Five weeks in San Francisco. 2 weeks in SoMa, 2 weeks in Bernal Heights, below The Mission, and 1 week in Hayes Valley. That’s a whole lot of eats.
I’ve long known of San Francisco’s delicious ways, and so upon my arrival I fell into a pretty serious courtship. Things got real friendly, real fast. I was fuelled by general internet searching, as well as recommendations from the truly lovely Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks and the excellent site, Tablehopper. My favourite spots are listed below, somewhat grouped by location. I hope they provide you with surely tasty bites should you ever be so lucky to visit San Francisco. It’s a truly kind and compelling city, and it sure knows good food. Here’s a little snapshot of my flirtation with the food of San Francisco. Let’s break bread and wander…
SoMa has some great spots for a beverage or two. City Beer is a really cool beer bar selling quality delicious brews, Terrior Natural Wine Merchant boasts organic wines and Bloodhound makes an ace negroni.
Darwin Cafe serve what is reported to be the best kale salad in town (yep, it’s good). Every bite I’ve had here, whether a baguette, toasted sandwich or salad have been completely scrumptious. It’s well priced and worth the lunch-time queue.
Sightglass Coffee. Hipster coffee. More often than not it’s worth the $4 price tag.
Deli Board. Meat-filled, slightly expensive, delicious sandwiches. I went with the Ruprecht, without dressing and with sprouts added. It was super scrumptious.
WholeFoods. Come here to revel in the huge variety of (mostly healthy) goods available. Try to not leave with 5 different yoghurts, 7 jars of nut butter and 3 packets of kale chips (not an easy task). WholeFoods is also a great place to spend a lot of money on the tasty salad and hot food bar. Pack it up and go!
Trader Joe’s. Super delicious and cheap salad packs, yummy cilantro hummus, nitrate-free sausages (chicken jalapeño sausage love), waffle mix and more.
Pressed Juicery for expensive, delicious wonderful juice/smoothies (note: not in SoMa, you can find these stores at the Ferry Building or Noe Valley).
Piccino. Our local friend introduced us to this place and now I’ve visited, I feel almost cool enough to share it with you. This casual but classy restaurant serves really tasty pizza and more. Oh, and nearby is The Plow, which I’ve heard is just the business for brunch.
The Mill. Grab a slice of toast, grab a latte, grab a loaf of bread to take home and watch the hipsters do the same. People tend to rag on paying $3.50 for a slice of toast, but honestly, compared to Australia where prices for food are ridiculous,a thick, filling slice of quality crafted bread spread with lashings of either cream cheese, almond butter or cinnamon sugar and butter is a steal.
Nopa. I’m fairly deeply in love with Nopa’s burger (that beef pattie!!) and their drinks selection is ace, too. Generally everything on their menu is reliable. You’re in for very reasonably priced deliciousness here. Book ahead or grab a seat at the bar or communal table if you’re lucky.
BurmaSuperstar. My friend Maggie introduced me to this gem of a place, serving completely delicious curries and salads and more. Be prepared to wait during rush hour, but trust me, it’s worth it!
B. Patisserie. Try their house specialty, the kouign amann. This croissant-style pastry is loaded with sugar however is entirely lovely. Their coffee is wonderful, too. I spent a lovely morning here, sitting and sipping and reading.
Umami Burger. Do you want to stick your face into an indulgent, scrumptious burger? Maybe you want a bit of truffle oil on your fries? You do? Go here, then.
Dynamo Donut. I spoke of vegan donuts from Pepples (which can be found at the energetic Philz coffee, just down the street from Dynamo Donut). These are not vegan donuts. These are maple glazed bacon apple donuts. Yes indeed. Dynamo peeps know good donuts. Favourites were coffee crunch and spiced chocolate. That reminds me, I never did get to try that cornmeal rosemary cherry bite…
Foreign Cinema. You’re best to get in early or book ahead to be able to even grab a seat at this popular, rather expensive spot. I visited for brunch and let me just say that their spring omelette with asparagus, with a side of slow-cooked brown sugar bacon, was one of the best dishes I ate in SF. Yes, you read that correctly, slow-cooked brown sugar bacon.
Salumeria is great for delicious antipasti and sandwiches. It also has a rad deli for take-home goods.
Craftsman and Wolves. Lovely lovely divine flaky perfect baked goods and coffee. Order “The Rebel Within” muffin. It contains a soft-boiled egg inside. Yes. I also fell in love with their oatmeal cookie.
Mission Pie. Pie and coffee. Enough said. This was a favourite hangout of mine when living in Bernal Heights.
Beauty Bar is a cool place for drinks and a dance.
Tartine (see the photo at the top of the post). Croissants so good you may think you’re in Paris and toasted sandwiches so good you may think you’re in heaven. They also have many many well-loved, well-crafted cakes on offer. Sandwich portions are large, which softens the blow of the eager price-tag. Grab a warm croissant for breakfast, then share a sandwich for lunch and call it a day. But go back the next day, too. You need that morning bun. Oh, and the Croque Monsieur…
Namu Gaji. Best to book ahead for this uber cool spot with exciting flavours. Ask the lovely wait staff to tell you what to order. They know what’s up.
Mission Beach Cafe. Pie. Berry pie. That’s all I need to say. Trust me. Oh, hang on, one more thing… “wild mushroom benedict with spinach, caramelised onion, truffle mornay sauce and crispy potatoes”. Serious brunching.
Rainbow Grocery. A mecca for wholegrains, nut butters, tea and a huge range of vegetarian, organic, sustainable whole foods. It’s a dream. And you can get the most delicious nut butter here (also available at The Mill), Riverview Orchard Almond Hazelnut Butter. I gave this as a gift to my bff in Utah. She and her husband are nut butter nerds. Respect.
