No Reservations: San Francisco

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Photo by Preston Covillaud
Outside Pirate Cat Radio in San Francisco
Feeling even more antagonistic than usual, Anthony Bourdain toured San Francisco in this week's episode of No Reservations. He brought the full power of his disdain to the city's organic, local and vegan food by not sampling a bite of it. Finding the city to be a place of contradictions, of both lentils with seitan and martinis with steak, Tony stuck to the martinis.

Bourdain first visits a place whose existence depends on that of the hipster. Pirate Cat Radio is a coffeehouse and radio station that serves vegan food -- except for the maple bacon latte. A combination of refined bacon, maple syrup, milk and espresso, it's not just a drink but a sign of the times. Only hipsters would have a difficult time choosing between veganism and an ironic/nostalgic love for bacon.

Bourdain then skips over to the Tadich Grill, whose specialty is a tomato and seafood stew. But Tony picks the Hangtown Fry instead, an omelet of oysters and bacon with a few martinis on the side. Over at the Zam Zam Room, Bourdain and his poet companion drink a couple more martinis and it should be noted that he seems fairly tipsy the entire episode.

Bourdainism: "Maybe it's out of spite but every time I come here I want a piece of bloody meat with some indifferently cooked creamed spinach."

Not one to delay satiating a desire, Bourdain and his friend immediately head over to the House of Prime Rib, an aging, aromatic temple to roasted beef. They handsomely enjoy Yorkshire pudding and bloody prime rib, rolled over to the table in a silver cart, "the Hindenburg of meat delivery systems," and (after more martinis) have the kind of conversation about the necessity of poetry that you only have when you're smashed.

Bourdainism: "This is the American dream! The good, the bad, the beautiful...there's a metaphor here somewhere..."

Across the Bay Bridge and into Oakland, Bourdain enjoys the kind of chow we do down in our neck of the woods. At the Tamales Mi Lupita taco truck, he buys a chorizo, chicarrones and cabeza taco for $2 each.

Bourdain escalates his animal consumption at Sebo Sushi, tasting cutlass fish, seared fatty tuna he wants to rub on his face, and mackerel sperm sacs.

Bourdainism: In reference to boiled fish head, "Good head only comes along once in a while..."

In the famous Mission district, Anthony and his friend Oscar visit That's It Market, a convenience store/torta shop. He orders the Cuban and gazes on as the cook fries the hot dogs, breaded cutlet and chorizo with egg that get topped with avocado, carrots and cheese.

Bourdainism: "Momma always told me not to eat anything bigger than your head. But I think we're approaching Giada de Laurentis sizes."

Since it's not a trip to San Francisco without going to Chinatown, Bourdain and his buddy drive past the sex clubs to R&G Lounge for the salt and pepper Dungeness crab. They eat the lightly battered and deep fried crabs with the hands, in between sips of lechee martinis.

Almost done with his journey, Bourdain makes it in time for the yearly "Head-to-Tail" dinner at Incanto Restaurant and Wine Bar. Chef Chris Cosentino prepares five courses of offal, including venison heart tar tar, intestine soup with round pasta he likes to call "anal-ini," and calves brains and testicles.

Bourdainism: "Bottom-line rule: no monkey brain. If you bring the monkey I'm leaving the table."

On his last morning Bourdain goes to Red's Java House in a last attempt to soak up the alcohol and shake a defiant fist at vegetarians and their ilk. He asks, when eating a burger "Where does it come from? Under what conditions was it raised?" He answers, "Who cares?" And so he enjoys his greasy spoon burger, chili cheese fries and beer, all in the name of a simply tasty breakfast.

Bourdainism: "Smell that [burger]. It's like a bed of roses. Only better."

Next week: Thailand

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