We just returned from our first time visiting Lauren in her new town of San Francisco.
She moved there about a year ago for a great job and, while she’s been home several times, we hadn’t gotten out to the City by the Bay until now. We stayed at a hotel at the top of Nob Hill and the first room they gave us was kind of awful. It had a filthy couch and hole in the carpeting, (Zeke told the front desk he’d had better furniture in his fraternity house) so they upgraded us to a lovely suite- complete with a sun room, dining room and a fantastic view of San Francisco. It was heaven.
This is nicer than our house.Zeke said.
Indeed, when we returned, the cat had thrown up in the living room, our upstairs air conditioning had quit, our outside freezer had defrosted, there were sugar ants overtaking the kitchen and our garbage disposal sounded like it was about to grind to a halt. Not to mention all the various palm fronds and yard debris strewed about the yard. Ah! The joys of owning a home.
But, while we were in San Francisco, we had some great meals. I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, in case you have a chance to visit the city that was my Dad’s favorite.
Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.Anthony Bourdain
I’m going to start with Lunch, because that’s the first meal we had there and unbeknownst to me, was one of Anthony Bourdain‘s favorite San Francisco’s restaurants. It is Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street, which was just a short walk from our hotel. It’s a very small place, just a long bar inside with stools; there are some tables set up outside, possibly a Covid invention.
We arrived after our six-hour flight around 1 p.m. and I was hungry. I have low blood sugar, so had eaten on the plane, but when I saw the long line waiting outside of Swan, I got testy (according to Zeke). When a Swan employee came out and announced that after 2 p.m., no one else could enter, I started getting anxious, as no one seemed to be leaving Swan’s. Luckily, we made it to the front of the line around 1:45. I peeked inside to see a sign that said “Cash Only.” “Do you have cash?” I asked Zeke. “Not enough,” he said and sprinted across the street to an ATM.
He returned in the nick of time and we were seated outside. Of course, we had to try the oysters, since it is an oyster depot. They were good and came with lemon wedges and homemade horseradish. We got a cup of Clam Chowder, which had unfortunately broken, but the Sourdough Bread and butter were perfect with my wine and Zeke’s beer. And, as I mentioned, I was starving.
I’d seen two older gentlemen who looked like locals, order a huge salad, so we did as well and OMG! We got the Combination Seafood Salad for $32, at the recommendation of our server. It had tiny, bay shrimp, fat, juicy, pink prawns and gobs of fresh, sweet Dungeness crabmeat which was all piled onto chopped iceberg lettuce and served with a sweet and tangy Louie dressing. It was heavenly and the perfect lunch for a summer day in San Francisco. Bourdain called Swan Oyster Depot his “touchstone in my world wanderings.” High praise, indeed.
The next morning I Yelped Breakfast places near our hotel and Mymy came up, so we walked over. We were early, but there were already people milling about. We ate inside, although there was also outdoor dining available. The framed photos inside were Norman Rockwell paintings and Americana scenes; the people running it were Asian and the vibe was kind of French. So, it was eclectic.
This was a small, but clean and bright breakfast spot with relaxing music and excellent service. I loved the coffee, so asked the brand. My waiter told me it was “America’s Best”, but to make sure something wasn’t lost in translation, I checked out the label as I went to the rest room. It is America’s Best Coffee Roasting Co. and they were serving the “Special French” flavor. The first test of a great breakfast place is its coffee, in my opinion. If the coffee stinks, I don’t care about the rest.
I ordered the Miss Mymy, which had Parmesan Crusted Zucchini Pancakes, two eggs, meat (I got bacon) and either Fried Potatoes or Salad. I was trying to balance out my indulgence with virtue, so ordered salad. Mistake, because the dressed salad was under my pancakes and the dressing leaked into my other good stuff. Salad with dressing, onion, radishes + sweet Pancakes= no good.
I asked for a plate, which came immediately and removed the offending salad away from the rest of my breakfast. The Miss Mymy was pricey ($22) but absolutely delicious! The pancakes didn’t really taste of the parmesan or zucchini, but were light and lovely, sprinkled with powdered sugar and perfect with the over-easy eggs and crispy bacon. Coffee refills were free and I was so full after eating my Miss Mymy, I could barely look at the salad, but took one bite just to taste it.
Zeke got the 6-Hour Corned Beef Hash. He’s a bit of a Corned Beef Hash nut, so I value his opinion on this dish. He loved it! It was topped with two sunny-side up eggs and a creamy salsa verde that really kicked it up a notch. He got the Fried Potatoes as his side, which were cubes of potatoes that had been deep fried and were to die for! There were so many other tempting items on the menu- Various Benedicts, a Monte Cristo and a Banana Souffle Pancake, that if we’d had another breakfast out in San Francisco, Mymy would have been my pick. This is very unlike me, as I like to try different places when in another city, but it was that good.
My favorite Dinner was at a place I’d eaten twice before, which was only a block away from Lauren’s apartment in the Russian Hill area, at the top of Nob Hill. Seven Hills is a small Italian restaurant that specializes in homemade pasta. The first time we went, we had a fantastic Burrata-stuffed Tomato with aged balsamic vinegar and an Egg Yolk Ravioli. Alas, those items were gone from the menu, but we all loved our appetizers and entrees.
For appetizers we got a Fig and Burrata Salad with Almonds, Mint and Arugula and a House Made Herb Focaccia. We ordered a lovely bottle of coastal wine from Italy called Verdicchio to share, which had almond and floral notes, according to the wine list. The wines were all selected to compliment the food served. The salad was light and delicious, with the fresh herbs and crunchy almonds. The bread was cheesy and perfect for sopping up the pasta sauce.
We all got pasta for our entrees and the prices at Seven Hills are reasonable, unlike some San Francisco restaurants. My Agnolotti ($27) came with corn, basil, chives and was garnished with popcorn and dill sprigs. It was summery, light and I loved it. Lauren got the Pappardelle ($28) with pork sausage, which was a little heavier and Zeke got a special of Truffle-Stuffed Pasta in Truffle Butter, which he enjoyed. We got an Apple Bread Pudding for dessert, which we all split. It came with a creamy sauce and was garnished with pink apples and Dahlia flower petals. So pretty!
Honorable Mention: Goes to my Tortilla Soup at Don Pistos. The food was very good at this Mexican restaurant, but the service was a little unorganized, with dishes coming out at different times. I feel with Covid, we need to give restaurants a break, as many are short-staffed. At any rate, my Tortilla Soup was a little pricey at $14, but was a meal unto itself. A huge portion of red, brothy goodness, it was chockfull of shredded chicken, avocado chunks and cilantro and topped with crunchy tortilla strips. It really hit the spot on that chilly, windy San Francisco night. Their Seasonal Passionfruit Margarita, rimmed with chili salt, was also delicious.
Of course, I had to get an Irish Coffee at the famous Buena Vista Cafe, near Fisherman’s Wharf. Alas, I didn’t get to my Dad’s favorite restaurant- Scoma’s– on Pier 47 this trip. We had two food walking tours- North Beach and Chinatown– and a dinner reservation at Ernest, which my cousin Stephanie (who lives in San Fran and works for Yelp) recommended. So Scoma’s will have to wait until our next trip. Zeke is already starting a list of restaurants for our return in March. Top of the list is House of Prime Rib, another one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites.
The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly grey. The glory that was Rome is of another day. I’ve been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhatten. I’m going home to my city by the Bay. I left my heart in San Francisco.Tony Bennett
Up Next: Passionfruit Martini