January 25, 2012

San Francisco highlights: day 2 | Burma Superstar | Gracias Madre

We started our second day in San Francisco with a hike at Lands End in the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. According to the park's Web site, "Lands End is San Francisco’s wildest and rockiest coast. Trails at Lands End offer a cliff-top walk through shadowy cypress, with scenic overlooks, 30-mile views of the coast, and foot access to several shoreline pocket beaches."

I'd say that's a good description. It doesn't mention the hundreds of steps built into the trail, but the description of the scenery is accurate. It was another beautiful day, and a perfect opportunity to enjoy gorgeous surroundings and fresh air.

Above you see my husband and me sitting on a rock near the start of the trail, where we could see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance.

After spending the morning hiking we were hungry and ready for lunch at our chosen restaurant, Burma Superstar. The restaurant was on the shady side of the street where it was a tad chilly, and we had a bit of a wait, so I was impressed to see a big pot of hot tea outside for waiting customers to enjoy.

Samusa soup

Burma Superstar isn't a vegetarian restaurant, which always leaves me a little on edge, but it has vegetarian offerings on the menu. However, although I haven't been mentioning this on my blog, I've been avoiding gluten for the last few months, and the items being ordered by my family to share were not ones I would have chosen. Since they were favorites of my son, and everyone else wanted them, I ordered a broccoli dish rather than sharing the other choices. The first item to arrive at the table was samusa soup, which I passed on.

Tea leaf salad and Rainbow salad (no shrimp)

We also had tea leaf salad and a noodle salad. Everyone loved these dishes though I can't offer personal comments since I didn't eat them.

Wok tossed broccoli

My broccoli was well-cooked and tasty, but surprisingly oily. I was hungry and wanted to eat it but there was only so much I could consume because of the greasiness. Would I go back to Burma Superstar? Probably not, though I might not be the best person to review the restaurant. Everyone else at my table and in the packed restaurant was enthusiastic.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we finished lunch but we went back to our son's apartment and did a walking tour of the neighborhood where he and Alison live, plus the Mission district. Then, even though I really didn't think I could walk one more step, my husband and I walked back to our apartment to rest a little before dinner at Gracias Madre.

Enchiladas con Mole (I think)

Gracias Madre was a restaurant I really wanted to experience, and I loved it. I had the enchiladas con mole — spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans, and it was just delicious. It was so dark in the restaurant that photography was impossible without a flash, and difficult with one, so you'll have to use your imagination. The food was impressive.

Quesadillas de Calabaza (maybe)

Alison got what she thought was going to be a smaller dish, but it was large and gorgeous. The menu describes it as butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. She was quite pleased with her choice, and I think the rest of us were a little jealous.


My husband ordered tacos — three corn tortillas topped with a choice of seasonal vegetables and cashew cheese, served with beans. My son had Chilaquiles — handmade corn tortillas quartered and sauteed in a spicy salsa roja, topped with avocado, cilantro, cashew crema and onions, and served with black beans. I believe everyone was very thrilled with their choices. (Read a great review of Gracias Madre, here.)

It's sad to think that Gracia Madre may be closed the next time we visit SF. I've heard rumors that it's possible not all of the Café Gratitude-connected restaurants will close, though it sure sounds like they are being sold. Anyone know anything about this?

Full disclosure: Any restaurant reviews are totally independent and not at the request of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.


  1. What a cute photo you and Ken! The hike looks spectacular, but I can't believe all you ate afterwards was just a little bit of broccoli! You must have been starving, but fair play to you not eating the stuff you didn't fancy...I think I would just scarfed it all down regardless. Too bad about the lunch just he same; eating is so much more fun when you've worked up a good appetite with exercise. Dinner looks like it made up for it though; it all sounds fabulous.

  2. Sounds like SF was a great trip overall - and I'm jealous of all the hiking around! I didn't know you're avoiding gluten lately, but luckily there are so many more options all the time. In my next post I'll have something about the gf and vegan dessert class K and I did last weekend!

