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San Francisco Eats

So the last 10 days before we moved from San Francisco we tried to eat at our favorite haunts. The food is one of the best things about that city. I get emails all the time from visitors asking where they should eat and it’s high time I did a post about it. Here is my San Francisco Food Bucket List. The starred ones are my absolute favorites.

1. The Sentinel. This place is such a gem. For $8 you can get a gourmet meal. Go for the Corned Beef Sandwich even if you aren’t a huge fan, it’s life changing. It’s in the financial district so its only open Monday-Friday for lunch.

2. Tartine. Go for breakfast. Get the morning buns and something hot to drink make the person you are with try something else like bread pudding. Avoid the sandwiches, the bread hurts your mouth.

(photo by Nicole Gerulat and styled by Jordan Ferney)

3. Pizzeria Delfina*. This is my favorite pizza in the world. Don’t get fancy, just get the Margherita. And get the brussel sprouts if they have them. Heaven. There are two locations. No reservations, just go and wait.

4. Pena Pacha Mama. The food here is great but you go to Pena Pacha Mama for the music. When you call ask what time the music starts and make reservations 30 minutes before. It is a pretty small place and everyone gets up to dance at some point. Super fun, go with friends.

5. Red Door Cafe. There are 6 small tables in this whole quirky place. The owner/waiter is probably the most charming dude you’ve ever met. The food is art and comes like sculptures. It’s a real San Francisco experience. No reservations, just go and wait. Open for Lunch and Brunch.

(photo by me from my phone)

6. Frances*. Oh I love this restaurant. Small. Cozy. Amazing food. Impossible to get in. Show up 15 minutes before it opens and sometimes you can get a seat at the bar. I wish I was friends with the hostess here.

7. Zazie*. Go for brunch, don’t let the line deter you (on the weekends). And flirt with the host–he will hook you up. Also order the Challa French Toast with fruit, or the Gingerbread Pancakes with Lemon Curd and fruit, or the BLT.

8. Boulette’s Larder*. My favorite breakfast place of all time. Everything here is special. It doesn’t get better than this place.

(photo by Tasty Type)

9. Bi Rite Ice Cream. There are other specialty ice cream stores but BiRite is still my favorite. Even if there is a line ask to try a couple kinds. Then buy some. Salted Caramel rules all.

10. Nopa*. Some of the best meals of my life have been eaten here. Impossible to get in at the last minute. You have to get reservations way in advance or show up ten minutes before it opens and sit at the bar.

11. The Ferry Building*. Where do I start with this wonderful place? This topic needs a whole post of its own on how to do it right. I worked on the third floor of the building so I consider myself a mini expert. Go Hungry, bring money, don’t be cheap, ask questions and be in an adventurous and experimental mood. If it is a day the farmers market is running (Tue, Thu, Sat) take some time to go around the booths. Try every sample that is offered to you. Ask the farmers questions. Buy small bags of the things you like. If it’s Thursday try the Tacos from the Tacolicious booth. Then go inside and try the following:
-Salted Caramels from Recchiuti (ask the employee to recommend 1 or 2 other kinds to purchase.)
-Boulette’s Larder ask the shopgirl to recommend some of their custom spice mixes. I love the African salt for Pizza. Do not leave the Ferry Building without buying at least one.
-Stonehouse Olive Oil + McEvoy Olive Oil Don’t be shy and try every single kind. If you love it buy a bottle. I had never tasted real olive oil before these guys.
-Boccalone Ask for recommendations for “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”
-Sidekick Go to the milk bar and try the steamed caramel milk. So good you’ll die.
-Cowgirl Creamery Ask the shop keeper to recommend a few kinds. Try taste tests of several. Then buy some.
-Acme Bread Ask the employee to recommend a few kinds. Buy some. (these guys only accept cash.)
-Miette I like their macarons the best. Buy one for each person in your party.
-Blue Bottle Coffee Best coffee in SF (though I’m not a coffee drinker.) But I have it on all kinds of authority.

(photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day)

Then go out back and have a picnic with all your treasures in front of the Bay Bridge. If it’s crowded walk a block over to Pier 7. Find a bench and eat some really good food.

What are your favorites and what am I missing?

  1. Maya

    February 8, 2011

    What great timing! I'll be in San Francisco for a conference in June and I hope to do some serious food exploration. I'm saving this post!

  2. Patti

    February 8, 2011

    The green papaya salad at Out the Door in the Ferry Building. I still dream about it.

  3. k8

    February 8, 2011

    we stayed in an apt. near the ferry building last month and practically couldn't tear ourselves away to eat anywhere else.

  4. Victoria | vmac+cheese

    February 8, 2011

    It almost pains me to write this (because it's already getting too popular!) but Katana-ya at Geary and Mason. Best ramen you can find in SF proper.

    Completely agree with the Pizzeria Delfina rec. I also love Bistro Aix on Steiner b/t Chestnut and Lombard, and Perbacco, downtown at Front and California.

  5. Sara

    February 8, 2011

    I'm with Maya on the timing! I'll be down there in May with all of the women in my family for a long weekend. The post definitely saves me from having to hunt through past posts for restaurants.

  6. Liz Stanley

    February 8, 2011

    HA! I just had the BLT from Zazie's today. Best BLT EVER!

  7. katia

    February 8, 2011

    you little life saver! i'll be in sf on friday. so looking forward to all the yummies!

  8. Hello Cupcake LLC

    February 8, 2011

    Great list Jordan! These are a few of my SF faves:

    Gamine: Classic French. Go with a group of 8 – 12 and reserve the private area in the back

    Venticello: The freshest home made pasta. They book up quick.

    Luella: The chicken is out of this world. A nice place that is kid friendly on Sunday.

    Calabria Brothers: Their sandwiches are out of this world. They cut it after you order it. Just tell them what type of meat you like then let them go to work. Sandwich masterpieces.

  9. {lovely little things}

    February 8, 2011

    I love this post! You make me want to go to San Francisco tomorrow.

  10. Rachel Hagen

    February 8, 2011

    mmmmm could totally go for some salted carmel ice cream right now. Thanks for the post, there are a few places I need to try. Hope the move is going well!

  11. robin k

    February 8, 2011

    Hungry now!!!

  12. Tanith

    February 8, 2011

    Haha, I just wrote about Delfina in my blog yesterday 😀 The Fillmore district one is closest to where I live, but it's not my favorite spot in that neighborhood – the best is definitely La Mediterrenee just up a block on Fillmore and Sacramento. Best Mediterranean selection in the city. The dinner platter is the best deal for two very hungry people!

  13. ferardandy

    February 8, 2011

    mmmm that boulette's breakfast was the BEST food i've ever had.

  14. Funnelcloud Rachel

    February 8, 2011

    Oh my! I've never been to SF, but I want to go right now! At least we have Cowgirl Creamery in DC!

  15. De Rosa

    February 8, 2011

    I am so glad you just posted this me and the husband are headed there this weekend and will use a lot of your amazing advice thanks so much! I love your blog!

  16. {BlueEyedYonder}

    February 8, 2011

    Oh lady! What a perfect post. We've been to SF several times and always love to try out new places. WIth all these great places, I'm itching to go back. My hubby and I fell in LOVE with the Ferry Building. I believe it was our favorite part of the entire trip. You just can't beat it. We strolled the Saturday market and grabbed lots of goodies for an afternoon picnic – perfection!


    February 8, 2011

    it's funny how we lived there for 2 years, went out to eat frequently, and the ferry building is the only place i'd stopped! oh man, this list is wooing me back there.

    some of our favorites:
    tres agaves
    and of course miette for dessert

  18. L A C E Y

    February 8, 2011

    thank you for this list! my hubbie and i just moved to the bay area and can't wait to explore the city more. we'll definitely try some of these!

