The beginning of July is a special time for me. Over the course of four days, the Complementary Spouse and I celebrate my birthday, our anniversary, and the Fourth of July. This year, we returned to San Francisco — where we were married all those years ago — to see friends, enjoy the town, and eat an embarrassing amount of incredibly good food.
There was only one must-do restaurant on my last meals list in San Francisco, and that was In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food chain that’s prevalent in California but nowhere to be found in Florida. I always order the same thing: a Double Double, animal style (Footnote 1), with no tomato, along with a serving of fries.
There’s only one In-N-Out in San Francisco, and it is near Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. It was a shame that we had to push our way through throngs of tourists to get our burgers. It was worth it, though.
In-N-Out wasn’t the only culinary highlight of the trip. We met the Complementary In-Law and his awesome wife at a restaurant called Nola in Palo Alto. It was a New Orleans-style restaurant, with a strong Mexican flair and a few American-style dishes on the menu. It also offered bottomless mimosas.
At Nola, I had the red- and green-topped chilaquiles, which are kind of like an open-faced taco with a poached egg served on top of thick tortilla chips. It was the perfect brunch food. As we were celebrating several events, we also got bread pudding and beignets to share. We couldn’t even finish dessert.
The next day, we met up with a close friend from school and his partner. We went to Chili House, a no-frills Chinese restaurant in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. We ordered several dishes to share, but the standouts were the lamb and the fried chicken. Everything was flavorful and a little spicy, and even the green beans, which I don’t ordinarily like, were really good.
A few hours after lunch, it was time for a snack, so we went to the Westfield shopping mall near Union Square and sought out Beard Papa in the food court. We’ve been going to Beard Papa for years, and we always try to go once every trip to San Francisco. Beard Papa sells freshly baked cream puffs. They insert the filling when you place the order, so everything is fresh — the cream doesn’t have a chance to soak into the pastry and make it soggy. I actually ordered two cream puffs: a chocolate one with chocolate cream, and a strawberry one with vanilla cream. (Keep in mind that we had been walking all day, so I deserved a little treat.)
That evening, the Complementary Spouse and I celebrated our anniversary at a place called Kitchen Story in the Castro neighborhood. We weren’t in the mood for anything fancy, so I ordered a massive hamburger that was topped with a kim chi pickle. The Complementary Spouse got a huge bowl of Asian-style chicken noodle soup, which had a delicate broth that contained a hint of lemongrass.
After sunset, I went for a little walk around our hotel to take some nighttime photos. At the Ferry Terminal, I got a single scoop of ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, a relatively well known San Francisco ice cream shop. I ordered the Toast and Jam ice cream, which was a brown sugar ice cream loaded with bits of crispy toasted brioche and small globs of strawberry jam. The flavors and textures were combined perfectly. It was hard to not go back and ask for another scoop.
Oh, and the nighttime photos I took were pretty darn good.
We’re on the way back to Camp David now, and as soon as we land I go back on my strict eating regimen. I know this weekend probably set me back a few pounds, but I’m really treasuring these food experiences right now. I know that a year or so from now, I’ll be back to eating normal foods (Footnote 2) and I can even have something sweet every once and again.
1. If you find yourself at an In-N-Out, I highly recommend you order an animal-style burger. Animal style isn’t on the menu, so you have to know to ask for it. The burger comes with grilled onions and a creamy spread, which pairs well with the fresh beef and spongy bun. Animal style is one of the many options on In-N-Out’s secret menu. Google it.
2. Albeit much smaller portions.