I was briefly convinced that I should tell you about the giant octopus that might block your way or pick up your car during this tour: he seems fierce but it's really only because he's shy. Then I realized I must have been dreaming about writing this post. That was followed by a dream about finding Little Debbie snack cakes at my local Safeway. I leave it to you to decide which is more improbable.
Cole Valley- We chose to come to Zazie straight from the airport, on the off change that at lunchtime on a weekday there wouldn't be a line. Unfortunately nowadays its reputation has gone so far that there's always a line at Zazie. When we told the fellow in charge that my parents had been up since 4 a.m., however, he gave us a free bowl of fresh fruit to 'keep our blood sugar up' while we waited to be served. The food was high quality as usual.
Sunnyside- You'd think K's Kitchen would hold no surprises, being my favorite restaurant and all, but I've discovered a new second-place roll here: the Super Dynamite. It's a bit like a tuna-based version of the Volcano Roll, with tuna and jalapeno in a crispy tempura. Plus for the first time ever we had a brief wait to get in. This historic moment hopefully means K's will be in business for a long time. Neighborhood standard Gialina has rolled out a superb chard and ricotta salata pizza; try calling for pick-up, it's much quicker.
Bernal Heights- We went for brunch at Liberty Cafe, having also previously gone for dinner and its famous pot pies, and everything was perfectly fine (once we convinced my father that if he ate everything together he wouldn't even taste that the eggs in his huevos rancheros were over-easy). But the lunch menu is much more diverse and interesting. It was at this juncture that I experienced something I hadn't known existed: Benedict satiation point.
Mission- Specchio's spinach pasta with salmon is still, I'd argue, the best pasta dish in the city. It may be simple but it never disappoints. Is it wrong that since we have three people we always grab a table while we're in line at Tartine? I'd been looking forward to Grub's mac and cheese bar, but it turns out that by planning the mac as a base for more interesting ingredients, the dish itself gets neglected. It's serviceable but lacking in creamy decadence, even if you add truffle oil as I did. Almost tastes like it's made with two-percent milk, and certainly with very toned-down cheeses. Grub does serve sweet potato fries of such tastiness that even avowed haters will scarf them down, and the burger bar, with several vegetarian/pescatarian options, is a solid if less interesting alternative to The Counter. Mission Beach Cafe is getting its own post.
Noe Valley-Any day you can hit Chloe's and not stand there for an hour is a good day. It's hard to be blown away a second time, especially given the number of brunches we'd been eating (see: Benedict satiation point), but everything was still tasty, especially my croissant french toast. The trout sandwich is still the standout item here.
Castro- It is a rare thing when you have a jones for a particular food item, can go and get it right then, and it's exactly as you imagined it. I figured my parents wouldn't understand my need for Indian food for breakfast, but after our meal at Chloe's we headed over to the Castro Philz to pick up a few pounds of Tesora for the journey back to Indiana. That Philz is, quelle surprise, right next to Kasa. One karahi paneer kati roll later, I was a happy woman.
Hayes Valley- The stories to be told about my parents' first foray into this neighborhood don't really concern food, but we did happen upon Christopher Elbow and buy some chocolates. Despite having waited a year+ to try its wares, I was disappointed with my tupelo honey truffle. Once I accepted it as savory rather than sweet it was interesting, but when I order a honey truffle I want a sweetness explosion, not an academic paper. My parents really liked theirs, and they also purchased some bars which they selfishly saved until they got home to eat ;) Apparently these were fantastic, and as specialty bars go they weren't insanely expensive. I don't know how $7 got to be reasonable, but there you are.
Russian Hill- The clash between my dietary restrictions and my mother's came to a head on our final evening. Ethnic food is easiest and most satisfying for me. She only eats it on sufferance, and loves classy New Americans, especially serving seafood which is hard to come by in the Midwest., If I have to face one more fillet of salmon or trout in some kind of sauce I shall scream. A brief trip onto the tiny internets reveals Pesce, a relaxed but sophisticated small plate seafood joint where my father can get a dish with duck, my mother can eat scallops or sole to her heart's content, and they have something called tuna bolognese which creatively mimics one of the dishes I miss most in the meat pantheon.
As my mother was pointing out that we'd visited almost all the neighborhoods in the city, we also noted we'd been to SOMA but not to eat (Asian Art Museum: go even if you think you wouldn't be interested), and even briefly to the Marina, although having been to Hayes Valley already that day our allotment of snotty was already filled. On the other side of the socio-economic spectrum, my parents also drove through Ingleside one day to get to me. It's rare we actually get to experience working-class San Francisco these days.
This morning, I had a dream that I was on the Upper West Side at a sandwich shop that resembled a very frou-four Ike's (and in a gourmet ghetto in which many things from that neighborhood had moved onto the same street). And I was walking the length of the counter back and forth, back and forth because I couldn't decide what kind of sandwich to get, veggie chicken? What kind of veggie chicken? How did I order since I could never find a counter person to pay attention to me? Maybe I should get a cheesesteak instead, but did they have veggie cheesesteaks? And then one by one the lights went off and they pulled down the shades and the place was closed around me. I think this is a sign, but of what I don't know.