San Francisco has no shortage of great desserts and baked goods, so it can be quite an ordeal trying to plan where to go, especially if you’re pressed for time. I’m all for curated lists, so below are 5 suggestions if you’re looking to grab a sweet bite (or drink) in San Francisco!
As much as I hate to admit this, I will concede that our neighbors up north do have a pretty
respectable vibrant food scene. During the week of Christmas, a few college friends and I drove up to San Francisco and crashed at Rosalie’s family home, which is nestled in Outer Sunset.
Over the summer, my friends and I took a road trip up north to San Francisco, crashing at R’s home and tirelessly exploring the city in the 2.5 days we had. Despite the time crunch, we were able to hit up most of the places we had compiled on Google Docs, both hits and misses, and those in between. Good company, good eats, (reasonably) good weather. What more can you ask for?
2331 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
This is not an all you can eat Korean bbq place, nor it is cheap. But what it does have is quality meat, that is not found in any AYCE bbq restaurant. I was craving brisket so much that I had to get some. This place has a $39.99 deal that comes with a plate of beef brisket and pork belly, steamed egg, and soybean soup. It also comes with the standard sides, salad, rice paper, and rice. The special thing about this place is that instead of a gas grill, it uses coal, so the meat is supposed to taste a little different, but I couldn’t really tell since I was so hungry.
The sides that is came with were pretty good, the kimchi wasn’t fermented enough and the mashed potatoes tasted old, but the other side dishes were delicious, especially the seaweed salad and pickled radishes. Salad had a good amount of dressing and was freshly made, so it was very refreshing to eat with the meat, especially the fatty pork belly. Steamed egg and soybean soup were standard, nothing too special about them.
The brisket had amazing marbling, and melted in your mouth when it was cooked. It was just so much fresher than what they serve at ayce bbq. Pork belly was very fatty, but that’s how I like it! It took a while to cook it to be crispy like I wanted it, but it was worth it.
The service here is great, they are very friendly and never rude to us, making sure we were taken care of. One thing I did not like though, was the fact that they insisted on cooking the meat for us. I like cooking my own meat and deciding when it’s done, but they didn’t really let me do that here, because they assumed I had no idea what I was doing. Little do they know what kind of a kbbq master I am! Just kidding. But really, they turned off the grill before the pork belly was crispy enough for my taste, so I was a little irritated about that.
I wouldn’t come here on a regular basis just because there is just no where near the amount of food I could get for the same price in lovely Ktown, but once in a while when you’re craving ayce so much that it hurts, this would be a good place to splurge at.
On our last night in Norcal, we walked to a Korean plaza (Lawrence Plaza) next door to the Econolodge we were staying at. I thought it’d be interesting to get overhead shots of the food, cafeteria-style, in trays and all.
^ Pajeon – seafood pancake
^ Haemul kalguksu – seafood handcut noodles
There is also a sweet potato stall in front of the plaza. Unfortunately, by the time we spotted it, it was closed.
3561 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
One of our friends told us about a self-serve boba joint in Norcal called Tea Way (一茶道), so we decided to try it out. It’s located in Sunset, so we took the Muni to get there.
The place was pretty small, but there was a steady stream of customers when we went. At the counter, you select the drink of your choice and pay up. The cashier then gives you an empty cup to fill with toppings of your choice, ranging from red beans to tapioca pearls to pudding. Then the cup is handed over to a another employee behind the counter who fills in the cup and seals it.
L-R: Passion lychee tea, pumpkin pie milk tea, ovaltine milk tea, honey milk tea
The drinks are just okay. I found them really sweet though, especially the honey milk tea. The pumpkin pie milk tea was interesting, but didn’t taste like pumpkin pie.
All of us filled in an appropriate amount of toppings, except for Laurie, who apparently went berserk in the self-serve section and filled her cup to the brim with all these chewy pearls and other odd toppings, leaving no room for the passion lychee tea she had chosen.
Address: 2150 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122 | map
Fantasia is a purely Norcal phenomenon, which is why I wanted to try their tapioca milk tea. The drinks had a surprising Western taste to them and everything was meh to me.
I’ve come to the conclusion that SOCAL > NORCAL, at least when it comes to boba milk tea.
Address: 378 Santana Row #1115, San Jose, CA 95128 | map
On one of our final meals in Norcal, we went to Sushi Factory, an AYCE sushi buffet.
I don’t recall much of it, now. I do remember how puny the inari were (each order came with 2 measly inari). And I thought their hand rolls were pretty decent.
All in all, I don’t think it can compare to Midori (review here), another AYCE chain down in Socal.
Address: 4632 Meridian Ave San Jose, CA 95124 | map
Warning: This is a very long post. Consider it an ode to Chinese-made gelato.
Marco Polo was one of our many pitstops on our food adventure-slash-road trip to Norcal. On that particular day, we trekked about 10 blocks from Tea Way from Sunset before arriving at this assuming ice cream shop.
And I’m certainly glad to have experienced all the glory that is Marco Polo. (More Norcal folks need to know about this place! It was pretty empty on the day I came.) What really enticed me was the elusive durian gelato here, and it’s totally worth each bite.
