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About to visit - a few specific questions on tours, icecream, tacos [San Francisco]

My last post didn't go over so well. I know I'm supposed to do my homework but I haven't had a moment to myself recently. I would be very grateful if anyone could respond to the following few questions, which I've tried to make as specific as possible:

1. Would either the Boudin factory tour or the fortune cookie tour (Chinatown) be a fun and worthwhile excursion w/2 kids (8, 11)?

2. If you went on a taco crawl in the Mission, what are the top 2 stops for pastor, carnitas, asada?

3. Re ice cream places that are recommended (Mr Mrs miscellaneous, Slocombe, bi-rite), do any have a nut allergy friendly policy? Our best local scoop shop will use clean scoops and new unused ice cream tubs to minimize cross contamination. Naturally we always bring our meds anyway.

4. Besides Tartine, what are other 1 or 2 best bakeries in the same European style? In the city proper, not outskirts.

5. Best day/time to go to Off the Grid food truck gathering with kids (i.e. when lines are not each an hour long - typically at night at least in LA). EDITED - Just saw this was closed till next year. Next best similar large food truck gathering?

Much thanks. Looking forward to a little R&R in your lovely city.

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  1. I didn't realize that a fortune cookie factory gave tours. The one in Ross Alley is fun, but it's a five minute experience.

    1. If you are walking by Fisherman's wharf the Boudin factory is fun to look in, but depends on your kids on the tour. Same with fortune cookie factory. Most locals without kids have never been : ). My boys 9 and 12 would rather do other things, but like looking in the window at Boudin.

      We don't have nut but do have Celiac. All will use clean scoops , but the problem is that the scoop shops here usually only have 1-2 buckets of any flavor, then when they run out they swap in a new flavor. Not sure about the flavor issue. I'd put my money on Mr. and Mrs. misc. catering but I would call first.

      1. 1. we did a north beach / chinatown food crawl yesterday and that was quite excellent. Lots of places to look at, eat, stop and play.

        3. Our kids new new favorite is smitten. Most of their flavors dont have nuts (very simple list of ingredients)

        4. Craftsman & Wolves, B. Pattiserie, Knead Pattiserie (and a couple more in bernal) are all awesome fairly new bakeries and well worth a visit

        also i've not done it as yet, but have heard good things about the tcho chocolate factory tour (on the embarcadero)

        not sure if u r planning to visit either the exploratorium or the academy of sciences, but both have fairly solid food offerings within the museum


        1 Reply
        1. re: dlobo

          If you go to Knead Patisserie be sure to get a Pomme d'Amour. Yum!

        2. Taqueria San Jose for tacos al pastor.

          Craftsman & Wolves for pastries.

            1. I personally like the carnitas tacos at Taqueria Cancun, in large part b/c of the green salsa. Tacolicious is less authentic and more upscale, but has lots of delicious meaty options and is very kid friendly.

              Soma Streat Food (yes that't the unfortunate spelling) is a gathering of food trucks. No idea what their holiday hours are.

              I don't have a sweet tooth, so I haven't personally tried b patisserie, but some of my friends swear by it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: possumspice

                Soma streat food would be kid appropriate--- there's indoorish seating, and the times I've been there, there are lots of foods that seemed dreamed up by kids (or stoners).

              2. >4. bakeries in the same European style? In the city proper
                20th cent cafe is right in the center of the city.

                2 Replies
                1. re: psb

                  It's think it leans Eastern European rather than French, if that matters to the OP.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Well, I'd call it more "Mitteleuropa" than E. Eur, but mostly I took "European style" to mean "not Chinese/not Mexican" rather than "French".

                    Although it is indeed more of a cafe than bakery. So few number of items to pick from.

                2. B. Pattiserie is the closest match for French specialty pastries with some unique twists.

                  Craftsman and Wolves are pretty, but mostly hype, in my opinion. That said, the Gougeres are good.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Hype if anything puts me off, and I was very impressed by Craftsman & Wolves. The pastries speak for themselves.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      What do you recommend?

                      I've suggested the place about as much as anyone but more and more I realize a lot of the execution is secondary to their concepts. The scones are pedestrian despite flavor combos, the brownies outright boring and barely a brownie, the croissants are good and flaky, but far from stellar, and the cube cake is shameful with it's buttercream tasting like eating a cube of butter. The breads are okay, but pretty boring. I like the idea of it better though, and I think it's fun enough to warrant visits, but it's not really on Tartine's level.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Their carrot cocoa muffin has consistently impressed me and their chocolate chip cookie is pretty good. They look great, so I'd love to recommend their more delicate and flaky items, e.g., croissants and variations, but they've never impressed me either.

                          Some things i don't like there: The olive bread uses good quality olives, and plenty of them, but not a juicy enough variety to flavor the bread. Similarly, their croissant stack looks beautiful, but is difficult to eat and not uniformly crisp.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Wow. We have very different palates. I have said many times that their brownie is the best I have ever had. I also love both their olive bread and baguettes, as well as many of the seasonal pastries.

                            1. re: absc

                              They put out a consistent product, so it's not a matter of quality control. People seem to love their Rebel Within, but I don't care for it

                              1. re: absc

                                It shouldn't be called a brownie. The chocolate is like an Asian mocha cake, that verges on being a brown bread in dryness, and lack of sweetness. It sandwiches a nut caramel that I liked, but it lacks in any real classic brownie, or fudge type flavors.

                              2. re: sugartoof

                                The caramelized hazelnut financier is quite good and a bargain at $3.

                            2. re: sugartoof

                              Craftman and Wolves is about as far from traditional French pastry as you can get including the gougeres but even my French spouse will admit some of the pastries are quite tasty. Some totally are more novelty than good taste. I would include it in a pastry tour with B. Pattiserie, Dandelion Chocolates, Chocolate Lab, Tartine and others.

                              We did the Tcho tour, it was mostly watching a video about their marketing and their "revoluntionary" way of looking at chocolate, not a lot of samples, no viewing the production and the person giving it couldn't answer some basic questions about the chocolate making and sourcing and had misinformation.

                              1. re: tjinsf

                                If you don't get to view Tcho's production, it doesn't seem like "tour" is the right word.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  agree, they said it was because of safety laws but Theo chocolates in Seattle takes you on a tour of the production (not when it is on).

                                  1. re: tjinsf

                                    I haven't done the Tcho tour, but then 10-year-old daughter did with a camp group. She reports that the kids all liked it a lot.

                            3. 1. AFAIK the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory doesn't do tours on its own but is on the itinerary of many tours. The place is tiny and the "tours" usually cluster in front of the open door. Everything there is to see is right there in the open and you can just walk in and get closer to the action than you would on an organized tour. They will be very accommodating.

                              FWIW Tcho Chocolates does tours at their Embarcadero location, a nice walk from either the Ferry Building or Pier 39. I haven't done it but it might be fun for kids AND adults ;-)

                              2. Agree on Taqueria San Jose for al pastor, and Cancun for carnitas.

                              5. SoMa StrEat Food park is great for kids and adults. It's open from 11-3 and 5-9 on weekdays, 11-10 on Saturdays and 11-5 on Sundays. If you have wheels, you can park in the Best Buy lot to the south with no problem; do NOT park in the Costco garage across the street, they are very vigilant.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: soupçon

                                Tcho tour is pretty informative, and interesting, although it might border a bit on the talkative side for younger children. Certainly no Hershey's tour type of experience.

                                But just, FYI, to the OP. No children under 8 allowed.

                              2. Skip Boudin, it's pretty boring unless you're a bread person. Even then...

                                Nearby is the Musee Mecanique at Pier 45. It's the mother load of vintage coin-operated games. And they all work.

                                1. Off The Grid has multiple locations (though they are much smaller then the Friday night at Fort Mason) that are still open. Check their facebook page events link for place & time https://www.facebook.com/OffTheGridSF....

                                  1. Report:
                                    Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. Unfortunately many came in after we left already. I am a holdout on the smart phone thing, so no access to websites.

                                    Still had a good time. As usual, our plans were too grand. We ate where we were at mealtimes as often as we went to destination places. We did try Craftsmen and re-visited Tartine. I'm in the Tartine camp, although their wait was a drag. Their croissants are unbeatable - flaky and golden. The quiche was also head and shoulders above C&W. But the little ones had the chocolate stack and chocolate tower at the latter and were happy.

                                    We did go through Boudin's "museum" and enjoyed it. We have got 4 breadivores in the family, and while it isn't the best bread to eat, it sure was fun to read the history and smell all that dough rising. The bread at Acme is much better. At the Ferry building, we really enjoyed the Acme and CC cheese we were able to put together for a meal. But CC's grilled cheese outpost served up some very overly heavy cheese grits in the am that sat with me too long and were too pricey. The FM at the Ferry Bldg was great. We had a hard time choosing our breakfasts there. Eventually most of us bought from the Healdburg bakery. I think I'm remembering that correclty. We had a nice dim sum lunch at Yank Sing. Huge wait though. Had a delicious Italian meal at SPQR. I love their homemade pasta - it has just the right toothsomeness to it. Also enjoyed their complimentary elderberry spritzer, which they offered the kids when there was no juice to be had. We ended up at Dojima-Ann a couple of times because it was near the hotel, and were pleasantly suprised. Not every dish was a hit, but pretty tasty rice bowls, curry, and noodle soups. Good value too. We tried out the Torta place in the Mission Dist, which was pretty tasty. Good al pastor, and very refreshing Tamarindo. Sad to have missed Mission Chinese - saved for another visit... That's about it for a wrap-up. Love your city. Looking forward to our next visit.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: sasha1

                                      You mean Downtown Bakery? They're in Healdsburg.

                                      Yank Sing takes and honors reservations.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        It could be that. The sign said Healdsburg on it. And on Yank Sing, if I had only known. We were fly by the seat of our pants for most of the trip...