This past week I went to visit San Fransisco, CA. I hadn’t been to California since I was 11 and it was the southern part of the state. I finally feel like I’m at an age where I can really appreciate the places I travel to. When I was a kid, traveling was all about the tourist attractions and the museums and the FFF (forced family fun). Now, it’s about pretending I’m Anthony Bourdain and discovering what the locals actually do, what they like to eat, and where they shop. Instead of going to Alcatraz (although I was kinda of bummed we didn’t do that) and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, my aunt and I did a food tour of the Mission.
This area was originally all Spanish. The influence can still be seen with the tons of taquerias (I love that word), Spanish bakeries, churches, and murals around the neighborhood. A friend of my Aunt named Ben, who is a huge foodie, gave us a list of places we had to try. This list, combined with my independent internet scavenging, led us to some incredible places. I had never done a food tour before but learned the key is to pace yourself. You can order 4 things from the menu but you have to TRY them all. This was sad for me to throw away delicious and amazing food but it was in fact a tour and not an all-day-consume-fest and I had to get over it. Below are pictures, descriptions, reactions, and contact info for all the places we stopped on our tour, hope you enjoy!
Stop #1: Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street San Francisco, CA 94110
The line was literally out the door and around the corner for this french bakery. My aunt and I decided that we wanted to see the treats and pick with our eyes what looked best instead of off the menu. Upon arriving at the counter we chose a “morning bun”, a cup of bread pudding (above), and a Gougére which was essentially gruyére cheese, black pepper, and fresh thyme enclosed in pastry dough. The morning bun was Tartine’s verson of a cinnamon bun but, it was much different than the mall variety. Instead of dripping with cinnamon-y corn syrup and being smothered in thick frosting (although tasty is what my mom would call “heart-attack-on-a-plate”), it was light and airy and had just the right amount of cinnamon and turbinado sugar to accent the buttery pastry dough. The bread pudding was a gooey, fantastic mess of sugary syrup and fresh peaches. This was my favorite from Tartine and it was VERY hard to put down the spoon. The Gougére was tasty but nothing to write home about, the sweet stuff was clearly the star of this bakery.
Stop #2: Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street San Francisco CA, 94110
We were actually going to skip this place but I’m super glad we didn’t because on the way back to Florida I read this article in the airport which lists SF as one of America’s Best Ice Cream Cities and specifically calls out Bi-Rite. Besides the Food & Wine recognition, the ice cream actually was phenomenal. At the parlor, I tried “Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel Swirl” and “Ricanelas” (cinnamon with snickerdoodles), before finally settling on Roasted Banana. My aunt got the tried-and-true mint chip. The thing I admired most about Bi-Rite is their ice cream was like gelato in the sense that the flavor hits you first and hits you strong. With a flavor like roasted banana you could actually taste the ‘roasted’ part of the equation. Mint, a classic, was creamy and refreshing in just the way you would want it to be. This too, was hard to put down.
Stop #3: Gracias Madre
2211 Mission Street San Francisco CA, 94110
This place was our lunch break. It was an all vegan, all organic, Mexican restaurant and oh wow did it deliver some great things to my stomach. We ordered “Quesadillas de Camote” which was sweet potato and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. Being the sweet potato fiend that I am, I lurked this off the online menu and couldn’t wait to try it. In my opinion it was the best thing we ordered. Also ordered were “Gorditas” which were grilled potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew cream and “Verenjena con Queso Fundido” which was eggplant, tomato, poblano chile, and onion baked in cashew cheese and topped with garlic breadcrumbs. They were both very tasty. This place really got their use of cashew down perfect. For entrees, we ordered “Napoles” which was a dish made with prickly pear cactus. It took a bit of convincing from my aunt to get me to mentally allow cactus to be an acceptable food group but she did not let me down; it was very interesting and I liked it a lot! Also ordered was “Enchiladas con Mole”. I was told mole was a type of chocolate sauce so I felt that I couldn’t go wrong; however, I wasn’t really into this particular combination of sweet and savory. Overall, Gracias Madre did an incredible job creating vegan style dishes that were still traditional and delicious. If you eat a vegan diet, I highly suggest checking this place out and upgrading from bean burritos at Taco Bell -you won’t regret it.
Stop #4: Mission Pie
2901 Mission St at 25th San Francisco, CA 94110
These pictures are pretty but this place was the unanimous least liked of the day. Pie is great and when I sat down I was expecting some stick to your ribs comfort style pie. We ordered Mixed Berry (top) and a Plum Frangipane Tart (bottom). The problem with this pie was that it wasn’t sweet enough. The crust was bland and it basically tasted like canned fruit in syrup. It was like they thought since it had fruit in it, it had to taste healthy. Pie is a dessert so follow the universal code of dessert law and make it sweet, please! Also, in case you were wondering (like I was..) ‘frangipane’ is a pastry cream made with almond paste. It was weird. Mission Pie also had savory pot pies and quiches and I would venture to believe they were probably pretty good.
Stop #5: Dynamo Donut
2760 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Dynamo was one of the places my aunt and I were most looking forward to going to but we messed up real bad and did not take into account that donuts are a morning food. By the time we reached the window it was already late in the afternoon and close to their closing time. Because of this, we only had one option of donut flavor to chose from- Ginger Orange. This is semi-unfortunate because other flavors included Chocolate Rose Geranium Hazelnut (yes, that’s all one flavor.), Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate, and Apricot Cardamon. On the other hand though, Ginger Orange was probably the best donut I’ve ever had. To be more specific, it was a donut made with orange zest with pieces of candied ginger folded in and topped with a ginger glaze. The chunks of ginger were such a nice touch in the center of the donut. It made me want to translate this flavor pairing to other baked goods. So all in all, not a loss.
Stop #6: Humphry Slocmbe Ice Cream
2790 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110
When I saw this ice cream spot online I got really excited for all the interesting flavors they listed such as candied chestnut, black walnut, peanut butter curry, and toasted almond. The place was cute but when I reached the counter I had a very hard time deciding what I wanted and not in the good way. None of the flavors I was looking forward to were being offered. Instead, I sampled Thai Chili Lime which was actually spicy and very strange, Secret Breakfast which was cornflakes and bourbon (also very strange..), and Olive Oil which was decent. I ended up choosing Malted Dulce de Leche which was a pretty boring pick compared to all the rest of the flavors but it was great. It was very rich and super thick. I got a kids cup and felt full about half way through. Maybe if I had come on a different day I would have liked this ice creamery more.
Stop #7: Mission Minis
3168 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
We were walking to the bus stop when I spotted this place (I have cupcake GPS, what can I say?) We stopped inside their tiny store front and picked out four mini cupcakes which are probably the most perfect item for a food tour. We decided to get coconut which was pretty bland besides the toasted coconut shavings on top, mocha which I didn’t try because I don’t like coffee but was told by my aunt that it was meh, a chocolate with vanilla buttercream which was pretty good and the butter cream was nice and thick, and a chocolate peanut butter which you can’t really go wrong with. I would have probably liked to see the peanut butter buttercream be more like a frosting and less like a scoop of peanut butter on top though. Overall, I’d give this place like a 4/10. Then again, I’m kind of a cupcake snob after working at Sarkara Sweets and getting to eat Sweet! Cupcakes in Orlando which always dominate on Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, so who really knows.
Going on a food tour was amazingly fun and delicious. I would love to do it again in another city. I loved spending time with my Aunt and I was so thrilled that she was just as into it as I was. Foodies unite! San Fransisco was unique city with very creative and tasty food!!