Eat San Francisco in Two Days

Beignet Flight from Brenda's French Soul Food

In the past month, I had 3 different out-of-town visitors who came and asked of me one thing: “Pailin, take me to the best place to eat in San Francisco.”

This is more difficult than one might think…because one of two things will happen: 1. I blank out (I am usually full of restaurant ideas until someone asks me for one), or 2. I have a million suggestions and I can’t decide. So to prevent either of the above from happening, I decided to write a little piece listing some of the places I think one should visit when in Frisco. I planned it out so that they’re all in San Francisco proper, and i added also some public transportation tidbits.

So say you’re here for a weekend.


Breakfast: Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market

Take BART to the Embarcadero station and visit the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and witness agricultural products and artisanal foods Northern California has to offer. Find some inner foodist power to eat everything you possibly can at the market, and go crazy with fruit stand’s offerings of little tasters. Stop for Blue Bottle Coffee and get coffee brewed cup-by-cup (the stand outside usually has a shorter line than the one inside the building.) Enjoy some bluegrass music and give them some change, then walk along the waterfront and breathe in the ocean’s mist while you try to make room for more food.

Lunch: Zen Yai

Located in the not-so-nice part of town, but it’s a hidden treasure. Go here for one thing. Boat Noodles. It’s not on the menu, and only Thai people know about it (until now….). It’s a miniature pho, at 2.50 a bowl, you might need several. The dark and intense beef broth thickened with blood is exactly the same as the ones in Thailand. They’re called Boat Noodles, translated literally from Thai, because they used to be sold on boats at floating markets, so the small portions are to prevent spillage on a wobbling boat. Choose your type of noodles, I usually get, “Sen Lek” or small noodles, but you can choose “Sen Yai” or large flat noodles. They probably have other types but I never get them. You can get other things too, if you want, but I go for just the one thing and the Thai Iced Tea or Thai Iced Coffee.

Afternoon: Mission Pie

Take BART to 24th and Mission St. A heart-warming little place. Mission Pie not only serves one of the BEST pies I’ve had from a culinary stand point, but it’s also a social project. Mission Pie collaborates with youth advocacy organizations to provide positive work environment for at-risk youth of San Francisco. It’s incredibly endearing to see rough-around-the-edges teens with tattoos and piercing slicing a piece of walnut pie for you. If you work in the food industry, there is what I call the “Wheel of Coffee Fortune” where each section of the wheel corresponds to a profession in the industry. The wheel is spun daily, and if it falls on your profession, you get free coffee for the day. I go here twice a week.

Dinner: La Ciccia

Italian like you’ve never had before. Refer to Ben’s article.


Breakfast: Brenda’s French Soul Food

Louisiana cuisine. Go as early as you can to avoid the long wait, which one can argue it’s worth it. Get some warm beignets, and if you decide to forego the beignet sampler platter, choose the crawfish one. Whatever you do, make sure you get their Cream Biscuit. Easily the best I’ve had. Watermelon iced tea is awesome, and so is the iconic “Cafe du Monde Coffee and Chicory” in the yellow tins. Oyster Po’Boys are apparently awesome, although I haven’t tried it myself. It’s walking distance from Civic Center BART station.

After Brenda’s you’re going to be extremely stuffed, so you might want to insert a calorie-burning activity here.

Lunch: Poc Chuc

When in San Francisco, eat like Mexicans do. A large Mexican population has blessed us with millions of Mexican eateries, but the gems are hard to find in the mud, but I found one. Take BART to 16th St and Mission, and walk to Poc Chuc. This unpretentious Mayan cuisine has only been in my stomach one time about two years ago. And I still dream about it. A Mayan friend of mine took me there and my idea of Mexican food was forever changed. Light and spicy, it’s a refreshing followup to Brenda’s animal-fat-laden breakfast.

Afternoon: Tartine and Four Barrel Coffee

So now that you’re in the area, walk over to Tartine at around 4:45, and line up for the bread. Call to order the bread 3 days in advance if you want to avoid the line. If you get nothing else, get the bread and the Morning Bun (although there’s a good chance they’re gone by then.) Refer to my previous article for details. Tartine serves Four Barrel Coffee, which is one of the local’s favorites, but you can walk over to the shop a few blocks away and get it from the origin.

Dinner: Tanpopo

An Asian fare is missing from this list. After getting your 3-lb-loaf of bread, sipping coffee and experiencing the culture of the Mission, get on bus number 22 on 16th St, and take it to Japantown. Get off on Geary and go to Tanpopo for the best ramen I’ve yet had. Located in the little courtyard in Japan Center, the place is full of Japanese early twenties who are watching Japanese game shows playing on the TV above the bar. The ramen here is awesome, and my favorite is Kyushu Ramen, although my brother’s is Shio Ramen. Although their other dishes served with rice is awesome too, if you’re not in a noodle mood.

That’s all, please add to the list if you know of others!!


One Response to “Eat San Francisco in Two Days”

  1. Posted on May 23rd, 2011

    this is great! we’re headed to SFO for a couple of days this summer so will totally be checking out your recos, thanks!

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