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  • Writer's pictureCL Burkins

San Francisco Asian Cuisine, Hot Chicken and More

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

If you're going to San Francisco...


The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge

It’s hard for an east coast girl to adequately describe San Francisco. The only word that keeps running through my mind is “vast”. I don’t mean in the sense of land mass; I'm talking about the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Twin Peaks. All three share an absolutely larger-than-life quality. The Pacific is just…so damn big.


And, as I begin this food/culture/travel intersection, I’m realizing that the exploration of new places is through the lens of a child who just tasted ice cream for the first time. The newness of something that takes you by surprise and also takes a minute to sink in. Then, realizing it’s actually pretty amazing.


We headed out west in the summer of 2021 with our youngest boys, then 16 and 17. They are the 6th and 7th of our 7 children and the babies of their biological brothers, who’s footsteps had cast deep shadows. They were also coming out of Covid distance learning - an experience that had derailed their high school journey in many ways. So, the idea was to give them the trip of a lifetime.


San Francisco seemed like the perfect destination because: 1. It was far enough away to give them a glimpse of a world incredibly different from their suburban Georgia existence, 2. Both love anime and Asian culture, and 3. They grew up playing “Black Ops 2” and couldn’t wait to see Alcatraz.


If you don’t have children or have young children, you may not realize that video games (for all of their faults and violence) actually provide fairly accurate information about historical places that many teenagers have never seen in person. In that sense, they've got some redeeming qualities. Needless to say, we were shocked to discover our boys' excitement about stepping foot on Alcatraz Island because they wanted to see it in real life... thanks to a video game. Who knew?


Food and travel here can be as broad as the Pacific, so I've listed just a few highlights for Asian cuisine, hot chicken and more in San Francisco.


The Bird

And it’s hot, y’all - delicious, but hot!
The Bird in San Francisco
Hot fried chicken at The Bird

We stayed in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and the first afternoon was spent simply shopping with the local vendors. Of course, good food was on the menu, so my youngest pulled up trusty TikTok to find the best places. We landed at The Bird, which

interestingly enough has a wolf on the logo. They are known for their hot fried chicken sandwich, served with house-made apple slaw, mayo and pickles. The chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, with the slaw providing a nice balance for the heat. And it’s hot, y’all - delicious, but hot! Don’t forget to finish your meal with their balled apple fritters for dessert! The Bird has limited seating, but it's definitely worth your time.


Hahn's Hibachi

Influences of Asian cuisine permeate so much of its food and culture.

Just like Maine, San Francisco's proximity to the ocean makes seafood a staple. In San Francisco, though, the influences of Asian cuisine permeate so much of its food and culture. You will find some of the best Bi BimBop and Udon bowls around. And this is the very place you should stick to whole-in-the-wall restaurants, both for the price and quality.

Hahn's Hibachi in San Francisco
Sizzling Bi BimBop at Hahn's Hibachi

We were lucky enough to know someone who lives in San Francisco, and he met us in Alma

Rise to share one of his favorite places - Hahn’s Hibachi. Hahn’s tagline is, appropriately enough, “SAN FRANCISCO NATIVES ALWAYS FIND THEIR WAY BACK TO HAHN'S HIBACHI!” And while you can absolutely get hibachi there, the menu is really extensive. I opted for the Sizzling Bi BimBop - incredibly delicious, steamy, salty, complex. And the prices are, well, west coast prices. While they may look expensive to many southern folks, they are very reasonable for the area.



 
My TOP San Francisco Recommendations:
  1. Golden Gate Bridge = the sheer engineering feat is mind blowing! Visit the museum, AND WALK ACROSS IT.

  2. Golden Gate Park - a number of things to see here, including: Japanese Tea Garden = Peaceful, serene, and enjoy some tea while you’re there; Bison herd = Yeah, an actual herd of Bison in San Fran. They've been there since the late 1800’s.

  3. Alcatraz = You just have to see it, what can I say? The ferry ride there and back is enjoyable, too. Tickets sell out quickly, and months in advance, so reserve yours early!

  4. Go Cars = This is the absolute BEST way to see the city! Our kids were embarrassed when we initially rented them (mostly because they had to don a helmet), but this is seriously one of their best memories. These tiny yellow cars have recorded audio of every important place in the entire city, and the information begins as soon as you approach each landmark. You travel on the street, so adults have to drive, but the locals are used to them.

  5. Haight Ashbury = This is not your grandparent's hippy area any more. Really cool shops from vintage to trendy to upscale. It's worth a look.

  6. North Beach = The Italian section of the city has some tasty pizza and gelato.

  7. Walk around = This is a very walkable city. Bring a jacket, though, because the city temperatures stay in the 60’s & 70’s.

As always, food played a central role in this trip, but this vacation was much more about traveling far away to see a world outside of our window. Travel helps (young & older) people know how to check a bag and go through security in the airport. They get to try out being in an unknown city and finding their way around. Travel exposes them to different landscapes and climates.


Listen, providing young people with opportunities to explore different regions, cultures and food is vital to their understanding of diverse kinds of people and the power of place. It cultivates a knowledge that not everyone looks, lives, acts, eats or thinks like them. And they return from traveling a changed person.


They'll never have that first taste of ice cream again. Instead, they're be ready to try new flavors.




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