HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Unique to SF or Cal - Must eats for out-of towners

  • 177
  • Share

think the title says it all, looking for things that are either unique to San Fran or California - from burger joint to specialty items, that are the best where you are. Ex: Potato Knish on lower east side in New York, or bialys - that sort of idea. Thanks for the ideas!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. Mission burrito
    Dungeness crab (not in season currently)
    Sourdough bread
    Anchor Steam beer

    7 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      very sad about the crab
      how about unique fast food/burger type place ( I think of teddys bigger burger in Hawaii with longing often, and paseo sandwich place in seattle))

      1. re: daisylover

        Come back at Christmas for D crab!

        I honestly don't think of SF or NorCal as having particularly unique foods but rather doing wonderful things with them.

        1. re: daisylover

          The Mission burrito is basically SF's version of the slice of pizza: inexpensive, fast, everywhere.

          I'd recommend a place but that will start a 400 response fight because everyone has their choice.

          The old school places often mentioned are: El Faralito, La Taqueria, Cancun.

          1. re: daisylover

            No reason to feel sad about the crab if you are looking for something that is unique to either SF or California. Dungeness crab is neither. Check out the Seattle board for discussions about the best places to have it in Seattle.

            1. re: nocharge

              thanks, do not live in seattle

            2. re: daisylover

              I would take-out the crispy sea bass roll (wrapped in sweet potato and basil) at Yank Sing (one order has 4 rolls, easily feeds two) and maybe their "donut-style" scallion pancake (4 pieces per order). If you're still hungry, you can also get Peking duck (in steamed bun) by the piece there ($6/piece). If your husband is on a burger quest, he could probably do worse than the wagyu burger at Alexander's (call ahead to reserve one) or he can get an exceptional roast beef sandwich at Salumeria (or if he eats pork, the porchetta sandwich at Porcellino)

            3. re: ML8000

              I hear crabs are being bought up by the Chinese, who send them over live. This has pushed the price of Dungeness to up to $10 per pound in Vancouver.

            4. Oops ... Branca
              http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles...

              11 Replies
              1. re: hyperbowler

                I've found Meyer lemons all over the US when in season. Costco of course :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  Commercial Meyer lemons that I see in the markets locally are not from the old varieties that folks have in their backyards around here. Also they tend to be picked underripe and cannot compare to a homegrown one allowed to have a long hang time and picked when it looks like an orange.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9306...

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I DO know that the ones my nabe gave me lasted way, WAY longer than the store bought ones.

                2. re: hyperbowler

                  Nothing to add to what I posted in that topic.

                  Meyer lemons are in season all year in my yard.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    We have a neighbor (part-timer) at Tahoe who occasionally brings them to me.

                    BTW, for some years now, our SF daughter has had us bring her Truckee sourdough because we all agree there's nothing commercially available that's particularly good.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Acme's Italian loaf is SF-style sourdough.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Acme's actual sourdough is better option amongst current options. Best to get it anywhere other than the ferry Building, where for the some reason buying direct, it lacks sour and airy crumb.

                        The Italian Bread is harder to find. Nice crust but it's missing sourdough characteristics.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Nothing to add to what I posted here:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8023...

                      Hyperbowler replaced the link to that topic with a link to an article about Fernet-Branca.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        hmm... I must have hit "edit" rather than "reply" ... thanks for pointing out that accidental deletion, Robert!

                    3. re: hyperbowler

                      what is fernet branco

                      1. re: daisylover

                        http://www.sfweekly.com/2005-12-07/re...

                    4. Go to the Tadich Grill or Sam's Grill and order the sand dabs (or a Hangtown Fry).

                      Go to the Tosca Cafe and order a cappucino (comes laced with brandy!).

                      Find a corner grocery store that carries "It's It" ice cream sandwiches. The ones with vanilla ice cream are good, but the ones with coffee/cappucino ice cream are better.

                      Take a tour, which is followed by a tasting, of the Anchor Steam Brewery.

                      And the ultimate SF tourist destination would be an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Tavern.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: DavidT

                        It's It!!! I forgot about those!

                        1. re: DavidT

                          Go to the Ferry Building for the farmer's market! Saturday morning is the best, but there is a Tuesday one and a Thursday one. Even without the Farmer's market there's a lot of solid local producers and shops inside the Ferry Building like Cowgirl Creamery, Blue Bottle, Hog Island etc.

                          1. re: DavidT

                            It's-It was going to be my addition to this thread. Glad someone beat me to it.

                            1. re: DavidT

                              Contemporary It's-Its are a gross factory-made glob of chemicals. Joe's Its are like the old handmade product that made them famous.

                              Irish Coffee is a local specialty, but the recipe was brought here by the late Chronicle columnist Stanton Delaplane, who had it at Shannon Airport.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                It's-Its are still delicious.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  Yes, they are. I suggest the opening poster spend $1.50 to by one and decide for themselves.

