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English tourist..first time in US...visiting San Francisco...after advice of good places to eat

...not rich....happy to pay $40-$50 dollars for a meal for one but not a whole lot more....

have visited spain, italy, france, turkey, greece so dont want to try the american take on these cuisines but .am looking to try good american food.....dont mind if it is simple....seafood (dungeness crab ?) maybe chinatown (though we have one of those here in London.....will the food be markedly different....does anyone know)

any advice...very gratefully received

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    1. By stating that you do not want takes on Mediterranean cuisine you are writing off California cuisine which is the best thing you will find in this area. The San Francisco Bay Area is known for using local ingredients (which are some of the best in the world) and simple cooking techniques and flavor profiles of Southern France, Italy, Spain and North Africa. Your statement is as absurd as an American going to London and stating they only want British food like Steak and Kidney pie and not going to St. Johns or the Fat Duck because those guys use French techniques.

      So if you want to try our regional cuisine go to places like Chez Panisse (invented California cuisine in the 70's by melding influences from Provence with local ingredients), Incanto (local ingredients with an Italian flavor profiles), Nopa (pan med flavor profiles with local ingredients), Contigo (local ingredients with Catalan influences), Aziza (local ingredients, modern techniques, N. African flavor profiles), SPQR (local ingredients, modern techniques, Italian flavor profiles), Namu (local ingredients with Korean flavor profiles), Bar Tartine (pan med flavors with local ingredients). There are many more, but these are some of my favorites.

      The best Chinese food is had outside of Chinatown in the Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods were current Chinese immigrants tend to live and not in China town. There are various regional Chinese restaurants but you may have similar regional differences in London.

      Other local specialties and favorites are: burritos which is a unique take on a N. Mexican dish as well as taco trucks. Search the board for recommendations as it is a contended topic. And Hamburgers--ditto on searching.

      -----
      Chez Panisse
      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

      Nopa
      560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

      Namu
      439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

      Bar Tartine
      561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      SPQR
      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      Contigo
      1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

      4 Replies
      1. re: Amy G

        Thanks for the advice Amy G, but had a look at some of the places you recommended, and they are not really what i am looking for....for example, why would I go to contiga for their 'artisan spanish hams' and tapas when I had the real deal in Seville and Cordoba a month back. If anyone asked specifically to try english cuisine I would in no way recommend the Fat Duck because it does not do english food.....current menu includes... gazpacho, foie gras, mock turtle soup etc........
        I think what i may do is make a list of specific dishes that i want to try when i come to SF and do it that way. It is obvious too that i probably need to read up a bit more about American cuisine ^^

        Thanks again for the advice, esp the list of places to try and the info on Chinatown.

        1. re: marcovanbatty

          Tadich, sand dabs or petrale sole and a local drink the martini and Memphis Minnie's for BBQ.

          1. re: marcovanbatty

            One thing to keep in mind is that the Bay Area does not do regional American food (BBQ, Soul Food, etc.) well. So ask yourself if you want mediocre examples of Regional American food, or great California cuisine? For great Regional American you will need to travel to the South and Mid West. As far as Contigo, for what it is worth, other than imported Spanish hams, their food does not taste like anything I had in Barcelona last December specially the salads and entrees, but I understand that it may be too close for you.

            San Francisco has a Mediterranean climate and other than Sand Dabs, Geoduck Clams, Salmon, Halibut, and Dungeness Crab (all when in season) we don't have much native seafood.

            Again, I suggest you read up on California cuisine or you will end up eating mediocre food instead of embracing what we do well.

            Other than that Mexican may be good for you since it is better than what you will in England although not nearly as good as what you would get in Southern California or even in Chicago which has a bigger Mexican population.

            -----
            Contigo
            1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

            1. re: marcovanbatty

              You might try a different venue than Chowhound, which aims at finding delishishness wherever it might be - without concern of regionalism.

              A request for finding the best of specific dishes might be reasonably received, but a flat statement that our primary cuisine and way of eating is of no interest and a simple copy may be taken as insulting.

              Remember also that San Francisco does not do "american" well. Most of America doesn't consider us American - we're those freaks in san francisco. In reality, if you wish to visit America, you should skip San Francisco. Chicago, Atlanta, Houston might be better choices. New York and LA are similarly not very american.

              Chicago has both hot dogs and steak, Atlanta has southern food, Houston has tex mex and more steak.

              If you decide to come here, Tadish is a natural choice. It's a shrine to a particular time and place in san francisco, before globalization, which doesn't represent much of where the city or people are now but has unique dishes. The sourdough there is quite reasonable. You should clearly go to Fisherman's Wharf and get the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Boudin's is considered reasonable.

              In terms of researching regarding what we're discussing here, I'd suggest watching the movie Bottle Shock (2008), about the true story of the 1976 blind wine tasting in france where Napa valley wines won. They talk specifically about terrior and ingredients and the passion for food we have here.

              I wouldn't bother going to chinatown - all of that food is direct copies of what is available in china. You can read KK's posts, for example, where he rips on San Francisco's idea that they might possibly be approaching Hong Kong's level of sophistication or taste. Which we are not - and if we are, that food's not found in Chinatown.

              The Mission Burrito is considered very local (burritos aren't common in Mexico). There are many threads about the best mission burrito.

              You are in luck that the upscale hamburger is having a renaissance. However, meat in general is done far better in the midwest - Chicago, namely. There has been much moaning here about the lousy quality of hamburgers compared to Chicago. Yet the burgers at Namu, Nopa, Spruce, Zuni are well regarded.

              Crab is out of season now. Any place that sells you fresh crab is bringing it down from Washington or Alaska, or is serving your frozen.

              -----
              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              Nopa
              560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

              Namu
              439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

          2. I think if you want "good American food," you might want to research regional American specialties like the Tex-Mex food of the Southwest, barbecue/barbeque and Southern black cooking, Philadelphia cheesesteaks, hamburger varieties, Thanksgiving dinner takeoffs, Southern chess pie and pecan pie, Northwest smoked salmon, other regional dishes based on regional fish/produce/etc. rarely seen in Europe, etc. You won't get the experience in SF that you would travelling the US and trying the dishes in their native environment and the restaurants won't be as fancy in general (though there are exceptions) as those with French or Italian influence,

            Once you find food that interests you, search on this board or Yelp for local favorites. Often you'll find upscale variations.

            One of my fondest memories of English visitors is the first time some friends from the Isle of Wight tasted bush-ripened blueberries and said, "Now we know what the fuss was all about!"

            One of my fondest memories of visiting England was the Ploughman's lunches in the countryside. I found them more vibrant and refreshing and different than a lot of the fancy food in London. (That was a while ago, so things have probably changed.)

            People will probably hate this suggestion, but peruse the Websites for the TV shows "Best Thing I Ever Ate" (famous American chefs tell where in America their favorite dishes are) and "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and take a gander at low-end/traditional American fare.

            Also, you might want to check out Sam's Chowder Mobile, a food truck that makes a traditional New England steamed lobster dinner with clams, corn, potatoes as well as chowder. They park where you can sit outside (dress in layers!) and see the sites.

