Oh, food! Sure, the main reason we eat is for fuel for our bodies, but the reason we enjoy eating is because, well, good food tastes so good! One of the many delights of travel is that you get to indulge in the new scents and flavors of different cities and discover a new favorite thing to stuff your face with. When you visit the HI San Francisco hostels, there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck into the city’s food culture through the activities led by staff and volunteers, because we believe food is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of people and places. And since San Francisco is such a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, you can expect a scintillating smorgasbord of treats to try. So without further ado, here’s a little preview of the foods you may fall in love with during your HI USA hostel visit.
You’ve probably heard about these gutbusters simply because whenever San Francisco and food are mentioned in the same sentence, the Mission burrito has to be brought up. What separates these from your standard-issue Mexican wrap is the sheer size – they’re filled to the absolute brim with the goodies of a standard burrito and are about the size of a small car. Okay, not really, but that’s likely what your stomach will think you ate if you manage to conquer one in a single sitting. Fortunately, during the Mission Walking tour you stop at a taqueria that offers baby super burritos, which are a little more manageable.
Golden Gate Market Sandwiches
By the time you reach the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge on the Bike the Bay Cycling tour, you will have probably worked up an appetite, which is why the tour also makes a stop at the Golden Gate Market in Sausalito. The sandwiches here are said to be the most epic and delicious in the history of all sandwiches, which isn’t all that surprising since Sausalito is a bit of a foodie capital itself. From twists on the traditional, like the B.L.T.A (the A is for avocado) to the totally indulgent, like the San Franpsycho with honey maple turkey and remoulade sauce amongst other things, the bites here will definitely provide delicious fuel for the ride back across the bridge.
While guests who go on the Chinatown tour will get to taste some traditional teas, there is also an opportunity to try some at HI SF City Center during Anthony’s (the hostel’s activities hostel coordinator) intimate tea tasting. Having grown up in San Francisco with close ties to the Chinatown community, Anthony is extremely knowledgeable on the brews and their benefits and has a rather special way of sharing this aspect of his life. You’ll get to try teas like Ginseng Oolong, Puerh (Chinese black tea) and Jasmine Silver needle teas and will likely leave the session feeling cleansed and extra zen.
San Francisco Cheese and Chocolate
Hosted at HI SF Fisherman Wharf, the San Francisco treats tasting offers samples of some of the goodies that are made right in the Bay Area. The menu for the mini-feast features heavenly cheeses from regional establishments like Sonoma Jack, Cyprus Grove and Laura Chenel, with the line-up changing regularly to keep things exciting. Of course, it wouldn’t be a true tasting of San Francisco’s sweet delicacies without a bit of the so-good Ghirardelli chocolates, so be prepared to be in a dreamy state after the tasting is done.
A favorite of serial brunchers and a love-it-or-hate-it concoction, the Bloody Mary may not necessarily be native to San Francisco, but the ones you try during the Mission Walking Tour may as well be the originals. “They’re extra delicious,” says Ellysa the leader of the tour and HI San Francisco Downtown’s activities coordinator. The tomato juice and vodka cocktail is usually adorned with tasty nibbles, like celery sticks and olives, so even if the combination kind of weirds you out, there’s a little something to snack on. Plus, you’ll get to say that you tried the best Bloody Mary in San Francisco (well, according to the SF Weekly at least).
HI SF City Center Homemade Meal
Nothing breaks the ice quite like sitting around together and sharing a meal, or even better, preparing that meal together first, which is why, every Sunday and Tuesday, Anthony leads a communal dinner for hostel guests. The menu depends on the season, but a typical Sunday may either feature Jambalaya night or an Indian Love Feast with saag paneer and homemade Indian chai tea. Tuesdays tend to be a shout out to San Francisco with local-style tacos or a hearty helping of Italian pasta. Guests are encouraged to donate whatever they can for the meal, with the funds raised going to the local Glide Memorial Church’s homeless meal program, so you’ll get to fill your belly, make friends, and donate to a good cause, which is the ultimate travel win-win-win situation.
HI USA tip: Be sure to check at the front desk and on the hostel notice boards for all the activities you can take part in with your fellow travelers at the HI San Francisco hostels.