                                  Where Irish Coffee was "invented/discovered" is irrelevant to the discussion. Bialys didn't originate on the Lower East Side of NYC either.

                                  1. re: DavidT

                                    It's-It. Still amazing. Still my favorite. I love the vanilla. Call me a purist!

                              2. re: DavidT

                                Speaking of Anchor, I'd recommend a Junipero (or 209) Martini as a great local experience.

                              3. Cioppino.

                                1. I know out-of-towners who flock to Inn-N-Out. Why not?

                                  45 Replies
                                  1. re: Martin Strell

                                    In-N-Out started in Southern California and now has branches in four other states.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      But if you don't live in one of those states or CA, it's high on the list of things to try in CA, if only to be "in" on the cultural reference.

                                      1. re: MissEnPlace

                                        In-N-Out's burgers are mediocre. You could make one as good or better at home with ingredients from the supermarket. Their fries are awful.

                                        If I'm starving in some benighted spot with nothing but chain fast food, I'm happy to see an In-N-Out, but for a food-loving tourist it's a waste of a meal.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I agree with your assessment of In-N-Out but will admit that when in DC a few years ago we did have lunch at a Five Guys just cause we'd not had it before. Won't do that again. But then in NYC we ate a Shake Shack for the first time and really liked it.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Five Guys started in DC, Shake Shack started in NYC.

                                            In-N-Out is from LA. Going to one when you're in SF is like going to an LA branch of Boudin.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              I was just thinking in terms of (not particularly) fast food places but, yeah, you're correct.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                i'm not sure whether one is eating at the original branch or not should be the deciding factor on whether to eat there or not. I'm happy to eat at Shake Shack in Boston whether or not it originated in NYC (or at Nobu in London or Joel Robuchon in Vegas, even though they are satellites of the original). I would probably rather get a burger at Umami burger than In 'N Out, though.

                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                  I didn't even know that In etc. started in DC. And we didn't seek it out. Just were walking by and thought what the heck. I'd take Umani Burger also.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Don't bother. Umami burger is neither local nor good. Go to Super Duper.

                                                    1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                      I live a couple of blocks from a Super Duper. I would go there a lot more often if it was any good. It's obviously several notches better than McDonald's or In-N-Out, but what's the deal with having their burgers cooked "medium" rather than "to order"? Meh! I'd rather walk two blocks to the Ferry Building and have a real burger from American Eatery.

                                                      1. re: nocharge

                                                        They've been happy to cook mine to a perfect medium-rare on request.

                                                        1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                          So why don't they mention that on their online menu? Incidentally, American Eatery started out "medium only" and made that clear on their website. That has since been dropped and I have happily order burgers made "to order" since. And then there is the issue of meat quality. AE uses dry-aged meat. SD seems happy enough with mentioning "Niman Ranch" when describing the burger, which doesn't tell you much about the taste of the meat but is a common among less ambitious burger places.

                                                  2. re: barleywino

                                                    If you're visiting a place and are interested in its food, why go to a branch of an out-of-town chain? Maybe it makes sense to eat at Morton's in Chicago, or Bob's in Texas.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      i'm just saying that being a local chain is not (imo) necessarily recommendation enough to eat there, just as being a branch of an out of town chain is not necessarily reason not to eat there. Personally i would rather eat at a branch of a great out of town chain than a mediocre local chain (but that's just me.) For example, if Ding Tai Fung opened up a XLB place in SF, I would probably go there rather than some local place that produced an inferior product.

                                                      1. re: barleywino

                                                        It's DIN not Ding btw. We ate at the one in Bellevue, WA, and they were BY FAR the best XLB we've ever had.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          yes i've been to the one in Monterey park. The one in Bellevue postdated my departure from the Seattle area, unfortunately. I like to call it Ding just because it has more of a ring ;)

                                                          1. re: barleywino

                                                            Love it! Ding, it is :)

                                                            1. re: barleywino

                                                              "Ding" is correct. It's 鼎泰豐 in Chinese, or Dīng Tài Fēng in PinYin.

                                                              1. re: soupçon

                                                                The restaurant's name is Din Tai Fung:

                                                                http://dintaifungusa.com/index.html

                                                                Ding Tai Fung appears to be a knock off in Ontario CA. Scroll down to Victor's post:

                                                                http://www.yelp.com/biz/ding-tai-fung...

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  What's in a name? The restaurant's name is 鼎泰豐. You can consult any Chinese-English Dictionary, or ask anyone who knows Chinese for the correct pronunciation or official transliteration of the first character.

                                                                  DTF apparently got stuck with a clumsy transliteration at the outset, and has stayed with it.

                                                                  I also noted that "Victor" began his post "Ding Tai Fung is a very famous chain of restaurants originating in...."