            1. I suggest trying Slow Club or Baker & Banker - both do seasonal cooking that is common here and they are both reasonably priced (Baker & Banker slightly more expensive). Tadich is classic SF. If you want Asian, I love the pho at Pagolac in the Tenderloin. Not the nicest neighborhood, but food is good. Gets crowded so go early. Zuni is another seasonal/SF classic - their roast chicken is famous.

              -----
              Zuni Cafe
              1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

              Pagolac
              655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              Slow Club
              2501 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Baker & Banker
              1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

              1 Reply
              1. re: njtaylor2001

                Slow club leans heavily on Spain / France / Italy. For example, they have antipasto, pimentos de padron, fromage blanc, piment d’espelette, affagato, spaetzle, fettucini, pot de creme. Even their burger has dijon mustard and swiss cheese. They are also consistantly innovative and a solid choice on the SF scene - such as the use of fennel right now when it's in season, and a desert made from tcho chocolate, one of our local "bean to bar" local artesianal producers.

                Baker and Banker serves fois gras. The OP specifically said any place that serves fois gras is considered suspect. I'm sure a dish like: "Grilled octopus salad, yellow watermelon, spicy Asian vinaigrette, sea beans" -- is also considered bad, as everyone knows grilled octopus is best had in portugal. The fact that it's mashed-up california style, very typically californian, bringing together the tastes of the Portuguese coast with American watermelon and an Asian vinaigrette is likely beside the point.

                Zuni's menu is covered in Italian. Piccolo fritto, La fettunta, La tagliata, pecorino sardo, gnocchi. Sure, you can avoid that and just order the chicken, but I don't think that's the OP's point. Remember that Chez Pannisse has been summarily rejected - Zuni can be thought of as CP v 2.0.

                I was thinking about the famous egg at Manresa. It's the arpege egg from paris, but Kinch uses the very american maple sugar. Which is either a very interesting dish - especially if you've eaten the original he's riffing off of, or simple a boring derivative.

                I was considering recommending the in-n-out at fisherman's wharf, but the fact is it's a southern californian thing. Even though very american, it's not unique to san francisco. So stay away from that.

                Namu, at least, is a mashup of local-sustainable and asian. No fois gras. Local oysters. Likely the best of the upper-crust burgers. They have one of the hot new dishes - korean tacos, written up last week in the New York Times. If french and italian can't be uttered, Namu might be a good choice.

                I also suggest staying away from Blue Bottle coffee. Even though it's astonishing, locally roasted, has a sense of the san francisco terrior, and innovative drinks (like the famous gibraltar), and changed the entire way I view coffee (having been throughout italy) it's still just espresso. Why make the lines longer? Especially the lines I stand in. Stay away.

                Most places in San Francisco are as American as apple pie. Apple pie is a fundamentially german dish (strudel) mashed up with a more french style of pastry dough until it becomes American.

                -----
                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Namu
                439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

              2. It looks like you inadvertently hit a nerve about American culinary cultural identity here!

                California Cuisine certainly has a lot of French and Italian influence but is quite distinct from those cuisines. As Amy G mentioned, Chez Panisse is pretty much where it all began, in the downstairs restaurant. In San Francisco itself, Zuni Cafe is the exemplar of this type of simpler cooking. Other places like the Ritz Carlton take this further with more complex preparations and Asian influences, but a lot of those places are out of your budget. But there are plenty of fine simpler American places in San Francisco too, such
                as Maverick in the Mission.

                I think that Hayes Street Grill is a better place to try local seafood than Tadich, though Tadich certainly has the old San Francisco atmosphere. It's too bad that Dungeness crab is out of season, since it's so different from what's available in Europe, though you can still get some from further north.

                Mexican food is another thing to try - California used to be part of Mexico. Nopalito is my favorite place in San Francisco, though there are many others I have not tried yet. I agree with others that Mission burritos are a must-try. Carne asada from Pancho Villa is my favorite, but there are lots of great choices there.

                For drinks, you'll probably enjoy our wine more than our beer.

                The one thing I would suggest you might reconsider is avoiding Italian food. By all means avoid the mediocrities in North Beach. But many Italian visitors look at California Italian restaurants like another region of Italy. You wouldn't avoid a Campanian restaurant because you've been to Tuscany, I hope, and I think the same applies here. When you apply Italian techniques to California ingredients, you get something different and delicious. Incanto, La Ciccia, Perbacco/Barbacco, and SPQR are classics in this area within San Francisco.

                Pizza may have originated in Italy but San Francisco has its own individual takes on it. Most distinctive perhaps is Gialina - a very individual personality there, unlike the more Naples-style places like A16 (which I love, but would not be what you are looking for).

                I just got back from a midwest vacation where I indeed had some transcendent burgers. But places like Burgermeister do a fantastic job with hamburgers in their own Californian way.

                As others have mentioned, there are lots of classic regional American dishes that San Francisco does not do as well (pretty much any food specialty from the South). I think it's better to stick to what California does well and save the others for another trip.

                Enjoy!

                Michael

                -----
                Gialina
                2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                La Ciccia
                291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                A16
                2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                SPQR
                1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                Hayes Street Grill
                324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Pancho Villa
                3071 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                4 Replies
                1. re: mdg

                  I agree about the beers. West coast beers - west coast IPAs in specific - are a unique addition to the world, extraordinarily tasty, and - due to the high aromatic hops content - travels poorly. But after you've had beer in pilzen and munich, why bother?

                  What is truly American is the SF cocktail scene. Local distillers (alameda's hangar one making the first legal american absinthe), local innovations (like the ill-fated bacon manhattan). The british can no longer make a cocktail to save their lives (laws about the exact alcohol content make fine-tuning difficult), France doesn't seem to care, germany is all beer, and all of Asia is a cocktail wasteland. Lots of honey and local spices in use. Slow club, sister Serpentine, Gitane, Rickhouse, Heaven's Dog, a few more I'm forgetting.

                  -----
                  Gitane Restaurant & Bar
                  6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  Heaven's Dog
                  1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  Rickhouse Bar
                  246 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Your take on IPA is ironic since the original ale had extra hops to help to keep it palatable after the long trip around the Cape from Britain to India.

                    Those who are unfamiliar with West Coast IPAs may find some to be excessively hopped up.

                    -----
                    West Coast Cafe
                    466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                    1. re: PorkButt

                      It is indeed ironic, but if you've had IPA in england, there's little in common today between british IPA and west coast IPA. I think they were closer in the early 90's, but something like a Speakeasy would be shocking in the british isles, I'd wager.

                    2. re: bbulkow

                      Speaking of cocktails, I had an awesome Bloody Mary at the Slanted Door yesterday....possibly the best I've ever had.

                      -----
                      Slanted Door
                      Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  2. San Francisco and the Bay Area isn't a monoculture like the places you mention. There are many influences in food due to diversity, immigration patterns and the weather. Yes the weather...it allows for great produce and when paired with different cuisines, a creative culture, the like of food and wine, well good things happen.

                    If there's any advice I'd give is throw away the "authentic" and "American" requirement and just enjoy. I'd focus on what the Bay Area does well...mid-range, quality, fusion-y, artisan, ethnic.

                    Unless you can find a Cal-Moroccan place (Aziza) with 1 Michelin star where the prix fixe is $50-ish in the UK or Europe, or Burmese cuisine, taco trucks, XLBS and artisan products up the ding-dong, I wouldn't bother with labels. There's just way too much good stuff to eat to pin yourself down...unless you want to and that would be a shame. Oh well.

