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by Emma Lord

This summer I lived boldly and decided that after my month-long internship in Seattle, I was going to hop down the coast and spend a week traveling alone in the beautiful city of San Francisco. And my heart was stolen. Or, more accurately, my stomach. I spent my days wandering the streets, being as touristy as a tourist can be and eating pretty much everything a semi-broke twentysomething could afford within arm’s reach. Here were the winners:

1. Mama’s

Let me tell you the story behind this particular venture. By the time I was eating this ridiculously delicious French toast, I had not really slept in some 48 hours, and had just climbed up a mountain. Overly Ambitious Version of Emma decided to squeeze in a day trip to Yosemite – which meant an all night drive smushed on the floor against 30 strangers (most of which had just returned from Burning Man the hour before), an entire day of hiking on one of the most beautiful and notoriously steep trails Yosemite has to offer, and then an entire night of catching – brace yourself – a bus, then a train, and another bus, and then a taxi back at three in the morning to the hostel.Yet I was still determined, after all of the lore I heard of its deliciousness, to get in the brunch line for Mama’s. I slept for four hours. In all honesty I forgot to set my alarm, but my eyes shot open as if the spirit of French Toast himself were summoning me back into reality. Unshowered, frizzy-haired, and possibly quite smelly, I galumphed over to Mama’s and parked my butt down onto the sidewalk.

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Nobody was there. I was concerned for a moment that I was going nuts. I sat and waited for a full half hour … and then the crowd came. One by one people started blearily shuffling in line behind me until at least a hundred people were waiting behind me. On a Tuesday. And then the doors opened, and I got to be the first person to order that day (score!). This here is Mama’s “Pan Dore” – slices of sourdough baguette with sautéed apples in lemon butter sauce. Tangy and sweet and more than my sleep-deprived taste buds could possibly handle. It was so delicious I boxed up the leftovers, fiercely protected them with multiple labels in the shared hostel fridge, and saved it for the plane ride home.

Final verdict? Mama’s is worth the hype. But damn. Make sure you bring a tent.

2. Melt

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I could feel my heart struggling to pump blood through my veins, the cheese on this dish was so amazingly rich. Melt lived up to its name: the Welsh Rarebit (sourdough bread topped with cheddar and ale melt—if you’re sensing a sourdough theme here, it’s because I’m obsessed) literally melted the instant it hit my tongue.

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It transcended the laws of cheese. I was afraid to breathe in fear that it would instantly vocalize as a moan. As a painfully enthusiastic person, the main hazard I face traveling alone is that it’s a hundred percent not normal to exclaim about the wonder of something you’re eating, and this was one time I came dangerously close.

3. Twirl and Dip

In my defense, I did not seek out the Ice Cream Truck to End All Other Ice Cream Trucks intentionally. I was being cultured. I had walked eight miles from the hostel to Golden Gate Park, where I was soaking in the sun and the glory of the botanical gardens and pretentiously writing fiction by a water fountain, and then this truck just happened to me.

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I am not actually the biggest fan of soft-serve, but this was no ordinary soft-serve. This was soft-serve with the richest, darkest chocolate dip-top you’ve ever tasted, SPRINKLED WITH SEA SALT.

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There were other exciting things on the menu, like chocolate dipped bananas and quirky ice cream flavors, but I could not tell you about any of them – even when I walked another eight miles to this truck a few days later, I ate the same thing all over again. And I don’t regret it.

4. Sushiritto

The bastard child of sushi and a burrito is the latest trend in weird food things happening in San Francisco, and lucky for me they opened a location a mile away from the hostel. I don’t have that much to say about it – it was everything I expected it would be, which is basically a terrifyingly giant piece of sushi.

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That being said, it was totally worth the forty-five minute wait in line.For some reason, though, they are morally averse to providing soy sauce? Some girl next to me in line asked for some and an employee launched into a well-rehearsed monologue about why they don’t have it, none of which I actually listened to, because, well, I was staring down at a piece of sushi large enough to kill a man.

5. Ghirardelli

Yes, yes, okay. Ghirardelli Square (where the factory used to stand) is the trappiest of tourist traps. This did nothing to stop me from indulging in the decadent salted caramel chocolate sundae abomination that you see pictured here.

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Because you’re wondering, yes, I did eat it alone. And I feel like since you’ve read this far into the article, you deserve to know about this little gem that, in typical fashion, generated more likes on Facebook than anything NICE I’ve ever had to say:

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You know what? That ice cream was so filling that my body didn’t have any room left to feel shame.

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