                                                                  1. re: soupçon

                                                                    Well, we ARE talking about the restaurant that here in the US is spelled DIN and if searching for it, that's how you'll find it.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Yeah, if someone asked me "What's good in SF?", In-N-Out would be one of the last things to come to mind. Just one of many formula chains that are one notch above McDonald's but light-years from real burgers. But, hey, what is stopping anyone from being "in" on cultural references to mediocre burger chains if all it takes is a trip to SF?

                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                  las vegas Ch'ers liked it so we checked it out - kinda gross

                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I don't contend that they're the best burgers out there, but everyone wants to try one and should.

                                                  1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                    To many people a freshly made burger for cheap is a minor revelation, chain or not. Not the best but in the $2-3 buck, non-frozen patty range it might be.

                                                    One thing people should realize however - InO is *not* fast food. Not with a 15-20 wait most of the time.

                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                      Same at Five Guys. Are the burgers really that cheap?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        The burgers are that cheap. $2 for a single burger, $3.30 for a double cheese. $5.xx for the single combo (burger, fries and drink). It's not that the burger is great but that it's decent with fresh beef and cheap.

                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                          Exactly, and also a cultural phenomenon. Just because of the amount of times you hear about In-n-Out in popular culture, you have to take the chance to try it.

                                                          On the level, how many of us would refuse free In-n-Out?

                                                          1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                            I would pay not to eat In-N-Out's horrible fries.

                                                            Lowering the burger's price to $0 would not make me any more interested in wasting calories on one.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Ordering the fries "animal style" helps.

                                                              1. re: dunstable

                                                                So does avoiding the Wharf location.

                                                                I used to scoff at the whole In and Out phenomenon, but a visit during a trip down south almost changed my tune. Sending a tourist to one still baffles me, and I don't get those people who say it's the one thing they miss from living in California, or who have friends pack cold burgers in their suitcase for a taste of home.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                  I have a friend who's a fab cook and very adventuresome eater. He likes them a good bit. But, as you say, I wouldn't send a CH visitor there.

                                                            2. re: MissEnPlace

                                                              I'd refuse if I had to wait in line but if I never had one, sure why not? Regardless, since it's cheap, I'd just satisfy your curiosity. If you're worried of wasting a meal, just do it as a snack. Split a $2 buck single.

                                                              p.s. the fries are bad (made from fresh spuds)...but you can order them "extra crispy". The only problem is extra crispy means extra wait since it will be made to order.

                                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                                Overcooking the fries just makes them bad in a slightly different way.

                                              3. re: Martin Strell

                                                been there it was ok but teddys in Hawaii way better

                                                1. re: Martin Strell

                                                  L.A. hound here. I live within ten minutes of three In-N-Outs - I might go once a year if that. It was great when they first came into the general area, but the novelty is long gone. The burgers are a very good deal. The standard fries are limp and anemic. The menu is simple - too simple for my tastes. When I'm up around the Bay Area, give me Gott's Roadside (Taylor's Automatic Refresher) any day. If In-N-Out had half the heart as Gott's, I'd be there weekly. The big plus is wine and beer - incredibly good wine and beer for a burger joint. This place exemplifies what NorCal views as how In-N-Out would be if they were born up here.

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    Forget to add this link to Gott's pdf menu:

                                                    http://gotts.com/gottwp/wp-content/up...

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      I love Gott's burgers, but I think it's a little unfair to compare them to In-n-Out since they're in a very different price bracket.

                                                      1. re: TVHilton

                                                        Absolutely agreed. You can't compare a $5 burger to a $10 burger or a $10 burger to a $20 burger.

                                                        1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                          Sure you can. In-N-Out and Gott's are similar by my standards. Gott's basic burger is maybe twice the size, so double the amount of food I'd rather not eat.

                                                          Price is only relevant to me when comparing two burgers that I'd find worth eating regardless of cost.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I still disagree. They are different burgers made for different audiences.

                                                            1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                              Gott's and In-N-Out are very similar from my perspective. Indifferently griddled, generic bun, boring.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                What's your favorite?

                                                                1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                                  Mua, Namu Gaji, Zuni.

                                                                  Mission Bowling Club's is also great in its eccentric way.

                                                        2. re: TVHilton

                                                          Aren't they pretty similar style? Gott's is larger, but they're targeting the same burger preferences.

                                                          When restaurants serve a grass fed, heirloom tomato version of a Bill's, Joe's, sort of thing, it's still the same style. Price and fancied up ingredients don't change that.

