“Whining” and Dining in the Bay
- 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
- 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water.
- 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
- 4) Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive.
- 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities.
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♥ Annotates a family favorite that we visit frequently, and I highly suggest you do as well!
I didn’t even get to the skim the surface of all the awesome culinary experiences here during my last visit, as it was very short. But here are some favorites that we hit up!
The Embarcadero Farmer’s Market 21/25 points Walk around, touch, try, feel, and see where local foods and produce come from! A great learning experience for kids and adults! Amazing foods to enjoy as well!
The farmer’s market at Embarcadero was a full day adventure. We strolled the tents appreciating all the variety and colors of the fresh produce, tasted some food, then heading into the ferry building for more food once the rain started pouring too hard on my stroller and toddler.
You can hop onto a cable car or the “f line” (fun antique busses) to get here from most downtown locations. Inside the ferry plaza there are many shops and markets, while outside is a Farmer’s market Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it is a smaller market in the front of the Ferry building, and on Saturdays is a much larger market in front and in the back, alongside the bay. It really is lovely scenery. Unfortunately for us it rained our entire weekend, but we still ventured out. I bought fresh tulips for my sister who lives there and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for us to chow on throughout our stay. The mandarins were so sweet and juicy! We sat on a damp bench by the bay and ate about 10 mandarins before continuing the day 😀 I highly recommend making this stop so that you can stock up on some fresh healthy snacks and produce to eat even while on vacation.
Baby girl and I enjoyed picking and then eating some juicy sweet mandarins while sitting by the bay!
Crunchy carrots make for an excellent and healthy snack on the go!
Check out these gorgeous colors! Those artichokes look amazing! Wishing I had a kitchen to go cook up something fresh and tasty!
Broccoli stems also made a perfect to go snack to have on hand. I also did not mind buying some fresh produce for my sister who lives in the Bay; who can pass up on these lovely fresh veggies grown and sold the way they should be!?
My little cupcake picking out the tulips for her aunty.
Inside the ferry building:
*most of the vendors cannot really claim points for service due to the fact that these are vendors where you stand in line and grab your food to go*. Often, you will stand in a long line and have to search for a corner to squat in to enjoy your culinary finds! For complete ambiance, plan ahead and take everything to go and enjoy a picnic at nearby Golden Gate Park!
Cow Girl Creamery: 20/25 points (Perfectly creamy and delicious cheeses and dairy! Don’t expect much service though at the long lines at these grab and go vendors. (fresh made organic cheeses, sandwiches, fresh organic milk, and hot sizzling cheese on crackers!)
This place has flavorful organic cheeses, many from their local creamery and many others from distinguished European sources. I’ve been to France and Italy and our most memorable culinary experiences there had to do with cheese! You get that experience here. The shop oozes such wonderfully flavorful cheeses.We grabbed a couple of different grilled cheese sandwiches as well as the awesome snack cheese off the wheel! They display a huge wheel of cheese sizzling under a hot lamp, which they scrape off onto your bread and hand off hot and fresh. This shop is a must try! I am drooling reminiscing about it right now…
BeeKind: 20/25 points A variety of pure and raw honeys. This shop sources their honey from their own hives as well as other local hives. They do not treat their hives with pesticides or antibiotics. You can sample the many flavors that actually smell and taste differently depending on the type of flower the pollen was collected from! We loved the raspberry flower honey and the buckwheat was perfect for the incessant cough we all seem to have this winter (thanks Chicago!) They also have perfectly delicious flavor infused honey made with natural ingredients and spices such as the chai honey ( I can’t recall the exact name but it was delicious!) I love honey with my tea, in smoothies, and as a daily remedy for good health so this place really got our attention. Check it out! They also sell beeswax candles, honeycombs, and honey jars. I would love one of their cute honey jars to serve honey in!
La Boulange: 17/25 points. Excellent variety of pastries, hot drinks, and hot sandwiches and soups. (various locations, we stopped at Market St & 3rd) A bakery and cafe carrying pastries, sandwiches, and hot soups. Perfect for the cold rainy weather we were in!
