60 Hours – On Location in San Francisco
2 1/2 days in a city that has no boundaries and to fully enjoy all that the 7x7 has to offer and much better than just 48 hours! My most recent edition of ’60 Hours’ took me to the city by the Bay, San Francisco, for a true series of adventures and discoveries.
After arriving into SFO, I headed straight to North Beach (the Italian neighborhood) for my caffeine fix at
Hole in the Wall, a 27 Square Foot (yes, really) coffee bar that brews pour overs right in front of you with one of four different Signature roasts. This street-side spot at 524 Union Street is great for coffee and conversation!
Feeling the need to fuel the furnace, next stop was Original Joe's right across from Washington Park on Union Street. This is a true San Francisco classic, Italian American & Classic American Cuisine in style – so I enjoyed their Wedge Salad with Bacon, Shaved Egg, Blue Cheese Dressing and Poached Baby Bay Shrimp. Tasty, historical and a good first dish to enjoy.
Walking down Columbus Avenue, enjoying some early Spring weather and sunshine, I traveled from Italian Culture to the edge of Chinatown for a visit to China Live, pretty much a Chinese Eataly with their shops, various restaurants, tea counter and more. Still feeling a touch hungry, I was able to enjoy their Gluten-Free (yes indeed!) Chicken Lettuce Wraps, served with mushrooms and Chinese sausage – filling, fresh and very delicious.
Next on the agenda was a visit to a longstanding favorite of mine, The Hidden Vine, a cool little wine bar on Merchant Street on the edge of the Financial District (the FiDi) which just so happens to have a Bocce Court! They carry quite the selection of wines by the glass from all around the world, enabling guests to enjoy a taste of many different wine regions. Feeling hungry again at this point, I was joined by a few locals to the city who wanted me to experience a legendary restaurant in the city but also California, the Tadich Grill. The Tadich has been in constant operation since 1849, making it the oldest operating restaurant in San Francisco which is an accomplishment unto itself!
Dinner there was a classic experience with Dungeness Crab Cakes, Hamburger Steak, Local Sole and other delights which made the evening feel like a true throwback to a prior time. If you’d like to step back and have your ‘Back to the Future’ moment in San Francisco, this is a must visit!
For the final stop of the evening, I was escorted to The Occidental Cigar Club where I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying before. ‘The Ox’ is a cigar bar in California. Yes, it is legal and yes, it is ALWAYS busy! Here I partook in a Connecticut Shade Davidoff paired with a glass of local Sonoma Red Wine, which was a great way to finish the evening.
Starting Day Two off slightly foggy, but damn happy I decided to venture from Fisherman’s Wharf, where I was staying with a leisurely walk to the Marina District for one of my favorite hamburger’s in the entire world, located at Balboa Café. Balboa is owned by the Plumpjack Group, a local San Francisco Company that owns wineries, restaurants, wine shops, bars, and much more. It is a throwback for sure, with a classic long bar, dark wood finishes and a menu with touches of the past and flavors of today. I knew I needed a filling plate of deliciousness, so I had to get their burger. The Balboa Café burger is a long patty, traditionally served on an open face baguette cooked to your desired temperature, along with pickled red onions and pickle chips, hot & salty thin cut fries and any toppings you’d like to add on for extra. I went with the burger cooked rare (yes, a great call knowing their meat is quality in style) topped with Jack Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms and Sautéed Onions, Fresh Mixed Greens Salad rather than the fries, accompanied by a chilled glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, perfect for a San Francisco afternoon.
That right there was a slice of heaven! And, the bartender recognized me (which was damn cool) so he poured me a second glass of wine, on him – a true San Francisco Treat!
Continuing the city adventure, I stopped over to Union Square to people watch the locals and tourists mingle together and the beautiful weather before having a quick stop by Bun Mee, a modern Vietnamese Sandwich & Snack Shop. The smells coming out the door were too delicious not to stop! Deciding to walk up Market Street, I passed by the Bill Graham Auditorium and the San Francisco Capital Building on my way to see a buddy at Jardinière, Traci Desjardins iconic restaurant. This is a true Michelin starred restaurant, with French accents mixed with San Francisco flavor, a perfect pairing. Enjoying watching the pre-theatre crowd and sipping on a tasty glass of chilled Italian wine, I realized I was in the right place at the right time.
