Foodie’s Guide to San Francisco

San Francisco is a top tourist destination for many reasons. Every year, the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, the haunting Alcatraz Island, the kitschy Fisherman’s Wharf, and the stunning San Francisco Botanical Garden inside Golden Gate Park draw millions of tourists. The city’s attractions are nothing short of amazing, but as every foodie knows, the best reason to visit San Francisco is the grub.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s what famous New York chefs and foodies think of San Francisco’s most delicious tourist attractions.

Foodie Guide to San Francisco

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay is a TV chef and restaurateur best known for his barbecue and his willingness to throwdown with the country’s most famous restaurant chefs. When he visited Papalote in San Francisco, he was amazed by their burrito, and their roasted tomato salsa in particular. He threw down against them and lost, proclaiming their burrito and original house salsa the best around.

Visiting this local eatery is a must, but you can also get some of their famous roasted tomato salsa, along with other treats from famous local chefs, to use on anything and everything you prepare at home.

David Chang

While Chang, the genius behind Momofuku, somewhat famously called BS on San Francisco’s food scene at the NYC Wine & Food Festival, he is a fan of the city’s own Benu. Run by Cory Lee (formerly of French Laundry) Benu, serves a set tasting menu that is quite pricey. It may be worth the money, though, as The New York Times named Benu one of “Ten Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride.”

Foodie Guide to San Francisco: Handcrafted chocolate on Benu's Tasting Menu
Handcrafted chocolate on Benu’s Tasting Menu: Photo on Flickr by Pixelboy H28 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rachael Ray

Rachael is a well-known TV chef who’s managed to make an entire brand out of her quirky personality and practical approach to cooking. She’s visited San Francisco on both of her travel shows, “$40 a Day,” and “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels.”

One of her favorites is the local eatery Chow. Their organic market and bakery along with fresh daily offerings at their food bar are a quintessential San Francisco experience.

One of Rachael’s more interesting finds was Brainwash Cafe and Laundry (that’s right, a café, inside of a laundry mat.) Their eclectic menu has something for everyone, but if you’re all caught up on laundry, you can always make their flat iron chicken sandwich at home.
Ray is also a fan of the city’s thriving Asian cuisine scene, and she recommends the classic Chinese fare at House of Nanking, the imaginative Thai dishes at Thep Phanom, and the affordable yet delicious menu at Oriental Pearl.

Foodie Guide to San Francisco: Thai Tapas Chicken Rolls, Thep Phanom
Thai Tapas Chicken Rolls, Thep Phanom: Photo on Flickr by Lynn Friedman / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Anthony Bourdain

Renowned chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain has visited San Francisco several times, and patronized countless restaurants along the way. He’s had nothing but good things to say about the food scene in Frisco, and some of his favorite restaurants are sure to become yours as well.

It’s a well-known fact that Swan Oyster Depot is the place for fresh seafood in San Francisco, and Bourdain agrees. But, if you’d like a chance to indulge in their amazing fare, you’d better follow Bourdain’s advice: “Get there early, there’s always a line.”

According to Bourdain, House of Prime Rib is one of the best places in the world to get a giant slab of meat (and get sloshed on martinis.) They do one thing, and they do it well: high quality, corn-fed beef, carved at your table in a variety of cuts (depending on your appetite,) as well as your choice of delicious, homey sides. I personally recommend the Yorkshire pudding and the creamed spinach.

If you’re interested in something a little different, follow Bourdain’s footsteps down to Tadich Grill and try the Hangtown Fry (a massive omelet with bacon and oysters.) You can also sate your sweet tooth “A Cook’s Tour” style at Polly Ann Ice Cream. Their rotating variety of unusual flavors will definitely pique your interest.

Foodie Guide to San Francisco: Poly Ann Icecream
Poly Ann Icecream: Photo on Yelp by Lindy P

If you’re in the mood for a burger, he recommends the basic cheeseburger made Friscan by its sourdough bun from Red’s Java House, or “The Anthony Bourdain Special” (a double cheeseburger with fries and a beer) from Sam’s Pizza and Hamburgers.

Enjoy, Foodies!

San Franciscans are definitely passionate about their food, and that rings true on every street corner and wharf, from the most informal eateries to the haughtiest of establishments. Frisco is hands-down one of the best food destinations, and I hope you enjoy snacking, scarfing, and gouging your way through San Francisco as much as I (and these famous foodies) did.

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