San Francisco is one of the world's best food cities due to the Californian produce and the cultures that have made this city home. Here are 13 amazingly delicious things to eat that are so San Francisco!
Number 1: Sourdough.
When Isidore Boudin brought sourdough bread to San Francisco in 1849 he probably had no idea that the bread being made today would be using the same starter as the one that they used during the California gold rush. San Francisco's year round foggy climate is said to cultivate special strains of bacteria (called, and I'm not kidding, "L. sanfranciscensis.") and the bread produced, a French bread with a San Francisco starter is now called San Francisco Sourdough.
Sourdough at Boudin Bakery
Boudin Bakery bakes between 12,000-15,000 loaves of bread a day in various shapes and sizes (a crab or bear shaped sourdough loaf anyone?). The story behind Boudin is fascinating (more on that in an upcoming post) and it is well worth a visit to their bread museum located near their Fisherman's Wharf bistro. The bakery's bread and popularity is also integral to the plot of the movie Home Alone 3. Or if you're in the Mission district, world famous bakery Tartine makes a phenomenal sourdough bread.
Brunch at Tartine
Number 2: Dungeness Crab.
If you love crab then you will love Dungeness Crab, a meaty crab with relatively small pincers but fat, meaty legs and sweet flesh. And eating crab isn't a cost prohibitive venture in San Francisco.
Dungeness Crab at China Live
There are so many ways to try Dungeness crab from crab dip, crab sandwiches, crab cakes, crab St Louis, crab mac and cheese, crab pizza or Cioppino seafood stew topped with fresh crab (more on that delicious dish later!). Or visit the glamorous emporium China Live in Chinatown that serves a freshly cooked 2lb/1kg salt and pepper crab for just $45USD!
Number 3: Carnitas Mission style burrito at La Taqueria.
One of my favourite areas of San Francisco was the Mission district, an area that mixes the city's Latin American migrants with hipsters. Food wise, theres a plethora of Mexican food, taquerias, bean to bar chocolatiers, bakeries and cafes.
Mission Style Carnitas Burrito
La Taqueria is said to have the best burritos in the Mission and their point of difference is that there isn't any rice in their burritos leaving room for the good and tasty stuff over filler. The crowds agree and even in the slow heat of a summer mid afternoon on a week day there are long queues. Have one of you nab a table while the other orders-both these things will take time. You choose the meat from beef, pork, beef heart, beef tongue, chorizo sausage and chicken. We chose a carnitas or pork burrito and they are soft and so moreish you may find yourself day dreaming about these burritos long after you've eaten them. Cash only.
Number 4: Dim Sum at Dumpling Time.
Tom Yum Goong Xiao Long Bao at Dumpling Time
San Francisco is known for its large Chinese population - in some areas public transport announcements are broadcast in English and Cantonese. And for dumplings with a twist head to the Design District for the very new Dumpling Time restaurant. On weekends you will wait, sometimes for an hour depending on when you arrive (after 1:30pm seems to be better). The dumplings have twists like tom yum goong xiao long bao, giant xiao long bao, shrimp and cream cheese har gow and bbq pork belly and peanut butter baos. And they're worth waiting for.
Number 5: Anchor Steam Beer.
Anchor Steam Beer
Anchor Steam Beer is a San Franciscan tradition. Brewed since 1896 the name is said to come from the nickname given to the style of beer brewed on the west coast. The night fog of San Francisco was said to cool the fermenting beer wort instead of using ice or refrigeration. This produced a cloud of steam over the brewery. Anchor Brewing Company is said to be the first craft brewery in the United States and the last current survivor of the steam brewing technique.
Number 6: Golden Gate Bakery Egg Custard Tart.
Golden Gate Bakery egg custard tart
I mentioned having to queue for good food right? Well if you manage to find Golden Gate bakery the dead giveaway is the queue. We just happened to stumble upon it (thank you food gods!) and joined the queue. The custard egg tarts or dan tarts are sold hot from the oven and are filled with a silky custard with a multi-layered crispy pastry. So much joy for $2.15 a tart.
Number 7: Fortune Cookies & Watch Them Being Made.
