Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Where to eat, drink & entertain around the Moscone Center in SF

Posted by shannonclark on March 30, 2009

Last year as part of my coverage of Web 2.0 Expo for Centernetworks I wrote a post offering a guide to San Francisco near the Moscone Center. This post is an updated version of that post, written in advance of the 2009 Web 2.0 Expo here in San Francisco but I hope it will be a resource for anyone visiting San Francisco for a conference. Please add other finds and feedback in the comments below.

This is not intended to be comprehensive there are literally 100′s of restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels within a half mile of the Moscone Center in San Franciso.  Rather this guide is a list of a small, selective set of restaurants, cafes, and a few bars which are notable and worth trying. These are places that as a local to San Francisco I return to frequently, these are the restaurants where I personally entertain – whether it be for an afternoon meeting over coffee, a light dinner with friends, a professional working dinner or a business entertaining event. My focus is mostly on great spots for coffee or daytime meetings and on dinner. I will include a few suggestions for lunch but often at a conference lunch is part of the conference – and since the networking over confernce lunches can often be the most valuable networking I would, reluctantly, recommend that you eat the bad food in the interest of the networking.

But perhaps chase the conference lunch with great coffee or tea at one of the places I suggest below. 

With one exception I am also concentrating on locations which work well for events during the week, most of these places are open every day during the week (but I would always recommend calling and making a reservation for professional dinners).

Breakfast meetings 

Around the Moscone Center is not the best of places in San Francisco for working breakfasts, any number of local hotels offer acceptable business breakfast meeting options, near to the Moscone I would recommend XYZ at the W hotel (181 3rd St – 3rd & Howard inside of the W Hotel). 

A less formal and lighter option, but one I would highly recommend, is the nearby Blue Bottle Cafe (66 Mint St – corner of Mint & Jessie, between Mission & Market just after 5th St, Mon-Fri 7-7, Sat  8-6, Sun 8-4) which offers a small but seasonal and very good selection of breakfast food along with their world renowned coffee. This is serious, film crews come from Japan to shoot all day long, barrista’s compete in national competitions level coffee and they offer coffee & preparations to serve all tastes. One strong suggestion taste the cappucino’s and lattes before you doctor them – they really don’t need any sugar. Blue Bottle’s Cafe is, I think, one of the absolute best cafes anywhere in the world. I have been known to take multiple contacts to Blue Bottle in the course of a single conference day – last year I went there at least three times in one day with three different business contacts.  Besides great breakfast foods they offer great if also highly selective food options (always light and seasonal) during the course of the day.

If your conference continues into the weekend my suggestion is that you take some time on Saturday morning to get breakfast at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market (Building with a big clock tower at the end of Market St on the water. A short taxi ride or a manageable walk from most conference hotels or the Moscone Center). Widely considered one of the finest farmer’s markets in the country the market starts at 8:30, though some stalls will be set up earlier. I highly recommend arriving before 10am as the market quickly gets crowded. It continues until 2pm on Saturday. Inside of the Ferry Building are many great local shops and markets which are open 7 days a week. Blue Bottle Coffee has kiosks they operate during the Farmers Market (and they are opening up a full cafe in the Ferry Building later in 2009). Of course you can spend hours shopping at the many local (and mostly all organic) stalls each with a seasonal selection. A few highlights I recommend to my guests: Flying Disc Ranch - for an amazing selection of locally grown dates; Frog Hollow Farms - they have a stall inside so are available 7 days a week, Frog Hollow is I think the best orchard in the Bay Area and offer amazing seasonal stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots), pears, Meyer lemons and more. Year round they have great jams and marmalades which I frequently give as gifts; Primavera - a locally run organic Mexican restaurant only open on Saturdays during the Farmer’s Market (located in the far corner by the water) they offer a small selection of handmade from market ingrediants Mexican breakfast and lunch items each day (homemade tamales, varieties of chiliquiles and much more). This is regional Mexican cooking most likely unlike anything you have had unless you have traveled extensively in Mexico.

A breakfast meeting at the Farmer’s Market will not be a quite or entirely private one but I can think of few better or more energizing ways to start my Saturday morning. 

Meetings during the daytime

As I noted above, Blue Bottle Cafe is a great option, one I turn to frequently. 

