San Francisco: A Walking Food Tour

Oh frabjuous day, callooh, callay!
She chortled in her joy!

This is how I feel when I am around Olivia – absolutely at ease being absolutely ridiculous. Making ghastly animal sounds while walking through the “quiet-in-the-tunnel” tunnel on Stockton; Frolicking along the Embarcardero and getting lost; Eating tons of candy and bread and stuffing our faces and bellies with food; Obviously, I love my roommate! And since we have limited time together, we have decided to spend as much crazy time together as possible before Piggy is deported to Beijing and me to land of the Aussies. So, here, we present to you our walking food tour of San Francisco.

Time: 5 hours
Start: Powell Station on Market & Powell
Stops: Chinatown, Little Italy, Ghiradelli Square, Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 39
End: Embarcardero Station on Market & Embarcardero

From Market, we set on the least rigorous course toward Chinatown – one without hills and easy on flats-cladded-heels, which offer minimal protection from anything, but always manage to look adorable with everything. I digress. Chinatown is a quick 5 minute walk (or CableCar) ride from Union Square, and an amazing place for great food. We arrived a little late, and most of the little shops and bakeries were closing down, but we did manage to grab a few buns and rolls to munch on for our continued journey. If you are looking for souvenirs, good PMT, bootlegged DVDs, cheap baked yum-yums, and other Asian artifacts, then Chinatown is your mecca. It is definitely worth a visit, and walking down Stockton or Grant gives you a decent immersion in Chinatown life.

Once you hit Columbus, you’ve arrived in Italy as well as the city’s greatest street for cheap, raunchy entertainment. Columbus is a glitzy Las Vegas-like street that divides Italy and China, complete with bright neon signs, huge banners and billboards (use your imagination), tons of people late into the night. But getting past all this, you enter the polite and very quaint Italian neighborhood, with both sides of the street lined with top Italian restaurants. And the best part? As protocol, they ALWAYS serve good bread. The food is loaded with savory Italian flavors, especially garlic (The Stinking Rose Restaurant). The maitre d’s are VERY friendly (and touchy), and more often than not, a little buzzed from all the Chianti they drink. This picture on the right is the nightlife – restaurants filled with couples, seated right on the sidewalk (with outdoor heaters!) overlooking the busy street of Columbus Avenue. It has a huge couple-vibe, and a great place to take your other half, like my Piggy! Yes, someoneiknow should be jealous. We recommend Figaros, known for its gnocchi, or Rose Pistola for the grill. Good stuff. For a complete list, check out the SF Gate for more restaurants.

Z. Cioccolato
474 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA. 94133
Phone: 415-395-9116

Real food is all well and good, but Olivia and I actually had a goal in mind. We needed to stop by Z. Cioccolato, “The sweetest spot in North Beach.” And indeed, it was sweet! Delicious fudge, barrels of salt-water taffy, tons of truffles and chocolates of any kind or brand, gummy candies by the pound, and always a fresh pot of caramel corn popping away behind the counter. Now, this really is the sweet life. I am only going to complain about one thing, and that is – they did not have caramel apples! But they did have caramel apple taffy, and I think I am being nit-picky at this point. But talk about amazing! There was an assortment of seasonal candies (Easter eggs, bunnies, lambs, you name it!), plenty of gourmet chocolates (both Valrhona and Scharffen Berger in stock), truffles and chocolate pieces behind the glass counter, and of course tons of taffy of all flavors. Conventional candy is also sold by the pound, but why eat the ordinary, when you can experience the EXTRAordinary. Don’t even ask how much we spent combined. I think Olivia probably got one of every gummy candy they sold, but soo worth it! They have so many! Butterfinger, Butterscotch, Cookies and Cream, Raspberry Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice, just to name a few! If I had a faster metabolism and a thicker wallet, I would definitely want to try all the amaretto and coffee liqueur fudge combinations, uhm yuum! There are always free samples so come on in and have a try!

Continuing our trek down Columbus brings us to several SF tourist stops, including Washington Square and St. Peter & Paul’s Church. Columbus Avenue takes you through North Beach and directly to Embarcadero where you have the choice of taking a left to Ghiradelli or right to Fisherman’s Wharf. So of course, Olivia and I did both. Ghiradelli Square is a small (duh) square of little restaurants and shops. Each year, Ghiradelli hosts a chocolate festival, which I hope to go to this year. I believe it is being held in early September, but details later. Of course this is THE place to get your chocolate fix and supply of Ghiradelli. I am a big fan of their cocoa mixes (White mocha!), and as always, samples are amazing.

Backtracking a bit, we ended up in front of Hooters, and we were intrigued. NO, not by Hooters, but by the man in the both next to Hooters. He was a street artist, famous for those prettily designed name posters. I had 3 made, one for myself, Nhi and someoneiknow. Soo pretty! And very fast! And did I mention cheap?

Continuing on Embarcadero leads us through another FOOD region of SF (though really, where isn’t it a food region?), filled with seafood restaurants and plenty of candy stores to give anyone a toothache. Arriving, we were greeted by the smells/fumes/fragrances/odors of fresh seafood stalls, steaming clam chowder, and sourdough. Delicious! We took a trip around to look at all the seafood stalls, but never forgetting our ultimate goal – Chocolate Raisin Bread from Boudin Bakery right on Fisherman’s Wharf. Yum!

Boudin Bakery
160 Jefferson St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

There is close to nothing more satisfying than ripping into a beautiful loaf of bread. Sink those pearly whites into a virginal loaf of Chocolate Raisin Bread, and you’re floating on cloud nine. Delicious! Boudin is a SF landmark, famous for its sourdough, clam chowder bread bowls, and specialty breads in thte shape of alligators, crabs, etc. So of course, Olivia is in love. Bear shaped sourdough, how could you not fall in love? Olivia usually orders two loaves of Chocolate Raisin Bread – one to eat while in the city, and another loaf for the Bart trip home. This is why she is Ms. Piggy. And despite our pit stops in Chinatown and Little Italy, we were ready to take on even more food.

We split the half sandwich and half bread bowl soup combo, for under $8. Olivia ordered the chicken salad sandwich, and we shared the clam chowder bowl – it was a Lenten Friday afterall… But I’m not complaining. Also, we were parched after the long walk through SF, so it was conveniently fabulous that there were taps for water around the cafe. We sat outside in the patio area, cozy by the fireplace and outdoor heaters, a very couple-y thing to do, and soo much fun! Yes, I think Jeff and someoneiknow should be REALLY jealous at this point. Anyway, we devoured the food, and even had time to dive into the rye and chocolate loaves we had bought in addition to our meal. The food was delicious (as expected), surprisingly budget friendly – although if you tried the Bistro Boudin, that’s a whole other story. But honestly, its basically the same food, just with real service and a couple of Andrew Jacksons (Benjamins?) thrown in. But after ripping apart the bread bowl and sopping up all the soup, my tummy was groaning in pain, and I was not ready for the long walk down Embarcadero to go home. Alas, I needed motivation… in the form of burning enough calories to justify eating more!

But all in all, this was a trip not wasted. Delicious food, worth the walk and the coold. And even though I missed a friend’s b-day dinner for this SF trip (I’m deeply sorry, but I tried to make it up, maybe, chopstickboy?), I would not have traded anything for another Piggy-date with Olivia. Good food, good times, good company. C’est la vie! Or how life should be anyway…


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One Response to San Francisco: A Walking Food Tour

  1. Kari says:

    I MISS YOU!!! :[

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