Cafe Gratitude

Our cousin and her partner told us to go and try Cafe Gratitude for the proper west coast experience. It’s a vegan restaurant that offers all the dishes that make you feel powerful and homely. Their names are cleverly named to try to give you a boost to your esteem through positive reinforcement such as “I am Dazzling” or “I am Fulfilled”. It continues with pretty much any positive saying you could talk about. Beverages continue the theme with “I am Renewed”, “I am Healthy” and “I am Luscious” (one of their richer drinks).

The restaurant offers dining on communal tables and offer plenty of shelf ingredients to buy including a vegan cookbook to help you get started.

There’s also a bar area where you can sit at.

Goodness in a glass.

Here’s the “BLT” or the “I am Extraordinary” dish. The waitress puts it down stating, “You are extraordinary” and making sure that we have everything we need before leaving. Of course there is no bacon or mayonnaise in a dish like this. I’m not even sure if they used a tofu or mushroom substitute as I didn’t have that.

I opted for a warming chipotle squash soup. Our waitress gave us a bit to try and the kick in it made me want a full bowl. It was a very generous serving. Almost too much because I ordered the side of garlic bread for some texture.

A nice cafe and a restaurant and quite the West Coast experience. Probably not somewhere you want to take someone craving a steak.

Name: Cafe Gratitude
Found at: 2400 Harrison Street (@20th Street), San Francisco, CA 94110, United States

Tartine San Francisco

Tartine is a well known institution in San Francisco where you need to queue and you need to come early. It’s well known for being a great bakery and with only a number of tables inside, you need to queue and watch like a hawk to get one on a first come first serve basis.

Just like the good citizens of the city, we queued just like everyone else. Things seemed to be move pretty fast although I’d recommend they had pictures of what they sold as well as their names so you got an idea about what you wanted before you got to ordering. Once at the counter where you can see into their case of decadent cakes and baked goods, the pressure is on for you to hurry up and order by the big number of people behind you.

I tried one of their morning buns in the hope for trying to get some cinnamon roll goodness before leaving. Although not filled with cinnamon sugar delights, their bun lightly coated with caster sugar also came with pleasant hints of orange infusions. The bun instead made of reasonably good bread and not pastry.

On the other hand, I looked at all the croissants. The one below is an almond croissant and the pattern seemed to be the same across the entire range. Impressively large, but way over cooked. Almost no croissant appeared unharmed by their overzealous baking and the result, bitter aftertaste in the pastry. The pastry was indeed very flaky and buttery, but devastated that a “good” bakery can’t quite perfect the honest croissant.

Here’s one before the eating.

Tartine definitely has its fans. Is it worth lining up for? Maybe if you were buying quite a lot. And then again, be prepared to pay a premium for all their goods. I’m sure you cold probably find better elsewhere in the city but for a whole bunch of people this is probably an easy option.

Name: Tartine Bakery and Cafe
Found at: 600 Guerrero Street San Francisco, CA 94110, United States

Una Pizza Napoletana

Our cousin took us out to dinner and we wanted to return the favour since they tend to cook for themselves more than go out. And San Francisco has far too many places to go out. The combined effect means you’ll never stay on top of them. Friday is typically pizza night for them so we headed out early to get to a “gourmet” pizza place in the SOMA district. Una Pizza Napoletana used to be based in New York. I guess a combination of expensive rents and probably a different lifestyle caused the owner to move cities.

I have no idea whether he used to have a wood burning oven in New York, but it’s the grand centrepiece in the converted warehouse, now restaurant area. There’s plenty of space although the dining area looks tiny in comparison to the extremely open kitchen preparation area including lots of flour thrown on the ground. I couldn’t tell if that was for effect, or just the culmination of hard working pizza making. The pizza restaurant has plenty of articles, all of them posted up in the corridor that leads to the restroom, and if you were really impressed by the pizza can take home merchandise like these trendy Italian coloured socks.

The menu is pretty simple. There are no shared pizzas. There are no single slices and unlike the American way of having alterations there are no extras you can put on them. Most of the pizzas abstain from a tomato sauce base. The closest thing are the smattering of cherry tomatos or the delicious San Marzano tomatoes flecked across.

