Did you know these foods originated in San Francisco?

San Francisco, mecca of cultures, religions and ethnicities has become one of the best foodie cities in the United States. Although we boast of cuisines and food items we’re best known for, these ones should be on top of everyone’s list as “Very San Francisco”. Why? Because pioneers that we are, they originated here in the Bay Area!


Hangtown Fry

Hangtown fry was an omelette made famous during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. The dish was invented in Placerville, California, then known as Hangtown. According to most accounts, the dish was invented when a gold prospector struck it rich, headed to the Cary House Hotel, and demanded the most expensive dish that the kitchen could provide. The most expensive ingredients available were eggs, which were delicate and had to be carefully brought to the mining town; bacon, which was shipped from the East Coast, and oysters, which had to be brought on ice from San Francisco, over 100 miles away. The dish was popularized by Tadich Grill in San Francisco, where it has apparently been on the menu for 160 years.


California Sourdough Bread

This is not a stretch! Although one of the oldest sourdough breads was excavated from Switzerland, French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the California Gold Rush, and it remains a part of the culture of San Francisco today. The nickname remains in “Sourdough Sam”, the mascot of the San Francisco 49ers. Sourdough has long been associated with the 1849 gold prospectors, though they were more likely to make bread with commercial yeast or baking soda.

pan-fried sand dabs

Pacific Sanddabs

Served only in Californian restaurants, the sanddab is a species of flatfish. It is a popular game fish in northern California, found on menus in the Monterey Bay and San Francisco area, though more difficult to find in southern California restaurants and markets. Usually sold frozen, some regard it as a delicacy, but it is very affordable and quite delicious.


It’s It

In 1928, a celebrated San Francisco tradition began. George Whitney placed a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream between two freshly baked large old-fashioned oatmeal cookies, and then dipped the sandwich into fine dark chocolate. The delicious combination of savory sweetness was declared by all to be “IT!” That how the IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwich was born and got its unforgettable name, being sold in droves exclusively in San Francisco’s own legendary Playland-at-the-Beach for over four decades.



In 1895, Italian-born immigrant Charlie DeDomenico moved to California, where he set up a fresh produce store. A successful businessman, he married Maria Ferrigno from Salerno, Italy. Back home, her family owned a pasta factory, so in 1912 she persuaded him to set up a similar business in the Mission District of San Francisco. The enterprise became known as Gragnano Products, Inc. It delivered pasta to Italian stores and restaurants in the area. In 1934, Paskey changed the name to Golden Grain Macaroni Company. Inspired by the pilaf recipe she received from Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, Tom’s wife, Lois, created a dish of rice and macaroni, which she served at a family dinner. In 1958, Vince invented Rice-A-Roni by adding a dry chicken soup mix to rice and macaroni. It was introduced in 1958 and went nationwide four years later. Because of its origins, it was called “The San Francisco Treat!”.

Do you know of other food items originating in San Francisco? Let us know via comments!

Posted by: Rebecca White on

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