While my friend Hilary and I folded ourselves onto the floor cushions at Khan Toke Thai House (5937 Geary Blvd.; 415/668-6654), she wondered aloud why every time she goes out to dinner these days, she finds herself in the Outer Richmond.
The answer is that despite its reputation for fog-blanketed residential streets, the northwest corner of San Francisco has some of the best restaurants and winter views in the entire city. Make a January visit, and see.
Start with har gao (shrimp dumpling) and cha siu bao (barbecued pork bun) at Ton Kiang (5821 Geary; 415/752-4440), long considered San Francisco's best dim sum restaurant. On weekends, prepare to wait before partaking in the parade of dumplings, buns, and sautéed vegetables.
Continue with a walk on the Coastal Trail at Lands End park. Start at the dirt parking lot above Louis' Restaurant (902 Point Lobos Ave.; 415/387-6330), then wind along the cliffs for vertiginous views of the Golden Gate. Take the side trail east to the Legion of Honor (closed Mon; 34th Ave. and Clement St.; 415/863-3330), which, in addition to its permanent collection, will exhibit Degas sculptures through January 18, 2004.
The hike should build your appetite ― which is good, because dinner options in the Outer Richmond cover the spectrum of global cuisine. Pizzetta 211 (closed Mon-Tue; 211 23rd Ave.; 415/379-9880), a minuscule eight-table restaurant, makes one of the Bay Area's most authentic Italian pizzas.
Aziza (closed Tue; 5800 Geary; 415/752-2222) is a Moroccan restaurant that is at once cavernous and intimate. The five-course fixed-price dinner is well worth the $39. Or, for down-home tasty burgers and rich milkshakes, head to Bill's Place (2315 Clement; 415/221-5262).
WHERE: The neighborhood is in San Francisco west of 19th Ave., north of Golden Gate Park.
FYI: Winter here can be windy; bring a jacket.