Friday, April 17, 2015

Very cheap eats at Boudin Bakery & Cafe

Boudin Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
The somewhat retro diner interior reminded me of Joe Fortes in Vancouver. It was bright, clean, and way bigger than the front suggested -- an upper dining room opened when necessary, and even a few seats downstairs where the guts of the operation and the bathrooms were located.

Clam Chowder with Sourdough Bowl ($6.89)
  • I was recommended to dine at Boudin during my 2015-April trip to San Francisco, but no one told me the Clam Chowder is over $8 at Boudin wharf locations. Don't be daunted by lineups as some are just there for takeout and the restaurant is extensive, with an upstairs dining area they don't immediately open earlier in the afternoon.
  • At $6.89, this is a super-awesome deal, considering the amount of food you get versus breakfast items at many restaurants priced at around $10. Just the sourdough bowl alone, without the clam chowder, is a hefty amount of carbs that qualifies as a medium to heavy lunch. Truly one of the cheaper yet very filling and tasty meal options in San Francisco.
  • The sourdough bowl was a whole round of sourdough, about 5" wide and over 3" tall at its peak. It is hollowed out for the clam chowder but you do get the cap as well, plus a pat of Whipped Sweet Cream Butter (I forgot the brand). It seemed like there was just enough butter for the sourdough cap. Since I wasn't planning on eating the cap, I mixed the butter into my chowder (after I sampled it without bread or anything else), but that didn't really improve things at all.
  • The clam chowder was more on the soupy side and I vaguely remember it being slightly saltier than I might have liked. As taste goes, it was really decent though nothing that made me go "wow".
  • There are even creamier, richer, thicker chowders to be found in San Francisco, but price for value at $6.89 simply can't be beat as a lunch / dinner option, especially considering you are eating in the ambiance of a nice restaurant right on Market Street.
    • If you are travelling on a budget, skip breakfast and have brunch and dinner here. Yeah, chowder every day, but it's really decent and cheap.
TIP: How to eat chowder-in-a-bread-bowl
  • Here, as everywhere else serving chowder-in-a-bread-bowl, there is way more bread than chowder.
  • If you just spoon up the chowder, you will get the full flavour of the chowder (recommended) but you will end up with boring bread that cost a mere 50 cents or so. I therefore recommend passing on the bread, especially if you don't want to put on the unnecessary carbs, and focus on the tasty chowder.
  • If you don't care so much for the chowder as long as you get a decent one, and want the filling bread to complement your meal, then:
    • Start scraping the sides of the sourdough bowl to have bread with every bite. This will of course complicate the flavour of the chowder since the sourdough bread will have its own competing flavour and slight sourness.
      • Don't be afraid to scrape deeply since the chewy crust of the sourdough bowl is generally tough and waterproof.
    • Once you run low of bread inside, you will also probably be low on chowder. Smear the remainder all about the interior of the bowl, thereby ridding yourself of any large pools of chowder.
      • In the unlikely even you have a good amount of chowder left, eat it with the cap of your sourdough.
    • Then, start tearing your sourdough bowl apart (easiest with your hands, given the tough and generally chewy crust).
      • I actually do not recommend this if you want to savour your chowder because the crust of the sourdough can be the most sour part, and compete too much with the tasty chowder.
      • There shouldn't be any real leaking since you've already consumed the soup and the remainder was spread on the inside.
    • Optionally finish your sourdough cap or wrap it in your napkin to take away for nibbling later or for seagulls and pigeons at the wharf (this latter probably not a great idea, to be honest).

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