Brewery
The Haight-Ashbury's only brewpub combines good beer, fresh food, and friendly service in a comfortable pub setting. Located at the bustling intersection of Haight and Masonic, Magnolia is a refuge from the pace of urban living; a place to relax among friends. The pub fosters the tradition of classic English and European ale houses and the best of San Francisco's unique style. Magnolia Pub & Brewery is open from Noon until Midnight Monday through Thursday, Noon until 1 AM Friday, 10 AM until 1 AM Saturday and 10 AM until Midnight on Sundays. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 AM to 2:30 PM, we feature our special brunch menu which has become a Haight Street favorite. Stout for breakfast—who knew? Breakfast, lunch or dinner, Chef Kevin Clancy's unique, farm fresh twists on brewpub cuisine are sure to delight. Owner Dave McLean is an old friend of the Mix family, do stop by and say hello, tell him your friends at Mix sent you! 1398 Haight St., 415/864-PINT, www.magnoliapub.com. —Christen Pocock


Do Fries Come With That Freakshow?
If you’ve got money to burn and open-minded dining companions, check out Supperclub, the latest incarnation of the Amsterdam-based nightspot that’s expanded across the globe. Enjoy a five-course prix-fixe in one of the dozens of huge, luxurious beds while being entertained by the contortionists, acrobats and other performers onstage, all in a pure white 11,000-square-foot bi-level converted warehouse space that looks like an updated Clockwork Orange set. But this ain’t no family-friendly Cirque du Soleil, so save your power dinners for a steakhouse —Sarah Jones

Surf and Turf for All
Houston’s is a nationwide chain specializing in steak and seafood platters, and its San Francisco restaurant is worth a visit after a full day at the show. Locals and tourists alike patronize this establishment, which has a cozy but lively atmosphere and a well-stocked bar, and features live jazz Sunday through Thursday. Houston’s offers a range of well-prepared American cuisine—ribs, burgers, chicken, fish, salads, desserts and more—and an extensive wine list. Bring a hearty appetite; I recommend the pork chops. Houston’s often fills up during dinner hours, especially on weekends, so I advise calling in advance to make a reservation. 1800 Montgomery St.; 415/392-9280. —Matt Gallagher

Stinking Rose, 325 Columbus Ave.
Some other "those that will not be named" Mix editors may disagree on my fave restaurant place, but The Stinking Rose, for some, is a lesson in saying, "No, thanks. I think I've had enough garlic!" You may be thinking to yourself that there is never such a thing as "too much" garlic, and I'm quite inclined to agree with you, or as the chefs at the rose say, "We season our garlic with food." Whether you dabble in garlic cloves soaking in a hot tub of olive oil or the 40-clove garlic chicken, make sure you bring extra mints (and possibly some TUMs). While your stomach is gurgling from garlic goodness, check out the very "Anne Rice" decor--think "Interview With the Vampire" meets a Parisian flat.—Sarah Benzuly

Nectar and Naples in the Marina
Unless I’m on my way to a run in the Presidio, I stay the heck away from the Marina district. Too many SUVs. Too much khaki. But I’ll make an exception to visit Nectar, one of the newest wine bar/lounges to hit town and by far, one of the most fabulous—stylish décor, reasonable prices, an excellent small plate menu and more than 41 wines by the glass; hundreds by the bottle.—Heather Johnson

But don’t sample too much; you’ve got to save room for dinner at nearby A16, one of the most bustling restaurants in town. The menu is southern Italian, as in Campania, the area around Naples. Choose from halibut with celery and capers, chicken Genovese and wood oven-baked pizza and pasta. Reservations a must. 415/771-2216.—Heather Johnson

Smokin’ Latin Jazz
The name says it all: The Cigar Bar & Grill is a hip after-hours hang in the Financial District’s Jackson Square at the corner of Montgomery and Pacific, offering pool tables and an outdoor patio where patrons can kick it and light up a stogie while enjoying a cocktail. Cigars are available for purchase from its fully stocked humidor. Inside, instead of smoke, there’s fire—courtesy of the Bay Area’s hottest jazz and Latin jazz combos who appear Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. (The club/restaurant is closed on Sundays.) The Cigar Bar & Grill takes its live music seriously, and salsa dancing is often the order of the evening. It offers lunch and dinner menus, and a fine selection of wine and spirits. 850 Montgomery St.; 415/398-0850. —Matt Gallagher

North Beach Flavor
Vesuvio: Popular watering hole for the Beats, established in 1948. Head upstairs for a table near the windows and look down on the vibrant Columbus-Broadway North Beach scene. Stop in before dinner for a drink and take in the local flavor; quirky decor; the wood alone makes it feel like 1956. 255 Columbus Avenue at Jack Kerouac Alley, the heart of North Beach, next to City Lights Books. Oh, when you come out, take a look south on Columbus. That triangular green-bronze building is the home of Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, where they edited The Godfather, Godfather II, The Conversation and mmany other films. www.vesuvio.com—Tom Kenny

Tom’s Favorite North Beach Food
Michelangelo Cafe: North Beach is loaded with great restaurants, but if you make it to the top of Columbus, catty-corner from Washington Square is Michelangelo Cafe, a small, family-run establishment with a great vibe. The line moves quick, and it’s worth the wait. Friendly, family-vibe staff makes you feel welcome. Known for its ciappino and other seafood dishes, but Tom likes the linguine pesto, while Sarah always orders the Tortellini Michelangelo. The very good house red comes in a rooster; the Tiffany lamps in the ceiling inspired the game 3guess my favorite lamp2; and gummy bears are served with almond cookies at the end of every meal. Be sure to ask for the BIG wheel of parmigianna. Fun, bold art blended with Roman sculpture. Cash only.—Tom Kenny

If You Only Have Time for Lunch
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store and Cafe: So you want to duck out for a morning and make the climb to Coit Tower? On your way back, tired and famished, stop in at Mario’s for a foccacia sandwich or a thin-crust pizza. Bohemian 1970s vibe, with large murals and cramped quarters; sit outside with your cappuccino and rest your feet for the night ahead. Or go across the street to the park and take a look at SS Peter and Paul Church. Columbus near Washington Square.—Tom Kenny

A Charming Lunch/Dinner Hideaway
Thanks to a SoMa-savvy friend, I was recently introduced to Le Charm, a cozy French bistro just a few blocks from Moscone. Their menu features a la carte items and a three-course prix fixe menu—a great deal at only $25 per person. Friend and I both had the salmon, then shared a fig salad, a bottle of merlot and a dessert that consisted of two poufs of some sugary meringue-type substance drizzled with caramel and sliced almonds. Yum. The small dining area leads to an outdoor patio—heaters cranked in chilly weather. I left—oh geez, dare I say it?—charmed. 415/546-6128—Heather Johnson

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