Saturday, November 7, 2009

City Where I Left My Stomach

A bunch of my Twitter friends are in San Francisco for the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and reading their tweets is getting me nostalgic (and hungry) for my old home town. I'm planning on spending Thanksgiving week, which will be the first entire week I've spent there since I moved to Seattle over 5 years ago. Some people have asked me for suggestions on where to dine, and aside from some of the more famous and more obvious places (Tadich Grill, Top of the Mark, Slanted Door), I'd like to share a few of the establishments and dishes that I personally long for:
  • Tu Lan (Civic Center, 6th & Market) - I have such incredible memories of this dive Vietnamese Restaurant, from being a financially-challenged college student to breaking Imperial Rolls with a bunch of Secret Service agents. This is a place that is so good, that not only was it reputed to be Julia Child's favorite Vietnamese restaurant (before Slanted Door ever opened), but one time there was a fire in the adjacent apartment building and the last people to vacate the restaurant were the customers because they really wanted their food. They even ate heartily as firefighters put out the fire and sadly, hosed down the building and the restaurant had to close down for months. I don't know if this is the best venue or not to mention how much grease I saw swept out from the floor of the restaurant during news reports. That said, my typical order is shrimp fried rice and imperial rolls. And just FYI, those imperial rolls are so good, I've had requests to fly them with me across the country.
  • Ti Couz (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - I love the Brittany-style crepes, made with buckwheat that adds texture. My favorite is a dessert crepe with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and almonds.
  • Tartine Bakery (Mission, Guerrero & 18th) - It doesn't matter how long the line is (well, maybe in a rainstorm), all the pastries are worth it. I couldn't even begin to make a suggestion here, except to get one of everything.
  • Pancho Villa (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Every SFer has a favorite burrito-shop and this one happens to be mine. Everything's fresh, in this assembly-line style eatery. Will probably be one of my first stops when I go back home.
  • Yum Yum Fish (Sunset, way out) - If you're willing to get on the MUNI streetcar for about as far west as you can go (or have a car, or better yet, a friend with a car), Yum Yum has quite possibly the freshest sushi possible this side of the Pacific. So fresh that it's actually a fish market that other restaurants order their sushi from. The market just has a few tables, I mean, most people don't want to dine in the middle of a fish market due to smell, but the freshness and the unbelievably cheap prices make it far worth it.
  • Pakwan (Mission, 16th & Valencia) - Best Pakistani/Indian food in town in this cheap and casual restaurant. My understanding is the owners are Muslim, so they don't sell alcohol, but that doesn't stop diners from byob'ing, and there's a liquor store across the street.
  • Shalimar (Tenderloin) - My other favorite Pakistani/Indian restaurant, although unless you're a local or have really good street smarts, you're just as well off going to Pakwan, in a better neighborhood.
  • City View (Financial District, Commercial & Kearny) - Something I miss from San Francisco is stellar dim sum, and at this place with stellar prices. More casual than Yank Sing at Rincon Center, but still appropriate for a special occasion.
  • R&G Lounge (Chinatown, Kearny & Commercial) - I'm grateful to Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show for reminding me about this, one of my favorite lunch places when I worked downtown. My personal favorite is the salted fish & chicken fried rice, but that's probably too funky for most. I can, in good faith, recommend everything here.
  • House of Nanking (Chinatown, Kearny & Columbus) - Be forewarned that the gentleman taking your order may tell you you're ordering the wrong thing and then make suggestions on what you should order. LET HIM! Think of it as going to a roadside diner with a snarky waitress bickering with the chef, it's part of the charm of this place and when you get your food, you'll be grateful. And who knows, when you walk out and look across the street to Cafe Niebaum-Coppola, you just may see a famous actor meeting with an even more famous movie producer, which I happened to last time I was there.
  • Caffe Greco (North Beach, Columbus & Vallejo) - The quintessential caffe in this Italianesque neighborhood.
  • Suppenkuche (Hayes Valley, Hayes & Laguna) - I used to work for a German company and this was by far the best to take my German colleagues. Get anything with the herb & cheese spaetzle, I would usually settle for the Jagerschnitzle.

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