San Francisco Super Weekend Eating Guide. Bar Crudo, NOPA, Hog Island Oyster Company, Bar Agricole, Commonwealth and Una Pizza Napoletana.

One of my best experiences working in advertising happened a few years ago when I was sent off to San Francisco to work as an art director on a project for nearly three months. Our sister office needed some help and by chance I was available to offer some help. Jeni would drop me off at the airport on Sunday evening and pick me up later in the week on Friday. It was awesome to be put up at a nice hotel for nearly a week. And the best part of all was a $100-a-day stipend for meals which for me was a break from my usual poor-man meals. I would eat a real simple lunch or even use my own money to pay for it, but each night after work, I literally went on a night on the town. After the project ended, I had fallen in love with San Francisco and it was very difficult to part from the city life and great restaurant scene. It’s been over 3 years since I was last in San Francisco and Jeni and I were long overdue on a return trip. For those living in Southern California, a weekend trip to San Francisco is very common since it’s only an hour flight. On a Friday night, we hopped on the plane to San Francisco and prepared ourselves for a night on the town. So here’s a quick weekend guide to some of our favorite San Francisco eats.

Friday, 8:36 pm. Bar Crudo.
When I was here in 2008, Bar Crudo was one of the most happening places in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco as I ate here nearly 8 times. The first time I ate here, I was completely blown away by the concept of a raw bar. Shellfish, sashimi and wine – all things I enjoy. The menu offered creative renditions of sashimi with an American/Italian touch (like Anchovies & Olives in Seattle). For those familiar with Mission Chinese Food, Chef Danny Bowien used to work here and was also responsible for creating some of Bar Crudo’s tastiest dishes. I then heard that due to their popularity, they opened up a larger location in the NOPA area (North of Panhandle). It was only obvious that we would have to come back.

Seafood Chowder. Made with fish, mussels, shrimp, squid, potatoes and Applewood smoked bacon – this is a must and still as good as I had remembered. Definitely rich so I would recommend sharing it with heavy-cream enthusiast friend.

Day Boat Scallops with Corn Puree, Lobster Mushroom and Terragon oil & Ono with Avocado, Rhubarb, Jalapeno Relish and Black lava salt. These are just two of the five different crudo dishes you can try. They offer samplers and individual platters. I have to say though that this time around, either my tastes have changed in the last three years, the cooks were having an off day or the absence of the Chef this night, really changed the kitchen dynamics. Fish was good but not as fresh as it could have been.

Friday, 10:08 pm. NOPA.
If you ask people in San Francisco what their favorite restaurants are, you’re likely to hear about Zuni Cafe and NOPA. Walking into NOPA, you can’t help but get excited as this restaurant is packed nearly everyday up until closing time at 1 am. The food here is considered urban rustic but I also get a sense of Mediterranean influence. The wood-fired oven may have been installed in the kitchen to cook one dish solely: the delicious, juicy NOPA pork chop.

NOPA’s Pork Chop. I couldn’t choose over the pork chop at Zuni Cafe or NOPA – both are delicious in their own ways. At $22, you get a pretty nice pork chop served with a grilled apple and arugula. Don’t you let that bone go to waste, it’s the best part. The tuna on the left was OK.

Friday, 11:42 pm. Bourbon & Branch.
To end the night, we grabbed a drink at Bourbon & Branch. We heard about this place in every conversation regarding San Francisco’s cocktail scene so we made reservations and dropped by. Located on a corner with an “Anti-Saloon League” sign, this may be one of the earliest speakeasy-style bars in the U.S. I was at B&B three weeks prior to this weekend trip and the drinks were solid. This time around, the cocktails weren’t working and several conversations we had with people regarding B&B, it seems they change out their bartenders a lot and are very inconsistent. We actually should have headed to Smuggler’s Cove, Rickhouse or Comstock Saloon.

