Day Seven: San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach

Food Adventures, San Francisco

Famous sourdough, seafood just off the wharf, local favorite ice cream, touristy chocolatier, hole-in-the-wall truffles, legit Italian tiramisu, award-winning gnocchi, homemade panna cotta, best pizza in San Francisco, and a drink called the Laughing Buddha. Sounds like a long week of partying and going out to eat, but for us, it was just another day in SF. All that food in one day – it’s a good thing we walked to just about all of our destinations and got some exercise. What I enjoyed most about the day was its balance of tourist hot spots and local hidden favorites — and of course, eating our way through San Francisco!

If you’re up for walking and public transit, a good way to spend one day of a trip to SF would be combining Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and North Beach. Unless our game plan is too gluttonous for you to handle in one day, in which case please feel free to split it among multiple days!

The magnificent bread display at Boudin!

Delicious New England clam chowder bread bowl!

First stop – Boudin Bakery & Cafe. Be sure to walk past the incredibly long line at the touristy center of Pier 39 and make your way toward to big gray building on Jefferson Street. It gets pretty crowded here during lunch time as well, but at least you can admire the bakers in the window creating teddy bears and alligators out of dough! Martin isn’t much of a bread bowl person (his admittedly valid argument is that NO ONE ever actually eats the entire bowl itself, making it a waste of bread every time), but we shared a clam chowder bread bowl and a rustic tomato soup bread bowl. The tomato soup was good but not quite as delicious as the menu description led us to believe. The star of the show was the New England clam chowder, which had just the right ratio of potato to clams. We polished that one off with a quickness. Boudin’s sourdough bread is unlike any you can pick up in the grocery store. It’s wonderfully sour and has a great spongy texture. After our lunch, we wandered upstairs to check out the self-guided tour. The first room has tall panels depicting the history of Boudin dating all the way back to the Gold Rush. Through floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you can watch the workers mixing huge (I mean, GIGANTIC) batches of dough, feeding dough into a machine that cuts and rolls the dough into perfectly spherical balls, and arranging the soon-to-be-loaves onto huge baking sheets. Amazing, really. We couldn’t help it – we had to pick up some turtle shaped bread as souvenirs. (Side note: my mom ate her turtle legs-first. My dad thought it was cruel to the poor little turtle. Haha.)

Oysters on the Half Shell from Sabella & La Torre's

Less than a block away from Boudin is a strip of seafood stands and restaurants selling fresh seafood from simple steamed preparations to deepfried and ceviche. We decided to conduct our own impromptu oyster tour, starting with Nick’s Lighthouse. Here we ordered a pair of shucked-to-order oysters on the half shell from East Point. Briny and delicious! Our second (and last) stop was Sabella & La Torre’s. We shared an order of 4 oysters on the half shell with what seemed to be a homemade cocktail sauce. That was awesome and full of flavor, although it overpowered the oyster a bit.

Chocolate Caramel Crackle at Norman's

We made our way over to the Musée Mécanique and to the docked warship before heading up to Del Monte Cannery Square. Craving something sweet, we stopped by Norman’s Ice Cream and Freezes, a little mom & pop ice cream shop hidden away in the corner of the Square. The local favorite flavor is chocolate caramel crackle, so we shared a scoop. It basically tasted like a Snickers bar in ice cream form — rich and creamy chocolate ice cream, ripples of dulce de leche, and bits of crunchy “crackle” (I think it was a nut-and-nougat concoction). We can see why it’s a best seller!

Decadent liquid chocolate and sad-looking little biscotti

Onward and upward we went toward Ghirardelli Square, home of the infamous Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Ice Cream Shop. They give out samples right when you walk in, and this festive time of year, the samples are whole squares of peppermint bark – our favorite! Lines for the ice cream shop were ridiculous, so we went around the corner up the hill to the other (also Ghirardelli) ice cream shop and shared a decadent drinking chocolate with biscotti. It was like sipping liquid chocolate — so sinfully delicious! The biscotti was a bit disappointing, but then again, the individually wrapped pre-made stuff just isn’t the same once you’ve had fresh, crumbly homemade biscotti.

My little matcha sweet treat from XOX Truffles. Martin ate his before it could be captured on film.

We finally had our fill of browsing the shiny wrappers and tempting gift sets of chocolate, so we walked up Columbus Avenue to Little Italy / North Beach. We walked past so many shops and storefronts that it was dizzying. However, I spotted one that I had seen previously on Yelp and knew we just had to stop in. XOX Truffles, a tiny hole-in-the-wall truffle shop popular for their variety of unique handmade truffles (the chocolate treat, not the expensive fungi) in over thirty flavors. We wanted to try all of them, but since they package your order together in a small Chinese takeout box, we were worried the flavors would meld by the time we got them home. Instead we each picked out a flavor and enjoyed them right in the shop. I had the matcha and Martin had the classic milk chocolate. The chocolate had a wonderfully smooth texture and mine took on a delicate hint of green tea flavor.

Very yummy and very legit tiramisu!

As we continued our trek through Little Italy, we stumbled upon Stella Pastry and Cafe and decided to abide by one of my favorite bumper sticker slogans – Life’s too short, eat dessert first! They are known for their sacripantina, but one look at their tiramisu and I knew we had to try it instead. The tiramisu here was fluffy and wonderfully drenched in espresso. The lady fingers, however, were not fingers but instead thin slices of cake. The creme was nice and smooth, not too sweet, with lots of powdered cocoa for garnish.

Firenze's award-winning gnocchi!

