I was lucky enough to spend an extended weekend in the Bay area. The trip's activities consisted primarily of:
- walking (thank God!)
- rolling (katamari, that is. have you seen this amazingness?)
Ah, good times indeed. My travels took me to Oakland, Berkeley, San Rafael (with a special field trip to the Skywalker Ranch), and of course, the windy city itself (San Francisco, not Chicago. But it was really windy. Reeeally windy.). This, for the most part, was not a taco-stand, hole-in-the-wall trip. We went large. I did pretty well. Which means I have much to share and recommend.
I'll just cover San Francisco in this post, because there is just so much and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, and save the rest for a subsequent post.
But, my first recommendation spans all areas of the Bay, and is not food-related. Its name is Fernando and Greg. They are the morning show on the area's dance station, and among gossip, cattiness, and raunch, they manage to fit in social commentary as well, helping the medicine go down with a spoonful of glitter.
On to the foods.
Delfina. Finally made it to the restaurant where a friend's brother, Matt Gandin, is the sous-chef, and wow, what a treat. The ambiance: casual, hip, local (to the Mission). The food: seasonal Italian, with the menu changing daily. Everything was delicious, from the light, fresh gravlax with radishes, fennel, and cucumbers, to the ridiculously decadent bread salad (a simple side exalted a lot!), to the homemade bucatini with fava beans and guanciale, to the roast duck with farro and kumquats, to the rhubarb crostata, to ... (I could go on and on. Really, everything we ate was delicious.). 3621 18th St. between Dolores and Guerrero.
Tartine Bakery. Down the block from Delfina is the classic local cafe, elevated. Subtle Parisy decor, tattooed hipsters behind the counter and espresso bar, not to mention at the tables, but true to its NorCal sensibilities, after you've scarfed down fresh berry bread pudding, gorgeous pastries, renowned croques monsieur, or impossibly flaky croissants, you bus your own table, straight to the kitchen. 600 Guerrero St. at 18th.
Canteen. So a guy works as a chef at a well-thought-of restaurant in town. But all he really wants to do is open a diner. It's tiny -- only about 4 booths and a few counter spots. The decor is modern, funky, and sparse, as is the service -- when we were there for breakfast, a single sprightly woman played hostess, busboy, and waitress. Salmon omelet was nice; corned beef hash was huge chunks of beef and potatoes under poached eggs. 817 Sutter St. at Jones.
Magnolia Pub. Although the focus at this thoughtful brewpub is on the beers brewed in the basement, the food is not an afterthought -- pretty much everything we tried was fresh and tasty, from the hottest wings ever, to salmon cakes, onion rings, and pressed sandwiches. Magnolia is keenly aware of the Haight's history, and pays subtle and tactful homage to the area's Dead- and Phish-head sensibilities in the bustling eatery's decor.
Ferry Building. This place is kind of a dream world for food people. It's pretty much a long stretch of shop after shop of gourmet goodies -- olive oils, dainty baked goods, exotic mushrooms (have you ever heard of a lion's mane mushroom? or a pink oyster? wowee), chocolates, cheeses (from the Cowgirl Creamery), and on and on. Then outside is a fantastic farmers' market -- produce, yes, but also sausages, fresh Hog Island oysters, and more. All right on the waterfront. On the Embarcadero at Market.
Rose's Cafe. This place should be the local hang, but the prices seem prohibitive to being a regular. But then, in the ritzy Cow Hollow neighborhood in the Marina, it works. For Sunday brunch, sit at one of the sidewalk tables, enjoy the prime peoplewatching and perfect Paris cafe ambiance (authentic unhurried service included), and try the chicken-tarragon sausage with polenta and poached eggs. Also it should be noted that this is the same Rose as Rose Pistola in North Beach -- an awesome Italian restaurant with fantastic casual ambiance, and a chocolate cake that once brought tears to the eyes of my fellow diner. 2298 Union at Steiner.
Mauna Loa. Quintessentially what a dive bar should be. On a row of mostly post-frat bars, this place was friendly (perhaps it helped that I came with a regular) and posturing-free. There are games in the back (pool, basketball, etc.) if you're into that kind of thing, and Kirk, the proprietor, knows everything there is to know about the city, so you'll come out of the bar with two new tips that will make your life easier each time you go there. 3009 Fillmore St. at Union.
Phew, I'm full!