- 1) Food: 3.5/5 We had tea, chocolate croissant, a lot of macarons, mushroom soup, open face chicken and mushroom panini, fresh fruit, and potatoes. My rating is between a 3 and a 4 because I love how hot and fresh everything was. The meat is ethically raised and without antibiotics, fruit and grains are organic. The flavors were exquisite, but they just were not what I was expecting. I have heard a lot about La Boulange, and tried their treats served in Starbucks so was excited to come to the source in the bay. The macarons were not as decadent as I was expecting. They were still incredibly delicious, and maybe I am becoming a macaron snob but I definitely have had better. They were a little too soggy in the center than I expected. The sandwich however tasted perfect. I loved the flavor of the mushrooms, the sauce, and chives all smothering the chicken. I did not care for the potatoes at all- which probably brought down my rating the most. They were boiled and then partially warmed/toasted. Seemed like a recipe mess I would make in my kitchen. The croissant was also okay- I was expecting it to be flakier and more chocolate to ooze out.
- 2) Service: 4/5 Service is fast, and they give what you want. I was being very particular about how I wanted my sandwich and my order and they had no issues with it. I love when that happens and you get the good service you expect and pay for. You order at a cashier and wait for your food or drink then sit or carry away.
- 3) Child friendly: 4/5 They only had outdoor seating and it was raining, but after being cooped up in the midwest negative temperatures, I did not care. I sat outside under the awning and was able to seat my toddler beside me and my baby stayed in the stroller. It would be tight I would imagine if it were a sunny day and there were more people out, but we were the only ones other than two people sitting out. My three year old was a bit scared of all the wandering pigeons hawking at the crumbs of food she kept dropping, which made it difficult to keep her seated, but encouraged her to eat a little neater, haha! They did not have a kids menu when I asked, so I had to buy my toddler an overpriced jumbo fruit bowl for $6, but online I see a kids menu with fruit and granola for $3…hmmm
- 4) Ambiance: 3/5 Again, we sat outside, which I love to do. The seating area is small and nothing spectacular, but the location is nice and clean and has a great city view of the business district. The outdoor area had a generous large awning and umbrellas to shelter us from the rain so we could enjoy people watching and cable car viewing.
- 5) Value: 3/5 Prices are slightly higher than average. You pay a bit more for a sandwich or salad ($9-$10) but soups are about $3 and bakery items $2-$3. Macarons are $1.50 each.
♥Super Duper: 22/25 points. Come here for fast and DELICIOUS burgers, chicken, or egg sandwiches with a side of the best milkshakes ever! Organic and local produce, grassed beef, free range chicken, delicious burgers and super duper milkshakes!
- 1) Food: 5/5 Seriously good food. The burgers are so juicy and flavorful. The buns are hot and toasty. They also have a vegetarian burger served with hummus and cucumbers. The fries are delicious, they make their own pickles, and I think I was getting their milkshakes everyday like water. The milk they use is from Straus, a local and organic dairy source. I loved everything I got. We even went in for breakfast and had the egg sandwiches which were so delicious as well! Did I mention we loved the milkshakes! Drool. They also have pies and cookies and sundaes, all made in house.
- 2) Service: 5/5 You get the food fast enough to know they are on top of it, but not too fast that you think you are at McDonald’s eating a frozen patty. The wait was short and it was easy to order food in the morning (10 am) and not so bad in the evening (7pm weekday), but when I walked by later at lunch (contemplating a second shake!) the line was out the door on the street. Too much effort with a stroller and kids…and I did not really need to have another double chocolate shake.
- 3) Child friendly: 4/5 There is plenty of seating to fit our entourage, and they have kid’s sized shakes and meals as well as highchairs. My daughter loved this place. Maybe because I let her have a milkshake each time. A cup of organic milk for the kids, with a dash of your shake does the trick 😉 Soon she will be older and realize what I am doing…They have a nice large single stall restroom in the back making it easy to fit my large double stroller easily.