We already had dinner plans with Martin’s friend Jay W., but we just could not pass up the opportunity to try award-winning gnocchi! Our impromptu executive decision was to hit Firenze by Night Ristorante right when they opened for dinner service at 5pm. Martin and I were one of the first tables seated and ordered the gnocchi entree right away. The service was quick and friendly, and we loved the rustic-looking mural in the dining room. When our entree arrived, we saw that they even split it into two dishes for us in advance! The deliciously dense clouds of potato dumpling goodness, covered in a velvety sauce of tomato and cheese. We could definitely see why these gnocchi were so acclaimed!

Silky, creamy panna cotta at Cavalli

Having rushed through our prevening meal, it turned out that we were still early for our dinner plans, so we stopped by a nearby cafe to cleanse our palates with a bit of dessert (again). Cavalli Cafe is a quaint little coffee shop that offers free wifi (although no power outlets) and their dessert selections include homemade panna cotta. No fancy coulis or compotes – this no-frills panna cotta was served as is in a little bowl straight from the refrigerator and it was beautifully simple. It had a delicate vanilla flavor and a pleasantly light texture.

Finally it was time to meet with Jay W. for dinner. Unfortunately, the wait for Tony’s Pizza Napoletana had grown exponentially without our realizing it, so we put down our names and headed across the street to Caffe Roma Coffee Roasting Co. to kill time and catch up. Martin had a caramel latte and I had a nonfat cafe au lait, as usual, but Jay went out of the box with something that looked as crazy as it sounded – a Nutella latte. It was basically a regular ol’ cappuccino served with a spoon heaped with Nutella. Just stir the chocolate hazelnut heaven into the hot coffee and voila – Nutella latte. Yum! I’ll have to try this at home sometime.

Fried Calamari Calabrese-style at Tony's

Finally the quoted hour-long wait had elapsed and we headed back to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and straight to our table. They are touted as having the best pizza in SF and we could certainly see why! They were completely sold out of their award-winning margherita pizza, with a crust made from san felice flour (I honestly have no idea what this is but for the sake of this anecdote, let’s assume it’s a special fancy type of flour). We opted for the calamari fritto misto appetizer calabrese style, which added heat and a nice kick to plain ol’ fried calamari.

Margherita Pizza (with the regular crust)

For pizzas, the three of us shared the pancetta porcini and the regular margherita pizza. Martin and I both love margherita pizzas, and this one certainly did not disappoint. If anything, it just made us wonder how much of an impact the elusive san felice flour would have had. All the more reason to return!

Pancetta Porcini Pizza drizzled with truffle oil... get it!

The boys let me pick the other pizza — pancetta porcini. I think I picked a winner, if I do say so myself. We were a bit put off by the menu description that mentioned ‘no sauce’, but then look again – this pizza is drizzled with truffle oil! DELICIOUS. DO IT.

Field of Hearts - a fruity shot topped with froth and red food coloring in the shape of a heart!

After dinner, Martin and I went to meet up with some of my friends for a birthday shindig at Cantina. We hadn’t been out clubbing and partying in a long time, so it was a welcome change.  Cantina is known for a specialty cocktail called the Laughing Buddha, made with muddled ginger, very quickly squeezed fresh lemon juice, and rum. Spicy and icy. Our friend Helen picked out a round of shots called Field of Hearts, made with frangelico hazelnut, strawberry liquer, and Midori, among other ingredients. Never had it before but it was delicious, frothy, and sweet. Not to mention, it was decorated with a drop of red food coloring skillfully whisked into the shape of a heart. Yes, it tasted just as girly as it sounds.

Earl Grey and Rose Gelato - the breakfast of champions!

The next morning, we strolled along Columbus yet again and decided to have dessert for breakfast. Gelateria Naia, with its dozens of homemade exotic and specialty flavors of gelato and sorbetto, definitely hit the spot. It so hard to choose, especially if you’re as indecisive as I am, but I finally settled on the Earl Grey and Rose, and Martin got the Nutella and Biscotti. So delicious! His was sweet and decadent while mine was delicate and floral. Both were nice pairings; if only we had more time in SF to keep coming back and try all of the flavors!

Martin's sweet tooth compelled him to get the Nutella and Biscotti flavors. Yum!

Phew! What an adventure of experiencing a city the best way we know how — through its food.

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Check out Boudin Bakery & Cafe: www.boudinbakery.com

160 Jefferson St
(between Mason St & Taylor St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Nick’s Lighthouse and Sabella & La Torre’s at Fisherman’s Wharf:

2809 & 2815 Taylor St
San Francisco, CA 94102

See Yelp reviews for Nick’s Lighthouse here. And for Sabella here.

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Check out Norman’s Ice Cream and Freezes:

2801 Leavenworth Street
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Ice Cream Shop:

900 N Point St
San Francisco, CA 94109

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out XOX Truffles: www.xoxtruffles.com

754 Columbus Ave
(between Via Buffano & Filbert St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Stella Pastry & Cafe:

446 Columbus Ave
(between Vallejo St & Stockton St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Firenze by Night Ristorante:

1429 Stockton St
(between Columbus Ave & Vallejo St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Cavalli Cafe:

1441 Stockton St
(between Card Aly & Columbus Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Caffe Roma:

526 Columbus Ave
(between Green St & Stockton St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Tony’s Pizza Napoletana: www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com

1570 Stockton St
(at Union St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Cantina:

580 Sutter St
(between Powell St & Mason St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Gelateria Naia: gelaterianaia.com

520 Columbus Ave
(between Green St & Stockton St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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