                    1. It's- It, the real San Francisco treat available in Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint and Cappucino.
                      http://www.itsiticecream.com/images/l...

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: wolfe

                        Mission Food (now defunct) did a Rice-a-roni this summer - is any other restaurant serving something close to the San Francisco Treat? It's kind of like badly made paella with no seafood, maybe a place on Columbus Ave serves something similar?

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Rice-a-roni is basically an industrial version of Armenian pilaf. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

                          The food in Chinatown (and in SF in general) is vastly more authentic (and cheaper) in comparison to the stuff in London's Chinatown IMHO. For places of interest in chinatown proper (because it is what the tourists are looking for), consider Jai Yun for high end prix fixe, Golden Gate Bakery, Shanghai Bund for Shanghainese food, Z&Y for Sichuan, City view for dim sum (cheap), Yank Sing for dim sum (expensive), R&G lounge for salt and pepper crab.

                          -----
                          Jai Yun
                          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          Golden Gate Bakery
                          1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                          Yank Sing
                          49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                          1. re: sfbing

                            Good list. I've eaten a few times in London's chinatown and SF blows it away, but I never knew if I was choosing the right spots.

                            1. re: sfbing

                              I would add Yuet Lee for Cantonese seafood. Hole-in-the-wall but the seafood and prep are always fresh. I'd get crab, clams or Monterey Spot prawns if they have them. Use to be a chefs after hour hang.

                        2. Many thanks for all the advice.....it is great to find people that are very passionate, and knowledgeable, about their food. I will try to read up about some of the foods I may encounter, and the wines too. I want to learn more about wine as my knowledge in that area is very poor, and have decided to go on a wine tour to try to educate myself in this area. I have seen the film Sideways, which i really enjoyed, but I had forgotten about the film Bottleshock, so thanks for reminding me about that....I will rent it out. I am really looking to coming to San Francisco, and, despite, how it may appear, am very open to new things and am very excited by the different foods I will try. Thanks again.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: marcovanbatty

                            Since you're from the UK, you might check out "Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure" both a TV series (BBC) and book (by James May). They tour California wineries in the 2nd series. Of course there's a bunch of other resources as well.

                            1. re: marcovanbatty

                              If you decide to head up to Wine Country, I'd suggest visiting the town of Healdsburg, which is at the convergence of about 5 different Sonoma County appellations.

                              And if you feel energetic, rent a couple of bikes in Healdsburg and go for a ride up the beautiful Alexander or Dry Creek Valleys and stop at a couple of wineries for a tasting....or rent a canoe from River's Edge Kayak & Canoe in Healdsburg (http://www.riversedgekayakandcanoe.com/), pack a picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery and a bottle of wine, and go for a pleasant paddle down the beautiful Russian River in the Alexander Valley, ending up back in Healdsburg. You will have a fantastic time and see some of the "real California" and get an insiders look at how Californians have a good time. Besides, it is normally bloody cold and foggy in San Francisco during summer (this summer especially) but it is nice, warm and sunny up in Sonoma county....we're talking crystal clear blue skies and highs in the upper 70's to low 80's.

                              AND, I would ignore some of the sarcasm above and definitely try some of the local microbrew beer which is now done exceedingly well in the Western US....it's no longer "like making love in a canoe", if you get my drift. The Bear Republic brew pub in Healdsburg has both an excellent choice of beer and a great choice of what I'd call modern American food....innovative takes on many classics. Also, the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville is another great spot for beer, and the Staghorn Saloon in Boonville which serves up some great food....the locals in Boonville developed their own language called Boontling, though they all speak English as well. And as long as you're up this way, a drive further northwest along Hwy 128 to the picturesque Victorian coastal town of Mendocino is definitely worthwhile....the coast is gorgeous up there.

                              If you do some of the above activities, you will have an extraordinarily good time and very memorable holiday. You should set aside 2 days or more to do it right.

                              -----
                              Oakville Grocery
                              124 Matheson St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                            2. One of our favorite cuisines here in the Bay Area is Nouveau Peruvian...of all things! We really enjoy Limon on Valencia St or Fresca on Fillmore St. You will find this cuisine closer to upscale French than you might imagine in terms of presentation and balance. Seafood is their speciality, in my opinion, and they use good local seafood.

                              If you venture a little ways north of the GG Bridge to Marin County, you may like Insalata's in San Anselmo.

                              -----
                              Fresca Restaurant
                              2114 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                              Limon Restaurant
                              524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chilihead2006

                                ditto! Excellent food and a wonderful dining experience.

                              2. Just remember that America has adopted cuisines from all over the world and put our own stamp on it. Our versions of Japanese/Mexican/Italian etc. are going to be different than what you would find elsewhere...so consider loosening your restrictions a bit. As some other posters have noted, one of the things that makes California Cuisine so special are the ingredients! Take a visit to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market and eat from one of the food stands there or purchase picnic fixings. Enjoy the bounty of freshness that the Bay Area has to offer. Here are some of my suggestions for your trip here and keeping in mind your budget:
                                Swan Oyster Depot!!!!!!
                                Tadich
                                Park Chow or Church Chow
                                Hog Island Oyster Co.
                                Canteen
                                Farmer Brown
                                Tipsy Pig
                                Little Star Pizza

                                Please do have Mexican food while you are here as it sucks in the UK. You won't find burritos like we have here in Mexico...once again our own special version. Considering how much Mexican food the average Californian consumes, I really would count it as American Cuisine. :-)
                                Also, do a search for breakfast places. American breakfasts are crazy good... pancakes...eggs benedict...homefries...scrambles...I'm making myself hungry!

                                Enjoy your trip here!

                                -----
                                Little Star Pizza
                                846 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                Park Chow
                                1238 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                Swan Oyster Depot
                                1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                Farmer Brown
                                25 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                Hog Island Oyster Co
                                610 1st St, Napa, CA

                                Tipsy Pig
                                2231 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Bookmarking this thread -- best one in ages on this board. Thanks all.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      BBulkow, I agree that London has very good oysters (my breakfast every morning when I was there was at the oyster bar in Harrods), but the oysters that they get are remarkably different!

                                      Brittany and Irish oysters are much bigger, flatter, and taste very, very different. So suggesting a Londoner taste West Coast oysters is not a bad suggestion.

                                      -----
                                      West Coast Cafe
                                      466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                                  2. If you want to try the food the locals might eat (while avoiding popular categories like French and Italian), you might want to try at least a couple of meals at restaurants that are not trendy foodie places.

                                    1. Try a diner like Mo's in North Beach. Among the best burgers in town and some good chicken dishes as well. You should come in at about half your budget and you can use the savings for a fancier place some other day.

                                    2. Visit a steakhouse. Not a particularly sophisticated concept but a staple of American dining. To be somewhat contrarian, I would suggest Hillstone (formerly Houston's). It's one of the more accessible steakhouses in the city (casual, large bar where people can dine solo, etc.). Foodies will frown on this place and say that it's part of a chain and not unique at all and they will be absolutely right. (Steakhouses are rarely particularly unique.) But I know tons of locals who go there all the time because they like the food and the warm ambience.

