Our favourite eats in San Francisco
The City by the Bay draws on California’s DPSOH IDUPODQG WKH ZDWHUV RI WKH 3DFLÀF and food traditions from all compass points. We’ve picked the best and most up-to-date places to eat out, from casual pit-stops to destination dining, with a special section
CHEAP EATS City View DIM SUM £ (cityviewdimsum.com; 662 Commercial St) Take a seat in the sunny dining room and make way for carts loaded w ith delicate shrimp and leek dumplings, garlicky Chinese broccoli, tang y spareribs, coconut-dusted custard tar ts and other tantalising dim sum. Come before the midday rush to nab seats in the upstairs room. Golden Boy PIZZA £ (goldenboypizza.com; 542 Green St) Looking for the ultimate postbar-crawl or morning-after slice? Here you’re golden. Since 1978, the Sodini family pizzaioli (pizza makers) have perfected Genovese-style focaccia-crust pizza, achieving that mystical mean between chew y and crunchy with the ideal amount of olive oil. Go for Genovese toppings like clam and garlic or pesto, and bliss out with hot slices and draft beer at the tin-shed counter. La Palma Mexicatessen MEXICAN (lapalmasf.com; 2884 24th St) Follow the applause: that’s the sound of organic tortilla-making in progress. La Palma is the Mission mother lode of handmade tamales, pupusas (tortilla pockets) with potato and chicharones (pork crackling), carnitas (slow-roasted pork), cotija (Oaxacan cheese) and tang y tomatillo sauce. Get takeout, or bring a VPDOO DUP\ WR ÀQLVK WKDW PDVVLYH meal at sunny sidewalk tables. (00La Taqueria1 415 285 7117;2889 MEXICANMission St) £ 6) VDՖURQ·V GHÀQLWLYHULFH VSLQDFK EXUULWR WRU KDV WLOOD QRRU mangomeats, salsa slow-cooked– just perfectly beans grilled and tomatillo or mesquite salsa all ZUDSSHG LQ D ÁRXU WRU WLOOD They’re purists at James Beard Award-winning La Taqueria – you’ll pay extra to go without beans, because they add more meat, but spicy pickles and crema (sour cream) bring burrito bliss. Worth the wait, always. Revenge Pies DESSERTS £ (revengepies.com; 1248 9th Ave) Living well is only the secondbest revenge – a face full of pecan Revenge Pie is far more satisf ying. Here is the compensation for every skimpy à la mode pie VHUYLQJ \RX·YH VXՖHUHG WKURXJK picecream (homemade frozen FXVWDUG HPEHGGHG ZLWK ÁDNHV RI buttery pie crust). The chocolateDOPRQG 5HYHQJH SLH LV D VXUHÀUH crowd-pleaser – but the key-lime picecream could make, break and remake friendships. Tout Sweet BAKERY £ (toutsweetsf.com; Macy’s, 3rd fl, cnr Geary & Stockton Sts) Mango with Thai chili or peanut butter and jelly? Choosing your favorite California-French macaron isn’t easy at Tout Sweet, where Top Chef Just Desserts champion Yigit Pura keeps outdoing his own inventions – he’s like the love child of Julia Child and Steve Jobs. Chef Pura’s sweet retreat on 0DF\·V UG ÁRRU RՖHUV XQEHDWDEOH views overlooking Union Square, H[FHOOHQW WHDV DQG IUHH ZL À MID-RANGE MEALS Al’s Place CALIFORNIAN ££ (alsplacesf.com; 1499 Valencia St) £ T he Golden State dazzles on A l’s plates, featuring homegrown heirloom ingredients, pristine 3DFLÀF VHDIRRG DQG JUDVV IHG meat on the side. Painstaking preparation y ields sun-drenched ÁDYRUV DQG H[TXLVLWH WH[ WXUHV crispy-skin cod w ith frothy preser ved-lime dip, grilled peach melting into velvet y foie gras. Dishes are half the size but WKULFH WKH ÁDYRXU RI PDLQV HOVHwhere – get two or three, and you’ll be California dreaming. Cotogna ITALIAN ££ (cotognasf.com; 490 Pacific Ave) Chef-owner Michael Tusk racks up James Beard Awards for a quintessentially Italian culinar y balancing act: he strikes ideal proportions among a few pristine ÁDYRUV LQ UXVWLF SDVWDV ZRRGÀUHG SL]]DV DQG VDOW FUXVWHG branzino. Reser ve, especially for four-course Sunday suppers with wine pairings – or plan a walk-in late lunch/early dinner. There’s also a top-value Italian wine list Liholiho Yacht Club HAWAIIAN ££ (lycsf.com; 871 Sutter St) W ho needs yachts to be happy? A loha abounds over Liholiho’s pucker-up-tar t cocktails and gleefully creative Calwaiian/ Hawafornian dishes – foolproofmood-enhancers include spicy beef-tongue bao buns, duck-liver mousse w ith pickled pineapple on brioche, and Vietnamese slaw
with tender squid and crispy tripe. Reservations open 30 days prior; alternatively, arrive early or late for bar dining, or head down stairs to Louie’ s Gen-Gen Room speakeasy for shamelessly WDVW\ ERQH PDUURZ EXWWHU ZD HV Mister Jiu’s CHINESE ££ (misterjius.com; 28 Waverly Pl) Ever since the Gold Rush of 1848–1855 turbo-charged the city, San Francisco has craved Chinese food, powerful cocktails and hyper-local specialities–and 0LVWHU -LX·V VDWLVÀHV RQ DOO WKHVH counts. Build your own banquet made of Chinese classics with California twists: chanter el le chow mein, Dungeness crab rice QRRGOHV TXDLO DQG 0LVVLRQ ÀJ sticky rice. Cocktail pairings are equally inspired–try jasmineinfused-gin Happiness with teaVPRNHG 6 R QR PDGXFNFRQÀW Serpentine CALIFORNIAN ££ (serpentinesf.com; 2495 3rd St) The best brunch you’ll ever have inside an old factory boiler room – or, really, any where in San Francisco – is the Dungeness crab Benedict at Serpentine, with extra-frothy hollandaise sauce and audaciously fried lemon and capers, served in a lofty converted tin-can factory. Chef Deepak Kaul ditched medical school to master precision spicing; now his ancho-chile osso bucco will cure whatever ails you. FINE DINING Benu FUSION £££ (benusf.com; 22 Hawthorne St) SF has pioneered Asian fusion cuisine for 150 years, but the SDQ 3DFLÀF LQQRYDWLRQ FKHI owner Corey Lee brings to the plate is gasp-inducing: foie-gras soup dumplings – what?! DungeQHVV FUDE DQG WUX H FXVWDUG SDFN VXFK RXWVL]H ÁDYRXU LQWR /HH·V IDX[²VKDUN·V ÀQ VRXS \RX·OO swear Jaws is in there. Benu dinners are investments, but don’t miss star sommelier Yoon Ha’s ingenious pairings. Cala MEXICAN £££ (calarestaurant.com; 149 Fell St) Like discovering a long-lost twin, Cala’s Mexico Norte cuisine is a revelation. T he Mexicanrancher roots of San Francisco are deeply honoured here: silky bone-marrow salsa and fragrant heritage-corn tor tillas grace a sweet potato slow-cooked in ashes. Brace yourself with a few mezcal margaritas for the ultimate California surf and turf: sea urchin with beef tongue. Original and unforgettable, even before Mayan-chocolate gelato w ith amaranth brittle. In Situ INTERNATIONAL £££ (insitu.sfmoma.org; SFMOMA, 151 3rd St) T he landmark galler y of modern cuisine attached to SFMOMA also showcases avant-garde masterpieces – but these ones you can lick clean. Chef Corey Lee collaborates w ith star chefs worldw ide, scrupulously recreating their signature dishes w ith California-grow n ingredients so that you can enjoy Harald Wohlfahr t’s impeccable anisemarinated salmon, Hiroshi Sasaki’s decadent chicken thighs and A lber t Adrìa’s grav it ydef y ing cocoa-bubble cake all in one unforgettable sitting. Rich Table CALIFORNIAN £££ (richtablesf.com; 199 Gough St) Impossible crav ings begin at R ich Table, the launchpad for porcini doughnuts, miso-marrowVWXՖHG SDVWD DQG IULHG FKLFNHQ madeleines w ith cav iar. Married co-chefs and owners Sarah DQG (YDQ 5LFK SOD\ IXOO\ ULՖ RQ seasonal local produce, freeVW\OLQJ Z LWK ZKLPVLFDO RՖ PHQX amuse-bouches like trippy beet marshmallows or the Dir ty