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When your family just has to have bread bowls...

My family and I (husband, two pre teen boys) are on vacation in SF for one last evening. I've taken them to hole-in-the-wall dim sum, and other great eats, and now what they really want (in addition to ghiradeli fudge sundaes) is chowder in bread bowls.

From what I read, bread bowl chowder is not authentic here, nor particularly good, and I'm ok with that. In fact, my husband works at Disneyland and the kids and I enjoy Boudin bread bowls there quite a lot!

But I want to make them happy because they have been troopers while I take them all over the city to places I recall from my childhood. I'm just hoping there's somewhere near the wharf where my boys can have their bread bowl and I can have that or something else more seafoody?

My trip to SF won't be ruined if I have to eat bad chowder from a stale sourdough bowl. I was just hoping local hounds might know something in the wharf area that has that where it's not horrendous tourist fare.

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  1. have a Boudin bread bowl at the Boudin factory. They aren't THAT bad

    1. oh there are many places at the wharf for that, the monkey wrench in your query is "not horrendous tourist fare"

      1. The place to go is Boudin at the Wharf. It's not bad at all -- I think the earlier discussion you read was mostly about whether it is a historically "San Francisco" dish. Which I don't think it is.

        1. Boudin introduced it locally 20-25 years ago so that's the canonical version. You can get exactly the same thing they serve at Disneyland at any of the local locations with a kitchen.


          1. I third the recommendation for Boudin at the Wharf. They claim the bread is freshly baked on site, which may make it a touch better than the ones you are used to at Disneyland (unless they bake their bread bowls onsite too).

            But to avoid too much of the touristy feel, I go upstairs to the restaurant (Bistro Boudin http://www.bistroboudin.com/). You avoid the cafeteria-style zoo in the downstairs Baker's Hall Cafe, and you get a view of the wharf and water if you sit by the window. If you don't go in the middle of the lunch or dinner rushes it can actually be a fairly peaceful little break from the otherwise chaotic Pier 39/Fisherman's wharf experience. They take reservations, so you shouldn't have to stand in line either, which I usually have more than enough experience with when in that area. Menu items are more expensive than they are downstairs though, so keep that in mind if budget is an issue. Chowder and breadbowl downstairs is $8.95. In the restaurant it's $9.95 for petite (which I think is similar to the size served in the cafe but I've never actually compared them) and $14.95 for the large/regular (which I'd never be able to finish, but hungry kids might). And the menu has many other seafoody things for you if you don't want chowder (local oysters perhaps? Crab bisque?


            And while you're there (or if you have to wait for your table), you may want to check out Musee Mechanique (free to enter but the machines are coin-operated) or the USS Pampanito ($3 a person for the self-guided tour but for $6-$12 additional the audio tour is well done) which are both pretty fun to walk through.

            You'll be in the right area to walk over and get those Ghiradelli fudge sundaes after dinner/lunch too :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: greymalkin

              Thanks for the recommendations! Also, there is a Boudin bakery on site at Disneyland (actually California adventure) where they bake the bread on site. They have a whole "fake San Francisco" which I once thought was pretty lame when I was more of a cynic but now I appreciate the effort that went into creating it.
              I had really no idea what to check out at the wharf so I'm so glad you gave me some ideas. Thanks again.

              1. re: iheartcooking

                The Wharf is also pretty much fake San Francisco. It has been far more tourists there than locals for so long that it has evolved into its own thing with little connection to the modern city and its residents.

                I first heard about chowder in a bread bowl from tourists who were asking where to get it and I had no idea why they thought they'd find it in SF.

            2. It's a touristy thing so just bite the bullet and finish the trip on a happy note. Looking for something better is like arguing over what's in a hot dog...the argument/search will last way longer then eating it.

              Also as a touristy thing, few CHs will have tested all or any of the options, so consider that. Your guess is likely as good as anything else.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ML8000

                Fair enough lol. The thought had occurred to me actually.

              2. Here's my National Clam Chowder Day post on eating the chowder bowl at Boudin at the wharf including a link to my real life photo,

                1. along the same lines, how about French onion dip served in a hollowed out whole onion? (at Wayfare Tavern, with housemade chips)

                  1. Can I just say how much I admire the original post here? It's delightful to see a visitor doing her homework and asking for help with a situation common to CHs traveling with less Houndy family/friends. One mediocre meal won't kill ya and for the sake of family harmony, brava! I've been to SF more than a dozen times in the last eight years and I've never had chowder in a bread bowl, but it's so popular among tourists there must be something to it. And the Musee Mechanique is indeed a cool thing.