9 Unique Food and Dining Experiences I Loved in San Francisco

San Francisco is usually on lists of the “Top 10 Most Exciting and Fun Cities in the World”. While I had flown to this great bay city several times while still working for IT companies in Manila and visiting social events, it wasn’t until recently that I was able to experience the San Francisco food scene.

My eldest daughter Trisha and her family now happen to live in Livermore in the Tri-Valley, about an hour from the city. When my youngest daughter April (based in Melbourne, Australia) had to attend training at her company’s headquarters in San Francisco, we found the opportunity to explore the area. Trisha’s daughter, Daniela, who works as a scientist in a company in San Francisco, volunteered to take us on an unforgettable 2-day tour, during which we enjoyed these excellent food and culinary experiences in San Francisco .

The crab at the entrance to Pier 39

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

1. Clam chowder and sourdough

Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf

Daniela took us for an Uber ride to Pier 39, highlighting the flower gate, the famous carousel, the boardwalk, many exotic shops, the huge heart, the giant crab sculpture and the great views of the bay. But when the barking, honking, growling, growling, roaring, moaning or whatever they call those sounds got louder, we knew we were getting close the seals that have made the unique pier home for years.

Pier 39 is in the famous area called Fisherman’s wharf. We spotted colorful street art, a view of the mystical Alcatrazand old WWII ships on display.

But it is best known for its restaurants and food outlets. We avoided the ones that offered crabs as that’s what was on offer for dinner. But my granddaughter insisted that we stop for snacks at the Boudin Bakery for their remarkable flagship sourdough bread paired perfectly with the classic clam chowder. At times, you can even see the bakers at work through a 30-foot viewing window and ask questions (and get answers) through a two-way intercom system.

Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square

Photo credit: Beto Chagas / Shutterstock.com

2. Chocolates and chocolate ice cream

Ghirardelli Square

A walk in front of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park would usually give you a great view of the the Golden Gate Bridge, but that day she was hiding. The road took us to Ghirardelli Square, a charming shopping district with captivating arches and chic boutiques. We entered on the lower level and went straight up to the market at the second level. And there we bought lots of chocolates to take home. We also couldn’t resist the different versions of chocolate in decadent ice cream!

3. Roman Pizza and Craft Beer


Then we met April for lunch at Delarosa, a popular pizzeria near his office on Market Street. It was buzzing with activity, much like a festive Italian party, with all the millennials taking lunch breaks from their high-tech jobs. That’s what the restaurant is known for: “Community-style dining all day, 7 days a week.” Their take on great craft beer (as well as Italian and California wines and other craft cocktails) paired with their Roman pizza has definitely left its mark on young and old alike.

The red lanterns of Chinatown

The red lanterns of Chinatown

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

4. Dim Sum

Chinese district

Another Uber ride took us to Chinese district. Wow! Beyond the Dragon Gate was a bustling area of ​​aisles filled with all sorts of cultural products from the Orient: home decor, gadgets, souvenirs, fresh produce, baked goods, dry goods, and more. We found plenty of cocktail and karaoke bars, restaurants, etc., as bright red round lanterns hung above the streets added to the festive atmosphere. Ornate buildings and temples are also perfect for great photo ops.

Good Mong Kok Bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown

Good Mong Kok Bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

Then she drove us to her favorite little bakery, Bon Mong Kok. There are no tables or chairs. You stand in line, order your dim-sum selections and eat standing outside on the sidewalk. These are truly exceptional (and inexpensive) dim sum. We ordered so much that, reserving our appetite for the big crab dinner that night, we took plenty away for breakfast the next day. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in America and the largest outside of Asia. Don’t miss this unique experience.

Roasted crab, garlic noodles and vegetables at Crustacean

Roasted crab, garlic noodles and vegetables at Crustacean

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

5. Vietnamese Roasted Crabs and Garlic Noodles


Finally, it was time for the big crab dinner! Crustacean is the sister restaurant of Thanh Longthe classic Vietnamese restaurant that served its famous roasted crab with garlic noodles During a very long time. Thanh Long grew into a multi-million dollar empire after the family arrived in 1975, fleeing the communist takeover of South Vietnam. It has been hailed as the first Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, regularly frequented by celebrities such as Harrison Ford.

