What sets the Bay Area food scene apart from the rest of the country?
It's very vibrant and dynamic with so much talent. San Franciscans cheer on restaurants and chefs like many cheer on professional sports teams.
What neighborhood do you explore on a free day?
What’s so magical about San Francisco is all the different neighborhoods. I always find something new and interesting. Russian Hill and the Polk Gulch are quintessential San Francisco to me. Every corner is a new experience. You feel like you’re right in the heart of the city. They’re growing and expanding with a lot of exciting options. Stones Throw, Belcampo Meat Company and Lord Stanley are all new restaurant additions to the area. And obviously I’m a big fan of the Financial District because all my restaurants are right there [laughs].
What’s a local culinary trend that you’ve noticed?
Restaurants like Stones Throw really focus on Bay Area ingredients and good culinary techniques in a neighborhood setting. To me that’s what San Francisco has always been about, the opportunity to create these neighborhood restaurants that are real dining destinations. I even did a restaurant about 15 years ago in Las Vegas called Nob Hill that was inspired by the feeling of a San Francisco neighborhood restaurant.
If you only had 24 hours in San Francisco, where would you eat?
Chef Josh Skenes is doing some great food at Saison. You’re going to use up a few hours, but they’ll be some of the most worthwhile hours that you spend here, at least food-wise. 4505 Burgers & BBQ probably has the best brisket in town. I’d go classic at Deli Board and get the Reuben. I’d get La Taqueria’s taco with the double shell, crispy and soft. And Pabu’s nigiri menu.
Any favorite hidden gems?
Any tips for travelers to San Francisco?
Wear layers. Try to get lost. There is romance, mystery and beauty in random corners of the city. Go through the Presidio—the views looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge are just amazing. Forget your diet and indulge. Wear layers.
Michael Mina’s Perfect San Francisco Day