Saturday, July 21, 2012

My SF List

My dear friend Jenny (of Dinner a Love Story) is headed to SF next week with her family, and when she told me she was going, I realized I really didn't have much info on SF here on the blog. (Maybe it's because I'm from there.) So I pulled a list together for  Jenny, Andy, Phoebe, and Abby, and any of you readers that find yourself in SF any time soon.
And for anyone who lives out there or will be there next week, you should go meet Jenny at Omnivore Books on Saturday July 28 from 3-4pm, where she will be signing copies of her new fantastic book, Dinner a Love Story.

My first question to Jenny was, "how many meals will you have free, and which ones?" It's very important to strategize your meals in a town that has so many places to check out. Then I put some points of interest around the places. You can tell what my priorities are. Here are my top picks:


Plow: Yes, any working person in SF will groan if you mention Plow, in Potrero Hill, because they can only go there on weekends, when lines form around the block. But if you're there on a weekday, go there, put your name in, walk up to Farley's (the place I will credit with introducing me to good coffee--and only in the last couple of years did they finally relent and allow skim milk on the premises), grab a coffee, look at some magazines...and then go eat an amazing breakfast. Maxine Siu and her husband Joel (we did a story on them in the first issue of Cookie--they owned a flower shop and wine store in Potrero Hill) opened this place up maybe a year ago, and it's been a hit since they opened their doors. The potatoes are to-die-for: fried in rice bran oil, which you've probably never had before, because it's too expensive to be frying in...but it's the only thing they fry, so they are able to use it multiple times, and it works. They also have killer pancakes, and they happen to be gluten-free. Say hi to Maxine and Joel and tell them I sent you.

Tartine Bakery: One of my favorite pictures ever is of Clara eating a gorgeous pastry, next to my lovely cappuccino. I love the space, the light...and just down the street is one of my favorite grocery stores in the world...Bi-Rite. You have to go to Bi-Rite when you're there. You're also not that far from Mission Dolores.

Zuni: Yes it's great for dinner, but it's also great for breakfast. (If you go during daytime hours, you must go across Market Street and check out Bell'Occhio on Brady Lane. It's a dream. Trust me. You might just not be able to drag the girls away.)

Golden Gate Meat Company: In the Ferry Building, we love to get the bacon egg and cheese's probably the best we've ever had...

Frog Hollow: Also in the Ferry Building...delicious coffee, lovely pastries. Make sure you pick up some of their amazing preserves. And not just one jar. You'll be so mad if you get home and it's polished off in a week, and you coulda had another one if you had just committed to it. Grab your breakfast and go sit outside and watch the ferries drop off the commuters, who are rushing to work, and you're not.


La Taqueria in the Mission. I've written about this before. I love it, and I hope you do too. Get the taco carnitas, with avocado. I know I may lose all cred for saying this, but it's also great if you order it with avocado and cheese.

Swan's Oyster Depot: Not an option to miss this place. Make it happen. I used to get the Crab Louis.

Jane: I haven't been, but Amanda Michael who owns it is an old friend who I haven't seen in years, but I know that whatever she would do, would be great. I've read great things about it, and everyone says to go for lunch.

Slanted Door: In the Ferry Building--most people like it for dinner, but I prefer it at lunchtime. I like being at the Ferry Building in the daytime period. Other Ferry Building lunch picks--Taylors has a great burger. Mijita has a delicious taco.

Woodwards' Garden: If we have a flight that gets us into SF around the dinner hour, we will often drive straight to Woodward's Garden, which is in the Mission. When I was a lot younger (it's been open around 18 years) it was only a super special occasion place, but now we feel comfortable enough to come there and let Clara fall asleep on the banquette. The food is very special, as is the wine list, and it is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. It's on a corner, it's consistent, it has a rotary dial phone (not in an ironic way--it's just still there), and it's been putting out the food that everyone loves now, but for 18 years.

Canteen: It's super small, but it's close to Union Square, and that means walking distance. Call ahead because it's so tiny and get's booked up. My brother the chef is so into it and we only went once, and loved it, but I'm recommending it mostly because it's super convenient, and really good.

