So you have 24 hours in San Francisco and your mission is to eat. This is the exact predicament I faced last week when one of my closest and dearest friends, Tricia, came to visit me in San Francisco. I usually see Tricia once a year (maybe twice a year if I’m really lucky) because she’s getting her PhD at Johns Hopkins. It’s difficult when one of your best friends is located on the other coast of the country (Geez, Tricia. Selfish much?). Even though her family is based in the South Bay, she rarely comes up to San Francisco. On this trip home, I convinced her to take Caltrain and spend a whole day with me.
Since Caltrain is in SoMA, I wanted to explore lunch options that I had never had the opportunity to even fantasize about (SoMA is a little too far from the Financial District for a 1-hour lunch break). As soon as Tricia arrived in SF at 11:40 am, I asked, “What are your thoughts about getting fried chicken first and then getting grilled cheese sandwiches afterward?” She gleefully agreed (I consider this to be the true definition of friendship) and I whisked her away to Little Skillet. I had been DYING to try the fried chicken and waffles at Little Skillet ever since they were listed on 7×7’s “100 Things to Try Before You Die” in 2010, but they were only open for lunch and the lines were too long to be conducive for a lunch excursion.
For $6, we got 1 piece of fried chicken and 2 waffles. The fried chicken was DELICIOUS! The skin was so crispy and piping hot, but the breading wasn’t too thick. The chicken actually had taste and you could tell that it had been at least marinated in salt. I’ve eaten Tyler Florence’s fried chicken at Wayfare Tavern for $22 and it was a total letdown (I’m sorry, Tyler. Your chicken doesn’t hold a candle to Little Skillet’s chicken). I’m not a huge waffle fan and those didn’t impress me terribly. I actually thought they could have been cooked a little bit longer and been a little more crispy. I did find it interesting that the waffles actually weren’t too sweet, which I liked.
The next stop was The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. In the eloquent and poetic words of Drew Hoolhurst from Rocket Shoes, San Francisco is home to a “f*cking artisan grilled cheese store.” I know. The man can say so much in so few words.
If you do go to The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, be prepared to wait for your food! You would think you could grill up cheese sandwiches faster… After we placed our order, it seriously took like 20-25 minutes to get our sandwiches. Clearly, this is NOT fast food. I will say that the servers were extremely nice. They served us our smoky, tomato soup first. When they saw that we were splitting the soup, they happily split it into two bowls and added extra crème fraîche. When our sandwiches finally came half an hour later, they offered to give us a fresh, hot bowl of soup so that we could dip our sandwiches into it (Tricia had eaten all of hers; I had saved some soup, but it was cold).
The tomato soup did have a smoky flavor, but the consistency was too thin for my liking. I missed the heartier, thicker consistency and it was not my favorite tomato soup. Out of the two sandwiches, I liked the mushroom gruyère more. It was served on sourdough bread with mushrooms, sliced potatoes, caramelized onions and fontina and gruyère cheese. Tricia wasn’t a big fan of the potatoes in the sandwich, but I liked the extra “meat-like” feeling of the sandwich. My only complaint was that I couldn’t taste the gruyère cheese and I was missing that sharp, swiss cheese flavor. Tricia got the mousetrap, which was sharp cheddar, havarti and monterey jack cheese. That sandwich didn’t strike me as anything unique and I felt like I could have made it in my own house. I probably won’t be going any time soon, but I’m definitely glad I got to try the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.
Next stop was day drinking and Bi-Rite ice cream in Dolores Park. I’ve already express my love of Bi-Rite ice cream in a previous blog post and Dolores Park is the ultimate place to hang out and people watch in San Francisco.
The eating never stopped and our next destination was Dosa, which specializes in South Indian cuisine. I’m normally not the biggest fan of Indian food, but I’ve been broadening my horizons and I really like Dosa. Their ingredients are just really fresh tasting and not terribly heavy.
The fried fish pakora was a total pass. It was just too salty and then the batter was super spicy and left my mouth feeling like it was on fire. The dosa was absolutely incredible. They wrap curried potatoes in a thin pancake and give you chutneys to dip it in. I feel like eating with your hands makes eating much more fun. It’s great to be able to just rip off some dosa, dip it in some sauce and chow away.
After dinner at Dosa, I was still hungry. My theory is that I had spent the whole day stretching out my stomach and I now had extra room. Since we were in the Mission, I decided to get a carne asada burrito at El Farolito and ate half of that when I got back home to my apartment. Yes, that’s right. I had two lunches AND two dinners that day.
So there you have it. My 24-hour “layover” in San Francisco. Granted the city offers SO many culinary wonders, but I thought we did really well given our time constraint. The Travel Channel should have just hired me instead of Anthony Bourdain for his new show, The Layover. Move over, Anthony. You’ve got some competition!