I just spent a week in San Francisco on book tour and had a total blast. When I got back, I said to Laurie, “How come nobody ever told me San Francisco was so cool?” She looked at me as if I’d said, “How come nobody every told me bacon is delicious?”
So I’m going to steal a page from MattBites and do a no-particular-order San Francisco top ten.
Yellowtail at the Slanted Door. I had lunch at this local institution, and the grilled pork noodle bowl was excellent, but the fish was stunning: four slices of Japanese yellowtail topped with crispy shallots and thai basil, and I tasted a little chile and sesame oil, too. I used my chopsticks to fold them up like little tacos. One of the best raw fish preparations I’ve had anywhere, and I live in Seattle, so I’ve had a lot.
Sardine toasts at Contigo. Chef-owner Brett Emerson’s blog is called In Praise of Sardines, so these sardine tartines were predictably fabulous: fresh fish, crunchy toast, creamy avocado. The hot chocolate with churros was also exemplary. Also the pork belly sandwich. This place is also crazy inexpensive, given the quality.
Roast beef sushi and burdock-lotus root salad at Delica RF-1. This is the kind of deli counter you’d bypass if it were at your local supermarket, but this is a Japanese deli counter. Their signature item is roast beef nigiri sushi: a slice of rare roast beef with wasabi and grated daikon on a finger of rice. I ate two. But the best thing I had at Delica was the spicy burdock and lotus root salad, which was a superbly crunchy lunch.
Stop signs. Many main streets in San Francisco have mostly stop signs rather than stoplights. It works very well. I am an urban design geek.
The epicenter of hipsterdom. Have you ever wondered where hipsters come from? The factory seems to be located somewhere around here, which is not coincidentally the location of…
Secret Breakfast at Humphry Slocombe. Slocombe is a very grownup ice cream parlor. The other flavor I tried was yuzu poppyseed. There are some slightly more normal flavors, but not many. Anyway, secret breakfast is bourbon and cornflakes. It tastes exactly like bourbon and cornflakes. Great stuff.
Pasta shells and beans with nduja. Sorry, this great pasta dish isn’t available at a restaurant, because Anita of Married with Dinner made it, from this recipe. But the nduja, which is a spicy spreadable salami, is very much available, from Boccalone at the ferry building (or by mail order). I brought Laurie a chub of nduja as a present, and made bruschetta with nduja and radish-arugula salad. You have to try this stuff. It’s great spread on bread, but when you put it in a hot pan, it melts and coats everything with spicy goodness. The pasta Anita made was as good as anything I had in a restaurant on my trip.
Korean fried chicken at Coco Bang and Italian fried chicken at SPQR. My first night in SF, I was staying downtown and found Korean fried chicken half a block from my hotel. Then, at SPQR, I had hot and juicy fried chicken (not really Italian in any way, but it’s an Italian restaurant), along with plenty of other great stuff, including cumin-scented pork heart and a perfect spaghetti all’amatriciana.
Samusa soup at Burma SuperStar. It sounds like a joke: a bowl of rich, spicy soup with falafel and samosa chunks in it. Sog city, right? I suppose you think it’s also silly to put crispy tortilla strips in soup.
Origami at Paper Tree. Iris and I love origami, and this is origami heaven. In addition to selling enough different origami products to satisfy the entire population of Japan, there’s a museum section with feats of origami ninjutsu contributed by masters. This didn’t do much for my ego, but wow. I brought home a set of waterproof origami pirate ships and junks and pleasure craft.