For non-coffee drinkers, or just for a great change of pace, I recommend Samovar Tea Room inside of Yerba Beuna Gardens (730 Howard St. Literally above the Moscone North, stairs are just to the left of the conference entrance. Sun – Wed 10-8, Thurs-Sat 10-9). Samovar serves amazing teas accompanied by a great selection of light food. This is a calm, peaceful oasis above the Yerba Beuna Waterfall and sitting above the Moscone North entrance. This is not where to go for a fast, quick, hurried meal. But it is a great spot to take a break from a conference and to have a highly civilized and usually productive business conversation. My personal preference is to meet at Somovar in the afternoon, after lunchtime. For small groups Samovar is also a good option for post-conference dinner. Not a heavy meal but a tasty one and not a place to drink (other than great teas). 

For a great lunch option, as well as a good place to have daytime working lunch during a conference I have three suggestions just a few blocks from the Moscone Center. All three are part of the Westfield San Francisco which is just blocks from the Moscone between 4th & 5th and between Market & Mission.

First, ‘Wichcraft (866 Mission St at 5th) which though it is a small scale national chain and owned by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (of Bravo’s Top Chef fame) is also a purveyer of amazingly tasty sandwiches. For the quality and flavor, one of the real bargains for lunch in the city. They close relatively early but are a great option for lunch or a quick, early casual dinner. They have plenty of seating and even a large party can usually seat together at one of their large communal tables. 

Second, Out the Door (basement level of the Westfield Center). Ignore the minimalist website, Out the Door is the more casual spinoff of the world renowned Slanted Door restaurant, one of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in the country (and also at times one of the hardest to get a reservation at). Out the Door offers quick and very tasty Vietnamese food, prepared artfully and skillfully and served in their large and spacious dining room. A great option for a group of nearly any size for lunch and just blocks from the Moscone. They are also open for early dinner, though I prefer them for lunch. The food court in the basement level of the Westfield Center is a very good one (much better I think than the food court in the Metreon) with options for any palate. I personally like Coriander which offers very tasty Thai food, had lunch there today in fact. 

Third, Straits (4th floor of the Westfield Center). Straits offers upscale Singaporan food, though it is a small scale chain (here in CA, Atlanta and later in 2009 Houston) I highly recommend them for great and unusual food. In particular I like Straits for working business lunches. They are not cheap, but the quality is very high and though they are in a Mall (albeit a mall which cost some $440M to rennovate) once inside Straits is a great restaurant for working lunches (not working as in open up the laptops, working as in serious conversations over good food and if you want great drinks). They are open for dinner, though I prefer them as a working lunch venue (late night at times they turn into a nightclub). 

Dinner

San Francisco is a food and restaurant town, there are 100′s of restaurants, dozens of great ones throughout San Francisco. Here are a few of my absolute favorites, places I take people to frequently. 

For a serious dinner with clients, over great food and drink, here are my top suggestions in SOMA.

Town Hall (343 Howard on the corner of Fremont, Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). Townhall offers amazing, contemporary food in a venue that is also exceptionally well designed. Great food at a price which is a great value for the quality and service. They also have a private dining room which can handle up to 40 people seated or 80 people for a standing reception ($1000 min for lunch, $2000 min for dinner, offers full audio-visual capabilities and Internet access). One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco and a place I suggest to locals and visators alike.

Salt House (Mission between 1st & 2nd; open Mon-Thur 11:30-11, Fri 11:30-12, Sat 5:30-12, Sun 5-9:30). Salthouse offers contemporary American food, locally and seasonally sourced, with a fantastic selection and level of quality. It can be a bit loud so is best for relatively small groups, no more than about 6, but offers some of the absolute best food in San Francisco. I have business contacts who insist on a visit to Salt House everytime they are in San Francisco and I’m more than happy to comply. 

or Anchor & Hope (83 Minna St, just off of 2nd, Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). The third restaurant from the trio who founded Town Hall and Salt House, this is their take on a contempory American seafood shack. Currently top on my list of restaurants to try next, given the amazing quality of their other two restaurants I feel very comfortable recommending Anchor and Hope. 

There are other great options, but these are three of my favorites in SOMA for serious food all great options for a small business dinner.