They ran out of Chinotto and of course offer a number of bottles of Italian wine and beer. Pizzas aren’t exactly cheap at USD20 per bite but what you’re paying for is essentially super fresh, Italian pizza. Despite a very large oven, they could only make three pizzas at a time and with the four of us dining, I took the hit and waited whilst everyone tucked into their hot slices.

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous creation that included smoked buffalo mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomatoes. The crust was a little bit thicker than I expected from an Italian thing, but that might be a regional thing. It was extremely fresh and light and I ate mine probably far to quickly.

Look out for the sign way above your head. I missed it the first time since it’s not really at eye level.

Great tasting pizza and worth getting there early to avoid the queue.

Name: Una Pizza Napoletana
Found at: 210 11th St + Howard St San Francisco, CA 94103, United States

Ferry Building Farmer’s Markets

My last memory of the Ferry Building Farmer’s Marketers was a good one. So much so that I wanted to make sure I came back to see how it’d been developing. I remember lots of people and raw goods and the building itself not so significant. I was pleasantly surprised to find the entire Ferry Building turned into one giant complex filled with artisan producers and stores. They seemed mostly independent though I cannot be sure. We headed here first thing in the morning, but it was just heading into lunchtime by the time that we got there.

I needed a necessary pitstop for coffee. Although well known Blue Bottle Coffee had a physical store and a market stall, I first stumbled across the Frog Hollow Farm store and was drawn in by their offerings. The attendants warned me that service was going to be slow with a few people queueing but the result was good. A nice latte with lots of interesting produce like jam, biscuits and teas to look at whilst waiting.

Our cousin’s partner told us about the wonder of the Roli Roti Porchetta Sandwich, a freshly carved pork roll served with a bit of crackling, plenty of rocket lettuce and some good stuff. The queue already formed and it wasn’t even noon. We thought we’d split one of these baby’s and it turned out to be a great thing too. I’m pretty sure they had some other great looking rotisserie meats, but the main event was definitely the porchetta sandwich.

A few other stalls lined the marketplace front including a home made pizza company who somehow brought along their own wood fired pizza oven, a korean food stall and a mexican stall that I had to try. The special was three tacos for $9 and so ordered a handful of then including the chicken mole verde, the beef short rib and the traditional carnitas.

Look at those beauties below. My favourite was probably the carnitas and a bit disappointed the mole didn’t have the richness and complex flavours I expected.

My sister tried the deep fried mac and cheese from the korean joint. We have no idea about how they formed it, but as you can see, they somehow managed to fry a block of it. I didn’t really try this kind of full from the rest of the food we tried.

It’s a great place to visit and I’d count myself lucky if we worked in the area. Be prepared to come early or queue. By the time it was noon, all the office workers descended and huge queues formed. Make sure to get a porchetta sandwich at least once!

Name: Ferry Building Marketplace
Found at: 1 Ferry building, San Francisco, California 94105, United States

Ana Mandara

We stumbled across Ana Mandara after being told about it on our Segway tour. Apparently owned by Don Johnson (and others), this restaurant offers modern vietnamese cuisine. The interior is amazing, opening up into an oriental oasis and a haven from the tourist-central Fisherman’s Wharf area it sits in.

I’ll warn you now. The restaurant isn’t cheap and although we had a look at the menu before sitting down, didn’t realise how much the entire meal would cost us in the end after ordering. Starters begin at USD10 ranging up to normal main meal prices at other places (USD20) whilst mains began at USD20 and went to USD30. The meals are aptly named like the Temple’s Delight involving a plethora of vegetables mixed together with a miso sauce or the Dreams of Sea and Fire, a crab soup with house made noodles.

We started with the Honourable Road or what other asian restaurants might simply label as the Mixed Appetisers. Perhaps much of the USD31 for the plate went into the naming. Fortunately most of the components of the dish were pretty good. The fresh summer rolls arrived with a huge prawn, the chicken satay nice and smoky and the tender grilled beef succulent and moist. The calamari was probably the only disappointment remaining rather soft and lifeless and not with the crispness, or spice I’d expect.

