(…it was a really long weekend)
I have spent a lot of time in San Francisco over the past five or six years. After a few really great friends left both Boston and Philadelphia to either move or return to the “Best” Coast (ew), several mini-vacations a year have involved sitting on red eyes trying not to gouge my own eyes out.
That said, I absolutely love San Francisco – namely because it reminds me of an East Coast city (Atlantic Seaboard for life <3), and also because while visiting, it makes me feel very resilient and tough to describe its 50 degree winter weather as “absolutely balmy” while my friends are trudging up and down hills in parkas complaining about how cold it is.
While previous trips to SF have served as bookends to wine tasting trips to Sonoma or ski trips to Tahoe, it’s becoming more and more apparent that my favorite west coast activity is (huge surprise)…eating. Outside of Philadelphia, there is no other city that has such unbelievable restaurants and the type of coffee shops that make me feel like I’m in an issue of Kinfolk Magazine (my dream). So on a very impromptu trip over the holidays, I was greeted by my friend Sindhu with what can only be described as a five-day food itinerary.
First Stop (Lunch): The Wayfare Tavern, Tyler Florence’s take on an English Pub.
Similar to the Dandelion in Philadelphia, The Wayfare serves English cuisine with a slight modern twist. Because there is no other way to recover from a 7am flight, I immediately started lunch with one two Cucumber Mules, the Wayfare’s take on a Moscow Mule with the substitution of Hendrick’s gin for vodka. Also impressive was the restaurant’s list of “classic cocktails” which included two favorites just starting to come back into style – the Sazerac and the Corpse Reviver #2. Located in the Financial District, I could also see the Wayfare having an awesome* happy hour situation.
In typical fashion, I wanted to immediately order the Wayfare Burger “Le Grande,” featuring grass-fed beef, brie from Marion, roasted onion and smoked bacon on brioche. But because I basically ate my entire body weight in antipasti over Christmas, I decided to forgo the burger and instead just casually ate three giant popovers the Wayfare serves in lieu of bread (our server was visibly disgusted by me). In agreement we should probably cool it with the carbs, Sindhu and I proceeded to order a salad with avocado and hearts of palm in a honey-lime dressing, a broccoli soup with gruyere mousse, and the best deviled eggs I have ever had, namely because they were blended with honey mustard, fried brussels sprouts and candied pumpkin. And then we got an order of poutine for “dessert” because we hate our arteries.
Second Stop (Breakfast): The Mill** (I can’t talk about this place without my heart legitimately fluttering)
Toast at the Mill
My introduction to The Mill came courtesy of another good friend living in SF, Alix, who first led me into the most beautiful, simplistic coffee shop I had ever seen with the warning “you, specifically, are going to die when you see this place.” Open and airy with huge farm tables and white subway tile***, The Mill is best known for serving Four Barrel coffee and the Best. Toast. Ever, made with the most amazing breads by Josey Baker. Americano in hand, I managed to polish off both my order of walnut bread with organic maple syrup and sea salt as well as half of my friend’s order of dark rye with cream cheese, sea salt and black pepper.
Bread at the Mill
Next Stop (Dinner): Nopa.
It’s basically impossible to get a reservation at Nopa. Recently named one of the best restaurants in San Francisco, Nopa now has a waitlist two months long and an average wait time for walk-ins on any given night averaging two to three hours. But if you’re feeling particularly aggressive and confrontational and an individual table isn’t a dining necessity, Nopa’s bar and large communal table just off its dining room are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. And so a recent Saturday night in San Francisco was spent circling said communal table (along with five strangers) like sharks, waiting for people to finish their meals.**** After about an hour of poaching (and memorizing the menu), we were able to secure seats and immediately ordered fried broccoli di ciccio with romesco and parmesan (which was meant to share but which I ate all of, and for that, I’m sorry), flatbread with bacon, maitake mushrooms, serrano chilies and mozzarella, a porkchop with orange-glazed sweet potatoes, escarole, walnuts and pomegranate, parpadelle with Kalamata olives, swiss chard and meyer lemon, and finally, French fries with a chili lime aioli. All said, Nopa is definitely worth the wait (and the arguments with fellow diners).
Heath Ceramics (picture via eclectictrends.com)
Last Stop (Shopping): Heath Ceramics (in the Ferry Building)
If you’re really into $50 handmade tumblers (which I am), no trip to San Francisco is complete without depleting your savings account at Heath Ceramics.***** Based in Sausalito but with stores in SF, Heath features ultra-simple, beautifully-crafted artisan pottery for cooking and dining. Already obsessed with my 9×14’’ platter from Heath’s Plaza line, I decided to purchase their multi-stem vase in indigo, which is actually a muted navy and would look amazing with white hydrangeas which are pretty much the only flowers I buy because I love them but also, OCD.
If you too want to average 8,000 calories a day in SF, I also suggest the following:
*Read: attended by attractive males
** AKA what my friends have dubbed “that $8 toast place.” For a Philadelphia comparison, imagine Rival Bros. on steroids.
***A New Year’s resolution is to stop talking about white subway tile so much
****You can tell Nopa is no joke when people are practically getting in table-flipping fights over getting seated. Upon accidentally making eye contact with a couple at the bar who were finishing their dessert course, I was immediately lambasted by another woman waiting – “Those seats are mine. We’ve been here four and a half minutes longer than you.”
*****To my family and close friends– if you want to buy things off my wedding registry years in advance of me getting married, I want eight place settings of the Miller Full Dinnerware Set.