My parents recently visited me in San Francisco. Of course this was happy news to me. We've always been close, and the distance from my family has been the single downside to picking up and moving 1000 miles to be by the ocean, the mountains, Wine Country and fresh Dungeness crab. So naturally, I am always thrilled when they get to come see my home by the bay (oddly though, I grew up on bay, so it is not quite as unique, BUT, my bay was on Lake Michigan!)
So I was stoked (a word I did not always say) that they were coming. However, this inevitably meant that I had to do some planning. The most difficult and stressful task when they visit is not to figure out what we are going to see, where they are going to stay or what we are going to do, but rather where are we going to eat?? You have no idea the pressure. My family owns restaurants, so I grew up in a food and dining environment. My dad is a born culinarian and has always cooked big meals for us, my brother is a chef and my mom is the ultimate critic of efficiency and service in a restaurant. For these reasons alone, I cringe at inviting unsuspecting guests along to dine out with us. Let’s just say the phrase “We could have had a much better meal at home” comes up often.
Granted, San Francisco is a food-lovers city. It’s one of the reasons I moved here. But, I can’t pull anything on this crew. I knew it had to be something: new (they’ve visited many times before and we’ve had both great and really disappointing meals), something with character (stuffy and pretentious is the opposite of their idea of a great time) but ultimately something that has all the above AND great food. What did I come up with? Is there anything that fits this bill?
Here are the winners:
This is a win-win situation. $1 local oysters taste like the ocean, your view is the San Francisco Bay and the ambiance and bustling crowd is always fun to be part of (if you have to wait forever, they let you drink while you're waiting.) Plus, my dad loves oystersâ€¦ not something you often get in the Midwest.
I love this place. Nothing fussy, nothing fancy, just really good char-broiled, roasted chicken. Order some Peronis to drink, a large mixed salad (with the garbanzo beans) and a couple half chickens to share. Don't forget to squeeze all the lemons over the chicken. Did I mention I love this place? I knew my parents would too. It is our kind of place.
Even though I knew I was doing well so far with the fun, casual and often dive-y spots, I felt like I should take the parents out for a nice dinner. (And by 'take them out' I mean: 'let them pay for me'.) Canteen was my refuge. The decor is kind of retro, cool so you don't have the schmancy dining room aura, but the food is always on par with this city's fine dining. Everything that was brought to the table was fantastic. And that is a statement that rarely comes out of my family's mouths. Yeah for me!! Success again!
So, I was on a roll and only had one full day and night left. What followed was probably our best meal-day of all, but then again, it is the experience that counts:
Farmers Market Brunch & Dinner
Primavera's Chilaquiles, with a strong Blue Bottle drip coffee, and a home cooked meal from the morning's farmers market ingredients for dinner (we made Pazole out of Rancho Gordo's amazing hominy!) There is something so San Franciscan about going to the market, buying ingredients for dinner that night, and spending that really sweet, golden hour before the sun goes down, eating cheese and drinking wine. And we had the comfort and ambiance of my new, darling apartment (with a dishwasher)...