San Francisco: Order like a local at In-N-Out
In-N-Out, a major West Coast fast-food institution with a cultlike following, is well worth a stop during a visit to San Francisco. The burger chain has gotten a lot of good press lately: chef Thomas Keller has called In-N-Out one of his favorite restaurants and just celebrated his upscale restaurant's anniversary with a tasty burger and fries. And Eric Schlosser, celebrated author of Fast Food Nation says it's the only fast food he eats.
That's probably because In-N-Out is a very "PC" fast-food joint: burgers are made with 100 percent pure beef, free of additives and preservatives; potatoes are freshly peeled each day; there's real ice cream in the shakes; the company is family owned; and employees have high pay with full benefits.
For new visitors to In-N-Out, the menu is seemingly simple: double or single cheeseburgers and hamburgers, fries, and shakes. But if you want to sound like a local, order off the "secret menu," which offers add-ons like grilled onions and extra patties. A few of my favorite items:
Animal style: A mustard-cooked patty (In-N-Out's secret!) with grilled onion, a pickle, and extra "special sauce" (i.e. ketchup and mayo). Perhaps the most popular option of all.
Animal-style fries: Cheese fries with grilled onions and special sauce.
Protein style: A burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. Ideal for those watching their carb intake.
Grilled Cheese (a.k.a Wish Burger): For vegetarians, a cheese hamburger, minus the burger—but it comes with all the other toppings.
The Flying Dutchman: Two patties and two slices of cheese with no bun. This one comes condiment free, unless you make a request.
3-by-3 or 4-by-4: When a double-double burger just isn't enough, add more patties and cheese.
2-by-4: Extra cheese, i.e., a double cheeseburger with four slices of American.
Around-the-World shake: A combination of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream swirled together.
Neapolitan shake: The three flavors, but side by side and unmixed.
In-N-Out will accommodate other special requests as well: Ask for chopped jalapenos, no salt, just mustard or just ketchup, or even specify how well-toasted you want your bun. Fries can also be ordered "well-done" for extra crisp or "lite," for slightly undercooked.
There are 199 locations in California, but just one in San Francisco; luckily, the Fisherman's Wharf spot is convenient to get to. 333 Jefferson Street
Turkey: An expert decodes where, what, and how to eat
For five years now, Virginia Maxwell has spent time eating her way across Turkey on assignment for Lonely Planet's Istanbul and Turkey guidebooks. So I enlisted her to write our Turkey Menu Decoder, a handy, one-page resource with translations of food terms and popular dishes—the latest in our growing Menu Decoder series. Below she dishes on the food scene and Turkish etiquette. Where do you love to eat in Istanbul?My two favorite restaurants in Istanbul are Çiya in the Kadikoy neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and Cercis Murat Konağı in Bostancı. Both serve cuisine from Southeastern Turkey. Are there any new dining trends?Southeastern Turkish cuisine is generally considered to be the most interesting of the regional styles, and new restaurants such as Antiochia in Istanbul's Asmalımecit neighborhood are presenting superbly executed, innovative dishes to Istanbullu foodies. How might someone coordinate a special experience like a meal in a local's home?Excellent travel outfit Intrepid Travel organizes small dinners in traditional family homes in Istanbul as part of its Urban Adventures program. Which Istanbul restaurants don't live up to the hype?The international press rhapsodizes about 360 in Beyoğlu, but in my experience the food has been a real letdown. I love having a drink at the bar there, though. And unfortunately, the food in the major tourist precinct, Sultanahmet, is universally disappointing—visitors staying in Sultanahmet hotels should cross the Galata Bridge every night to eat rather than accept the overpriced and poorly prepared food served at most Sultanahmet restaurants. What kind of street food is typical and where to try it?There are different street foods in every region. In Istanbul, the most famous is the balık ekmek (fish sandwich), a chunk of bread roll stuffed with grilled fish and topped with some salad and a squeeze of lemon juice. The best place to eat these is on the ferry dock at Eminönü. Other popular street dishes include gözleme, a thin crepe stuffed with spinach, cheese, mushrooms or potato that is eaten in Central Anatolia; and kokoreç, grilled lamb's intestines cooked with herbs and spices. The most famous street snack of all is, of course, döner kebap, lamb slow-cooked on an upright skewer, shaved off and stuffed in bread. Which other Turkish destinations would you recommend to foodies and for which specialties?Fish is best eaten along the Black Sea coast, where it is cooked and prepared simply and has loads of flavor. The destinations that all serious foodies should go to are Gaziantep, Urfa, Hatay, and Mardin in Southeastern Anatolia. Gaziantep is particularly famous for its pistachio baklava (layered filo pastry soaked in honey or sugar syrup and stuffed with