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what MUST I eat before I move away?

  • v

Hey hounds,
I was born and raised in Oakland, but I will be going to grad school in DC this fall. I know the food scene there isn't totally wretched, but I don't think it's likely to be anywhere near what I'm used to here. (I visited a friend there earlier this year... she suggested we check out "this great Mexican place" -- it turned out to be Baja Fresh.)

But this isn't about DC; this is about SF & environs. What do I just have to try before I go? I eat everything and am very adventurous, but I don't have a lot of money, so don't all tell me to go eat at French Laundry. Holes-in-the-wall are more my style, although I will allow myself a few well-planned splurges.

Thanks for helping me to shore up great memories of the Bay Area!

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  1. There's good Ethiopian, Salvadorean, and Vietnamese in the DC area, so don't worry too much about those.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lauriston

      There is also really good Thai and sushi in the DC area, so those are two others I wouldn't worry about (I've had far better Thai in DC than here).

      I'd second the recommendation above about getting more than your fill of our good bread. and while it may seem obvious, I'd also concentrate on California cuisine. I imagine you will miss the abundance and variety of fresh, locally farmed produce.

      1. re: lauriston
        Meatball (formerly nora)

        I just moved here from DC after living there for 7 years. There is no good Vietnamese in DC proper. There is good Vietnemese in Virginia (Eden Center), but it is not accesible by metro(subway), only by car (about 25min drive). I would hit Tenderloin for good Vietnamese before you move (Hung Ky has the best banh cuon, much better than any resto in Virginia; it is not listed on the menu though). Most of good Chinese food is also in BFE so I would get my fill here. Good Italian food is pretty expensive in DC so you might wanna hit places here like Osteria del Forno. Good luck with your move and stay safe in DC.

      2. best crab on the planet comes from the Chesapeake.

        1. Pizza, and bread, for sure, esp. at Pizzaiolo at 51st and Telegraph (Oakland). You'll have 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso in DC, but I didn't think Pizzeria Paradiso approached any of the best pizza I've had in the Bay Area.

          When I lived in DC, I would also have killed to have some good bread - I had to go to Whole Foods (!!) to get my sourdough fix (and not a very good one, at that). I've heard Bread Line in DC might be a good source for bread, but not positive (their sandwiches are excellent though). So make sure to fill up on Acme (levain, baguettes), Cheese Board (delicate and crispy sour baguettes, cheese rolls, wolverines (sour rolls with cherries/apricots/raisins/nuts) and great cheese), etc. while you're still here.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chestnut

            I moved back from DC 2 years ago and these are the things you should eat in the Bay Area:

            - Bread, good bread. It is hard to find really good bread like Acme's in DC. The Breadline is a good choice since their bread is considered some of the best in DC, but it is hard to find since only a few limited stores carry it. I would also add good desserts that you like from local bakeries to this since there are not very many good bakeries in DC.
            - Mexican, burritos, tacos, etc. I had to resort to Chipotle for my burritos in DC and the Mexican food at Salvadorean restaurants in DC was not good. There is a huge Salvadorean community out there, so you will get your fill of pupusas.
            - Coffee - if you like coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, then get your fill here before you go. The Bay Area has a pretty sophisticated coffee culture, which you don't realize until you travel somewhere that only has Starbuck's.
            - Salads - if you love salads and enjoy making nice meals out of them at places like Intermezzo in Berkeley then go there. I missed really good, hearty salads out there.
            - Indian & Vietnamese & California cuisine. DC has excellent Thai and Ethipian, so you can skip those two.

            Hope that helps!!

            1. re: Mari

              Really ... coffee ... most of the East Coast is awful in that regard ... and when you ask for a regular coffee out there, it comes with cream and sugar.

              In fact, bring beans with you.

              Definately fresh veggie/salad type things. Enjoy the fruit this summer at the farmers markets.

              And, even with a limited budget, California wines.

              1. re: rworange

                Regular coffee on the east coast is with cream and one sugar. If you want plain coffee you need to ask for it black.

          2. The obvious: burritos, tacos, chilaquiles, pupusas, etc., etc.

            2 Replies
            1. re: CH Addict
              Robert Lauriston

              There are good pupusas in DC.

              1. re: CH Addict

                Weird but that wasn't me. I know nada about pupusas and have had chilaquiles exactly 3 times in my life...Now that names are registered, I guess that won't happen anymore.

              2. m
                Morton the Mousse

                For your well planned splurge: Aziza. One of the board's faves, and deservedly so.
                I'd also grab lunch at Gregoire on Piedmont. The chicken sandwich is excellent this month and the potato puffs are incredible.