First off, the sheer assortment of exotic flavors made it really hard for us to choose (I already have a hard enough time deciding as it is). The four of us ended up sampling at least a dozen flavors before narrowing down our choices. Each of us ordered a small cup with 2 flavors, for $2.85. Might sound a bit pricey, but rest assured, the flavors and textures amazed us.
Since we shared the cups on a rotation basis (the durian hater in our group had to forgo it, her loss, tbh), I got to try cantaloupe, coconut, durian, pistachio, taro, water chestnut, green tea, and guava flavored gelato. All were simply mouthwatering in their own ways. My biases were durian and pistachio, although guava and water chestnut came close.
- Durian: The durian’s buttery texture and complex scent were well-preserved. It was obvious that real durian chunks had been used.
- Guava: Mmm mmm mmm. I grew up tending guava trees, so I had my expectation set high.The slightly grainy texture of guava (when pureed, guava skin gives off a grainy feel) was still intact. It was simply divine, as Nigella Lawson would put it. (If you don’t know her, she’s the British goddess of sexual innunedos.)
- Pistachio: Everything that one wold expect, in a slowly melting package of cream and chunks of nut.
- Water chestnut: My mom is Hakka, so I’ve always had an affinity for water chestnuts. The color was really attractive and the taste was superb: light and subtly sweet.
Really old school mom-and-pop shop. The place looked like it would belong on any Main Street in Middle America, except for huge golden Chinese characters “Mage Boluo” (馬哥孛羅) emblazoned on its shop sign, Chinese for Marco Polo. The interiors look like they needed an upgrade about 3 decades ago, but there’s plenty of space for small groups to savor each spoonful. I guess that’s part of the charm. Good food is timeless.
We felt really bad about sampling almost everything, especially since we’re so used to the stereotypical Asian glares that come with giving free samples. But the guy working there didn’t pressure us to buy. He was really chill and gave us plenty of time to decide. I do, however, wish that he had been more generous with the portion sizes.
A resounding YES. It’s officially become my favorite gelato shop in America and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be coming back when I visit SF again. I tend to eat fast, so it took a bit of effort to take in the flavors with each spoonful, and wait for the gelato to completely melt on my tongue. But boy, I was schooled in food orgasms that day.
Address: 1447 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116
Before the trip to SF, all us had planned out a pretty detailed itinerary (food places included) on Google Docs, after compiling lists of places and narrowing down, for efficiency’s sake.
Alvin heard about a fusion sushi place called Sushiritto (serving fusion sushi burritos, as the portmanteau implies), so we decided to check it out while were in the Union Square district. I still recall the pouring rain in the city and thinking to myself what a terrible day it was to be outside.
The place itself is pretty unassuming and plain. And even though the menu options are limited, everything was pretty pricey (<$8/dish is cheap in my books). The signature rolls (basically burrito-sized sushi rolls) all ranged from $8 to $12.
Alvin and I ordered the mid-priced Latin Ninja roll ($9), which comes with Salmon, Mango, Avocado, Asparagus, Daikon Radish, Meyer Lemon, Pickled Red Onion, Cilantro, Green Onion. in a Sauce: Ginger Serrano.
Verdict: nothing spectacular or worth waiting in line for. It tasted like a regular ole sushi roll, except with unusual fillings like mango. More importantly, THAT alone is definitely not enough to satisfy my hunger. All hype, no substance.
Address: 59 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94106 | map
I think it was Day 3 that we decided to explore Chinatown and do some shopping in Union Square (and pay the 3-story Forever 21 a visit, per Michelle’s request).
In the morning, we dropped by perhaps the most famous egg tart bakery in San Fran, Golden Gate Bakery (金門餅家).
I eagerly got there, rain and all, waiting to snap pics of the place and all of their selections.
But alas, I didn’t heed the warning sign: “NO PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEO.” Out of nowhere, an angry Chinese woman behind the counter began pointing her fingers at me and telling me to back off. So that was basically the only picture I got inside.
Anyhow, we ended up walking to the basement of the Union Square Macy’s, where I finally got a chance to take pictures sans rain.
The ubiquitous pink box used by all legit Chinese bakeries. I love the wrapping.
And egg tarts (蛋撻, danta) in their full glory. The egg custard was light and sweet, and the crust was flaky and delicately buttery, just the way I like them. Also, they were the perfect size (I’ve seen a lot of dim sum restaurants scale back on their egg tart portions…) Michelle said that the lady packed us the bad ones because I took pictures of their bakery, but I’d like to believe that wasn’t the case.
We also got a few wife pastries (老婆餅, laopo bing) with wintermelon paste and flaky lotus paste pastry (莲蓉餠, lianrong bing), but since we kept them inside a bag all day, they ended up crushed and crumbled. Still tasty. Just not worth the megabytes to snap pictures of.
Address: 1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 | map
Okay, been totally lagging on posting up reviews of our NorCal trip this spring break. Sorry, Josie!
We stopped over at SF’s Fisherman’s Wharf to try the famed Boudin Café, somewhat of local landmark.
