Yesterday I had my first paleta in Chicago – spring is officially here! San Francisco is lucky enough to have better weather year-round, and maybe that is the reason it has such a huge artisanal ice cream scene, which we can totally get behind. We wanted to try at least one ice cream shop when here, and Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18TH ST.) came particularly highly recommended. Bi-Rite was an oasis of ice cream in a pretty residential neighborhood of the Mission, and we knew we were in the right place when we saw the red neon sign and the big line!
Bi-Rite Creamery is hoppin
The store itself was tiny, and had a line snaking out the door, even at about 7 pm on a Thursday. Bi-Rite is known for its unusual flavors, and has its list of both classic and seasonal flavors posted outside, so you can think about your choice when you wait. I went with the much-lauded salted caramel and the Blue Bottle coffee flavor with almonds and chocolate chips. The classic flavors of honey lavender and Ricanelas cinnamon cookies were popular, and other tasty seasonal flavors included Creme Brulee, Orange Cardamom and Balsamic Strawberry. You can get your flavors in either a cup or cone and even in sundaes with clever names like the “Dainty Gentleman” which consists or honey lavender, sea salt and blood orange.
The lonely Soft-Serv window
You can also buy a variety of baked goods like rhubarb pie and cupcakes, ice cream cakes, ice cream sandwiches, Bi-Rite gear and pints to take home. There was a separate counter for soft serve, which was, at the time, empty. Later, we come to find out that they were serving buffalo milk soft serve! Maybe next time… There is also a Bi-Rite gourmet/natural food market just a block away, if you can’t get enough artisanal cuteness. We wish we lived closer to Bi-Rite so we could sample all of the flavors, especially a signature sundae.
Bi-Rite Creamery: Salted Caramel and Coffee
Many years ago, I wrote about the Hong Kong Street food – the egg waffle (called gai daan jai in Cantonese). However, I had never really even tried one! The wait is over though – when I visited San Francisco – I was lucky enough to visit a cafe that had an egg waffle machine. The sight of the egg waffle maker in the window stopped me in my tracks, and drew me into the Sweetheart Cafe (909 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108). The waffle maker looked like the kind they often have at American hotels – heavy cast iron, with a handle that closes and flips over the waffle while cooking. There were circular depressions in the egg waffle maker, which eventually made a large sheet of waffle-like dough with spherical bubbles. After a few short minutes, the cook picked off the waffle with chopsticks, rolled it into a tube, and placed in a paper bag. One egg waffle was $4, and you could also get yours topped with chocolate or coconut (I went for the original). The egg waffle was good, and tasted like a light, sweet, airy…. waffle. So ok, it was pretty much what you would expect. It was definitely a fun snack, and easy to rip off an “egg” or two at at time while wandering around Chinatown. Where’s your favorite place to get egg waffles?
Muracci’s (307 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94108) was on our shortlist of places to try in San Francsico for a long time, so when I had a work trip there, I jumped at the chance. We were intrigued by the concept of Japanese curry, a version we had never tried before, despite being extremely well-acquainted with Thai and Indian curries. Legend has it that the dish was introduced to Japan by the British in the 1800s (when India was still a British colony). It is definitely not an elegant or refined dish, and is generally seen as “home cuisine,” and is not commonly available in Chicago Japanese restaurants.
When we went to the counter to order we noticed the large 64-plus gallon vats of curry stacked on the side of the counter, which we took as a good sign. You can order 3 strengths of curry: mild, medium and hot. There were several varieties of meat that could be topped with the ubiquitous crurry – and the chicken katsu ($10.25) and pork tonkatsu ($10.25) seemed to be favorites, though you could also get prawns, salmon, beefs and veggies. I went with the medium-spice chicken katsu, which was a chicken breast, pounded flat and breaded, served with choice of rice, slaw and pickles. Other non-curry options included chicken teriyaki, hot curry noodle soup and homemade mochi.
There is really nowhere to sit in the counter-only postage stamp-sized shop, and they did a brisk trade in takeout. I did particularly enjoy the miniature shrine with a cow they had set up right by the cash register. I took my meal back to the hotel, where I unpacked the little Styrofoam container, which had the curry in a separate tub – which was nice because you could add as much or little as you wanted. The curry was delicious and fragrant, with similar spaces to a mild Korma curry, heavy in garlic and onion. It was a perfect compliment to the juicy boneless fried chicken. This curry was a great, quick filling meal, and a new taste of Japan. We are itching to try some Japanese curry in Chicago, and Time Out found a couple of spots that serve this rarer dish. Another option is to make it at home, using “curry roux” pre-formed blocks, or even from scratch.
One of our members will be in San Francisco for the week, and is very excited to try some new eats. We are ashamed to say that we haven’t been back there since 2010! We are looking forward to some Blue Bottle coffee at the Ferry Building, Burmese food, and maybe the famous burritos at La Taqueria. Do you have any recommendations?