For a large group dinner, especially on a budget, my goto suggestion in SOMA is Canton Seafood and Dim Sum (655 Folsom St on the corner of Hawthorne betwee 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Sun 10:30-9:30). For lunch and on the weekends they offer cart service Dim Sum at very reasonable prices and of exceptional quality. But what I really love going to Canton for is to bring a large group for a banquet. They can almost literally accomodate any sized group (upstairs they have a dining room that seats up to 450+ people, downstairs they seat up to 300, though a reservation is advised). I generally modify one of the banquet menus ending up with a 7+ course feast, including Dim Sum (which I request as a substitute for other appetizers and fried rice) for a price of about $25/person. Typically this feast includes a whole fish, Peking Duck, Salt & Pepper Crabs and more. Amazing, tasty food, very reasonably priced with inexpensive drinks and friendly service. I’ve had dozens of groups events at Canton Seafood over the past few years and have never once been disappointed – and they have done great whether I’m dining with a few friends or have brought 100+ people. 

Professional networking quality drinks

San Francisco has many great bars and has become well known for some of the most serious wine bars and serious mixed drink bars in the country. If that interests you, I encourage you to do further research (or leave suggestions here as a comment) but here are a few great to know about venues nearby to the Moscone Center. 

House of Shields (39 New Mongomery between Market and Mission, New Montgomery is between 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Fri 2pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am, closed Sun). A 100+ year old San Francisco institution. Not the fanciest of drinking estabilishments by far, but a goto establishment for afterwork, post-conference networking over cheap drinks. Not fancy, but also likely a spot where many speakers at tech conferences may end up (and certainly a spot favored by locals).

The Press Club SF (20 Yerba Beuna Lane, just off of Market across from Yerba Beuna Gardens between 3rd and New Montgomery, tasting room hours Mon-Thur 4-9, Fri 4-10, Sat 2-10, closed Sun). An urban wine tasting room, this large space features 8 bars serving wines from 8 different wineries, with representatives from each winery pouring the wine. They also have a selection of light foods to pair with the wines and upstairs a retail store featuring wines from all 8 wineries. For business purposes besides being a very upscale place for after conference drinks and conversations, they also have a private dining room/boardroom with full a/v which can be rented for private events. During Web 2.0 Expo they are closed for a private event on April 1st. 

These are my suggestions. As I stated, I’m sure many of you reading this have others. I hope this is helpful, please leave your own experiences and suggestions below in the comments.

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23 Responses to “Where to eat, drink & entertain around the Moscone Center in SF”

  1. [...] Thanks to Shannon Clark, Web 2.0 Expo’s wonderful blog partner for writing up this post. Folks, you’re getting tips from a true SF connoisseur of great food so if I were you, I’d eat up this post (and yes, bad pun intended). Click here for full article.  [...]

  2. janetti ! said

    thank you for this awesome post!!
    ~ janetti aka @janerri
    your friendly web 2.0 expo community manager :)

  3. XYZ, seriously? Why bother coming to San Francisco if you’re not going to even leave the bad hotel bars?

    Samovar? If you don’t mind paying $15 for average tea, then that’s the place for tea. I’d rather trek out to Hayes & Laguna for the tea shop there.

    Lucky 13 at Market & Church is one of the best dive bars in the city, it definitely has the best jukebox.

    Bourbon & Branch is San Francisco’s best speakeasy. Make sure to make a reservation, and keep your voice down. It sports the second best scotch collection of the city. While you’re here, you might as well check out their liquor store, Cask at 3rd & Mission.

    Along that feel, the Owl Tree at 601 Post St. is a fine place to mingle with other tourists without feeling like you’re stuck in a tourist trap. But Union Square when you’re visiting SF? Bah. Head down to Zeitgeist, 199 Valencia @ Duboce for the largest beer garden in the city, as well as the best Tamales and one of the best Bloody Mary’s.

    Or just come over to my place for Scotch Tasting on Thursday.

  4. Michael,

    Thanks – a few quick notes.

    1. I focused on places mostly (Ferry Building aside) within very short walking distance of the Moscone Center & nearby hotels. Sure, there are fantastic other places throughout SF – Orbit Room on Market St for example for mixed drinks, dozens upon dozens of other restaurants I love, great cafes such as Coffee Bar, Four Barrel Coffee etc.

    2. I didn’t suggest XYZ Bar (though from a purely professional networking perspective it is often good during many conferences) rather I suggested that XYZ restaurant is, among sit down restaurants near the Moscone Center, a good option for a business breakfast meeting.