                                    Other than that, I would consider some ethnic places like others have suggested. (Peruvian, Chinese, Mexican.) Also consider fusion, like the House in North Beach. And consider restaurants that are somewhat unique, like Coi or Ame (both are quite pricey). And, of course, the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building.

                                    1. If the OP really is interested in American Food, they might consider Citizen's Band. I don't know about the quality, but you can hardly get more American than the dishes on the menu. In the same vein, Thermidor might be worth a visit.

                                      -----
                                      Thermidor
                                      8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                      Citizen’s Band
                                      1198 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Paul H

                                        Had a pretty mediocre experience at Thermidor. Thought Wayfare Tavern was much better.

                                      2. Definitely hit the Ferry Building Farmers Market (or almost any farmers market). I'm in the UK right now, and the freshness of the produce at California farmers markets cannot be matched in the UK. I think the UK has us beat on meat and cheese, but we've got fruit and veg by a mile. And we're not too shabby in the meat department either. Ignoring the (too Mediterranean for you) salumi, be sure to have one of Ryan Farr's Golden Dogs while you're at the Ferry building. And pick up some of his airy chicharones -- they are like no pork scratching you've ever had!

                                        Agree with the poster who mentioned Peruvian as a possibility. I've enjoyed La Mar the couple of times I've been. It covers your seafood jones, and it's definitely a gap in the UK food scene.

                                        Mission burritos, definitely. Beyond that, almost any Mexican food in California will be better than what's on offer in London. For a fun and tasty (and cheap) day out, consider a tour of the taco trucks near the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. Also the Pozole at Taco Grill (next to the Public Market) across from BART. I like the rojo with pork. A huge bowl will set you back less than $10.

                                        The Bay Area also does Korean far better than London (despite the spate of new restaurants recently). Our best is in Oakland. It's definitely worth your while to head there for Ohgane, Sura, Sahn Maru, or Pyung Chang. You'll be very well fed and come in well under budget.

                                        Another ethnic cuisine I'm not too impressed by in the UK (where it's also seriously overpriced) is Thai. I would definitely recommend dinner at Lers Ros and Thai House Express. In Oakland, Chai Thai and Champa Garden are excellent (and cheap) Thai with some Lao dishes as well.

                                        For food I would consider American, and not veering Cal Med, I would consider Town Hall, 1300 Fillmore, Memphis Minnie's, and the aforementioned Tadich Grill (take care when ordering). I would also consider crossing the Bay to Berkeley for T-Rex (barbecue) and Angeline's (New Orleans style), and Oakland for Wood Tavern, Pican, and Brown Sugar Kitchen (breakfast and lunch only).

                                        You'll find lots of tasty, quintessentially American breakfast food here. The waffles at Brown Sugar Kitchen are unmatched. Jonathan Gold wrote that he'd drive 400 miles (from LA) for them. There are great pancakes all over the place, and they're nothing like the thin, French style commonly found in the UK. Lemon ricotta pancakes, blueberry pancakes, banana pancakes...they're all good. Pancakes, waffles, and donuts are what my British in-laws miss most from the 16 years they lived in California.

                                        Also in the breakfast department, we have some seriously good smoked (streaky) bacon here. Many local restaurants use bacon from great local purveyors like Fatted Calf. Even pretty ordinary joints offer bacon from Hobbs or Niman Ranch.

                                        You should also grab yourself a sandwich from The Sentinal. On a similar lunch note, try a typical deli sandwich on a sourdough roll from Molinari (yes, it's an Italian deli, but deli sandwiches here are a pretty American animal). You could do the same at the Genova deli in Oakland.

                                        You probably owe it to yourself to have a bacon donut from Dynamo, even if it's just to say you did.

                                        If you do find yourself in a steak house, please have a proper baked potato. I have been forever scarred by the British habit of topping baked potatoes with "tuna and sweetcorn," "egg mayonaise," and "prawn cocktail." This is so wrong!

                                        People are passionate about Coffee here, and I think Blue Bottle is pretty unusual and very distinctive.

                                        -----
                                        Ohgane
                                        3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

                                        Champa Garden
                                        2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                                        Tadich Grill
                                        240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                        Thai House Express
                                        901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                        Town Hall Restaurant
                                        342 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105

                                        Wood Tavern
                                        6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                        Taco Grill
                                        3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                                        Blue Bottle Cafe
                                        66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                        Brown Sugar Kitchen
                                        2534 Mandela Pkwy, Oakland, CA 94607

                                        Fatted Calf
                                        644-C First Street, Napa, CA 94559

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: lexdevil

                                          This is a timely thread for me, as we will be entertaining some people from the UK soon. Was thinking about something like Burmese for one casual meal (perhaps Mandalay). Would this be sufficiently interesting for our visitors?

                                          1. re: mrs bacon

                                            I think so. Used to go to Mandalay a lot around 15 years ago and really enjoyed it. And I'd really push for a good pancake breakfast/lunch. There's just nothing like it in the UK. In fact a "flapjack" over here is a sweet rolled oat cookie bar, sort of like a chewy granola bar.

                                            1. re: lexdevil

                                              Mandalay is still great! I go there all the time. And unless OP is planning on visiting Burma soon I'd say it would be a shame not to take advantage of his visit to try out this fantastic spot, if only for the tea leaf salad and samusa soup, which are two of the stars and which were not on the menu of London's Mandalay Burmese, at least when I was there 2 yrs ago and which (at the time at least) is/was London's only Burmese restaurant.....

                                              -----
                                              Mandalay Restaurant
                                              4344 California St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                          2. re: lexdevil

                                            Most of the dishes at Champa Garden are actually Lao dishes with some Thai.

                                            To the tourist, if you're new to Lao cuisine and have never been to Champa Garden before, definitely try Lao dishes like Nam Khao (Lao fried rice ball salad), the Champa Sampler, Larb, Lao noodle soups Khao Piak and Khao Poon, and some of the Lao curry dishes like Panang Pa and Lao yellow/green/red curry dishes. Curry dishes tend to be eaten with Lao sticky rice, which is eaten with your hand. For an authentic Lao taste, Lao yellow/green/red curry dishes usually have dill in them and shouldn't be too heavy on coconut milk. If those dishes are heavy on coconut milk and contain no dill, then they might possibly be the Thai varieties of yellow/green/red curries. At Thai or Lao restaurants, you can usually request either the Lao or Thai versions of similar dishes.

                                            They also have Pad Si Ew, which is a Lao/Thai noodle dish of Chinese origins.

                                            -----
                                            Champa Garden
                                            2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                                          3. Many thanks for all the advice.

                                            Will try peruvian and burmese. Looking forward to the breakfasts.

                                            Have read up about certain dishes like Turkey Tetrazzini and Cioppino which started in San Francisco....wondering if they are still eaten now, and why nobody mentioned them...and if, like here in the uk, many of the foods that originated in an area have been forgotten about as new cuisines (italian, etc) have taken over.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: marcovanbatty

                                              Cioppino is served at Tadich. It can be very good. Many say it's the best in the area. At the same time, some have complained that it was "tired." I'd opt for the Sand Dabs instead.

