Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eating out in and around San Francisco

English: Picture of San Francisco at Sunset. F...
It was in the chilly 50s during my week in San Francisco.

On garbage-collection day, I realized I wasn't in New Jersey anymore when I saw residents of San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood putting out a third can filled with compostables.

On some restaurant checks, I paid a small surcharge to fund city health insurance programs.

San Francisco -- where the farm-to-table movement got its start -- is most commonly called Fog City, but it could just as well go by the name of Food City.

I just spent a week there, sightseeing and exploring cheap ethnic eats in the multicultural city and beyond. Jack, my cousin's husband, who has lived in San Francisco for more than 50 years, was my guide and companion.

We shared a mutual goal of eating well, but not blowing the big bucks on restaurant meals. We sampled Mexican, Vietnamese and Japanese fare, among others.

Although I stopped eating meat two years ago, I was perfectly happy with all the great seafood San Francisco has to offer.

On past trips, I always visited Fisherman's Wharf, where I would pick up a whole steamed Dungeness crab, a can of beer and a sourdough roll for an al fresco lunch on a bench near the water.

Big splurge

This time, I made sure to get to the airport in plenty of time before my flight home on Monday to have a lavish seafood lunch at Lark Creek Grill in Terminal 2, where I blew $56.32 on two courses, a glass of red wine, seltzer and coffee.

Luckily, Lark Creek Grill is part of a restaurant group that is throwing its 23rd annual Dungeness Crab Festival through Feb. 29. (See the Web site: Seasonal Ocean-Fresh Dining)
SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 17:  A Dungeness Crab...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I started with a sumptuous roasted cauliflower soup topped with a nice piece of shelled crab leg and other sweet meat ($9.95), and sipped a California red zinfandel ($8.50).

My main course was a magnificent San Francisco Cioppino ($22.95) -- shellfish, jumbo shrimp and snapper in a tasty tomato broth with olive oil, onion and fresh basil.

Besides a dozen small clams and plump mussels, the broth held three big shrimp and two meat-filled Dungeness crab legs.

Although I was alone, I was seated at a table for four near a busboy's station.  The dining room is open to the busy concourse, and two children wailed at the table behind me, mixing with the clatter of used dishes and silverware a busboy was placing in bins.

The service was good, but an off note was the waiter calling me "Boss" when he spoke to me, as in, "Can I get you some dessert, Boss?"

Heart-healthy dinner

I had another good seafood meal at Pacific Catch Fresh Fish Grill in San Francisco, which residents often refer to as "The City," just as we do when speaking about Manhattan.

But we -- my cousin Rina, Jack and myself -- made the mistake of going there for dinner on Valentine's Day without a reservation. 

We had to wait about 30 minutes to be seated, wait some more for the food we ordered and then received everything at once. The place was packed and the staff in the open kitchen and the servers simply couldn't cope with the crush.

We chose from the special Valentine Day's menu -- a soup that paired a clear but salty broth with crab, asparagus and ginger ($7) and an entree of wild-caught escolar fillet from Hawaii with sauteed vegetables in a mild curry sauce, apple salad and sushi rice ($18.50).

I drank a glass of California pinot noir ($7). I paid the bill -- $100.20 for three, including a $14 tip, $6.75 tax and a San Francisco Health surcharge of $1.95.


We chose another popular restaurant for dinner this past Saturday, Tomo Sushi & Teriyaki, which is just over the border in neighboring Daly City.

The restaurant, which serves Japanese and Korean fare, is near a multiplex theater, an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and a pizzeria.

Despite a full dining room, the service was fast and efficient, and the young woman who served us actually broke out into a trot at one point as she tried to please my demanding cousin.

I started with Agedashi Tofu ($5.50), which was served in bite-size pieces of deep-fried tofu in a soy-based sauce instead of the usual large block, allowing Jack and Rina to try some.

My entree was the Hamachi Sashimi Platter ($13.95), with melt-in-your-mouth slices of raw fish, salad, miso soup and rice.

We shared an order of edamame ($3.75) and a large hot sake ($6), and I drank a bottle of Asahi draft beer ($3.75).

Jack had a large bowl of thick udon noodles with seafood ($13.95) and Rina chose a combination dinner with tempura, California roll and gyoza ($17.95).
The tab for three was $70.20, including the tax but not the tip.


 Lark Creek Grill, Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport;
650-821-9315. Opens at 5 a.m.

Pacific Catch, 1200 9th Ave., San Francisco, Calif.; 415-504-6905.
Web site: Fresh Fish Grill

Tomo Sushi & Teriyaki, 1901 Junipero Serra Blvd., Daly City, Calif.;
650-991-1045. Web site:

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