Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where to eat in San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its food. I might have made that fact up. But if that's not true, it should be. The food here is amazing. Each section of town is totally different. Mission restaurants are either famous for their burritos or trendy in some farm-to-table, unique combination of ingredients type of way. Bernal Hill is my personal favorite right now, as it's less cool and more delicious. FiDi boasts a lot of amazing lunch spots that I have barely tapped into yet. The rest of the city is just an unexplored goldmine of delicious foods. I can't provide an expansive list as I am pretty sure that's impossible in this city, but here are the restaurants I have tried. Stay tuned for updates. And sorry, no photos. I'm just not that much of a hipster.

The Mission:
Trendy restaurants everyone has heard about. Usually overpriced. Often delicious.

Mission Chinese Food
  • Hard to find... unless you spot the 30 people waiting outside. 
  • Don't try to go in to talk to a hostess unless you want to prove you're a tourist. They will simply point you to the long wait list posted right outside of the main entrance. 
  • Just as spicy as it is overrated. I say go to Big Lantern 2 blocks away. Unless of course, you'd rather be seen than have a great meal.
Big Lantern
  • I'm generally not a tofu person, but Big Lantern's vegetarian chicken balls are better than chicken. I'd eat Big Lantern any day.
El Farolito
  • My former roommate exclusively ate dinner at this taqueria until he exhausted the menu. It's good. It's probably not that good. 
El Metate
  • My favorite taqueria. The outside area is great and they just recently ramped up their salsa selection with fresh fruit varieties.
  • Delicious $3 veggie taco was big enough to be a meal.
  • Their home fries are the best. 
  • I'm partial because I have been to the farm in Sonoma and watered the farm-to-table ingredients myself. I know it's fresh.
Wise Sons Deli
  • Thought I would love this Jewish deli, but didn't. 
  • The challah french toast was nothing special and over priced.
  • Great atmosphere.
We Be Sushi
  • I'm not a huge sushi lover and really only like vegetarian options, but I would go here any day. 
  • Super intimate space makes for a great date spot.
Flour + Water
  • Incredibly pricey.
  • Walk-in was a surprisingly short 2 hour wait.
  • Walk-in seating is at the bar, which is actually the best seat in the house. You can see into the kitchen. 
Bi-Rite Creamery
  • Yes, that is a red carpet rope outside. 
  • Yes, that rope is to control the 20 people waiting in like to order ice cream. 
  •  Yes, the ice cream is worth it. 
Sunrise Cafe
  • Finally, a brunch spot without a 2 hour wait. 
  • Delicious food. Great chai. 
Curry Up Now
  • Oh god, their Indian fries! What is on them that makes them so good? 
  • I actually want those fries right now. Yum. 
The All American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
  • They put mac and cheese on a grilled cheese. Now if that's not genius, I don't know what is. 
  • Don't get me wrong, it was pretty delicious. But it can't measure up to Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry building. 
  • The tomato soup was just meh. 
  • Too spicy. Way too spicy. What were they thinking spicy. 
  • Lots of people like this place. It was seriously packed.
  • Two words - bacon beignets. Think bacon doughnut, but way better. 
  • We were intimidated by the 4 month waiting list to get a table, but found the walk-in situation to be pretty easy. 
  • I wasn't big into the dessert, but the dinner was outstanding. Just give me more of those little bacon doughnuts.
Local Mission Eatery
  • All of the food is locally sourced from Farmer's Markets around the city. The menu changes based on whatever looks good at the markets. 
  • I saw the chefs cook my dinner right in front of me. 
  • Worth forking over a little extra for this super delicious dinner. 
Bernal Hill 
There's no "scene" in Bernal, but the food is delicious. 

Little Nepal Restaurant
  • Yum. So good. I have had many a curry, and this one is at the top. 
  • Definitely a hole in the wall. 
Zante Pizza
  • Biggest mistake was only ordering one slice. 
 Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
  • Limited menu. They are serious about their spaghetti. 
  • Delicious. One of the better Italian restaurants I have been to in SF. 
  • Didn't kill the bank. 
Here's where you go on your lunch break when you run out of food. It's a good thing you have a job, because these lunches could run you broke.