Saturday, 9:40 am. The Ferry Building.
If you love farmer’s markets and specialty stores, this is the ultimate marketplace for you. And Saturdays are the best time to check it out because you have multiple vendors selling produce and food outside of the Ferry Building on the right side.

Saturday, 10:01 am. Blue Bottle Coffee.
Start your tour of the Ferry Building with a fresh cup of coffee at Blue Bottle, but be prepared to wait in a line nearly 30-40 deep. The San Francisco coffee scene is hot with coffee shops like Sight Glass, Ritual, Blue Bottle and Four Barrel. If you’re a coffee nerd, I highly recommend going on a coffee chase.

Blue Bottle’s fresh waffle. You’re going to be waiting in line for at least 20 minutes, do yourself a favor and order this while you wait for your coffee. It is lightly glazed with some brown sugar and it is easily one of the best waffles I’ve ever eaten. I mean it.

I told you their lines are long. They even included it in their ABC coloring book.

Saturday, 10:59 am. Hog Island Oyster Company.
You can wait a good hour at Swan Oyster Depot or you can spend your hour here. Why? Because these guys get most of their oysters right from the lush Tomales Bay 49 miles away. I’d personally go with the oysters at Hog Island if you’re going to be at the Ferry Building anyway. Grab a seat outside, order some beer/wine and slurp some extremely fresh oysters. Also, if you’re a true ostraphile, you can drive out to the Hog Island farm in Marshall (under an hour drive) and picnic. You simply bring your own gear and friends and you can shuck oysters by the dozen right on the farm. I’ve never been, but have heard it’s an awesome time.

HIOC’s Clam Chowder. Right off the bat, it doesn’t look like a clam chowder but I assure you it’ll be one of the tastiest soups you’ll eat. I typically don’t like rich, cream-based soups and Chef Ian Marks really nailed it by using a small amount of milk. The beautiful addition of whole clams versus chopped clams really adds a nice seafood flavor to the overall soup. I can’t wait to try making this at home.

HIOC’s Steamer Clams. Another great dish to get in addition to the clam chowder. Clams are steamed and served in a white wine broth with chickpeas and chorizo.

Saturday, 12:02 pm. Roli Roti.
It is nearly impossible to walk by this stand without pausing to marvel at the amount of pork and chicken that is being cooked on a rotisserie. The aroma of herbs, salt and garlic being charred by fire is way too pleasing.

Porchetta Sandwich. You have to watch the cooks as they take the rolled pork off the rotisserie poles. If you’re nice, they’ll even hook you up with some of the skin/charred bits – so good!  I felt like I was looking at a “pork roll-up”. Roli Roti uses pork from Heritage Foods and is made with fresh herbs, curly grass from Star Route Farm, onion marmalade and served on sweet deli rolls from Acme Bread Company. The rotisserie corn-fed chicken from Sonoma is also delicious according to some people waiting in line.

A much-needed close-up of Roli Roti’s “pork roll-up”. Hoping you don’t get knocked by your IT department looking at porny content. (JD, CC and HC won’t be able to see this for sure haha!)

Saturday, 12:36 pm. 4505 Meats.
Since you’re cholesterol has just tripled after eating the porchetta sandwich, you might as well stop by 4505 Meats for their amazing chicharrones. Beautifully fried, light, slightly sweet and wispy like clouds, this may be some the most dreamy chicharrones you’ll ever try. I do love the chicharrones at Chicago’s Publican too though. Decisions.

Saturday, 5:13 pm. Una Pizza Napoletana.
After some shopping and a much needed siesta, we were back on the food train and headed to the SOMA (South of Market Street) area of San Francisco. Only 13 minutes after opening, we found ourselves in a line of 10-12 people. Even after Anthony Mangieri closed his pizzeria in New York, word of his pizza-making skills traveled down to San Francisco. Mangieri spent years researching pizza in Naples and mastering his craft. In San Francisco, neopolitan pizza is a competition. You’ll hear about Delfina, Zero Zero, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Flour + Water, And although Mangieri’s pizzas are at a higher price point than most other pizzerias and only offers meatless pizzas, Mangieri did not disappoint us. I’ll just say it: right now, Una Pizza Napoletana is my favorite pizza in America. I prefer it over Harbor City’s Eatalian Cafe in the South Bay.

Margherita Pizza. If you’re going to eat Neopolitan (Naples/Napoli) style pizza, definitely try it the way the people of Naples do, order the marguerite pizza. A light tomato sauce, nuggets of buffalo mozzarella and a few basil leaves. We met up with Sam Kim of here and when the waitress brought over his pizza, he poked the crust to check for its elasticity. He said, “I already know I’m going to like this just by touching the crust.” And Sam was more than right. The dough had a nice crisp touch but doughy inside. Why can’t all pizza be like this? If we did not have another two more dinners after UPN, Jeni and I would have ordered another pizza each.

Saturday, 7:23 pm. Bar Agricole.
Just across the street from Una Pizza Napoletana is another one of San Francisco’s newer hot spots Bar Agricole. Headed by one of San Francisco’s young favorites, Chef Brandon Jew and offering an excellent cocktail program, we had to stop by and check it out. And besides, I went to college with Chef Brandon too! Oh yeah, we partied too. Brandon has worked for some notable places such as Gary Danko, Quince and Zuni Cafe.

Bar Agricole’s Old Fashioned. The bartenders here use Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon for their Old-Fashioneds and serve it with a beautifully cut ice cube in a stylish Hario glass. It was delicious. I completely forgot about the drinks last night at Bourbon & Branch.

In the back patio, Brandon has a wonderful herb garden. After all, San Francisco is all about using fresh, organic and local ingredients.

Fritto Misto & Spaghetti. The fritto misto was excellent and completely vegetarian. I believe he added a Japanese touch to it. I still think about this dish.

Grilled Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. Delicious.

Saturday, 9:47 pm. Commonwealth.
Next door to one of San Francisco’s hottest place, Mission Chinese Food, is also another tasty spot known as Commonwealth. Headed by Chef Jason Fox, they offer very progressive and unique dishes.

Uni & Poached Egg.

Charred Octopus & Seared Scallops.

Sunday, 8:02 am. Turtle Tower.
No matter where I am, I’ll need to have some sort of Asian-like object. It was kind of cold in the morning and the first thing that came to mind was chicken noodle soup… the Vietnamese kind. When I was up in San Francisco for work, there would be a few times that I’d have to check in to a no-name hotel because all of the more popular hotels were being occupied by Moscone Convention-goers. And many times I ended up in the Nob Hill and Tenderloin area. Minus the idyllic scene of bums pissing in corners and verbal harassment, I enjoyed the Tenderloin mainly because of the close proximity to Vietnamese food. And this is one place I missed because their chicken pho (pho ga) is quite delicious.

The family that runs this is from Hanoi, and chicken pho is their specialty. Turtle Tower refers to the tower in the middle of the famous Hoan Kiem lake which we’ve seen back in 2009. If you like chicken parts, get the pho ga special which includes gizzards, young chicken eggs and extra skin. So good.

Another Hanoi specialty is the catfish cooked with dill and turmeric (cha ca la vong) but it’s not for everybody due to the usage of the purple shrimp paste known as “mam ruoc”. The odor from this makes kimchi and Taiwanese stinky tofu seem innocuous. But for me, it is what I like about Vietnamese cuisine. Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for Turtle Tower’s version.

Sunday, 9:57 am. Tartine Bakery.
By far, the bakery that warms up the Mission District. We got here 30 minutes early and were still behind 20+ people. This is Jeni’s favorite bakery and our tattered cookbook provides evidence. Favorites here are the croque madame, banana cream pie and Mexican wedding cookies.

Sunday, 11:39 am. Sight Glass Coffee.
We decided to make this our last stop before flying home and I’m glad we checked it out. I don’t drink coffee at all but I really enjoyed it here, more than Blue Bottle’s, Intelligentsia and Stumptown. The space itself is worth checking out and very different than most coffeehouses you’ll visit.