Legend has it that the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco. The story goes that Makoto Hagiwara from Golden Gate Park's Japanese tea garden was a wealthy landscape architect. He lived in the garden with his family and he shaped a tea cracker into a bow with a message thanking people for visiting the garden.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company
It has now evolved into the bearer of humorous messages with a Confucian twist given at the end of a Chinese meal. And at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company you can watch them make thousands of these cookies by hand every day. Giant fortune cookies can be purchased as well as custom fortune cookies.
Number 8: Clam Chowder.
Clam Chowder in San Francisco Sourdough Bowl at Boudin Bistro
There's one way that they love to serve clam chowder in San Francisco and that's by combining two of their most well known foods: sourdough bread and seafood. The clam chowder at Boudin is served in a hollowed out sourdough bread bowl. The petite sized one suited us although people all around us had ordered this classic soup with potato and tiny pieces of clam.
Number 9: Cruffins & Sushi Croissants at Mr Holmes
Cruffin from Mr Holmes Bakehouse
Okay cruffins aren't exclusive to San Francisco nor were they invented here but Mr Holmes' Bakehouse is known for popularising them in the United States. Mr Holmes's bakehouse does a fast trade in this hybrid of a croissant and muffin. Located in the tenderloin area (the sketchy area apparently named because the police officers that worked there got bribes so they could afford to buy tenderloin instead of chuck steak), Mr Holmes's slogan is "I Got Baked In San Francisco".
There are cruffins and these sell out early so get in before noon on weekends if you want one. But there are also other pastries like a matcha chocolate dipped croissant or one that I really loved: the umami rich "sushi croissant" with hot smoked salmon, nori, pickled ginger with a sachet of soy sauce to dip it in.
Number 10: Cioppino
Cioppino (chuh-PEE-noh) is a dish invented in San Francisco by the Northern Italian fisherman of the North Beach in the late 1800's. It is a scarlet coloured seafood stew (a cousin of bouillibaise without the rouille) that makes use of the abundant fresh catch of the area.
Cioppino at Boudin Bistro
Cioppino starts with a base of onions and fennel and they build upon that with tomatoes,clam juice, basil, garlic, wine, seafood and finished with a little chilli. I wanted to see cioppino every day I was there!
Number 11: Morning Bun at Tartine.
Morning Bun at Tartine
There's something about San Franciscans and bread or pastry. They seem to love the stuff and do it well. And at Tartine the butter croissants are fabulous (and enormous) but what stole my heart was the morning bun with the perfect caramelisation on the outside and a layered butter twist pastry. Like all the really good food here, be prepared to queue-we visited in the late afternoon and the queue was much smaller than in the mornings.
Number 12: The Rebel Within at Craftsman and Wolves.
The Rebel Within from Craftsman & Wolves
The Rebel Within is a simple concept: a soft centered egg within a ham and cheese muffin. But while the egg is good (and it's a toss up whether your egg yolk will be runny or not) the star of the show is the cheese, sausage and green onion "cake" or muffin. The outer is soft, perfectly seasoned The Rebel Within comes with a side of Tabasco salt. Get in before noon as they sell out quickly.
Number 13: See's Candies
We are ending the list on a sweet note: See's Candies is a sweet success story. If you've visited an American airport you may have seen the distinct black and white font and the boxes of chocolates. The face used on the boxes is that of Mary See. She hailed from Ontario, Canada marrying Alexander See at a young age.
Mary made candies from a small black and white kitchen which inspired the logo. She and Alexander guided the company through the great depression and built it based on quality products. In 1972, billionaire Warren Buffet purchased See's Candies for $25 million USD as he admired the product. Even if you don't pass a See's Candies on your travels you can buy them in the San Francisco domestic airport where you can mix and match and buy them by the piece for a reasonable $29USD a pound (half kilo). I bought 6 chocolates and loved them all.
So tell me Dear Reader, did I miss anything? Have you tried any of these foods and have you already been to San Francisco?
All food in this list apart from Boudin, China Live and Dumpling Time were independently paid for. I visited San Francisco as a guest of San Francisco Tourism but all opinions remain my own.