They have all sorts of cutely-shaped sourdough breads and a cool basket/conveyer belt system across the cafe to transport breads from the ovens to the shelves.
ZOMG crab sourdough breads and more galore!
Basically, all of us ordered the Best of Boudin, $7.29 for 2 items of your choice.
Laurie and Michelle got the Romaine hearts salad with sourdough croutons & grated parmesan cheese, along with a clam chowder bread bowl.
Alvin and I ordered a crab cake sandwich (around $8), along with a Best of Boudin, which included half a tuna salad sandwich and a clam chowder bread bowl. Twas delish, but portions were admittedly small…
The tuna salad sandwich, with lettuce, sliced tomatoes on bread was your standard fare, but the sourdough gave the tuna salad a nice kick.
The clam chowder bread bowl was yummy too. The warm toasty bread bowl was surprisingly moist and chewy.
Environment: Cafeteria style, with orders taken at the counter. Pretty casual and informal. There are factory tours upstairs too.
Service: Self-serve. See above.
Verdict: ‘Tis a SF staple!
Address: 160 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 | map
On our road trip, we hit up Cheeseboard Pizza Collective, after visiting Cal on the second day.
They serve only 1 type of pizza and salad every day, and I saw the workers churning out dozens upon dozens of the same exact pizza.
The ordering counter.
The day’s pizza was made of roasted cauliflower, caramelized onions, mozzarella and fontina cheeses, pistachios, garlic, olive oil and Italian parsley. A whole pizza goes for $20.
2 words: mouthwatering cheese. I especially loved how well the pistachios went with the cheese pizza.
The salad of the day, organic mixed greens, olives, manouri cheese with roasted tomato dressing, was meh ($7). Of all things, it had to be tomato-based…
We got an extra slice too! 😀
No frills. You order at the counter, grab a table and chairs, and bring the food over.
Delish pizza. Nice ambiance (there’s a live band playing inside, and the outdoor seats remind me of the idyllic college town). Great cheese!
Address: 1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701 | map
Over spring break, Josie and I took a road trip with some friends to Norcal. We had already planned out all the food places we’d hit up along the way and we somehow managed to eat at all of them. 🙂 Food (and good company) was the highlight of this trip.
After a really long drive up to SF, we checked in our hotel near the Civic Center and did some sightseeing at the City Hall. Then we headed over to Burmese Kitchen, a Burmese resto really close to SF’s Little Saigon. The place is pretty small and packed at dinner time. We waited for a good 20 minutes for our seats.
There are a bunch of Burmese carvings and decorations in Burmese Kitchen, giving it a homely feel. But I’m still of the opinion that home-cooked Burmese food is a lot better tasting than restaurant-style Burmese food. I just wanted my friends to experience Burmese food.
For appetizers, we ordered Burmese-style samuza (ဆမူစာ) for $4.95. Unlike Indian samosas, Burmese ones are relatively flat and triangle-shaped. They were perfectly fried, but a bit too small for my liking. (The samuza I’m used to are the size of my palm.) The potato-filled samuza came with a tangy and sweet sauce.
We also ordered fish cake salad or nga phe thok (ငဖယ်သုပ်) for $6.50. Nothing too amazing—just strips of fried fish cake mixed in with a generous serving of oil, chilies on the side, chopped lettuce and onions.
For the main course, we had the pork with pickled mango (ဝက်သားနဲ့သရက်သနပ်အချင်) for $6.50 and chicken curry (ကြက်သားဆီပြန်) for $5.50. As a primer, Burmese curries are rather oily (curries are called si byan or “glistening with oil” in Burmese).
The pork with pickled mango was rather disgusting, to be honest. The pickled mango slices, contrary to my expectations that it would be sweet, were really sour and difficult to chew. My mom always cooks this dish with sweet mango pickles, which give off a delicate masala spice fragrance that can be tasted in the pork. However, here, the pork chunks were totally drowned in an overpowering sour sauce.
The chicken curry was decent, but missing most of the oil sauce that it’s cooked in (maybe to make it more edible to non-Burmese folks). It was a bit too salty for me too.
We also ordered the tamarind fish (ငါးဆီပြန်နဲ့ ခရမ်းချင်သီး) for $6.95. It’s a shame that they were so stingy with portions. I could’ve eaten all of the fish fillets on the plate in a single bite.
Since we were still not full, we ordered pork with chana dal (ပဲပြုတ်နဲ့ဝက်သားဟင်း) as our last course, for $6.50. It tasted and looked more like an Indian dish than a Burmese one, especially the Indian chickpeas and the spices used. But as usual, a generous amount of oil used.
Prompt and friendly—I got to use my Burmese skills for a change. The restaurant owners (presumably) were pretty nice too. Since our rice was late, they gave us extra rice (biryani and coconut rice as well) on the house. Also, we were able to use a 10% coupon without any trouble by showing an online copy, since I forgot to bring my printed coupon.
Disappointingly small portions, but a good place for introducing Burmese cuisine to people who otherwise might not have a chance to try it out. I still think that monasteries and homes are the best places to find authentic Burmese food though!
Address: 452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 | map