Favorite Bay Area Eats
posted by Stephanie in Indulgences
Both Vicki and I have been coming to the Bay Area not as tourists but almost like an extended home. To take the words of Tony Bennett, we both have a couple of hearts left in the city. My sister has been living there for close to 20 years and whenever I can I’d make my way there to spend time with her with no particular itinerary except to hang… and shop of course! That means that when I do go, I’m not in full discovery mode, scoping out the best new places to eat or new bars… I usually go for oldies but goodies, comfort food and easy. Vicki has been a little been more adventurous than me trying out new places mostly around the city and in the northern Bay area.
Here is our combined list of perhaps not the best eats, but most definitely our favorites around the Bay Area!
Love and Light, Stephanie
Naked Lobster Rolls at the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City – succulent and plump lobster meat with a melted butter sauce and crisp fries, the perfect easy lunch!
Fish and Chips and Homemade Clam Chowder at Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay – the joint feels like a scene from the 1950’s complete with the printed plastic tablecloths. Loved everything including their steamed mussels but the fluffy fish and chips and classic chowder are excellent!
Roli Roti Porchetta Sandwich at the SF Market in the Ferry Building – crisp crackling over juicy roast pork and peppery fresh arugula in a soft and chewy ciabatta bun. Heaven. But heaven is only attainable Saturday Mornings… Read more here.
Crab Cakes with Fennel Slaw at C Restaurant and Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel in Monterey – bypass all the touristy or fast food joints and enjoy the beautiful view and excellent food with a glass of cold Napa Pinot Grigio. (This was one of my best restaurant experiences on my last trip to the Bay Area, we had just spent the morning exploring the aquarium with the kids and had been eating pretty much easy fast food for the past days. We entered into a haven of calm. Even my usually rowdy nephews quieted down in the formal setting. We all sat to white tablecloths eating delicious un-pretentious food like fish tacos and one of the best ever crab cakes of my life. When I had that sip of cold white wine looking out at the sea after a great meal where everyone ate well including my 10 month old baby and my nephews tried broccoli… angels were literally singing!)
Kumamoto Oysters at the SF Market in the Ferry Building – I am such a die-hard French fines de claires fan it’s difficult to sway me but these Pacific oysters are tiny gorgeous gems! So easy to eat! To learn more about them read a past post of mine singing the praises of these beauties! Read more here.
The Local Celebs – San Francisco has its local roster of celebrity chefs so if you’re feeling fancy don’t forget to stop by Michael Mina and Gary Danko. Both equally great service and excellent food! I love how Michael Mina has some Asian flavors and tends to be a little lighter and more creative. On the flipside Gary Danko is more outright classic and has an excellent wine list and sommelier! The Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon I had there was so amazing I dedicated a whole post to it here.
The Slow Food Experience at Chez Panisse in Berkeley – founded by the legendary Alice Waters the menu at Chez Panisse changes daily and relies on what produce is best that day. I had the most incredible roast chicken, falling off the bone and succulent and finished the meal with a divine burnt apricot tart. I love the bistro setting with the open kitchen’s gorgeous wood fire oven ablaze with intoxicating kitchen scents. Everything here is warm and rustic right down to the old school copper pots and pans. Such a treat!
In-N-Out Cheeseburger – the no fuss menu, the clean tasting fries and that super simple perfect burger with crisp lettuce and fresh tomatoes. I always have this when I’m in California and I love all the sneaky little uplifting Bible verses in the packaging. Above all, I find it just great that the only choices you really have to make if you’re just hungry or really hungry! In that case – Double-Double!
Let me begin by saying that I wouldn’t have been able to eat at several of these San Francisco restaurants without the guidance of very good local tour guides aka friends who are also fellow foodies! Of course, because eating at new places is always on my itinerary when traveling, I like to sleuth and sometimes request to visit a restaurant based on other people’s recos or because I read about it somewhere. That being said, there is good fun in not being the planner and instead brought somewhere by locals who go there on a usual basis – they are a part of their neighborhood; they know the food is good; the vibe is eclectic and so it may not be a Michelin star but definitely good times and good eats are had here. Big thank you to Lori and Mike for always making the time to see me and plan something special; to Lorence for just being the fab person that he is and letting me sneak a peek at the fabulous GSAA life, my sister Margie who has to have certain food when she visits her old stomping ground – and thus I must try it, too – and of course to my Jo who makes even a trip to Applebee’s or even an Olive Garden feel special.
Tartine Bakery, Mission District – come for breakfast or for a light lunch of hot pressed sandwiches, but be willing to wait awhile as this place gets pretty packed. I came in the afternoon on a full stomach, not only to avoid the line but to keep my wits about me when regarding the pastry selection. Try the die-for eclair with its vanilla cream pastry and a Valrhona chocolate glaze.
Delfina, Mission District – for that neighborhood trattoria vibe, go to Delfina that serves northern Italian cuisine. Just passing by the restaurant during dinner time makes one wish that they too were lucky enough to get a reservation. I was lucky to catch fellow gypsetter and friend Lori and her boyfriend Mike, in town fresh from their Swiss travels, and funnily enough they both booked a table, so we had two reservations! Delfina has a curated menu of antipasti, pasta choices and main courses, as well as seasonal side dishes good for sharing. I tried their homemade pasta which was quite hearty with a shape similar to penne. Mike ordered the special, a fish served whole. Go as a group and share a lot of little dishes.