Hippie: nutty hemp atop silky goat-buttermilk pannacotta, as RՖ EHDW DQG HQWUDQFLQJ DV +LSSLH Hill drum circles. Wako SUSHI £££ (sushiwakosf.com; 211 Clement St) Tiny yet mighty in fascination, this drif twood-panelled bistro from chef Tomoharu Nakamura is as quirkily San Franciscan as the bonsai grove at the nearby Japanese Tea Garden. Each omakase (chef ’s choice) dish is a miniature mar vel of Japanese seafood w ith a California accent – Santa Cruz abalone nigiri, seared tuna belly w ith California cav iar, crab mushimono w ith y uzu grown by a neighbour. MARKETS AND MORE Ferry Plaza Farmers Market MARKET £ (cuesa.org; cnr Market St & the Embarcadero) T he pride and joy of SF, the Ferr y Building market showcases 50 to 100 prime pur veyors of organic Californian produce, pastureraised meat and gourmet prepared foods at accessible prices. On Saturdays, join top chefs early for prime browsing, and stay for eclectic Bay-side picnics of Namu Korean tacos, RoliRoti porchetta, Dir ty Girl tomatoes, Nicasio cheese samples, and Frog Hollow fruit turnovers. Mission Community Market MARKET £ (missioncommunitymarket.org; Bartlett St, btwn 21st & 22nd Sts) Back-alley bounty brings ravenRXV FURZGV WR WKLV QRQSURÀW neighborhood-run market on T hursdays, come rain or shine. More than 30 local farmers and IRRG DU WLVDQV RՖHU &DOLIRUQLD produce and inspired SF street food – look for Coastside Farms’ smoked albacore, Tomatero Farms’ heirloom green-zebra tomatoes, F lour Chylde pastries and Chaac Mool’s cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork). Enjoy shade, seating and mariachis at murallined La Placita. Outstanding in the Field POP-UP £££ (outstandinginthefield.com) Dinners w ith guest-star chefs like A lice Waters and this Bay A rea-based crew pop up in the unlikeliest of places – strawberr y ÀHOGV VHD FDYHV VDQGEDUV ² WR bring diners to the source of their food. SoMa StrEat Food Park FOOD TRUCKS £ (somastreatfoodpark.com; 428 11th St) Your posse is hungr y, but one of you is vegan, another demands tacos w ith beer, and another craves Korean fried chicken. So what do you do? First: recognise that you and your friends belong in San Francisco. Second: head to this SoMa parking lot, where gourmet food trucks w ill satisf y your ever y whim. T he area gets sketchy – mind your wallet.
homemade), succulent cheeses, composed salads and knockout sandwiches, plus 50 wines by the glass. Seating at shared tables and the bar. No reservations. Venticello (venticello.com; 1257 Taylor St) To enter Venticello’s two-storeyhigh dining room, you descend via a staircase – which may be why so many of the Nob Hill regulars dress up for this otherwise casual neighbourhood Italian bistro: everyone sees you arrive. Standout menu items include spaghetti carbonara, risotto and pizzas from the wood-fired oven. Perfect for date night. Za (zapizzasf.com; 1919 Hyde St) You don’t get gourmet, cornmeal-dusted, thin-crust slices like this every day. Pizza-lovers brave uphill climbs for pizza piled with fresh toppings, a pint of Anchor Steam and a cozy bar setting – all for under $10.
Zarzuela (00 1 415 346 0800; 2000 Hyde St) One of Russian Hill’s longtime stars, Zarzuela’s real Spanish tapas include terrific paella and garlic prawns, plus unusual dishes like braised quail and Madridstyle tripe. Ochre-washed walls and terracotta tiles set a simple backdrop for the dynamic cooking. No reservations: come early or put your name on the list and wander lovely Hyde St.
Cotogna gives Italian flavours a Californian spin
Take in street views at Union Larder Burger time at Stones Throw A vintage cable-car ascends Nob Hill