As you may know, my husband and I recently set off on a roadtrip around America for just under three weeks, and our first stop was San Francisco. I’d never been to the city before but had heard rave reviews from friends, so I was super excited to get there and start exploring.
San Francisco is relatively small compared to somewhere like New York, and each neighbourhood has its own charms (except apparently Tenderloin, we had plenty of advice to give that a wide berth). As a blogger and foodie, I was keen to get under the skin of the city by exploring its food scene and different cuisines and influences. Here’s a flavour of where we went and what we got up to.
Food truck heaven at Senor Sisig
San Francisco has a massive food truck culture and following, and I’d read heaps about it in my guide books. After watching an episode of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives where Guy Fieri hyped up the Filipino fusion cuisine from Senor Sisig in San Fran, it became my mission to find this food truck. I was uber-excited when I found out they would be pulling up around the corner from our hotel while we were there.
After dreaming about my visit I was akin to a kid in a sweet store as I waited in line. We ordered a huge lunch just so we could try different things – the tacos, the burrito and nachos all with pork. It was undoubtedly worth my two-month mouthwatering wait. Stand out for me was the taco; the pork was juicy and smokey, perfectly complemented but not overpowered by the spice, and the coriander (it’s called cilantro in the US) cream sauce was heavenly. I would single-handedly fund their expansion to the UK just so I could eat their food again and again.
Fresh and flavourful at Catch
After stopping to rehydrate (well, have a cocktail) at a bar in the Castro, we got chatting to a very helpful local who recommended neighbourhood restaurant Catch. As suggested in its name, the restaurant specialises in fresh fish and had an impressive menu to choose from.
We tucked straight in with an oyster, which neither of us had tried before. While I thought it was delicious, sadly I won’t be trying them again as I had an allergic reaction! My tongue felt like it had pins and needles and my lips became swollen. Fortunately it was only very mild, but it means the end of my short-lived love affair with this delicacy of the sea.
The menu was inventive yet not overly-fussy. The starter was particularly stand-out, partnering artichoke with crab in a tempura batter. The batter was light and crispy without a trace of oil, and there was a hearty amount of crab alongside the fresh and savoury-sweet artichoke.
The complimentary sourdough bread was also very moreish and I must also give a nod their impressive wine list. I was particularly delighted to find they had my favourite New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Kim Crawford, which matched the fish beautifully.
Chow in Chinatown
San Francisco claims to have the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Strolling around a network of seemingly endless streets and alleys it certainly seemed vast, although our jetlag may also contributed to our inability to navigate our way around. With our tummies rumbling louder than the clattering street-cars San Fran is famed for, we happened upon the Hunan House and decided to give it a go.
The service was chaotic and very abrupt but the food arrived quickly, was plentiful and packed full of flavour. We tried a selection of dishes including king prawns with garlic, sesame chicken and beef with chillis. The noodles with garlic and chilli were excellent; a huge portion of egg noodles with just enough kick to make you sweat a little.
It was certainly noticeable that the food in Chinatown is representative of mainland China. The dumplings we had were actually jowser, which my husband can attest to as he spent several weeks in China. They weren’t as I anticipated light, steamed dumplings which are commonplace in Canton and Hong Kong, but were instead very heavy and oily, and I must say not to my taste.
The menu was also a giveaway as there were some more abstract ingredients including frog, intestines, and various other parts of the anatomy that don’t sound overly appetising. And the name of the restaurant, Hunan House is a big clue, as Hunan province is in mainland China. From what I understand the food we have in the UK is largely Cantonese, so it was an interesting insight to try food from a different region of China.
It was a nice touch that complimentary Chinese tea was given with the meal and the table had a built in hot plate to keep your food warm. If you don’t manage to finish the enormous portions, they will give you takeaway boxes so you can indulge again the following day.
Other San Fran must-tries
Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl is ubiqutious with San Fran. There are plenty of places to find it down at Fisherman’s Wharf, and I assume across the city as well. Personally we thought Fisherman’s Wharf itself was far too crowded and quite tacky, but there’s no denying that you will find some decent food options down there.
As well as trying out the restaurants in Chinatown, be sure to take a detour to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Supposedly the birthplace of the Fortune Cookie, you can buy chocolate and vanilla cookies for just a couple of dollars. The cookies are sweet and crisp, and the fortunes inside are endearing.