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What are the most popular, limited-supply food items in SF?

The thread about Tartine got me curious about the following...

We live in a region with a sizable and serious foodie population. Word of mouth quickly spreads about places that are good, and there are a lot of people who don't mind going out of their way or waiting in line to get (what's supposed to be) the very best.

So which items at which places are the hardest to get? (as in "long lines" and "sells out early because of huge demand"?)

Of course, "hardest to get" isn't synomymous with "best", but it'll be interesting to hear what gets mentioned...

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  1. Hmmm... who among us, craving for X, wants to talk about it here and make it that much harder to get X?

    9 Replies
    1. re: BernalKC

      Well, for most things that would be mentioned here, I'm guessing the cat's out of the bag...

      1. re: BernalKC

        Actually in these economic times, I think we're in more danger of our favorites going out of business and they need all the referrals they can get. When things become super popular, it encourages new market entrants who smell an opportunity and we as consumers benefit from more choices and improved quality. OTOH, when a business goes under, it discourages someone else from trying that type of product again. So, please do share here.

        Edited to add: Jim Leff ,Krys (aka rworange) and others editorializing

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          OK, you're right...

          ...Liberty bakery challah. Only offered on Friday. Usually sells out quickly, and it happens when I'm at work.

          I know there are differences of opinion about challah, but Liberty's fits my tastes perfectly. The only better challah I've had was from a now-defunct bakery in Montreal back in my college days...

          1. re: BernalKC

            Le Boulanger on Pine and Fillmore makes a decent one too, also only on Friday.

            1. re: BernalKC

              As in Liberty cafe on Cortland? They make challah? Wacky.

              I am nervous when I find out about serious bakeries/restaurants making challah because they tend to get all "artisanal" on it and make the bread with a crunchy crust or some other inappropriate texture.

              1. re: sarahlefton

                Yup, Liberty Cafe bakery makes braided loaves. Not crunchy or artisanal (other than the braiding) but on the less gummy end of the challah spectrum. I do not like Noe Valley Bakery challah because of its oer-moist gumminess -- and a good friend has the exact opposite feelings about the two products. One less neighbor trying to get my loaf!

                1. re: BernalKC

                  Yes, Liberty makes some good bread. Why can't they get anything else right? I have never understood this.

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              In the spirit of your post and linked thread, Melanie, here's our favorite place we hadn't mentioned on Chowhound:

              Creekside Smokehouse, in El Granada. It's across the highway from Princeton Harbor on the street paralleling the highway, and well worth a special trip.

              Apart from the excellent smoked fish, the owner also makes salmon jerky,smoked cheese and other great items. We especially like the smoked parmesan and gouda (and the albacore!). Dave really knows what he's doing.

              The CH database has it in the wrong town, so:
              Creekside Smokehouse
              280 Avenue Alhambra
              El Granada, CA 94028

              1. re: Steve Green

                Thanks to Steve for mentioning Creekside Smokehouse. We *always* stop there when we're out that way. The people who run the place are so kind and sweet, and you can usually take a look around their facilities if you ask nicely.

          2. I'm guessing bread at the Dillon Bread Company in Vallejo today at 1:00 PM.

            1. The focaccia at Liguria Bakery (Stockton Street, SF) often sells out by noon or early afternoon. Once its gone for the day, its gone.

              4 Replies
              1. re: DavidT

                Liguria was the first thing I thought of.

                "The mix" at White Crane Farm at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmer's market. It looks like a spring mix, but it is all herbs and makes a wonderful salad. The vendor doesn't like people pawing through it and bruising it so he keeps in in a cooler in the back and you just have to know it is there.

                I agree with Melanie about posting about your favorites especially in these economic times. The places with the lines out the door are usually the ones with the good publicity machines. If you want to keep your favorite post about it or the secret may die. Also, the places that don't get the love they should usually better than the over-hyped.

                Chocoletier Blue is one of those places I feel that needs more attention so I always check out their seasonal line and post about it ... or anything else new in the shop.

                1. re: rworange

                  Totally agree regarding both Liguria and Blue.
                  Will have to check out "the mix".

                  1. re: tupac17616

                    whitee Crane is not currently at the FP farmer's market. They stop during the winter. Having to know it is there is the key as well as getting there early. People will buy 8-10 bags of the stuff and it is not inexpensive. I believe it was $9 last year.

                    1. re: wally

                      Wow, sounds like it has some big fans!

