Here's a quick review of the few places that will stick with me long after my visit to the West Coast.
The Ferry Building is a grand hall and a historic point of entry along the Bay. This building is an upscale market, with boutique shops shilling everything from Californian wines to the most delicate, briny caviar and exquisite cupcakes that will have you thinking twice about eating your artfully crafted confection.
I made my paces around the building, poking my nose in some stores and passing up others (sorry, but a Sur La Table is going to look exactly the same in San Fran as it does in Cincinnati), all the while contemplating where I'd take a load off and enjoy my first of several wonderful meals in the city. I thought about sidling up to the side of an oyster bar, complete with an army at the ready to shuck your meal at a moment's notice. Instead, I stepped outside and walked along the back of the building, alternately glancing in the restaurants and taking in my first breathtaking views of the shimmering water.
I settled on Mijita - an upscale taqueria that is the brainchild of Traci Des Jardins of the internationally acclaimed Jardiniere. This casual spot is without the tablecloths and pomp and circumstance, but it equally delivers a spectacular meal to every diner.
I took my spot in the queue, pouring over the Spanish language menu and trying to piece together anything the recesses of my brain might have clung to in all my high school and college years of serving. My time in the kitchen taught me bonita, caliente and a few other unsavory expressions, but I also recalled the derivative for fish, and was thrilled at the prospect of a taco with gills. I added a veggie version and a bottle of Bohemia and was tickled at the eleven-bucks-and-change tab.
Scanning the small dining room for a spot appropriate for a solo diner, I opted to step outside and grab a seat at one of the tables, covered in brightly flowered vinyl tablecloths. I cracked open my book but could barely get through a sentence without surrendering to the distraction of the fog and chilly mist my lungs longed to devour.
A few minutes into my moment, I was joined by a group of very curious and aggressive pigeons. My time spent watching Ernie and Bert made me want to be kind and patient with these graceful pests, but after a couple near collisions I shooed my feathered friends, just in time for the delivery of my meal.
The tacos were sublime wrapped in a tortilla.
The fish was tender and flaky and still managed to hold on to some of the flavor of the sea, despite the delicious, golden crust surrounding the mahi mahi. The taco was drizzled with a creamy cilantro dressing that I could have enjoyed by the spoonful. I also rather enjoyed the vegetarian taco, served as a melange of melted cheese, beans, guacamole and salsa. The taco was the embodiment of fresh, laced with bits of cilantro and onions. I am not a vegetarian, but spent four years as a veg-head in my teen years, and this taco surpassed my expectations.
The Bohemia? It was a great brew and I am now searching the local shelves for that brown-and-gold wrapped bottle.
Next up: A trek to Fisherman's Wharf, my favorite walk, a tourist stop that is worth waiting with the masses and the most delicious thing to pass my lips while searching for the REAL San Francisco treat.