Frascati: Friendly service and lots of regular customers give this rustic restaurant the welcoming atmosphere of a true neighborhood favorite. Frascati features pan-European fare in a quirky, intimate setting that includes an open kitchen, a mezzanine balcony overlooking the main dining room, and several secluded nooks that fit just a table or two. Menu items might include paella, cassoulet or coq au vin, and stand-out desserts have included the black-and-white bread pudding and a light pumpkin cheesecake.
Harris': In these days of soy chai lattes and tofu spring rolls, stuffing yourself on an oversized cut of beef has become highly unorthodox. Thankfully, Harris' hasn't pandered to the Bay Area's changing diet, instead opting to perfect what they do best -- cook meat. They serve unfussy standards like porterhouse, as well as dressed-up classics like filet mignon.
Hyde Street Bistro: The husband-and-wife team that runs this inviting little bistro had a vision of presenting simple food in an unpretentious setting. Someday the American palate may consider sautéed escargot with gnocchi a simple meal, but until then the restaurant will have to content itself with a reputation for its intriguing French fare and cozy atmosphere.
La Folie: One of the most expensive restaurants in San Francisco has a whimsical interior -- clouds on the ceiling, hand-painted signs and closely set tables. The menu is traditional French, with California touches. The wine list focuses on California and French vintages.
Lemongrass: Good value Thai food in a cozy atmosphere. The cooks pay special attention to freshness and spice; the green curry (with seafood, vegetables or chicken) and pad thai are especially good.
T2J: A green awning with the name of the restaurant points the way into a room with glass-topped tables and wall hangings. Expect well-spiced dishes with good levels of heat, as in kaneg ped, a coconut milk red curry with boneless roast duck, tomatoes and basil. There are rice and noodle dishes, and a decent version of pad Thai. On the way out, don't miss the curio cabinet filled with curious items for sale, including hand-knitted caps.
Nick's Crispy Tacos: This club by night, taqueria by day, dishes out flavors from Baja daily. Chomp down on crispy battered fish tacos as you dine under crystal chandeliers and images of Sponge Bob. Also excellent are the tacos done "Nick's way." Carnitas, carne asada, or chicken are stuffed into a soft corn tortilla that is wrapped around a deep-fried one and overflows with guacamole, cheese and salsa fresca. Cash only.
Pesce: Visit this fish restaurant for simple seafood dishes with an Italian accent. The dark wood décor and tile floors give the place a clean, classic ambiance
Polkers: Get in line with the rest of the neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday mornings for overflowing skillets and scrambles. The all-American menu switches gears to burgers and deluxe salads for lunch and dinner.
Swenson's: This ice cream shop has been around for generations, super-fresh cones and overpacked pints to crowds on sunny days (and even some cold, foggy ones
Za Pizza: Too-large-to-hold gourmet pizza slices. Eat at the large bar or at one of the few small tables, or take it home.
Zarzuela: There's usually a line outside this Spanish restaurant, and no wonder. The casual atmosphere, pitchers of sangria and tapas menu practically ensure a festive dinner. Highlights include the paella, garlic shrimp, mushrooms and fried bananas with black bean sauce.