In June I traveled to San Francisco for a conference. Not only was it colder than I expected, but I was far busier than I anticipated. I thought I’d have time to go out for dinner at night. But working a conference and attending one are far different experiences. Anyway, I ate hotel food for about three days before I decided to go AWOL for dinner. A teammate of mine had disappeared every night for a drink at the spot across the street. He said the food was good, but I wasn’t convinced. Annabelle’s looks like that same bar that’s across the street from every hotel with dry burgers, frozen chicken fingers and bland quesadillas. Boy was I wrong.
When some of other girls my age who were working the conference invited me to dinner, I accepted. The only thing visible from the hotel lobby was the bar area at Annabelle’s. So when we walked in and saw into the dining area and kitchen I was more impressed.
Most of the men at the conference were at least my father’s age and hilariously unafraid to flirt with a twenty-something (which, PS is totally unflattering– hence the abrupt dismissals). While waiting for a table we encountered a man waiting to dine alone. During our brief conversation, we shared that we were celebrating a birthday and learned that he had daughters our age. He wished the birthday girl the best. When we reached our table he’d sent over champagne, but he disappeared before we could thank him. