Stepping foot into a new city can feel overwhelming, with so many sites to see, places to explore and things to do. Sometimes the easiest way to wrangle your itinerary is to explore the city through your taste buds. Using food as a guide is our favorite way to discover a city's nuances, eclectic neighborhoods and hidden gems, and if that makes us foodies, so be it.
Here are five bites you must try while exploring San Francisco.
① Croissant at Tartine Bakery
Tartine Bakery is a required stop on any visit to San Fran; the bakery has been doling out mouthwatering pastries and some of the best bread in the country for the last 15 years. Although the menu has many good options, if you're forced to choose just one thing, make it the croissant, a signature stalwart that has launched a thousand lines around the block. The mile-high, flaky creation is taller and wider than most, and every paper-thin sheet, from the dark, carmely exterior to the buttery puffs of air within, is visible from counter-level view. Trust us: It's worth the wait.
② The Rebel Within at Craftsman and Wolves
There's a reason this cleverly named savory muffin tops so many SF must-try lists. Aside from its setting—a chic bakery filled with other craveable pastries—The Rebel Within packs an Instagram-worthy secret that makes it worth the stop. Buried inside a savory biscuit-like muffin studded with flecks of sausage, cheese and chives is a runny soft-boiled egg. It's the perfect #yolkporn vacation moment.
③ Carne Asada Super at El Castillito
A Mission-style burrito is distinct to San Francisco. For one, it's named for the Mission District. Intimidating in size, it's packed with hearty rice and beans, in addition to meat and saucy extras like sour cream, guacamole and salsa. The weighty, foil-wrapped cylinders are usually so expertly bundled they can stand upright on their own. Every local you ask will have a personal favorite, and ours is the carne asada super at El Castillito. At this unassuming, no-frills taqueria, you'll find a massive burrito packed with succulent strips of charred steak; soft, perfectly seasoned rice; plump beans; and slicks of sour cream and guacamole to cool off the sweet burn of salsa.
④ Ice Cream at Bi-Rite Creamery
The Bi-Rite suite has operated in San Francisco since the 1940s, making it a city institution. Best among the businesses, perhaps, is Bi-Rite Creamery, which is known for its imaginative sundaes and exceptional soft-serve, all made from seasonal, local, house-made ingredients. Here's another line that's worth the wait; after all, how else will you be able to snag a honey-lavender sundae with blood orange olive oil and flaky salt, or a fully loaded brownie sundae? Unique, ultra-popular flavors like balsamic strawberry are available only a few months a year, but house-made toppings like graham crackers, toffees and fruit compotes are always on hand—Bi-Rite bakery is right next door.
⑤ Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista
Sitting on the edge of the city at Fisherman's Wharf, The Buena Vista looks like any ol' Irish pub. Don't be fooled though: This joint is really something special, and the bartenders sure know how to put on a show. Endeavoring to make several Irish coffees at once, they pour boiling hot coffee over clear coffee mugs with sugar cubes; steam erupts from the bar as the coffee melts the sugar. Then, they skillfully pour Irish whiskey over the row of glasses all in one fell swoop—no measuring required. The final steaming cocktail is capped with a dollop of aged whipped cream, which cools down the coffee and smooths out the sting of the whiskey. Word to the wise: They are much too easy to drink.
Margaret Lunetta is an NYC-based freelance video producer, editor and writer with a focus on capturing all things food, drinks and travel. Follow her on Instagram at @margaretlunetta.
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