America’s pastime might be baseball, but San Francisco has managed to find an even more boring one: hiking. This is either because nature is so close to the city, or (more likely) because we like to make up for drinking too much by at least pretending to do something good for our health the next day. If you relate more to the latter category, then the best part of these excursions is planning your meals before and after. Whether you need a quality spot to carbo-load before you head out, or you want to choose your hike solely based on its proximity to a good meal at the end, these are our go-to spots for fueling up for and recovering from the climb.
Siren Canteen induces the kind of willful amnesia that people talk about after having a kid. You forget the saga of actually getting to Stinson Beach (which includes windy roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic) and block out the nine-mile hike where you ran out of water in the parking lot, because it’s the beachside shack at the end that’s always worth the trouble. Mostly because it’s fighting the good fight for the continued preservation of cheese fries amidst the ever more-healthy menus of SF. This place also serves burgers, quesadillas, burritos, and shakes.
Sometimes after a hike you just need the most filling meal possible. This is where RT Rotisserie comes in. Get a whole chicken to share, and then go deep on the sides. We’re very into the cauliflower, but you’d be making a mistake if you skip the umami fries.
Blue Barn is a classic place to stop pre- or post-hike. Their salads are big enough to help you tackle Marin Headlands, but if you want something with a little more weight to it, go with the Truffle or Rooster sandwiches. And throw in a churro rice krispy treat in case you start to feel a little faint and need something to jumpstart your blood sugar.
Your New York friends are in town, and you’re ready to prove that SF is a far superior city. Take them for a morning hike to show them that there’s more to nature than the High Line, and make a reservation for lunch at Del Popolo. Almost every pizza on the menu is good enough to please even the most pizza snobby person, but we’re partial to the Bianca and the Salami Picante. They also have a great spread of starters, so go with a group and try to make your way through all of them.
People love to talk about the lighthouse views in Point Reyes, but as far as we’re concerned, the main attraction is Cowgirl Creamery. Because there’s really no better way to cancel out your hike than to to eat your weight in cheese once you’re done. The Mt. Tam cheese is definitely the Beyonce of the crew, but the Red Hawk is the unsung hero (a.k.a. the Kelly) and also worth your time.
Barzotto is classic comfort food. Go here when you didn’t break your hiking boots in before Half Dome - their extra-long noodles and meatballs and focaccia (and wine) will help you numb the pain. If you’re with a crowd, it’s better to get things to-go (the space is pretty narrow and the tables are mostly communal) so you can all eat on the couch and filter your photos from the hike while reclining.
Sol Food is a bit of an outlier amongst all the Marin Mom-catering places to eat in Mill Valley, but no one is mad about having this actually kind of cool Latin spot in the area. We like the Bistek and Cuban sandwiches, and definitely go big on the limeade to combat any bouts of dehydration you might’ve worked up on the Muir Woods or Tennessee Valley trails.
In San Francisco, the microclimates can get in the way of your outdoor plans. Namu (a new offshoot of Namu Gaji in the Mission) is perfect if you’ve endured a hike that was colder/harder/longer than you expected and need ramen, bibimbop, or Korean tacos to properly recover. They also have some of the city’s best fried chicken.
Hikes are hard, Lucca’s is easy. It’s the kind of no-frills Italian deli that’s hard to find anywhere else in the city. They have delicious Caprese sandwiches (add prosciutto) and pesto pasta salads, and pretty much everything here travels well. Take your order on your trail or demolish it once you’ve journeyed home.
There are as many taquerias on Valencia as there are anywhere else in the country, and Taqueria El Buen Sabor is one of our favorites. This is where to head when you smashed your personal best and need a lot of food to recover.
After you’ve conquered a Marin hike, make the most of being on the other side of the bridge and get to Fish. It’ll hit the spot when you’re missing East Coast summers and the good crab rolls that come with them. It’s right on the water, so your food comes with a great view.
You want a meal that’s healthy enough that you won’t feel like you’re cancelling out the exercise part of the hike, but unhealthy enough that it all actually tastes good. Out The Door is the answer. While we normally head here for dinner, the weekend brunch at this modern Vietnamese spot in Pac Heights is worth your time to. It involves everything from salads and pho to banh mi eggs and buttermilk pancakes.
If you’re playing hooky from work and want to actually achieve something, hike up Twin Peaks and then get brunch at Zazie. The wait on weekends can get insane, so being here on a “sick” day is a smart move. You’re obviously here for the daily-changing pancake specials (think bread pudding or lemon ricotta, but all of the egg scrambles are pretty good too. You probably shouldn’t miss out on the cream cheese coffee cake either. You earned it.
Mission isn’t just another great cheese spot, it’s the best cheese spot in the city. Come here to reflect on all the hiking obstacles you’ve overcome (like the annoying person your friend brought along) and to eat your weekly recommended serving of dairy. Get the Monger’s Choice or the raclette, and save room for the gouda chocolate chip cookie that comes served with ice cold milk. It tastes like a normal, warmed up, gooey chocolate chip cookie. But better.