Bayside flavours and multicultural influences abound in this 18-strong list of San Francisco’s tastiest eats.
Clam Chowder in a bread bowl
Clam Chowder in a bread bowl
An sumptuous clam feast where everything is edible
Delicious chowder soup spills over the edges of a crusty sourdough bowl, hollowed out for the purpose. Diced potato, onions and celery are soaked in a creamy sauce with a generous helping of fresh clams. A steaming, comfort food feast, it’s often served up with saltine or oyster crackers, while the bowl itself is perfect for tearing into pieces and dipping into the thick tasty mixture
Fresh shellfish morsels offering a true taste of the sea
The food sensation of the Gold Rush era, this locally sourced delicacy is still big on the menu today. Briny, chewy mouthfuls, they’re shucked open with a special knife and slurped down straight from the half-shell or fried, baked and stewed in a variety of delicious dishes. Complex in flavour, they need little accompaniment apart from a squeeze of lemon and a dash of vinegar.
Local tip: Many San Franciscan bars or seafood restaurants host Oyster happy hours when you can often pick them up for just a dollar.
Anchor Steam Beer
Anchor Steam Beer
A legendary beverage with a golden legacy
The Anchor Brewing Company’s flagship brand, this deep amber brew has a thick, creamy head and a rich, hoppy flavour. With heritage harking back to the days of the Gold Rush, its famous name comes from the unusual 19th century San Franciscan process of cooling the fermenting beer out on the brewery’s rooftop – creating wafts of steam in the chilly night air.
Local tip: Head to the Anchor Brewing Company on Mariposa Street to take a brewery tour and sample some at its birthplace.
Overflowing servings packed with seafood delights
Brought to the North Beach neighbourhood by Italian immigrants in the 1800s, this is a fresh seafood stew made straight from the day’s catch. Vibrantly varied bowlfuls can include a magnificent mix of crab, clams, scallops, mussels, fish and shrimp, all drenched in a delicious wine and tomato broth. It’s all served up with slices of crusty bread for dipping.
Local tip: To help you demolish this dish, restaurants will supply you with a crab fork and cracker, and sometimes a bib to catch any splashes.
An American stir-fry dish with Chinese origins
Chicken, fish, beef, pork or prawns are cooked lightning-quick in the pan with bean sprouts, celery, cabbage and other vegetables, and drenched in a thick oyster, garlic and soy sauce. Usually served atop a pile of fluffy fried rice, theycan also accompany noodles to become an Americanised chow mein.
A fashionable frozen dessert sandwich
A fat scoop of vanilla ice cream is sandwiched between two freshly-baked oatmeal biscuits and dunked into a pool of delicious dark chocolate. Invented back in 1928, this sweet frozen treat was declared to be the ‘IT!’ thing, and was served up handmade for decades until demand turned the local delight into a nationwide brand.
A mysterious biscuit snack offering a glimpse into the future
California is credited with being the birthplace of this Chinese-food delight but no one’s quite sure where, or by whom! Originally handmade using chopsticks, a thin, sweet dough is folded into the iconic v-shape with a ‘fortune’ – often a proverb, prediction or piece of advice – tucked inside. Snapped open with a crack, the diner reveals their fate during the dessert course.
The typical cinema treat with a vibrant twist
Tiny puffed mouthfuls of lighter-than-air popcorn, covered in a pink bubblegum glaze and packed into an iconic brick shape. It’s a bright, crunchy concoction, that’s all too easy to munch on! Picked up at ball games, fairs, theme parks and the zoo – a bar of this delicious delight sets adult San Franciscans off on a trip down memory lane.
A Cali-Mex feast bulging with flavour
This Mexican classic gets an update in San Fran’s Mission neighbourhood. An oversized tortilla is stuffed to bursting with a spicy concoction of shredded beef, rice, beans, peppers and other vegetable elements, accompanied by a fat dollop of sour cream and bright green guacamole. Expertly rolled and served up in a shiny wrapping of aluminium foil, it’s often eaten with a splash of hot salsa before each bite.
