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Feb 10, 2010 03:33 PM

The SF Bay Area is good for _____?

Every city has its own culinary strengths that are the by-products of immigration and socio-economic trends. If you're in Buenos Aires, you're going to try Italian food, and if you're in London, you're going to eat Indian food. What about the North American cities though? Would you eat Malaysian food in Houston? Would you try Mexican food in Toronto? What is particularly good in the Bay Area that outshines other cities in that regard? I've heard that San Francisco is one of the best places to try Peruvian food in the United States (and possibly outside Peru). What else do you think is particularly strong in this area?

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    1. Burmese -- a while back someone said that the Bay Area has more Burmese restaurants than anywhere in the world (and more have opened since then).

      Don't forget our native California cuisine! And maybe vegetarian -- it seems like there are more chefs doing interesting things with vegetables than other places, even if not strictly vegetarian.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I definitely hadn't had Burmese food in North America before trying Burma Superstar in Oakland, though I think I prefer Bagan in SF more. The fact that there are places to compare to for this relatively unknown cuisine is kind of exciting!

        1. re: timeo

          Just like LA is great for Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese, SF is not bad for Chinese/Cantonese (but still behind Vancouver and Toronto). I agree that Californian cuisine is good here as well, though there's a lot of opinion on what exactly Californian cuisine means.

      2. sourdough bread, dungeness crab, and my illicit pleasure --the its it ice cream cookie sandwich

        (I know there is a raging debate elsewhere about sourdough on this board, but I find the sourdoughs here from a variety of bakeries to be tangier here than elsewhere.)

        Also, I think we have a nice little collection of Laotian restaurants (for ex. That Luang, Green Papaya, Champa Garden).

        1. Korean in Oakland. Filipino in various burbs. Yucatecan in SF. Afghan, Persian, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan.

          1. Better then average ethnic, very good produce, great mid-range restaurants, a few top end restaurants and artisan stuff (bread, cheese, coffee, etc.).

            12 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              I definitely agree on the mid-range restaurants and produce. Not as sure about the top-end places: granted I don't eat in top end places often, but compared to my experiences in some other cities (Philadelphia, Toronto, NYC, Paris come immediately to mind, though perhaps the latter two aren't fair comparisons) I've been disappointed with most of the top-end places I've eaten at here...though I would be curious as to which top-end places you have in mind, in case I haven't tried them yet.

              I also think Italian is a strength, and our best regional Italian and Cal-Italian places get recommended often on the boards (including by me).

              1. re: susancinsf

                The French Laundry and Manresa can pretty much stand up to any place but yes, not that many compared to NYC, Paris or Tokyo. Still...the fact we have a decent number is pretty good considering everything else we get.

                The other thing, bouncing off Cal-Italian, is anything Cal (or Cal cuisine)...including one gets that.

                1. re: ML8000

                  What restaurant is Cal-Moroccan? Sounds interesting....

                  1. re: ML8000

                    Agree with FL and Manresa comment.

                    Not that this is the only barometer, but aren't NYC and SF the only two cities in North America to have Michelin guides? -Philly, Toronto up there with Paris?

                    Yes, we pale next to Paris and Tokyo, but I think we have more diversity than both of these. Try finding el salvadorian or laotian in Tokyo. -Great food culture, but not as diverse.

                    1. re: roster

                      I wasn't suggesting that Philly and Toronto were up there with Paris, just that I've personally had better luck there with high end restaurants than I have in San Francisco, and thus I am not convinced it is a strength here.

                      To be fair though, i was thinking more of the City of San Francisco. If ML8000's suggestions are indicative, it may be that the good high end stuff isn't really in San Francisco, which could mean that whether it is a strength depends upon how broadly one defines the geographic area.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        I've been rereading some of this discussion, and I think I want to add Millennium as an entry in the "great high end restaurants" list.
                        How are those other cities on vegan cuisine?

                        1. re: Kim Cooper

                          I've not eaten at Millenium, but OTOH I've not heard very much that is positive about it on this board.

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            I'd love to see an up-to-date review of Millennium). It's been a solid 6 years since I've been there (one or two locations ago).

                    2. re: ML8000

                      I love Paris, but they're weak on almost everything other than French food. We have better bread.

                      The best food I've had in France was in Provence and the Dordogne, but then I don't have much interest in the kind of cooking that gets two or three Michelin stars.

                  2. re: ML8000

                    I absolutely agree with ML8000 -- couldn't have said it better myself.