Bar Tartine. Visit this restaurant for dinner, please do. Order the potato flatbread and the green chilli fisherman’s stew. The anchovies on bread were lovely, also. This place will leave you feeling rosy and full, full of the most amazing bread. It’s a good feeling.
For sweet scoops, visit Bi-Rite Creamery (also near Alamo Square on Divisadero st) and Humphry Slocombe. Humphry is my favourite, I have to say. I particularly enjoy the Honey Thyme, Chocolate and Smoked Sea Salt and Meyer Lemon Buttermilk flavours, but be sure to try their popular Secret Breakfast delight (cornflakes + bourbon. Oh yeah). I’ve also heard great things about Smitten Ice-Cream.
Mission Cheese. A cute place for a drink. And cheese, obviously. I loved their cider and found their mac and cheese to be bananas. And by bananas I mean, terribly delicious.
Pal’s TakeAway. These guys make killer sandwiches. Follow them on twitter for their daily concoctions. Though keep your ears open, I hear they are moving locations…
La Taqueria. Taco taco taco. These guys claim to serve the best tacos in the world. I have not done enough research to back this up (a future job, perhaps?), but I can say they are darn good. Their tortilla are crisp, their ingredients fresh and the rest is nothing fancy pants, just straight-up good tacos. Go for the pork carnitas, be sure to get cheese and avocado and apply the green chilli sauce liberally. Bliss. Oh, and grab a seat out front, peek into the kitchen and watch the assembly line. It’s a thing of beauty…
Along the Mexican trail, we loved our take-away dinner from La Palma. Here we bought housemade tortilla, chips, delicious beef, pork and chicken dishes as well as beans, cheese, salsa and guacamole, and had ourselves an outrageous feast one night in our apartment. It was all really really yummy. You can also get a burrito or dish made up to eat at the store (they have a few chairs outside), but beware they aren’t open after 5 or 6ish in the evening, so get in early.
Phew! Yes, there were quite a few tasty eats in The Mission. You’ll never be short of a place to eat, whether classy dining or dirt cheap, that’s for sure. I was in heaven with all the Mexican eats available. And then you can cap it all off with an ice-cream. Ain’t life grand…
Paulie’s Pickling. These guys are ace. They serve super scrumptious sandwiches and are great value. Try the beef brisket or the egg salad sandwich, on marble rye. Best pickles ever? Maybe.
Outerlands. This was our most favourite meal in SF. I booked a little table for two in advance to surprise Ben as a “well done, you’re amazing, my how hard you have been working, you deserve some amazing bread with house cultured butter and olive oil poached octopus” dinner date. We were blown away by the meal, each dish was consistently exciting and outrageously delicious. I imagine their brunch would be divine, also. Favourite.
And now for something non-food related. Kind of…
Fun activities in SF, for the wanderer.
~ Ferry Building. Browse the shops and visit the famous Cowgirl Creamery. You might like to grab yourself some popular, delicious Mt Tam (or my favourite Red Hawk) cheese, a baguette from Acme and have yourself a picnic! Try to time your Ferry Building visit with the wonderful Farmers Market, which is on Tue/Thur/Sat (Saturday is the largest market day).
~ Alamo Square Park. Great views of the city and famous SF houses (see above photo).
~ Valencia Street (between ~15th & 23rd st). Mosey down this uber cool street and pop into all the wonderful shops.
~ WholeFoods, Trader Joe’s and Rainbow Grocery. Explore the isles and try not to buy everything. Try.
~ Golden Gate Park. Excellent frisbee terrain.
~ Nob Hill and Russian Hill. Wander and stroll and mosey these picturesque areas, taking in all the beautiful houses. You’re sure to work up a sweat (oh, the hills)! Lombard street is a famous windy street and worth a look. After you’ve visited here you can catch the tourist tram down the hill.
~ Explore Chinatown for something different.
~ SFMOMA. Always worth an afternoon or even an entire day just roaming and absorbing some creativity.
~ Dolores Park. A great place to chill out with a picnic.
~ The Mission. Wander 16th, 18th and 24th street for colourful fun. My favourite vintage bookshop is Adobe Bookstore and next door on 16th st is an ace vintage shop.
~ Omnivore Books. Check out their events page, they often have amazing authors coming to speak and sign their books. These events are free and intimate and wonderful. And Celia, the store owner, is just so friendly. Every city needs an Omnivore Bookstore.
~ Golden Gate Bridge. Hire bikes and ride across. Or just walk across, either way, but be sure to visit. It’s giant and overwhelming and stunning. Try to go on a day that isn’t fog-heavy for best views.
~ Alcatraz. Ummm we didn’t go here. That’s a real bummer. But it’s surely wonderful.
~ Berkeley. If you can manage, get across the bridge to Berkeley and visit Chez Panisse (I dined solo at this institution in 2011. A life highlight, for sure). Gather is lovely, too.
~ Sausalito. Located across the bridge, I’ve heard this pocket on the coast is most definitely worth a visit. They also have a Heath Ceramic’s store…
~ Heath Ceramics. Beautiful, locally made ceramics – plates, mugs, bowls and more. Their store in the city is wonderful (I wanted to buy everything!) and super funky. Plus there is a Blue Bottle Cafe next door.
~ Alemany Farmer’s Market on Saturdays is a must if you’re into Farmers Markets.
~ Bernal Heights Park. Hike up this epic San Francisco hill to see the most gorgeous city view if you’re in the area (if you’ve visited the Alemany Farmers Market, you will be!).
Oh, there is so much good living to be done in San Francisco. I only scraped the surface during my 5 week stay, so please share any recommendations below. And if you’re off to SF, have a blast. Eat a Tartine croissant, stick your face in a sandwich and get an extra scoop at Humphry Slocombe, just for me.