With its vibrant Victorian-styled houses, unpredictable weather and an endless ocean view, the city of San Francisco is class apart. The museums, art galleries and age-old cable cars are proof of the great culture and heritage of the city. People here are a lot more laidback, unlike New York or Chicago, and are willing to help a stranger in need as they walk their furry friends.
With a population of over 8.6 million people, diversity is visible, whether it's the people or the food. And the best way to explore this is through foot or the local tram system, which has been at work since the 1900s.
A trip to Chinatown is a must for everyone who visits San Francisco. It is the largest Chinese community outside Asia, and has the most original Chinese food for obvious reasons. We stopped by at Chinatown Restaurant for a meal around 6.30 pm. After walking up two floors of this very Asian-looking property with wooden chairs, white walls and noticeably orange lamps, we sat down and ordered batter fried honey glazed chicken and a chef's special fried rice. The chicken was crisp with a tinge of sweetness, and paired with a simple fried rice tossed with chicken, eggs, veggies and pork. The meal reminded us of the rice we had in Hong Kong. To our surprise, we got complementary dumplings and ice-cream with our meal, which we happily devoured.
Batter fried honey glazed chicken and the chef's special fried rice at the Chinatown Restaurant.
Pier 39 is another gem of SF. Located on the port at the end of the Fisherman's Wharf, it is quite the tourist attraction. Mainly a shopping center, it also has the best food joints in the city. Drop by at the Wipeout Bar and Grill for some breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast with a view overlooking the San Francisco bay, and of course the playful sea lions. Although a nice dinner would be good idea too, considering the outdoor seating, pretty lights, crisp air and variety on the menu. If you aren't quite the pancake person, walk up to the Eagle Cafe right on top of the bar and grill, and get yourself a humongous plate of fish and chips. The fish, freshly caught from the ocean, is beautifully battered and fried, and paired with the crispy fries along with the dips and is enough to feed two mouths!
After a heavy meal, walk around the pier window shopping or take a tour to the aquarium that is just two steps away from the entrance. Do stop by at the crepe place around the corner and watch crepes being flipped and filled with sweet and savoury fillings at their live counter or grab yourself a big scoop of fresh ice-cream from Dreyer's Waffle Cones. If you do have the ultimate sweet tooth, look for a candy store calledCandy Barron and enter without a second thought. You can find hundreds of candies, chocolates, bubblegum and what-not. It's a candy lover’s paradise!
Clam chowder at Nick's Lighthouse.
If not already tired from all the walking and with hopefully a slightly empty stomach, look out for Nick's Lighthouse, a stall at Pier 43 selling fresh chowder and seafood among other things. Chowder, a thick soup is quite a favourite in the area and is made with either clams, crab meat, squids or any other seafood and is typically served in a sourdough bread bowl. As you slurp on this, make sure to keep a distance from the sea gulls flocking around you with an eye on your meal!
Don't forget to grab some piping hot beignet from Frankie's at Pier 43. These hot, deep-fried dough snacks are dusted with icing sugar and served with a side of whipped cream and are perfect for a light bite.
Beignets at Frankie's.
A trip to San Francisco is incomplete without visiting the Ghirardelli chocolate factory. At the opposite end of town, this once fully functional chocolate factory is now a tourist attraction with many stores and ice-cream parlours in the area. With claims of serving the world famous hot fudge sundae, they undoubtedly keep this promise. Try their black forest sundae made with cherry ice-cream and silky smooth Ghirardelli milk chocolate and you will not be disappointed. Take a friend along though; these sundaes are not easy to gulp down.
San Francisco has many more wonderful foods to offer, and each part of the city is known for a different cuisine - Italian, Spanish, Chinese are just a few cuisines you will find on the streets of this beautiful city. Do try to find local stalls and small cafes to get the real essence of the food culture here.