  • This place is amazing. For around $3, you can have a healthy brown rice thing stuffed with deliciousness and wrapped in seaweed. Buy two. Or three. 
  • Try the spicy bacon. 
  • Just when you thought it couldn't get better, you realize... free tea. 
  • The made-to-order, over-baked agave-soy king salmon burrito with tempura asparagus, cucumber, butter lettuce, avocado, pepitas, and wasabi dust was the best thing I have eaten in months.
  • Fail. 
  • Sandwiches don't belong on waffles. The end.
La Pasilla
  • Great salsas. Free chips. 
  • Chipolte-style salads, but this is the real deal.
El Faro
  • Don't go here. It's trying to be El Farolito, but it's not. It's a trap.
Banana House
  • This is one of my favorite lunch spots in the Financial District. 
Galette 88
  • Great atmosphere. Offers a much needed break from office lighting. 
  • Like the other Kearny Street restaurants, you have to go early or you'll regret it. 
  • The food is OK. It's gluten-free and offers lots of healthy options. 
Boxed Foods Company
  • I can make a better salad. 

Still on the to do soon list:
State Bird Provisions
Bar Tartine

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Highway 1: SF to Big Sur for July 4th

San Francisco is not known for its fireworks. It's foggy, there's a drought, the temperature hovers around 60 degrees, and unknowing tourists flock to the city.  Blessed with a four day vacation, we decided instead to make our way from San Francisco to Carmel and eventually to Big Sur by driving down the infamous Highway 1.

It was challenging to drive more than two miles before wanting to stop in front of an abandoned barn, a cliff leading into the ocean, or a field of bright yellow flowers. The only advice I'd give roadtrippers is to go slowly.

Some of the highlights of the trip included the scenic 17 mile drive past the 18th hole at Pebble Beach (which come to find out isn't a beach, but a golfer's dream), a sunset picnic on Carmel Beach (an actual beach), an adventure across a newly built (and mildly terrifying) bridge to reach one of the best views on Highway 1, a drive across Bixby Bridge (and a pit stop to take pictures while standing on the side of a cliff), a visit to the Henry Miller Library, a short hike to McWay Waterfall, and a visit to Pfeiffer Beach (seriously the most beautiful beach ever).

Pfeiffer Beach can be tricky to find, but if you can find it, it is absolutely worth it. The best advice I was given was to locate the only road between the State Park and the Post Office. That road takes you 2 miles down a one-lane drive that seemingly leads to the middle of no-where. Eventually, that road drops you off at a tiny parking lot that leads into a secluded beach surrounded by rocky cliffs. It's exactly what you imagine but a million times better.

The drive from Carmel to Big Sur takes about 40 minutes if you drive it without stopping, but no one should stay in their car that whole time - it's simply too beautiful. One of our stops on the way from Carmel to Big Sur was at Bixby Bridge.  Most tourists stationed themselves on the coastal side of the bridge, but we ventured out to the other side, which I highly recommend because it provides a view of the cliffs, the bridge, and the coast.

One of the most iconic stops we made was at The Lone Cypress in Carmel. If you Google it, you'll likely read that it is "the most photographed tree in America." One crazy writer even says, "It stands along famously scenic 17-Mile Drive, raked by wind, swaddled in fog, clinging to its wave-lashed granite pedestal like God's own advertisement for rugged individualism." I don't know about all that, but it was pretty cool to see a single tree growing out of a cliff in the middle of the water.

Another often photographed spot is McWay Falls. The real directions say to go to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which straddles Highway 1, about 36 miles south of Carmel. But if you want the easiest way to find it, simply search for a ton of cars parked on the side of the road and gaggles of tourists toting large cameras set to automatic. Follow the half-mile trail and you will have amazing views of the tiny but dramatic waterfall and the beautiful coastal bluffs. Just be careful not to block anyone's view with your selfie.

All of the "official" stops along Highway 1 are great, but also be sure to stop at the less touristy runoffs as well. You'll find great views of the coast (and of the fog).

It's a super fun place to take photos. Tim gets all the credit for these last three...

One thing that caught me off guard was that one beach would be foggy, chilly, and windy and then a beach 2 miles down the road would be calm, sunny and warm. It makes it hard to know what to wear. I ended up wearing a bunch of layers and bringing an extra "summer" outfit in the car. Don't leave your bathing suit behind just because it seems cold - who knows, you might find a beach that's 80 degrees!