Upscale/Downscale SF Dining: A Tale of Three Bowls

spicy tofu ramen, I can taste it now

spicy tofu ramen, I can taste it now

There are so many good places to eat in San Francisco that it’s almost overwhelming. Can you even get a bad meal? At any price point?

In the course of our longish weekend in the Bay area, our food choices ran the spectrum. We had great breakfast burritos at a divey walk in, next to newly minted interns scrounging to save their pennies. Then later that morning, I was tempted to drop an obscene amount for a cup of real Yemen coffee at Blue Bottle. (I declined).

Since our clocks were off and we found ourselves hungry at off times, we ate mid-afternoon lunches. One afternoon, we waited in line at Hog Island at the Ferry Terminal Building to eat oysters by the platter. And washed it down with crisp, chilled glasses of rose (in my case), beer in G’s. Then back to the hotel to nap.

Another afternoon found us at a hole in the wall ramen place across from a theater. A Michelin-mentioned ramen place, how cool is that? My spicy ramen with seaweed added was great, reinvigorating me for the evening to come. And is it just me or does ramen seem healthy-ish? I mean it’s just broth, springy noodles and in my case vegetables …. right?

Squid ink pasta, one of my favorites, with

Squid ink pasta, one of my favorites, with biting greens and clams

Toward the other end of the spectrum – toward because there’s ultra high-end in SF –  we had an amazing dinner at Stone’s Throw in Russian Hill, riding through scenic up and down hills on our way there. This squid ink pasta dish tasted of the ocean, with brininess balanced by sharp greens and tender calamari. A wonderful mix of flavors and textures.

Terrific with a zippy white from their fun wine list. I mean, with categories like “Bizarrely Unique” and “Crowd Pleasers” as well as a list of wines the staff drinks on their days off …. I only wish we could have gone back to sample more – of both food and wine.

Word of warning: the bar carries only brewed or fermented beverages, nothing distilled. In other words, no cocktails. Although oddly, I liked that. Sometimes I find cocktails to be too precious in today’s hipster hand-crafted cocktail world. And Stone’s Throw was not that at all; it was laid back, friendly and focused on great food and a wide, sometimes off-the-beaten path, selection of wine and beer to complement the food.

Back near Union Square and the Financial District (or FiDi, as I learned), we decided to try meat-focused Trou Normand. Great, open, airy space. High ceilings, large, comfy U-shaped booths which were good for our group.

tagliatelle with pork bolognese

tagliatelle with pork bolognese

Here, I highly recommend the charcuterie. Half the menu is charcuterie, and we learned the difference between salumi and whole muscle salumi. Salumi being a traditional sausage-style meat; whole muscle referring to meats more in the prosciutto or bresaola style which, now that I think of it, are a thin slice of muscle, mixed with fat. In any case, we devoured a medium platter. Had I been at dinner by myself or just with G, I could easily have just enjoyed the platter and my bottle of Rhone red.

If the charcuterie was inspired, the other dishes were very good. Nothing fancy, just well-made classics. Again, centered on meat.

Our very enthusiastic server, however, cautioned that the portions were generous and tried to warn our friend away from the roasted chicken, which was indeed sizeable. G’s large pork chop looked meager, by comparison. Perhaps looking smaller than it was served steak house style, no accompaniments. The pasta dishes were perfectly sized, particularly for those who had just consumed a variety of charcuterie. So while the portions were smaller (than the meat dishes), they were filling. My pasta bolognese hit the spot, rich and meaty.

So yeah, not a bad meal in SF. No surprise, of course.

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