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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SFoodie's 92, Part 1: Our Favorite Things to Eat and Drink in S.F.

Posted By on Tue, May 18, 2010 at 5:54 PM

No. 34, the burger at Marlowe. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • No. 34, the burger at Marlowe.
A daily reveal of nearly 100 dishes teaches you one thing: wonder at the sheer awesomeness of the eats and drinks in this town.

When we launched our SFoodie's 92 project on Jan. 7 ― mapping 92 of our favorite things to eat and drink in S.F., with brief excursions across the Bay or down 101 ― we didn't quite realize what an amazing mass of good food San Francisco has access to. From the cholle bhature at Vik's and stewed baby octopus at La Ciccia, to phớ dac biet at Turtle Tower and the house-cured anchovies at Zuni, we were perpetually gobsmacked that the dishes we'd remembered as good were, if anything, better on recent revisits.

Of course, others ― two or three, really ― pretty much sucked on re-examination (no, we won't tell you what they were). And sure, a lot of stunning dishes didn't make the 92; some show up in SF Weekly's epic Best Of San Francisco issue. Others, well ― when it comes down it, 92 is an awfully skimpy number for a city as gifted as San Francisco. Thanks to Jonathan Kauffman, Andrew Simmons, Tamara Palmer, and Brian Yaeger for collaborating on the 30 posts that follow.

Ready to relive 92 days of the delicious? Start here, then read the rest in Part 2 and Part 3. Start clicking....

A slice of sourdough, a glass of Zinfandel, and you have a true San Francisco meal. - YAMADA3/FLICKR
  • yamada3/Flickr
  • A slice of sourdough, a glass of Zinfandel, and you have a true San Francisco meal.

Number 1: Cioppino at Tadich Grill

Admit it: Every time you walk into Tadich Grill you fall back in love with San Francisco. Even when you reread the opening blurb on the menu, which reminds you that the 161-year-old restaurant has only been in its current location since 1967, it's hard to shake off the impression that the place dates back to the days before the Earthquake. Scuffed wood-walled booths and rickety floorboards, waiters in white jackets, the occasional racket of the cable car trundling by, a hunk of sourdough at your elbow ― the San Francisco of Mark Twain and Dashiell Hammett is not buried as deeply as you thought it was.

When you dip your spoon into a bowl of Tadich's cioppino, you remember why it is San Francisco's most famous dish. Yes, the cooks remove the Dungeness crab from the shell (some places still call the version "lazy cioppino"). But from the way the sweetness of the prawns and crab meat mellows the tomatoes' acid spike and the way the scallops, fish, and clams come out so fat and tender, you know that time and tourists have not dimmed the cooks' respect for the dish. Tadich has been making cioppino since the days when it bought seafood off the Genoese fishing clans who invented the stew.

So few of us modern-day San Franciscans have ties to the city that date back this far. So many of us came here to escape our origins in Indiana, Alabama, Pampanga, Jalisco. We fleetingly recognize the city's past in its architecture and its street names, but we leave the history-keeping to the San Francisco natives, many of whom have been forced out by the changing economics.

Tadich's cioppino is a glorious meal that reminds us of the days when the port was thrumming, the union battles were bloody, the city was still wheezing from the effort of rebuilding itself. It is a dish that sings to us of our love for San Francisco, a romance that a thousand daily nuisances obscure. We love the cioppino at Tadich not just because it's a great dish but because it is ours.
Tadich Grill 240 California (at Front), 391-1849.
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