                                                    2. Some not yet mentioned:
                                                      -BBQ'd Oysters along the Marin coast (north of the GG Bridge).
                                                      -Artichokes (at least they were unique at one time)
                                                      -Vietnamese Crab over garlic noodles (best when local crab is in season)
                                                      -Pilgrimage meal at Chez Pannise (birthplace of California Cuisine)

                                                      31 Replies
                                                      1. re: Civil Bear

                                                        Artichokes were eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans and brought to the US in the 19th century.
                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artichoke

                                                        Claiming that at some point they were unique to California is a head-scratcher on par with people thinking that Dungeness crab is a local specialty, unique to SF or California, even though the name comes from port of Dungeness in Washington, it's the state crustacean of Oregon, and every year at the start of the local crab season, you will see similar articles in the Seattle Times and the SF Chronicle.
                                                        http://seattletimes.com/html/otherspo...

                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                          Re Dungeness crab, they also have a season in Oregon (not surprisingly) but I'm willing to bet that SF gets a lot more visitors than OR and WA (maybe combined) so that's probably why it regularly gets brought up.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            SF probably gets more visitors regardless of the crab situation. I'm all for people having crab during the local season, but not for deluding themselves into thinking that's it's a unique local specialty, which is something that shouldn't be determined by visitor counts.

                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                              My point is that it's more likely that a visitor is going to be visiting SF than the other D crab spots so I absolutely would recommend it. In season. If you're from other parts of the country, it IS a "local specialty" meaning West Coast.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                I, too, wouldn't hesitate to recommend it when in season. Either "West Coast" or "Pacific Coast" specialty works for me. But since the range extends from Southern California to Alaska, one would have to stretch the meaning of the word "local" quite a bit in order to use it in this context.

                                                          2. re: nocharge

                                                            You could claim that crab and artichokes are local specialties because locals eat them on special occasions. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that a tourist looking for local food should seek them out. Still, plenty of people I know enjoy a feast of crab, artichokes and sourdough bread around the holidays. That's not a head-scratcher to me.

                                                            1. re: Glencora

                                                              Just call dungeness crab a West Coast thing, and a East Coaster might be interested since they're not from these parts.

                                                              As for the local season, well there's nothing quite like getting a bunch of crabs for cheap during the season and having a feed. You could do that out of season but it would be pricey, not as fresh, yada, yada.

                                                              1. re: Glencora

                                                                The whole topic was about food unique to SF or California. BTW, why would you only eat crab or artichoke on special occasions? I'd happily eat as much as I can every now and then when in season.

                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                  Who said anything about only eating crab on special occasions? I simply said there's nothing quite like getting a bunch of crabs in season on the cheap. A couple of years back crab was $2.99/lb...so we picked up about 10 for like $80 bucks and had people over. No special occasion but it was GREAT.

                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                    That comment wasn't directed to you but to this comment by Glencora: "You could claim that crab and artichokes are local specialties because locals eat them on special occasions."

                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                      Not ONLY on special occasions, of course. But that particular combo tends to be a Christmas Eve or tree-decorating party thing, especially since friends and family from out of state often visit then. Once, though, I recall a guy from Boston who refused to eat the crab. Silly man. (He preferred lobsta)

                                                                  2. re: nocharge

                                                                    The examples given in the OP for NY are knishes and bialys, neither of which were invented there. So I bet that daisylover would be happy to hear about non exclusive local specialties.

                                                                2. re: nocharge

                                                                  Mea culpa. I didn't mean to imply artichokes could not be found elsewhere in the world, just that they are a local favorite that were not readily available to many folks outside the region not so long ago. I guess I should have said "somewhat unique".

                                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                                    There was a long discussion about eating artichokes on the general topics board. Artichokes were until fairly recently (and still are in some places) a regional specialty.

                                                                    The people who had eaten fresh artichokes as children broke down in to roughly two groups: people who grew up in California and people who grew up in an Italian-American family or in a heavily Italian-American community.

                                                                    Whether or not artichokes are eaten in other parts of the world, in the US, eating whole fresh artichokes is strongly associated with California, if for no other reason than availability of artichokes at a reasonable price.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      love artichokes - happy to eat them in Cali, NY or anywhere else.

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        My husband often tells the story of the first time he even saw an artichoke: it was shortly after he moved from central Pennsylvania to California, and a new friend served artichokes at a dinner party. He had to ask for help on how to eat it...

                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                          A cousin of mine in Atlanta complained at how hard it was to eat the leaves!!!!!

                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                            When my mom's cousin moved to SF from the Midwest we had to teach her how to eat an artichoke, and she's not the only person who has had her first artichoke (whole, fresh artichoke) at our table.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                              When we lived in NJ, my only experience of artichokes was Cara Mia brand marinated artichoke hearts (which I loved). When we moved out here, that's when we first had fresh artichokes (and had to learn how to eat them).