                                              Another option, Scoma's, has the advantage of being pretty much the only place offering decent food at Fisherman's Wharf. It is, like all restaurants on the Wharf, overpriced. You are paying for the view (which is, for a visitor, probably worth paying for). At the same time, Scoma's is close to the high end of your desired price range, and you'll be saving enough with your Burmese and Mexican meals, that I think you can afford it. The cioppino will set you back $32, before drinks, tax, tip, etc.

                                              I wish you luck in finding Turkey Tetrazzini. I think it's a thing of the past. A good article can be found here: http://www.sfcityguides.org/public_gu...

                                              1. re: marcovanbatty

                                                Dungeness crab, salmon, oysters, halibut and petrale sole are all indigenous and very good here. Both Tadich and Scoma's serve them up very nicely. The dungeness crab Louie salad at Scoma's has enough crabmeat on it for four people!

                                                Another place to vist nearby is Point Reyes National Seashore. No visit to Point Reyes would be complete without stopping by Drakes Bay Oyster Company for some shuck'em yourself oysters on the half shell...strictly al fresco. Bring along a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet and do it in style.

                                                Although local dungeness are not in season until November, they still fly it down from up north and it's still very good.

                                                1. re: marcovanbatty

                                                  If you are really determined to eat a dish that originated in San Francisco then you should consider going to Thermidor since they have Celery Victor which originated in San Francisco. Shrimp Louie is also on their menu and I think it also originated in SF.
                                                  http://thermidorsf.com/index.html

                                                  -----
                                                  Thermidor
                                                  8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                2. I've been pondering why folks were so touchy at the start of this thread, and I think it's because California doesn't really have an indigenous cuisine. This is not to say the we don't have great food, but that we don't have much that we can call our own. We succeeded in pretty much annihilating California's indigenous population, so the food of California is the food of immigrants, and rather recent ones at that. That's why even the most classic California dishes, like cioppino, are ultimately rooted in the culinary traditions of other nations.

                                                  The Spanish did not begin to settle San Francisco until the late 1700s. There was a Russian colony to the north of the city soon after that. San Francisco's population was a mere 200 in 1846. By the close of 1849, that population ballooned to 25,000 as a result of the Gold Rush. By the turn of the century that number increased to 342,782, and by mid-century, San Francisco's population was 775,357 (within 100,000 of where it remains today). I trot out these numbers not to bore you, but to impress upon you tremendous scale, rapidity, and recency of migration to San Francisco.

                                                  Unlike some areas of the United States, migration to San Francisco was not dominated by a single national or ethnic group. The lure of gold and silver brought settlers from across Europe, and from the rest of the United States. Additionally, from 1870-1890, close to 10% of San Francisco's population came from China. Exclusionary immigration laws changed that for several decades, but by 1980, San Francisco's population was nearly 20% Chinese. In 2000, San Francisco's population was nearly 1/3 Asian. Despite the city's early Spanish settlement and quarter century as part of Mexico, the city's Hispanic population is quite recent. Hispanic people were counted as "other" until 1960, but this number never even reached 1% of San Francisco's population. By 1960 San Francisco's population was 7% Hispanic, and it remains about twice that today.

                                                  Migration to San Francisco from Mexico and other countries in Latin America is quite recent, but so, ultimately, is all migration to San Francisco. Pretty much everyone has arrived here in the last 150 years. No one group has dominated the culinary landscape. Our food is, therefore, very recognizably, the food of other lands, adapted to suit local ingredients and conditions, as well as the tastes of customers from other backgrounds. A classic example is tomato beef chow mein, which, like cioppino, has fallen off of most menus. Most chowhounds prefer food that hews closer to its origins, though I do have fond 20-30 year old memories of tomato beef chow mein. I imagine it's still out there somewhere.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: lexdevil

                                                    Great post, lexdevil, thanks for taking the time. I always groan inwardly when a visitor asks for "Canadian" food reccos (we can't even say poutine or tourtiere legitimately, here on the left coast). Hurrah for the melting pot/mosaic!

                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                      Thanks. I do have sympathy for the OP's request. He should avoid going to restaurants that strive to be strictly Italian, or French, or whatever else he has easy access to. At the same time, I hope that he will give our more typical culinary mongrel's a shot. We all need to recognize that there's a big difference between an Italian restaurant, and a restaurant with Italian influences. He'd really be missing out if he skipped our best in a search for some sort of culinary purity. Following the reductio ad absurdum to the bitter end, he'd be looking for acorn mush, berries, and wild game.

                                                      I think some of my reaction is probably because, whenever I am in the UK, I am blown away by how old everything is. I don't tend to think about how new and transitory things are in California until I'm confronted by places that are truly old. Having tea in a building that dates back to the 14th century tends to put things in perspective.

                                                    2. re: lexdevil

                                                      What a lovely, thoughtful exploration of the topic. Thanks for this.

                                                    3. I realised that I touched a nerve with my original post....but the question of culinary

                                                      identity is very interesting. Here in the UK, where the most popular food eaten in

                                                      restaurants is (according to a recent survey) Chicken Tika Masala, our 'traditional' foods are being pushed aside, neglected, forgotten (confined to the recipe books) and food from Poland, Czech Republic etc is appearing on our streets instead ( brought across by economic migrants) next to the long established Indian and Chinese restaurants. As a foodie I do find it quite exciting to have so much choice, and yet one is sad that it is becoming difficult to drive into a nearby towns and sit down to 'traditional' English food. Also, what we are often seeing is 'foreign' cuisines that are adulterated to suit the English taste, so even when you go to, say a Turkish restaurant, as I did last week, you dont get 'traditional' Turkish food. Ok, a lot of English food isnt that great anyway, but that is not really the point.....what is, is that loss of identity, tradition. It was interesting that when I first asked the question about trying 'traditional' food from SF, some of the responses were almost along the lines of, we dont have anything to call our own....fusion restaurants, mexican, peruvian were all recommended......but in actual fact there are dishes (such as cioppino, Chicken Tetrazzini, Crab Louis, The It's It) that originated in SF and it is these foods that, were I staying for just a couple of days, would be top of my list of things to try. As I am staying 9 days I can widen my range and try what one might describe as 'classic' American dishes, such as hamburgers, clam chowder, twinkies and widen even further into fusion food particular to SF.

                                                      Coming to the USA for the first time is very exciting to me....I am keen on trying lots of new foods and I thank you all for your posts and advice.

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: marcovanbatty

                                                        Your strong interest in the cultural background of San Francisco food will certainly serve you well and will no doubt make your stay so much more interesting and rewarding . You definitely have a very well-informed group here to bring you up to speed on the great foods to be enjoyed here.

                                                        Thanks for your determined interest, and wishes for a very successful and rewarding visit.

                                                        1. re: marcovanbatty

                                                          I understand your desire to try the dishes that originated in San Francisco. It's the same as my desire to have the best pork pies, Stilton, and steamed puddings while I'm in the UK. There is, however, a bit of a difference generated by the newness of San Francisco. Crab Louis is definitely an original, but even cioppino and Tetrazzini have their roots in Europe. Tetrazzini is claimed to be the creation of either Auguste Escoffier or Ernest Arbogast (whose family name indicates that he most likely had his roots in Alsace). It is, ultimately, fusion food -- a blend of Italian pasta, French sauce, and American ingredients (especially in the turkey version). Cioppino is nothing more than the San Francisco take on rustic Italian and French seafood stews. This old NYT article will provide insight. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/04/24/tra... Ultimately, these iconic San Francisco dishes are as original as the tomato beef chow mein I mentioned earlier. They are fusion food through and through.

