Map of Immigrant Influence of San Francisco’s food culture

San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other American city. And many of those restaurants reflect cooking from their home country. This map shows the history and influence of various cuisines. And some are origin stories of what are now familiar food.
This includes audio stories about each restaurant or store. This map is a project of the California Migration Museum.

Melting Spots Immigrant Food Map

Immigrant Food Map of San Francisco

By the way, the Garlic Noodles at Thanh Long are worth the trip to the outer, outer Sunset District. They will change your life. Plus very few visitors ever make it out that far, so you not only have an amazing meal, you will have bragging rights.

Were should we eat? A link that will get you started on San Francisco restaurant search.

San Francisco is a food town. We have more restaurants per capita than any other American city. Not more restaurants, because San Francisco’s population is small compared to other cities. We’re smaller than Columbus, Indianapolis, and Charlotte. But per person, we have more places to eat than New York, LA, and Chicago.
The choice can be overwhelming. There is anxiety to get the best meal possible every time you eat. It is best to get rid of this fear, because while every meal may not be mind blowing, it’s going to be pretty damn good. Unless you eat at most of the places on Fisherman’s Wharf, but that’s another story. A lot of the restaurants there thrive on the visiting tourists, not repeat customers.
Because San Franciscan’s love food, each neighborhood has many excellent restaurants that cater to the locals. If they weren’t good, they’d go out of business.
I’ve listed a lot of restaurants on my website. I also have recommendations I send to my guests.
The San Francisco Chronicle is a good resource for searching. The Chronicle has excellent food critics, and their recommendations and articles can be found here:
San Francisco Chronicle Food.

The search tool is a bit wonky, but worth a go. I’ve found the articles more useful.


Specs’–the Best Dive Bar and San Francisco

Years ago in Hamburg a friend I and were wandering and came across Harry’s Harbor Bazaar. As I remember it was two buildings, connected by an upstairs doorway created by bashing through adjacent walls. It was a three story warren, a maze, a labyrinth, crammed with stuff supposedly collected from an old pub that accepted things like masks, shrunken heads, carvings, idols, and musical instruments sailors brought from their travels and traded for booze. You could buy most anything on display, but the majority of people just walked the aisles stunned not only by the oddity but the sheer vastness of the collection. It has changed owners and locations since I was there, but it still retains the charm of an overstuffed Natural History museum storage room arranged in haste for an inspection.

One of the many idols you will see at Specs. The walls and shelves at Specs are filled with antiques, treasures, and oddities.

The collection at Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Café, or Specs’, isn’t as big, not by a longshot. It’s a bar, after all, not a warehouse-as-museum. But what it lacks in size more than makes up for by serving drinks to a cast of North Beach regulars who fit nicely into the ambiance the artifacts create.

There is dust on the upper shelves and stuff too far away for someone to reach, because if someone can’t touch it why bother dusting it? The walls and ceilings are brown from decades of burning tobacco and occasional pot, a reminder of times when smoking was allowed indoors. It is cramped and therefor friendly. You will likely have to squeeze by other patrons, maybe even share one of the bigger tables, and the close proximity inspires spontaneous casual conversations.

Some of the North Beach regulars hanging out at Specs.

If you’re lucky, you may wander in when there is music, book reading, or sketch class.

Mr. Lucky and the band performing at Specs.

Spec’s is the kind of bar a good traveler hopes to discover. It’s off the tourist path, has a unique eccentricity, and caters to the locals.

I encourage my guests to get a drink here, Tosca across the alley, and Vesuvio’s across the street. The three bars put together give a good overview of the spirit of North Beach.

Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe

12 William Saroyan Place, 94133  Phone 415-421-4112

4pm-1am, 2am Thursday-Saturday

Chocolate Covered—The Best, Biggest Little Chocolate Store in the World (probably)

Maybe not the world, but definitely San Francisco and if I had a mortgage I would bet it on the assumption there aren’t any shops small with such a variety of chocolate. The selection is so vast you could get lost in it except you can’t because shop isn’t any wider and longer than a stretch limo.

