San Francisco's food scene has long been known as one of the best in the country. And based on our visit I can easily say that I understand why. We had some really incredible meals in San Francisco during our 5-night stay, one of which made it to my list of all-time best travel meals. Today I'm sharing more about our San Francisco foodie experiences. Find out where we ate in San Francisco and why we'd go back to any of these great restaurants in a heartbeat!
NOTE: You'll soon realize that breakfast is noticeably absent from my list of where to eat in San Francisco. That's because our hotel, Hilton Union Square, offered affordable breakfast options in their grab-and-go cafe, Herb N'Kitchen. I started each day with a fresh banana, yogurt and orange juice all for under $10.
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We started our stay in San Francisco late on a Tuesday afternoon, just in time to find a cocktail before dinner. Strolling West from our hotel in Union Square we stumbled into Lord George, a chic cocktail bar & gastropub in the predominantly commercial area of SoMa. We enjoyed a few cocktails with a nice charcuterie plate for nibbles. The bartender was helpful, giving us a few pointers on other places to eat or drink during our stay. The after-work crowd was thin but were "usuals", many of them chatting with each other as though they'd known each other forever. It was hard not to feel welcomed by the atmosphere at Lord George, which promised to be a great start to our trip.
Next, we ventured to Garaje, a hipper version of the gastropub, for more bar food and beer. We lined up at the counter at Garaje, amazed by the sheer number of people packed into the place on a Tuesday night. This seat-yourself joint required a skillful partnership: one person to scout out a table while the other stood in line to order. We opted for street tacos and the Cali-steak zapato, a marinated steak, and avocado wrapped in a golden brown tortilla. Finally, we got to enjoy our selections of California-style bar food which paired perfectly with local craft brews available on tap. It was just how I like to start off any vacation!
Kingdom of Dumpling
The following day we decided to trek out to the Parkside district in search of the perfect dumpling. We'd heard from SoCal Asian cuisine expert, David Chan, that the best dumplings in San Francisco are at Kingdom of Dumpling. The tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery was what we'd hoped to find: unpretentious and authentic. We opted for the traditional tastes of cabbage and pork for our steamed options but splurged a little on two varieties of soup dumplings. These tasty little pockets of heaven were what we needed before our long walk to Ocean Beach. Filled with warmth from the green tea and soup dumplings, we set off in hopes of seeing the wreckage of the King Philip clipper, which sadly wasn't there.
For dinner we decided to stay near Union Square, exhausted by our trek earlier that day. After searching Yelp for what seemed like forever, we opted to head to Hopwater Distribution, a cool new gastropub specializing in craft beers and pub fare. With so many beers to choose from it was hard to decide, but I went for my usual IPA to compliment my beer-marinated cod sandwich while The Professor selected a burger and ale combo. The pub was filled with young people enjoying their Wednesday night after a long day of work. It was easy to see that this was a happening spot!
Rosamunde Sausage Grill
The next day I struck out on my own while The Professor had to work. I found myself in the Mission District admiring the street art for most of the day. I'd gone with the expressed purpose of seeing great art, finding vintage treasure and getting a burrito at La Taqueria. Sadly, it was closed for renovations, leaving me standing on the street searching YELP for an alternative. Luck would have it, I found just the place only a block away: Rosamunde Sausage Grill. Although it was a trendier alternative to La Taqueria, Rosamunde was low-key enough to draw me in and please my palate. The gourmet bratwurst paired with fresh buns, pickled veggies and spicy mustard was perfect. The craft beer and salty potato chips made for a great midday meal, fueling my treasure hunt for the rest of the day...or at least until I passed a sign that said ICE CREAM.
The Mission District is an interesting place, one that's gentrifying at a rapid rate. And Humphry Scolombe is an excellent example of the change that's happening in the predominantly working class area. The local chain of ice cream shops features amazing artisanal ice cream with unique flavors. I had to stop in for a scoop even though I was still full. I just couldn't help myself, but then again, who could? After tasting a few, I opted for a few scoops of Browned Butter, a delightfully simple yet satisfying treat.
That night I found myself back in the Mission District for dinner. Having met up with a friend we decided to dine on delicious brick oven pizza at Pizzeria Delfina, a street side pizzeria in the heart of the Mission. We started with some delicious arancini, a traditional Italian appetizer of fried rice and cheese. Next, we chose a few single serving pizzas as we all wanted something different. Let me tell y'all, these pies were something! Each one of our pizzas was made with super-fresh, high-quality ingredients. Always the meat-lover, I opted for the Salsicca pie which includes their house-made fennel sausage.
