Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hidden treasures in San Francisco

San Francisco is very tourist friendly in many ways, with its jangling trams and its photogenic hills and bridges. The people are friendly too. I was invited to a party by a nice homeless chap just yesterday (I declined).

But like all good cities, this openness is just a facade. San Francisco is a city where fortune truly favours the brave. The best places to eat and drink are secret gems, hidden behind entirely unpromising facades. This is confusing for me as I have become used to Los Angeles, where the good restaurants have big flashing lights saying 'Awesome restaurant!!!', long lines, valet parking, and a guard of honour comprised of go-go girls to greet you.

In a few short funpacked days in San Francisco, we have dined supremely well at places which, frankly, I did not like the look of.

Take Yuet Lee, for example. Doesn't look all that, does it?
 Au contraire. They serve damn good crispy seafood noodles, pretty generous with the seafood. We had two portions, though that may be a result of the time spent in Specs bar.
Actually, Specs bar kinda ruins my 'Hidden treasures' theory, because it is just as divey on the inside as it looks on the outside.

So, on to Suppenkuche, which apparently serves German food so great you have to get there at 4.50pm in order to get a table for dinner. I know, I didn't warm to the idea either. But our hosts are experts in the area of good food and fixin's, so we took it on trust.

When we were standing outside this entrance, I started to have some doubts. It just doesn't scream "great, hot place to eat", does it?
Again, I was happily mistaken. If you like an enormous range of excellent German beers, top quality bratwurst, roast pork, spatzle and all that other good stuff, you will be repaid for being trepidatious and going inside.
Suppenkuche goodstuff evidence

On the way home from Suppenkuche we went to this great bar. That's right, behind that frontage which looks like an 'fax and mail' place that has fallen into disuse.
Guess what?! It was outstanding. Like being in an actual pirates ship. We just popped in for a quick drink and stayed for somewhere north of 18 rum cocktails. Check out the bewildering, inviting and impressive cocktail list on the Smuggler's Cove website (you have to register but it's worth it for a nosy): if it doesn't give you a thirst for some grog, you're weird.

Given all this evidence, I should have been less cautious about Monday's dining choice: Shalimar. But again, it met the SF gem requirements of looking rather unwelcoming.
Oh my, this place is damn good! Bring a beer from the liquor store next door, order up as many plates as can fit on the table, and imagine yourself in a more exotic land. (Mind you Polk Street is exotic enough). The plates are granny's finest but don't let that put you off.

So when I heard we were going to eat at a place called Hog and Rocks in the famously grungy Mission, I knew it would be good. And it was. 10 portions of ham (from Iowa's finest to Jamon Serrano), and 30 - count 'em - Kusshi oysters between the 4 of us prove it.

The silly thing about this whole adventure is that we are staying in Casa Gallego, courtesy of the two best cooks in the city - and we haven't eaten a single bite of their cooking. But when the shady alleyways and scuzzy doorways of San Francisco are so inviting... it's hard to stay home.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm schweinhaxen - such happy memories of Munich.

    Davidio davichio