Tuesday, September 24, 2013

eating in San Francisco

My food choices are decidedly un-geeky: no canned caffeine-laden drinks, no fast food, and no processed snacks for me. I lean toward the freshest kill you can get, unless it's dry cured meats or aged cheese. I also think the best food in the world can be found in France, Italy, coastal Mexico, New Orleans, New York City (Manhattan/Brooklyn and Northern California. The best dishes use the fewest number of ingredients and require highly skilled techniques to pull the right combination of flavor, aroma, and presentation from those ingredients. I'm not a big fan of overly seasoned food; anyone can add spices, the test of a fine chef is to do so with a careful hand.

Several times each week I'm asked what restaurants in San Francisco I frequent, and for some reason, I often feel like a Portola Valley Deer stunned by headlights from a Range Rover. I've been eating out so often and for so long that I really have a hard time picking out my favorites when I'm put on the spot. The problem is... there's just so many good ones that new ones are added to my list almost weekly and recently, many of my favorite old ones have had to be dropped off my list because of repeated mediocre or bad experiences. For instance, Anchor Oyster Bar has been one of my most favorite hangouts since the late eighties, but over the last two years, it's gone steadily downhill. And though one of their best chefs, Jon Hearnsberger has opened Fable, across the street, it still hasn't made it onto my favorites list because it can be tough to get in, it's so popular.

This morning, I was requested to type of a list for some visiting friends and before I knew it, I had a pretty good list. Here it is:

(Note: Edited the list further 04/01/2014)

Saturday or Sunday brunch
Foreign Cinema - my favorite overall rest. in the city. 
Mission Beach Cafe - excellent pastry chef also
Le Zinc (do the pre-fixe) 
Brenda's French Soul Food (everyday brekkie)
Boogaloos (everyday brekkie dive that is ultra clean,  arrive before ten to avoid the line)
Slow Club
The Ramp (great dive outside on the water, best on warm days)
Garden Court at the Palace (for the atmosphere mostly)
Elite Cafe

Foreign Cinema (great for events, great for 
Boulevard (if no reservation, eat at the bar overlooking food prep for drop in)
Frances (reserve well in advance or call for late cancellations, drop in for dessert after 9!)
Ichi Sushi
Chez Papa
Garcon! (Charlounet is my favorite waiter on the planet, love the staff, chef, gets better each year)
Fable (The every talented chef Jon Hearnsberg is destined for greatness)
Fifth Floor

Casual Dinner:
Abbot's Cellar
Mission Bowl
Mission Chinese
Chez Maman
Blue Plate
Locals Corner (Lunch also!)
Lupa (real Roman italian)
La Ciccia (mostly stick to the pasta and fish dishes and don't order pizza here, it's AWFUL!)
Front Porch (pretty good fried chic)
Baby Blues BBQ
Manora's Thai
Amber Dhara (indian)
Contigo (tapas)

Lunch (any of these work for dinner as well):
Delfina Pizzeria (if you like true Neapolitan style pizza, great wine and side dishes - try the Napolitana Pizza! You'll crave it forever...and the fried fish is simple and amazing!)
Tacolicious (on Valencia) (huge margarita menu and the bar next door has great Tacos al Pastor at night and more types of tequilas)
Cityview (dim sum)
SuperDuper (best burgers, fries and shakes)
Hog Island Oyster Co. (ferry building - they are expanding, so expect great things to come!))
Ferry Building Restaurants
Chez Maman (it's a counter, related to Chez Papa, but it't true French Bistro and the show is the staff - who I love)
Sandwiches from Bi-Rite Market or Ike's and then hang out at Dolores Park
Hamano (sushi that's excellent and not overly seasoned nigiri)
La Taqueria (order Tacos Dorado with cheese and avocado and mild salsa, the rest of the menu is as good as any taqueria in town. Note: add heat form the green bottle at your table)
El Techo de Lolinda (rooftop dining and bar in the Mission)
Marcello's (to grab a slice, New York Style)
K-Pop (straightforward Korean - great sticky fried chicken)
Mau (vietnamese)

Decent Tourist Traps: (Staff doesn't care because tourists don't tip like locals do, so expect lackluster service, but a non-obsequiously friendly patient, friendly attitude can make a big difference and make up your mind quickly, donlt ask too many questions if the place is busy)
The Franciscan
Slanted Door
Boulette's Larder
Swan Oyster Depot
Yank Sing
Waterfront (big bar also with excellent bay view )
Epic Roadhouse (good bar, also good bay view)

Best Sweets:
Noe Valley Bakery (try a snickers bomb or any of the stuffed cupcakes like mostess or fleur d'sel - you'll never want a dry overly sweet frosted cupcake again)
Dandelion Chocolate
BiRite Creamery (if the line is too long - go to the softserve window get soft serve and/or the ice cream sandwich with roasted banana ice cream covered with salty oat walnut cookies)
Dianda's (italian pastries)
Stella Pastry & Cafe (Sacripantina is vanilla cake and whipped cream - you have to try it's subtle wonderousness)
Tartine (is very popular but I think overrated - their bread is to die for)

Ritual Roasters
Blue Bottle
Four Barrel

My new favorite brews their own beer and makes the best BBQ I've had outside of Texas:
Southpaw BBQ (Mission Street near 17th) added 02/05/2014
Blondie's Bar and No Grill
Luna Park (good food too)
El Techo de Lolinda (rooftop)
Bar Agricole (good brunch too)
Pedro's (across from AT&T Park - Giants games are a blast here)
Gitane (high quality food, too)
Fifth Floor (great bar and their cheese options are fantastic)

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the Ferry Building hosts a Farmer Market
that has restaurants on the street that serve up some of the best food you can imagine.

If you walk Valencia Street between 16th and 24th Streets) there are so many new, hot restaurants opening that I can't begin to keep track of them. If you love Chocolate check out Dandelion Chocolate. Now considered some of the best Chocolate in the world by those in the know. They make all the chocolate there from the beans, while you watch. Great pastries and hot chocolate, too.

This list is not exhaustive, there are so many excellent restaurants that it's almost impossible to include every excellent or very good resto in the city, but these will get you a sense of where a native San Franciscan eats regularly.


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