Insider’s Guide to Dining Well in San Francisco

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Awesome Tips   Flight Network Foodie  

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San Francisco is the cultural, commercial and financial center of Northern California and has an excitingly dynamic food scene which caters to 17 million annual visitors. Whether your preference is Dungeness crab, surrounded by the honky-tonk vibe of Fisherman’s Warf, or dim-sum amongst the Pagoda-style architecture of China Town, there’s something to satisfy any and every craving.

With such a varied choice of dining options, one has to wonder where to start. I’m very fortunate as I have an insider, (my nephew) who recommended most of the following spots. The kid really knows his food.

Hopefully, our experiences will inspire you to tantalize your tastebuds.

Brunch

One of the first things I learned was that “brunch” is serious business in San Francisco – the locals love their brunch and know there’ll be line-ups at the popular spots.

Kitchen Story is a wonderful spot, particularly for brunch or dinner, located on 16th street in ‘The Castro’ district. They hope to transport their guests back to the nostalgia of grandma’s kitchen, with its cute homey décor and aromas of food wafting from the kitchen – and I think they succeed. The menu (with an Asian influence) has a casual but excellent fare including millionaire’s bacon (soaked in maple syrup then fried), a variety of egg dishes, wonderful stuffed French toast, great burgers, fish, steak and so much more. We tried the maguro tuna ceviche, chicken Pad Thai and their famous “Burgah Boy” – everything was delicious.

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Brenda’s French Soul Food

The Tenderloin district has the highest concentration of inexpensive ethnic restaurants and trendy bars in the Bay area. One of the best, Brenda’s, is touted as having the best ‘soul food’ in San Fran as well as the most heavenly biscuits. It was among my favourite brunch experiences, the shrimp and grits – literally, the stuff brunch-dreams are made of and the beignets can’t be beat – you get a choice of crawfish, Granny Smith or my favorite straight-up chocolate beignets – love these. We had the pancakes, andouille sausage & cheddar omelette and shrimp & grits. I’ve since been told their meals are the very best ‘hangover-cures’ available.

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Arrive hungry! The line-ups are long but well worth the wait.

Palace Hotel

Splurge on Sunday Brunch at the Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection, corner of Market and New Montgomery. This is a casual update on a classic Palace experience – with a stained glass dome, Italian marble columns and Austrian crystal chandeliers. The new Garden Court à la carte brunch, highlights the unique, indigenous elements of San Francisco with a locally sourced menu, allowing Chef Jesse Llapitan to create dishes that are pure and uncomplicated. The amazing ambiance, coupled with live entertainment, city-chic cocktails and sparkling wines, guarantee a memorable Sunday brunch. We had the (Dungeness) Crab Benedict, a wonderful Omelet and mimosas. Don’t forget to order a side of the pecan sticky buns.

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Seven Hills

Set in the Russian Hill district, this rustically cozy trattoria is one of my favourite places to dine. The amazing chef, Anthony Florian, produces Rome inspired, farm-to-table cuisine. His hand-made pasta’s are delicate and melt in your mouth. The staff is phenomenal and passionate about everything they serve. Each server knew exactly what to recommend, including wines, from their incredible wine list. People in the know, locals and visitors alike, gravitate to Seven Hills. DSC01356 salumi sevenh We tried a multitude of dishes from salumi to pasta and desserts (Tomato Braised Polpette, Zuckerman Farm Summer Melon, Beef Carpaccio, Charred Spanish Octopus, Raviolo Uovo, Maccheroncelli, Maccheroncelli and Cappelletti). DSC01372 pasta sevenh Fresh Salmon sourced from Joe Conti, fish purveyor – was supposed to be our final entrée, but we had to beg off since our palates had reached the maximum quota, is it any wonder?

Located on Claude Lane in the Financial District and Inspired by the travels of a gypsy, Gitane, is one of San Francisco’s hidden gems. It’s a spirited restaurant and bar with playful cocktails, exceptional food, and a setting that combines the sexy playfulness of a ‘30s cabaret with the audacious spirit of the 1970s. They have an extensive wine list, large sherry collection and a daily punch. We found the appetizers a little weak, but the mains (rooted in southern France) were delicious and the cocktails incredible. We chose the Wood Roasted Chicken Ballotine, and the Duo of Lamb, (grilled and merguez-spiced sausage). Desserts matched with a digestif were exceptional.

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Coffee San Franciscans love their coffee

Matching Half Cafe

This is a small but sunny neighbourhood café at McAllister and Baker, in Western Addition, near the university. It’s very popular with students who stop to meet friends and study while sipping exceptional coffee and devouring fabulous pastries. My nephew lives nearby, so we met for a chat and enjoyed the best coffee I’d had in a long while.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Located at 315 Linden St, in Hayes Valley. Blue Bottle has six locations in San Francisco and use responsibly sourced beans. I had heard a lot about this coffee shop so I checked it out, but sadly I must admit the coffee wasn’t to my liking.

Bakeries

Tartine Bakery

Located on the corner of 18th & Guerrero St, in the Mission district. Owners, baker Chef Chad Roberton and pastry chef Elizabeth Prueitt are well known in the Bay Area. Their pastries are outstanding and generally regarded to be the best in San Francisco. Breads are available after 4:30 am each day and can be ordered in advance.

Arizmendi Bakery Cooperative

Located at 1331 9th Ave., Inner Sunset, just 2 blocks from Golden Gate Park. This bakery is part of a co-op, owned by the employees. They specialize in morning pastries, including gooey pecan rolls, artisan breads and gourmet pizzas, offering different pizzas every day. The bakery is very popular with locals, and in an interesting locale.

Mission Pie

Located at 2901 Mission Street, is a charming green-certified spot with lots of personality. The menu is simple and unfussy, pie-centric, yet not pie-exclusive as they serve salads along with their sweet and savory pies and tarts. They promise to deliver best quality food at the most affordable prices. These pies are very popular with the locals in the Mission district especially the banana cream pie.

Ferry Market

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The Ferry Building Marketplace is located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street (the trolley cars stop in front). You’ll find everything from artisan cheeses to the freshest of local fish. It’s open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays but go on a Saturday – it’s vibrant and insanely busy, but one of the best food experiences in San Francisco. With so many samples of the best California fruit, cheeses and other delights, I was in heaven, but I warn you the crowds are crazy.

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Charcuterie and Sandwiches — The Fatted Calf

Located in the lower Hayes area on Fell Street. They have a wonderful selection of sausages, pates, salumi, fresh & smoked meats and great sandwiches. I loved this place, It’s a haven for gourmands; a fabulous place to buy your meats, cheeses and some of the best charcuterie in town. Their meatball sandwich is delicious – but be prepared, you’ll definitely drop a few dollars here. San Fran-41-2

Well San Francisco has definitely proved to be a ‘food mecca, with a phenomenal range of quality eateries. Keep in mind, that with a lot of restaurants in the Bay area, it’s necessary to book a month in advance to secure a decent time slot for dinner.

 

About the Author: Parm Parmar

A consummate traveler from an early age, Parm Parmar, lives to explore the world. Anything to do with food, history and culture peeks her interest. Her stories appear on her blog Planet Blue Adventure in print and on popular online travel sites. Parm is a member of North America Travel Journalists Association and Travel Massive.

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