Burritt Room & Tavern. Inspired by film noir, this dining room and bar feature curtained booths and photos of old San Francisco. The bar gets loud. The restaurant stays pretty quiet (especially behind those booth curtains). Burritt Alley, just behind the tavern, is where Sam Spade's partner gets gunned down in "The Maltese Falcon." Owner-chef Charlie Palmer opened the restaurant in April 2012. The neighborhood is unlovely — near Union Square, but on the gritty block just before Stockton Street becomes Stockton Tunnel. (Upstairs from the tavern is the Mystic Hotel, another 2012 venture of Palmer's, 417 Stockton St.; (415) 400-0561, http://www.burritttavern.com. Dinner mains from $26.
Café de la Presse. Across the street, Chinatown begins. Around the corner, Union Square beckons. Upstairs, the Hotel Triton ushers guests into rooms papered with Kerouac excerpts. And in this busy, casual café, you can scan the global newsstand, then settle in among a local/global crowd for a bistro-style meal. 352 Grant Ave.; (415) 398-2680, http://www.cafedelapresse.com. Dinners mains from $19.
Maiden Lane. Don't blink or you might miss this alley off of Union Square, between Post and Geary. Once the city's scandalous red-light district, it now sports San Francisco's largest concentration of luxury retail shops, including Hermès, Gump's, Chanel and a host of other high-end stores. Be sure to visit Britex: four floors of every kind of fabric imaginable and thousands of styles of buttons. Maiden Lane also has a handful of outdoor cafes and its own opera singer, tenor Robert Close, who has been entertaining visitors for 25 years. http://www.visitunionsquaresf.com/about_union_square/maiden_lane/.
Saigon Sandwich. Banh mi lovers, rejoice. Saigon Sandwich is a tiny gem of a storefront along a gritty (but swiftly gentrifying) stretch of street in the Tenderloin that serves some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in the city at rock-bottom prices. Step inside and order to go at the counter; there are only two seats at the front of the room. Choose roast chicken, roast pork, meatball pork or tofu, or opt for mixed roast pork and chicken pâte — a particularly decadent mouthful. Sandwiches come on a thick baguette, are slathered with tangy aioli and piled with cilantro, carrots and jalapeño peppers. $3.25-$3.75. 560 Larkin St.; (415) 474-5698.
Moulin Rouge Restaurant. Moulin Rouge serves breakfast as it was meant to be: inexpensive, flavorful and satisfying. The place is narrow and dim and sports the Toulouse-Lautrec-influenced décor of a previous incarnation. However, an elderly Asian husband-and-wife team now runs it as a no-frills American breakfast and lunch cafe. He takes the orders, and she cooks the food to order at a grill visible to the restaurant. The cream cheese-stuffed French toast and strawberry pancakes are luscious, and the organic ham and eggs — thick strips of savory grilled ham and crispy-edged fried eggs — are a house specialty. $5-$8. 887 Geary Blvd.; (415) 928-0158.