Three Delicious Days in San Francisco

Room with a view: from the San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Room with a view: from the San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Two hours south from Seattle by plane gets you to San Francisco, home of an incredible number of culinary delights. This is a city with a quality bakery scene, patience for pour-over coffee, a farmers market that offers interesting contrast to Seattle’s, a wide variety of Asian food, and some creative Californian cuisine, often with twists.

I go to the Bay Area on occasion and have written about great eats in the past, so this guide is not intended to be a “best-of” endeavor. Instead, this is a little collection of places that avoids fine dining in favor of pastries (and coffee), burgers, boat noodles, Asian fusion finds, and more. Here’s a three-day itinerary that will keep your stomach happy while providing structure for some sightseeing in San Francisco.

Day 1 (Friday)

Dim sum is tempting and a good choice for many visiting San Francisco, but on par with what we have in Seattle. (It’s lower in quality than the L.A. area and even further below Richmond, BC—so accessible to Seattle.) Better, I believe, to explore the bakery scene. Tartine is a classic favorite, and b. patisserie also gets high marks. To start a comparison of three lesser known (to many) places, journey early to Mr Holmes Bakehouse. I normally recommend a plain (butter) croissant if you want to do true bakery comparisons, but this trip presents an opportunity to indulge in more whimsical versions. Mr Holmes actually has three croissant-like creations: the cruffin, the amelie amann, and a croissant with a salmon roll inside. (As with all of the restaurants mentioned, check below the main article for additional photos.) But perhaps the best bite in the shop is the banana doughnut, with actual chunks of banana in the cream filling.

Banana doughnuts at Mr Holmes Bakehouse

Banana doughnuts at Mr Holmes Bakehouse

Mr Holmes serves Sightglass coffee, though typical of most bakeries, not in pour-over form. So make your next stop the flagship shop of Sightglass, in the SoMa district. Despite the size, it can be hard to find a seat in this bustling location, but it’s worth a visit. Awake, you now have time and energy to start discovering the downtown shopping area, which can include a stroll through Chinatown. (This one is much more alive than Seattle’s!) And then it’s back to SoMa for lunch at Marlowe. Both the shrimp roll and the calamari & chorizo tartine are terrific, but be sure to check out the Marlowe burger, cooked to “bloody good” perfection.

The scene at Sightglass Coffee on 7th in SoMa

The scene at Sightglass Coffee on 7th in SoMa

The Marlowe burger

The Marlowe burger

The afternoon allows time to enjoy some of the great outdoors within the city. Golden Gate Park is a good venue, with a bonus of being the home of the de Young Museum. For just a short time more, this museum is home to an impressive Keith Haring exhibit. It’s thought-provoking, but don’t stay too late, as it will soon be time to get in line at State Bird Provisions. A 4:15pm arrival should yield you first seating upon the 5:30 opening (ask for the chef’s counter if available), and will give you a good hour of time to chat with fellow food-lovers waiting with you. The food—much of it with Asian influences—is fantastic. Expect an early onslaught of dim sum-style small plates; pace yourself and keep the regular menu in mind, knowing that there’s also dessert to enjoy. (This was my favorite meal of my latest trip to San Francisco. Definitely check out additional photos from the meal at the end of this article.)

Pork belly with citrus at State Bird Provisions (favorite dish of the dinner)

Pork belly with citrus at State Bird Provisions (favorite dish of the dinner)

Day 2 (Saturday)

Saturday offers a chance to sleep in just a little late, as Knead Patisserie in the Mission District doesn’t open until 10am. That’s said, plan to get there right at opening while the pastries are still warm and the selection is still best. The bakery “hides” in the back of Local Mission Eatery, and you can eat your treats at the chef’s counter while watching the workers prep food. The butter pecan croissant is pretty good, but the must-order is the pomme d’amour. A bit on the messy side, this crème brulee inside croissant-like pastry will steal your heart. (Probably the best pastry item I tried my latest trip.)

