San Francisco is known for its cool summers, Victorian architecture, hilly landscape, and the impending threat of earthquakes. Cable cars and Alcatraz; Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge; Burritos in the Mission district, sourdough bread, and Anchor Steam beer. It has a long and storied history of political activism from the Haight Ashbury Flower Children and the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, to Harvey Milk and the tenacious LGBTQ movement. The politics are seeped into the culture of the city—left-leaning and boisterous.
With the explosion of the tech industry, San Francisco is becoming way too expensive for most people to live in, but the heart of the city still moves to the beat of its own street-performing bucket drummer.
Chef David Lawrence was born in England to Jamaican parents. He got his formal training in London and started cooking with the Roux Brothers in the ’80s. At London’s Interlude Restaurant, he prepared meals for the Prince and Princess of Wales, as well as the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He came to San Francisco on holiday to see some friends — with the intention of “getting America out of the way” (in terms of travel) — and ended up with a job offer he couldn’t refuse.
Later, when Lawrence was asked to cook at the James Beard House for Black History Month, he thought “what do I know about cooking soul food?” To which, a friend answered, “You know how to cook, and you understand flavor.” So, he went for it. And then ended up opening 1300 on Fillmore, specializing in high end southern style dishes. One night, he made baby back ribs as an off-menu special. Not long after, the dish became a regular “secret menu item.” Soon, the restaurant was selling three cases of ribs every night.
It became clear to Chef Lawrence that there was a desire for soul food in San Francisco. So, he opened Black Bark BBQ — a fast-casual rib joint — in January of this year. He hopes that the restaurant will play a part in the revitalization of the neighborhood while staying true to its rich history.
Without further ado, here are Chef David Lawrence’s tips on eating your way through San Francisco: