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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where Do You Go on the Wharf? Ask a Concierge

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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click to enlarge Scoma's is the concierges' number-one choice for Wharf dining. - DEVONAPPLE/FLICKR
  • devonapple/Flickr
  • Scoma's is the concierges' number-one choice for Wharf dining.
SF Weekly aims to be more of an insider's newspaper than a national guide to all things San Francisco, so I don't get to Fisherman's Wharf often. Locals don't dine there as often as they did in the 1960s and 1970s. But ocasionally, visitors to town ask me where they can go eat seafood on the Wharf.

So I figured I'd call some of the other professional critics in town: hotel concierges. Concierges wield a lot of power in this tourist-friendly city, and they spend a lot of nights eating out -- often on the restaurant's dime -- to figure out where to steer guests. A few days ago, I polled 10 hotel concierges from both swank and midrange hotels. Where do you send visitors? I asked. More importantly, where would you eat yourself?

The No. 1 recommendation? Scoma's, recommended by seven out of 10 people I spoke to, and usually at the top of their rankings. Dan Callahan, of the Marriott Marquis, told me, "You don't go to the Wharf looking for deconstructed dishes and fusion food. If I want old-world San Franciscan food, you can't beat Scoma's. Earlier this year, my wife and I made a point of

going to six restaurants on the Wharf to prepare for the summer crowds. They were all good, but Scoma's stood out to us." The other high-scoring restaurant was McCormick & Kuleto's, also with seven out of 10 votes. Cy Manis, from the Hilton, said, "The view's the best on the Wharf, and they're really personable," she says.

Our concierges mentioned Alioto's, and Neptune's Palace on Pier 39 received three votes. But those three were vociferous in their praise for the restaurant's new commitment to sustainable seafood. Among them was Peter Nasatir, chief concierge at the Donatello. "You won't find Chilean sea bass there, they use all local ingredients for their vegetables, and the fish they catch are from local fishermen," he said. "It's rare to find a touristy restaurant that hasn't sacrificed quality." (I called up the restaurant to confirm, and the person I spoke to said that 80 percent of their seafood comes from sustainable sources.)

Another three concierges say they'd rather send guests slightly off the Wharf, to the Waterfront Restaurant on Pier 7. The Hotel Nikko's Ernesto Cerrillos commented, "It has gorgeous views, and I love the menu -- it's mainly seafood. Plus, they offer town car services for the same cost as a taxi, which is always nice."

Runners up: Cioppino's, Fog Harbor, the Franciscan, Ana Mandara, the Crown & Crumpet, and the Crab House all received one vote. "And you can't go to the Wharf without stopping at the Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee," Manis added. Indeed.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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