As a long-term traveler, forever bouncing around the world, it can sometimes be hard to find time to appreciate a real fine dining experience. Over the years, due to convenience and cost, I’ve learned to replace leisurely restaurant outings and fancy cocktails bars for chowing down on the side of the road with some $1.50 Pad Thai in Thailand, or drinking homemade rum and cokes in Cuba.
And while I’m all for those types of experiences, after spending some time exploring the San Francisco Bay Area culinary scene, I’m once again reminded that there’s a clear difference between good food, and a really great dining experience. Not only is the food incredible, but you also get the whole restaurant atmosphere, which is creatively derived from the passion of the talented chefs sweating away in the kitchen.
After bulging my belly, eating and drinking my way around San Francisco, here’s my take on some of the Bay Area’s top spots to check out for traveling foodies and locals alike.
Best Sweets in San Francisco
Tucked away on the third floor of Macy’s Union Square Store, Tout Sweet patisserie is a spot that should not be missed for anyone with a sweet tooth. Rich malted double chocolate tarts, butterscotch puddings, zesty lemon tarts, cookies, nine choices of delicious macarons and many many delectable desserts line their menu.
With a plethora of selections, you’re guaranteed to find something that satisfies your sugary needs. Or if you’re like me you might find a dozen things you enjoy amongst the creative variety. You could easily spend a morning brunch in here sipping fresh coffee and making your way through the menu, but if you’ve got a big day of eating grab some to go and don’t fill up too much.
Led by the passionate Yigit Pura, he’s not only an enthusiast for great sweets, he’s also an ardent advocate of human rights and using his public profile to help raise awareness for a range of fantastic social causes. It’s always great to see people leveraging their ability to make a difference in the world, as well as crafting up some masterful desserts of course.
San Francisco Food Tours in Little Italy
Taking a walk througj North Beach kind of feels like stepping into a genuine slice of Italy. And while we’re speaking of slices, its here, among many things, that you’ll find some of the best pizza in all of San Francisco.
Conveniently located all within walking distance, North Beach has everything you need if you’re into classic Italian cuisine. From old school salami delis, authentic pizza places, freshly creamed cannoli and traditional Italian restaurants lined with old black and white photos of yesteryears.
Pop past the Cigar Bar (named for its original use) and grab a fresh pressed focaccia and be sure to visit athen old style deli (established in 1982) for an array of cheeses and meats.
If you’re running short on time and want to hit all the best places, check out SF Food Tours, who run fun culinary food tours in San Francisco. For only $59 the tours runs for over three hours and includes samples from all the spots you stop off at. You’ll get your money’s worth in samples, as well as a great history lesson about the area.
Everything about the North Beach food scene screams ‘EAT’, so have a light breakfast if you’re planning on taking it all in within one day. Either that or wear your sweat pants and be prepared to bulge after that third or forth slice of original Neapolitan pizza.
Huge Selection of Authentic Restaurants
One of my favorite things about the Bay Area is the rich diversity in culture and food. Flavors come together from all around the world to bring classic dishes with modern twists. And with well established Chinese and Mexican communities in San Francisco, it’s no surprise that the Bay Area has some incredible choices for their respective cuisines.
For my Cali Mex cravings I’m generally pretty content with heading into the Mission to get my super veggie burrito fix, but after eating at Mijita’s I might have to change up my selection a little more often. The food is fresh, delicious and really brought me back to our days cruising around Mexico, drinking beers on the beach and eating amazing street food. Headed by famous chef Traci Des Jardins, Mijita’s mixes classic Mexican streets food with special regional dishes to bring out the best of Mexican cuisine. The margaritas are awesome spot on and work a treat to wash down those cheesy quesadillas.
As well as Mexican, San Francisco also has a number of amazing Chinese restaurants. Sure you can head into China Town to grab some authentic grub, but if you’re looking for some extra special Chinese dining be sure to check out M.Y China, ran by award winning chef and TV host Martin Yan. With his team of master chefs, they serve a delicious modern spin on some authentic Chinese dishes. The atmosphere in the restaurant is energetic as steaming hot dishes come out of the kitchen and onto the plate, ready to be devoured by eager customers.
After Dinner Drinks in San Francisco
If there’s one thing I know about San Francisco, it’s that there’s no shortage of places to get your drink on. Every time I make it to the city I’m amazed at the masses of fancy cocktail lounges, grungy dive bars and everything in between. San Francisco has a unique nightlife scene that changes depending on the area, so do your research and work out what sort of night you’re looking for. If you want to sing 80s power ballads, over cheap drinks and the occasional topless man, then head towards the Castro. If you’re looking for a bit of everything try SoMa or the Mission.
Located on the fifth floor of the beautiful Hotel Zelos, within the vibrant SOMA district, you’ll find a funky little bar called Dirty Habit. If you think the atmosphere is good, you should try the cocktails! With an extensively creative menu, you’ll find everything you need for either a quiet nightcap, or a busy night on the town. Feel like getting everyone in the mood? Split a ‘Break the Bank’, a HUGE bowl full of Larceny bourbon, mint tea, ginger, lemon and prosecco.
If you’re feeling a little more active, and perhaps a little nostalgic, then check out Brewcade on Market St. It’s basically the amalgamation of two massive passions of mine: old school arcade games and craft beer. I mean seriously, whoever created this place is an absolute genius. Hit the bar to grab a nice hoppy IPA, slot some coins into Marvel vs. Capcom, select Ryu and Wolverine… and enjoy!
Thanks to Visit California for giving me the opportunity to check out San Francisco’s delicious culinary scene… and for an extra 5 pounds!