I am in the middle of my first trip to SF. Went to Mama's for breakfast this morning. Got there at 8:30 or so, just a few people already waiting outside. Those of you who wonder if it is worth it - the answer is YES YES YES. Get up earlier, get there sooner, wait a bit. When we left there was a long line, so go when it opens. It is worth it. The french toast is a must. We did not get them, but the pancakes looked great too. We shared an omelette, but I think the french toast/pancakes are the better bet. Great place to watch the people coming in and waiting - but obviously not a place to linger over coffee and read the Sunday NYT. Go down the street to Cafe R? for that.
We decided to walk (waddle)back to the hotel downtown and walked South on Stockton. What a stroke of luck!! We had walked through Chinatown on Saturday - North on Grant from Pine, south on Kearney. I have been in Chinatown in Chicago and NYC, and was struck by the total absence of restaurants with Peking duck and roasted meats in the window and lack of food stalls and butcher/fish shops on Grant and Kearney. Where do all of these ethnic Chinese eat, I asked myself. Stockton is the answer!! It was teeming with people at 10 a.m. and there stalls and stores were full. We had a pork bun and stopped at Gourmet Delight BBQ, 1045 Stockton between Jackson and Washington. What a place! As we came in they were just hanging up another whole roasted baby pig. Within minutes, half was gone, with one customer taking the entire side of ribs. The butcher used a large chinese cleaver with the deftness of a surgeon. As we looked on in glee and awe, a customer encouraged us to get in line and order some. He gave us tips on other things to order, and we ended up walking out with some roast pork, salt & pepper whole shrimp and fried chicken wings. We ate them in an alleyway as bemused Chinese walked by grinning at us. When we ordered the pork, the butcher gave each of us a piece of the roasted, crispy skin, what I call cracklings. Reminiscent of what the guys at Katz's Deli in NYC do when you order a pastrami sandwich - they give you a sample as they hand-cut the meat.
What a wonderful experience Stockton was. Fresh fish, including whole live shrimp, aquariums full of dungeness crabs ($2.69 per pound - is that a good price?) fresh salmon steaks for $3.99 a pound (I know that is a great price!). Mounds upon mounds of fresh produce, most of which I do not recognize. Piles of dried fish and vegetables. Do locals other than Chinese frequent this area? I did not see many and wonder if it is worth the hassle of getting there and dealing with the crowds and communication problems. After all the chow we ate before 10:30, we walked up Sacramento to burn off some fuel. Great view at top of Nob Hill. I am looking forward to more chow experiences and will post here. Thanks again to all of you for all of the great posts on this board, without which this trip would not be near as much fun!!