                                                          I am not trying to say that ciopinno and Tetrazzini are not authentic San Francisco cuisine. I'm trying to demonstrate that authentic San Francisco cuisine is, ultimately, a fusion of immigrant history and local ingredients and conditions. Due to the fact that everyone here is a recent immigrant, our local dishes have not had all that much time to shed the imprint of their foreign forebears.

                                                          The situation is really the same in the UK, but this is obscured by age. You've got both originals (like Stilton) and fusion items (like the meat pie) on your list of national culinary classics. The meat pie, brought to the British Isles by the Romans, has had 1,600 years to evolve and obscure its Continental lineage. My guess is that given enough time Chicken Tikka Masala will attain the same status as a classic British dish that is now enjoyed by the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Chutney, for example, was introduced to Great Britain during the 17th century, it evolved to suit local ingredients and tastes, and is now a staple of the British larder. Similarly, the United States' ubiquitous condiment, Ketchup, spread from China to Malaysia, and was brought to the States by the British. Within a short time of its introduction, Americans were making ketchup with a new world fruit, the tomato. I'm certain that ketchup meets your definition of classic American food, but if you look back just a hundred or so years, it starts to look a lot more like Chicken Tikka Masala.

                                                          Ultimately, because San Francisco is so young, few of our foods will meet your standard for being fundamentally San Franciscan. Because you do not have the luxury of returning in a few hundred years when our cuisine will have matured and done a better job of disguising its foreign roots, I recommend that you fill in gaps in your dining itinerary by trying to identify the fusion items that appear to have the greatest potential staying power. These are likely to be the ketchups and cioppinos of tomorrow. Most here would agree that the Mission burrito makes the list. It should be fun trying to figure out what else does.

                                                          1. re: marcovanbatty

                                                            Thanks for the clarification. Some local items to try:
                                                            SF sourdough bread
                                                            mission burrito
                                                            grilled artichokes
                                                            tri-tip sandwiches
                                                            bbq'd oysters
                                                            cioppino

                                                            1. re: Civil Bear

                                                              A good list, though I did have a grilled artichoke with Greek salad at a pub in Tufnell Park just last Sunday. Not really sure who can claim it.

                                                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                has anybody mentioned the great dry salami's made in the Bay Area? They are up there in my book with the great Italian breads from The City and surrounding towns.

                                                              2. re: marcovanbatty

                                                                You are extremely unlikely to ever see chicken or turkey Tetrazzini on a restaurant menu in SF or anywhere in the US. That is a casserole dish that people in the US make at home with leftover roast chicken or turkey.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                  Just when you thought it was safe to go out again.
                                                                  J & V Restaurant and Catering
                                                                  2095 Jerrold Ave at Milton I Ross Ln
                                                                  San Francisco, CA 94124
                                                                  Chicken Breast Tetrazzini tossed with chicken stripes (on the side upon request), mushrooms, almonds and parmesan cheese over fettuccini.

                                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                                    Do they actually have a restaurant, or are they just caterers?

                                                                    And do they really make it with chicken strips?! That's...shocking...or terrifyingly American (though not so Northern Californian).

                                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                                      From a yelp reviewer "I work up the street from J & V and have lunch there about once a week." The catering service has mixed reviews.

                                                                      1. re: wolfe

                                                                        I guess the mixed reviews should be no surprise. That dish sounds positively revolting.

                                                                1. Hangtown Fry (omelet with bacon, oysters) is California food, Gold Rush era. A few places like Tadich Grill, Sam's Grill and a few other places make it.

                                                                  Expanding on culinary culture and history...besides California being relatively young it's also an open book with few rules except make it taste good...add in the "do your own thing" beat/hippie factor and you get California cuisine and artisan stuff.

                                                                  Beyond that Chinese food has been part of California since the Gold Rush and Mexican food obviously much longer as California was once part of Mexico.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Tadich Grill
                                                                  240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                    The last Hangtown Fry I had at Tadich was pretty disappointing. Perhaps someone can point the OP in a more promising direction? Can anyone vouch for their version at Wayfare Tavern? Or even that it's still on the menu?

                                                                    While exploring the world of eggs, he might also want to try a Joe's Special. He can't go to Joe's in San Francisco, but he could try the Daily City or San Jose Joe's, or find Joe's Special at any of the many other places that make it. I've always believed that Henry's Shredded Pork at Henry's Hunan and Joe's Special offer a case of covergent food evolution, so he could probably settle for that in a pinch. I tend to prefer the Chinese take to the Italian, but that's probably because I prefer shredded pork to ground beef. Beyond that, the two dishes are pretty much identical.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Wayfare Tavern
                                                                    558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                                      Brenda's French Soul Food has a very credible Hangtown Fry. Brenda, herself, is a good example of the native/non-native paradigm. Filipino/Creole, cooking New Orleans inspired food in San Francisco. For the OP- worth your consideration.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Brenda's French Soul Food
                                                                      652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                    2. re: ML8000

                                                                      Oooh, hangtown fry, that's a good one. FYI to marcovanbatty, The Cape Fear Cafe in Duncans Mills, near Jenner on the Sonoma Coast, does an awesome hangtown fry (photo attached). So if you do end up doing a wine country jaunt and head over to the coast, try this spot for breakfast or brunch. Fantastic bread, eggs, omelets, etc.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Cape Fear Cafe
                                                                      25191 Highway 116, Duncans Mills, CA 95430

                                                                       
                                                                    3. You should definitely go to the Fog City Diner. It's not haute cuisine, but it's "very California," IMO. It's a fun place, and their selection of fresh oysters is impressive and reasonably priced. I disagree about China Town: go and have Dim Sum and wander around. I love browsing through the food markets. Likewise, don't skip Fisherman's Wharf. It's not as cool as it used to be when I was a kid and we got to see the fishing fleet come in at the end of the day, but it's still fun and unique. If you see sand dabs on a menu anywhere, order them!

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Fog City Diner
                                                                      1300 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                      1. If you are lookinig for American then I hope you visit falls during our Thanksgiving holiday. Turkey, the U.S. does well as it is a native bird. Unless you find Native American cooking good luck on finding "American" food. Better to opt for regional specialities. For Califiornia, it's Mediterranean influences as stated, as well as Spanish/Mexican and Chinese/Vietnamese influences and of course the wine. And lots of greens. Save the soul food for the south,. Tex-Mex and BBQ for Texas. Although I've had good BBQ in Tennessee as well. Steak and chops from Chicago or even better Nebraska. Southwest (maize, chiles, flank steak) for Arizona and new Mexico. Cuban food for Southern Florida. Crab - Maryland. New England clam chowder Maine/Massachusettes/Rhode Island. America is huge, young and a melting pot, meaning a lot of food and all kinds of variety. I grew up in middle American (from German immigrants) and I no of no place in San Francisco that serves the kind of food from my childhood. Although most restaurants I've eaten in San Francisco have decent food.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: caquark

                                                                          Good barbecue in Tennessee? Imagine that!