Knead Patisserie's pomme d’amour

Knead Patisserie’s pomme d’amour

Near Knead is a beautiful Blue Bottle location (combined with Heath Ceramics) and a more mellow Sightglass café, but if you’re interested in combining coffee with a walk on Valencia Street in the Mission, head to Ritual Coffee. With a long line likely extending to (or through) the door and pulsating music to accompany your pour-over, Ritual gives a glimpse into San Francisco’s hipster coffee scene.

Ritual Coffee scene

Ritual Coffee scene

You’ll return to the Mission District again, so soon it’s time to head to the Ferry Building Marketplace, home of Saturday’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. There are many interesting shops inside the building (I’m partial to Cowgirl Creamery and Acme Bread, especially for the start of a picnic lunch), and then there are the farmer stands full of amazing produce and lots of other products on the outside. The colors are vibrant, the setting spectacular, and the scene fun. You can do lots of food sampling here—and that’s before you realize there’s cooking going on as well. One of the food stands: 4505 Meats. Here you can try the beloved hamburger without the commitment of going to the restaurant. The soft sesame-scallion bun is the perfect placeholder for the soft-packed, smoky patty.

Burger from 4505 Meats

Burger from 4505 Meats

From the Ferry Building, jump on the historic F Market Streetcar (free if you have a Muni pass) which cruises along the Embarcadero and makes its way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you can do the real tourist thing, from a brisk and bright bay cruise to a dark and “horrible” (but fun) interactive learning experience at the San Francisco Dungeon. From the Wharf, take a stroll through Fort Mason and make your way to The Interval at Long Now. Really, just go. I don’t want to describe it too much, but suffice to say that it’s an incredibly special place to enjoy coffee (more Sightglass) or a cocktail.

Looking into The Interval at Long Now

Looking into The Interval at Long Now

For dinner, return to the Mission District for a meal at Pink Zebra. If you’ve been to Mission Chinese Food, it’s similar (there’s actually a chef connection)—but with a Japanese-European focus. Like Mission Chinese, Pink Zebra is a pop-up inside an existing, functioning restaurant (Tao Yin). You can reserve one of the five sushi bar seats for an omakase meal, but I recommend getting a regular table and ordering from the non-sushi menu. Almost all of the dishes have Japanese elements, but with twists that make things interesting. Take, for example, menchi katsu with gruyere, onion agrodolce, and smoked tonkatsu sauce. It’s fun and delicious.

At Pink Zebra: menchi katsu with smoked tonkatsu sauce, gruyere, hot and cold cabbage, plum pickled ginger, onion agrodolce, and pomegranate seeds

At Pink Zebra: menchi katsu with smoked tonkatsu sauce, gruyere, hot and cold cabbage, plum pickled ginger, onion agrodolce, and pomegranate seeds

Day 3 (Sunday)

This morning, It’s back to the Mission District and back to Valencia Street to check out Craftsman & Wolves. This is the most “hipster” of the three bakeries on the itinerary, with young people flocking to try whimsical creations like The Rebel Within. Just about everyone is taking photographs (see mine in the photos at the end of this article), as The Rebel is a piece of art—a savory muffin with a soft runny egg inside. Savory is fine (oh, if only The Rebel was served warm!), but for something sweet and to continue the croissant comparison, check out the chocolate croissant stack. Or if you want to be consistent with the rest of today’s food theme, consider the Thai scone with green curry, candied ginger, dried mango, and coconut.

Chocolate croissant stack (and peek at The Rebel Within) at Craftsman & Wolves

Chocolate croissant stack (and peek at The Rebel Within) at Craftsman & Wolves

Recall that Ritual is to the south on Valencia, but basically equidistant to the north is Fourbarrel. If you’re seeking pour-over coffee, this might be the best place to visit in San Francisco. The large shop offers a separate pour-over station with a dedicated worker who’ll help you choose from six types of beans, giving great variety in place of origin, flavor notes, and more. Bonus: The barista will offer you a little cookie while you’re waiting for your coffee.