                                                                        2. re: nocharge

                                                                          Crab is a local specialty...or was...The Wharf wasn't created as a tourist attraction, it was part of the lifestyle fabric of the locals. Cracking a crab, and eating it alongside a sourdough along the water was a popular routine. Obviously there are better crab ports, and it's not unique in that way, but the culture around it was uniquely San Francisco.

                                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                                            And why couldn't you do something similar in Seattle? Lack of sourdough? Pikes Place Fish Market will happily sell you a whole cooked crab that you can eat along the water.

                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                              true, been there is summer, not season, very expensive

                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                I have no idea what you can do in Seattle, but I'm sure that experience is unique to Seattle. It's certainly a different tradition from a New England crab broil, or some other unique regional traditions. It's probably a West Coast experience of some sort, much like San Francisco's, and therefore, still unique.

                                                                                Why disassociate SF from Dungeness Crabs anyway?

                                                                                The tradition starts with Native Americans cooking them... Italian immigrants started harvesting them prior to the Gold Rush...at one point it was pretty much all local fishermen came up with ...and just before the turn of the century, San Francisco was the only place on the Pacific Coast they were routinely marketed.

                                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                  Folks, everything that needs to be said about this has been said -- Dungeness crabs are commonly associated with San Francisco and are also found in other places but might be interesting to someone who isn't from the west coast.

                                                                                  Please just let this argument go.

                                                                                2. re: nocharge

                                                                                  BTW, it's PIKE (not Pikes) Place Fish Market. I'm trying to remember if I've seen crab there. Probably but it's not their main event certainly.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    http://www.pikeplacefish.com/buy/crab...

                                                                              2. re: nocharge

                                                                                Come on. There is almost no food/animal that can be found only in one country, let alone one city. Obviously, there are Dungeness crabs in other areas than SF, but as a tourist said above, they don't live in Seattle, so telling them that there are also Dungeness crabs in Seattle is meaningless.

                                                                                It shouldn't have to be said, but every "try this local food" recommendation has that caveat that If someone visits SF from an area that has the aforementioned food, they shouldn't feel as strong a need to try it here.

                                                                                1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                                                  Perfectly said.

                                                                                  1. re: MissEnPlace

                                                                                    The original headline framed the "must eats" question in the context uniqueness to SF or California. Asking what is good in SF is a perfectly legitimate question and probably a better one than asking what is unique.

                                                                                2. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                  does artichoke king/fried artichokes still exist? Where?
                                                                                  going to chez first night - started big argument in previous post

                                                                                  1. re: daisylover

                                                                                    Skip Giant Artichoke. For fried artichokes, go to Pezzini farms in Castroville, more info here,
                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9802...

                                                                                3. The hand-made It's It died with Playland at the Beach. The mass-produced version can now be found in 15 states.

                                                                                  Anchor Steam Beer died when it was bottled. It's now available nationally.

                                                                                  The best sourdough bread died with the Larraburu Brothers Bakery, though freshly-baked Boudin's isn't bad.

                                                                                  Fong Fong's ginger ice cream is long gone.

                                                                                  You cannot step in the same river twice.

                                                                                  http://youtu.be/YRoMHFlc0pY

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: soupçon

                                                                                    " The mass-produced version can now be found in 15 states."

                                                                                    Is that what their website says? You can't go to a corner store in 15 States to get one. They pop up as a specialty item at a few shops but they don't have national distribution. It's easier to find Three Twins pints out of State than an It's-It.

                                                                                    I'd love a hand dipped It's-It but the current version is worth appreciating.

                                                                                    1. re: soupçon

                                                                                      Joe's Its are handmade and very much like what It's-Its were until the Burlingame factory opened in 1976.

                                                                                    2. Archetypal Mission burrito at Taqueria el Farolito.

                                                                                      I fully expect someone to reply saying that burritos are not a local specialty because they exist outside SF/CA- there seems to be as much negative feedback in this thread than positive...

                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                                                        "Archetypal Mission burrito at Taqueria el Farolito."

                                                                                        Eh. Only in the last 10 years.
                                                                                        There's a classic burrito style that predates them.

                                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                          and although I can get Ghirardelli chocolate in TJ maxx, I am guessing maybe they have unique flavors in SF?

                                                                                          1. re: daisylover

                                                                                            There are many artisanal chocolate makers in the area.

                                                                                            1. re: daisylover

                                                                                              I don't think the SF stores have different products than those in other states.

                                                                                              1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                The stores have a full range of products you might not come across at TJ Maxx, but for chocolates, we have Tcho and Dandelion, Rechiutti, and some other locals.

                                                                                                I think Ghirardelli's hot cocoa is good stuff. It's interesting, I think a lot of locals take it for granted, and don't consider it particularly high end or special tasting. Getting a free samples of the 2" packaged squares is always appreciated though. I don't think it's particularly unique, so much as it's a great San Francisco company and tradition.

                                                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                  It's a San Leandro-based division of a Swiss company.

