By Randy Yagi
As the most diverse culinary destination in the country, San Francisco clearly has no shortage of outstanding tastes and flavors. While the City by the Bay might be most famously known for some of its iconic dishes, such as the Mission burrito, the bread bowl with clam chowder and the cioppino fish stew, there is an extraordinary array of food choices to satisfy even the most finicky food critic. In fact, even the longtime favorites like cornbread, grits and corn on the cob are so good here at so many locations, customers will never go home hungry. Here are just a few of the best places for corn dishes in San Francisco.
Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
One of the staples of Southern-style cooking is grits, made of coarsely ground corn, typically served as a side dish and thankfully available throughout San Francisco and beyond. Although grits are commonly associated as a breakfast item, particularly the classic Low Country entrée, shrimp and grits, this traditional dish can can be served all day and one of the City’s most popular spots to sample this and other superb Louisiana dishes is Brenda’s French Soul Food in the vibrant Polk Street area. Led by chef Brenda, her wife Libby and executive chef John, Brenda’s was established in 2007 and offers a variety of other superb corn-infused dishes, including Creole veggie omelette with corn maque choux, grillades and grits, cornmealed-fried shrimp and hushpuppies, a must-try, deep fried treat made with cornmeal.
Related: Best Burritos Not In San Francisco’s Mission District
2 Marina Blvd.
Fort Mason Center, Building A
San Francisco, CA 94123
Long before the farm-to-table movement became a fashionable food trend, Greens Restaurant was using that concept by serving fresh, locally sourced vegetarian dishes to its customers. Founded in 1979 by the San Francisco Zen Center, this local landmark can be found in the historic Fort Mason Center, a former military complex that’s now an arts and culture hotspot with its supreme views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Often considered one of the best restaurants in America and Michelin-rated, Greens offers an impressive menu that changes seasonably and may include items like green corn soup with crisp tortillas, fire roasted poblano chili with quinoa, white corn chilies and green onions and mesquite grilled brochettes with mushrooms, potatoes, peppers and white corn. Other corn-infused dishes that may be available are Green Gulch lettuce, with Little Gems lettuce, arugula and grilled corn, soft corn tortilla tacos with white corn and for brunch, the exceptionally tasty cornbread with honey butter.
Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen
401 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
When asking a local what San Francisco neighborhood offers the best and most diverse foods, the answer almost always seems to be the Mission District. After all, it’s the birthplace of the ubiquitous mission burrito and home to arguably the City’s best ice cream, best market and best bakery, as well as a few of the Michelin-Star variety like Aster, Commonwealth and Lazy Bear. Of course, the smaller, family owned restaurants such as Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen also contribute to the Mission’s sizzling hot scene. Co-founded by Adriana LópezVermut and her father Leopoldo López-Gil, this award-winning restaurant’s signature dish is the Venezuelan arepa, with a grilled white or sweet yellow corn pocket that are filled with meat or vegetarian options. Lauded as one of the best rated restaurants in San Francisco, the restaurant and chef Adriana was recently featured in an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network.
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
2817 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Made with corn dough then typically wrapped in a cornhusk, tamales have long been a food staple in Mexico and Central and South America. A traditional dish frequently seen at tables over the holidays, tamales aren’t always offered year round although a few restaurants, like Roosevelt Tamales Parlor, thankfully specialize in authentic Mexican tamales. Backed with traditional family recipes provided by its tamale chef Dõna Maria, this marvelous establishment in the Mission District is co-owned by head chef Barry Moore and baker/general manager Aaron Presbrey. Due to popular demand, Roosevelt Tamale Parlor reemerged in September and continues to offer a number of tamale dishes made with corn masa, in addition to longtime favorites like burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and the corn-based stew, pozole.
Related: Food Lover’s Guide To San Francisco
3115 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Served with two soft corn tortillas, the now legendary crispy tacos prepared the “Nick’s Way” is without question the signature dish served at Tacko. However, there are a few other corn dishes that are also well worth a try, even if it requires a second visit. This includes the superb grilled corn and black bean taco salad with romaine lettuce, cilantro and tomatoes and delicious accompaniments like elote con queso, otherwise known as fresh corn on the cob with lime crema, cotija cheese and cayenne pepper. If crispy tacos served “Nick’s Way” sounds familiar it’s because founder Nick Fasanella has two other local restaurants widely praised for its selection of gourmet Mexican street food including the aforementioned – the Taco Shop at Underdog’s and the original Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Broadway, first opened in 2002.