                1. f

                  I agree with susancinsf. California cuisine. Zuni, Chez Panisse for a splurge or Cafe at Chez Panisse, come to mind right away.

                  Maybe Tadich grill for some cioppino?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: farmersdaughter

                    yes, I'd definitely plan a meal at CP if I were moving away.

                    There is a restaurant in DC called Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar, that I have occaisonally seen discussed on the DC boards, but I've never felt the need to try it on my visits there. Still, it is probably where I'd go if I were in DC and started to get homesick (after checking the DC boards to make sure it wasn't awful) :-)

                  2. I couldn't leave here without eating at the Tadich and probably at least twice.

                    1. I'd say get some really good bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches). They're cheap and delicious. Cam Huong on Webster between 9th and 10th in Oakland has great ones.

                      I second or third the Taddich suggestion. Cioppino or sand dabs and their house crab and shrimp dinner salad with house dressing.

                      I also agree that you should get your fill of bread. Make a trip to Acme on Cedar and San Pablo on a Saturday morning. Lines out the door and everything hot out of the oven. If you're early enough and lucky enough, you can get one of their fabulous ham and cheese turnovers. Bring your heart medicine with you!

                      1. hello, congratulations. Great local ingredients aren't as readily available for as big a part of the year in DC but once you get oriented, you'll find that it really has compensating regional delights. Do you like crab? I love having my palate memory debate between dungeness and blues, so if you have a favorite preparation of Dungeness, have it to fix a template in your sense memory; I'd recommend an Asian (Cantonese or Vietnamese)prep because there are delicious Maryland counterparts to our cioppino. The only "musts" are things you have passion about.

                        In general, if you like Hong Kong/Cantonese style food,incl. dim sum, we have better access here to that region's good chefs. The mainstream chefs here and there train very similarly (francophile,C.I.A. et al) so you're not missing much by omitting more expensive eateries. Aziza gets many rec's here as a distinctive local spot because it isn't in that rut or the ChezP&spin-offs orbit. The coffee at Mischa's in Old Town Alexandria, easy metro access,equals anything here, a small batch (one location only) artisan roaster, great little cafe. I know you didn't want info about DC, but you're gaining more than losing, from learning and living. enjoy

                        1. My current "must eat" items are:

                          "Spicy dumplings" at Shanghai Dumpling King (34th & Balboa) -- scrumptuous pork meatball dumplings in a hot chilie oil/peanut sauce with minced ginger and shallots;

                          Tea leaf salad at Burmese Superstar (4th? and Clement);

                          Mixed seafood salad and clam chowder at Swan's Oyster Depo (on Polk at California); and

                          Rugelach cookies from Schubert's (6th? and Clement).

                          1. how about the olive oil and sea salt sprinkled Strauss organic fro-yo at Pico Pizzeria. I haven't had the pizza, but went specifically to have that and loved it! what a treat

                            1. I grew up in DC but lived in SF for four years. There are two places that I would cry if I had to visit SF without eating:
                              - Dim Sum at Ton Kiang (27th? and Geary in the Richmond) and
                              - a Mission burrito, probably at El Farolito but Can Cun is a close second;

                              An addition that opened since I left SF: gorge myself on everything (especially the oysters) at the outside portion of the Embarcadero farmer's market.

                              DC really has some great food, there's especially fabulous ethnic food in the suburbs. Thinking of the schwarma sandwich at Max's in Wheaton makes my mouth water.

                              1. I lived in SF for a dozen years and just moved 6 months ago. Here's my favorites that I miss dearly... (not all cheap-eats, but most)

                                for Mexican, it's all in the Mission:
                                - Papalote (carne asada burritos + best red salsa ever)
                                - El Farolito
                                - El Toro (al pastor)
                                - La Corneta (carnitas anything)

                                for nice Peruvian:
                                - Limon

                                for comfort food:
                                - Blue Plate

                                for a cannale de bordeaux (french bite-sized heaven in a pastry ...NOT to be missed!):
                                - Boulangerie de Polk, or boulangerie in Cole Valley

                                for best bakery/bistro:
                                - Tartine's

                                for homemade Chinese noodles + fried chicken wings:
                                - San Tung (in the Sunset)

                                for dumplings (specifically'shao long boas'):
                                - Shanghai Dumpling

                                for dim sum:
                                - Yank Sing
                                - Ton Kiang

                                for chicken pot pie:
                                - Liberty Cafe

                                for coffee:
                                - Peets Peets Peets
                                - Ritual (in the Mission)

                                for cheap falafel/mediterranean:
                                - Truly Mediterranean

                                for BBQ:
                                - Memphis Minnies
                                - Brother in Laws

                                for burgers:
                                - Big Mouth

                                for fancy Asian:
                                - Slanted Door