I was in SF this past weekend for the Nike Women's Marathon. Last year, I had more time on my hands and did a lot more research and had great guidance from local hounds. Last year's report. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31675...
This year, I had crazy weeks before I left on my trip so I didn't do as much research. I made 2 reservations (Zuni and Antica) and the rest was in the air. I had a rough eating plan and up in the air dining companions. I had some restrictions this year because I had additional travel companions who were high maintenance and it just put a damper on the food.
Thursday night - got off the plane and wanted to head out to In and Out Burger. Unfortunately, due to a rental car screw up, In and Out Burger was closed. This was a foreshadowing of my luck this weekend.
Breakfast - Drove up to Mama's in Washington Square. A line out the door and it was only a little after 8. Couldn't wait in the line because we were starving (no burger last night ;-) ). Drove back to Fisherman's Wharf and had a pretty good breakfast at one of the cafes/diner on Columbus (near the intersection of Beach). Awful coffee though.
Late lunch at Zuni - highlight of the trip. I love Zuni. Part of my semi obsession is because I've cooked from the book, a lot. This visit was slightly diffferent because I wasn't getting the chicken. But, we did score a great table. The one upstairs that overlooks the brick oven and prep area. We split the caesar salad, polenta with parmesan and burger. We also had a order of the shoestring potatoes. The waitress was sweet, but service started a bit too slow. It took forever for her to come to our table and another lifetime to get water. But, once we ordered, the timing became much better.
The caesar salad was fabulous. All the umami flavors just popped on the tongue. Even though the salad is with whole pieces of romaine (same in the cookbook), these lettuce leaves were much more manageable. I was slightly hesitant on the burger. My reservations came from the bread - focaccia. But, it was delicious. The foccacia, to my amazement, worked. It wasn't greasy or hard, and it had a lovely flavor. It accented the beefy flavor and it was cooked at the rare side of medium rare. Lovely. The polenta was also beautifully creamy with the hint of parmesan. Last but not least, the shoestring fries. A huge heaping plate piled high with fries. These things were so addicting and also tasted great cold. But, what also was wonderful was the homemade ketchup served with them. The summer tomatoey goodness came through without being overly accented by miscellaneous flavors.
Dessert consisted of honey ice cream and espresso granita. The espresso granita is a favorite of mine because of the mixture of strong coffee and whipped cream. This batch was a bit too sweet but the whipped cream nicely tempered it. And the ice cream was luscious and flavorful.
I know Zuni is one of the most controversial restaurants on the board. But I love it. I think it comes down to this. It's simple, homey, comfort food. But, the execution of the food is top notch in both ingredients and skill. It's pricey, but to me, it's worth it.
Dinner - Met some friends in Union Square for dinner. They were jet lagged and starving and about to fall over. We found some pub (Max's?) and had an enjoyable meal. We went in with no expectations, other than to feed the friends. But the service was friendly and efficient and the food was pretty good. After my late lunch, I wasn't that hungry so I ordered a beet salad with chilled shrimp. The salad was a bit skimpy on the beets (only 4 wedges) but had half an avocado and a generous serving of shrimp. DCs were also happy, although, I could have fed them paste and they would have been fine (they were that hungry).
Brunch - Yank Sing. I also like this place. I know there are better places but this is always convenient to me. I do always get sticker shock at the price of dim sum, but I am on vacation. Highlights included the cabbage salad, soup dumplings, shrimp and chive dumplings, the tofu skin wrapped around chicken and mushrooms and peking duck. But part of the reason why I love YS is because it has free parking and it's walking distance to the Ferry Building.
Ferry Building - to digest, I walked around the farmer's market. Grapes must be in season because all the vendors had them. I also tried a new fruit called pineapple kumquats or something like that. Unusual texture but a nice flavor. Slightly tangy and the meat was firmer than I had anticipated. Bought my supplies for the plane and home, including bread from Acme, cheese from Cowgirl (plane ride food) and lots of coffee from Blue Bottle coffee. After an hour or so, I needed a snack so we shared 2 dozen oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company. We ordered the mixed assortment and funny enough, oysters from home were on the menu (Island Creek). The service was hilarious and the staff seemed to really like working there.
Dinner - Antica SF
This place was lovely. The hostess was beyond gracious even with the restaurant bulging at the seams with diners. Our waiter was charming and never rushed us. And, the food was delicious. I started with the salad with the truffle dressing and I was ready to lick the plate. For my entree, I had the pasta with braised rabbit meat and it was melt in my mouth tender. This was a great place to eat pre-race and hats off to the staff and chef.
Post race snack - Finally, In and Out Burger. I was soooooo hungry that I literally ran the 2.5 blocks there (see, didn't run too well in the actual marathon and still had a lot left in the legs). I wish I had done my homework and looked at the secret menu but a double double would do just fine. Took advice from last year and ordered the fries well done. The burger was delicious. Salt and protein and yum. But, I just don't like the fries here. Even well done, they just weren't right. They were crispier but still not fully cooked to my taste. If fries don't taste good to me after a long run, I know not to bother next time. But damn, that double double hit the spot.
Dinner - Buena Vista. http://www.thebuenavista.com/index2.html
Ate here out of sheer convenience and for the irish coffees. Great company and an entertaining waitress. The meatloaf was pretty good but the mashed potatoes were awful. Should have gone with french fries instead. The irish coffees were dessert and hit the spot.
All in all, an enjoyable visit to the west coast. Great company and a lovely city. Plus, I'm drinking my Blue Bottle coffee so no complaints here.