I really enjoyed the Pieces of Gold (USD24) or a spicy caramelised claypot fish that they scooped out of the claypot and served on the plate. I’d hoped for something sizzling but instead we had some generously sized chunks of fish covered in a nice sauce. Considering the spice levels typically found in a vietnamese place, they could have used much more chili and failed to live up to its spicy name. I asked for some extra chilli sauce on the side that made up for it. We got some noodles as the side and some eggplant vegetables as well.

My sister wanted to try the Memories of Nha Trang (USD36). I’m a bigger fan of crab than lobster. I think the fun of lobster is over far too quickly, with the meat often more tough and less flavourful than its shellfish brethren. In this case, the lobster was covered in a tomato based sauce. It had some flavour and their presentation made the task of picking out the lobster flesh even easier. As I predicted though, it was over a bit too soon although I thought the flavours should have been sharper in a dish like this.

Although a nice experience, I don’t think I would return to Ana Mandara. With so many other offerings in San Francisco, I don’t think it offered the grace and wonder the prices demonstrate. This place feels like one you would want to take a nice date. The upstairs area looked great for sitting around, indulging in some drinks and absorbing the nice restaurant feel. It didn’t really work for a dinner place for a couple of tourists looking for a great meal around the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

Name: Ana Mandara
Found at: 891 Beach Street San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

DeLise Dessert Cafe

This cute little ice cream and cake store sits quite close to the tourist-central Fisherman’s Wharf. They offer an eclectic range of foods including sandwiches and salads involving truffle (mmm!) and other interesting flavour combinations.

Choose to have a coffee and a small cake from their broad range of offerings like banana, carrot, green tea, red velvet or perhaps you want something a bit lighter light a brown butter cookie or a chocolate macaroon. A small, beautifully displayed assortment of what’s available shows you what is on offer.

The store looks very inviting being extremely bright from the large windows but unfortunately they only have one table and a counter for you to sit out. Not really a problem if you’re taking things to go. Here’s the picture of the brown butter shortbread cookie and bacon maple scone that we tried. Both fairly small portions and reasonably priced at 85c and USD1.50. I’ll admit it’s a bit of a premium for the size and bear in mind you’re paying for some quality stuff.

Of course we had to try the ice cream flavours of which they cycle through plenty of different offerings. In the end I settled on a pear yuzu involving plenty of tart bite, as well as the sweeter honey lavender yogurt. A good combination that left me refreshed.

Beware their opening hours as we tried to visit on the Monday and found them shut. Check out their website for a more up to date account.

Name: DeLise Dessert Cafe
Found at: 327 Bay St, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Brenda’s French Soul Food in San Francisco

When hunting for breakfast places, Brenda’s French Soul Food constantly came up as a breakfast place with a twist. This restaurant focused on offering foods from the deep south of the US.

Apparently they extended their premises recently and it shows from two very distinct styles in each section. The first is a thin corridor holding only a smattering of tables. A huge painted mural sits on an exposed concrete wall. The section next door opens up into a brightly lit dining room fitted with nicely lacquered woodwork and more space between tables than the first section.

Influences from the deep south permeate the entire place with the cutlery served out of emptied steel cans from the “famous” New Orleans’ French Market. A cute twist to it all. Bottles of hot sauce and tomato sauce also readily available on the tabletops.

The menu offerings for a brunch seemed a bit confused including heartier meals like gumbo, shrimp and grits, a croque monsieur as well as classics including omelettes, french toast and eggs benedict. My sister ordered oyster omelette that incorrectly came with grits. As you can see from the picture below, the appearance of grits swimming in a pool of melted butter wasn’t exactly appetising.

I went for a classic brioche french toast with associated bacon. It strangely arrived with even more butter that I set aside. The toast was perfect. Crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Yes, it was dusted with powdered sugar and I probably had a sugar overload when added with the maple syrup but it went perfectly with the bacon.

Reviews also recommended trying some of the beignets. Brenda’s offer interesting combinations including a crawfish variation, granny smith apple filled, and a chocolate with molten chocolate one. We asked for an order of some plain that arrived, also dusted in icing sugar. As you can see a serve includes one plate. Although nice and light and airy, I think the oil was too hot with a crust verging on the edge of being burnt and the insides of the two of them still clearly doughy and undercooked.

