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1.12.2011: San Francisco’s “Dine About Town Launch Party”

Launch party for Dine About Town 2012
Launch party for Dine About Town 2011

I had the opportunity to attend the Dine About Town Launch Party on Wednesday night.

For those of you who don’t know, for two weeks in January and two weeks in June, a slew of San Francisco restaurants get together and offer “fixed menu” lunches and dinners for a set price; lunch is $17.95 and dinner is $34.95.  The event is called “Dine About Town” (DAT) by Opentable, and is quite popular.

Last night’s event was their launch party, two days prior to the beginning of Dine About Town,  where many of the participating restaurants had tables to showcase the food from their restaurant.  The event was also to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of DAT, and all proceeds ($25 per ticket) were donated to Meals on Wheels.

Eat for a good cause?
With pleasure!

Dine About Town Launch Party 2011

The event was scheduled to start at 6 P.M. and end at 8 P.M. at “Cityview” inside the Metreon.  We arrived at about 6:20 P.M. and while the line to get in was not bad at all, the hall inside was already full of attendees.  It was a very mixed crowd, but everyone appeared to be enthused to try out all the different foods.

Upon entering, they handed you wine glasses to taste the wineries who were present to give you tastings.  Among the better known wineries present were Etoile and Domaine Chandon, pouring samples of their wines.

dine about town
Mayes Restaurant
dine about town comstock saloon
Comstock Saloon – Tri Tip Sandwich

What I noticed immediately was the type of food each restaurant had brought. Due to not being able to actually cook for the masses inside City View (except by single or double unit burners, which probably wouldn’t suffice to feed 1000 people), most of the restaurants brought food that could be put together on site, but not require actual cooking.

But the idea, one would think, is to market the restaurant at this event to entice customers to come by the restaurant during Dine About Town.  Unanimously, I found that each restaurant didn’t offer something truly representative of their restaurant, and with some, I really wondered what the point of their attendance was, since I would have been more likely to go before I had tried the food. I can see how it presents a real dilemma for the restaurant, but it seems it’d be more prudent to not participate if you can’t really represent your restaurant’s food accurately.

dine about town
Busily preparing tastings



Dine About Town
Little samplings
dine about town
Luce: Beet, Turnip and Black Olive Chevre Mousse in a cup

Some restaurants ran out of food early on in the evening.  Thought the event started at 6 PM – a couple of the restaurants were packing up their tables by 7:15 PM when the event was supposed to end at 8 PM.  Knowing exactly how many people would be attending, I thought this to be rather disappointing.

But I got to try most of the food, so let’s wrap this up!

The Favorites

A couple standout restaurants at  this Dine About Town Launch Party, both in terms of quantity and taste, were Luna Park (now closed; see announcement) with the “pulled pork sliders”, and E Tutto Qua, with their truffle oil based freshly made pasta.

Dine about Town
Luna Park: Pulled Pork Sliders
dine about town
E Tutto Qua: Pasta w/ Truffle Oil
dine about town
Fun Staff of E Tutto Qua

Luna Park’s sliders were tasty, and paired with a soft bun.  I’m not a big fan of pulled pork or barbecue sauce, but they did a good job in presentation, keeping the supply up with the demand, and for what it was, I thought the dish was quite tasty.  People seemed to be going back for more servings.

E Tutto Qua was one of the few restaurants at this Dine About Town Launch event who were cooking up hot food to serve. The pasta was a bit dense and mushy, and it was a gigantic piece of pasta — but the sauce, a prosciutto, mushroom and truffle oil with cream sauce, was simply delectable.  Furthermore, this restaurant was the only one who had staff putting on quite a show while serving up their dishes — and a good, fun staff makes for a more memorable tasting.

The other restaurants at this event seemed completely and utterly negligent of this fact.

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Bisou Bistro

Bisou Bistro was a really popular stand, serving up foie gras torchon on toast, and a duck breast with plum sauce concoction.  I thought the samples were delicious. Must visit soon.

Some flops for the evening were Tommy Toy’s and SILKS, the Mandarin Hotel’s elite Chinese restaurant.

Dine about town
Tommy Toy’s….serving up wontons. More like won-flops.
dine about town
Silks Mandarin Hotel

Both had offered wonton or potstickers – and both failed.  Both also happen to be perhaps the two most expensive Chinese-esque food establishments in the city.  Granted, both were cooking hot tastings at Dine About Town unlike many others, and while the extra effort is appreciated, what they actually served up fell really short of ideal.  I’ve eaten at Tommy Toy’s, and while I do not feel the experience justifies the premium one pays to eat what is basically fancy Chinese food, their food is much better than the soggy failure of a potsticker they served up at DAT Launch Party. I’ve had better potstickers at Costco stands.

Not having been to Silks, it’s hard to me to say — but if this wonton was representative of their food, one need not go to SILKS.

Dine About Town
Good beer tastings throughout the event
dine about town
Winemakers made a nice showing at this DAT
Musical entertainment provided by DJs
Musical entertainment provided by DJs

Noteworthy Dessert Mention:

dine about town
First Crush Presentation at the Launch Party
dine about town
Nice desserts by First Crush

First Crush, instead of food items, brought some delicious desserts, which made for a perfect ending to a nice chow-fest. Again, while they are a restaurant, if you can’t cook it to really showcase your food styleat Dine About Town, then you have to bring something that clearly shows how good your food can be. Based on my visit to First Crush, these desserts were even better than their regular food.

Kudos to the organizers who did a good job in selling a limited number of tickets while keeping the Dine About Town Launch Party crowded but free of any massive lines.  No table had more than a two minute wait, at best, and everyone had an ample amount of food and wine for their $25 donation.

City View inside the Metreon is also really nice with an outstanding patio overlooking the skyscrapers of the city.  The patio had some great seating and tables.  It was a good venue choice with a great number of attendees, and very well-organized.  The free cookbook giveaway was also a nice touch, and obviously, plenty were kept on-hand as we were able to secure a cookbook close to 8 PM without a problem; you needed to register a credit card with them, but five percent of all future expenditures on that card at the participating list of restaurants would be donated to Meals on Wheels moving forward.

All in all, it was a fun event for a good cause.  Like Mr. K commented, “The food here really doesn’t really represent the quality of food we have in San Francisco,” but it was a good time with good friends.

In two days, Dine About Town begins!  Click HERE for a list of all participating restaurants, and make your reservations via OpenTable to try out the restaurants.

Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

  1. Thanks for your review! As one of the organizers of the event, I just wanted to let you know that we don't publish an end time because the tastes do run out. Instead we say tastes are available while supplies last, and expect the event to go no later than 8pm. Could you let us know where you saw the 9pm end time so we can revise this information? Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for the comment.
      I thought that was what it said on the webpage but just checked the email receipt. Sure enough, it says the event ends at 8 PM; I stand corrected and have revised my review.

  2. I'm glad that I've found your sffood.net web site.
    What a fantastic blog!! I loved how detailed each of the entries were. They were well balanced – fun and informative – and the pictures were great too.

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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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