Foreign Cinema, Mission District – with all the cookie-cutter “global” restaurants mushrooming around the world, it’s a treat to dine in a unique restaurant concept like Foreign Cinema. It has an exterior mistakable for a vintage movie house ala Cinema Paradiso and its interiors include a red carpet walk, an outdoor dining terrace where foreign movies are projected on the wall and moody lighting. The drinks list is inventive. Start with something from their fresh oyster bar. The California/ Mediterranean menu is colorful and interesting – it was hard to choose just one dish.
Souvla in Hayes Valley – there were so many little cafes in the area I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat. Rather than checking reviews on Yelp I gravitated to Souvla the old fashioned way— looking at its interiors and noticing the long line out the door! Owned by a Greek man, most likely the one behind the counter, Souvla has a simple menu of either salads or wrap versions together with a choice of assorted souvlaki meats such as lamb, chicken or beef. Served in stainless steel bowls, the food is delicious, tasty and healthy with a big portion of greens. Imported Greek soda and soft serve frozen yogurt with honey complete the meal.
Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club, Sunset District – I definitely went looking for Trouble after reading about it online in Pacific Standard here. Did you know there’s an artisanal toast craze sweeping San Francisco where foodies pay US$5 for a piece of toast? What’s the big deal, you might say. Well, I wanted to find out. So I ordered the cinnamon toast and black coffee from this very non-descript coffee venue with only outdoor seating on a piece of driftwood, wondering if it was worth my while. It was the best cinnamon toast I’ve ever eaten in this world. Just trust me. You’ll like the story behind the coconuts, too.
Cliff House, Ocean Beach – to get a historical feel of San Francisco visit the Cliff House. Originally built in 1863, the Cliff House was a venue for the affluent to come and dine while enjoying the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Today, it has been renovated to showcase its neoclassical design and continues to celebrate its rich history as part of the San Francisco Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Aside from the gorgeous views of the beach and ocean below, Cliff House is a lovely spot for brunch, serving the usual items aside from classics like clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, Dungeness crab cakes and large platters.
La Boulange Bakery, West Portal – West Portal is a charming town that reminds me more of Europe than America, with its little restaurants and boutiques lining each side of the street. It’s only fitting a local boulangerie opened shop here, with a selection of bakery items for take out as well a menu of soups and sandwiches. When I got my pumpkin spice latte, which was as big as my head, I was definitely reminded that I was stateside. They have usual bistro food such as French onion soup, Croque Madame or Monsieur and Nicoise salad but they also have very California dishes, including a seasonal lobster roll. While eating here we spied a lady with a pet piglet, I just had to take her photo.
The Brixton, Union Street, Marina District- Sunday is a perfect day to enjoy a leisurely brunch outdoors and thus The Brixton along Union Street is a perfect location to do so. They have a rock ‘n’ roll vibe with its red walls and assortment of art in black frames on the wall. It was difficult choosing just one item from their extensive brunch menu which includes Carnitas Hash, Chorizo Burrito or Three Eggs Any Style served with chicken apple sausage, but I opted for a Crispix Stuffed French Toast of brioche stuffed with Nutella and bananas then dipped in batter and coated with Crispix cereal. All washed down with a spicy Bloody Mary that could actually pass for a complete meal in itself! I miss Lorence when I think of The Brixton because we were people-watching the locals going to The Giants game while having brunch and he was lamenting the state of fashion in the city and how all the girls wear Lulu Lemon even if they look like they don’t do a bit of yoga. It is definitely a California staple!
The Hog Island Oyster Company, Ferry Building – after eating at several museum cafes and restaurants with kids menus, I was craving for adult food, so a trip to the historic Ferry Building was in order. Luckily the lunch crowd has dissipated so when we approached The Hog Island Oyster Company for a table, we got seated straight away, with a lovely view of the bay outside. We immediately indulged in a dozen of their oysters on the menu. These oysters from Washington were so creamy and sweet we got another 6 more, just for measure. There are small bites for sharing such padron peppers or crispy anchovies. I ordered their version of steamed mussels in mustard, white wine and butter. Each mussel was cooked to perfection and I enjoyed sopping up the delicious broth with warm, freshly made sour dough baguette.
Humphry Slocombe, Ferry Building – after lunch, check out the variety of food stalls inside the Ferry Building. There’s the local renowned third wave Blue Bottle Coffee Company, which has teamed up with Tartine Bakery. I wanted something sweet so we right across the hall was Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream and another crazy line. With both classic and inventive flavors such as butter pecan vs brown sugar fennel, I decided to mix the best of both worlds and try the Blue Bottle Coffee Vietnamese Coffee ice cream. One scoop was so rich and creamy, I could barely finish it.
The Rotunda, Neiman Markus, Union Square – The Rotunda takes the ladies lunch to the next level with its gorgeous interiors meant for watching the fabulous A-lister fashionable set. Located on the top floor of Neiman Marcus, it offers not only a view of the city skyline but also a panoramic 360-view of everyone else in the room. It has an equally chic menu of seasonal bites the feature the freshest ingredients such as a lobster roll with avocado or a sautéed salmon filet. Each dish lists its caloric content, all the better to fit into that Alaia, my dear! Instead of bread, they serve light, airy yummy popovers. It’s a perfect place to dine in and enjoy a glass of rose before you hit the shops and do some serious damage.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.