Where to Eat during BlogHer Food ‘09

BlogHer Original Post

I’ve described my move to the Bay Area many times as making an extended pilgrimage to foodie Mecca, and even now that I’ve lived in Oakland for more than a year, I am still wide-eyed at the amazing eating experiences I’m having, week by week. If you’re coming here for BlogHer Food ’09, I encourage you to eat your way across town. But with so many possibilities, how do you pick where to eat? After all, even in San Francisco, you can find yourself savoring just an average meal, and with limited time and room in your stomach, that would be an epicurean tragedy.

This is just part one of a series of posts that will run over the next few weeks. Next on the docket? Notable cocktails (and, in some cases, those cocktail purveyors will also provide a spirited eating experience). Finally, I’ll give you a wrap-up of some interesting places to do some foodie shopping while you’re in town.

But first, you must eat. I’ve compiled a list of five places I think worthy of your attention.

The Can’t-Miss Superstar

Churros at ContigoIt should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent more than four minutes talking to me about eating in San Francisco (or who follows my Twitter feed) that I’m beginning this guide with Contigo. There are a number of reasons why I think you should put this at the very top of your must-eat list while you’re in the city, not the least of those being that it is my very favorite restaurant in all the world.

It’s also a restaurant run by a food blogger, Brett Emerson of In Praise of Sardines.

Brett chronicled the multi-year process of getting Contigo up and running on his blog, and the restaurant is a triumph: a warm, inviting, intimate space where you can share small and large plates of Barcelona-style food prepared with thoughtful, local ingredients.

“Emerson creates food with big flavors and clearly uses the best ingredients he can find,” said Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy in her first impression review.

“The space is beautiful, simultaneously contemporary and cozy,” said Anita of Married With Dinner after her first visit to the restaurant. “It’s not large, but it feels expansive thanks to five distinct dining zones—chef’s counter, lower dining room, cava bar, upper dining room, and a heated, covered outdoor patio surrounded by herb gardens.” 

Contigo’s far enough from the hotel that you’ll need to cab or take public transit. Taking a cab is approximately $17-20 plus tip – not bad if you’re sharing it between a few fellow bloggers.

However, you can also take the J-Church Muni line to 24th and Church, and then walk four blocks west to 24th and Castro. To get the J-Church, go to the Muni light rail station at New Montgomery and Market Street (look for the BART/Muni sign at the stairs/escalator into the station) and take the line outbound toward Balboa Park Station. The fare will be $2, and it helps to have quarters. However, you can also get change for a dollar bill at the BART ticket machines. Make sure to hold onto the pass from the turnstile when you enter the station—it’s your proof that you’ve paid the fare, and a Muni official can request to see it at any time.

Contigo
1320 Castro Street (at 24th)
San Francisco, CA 94114
415-285-0250
www.contigosf.com
Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m.
Open seven days per week, reservations only available for
parties of six or more

The Weekday Lunch

If you happen to arrive in time for lunch on Friday, drop your bags at the St. Regis and dash on over to The Sentinel, which is an easy walk from the hotel. This weekday-only, breakfast/lunch-only restaurant serves fabulous gourmet carry-out. On eggbeater, Shuna Fish Lydon describes lunch at The Sentinel “like eating restaurant food without all the pomp & circumstance,” and I would agree. The sandwiches are amazing, and there is a daily, seasonal lunch special that always sells out early. 

Get your food and a beverage, and if it’s a nice day (they’re almost all nice days this time of year in San Francisco), take it back to Yerba Buena Gardens for a gourmet picnic.

From the St. Regis, take a right out the front door and walk up 3rd Street to Mission. Go right on Mission and walk two blocks to New Montgomery. Go left on New Montgomery and walk to the intersection of New Montgomery and Stevenson. The Sentinel will be on the corner to your right.

The Sentinel
37 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
www.thesentinelsf.com

Breakfast: 7:30-10:30 a.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Open Monday through Friday only

The Seafood Stop

If seafood’s what you’re seeking, I recommend Anchor & Hope. They have an excellent raw bar and inventive seafood preparations, including a startlingly beautiful sea urchin served in its shell. Note: sometimes they run out of shells and serve the dish in a different vessel, but it’s so richly delicious, I’d say it’s worth it no matter how it arrives at your table.

