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A Booker's guide to San Francisco's food

Bayside flavors and influences from around the world come together in this 18-strong list of San Francisco’s tastiest eats.

Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

A delicious clam feast where everything’s edible

A delicious clam feast where everything’s edible

Hearty clam chowder soup spills over the edges of a crusty sourdough bowl made just for that. Diced potato, onions and celery are soaked in a thick sauce with a generous helping of fresh clams. A steaming, comfort food feast, this dish is usually served with saltine or oyster crackers, but the bowl is also perfect for tearing off pieces and dipping into this creamy goodness.

Oysters

Fresh shellfish morsels deliver a true taste of the ocean

Fresh shellfish morsels deliver a true taste of the ocean

The food sensation of the Gold Rush era, this locally sourced delicacy is still big on the menu today. Salty, sweet mouthfuls, they’re shucked open with a special knife and slurped down straight from the half-shell, or fried, baked or simmered in a variety of delicious dishes. With such a complex flavor, they don’t need much more than a squeeze of lemon or a dash of vinegar.

Local Tip: Many San Franciscan bars or seafood restaurants host Oyster happy hours when Bookers can enjoy these gems for just a dollar.

Anchor Steam Beer

A legendary beverage with a golden legacy

A legendary beverage with a golden legacy

The Anchor Brewing Company’s flagship brand, this deep amber beer has a thick, creamy head and a rich, hoppy flavor. With a history dating back to the Gold Rush days, its famous name comes from the unique 19th-century San Fran-style process of cooling the fermenting beer out on the brewery’s rooftop – creating clouds of steam in the chilly night air.

Local Tip: Bookers should head to the Anchor Brewing Company on Mariposa Street for a brewery tour and for throwing back some cold ones right where this brew was born.

Cioppino

Overflowing servings packed with seafood delights

Overflowing servings packed with seafood delights

Brought to the North Beach neighborhood by Italian immigrants in the 1800s, this is a fresh seafood stew made straight from the day’s catch. This vibrant dish comes in bowlfuls that can include a magnificent mix of crab, clams, scallops, mussels, fish and shrimp, all cooked just right in a delicious wine, herb and tomato broth. It’s all served with slices of crusty bread for dipping.

Local Tip: To help Bookers dig right into this dish, restaurants will arm you with a crab fork and cracker, and sometimes a bib to catch any stray splashes.

Chop Suey

An all-American favorite stir-fry dish with chinese origins

An all-American favorite 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, or soy sauce. Usually served on top of a fluffy pile of fried rice, they can also be dished up with noodles to become a chow mein.

It's-it

A fashionable frozen dessert sandwich

A fashionable frozen dessert sandwich

A fat scoop of vanilla ice cream is sandwiched between two freshly-baked oatmeal cookies 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 handmade for decades until demand turned this local delight into a nationwide brand.

A mysterious cookie that’ll give you a glimpse into your future

A mysterious cookie that’ll give you a glimpse into your future

California is credited with being the birthplace of this Chinese-food favorite, but no one’s exactly sure where or who started it. Originally handmade using chopsticks, a thin, sweet dough is folded into the iconic v-shape with a fortune inside – usually a proverb, prediction, or piece of advice. Snapped open at the end of a meal, diners get to find out their fate. What’s yours say?!

Pink Popcorn

A good old movie-time treat with a sweet twist

A good old movie-time treat with a sweet twist

Tiny puffed mouthfuls of lighter-than-air popcorn are covered in a pink bubblegum glaze and packed into a brick shape. It’s a bright, crunchy concoction that’s way too easy to munch on! Bookers can find this snack at ball games, fairs, theme parks and the zoo. A bar of these tasty morsels brings smiles to both kids and adults – enjoy a trip down memory lane.

Mission-style Burrito

A Cali-Mex feast that’s exploding with flavor

A Cali-Mex feast that’s exploding with flavor

This Mexican classic gets an update in San Fran’s Mission neighborhood. An oversized tortilla is stuffed with a spicy concoction of shredded beef, rice, beans, peppers and other veggies, and topped with a healthy dollop of sour cream and fresh guacamole. Expertly rolled and usually served easy style wrapped in foil, it’s even better with a splash of hot salsa before each bite.

Local Tip: The owners of La Cumbre Taqueria are said to have invented this jumbo burrito back in the 1960s. Bookers should take a trip to try out the original.

Sushirrito

A traditional Mexican dish with a Japanese vibe

A traditional Mexican dish with a Japanese vibe

A healthy fast-food creation, these giant delights combine the convenience of a burrito with the fresh flavors of sushi. Classic ingredients like raw fish, shellfish, meat, cucumber and cabbage are dressed with wasabi mayo, ginger guacamole and more, for some real Japanese-Mexican fusion. Covered in a thick layer of sticky white rice, they’re a giant among their sushi roll cousins.

Hangtown Fry

A centuries-old creation turned restaurant staple

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. Popular around the time of the Gold Rush, many variations have popped up since, with onions, hot peppers, or a selection of spices thrown into the mix. One version even has the oysters deep fried in a crispy batter coating (to-die-for!).

Local Tip: The Tadich Grill has been plating up this bacon and seafood favorite for 160 years, and you’ll still find it on the menu today.

Joe's Special

Fluffy pan-fried eggs combined with classic savory staples

Fluffy pan-fried eggs combined with classic savory staples

Eaten as an appetizer 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 squeeze 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.

Irish Coffee

An Irish original recreated San Fran-style

An Irish original recreated San Fran-style

The legendary Buena Vista Cafe has served up more than 30 million cups of this Irish boozy beverage. 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 splash 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 one of these for yourself at 2765 Hyde Street.

Pisco Punch

A fresh and fruity mixture that goes down way too easy

A fresh and fruity mixture that goes down way too easy

A tropical concoction featuring Peruvian Pisco brandy, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and water – this powerful 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, its birthplace was shut down during Prohibition, but the cocktail has lived on.

Crab Louie

A creamy platter of fresh shellfish and salad

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, brightened up by a tangy yet creamy chili-mayo dressing on the side.

Rice-A-Roni

An easy-peasy meal that combines Italian and American cultures

An easy-peasy meal that combines Italian and American cultures

This legendary rice and macaroni fusion is nicknamed “The San Francisco Treat,” and even has its own catchy TV jingle. The perfect convenience food, it’s a one-packet mix of vermicelli pasta, rice and powdered seasoning, cooked in a single pan with some creamy butter to finish it off. As popularity increased, new lines and flavors were added, including a pasta version called “Pasta Roni.”

Chicken Tetrazzini

Mouthwatering comfort food with 3 of the best things ever – pasta, chicken and cheese

Mouthwatering comfort food with 3 of the best things ever – pasta, chicken and cheese

Diced chicken and mushrooms are dished up in a creamy butter and parmesan sauce seasoned with wine or sherry, on top of 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. Even though the chicken version seems to be the most popular, it can also be made with turkey or seafood.

Martini

A slowly sipped cocktail made with crystal-clear spirits

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 in between. Usually served with a single olive or a spiral of lemon peel, it’s traditionally poured into a stemmed cocktail glass with a wide, v-shaped bowl, or “on the rocks” in a tumbler filled with ice.

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