A friend – the CEO of the IT company that supplied the equipment to the organization where I was overseeing automation – introduced us to this dining experience. She gifted me and my young daughters to this popular spot in the late 1980s. Since then my kids have gushed that it was the best meal they’ve ever had in the world and dreamed of to go back there. I took them to the more accessible and upscale partner restaurant which was added to meet the huge demand. Yes, we each devoured a huge crab, completing the bites with oozing bites of divine garlic noodles. Do it at least once in your life.

The author with family in Little Delhi

The author with family in Little Delhi

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

6. Indian cuisine

Little Delhi

San Francisco is also a fashion mecca, so the next day my granddaughter took us to some favorite stores. The first was Uniqlo (whose brand ambassadors included tennis icons Djokovic and Federer) to see all the hype surrounding this Japanese brand. We’ve uncovered the company’s secrets for all to see: great designs and exceptional materials. Then she took us Jin, another Japanese brand of trendy eyewear frames frequented by millennials. I found some styles for me (I guess at 74 I still feel 34). The store closed in August 2022 as online sales soared.

Finally, it was time to pick up April for lunch. Curious, I wanted to see the secrets of Zen office, one of the most successful innovative high-tech companies in customer service (Uber and Airbnb are two of its biggest customers). We discovered a few reasons. Every employee’s creativity is unleashed with modern, well-stocked dining/bar areas on every floor. There are nooks for two, spaces for large groups and even a creative studio. Desks and chairs are available for all work styles: standing up or slouching over a laptop (my preference).

Lunch brought our attention back to our happy little family. april chose Little Delhi, and my husband couldn’t agree more. They both love Indian food. Classic dishes enjoyed by New Delhi locals for decades are offered at this modest but impeccably themed venue. Even the taste of old Delhi, famous for its diapers parathas – a type of bread fried on a griddle and made without yeast – is served here. Daniela and I found some great options and we all had a great time.

The author enjoying matcha green tea ice cream in Japantown

The author enjoying matcha green tea ice cream in Japantown

Photo credit: Carol Colborn

7. Matcha

Japanese quarter

After lunch, Daniela took us to a place I didn’t even know existed: Japanese quarter. It’s a sprawling, two-winged, two-level mall of everything Japanese: home decor, gadgets, clothing, art, food, cosmetics, and more. I loved the imposing giant pagoda at the entrance, the mural of colorful Japanese umbrellas, the red bridge/stairs connecting the two floors, replica temples and other Instagrammable spots. Daniela had to get a specific cosmetic product, ideal for Asian skin, from a point of sale, but it was at the store selling matcha ice cream in tons of different flavors where we lingered the longest. I had the green tea version, of course – four scoops!

8. Return of the Filipinos


Finally, for dinner, we met up with the rest of the family at Max’s, this classic Filipino restaurant we’ve loved since my kids were born. It is known as “The House that Fried Chicken Built”, with no less than 170 branches in the Philippines. I’ve tried replicating their whole fried chicken, which is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not breaded, but failed every time. There are already 14 international branches of this successful restaurant, including six in the United States, five in Canada and others in Australia, Dubai and Kuwait. With other authentic Filipino dishes on their menu selection, it was a trip home, a family feast of Filipino dishes. I understand that Filipino cuisine is growing in popularity. This is where you have to try it.

9. Dessert and Merienda

At Aunt Em’s

Right after lunch, Daniela took us Delicatessen and pastries from Auntie Em’s nearby. In fact, she ships me items from this store that I love. It specializes in Filipino specialties for desserts and merienda (snacks). I took the opportunity to buy a dozen of my favorites ensaymadas (pastries) to take home. And there are others like kakanins, empanadas, flan de leche, bibingka, haleya, etc. You must taste those made from ube (purple yam). The flurry of articles on the Internet about it probably indicates that items made from it are also gaining popularity.

We owe these nine amazing dining experiences in San Francisco to one of the best tour guides we could have. Our millennial granddaughter not only knew the city (and its food) well, but she generously offered her precious time and wonderful company to us.

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