Yes, I’d say SPQR, Cotogna, Flour + Water are Cal-Ital. Compare the menu at SPQR to that of its sister restaurant A16, and you see the clear California style, for lack of a better term, at SPQR. I’ve liked Flour + Water’s pasta tasting as well, but I think SPQR is a little more consistent. I think that Cotogna’s agnolotti dal plin is better than Flour + Water’s.
Agreed on Mourad - but for the Moroccan family-style menu only.
I like La Ciccia and thought about mentioning it - they’re quite solid and a unique neighborhood gem, but it’s a bit out of the way from anything. The octopus salad and fregola with sea urchin, tomato, and tuna heart were our favorites, whereas mains like pork or lamb with saba and rosemary were alright.
Is Mr. Pollo still doing they’re casual and ridiculously inexpensive 4-course menu? Last time we went it was like $25.
I had very high hopes for Cala - perhaps I ordered wrong. After 38 minutes and ~$140 out the door in my lone visit, I thought the trout tostada with fried leeks was quite good, but a couple of shellfish tostadas and ceviches were good but not quite what I was hoping for. Perhaps I should’ve stayed for the rest - what I was really looking forward to was the sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra and mussel tamal, but I didn’t get to ordering them because a lot of the seafood caught my eye and ended up a little disappointing. Perhaps I should go back for those 2 dishes I was originally interested in.
But actually Tacos Cala is not a bad choice for a casual first meal when one arrives around Civic Center. Since Cala is on the edge of Hayes Valley, it’s definitely walkable from City Hall.
I haven’t been to Uma Casa or Mr. Jiu’s yet - I intend to go to Uma Casa, though, not so much Mr. Jiu’s. On a related note, Bar Agricole, where Brandon Jiu worked previously, is a great spot for drinks, perhaps before or after Californios.
Depending on how long you stay, I’m not sure if Berkeley is in your plans. It’s a BART ride away, about 30 mins. @Chowseeker1999, I think you’d like Kiraku for an excellent izakaya or Great China for Chinese. Great China for lunch, Kiraku for dinner