Local tip: The owners of La Cumbre Taqueria are credited with the invention of this jumbo burrito back in the 1960s. Take a trip to try out the original!
A traditionally Mexican dish with a Japanese twist
A healthy fast-food creation, these giant delights combine the convenience of a burrito with the fresh flavours of sushi. Classic ingredients such as raw fish, shellfish, meat, cucumber and cabbage are dressed with wasabi mayo, ginger guacamole and more, for a truly Japanese-Mexican fusion. Covered in a thick layer of sticky white rice, they’re a giant among sushi rolls.
A centuries-old creation turned restaurant staple
Once a real luxury dish, this fluffy egg omelette combines briny oysters with delicious strips of crispy bacon. Originating at the time of the Gold Rush, many variations have sprung up since, with onions, hot peppers or a selection of spices thrown into the mix, or the oysters deep fried in a crispy batter coating.
Local tip: The Tadich Grill has been plating up this bacon and seafood delight for 160 years, and you’ll still find it on the menu today.
Fluffy pan-fried eggs combined with simple savoury delights
Eaten as an appetiser or breakfast food, this dish is a satisfying scramble of eggs, spinach and ground beef, sometimes with onions, garlic, mushroom or spices. It’s usually served with pasta, rice, or sourdough bread soaked in golden garlic butter with a fat squiggle of ketchup, or a dash of tabasco on top.
Local tip: First made famous at ‘Original Joe’s’ – like many San Franciscan dishes, its creation story is hotly debated.
An Irish original recreated San Fran-style
The legendary Buena Vista Cafe has served up more than 30 million cups of this Irish alcoholic brew. Still using the same recipe perfected in the 1950s, hot coffee is poured into a clear glass with two cubes of sugar and a generous measure of Irish whiskey, while lightly whipped cream is poured over the back of a spoon to float on the surface.
Local tip: You can find the Buena Vista Cafe and try this for yourself at 2765 Hyde Street.
A potent mixture that goes down far too easily
A tropical concoction featuring Peruvian Pisco brandy, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and water – this kicking cocktail was first invented by Don Nicol, who owned a bar named the Bank Exchange. Renowned for tasting like lemonade but packing a real punch, Prohibition saw its birthplace shut down, but the cocktail can still be sampled today.
A creamy platter of fresh shellfish and salad
Also known as the ‘King of Salads’, this dish was being served up at San Francisco’s Solari’s as early as 1914. The freshest Dungeness crab is thrown in with hard boiled eggs, asparagus and tomato on a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce, and accompanied by a tangy-yet-creamy chilli and mayo based dressing on the side.
An effortless ready meal fusing Italian and American cultures
This legendary rice and macaroni fusion is nicknamed ‘The San Francisco Treat’, and even has its own catchy television jingle. The perfect convenience food, it’s a one-packet mix of vermicelli pasta, rice and powdered seasoning, cooked in a single pan with delicious creamy butter. As popularity increased, new lines and flavours were added, including a pasta version called ‘Pasta Roni’.
Mouthwatering comfort food combining pasta, chicken and cheese
Diced chicken and mushrooms are served up in a creamy butter and parmesan sauce laced with wine or sherry, atop a bed of hot linguine, spaghetti or noodles. Sometimes baked as a casserole, it’s sprinkled with breadcrumbs and more parmesan for a gooey, bubbling crust. Although the chicken version is the most popular, it can also be made with turkey or seafood.
A slowly sipped cocktail made with crystal-clear spirits
Traditionally made with a 2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, this classic cocktail now comes in many variations from ‘dry’ to ‘dirty’, to ‘perfect’ and everything inbetween. Often served with a single olive or a spiral of vibrant lemon peel, it’s usually poured into a stemmed cocktail glass with a wide, v-shaped bowl, or ‘on the rocks’ in a tumbler filled with ice.