During the World Cup this summer we talked a little about 538’s International Food Association World Cup for the best national cuisine (the winner was Italy, by the way). This time around, the data-hungry minds at 538 have turned their analysis to the best burrito in America. In some ways this seemed like a potentially even more daunting task, given the vast regional differences and preferences for burritos. However, 538 was able to develop a shortlist of 64 finalists, and burrito tester Anna Maria Barry-Jester actually went from coast to coast (and Hawaii) tasting the burritos first-hand. The burritos were ranked on five parameters – Tortilla, Principal filling, Other ingredients, Appearance and Flavor profile – each out of 20, for a best possible score of 100. The results are in, and 538 has selected a winner of the coveted “best burrito” honor: La Taqueria in the Mission district of San Francisco. This was a pretty rigorous study and I commend 538’s thoroughness, for the sports/rankings geeks, check out the bracket view. Do you agree with the results?
Filed under Links, Reviews
The Ferry building is something of a foodie mecca in San Francisco – located on the Embarcadero – it has a farmers market outside and a range of awesome local specialty shops inside. You are definitely spoiled for choice when you get inside with a range of bakeries, butchers, greengrocers and other delicacies. Some of our favorites included Cowgirl Creamery – an amazing cheese shop, Blue Bottle – a coffee roaster and espresso bar, and Miette – a specialty bakery. One caveat – you definitely pay for quality here! Nevertheless, if you are in San Francisco it is a must do, especially for the waterside views when sitting on the back patio. Check out some of our photos below.
2884 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94118
There is a something of a Brazilian enclave in San Francisco, and we found an outpost on Western Geary boulevard in the form of Sunstream Cafe, which was located right next to a Brazilian boutique hawking all manner of colorful beachwear, “Touch of Brazil.” We arrived at Sunstream a little past breakfast time, and still found a crowd noshing on pastries and milkshakes cheering on Brazil in a satellite-fed futebol match (see above). From the pastry case we ordered a Pao de Queijo, unfortunately a little past its prime, perhaps it would have held up better earlier in the morning. Much better was the fresh mango milkshake, which was full of mango flavor but not too cloyingly sweet. Another big seller among the expat crowd seemed to be the bowls of Açai (Açai na Tigela). Taste of Brazil was a good pit stop on the way to further travels, though perhaps not worth a large trek, and also a good place to brush up on Portuguese!
3108 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Of all of the places to get a crepe – the Mission District of San Francisco is probably not the first place that comes to mind. But truth be told we were not really feeling a burrito – so crepes it was. We arrived at Ti Couz just as the rain was about to fall, and were instantly welcomed in by its warm, cozy wooden interior and candlelight.
We have to say, Ti Couz is proud of its Breton heritage! The signs are in Breton, and there are pictures of old Breton ladies in their signature white starched hats (coiffes) everywhere. The menu at Ti Couz is primarily crepes – especially the heartier buckwheat crepes from Brittany. We each, naturally, got crepes – one mushroom with chipotle crème fraiche ($6.25), and the other with cheese ($4.5).
The crepe itself was notable for being a thicker, square buckwheat crepe, native to the region. These aren’t any flimsy paper-thin crepes. Once our orders were taken, we sat back as our crepes were prepared right out front, and arrived at our table, piping-hot in no time flat. The mushroom crepe was delicious and light, while the cheese crepe oozed a blend of mozzarella and gruyere. For those so inclined there is also an ample list of sweet crepes. For an after-meal treat Breton hard cider “cidre” is also sold by the bowl “bol” or pitcher “pichet.” Ti Couz is an eclectic gem in the Mission, perfect for a relaxing lunch when you don’t feel like wolfing down a burrito.
555 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA
The eaters are Italian – so we pretty much avoid Italian food out unless it is something special. We heard that Pollaio’s chicken was indeed special. We headed up to North Beach, a long-standing Italian enclave that borders Chinatown in SF. The signs literally turn from Chinese characters to Italian in the course of one block. The streets are lined with Italian and Italian-American Trattorias and Cafes catering to locals and a fair share of tourists.
We arrived at Pollaio on a Friday night with no reservation (potentially dangerous) – but were welcomed right in. The ambiance is that of a cozy neighborhood cafe, and the service should not have been friendlier. It is truly a mix of Argentine and Italian in there (not surprising since many Argentines have Italian heritage) with Italian advertising and Argentine soccer paraphernalia.
As previously stated, Pollaio specializes in chicken, so we barely had to hesitate with the menu. I suppose you could order other things, but WHY would you?!? We ordered a whole chicken ($13) along with a side order of fries. The chickens, which seemed to account for most of the orders in restaurant, came out of the kitchen quickly. The whole chicken that arrived at our table had an amazing char and a delicious but not overpowering flavor of garlic and oregano. Even the white meat was tender and juicy. These people were truly experts. M and I polished off the entire chicken – save one drumstick. The fries were good, but paled in comparison to the chicken.The entire meal topped only $20, and we were really pleased with our meal. While Pollaio may not be a single menu-item restaurant, it might as well be one since it does this single item so well!
The Eaters are in San Francisco! Looking forward to some delicious eats – and then onto LA for even more culinary adventures.