  3. Rose,
    Thanks! It was a great hike, and I did eat a good amount of broccoli. Don't feel sorry for me, though. I ate plenty during our trip. Plenty.

    We had a great time and can't wait to go again. It's a great city and we walked our socks off. I look forward to reading about the desserts! I'm wondering if it was with the Green Owl baker?

  4. It looks like you had so much fun! San Francisco is a great city. If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to live there. I was disappointed when I heard that Gracias Madre may be closing. I've heard a lot of great things about it since it opened and I'd hoped to make it out there and try it for myself. It's surprising that there aren't more vegan Mexican restaurants since the cuisine lends itself so easily to that. Everything you and your group had there sounds wonderful.

  5. Phew! Thank goodness Gracias Madre saved the day because I was feeling really bummed by your earlier experience. I've heard so many great things & just ordered the I am Grateful cookbook.

  6. Cadry,
    It was a short, but great trip. SF is definitely not a cheap place to live, and I know people who have given up and moved someplace more affordable, but as you said, it's a really nice place to live.

    It is curious that more people haven't considered opening vegan Mexican restaurants. I'd go if there were one near me.

    Gracias Madre isn't raw like Cafe Gratitude, so I don't know how the recipes will compare, but I've read good things about the cookbook.

    Don't get me wrong about Burma Superstar — I'm picky about restaurants but everyone I was with really liked it. It was crazy busy so I'm sure the food appeals to most people.

  7. Glad you made it to Gracias madre. The photo of you and yr husband is very nice. It's been a long time since I've been to the West Coast but the weather looks fabulous. So nice for a hike.

  8. Sounds like another invigorating day of exercise and food! I'll have to check out both those restaurants, especially the second one, since it might be closing. I think I'll give Alison's dish a try - it looks gluttonous and amazing!

  9. Foodfeud,
    It was nice to leave Seattle and enjoy some sunshine and warmer temperatures. Although it can be 50 or 60 during the day in SF, the early morning and evening can be pretty cold. I liked Gracias Madre a lot and wish it would stay open so we could dine there again.

    I love when the food is balanced with exercise. You should definitely try to catch Gracia Madre before it closes — delicious.

  10. Gracias Madre looks like it has an absolutely amazing menu! If I ever make it to San Francisco - that's the first place on my list. ^^

  11. We had great weather during your visit here, glad you took advantage of it with the hike. Bummer on the lunch but glad you enjoyed Gracias Madre. I've been meaning to try them, hope they're going to be around for a long time. :-)

  12. Burma Superstar!!! My favorite SF restaurant! How cool to see it featured on your blog!

    My brother lives a 15 minute walk from that trail so I get to be spoiled with that amazing view of the bay often!

    Believe it or not, I have not been to Madre's but your review just gave me the final push to do so.

    Love your blog...thanks for all!!! CM

  13. Looks like you really enjoyed SF! I've been living here for almost 2 years now and Gracias Madre is definitely a popular place! I've been following the possible closing story and haven't heard anything new since November. They were supposedly looking for buyers and it was expected to take 3-6 months. I was hoping that GM would be spared, but it doesn't look likely.

  14. AikoVenus,
    I hope you get there before it closes. The entire group of restaurants owned by the Cafe Gratitude group are slated to close.

    Chow vegan,
    Better get to Gracias Madre soon, if you want to try it. Yes except for one blustery day, the weather was wonderful, and we walked our socks off.

    Burma Superstar seemed to be a very popular place! But you should definitely try to get to Gracias Madre before it closes.

    Thanks for your comments!

    San Francisco is a beautiful, exciting, very walkable city, and you're lucky to be living there. The downside is the very expensive housing.

  15. oh, no, that's the restaurant i've always wanted to visit. :0 i always think more cities should have a vegan mexican restaurant. glad you had a good trip to San Fran. i can't wait to go there one day.

  16. Jenny,
    I assume you mean Gracias Madre. I loved it, and wish there were one in Seattle — I'd be there all the time.


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