From Shrimp Louis to Dungeness Crab, San Francisco's Touristy Fisherman's Wharf is known for its fresh seafood. But the big sign overlooking the tourist parking lot gives a clue to which is most important sea food here. Both signs feature the distinctive shape of Dungeness crab, one of the treasures of the West Coast fish market, and the symbol of the Golden Gate fishing industry. But for a cheaper version of the Dungeness crabs for locals like me, buy it at Costco where the price is 50 to 75% cheaper than here in touristy Fisherman's Wharf! The Sea Food Stalls here lined Beach Street and beyond and most are branches of the renowned seafood restaurants of the area lioke Alioto's, The Franciscan Restaurant, Fisherman's Grotto, Crab house at Pier 39 and more. The seafood stalls outside although expensive for locals is still cheaper than dining inside the Fisherman's Wharf Restaurants!
Favorite Dish: Dungeness Crabs usually runs from $9.00 per pound to almost $15 per pound, here at the Fisherman's Wharf while in Costco it is just $ 5.99 a pound). Eating Dungeness Crabs here at the Wharf is a Certified Tourist Trap but however, sometimes it is wort the effort to go here as the ambiance is perfect while gorging on sea foods like the crabs or the clam chowder or the oysters or steamers and more. A small cup of Clam Chowder here costs $ 5.99 and a pint at $ 9.99. Shucked Oysters at $ 15.99 for half a dozen and the steamed or Broiled Lobster will cost you $ 21.99 a pound. I know these are restaurant prices for mere food stalls but again this is the most touristy area of San Francisco Remember!
Belden Street in the Financial District is a narrow alleyway that is closed to traffic and features sidewalk dining. Several restaurants line the old alleyway. A variety of culinary offerings are available at the different establishments. As you stroll down Belden, be prepared to be approached by the maitre d’s who try to entice you into dining at their restaurant. Most of the restaurants have their menus available for inspection. It can be fun to check out the various places before selecting one.
The restaurants primarily utilize their rare outdoor dining option at this pedestrian friendly alley. It is a great place for lunch on a sunny afternoon or a warm evening. As this is San Francisco, it is advisable to be prepared for a change in the weather to the cold side when dining on Belden.
I like lunch shopping on Stockton street [mostly between Washington and Jackson Streets].
There are many places that sell pork, ducks and chickens for a very reasonable price (for example, $8.76+tax for a whole duck). They are located next door to each other - 1041 Stockton Street, 1045 Stockton Street.., etc.
After buying meat, I usually go for some cheap instant noodles (for example, Nissin, Six Flavours). They are sold anywhere from 39 to 69 cents per package and come in different flavors (seafood, beef, pork, mushrooms, etc). All you need is to boil some water and let them soak in it for 3 minutes. Noodles can be bought in grocery stores across the street from meat sellers.
Lunch like that costs about $10 for two people! ;-) And it tastes good.
Just make sure to go during the day, cause it sells out by 6pm ish.
On Lombard Street: La Barca* (Mexican, worth coming just for award-winning margaritas, good food & atmosphere)
On Chestnut Street: Cozmo's Corner Grill; Yukol Place Thai Cuisine
On Chestnut Street (5 Stars): Andale Mexican Restaurant, reasonanbly priced, popular local hangout, excellent food, nice people watching, and loads of atmosphere (eat-in or take-out)
On Fillmore Street: Balboa Cafe*; Pane E Vino
Also in this District: Greens (best vegetarian); Isa; Merenda; PlumpJack.
Favorite Dish: Lucca Deli (pictured here)
Be sure to try the seafood chowder served in a bowl made from fresh baked sourdough bread, from one of the many vendors who line the street at the main entrance to Fisherman's Warf. It's a great choice for a quick, inexpensive lunch.
There will be a counter with a stool where you can eat right there on the sidewalk. With the sights, sounds, and smells of the warf, coupled with the yummy chowder and bread, it is a unique sensory delight.
Had a bad day but find yourself in-between paychecks? Find out when and where to get more bang for your buck. Happy Hour indeed!
• The 500 Club - The Mission
A dive with ample drink specials.
• Jack's Elixer - Inner Mission
Small crowds, lots of beer.
• Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House - North Beach - Indian food and $2 Guinness.
• Marlena's - Hayes Valley
Upscale 'hood, down-home drinks.
• Tommy's Joynt - Van Ness Corridor
Fill a pitcher on the cheap.
• The Front Room - Nob Hill
Pizza and pitchers for pennies.
• Jade - Hayes Valley
Try a Jade Cocktail for cheap.
• Mad Dog in the Fog - Lower Haight
Cheap stout, football on the telly.
• Red's Java House - The Embarcadero
Box wine and a view.
• Zeitgeist - The Mission
Doubles come in pint glasses.
Favorite Dish: Java House Coffee Shop
San Francisco, CA 94107
$5.25 for chessburger on sourdough, fries and a beer!!
A throwback to a time when only dockworkers lunched along the Embarcadero. This shack is under the Bay Bridge (since 1956). Very fair for the portions.
Burgers on French rolls smeared with mayo and mustard; only comes well-done, but they're hearty and savory.
On sunny days, take your lunch outside and sit amid the dockworkers.
I'm not going to give you tips about nice SF restaurants with white tablecloths, candles and all. You can read any guidebook on San Francisco and get the names those restaurants, if that is what you are looking for.
Expensive doesn't always mean best, and especially not when it comes to SF restaurants. I'm going to show you the BEST restaurants in town - this is where SF working crowd and locals go for great food.
