San Francisco conjures up images of the Golden Gate bridge against a foggy backdrop, cable cars hovering up and down slopey streets, and a row of those beautiful white houses in Alamo Square popularised by the TV show Full House. Personally, it’s my favourite city in the US. Being a direct flight from Sydney, it’s been a regular destination for me – and it never ceases to amaze me.
And it’s definitely a foodie city, some even going as far as saying that it’s America’s best foodie city 🙂
I’ll be here for 3 months, and am all fired up to explore the city’s food scene. What better way to get a list of restaurants to try than ask locals. I have compiled the following “hit list” of 20 restaurants (in no particular order) based on picking and choosing from recommendations from a few local foodie friends.
- French Laundry, Napa Valley. The mecca of San Francisco’s foodie scene, there’s no shortage of accolades for Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley abode. It’s been rated the “best restaurant in the world” (2003-04), currently rated in San Pallegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (here) and awarded 3 stars by the Michelin Guide. Anthony Bourdain has proclaimed it “best restaurant in the world, period“. Given all this hype, it’s natural that this is featured on my list – the chefs tasting menu comes to a cool $240 pp…There’s one small problem here – I’m a student. One can only dream, right?
- Chez Panisse, Berkeley. A Berkeley institution, Alice Water’s Chez Panisse is known for its organic produce, serving typical Californian fare. A much more affordable option for fine dining, CP offers a different menu for each day of the week, starting at $65 on Monday, $85 from Tuesday to Thursday and $100 on Friday and Saturday.
- Burma Superstar, Inner Richmond. This was recommended to me by a few friends. It’s been featured on the Food Network and a friend said that their “coconut rice is easily one of the top 10 most delicious things I’ve eaten, EVER!” If that’s not an endorsement, I dont know what is 🙂 Other dishes to try are – flat noodle Burmese coconut curry, chilli-rubbed lamb and the pork belly pumpkin stew.
- Slanted Door, SoMa. Excellent Vietnamese, with dishes to try being the shaking beef entree, the chicken claypot and crab with cellophane noodles. I’ve been told to try their sister restaurant Out the Door if I cant get a reservation here.
- Foreign Cinema, Mission District. For a great brunch – touted as one of “7 killer brunches” in the city (here), the Mission sunshine streaming through to the open patio out the back is supposed to be make your day. To try’s are the home made “pop tart,” a “hangover soup” and the omelet w/ golden chanterelles, summer truffles and fontina – YUM! Also, apparently the fried chicken while “it sounds pretty ordinary, but it is absolutely delicious here!” – it’s featured as one of the 100 things you must eat before you die in SF (here).
- Papalote Mexican Grill, Mission District. I’ve heard about 3-4 people say this is their favourite Mexican in town – it’s been voted to serve the best burrito in SF and the chips & salsa has been featured in the 100 things you must eat before you die in SF (here).
- Farmers Market at the Ferry Building on Saturdays. Apparently must try’s are the burger from 4505 Meats, followed by the vegan doughnuts inside the building (try the blueberry) with a glass of fresh, whole milk from nearby Andante Dairy. Sounds amazing.
- Vik’s Chaat House, Berkeley. Located in a random warehouse style spot in Berkeley, this spot serves amazing regular Indian and street food (chaat). I was told to “Try everything. Go hungry“.
- Shalimar, Polk St. An extremely popular establishment serving authentic Pakistani food. I remember going here with my cousins back in 2000 and was blown away by how tasty the meat was. I’ve been told to try the haleem, chicken karahi, beef nihari, garlic naans…and “dont forget to serve yourself free masala chai“. I’ve also been warned that I may not be able to move for 2+ hours after the meal.
- Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant, Emeryville. A very unknown dim sum restaurant, it’s right by the water and has an amazing view of the bay and SF. I’ve been told that if you go for lunch on a weekend, you may catch kite surfers or wind surfers zooming by your window.
- Udipi Palace, Mission District. An unassuming restaurant, UP is known to produce amazing South Indian fare at much better value than the more well known Dosa, the South Indian fusion place down the street. Apparently the chutneys are amazing and must try’s are the paper masala dosa, medu vada, samosa chaat, special rava masala dosa and choley bhatura.
- Gajalee, Mission District. Indian, and more specifically a Malabari/Konkan seafood restaurant that has recently opened up by the owners of Udipi Palace. Food from this region is my favourite Indian food, I cant wait to try it out! My friend tells me that it is reminiscent of one of his favourite restaurants in Bombay called Gazalee, and takes him straight back to Bombay. The SF Weekly claims that it will transport you back to “the laid-back beach towns and rustling coconut palms of India’s Malabar Coast” (here). He’s told me to try the batata vadas with orange “gunpowder” chutney, any one of the fishy dishes (fish thali, fish malvani, fish xacuti), and the mango piyush drink – “like Lassi but 100x flavor”.
- Tartine Bakery, Mission District. This gem is located near the Mission’s famous Dolores Park, making it convenient to pick something up and take to the park to enjoy 🙂 Must try’s are the morning bun and just simply, a loaf of bread 🙂
- The House, North Beach. Asian Fusion, apparently the sea bass is to die for, as is the salmon! The wasabi noodles is also a must try.
- Pizzeria Delfina, Mission District. The margharita pizza is a must try.
- Boulevard, Embarcadero. An iconic Embarcadero restaurant, Boulevard won this year’s James Beard restaurant for the nation’s outstanding restaurant – the “equivalent of the Oscar for best picture”.
- Ghiradelli, Fisherman’s Wharf. Despite being one of the most popular tourist attractions in SF, Ghiradelli still commands respect from foodies for their hot chocolate fudge, which is just so decadent.
- Flour + Water, Mission District. A newly opened restaurant, F+W has been described as “an ode to California cuisine” (here), with the whole wheat pasta with hen and liver being featured in the 100 things you must eat before you die in SF (here).
- Oasis Grill, Embarcadero. Supposed to have great kebabs and shwarmas, with huge lines at the lunch. “Will knock you out for sure“.
- Cafe Jacqueline, North Beach. Last, but not least, we must finish with a dessert. Apparently it’s a fabulous dessert place – the chocolate souffle comes highly recommended – “OMG. WANT” are the words a friend used to described the souffle 🙂
Follow my journey as I try to hit up as many of these places in my 3 months here!