I liked Brenda’s but not sure it’s the sort of place I’d come back to all the time for brunch. Great for something unusual and probably a great place to try dinner as well.

Name: Brenda’s French Soul Food
Found at:

Humphry Slocombe Ice Creams

San Francisco seems to have an abundance of artisan ice creameries. My kind of town. One of the ones we tracked down was Humphry Slocombe’s. Even as we licked down our refreshing ice treats, a continuous stream of people entered and left with more goodies.

Although they had a number of classic flavours like vanilla and coffee, they had a few more different spins like my favourite black sesame, and an amazing tasting cinnamon brittle ice cream. Of course I wanted to try all the flavours but only settled on the two.

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Chile Pies and Ice Cream

San Francisco has some pretty amazing dessert places. Just like Chile Pies and Ice Cream, a restaurant devoted to just serving pie slices and ice cream alongside a small handful of bites. They form part of the Green Chile Family including a mexican restaurant that looked absolutely heaving when we passed it.

They had an amazing selection of pies including interesting combinations such as Apple Chai, Mexican Chocolate Pecan, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Lemon Buttermilk and more. Most of the pies are hot with a small handful that were served cold like the Peanut Butter and Chocolate one. These change regularly so I’d watch out for some interesting combinations.

The store itself is quite large with plenty of seating area. We noticed quite a few students sitting around on their laptops or with their studying books out.

In addition to the pies, they serve Three Twins Ice Cream, a local ice cream store to California that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. Just like the pie combinations, they seemed to offer a number of twists on just plain ice cream flavours such as Cardamom, Lemon Cookie and Mint Confetti as well as vanilla, mocha, and strawberry flavours. I tried a scoop of the lemon cookie ice cream with the slice of peanut butter chocolate pie (based with crushed oreo cookies instead of graham cracker crust). A bit excessive but amazed at the strength of the flavour from the ice cream and the richness of the pie from the peanut butter. A winning combination but we probably should have shared a slice.

My sister tried the chile apple pie that came drizzled with the chile sauce. She wasn’t too impressed by the odd spice combination given by the chile sauce. We both failed to finish our slices. A pretty good store that I’d definitely come back to.

Name: Chile Pies & Ice Cream
Found at: 601 Baker Street, San Francisco, United States

Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint And Smokehouse

With a name like Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint And Smokehouse and located in the more alternative Haight district of San Francisco I wasn’t quite sure what we were in store for dinner. I always try to fit in some good BBQ when I visit the states and the choices in the city were too numerous to think about. One bad hit and it’d probably be our only opportunity.

Fortunately when we walked in and took a look at the place, I wasn’t too worried. The entire restaurant seemed to be covered in some sort of pig-themed love, and numerous awards and celebrities spotted at this rather low-key joint. I liked the fact that it definitely seemed more like a diner than a restaurant. Most of my BBQ experiences tended to be in New York city where I think it skews the perception of what a BBQ restaurant should look like.

Plenty of pigs were flying as well, meaning so many more things were possible.

We came early (6pm) and it’s a good thing we did with most of the tables filling up quickly with, what I guess were, locals. Many others came in to simply order and take their big bags of smoky-filled BBQ away. We had a bit of trouble choosing from the menu. Not only did you have all the classic things like the baby back ribs, beef ribs and pulled pork but they also had sausage links, rib tips and some special offerings like a BBQ cheesesteak special of the day just to throw us off.

We settled for sharing a platter in the end. I wanted to try the onion straws as well, figuring they would be an interesting alternative to onion rings not realising that the bowl they came in would rival the plate our BBQ sat upon. I shudder to think exactly how much fat we were consuming. It was very tasty anyway. We tried a side of the mac and cheese (a bit average) and I really enjoyed the smoked BBQ beans. Vegetarians beware since the beans had just as much pork as the plate itself. The ribs were great – smoked and not saucy, the pulled pork utterly divine and sumptuous and the rib tips meaty and wholesome.

I tried the variety of sauces as well. The mustard perfectly matched the onion straws although I wish they had a sauce that was much spicier than the “It’s stupid hot” Beelzebub’s sauce that barely brought any heat to my mouth. A fun place to be that I’d definitely head back to in that neighbourhood.

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