              2. The wait in line for a Rolli Roti porchetta sandwich at the Saturday Ferry Building farmer's market is brutal if they run out just before the time you are close to ordering. If you are there by 11 am or so, no worries. After that, you might have to settle for chicken...

                The lines for the Bakesale Betty chicken sandwich used to be like that (pox on the guy in front of you that got the very last sandwich), but they have increased production and their hours, so it has gotten better...and besides, they deliver free cookies and lemonade to the people waiting on line.

                Another always long line is at Ici for ice cream on College Ave. Certain flavors will sell out, but there will always be something else worth waiting for...

                6 Replies
                1. re: foodeye

                  IMO, Ici is one of those places that knows how to promote themselves. However, if you want to avoid lines. Cafe St Honare on the corner of Solano and San Pablo in Albany sells Ici. They actually have the only Ici flavor I have actually ever really liked. They have a custom flavor using their house coffee. It is called Frog Fuel and it works so well in ice cream. It is currently the best coffee ice cream I've had in the Bay Area. But the rest of Ici for me ... meh.

                  Cafe St Honaire is also open early and closes at midnight so if you need an Ici fix outside of regular hours, it is there.

                  1. re: foodeye

                    Any other examples of long lines, even if supply isn't necessarily limited? (to ask a slightly different question)

                    I saw a line that had to be at least 50 deep at the Acme ferry building location, although that had to be an anomaly. I saw the same at Tartine and I'm not so sure that was an anomaly.

                    Other places I can think of: Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto, and Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley (though it moves fast). Those seem kind of obvious though...

                    1. re: Agent 510

                      Chloe's always more people on the sidewalk waiting than eating brunch. And for the life of me, I can't tell you why.

                      1. re: Windy

                        Chloe's was the place that convinced me that some people care more about the waiting-in-line part of the brunch experience than they do about the food. Not that the food is bad, it's just no better than you can get at lots of other places with no wait.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Agreed, the food isn't bad (unlike some other Noe spots), just unexceptional.

                          They are also much less accommodating because of excess demand, Good luck switching your potatoes for toast, even if both items are available and sitting on the table to your left.

                    2. re: foodeye

                      I often go to Ici whenever I am anywhere near the Elmwood and I have only seen them run out of flavors a couple of times. I do try to avoid the crowds on the weekends, but often during the weekdays there is no line at all. Ici is my favorite post doctor/dentist visit spot.

                      Recent favorite flavors: ginger ice milk, chicory cinnamon. I think the ice milks are outstanding: bracingly refreshing and so true to their main flavor. I would rate their cilantro ice milk as one of the best icy treats ever. Just so you don't think I am one of those frou frou people, I'm also fond of McDonald's hot fudge sundaes.

                    3. Rum Raisin ice cream at Boulette's Larder. They discontinued ice cream because it was becoming too much of a zoo and they didn't want to be an ice cream only place, but I suppose they could always fall back on it if business falls off.

                      Tartine's bread (recession proof?)

                      Some of fatted calf's terrines come to mind, like guinea hen, but it seems like they're expanding successfully and should survive any downturn too.

                      1. Admittedly, this is a weird one, but I love love love the petit fours at Neldam's Bakery in Oakland. They only make and sell them on Thursdays, and they always run out.

                        1. The fried chicken at Magnolia Pub is only on Thursdays and they intentionally make less than they they could sell so they always run out - get there early or you will be S.O.L.

                          1. Pliny the Younger....a seasonal (February) release.

                            1. The stellar croissants at the Della Fattoria stand at the Ferry Plaza Saturday market. I rarely get there early enough to snag one.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                It's a terrible choice for me between beating the line at blue bottle for morning coffee, or getting a croissant a Della Fattoria. Sometimes it works if I go to blue bottle first, but more than once I've been caught when they decide to take apart and reassemble the espresso machines at blue bottle before the rush. Maybe I should just place my order at blue bottle and make a break for della fattoria...

                              2. Egg custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery, although these don't necessarily sell out I don't think. But every time I pass by there wanting one, the line is super long.

                                Chilean Empanadas at Alemany Farmer's Market - they are often gone by 10:30 AM

                                1. Pimenton de Padron - one grower, found at only a couple of FM's...

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: jimtak

                                    The Spanish Table has them when they're in season.

                                    1. re: jimtak

                                      There's more than one grower, and I've never had a problem getting them from Quetzal (at Berkeley FM, and they're at Marin too) when they're in season, and there are a few growers at the FPFM when they're in season.

