We love living in our nation's capital, but it's a fairly transient city. We frequently get asked, "Are you staying in DC? Moving away?"
We plan to stay put. Over the decade that we've been here, the city has just gotten better and better. We've made close friends, the city itself just keeps getting more beautiful and the food and restaurants improve every year.
All that said, if we were going to move, it would likely be to San Francisco (or maybe, if we suddenly feel the need to drive a lot, Los Angeles). Is there anywhere better to eat than in San Francisco? Perhaps New York, but that's a debate for another time.
It had been a few years since we visited San Fran, but Zach recently had a work trip scheduled out there, and Clay tagged along. So we spent a long weekend wandering around the city's various neighborhoods, meeting up with friends for coffee and drinks, and desperately trying to work up enough of an appetite to justify our next meal.
Here are our favorite meals, dishes and experience:
Pizzas and Pastas at Flour + Water in the Mission.
This was one of our favorite meals of the trip. We went with our friends Mark & Michelle, showed up early expecting to have to wait a long time, but were immediately seated. We ordered a two pizzas, a pasta, and two "secondi." Everything we ate at Flour + Water was out of this world.
Frances in the Castro.
This was a dinner for just the two of us. We didn't have a reservation, so we hung out in the tiny restaurant until space opened up at the first-come, first-served space in the bar. We had a Risotto with Dungeness Crab and Grilled Meyer Lemon, a Winter Citrus Salad (mustard greens, apple vinaigrette, pistachio), Bavette Steak (served over a butter bean ragout) and Sonoma Duck Breakfast (with kale, kabocha, and apple). Every bite was absolutely lovely.
Another thing we loved at Frances? House wine that you pay for by the ounce.
Mission Chinese in the Mission.
This was one of our favorite dining experiences, just for its sheer inventiveness. If you've been reading food magazines or restaurant news, you've no doubt seen an article about the outpost of Mission Chinese that's recently opened in New York. We've been wanting to visit the New York location, but have never made it, so we jumped at the chance to visit the original in San Francisco.
We arrived hungry, and, um, ordered a lot. Like a whole lot. Like seven dishes. For the two of us. Here's the rundown: Beijing Vinegar Peanuts (amazing), Sliced Peanut Noodles (good), Mouth-Watering Chicken (our least favorite), BBQ Pig Tails (good), Kung Pao Pastrami (amazing), Sizzling Cumin Lamb Breast (really great), and the General Tso's Veal Rib (very good). Here are a few photos of the dishes.
Brace yourselves: this is a chicken heart from the Mouth-Watering Chicken:
Grilled Natural Chicken Breast at Wayfare Tavern in the Financial District.
Described on the menu as "smoked chicken hash, slow cooked Petaluma egg," we were blown away by this dish when it arrived. The hash was filled with flavorful root vegetables. The chicken was prepared sousvide. And the runny egg, well, those just improve everything. It was smokey and sweet and savory and oh so comforting.
Poached Eggs Valence at Zazie's in Cole Valley.
Though D.C. has gotten better over the last few years, the truth is we don't live in a great breakfast/brunch town. That's one of the reasons we so loved our brunch at Zazie's, a sweet little bistro in the Cole Valley neighborhood. We had the Poached Eggs Valence (roasted eggplant and spicy tomato-chevre sauce) and that day's special omelet. It was a perfect start to the day.
Orange Morning Buns from Tartine Bakery in the Mission.
Clay had a few days on his own while Zach was working, and he started each one of those days at Tartine Bakery. The quiche and the frangipane croissants are really good, but his favorite was the Orange Morning Bun, sweet with just the right balance of crunch and chew.
Oboro Tofu at Eiji in the Castro.
Barring our meal at Mission Chinese, this is no doubt the most unique dish we had in San Francisco. Clay met our friend Minjae there for lunch, and at her suggestion ordered the Oboro Tofu, which is made fresh in the restaurant. The waiter had a crock that he placed on a butane burner at the tableside. We're not sure what he did, but soon, we had a dish full of fresh tofu with an absolutely amazing texture, very light and airy. On its own, the tofu had a mild but very pleasant flavor, but it comes with a variety of sauces and toppings -- ginger, sesame, scallions and the like -- that you can sprinkle on top of the tofu. Divine.
Here's a look at the toppings:
Pasta with Clams, Lemon and Bread Crumbs at Zuni Cafe in Hayes Valley.
Another place that Clay visited on his own. He went alone for lunch, with plans to order the restaurant's famous roast chicken. But the chicken could only be ordered for two, and at $48 that seemed like too much of a splurge for just one person (though it was heavily considered!). Instead, he opted for this pasta dish, filled with clams, bits of lemon and breadcrumbs over buccatini.
Oysters and crab at Anchor Oyster in the Castro.
We sampled Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building Farmers Market (a must-visit -- the photo at the top, of the persimmons, is from the market), and then, by happy accident, had them again on our last night in San Francisco. We were taking a red-eye back to DC, and needed some dinner before we headed to the airport. We happened to pass by Anchor Oyster, signed our name to the list, and waited for a space at the counter. They've been there for more than 30 years -- it's cute, cramped and extremely busy. From where we sat, we could see all the food being prepared, mostly by one guy. It's all simple seafood dishes, but we loved the oysters and the fresh Dungeness crab.
On this trip, we also ate at and enjoyed Commonwealth in the Mission (with two friends, we literally ordered everything on the menu!), the Bahn Mi at Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission, Absinthe in Hayes Valley, Kate's Kitchen in the Lower Haight (order the French Toast Orgy!), and Bi-Rite Creamery in Mission.
For what it's worth, on previous trips to the city, we've every much enjoyed meals at Bar Tartine, Dynamo Donut, and House of Nanking. All three are places we debated revisiting on this trip, but opted for new places instead. Blue Bottle Coffee is the more famous San Francisco coffee establishment, but we prefer Philz Coffee (we visited Philz at least 5 times on this trip). And we also revisited El Farolito, because we don't believe a trip to San Francisco is done right unless you have a really amazing burrito while you're there.
For Next Time
Do you have a favorite spot in San Francisco? Please share it in the comments!