Home > Dining Out, Food Adventures > My 24 Hours in San Francisco – Part 1(Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf)

My 24 Hours in San Francisco – Part 1(Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf)

October 30, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Wow it has been way too long since my last post, but I have a good reason for my absence! Over the last few weeks a combination of “midterm season” meets “traveling across the continent for professional school interviews” has left me with little time to breathe let alone write a blog post…but I have been loving every minute of it! I have never gone through such a concentrated period of traveling in my life, 6 flights in two weeks has ment a lot of time spent in airports and not tonnes of home cooking (although I am still whipping up many quick and delicious meals whenever I can), however it has also ment I have been able to sample some amazing foods from cities I have never been to before. Today I want to focus on my most recent travel destination: San Francisco California.

San Francisco, a city that has topped my list of places to visit for the past few years. In my younger days it was because SF was at the heart of the tech and internet culture that I loved. Today it is the capital city of the “new food movement” emphasizing fresh, local, and high quality produce. Over the past few years, I have read other bloggers laude its beautiful farmers markets (where truly everything is fresh and local), its fantastic restaurants (which get to make use of this bounty of quality ingredients in amazing ways), its innovative cocktail bars, the beautiful wines that one can sample there, and its overall atmosphere. It has always sounded to me like a place where people truly do care about their food and fully embrace the social and cultural experiences that different foods can create and facilitate.

When I found out I was going to have the opportunity to visit San Francisco, my only concern was how I was going to pack as much of this as possible into the short 24 hours I had in the city (alas midterms are something that just can’t be ignored!). Overall I am very happy with all that I managed to see and do in such a short period of time. I covered a good chunk of the city, hit many of the major spots I wanted to visit, and enjoy tonnes of the delicious food and drink I have read so much about. This is going to be a long post with lots of detail and a fair number of pictures (not of the best quality unfortunately as I only had my iPhone with me) so I am going to break it into two parts. The first part will cover the evening/night I had in SF and the second will cover the next day’s adventures. So without further ado, here is my San Francisco Adventure!

Chinatown and Union Square

I arrived in SF around 5:00 pm on a Friday night, emerging from the Powell St. BART station right into the middle of downtown SF. First thing I did was to walk to the hostel I would be staying that night, the Downtown Hostel run by Hosteling International. This was a great place to stay for a night or two, right in the heart of downtown SF, good pricing, clean rooms and facilities, and a very knowledgeable front-desk staff. The hostel is located a 1-2 minute walk from Union Square, which is at the heart of downtown SF and the location for many of the big high-end shopping destinations.

Delicious cashew chicken!

After talking with the front-desk staff I decided I was going to go to visit China Town to grab some dinner. The china town in SF is quite famous for its size and abundance of great restaurants. It is an incredibly interesting place to walk around although I would probably recommend visiting during the day; when I went during the evening there wasn’t as much activity on the streets as I imagine there would be during the day. On the recommendation of the hostel staff, I was looking for a small restaurant they knew only as “960 Grant Ave.” After a lot of walking (and up a lot of hills!) I finally arrived at this small restaurant where I was told I could find good quality, and reasonably priced chinese food.

The restaurant is very small and had very plain decor, but smelled delicious! I decided to go with one of my favorite chinese restaurant dishes, cashew chicken, to see their take on it. I also ordered a side plate of a vegetable dish made from bitter melon. I have never tried bitter melon before and was curious to see how bitter it actually was and how it was prepared!

First the chicken, it was delicious. Very nice quality meat, good vegetables mixed in and a nice light sauce that was not

Bitter Melon

at all like the thick and sometimes cloyingly sweet sauces you find at most Chinese restaurants. The bitter melon was….interesting. It had a great texture (fairly firm and not mushy), and looked really cool (I loved the deep green of it) but I just couldn’t get past how, well, bitter it tasted. When ordering the dish I wasn’t sure how pronounced this bitter flavour would be, however I ended up finding it a bit too much for my taste. The sauce it was cooked in was great, however it just couldn’t take the last edge off of the bitterness. I am still quite glad I tried it and enjoyed my meal.

The Trolly to Fisherman’s Wharf

After my dinner in china town I made my way back towards Union Square, taking plenty of time to explore all the streets around my hostel. I found myself back at the intersection of Market and Powell street’s, where I had initially arrived in the city. This also happens to be one end of the line for the iconic San Francisco cable cars. Coming to SF, I knew I had to go for a ride on a cable car at least once and I figured there was no time like the present, so I hopped on the next one with absolutely no idea of where it was headed! It was a really fun ride and a neat way to see the city. We traveled up and down many a hilly street and had some amazing views (unfortunately no pictures as it was quite dark out by now). The other end of the line happened to be at another SF landmark: Fisherman’s Wharf, so this is where I spent the next part of my night.

A genuine San Francisco cable car

Fisherman’s Wharf is a major tourist spot; there is a large main street running somewhat parallel to the water with many shops, restaurants, food vendors, and other attractions. Obviously much of the food focuses on the fresh caught seafood that is unloaded daily. At the end closest to the cable-car stop, there is a small beach looking out onto the water. In the daytime you would have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is still beautiful at night to look out and see the lights of the bridge and the big expanse of open water. I walked along the main boulevard and found a really cool bakery (whose name escapes me) where they made amazing loaves of bread in the shape of huge animals! They had some crocodile (alligator?) loaves in the window and you could buy your very own turtle loaf. I grabbed a delicious fresh croissant for the rest of my walk.

Crocodile Bread

Turtle bread!

On my way back to the cable-car stop I decided to drop into an interesting looking wine-bar called the Winery Collective. They feature tastings of many California wines and have many bottles available for purchase. They have 3 different tasting packages available, each featuring about 5 wines. A “Tasting California” ($15) featured reds, whites, and a rose; the “All White” ($20) featured…you guessed it, all white wines, and the “All Red” ($25) which featured…you guessed it again, all red wines. I opted for the variety of the first package and was treated to a great tasting of 5 fabulous wines. The staff was very knowledgeable and provided a wealth of information about each wine. The whole experience was a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend it as a good way to get to try a variety of California wines.

I hopped back on the cable car for a ride home, explored some more areas of downtown and decided to call it a night. I wanted to be up early the next morning for a full day in San Francisco!

Looking back, I wish I had explored a few other areas of the city that evening, however it being my first time in SF I didn’t have a great bearing on the different areas and how hard it was to travel to and from them. Oh well, only gives me more things to do on my next visit!

A Taste of California!

Well, that’s it for part 1. I hope to get part 2 up in the next week, it features my full day visiting the most beautiful farmers market I have ever seen, the most amazing tea experience, and the best ice cream I have ever eaten!

Till next time!

-JR

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