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EAT THIS CITY: Chef David Lawrence Shares His ‘Can’t Miss’ Food Experiences In San Francisco

EAT THIS CITY is your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we visit San Francisco with Chef David Lawrence!

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:

 

PIZZA

Pizzeria Delfina

Absolutely Delfina! It’s within walking distance [of his restaurant], has a great staff and atmosphere. The Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza is hands down the best.

 

TACOS/MEXICAN

La Taqueria

La Taqueria has my favorite tacos in the entire city. The Beef Tacos with everything – guac, diced tomatoes, onion and sour cream. When I feel adventurous, I do the Chicken Quesadilla with a flour tortilla that’s been crisped up.

ASIAN

Sweet Lime Thai Cuisine

A local joint down the street – Sweet Lime Thai Cuisine on Steiner & Sutter. Excellent pad Thai.

 

STREET FOOD

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Not a big street food person. Festivals perhaps. During the July 4 weekend, the Jazz Festival sets up on the Fillmore and there are these doughnuts that you can’t get any other time of the year. These extraordinary red velvet cake doughnuts!

SWEET FOOD

Fillmore Bakeshop

On Fillmore and Bush. Around Easter, they do Hot Cross Buns, something I grew up with in England. Original owner used to work in London with the Roux brothers and even though the ownership has changed hands since, the food is the same.

FINE DINING

Boulevard

Hands down, Boulevard. Kurobuta Pork Chop is a double-cut pork chop and it’s just outstanding. Leslie on the door is also the best hostess in the city.

CASUAL DINING

Black Bark BBQ

At the moment, Black Bark BBQ. I don’t like a lot of salt on my BBQ. We do Texas style here with dry rubs. All the meat is antibiotic free, farm-raised and the sauces are made in house; you can use as much as you want! At the moment, it’s very expensive to do a restaurant in San Francisco, so people are opening up more fast-casual spots. Not so much labor, relaxing atmosphere, a place for a drink and a bite and then to move on easily.

 

VEGETARIAN

Blasphemy!

Haha! Blasphemy!

BRUNCH

1300 on Fillmore

1300 on Fillmore’s Gospel Brunch. After a long bike ride to Tiburon with a couple of friends, I head to 1300 and get the White Creamy Grits with chicken apple sausage, Applewood smoked bacon and scrambled eggs.

 

ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY

Cliff House

Sourdough and chowder. Cliff House – you can’t beat the view or get more San Francisco than that.

GUILTY PLEASURE

Chessman Cookies and Tea

Pepperidge Farm Chessman Cookies and a cup of tea right before bed.

 

HANGOVER FOOD

Nope!

I haven’t gotten a hangover since I was 18 years old! I’m way too old for that now.

 

DATE NIGHT

SPQR

SPQR to see Chef Matt. In the winter, he does a simple squash soup that’s so complex and with intense flavors that go harmoniously together. The perfect winter warmer.

RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND

La Folie

Roland Passot’s La Folie in Nob Hill with classic French food. What’s great and a rarity is Chef Roland is very active in the kitchen and still cooks on the line.

Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier-level chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out SydneyPortlandChicagoAustinLos AngelesBrooklynNew OrleansProvidenceMemphisOrange CountyBoston and Detroit.

See you next week!

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