Ghiradelli's Ice Cream Shop
Once again I was on my own the next day, which meant more exploration and more good eats. After riding the street car to Fisherman's Wharf for a few photos, I treated myself to a mid-morning ice cream sundae at The Original Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, something every grown-up should do at least once. The classic black-and-white tiled floors, marble-topped tables, and neatly dressed wait staff helped make the experience extra special. I had to stop myself from buying several jars of caramel sauce it was THAT good!
Hog Island Oyster Company
Walking from Ghiradelli Square all the way to the Embarcadero took a while, especially with the frequent stops to take photos. By the time I made it to the historic pier I was hungry again. I'd read somewhere that Hog Island Oyster Company served half-priced raw oysters on Thursdays. Much to my surprise, I was told they no longer honor the deal at that location, making raw oysters out of the question at more than $2 a pop! So, I opted for the next best thing: a steaming hot bowl of clam chowder. And what a wise choice it was! I've never had chowder quite like it, nor will I ever again. The steamed clams and the potato-rich broth was truly spectacular. I took my time savoring my chowder at the bar, journaling about my travels thus far and chatting up my neighbor to get even more San Francisco tips.
Li Po Lounge
Later that afternoon I popped into Li Po Lounge for a Chinese Mai-Tai that knocked my socks off! I'd first heard about the Lipo Lounge while watching Anthony Bourdain, but I was reminded of it again while reading my Lonely Planet guide in preparation for our San Francisco adventure. Historic bars with extra strong drinks and friendly neighborhood bartenders make for a great afternoon in Chinatown. A little dazed but not confused, I spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the Filbert Steps in search of the perfect picture.
Later that night we dined at Kabuto Restaurant, a famous sushi restaurant in the Richmond District. This super small restaurant requires either a reservation or else you'll find yourself standing in line in the cold. The fresh fish recommended by our waitress was out of this world, and the eggplant appetizer was incredibly tasty. The drizzled miso sauce paired with the silky eggplant was out-of-this-world good. We considered ordering a second portion but thought better of it when we tasted that the sushi was even better.
Our last day in the historic city was a fun one! We decided to spend the day exploring Haight Ashbury, an area I'd longed to see since I was young. We strolled the streets of the Haight, shopping and ogling the passers-by. After a while we found ourselves getting hungry. We'd read about Palmyra on Yelp and decided to give it a try. A short walk away from the Haight, Palmyra serves traditional Mediterranean fare. This family-owned restaurant was warm and inviting. We were greeted by the owner and his son who helped us decide on a delicious lunch that was filling and affordable. Our selection included traditional flavors like hummus, falafel and lamb shawarma gyros. We also opted for Persian beers that perfectly complimented our lunch. Filled to the gills we strolled out of the restaurant and headed for Golden Gate Park, where we spent the rest of our day aimlessly walking through the park hand in hand.
Z & Y Restaurant
For our last meal in San Francisco we wanted a taste of the exotic, so we headed back to Chinatown to eat at the famous Z&Y Restaurant. Again, we'd heard about this spot from David Chan, so we knew it would be good. We walked over in a light rain, hoping to find a shorter line due to the inclement weather. We were pleased to find only a few people in line and opted to wait for 30 minutes (in the rain) to get a seat at this Zagat-rated Szechuan restaurant. We admired the photos of celebrities who'd dined in the restaurant before us, including President Obama. Once seated we ordered almost immediately, after having stared at the picture menu hanging in the window which made our mouths water while waiting. The crispy chicken and spicy noodles were unbelievable, and the Szechuan peppers left a lingering spice in our mouths that no amount of water could quench. Stuffed and satiated, we stumbled back to the hotel, drunk on spice and savory goodness.
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We left San Francisco the next day with lighter pockets and full bellies. Having amazing meals was only one part of our amazing trip, but it was what made a good trip great! The meals, the sights and the atmosphere combined to make it one of my most memorable trips to date. I can't wait to go back to taste even more of what San Francisco has to offer!
For more about my time in San Francisco be sure to check out my previous posts including my favorite sights of San Francisco! I've listed out my favorite sights and all the reasons why they were amazing.
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Until next time, my friends! Keep exploring!