  19. tastingsf

    February 9, 2011

    Agree with all your picks. Just had a great brunch at nopa this past weekend. I'd add Range on Valencia, always amazing dinner there. Love sitting at the bar at Spruce, getting a burger there. Bar Tartine for brunch, or if you're willing to cross the bridge, La Note in Berkeley is absolutely amazing. I'll stop before this becomes a novel.

  20. michelle

    February 9, 2011

    one thing missing from the Ferry Building list: the egg sandwich from GG Meat Company. You buy it from the counter outside the store – amazing. Best breakfast egg sandwich ever. A must every time I'm there.

    There's too many favorites to list. A few off the top of my head at 11pm: the veggie deep dish from Little Star, the nuernberger from Rosamunde, the popover rolls (with strawberry butter!) at the Rotunda, wiener schnitzel at Suppenkuche, any pasta from Mona Lisa, thai chicken salad and the french dip from Cafe Venue, butterscotch pot de creme from Town Hall and the cheeseburger from Zuni.

    I can't wait until this baby is out of me so I can start eating again!

    Miss you. XOXO

  21. Lauren O'Neill

    February 9, 2011

    I'm packing my bags! This is excuse enough to jet to SF. Delightful round-up, Jordan—cannot wait to dig in!

    Looking forward to you top eats in Paris 🙂

  22. Savvy in San Francisco

    February 9, 2011

    These are some of my favorite restaurants! One of my other favorite neighborhood restaurants is Frascati! I wrote about it under things I love on my blog. Now my pregnant self needs to go try the corned beef sandwich at The Sentinel – it looks delicious!

  23. jen

    February 9, 2011

    totally agree on tartine, bi-rite, zazie and everything in the ferry building. i just tried sentinel today too! yum!
    i would totally add brunch at mission beach cafe or plow (:

  24. carolyn

    February 9, 2011

    great SF picks! @hello cupcake, love your picks too!
    some of my faves: frascati, presidio social club, range, mama's for brunch, firefly. check them out!

  25. Ashley

    February 9, 2011

    Thank you Thank you for this post! Hubby and I are spending the weekend in the city for an early Valentines and this is the perfect post! Yay to our upcoming weekend full of fabulous food in the city.

  26. Libby

    February 9, 2011

    Bookmarked! Thanks so much for posting this. I'm sure your recommendations are tip top. Now I've just got to get myself back over to San Francisco!

  27. Bridget

    February 9, 2011

    this is great. i need to go to san fran (and may be in november) so i am going to bookmark this!

  28. kimberly/tippytoes

    February 10, 2011

    I've been to the Ferry Building a million times, but I've never had anything from Sidekick. Next time! Thanks!

  29. Sentimental J

    February 13, 2011

    I'm glad you did this!
    I'll definitely use this as my guide next time I'm down at San Fran!!

  30. Anonymous

    February 13, 2011

    What a snooty list! Where's Ike's?!

  31. Seven

    February 13, 2011

    Good timing! I'll be there once the new niece/ nephew arrives in the next week or three.
    I love Little Chihuahua's plantain burrito.

  32. Tea

    February 14, 2011

    I'd add:
    Burma Superstar (tea leaf salad and samusa soup)
    Slanted Door or Out the Door (daikon cakes)
    Contigo in Noe Valley (everything! but especially oxtail stuffed peppers, albondigas, tripe, salads, hot chocolate and churros for dessert).

    I also like My Tofu House on Geary (bibimbop), and a big burrito.

  33. Anonymous

    February 27, 2011

    Roli Roti's porchetta sandwich (saturdays at ferry bldg) — LIFE CHANGING

  34. Ashley

    March 26, 2011

    You forgot!


  35. Anonymous

    March 28, 2011

    Your SF posts always give me the best ideas of what to do when in town. Thanks.


  36. Sally

    April 12, 2011

    I am visiting San Fran early next year!! So excited, making a note of these places.

  37. bijuterii argint

    June 3, 2011

    that tartine looks delicious… yummy… I will look forward to eat some when I will visit San Francisco, in Spring, next year 🙂

    bijuterii argint

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