And that concludes our San Francisco weekend guide! Hope you’ll use it soon and enjoy San Francisco as much as I do. Thanks to Sam Kim of LAist and Josh Lurie of Food GPS for the recommendations. And as always, thanks for reading.

Bar Crudo (larger location)
655 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 409-0679

560 Divisadero
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 864-8643

Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 346-1735

Ferry Building Marketplace
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 983-8030

Blue Bottle Coffee
315 Linden St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-7535

Hog Island Oyster Company
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 391-7117

Roli Roti (Ferry Building vendor)

4505 Meats (Ferry Building vendor)

Una Pizza Napoletana
210 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 861-3444

Bar Agricole
355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-9400

2224 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 355-1500

Turtle Tower
631 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 409-3333

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600

Sight Glass Coffee
270 7th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 861-1313

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16 Responses to “San Francisco Super Weekend Eating Guide. Bar Crudo, NOPA, Hog Island Oyster Company, Bar Agricole, Commonwealth and Una Pizza Napoletana.”

  1. ila Says:

    LOVE this post! you make me pine for my bay…
    and yes, turtle tower is awesome. last year, our flight to japan was delayed, so my dad snuck us out of the airport to grab a bowl of the pho ga! we were almost late to our flight but it was well worth the panic.

  2. Chris Says:

    Another great post Dylan. Always happy when you pop up in my google reader. Keep it up

  3. belTRON Says:

    now i remember the reasons why i moved up here. thanks

  4. weezermonkey Says:

    This round-up rocks! I recently fell in love with NOPA’s brunch. :)

  5. pleasurepalate Says:

    I’m totally in love with those 4504 Chicarrones. If only there was shipping available.:(

  6. Passionate Eater Says:

    So glad you checked out Blue Bottle, Roli Roti, and Turtle Tower! Hope we can meet again sometime!

  7. Eleana Says:

    I remember reading your recommendations for Bar Crudo years ago when you first posted on it and it’s always stuck in my mind since then. When I went to SF for work last September, I managed to convince my coworkers to give it a try … WOW SO AMAZING.

  8. Eddie Lin Says:

    I miss my City by the Bay. I don’t even recognize her anymore it’s been so long. Thank you for reacquainting us, rekindling the flame even.

    By the way, your blog has too many words. Pictures and captions only from now on. Words hurt my eyes. R u guys back in LA yet?

  9. Anne Says:

    Dylan, I just have to say you continually blow my mind- you’re just so good at what you do, and you only get better. Your copy is as thoughtful, interesting and original as your photographs and it all comes together to tell a story that I could read time and time again.

    In short- you da man.

  10. mike Says:

    You nailed it. Fantastic photos, too.

  11. Scott Says:

    This is how to spend a weekend! From one spot to the next, eat, move on. Eat, move on. Sleep, coffee, eat, move to eat some more. Well done, great photography, great review. Cheers!

  12. Food GPS Says:

    Glad you had a good trip, and great post/photos. You just confirmed my suspicions: Commonwealth is a must visit spot. I’ll get there yet.

  13. Fabatable Says:

    This is such a great post, beautiful photos! I wanna go to SF!!! it all looks delicious. Cheers

  14. Tisha Says:

    Another great post! =) Thanks to your recommendations, I am taking my friend who is visiting from the Philippines, to some of the places you mentioned. I am not really from the city and never know where to go when people visit or when we are looking for new food options. Cheers!

  15. SHaunt Says:

    All GREAT places. I few I haven’t tried that i will def. visit next week.
    For coffee next time you’re up there, try Four Barrel Coffee in the mission. Its pretty damn close to Blue Bottle’s.

  16. Ankur Says:

    I’m trying out pizza napolenta + bar agricole this thrusday, cant wait man. Thanks for the post.

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