By Marika Flatt
As someone who has to be constantly mindful of what I put into my mouth, I try to remember my mom’s mantra: “Eat to live; don’t live to eat.” However, on a business trip to San Francisco to speak at a writing conference on behalf of my company, PR by the Book, I took the liberty to dig into San Fran’s ever-evolving culinary scene. You’ll like what I found!
Located in the bustling Financial District, this sushi and seafood restaurant seemed to be a prime spot for the business lunch crowd. With other restaurants in Scottsdale & Chicago, Roka Akor- Japanese meaning “around the fire”—had the most amazing Asian food selections. I’m not a sushi fan, but I was famished and couldn’t get enough of the chef’s selections that kept arriving one and another at our table. We started with the Avocado and Asparagus Tempura Rolls and the Pork and Rock Shrimp Dumplings. I highly recommend a sampling of their “veggie plate”: Sweet Corn with butter and soy (amazing!), Chinese Broccoli with ginger shallot dressing and Asparagus with wafu dressing and sesame. I was also impressed with the Miso Marinated Black Cod Skewers and Spicy Fried Tofu (yes!) with avocado and herb salad. Wrap it up nicely with homemade sorbet and French Press coffee. www.RokaAkor.com / @RokaAkorSF
Union Street is bustling with cute boutiques, twenty-somethings in workout gear, and packed restaurants like The Brixton. For Sunday brunch, we had the choice of breakfast or lunch entrees. So, naturally, I decided to have a little of both. I started with their Spinach and Artichoke Dip: organic spinach and chopped baby artichokes sautéed with jack cheese, béchamel, and grana padano, served with Panorama baguette crostinis. Even though I had eaten a pretty big breakfast earlier and wasn’t very hungry, I couldn’t get enough of this dip! Then, I followed it up with a rather strange transition, their Crispix Crusted Stuffed French Toast, a specialty of The Brixton. This scrumptious dish is Panorama brioche stuffed with nutella and fresh sliced bananas, dipped in batter and grilled with crispix crumbs. OMG! This dish was worth writing home about. I will be trying to duplicate this in my own kitchen. www.brixtonsf.com / @brixtonsf
What started out as just a bar has quickly developed into an established restaurant, too. On a Friday night, this locale was hopping with loud music and lots of young hipsters. We scooted into one of the few booths and immediately spied the tator tots on the menu. Of course! The Bourbon Deviled Eggs were another must, and rightly so; they were devilishly delicious. We split the Giant Meatball (which wasn’t “Disney giant” but large, says owner, Sean), the Redford Pot Pie, and, for our vegetarian at the table, the Grilled Portabella Sandwich, which could have turned me into a vegetarian. This was a fun place to dine with our conference friends on a late night. www.redfordsf.com / @redfordsf
This Texan was ready for my weekly Mexican food when we arrived at Sabrosa, which means “tasty” in Spanish. I loved that this cute café had outdoor seating and felt like something you’d see in Madrid. We started with the guacamole, served with their homemade tortilla chips. We then tasted the Kale & Beet Ensalada. Kale is the new black, if you didn’t know. I don’t particularly care for beets (I think my mom soured me on them as a baby), but I was able to eat around them and fully enjoy this fresh salad. The Tacos de Pescado with cilantro & salsa taquera were “muy sabrosa”, as were the Vegetable Quesadillas. But the real show-stopper was…wait for it…their Chilaquiles Verdes con Polly y Huevo. I could have jumped into this bowl full of homemade tortilla chips in a tomatillo & jalapeno chile sauce, with cage-free poached eggs, free-range pulled chicken, covered in crème & queso fresco. I do believe I could eat this dish every day of my life.
If you’re young and hip and like loud bars with good food, you’ll want to visit Aventine. The great customer service we received made our dinner and wine just delightful. We started with the Burrata, my favorite cheese (a soft, smooth mozzarella) served with baby arugula pesto, marinated tomatoes, reduced cherry balsamic and crostinis. We also enjoyed the Chicken Parm Slider, whose red bell pepper sauce made the experience. And, we sampled the White Pizza, which featured roasted brussel sprouts, carmelized red onions, fontina and toasted hazelnuts. We felt like part of the hip, “in” crowd at this bar.
Historic John’s Grill
Since 1908, this informal dark-paneled restaurant is actually a literary landmark. The restaurant was the setting for Dashiell Hammett’s novel, Maltese Falcon. With framed photographs of celebrities adorning the walls, you can tell there’s a lot of history at John’s grill! After a long day of talking to conference attendees, I enjoyed starting out with a local beer while I surveyed the menu. Then, I launched into the Maine Lobster Ravioli and the Broiled Sea Bass, which I paired with a house chardonnay. We topped off the evening with a chocolate mousse and traditional cheesecake. The meal was delicious from start to finish. This kid-friendly restaurant hit the spot after a hectic day. www.JohnsGrill.com / @JohnsGrillSF
And as Nancy Novogrod, editor of Travel + Leisure magazine, said in her recent editorial: “Despite anything our mothers may have told us, not thinking about food when you’re thinking about travel is, in my view, pretty near impossible.” I thoroughly enjoyed eating my way across San Fran.
Marika Flatt has been travel writing since 2002, simultaneously running literary PR agency, PR by the Book. Flatt was named Travel Editor of Austin Lifestyle magazine in 2013. Other publications Flatt regularly contributes to are: Austin Food, Family Travel and her Flattlands blog. Additionally, she’s had travel features in GoodHousekeeping.com and NPR.com.