goop Hometown Guide: San Francisco
Needless to say, Chef Thea Baumann’s restaurant recommendations go a long way around here—particularly when it comes to the Bay Area. Thea grew up in Palo Alto and spent her first few years as a chef in San Francisco, so her tips are as nostalgic as they are spot-on. Case in point: Tadich Grill, which she describes as “old-school, with a great atmosphere,” adding, “it’s not really about the food—I only ever order the calamari and a martini.” Yank Sing, she adds, is perfect for staving off hunger while you wander around the Embarcadero farmer’s market: “They have the best dumplings and xiao long bao.” Namu Gaji is another old favorite; right next to her old place in the Mission.
For a simple evening itinerary, Thea suggests hitting up a book signing at Omnivore in Noe Valley and walking down the street to La Ciccia, which “has the best bottarga pasta.” For dessert, check out Mitchell’s for ice cream: “I love their black walnut and grasshopper pie flavors.”
Thea’s also quick to point out that the food scene hasn’t exactly stagnated since she moved. Among the new openings on her shortlist are Tartine Manufactory (because, of course) and Nightbird, the new restaurant from her friend Kim Alter, “a total food badass who’s been in the industry a really long time and worked at a lot of high-end restaurants. This is her first real solo project, and the menu is so beautiful.” See below for some of Thea’s top spots; and here for all the goop guides to SF.
It’s been around since the Gold Rush, so you kind of go here more for the history than the food. If you’re in the mood for the full white-tablecloth experience, order the charcoal-broiled fish as it’s said Tadich is responsible for pioneering the technique in the U.S. If not, we like the bar for a martini and people watching.
Opened a year ago, Tartine’s light-filled, warehouse-like offshoot is a foodie paradise with lines out the door to prove it. There are the same amazing breakfast and lunch options you can find at the original location, but here you’ll also find beer and wine, a soft-serve machine, and (blessedly) a full-on dinner menu. There’s a separate, and semi-secret, line for people who are just buying bread and jam, but if you want to wait for something from the full breakfast menu, or a gem from their pastry case, there’s a Blue Bottle next door offering sustenance and caffeine in the meantime.
There’s nothing glitzy or particularly fancy about this classic scoop shop, but as evidenced by the out-the-door line (don’t worry, it always moves fast) the small-batch ice cream is second to none. We like that they keep it fairly simple with flavors, the most inventive of which—and arguably the tastiest—is the Black Walnut, though Avocado and Grasshopper Pie are close seconds. You can also custom order a traditional ice-cream cake.
In a nutshell, this is the place for incredibly authentic Sardinian food with an Italian-only wine list to match. Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan, the husband and wife team responsible for the magic, are particularly well-versed in seafood, which explains why the braised octopus is some of the best we’ve had. On the pasta front, the bottariga spaghetti is no joke.
This is the best place to go for authentic Dim Sum as the offering is vast, including every dumpling choice you can imagine. The dining room doubles in capacity on the weekends in order to accommodate the crowds while the menu decreases in size, meaning weekdays are definitely the best time for a meal. There’s a nearby location on Stevenson Street, too.
There’s a lot to appreciate about this insanely cool-looking Korean-American restaurant, not the least of which is the fact that it’s run by three brothers who inherited their skills from their chef mom. What’s more, most of the ingredients used for the seasonal plates are supplied by their very own farm. And if that doesn’t impress, the beer is on tap (i.e. you can order by the pitcher), the dessert comes in shaved-ice form, and there’s a dedicated kids menu perfect for easing little palettes into flavor-heavy Korean cuisine.
Native Juice Co. has been a farmers market vendor for years, but it wasn’t until recently that they opened their first-ever brick and mortar Downtown. Native sources their ingredients and builds their menu around food grown organically in California. Their ingredients are never pre-juiced in order to keep the nutritional integrity and fresh taste of their products intact. We’ve been fans for years, since they generously shared recipes with us for the annual detox.
You don’t have to be a foodie to get lost in Omnivore, which devotes its shelves to everything from hot-of-the-presses cookbooks to rare antiques and collectibles. It’s a go-to spot for picking up gifts, and they also have a fantastic calendar of events, bringing in authors from all over the country (and sometimes the world) for signings and lectures.
Kim Alter’s been a fixture of the SF food scene for a long time, working with the Daniel Patterson Group and several of the area’s high-end restaurants, but Nightbird is her first solo project—and it comes highly recommended by Chef Thea (who calls Alter a “kitchen badass”), which is as good a seal of approval as you can get at #goophq. Go for Nightbird’s stunning, $125/person tasting menu that changes with the seasons; next, head to the Linden Room, her teeny-tiny cocktail lounge next-door, for after-dinner drinks.