Chocolate Covered San Francisco.

The store is narrow, but tall.  Entering you experience a sense of delight and wonder because you’ve never seen anything like it before. Chocolate from around the globe cram shelves 7 feet high. There are chocolate bars, of course, but also novelty shapes (such as cars and baseballs), and small single wrapped bites.

Chocolate bars in Chocolate Covered San Francisco.--What you can see on a private tour of the city.

Chocolate makers from around the world contact the shop to let them know of their latest artisan products and inventive flavors. The shop has been around since 1994, and the owner, Jack Epstein claims “1,248 different chocolate bars in here, from over 28 countries, from more than 125 different companies.”

Tins and chocolate cover the walls of Chocolate Covered in San Francisco.

What wall space isn’t covered in chocolate is covered with tins you fill with chocolate. Photos of what looks like every street sign in San Francisco are available, which reminded me of those rack of souvenir license plates that have names. Except mine. The racks never had “Reed,” so I never got a little license plate at a roadside gift shop. There is a “Reed” street in San Francisco.

Reed Kirk Rahlmann, owner of Small Car Big Time Tours, holding a tin with his name on it.

Chocolate Covered is off the usual tourist path, but worth the detour if you love chocolate. Even if you’re just indifferent to chocolate it’s worth the trip.

4069 24th Street (Noe Valley)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: (415) 641-8123

New May Wah–A Grocery Store with Everything You Never Knew You Wanted

Not everything about visiting a city is the major sites, tourist attractions, and eating at restaurants from the Food Network. Those should not be overlooked, because a site like the Golden Gate Bridge is famous for a reason, Fisherman’s Wharf does have a history hidden behind the overabundance of tee-shirt shops. Even the Food Network can get it right once in a while, although when a restaurant gets on television getting a reservation is less likely than finding a magic unicorn who spits winning lottery tickets.

To experience a city like a local, you’ve got to do what locals do. In San Francisco, stroll around a neighborhood with no destination in mind. Go to a restaurant at least a mile from Fisherman’s Wharf. Go to a grocery store, especially the New May Wah in the overlooked Richmond District.

New May Wah Supermarket on Clement StreetI’m betting you don’t have a store like the New May Wah in your town and if you do, consider yourself lucky and blessed and the envy of those who don’t.

The New May Wah is neighborhood market on Clement St, which used to be known as Little Chinatown. It carries a lot of ingredients for Chinese dishes, and more. Oh, so much more. And you want it. You don’t know you want it, but once you see it, you’ll ask where has this been all my life?

There are shelves of potato chips with flavors far beyond anything you’ll find at a suburban supermarket.  The selection changes regularly and every time I go in I find something new.  Squid. Spicy Squid. Cucumber. Tzatziki. I got “Duck Neck” flavor once. As I’ve never eaten a duck neck I’m going to take their word that’s what it tastes like when infused in a chip . Authenticity aside, it was tasty.

There is an entire aisle devoted to sauces and condiments not only from China, but Japan, Mexico, Korea, Indonesia, England and those are only the countries I can remember. Buy something from this section to spice up meals back home.

Potato chips at the New May Wah

Sauces and condiments at the New May Wah.

There is also a vast array of candy from every corner of the globe. Some of these are worth buying just because of the whimsically surreal packaging. This is the kind of souvenir everyone back home will love. Also a fun place to bring the kids. Much more entertaining than the M&M store in Times Square.

At the New May Wah you’ll spend time with the locals and experience San Francisco like we get to. This is the type of store you will talk to your friends about when you get back home. They will enjoy the exotic treats you bring them, and be impressed you saw something more than the usual stuff, which, as I said, are worth seeing.

New May Wah 707 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 8:30am-7pm everyday

The Blue Danube–Good coffee, good food, and the chance to read someone else’s journals.

