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San Francisco itineraries

One day if I go to heaven, I'll look around and say, "It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco."
– Herb Caen

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Little Black Book

The Babu Ji Chef's Favorite San Francisco Eats

by Jessi Singh

Blue Plate, San Francisco.
Serving up soul food. Photo courtesy of Blue Plate.

Jessi Singh, chef and co-owner of New York City's beloved Babu Ji, just opened another one of his exciting modern Indian restaurants in San Francisco's Mission District. In honor of the big release, the bicoastal chef shares his favorite food spots in San Francisco and across the country in New York.

SAN FRANCISCO – I lived in San Francisco for eleven years before my wife Jennifer and I moved to Australia, where Babu Ji was originally founded. We met and fell in love in the Mission District, where we now manage another Babu Ji, and have spent plenty of time exploring and eating our way through the city. Now, we split our time between New York and San Francisco, both great cities (with great food scenes) that mean so much to us.


CASUAL EATS

Truly Mediterranean
3109 16th St.; +1-415-252-7482
A little hole in the wall that serves the best falafel and kebabs. It's been around for 30 years.

Gyro King
88 2nd St.; +1-415-778-2775
Another spot with history, the family-owned spot has great Greek food and stand-out baklava.

La Corneta Taqueria
2731 Mission St.; +1-415-643-7001
My favorite taqueria serves fresh California-style Mexican food. I go for a burrito or quesadilla.

Zuni, San Francisco

A corner for people watching. Photo courtesy of Zuni Cafe.

Mister Jiu's, San Francisco

The digs at Mister Jiu's. Photo courtesy of Mister Jiu's.

COFFEE BREAK

Provender Coffee & Food
1415 18th St.; +1-415-685-1722
The best spot for coffee and avocado toast, located in Potrero Hill. They use Pinkie's multigrain bread and smear it with garlic aioli before adding avocado.

COMFORT FOOD

Blue Plate
3218 Mission St.; +1-415-282-6777
Another SF institution that serves up classic American comfort food. This is where I go when I'm craving fried chicken or something soulful. It's a small menu, and you can't go wrong.

FORMAL DINING

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market St.; +1-415-552-2522
I go here for people-watching and the whole roasted chicken for two.

Liholiho Yacht Club
871 Sutter St.; +1-415-440-5446
The well-respected and talented chef Ravi Kapur serves a mix of Hawaiian, Indian, and Californian cuisine. There's a great cocktail bar under the restaurant called Louie's Gen-Gen Room for tiki cocktails after dinner.

Mister Jiu's
28 Waverly Pl.; +1-415-857-9688
One of the city's best Chinese restaurants just won a Michelin star. Chef Brandon Jew is doing for Chinese food what we are trying to do at Babu Ji with Indian cuisine: make it modern and fresh.

Vik's Chaat, San Francisco

Dahi Pakori. Photo courtesy of Vik's Chaat.

REMINDS ME OF INDIA

Vik's Chaat
2390 Fourth St., Berkeley; +1-510-644-4412
Jennifer and I have been eating at the hole-in-the-wall Bay Area institution for years. The excellent regional dishes they serve remind me of India.

SEE THE CITY

Bike & View Bike Rentals
1772 Lombard St.; 415-563-8616
When I want a lay of the land, I rent a bike and ride it across Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, have fish and chips at one of the waterfront restaurants, and take the ferry back to San Francisco.

Half Moon Bay
One of my favorite drives is on Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay to watch the whales. There are farm stands along the way that sell seasonal produce like strawberries, corn, apples, and brussels sprouts. Jennifer and I like to pick up burritos from La Corneta and picnic by the side of the road overlooking the ocean.

Golden Gate Park
The park is home to the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the California Academy of Sciences, and is a great place to take the family. Bike rentals are also available for riding from Haight-Asbury all the way to the ocean.

WHERE TO STAY

Hilton San Francisco Union Square
333 O'Farrell St.; +1-415-202-7798
This is where we tell our friends to stay when they visit San Francisco. It is central and affordable, and they have big rooms.


BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Fathom's San Francisco Guide
Chef Jessi Singh's Favorite NYC Eats

Jessi Singh is the chef and co-owner of Babu Ji in New York and San Francisco. You can follow him on Instagram at @jesssi_singh, @babujinyc and @babujisanfrancisco. He travels for the pursuit of eating around the globe.

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