San Francisco boasts delicious and ethnically diverse cuisine, with the Mexican influences in the Mission district, the dim sum spots in Chinatown, and the Italian flavors of North Beach. But lately, there is another San Francisco neighborhood that has been on our culinary radar – North Panhandle. To find out the must-visit food spots in the area, we went on the NoPa/Alamo Square food tour with Gourmet Walks where their food experts introduced us to the local favorites in the neighborhood. Here are some local highlights to check out:
Much of the excitement around the Panhandle is about the food scene around Divisadero Street, home to plenty of gourmet spots including one of the hottest restaurants in the city, NOPA. This rustic American-style restaurant serves local ingredients and specializes in wood-fired cuisine. Even on weekend brunch, the line starts 30 mins before they open. So if you want to get a spot here, be prepared to reserve online a month in advance.
If NOPA is busy (which it often is), try their sister restaurant Nopalito just one block away. Nopalito got its start when the Mexican chefs that worked in the kitchen at NOPA wanted to open up a restaurant for Mexican cuisine. Their fish taco with tangerine is a local favorite. The fish is fresh from the Monterey Bay and the tangerine in the taco gives it a nice kick.
If you are in the mood for Italian, look no further. Most visitors will ask for the namesake Little Star Pizza, a Chicago style deep dish that’s heavy with cheese. But regular patrons ask for the Brass Monkey, a version of the Little Star that is stuffed with meat and only found on the secret menu.
Want even more diversity in your diet? Try Corkage sake and wine bar. Jointly located beside a Japanese restaurant, Tsunami Sushi, Corkage has a variety of wine and sake, including both beverages on tap. Their sake is from Momokawa, a premium sake maker in Oregon.
One of the best pie spots in the city, Chile Pies has sweet and savory pies for your choosing. Their main specialty is their green chili side, which is nutritious as it is delicious, if like a slight kick to your pie. They are known for their New Mexico Frito pie, which comes in a Frito bag with Fritos organic beef.
A new generation of coffee makers and coffee bean producers are taking over the city. This third wave of coffee shops makes drip coffee of exceptional quality. Four Barrel coffee is a member of the third wave of coffee making and their partnership with Josey Baker Bread produced The Mill. Lines here are usually out the door on weekends. The bakery makes rustic bread. The output is dense, nutrition-filled, and full-crusted. Try their version of Wonderbread and you’ll never go back to the chain-bought stuff again.
In 1928, two Italian brothers from North Beach started working in the grocery business. Some seventy years and two generations of grocers later, Falletti’s opened in North Panhandle. This neighborhood grocery offers locally grown produce. Check out their cheese section with great offerings from Sonoma and Petaluma.
San Francisco is all about their organic and locally produced grocers and you cannot go wrong with two great ones in the same neighborhood. Bi-Rite is a small and well-curated market. They are well known for their creamery which uses all natural and seasonal ingredients.
Also check out our illustrated guide to San Francisco’s coffee shops and cafes.
Words and Photographs by Tracy Zhang. Tracy is a Canadian photographer who recently located to San Francisco for the food (and weather). For more images from her, read her travel and photography blog Just-In-Time.