Gaby Maeda's San Francisco City Guide
The SF Signature
"Anytime a friend, family member, or new cook comes to the city, the first thing I tell them to do is to get a burrito in the Mission District. El Farolito is a well-loved taqueria in the Mission, and their burritos, suizas, and salsas are delicious. I go there for the Super Suiza (quesadilla with carne asada, avocado, and sour cream) and smother it with salsa verde and pickled jalapeños."
This Is the Place
"The place I would take an out-of-town friend for cocktails in the Bay Area is Friends and Family in Oakland. It's a woman-owned, queer-owned business that opened during the pandemic. It was a place I was very excited to check out, and when I finally did, it was everything I hoped it would be. The drinks are outstanding; the vibe is fun, quirky, and chill; and the food matches well."
"Birba is a wine bar in Hayes Valley where the wine list is eclectic, and I always end up drinking something that I've never heard of and start loving from that moment on. They have a great back patio, and I usually enjoy their pistachio-feta dip with ice-cold crudités, as well as their tinned fish with marinated white beans, lemon, and crackers. It's my favorite place to hang out on a day off. On Sundays, Birba is home to an amazing Thai pop-up called Intu-On."
"Del Popolo has been my favorite pizza for a few years. I love the chewy texture of the dough and the sourness from it being naturally fermented. They opened their brick-and-mortar in an old acting studio on Bush Street that I used to walk past every day on my way to work. My favorite is the potato pizza with fontina and rosemary. I love a good carb-on-carb dish!"
"My favorite restaurant in the city right now is Pearl 6101. It's a neighborhood spot in Outer Richmond, and they have such a beautiful space. Chef-owner Mel Lopez is very talented, and I crave the dishes she cooks. It's a place I want to take my family."
Bakers Gonna Bake
"Josey Baker Bread grinds their flour in-house and has an amazing presence in the Bay Area restaurant community. We use their buckwheat flour, red wheat flour, cornmeal, and whole-grain mix in our own recipes at State Bird."
"I really enjoyed my meal at Commis in Oakland. It has such a welcoming vibe while still being very much in the fine-dining setting. Being able to watch the chefs work is something that I enjoy as a diner and I think is a nice connection a kitchen can have with their guests. In San Francisco, Californios is a restaurant that is thoughtful, beautiful, and most importantly, very delicious. It is another restaurant that has that warm atmosphere in a fancier setting.
"My favorite pastry shop is b. Patisserie. Anytime I write a go-to list on the back of someone's menu at State Bird, I always start with this. Belinda Leong is a respected pastry chef in San Francisco. Though we never technically worked together at Gary Danko, she was a role model of mine when I worked there. Her legacy as a strong female chef paved the path for the women who worked in that kitchen. She's known for her kouign-amann and their different seasonal flavors. My favorite thing to get there is the humble little sleeve of chocolate sable cookies you see before checking out with a dozen pastries. I will always remember the first time I ate them. I was just stunned at the texture, and I'm pretty sure I ate the entire sleeve in one sitting."
"I enjoy biking around the city when I have free time. I like to bike to Fort Point to watch the surfers (a fond thing my dad and I did in Hawaii, when we weren't actually out there surfing). I will bike through Golden Gate Park. The de Young Museum is in the park and always has a great exhibit going on. Then I'll bike down the Great Highway and around Lake Merced. It's a great ride, and you really get to see the different sides of San Francisco. I did this a lot when we had our hiatus over the holidays."
"I think our sister restaurant, The Anchovy Bar, is one of those places that everyone must try. There's nothing that represents the city more than the San Francisco Bay anchovies. The ones served at The Anchovy Bar are the types of dishes that can change the mind of anyone who may not like little fish. They opened during the pandemic in 2020 and were the glimpse of hope we needed to get through that year."