1. Bob’s Donuts – How I came to find this donut heaven was by chance. I was out for a morning walk, exploring a new area and looking for a healthy breakfast, and wandered by this place with media stickers up the wazoo, so I had to step inside and abandon my original plan. This is a bit of a no-frills spot on Polk Street with tons of character and locals in-and-out of the shop all morning. Now, I’m a big big fan of Peter Pan’s honey glazed donuts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And Bob’s holds a candle to my favorite donut and then some… My advice: make time to eat your donut there at the counter or at one of the small side tables. It’s part of the local allure of this place.
2. 4505 Meat’s Chicharrones – the fat in these suckers are more on the buttery/sweet side than you’d think. It also has a more elegant crunch to them – not like break-your-teeth-on-‘em crispy (the way I usually like my chicharrones) but addicting nonetheless. I introduced two friends to chicharrones for the very first time in their life. They were impressed and surprised how much they liked crispy pork skin goodness. I was like, HELLO!
3. R & G Lounge Salt & Pepper Crab – hands down my #1 favorite eating experience of the week. The only utensils you need are your hands (if you dare). The sweet luscious dungeness crab meat (now in season) pulls easily away from the wok fried crab shell. The subtle salt & pepper spice and flour coating is so light and tasty you find your teeth often gnawing on the shell itself so-as-to savor as much of the cooking technique as possible. The presentation is the best, and during our 2 hour meal, I did not find one table that did not order at least one of these for their group. Often, there were at least 2 or 3 piled on top of each other with happy diners so lost in gluttony, it was a joy to witness. Best taken down with a few beers.
4. Fatted Calf’s Beef Jerky – great packaging, great presentation. Well flavored meat that had me chewing in all the right ways. The salty/sweet bourbon molasses flavor developed more intensely the more I chewed. I highly recommend these to take home as your red-eye airline snack.
5. Humphry Slocombe’s Hibiscus Beet Sorbet – I’m not sure what drew me more to this sorbet, the intense vibrant shade of fluorescent beet pink that reminded me of scuba diving in coral forests or just the flavor name. Now, I know everyone gets the Secret Breakfast here, and yes it’s damn good. But, you’ll be only hurting yourself not to order this complex flavor during your visit. It’s really beet-y, but not in a healthy vegetable way. The addition of hibiscus makes it more like candy. Just try it!
6. Namu’s Korean Beef Short Rib “Tacos” – In the photo, the plate had 3 tacos. One for each of my dining guests. Looking back, I wish that plate was mine and only mine. Damn those were good. I mean, totally impossible to eat with your hands alone, but I certainly didn’t mind licking the umami-powered flavor off my fingers. The rice the meat sat on top also had something special and oily about it.
7. Boccalone’s Meat Cone – Now I had to give this meat cone props for imagination and practicality. Everyone that steps into this specialty meat shop in the Ferry Building wants to sample the hanging meats, but it’s soooo hard to decide which one to try without making a huge production with a long line also waiting behind you! Well, in comes the meat cone. And in it, piled in pretty layers, lies the best of what they have to offer in a presentation that is both fun and whimsical. Brilliant.
8. Pho Ao Sen’s Rare Steak, Flank, Tendon Pho – you want to try good Pho? This is the place. Now, you have to go a bit out of your way to get here AND you have to just trust that no matter what this place looks like, with its caged in windows, that the food is good. Just look around at the clientele. They are all locals that have been eating here for years. The salad bowl sized pho bowls are served with piles of fresh basil, mint and bean sprouts. And the broth is soothing. Not rich like most ramen soups, but perfectly brothy and comforting in its own beefy way. My friend who is Vietnamese says this is one of the best Pho spots in the SF area. And for me, it’s better than anything I’ve had in New York.
9. Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken & Bread Salad – you absolutely cannot go to San Francisco and not eat and crave this very dish. It’s the epitome of a good roast chicken. Fall-off-the-bone meat, a zesty herb flavored skin to tear between your teeth. And the bread salad is out of this world. I have a feeling they somehow incorporate the roast chicken drippings into them. It really is as good as everyone says it is, and worth the hour wait.
10. Tartine’s Croissants & Open Faced Croque Monsieur – my brother was dying to take me here. He thinks it’s one of the very best bread experiences he’s ever had and, certainly, a breakfast I wouldn’t be able to live down for awhile. I think we ordered 12 things off their breakfast case. Of everything we tried, the croissants and croque monsieur’s were my favorite. The croissants were so HUGE and filled with circular buttery layers that just melted into the crevasses of your tongue. And the flakey outside was nicely browned and had just the right texture on the bite to make it memorable. As for the croque monsieur, if they have one with wild mushrooms and cheese in their case beckoning you, get that one. It was oh-my-god good – and the only way I could try their famous sourdough bread. I needed a nap after this meal.
11. Zuni Cafe’s Caesar Salad – I’ve eaten many many many a caesar salad in my life. Just what is it about this that makes it so unbelievably delicious? Do they use the perfect anchovies from some magical mystical sea? Or make their croutons with crack? What is it? I want to know because that was awfully good. I even liked the presentation of whole romaine leaves left for you to cut into yourself. I like the effort you had to put into it, slicing it and enjoying it like a good steak…as it should be.
12. Kika’s Treats Coconut Shortbread – Now, I would say See’s candy, as I’ve devoured another 1 pound box of their chocolates in the last week, but See’s is kinda a no-brainer, so I’m going to tell you about Kika’s Treats. I ran into these at the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. I asked the lady who was selling all sorts of local artisan baked goods what I should try, and she ever-so encouragingly pointed my grabby hungry hands towards the coconut shortbread taste platter. These were killer. A burst of crunchy coconut that makes eating the treat fun. The dark chocolate that remained on your palette gave the shortbread a nice encore. Overall, my favorite local SF artisan food for my sweet tooth! They also make great small gifts!
Hope you enjoyed my round up of San Fran eating as much as I enjoyed being there! Viva la SF! And a big thank you to all my special dining guests…you know who you are…