An Ideal Day

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An Ideal Day: Ryan Scott

Top Chef Ryan Scott takes us through the perfect day in the city by the bay.

By Somer Flaherty

 

With a background working with the who’s who of the culinary world—stars like San Francisco’s Gary Danko and French chef and James Beard Foundation Award-winner Charlie Trotter—local chef Ryan Scott has spent time cooking in some of the top kitchens in America. It wasn’t until the end of 2007, however, when he was cast as one of the 16 members of Bravo TV’s popular reality show “Top Chef,” that the world really took notice.

Although the high-energy chef did not win the grand prize, he took the experience back with him to San Francisco and parlayed it into a food truck business, Home Shopping Network partnership with Bon Appetit, a catering business and eventually two permanent brick-and-mortar restaurants—both named Market & Rye (one in the Potrero Hill neighborhood and the other in West Portal). Most recently, he is back on television as the host of the cooking and lifestyle show “Food Rush.”

As a busy chef and now television personality, Scott doesn’t have the chance to enjoy much free time—in fact, he can’t even remember the last time he had a day off. But when he does get those rare moments to relax in his Sunset District neighborhood (and beyond), it’s not surprising that eating tops his list of ideal activities.

“I love that San Francisco embraces food culture and it’s really a city that is full of great foodies,” Scott says.

Rise and Shine

With a 5 a.m. wake-up call, Scott’s perfect San Francisco day starts with one of the city’s best blends at the Mission District’s Four Barrel Coffee.

“When I cooked for Katie Couric, I even gave her a bag of Four Barrel Coffee,” Scott says. “The place is owned by Jeremy Tooker and the space has a really cool vibe with an amazing interior, rocking beats and pastries from Belinda Leong.”

Leong, a former Manresa restaurant pastry chef and another Gary Danko protege, spent 10 years perfecting her kouign amann, a buttery pastry treat. Called “a piece of caramelized heaven” by San Francisco press, it is a popular Four Barrel menu item. (415-252-0800; fourbarrelcoffee.com)

For more substantial fare, Scott says one of the best breakfast restaurants in town is Dottie’s True Blue Café. The San Francisco institution is known for long lines and, for many years, its less than ideal location in a rough spot in the Tenderloin neighborhood. However, at the beginning of 2012, the cafe moved to a new, larger location in the trendy South of Market (SOMA) district. The menu features an impressive assortment of egg dishes but Scott recommends the frittata with avocado, tomato, corn, jalapeno and feta cheese. (415-885-2767; dotties.biz)

Shopper’s Paradise

While still in the SOMA neighborhood, Scott can take a culinary break and indulge his interior design chops with a trip to the handcrafted furniture store Room & Board. Located inside a restored Chinese import warehouse dating back to the 1950s, the showroom has 40,000 square feet of design inspiration on three floors—plus free parking, a rarity in San Francisco. The facility, which is powered in part by solar energy and features landscaping designed by San Francisco landscape architect guru Andrea Cochran, is known for offering custom furniture and accessory pieces from American artisans—in fact, 90 percent of the products the company sells are handcrafted in the U.S.

“Their display room is phenomenal,” Scott says. “A lot of our furniture in my Market & Rye restaurant is actually from Room & Board.” (415-252-9280; roomandboard.com)

A short taxi ride from Room & Board is San Francisco’s hub of retail, Union Square. Although most stores are open late into the evening, to beat the crowds Scott recommends skipping the Saturday shopping trip and sticking to a chef’s schedule—visit the neighborhood mid-morning, early in the week while most locals are tucked in their offices. Union Square, a name that refers to the actual park in the neighborhood that is bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets, is home to one of Scott’s favorite upscale clothing stores: British shirtmaker Thomas Pink, which opened its San Francisco location in 2000. (415-421-2022; thomaspink.com)

 

Lunch Break

If Union Square is San Francisco’s downtown, the Sunset District could be considered the city’s hidden gem. Scott has lived in San Francisco for more than a decade but has only been a resident of the Sunset neighborhood for about one year. Scott admits terrain in this area is defined by fog and cold weather, but he loves the architectural treasures found there: bigger houses with backyards—and room for a barbecue.

