According to Time magazine, Mama’s should be every visitor’s first stop in San Francisco. The eatery tops the magazine’s list of 10 things to do in the city, and also cracks the city’s top 20 highest-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor, an incredible feat since it contends with more than 3,500 competitors. That’s probably because Mama’s has had plenty of time to earn its customers’ affections, since the day more than 50 years ago that Mama and Papa Sanchez opened the restaurant’s doors to a world only recently doused in Technicolor. Today, the third Sanchez generation still runs the place to Mama and Papa’s strict standards—they make pastries, breads, and jams in-house, and every breakfast and lunch dish to order. The breakfast-centric menu encompasses everything from omelets filled with pancetta or avocado to kugelhopf French toast, made from house brioche bread with golden raisins, dates, almonds, and a dusting of cinnamon. Diners can take home a slice of Mama’s bounty from the bake shop, where employees box up homemade jams, carrot cake, and cranberry-orange walnut loaf.
When a bakery sells just one item, you know it has to be good. But when a bakery has been selling that same item for more than 100 years, there’s some culinary magic afoot. Since 1911, the Soracco family has been producing oven-baked focaccia bread in a handful of flavors. Fans don’t mind waiting in line (sometimes for hours) to get their butcher-paper-wrapped slab before the bakery inevitably sells out, which happens every day. See what reviewers are saying about the focaccia that Time magazine called “perfection:”
“The puckered, inch-thick bread is so puffy, so soft, the richness of the olive oil in the dough cut with the tangy tomato and the occasional bite of onion. Liguria's other focaccias you bring to parties to impress your host. The pizza focaccia, you eat for yourself.” — SFWeekly
“[The raisin focaccia] has such a nice balance between the sweet, plump, raisin and the more savory bread. It’s addicting. Not your average supermarket raisin bread. This is amazing.” — Firstbite TV
“The women behind the counter at Liguria certainly don't crack any excess smiles as they wrap your focaccia in plain white paper and tie it off with a string. But that's okay, the focaccia is good enough that it requires no sales pitch.” — Serious Eats
In many ways, Café Divine is a shrine to Italy: its specialty pizzas, which are fired in an Italian oven, all have names that reference Dante's Inferno. The North Beach bistro occupies an Italianate building; look up at the ceiling and you'll notice brass chandeliers that were made specially in Italy. Not to be outdone, the bar is made of Italian marble.
Naturally, a lot of the food here draws from Italian traditions, but they’re only part of the total culinary equation. Helmed by chef David Wees, the kitchen uses organic and local ingredients to craft entrees that range from slow-braised beef bourguignonne to smoked-trout salad. You can finish off your meal with a fresh cup of espresso and one of Café Divine's homemade desserts. Decadent treats include caramel-drenched ginger cake à la mode and flourless chocolate cake.
Café Divine supports local musical artists, too. You can catch live accordion music on Mondays. Other acts have included ragtime guitarist Craig Ventresco and bassist Chris Amberger.
Just like a real best friend, Buyer’s Best Friend makes shoppers' lives easier and more refined. The company, which deals directly with wholesale artisanal retailers, scours the world and local markets before incorporating only the worthiest goods into an inventory the Bay Guardian called "among the best gourmet food selections in the city." Everything from smoked salts to organic coffee to gluten-free bread mixes are on offer, and most in-store items are available for sampling, according to SF Weekly. Nonfood items range from organic skincare products to dish sets made out of bamboo.
Buyer’s Best Friend isn’t only for casual shoppers, however. The storefront's online portal serves as a curated aggregate of specialty-food wholesalers, enabling some 5,000 buyers across the country to compare prices, compare policies, and place multiple orders on artisanal products from a single site.