                                      1. re: jimtak

                                        That's no longer true, lots of farms grow those these days, and I've seen them in grocery stores.

                                        1. re: jimtak

                                          Plus they are pretty easy to grow in your garden... picked up a few plants last year for a friend and they produced heavily for her in San Mateo.

                                          1. re: jimtak

                                            They had them for 99 cents a pound at Koreana Plaza in Oakland the other day. I guess they're mainstream now.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Do you know where they are coming from at this time of the year?

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Thank you, Robert - I'll be looking for them when I can get out of the North Bay...

                                            2. Marin Sun Farm eggs from real free range chickens - those yolks are amazing!

                                              They sell out by 8am every Saturday.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: larochelle

                                                You can get Soul Food Farm eggs inside at Prather Ranch's shop. They came out ahead of Marin Sun Farms' when I did a head-to-head comparison.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  When did you do the comparison? My most recent dozen from Marin Sun had runny whites that didn't stand up on their own in the pan, and the flavor was lacking. I've had great eggs from Marin Sun in the past, so hopefully this is an aberration. This dozen was purchased at Rainbow Grocery.

                                                  1. re: SteveG

                                                    A few months ago. The Marin Sun eggs were really good, just not as good as Soul Food's.

                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Or from their farm down the road from me.... Yay Vacaville!

                                                2. Two Dog Farm's tomatoes at the Civic Center farmers' market, Bi-Rite (at twice the price), and elsewhere. Get there early and sharpen your elbows. June-ish to October-ish.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: david kaplan

                                                    second two dog farm tomatoes. get there before 10am (or earlier) to grab a big bunch of fresh basil too.

                                                    1. re: david kaplan

                                                      Two Dog Farms are also part of Alemany - same time frame - the earlier you get there, the better the selection.

                                                    2. The coconut flan at the rockridge Pasta Shop.

                                                      1. Not quite in the "long line" category yet is Hoss Zare's Monday night Meatball. I have been there when he runs out and seen disappointment on the faces of diners who were expecting/hoping to get one. Worth making a reservation for and specifying that you are coming in for the meatball so he saves one for you.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Carrie 218

                                                          Really? You can reserve your own giant meatball? Seems like a good option to add to Open Table.

                                                          1. re: Windy

                                                            Yep - specify if you want quail or lamb (what is inside the meatball). Personally, I prefer the quail...

                                                        2. Cheeseburgers on Tuesdays (they sell out quickly, be there by noon to be safe) at Rosamunde's.

                                                          Rosamunde Sausage Grill
                                                          545 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                          1. Thinking again about limited supply I have to mention another great source that needs to be patronized so that it doesn't disappear. Andy's Orchard, off 101 in Morgan Hill, has some of the best stone fruit we've ever had. The owner, Andy Mariani, takes pride in growing little-known, non-commercial varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots. He picks everything ripe and ready-to-eat. This is not grocery-store fruit, or anything like it.

                                                            McMansions are springing up nearby, and this orchard is a piece of vanishing California history. We need to keep it alive. Come summertime, if you're going to buy a flat of stone fruit at the Ferry Plaza market, you might consider a drive down to Morgan Hill instead. It's well worth the trip -- the flats cost the same or less, for consistently better fruit.

                                                            Too late to add a Places link, so here's their site: http://andysorchard.com

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Steve Green


                                                              Andy's Orchard
                                                              1615 Half Rd, Morgan Hill, CA 95037

                                                              1. re: Steve Green

                                                                Yep. I grew up with stonefruit trees, and Andy's is the only place I've found in my adult life that takes me back to childhood memories of warm sun-ripe peaches straight from the tree. I haven't found anything at the Ferry Plaza that competes, but to be honest I gave up looking a few years back and get almost all my stone fruit at Andy's.

                                                                1. re: SteveG

                                                                  Ram Das at the Berkeley Tuesday and Saturday markets sometimes has peaches as good as I've had ever. He grows some fairly rare varieties. Most years his Red Havens are the best I get all season.


                                                              2. Morning buns at La Farine in Oakland are usually out by 11, often earlier.

                                                                Red lentils at Rehoboth in San Jose. I call ahead. But now I decided Zeni is far superior and worth the wait so I don't go to Rehoboth.

                                                                1. Just found this old thread. I can't believe no one mentioned Berkeley Buns at the Cheeseboard! Only made on Tuesdays. They start coming out at about 10 AM, and are gone by 11:30.

                                                                  Cheesy, curry, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and always hot (because the minute they out them out, people pick them up.)