Walking through the shell of what was once the Alcatraz dining hall I find myself reading every available fact on the food and kitchen. And there are a lot of them. It seems San Francisco has always been a city of good eats, even in prison. Look at some of the facts in the photo below.
I don't know why I was so surprised by these facts (probably too much OITNB). With California being fertile farming ground and housing major companies like Ghirradelli, Rice a Roni, and (previously) the headquarters for Del Monte Canning, all this food history laid the foundation for the food mecca of the West Coast. While my budget was a bit of a hindrance, we still managed to eat well the five days we were there.
Throughout my research, the restaurant flour + water came up multiple times but I didn't realize how big of a deal they were until I went to make a reservation. The only slot they had in our five day stay was a 5:45pm on Sunday. The next available slot was not for two weeks. So I nabbed it. We were on the tail end of jet lag recovery so 5:45pm was a perfectly appropriate dinner time anyway. We arrived about twenty minutes prior to seating and there was already a flock of people milling about the entryway. By the time we were seated the surprisingly spacious place filled up in no less than fifteen minutes, bar stools included.
Sure, I could have closed my eyes and pointed since it all sounded scrumptious but since I stalked them on Instagram and saw these corn and tarragon ravioli-like creations I knew that's what I'd be having. Soft, buttery pouches gently stuffed with corn and cheese gave dinner a rather sweet and pleasant note, the tarragon adding the necessary zip. My friend's dish of whole wheat noodles with cranberry beans and pancetta was so simply constructed yet so complex in flavor. Pancetta really can work magic but the beans and noodles cast their own spell as well.
We talked about going back another night to sit at the bar but in the end it was a bit further from our Airbnb than we wanted. Instead, we walked a few blocks and found ourselves at another one of San Francisco's top restaurants, Nopalito. A lovely modern approach to Mexican food with items like tamales made with squash and chilies to carnitas with bay leaf, milk, and cinnamon. Now get this, the standout item isn't even a dish; it's their mole sauce. It's absolutely ridiculous. There's so much depth and has this slow, gathering heat with undertones of coffee that you could really put it on anything. I asked for extra tortillas just to mop up the remains. We couldn't fight proximity on this one so we ended up getting the same meals to go on our last night in town. And a side of mole for each of us because something that good is NOT what you want to share.
Lastly (and this was a long time coming) we visited Craftsman and Wolves in the Mission District. I read a Bon Appetit feature on them a few years ago and immediately joined thousands of Instagrammers to watch what can only be described as sorcery. How do you make banana blackberry cakes so damn glossy that they look like a paperweight but taste like air? Or the yuzu coffee coconut stone, which is anything but heavy? How? How are they doing it? I have never taken as much time to eat a dessert as I did with these two. I'm not opposed to going back but for the love of all pastries PLEASE open a Craftsman and Wolves in New York.
While it's been some years since they served food in Alcatraz there are still plenty of good eats around every corner in San Francisco! Until the next dish, ciao!