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Cioppino and other SF standards

SF Hounds,

I will be in San Fran for the ASH convention for the next week, including the weekend. I would like to get a couple dinners to experience true SF food while out there. I am a huge fan of cioppino and have never had an authentic meal of it in SF.

Any other ideas are indeed welcome, looking for the best breads, beers, etc.. as well but a good true SF meal on one of the nights is a must.

Thanks a lot. Looking forward to the time out there.

I am eager to try out the beer bars as well and from what I have looked into and those fellow beer nerds I have talked to, suggestions have included Toronado, City Beer Store, and the Trappist.

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  1. You will find many suggestions to get Cioppino at Tadich Grill.
    It is superb and can be specified to exclude certain items
    ( I can't handle mussels). There are others as well, but few can compete with Tadich.

    1. I second the rec for cioppino at the Tadich Grill. They have a large counter where you can dine if you are eating as a single.

      Anchor Steam beer is brewed in SF and is one the first craft brewers in the U.S. Be sure to sample it while you are here. They make a Christmas Ale that should now be available. You can even take a tour of the brewery if you have the time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT

        Oh yes, of course. That is already scheduled.

      2. Al pastor burrito at Taqueria Cancun on 6th and Market, not far from Moscone. Eat it there as they toast the tortilla and taking it to go kills that. It's a hole-in-the-wall.

        For bread, you might head down to the Ferry Plaza Market and check out Acme. There's also Boudin Sourdough in many locations, the original SF sourdough, they have small outlets all over and a big demo bakery near Fisherman's Wharf.

        The Ferry Building is a nice place to go if you're from out of town. On Tuesdays and Sat there's a farmer's market.

        1. Third on Tadich. They also have the best sourdough bread.

          Zuni would be a good choice for your one true SF meal.

          On Saturday morning, the place to go is the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers markets where some of the best bakers, cheesemakers, sausage makers, etc, etc. in the bay area sell.

          On Friday from 4-8pm Speakeasy opens its door to the public for a “Happy Hour where they can wander around the warehouse (no seats), listen to music(sometimes live, there’s a piano) and drink beer.

          Other beer in SF: The Monk's Kettle, Thirsty Bear, 21st Ammendment, Magnolia,

          A rather divy place, the Black Horse boasts a single cask-conditioned British Ale made by Coast Range Brewery. The rest of the bottled beer is kept in an ice-filled bathtub.

          Should you decide to drive around a little, Half Moon Bay Brewery at Pilar Point in Princeton ... a long picturesque ride down the coast (about 1 hour). The crab boats land in Princeton and given this is the height of crab season, it might be worth a visit. Also this area is a major surfing area (Mavericks) so the bar at HMB Brewery has surfing videos playing. How California can you get.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rworange

            This is also a great time to get crab at Vietnamese or Chinese places, such as Lotus Garden.

            Lotus Garden
            3216 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          2. Another thumb's up for Tadich. Great old school SF atmosphere.
            Toronado is great to sit down and have a few pints and City Beer has a good selection of bottles and a few taps as well. The Trappist is good but you have to go into downtown Oakland and they primarily serve Belgian beers which are plentiful on your side of the country.
            I recommend grabbing a few pints at Rogue Ales in North Beach. This is the only CA branch of the legendary Oregon brewery. They have a ton of Rogue taps as well as some great guest taps. I think in total they have 40 taps and also have a nice beer garden in the back.
            I also would recommend Beverages and More as another place to pick up bottles. They have locations on Van Ness Avenue and Geary Blvd. They carry a lot of West Coast craft beers (I counted 8 cases of The Abyss at the one on Geary).
            If you have a car and some time, get out of the city and head north through Marin and Sonoma counties. Here is a recent link with some recommendations for doing a beer tour along 101 through Sonoma and Marin:
            Have fun and please report back.

            1. Another vote for Tadich Grill. My wife has instructed me to save one nights dinner for Tadich on our next visit to San Francisco, specifically to have the cioppino.

              1. Yup, you can kill two birds with one stone at Tadich, as they also have the best SF sourdough.

                Another item indigenous to the area is barbecued oysters. I believe you can get them at Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Plaza.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Civil Bear

                  I've always liked the cioppino at Scoma's. Regardless of it being near Fisherman's Wharf, it's always been good and consistent.

                  1. re: Zinc Saucier

                    I know this is Chowhound heresy, but I've had the Tadich cioppino, eh - not a life changing experience. I need to try Scoma's version, even though it is on Fisherman's Wharf. I'll bet it will be quite good.

                    Tadich version:


                    Scoma's versin:


                    1. re: Paul H

                      I'll add that Tadich's Cioppino isn't a traditional Cioppino because its seafood is shelled. Half of the cioppino experience is wearing a bib, and getting down and dirty with the catch.

                      If you ask me (which of course you didn't) Tadich is a candidate for the most overrated restaurant in the City, surely competent but memorable mostly for its longevity.

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        Well! That makes two heretics. Besides Scoma's where else in the city can you find a good and more traditional, cioppio?

