San Francisco is definitely a city for foodies. There’s as wide a range of cuisine as there are neighborhoods, and we took our pleasure in eating our way through many of them. We tend to plan our vacations around food—quite literally, making restaurant reservations months in advance and deciding the days’ activities on their locations—so it comes as no surprise that we had a week of eats booked pretty solid. There are always those trips that you encounter meals that are disappointing, or at the very least, not up to expectations. We experienced absolutely none of that in San Francisco. Each and every thing that was eaten—devoured—was terrific. Here are my top 10.
Potato flatbread with radishes and bottarga, Bar Tartine
We dined at Bar Tartine on our first night in San Fran, and it set the bar high. It was probably my favorite dining experience of the week, and I tell everyone to go to this place if I hear they’re heading to the area. The small plates, farm-to-table-style place is probably more famous for its bakery next door, Tartine Bread, but the restaurant’s atmosphere and cuisine make it one not to miss on date night.
The beauty of the Japanese Tea Garden is spellbinding, brimming with photo-perfect sights and evoking a feeling so calming, we could have stayed there all day. We extended our visit with a stop at the Tea House, noshing on a platter of cookies and sipping Sencha tea. I’m sure the atmosphere had something to do with it, but sometimes surroundings have a profound effect on flavor, right?
Cioppino, Sotto Mare
We waited for quite some time to score a counter seat at this North Beach gem, and it was worth it. Not being one for seafood, I wasn’t too excited about the restaurant’s star dish, but after Jesse’s research of the area led him to believe cioppino was where it’s at, we had to try it. A bottle of chianti and at least one loaf of warm, crusty bread later, and I was in heaven. Trust me when I say, even if you aren’t a seafood person, let your dining partner take care of the shellfish while you just bask in that sweet, sweet sauce. Pure heaven.
Pizza margherita and the Barcelona, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
The line formed early for this popular pizza joint in Little Italy, and we hopped in right on time. It definitely lived up to the hype; a classic magherita pizza is the test of greatness in my book, and this one surpassed expectations. But it was the Barcelona, brimming with jamon, manchego cheese, nora peppers, scrambled eggs, and a smoked paprika sauce, that sealed the deal. Sweet and a little spicy, with a taste I can’t seem to forget (and that’s not a complaint). We have since purchased the cookbook associated with this restaurant, and aim to tackle that recipe one of these days.
Everything from Yank Sing
I love dim sum, and to have an authentic (or at least, more authentic than I’m used to) experience at Yank Sing was wonderful. We stuffed ourselves silly with dumplings and pork buns (my favorite), anxiously waiting for the next cart to roll around so we could eat and eat some more. We ate so enthusiastically, the only photo I could find of the experience was the one above, with my chopsticks (likely before any plates hit the table).
The best donut of my life, Johnny’s Donuts
We were fortunate to come across Off the Grid, an open-air food truck market, to best describe it, on a night that we were in the Fort Mason area. It just happened to be #NationalDonutDay, so consider our luck when we came across a truck wholly dedicated to them—and then we saw the line. Oh my goodness, the line. We must have waited for 30-45 minutes, worrying the whole time that there would be no donuts left to satiate our craving by the time we got there. Luckily there were, and as a bonus, the scenic atmosphere complete with rows of overhead string lights (I have a major thing for string lights), made queuing up all the more bearable. Pair the dimly-lit scenery with the melty, sugary goodness of one of Johnny’s incredible donuts, and, oh man, this was a night to remember. Can a single pastry create memories to last a lifetime? Yes, yes it can.
Sampler platter, Green’s Restaurant
Green’s Restaurant is an airy and open vegetarian place with a fantastic view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco’s seal-dominated pier. We scored front row seats to the scene, and enjoyed a great, clean meal. The sampler platter pictured may be subjective, but as I have an obsession with carrots and beets, it was a winner for me. A visit here was a nice break from all of the major eating we had embarked on throughout the trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone—not just vegetarians.
Pad-see-ew, Cha Am Thai
After a long day exploring Alcatraz Island and bellies near bursting with nearly a week full of food, we needed a night in. I picked a Thai place at random from Seamless on our ride back to our Sutter St. apartment (yes, we pretended to live there for a bit), and, though we weren’t expecting much, we were amazed. Chalk it up to there being really no great options for Thai here in D.C., but this tasted pretty darn extraordinary, further cementing our sentiment that San Francisco really has it right. What can’t they do? And can we please live here?
Toast of the Day, farm : table
When I say that Post Street’s farm : table joint is intimate, I’m not kidding. The teeny jewel of a place has one communal table (there may have been two, but if there was, I don’t remember it), and a rotating daily menu, to really keep things fresh. The local coffee was perfect, the toast of the day, exquisite. Wonderfully crisp-yet-soft bread was doused in a healthy serving of super fresh apples, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, a scattering of pistachio and a light, creamy spread beneath it all. This was our last official meal in the city, and we ended our visit on a memorable, delicious note.
Ice cream, Bi-Rite Creamery
If someone had told me that the best ice cream in San Francisco could be found in a grocery store, I wouldn’t have believed them (they did, and I didn’t). It was one of my jewelry industry friends and her husband, San Fran-area locals, that insisted we had one last taste before we left California, and we owe them big time, both for bringing us there, and for treating us (thanks, Carolyn and Bryce!). The handcrafted sweet stuff rivals my all-time favorite ice cream—soft serve from my hometown in New York—and I’m sorry that we don’t have our own Bi-Rite here in D.C. I was on a salted caramel kick at the time (I still am), and Jesse chose the banana fudge ripple. My only regret: having to share.
We’ve had the privilege of eating some pretty darn good meals, in some pretty amazing places. Who would have guessed that some of the best—if not the best—food experiences would be right here in the USA? San Francisco, we’ll surely be back for more. Thanks for the