- 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean and spacious, loud music, and metal furnishings set the scene here.
- 5) Value: 4/5 Excellent value for excellent food. You can get an entire combo meal for $9, or just the sandwich ranging from $5-$7, most toppings are free. Shakes are $5-$6, and $3 for kids.
Boudin: (Fisherman’s Wharf) 21/25 points. Amazing restaurant experience and menu complete with an onsite bakery and historical museum full of activities for the kids! Serves seafood, pasta, and delicious soups in bread bowls! A
- 1) Food: 4/5 Food was well prepared, and great in presentation and flavor. Food is fresh, and they boast a “farm-to-table” philosophy sourcing local produce as well as meats and fish from local and small farms and fisheries. We sampled a large array from the menu: shrimp ceviche, the clam chowder, the bread bowl with crab bisque, fries, angel hair pasta with shrimp, the roasted brick chicken, and the Alaskan halibut. Everything tasted excellent, and the clam chowder was a favorite! The chowder is made without pork which is an excellent opportunity for those on a halal or Kosher diet to finally enjoy some clam chowder as it otherwise usually has bacon in it.
- 2) Service: 4/5 We were seated right away even on a busy Saturday afternoon, and were accommodated easily with our stroller with infant and toddler in tow. We had quite a large table as well with 2 high chairs. The waiter was friendly and came often and quickly.
- 3) Child friendly: 5/5 This is an excellent place to bring your kids! Not only do they have a kids menu, coloring activity, walk through museum and tour, but kids can order the signature sourdough in the shape of a turtle, bear, or even an alligator! They also have a baking experience in which children can bake alongside a baker and shape their own bread. My daughter had a great time doing everything but unfortunately we missed the bread making interaction.
- 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean, spacious, and lots of windows letting in sunlight and open to a great view of the wharf.
- 5) Value: 4/5 Entrees are a little higher than average. But the quantity and quality of the food served is excellent. Portions are nice and large.
The Grove (301 Hayes St) 12/25 points. Come here for the AWESOME breakfast menu and fresh squeezed juice, but don’t expect to fit your stroller or entourage of kids easily, or get great service. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and they specialize in fresh squeezed orange juice and delicious breakfast items.
- 1) Food: 5/5 Food was delicious. Not only did everything taste outstanding, the food choices are unique and are not dishes you can find at any breakfast joint. I got the Moroccan baked eggs which really hit the spot and were so tasty. It was a spicy tomato harissa sauce with roasted vegetables, olives, chickpeas, feta cheese and 2 poached eggs. My husband had an omelet and my daughter enjoyed some french toast. It was all very delicious! We finished with afogato which was a scoop of vanilla ice-cream drenched in espresso. My husband who is an avid coffee drinker enjoyed it-I would prefer it to be drenched in fudge but that wouldn’t be an afogato 🙂
- 2) Service: 1/5 Very poor service was experienced here, if any at all! I was very disappointed. We were not greeted at the door and instead rushed into a busy line, where you stand to first order your food. You then need to find your own seats and will have your food brought to you. It was a busy morning, but I felt like we were being pushed around with my 2 children which I did not appreciate at all. The restaurant has seating upstairs so before I hauled my 2 kids and stroller to the back of the restaurant to go up I asked if there were any available seats. The waiter seemed annoyed of my inquiry. When he informed there is space he asked another waiter to haul the elevator for me, who was also very rude. She called it down and the elevator closed before I could get in because she did not bother holding it for me, and merely said “oh it closed”. Annoyed, I just walked away and grabbed an open table that by the busy entry way ( I obviously would prefer not to sit there bc I do not want to block the line or entry with my stroller and kids). A waiter came by at one point and asked me if I could move my stroller to the back of the restaurant by the kitchen, ignoring the fact that there was a sleeping infant inside. I told him I would have been happy to sit elsewhere had someone assisted me showing me where to go and that no I am not moving my sleeping baby to the back of the restaurant. He apologized and walked away. Nobody came to ask us if we needed anything, and when I returned to the cashier to ask for sugar and a spoon to stir my tea she acted annoyed and told me they were available at the back counter (which is located nowhere near the cashier, so how would anybody know?)