A coffee shop, a good local coffee shop, not a chain that has outlets across the street from each other, is a simple joy. It reflects the taste of the owner and the character of the neighborhood. It should feel inviting. It is a place to relax and a cheap way to expand one’s living quarters. People go to coffee shops to get away from the familiarity of their apartments or house, and to be with people while not being obligated to interact with them. On a trip, it is a way to get a sense of what it feels like to be a local.

Blue Danube coffee house on Clement St.

Novelists and screen writers, both professional and would-be, have been writing in some place that served coffee since the caffeine was extracted from the bean. I’m going to bet when the first café opened it was soon filled with customers scrawling poems on parchment. Coffee allows thoughts to flow.

The Blue Danube invites customers to leave those thoughts in blank books. At this writing, they total more than 45. Past volumes are on a shelf for anyone to read.

Journals at the Blue Danube coffee shop on Clement St. Journals at the Blue Danube Coffee shop on Clement St. in San Francisco.

These books are filled with drawings, musings, observations and confessions. Some pages are from travelers writing about their experience of San Francisco. Children write jokes, draw, or play tic-tac-toe. Some write about people they love. Others write confessions of shame, anger, or infidelity.  It is like getting permission to read other people’s mail or diaries.
Page from a journal in the Blue Danube Coffee Shop on Clement St. in San Francisco.Page from a journal in the Blue Danube Coffee Shop on Clement St. in San Francisco.Page from a journal in the Blue Danube Coffee Shop on Clement St. in San Francisco.Page from a journal in the Blue Danube Coffee Shop on Clement St. in San Francisco.

The Blue Danube is located on Clement St, one of favorite streets overlooked by visitors. I’m going to write more about Clement St. in the coming weeks. It is the sort of location that, when I’m giving private tours of San Francisco, I encourage my guests to experience.

Best Dim Sum in San Francisco and it’s not in Chinatown—Xiao Long Bao

Chinatown boasts a lot of good dim sum bakeries. The Good Mong Kok sports huge lines on weekends, which I’m guessing is a result of being Instagramed and Yelped to death. Not that it isn’t good, it is, but rare is the dumpling worth investing 30 minutes standing on a sidewalk for and so far I haven’t found it.

Xiao Long Bao Restaurant in San Francisco--Best Dim Sum

Even at Xiao Long Bao I’m only waiting 10 minutes. OK, maybe 15.
This is located on Clement St, which is under visited by tourists. Which is too bad because there is much to discover on this Richmond district street. On the other hand it may be a blessing, because I’d rather Clement St not be invaded by hoards of wanna-be influencers taking selfies holding a soup dumpling while making duck lips.

Xioa Long Boa display counter filled with delicious food

Because Xiao Long Bao is busy serving neighborhood locals, the dumplings, scallion pancakes, buns don’t get a chance to sit around for long. Everything is fresh, and soups are made to order.

Xiao Long Boa Big Menu

The menu is bigger than most dim sum places, and it doesn’t include everything available. There are items in the case they didn’t have room for.

Don’t expect the crew to be overly friendly or effusive. They are trying to serve up food quickly to many hungry people. They are glad to answer questions, but only to a point. If you’re really confused about what to order, take your chances and order what looks good. It probably will be. And maybe order a few more things than usual because if you get something you don’t like, you can move on. Dim sum is cheap and worth the little risk.

By the way, anyone who knocks stars off a place like this because the didn’t like the service is a self-involved idiot. Maybe they just didn’t like their duck lips.