    3. I personally love Samovar’s teas, I think they are well above “average” – and the tea by itself is not $15 (that’s tea + snacks), I’m not a huge fan of the tea shop at Hayes & Laguna. All that said Hayes Valley is a great neighborhood – but Samovar is a great business resource to know about when attending a conference at Moscone (since it is an oasis of calm literally just above one part of the conference center) as such even at relatively high prices it offers great business value (and I think good food & drinks) as a place for meetings.

    4. I don’t drink beer or scotch – so the joys of Bourbon & Branch or Zeitgeist are mostly lost on me (though I do love the tamales from the usually present tamale lady at Zeitgeist). I’m also not much of a fan of dive bars and as I noted along those lines, House of Shields is a spot right downtown where people often gather. Cask is a nice store (though with the TSA these days traveling with liquor as gifts isn’t as easy as it once was).

    thanks for your additions – for folks with cars or more time they are indeed great additions to check out.

  5. [...] “Chrome registration failed” error on Firefox 2.0.0.8+How to deauthorize a dead computer for iTunesWhere to eat, drink & entertain around the Moscone Center in SFTwitter vs. Facebook Status for social awarenessOutlook 2007 – more bugs and Junk Mail filter [...]

  6. Ladee Rickard said

    Thanks for the tips. I’m sitting in Organic Coffee Company on the corner of 4th and Mission. I do not recommend the coffee. Tastes burnt. Thanks for the recommendation on Blue Bottle and Samovar. I will try this week.

  7. Shannon,
    AWESOME advice on the Blue Bottle and Samovar. What a find for me. I thought that perhaps San Francisco had totally gone the way of the corporate sameness for the coffee shops and was truly feeling disappointed. But when I saw your recommendation, I found my way to Blue Bottle and was so thrilled with the results.

  8. Kenton A. Hoover said

    Dunno why you left off Thirsty Bear as a local microbrewery with a good lunch and dinner tapas-based menu and a full bar. It’s a half-block east of Moscone on Howard Street. Also, Chaat House for a cheap Indian chaat lunch, one half-block south of Moscone on Third Street.

    • Kenton, thanks!

      I left off Thirsty Bear for a few reasons – the main one being that it is frequently used by companies to hold events during conference. Also I don’t drink beer and don’t particularly like the food there (it isn’t horrible, just not very notable). I left off Chaat House mostly because I don’t really love the food there – it is cheap, but not all that great (again not bad, it is just that there are better). My list is intended to reflect where I go myself, the places I send my friends to when they ask for suggestions – that said, I love getting feedback and reminders of other places.

  9. Jame said

    Good choices near Moscone. All though it is a bit cliche, I like Thirsty Bear for post show drinks, if it isn’t booked for a private party. Or try and get into the private party, they have some good tapas choices, especially when you aren’t footing the bill ;) But otherwise it is a good place for post show networking, and meeting with a lot of colleagues in a relaxed setting!

  10. Update – since I wrote this a new Farmer’s Market (of sorts) has opened up in a disused space in the Metreon. I will be reviewing it in greater detail in the weeks to come. Quick, first and partial verdict – it is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but it is somewhat lacking in comparison to major Farmer’s Markets around town. But as a market which is open every day and has long hours, it offers a lot of decent, if not spectacular, options for prepared food as well as a very limited selection of fresh fruits & vegetables.

  11. ErikaB. said

    Cool article! I know Jillian’s @ Metreon can be a decent place for lunch and/or dinner, when you need free Wi-Fi while eating. They too close for private parties regularly however, you can’t beat free internet access in the city.

    • Jillians is close but as you note often the site of conference rlated events – I’m also not a huge fan of the food (or service at times) and as I note in my article there are many other great nearby options with wifi – my favorite of which is Epicenter Cafe on Harrison but there are also places such as the newer Grove location which also has wifi. The cafe at the SF MOMA also has free wifi and is right across the street from the Moscone and the multiple Starbucks locations near the Moscone will shortly also provide free wifi. Not to mention that many conferences at the Moscone themselves now increasingly offer free wifi for attendees.

