Travel: A Day in San Francisco

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Hi guys! Last week, we were able to sneak in a day and a half in the Bay Area. Eight hours of that was spent in the beautiful San Francisco. The weather happened to be just lovely, which was perfect for walking around the beautiful Mission District area. Here are some of the places we saw.


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Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

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Great. Worth a visit.

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Exceptional. A must-do experience.

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Frugal friendly

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Reasonable

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Pricey


Craftsman and Wolves

 

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Mission District
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I already wrote an extensive review about this one (here), but I figure I’d add it to the list for accessibility. This is a bakery that not everyone talks about, but all the locals know. The pastries are delicious and the ambience is great. The guys behind the counter were helpful and jovial. They did not look at me begrudgingly when I asked them how Japanese milk bread is made, to that was pretty awesome. I am surprised that they aren’t raved about more. I know that Tartine is just down the street, but honestly, I liked my experience here much more. I’d recommend for people who happen to find themselves on Valencia street to have a stop, and taste what they have to offer. We were glad we did.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

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Mission District
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Wherever we go, we are always pulled towards coffee. Usually, I have Mike make the pick, mostly because he is more of a coffee guru than I. We usually go for a coffee roaster, rather than a coffee shop that uses other people’s roasted beans. There were a few to choose from, but since we were on Valencia, we figured we could walk to Ritual, which Mike has heard good things about. As is typical, I chose a decaf version of a latte, and Mike chose a pour over. You can never fully determine whether the coffee is good when in a latte, so I will also usually nab a sip from Mike’s cup. He chose a bean that delivers kumquat and oolong tea notes, which to me was a bit too light to even taste. I blame that partially on the coffee choice, though. Mike says he could taste the kumquat, but I tried a couple times and all I could taste was tea. The descriptors of the other coffees were very interesting, and I would actually love to go back and try more in the future. It’s hard to tell from one bean, but since it’s a place that I would recommend people check out, three diamonds it is.

Tartine Bakery

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Mission District
$$$

I SO wanted to write an amazing review for Tartine, but I left the place so underwhelmed that I just cannot. I don’t get the hype. At all. There was a line when we got there and so I thought it would be amazing, because who would consider it worth the line if it wasn’t, right? But as we inched our way closer to the counter over the course of an excitable twenty minutes, I become more and more disheartened. The interior was very old looking, not well kept, and way too crowded to have a comfortable lunch experience, so luckily, we were just there to pick up bread. You place your order at the counter after passing very unclean displays of desserts. Mind you, we never got to trying those desserts, so maybe I just have to get my butt back there to try one and totally turn this experience around. But we were there for the bread. I started my bread baking journey with the Tartine book, and I wanted to see what I should be working towards. So we ordered a ridiculously priced country loaf for $9.50 from a lady who was part of an assembly line service, or so it seemed. The type where they ask in a bored tone, “What can I get for you?”, followed by, “Is that all?” and a quick walking away and no further hellos. We walk up to the cashier who glanced up to ask, “Just the loaf?” Overall, the bakery had lackluster customer service, which made my image of Tartine Bakery go poof! But it shouldn’t be about the customer service and the ambiance. It should be about the bread! So to my dismay, here is what I think of the bread. The crust was too overdone. It was hard as a rock, way too burned, way too black, and I thought our serrated knife was going to snap in half. When we sliced into it, we realized that the loaves looked EXACTLY like the first 40 “mess ups” that we had created in our kitchen, until we switched to a different starter strategy and started making bread we actually liked. The loaf was bit flat, a bit gummy, and honestly, very dense, which is not what you want bread to be. A slice of the bread in a grilled cheese sandwich made my tummy hurt. Mike admitted to feeling queesy as well. So I am not sure what happened on this day. The bread was all wrong, and I just did not understand the hype. I actually would prefer to stick with our bread, any day. I might go back again one day to try the desserts and see if those are any good. Maybe.

Marufuku Ramen

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Japantown
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My friends love ramen. It’s one of the cornerstones that hold us together as friends. Half of the time I eat out with those guys, we go to ramen, and I have absolutely no complaints. So when our SF friends told us that there is only one ramen place in SF that makes good ramen, I just knew we were going to go. The thing was, this place opens at 5pm and there is always a line. We had to line up at 4:30pm in order to get a seat. In fact, we arrived at 4:30pm and barely made it into the door upon opening. We were the last group to be seated for dinner. The rest of the people in line would have to wait until the someone from the first group leaves. The restaurant was packed. Apparently, it is like this every day. I think it was made worse because that particular weekend happened to be the cherry blossom festival. Japantown was packed. It’s funny, because I always think, well ramen is ramen. But Mike and I sure have our favorites, so I know that isn’t true. There are places where you ingest a bowl and realize that the soup is mostly water and the chashu is of low quality, or badly prepared. Others have interesting topping choices, or my least favorite, thick noodles only. This place certainly earned a spot in my list of top Ramen places. The water had flowers, the broth was well seasoned, the toppings were fresh, and the service was fast and attentive. I know that waiting in line for thirty minutes before a restaurant opens when there is much more of SF to see may seem like a high price to pay, but I would do it all over again if I was asked. Unfortunately, ramen is still ramen, and this is not a must do.

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