Today's query comes from J.S.:
So, the girlfriend's parents and my parents are both flying out to San Francisco to meet each other for the first time. We'd like to take them all out to dinner, but here's the thing: My father is deaf in one ear, and her dad doesn't hear so well either, so we need someplace reasonably quiet. Plus, we'd like to pick up the check at the end of the meal, so something that doesn't break the bank would be appreciated. Both our parents are NPR-listening, would-be foodies, so adventurous and spicy is fine. Any ideas? Also, we live in Hayes Valley and are both bicyclists. Imagine we'd be taking public transit or cabs, so something in Marin headlands might not be so great.
A quiet restaurant is generally harder to find than an affordable one. Well, to be more specific, quiet + affordable + good enough to draw a devoted clientele = not common at all. Operating under the assumption that you hope to spend $20 a person maximum, I have a few suggestions:
If your parents want spicy but you don't want them to think you're being cheap for cheap's sake, I'd suggest one of two Thai restaurants: Lers Ros, in the Tenderloin, does a brisk business, but rarely grows deafening. I've only worked my way through a tiny portion of the giant menu so far, but have enjoyed the salads, pork belly, and anything pad ped. Bonus: The soups are served in a hotpot that spits flame out the center, which makes everyone feel like they're living on the edge. And the N will get you out to Chabaa, the quietest and most attractive of the restaurants I'm recommending. If you order off this translated Thai-language menu in addition to the more Americanized Thai menu, you'll find the roasted pork neck, salads, and Lao sausages are standouts, and the servers couldn't be friendlier.