  12. Scott said

    Hi – do you know – if I have an Internet Data Stick can I get internet access on the convention floor or do they actually block the signal? Scott
    ps – I ask because of their crazy high internet access charges

    • It depends – signals in Moscone can vary by location within the complex – in many cases deep in the building it can be hard to get a reliable data (and phone for that matter) signal – especially if at a conference where many other people are simultaneously trying to access the Internet. Many conferences however now offer free WIFI as well as sponsored Internet access areas – depends on the show but I’ve never yet had to pay for access while at a show at Moscone (but then I’ve also attended most as a member of the press and often had special press access in the press/blogger rooms at a show).

      If you are asking about Internet access for a trade show booth I wouldn’t suggest trying to run demos over a wireless signal – that’s a recipe for demo failure and the incremental cost of Internet access from the trade show should be factored into your budget for the show (if the extra even few $100 is a dealbreaker your probably shouldn’t have a trade show booth)

    • Scott said

      Hi – thanks for the reply – fyi my conference is charging $1,000 for both access for the first 2 computers + if more :(

    • I guess the question then is will your company get more than $1000 value from having connected devices in your booth? If you only need them for personal use perhaps not. But if you need them to demonstrate to real customers or to close deals then I’d hope worth it.

      But it is among the reasons I would often suggest alternatives to trade show booths for many of my clients but it depends a lot on your industry, product, stage of business and goals. Trade shows done well can be unique opportunities to meet with many buyers and partners in a very short timeframe but all to many times companies don’t get a lot of value from their trade show booths.

      Sent from my iPhone

  13. Sandy said

    I need to find a unique place to hold a conference related client reception near the moscone center. Past receptions have been at places such as a Planetarium and the set of America’s Most Wanted in the Crime and Punishment museum. Does anyone have any ideas?

  14. Hi Shannon, its Steve from CrashCloud.com. Great article, I will definitely use this during next week’s trip to the Dreamforce 2012 conference. I think I’ll try out the Blue Bottle Cafe.

    I just noticed this post is a bit aged. For anyone reading this post now, feel free to take a look at my Dreamforce 2012 List which provides places to grab a bite or drink near the Moscone Center and Union Square.

    • Steve,

      Thanks for the reminder. I’ll try to post an update before I attend Dreamforce next week as well. Not sure how long I’ll be at the show next week (I’m at TechCrunch Disrupt this week so may not be able to get to everything at Dreamforce next week). Is your list on Crashcloud.com? Happy to offer some further suggestions and recommendations. I would still highly recommend Blue Bottle – as well as Epicenter Cafe as two of my favorite cafes in all of SF and both very close to Moscone. If you have a bit more time and are here on either Sat, Tues or Thursday I would also recommend walking over (or taking a quick Muni ride or cab) to the Ferry Building for the amazing Farmers Market there on those days. Fantastic foods and great gifts to bring back home

  15. Cindy said

    We would like to find a place not too far from the Moscone Center where we could host about 25 clients for drinks and appetizers at 9:30 pm on a Monday night, after a conference. Prefer a good place to mingle but also don’t want anything where we have to prepay to reserve a room because the count is not solid. Is there a nice bar where we could try to secure part of it? Any suggestions are welcome

    • It can be tricky during conferences as many of the places I might usually suggest in such circumstances are often rented for private parties during many conferences. A few less well know suggestions however may work really well for you if you don’t mind some slightly non-traditional venues.

      Million Thai is at 55 5th Street (in the Milano Hotel). It is just a few blocks from the Moscone yet is rarely rented out for conference events – but they have two large bar areas and a large restaurant space, great Thai food (including many small plates perfect for late night dining, are open and serving food until 2am and if you want they have Karaoke). They should easily be able to accommodate a group of up to 25 people without needing to prepay for a room.

      Canton Seafood and Dimsum is also just blocks from the Moscone on Hawthorne. I don’t think they stay open very late – but you may be able to talk to them about staying open later (they usually close at 9:30). More of a food place than a drink place however (amazing food and a banquet space that can handle up to 300 to a great resource for conferences as you can stop by with 25-30 people and usually get tables for everyone).

      Osha Thai (multiple locations near Moscone – on 3rd, on 2nd and father away at Embarcadero Center. The location on 3rd has a great bar area but is frequently rented out for conference parties (but the food and drinks are quite good). The one at Embarcadero Center has a private room however I do think they usually charge for using it.

      Press Club is a great space for a large group to taste wines and mingle – however they aren’t open super late and they are frequently rented out for private events around conferences.

      Hope this helps – happy to try to think of other suggestions if you can give me more of a sense of what you need.

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