San Francisco is one of those cities that should be on your bucket list. One reason is for the incredible food. Much like New York City, you can eat pretty much anything your heart desires in almost any setting. There are so many ways to dine and so many choices to choose from, that just one visit is not nearly enough time to even scratch the surface of this gastronomic oasis.
To put it plainly, San Francisco is a foodie’s paradise. So when my friend, Tiki, and I embarked upon this trip to San Franciso, we didn’t realized it would become such a culinary adventure. We literally did not have one bad meal. I would consider our “worst” meal as the worst of the best.
The first stop was a dining situation that I set up prior to our arrival. I say “situation” because San Francisco is known for what I consider to be “creative dining”. One aspect of this is clandestine dining. Clandestine dining is dining that is usually 1) underground (read: location unknown) and 2) menu unknown and at the chef’s discretion. Thus, I found Stag Dining for that experience. I was able to secure a clandestine dinner on our first night in San Francisco. It was a signed cookbook release by Ovenly at Heath Ceramics, a ceramics store turned into a space for a tasting menu with paired cocktails. The chef used variations of recipes in the book for the tasting menu and cocktails. To get everyone relaxed and mingling, they provided champagne to start, followed by the main event. Here’s a few pics of the fare:
Needless to say, after three glasses of “bubbly” and five cocktails, I was feeling very relaxed and full. It’s amazing how five small bites and five regular cocktails can fill you up. During the clandestine dinner, we befriended a lovely couple who were a Godsend in so many ways. Their suggestions for not only great eats, but also alternative transportation ( à la Sidecar) in San Francisco proved to be invaluable. That’s one of the things I love about traveling- the ability to meet new people and be introduced to suggestions that ordinarily would not have come up.
According to our newly made friends, San Francisco has a plethora of French restaurants. When I found out that Friday was the last day of San Francisco’s Restaurant Week, I KNEW that our next cuisine would be French, because it’s more affordable then. Enter Absinthe, a French restaurant located on Hayes Street.
Here was what we ordered from the lunch menu for Restaurant Week: Prosecco (Tiki), Roasted Mary’s Chicken over butternut squash pureé and brussel sprouts (Tiki), Grilled Pork Tenderloin over marscapone polenta and Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Granita and Tarragon Syrup.
Tiki and I concur that this was our best meal of the whole trip, mainly because it was so unexpectedly delicious. The decor was simple yet elegant, and it was not crowded at all for a weekend lunch, which meant our service was stellar.
After such a great meal already, we wondered if the bar had been set so high that our fortune would run out eventually on this trip. The answer to that was no. In a small alley in the Financial district, just a picture of a pink elephant hangs-THE Pink Elephant (thanks, Groupon!). It’s known for it’s bottomless mimosas with an impressive variety of exotic juices at brunch. That was excellent news for me because I’m not fond of traditional mimosas of champagne and orange juice, mainly because I don’t like orange juice very much.
Though nondescript on the outside, The Pink Elephant served us the best burger we had ever eaten. Seriously. It was juicy and cooked to perfection. Not to be outdone, the garlic fries were amazing as well. These fries had WHOLE garlic cloves on them! (Please see the blue arrows).
Just writing this makes my salivary glands tingle. The atmosphere was that of a loud, casual, college crowd but very fun and relaxed. My advice: DO NOT PASS GO or collect $200. Go straight to The Pink Elephant.
One of the more famous spots we visited was Buena Vista Cafe. It’s down by Fisherman’s Wharf and was a great break from sightseeing. The most scenic way to get there is by cable car. It’s known for it’s Irish coffee and it did not disappoint. Because it’s so famous (and crowded), we shared a table with other people, which made for a lively conversation and photobombing.
So far, we’d had a French meal, an American meal and an Irish coffee. It was time for something a little more Eastern, so Ryoko’s Sushi was our next late-night stop. On Yelp, it received great reviews and you know what Yelpers say goes (mostly). The restaurant is located in a small space with steep stairs leading down to the restaurant, so if you don’t have two great working legs and hips, choose another sushi spot. Decor is not their strong suit, but thankfully, sushi is. The main reason I chose this restaurant was for its unusual sushi roll–the Volcano Roll, which consisted of deep fried shrimp, jalapeño and peanut butter with cucumber and flying fish roe. Although I’m not a huge peanut butter fan, it was a necessity that I try it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as terrible as it sounds. Personally, I found the peanut butter to be a bit overwhelming but otherwise, not bad. The other sushi rolls we had were good but not nearly as adventurous, while the chicken karaage was nice as well.
With all this delicious yet unhealthy food, we had to somewhat counter that with a little healthier restaurant at Kombu Kitchen for brunch the next day. As another Groupon find and a great destination on our culinary odyssey, Kombu Kitchen provided me with the most unusual chicken and waffles I’ve eaten, to date. Chicken and chia seed waffles. What? ¿Qué? Yep, it was so savory and so good. The chicken cutlets were so tender and crispy over the chia waffles. Biting into the chia waffles felt like I was biting into sparkles. I don’t know what sparkles taste like, but I imagine something like this. Ok, so waffles aren’t necessarily healthy but the chia seeds should count, right? Tiki got the eggs benedict and loved every bite.
That evening we went BACK to Absinthe. Enough said.
Monday morning was our last day in San Francisco and we couldn’t leave without one more meal. Just one more. We opted for a small café within walking distance of our hotel. I am not a coffee person but I do like a nice chai tea latte. So I ordered that along with the spinach and feta quiche. Tiki had the eggs benedict (again) but she said that the one at Kombu Kitchen was better. All in all, it was a very solid, quick breakfast for our last meal in San Francisco.
If you did nothing but eat while in San Francisco, it would be well worth the trip. Of course we did more than that, so stay tuned. What are your favorite places to eat San Francisco?