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                    They don't have a Ghirardelli in Switzerland so what's your point?

                                                                                                2. re: daisylover

                                                                                                  Can I repeat the Ferry Building rec here for local chocolates? They've done a really good job of putting local quality producers and products inside the building (including local coffee, chocolate, oysters, cheese & bread) as well as a farmer's market (that on Saturdays especially) brings in a ton more. It's really the best way for a tourist to get a sense of what's available locally that's not kitschy. Go early and it won't be swamped.

                                                                                                  1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                    totally looking forward to ferry building - what time is farmers market open until on Saturday?

                                                                                                    1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                      8 am to 2 pm, but stands do start packing up a bit early depending. Ideal is to get there before 11 am.

                                                                                                3. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                  You mean 40 years? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_...

                                                                                                4. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                                                                  so mission burrito a style - not a place?

                                                                                                  1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                    It's a style named for a place where it originated, like Champagne, but since there is no appellation d'origine contrôlée for burritos anybody can get away with calling their product a "Mission burrito.".

                                                                                                    1. re: soupçon

                                                                                                      I think you mean "denominacion de origen".
                                                                                                      ;-)

                                                                                                5. SUPER DUPER BURGER! Uniquely San Francisco. Organic. Delicious. Homemade pickles. We have at least one lunch there every visit. 4 locations.

                                                                                                  UPDATE: 5 locations in SF and two in the bay area.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Susangria

                                                                                                    thanks

                                                                                                  2. Moving in another direction, but certainly unique are Cal-Vietnamese (Slanted Door) and Cal-Moroccan (Aziza).

                                                                                                    1. Local specialties worth seeking out:
                                                                                                      Mission-style burrito
                                                                                                      cioppino
                                                                                                      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
                                                                                                      chowder in bread bowl
                                                                                                      Dutch crunch bread

                                                                                                      29 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                        With Westlake Joe's closed for renovation and Original Joe's having gone upscale, where can you get a Joe's Special these days?

                                                                                                        http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                                                                                        1. re: DavidT

                                                                                                          Joe's Special at Original Joe's on Washington Square in North Beach is just fine, maybe better because the spinach is fresher and better quality. Better quality, not as big a portion. Here's my photo from 2012,
                                                                                                          https://www.flickr.com/photos/melanie...

                                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                            Thanks for that. I searched the online menu for Original Joe's but did not see the "Joe's Special" there as it was all the way down on the bottom of the page. My mistake!

                                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                              what is in this dish, also what is hangtown fry?

                                                                                                              1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                Joe's special is a spinach and ground beef egg scramble with mushrooms and garlic.

                                                                                                                Hangtown Fry is an oyster and bacon scramble supposedly created as the most expensive breakfast successful prospectors could get during the gold rush.

                                                                                                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                                  In case that reads like it's an egg scramble with extras in it, it's traditionally more of a ground beef heavy dish with the rest stirred into it.

                                                                                                                  It's a magical combination that tastes better than it sounds, or looks. Still better to share it or taste someone elses order for the first time you try it.

                                                                                                                2. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                  See the Saveur link above for info on Joe's Special and the Saveur link below for info on Hangtown Fry.

                                                                                                                  http://www.saveur.com/article/Travels...

                                                                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                              ok, thanks, recs for cioppino?

                                                                                                              1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                My favorite cioppino in SF is (hands-down) at Scoma's at Fisherman's wharf. They serve both varieties, but if shells bother you get the Lazyman's.

                                                                                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                Rex, Red Snapper and "Dover"sole here are always too soft for me. When I worked at Elka@The Miyako,SF in a serious fish restaurant, local seafood was passed over for fish from Hawaii and the East. Of course local Abalone and Sea Urchin were used.

                                                                                                                Why do I never see Pacific Lobster on any menu until I get to Mexico? It's good but different than Mainewith a taste of lobster and shrimp.

                                                                                                                Same with Ollaieberries. See them in certain stores but rarely make it onto a dessert menu

                                                                                                                1. re: stanbee

                                                                                                                  I see spiny lobster at better Japanese places.

                                                                                                                  1. re: stanbee

                                                                                                                    >>"Why do I never see Pacific Lobster on any menu until I get to Mexico?"

                                                                                                                    Water is too cold along the California coast.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                                      We get a large percentage of our seafood from Mexico, the northern end of the California spiny lobster range is Monterey Bay, and restaurants can order it from their usual suppliers. I think maybe the main reason it's not more popular is that it's more expensive than Maine lobster.

                                                                                                                      http://www.montereyfish.com/pages/ind...

                                                                                                                    2. re: stanbee

                                                                                                                      when in season, the local lobster is quite good in Santa Barbara. ripe ollalieberrys are softer and more fragile than many of their similar cousins, like blackberries or marionberries, and if a food can't travel well it won't be served fresh in a wide geographic area.