Pour-over station at Fourbarrel Coffee

Pour-over station at Fourbarrel Coffee

Next, you can enjoy more time in the Mission, or head back downtown for shopping. Then it’s time for Thai food. There’s new upscale Thai in Union Square that’s getting some good reviews*, but for something more adventurous and quite different than what we have in Seattle, head west from downtown just past Larkin Street for part one of lunch at Zen Yai. Skip the menu in hand and look to the wall, where the Thai menu “deciphered” includes Thai boat noodles (guay tiew ruew) at just $2.50 per small bowl. Choose your noodle size and meat (pork or beef), and get ready for bold flavors and blood in the broth. (There’s also a flavorful dry version available, called guay tiew yum, that’s made with ground pork.) From Zen Yai, to complete a two-part meal, go back to Larkin and turn south for a short walk to Sing Sing Sandwich Shop for one of the best banh mi in the city: the banh mi dac biet (special combo sandwich), with paté and various textured meats. Sing Sing scoops out some of the baguette bread to allow more filling and make for a crispier bread experience.

Trio of noodle bowls (boat noodles at the top) at Zen Yai

Trio of noodle bowls (boat noodles at the top) at Zen Yai

Banh mi at Sing Sing Sandwich Shop

Banh mi at Sing Sing Sandwich Shop

Keeping with the Asian theme, the afternoon presents an opportunity for an easy walk down Larkin to the Asian Art Museum. Befitting the gluttonous, hedonistic weekend, time your visit right and you’ll be there for the “Seduction” exhibit, taking a look at Japan’s floating world (aka pleasure quarters). Then, for dinner, it’s a fuller Thai meal at Lers Ros. You can stay on Larkin and hit that location, or go back to the Mission District again for the newest location, but maybe the Hayes Valley location is best so you can explore a new neighborhood. Meanwhile, your taste buds will explore new sensations at Lers Ros, especially if you seek out some of the unique menu items, like the raw prawns with chili and lemon grass with lime-based salad dressing. The prawns’ natural sweetness plays well with fiery chili peppers, with the other herbal notes a perfect accompaniment. A quality meal to end a quality weekend of eating in San Francisco.

Koong Chae Nam Pla (fresh raw prawns with chili and lemon grass with lime based salad dressing, served with sliced garlic and mint leaves) at Lers Ros

Koong Chae Nam Pla (fresh raw prawns with chili and lemon grass with lime based salad dressing, served with sliced garlic and mint leaves) at Lers Ros

Hotel

I used points to stay two nights at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, with the hotel comping a third night (thanks!) in exchange for my willingness to offer feedback on the new menu (see the food photos at the end of this article) for The View Lounge atop the hotel, which was set to open the following weekend. (Especially in light of this interesting recent read about comped meals, note that I paid for all the meals listed in the article above.) The hotel offers comfort and convenience, with the BART just a couple of short blocks away for easy trips to and from the airport, and with a Muni bus stop at the corner close to the hotel entrance.

Thanks also to San Francisco Travel for the local sightseeing assistance—especially a CityPASS that provided unlimited muni rides (which makes the pass highly recommended) and entry into some attractions. The office/website is a valuable resource to those planning a visit to the Bay Area.

* I agonized extensively about whether to go to Kin Khao for lunch. After reading polarized reviews, I asked some people who’ve been and know my food tastes well. They felt I’d be disappointed, saying that Kin Khao serves food that’s “safe” for the cocktail crowd, but not especially interesting or adventurous. Some cited service issues, while others pointed out that it’s expensive. (The online menu lacks pricing—tapping into a major pet peeve.) At about $10 per appetizer and $15 per entrée, $50 plus tax and tip for food alone (for two people) proved too much of an expense and gamble for my stomach space.

