My ‘Must Eat’ in San Francisco List

This one’s for @PRjoshmorris, who is visiting San Francisco soon!

When you’re in San Francisco, what do you do? You could go see the sights, pretend to be a tourist, check out the awesome shopping… sure. You can do all that. But my absolute favorite thing to do in this great city is EAT!
I’m a fan of street food and cheap eats. While SF (don’t call it San Fran) has a plethora of three and four star restaurants to delight the range of your senses, you can have a just as wonderful (or better) experience eating your way through San Francisco without having to sell your car.
So, if you have three days, here’s my list of “must eat cheap eats”:
  1. Monday & Thursday 5-7 pm Happy Hour at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building: $1 oysters and $3.50 pints. It’s basically the best and freshest oysters in town, shucked in front of you. Get there early… before 4:30, to scope out a seat. Everyone has to be there to be seated and you have to keep ordering.
  2. My personal favorite for hole in the wall Mexican is El Farolito at 24th & Mission. Order a Quesadilla Suiza, traditional tacos, burrito, whatever suits your fancy – you’ll be very happy and  crazy full. The most interesting time to go is after a full night at the bar, around 2 am. There’s a line out the door and it’s just about the most entertaining thing you can do in the Mission at that hour.
  3. Weekend Brunch at Ella’s in Pac Heights. The chicken hash is to die for, but also try the lemon ricotta pancakes – they are my favorite pancakes in town. Also, they have one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had in the city. You must get there before 11 on a weekend or else you will wait an hour. Let them know you’re ok with sitting at the bar, it’s the best spot in the place!
  4. Ice Cream at Bi-Rite at Dolores & 18th. You can’t go wrong no matter what you choose, but I have never met a person who does not absolutely fall in love with their Salted Caramel. Go as an after dinner dessert destination. If it’s nice outside, you can walk to Dolores Park and hang out while you eat!
  5. Dim Sum is a must when visiting San Francisco. Go for brunch or lunch, any day of the week. You have options. My favorite dimsum restaurants were on the Peninsula in Millbrae (Fook Yuen, closed for renovation). If I’m in SF, I usually end up at City View for sit down (convenient and above average), or if you’re OK with takeout, the best in Chinatown is Good Mong Kok Bakery. If you can get out to  the Richmond District, go to Good Luck. If you decide to do a sit down place, get there before 11:30, no matter of day or place. All of the take out places will be dirt cheap.
  6. For some more home style Chinese cooking, go to Tea Garden on Mission & 1st for Beef Noodle Soup. It reminds me of home and is out of this world. You can get a bun plus a bowl of noodle soup for under $10.
  7. Ok, one more brunch place… the Top 2 Morning Baked Goods in SF – Dottie’s True Blue Cafe in the Tenderloin. They have a daily menu of innovative and locally grown brunch menu items – I’ve never had anything other than an outstanding meal there. If you’re on the go though, their baked goods are to die for, inexpensive, and big. Eat in, get there before 8:30 am. No joke.
  8. Fun evening hang out? Try Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House in North Beach. They are connected to an Indian restaurant that serves up awesome dosas. Their beer list is incredible and global. Eat well, drink well, shoot pool, watch a game, play some games.
  9. I haven’t been here yet, but this is on my “must eat before I die” list – Auntie April’s Chicken & Waffles in the Bayview District. Widely touted as the best fried chicken in town, go hungry.
  10. Craving San Francisco style pizza? Try Little Star at 15th & Valencia. I personally prefer the thin pizzas, but everyone always fights for the last bit of the thick crust too!
  11. An art not quickly forgotten in this great city – the Vietnamese Sandwich… there are about 75 shops in the Tenderloin that will serve you up a mediocre bahn mi, so don’t be fooled. Hit up Saigon Sandwich or Sing Sing. Rules of engagement: get there before noon, don’t ask what kind of meat it is if you don’t know, and don’t pay over $4 for a sandwich.
  12. Last but not least… you’re hanging out with friends, don’t mind or love smoking, and you want to just relax in the sun. For a sublimely ‘divey’ happy hour, Zeitgeist at Duboce & Valencia is your place. They have a huge back seating area that’s filled with picnic benches and a BBQ. Tip: there’s no line at the bar ever (meaning, if you line up, you’re a DB and the bartenders will skip over you) so just fight for your right like everyone else.
Now for street food. Our trusty San Francisco Cart Project has a calendar of who’s where and when. If you’re on Twitter, here’s a list of Street Food vendors using Twitter to let followers know where they are. RoliRoti is a well known “must try”, as is the TamaleLady, who usually routes through the Mission happily saving drunken hipsters from going hungry.
Now if you’re going to make it out to the East Bay, that’s a post in itself. Let me know. 🙂
Ok ok ok … one last awesome happy hour. Maya on Folsom & 2nd. You get a complimentary 3 tiered tray of empanadas, beans w/ queso for dipping, and other snacks, and your margaritas are about $5 a pop. Killer deal! Don’t stay for dinner – make this a weekday stopover on your way to somewhere else.

2 Comments

  1. ANNIE! Simply put… you rock! Whether or not your appetite or my visit was the true motivation behind this post, this is Travel Channel caliber, is already printed out and will be the first item in my luggage 🙂 Thanks so much and I hope you get some chicken and waffles soon! You've got a post coming back about my SF (I'm learning already!) eating adventures 😉 -JM

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