The uninformed visitor will pass by these restaurants because from the outside they look too greasy spoon, too let go, too scary even, whatever. But after you read my tips, you'll know better.
Sam Lok serves traditional Szechuan with all of its peppers and spices. It's located on Jackson Street between Grant and Kearny. For more information, call (415) 981-8988.
Yank Sing serves delicious dim sum in a comfortable parlor atmosphere. It's located on Battery Street between Clay and Washington. For more information, call (415) 781-1111.
Also worth mentioning:
Brandy Ho's Hunan Food
Hunan Home's Restaurant
Sam Wo's ! Eat the "House Chow Mein", beef, pork, chicken, and shrimps.
Favorite Dish: - walking tours in Chinatown (free) every day led by volunteer guides, covers everything from the mansions of Pacific Heights to the murals of the Mission. I counted 51 different walking tours in their schedule. Every day there are at least three or four, and sometimes as many as a dozen to choose from. They're all free. You'll learn, for example, that there are two Chinatowns (41 back alleys): (1) the tourist Chinatown, marked by upturned red rooflines and dragon lampposts, and (2) the residents' Chinatown, along Stockton Street and those back alleys. In those alleys you'll hear the clacking of mah-jongg tiles, see bok choy being dried on balconies and encounter bins of geoducks and durians outside the markets - For a current schedule of free walking tours led by City Guides, visit www.sfcityguides.org or call (415) 557-4266.
For a great sunday brunch combined with a sightseeing trip take the ferry from across to Sausalito and have a brunch in a restuarant built up over the water with fantastic views across the bay to San Francisco, not to mention having a satisfying meal while doing it.
LOCAL AWARD WINNERS
Kiss (1700 Laguna 415-474-2866
Maki (1825 Post 415-921-5215)
Ebisu (1283 9th Ave. 415-566-1770
Eliza’s 2877 California 415-621-4819;
1457 18th St. 415-648-9999
Koi Palace 365 Gellert
Serramonte Plaza 650-992-9000
Vino e Cucina 489 3rd St. 415-543-6962
Sociale 3665 Sacramento 415-921-3200
1003 Market 415-864-6773;
2288 Mission 415-252-9560;
3211 Mission 415-550-1414
Pancho Villa 3071 16th St. 415-864-8840
Thep Phanom 900 Waller St. 415-431-2526
Kuleto's is haute Italian with lovely garlicky dishes and a creme brulee to die for. If you're game for garlic, try The Stinking Rose, with an all-garlic menu. Ever want to sample wines from a restaurant's wine list? At new, trendy Bacar, you can: just order a 2 oz. taste from their extensive wine list. So you can try a different wine to go with the appetizer, the main course, and even dessert! The food, by the way, is outstanding, fresh, inspired, California. Of course, for the penultimate California experience, head over to Berkeley and try Chez Panisse--but make your reservation well in advance! For breakfasts, Dottie's True Blue Cafe is *outstanding*.
My favorite restaurant depends on what kind of mood I'm in. For a great burrito or taco, head down to the Mission to Pancho Villa on 16th Street between Valencia and Mission.
The best burger in at Burger Joint located on either Valencia or Haight.
Italian Food - well, anywhere in North Beach.
Chinese Food - Hunan Homes.
Thai - Manora's on Folsom.
Bar-B-Q = Nate's Bar-B-Q, Folsom St
Chinese = Brand Ho's, North Beach
Indian = Maharani, Polk Gulch
Korean = Arang Restaurant, Japan Towne
Japanese = Sushi Bune, Geary/Mason Sts
Italian = Steps of Rome, Columbus/Broadway Sts
Seafood = Scott's, Embarcadero
Cajun = PJ's Oyster Bar, Judah St.
Burgers = Hamburger Mary's, Folsom St
Mexican = La Rondalla, Valencia/20th Sts
Sudanese = Baobab, 19th/Mission Sts
Colombian = El Majahual, Valencia/23 Sts
Cuban = Port Cafe, 16th/Sanchez Sts
Variety = Bubba Gump's, Pier 39
prices usually are $10-$20/per person not incl gratuity and tax.
Favorite Dish: Too many to list.
A favorite pastime of mine when I lived in SF was having breakfast at Polkers on Polk Street between Vallejo and Green (which turns into a 'gourmet' burger joint in the afternoon and evenings). If you go on a weekend you WILL have to wait in line (be sure to sign your name on the wait list on the door) but the food is well worth waiting for - its excellent, and there's lots of it. My favorite was the chorizo skillet - literally an iron skillet filled with eggs, onions, peppers, potatoes, cheese, and chorizo (or whatever you choose). Greens Sports Bar (right across the street) is usually open so you can kill time with a drink, if you're up for it. Otherwise there are benches around to sit on and people watch while you wait.
There are endless good restaurants in SF, but I always liked the smaller, less well known neighborhood places. Some favorites around Russian Hill: Yabbies Coastal Kitchen, Baraonda, Hyde Street Bistro, Frascati, I Fratelli, Rex Cafe. Marina area: Bistro Aix. Union Street area: Rose Cafe, Betelnut. Downtown: Boulevard, Pastis, Shanghai 1930. Notable pub-grub: the Royal Exchange on Sacramento and Front, Perry's on Union Street, Harry's on Fillmore.
There are also several notable sushi places all around SF, but my favorite was called Sushi City (right off the Union Street/Columbus intersection in North Beach) which is a hole-in-the-wall - and not much to look at - but has amazingly good and fresh sushi. Recommended highly.