nuts), Urfa for its Urfa kebap (skewered chunks of lamb grilled and served with tomatoes, sliced onions and hot peppers), Hatay for its künefe (shredded-wheat cake laid over mild fresh cheese, soaked in sugar syrup and baked till it's crispy and gooey at the same time) and Mardin for its içli köfte (meatballs rolled in bulgar and fried). What food rules and etiquette should tourists know about?Don't blow your nose at the table (or in public generally) and don't be surprised if waiters bring people's meals to the table at different times rather than all together—this sometimes happens and is considered quite acceptable. Waiters may also change your plates and cutlery a few times during each course if you are sharing dishes. And when the bill arrives, do you add on a tip?This is up to the individual. In restaurants, most locals will tip around 10 percent if they have been happy with the service. It's not necessary to tip in simple places serving kebaps, pides (flatbread similar to pizza), or lokanta dishes (ready-cooked food). MORE ON TURKEY 2010: Istanbul Kicks Off a Culture-Packed Year Sleep Tomorrow: A Night Out in Beyoğlu, Istanbul The BT Challenge: Testing the Limits of Online Networking in Istanbul
Airports You Love: Now tell us why
Back in February, we asked you to cast a vote for the travel providers, services, programs, and destinations you love the most for our first-ever Readers' Choice awards, including which domestic airports you most prefer to fly from, to, or through. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, Orlando International, and San Francisco International took the top honors, and we want to know what sets these airports apart. Love the food? Roomier seats in the waiting areas? Speedy security lines? A great playground for kids? Leave your answers in the comments, and be sure to check out our special Readers' Choice issue this October! EARLIER How to get through airport security faster San Francisco: 5 activities in Golden Gate Park Orlando: Beyond the theme parks
America's Favorite Restaurants: What's your local fave?
For our October issue, we will be running our first Readers' Choice issue. Every page will be built around results of your votes on BudgetTravel.com. One topic on our minds right now is restaurants. We'll put together your suggestions to get America's Favorite Restaurants: Where to eat like a local, from sea to shining sea. Here's your chance: What local restaurant would you add to our list?
San Francisco: 5 places to eat for free
Ok, we're not trying to disprove the "there's no such thing as a free lunch" mantra. But at some of San Francisco's bars and restaurants, you can eat for semi-free—just stop by during one of these five free-food happy hours. A glass of wine or a beer (usually at special prices) will get you access to a spread of snacks, ranging from hearty Italian dishes to Asian-fusion finger food. Russian Hill eatery Amarena lays out a huge Italian antipasti buffet on Thursdays, featuring different pasta dishes like pesto lasagna, plus onion focaccia bread, salad, and more. Expect a warm welcome from owner Paolo and lots of families at this neighborhood favorite—try one of the Italian or California wines from their superb wine list, and then fill up your plate. 2162 Larkin Street, 415/447-0441, every other Thursday 6:00–9:00 p.m. Call ahead to double check dates. Namu in Inner Richmond offers up free food on Monday nights. This happening scene draws major crowds with buffets of Asian-inspired food, a DJ spinning background music, and family-style seating. The menu features seasonal, local ingredients that change daily—a recent Monday-night spread included chicken tempura, house-made beef jerky, fried pork belly, and rice with pork, seaweed, and fish eggs. Belly up to the bar and order one of 30 sakes and wines by the glass to take care of the one-drink minimum. 439 Balboa Street, 415/386-8332, Mondays 9:30 p.m.–midnight. As long as you order two drinks per table, the servers at North Beach's Palio D'Asti will bring you a free pizza on weeknights before 7 p.m. Even pizza purists can appreciate gourmet toppings like Berkshire pork and fennel sausage, fire-roasted peppers, arugula, or asiago cheese. Try a Prosecco or a Napa Valley wine from the extensive wine list. 640 Sacramento Street, 415/395-9800, Monday–Friday 4–7 p.m. Rollicking Friday nights at Mission dive bar El Rio start off with free oysters at 5 p.m., followed by a barbecue. Try bacon-wrapped hot dogs (a favorite food in the Mission) or grilled chicken, with sides like homemade potato salad and fresh spinach salad. Friday is also Red Hot Burlesque Night, so expect scantily clad ladies in corsets and fishnets mingling in with the crowd. 3158 Mission Street, 415/282-3325, Fridays beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sugar Lounge, a small, swanky spot in Hayes Valley, serves a smorgasbord of snacks for free on weekdays, such as lumpia, veggies with dip, teriyaki chicken, shrimp tempura, fried sweet potatoes, and eggrolls. Get there early—Sugar Lounge tends to fill up with a hip, very young crowd as eager to drink pink cocktails as munch on the free food. 377 Hayes St., 415/255-7144, Monday–Friday 4:30-7 p.m. Want more? I attempted to eat for free for two weeks—read about it here.