“The selections are diverse enough to please oyster lovers(East or West) as well as eaters who love their ingredients steamed, sautéed or creamed into Anchor and Hope chowder,” said Ingrid Taylar at About.com.

Take a left out the front door of the St. Regis and walk to
Minna Street, which is the next corner. Go left on Minna and walk about two blocks (the first one is fairly long) to 2nd Street and Minna. Keep following Minna straight across, and Anchor & Hope will be on your right.  

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-501-9100
www.anchorandhopesf.com

Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Monday through Friday only)
Happy Hour: 4:30-6 p.m. (Monday through Friday only)
Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday), 5:30-11 p.m.(Friday and Saturday)

The Quick-Change Artist

A relatively recent appearance on the scene in San Francisco is Tropisueño, which is a stone’s throw from the St. Regis and offers a relaxed taqueria vibe during the day and a fancier (but equally relaxed) sit-down situation at night. The food and drinks are also shockingly well priced for San Francisco’s Financial District. Their guacamole is delicious, and it’s easy to share a selection of antojitos for a fun and tasty group meal. The servers are friendly and accommodating, but sometimes a little bit slow, so plan to be patient if you go for a sit-down dinner.

Another plus in Tropisueño’s column is that Eva of Of All Things Glitzy and Gluten-Free lists it as a good place to get a hip and tasty meal without worrying about her food restrictions.

Take a right out the front door of the St. Regis and take a left on Mission Street. Take a right onto Yerba Buena Lane about half a block down – it’s a pedestrian-only street, and St. Patrick’s Church marks its entrance. Tropisueño will be on your left as you walk up Yerba Buena Lane.

Tropisueño
75 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-243-0299
www.tropisueno.com

Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Monday through Friday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Happy Hour/Bar Menu: 4-6 p.m. (Monday through Friday only)
Dinner: Begins at 5:30 p.m. everyday

The Salsa Roja You’ll Tell Stories About To Your Children

Shortly after I moved to the area, some friends brought a container of salsa and some chips to a picnic. It was, hands down, the best salsa I’d ever eaten in my life. “It’s from Papalote,” said my friend. “And best of all, you can bring your own container and they’ll sell you salsa to go.”

As Sean of Hedonia said, “their salsa roja rocks.” How the salsa gets to be so awesome is a closely guarded secret, but it’s absolutely worth the trip over to this funky, fun and affordable Mexican joint in the Mission.

That salsa shows up tossed with chips
and topped with cheese and an egg in Papalote’s amazing chilaquiles. Because of Papalote’s proximity to BART, I have even been known to hop off the train on the way home from SFO to swing by for a satisfying meal (and a hit of that addictive salsa).

Although Papalote’s specialty is meat grilled to order for your burrito, taco or quesadilla, Mumblingmynah of Vegansaurus points out how vegan-friendly Papalote is, with six veggie options on the menu, including molé tofu. “Order this,” mumblingmynah said. “I will not steer you wrong!”

Take a right out the front door of the St. Regis and walk toward Mission Street. Turn right at Market Street and head into the Montgomery Street BART station. You want to take an SFO, Daly City or Millbrae train from Montgomery Street to the 24th Street Mission BART station. The fare will be $1.75 each way. When you get to that station, go up the stairs or escalator and use the exit gates straight ahead (next to the station agent’s booth). Turn right and go up the long escalators out of the station. Take a right off the top of the escalator, and you’ll be looking right at 24th Street. Go left on 24th Street and walk up about two blocks to the intersection of Valencia and 24th. Papalote will be on your left just after you cross Valencia.

Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street (at Valencia)
San Francisco, CA
415-970-8815
www.papalote-sf.com
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Open Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Considering all the amazing places to eat in the city, this list is laughably short. If you’re a local, feel free to add to it in the comments by listing your favorites (bonus points if they’re close to the St. Regis!). If you’re coming in from out of town and have a particular style of food you’re craving, feel free to ask for additional recommendations.

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009

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