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Nov 20, 2008 09:07 AM

Anchor Steam – dodging the prefab bullet at SFO

Brace yourself, this is a report on an airport restaurant. Yes, we ate at SFO and liked it, enjoyed it even. Because we wanted to squeeze in a visit to SFMOMA the afternoon we left, we decided to risk it and see what was on offer in the domestic terminal. Remembering there wasn’t much way out by the gates, we followed our noses to the right and found the Anchor Steam.

Figuring that at least the SO would be guaranteed a decent pint, we went for it . He had an Anchor porter and pronounced it chewy good. I’m not much for mixing alcohol and air travel so I stuck to water, which the server was entirely gracious about. The SO had a club sandwich that was generous but not over the top and nicely prepared although the ham was a bit processed.

The Niman ranch burger I ordered was (wait for it) really good, and handsomely constructed too – wish I had snapped a picture. It was actually served just a wee bit pink in the middle and therefore nice and juicy, something you can’t get for love or money in Vancouver. The bun was toasted and just foofy enough to conform a bit to the burger, maintaining structural integrity to the last bite. The add ons (avocado and bacon) were generous and fresh for the former and nicely crisped for the latter. The only thing a bit lacking was the tomato and since they are out of season even here in the land of plenty I forgave that.

I had to upgrade to the garlic fries, which lo and behold were swathed in masses of fresh garlic. The fries were all fresh tasting and attractively crispy and the garlic enrobing was delicious if unfortuitous for my seatmate on the plane ;-). All in all a more than respectable way to end our eating fest in the SF Bay area. If you are stuck eating at the airport you could do much much worse than Anchor Steam. All in (tip included) this repast set us back $40.

See also the following links for all our other food-centric ramblings this trip if you're interested:

Tadich Grill
Blue Bottle
Lime Tree
Canteen dinner
Farmers Markets
Bar Tartine
Canteen and Café de la presse breakfasts
Bodega Bistro
La Ciccia
BonBon Patisserie

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  1. The restaurants at the airport are decent with most being outposts of well know SF restaurants. Have you ever taken the tour of Anchor Brewery? If you are ever here during the holidays Anchor Brewing puts out a Christmas Ale which is different every year.

    SFO Restaurants
    San Francisco International Airport South San Francisco, CA, San Francisco International Airport South San Francisco, CA

    Anchor Brewing Company SFO
    San Francisco International Airport South San Francisco

    9 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      You are lucky -- the YVR restos are uniformly pretty dismal in my experience, except for a pricey one who's name escapes me at the moment. Is the Anchor tour worth doing at any other time? We usually come in the late spring and early fall.

      1. re: grayelf

        Never took the tour myself, but friends liked it.

        1. re: grayelf

          The tour is pretty rote- see how their beer is made. But, you get free beer at the end- 1/2 pint samples of everything they have available, plus seconds if they're still pouring when you finish your first go around. When I went, I was able to taste their Steam, Liberty Ale, Porter, Summer, Bock, and Old Foghorn. They will switch out the seasonals through the year....for example, I got their Bock (spring) and Summer, but not their Christmas.

          1. re: VenerableBede

            Coincidentally, I was perusing an SF guide book we picked up that is produced twice a year and there was the Anchor tour as a suggested diversion.

            1. re: grayelf

              it's absolutely recommended. But plan ahead; you need reservations, and depending on what day of the week you want to go, they get booked up 2 weeks (Mon-Wed) to over a month (Thur-Fri) ahead of time

            2. re: VenerableBede

              You got a 1/2 pint sample each of Steam (4.9% alcohol), Liberty Ale (6.0%), Porter (5.6%), Summer (4.6%), Bock (5.5%), and Old Foghorn (9.0%) plus seconds? Sounds like a good cheap date.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                i did the 11:00 AM tour, and was unprepared for the content and number of beers we were given. also, it was new mommy day, as half of the tour consisted of a new mommy group, babies included.

                1. re: VenerableBede

                  Let me know when the Divorcee's Club has a tour ;-)

            3. re: grayelf

              I would say medium-rote, worth the trip if you've brewed beer before. I liked the hops storage room and the huge evap tanks - the reason it's actually steam beer. Maytag's vision of historic beverages is amazing - comes through in their whiskeys, too.

          2. The restaurants at SFO are quite okay, and very good in context to airport food. Not cutting edge but way, way better then the usual junk. Also, it's fairly priced and about what you'd pay outside. I think that's one of the biggest issues at any airport-- paying 3x for crap, or only having the fast food option.

            Here's a list of the restaurants at SFO:

            8 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              Great link, ML8000. I'd actually targeted the Burger Joint when we came in 2007 but realized that for some reason Canada is considered domestic (no comment!) so it was in a different terminal.

              1. re: grayelf

                The restaurants in the international terminal are at the ends, which are close to the domestic terminals - south terminal is tolerably close to Burger Joint.

                My go-to is the tempura udon at Ebisu (north food court).

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Had a couple of hours to kill in the international terminal so I followed the information in this thread and left the A-concourse and checked out both south and north food courts in the pre-security main hall. Menus at all food counters in both courts looked interesting, and I settled on the katsu curry rice at Ebisu. Although it was served in a typical plastic takeout container, it was really tasty. The curry gravy (it contained potatoes, carrots, and beef) and rice was great, and the katsu was moist and very good, with a reasonably crisp coating (the end pieces were a little dry; it was probably nuked, then sliced). All in all, definitely not your typical bland, overpriced airport crap and a very enjoyable late lunch.

                  1. re: beantowntitletown

                    Thanks for the report.

                    San Francisco International Airport South San Francisco, CA, San Francisco International Airport South San Francisco, CA

                  2. re: bbulkow

                    My family has a two hour plus layover at SFO tomorrow on the way to Hawaii. Can we get into the International Terminal to eat at their restaurants or is that only for passengers on international flights?

                    1. re: dpan

                      you may travel to the international terminal and back in that amount of time and there is always very interesting art displays over there as well.

                      1. re: dpan

                        Anybody can eat at the pre-security food court, where Ebisu and Harbor Village are.

                        1. re: dpan

                          The public (landside) area of international has many places to eat. Also, the G gates (international gates 91 and up) are connected to the United and American gates (60 through 90) airside through a passageway that you don't need to leave security to get to.