Heading to San Francisco?
Next, you’re probably thinking of eating a bowl of sourdough bread. After all, it’s one of those obligatory foods, like cheesesteak in Philadelphia or donuts in New Orleans.
Or maybe you’re planning to seek out the foodie scene that’s so rare in Phoenix. San Francisco has it in spades and is home to as many three-star Michelin restaurants – the highest rating – as New York.
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But San Francisco is one of those wonderful places where inspired people breed inspired cuisine. There is a whole world between bread bowls and haute cuisine.
Here’s a sampling of the middle part of The City by the Bay’s restaurant mix.
You might be wondering, “Why would I eat Mexican food in San Francisco when I live in Phoenix?” The answer is twofold: because Nopalito’s carnitas are exceptional, and because margaritas make vacations more fun.
The story behind Nopalito begins at Nopa, a seasonal cuisine with a distinctly Northern California vibe. The story goes that Nopa’s cook prepared Mexican food for staff meals that Nopa’s owners loved so much, they opened a restaurant inspired by them. There are now two outposts, one a two-minute walk from the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park and the other in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood.
Details: 1224 Ninth Avenue, San Francisco. 415-233-9966. Also, 306 Broderick St., San Francisco. 415-535-3969, nopalitosf.com.
If you’ve ever wondered what’s so special about ramen, you’ll find the answer here. The San Francisco ramen bar is the first expansion outside of Japan.
Oversized bowls are served in a tiny dining room (read: you’ll be queuing for a seat) at this lower Nob Hill restaurant (read: you’ll likely see a beggar or two while queuing). You will be enchanted by the tori paitan, a creamy chicken soup with pork chashu, duck chashu, menma (bamboo shoots), kale, burdock and katsuobushi sauce.
Details: 672 Geary Street, San Francisco. 415-800-8345, mensho.tokyo.
This iconic building along the Embarcadero is a foodie’s paradise. It is home to iconic Bay Area brands including Acme Bread, McEvoy Ranch, Fort Point Beer Company and Golden Gate Meat Company. Cowgirl Creamery is a must visit. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Chuck Kellner, a charming and talkative cheesemaker with a quintessentially San Franciscan story about leaving the tech industry to follow his true passion for artisan cheese.
There is a bustling Farmer’s Market outside the Ferry Plaza building on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In addition to overflowing food stalls, there are food trucks. Look for the Wise Sons tent, where you can enjoy a spectacular smoked salmon sandwich on an all-purpose bagel.
Details: A Ferry Building, San Francisco. 415-983-8030, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com.
The slanted door
This is the jewel in the crown of restaurants in the Ferry Building. Charles Phan’s modern Vietnamese cuisine won the Outstanding Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2014.
You can sip cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab and sip Vietnamese brandy coffee, while taking in spectacular views of the bustling pier and Bay Bridge. For a keepsake you can actually use, pick up a copy of one of Phan’s cookbooks, “Vietnamese Home Cooking” and “The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food.”
Details: A Ferry Building, San Francisco. 415-861-8032, slanteddoor.com.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookies
Some of the smells you will encounter in Chinatown are far from appetizing. Not on Ross Alley.
Here, the sweet aroma of baking cookies emanates from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory. Inside the tiny bakery, two women sit on stools and grab disks of soft, warm cookies straight from the presses, add a paper fortune in the middle, then quickly fold them into fortune-cookie shapes. The cookies come in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate flavors. You can even write your own fortune and put it in a cookie.
San Francisco is the birthplace of the fortune cookie, according to a 1983 decision by the Court of Historical Reviews and Appeals.
Details: 56 Ross Alley, San Francisco. 415-781-3956.
Whatever your craving, chances are you’ll find it at this Market Street food hall and grocery store, on the ground floor of the “Twitter Building”, the tech company’s headquarters. A dozen restaurants offer counter service, meaning you order and then find a table in one of the communal dining areas.
Highlights include the Malaysian chicken and noodles from Azalina’s; Filipino pork sisig at the Manila Bowl; or a piece of Grandma-pie pizza from Slice House by Tony Gemignani. There is also a sizable market selling takeaway food, fresh produce, sourdough breads, artisan chocolate, wine and more.
Details: 1355 Market St., Suite 100, San Francisco. 415-767-5130, visitlemarché.com.
Want Instagram? Head to Sushirrito, a fast-casual San Francisco-born spot that claims to be the original sushi burrito restaurant. The flavors of sushi combine with the wrapper of a burrito to create a hearty, photo-worthy meal. If you like tuna, try the Geisha’s Kiss with yellowfin tuna, tamago, piquillo peppers, cucumbers and ginger guacamole. If you prefer not to eat raw fish, opt for the Sumo Crunch burrito with tempura shrimp, surimi crab, shredded cabbage and ginger guacamole.
Details: Four locations around San Francisco. sushirrito.com.
Small pot of mutton
This restaurant near Union Square serves Mongolian hot pot, where your choice of ingredients are cooked in a boiling, aromatic broth right at your table. Start your hot pot experience by choosing the original soup base or the spicy version. Then, order from a long list of ingredients, such as minced lamb, beef meatballs, oyster mushrooms, baby bok choy, fried tofu, and egg noodles. Put the food in the broth, let it cook and then eat. There are Little Sheep locations in the United States, Canada, China, and Japan.
Details: 405 Mason St., San Francisco. 415-673-9919, littlesheephotpot.com.
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