And now…more food photos:

Passion fruit cruffin at Mr Holmes Bakehouse (good passion fruit flavor, and not too sweet)

Passion fruit cruffin at Mr Holmes Bakehouse (good passion fruit flavor, and not too sweet)

"Amelie amann" at Mr Holmes Bakehouse (lighter/less dense and less caramelized than I prefer for a kouign amann)

“Amelie amann” at Mr Holmes Bakehouse (lighter/less dense and less caramelized than I prefer for a kouign amann)

"California croissant" at Mr Holmes Bakehouse with, yes, soy sauce...

“California croissant” at Mr Holmes Bakehouse with, yes, soy sauce…

...because inside is salmon, nori, ginger, and wasabi

…because inside is salmon, nori, ginger, and wasabi

Sign at Mr Holmes Bakehouse

Sign at Mr Holmes Bakehouse

Mushroom soup with black truffle gougeres at Marlowe

Mushroom soup with black truffle gougeres at Marlowe

Marlowe's chicken-fried okra with lemon aioli

Marlowe’s chicken-fried okra with lemon aioli

Grilled calamari and chorizo tartine with avocado, salmon roe, toasted garlic, and cilantro at Marlowe

Grilled calamari and chorizo tartine with avocado, salmon roe, toasted garlic, and cilantro at Marlowe

Warm rock shrimp roll with Napa cabbage slaw, basil, mint, citrus aioli, smoke and chili at Marlowe

Warm rock shrimp roll with Napa cabbage slaw, basil, mint, citrus aioli, smoke and chili at Marlowe

State Bird Provisions: Duck liver mousse with almond financiers (great combination!)

State Bird Provisions: Duck liver mousse with almond financiers (great combination!)

State Bird: Persimmons with kinako and sesame (delicious!)

State Bird: Persimmons with kinako and sesame (delicious!)

State Bird: Hog Island Sweetwater oysters with spicy kohlrabi kraut and toasted sesame

State Bird: Hog Island Sweetwater oysters with spicy kohlrabi kraut and toasted sesame

State Bird: garlic bread with burrata (rich!)

State Bird: garlic bread with burrata (rich!)

State Bird: potato, shellfish, and pickled seaweed porridge (tasty furikake made, remarkably, from fried quinoa...and a delicious dashi

State Bird: potato, shellfish, and pickled seaweed porridge

State Bird: smoked trout parfait with uni slaw and meyer lemon aioli

State Bird: smoked trout parfait with uni slaw

Seafood "dim sum" cart at State Bird

Seafood “dim sum” cart at State Bird

State Bird: guinea hen dumpling with aromatic mushroom broth (broth: wow!)

State Bird: guinea hen dumpling with aromatic mushroom broth (broth: wow!)

State Bird: steak tartare sunchoke toast

State Bird: steak tartare sunchoke toast

State Bird: maitake and duck fried rice a la plancha (with caramelized onions, long beans, pea vines, and crispy fried onions)

State Bird: maitake and duck fried rice a la plancha (with caramelized onions, long beans, pea vines, and crispy fried onions)

State Bird: "world peace" peanut muscovado milk shots

State Bird: “world peace” peanut muscovado milk shots

State Bird: cocoa nib-huckleberry granita with yogurt coconut cream and blood orange

State Bird: cocoa nib-huckleberry granita with yogurt coconut cream and blood orange

State Bird: Szechuan pepper "ice cream sandwich" with chocolate beer coulis and cashews (could use more Szechuan peppercorn)

State Bird: Szechuan pepper “ice cream sandwich” with chocolate beer coulis and cashews (could use more Szechuan peppercorn)

Action at the State Bird counter

Action at the State Bird counter

Mushroom turnover at Knead Patisserie

Mushroom turnover at Knead Patisserie

Mushroom turnover, sliced

Mushroom turnover, sliced

Knead's butter pecan croissant (not bad, but not a "wow")

Knead’s butter pecan croissant (not bad, but not a “wow”)

A look at Knead Patisserie

A look at Knead Patisserie

Colorful carrots and beets at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Colorful carrots and beets at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Mushrooms at the Ferry Building Marketplace