                                                                                                                    3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                      favorite place for BBQ oysters? And crunch bread?

                                                                                                                      1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                        Usually I grill my own oysters. The Marshall Store is fun.

                                                                                                                        I don't get the appeal of Dutch crunch bread.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                          I'd never even heard it was anything special til I read it here.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                            might have access to grill - how do you do it?

                                                                                                                            1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                              Shuck them, lay them on the grate coals with a smidge of butter, dash of hot sauce. Cook until the edges just start to tighten (only a few minutes). Delicious.

                                                                                                                              I would say that eating Tomales Bay oysters either right on the bay (like at Hog Island) or in the Ferry Building looking at the Bay bridge is a pretty wonderful SF experience, even if you can get oysters elsewhere.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                Pardon my confusion, but why shuck them first? We just put them on the grill with the flat part up, when the heat is the right temp they open up. Using a mitt on one hand to lift them off dump the liquor into a saucepan of melted butter that you have on the grill or side burner, pull the flat part of the shell off, discard and use a knife to cut the muscle so the oyster slides into the garlic butter,

                                                                                                                                Set the "bowls" of mussel shells aside to cool and use for serving vessels, adding, hot sauce, lemon juice, etc for easy slurping.

                                                                                                                                1. re: PolarBear

                                                                                                                                  You know, I don't know - I've always gone with this method:
                                                                                                                                  http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-grill...

                                                                                                                                  I like them BARELY cooked, though.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                    Thanks for sharing that. I love them raw and this is close enough. I get the overcooked part. Makes sense.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                                      That's not really true. I often put a bunch of oysters in a hot oven to loosen up the shells and then use them in a raw cocktail or other raw prep. I leave them long enough for the muscle to relax and make it easier to remove the shell. Not cooked at all, just warm. Then

                                                                                                                                2. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                                  Put them on the grill cup-side down until they open, pull the top shell off and serve. Add lemon, Tabasco, or whatever if you like. I like mine plain.

                                                                                                                                  You can reserve a table and grill at Hog Island in Marshall.

                                                                                                                                  http://hogislandoysters.com/visit/mar...

                                                                                                                              2. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                                Marshal Store. These are sublime, the setting is great. It's a little touristy, but it's so far out of town that it's more like a great place that happens to have tourists.

                                                                                                                              3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                It is strange that in the US, Dutch crunch bread isn't really known or widely available outside the Bay Area. I ate a lot of sandwiches on Dutch crunch in college and didn't know that it wasn't available nationally.

                                                                                                                                Chowder in a bread bowl became associated with San Francisco specifically because of a Boudin marketing campaign in the 1980's. Before that it was probably done by a lot of people but nobody ever paid any attention. It was always more of a tourist dish than anything else.

                                                                                                                                1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                  Some history of dutch crunch's availability in the US: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301445

                                                                                                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                    It was pretty common in Boston. (Bread Bowls)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                      Artichoke or spinach dip baked in a sourdough round bowl were around in the 70s if not before. I never saw or heard of chowder in a bread bowl until Boudin started selling it to tourists.

                                                                                                                                      Dutch crunch is common in some other regions.

                                                                                                                                  2. Not exactly unique but I love treating out-of-towners to bread from Tartine. Also the pomme d'amour from Knead.

                                                                                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Frosty Melon

                                                                                                                                      doesn't have to be unique per se, just the stuff you dream about 6 months after your vacation. Like jerk chicken from a hollowed out steel drum on the streets of Negril - I can get jerk chicken here, or even make it myself, but it is never gonna be the same...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                                        What I crave most when I'm away is Acme bread.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                                          I'll second bread. Tartine's bread, for me.

                                                                                                                                          Pork buns or Bahn Mi are another.

                                                                                                                                          Ice cream rounds it out.

                                                                                                                                          None of these are entirely unique, but my favorites are hard to replace elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                            Bread, pork buns, banh mi and bread are hardly unique to San Francisco - sheesh! ;) Now, putting on a jacket so not to freeze in the summer is more unique to this city...

                                                                                                                                            As an Angeleno, I am always impressed with the generally high level of quality one can access. Also, the concentration is impressive. This May or may not have more to do with the city's geographical constraints, but still.

                                                                                                                                            One huge component to the level of quality is agriculture (produce, seafood, meats, dairy, etc). When freshness counts, ingredients seem at least a day or two fresher. The average quality seems higher. Please correct me if I'm off, but it seems the agricultural areas surrounding the Bay Area are blessed with many small-scale growers and providers whose focus provide ingredients and products of high and/or unique qualities that translate into great food. The vast number of microclimates allows those with the skills, desire and patience to grow, raise, produce and catch an amazing array of ingredients - all within a couple hours of the Bay Area. Strauss, Cowgirl, McClelland, Russian River Brewers and Merry Edwards are some names that bring back fond memories associated with food and drink in this region.

