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San Francisco

san francisco bread bowl chowderDungeness crab, Chinook salmon and Pacific herring are some of the city's leading delicacies, particularly at Fisherman's Wharf, where most of the restaurants are aimed at the casual day-tripper or tourist. But San Francisco also offers cuisines from all corners of the world -- from the colorful streets of Chinatown to North Beach, San Francisco's own "Little Italy" -- for those watching their budgets and those looking to splurge.

The locals consider Mama's on Washington Square the number one spot for served-all-day breakfast, but the lunch menu is pretty awesome, too -- so definitely put up with the long wait for a table. Everything is delicious and made right there. You will not believe the whites-only egg creations.

It's hard to say which is tops at Le Colonial -- the fresh, flavorful Vietnamese dishes or the exquisite decor that surrounds you as you enjoy them (the rattan chairs and tropical plants are designed to evoke 1920's French Vietnam). Specialties include Chilean sea bass wrapped in banana leaves, and wok-seared filet mignon with garlic-soy sauce.

The Stinking Rose is a beloved North Beach institution. But be forewarned ... ya gotta love garlic! It's in everything, including the ice cream. Start with their bagna calda, which is garlic cloves, oven-roasted in olive oil and butter with a hint of anchovy, then served in an iron skillet with plenty of just-baked bread.

Delfina offers unfussy Italian in the Mission District ... and you're bound to spot a celeb or two. The place is named after a restaurant in Tuscany, where owner/chef Craig Stoll worked in the early 1990's. Dishes change daily and often incorporate organic and locally sourced ingredients.

For fine dining with an equally fine view, head to the Cliff House. Look out over the Pacific Ocean and the historic Sutro Baths as you dine on Dungeness crab cakes, duck breast with sweet potato latkes or artichoke ravioli.

The signature seafood bisque and beef medallions at Tommy Toy's are worth dressing up a bit to dine there. The cuisine combines Chinese and French influences, and the decor is inspired by the Qing Dynasty. The fixed price menus are a worthy splurge.

Fifth Floor is one of the best restaurants in town. Recent menu delights include swordfish with beluga lentils, confit octopus with eggplant and purple potato, and duck with green curry and papaya. Reservations are a must.

Vegetarians, vegans and carnivores looking for healthy cuisine should head for the Plant Cafe Organic, which has both a full-service restaurant and a cafe right on the Embarcadero. Kale salad, lentil burgers and a ginger miso quinoa bowl typify the ultra-fresh fare on the menu.

Locals and visitors alike love the roaming street food carts of Off the Grid, which visit a variety of neighborhoods across San Francisco throughout the week (see offthegridsf.com for a schedule). In one spot you can sample tastes from around the world, like Vietnamese barbecue, Japanese rice balls, Peruvian sandwiches, Sicilian pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. Top it off with a cupcake or creme brulee for dessert.

Boudin Bakery, located on Fisherman's Wharf, falls into the "touristy but fun" category. This is the spot to indulge in one of San Francisco's famous sourdough bread bowls filled with hot clam chowder. There's a museum on site with info about the bakery's history.
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