It’s somewhere near the top of the list of universal Travel Commandments: thou shalt stuff thy face on thy travels.

With that in mind, one component of my recent US trip was an almost constant search for good food. The consensus with the girlfriend was that of the five cities we visited – San Francisco, San Diego, Kanab, Las Vegas and Los Angeles -, the best face-stuffing was to be found in the City by the Bay. With that in mind, here are three food recommendations for San Francisco.

 

Sam’s Chowder House

Located in Half Moon Bay, Sam’s Chowder House specialises in seafood, so you will find plenty of oysters, crab, lobsters and the like here. It also sits astride a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which means you get a great view while you eat.

San Francisco Food

Sam’s Chowder House

Three things you need to be aware of: you will need a car to get to Sam’s Chowder House, and it’s especially crowded on the weekends, so you should plan to get there before noon. It is also a tad pricey, but what you get is well worth what you pay for. Once you arrive, order the Lobster Roll (US$21.95) without delay, simply because it tastes so damn good. The Today show even anointed it one of the five best sandwiches in America. The lobster is tenderly cooked, the bun is toasted and the taste is unforgettable. I’m no food critic, so I’m really not doing justice to it, but you will know what I mean once you try it.

San Francisco Food

Lobster roll

Another dish I really liked was the New England clam chowder (US$6.95 cup/US$10.25 bowl), made in the traditional New England style with clam broth, cream, clams, potatoes and more. It was the writer Mark Twain who once said that the coldest winter’s day is a summer’s day in San Francisco, and a steaming bowl of clam chowder is the perfect antidote for this. You can literally taste the freshness of the seafood.

San Francisco Food

New England clam chowder ©Sam’s Chowder House

The Daylight Farms beet salad (US$9.50) – with strawberries, wild arugula, frisee, feta cheese and toasted pistachios – is not a bad option either, though I am personally not a big fan of cheese. The greens are a good counterpoint to all the artery-thickening seafood you’ll be putting into your mouth.

San Francisco Food

Another thing I really like about Sam’s Chowder House is that it is literally right next to the beach, so you can go for a little stroll after your meal to work off the calories. If the weather is good, you’ll see lots of people jogging and/or walking their dogs. There are also plenty of fishermen’s boats  anchored nearby, and many of them will be selling very, very fresh seafood.

San Francisco Food

Fishermen’s boats anchored in Half Moon Bay.

San Francisco Food

A fisherman in Half Moon Bay shows off his latest catch.

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

Another highly popular option, Dottie’s is a brunch place on 28 6th Street, between Market Street and Mission Street. Incidentally, it’s right next to a Vietnamese restaurant called (ahem) Tu Lan (you’ll need to be Singaporean to get that reference). Dottie’s speciality: egg dishes. It’s also a bit pricey, but just like at Sam’s Chowder House, you get what you pay for.

San Francisco Food

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

One common complaint for Asians who visit the States is that the food portions are too big, and we were no different. But from the Yelp reviews that we consulted, it seems that even Americans find the portions at Dottie’s to be too much, which should give you an idea of  just what you’re getting yourself into. The first dish we tried was the Southwestern (US$12.95), which consists of andouille sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers and jack cheese in an open-faced omelette with salsa, home fries and tortillas. This was coupled with the Smoked whiskey-fennel sausage mushroom and baby spinach scramble (US$11.50), which comes with grilled chilli-cheddar corn bread and home fries. We just about managed to finish three quarters of both dishes, which filled us up all the way till dinnertime. Once again, I’ll simply let the pictures do the talking.

San Francisco Food

The Southwestern

San Francisco Food

Smoked whiskey-fennel sausage mushroom and baby spinach scramble

We got there around 10am, just before the queue started forming, so we were seated really quickly. Besides the food, one thing I really like about the place is the very relaxed, chill vibe. I’ve been to restaurants where they can’t wait for you to order, or where the waiters keep pushing you towards the more expensive dishes. At Dottie’s, even though there was a line of people waiting to get in, we never felt pushed to finish up and leave.

San Francisco Food

Sitting pretty in Dottie’s

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The wonderfully relaxed vibe of Dottie’s

We even left Dottie’s with a sounvenir: a bottle of their homemade jalapeno pepper jelly (US$10, if I remember correctly). It’s sweet and spicy all at once, and tastes perfect on toast.

San Francisco Food

Dottie’s Chiptole Pepper Jelly

Brenda’s French Soul Food

The first thing you notice about Brenda’s French Soul Food, located at 652 Polk Street, is the ambience. As befits the type of cuisine it serves, Brenda’s makes you think of old jazz players and Naw-luns and delicious, delicious food. It serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and I have to say that it was probably my favourite food place in SF. The Tenderloin neighbourhood it’s located in looks a tad dodgy though, so I would recommend going in the daytime.

San Francisco Food

San Francisco Food

The crowd at Brenda’s French Soul Food.

San Francisco Food

San Francisco Food

Brenda’s French Soul Food has some lovely decor too.

San Francisco Food

 But enough of all this talk of ambience: on to the food. We had the Catfish Po’boy (US$9.75) with chipotle remoulade on a toasted French roll, and the Shrimp & Grits (US$12): sautéed shrimp and cheddar grits in spicy tomato-bacon gravy. The Po’boy: as tender as a first kiss. The shrimp: crunchy as a freshly picked apple.

San Francisco Food

Catfish Po’boy on a toasted French roll

San Francisco Food

We washed it all down with some lovely, lovely sweet watermelon house tea (US$2.75). It tastes almost like watermelon juice, but not as rich.

San Francisco Food

The heavenly, sweet watermelon house tea.

 As you can see from my photo, I would have happily sat there and guzzled the tea all day, especially since refills are free. The girlfriend rather liked it too.

San Francisco Food

Have you been to San Francisco? What other food recommendations do you have?