The Golden Gate Bridge. (Photo: Staff)

Monica and I just returned from a week of California-style relaxation and, of course, as much food as we could stomach.

Sure, we got engaged in Big Sur—which was a more beautiful place than you can imagine—but before that, we spent four days walking, eating and sightseeing in San Francisco. Fortunately, Monica’s friend is a local and was able to point us to some of her favorite places.

I thought I’d recount the journey below and highlight some of our favorite bites from the trip. What did we miss? What are your favorite places to get good eats in San Francisco?

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Spicy beef with chimichurri. (Photo: Staff)

Venga Empanadas, 443 Valencia St.
One of the first journeys we made was to the Mission District. Our destination was a small empanada eatery because it was close to The Armory—a giant pornography museum—and because our guide said, “Hey guys, let’s eat delicious empanadas.” We missed touring the museum by a week (they stopped giving tours), but Venga’s served as a sort of alternative museum of empanadas that I found just as arousing as a porn museum. I tried the spicy beef, and Monica had the caprese. The owner kept talking about “the bad man” we have for president. Visit Venga. It’s worth it.

A late-night drunken burrito is the best. (Photo: Staff)

Taqueria Vallarta, 3033 24th St.
After a night of drinking craft brews at 21st Amendment—and almost impulse buying some Lady Gaga concert tickets—we headed back to the Mission District. We stopped by an award-winning cocktail bar called TrickDog (3010 20th St.), which features a silly menu designed like a Dr. Seuss book. After more than our share of cocktails, we walked to a small Latino eatery called Taqueria Vallarta. I’d been promised “the best burrito of my life” during my short vacation, and, as far as I could tell in my state of inebriation, their carnitas burrito was right up there. In a city where this type of food is ubiquitous, you’d better be good at making burritos. They were and it was. I also saw the first taco bar of the trip. Why don’t we have taco bars in Chattanooga?

Huge chunks of feta cheese and spinach on a pizza pie. (Photo: Staff)

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, 1570 Stockton St.
If our trip had a theme, it was “walking.” Monica and I clocked in at about 10 miles per day on average while visiting the city. We would have an Uber driver drop us off in a neighborhood and just walk around. Only two specific restaurants were on our list of “must-try places” after chatting with some Australian foodies: Dumpling Time (below) and Tony’s Pizza in North Beach. The key to avoiding long wait times at Tony’s, we were told, is to get a pizza to go at the slice house next door. It’s the same pizza without the wait. We ordered a pie with spinach, feta and artichokes. It fed three of us two slices each. I’ll just say we didn’t have a desire to eat another pizza on the trip. There’s a reason this place has won so many awards. The line was 20 deep when we left.

Dumpling, anybody? Dumpling Time was easily the best meal we had all week. (Photo: Staff)

Dumpling Time, 11 Division St.
Our Aussie friends know how to eat well. Dumpling Time is a relatively new restaurant (six months or so) in Dogpatch. Before this meal, our experience with dumplings was limited to the appetizers at Asian restaurants. I did not know how good a dumpling could be, in other words. I tried for the first time chicken bao (steamed buns), Beijing noodles, har gow (steamed dumplings), pork long bao and a monster dumpling called the king-dum that required slurping the juice with a straw before eating. The highlight was the dessert—both a green tea and egg yolk milk bun that were the perfect sweet-but-not-too-sweet bites to end a meal. Dumpling Time was my favorite meal of the entire vacation.

Jane’s has one of the best sausage biscuits I’ve ever enjoyed. (Photo: Staff)

Jane on Fillmore, 2123 Fillmore St.
We kept it simple for breakfast most days, eating at the Whole Foods hot bar a block from where we were staying. But we managed to eat a few good breakfasts, including a pistachio pastry and pour-over coffee at Contraband Coffee and, later, some bistro-style/brunch bites at Jane on Fillmore. The latter restaurant is one of those places you might think is a little full of itself—and I did—with the overly adorable décor and entrées such as avocado mash and raw sprouted black rice porridge. However, once I bit into my sausage biscuit and Monica tried her egg sandwich with cheese and tomato chutney, we knew exactly why it was popular. Monica said her sandwich tasted just like her favorite tomato soup. My sausage biscuit—with cheese and roasted tomato jam on a chive biscuit—was stupid-good. The patrons may have been dressed like Carmen San Diego, but they know where to get a good breakfast. It’s worth the wait.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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