What is California cuisine? The birth of California cuisine can be
traced to chef Alice Waters, owner of Berkeley's Chez Panisse (p 101),
which has been hailed as the best restaurant in the country. Waters
revolutionized American cuisine by championing the use of fresh,
seasonal, and local ingredients. Her own culinary revelation came
during a year spent in France, where she lived next to a market street
that teemed with fresh, high-quality produce.
The fact that Waters's grand vision came while she was overseas
highlights California cuisine's multicultural, transnational character.
It draws from the entire world, and as such, it is always evolving.
While Waters was inspired by the produce of France, other California
chefs have drawn on the cooking of Italy or the Middle East. Today,
Asian and South American flavors turn up in many Californian dishes.
But the key thread that unites all California cuisine is this: a strong
preference for uncomplicated dishes with superior ingredients that
change with the seasons.
The Bay Area's location and immigrant history were central to
the development of this epicurean style. Today you still find several
family farms (many organic) and ranches (specializing in naturally
raised meats and poultry) surrounding San Francisco. Add the
Pacific's bounty of fresh seafood, and the city's treasure trove of eth-
nic influences, and you've got what makes San Francisco a perfect
city to sample California cuisine.
★★ Cortez UNION SQUARE
MEDITERRANEAN/TAPAS This hop-
ping member of the small-plates
scene serves exceptional, if pricey,
morsels—including tasty soups in
shot glasses . 550 Geary St. (at Taylor
St.) y 415/292-6360. Small plates
$6-$17. AE, MC, V. Dinner daily. Bus:
2, 3, 4, 38. Map p 96.
★★ Delfina THE MISSION ITALIAN
Locals love this first-rate Tuscan
fare with a cool, vibrant ambience.
3621 18th St. (between Dolores &
Guerrero sts.) y 415/552-4055.
Entrees $12-$18. MC, V. Dinner daily.
Bus: 14, 33, 49. Muni: Castro. BART:
16th St. Map p 93.
★ = Dolores Park Cafe
Enjoy healthy sandwiches or a
simple latte on the sunny deck across
from Dolores Park. 501 Dolores St.
(at 18th St.) y 415/621-2936.
Sandwiches/salads $5-$6.25. AE, MC,
V. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily.
Fri music nights until 9:30pm. Bus: 33.
Muni: Castro. BART: 16th St. Map
★ Dottie's True Blue Cafe
UNION SQUARE AMERICAN/
BREAKFAST Ample portions of
cornmeal pancakes, eggs, and
gourmet sausages. Lunch features
salads and burgers. Kitschy decor.
522 Jones St. (between Geary &
O'Farrell sts.) y 415/885-2767.
Entrees $5-$10. DISC, MC, V. Break-
fast & lunch Wed-Mon. Bus: 2, 3, 4,
27, 38. Cable car: Powell lines.
Map p 96.