When many people think of San Francisco, they think of animal rights activists and vegetarians. But the truth is the city as a whole loves its meats. The City by the Bay has something to offer every type of carnivore: with rustic hamburgers and Kobe beef, wild boar and venison, short ribs and filet mignon, all prepared raw, on grills, skillets, and barbeques. The myriad of ethnic restaurants in the city ensure every organ of every creature can be found in a sumptuous sauce; various hole-in-the-walls offer inspiringly-decadent burgers and steaks; and the many gourmet restaurants push preparations of meats both simple and exotic to the very limit. With the constantly-evolving culinary landscape of the Bay Area, any comprehensive list would be out of date as soon as it was written, but what follows are a few of the star attractions.
12 Fourth Street (Union Square)
$70-$100 Three-Course Meal
One of the handful of one-star Michelin restaurants in the Bay Area, Fifth Floor is without a doubt among the best eateries in the city. The menu here is French-inspired through and through, and that means meats done every way you can imagine. Fish, chicken, steak, and lamb, are all done exceptionally well here, but the real treat comes in the more exotic game dishes. The Wild Boar Pot Pie, for example, served with a mélange of mushrooms and celeriac remoulade, takes a traditional comfort food and uses a beautifully prepared game meat to redefine it completely. A Loin of Venison -- with fennel and venison crousillant, and roasted salsify juniper berry-citrus jus -- demonstrates exactly how deer, sometimes seen as the most common of the game meats, can sing. And the Truffle-Braised Game Hen in fata paper, with Brussels sprouts and cranberries confit, and a truffle bouillon, takes what could otherwise be an unassuming fowl and elevates it to a level of gustatory delight. Fifth Floor is an excellent restaurant across the board; but for those in the mood to have their mind changed about game, or for those who have already discovered the wonders of wild-crafted meats, Fifth Floor has no equal.
708 Post Street (Civic Center/Tenderloin District)
Ask anyone in San Francisco to name the best burgers in town, and Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers will show up somewhere in the top three on his or her list. They serve simple, no-frills burgers, with an emphasis on succulent meats cooked to perfection and stacked with the crispest, freshest accompaniments. The namesake Deluxe Burger is a $5 hamburger with lettuce, onion, tomato, and mayo, and the meat will virtually melt in your mouth. For those who want something slightly different, Pearl’s offers a few takes on the classics including the Prized Pearl (which includes onions, bacon, and blue cheese), a variation of the Deluxe that uses buffalo instead of beef, a turkey burger, a veggie burger, and a number of chicken sandwiches. As sides, Pearl’s offers delicious but non-ostentatious sweet potato fries, and a whole slew of milkshakes to wash the meat down. Open until 2am on the weekends, Pearl’s is the perfect place to sate a burger craving day or night.
1450 Lombard Street (Marina)
For many people in San Francisco, Boboquivari’s, known to one and all as Bobo’s, is the first and last name in steak. As you might expect from a restaurant on the Marina, they do surf nearly as well as they do turf, with crab cakes, lobster soup, shrimp, mussels, tuna, and sunfish. In fact, it’s these items that take up the bulk of the menu. But don’t be fooled: Bobo’s is all about steak, and they take it to its heights. All of Bobo’s meat is 100% USDA Certified prime dry-aged (up to six weeks), and the difference in flavor is immediately apparent. With prices starting with the petite filet mignon at $28, this isn’t the cheapest shop in town, but one bite and you’ll know it’s worth every penny. A $59 porterhouse does everything that noble steak could ever hope to do, but it’s really the $39 bone-in dry-aged full filet mignon that steals the show. It’s not unheard of to go into Bobo’s with a group of ten and have each and every person at the table order the bone-in – it may just be, quite simply, the best steak in San Francisco. Sides include dripping baked yams, tenderly cooked Swiss chard in garlic, a twice-baked potato, Portobello mushrooms, and Bermuda onion rings. A surprisingly extensive wine list helps elevate the dining experience from a simple steak dinner to a full-blown experience.
576 Haight Street (Lower Haight)
If you love barbeque – and really, who doesn’t – Memphis Minnie’s is one of the best destinations this side of the Mississippi. The ambiance here is laid back with orders taken at the counter, but there are a handful of cute tables you can sit back at and enjoy your meal. Don’t let the name fool you, though; the style here is distinctly South Carolina, with amazing sauces and the best Pulled Pork in town. Santa Maria Tri-Tip, Beef Brisket, Pork Sandwiches, Pork Eggrolls, St. Louis Style Pork Ribs, and a whole slew of other meats from down South, are paired with a wide range of some of the best sauces around (including a few that will set off every alarm around). Sides like the great corn bread, coleslaw, mac-and-cheese, potato salad, mixed greens, and sweet beans, really finish off the comfort food vibe. The portions aren’t huge, but the price is right for great barbeque, and an excellent assortment of beers on tap and chilled sakes adds a nice finishing touch to a great restaurant.
545 Haight Street (Lower Haight)
Something about San Francisco seems to attract hip, delicious sausage shops. In this spoil of riches, it can sometimes be hard to figure out which joint actually serves up the best dog, but most people agree Rosamunde offers a range and originality unmatched even by the best of their competition. At around $5 per dog, they certainly aren’t the cheapest around, but one look at the ingredients and your doubts will be dispelled; one taste of the fresh buns and spectacular meat and you’ll be ashamed you ever doubted them at all. With sausage choices like Smoked Lamb with sundried tomato and potato, Hungarian Smoked Pork, Andouille Cajun Smoked Spicy Pork, Duck with figs, Wild Boar with apples and spices, and Chicken smoked with cherries, it’s hard to imagine any other sausage shop ever had a chance. The condiment selection is equally as giving, with spectacular sauerkrauts, chili, peppers, and onions. And once you have your food you can take it next door to Toronado -- easily one of the hippest bars in San Francisco -- to wash it down with a nice Belgian ale or strong stout.
© Restaurant Agent Inc.