- 3) Child friendly: 1/5 For the reasons mentioned above, I do not recommend coming here with kids, especially if you have a stroller. The place is small and cramped, and seating is difficult. My 3 year old was sitting at a bench with us on a backless stool that spins, so that was difficult to manage! I would not know if they had highchairs but there was no way we would be able to fit one by our table, they are all placed so close to one another and we would have just blocked movement even more.
- 4) Ambiance: 1/5 All I can recall was it being dark and cramped. The tables are all very close to one another.
- 5) Value: 4/5 Most entrees, omelets, sandwiches, and dishes are $8-$15 so it is very affordable and delicious food. Most items are made in house, and fresh daily.
Sam’s Chowder House ( Half Moon Bay) Come here for the awesome views of cliffs, mountains (or hills are they?), and the ocean, as well as some great servings of lobster!
- 1) Food: 3/5 You can definitely get your fill of lobster here, without breaking the bank, and thats always a good thing. I enjoyed a fantastic grilled asparagus salad topped with lumps of lobster (this is only a special, I hope they add it permanently!), a large lobster roll with plenty of huge lumps of lobster meat, paella, cioppini seafood soup, a crab cake, as well as a lobster ceviche appetizer. Disclaimer: I didn’t eat all of this alone, but I definitely sampled it all. The lobster salad was my favorite, with excellent flavors and textures. They serve sustainable seafood, and have some fresh selections. The crab was not my favorite at all, which is partly the reason we don’t have a score of 5 here. The crab meat was finely shredded pieces, rather than lump meat, and the crab shells were hairy, which just turned me off. The crab meat wasn’t as succulent and juicy as other places I have had crab. Now lets talk about the lobster roll which is an award winning sandwich (one of the best 5 sandwiches in America according to NBC’s Today show). You get a generous amount, about 3/4 cup, of lump lobster meat from the tail and claws sandwiched in a toasty brioche bun. There were slices of crunchy celery, which was a nice texture and flavor contrast. I do admit I asked for minimal butter due to my low cal diet, and so the sandwich was drier than I hoped, but I still expected some flavoring with it being an award winning sandwich! I thought it would be tossed with some flaring or, I don’t know, garlic 🙂 But overall it was great, for a lobster roll, and the brioche bun was an excellent bun to house the lobster. I also was not impressed with the fish and chips (not much fish inside the fried batter coating), or the kids’ meals. My daughter really wanted crab or a crab cake, so I had to order an adult serving since they do not have any seafood options aside from the fish and chips in the kids meals (which are mostly cliche items I am not fond of such as chicken fingers, hot dogs, spaghetti etc).
- 2) Service: 4/5 We had good service. The only irritating thing was that they didn’t bring out the kid’s food right away and instead thought it would be okay to wait until the paella was cooked (which takes quite some time).
- 3) Child friendly: (3/5 points) They have a kids menu, child seats, crayons, and coloring sheets. The kids menu was not great in options or in taste however, and if you want to sit outside with a stroller it is pretty difficult because space is tight.
- 4) Ambiance: 5/5 I would come here for the scenery alone! The views, the outdoor seating with heat lamps, the indoor fireplace, the spectacular views of sunset are all wonderful reasons to come here, even if you’re justing having a bowl of chowder!
- 5) Value: 4/5 The portions of food are reasonable, and of course price tags are a little higher because you are ordering fresh fish, lobster or crab. However, we felt the lobster roll was a great amount of lobster (more than I ever pick out of an expensive lobster tail) for $23. But the prices, independent of the fact your are buying seafood, are high and your may spend more than you want when feeding a family of 4. Appetizers and salads average about $15, while entrees range from $20-$40.