Fine Dining at a Great Price–The Richmond

The Richmond

I’ve resided in San Francisco’s Richmond district for more years than I care to confess. The western side of the city on either side of Golden Gate Park (Sunset to the South, Richmond to the north) is often referred to as “The Avenues” because that’s where they are, all 48 of them.  I was there when “The Avenues” was used as a synonym for “Why do you live all the way out there?” When Spain and then Mexico owned the San Francisco peninsula, maps named the western side of San Francisco “The Great Sand Waste.” When the United States took over they give it a minor upgrade and called the sand pile “The Outside Lands.” I’ve always liked “The Avenues;” it sounds appropriate, a landscape you’d find in a post-apocalyptic movie where Mel Gibson does battle with Kevin Costner who is only trying to fulfill his mission to deliver mail to the undead.
Custom Private Small Tours of San Francisco shows you The Richmond

In the Richmond, there is a restaurant called The Richmond, that I had never heard of. I asked the owner/chef John how long he’d been there he said 15 years. So I had to confess I’ve driven by hundreds of times, and never noticed. It is easy not to notice. There is a sign, but the front of the restaurant is pleasantly nondescript and loses the attention battle, especially at night, to the florescent baked laundromat next door.

Richmond is the vision of the owner/chef John Ha. He wanted a restaurant where he could control everything, and he has succeeded. Aside from himself, there is a server and an assistant in the kitchen. He doesn’t need more than that, because the menu is limited, though changes often. It’s a tasting menu of 3 courses for $50, or 5 courses for $79.  There are optional wine parings, but the wine list is good, and like the dinner itself, a screaming deal.
Unique Custom Private Tous of San Francisco takes you to out of the way restaurantsPrivate Small Custom Tours San Francisco and unique restaurants

The restaurant is small, but doesn’t feel that way because each table is enclosed with curtains. The dining experience is private, and John and his staff make you feel like you’re the only people in the place, and you’re getting their full attention.

He favors a good dining experience and good food over volume and turning tables. John is attentive, genuinely cares that you have a good time, and goes out of his way to make it happen. I was torn between the pork chop and the salmon, and asked if he favored one over the other. He, rightly, turned this question back on me and asked “What are you leaning toward?” I said the pork chop. He said “I’ll make you the pork chop. If for some reason you don’t like it, I’ll bring the salmon.” The pork chop was perfect, probably the best I’ve had.

At the end of the meal he came back out to talk, with some complementary wine. He and the server pulled back the curtains on the other booths, and, in an illusion that David Copperfield would find impressive, revealed how small the place really is.

The Richmond doesn’t advertise. It doesn’t need to. It doesn’t have a website, probably because he doesn’t need it, and keeping it up to date with the daily menu would take time away from creating his daily menu. Reading some of the online reviews, they are nearly 100%  raves. Of course there are a handful of negative reviews. These are either from would-be critics who proclaim their self-imagined cred and sophistication by focusing on some small inconsequential detail they can pick at, or more often the reviewer gave less than five starts because the writer felt their every petty whim was not fawningly catered to. Many posters are clueless about the economy of small restaurants and basic courtesy. For example, those who make a reservation for four people and then only show up with two. That means two other people couldn’t get in that night because of their lack of consideration, and, because he’s preparing a limited number of meals each night, don’t understand why the owner is less than pleased when you saunter in with half your party. One reviewer was pissed because The Richmond don’t offer take-out. These are the same people you stopped inviting to dinner because they arrived with a couple of extra friends in tow who just dropped into town, or simply didn’t show up at all, and didn’t let you know they weren’t showing up. They also keep asking when is the next time you’re going to ask them to dinner.

Richmond is not a restaurant where the staff says “How high?” when you say jump. I get the impression that if you are too demanding John will give you a great experience, whether you appreciate it or not. He may also keep your email and phone number on a list that says to tell you the restaurant is booked no matter what day or time you ask for. That’s what I would do, but John may be more forgiving than me. He loves what he has created, and may give you a second chance. This is John’s place, and he goes out of his way for you to have a great time. If you enjoy yourselves and let him and his staff know that, he is humble and appreciative and eager to provide you with a memorable dining experience. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from next time, such as Olive Garden and Applebee’s.

Reservations only, make them now.

615 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

Amelie–Lively Wine Bar with Great Selection of Wine and Cheese

Seek and ye shall find.

