Inside the way-chic W San Francisco Hotel is XYZ (181 Third St; 415-817-7836; $23=49), where the trendy crowd enjoys Chef Paul Piscopo?s very California cooking. If beer's on the brain, don't prohibit a visit to the wryly named 21st Amendment (563 Second St; 415-369-0900; $10-19), perhaps the best brewpub in town. The menu is standard brewpub fare. It's all quite good, and the prices are hard to beat.
One of the most stylish to come on the scene is Bacar (448 Brannan St; 415-904-4100; $13-29), deep in SoMa. While the wine list tops 1,000 bottles, you can also select from a smaller by-the-glass list in carafes as diminutive as 250-ml. In other words, you can have a nice Chardonnay with your scallop appetizer and a robust chianti riserva with the exquisite osso bucco.
AsiaSF (201 Ninth St, at Howard St; 415-255-ASIA; from $38 per person) offers an unusual evening of entertainment in San Francisco. Think Lucky Cheng's meets Austin Powers: transcultural cuisine (Cal-Asian fusion in tapas-sized portions) served by gender-bending Asian waitstaff in a psychedelic lounge setting. After serving your "Asia-dilla" (a quesadilla made with tea-smoked duck), shiitake potstickers, or ahi-burger, your Asian "waitress" might just get up on the long, catwalk bar to belt out a tune. For dinner seating, be sure to make reservations at least a week in advance. In addition to the restaurant and bar upstairs, a large downstairs lounge/club space hosts different theme nights.
Lulu (816 Folsom St; 415-495-5775; $16-30) takes family-style dining to hip new heights with excellent food and a happening scene. The same folks run Azie (826 Folsom St; 415-538-0918; $9-29) next door, which melds Eastern and Western cuisine, and bills itself as French-influenced Asian. The décor is dark and moody, with dining nooks and crannies, private curtained booths, and plenty of bar space. The crowd at both places is mixed, though mostly straight.
POTRERO HILL & around
Sunny Potrero Hill boasts a small and adorable neighborhood hub, with a handful of good eats. Just For You (732 22nd St; 415-647-3033; $7-11) has one of the best breakfasts in town. Try their fabulous beignets with your otherwise savory brekkie! Don?t let the location, in the tiny Dogpatch area east of Potrero Hill, deter you. Baraka (288 Connecticut St; 415-255-0370; $17-29) is a real star player, with delectable fusion dishes, a warm, exotic décor, and cute waiters.
Gay-popular Chez Papa Bistrot (1401 18th St; 415-546-4134; $22-28) adds a Gallic touch to the hill, with California-infused bistro fare. A sister (er, wife?) restaurant Chez Maman (1453 18th St; 415-824-7166; $8-18) is just up the block, serving lighter dishes in a smaller space.
Lesbian-owned Citizen Cake (399 Grove St; 415-861-2228; $5-30) is a great place for light lunches, sandwiches, and salads. And did we mention one of the best desserts in town? Citizen Cake offers brunch and lunch menu complete with wine list (and Mimosas). Their menu contains the usual eggs and sandwiches but with the added attraction of their own baked breads. Their homemade scones are to die for. The Hotel Biron Wine Bar (45 Rose St; 415-703-0403) is intimate and informal with fabulous cheeses and a well-selected wine list.
San Francisco is a breakfast lover's town, and some of the best options are in Noe Valley. On Saturday mornings, the dykes come out of hiding for brunch at Chloe's (1399 Church St; 415-648-4116; $7-15), which has the best pancakes in the area. Chloe's does not accept credit cards and usually has a 15- to 30-minute wait for a table. After brunch the ladies wander around 24th Street and down Castro. Firefly (4288 24th St; 415-821-7652; $18-24) is one of the most popular restaurants in Noe Valley, with a frequently changing menu rooted in California cuisine, with Asian influences.
One of the best Chinese restaurants in Noe Valley is Eric's (1500 Church; 415-282-0919; $7-10), which offers reasonably priced Hunan and Mandarin specialties. Ristorante Bacco (737 Diamond St ; 415-282-4969; $16-28) is a good, increasingly popular neighborhood Italian restaurant.