San Francisco food scene is freaking great. In the land of fog and fabulousness, with the likes of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and fantastic nightlife, the food scene here is the most exciting. Great local produce, wine region and cultural melting pot , seriously, they won’t let you leave if you haven’t tried at least four of the six delightful things listed in this article!
San Francisco is, of course, the spiritual home of sourdough – the tangy bread where the yeast starter makes all the difference.
There are plenty of contenders for the title of best sourdough in San Francisco, and Acme, Josey Baker Bread and Boudin all have their supporters. At Boudin, you can enjoy traditional clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and then while away half an hour or so at their bread museum in Fisherman’s Wharf.
For my money, though, it has to be Tartine. You’ll have to be prepared to queue: the bakery and café in the Mission area always has a line of eager brunchers snaking round the block, and the Tartine Manufactory at Heath Ceramics is no better. I recently rocked up just before noon on a Friday to be that the wait was at least 45 minutes. But, oh, the sourdough. Darker and with more holes than your average loaf, there’s a dense yeastiness to it that makes it worth the hype.
And if you don’t want to stand in line? Seek it out at The Epicurean Trader on Union Street in Cow Hollow, which sees daily deliveries of the famous country loaf among others. Make sure you stop by soon after 11 am, though, to be sure of nabbing yours.
Something Amazing from a Food Truck
Food trucks are a big thing these days, and no more so than in the Bay Area. Come springtime and the food truck season fires up again, with street food markets by Off the Grid pitching up at Fort Mason, the Presidio , SOMA St Food truck and other locations around the city.
The advantages are many. If you have gluten-free, dairy-free, or just generally fussy foodie friends, a gathering of food trucks will have something for everyone. And it’s a fabulous way to sample several of San Francisco’s must-do’s all in one place. We tried the lobster roll from Sam’s Chowder Mobile. The lobster roll was that good. We followed it with Bi-Rite ice cream, which is more usually to be found at its store (and the associated queue) in the Mission.
The San Francisco weather is not always on your side, but when the sun’s shining or it’s a warm night there’s nothing better than picking up your picnic blanket and ticking off your foodie cravings all in one go.
With the largest Chinatown outside Asia, San Francisco is home to some pretty amazing Chinese food and of course everyone has a favourite dim sum place.
A relative newbie (it opened in Chinatown in 2017), China Live gets rave reviews from the city’s foodies. With two locations in the Financial District, Yank Sing is a longtime local favourite. British chef Rick Stein recommends M.Y. China in the Westfield mall on Market Street and, yes, it’s fabulous too. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Lounge II on Geary Boulevard in Laurel Heights regularly draws crowds of in-the-know locals at the weekend.
The oldest restaurant in San Francisco (it opened in 1849), the Tadich Grill in the city’s Financial District is a beloved Bay Area institution that’s still drawing the crowds. Locals and visitors alike flock here for traditional seafood dishes including clam chowder, Dungeness crab cakes and its signature seafood cioppino. They’re here for the old-school service too; the veteran waiting staff, dressed in white coats, all know exactly what they’re doing.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and, yes – you’ll be sensing a theme here – you’ll have to queue. But there’s no better way to whet your appetite than with a perfectly-mixed martini at the bar while you indulge in a bit of people-watching.
The Best Burritos
The first thing anyone will ask you when you move to San Francisco is, “Did you find a favourite taco place yet?” They really, really care about their burritos here.
I can’t claim to have found the best burritos place in San Francisco. There’s one that I call my favorite because it’s the nearest restaurant to my apartment; the alleyway seating area beside it is really cute; and they always take me seriously when I ask them to hold the guac because of my avocado allergy. But is it the best in San Francisco? Honestly, no. It’s probably not even the best in the neighbourhood.
However, if you are serious about finding the best, then La Taqueria on Mission, Papalote, with two locations – one on 24th Street and one on Fulton – and El Farolito, also on Mission, are all worth checking out.
Anything at the Ferry Building
Taking the ferry to Sausalito is one of the pleasures of visiting San Francisco, but make sure you build in some time to explore the Ferry Building too. A foodie paradise since its re-opening in 2003, the Ferry Building Marketplace is now home to a farmer’s market as well as favourites including Gott’s Roadside, Dandelion Chocolate and Humphry Slocombe ice cream.
Everyone I ever met who has been to San Francisco, though, recommends the Slanted Door, which occupies a corner of the Ferry Building looking out over the water. This buzzy Vietnamese restaurant is always packed with fans of its cocktails, Vietnamese street food and main courses that you’re encouraged to try family style. It’s deservedly popular – so make sure you book.