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August 7, 2015

7 San Francisco Bites You Can Only Appreciate Here

Let’s take a look at some dishes that come from San Francisco, mythical items that almost every visitor has on their checklist. (To be clear, while items like the focaccia at Liguria Bakery and the egg custard tarts from Golden Gate Bakery are superlative and local favorites, those dishes’ origins are not in San Francisco.) And don’t forget: if you want to try an It’s-It, you just need to visit a corner store and nab one on the fly. The question is: vanilla or mint chip?

Dungeness Crab
When local Dungeness crab comes into season (usually around Thanksgiving), you’ll want to hightail it to places like Swan Oyster Depot, Scoma’s, Sam’s Grill and Alioto’s for fresh, local crab. Throughout the rest of the year, it will come in from Oregon, Washington and beyond…still delicious, just not local. Pro tip: while you’re at Swan, be sure to get a pint of Anchor Steam fresh from the tap, another S.F. original!

Hangtown Fry
This is a Gold Rush special of fried oysters and bacon in an omelet, and there are a few places around town that make this wondrous yet artery-clogging dish: Sam’s Grill, Tadich and Brenda’s French Soul Food.

For anyone who loves seafood, this tomato-based fish stew is truly a San Francisco treat (move over, Rice-a-Roni). Its roots are from the Genovese fishermen who used to live here and would create this hodgepodge dish with leftover odds and ends of fish and shellfish at the end of the day. The Lazy Man’s cioppino (with picked crab) at Scoma’s is a classic and Sotto Mare in North Beach makes a good one too.

Sourdough Bread
You’ll find half-loaves of this crusty and tangy bread on many tables in the city (the one at Sam’s Grill is made with a starter as old as the restaurant!). Boudin at Fisherman’s Wharf has a starter that is as old as 1849, and at their handsome Bistro is where you can also get the dish that tourists always associate with S.F. (although you won’t find many locals seeking it out): chowder in a sourdough bowl. You can pick up all kinds of sourdough bread from Acme Bread Company at the Ferry Building Marketplace or head to Tartine Bakery to experience the next generation of locally fermented bread (their country loaf is legendary).

Mission-Style Super Burrito
It’s one of a San Franciscan’s favorite pastimes to argue over who makes the best Mission-style super burrito. One of our favorites includes El Farolito—you’re not a true San Franciscan until you have stood in the line at this no-frills taqueria at Mission and 24th Street after 2 a.m. Taqueria Cancún makes a monster carne asada or al pastor super burrito (even the vegetarian is delicious). The carnitas at La Taqueria are legendary but so is the fact they don’t make their burrito with rice. 

Zuni Chicken (1658 Market St.)
The price may keep rising of this legendary chicken (currently $48, serves two), but its inimitable flavor and sheer deliciousness will not wane. It takes an hour to cook in the brick oven, giving the skin a beautiful blister and sealing the juices inside. The succulent chicken is served with warm bread salad and greens—you just have to decide who gets the dark meat and who gets the white. 

Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista (2765 Hyde St.)
Inspired by an “Irish coffee” served at the Shannon Airport in Ireland, bar owner Jack Koeppler was determined to recreate and engineer a version to serve at his bar in San Francisco. That was back in 1952. Now, the drink’s notoriety has grown so much that they serve around 2,000 a day. When the fog rolls in and you need a pick-me-up, this frothy combination of coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and whipped cream will do the trick.

Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, tablehopper, about the SF dining and drinking scene, get all the latest news at Follow @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram for more SF finds!

Photo: Breville USA / CC by SA

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