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May 5, 2011 03:25 AM

San Fran Food

I'm an Australian food blogger (http://www.brisbanefoodadventures.blo...) visiting San Francisco in September 2011 for a weekend.

I really want to experience what food San Fran has to offer. So what makes San Francisco food different to anywhere else? What is the signature food? Where should I eat to try the real taste of San Fran?

Also where is the best sourdough in San Fran?

Hope to hear some interesting suggestions from locals

Brisbane Food Adventures

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  1. Sourdough at Tadich Grill.
    Cioppino, Sotto Mare, Tadichn, Scoma's are a few favorites.
    Mission burritos

    Fortunately none of those are controversial so a choice will be easy. ;-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: wolfe

      Everything else Wolfe said is accurate.

      What makes us different has been the subject of many debates which are searchable on this and other forums. There is a reason we are a known foodie city, not the least of which is year-round availability of exceptional ingredients, innovative chefs, and a die-hard clientele who won't put up with much in the way of mediocrity or many chain restaurants.

      And when you blog about us, please do not use the abbreviation "San Fran" -- it is incorrect and we hate it...

    2. local specialties worth seeking out:
      Mission-style burrito
      sand dabs
      Rex sole
      Dungeness crab
      BBQ oysters

      famous dishes of local origin:
      Hangtown fry
      Joe's Special
      Green Goddess dressing
      crab Louis
      celery Victor
      fortune cookies
      crab Rangoon
      warm goat cheese salad
      Martini cocktail (debatable)

      often misidentified as of local origin:
      Irish coffee

      bad local specialties to avoid:
      It's It
      soup in sourdough bread bowl
      Mitchell's ice cream
      Bud's ice cream
      Joe's ice cream

      5 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        There are many dissenters on this board about the It's It ice cream sandwich. Personally, I love it with the coffee ice cream....

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          It's It was a fine artisanal product at Playland from the 40s to the 60s, then was again when it was revived in the 70s. Quality went downhill when it moved to factory production in the 80s, then went downhill again when they moved to a bigger factory in the 90s. Given the spectacular artisanal ice cream treats around these days, I see no reason to consume that pale imitation of an extinct SF classic.

          Ice Cream Ingredients: Cream, Milk, Skim Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Coffee, Guar Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 80, Carageenan

          Cookie Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Brown Sugar, Palm Oil, Oats, Raisins, Whey, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Powder, Salt, Cinnamon

          Coating Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Sugar, Cocoa Whey, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Big fan of It's It here, especially the Cappacino ones. But then again, I have always been partial to the taste of Polysorbate 80 and Ammonium Bicarbonate!

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          +1 on the BBQ oysters
          some of my favs:
          Do drive up to Marshall on tomales bay and get some oysters at the marshall general store or the tomales bay oyster co. Bring your own wine and sit outside=awesome!
          Do have margaritas at Tommy's (and late night huevos rancheros if you have been out having a few pops).
          Do get a taco at one of the tacquerias (I will let the locals choose).
          Do have a bloody mary and a dungeness crab cocktail at the bar in the tadich grill during "off" hours.
          Do go to the Alembic for drinks and some nice food.

          1. re: AdamD

            BBQ oysters sound amazing. I'm also looking forward to the amazing cal-mex i'm going to feast upon the entire week (I'm doing a road trip from LA to San Francisco up the coast, then through to yosemite)

        3. The original comment has been removed
          1. I'd say Dungeness Crab is the signature food, which unfortunately will be out of season when you are here... you will be able to find it frozen, but it is sadly not the same.

            I think there are many different dining "scenes" here:
            - Fine Dining (Coi, Aquerello, any place over $100 per person etc..)
            - Trendy CA food (Nopa, Foreign Cinema, Canteen, Bar Crudo)
            - Trendy CA Fusion food (Aziza, Slanted Door, Namu, Dosa, Nopalito, Delfina, SPQR)
            - Cheap Eats/Street Food (Mission Burritos, Off the Grid, Rosamunde)
            - Ethnic (there are endless examples of authentic restaurants)
            - Old School SF Foods ( like Cioppino, Sourdough, Sand Dabs) & Restaurants (Tadich Grill, Sam's, Swan Oyster Depot, Scomas)
            -Bakeries/Dessert (Tartine, Humphry Slocombe)
            It is all of these scenes combined that make SF such a great food place. You only have one weekend, so you will barely get to scratch the surface... I think you really need to pick one or two areas that you will want your blog to focus on... Then we can help better guide you from there.

            I will also note that many people here believe that we have the best bread in the world (better than Paris) and we are not necessarily talking about sourdough.

            8 Replies
            1. re: lrealml

              San Francisco is very good at medium-medium high priced places. Cotogna, SPQR, Bar Crudo, Barbacco, many, many more, are examples. Sausalito has its charm. It would be a shame if you didn't take the ferry there. Failing to pack a picnic basket (food/wine/beer from the Farmers' Market/Ferry Plaza) and climbing Mt. Livermore on Angel Island would be a mistake. Failing to take the J-Church line from downtown to Incanto in Noe Valley would be an even bigger mistake.
              You'll be back.

              Bar Crudo
              655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

              1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

              230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

              1. re: lrealml

                Local Dungeness crab season starts mid-November, but in September there might be live crabs coming in from Oregon.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Oregon Dungeness season closes August 14. I believe the only place you can catch Dungeness in September is Alaska.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    OK, but from one source or another, there are live crabs coming in all year. Unless you were a pretty experienced connoisseur, you wouldn't know the difference, so long as the crab was handled well and hadn't been in the tank too long.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      That's good to know, because I'll be up the first week in August, and live crabs are one thing I also seek!

                      I went to Brisbane last year - loved it, and loved the nice people. Enjoy your trip to Cali, bris.

                      1. re: stopurmakingmehungry

                        Thanks stopurmakingmehungry - only 2 months to go and I can't wait! Glad to hear you liked Bris-vegas. I love it. We are a lot more casual and friendly than Sydney-siders and Melburnians! If you ever come back, ask me for restaurant recomms!

                  1. re: lrealml

                    Don't despair about the local crab being out of season. Arctic Dungeness is in season May-December . Running big at 3lbs. More expesnive but well worth trying.

                    Get thee to Swan's on Polk for cracked crab at an old fashioned oyster bar.
                    Happy eating.

                  2. Besides crab, I'd say that produce is the Bay Area's signature food...thus you should visit a farmers market. You can get outstanding produce year round and good produce is a cornerstone to California cuisine.

                    Alemany Farmers Market was one of the first in the U.S., if not the first. I'd visit Ferry Plaza Farmers market, Alemany and maybe take a trip to Berkeley Bowl or Salinas (Steinbeck country).

                    Berkeley Bowl
                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      If you go to Berkeley, the Tuesday and Saturday farmers markets have the best produce in the area and are not distorted by the large numbers of tourists at Ferry Plaza.

                      The Saturday Ferry Plaza market is nevertheless worth a visit as it's the only place you'll find some top producers such as Tierra Vegetables, Knoll Farms, and Andante Dairy. The Ferry Plaza itself is fun at any time, but the best time to go is Saturday morning.

                      The other two markets for top quality produce are Thursday and Sunday at the San Rafael Civic Center.