I had the opportunity to spend the last 9 months working at an architecture firm in san francisco. despite my constant state of poverty, i did manage to get in a few great meals. here are some bay area highlights for you if you are visiting.
truly one of the most beautiful (and expensive) farmers markets i have ever been to. it is located at the ferry building, right on the embarcadero, and open 3 days a week. saturday is the big market day and the area is packed with vendors, food trucks, tourists, and a few locals. my favorite stand (for eats) is the primavera tamale stand. $9 gets you two generous tamales (your choice of flavors), beans, and a small pile of cabbage slaw. eat by on the pier, looking at the bay bridge. other good eats include namo (korean tacos), the roli roti truck, and various bread and pastry stands (like hand pies from the healdsburg downtown bakery.) the fruit and vegetable vendors are wonderful as well and really showcase how productive californian farms are. while very beautiful, the ferry building market is out of my price range so i frequent the civic center market on sundays.
pizza (my heart)
very popular (expect long lines) and reliably tasty neopolitan-ish pies. i guess the equivalent in new york is something like motorino (although i like motorino more than delfina.) here they turn out that sort of “wet” pie with locally sourced ingredients. pizzeria delfina is part of the mission 18th st gourmet ghetto and is located next to delfina, bi-rite market and creamery, a new seafood place ebb and flow, tartine bakery, and of course, the much beloved and hipster playground dolores park.
a very good alternative to the crowded delfina. located a couple blocks away, pauline’s has been around for many years. this is a much more californian style pizza with a lot of seasonal, fresh ingredients and a crisp, cornmeal crust. i really recommend getting one of the special pies of the day; once i had one with quince and thyme and another time i had one with mustard greens. pauline’s also has its own farm and vineyard where they source a lot of their ingredients and make their own pizza red wine (which is tasty and comes in a half bottle portion that is really a half sized bottle!)
this tiny berkeley storefront is a one man operation turning out new york/neopolitan pies. since it is one man making everything, there is going to be a wait and pretty much everyone takes it to go. this is a tremendously satisfying pie that is very much worth the short trek over the bay. just look at that crust bubble!
this is the only place on the list where you can get pizza by the slice and where there is only pizza a day to chose from (all veggie pies.) these are sister operations that offer a heavenly selection of breads, pastries, and cheese in addition to pizza. it is also a worker owned collective which i love supporting.
a short bart ride away in glen park, gialina is another constantly packed, no reservations, neopolitan style pizza operation. it is a cozy neighborhood restaurant and you will most likely have to give them your name and number and take a short walk or wait at a bar. the starters were excellent and could be turned into an entree if desired. the pizza itself was very good although the crust was not as flavorful and not as chewy as some other pies in same style. but the toppings are excellent and locally sourced. i recommend adding an egg to any of the pizzas.
special occasions: for birthdays and parental visits
a newish berkeley restaurant that takes locally sourcing ingredients to the next level. the menu is always 50% vegetarian (with plenty of vegan and gluten free options) and the wine list is all californian (something that you think would be more common in the bay area but is not.) they make sure that everything is sustainably harvested and have a book where you can look at the farms where your food came from. i wanted to eat EVERYTHING on the menu. one of the highlights was the beautifully presented vegan “charcuterie” platter that had 5 or 6 very well prepared vegetables and legumes, from a pressed mushroom pate to a delicate puree of yellow indian woman beans. we also had 2 small plates and a tasty potato pizza along with a bottle of californian tempranillo that went well with everything. highly recommended! very tasty birthday dinner!
an italian small plates wine bar in healdsburg, ca. one of the best things about living in sf was that wine country was so close by (more on that later.) we ordered a slew of small plates, including lupini beans, fresh creamy burrata, and pastas. everything was homemade and quite authentic. like many wine country restaurants, they host a winemaker dinner every week. this was the perfect place to eat after a long day of wine tasting.
i am usually a bit suspicious of hip asian places, but with 15 years behind the slanted door and numerous raves, it was enough for me to try it. i love vietnamese food because of the balance of flavors and freshness and here charles phan really ramped up the traditional dishes into more contemporary fare. as with most other restaurants, the slanted door uses excellent, locally sourced ingredients; the local brown rice was the most flavorful rice i had ever eaten and i promptly picked up a sack at the farmers market after lunch. the bar turns out inventive cocktails and drinks but the lengthy tea list piqued the interest of the group to accompany our early lunch. they also offer quite the raw bar to showcase the fresh seafood of the area. for those who want cooked food, the slanted door offers an extensive menu to satisfy all tastes.