"" What's She Eating Now?: San Francisco Treats

Friday, January 8, 2010

San Francisco Treats

Like most stubborn life-long New Yorkers, I am reluctant to concede there is better anything anywhere else, especially when it comes to food. Certainly regional dishes are best where they originated, partly because of the execution and partly because of the authentic trappings, but there is not much you can't find a great version of in New York. Barbecue, check. Fried chicken, check. New England-style lobster rolls, in spades. And I have never failed to emphasize the superiority of New York's culinary landscape to Dan on our many trips to San Francisco, as we suffered through mediocre meals at restaurants we went to on recommendation. But this time was different.

Dan and I go to San Francisco fairly often because his family and many of his friends aren't fortunate enough to call New York home. On each of these trips, I have labored to find good food, only to head back to New York with no strong memories, positive anyway, of anything I have seen or eaten. But even this New York food snob has to give it up to San Francisco for some finds from our most recent trip.
  • Fisherman's Wharf. A fresh crab sandwich for breakfast. What a way to start the day. Dan and I walked through all the stalls and chose the vendor with the tastiest looking crab on the best bread and also tried the crab cocktail. Since it has never been frozen or transported cross-country, the taste is rich and clean, and although we have similar items in New York, nothing here is quite the same. Dungeness crab is indigenous to the west coast and you can't get it much fresher than at Pier 39. And if you go at 9am like we did, there are no tourists to contend with. Bonus. 

  • Neighborhood Sushi. Another nice thing about San Francisco is the neighborhood sushi place is probably pretty good. Unfortunately for my wallet, I rarely eat sushi in New York if its not in a top place that has the good stuff such as Ushi Wakamaru or Sushi Yasuda. But in San Francisco, your average sushi place will include premium selections such as kampachi, kinmedai, shima aji, and fish specials from Japan, and is a much better bet than any run of the mill corner sushi joint in New York. A couple I can recommend purely based on the fish are Sanraku and Sushi Groove (yes, somehow places with names like Sushi Groove, which I would avoid here like a new soul food restaurant being opened by Lidia Bastianich, can be total delights there). If you've been to Sebo let me know how it is, its on my list.
    • La Boulange Bakery. Its a chain, but a good one. For brunch or lunch this is a solid choice for good eggs and sandwiches served in a quaint environment that feels a lot more homespun than someplace with 11 units. I particularly like the open face tuna melt with cheddar.

    • Ferry Building. What fun. Every Tuesday and Saturday there is a green market around three sides of the building and as far as produce goes, advantage San Francisco. The fruits and vegetables have such vibrant colors and scents and there are things you can't buy from local farmers here such as amazingly sweet and juicy citrus. The other neat thing about this green market is there are many stalls also serving up prepared foods. The smells were overwhelming and we wanted to try everything but settled on a bier sausage from Aidell's to tide us over until lunch. Simply amazing. The sausage stood on its own, no condiments necessary. (They carry Aidell's packaged product in Food Emporium in New York City). After walking the entire market we went inside to amble along the gallery of specialty food shops and eateries. Again, most of the shops also serve food made to order and it all smelled and looked fantastic. But we refrained for we had a mission in mind and it was...

    • Hog Island Oyster Company. We shared 24 assorted west coast oysters and their version of steamers. The oysters were all wonderfully flavorful and so different than oysters on the east coast. Our favorite, which we noted was a little tart upfront and sweet on the finish, was Hog Island's own oysters (you can find these in a handful of NY restaurants but I imagine they lose a little of their mojo in transit). A couple of glasses of champagne, oysters, and a nice view of the Bay Bridge was a lovely way to cap off the afternoon.
    • The next day we were in the mood for a little dim sum but didn't want to have the head-on-a-swivel-looking-for-good-stuff Chinatown experience. We headed to Yank Sing. Solid, clean tasting dim sum in a very civilized setting. Any easy parking too!
    • If your travels bring you the south bay, I really like the Los Gatos Gourmet in Los Gatos. Great sandwiches and a small but quality selection of cheeses and chacuterie. Manresa, also in Los Gatos, is on my list to try for dinner on a future trip.
    It took a while but now that I have seen that the lights aren't totally broken in the San Francisco culinary tunnel, I look forward to going back and exploring more!


    1. It takes a lot to impress this big eater, and you certainly have with this one. I applaud your San Franciscan gastro-tour de force. Heading to SF next week -- with a print out. Thanks!

    2. Good update.
      Without sounding like a shill, allow me to give a thumbs up to the Swan Oyster Depot. Great lunchcounter with fresh oysters and seafood. I dream of a dozen fresh kumamoto oysters, a slice of sourdough and a cold anchor steam.

    3. I have several additional comments about San Francisco.

      First, when you order sushi the standard order size is two pieces. So when you balk at the price list just remember that you're not in Manhattan, you're just getting twice as much as you want. So if you want to sample various types of sushi, it's good to go with other people that have similar tastes (or who don't care and will eat half of whatever you order).

    4. This just in from my friend Emily:

      Oh, I have many to share. Beyond Boulange is http://www.tartinebakery.com/ in the Mission. Also, the best Chinese is not in Chinatown but in the Inner Sunset: http://www.santungrestaurant.com/. And sink deeper into the city for sushi in the Inner Richmond.

      She is tempting me into a sequel to this post... Stay tuned.