Scott says one not-to-miss spot near his home is a local sandwich shop, the Yellow Submarine. The small family-run walk-in is no frills and cash only, but for less than $10, diners can indulge in a pastrami sandwich on bread so amazing that the shop won’t divulge the secret source. (415-681-5652)

Eat your sub there, while it’s still hot, or walk about a block to Golden Gate Park and have a picnic. Larger than New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park is visited by about 13 million people each year. The park is host to the California Academy of Sciences, more than 1,700 plant species at the Conservatory of Flowers and Japanese Tea Garden, complete with an intricate series of walkways, ponds and Japanese and Chinese plants.

Listen and Laugh

Although he calls the Sunset District home, North Beach is one of Scott’s favorite spots to people watch.

“Just hanging out there in Washington Square Park is the perfect way to spend the afternoon,” Scott says.

The neighborhood is rare in San Francisco as it is both popular with tourists and loved by native San Franciscans. Known for its “Little Italy” vibe with sidewalk checked-tablecloth restaurants, family-run delicatessens and cafes, North Beach is also home to a lively and fun music scene.

At the forefront is the family-run Bimbo’s 365 Club, a San Francisco institution for more than 80 years. Acts span all musical genres, from hip-hop to lounge singers.

“I just saw the band Train at Bimbo’s … [it’s] a really cool venue to see a concert at because big acts go there, but it’s such a small space,” Scott says. (415-474-0365; bimbos365club.com)

A short walk away is another must-experience on Scott’s list: Cobb’s Comedy Club. The 400-seat venue regularly features big name acts like Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle and Dana Carvey. Celebrating its 30th year, Cobb’s provides visitors a taste of old San Francisco mixed with the new era of nightlife. (415-928-4320; cobbscomedyclub.com)

 

Indulge the Palate

To close out any ideal day, Scott couldn’t resist returning to his cooking roots and indulging in a trip to Gary Danko’s namesake restaurant.

“For the price and service you are not going to get a better experience in your life than Gary Danko,” Scott says. “From the moment you walk in the door it will be a five-star experience.”

The service and food is why it seems that each year, Zagat diners rate Gary Danko restaurant as one of the top in San Francisco. Suited waiters will offer three- to five-course menu options as well as a tableside cheese cart with an impressive selection of local options like Marin County’s Cowgirl Creamery.

Don’t miss one of Danko’s famous dishes like the glazed oysters with osetra caviar, zucchini and lettuce cream or the horseradish-crusted salmon medallion with dilled cucumbers and mustard sauce. Top it off with flambeed peaches with mascarpone-filled crepes, graham cracker and pecan streusel and creme fraiche ice cream. (415-749-2060; garydanko.com)

No matter what restaurant you try, which show you catch or where you stop to see the city’s people and places, Scott says one of the reasons why he loves San Francisco so much is that visitors are always treated like locals and made to feel welcome.

Food Favorites From Chef Ryan Scott

Besides the cornflake-crusted fried chicken sandwich on a homemade brioche bun at his own restaurant Market & Rye, Scott filled Bespoke Magazine in on his other favorite must-try food items in San Francisco:

Spend a leisurely Saturday morning getting breakfast and walking around at the Ferry Building farmers market. (415-983-8030; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com)

Sip a glass of Champagne at the bar at Ame. (415-284-4040; amerestaurant.com)

Sit outside at Betelnut and people watch while drinking a Mai Tai. (415-929-8855; betelnutrestaurant.com)

Indulge with the all-you-can-eat menu at Hot Pot Garden. (415-242-9388)

Try a special slice of the day at Za Pizza. (415-771-3100; zapizzasf.com)