The 10 Most Enjoyable Eats on The 7×7 Big Eat List

by Abel Lin

So here we are. Fatter, wiser, and 100 meals Foursquared in San Francisco. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recently took on 7×7’s 2010 foodie challenge of eating everything on this list in a year. The list described on the website as, “a serious melting pot of flavors made up of timeless classics, off-the-beaten-path gems and a few – how shall we put it – experiences” began its journey to my tummy on September 8th, 2010. For those who don’t have the time or budget to eat 100 different things, today I am pleased to share with you the best of the best! If you were to do an eating tour of San Francisco, I think this list would be a great introduction.

Because I’m playing with such a deep roster, my choices were rooted heavily on quality at the price point it was given, along with the service, ambiance, etc. It got bonus points if it was a “San Francisco first” culinary experience as well.

10. Egg Custard Tart at Golden Gate Bakery, Chinatown. 

Of course I’d start off this list with a dessert. Their famous egg custard tarts are so good they almost charge twice as much compared to the normal street prices with impunity, but it’s worth it. It has all the trappings of a good Chinese hole-in-the-wall: a) it looks like one, b) they “go on vacation” and close whenever they want and c) there’s no website whatsoever. The crust is airy, yet moist with a hint of crisp. It’s always insanely fresh so make sure you give it a few minutes to cool. Bottom line, Golden Gate Bakery has saved what has become a tourist trap of a Chinatown.

~$1.13/piece.

9. Meatballs with grapes at Aziza, Outer Richmond. 

If I could write about some of the gems in San Francisco, Aziza would start the conversation. It also has the rare distinction of being a one-star Michelin restaurant at superb prices compared to its other brethren. On the outside it has very humble décor and a rather busy street of Geary, but you’ll be surprised at the level of service and white table-level porn it provides. It stands to be the best Moroccan restaurant I’ve ever eaten in this city.

$12

8. Morning bun at Tartine Bakery, Mission. 

I consider this one of the Bakery Trinities with Flour from Boston and Momofuku from New York. Tartine is Mark Bittman’s favorite bakery in the U.S., and for good reason. Aside from the accolades, this bakery alone takes two spots on the Big Eat List which is quite the feat. The flagship pastry, the morning bun, is a delightful piece of citrus infusion with cinnamon syrup and light sugar.

$3.75

7. Burger and fries at Spruce, Laurel Heights. 

I personally enjoy dry burgers over facial-fests (the Fish & Farm folks got a helluva messy burger if you’re into that), so with that in mind I give you the classiest burger in San Francisco. The presentation and sauce opened my eyes on how a burger can be eaten…sans cheese, with bursts of flavor. For clarification, Spruce recently made the Michelin one-star list for San Francisco this year, though that was after I went to eat there in 2010.

$16

6. Nick’s baja-style fish tacos at The Taco Shop at Underdogs, Outer Sunset. 

I never knew fish tacos could be this amazing. It’s just a myriad of different textures and you get a taco made with one grilled corn torilla, one soft tortilla, monterey jack cheese, pinto beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole. Simply heaven for a dollar more compared to the average street price. There’s no point of Taco Tuesdays, cause you’ll always want it Nick’s way. In addition to the rowdy sports bar crowd, there are plenty of teams to flat screens to serve your ADHD. Best fish tacos in the city as far as I’m concerned.

$5.25

5. Scotch egg at Wexler’s, FiDi. 

The Sacramento/California St downtown is teeming with big names from Michael Mina’s to Perbacco, yet this is my favorite one. Everyone at this restaurant ordered the Scotch egg. Its BBQ sauce mixed with chili and honey was a nice kick to the crispy texture. The ambiance in there is ridiculous as well, prepare to have an amazing date there. Wexler’s is one of the most unique dishes I’ve ever had the privilege to be served.

$12

4. Prime rib at House of Prime Rib, Nob Hill. 

It is still up to debate on where the best steak cut is in the city amongst my friends, but for prime rib there is only one for its namesake. The oakwood bar and old money that seeps into this place defines the very neighborhood it dwells in. For the old San Francisco experience, it’s a hell of a set-up: cows that have been dead for only 22 days, or the top 2% within the meat market. If you somehow finish your prime rib, they’ll give you another one for free. This was one of the first stops I did early in the Big Eat List, and remains one of my best eating memories.

$~37 for the House of Prime Rib Cut

3. Super burrito at Taqueira Cancun, Mission.

Many will flock to its more famous cousin, El Farolito but I’m sticking with my guns on this one. If you want a bean-heavy, meat-oriented meal, head over to Farolito. But the little beef bits, the beans were subtle..all were mixed in the perfect divine mixture here. It is, in this foodie’s humble opinion, the best burrito in San Francisco.

~$5, depends on what you get in it

2. Angels on horseback at Anchor & Hope, SOMA.

Though impossible to get a walk-in table without waiting for hours (reservations are a must), it’s surprisingly tucked in an alley way on Minna St right before Mission. The service was impeccable; they served one dish late and apologized by giving it to us on the house. And to boot, this is the perfect example of how bacon makes everything better. For those curious as to what this actually is, it’s essentially smoke bacon-wrapped oysters (Rémoulade) with dipping sauce. It is awesome, and the gem of SOMA.

$13

1. Secret Breakfast at Humphry Slocombe, Mission. 

I began the countdown with a dessert, so it would be fitting that it ends with one. I never grow tired of this alcoholic delight and to me represents the culinary apex of San Francisco. Daring, tasty, and annoyingly hipster. If I was more baller, I’d probably default to the Bi-Rite Creamery where it has more refined, developed flavors and the overflow from Delfina gives the theater crowd. But Humphry Slocombe is on some bizarre razor test to try insane flavors (Evil Ale, Eight Ball Stout, and Pink Grapefruit Tarragon to name a few)…and it succeeds brilliantly with the Secret Breakfast.

$3.75/two scoops

Honorable Mentions

Carnitas at Nopalito, Lower Haight. I felt like Nopa’s sister restaurant was a breath of fresh air for Mexican cuisine. The atmosphere and quality of the meat was all very impressive. It was an open presentation of braised pork, orange, bay leaf, milk, cinnamon and beer with a side of cabbage salad, pickled jalapeño and salsa de tomatillo. It’s a great outing for carnitas, and my favorite. $15/~3 tacos

Soup Dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling King. Outer Richmond. The most legitimate Asian experience outside of Chinatown in San Francisco. It stinks now that everyone knows about it it’s super crowded, but head on over there during a weeknight and you won’t be disappointed. $5.25/10 pieces.

Sesame Balls at Yank Sing. SOMA.  A high-end dim sum joint in SoMA catered to the elitists, I initially was skeptical. However, the high quality of the dim sum itself and even selling me that sesame balls are AMAZING (even though I hate them) was in short a foodie’s miracle. It’s one of those places that screams, “OVERPRICED,” but you’ll be smiling once you slide your credit card over. $9.30/4 pieces.

Comments? Do you think a restaurant was wronged? Let me know of any “gems” you guys might know of and I can add it to my to-eat-and-photograph list!