I don't get to do this often because it requires a couple of hours in the middle of a workday, but when I can, there is nothing more appealing. What I am talking about is a lunch crawl along 18th st. in the mission district of San Francisco.
It starts at the corner of 18th and Guerrero at a place that has no big sign outside except for the small lettering right about the door handle. It says Tartine. You can't miss it because of the constant crowd in line and at the sidewalk tables. Inside, the bakery cases are loaded with lots of pastries and cakes and the yeasty smell of bread permeates the air. Order a sandwich, any sandwich. You won't be disappointed.
This time it was goat cheese pressed on walnut bread for me. Sounds simple, but it is divine, because the bread here is unparalleled by any other. I swear it took the hands of god to achieve that perfect crust on the outside and impossibly elastic bread flesh within. The locals agree. The breads consistently sell out within half an hour out of the oven. Being California, there is also a short but nice little wine list. Get a glass, because you'll want to linger a bit.
I often dine alone and this is a fun place to do it. I take my glass of wine to join the long communal table near the window. When the sandwich comes, everyone at the table looks up to admire the gorgeous and HUGE mound of deliciousness. The surest way to make some fast friends is to offer some to share. I've had some very interesting conversations here. Unfortunately, this time the conversations invariable turned to the impact of the economy on the California way of life. We all felt lucky to still be eating at Tartine. :)
After the massive sandwich. I'd waddle down the street a couple of blocks to Bi-Rite creamery, my very favorite in the US. I sometimes taste another flavor or get a combination of flavors when I am feeling greedy, but I never fail to get the all-time palate pleaser, the salted caramel.
On a sunny day, I'd sit outside on one of the wooden benches with my little cup of heaven. There is nothing like licking salty, creamy, and caramely goodness off the little wooden spoon while watching the amazing way sunlight filters through the leaves above. The rest of the world can wait.
Tartine bakery & cafe
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 487 2600
3692 18th Street
San Francisco CA