                                                                                                                                            San Francisco is also deep in neighborhood-scaled eateries of all sorts. Many of these places are owned and operated by extremely talented people who are totally dedicated to their crafts. They seek out and appreciate the ingredients of high quality - much of which is provided by those local growers and providers in the area.

                                                                                                                                            When great chefs and great ingredients are in the same kitchen, great food happens. Throw in some great wine and beer from this region and the whole complete deal is here. The hardest part for me is not focusing on what's unique in San Francisco, but how much great food and drink I can enjoy within a short time. I think it comes down to considering what the individual's preferences are and if seasonality is a major consideration on that particular palate. In short, as opposed to what's unique in this city, I'd focus on what is best at the time of visiting. Whatever the vast choices may be, most will be exceptional.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                              vast is an excellent word to use in this case, coming end of July for a week, care to mention some of your favorite places?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                It's kind of unintuitive, but many of the restaurants that take the greatest advantage of the local produce have Eurocentric wine lists:

                                                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/863152

                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                  "Bread, pork buns, banh mi and bread are hardly unique to San Francisco - sheesh! ;"

                                                                                                                                                  I already pointed out that they were not unique. Sheesh yourelf.

                                                                                                                                                  That said,Tartine or Acme have been endlessly influential and they make unique breads you can not find easily if anywhere with the same characteristics.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                    not even sure what pork buns and banh mi are, so would be unique for me!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: daisylover

                                                                                                                                                      Pork Buns are a Chinese bun, served either steamed or baked, with a pork filling. Some are more bbq, or more sweet than others. They're usually about a buck or so.

                                                                                                                                                      A Bahn Mi is Vietnamese sandwich served on a freshly baked French roll, with pickled carrots, cucumbers, and then chilis, cilantro, with options of grilled pork, or chicken, or maybe even tofu, pork belly, grilled beef, etc. They can come with pate, or a sliced "fancy pork" terrine, or sausage and sometimes a mayo, garlic or fish sauce. They're often found for under $6. There was a boom in popularity that resulted in some spin off or gourmet versions of Bahn Mi.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                        Banh mi are usually under $4! The rolls aren't fresh out of the oven but they should be toasted. Best eaten immediately. Saigon Sandwich is my favorite in SF.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                          Saigon Sandwich isn't toasting their rolls, they're finishing the baking or approximating that by warming them slightly. I've never had a toasted roll on a Bahn Mi, just warmed.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                            They don't leave the rolls in the toaster oven long enough to brown, that's true, but the rolls are fully cooked.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                              Depends on which bread they're using. The warming is to approximate fresh bread. They used to strictly use a parbake bread.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                                      ;) = just kidding; joking. Sorry I didn't spell it out. I also recommended your post. My point was to infer that finding things unique to a particular food destination may not be easy to do. So much of what makes up the food here has been brought in one way or another by immigrants. This factor alone makes "unique to" a tough do. But what makes San Francisco and the general area surrounding the bay so great is the quality and depth of eats and drinks. To me, finding what is unique here is the ability to find great representations of things most other cities aspire to but fall short in so many ways.

                                                                                                                                                      IMHO, bakeries of all sorts, ice cream, Italian, small mid-price eateries, Cal Cuisine, seafood, neighborhood cafés, Peruvian, Thai and Vietnamese (more dining level), Cantonese, cheese and charcuterie, any produce grown locally, California's better wine regions, as well as some of the best breweries in the nation are the true strengths of San Francisco and its surrounding areas.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                        Very well written and expressed, Bulavinaka. Thank you for the insight.

                                                                                                                                                    3. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                      I think the Marin Agricultural Land Trust also plays a huge role in this.

                                                                                                                                              2. Dungeness, Abalone , Sea Urchin, Sand Dabs. Pacific Lobster (if you ever find it), Heirloom tomaotes although I stil prefer Jersey Beefsteaks. Many of the tomaote here are just too sweet with little acid balance.

                                                                                                                                                Have not scene a real knish in this town in 20 years. The few knish makers never learned the authentic Bubbie way to to close and shape a "richtige" knish. Poor knish crust too. Poorer fillings.Haven't seen a really good bialy here either though I haven 't yet tried Wise and Sons version. Great bagels inPhily, NY and one place in Hallandale Beach ,Fla. Most smallbagel makerscheat the bially by making it form leftover bageldough. Each has a different dough.

                                                                                                                                                Italian lunch meat. Much better in NY and Phila

                                                                                                                                                Generally better produce here except for the blueberries which are missing the slight piney flavor of Jersey blues.

                                                                                                                                                Pupusas, Dim Sum, Burritos better here.

                                                                                                                                                The Ca wines.