                                                                          (tic)

                                                                        2. Boulevard does American food well. Bit pricy though - on the upper end of your budget.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Boulevard Restaurant
                                                                          1 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105

                                                                          1. Try to find an Avocado and Bacon Sandwich (on toast, with mayo) for lunch one day. This is a delicious sandwich, and I've never seen it outside of California.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                              Are you serious? No BLTAs outside of CA? I know avocados are expensive outside of CA but I'd think AZ or NV would have them on some menus.

                                                                              That said, avocados are a great suggestion in any form. There seems to be a minor glut this year. Decent guacamole probably isn't an English speciality.

                                                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                                                We have avocados in our markets. You can find them on salads. People eat guacamole everywhere, but a Bacon and Avocado Sandwich is truly a California treat.

                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                  They do a mean grilled mushroom, avocado and cheese sandwich at Le Croissant in San Rafael. I'm sure they would put some bacon on it for you.

                                                                                  YUM!!!

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Le Croissant Restaurant
                                                                                  150 Bellam Blvd Ste 210, San Rafael, CA 94901

                                                                              2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                Just for You in the Dogpatch has a great BLTA on homemade bread. I think that their breakfast/lunch offering are pretty American, with some New Orleans twists. Their crab cake sandwich is also a winner.

                                                                              3. Howdy: I hope you are great.

                                                                                Not sure if you will have a car but if so I would recommend Fish in Sausalito, you get to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, then you can have a wonderful seafood meal, the Crab roll is really good, along with some white sangria outside looking at the bay and the city.
                                                                                [URL="http://www.331fish.com/"]http://...

                                                                                ]

                                                                                Best regards, tony

                                                                                1. Another consideration would be to try a fish not found on the shores of the Atlantic. In addition to the aforementioned (gee, it's been years since I had a good chance to use "aforementioned!") sand dabs, try petrale sole. I am sure there are others, but I'm from the other coast so these are the two I remember.

                                                                                  1. Looks like Michael Bauer has assembled a good Green Goddess Dressing list for you.

                                                                                    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/micha...

                                                                                    If you do Wayfare Tavern, you could take care of the Hangtown Fry as well, killing two birds with one stone.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Wayfare Tavern
                                                                                    558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                      I don’t agree with the posts that say California doesn't have an indigenous cuisine. California cuisine, using fresh local ingredients in innovative ways, started at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in the 1970s. Although one could argue that this style of cooking is basically French, I think it’s expressed itself in a unique way in California because of the melting pot influences mentioned in previous posts. And like almost everything else it spread from CA to the rest of the country (as much as the rest of the country would hate to admit it).

                                                                                      My vote would be to try Range Restaurant http://www.rangesf.com/ for a really good version of California cuisine.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Chez Panisse
                                                                                      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                      1. re: Ridge

                                                                                        I'm pretty sure we're in agreement. My argument was that we don't have much of a native cuisine by the OP's standards. If, however, he's willing to consider Cal-Med, that opens up a lot more than Range. Despite occasional controversy on this board, I'd go to the source: Chez Panisse. Given that the OP prizes history, it's an easy call.

                                                                                        1. re: Ridge

                                                                                          I would agree that California does have an indigenous cuisine, but I don't think it's correct to say it started at Chez Panisse. I think what Alice Waters did was take the way many Californians (especially native Californians) were cooking and eating and formalize it into a "cuisine."

                                                                                          I've said before and I'll say again, that if you want to look to an institution as the genesis for California cuisine, I think it would be the Berkeley Co-op, which was promoting fresh local food, simply prepared and from known sources long before Alice Waters came along. I grew up on recipes that came out of the home economist's department of the Berkeley co-op in the '60s so I know full well the influence they had on my cooking and eating style. I don't think it's a coincidence that Chez Panisse is literally across the street from what was then the flagship store of the Berkeley Co-op.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Chez Panisse
                                                                                          1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                            That's funny, having grown up on food from the Co-op, my memories are rather different. I don't remember much of a fresh and local emphasis, but I do remember the 25 lb. cases of frozen turbot my mother would buy. They seemed to go on forever, and my mother wouldn't give up on them, even long after freezer burn had taken its toll. Turbot Florentine was her standard attempt to disguise it.

                                                                                            One area in which the Co-op was well ahead of the curve (though to be accurate I think they it was simply old fashioned, and we have turned back to meet it) was its provision of offal. We definitely had lots of liver, beef tongue, lamb tongue, and kidneys from the Co-op. Of course that was because it was because it was cheap, not because we had great ideas for what to do with it. The kidney stew was not, as I recall it, a success.

                                                                                            Of course we shopped at the Ashby Co-op, where the doughnut counter was a huge part of my impression of the store.

                                                                                            Given that the OP cannot visit the Co-op, or the Pot Luck, for that matter, I still think a visit to Chez Panisse is as close as he'll get to the source.

                                                                                      2. 1) Farmer's market at the Ferry Building On Saturday morning
                                                                                        2) Breakfast with an Irish coffee and/or a Ramos Fizz at the Buena Vista Cafe
                                                                                        3) Anything with crab at either Tadich Grill or Scoma's
                                                                                        4) Dinner at the Zuni Cafe
                                                                                        5) Lunch at any one of many restaurants in Chinatown (walk on Grant Avenue, and ask a local for a recommendation)
                                                                                        6) Lunch at the Fog City Diner...not that the food is so outstanding, but it is very San Francisco!
                                                                                        7) Lunch at one of the restaurants outdoors at the Ferry Building...I like the Slanted Door
                                                                                        8) Take a ferry to Tiburon and have lunch, or just a beer and look back over the bay to San Francisco
                                                                                        9) Rent a car for a day and drive up to the Napa Valley for wine tasting and if you can splurge, lunch at the Auberge du Soleil

                                                                                        Do all of these things, and you'll have a pretty good idea why SFO is loved by so many!

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Zuni Cafe
                                                                                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                        Tadich Grill
                                                                                        240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                                        Buena Vista Cafe
                                                                                        2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                                          5) I hear tourists on the street asking for Chinatown restaurant recs all the time. The recs seem to be evenly divided between House of Nanking or Sam Wo. I would suggest that anyone trying this method take the time to read up on Sam Wo and House of Nanking ahead of time to decide if they want to heed the advice.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Sam Wo Restaurant
                                                                                          813 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                                                                          House of Nanking
                                                                                          919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                                                            1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                              Thanks, ernie. I guess I should clarify that the two recs, Sam Wo and House of Nanking, that will come from asking on the street are not places that chowhounds would suggest for good eating. They're probably the two places that get trashed the most as tourist traps.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Sam Wo Restaurant
                                                                                              813 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                                                                              House of Nanking
                                                                                              919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                Gotcha, I misunderstood. Yuet Lee is certainly no tourist trap, despite the tourists.

                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                            Auberge du Soliel is not much of a splurge if you dine outside on the terrace. The view from the restaurant is absolutely tops!

