This week’s culinary tour guide is Sean Timberlake, half of Team Hedonia and the mastermind behind Punk Domestics. As a food blogger for five years running, Sean is known around these parts as the go-to guy for food-related advice. Want to pickle some vegetables? Preserve your grandma’s strawberries? Find the perfect place to take your beloved for a very special dinner? He’s your guy.
Non-locals might not think to peruse neighborhoods such as the Castro and Noe Valley when looking for distinctive dining experiences, but Sean, a longtime San Francisco resident, has some awesome tips to share on the part of SF lesser known for their edible offerings. Remember: there’s more to San Francisco food than the Mission and North Beach!
What are your favorite summer food events? What makes them so special?
I consider the farmers markets each their own discrete events. The produce is ever-changing, and each market has its own strengths. I love the Castro and Noe Valley farmers markets, but for different reasons. Castro’s got great bakeries (oh the irony, considering the carb-phobic demographic) and gorgeous fruit (no comment); Noe Valley has Prather Ranch every other week, plus kooky musicians to entertain the kids. Just watch yourself around the stroller bank. It can get tight.
When the weather heats up, what are your favorite places to eat in San Francisco?
Because we have relatively few places with outdoor seating in San Francisco, they get busy when the weather is favorable, so I often avoid them. But I can be swayed to hang out at The Ramp over a couple of beers, and I’ve recently become enamored with the new Bluestem Brasserie downtown. Their upstairs balcony is a great spot to watch the world go by.
Where are your favorite ice cream places in SF? What’s your favorite flavor there?
Like everyone, I love both Bi-Rite Creamery and Humphry Slocombe, but I’m still a Mitchell’s loyalist, and there’s a spot right in my neighborhood, Subs, Inc. in Noe Valley, that carries it. Mostly I’m a purist. I’m really happiest with simple vanilla, or maybe pistachio. But sometimes I like to get adventurous. At Marco Polo out in Parkside, they have some edgier flavors, like black sesame or the infamous durian. I tried the latter once. I’ve got a broad palate, but even I was not ready to commit to a whole scoop. Yet.
Is Noe Valley a culinary contender in San Francisco?
Noe Valley can’t compete with the Mission, but we have a few gems. Contigo, the Cal-Catalan place on Castro, is our hands-down favorite restaurant in the city, and we are frequent diners at Incanto as well. Firefly still manages to turn out good food after all these years from its dot-com darling days, and Le Zinc has a lovely brunch. I get the brik every time.
What other little-known neighborhoods are up and coming in the food scene?
Hayes Valley has a charming food scene, and the Castro is finally coming into its own culinarily, after years as a virtual dining desert. Frances gets all the attention, and it’s great, but little L’Ardoise in Duboce Triangle is unjustly overlooked. Starbelly is a crowd pleaser. And since Blackbird came on the scene, we even have honest to god cocktails in the ‘Stro. We’re not in Kansas anymore!