Next on the Tour de SF was a quick stop into Popson’s on Market Street for a side by side burger tasting with some business contacts who were doing menu research. It’s an upscale, quick-serve burger concept – far from my favorite, but they’re basically doing a take on an In-N-Out style. Popping next door, we enjoyed a glass of wine and some great hospitality at Waystone, a cool Wine & Beer Café with a citified environment perfect for a date or small group gathering.
Feeling the need for an actual dinner, we headed over to the Mission for a taste of New Orleans at Alba Ray’s which was vibrant, fun, plenty festive and damn delicious! From the Char-Grilled Oysters to the Mixed Jambalaya to the Black-Eyed Peas with Kale to the Red Beans and Rice, we let the Good Times Roll!
Day Three – Waking up on my final day in San Francisco, I knew that I was in store for another one filled with plenty of stops and deliciousness, so I started with another stop to Hole in the Wall Coffee for a freshly brewed North Beach Roast. With coffee in hand, our entourage started walking down the hill, down Broadway on our way to the Embarcadero enjoying the city’s surroundings, prior to arriving at the Ferry Building; a working ferry terminal filled with food stalls, restaurants and shops which has truly become the hub of San Francisco. We were lucky enough that it was a CUESA Farmer’s Market day, so there were various farms displaying their bounty and the Roli Roti truck for the most amazing Porchetta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts. This combination of flavors is something I can taste as I’m writing this post; salty, sweet, savory and damn tasty!
Walking into the Ferry, we ventured to the Mariposa Baking Co. stall, a tremendous Gluten-Free Bakery that started in Oakland and has found a very loyal following here in San Francisco. I wanted to eat just about everything but limited it to having their Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Cheese Pocket, which was decadent and savory at the same time. Wow, so good!
The final cherry on top for the Ferry Building visit was over to Hog Island Oyster Company to a table overlooking the bay, enjoying two different Pacific Ocean Oysters and a crisp glass of Picpoul from France. In that moment, I was tremendously happy; enjoying the day in the place I was supposed to be at the exact moment. Perfect.
We turned to head up Market Street on yet another stunningly beautiful Spring day, walking amongst the hustle and bustle of workers, tourists and others, and made our way to Credo Restaurant for a beverage during the lunchtime rush. I had the pleasure of dining there a few years ago and was pleased to see they were still going strong. We only stopped by for a quick glass of wine but were fortunate to receive great hospitality and a friendly welcome.
What lay ahead was the Tre Bicchieri North American Tour & Tasting, held by the Gambero Rosso at Fort Mason. Tre Bicchieri is the highest rating that Italian Wines can receive, and the Gambero Rosso Guide has events around the world to showcase these wines and bring them to market, for distributors, wine professionals and restaurateurs. There were hundreds and hundreds of producers there, sharing their top wines which made for an outstanding afternoon of tasting and learning.
Turning the corner on my final hours in the city, we headed to Park Tavern back in North Beach to enjoy the friendly confines of this delightful restaurant. Park Tavern has only been in business since 2012, however it has become a San Francisco fixture with it’s high-end bistro fare. With its open kitchen, spacious bar and sweeping dining room, it was the perfect destination for a glass of rose and some snacks.
Last stop on the adventure was The Salzburg, only open since October 2017, which was created by the founders of Union Larder and Little Vine. It is North Beach’s answer to the Alps for Austrian inspired cuisine and a large selection of wine by the glass. We enjoyed a collection of house-made sausages (Rabbit, Pork and Lamb) along with a signature Rosti, topped with Smoked Arctic Char. I immediately felt transported to the Alps, quite the fete knowing we were in San Francisco and the Italian neighborhood.
Hoping into an Uber to the Airport and my flight home I quickly realized that I had a tremendously full 60 hours in San Francisco and realized I couldn’t wait to return!