                                                                                            In Tiburon, it was always fun to eat outside on the deck at Sam's Anchor Cafe overlooking the marina. However we stopped going to Sam's a couple of years ago as food quality had gone downhill. I don't know if it's back to it's former glory. It's certainly a good place for a beer and taking in the scenery on a bright sunny day. I've sailed in and out of there many times.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Sam's Anchor Cafe
                                                                                            27 Main St, Belvedere Tiburon, CA 94920

                                                                                            1. re: chilihead2006

                                                                                              As one might gather from my post, I really was not necessarily talking about the very best food in the bay area, but more about what in my opinion, visitors would really enjoy. I couldn't agree with you more that simply a beer, and perhaps some snacks at Sam's Anchor Cafe is something that I can't believe any visitor would not relish.

                                                                                              And yes, as chilihead has pointed out and I neglected to say...by all means if you have lunch at the Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley, do not even consider eating indoors!!!
                                                                                              Their glorious terrace is the only way to go.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Sam's Anchor Cafe
                                                                                              27 Main St, Belvedere Tiburon, CA 94920

                                                                                            2. re: josephnl

                                                                                              2) Probably everyone has Irish coffee now but Ramos Fizz is a great suggestion. I made them for a brunch in Oregon some years ago and knocked people's socks off :)

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                Camino in Oakland has a great take on the Ramos Gin Fizz on its brunch menu: Gin, citrus, cream, gum syrup, egg white, sparkling wine. Super fab! If the OP decides to break down and visit any of the spawn of Chez Panisse, brunch at Camino would be a great option.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Chez Panisse
                                                                                                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                                1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                  Just did a quick check. It appears that the Ramos Fizz originated in New Orleans!

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    In that case just get a Martini, invented in SF...or Martinez CA.

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      San Francisco is still closer to New Orleans than the UK is. I don't see why the OP is limited to American classics that are indigenous to the Bay Area.

                                                                                                      1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                        I agree.

                                                                                                        I'd like to recommend yet another restaurant that does a fine job of serving up New Mexican cuisine. For the benefit of the OP, New Mexican cuisine is indigenous to the state of New Mexico...not "new" food from the country of Mexico. The Spanish settled NM in the 1500's, and Santa Fe is the oldest state capitol in the US. NM cuisine though in many ways similar to Mexican cuisine, is very distinctive in its own right, using many ingredients that only grow in the state of NM...particularly the Hatch green chile, Chimayo red chile and blue corn meal.

                                                                                                        Anyhow, I'd recommend the OP eat at the Green Chile Kitchen on the corner of McAllister and Baker in SF. Try the posole soup and their enchiladas. The blue corn chips with 4 different salsa is also very good. And if you go for dinner, you must also have the sopapillas with honey to help mop up the chile sauce. If you can handle spicy food, I'd recommend ordering the hot green chile sauce instead of the mild. They typically ladle green chile or red chile over the top of your entree..and if you like both, ask for "christmas". ;)

                                                                                                        I've never come across anything resembling NM cuisine in the UK or Europe.

                                                                                                        ...and it is very reasonably priced. A very good value.

                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                        Green Chile Kitchen
                                                                                                        1801 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                                                                        1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                          Sorry. Just reread OP. Thought s/he was asking for SF foods. My mistake.

                                                                                                2. Some questions for SF'ans from an out-of-towner:

                                                                                                  Is the OP interested in sweets and desserts? it's the time of year when bounty of fruits available create a flurry of baking and desserts based on our wonderful fresh fruits. I recall asking in the past about pastries (found some great shops), and a lively discussion of pie shops and offerings ensued.

                                                                                                  Also, the Alemany Farmer's Market sounded like it has lots of interesting small cooked-food vendors. The non-cooked food vendors would also give a clue as to what SF residents are buying and eating.

                                                                                                  Olive oils--is there a tasting room for these in the city? Down here in SLO Co., we have many producers and several tasting rooms. California makes wonderful oils in varied styles. They will be different in style and flavor from European olive oils.

                                                                                                  How about artisan cheeses? Where is the best place to sample them in/with prepared foods?

                                                                                                  1. Trying to guess what you'd like...

                                                                                                    Lolo's in the Mission (mexican/turkish, having been to turkey I can assure you it's not like just having turkish)
                                                                                                    Ike's for a sandwich in the Castro. (good ol american sandwiches)
                                                                                                    You don't mention Japanese but I'd recommend Nombe or Kappou Gomi for you.
                                                                                                    Definitely visit one of our farmer's markets (ferry building on saturday is the biggest, wednesday eve in the castro is small but fun too)
                                                                                                    Swan's Oyster Depot. (you may have oysters in england but do you have crab/shrimp louis salad? )
                                                                                                    Depending on the season, in november to february or so you can walk into any safeway supermarket and get a delicious, cheap-as-hell, precooked dungeness crab.
                                                                                                    Fog City Diner -- very SF-feeling food
                                                                                                    Get yourself some Cioppino -- Never been to Tadich but there's is supposed to be the best
                                                                                                    Saigon Sandwich -- cheap stand selling great vietnamese banh mi.
                                                                                                    Limon -- peruvian. they also have a separate place devoted to roast chicken I think.

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                                                                                                    Saigon Sandwich Shop
                                                                                                    560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                    Fog City Diner
                                                                                                    1300 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                                                                    Limon Restaurant
                                                                                                    524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                    Kappou Gomi
                                                                                                    5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                                                    Nombe
                                                                                                    2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: pauliface

                                                                                                      This has been a great thread. I particularly appreciate Lexdevil's linking of Bay Area food traditions to our demographic/ethnic history, that is the vein that Jonathan Gold works so well. Ruth's point on the Berkeley Coop was pretty interesting too. Gastronomica ran an article a few years back about a kind of Chez Panisse precursor restaurant on San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley in the 1960's.

                                                                                                      I think part of the problem here might be differing attitudes towards "tradition" in England and California, if I may generalize. England has a lot more ancient traditions to preserve than (non-indigenous) California. So it might seem natural to come here looking for ancient food lineages. But when most Bay Area chefs think about what's "native" and what's "Californian," their mind doesn't run to the foods that were served here in 1848 or 1910. They think about the ingredients that are local. They think about how to combine immigrant and American foods.

                                                                                                      This thread has barely touched on the large number of modern or fusion Asian restaurants in the Bay Area, especially in Silicon Valley. One example that could be reached without a car (it's a block from the Mountain View Caltrain station) is Xanh Vietnamese restaurant.

                                                                                                      Forgive me, but to me your quest seems a bit antiquarian. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's different from really diving into American/Californian food as it's currently understood. For the latter, you would want to follow people's recommendations for Chez Panisse, Zuni, Limon, Brown Sugar Kitchen etc.

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Zuni Cafe
                                                                                                      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                      Limon Restaurant
                                                                                                      524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                                      Brown Sugar Kitchen
                                                                                                      2534 Mandela Pkwy, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                                                      Xanh Restaurant
                                                                                                      110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

                                                                                                      Chez Panisse Cafe
                                                                                                      1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                                    2. Is it possible that Greens did not make anyone's list so far? Do not see it on the list on the right. Also, how about Waterbar? Stop in for a drink, if only for the views!

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Waterbar
                                                                                                      399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                      Greens
                                                                                                      Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                                                                                      1. Hi all - I feel it's worth reviving this post to observe that Daniel Patterson has some excellent thoughts to contribute to this discussion, as noted in today's New York Times. See his comments on what defines San Francisco cuisine here: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...