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Month: April, 2010

Great food and drink near the Moscone Center San Francisco

29 April, 2010 (03:08) | food | By: Shannon Clark

Before Web 2.0 Expo starts next week here in San Francisco I am posting this updated list of my favorite places near the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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’ve included a few options for lunch but in the interest of networking I would usually suggest you eat the conference lunch if one is provided.

Breakfast meetings

My personal favorite breakfast meeting option in SOMA is 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. Their coffee is among the best in the entire country. Before you doctor any beverage, make sure you taste it, most do not need anything.

Two options which are worthy alternatives are Epicenter Cafe (746 Harrison St – between 4th & 3rd, Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10pm) and Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft (868 Mission St – at 5th st, Mon-Fri 8-6, Sat-Sun 10-6).

Epicenter has amazing coffee from Barefoot Coffee Roasters, excellent food, fantastic wine and beer in the evenings. As a large space with ample wifi and power Epicenter is a great place for a working business breakfast or meeting. However one note, many local tech bloggers and journalists also enjoy working at Epicenter so it is not the best place to discuss your still in stealth company.

‘wichcraft is the San Francisco location of a small NYC chain. I mostly get lunch at ‘wichcraft but they have a great selection of breakfast options as well and their space is convenient to the Moscone with large tables on two levels offering plenty of room for a productive and tasty breakfast meeting.

Meetings during the daytime

As I noted above, Blue Bottle Cafe or Epicenter Cafe are my two favorites for great coffee and a productive space for a business meeting.

For non-coffee drinkers, or just for a 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 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).

Lunch

As I noted, if you need to get lunch while at a conference there are many great options near the Moscone. These are a few which I go to regularly, for more see the pearltree below.

First, ‘Wichcraft as I noted above is a great option for a quick and very tasty lunch.

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.

Third, Straits (4th floor of the Westfield Center). Straits offers upscale Singaporan food, though it is a small scale chain (here in California, Atlanta and Houston) I highly recommend them for great and unusual food. In particular I like Straits for working business lunches. The food is fantastic, though not cheap, and the space lends itself to a small group serious business lunch.

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 in SOMA within close walking distance of the Moscone Center, this is by no means a complete list.

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.

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 group 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.

I will keep the pearltree below updated with additional suggestions. This is not intended to a comprehensive list, rather it is a list which reflects where I eat myself, the places I take friends and where I have my own business meetings.

Pushing the limits of the iPad – complaints with answers

6 April, 2010 (12:11) | technology | By: Shannon Clark

What are the limits of the iPad?

Many earlier reports about the iPad complain about various elements – missing multitasking, the weight of the device or the lack of built-in cameras but I think these reports are missing a great deal about what is already possible on the iPad and where in just a little while the device may be heading.

  1. The lack of multitasking or the “I can’t listen to music while I work” complaint. While it is true that at the moment you can not run two or more third-party apps at the same time, it is, however, not at all true that you can’t listen to music while working in another app. In fact there are at least two different ways to accomplish this on an iPhone or, I think, on an iPad. see below for how to do this
  2. The missing built-in cameras or “how can I get photos onto the iPad” plus the related “you can’t do video calls/chat”. While it is true that the iPad does not have a built-in camera there are at least two ways to get photos onto the iPad. And see below for another possible third way which may even offer an opportunity for video on the iPad!
  3. The weight or “this thing is very heavy” (usually compared to an iPhone/iTouch). As the nearly 4+ year owner and daily user of a tablet convertible ThinkPad, a tablet which weighs in at over 5.5lbs with the extended battery and over 6lbs with the charger I have to carry with me (as even with the extended battery my battery life is only ~4hrs now) I do not have much sympathy for this complaint. But see below for a few ideas about how & why this isn’t much of an issue actually.

How to listen to music while doing other things on the iPad (or iPhone/iTouch)

To listen to music while you are working inside of other applications on the iPad you have at least two easy solutions.

Option 1 – iPod application. As you can see in Apple’s Guided Tour for the iPod application on the iPad, you can play music via the iPod application while you are running other applications. You can sync your favorite music from your iTunes on your PC or Mac and play back on your iPad. I would suggest you construct Smartplaylists (I’ll post an article in the future about how to do this – I use dozens) to have fine-grained control over what portion of your library you keep on your portable devices. You can also download and purchase additional music from the iTunes store (I don’t think you can download podcasts directly but I always sync my latest podcast subscriptions to my portable devices)

Option 2 – Streaming via Safari. A not entirely well know feature of Safari on the iPhone/iTouch & now on the iPad is that it is capable of playing back streams of audio (or video) which are formated correctly for HTML5 & Safari. And these streams will, at least on the iPhone/iTouch (and I suspect also on the iPad) continue running in the background if you close Safari and open another application on the device.  This is not, to be sure, all sources online but it includes a large and growing number of sites. The MLB (Major League Baseball) iPhone application uses this “trick” to offer access to streams, via Safari, which can play while you are running other applications. Friends use this to stream NPR while they run other applications on their iPhones today.

and of course there is the less elegant but equally valid

Option 3 – listen to music via another device. Many iPad owners, including myself when I buy my iPad in a few weeks, will also own an iPod and/or an iPhone/iTouch. I certainly expect that as having my iPad will mean I need to use my iPhone for data & applications less frequently that I could easily play music either via the iPod application or via an application which does Internet radio (Pandora for example) on my iPhone while I run other application on my iPad. Though I have heard that the Pandora iPad application is a great experience.

And don’t forget that a solution to the complaint about the location of the iPad headphone jack is to use a bluetooth wireless headphones which I suspect will see greatly expanded sales in the coming months.

The missing cameras.

There are many options to get photos onto the iPad already. On the Apple website they list three.

  1. Sync via iTunes
  2. The camera accessory for the iPad which offers SD card reader & USB connection options via the dock connector
  3. Save photos from email to the iPad
  4. not listed by Apple but likely you can also save images from Safari to the iPad

But there is an interesting possibility which I have not see mentioned anywhere – neither on Apple’s website or in any coverage of the iPad. With the advanced Bluetooth capabilities of the iPad potentially Bluetooth enabled cameras, including video cameras, could be attached to the iPad.

Now as I mentioned I don’t know if this is a possibility and to be sure the current models of Bluetooth capable web cameras are mostly pretty ugly devices intended for use in an office, but it possible wearable Bluetooth capable cameras could open up an amazing range of applications to the iPad.

The weight.

As I mentioned, I have been accustomed to carrying around with me all day long over 6+lbs of tablet computer & related devices. I don’t know if the iPad will be a full replacement in my daily usage but in a large range of situations the iPad will offer capabilities impossible with my current tablet and for me shaving off over 5lbs of devices I need to carry along with the ability to use a vastly smaller and more lightweight bag are huge advantages. I am eagerly looking forward to shifting to a much lighter and smaller bag, a bag without the weight of extensive padding to proteect my heavy laptop in favor of carrying an iPad (safely in a protective case that doubles as a multipurpose stand) in a much smaller & lighter (and to be frank better designed) laptop bag.

For a great collection of additional articles and coverage of the iPad see this Pearltree:

iPad