Mushrooms at the Ferry Building Marketplace

Coffee at The Interval at Long Now

Coffee at The Interval at Long Now

Bar scene at The Interval at Long Now

Bar scene at The Interval at Long Now

Part of The Interval at Long Now's book collection

Part of The Interval at Long Now’s book collection

Pink Zebra's sardine a la plancha: local sardine, griddled feta, blood orange, pickled chili & caper, herb salsa, and toasted pepitas

Pink Zebra’s sardine a la plancha: local sardine, griddled feta, blood orange, pickled chili & caper, herb salsa, and toasted pepitas

Tender beef tongue with persimmon and tsukudani herb salsa at Pink Zebra (second SF dish with persimmons!)

Tender beef tongue with persimmon and tsukudani herb salsa at Pink Zebra (second SF dish with persimmons!)

Pink Zebra's local manila clams with lamb chorizo, winter squash, miso dashi, kombu butter, black garlic shoyu, and pickled shallots

Pink Zebra’s local manila clams with lamb chorizo, winter squash, miso dashi, kombu butter, black garlic shoyu, and pickled shallots

"Kimchi gyudon" with cabbage kimchi, seared hanger steak and charred leeks over steamed rice at Pink Zebra

“Kimchi gyudon” with cabbage kimchi, seared hanger steak, and charred leeks over steamed rice at Pink Zebra

Display of The Rebel Within at Craftsman & Wolves

Display of The Rebel Within at Craftsman & Wolves

Obligatory cross-section shot of The Rebel Within at Craftsman & Wolves

Obligatory cross-section shot of The Rebel Within at Craftsman & Wolves

Inside Craftsman & Wolves

Inside Craftsman & Wolves

Also on the Thai menu board at Zen Yai: yen ta fo

Also on the Thai menu board at Zen Yai: yen ta fo

Zen Yai's Thai menu

Zen Yai’s Thai menu

Banh mi cross-section at Sing Sing Sandwich Shop

Banh mi cross-section at Sing Sing Sandwich Shop

Stir-fried crispy rind pork belly with basil leaves at Lers Ros

Stir-fried crispy rind pork belly with basil leaves at Lers Ros

Boar stir-fried with a house-made chili paste and galangal (peppercorns are a nice touch)

Boar stir-fried with a house-made chili paste and galangal (peppercorns are a nice touch)

Ler Ros' pad kee mow (with beef)

Ler Ros’ pad kee mow (with beef)

Fried rice with prawns at Lers Ros

Fried rice with prawns at Lers Ros

Smoked beef carpaccio with dijonnaise, fried capers, and chives at The View

Smoked beef carpaccio with dijonnaise, fried capers, and chives at The View Lounge

Crudo three ways at The View: tuna, trout (now replaced by salmon), and scallop

Crudo three ways at The View: tuna, trout (now replaced by salmon), and scallop

Smoked duck breast pastrami with chicories, winter citrus and medjool date puree at The View

Smoked duck breast pastrami with chicories, winter citrus and medjool date puree at The View

The View's baked Laura Chenel goat cheese with spicy tomato fondue

The View’s baked Laura Chenel goat cheese with spicy tomato fondue

My favorite of the bites at The View: braised pork belly with miso glaze and braised daikon

My favorite of the bites at The View: braised pork belly with miso glaze and braised daikon

Mr Holmes Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Marlowe on Urbanspoon

State Bird Provisions on Urbanspoon

Knead Patisserie on Urbanspoon

4505 Meats on Urbanspoon

Pink Zebra on Urbanspoon

Craftsman & Wolves on Urbanspoon

Zen Yai Thai on Urbanspoon

Sing Sing Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Lers Ros Thai on Urbanspoon

View Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tags:

#4505Meats
, ,
#Fourbarrel
, ,
#LersRos
,
#Marlowe
, ,
#PinkZebra
,
#RitualCoffee
,
#Sightglass
, , ,
#TheInterval
,
#TheViewLounge
,
#ZenYai

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply