I happened to be in town attending a congress for work. The event finished on Thursday and my flight left on Saturday morning, which allowed me to have 24 hours to explore the city. I had some time to prepare for my hours of freedom so I did some research beforehand. Let me tell you something in advance – 24 hours in San Francisco is not enough. But that was just a motivator for me to see and eat as much as I could. Here are my findings:
San Francisco: Food
Eating in the US is a heavenly experience. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not only talking about burgers and I love Spanish food. But if there’s something that we don’t have much of in Spain, it’s international food. You go to any decent-sized city in the US and you can find really good Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai (and so on) restaurants. There’s a lot of variety, so eating as many types of food as I could was at the top of my list.
La Taquería – Mexican Food
This was my first stop once I landed in San Francisco. After 30 hours of traveling, I was so tired that I didn’t realized I hadn’t touched any of the food they offered me on my two previous flights. As soon as I got to the Airbnb, the hunger hit me.
Luckily, I was staying in Mission, where there are tons of taquerias, including La Taqueria. THE Taqueria. The only one you should go to. I actually went there twice during my five days in San Francisco. It’s pretty cheap for San Francisco (about $8 for a burrito), and I tried the beef burrito and a couple of carnitas (pork) tacos. Last time I checked, La Taqueria was ranked the #5 taco place in San Francisco, and it was worth the trip.
I didn’t take any pictures but Google’s got you covered.
Super Duper – Burgers
I am a burger lover. And Super Duper is one of those places that you just have to go if you happen to be in the Bay Area. I got the Super Burger with fries and a drink, which was about $12, so also not bad for being located in downtown San Francisco.
Dim Sum – Chinese
I had written down a couple of places to check out for dim sum food: Hong Kong Lounge and Dumpling Kitchen. Unfortunately, they were both kind of out of the way (Outer Richmond and Sunset District) so I couldn’t go to any of them, which are rated as some of the best dim sum restaurants in San Francisco.
I happened to be in Chinatown and I was hungry for dim sum, so I stumbled upon this placed called Dim Sum Bistro. It didn’t look like the typical dim sum restaurant where waiters walk around carrying trays of dumplings and ask you what you want. This was more like a fast-food dim sum type of restaurant, where you order your food at the counter and wait to be called. So that was kind of weird.
I always say that dim sum food never looks good. It’s way too white and looks uncooked. The fact that they brought me my food in paper plates and a plastic tray didn’t help, either:
But I have to say that it tasted way better than it looked. I got the bbq pork bao bun (left), which was really good, a jian dui (center) and some chicken and pork dumplings (right). Costed me about $10.
Akiko’s Sushi Bar
I was at Union Square and pulled out my notebook with the food recommendations Sam had prepared for me:
I sat at a bench and opened Google Maps to see if any of these places were around me. My plan was to go to Kin Khao, but due to the power outage we had that same morning they decided to close for the entire day. Good thing Akiko’s was just a few blocks away.
I had some people telling me that they had the best sushi of their life at Akiko’s, and that was definitely not my case. Maybe I went for regular sushi and didn’t try anything too weird, but to me it was regular sushi. I got Miso Soup, the Philadelphia Special Roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese and unagi) and almost a liter of Sapporo. It was really good though! But I think I will probably go somewhere else next time.
I also didn’t take any pictures of my food but TripAdvisor’s got you covered.
Poki Time – Poki Bowls
The closest thing to Poki I’ve had ever had were gohan bowls back in Chile. I don’t really know where gohan is actually from, but they were basically bowls filled with sushi rice, avocado, green onion, shrimp and salmon. And they were actually really good! So good that we usually make it here at home, as it is not hard to prepare.
Poki bowls are like a professional version of gohan bowls. I think they are originally from Hawaii, and they have way more ingredients in them. They also come with different rice versions, which is great.
I don’t remember exactly all the ingredients, but I got a base of regular sushi rice, tuna, salmon, and mango among other things. The restaurant was called Poki Time and I believe they have several locations around San Francisco and probably other cities in the US as well.
In-N-Out – Burgers
Last time I was in California (2011) I didn’t try In-N-Out and I have been punishing myself for it ever since. This time I promised myself I would not leave without trying it. I got pretty lucky that there was an In-N-Out next to the hotel I stayed at next to the airport the night before I left.
I got the Double Double, a chocolate milkshake and “Animal Style” fries from the “secret menu”, which means that it is not advertised on the regular menu behind the counter. I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure about this whole “secret menu thing”. It’s like if I walked into a regular coffee shop asking for a pepperoni pizza – it’s just not on the menu! I felt a little stupid before I ordered them. I had the feeling the cashier was going to look at me saying “what was that?” and end up mumbling “I mean fries! french fries!”. I was relieved when the cashier repeated “animal style fries” back as she was typing it into the register.
The Animal Style fries are regular french fries, cheese, In-N-Out’s secret spread, and grilled onions on top. And yes, they are as good as they sound.
I am actually kind of glad I didn’t try In-N-Out in 2011. I don’t know if I would have been able to wait 6 years to have it again.
San Francisco: Sights
I checked in at my airport hotel as early as I could so I could take advantage of San Francisco for as long as I could. I took the BART back to downtown San Francisco and got off the train at Embarcadero station, just a few steps away from my first stop: Chinatown.
Disclaimer: I have never been to China. So I don’t know how authentic Chinatown actually is, but denying the Chinese influence in the neighborhood would be ridiculous. Now, I know that the Chinese lamps hanging in the streets are just tourist traps:
However, it’s still interesting how you just have to turn the corner to go from your typical downtown-US street to something like this:
All signs were in Chinese with (some) English translations. There were some street markets and literally everyone who was not a tourist was speaking Chinese. When I went to Dim Sum Bistro (see above) to have breakfast, I was the only white person at the restaurant. Literally everyone around me was speaking Chinese or reading newspapers in Chinese. All the signs in the restaurants were in Chinese and for a moment I forgot I was in California.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Besides the fact that it is probably the one thing you have to visit as a tourist, I have to say that the Golden Gate really is worth visiting it. Built in 1937, the Golden Gate bridge is the most photographed bridge in the world.
You can cross it by foot, bike or car; and there are several companies that offer the option to rent a bike to cross the bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito and then take a shuttle back. I didn’t cross the whole bridge, as it takes about 45 min to cross it by foot (without stopping every five minutes to take pictures). But now I regret it as there are some really cool views of the bridge and San Francisco from Sausalito.
What once was a neighborhood of Italian fishermen, it is now a theme park for tourists. Fisherman’s Wharf is full of souvenir stores and overpriced seafood (or regular fast-food) restaurants. I got a little disappointed during my visit, as there is really nothing to do besides buying souvenirs or eating food (at least there’s In-N-Out!).
This is also one of the starting points for the San Francisco trams:
This is also one of the San Francisco’s most famous sights. Lombard Street was originally built to reduce the hill’s natural 27% inclination, which made it very dangerous for most vehicles. Cars can only drive a couple miles per hour, usually having to stop several times along the way because of someone taking pictures.
Needless to say that most San Franciscans don’t drive down Lombard Streets unless they are driving tourists in their cars. Lombard, as Fisherman’s Wharf, is 100% a tourist attraction, but it is still a very cool sight to visit! Plus, you get a great view of the city from the top of the hill.
I walked over 7 miles in just one day, but it was worth every second of it! Hope this quick guide helps plan your next trip to San Francisco.