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Eating your way through hilly San Francisco

  • GROVE_SKI.jpg

    The inside eating area of The GroveElena Isella

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    A dinner plate from The PlantElena Isella

San Francisco is a city known for its many ethnic and regional foods.  So when when I was faced with the prospect of where to eat, too many options come to mind.

During a recent trip to the City by the Bay, I discovered some amazing places, and I give complete credit to my friend, who loves to eat healthy.  Even if you're not watching your weight or want to indulge, I suggest you can eat anything and everything in San Francisco because you’ll be walking it all off as you get from one place to the next via the steep hills.

Here are some great options:

One restaurant to check out is The Plant --a cool, organic cafe chain, with locations throughout the city, that sells sustainable seafood and local produce. I ate a delicious fish taco with a mango avocado salsa. The salsa is a refreshing combination that is dabbled on top of the pan seared fish in a fresh corn tortilla. The meal comes with two fish tacos and a side order of chipotle black beans.  But honestly, I could have eaten more from the menu. The interior design is very green and community welcoming. If I lived here, I would be a regular.

After a filling lunch, grab a coffee at The Grove -- another place with locations sprinkled throughout the city. When I walked in I was greeted by a pleasant host who handed me a menu and guided me to counter to place an order. The menu looked delicious, yet because of sightseeing schedule I opted to just savor a cappuccino at a cozy table that felt like I was in a ski chalet. There is one catch, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your point of view. Since January it’s no longer providing Wi-If because the owners want to go back to its original roots of being a place for community and music.

To get some excellent vegetarian spring rolls head to the Slanted Door which serves up modern Vietnamese food. The spring rolls have tofu, shiitake, cabbage, and mint, and when you dip the roll in the peanut sauce your taste buds sparkle. Meals are served family style, an excellent way to get the most of executive chef Charles Phan’s craft. The elegant and trendy feel of the Ferry Building, where the restaurant is located, adds to a delicious meal. If you want a view of the Bay- make a reservation.

When in California why not drink California wine? After a long day of sightseeing a glass of wine is the perfect way to end an evening. Check out Nectar wine lounge located in the Marina.  Wine from around the world and across the state is listed on the menu by taste, glass, bottle, or retail. The menu divides wine into categories such as ‘Rich and Extroverted Whites’ or ‘Playful Yet Thought Provoking Red’. My waiter recommended the 2008 Obsidian Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake County, California. It’s the only cab on the list for a reason.  

In San Francisco a burrito equals Papalote. It’s where you go for the best burrito in town. Located in the Mission, it’s a place for locals. There are no formal hostesses, no waiters, no bar. You go in, order your food, get a number, and hope to find a table. (Don’t worry, they sell beer.) The burrito is so fresh, you can taste the charcoal on the steak. A basic order comes with a bowl of chips and salsa. You can also make it a super order that includes sour cream, cheese, and guacamole inside. Also be prepared: the burritos are huge.

Don’t forget that while snacking to eat chocolate. Ghirardelli is a long time favorite chocolate maker from San Francisco. But there’s a new company in town: TCHO. Pronounced like the first phonetic sound of chocolate (the T is silent) TCHO describes itself as “Silicon Valley start-up meets San Francisco food culture.” Check out their amazing detailed tours at the factory on Pier 17, and taste testing is included. 

And one final tip: when ordering a sandwich, ask for sourdough.  The city is famous for it.