I talked about writing this post throughout my whole trip in San Francisco and Sonoma. After each new restaurant I would somehow try and add it in my mental rankings. You see, most vacations there are only one or two meals that are memorable or stay with you after your time there is over. We had quite a number of these during our latest travel adventure. I must admit there was some cheating involved. Typically, I do my own research ahead of time to scope out the widely acclaimed and even off the beaten path places to dine. While I still did my due diligence, we had a little extra help. Our reason for vacation in the first place was to go to our friends’ wedding. The now new Mrs. also happens to be a fellow food blogger, Elizabeth Palmer Kitchen ( if you don’t already follow her, now would be a great time to start!) Knowing what a big foodie I am, she provided us with a long list of her favorite restaurants. Many of the names were not new to me (as I said…I did do my own research) however; it provided the reassurance and firsthand seal approval that there were going to be some GREAT meals ahead. So here it goes, my list of the “Best of” restaurants along with some superlatives!
The Best Meals in Sonoma:
The Fremont Diner: This restaurant actually came as a recommendation from our AirBnB hosts (more to come on that experience in an upcoming post). We arrived for brunch thinking we were going to a Jersey style diner. We were so pleasantly wrong. It was a Tennessee inspired menu with an American vintage crossed with classic southern atmosphere. Wine mimosas and mason jars of juices were served to you at your picnic table and paired with the likes of biscuits and gravy, hush puppies, chicken and waffles, and Kentucky hot brown. I went for the spicy chicken and waffles and it was certainly the best version of this dish I’ve consumed to date. The sweet and savory collided together to perform an overture of flavors. *Note to potential new diners- be prepared for a wait. The tin can wine bar will help ease the pain and the turnover at tables is fairly quick. http://www.thefremontdiner.com/
The Girl and the Fig- This charming little restaurant is right in the center of downtown Sonoma. Ask to sit outside here as their back patio is strung with lights and has a very laid back but enchanting feel. The menu is semi-pricey and French inspired. You can purchase various flights of local wines or stick with a single glass or full bottle of one varietal. We started with the Pastis Scented Mussels and Frites. As long as your not bracing yourself for larger plump east coast mussels the dish is superb. The tiny gems from the sea are swimming in a delectable broth and the stick skinny French fries are there to help soak it up. But my dinner is what I’m still salivating over as I write this post. I got the duck confit over corn and tomato spatzle. The spatzle was buttery, spicy and just downright delicious. But the words “I want to die and go to duck confit heaven” and “This duck confit would be my last meal” actually verbally came out of my mouth while I devoured my drumsticks. It was very simply cooked but it was perfection. The lamb meal my fiancé had was also a home-run. There were minor service bumps but, the food made up for it. *Make reservations in advance for this place! http://www.thegirlandthefig.com/
Best of San Francisco: Yank Sing (Best New Experience): I can’t believe I have never had a true Chinese Dim Sum meal before. Well, this finally got checked off my dining bucket list in San Francisco. Where better to do it then in the city whose Chinatown boasts the second biggest population of Chinese, next to China itself (Our tourist trolley tour taught me a few fun facts). Authentic Chinese is hardly a stretch to find in this city. With a recommendation in hand from Elizabeth we head to Yank Sing which is definitely has a swanky lunch time crowd (It is a James Beard awarded restaurant afterall). I think what we were most amazed by was the style of service. Food flew at us at an unbelievably overwhelming pace on those little rolling carts. My fiancé who also had no experience with this type of dining kept saying yes to everything they offered his way. I finally had to explain they come around with the whole menu and we were paying per piece so to slow down and start getting pickier. It didn’t stop us from fizzling out a little too quick after all our hasty decisions. Thankfully you couldn’t do much wrong in terms of ordering. The chicken and mushroom dumplings, their house pork dumpling, the Shanghai, and the crispy spring rolls were the stars for me. It was kind of an exhilarating experience that we both fell in love with. http://www.yanksing.com/home
Foreign Cinema (Most Romantic): We ventured to this restaurant for my birthday dinner. It’s a popular restaurant seemingly known by name by most San Franciscans. The dimly lit restaurant with a splashy city crowd also has a patio where classic films stream across the side of the building. We did not think ahead to ask when we made the reservation to sit outside but, for any new visitors I would try to make this request! It had elegant service and a New American menu. Unless you’re a downright food lover, a handful of their dishes may have some “foreign” ingredients that you can add to you’re vocabulary. Nevertheless whatever you do end up choosing will most likely be quite satisfying. My emmentaler cheese fondue with wine grapes, fingerling potatoes and escarole was a lovely smear for the crunchy little toasts they provide. My fiancé raved about the oysters he ordered off of their extensive listings from both east and west coasts. My main course was a true comfort meal. I loved the homemade skinny stick shaped pasta, the crispy bread crumbs and the hearty walnuts, squash and parmesan cheese that topped it off. The duck was tender and had a hint of exotic spice that was both intriguing and addictive. http://www.foreigncinema.com/
Cowgirl Creamery (Best Quick Bite): First I’m going to say that if you are even a hint of a food lover the Ferry Building is a must stop on your list of tourist attractions. My only criticism about going there was that I couldn’t buy up all the food from the fresh, seasonal, and cultural markets because carrying it all in my suitcase was not an option! The restaurants and walk up counters all looked divine but we headed straight for Cowgirl Creamery. It doubles as a cheese shop and cafe. The food fare includes simple cafe style eats such as paninis, soups, salads and grilled cheese. But don’t be deceived by the menu’s simplicity, we reveled in the taste of everything we ate. The creamy cheese and crusty bread take these straightforward lunches to a new level. We also loved the sweet and spicy pickles that are paired with each dish. If you’re looking for a quick bite, go get in line at this booth. Just be prepared to stand and eat as it is a walk-up counter with very limited seats. ( I literally mean about 4). https://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/
Tselogs ( best off the beaten path): We found this restaurant out of pure accident. After arriving to San Francisco quite a bit jetlagged, on the edge of being “hangry”, and with another little drive ahead to Sonoma we knew food was necessary to survive. After trying to figure out if we could make it all the way to Sonoma to eat we quickly realized it was not an option. We pulled off the next exit with no destination in mind. I quickly asked Siri for the best restaurants in town. It did about a 30 second rundown of the reviews and restaurants and settled on a Filipino restaurant about a mile away. As we walked into this little store front we realized how authentic this place really was. We were the only non-Filipino customers in the shop at the time we were seated. We asked for recommendations from the waitress who spoke broken English and went with her choices. The Sisigsilog (minced chicken) had a palate of spiced flavors which I was so unfamiliar with but was instantly inclined to keep sticking my fork into the sizzling pot. The Tapsilog (marinated beef ) was very sweet but also savory with the sticky rice and sunny side up egg they paired with the meal. The crispy Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino eggroll) came in a very plentiful helping and were filled with large chunks of pork that were happily dipped in a sweet syrupy sauce. This place was authentic, cheap, and worth the stop off (It’s technically right outside San Francisco)! http://tselogs.com/Tselogs/Info.html
These weren’t all the places where we ate on our trip away but certainly the most notable. Just writing this transported me back to each meal and bite I took while out there. I know I beat the curve a bit with picking places to eat (Thanks to our hosts) however; that whole region seemed to have such a wide array of cuisines and flavors to explore. There was rarely a meal I walked away disappointed or even just “blah” about. However; I will admit San Francisco didn’t capture my heart the way some adventures and cities have ( Sonoma on the other hand…..I’ll be back soon) but their food game is on-point!
Return next week to read the “best of” wineries from our wine country explorations.
…all for the love of the dish