The San Francisco restaurant scene offers a plethora of cuisines from the melting pot of America. From hearty comfort food and easy-eating diner grub to decadent chocolates and bold and adventurous fine dining, here’s your bucket list for eating out in the Golden City.
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Situated in the artsy neighbourhood of Mission, this small-batch chocolate shop is nestled between thrift stores and design boutiques and offers things like a brownie flight (made with three different single-origin chocolates) or the classic Dandelion choc chip cookie. Pro tip: Make room for the Papua New Guinea S’more. This beauty is made with homemade Graham crackers, a puff of marshmallow caramelised with a blowtorch, and the most sublime chocolate you’ll ever taste.
This neighbourhood kitchen, bar and soda fountain is a stylish diner that’s all about reinterpreting American comfort food with dishes like chicken and grits, fried chicken sandwiches and meatballs with burrata. If it’s a burger you’re after, the winner is The Corner Store Burger, with aged cheddar, bacon jam, pickled red onion and garlic aioli served in a pain de mie bun with French fries. Behind the bar, wash it down with classic cocktails or a playful soda-fountain concoction like the Corner Store float with bourbon, root liqueur, root beer and vanilla ice cream.
This Greek eatery is not technically in San Fran, but it’s in the bay area – only a 30-minute drive away. This classy establishment looks like the extended kitchen of a renovated mansion on the Peloponnese: sanded tables, brass crockery hanging from the ceiling, and a spit roasting over coals in the hearth. On almost every single menu item is a Greek word that might need some translating: “kolokithokethedes”, “kefalograviera”, “skordalia”. Standouts are the sparagia (baked asparagus) and soutzoukakia (grilled lamb meatballs with tomato-and-green-olive compote). For mains, try the lamb shank, swimming in a gravy made from aromatic spices and served with orzo and mizithra cheese. This spot makes for an outstanding night of Greek luxury in the heart of Silicone Valley.
Headed up by acclaimed self-taught chef David Barzelay, Lazy Bear works on a ticketed system and offers guests a taste of a modern American dinner party. The sociable atmosphere and service are paired with communal dining with modern yet familiar cuisine. Kick an evening off with a cocktail hour of appetisers in the mezzanine before heading to the cosy loft with its long oak-slab tables. Chefs deliver dishes to the table themselves, and even invite you to the kitchen to watch them work. Dishes might include whipped scrambled eggs with bacon and hot sauce to start, followed by halibut served with asparagus and fingerling potatoes and Périgord truffle.
Chef Danny Bowien’s innovative authentic Chinese spot is both inexpensive and boldly delicious. The unassuming restaurant is tucked in the Mission district and offers food like Sichuan kimchi, tiki pork belly with pickled pineapple and candied cherries, kung pay pastrami with peanuts, celery and chilli, and thrice-cooked bacon and rice cakes with bitter melon, sweet tofu skin and Szechuan pepper. Hipsters are known to flock here in the evenings, so bookings are essential.
The concept at this trendy James Beard award-winning restaurant is an unusual one: the waiters carry the dishes around, allowing diners to just point at things they want. It’s a small spot that gets fully booked fast. However, they do offer walk-ins on a first-come first-served basis, and set aside a portion of their seats every night, including the chef’s counter. Exciting dishes to lust after might include a luxurious duck liver mousse served with tiny almond friandes or smoked trout-avocado ‘chip and dip’. But, if there is one thing you have to try, it’s the glorious garlic bread topped with an oozing ball of burrata. These are not your standard braai-accompaniments: knots of sourdough bread are laminated with olive oil to create a croissant-like dough, and then deep fried, so that they’re crunchy on the outside and moist and soft on the inside. Sourdough-ssants? Sour-croiss-knots? Whatever they are, they deserve some kind of a medal.
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Love American food? Emirates is giving away R1000 to one lucky reader to spend at their favourite burger joint in South Africa. Enter now.