What was next? A meatball banh mi at Saigon Sandwich on Larkin? An emperor's pancake at Suppenküche? These weren't the meals that changed my life — most of those dinners occurred at restaurants like Flying Saucer, R&G Lounge, the French Laundry, Incanto, and the emm-effing Chez P. They were the meals a thousand outings with friends centered on. They were the foods that sustained me through the barely-paying-the-rent years and the dot-com bubble and bust. This was just the way most of the San Franciscans I knew ate, the catholic appetites that drew me back.

Survey says: Try the special salad at Pauline's before wrapping your teeth around the alfajores at El Perol.
Jen Siska
Survey says: Try the special salad at Pauline's before wrapping your teeth around the alfajores at El Perol.
Jen Siska

No, the final meal would have to be the dish that marked the dead center of my San Francisco map: a regular carnitas burrito (whole beans, mild salsa, guacamole please) at El Toro (598 Valencia at 17th St.). Once again, I perched awkwardly on a sway-bottomed stool at a table smothered in California sunlight and unwrapped the foil, failing once again to tear it into an unbroken spiral. One bite — and I was right where I belonged.

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