Forty Observations: San Francisco (Part 2)

Hey there. Sorry it took so long to get this post together. I sorta became obsessed with duct tape purses (again) and spent the last two weeks literally stuck to my work table. More on that later. Let's get back to my trip to San Francisco.

A few years ago I started to make travel journals for every family trip. Nothing fancy, just a simple casebound book with 48 blank pages and a duct tape spine. For my San Francisco travel journal, I decorated the case with a reproduction of a 1909 city map.

If you look through it now, you'll notice all the euphoric scribbles and disappointed rants of a family who ate their way through this city. Dave and I didn't envision our trip to be an epicurean one, but Time Out does not publish a San Francisco weekly, which is unfortunate because they do such a great job with Time Out New York magazine. There is a website, but it's not as comprehensive as the one for NYC. I bought the Time Out San Francisco guide book, but it was published in 2008 and has not been updated since. Some businesses that were listed were either closed, had moved, or had different hours of operation. Argh.
So we relied on a Zagats guide for our tour of Frisco, which was great for all of us. After all, who doesn't like tasty food? So this blog post will opine the various epicurean offerings of San Fran and the greater Bay Area that we experienced. I already mentioned the best breakfast (Mama's on Washington Square) and the best bakery (Tartine Bakery in the Mission). Here are the other places we dined at.

11. Katanaya in the Tenderloin section (430 Geary St.) was a nice surprise. Tasty noodles, generous servings, and inexpensive. I had a hot bowl of ramen while my daughter worked through a serving of udon. The right amount of flavor, the noodles were firm and not rubbery, and the broth was soothing in all the right ways. Katanaya also serves sushi, which is a nice surprise since my favorite noodle joint in NYC (Men Ku Tei, 60 W56th St.) does not. Though I was full, I was tempted to order a tekka maki just for the heck of it. 

12. Tommaso's Pizzeria. That lone woman who worked the entire restaurant deserves a medal for making us feel right at home. When my daughter asked for a glass of milk, she acted like a proud grandmother and came back with the tallest glass I've ever seen. I nearly hugged her when we left. Oh, and the pizzas were fantastic! We had pepperoni and basil on our pies, and the crust was crisp yet chewy. Well worth the wait on line, and it moves pretty quickly.

13. Garibaldi's in the Pacific Heights neighborhood made our children feel sophisticated and welcome. I had the foie gras and lamb tenderloins, which I heard they were known for. My kids shared the mahi mahi with fregola and asparagus, and Dave had the baked ziti with porcini mushrooms. The ingredients were fresh, the presentation was impeccable, and my kids behaved! A great meal.

14. One piece of advice when eating at Gott's Roadside in the Ferry Building: get a burger--don't get a fish taco! Which I did, of course, while everyone around me basked in burger goodness. This is definitely a burger establishment, though it missed the mark of the "joint" feel. The stainless steel community tables made me feel like I was in the mess hall of some Alcatraz?? But the burgers are tasty (or so I've been told). The garlic fries are also yummy, though only serious garlic lovers will like the copious amounts of garlic slapped on top.

15. Though there's an In and Out Burger by Fisherman's Wharf, we didn't eat at that location. We were driving just outside of Sacramento when we spied one, made a sharp left turn into the parking lot, and ordered double-doubles and strawberry shakes. And of course we had seconds. Mmmmmm. It's a Cali thing, and I wish this burger chain would make its way to the East Coast.

16. Dottie's True Blue Cafe in the Tenderloin area (522 Jones St.) was our only disappointing dining experience. I have to admit that this was our very last meal in San Fran. We had breakfast before jumping into a cab bound for the airport. By the end of our trip, our taste buds were spoiled and our bellies were bloated. But we were all annoyed by this place. The service was spotty and the waiter got my order wrong, which really made my blood boil because I ordered one of the special omelets. The day's special omelets plus all the ingredients were prominently listed on a black board hanging up in the front for everyone--including the waiter and the cook--to see. And when I told the waiter that I had the wrong omelette he didn't even acknowledge the mistake. But the true barometer for a good breakfast establishment is my son Mack. His usual order of two eggs over easy with bacon, home fries, and dry white toast was hardly touched. This is a growing boy that loves his eggs and is in a constant state of hunger!

Dottie's True Blue is not as good as the hype.

17. Since Yuet Lee was closed for vacation, Masana and I looked for another suitable Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. We walked into a few places, and then walked right out. Dirty. Empty. Too dark. Too smelly. And then we followed what I discerned to be a local family (of Chinese decent) into the New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant. We ate wonton soup for two, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, and salt-n-pepper prawns. Everything was delicious! The wontons in the soup had thin wrappers and were generously filled with pork and vegetables. The Chinese broccoli was cooked perfectly and was not drenched in sauce. And the skin on the prawns were fried so that it nearly melted in your mouth.

18. Somehow we were able to get a table at Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley. (Thank you, Tron family of 5 for your last minute cancellation; your loss was certainly our gain.) My braised pork with beans made me cry. It was that good. I can't say enough about this place except that if you love good food then you must eat here at least once in your life. While the restaurant is harder to get a reservation at, try your luck at the cafe for a lunchtime one. It's also a little bit more dressed down, so our children and their preference for "soft clothes" didn't make the wait staff blink.

19. The double latte at Cafe de la Presse is simply a big bowl of caffeine deliciousness! Better than the the latte at Mama's on Washington Square, but then again, I don't think that lattes are Mama's sort of thing. And though I didn't have any of the omelets, I could tell that the eggs in this place were decent: Mack finished his plate. 

20. Brindisi Cucina di Mare in the Downtown/Union Square area was recommended by one of the knowledgeable porters at the Ritz Carlton. It's located on a tiny street (Belden). The service has more to offer than the actual food, but it was our first meal in Frisco and I really shouldn't complain. After suffering through a near food-less cross continental flight, we were famished (darn you, American Airlines). They had decent thin crust pizzas, a tomato soup with truffle oil drizzled on top was surprisingly delicious, and fried calamari that was zesty--though served on the mushy side.

I have more to say about San Fran, though at the rate I'm going who knows when I'll finish this particular list?? Back to the duct tape purse making for me...