San Francisco’s culinary scene is very authentic, especially with the variety of ethnic neighborhoods that immigrants have come to call home. With these different ethnic cultures comes different ethnic foods being crafted using recipes from foreign countries. It’s this melting pot of local San Franciscans that allow visitors to experience traditional handmade fortune cookies in Chinatown, fresh-roasted coffee in Little Italy, rice cakes in Japantown and street tacos in the Mission. These five food tours take visitors into the heart of these neighborhoods and the cuisine that expresses the local culture. A word to the wise: Don’t forget to bring your appetite!
Chinatown is a San Francisco landmark with Chinese red lanterns decorating the blocks and blocks of Chinese restaurants, grocery stores and tea shops worth visiting. Guests on the Chinatown Walking Food Tour will spend three hours walking in and out of the neighborhood’s alleyways, witnessing, for instance, artisans crafting fortune cookies by hand. Guests will visit authentic Asian produce markets to try some of the ethnic spices and teas, while also eating Dim Sum at Chinatown’s oldest bakery. While the Chinese cuisine is certainly the focus, tour guests will also get the opportunity to explore some of the authentic Chinese antique stores in the area.
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Tour guests can explore San Francisco’s Japanese culture via the Japantown Culinary Tour. The 3-hour tour takes visitors to the heart of one of only three remaining Japantown’s in the United States to explore local restaurants and long-time ethnic markets. The mixture of up-and-coming artisans with veteran restaurant and shop owners introduces tour guests to a variety of authentic Asian cuisines such as sweet potato latte, onigiri (rice balls), okonomiyaki (Japanese frittata) and mocha (rice cake), as well as various Japanese salads and noodles. One of the most popular restaurants on the tour is Mifune Restaurant, which serves up 90-year-old recipes of fine Japanese noodles.
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Visiting the San Francisco Ferry Building is always a must on visitors’ lists, but with so many options, the landmark building can oftentimes become overwhelming. The 2-hour Ferry Building & Farmers’ Market Culinary Tour takes tour guests to the Bay Area’s best food artisans for tastings of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, sourdough bread loaves from Acme Bread and house-cured fennel salami from Boccalone. For dessert, Recchiuti offers some of the area’s finest handmade chocolate and Miette serves up delicious French macarons. Local farmers also come to the building to sell organic produce, as well as handcrafted jams, pickles and pastries.
San Francisco’s Mission District has quickly become a popular spot with bars and restaurants lining the popular Valencia Corridor. It’s a place where hipsters and tech execs co-mingle due to the wide scape of culinary offerings to explore. Everything from fine Italian to affordable tapas to the area’s traditional street tacos are waiting for visitors to try on the Mission 18th Street Tour. Tour guests will taste tacos and tequila at Tacolicious or savor some of the area’s best ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery. Wine and cheese pairings, chocolate tastings and artisan sausages are other treats to experience along the way. Plus, an art docent from Precita Eyes will explain the importance of some of the neighborhood’s building murals.
San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood takes visitors to Italy with its quaint street lamps, tree-lined sidewalks and outdoor cafes. On the North Beach/Little Italy Walking Tour, tour guests will get to taste cuisine from some of the city’s oldest restaurants — several of which have been owned by the same families for decades. Tour guests will learn how coffee is roasted, see breads bake in 130-year-old ovens, taste local olive oils and learn how chocolates are made, as well as taste some of the area’s favorite pizza. Along the way, tour guests will learn about the neighborhood’s history and the places where famous Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg used to frequent back in the 1950s.