It is easy to stick to favorite restaurants and bars. It makes the decision making process easier, especially after a long week and all I want is a glass of wine in a comfortable place with no surprises to price or atmosphere. What I tend to forget is that the usual places I love were at one time new discoveries.

I discovered Amelie a few weeks ago. It was a night my wife and I were searching for a good glass of wine and some good cheese. We started at a place in the Financial District (or the FiDi, as it is known to those who are very busy and overscheduled and to prove it to us lesser mortals must use an acronym at every opportunity.  By the way, “San Fran” drives me up the wall as well. But that’s another post. Anyway….) which was way overpriced for both the wine and the cheese plate. The portions on the cheese plate seemed to come from scraps tossed onto board as the waiter rushed by the kitchen, and wine, while good, not worth the price.

Great wine bar--private tour San Francisco

Here’s a rule of thumb I share with my private tour guests: if the wine menu doesn’t have at least one glass of wine under $10, consider going somewhere else. If nothing is under $15, run like the wind. You can get good wine all over the city that won’t bust your budget.

Undaunted I searched for “best cheese plate” and Amelie came up as a favorite several times.  And with good reason. It is a lively bar with a large selection of wines by the bottle and glass. The Monday night we were there the special was a bottle of wine and a cheese plate for $35. A steal. The wine was earthy with some spice, not the fruit bomb that is woefully common these days, and the cheese plate had proper portions, not the insulting dainty servings that are far too common.

The attention to good wine and food served at a reasonable price may have something to do with the French atmosphere of Amelie, and the staff, who are also international. They take good wine and food as a birthright, as an indispensable part of life. I couldn’t agree more.

Ameie 1754 Polk Street  (at Washington Street)
Open Seven Days a Week 5:30pm – 2:00am
Happy Hour From 5:30 – 7:00

(415) 292-6916

Check out the wine list

Hotel Biron–Small Wine Bar and Art Gallery

My wife and I have a standing date on Friday night, known as the Wine Hour, even though it lasts longer than that. The Hotel Biron is one of our favorite destinations to mark the end of the week.

Hidden wine bar--private tour San Francisco

It has a rotating wine list with 50 wines or so wines, about of those available half by the glass. The pours are generous, but unless you’re going to sample several different wines (which I endorse) , tell the bartender what sort of wine you like, ask for a taste, and if it is good, buy the bottle. The glass to bottle price at the Hotel Biron makes it a deal. There are 5 glasses to a bottle, so if your group, (or just you) are going to have at least three glasses, get the bottle. You can cork the leftover and take it with you.

The Hotel Biron is one of those places off the tourist path–although it’s conveniently located near Hayes Valley (a favorite stop for my private tour guests who like to shop). It is a small, brick lined place that is not on a main street and doesn’t have a big sign blaring its location. It also doubles as an art gallery with shows by local artists. The last time I was there the one piece I really wanted had already been spoken for. Fortunately, there was wine to ease my pain.
Wine Art--private tour San Francisco

Hotel Biron

45 Rose St., Near Market and Gough 415-703-0403

Maritime Wine Tasting Studio–variety, knowledge, in a friendly atmosphere

Located on Columbus Ave, just up the street from the Cafe Zoetrope and down from Broadway, The Maritime Wine Tasting Studio a nice place to relax and enjoy a wide variety of wine. The company  started out as wine importers and producers. The staff has a passion and knowledge of wine, so tell them what you like, and they’ll find something to please you. They’re smart people, so ask any question you’ve had about wine. Aside from the reasonably priced wines by the glass, they also have an all-day happy hour special wine that is a great deal. And if you like what you drink, you can buy a bottle.
I drive by here on almost all of my private tours, and encourage people to experience the selection.