                      2. re: Paul H

                        It is odd, but neither of those photos look remotely like what I was served at either restaurant. If you go to Scoma's skip the abysmal sourdough. I've always said if you could get Scoma's fish in Tadich's broth, you'd have the perfect cioppino.

                        Reading my posts from past visits, it sounds like I like Scoma's better, but in the end, I would order it at Tadich's again, but not Scoma's. The sauce was just too heavy ... and there's that awful bread.

                        From my visit to Scoma's

                        "I chose the traditional cioppino, a thick marinara sauce version filled with plump juicy scallops, sweet chunks of crab legs and body, slightly over cooked fish, 3 clams in shell, tiny bay shrimp, and medium sized excellent shrimp with tails. A thick slice of toasted buttered sourdough came with the soup as well as a wedge of lemon.

                        I declined a paper bib when offered. I thoroughly enjoyed the cioppino. The seafood was super fresh. The house made cioppino sauce used excellent quality tomatoes and was very good, but very filling."

                        From my Tadich's visit

                        "You don't get a choice at Tadich's. You get the lazy man's cioppino with the crab removed from the shell. It is easier to eat the cioppino, but the crab loses its sweetness. As I said, the fish at Scoma's was fresher and all local. It was heavier on the shellfish. While I have decided I like the broth based version of cioppino better, the saucy version at Scoma's, which I was thinking was maybe too bland, let the super fresh fish star.

                        At Tadich there are lots of dried herbs and garlic in the tomato broth. I thought the black pepper overpowered the more delicate seafood. Tadich's cioppino (for my visit) was more fish, rather than shellfish, based. There were four clams in shell, two SUPER sweet shrimp (the only fish better than Scoma's), some tiny bay shrimp, two scallops, overcooked pieces of white fish and some moister pieces of tuna. All cioppino seems to have overcooked white fish. I did like the fact that as you worked through the cioppino and pieces of fish broke off, at the end each spoonful was filled with fish, baby shrimp and crab.

                        The reason I like the broth based version better is that without the decadently buttered pieces of toasted bread, it really is a diet dish. There is just fish and broth. No carbs at all. With the sauce version, you are really talking seafood pasta, sans pasta. I was literally full for a few days after eating the Scoma's sauce based version. "

                        1. re: rworange

                          I think the Scoma's version is more "traditional" (whatever that means). It sounds like a cioppio from my youth, lo these many years ago.

                  2. Castagnola's on the Wharf has some of the best Cioppino I've ever tried. The bread is delivered from Boudin's twice a day so you know its going to be good. There is a good reason that the Wharf is the #5 place in the world to visit. Tourist trap be damned, its been here just as long as San Francisco! I highly recommend checking it out.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chantelwilliams

                      I haven't tried the cioppino at Castagnola's, but Scoma's also has their bread delivered twice daily from Boudin and it is awful. I hope Castagnola's has a better bake. The reason for the Wharf being #5 has more to do with an excellent promotion by the tourist bureau and a good view with lots of theme park attractions ... rather than the food. However, I will put Castagnola's on my to try list of FW restaurants. Anything else good there to try?

                      1. re: rworange

                        As an appetizer try the Ceviche Tostada.

                    2. Wanted to give quick feedback on what I've tried here.

                      Several of the breads have been good, Acme the best so far.
                      Got the cioppino at Scoma's and was not overly blown away. Tons of fish but the sauce was a bit thin and could have used more umph. The sheer amount of quality fish made it more than worth it. In terms of the apps, the grilled calimari was awesome.
                      Enjoyed 21st Ammendment for beers and some pub food.
                      Monk's Kettle was flat out tremendous.

                      And so far, one of the best times I've ever had were at two places:

                      City Beer Store: what an experience for a beer nerd. Perfect.
                      Saturday morning at Ferry Market: I can't possibly say how impressed I was with the vendors there. I'm not sure how I am going to be able to pack all the stuff I got to bring back. Guess I'll have to keep eating through it.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: yankeefan

                        I agree that cioppino is thin. Tadich has the best cioppino sauce out of all I've tried. It has nice body and a little bit of spice, which I like. They give you a lot of fish too. The one drawback in my opinion is that they remove the crab from the shell for you. It's easier to eat that way, but I lose some of the crab flavor because it melds with everything else. But for overall flavor, I think Tadich is best.

                        1. re: Shane Greenwood

                          I've heard Tadich pre-cooks some of the fish and adds it at the last minute, too.

                          1. re: Shane Greenwood

                            Could not agree with you more about the crab. I hope that one wasn't the best that SF has to offer. There was a lot of fish meat in there, I will give it that but a lot of it was the lower quality mini shrimp but the prawns and scallops were tremendous.

                            I knew I would like my homemade the best but still, this is San Fran. I want to be blown away.

                            Also great note on the crab. I want to do the work. What I didnt get at Scoma's was that they had a different 'lazy man's' cioppino where the crab was picked. In that case, what was the one I got? Im confused.

                            I am going to have a difficult time NOT going back to Monk's Kettle tonight. My favorite so far.

                            Heard many good things on Alembic as well. To be honest, I might just build a tent outside of City Beer Store. I am getting ready to hit Hog Island right next door for some lunch while watching some football.