State Bird Provisions: Jen A told me about this place and couldn't stop talking about it. She said they serve food dim sum style, bringing it around in carts. I bet the girls will LOVE it.

Locanda: I haven't been, but Matt was there last week, and loved it. It's in the Mission.

Mission Chinese: Another one I've just heard great things about, but haven't been to.

If you find yourself getting towards the Pacific Ocean, and you're way out in the Sunset you've gone through Golden Gate Park, rowed a boat on Stowe Lake, and checked out the bison...maybe stopped in to the Japanese Gardens, and the deYoung Museum...I mean...Golden Gate Park could take up a whole day. But if you're speeding through...and want to see the Pacific...and just as you're almost there, you're dying for lunch. There's a cute neighborhood called "Outerlands". There's a restaurant called that, a cute little coffee shop, and a nice store you would like called The General Store. Then you're at the beach. From there take a right on Ocean Highway and stop at Louis' for a bit to eat. Or just to look at the view of the Sutro Baths. I went here when I was a kid, and from the recent reviews, I can't tell if people love it for the nostalgia, or if it is still great. There's also a Camera Obscura right near there and that might be interesting for the girls.

The Golden Gate Bridge: If the girls haven't been to SF yet, then of course you have to go over the bridge, and I think you also have to take them to the Redwoods in Muir Woods. One of my favorite beaches in the world is Muir Beach. If you can fit this in, I will give you ideas about where to eat on that trip.

Green Apple Books: This is really a luxury (as in, you've covered so much ground) if you made it here--it's so off the beaten path--lots of great Asian restaurants around. I think it's one of my favorite bookstores ever. Lots of used books, discounted new books. Great notebooks. You could do this on your way to Golden Gate Park, or the bridge.

Japantown: If it's super rainy, and you need indoor ideas, check out Japantown. Great shopping and food.

Fillmore Street: This is one street that has a lot of food and shopping and coffee options. I like this spot called International Orange, that is a yoga studio, and also a spa, but carries really clever beauty lines. But I think my favorite store is a housewares one called Nest. I haven't been in a while so you'll give me an update if you go...I hope it's still great.

Hayes Valley: I didn't go last fall when I was there, so I don't have current info...but it was a very cute area to walk around when I was there the year before.

Unionmade: For Andy--this is the best guy store in the city. It's where the best of USA made meets the best of the Japanese. Plus nice man products and magazines. It's in the Castro. We had fun walking backwards up the steep streets to our car.

March: For Jenny--this is the most inspiring kitchen store ever. The girls and Andy can walk around the nice Pacific Heights neighborhood while you take it all in.

Remember to bring layers--ideally light-weight ones that you can keep with you throughout the day, because sometimes it's hot and sunny in downtown, but then you head out to Golden Gate Park, and it's a 10 degree difference, and it's super foggy. A light sweater, windbreaker, and a light scarf for you and the girls will make you very happy, if you have typical SF summer weather.

Saturday is the best farmer's market day at the Ferry Building, but be prepared for tons of people. It's so beautiful, but also can be annoying, since you aren't able to buy any of the gorgeous produce. My brother says the Primavera taco/tamale stand is his favorite.

You could take the N Judah and stop at Carl Street, which is Cole Valley, above the Haight, and it is the cutest neighborhood. I used to live there when I was in college. You could have a nice treat at the bakery on Parnassus and Cole. Then if you continued on the N Judah, you could take it all the way out to the beach, and the Outerlands area I talked about above. That's if you don't rent a car.

Depending on what time your flight is on the return, or what time you land, there's an In-N-Out Burger just one exit below the airport. It's the Millbrae exit. Cheeseburger, animal style. Fries aren't really worth it.


  1. heading to san fran from australia in a month. Thank you in advance!

  2. Your list was wonderful -- especially going to plow for breakfast.

  3. My family and I are heading to SF next week -- I'd love to hear your suggestions as to where to eat near Muir Woods, if you have a moment. Thanks so much!

  4. The Nicks Family is headed to SF tomorrow and is looking forward to following your wonderful advice! Any Chinatown favorites?
    Thank You Yo!!