Wine Tastings-- private tour San Francisco

Maritime Wine Tasting Studio, 222 Columbus Ave, Phone: 415-861-1139

INOVINO–a neighborhood wine bar easy to get to from downtown

Hidden gem discovered on private tour San Francisco If you’re staying downtown, there are many good reasons to hop on the N-Judah street car and take a quick ride to Cole Valley, and the Inner Sunset. There you will experience San Francisco neighborhoods that most visitors miss, and restaurants and wine bars locals love. A private tour is about seeing the city like a local, and discovering hidden gems, and I love telling guest about the neighborhood gem that is Inovino.

Get off the N-Judah at Carl and Cole. Inovino is steps away. Inovino is an intimate restaurant that has simple, good food, and large selection of wine. The happy hour (from 4-6 weekdays, 3-6 Saturday and Sunday) is one of the best deals in the city.

Francesco, the owner knows his wine and has a extensive and interesting list. He created a restaurant where the neighborhood loves to hang out. Is is where my wife and I have our weekly Friday night “wine down.” This is the sort of place you go home and brag about finding.

Inovino, 108 Carl St., 681-3770

The InnerFog–a neighborhood wine bar next to Golden Gate Park


I love New York City, and New Yorkers are quick to tell me I’m correct in this assessment because New York, not the sun, is the center of the universe, or at least the only part of the universe that matters.  I will then concede that when it comes to theater, art, fashion,  pastrami, tall buildings, and corrupt real estate barons, New York outshines San Francisco. But when you want a decent glass of wine under $10, San Francisco doesn’t win, because to win would be to assume there is competition. There isn’t. You can’t get a glass of wine in New York for under a sawbuck unless it can also be pressed into service as nail polish remover. When it comes to wine under $10 a glass, New York City just can’t produce a dog for the fight. There’s no contest. (By the way, I would be glad to be proved wrong on this, so anyone out there who would like to offer up a contender for good, inexpensive wine in NYC, the comment box is open.)

The InnerFog at 545 Irving in the Inner Sunset is one such wine bar that New York lacks. I love showing guests the Inner Sunset on their custom private tour, as it is off the usual path, next to Golden Gate Park, and it is easy to get to especially if you’re staying downtown. Take the N Judah, get off at 7th Ave, and it’s right across the street.

The InnerFog is welcoming anytime, but the happy hour deals convince you you should get off the sidewalk and get inside.  From opening each day (currently 5pm Mon-Wed, 4pm Thurs-Sun) until 7pm Friday you can get good wine for only $7 a glass. The happy hour wine changes every few weeks. Currently I like the Tuscan Sangiovese , but whatever they have whenever you will show up there will be satisfying.

If you can’t make it for happy hour, come anyway. The wine list is well catered and reasonably priced. They have craft beer on tap if that’s your beverage. There are small snack plates if you’re hungry. Art by locals artists. Knowledgeable staff. A friendly group of regulars. All the usual suspects and amenities you want from a neighborhood wine bar.

If you want to brag that you’ve gone off the beaten path and discovered a local’s place in San Francisco, head to the InnerFog. You’ll not only get good wine at a good price, you may win an argument with a New Yorker.

inner fog--a favorite place to be dropped off after a custom private tour of San Francisco

The Best Margaritas in the Universe are in San Francisco

A few years ago I was in Edmonton, Alberta taking time off from giving private tours in the MINI to be a part of the biggest and oldest Fringe Theater festival in North America. I, or rather my alter ego, Sebastian Boswell III, was invited north to perform. Sebastian is a master of “mental mysteries and physical wonders” such as mind reading hammering a 4-inch nail in his nose. Yes, really.

One night after the show, Mrs. Boswell and I found the El Cortez, which boast an extensive tequila menu, and variations on margaritas, that, frankly, took liberties with the purity of a margarita and featured concoctions that were more at home in a Tiki bar than a Mexican restaurant. In their heart they do know and appreciate tequila, and it was proved by the Tommy’s Margarita on the menu, named in honor of Tommy’s Mexican, home of the best margarita’s on Earth.

Tommy’s Mexican out at 24th/Geary is one of those off the beaten path places that you’ll love, and be able to boast about visiting when you get back home.  tommy's -- the best margarita on the best custom private tour of San Francisco

While the restaurant is good, the real draw is the small bar serving up 100’s of different tequila. I wish I could say I appreciated them, but I don’t. I look upon the shelves packed with bottles and brands most people, especially me, have never heard of, and realize it is my shortcoming that I lack the curiosity to explore.  I have the same attitude toward beer. I’m know there are delights and subtle wonders to discover, but I’ll never know. It is my narrow devotion that wine is the alcohol I appreciate and am attempting to gain knowledge of.  I can hear you say “Why does it have to be one or the other?” It doesn’t.  It’s not you tequila, it’s me. So I don’t stray from what I like which are the house margaritas. I could be more adventurous, but I am happy with their perfection, made with quality tequila and fresh limes–no premixed stuff.

For those who want to explore, Julio, the son of the owner and genius behind the bar, literally, will gladly walk you through the many brands and their subtle distinctions. If you are truly devoted, he offers a Master’s Degree in Tequila.

The restaurant is big, but the bar is small, because its original inception in the 1960’s was a comfortable holding place while waiting for dinner. Get there early if you want to be sure you get a seat. Neighborhood regulars, and people who come to San Francisco regularly and make it point to trek out to the Richmond district and will settle into stool for a good chunk of the evening, even though food is not served at the bar after an early hour. But even if you don’t get a seat the atmosphere is friendly and you won’t mind standing.

Julio, (pictured) is the mastermind behind creating “The Greatest Tequila Bar on Earth.” He has been featured in numerous magazines and television show. If Julio is there when you are, he will treat you like a friend and long time regular.

julio--a person as unique as a custom private tour of San Francisco

It’s out in the little-visted Richmond district (out in the Avenues, as we say), but easy access from down town on the 38 Geary bus. And you’ll want to take public transportation, because you should never drive in San Francisco anyway, but especially after enjoying the best margaritas you’ll ever have. Of course I can drop you off there after your private tour, but I won’t be drinking, at least until I get the MINI back safely in the garage.

Cheap food (and water) on Fisherman’s Wharf. Don’t be a sucker–be like a local.

This is a rule everywhere in the world: get 2 blocks off the main tourist street, you find local treasures. I’ve experienced this in Lisbon, Manhattan, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, London, and Edmonton, Alberta, just to name few.
Yes, Edmonton gets tourists. People from Red Deer and Athabasca need to vacation too.

Fisherman’s Wharf, like any other tourist destination in the world, has overpriced food and even more overpriced water. A bottle of water will set you back $2 if you’re lucky, but more likely $3 or more. And the restaurants are, for the most part, over priced and mediocre quality.

Fortunately if you walk 2 blocks off the wharf and the main drag of Jefferson St, you can save money and eat better. And experience the major tourist destination like a local.

At the corner of 401 Bay St. at Mason, there is a Trader Joe’s. For 29 cents you can get a bottle that would cost ten times that much on the wharf. You can also buy sandwiches, salads and snacks.

Trader Joes north beach where guests of the San Francisco custom private tour of stock up

Shop like a local at Trader Joe’s

cafe franciso where I often pick up people for their custom private tour of San Francisco

Hang out like a local at the Cafe Francisco.

Cilantro restaurant a favortive of the custom private tour in San Francisco

Eat like a local at Clinatro

If you want to sit down to eat, there is the Cafe Francisco (2161 Powell at Francisco). No only is the food good and reasonably priced, it is a local’s hang out.

Down the block at 2257 Mason at Francisco is the Cilantro Taqueria , which serves up great burritos, tacos, and other Mexican food.

So after you’ve enjoyed the highlights of Fisherman’s Wharf, which are few and quickly appreciated, walk a couple of blocks and experience the city like a local.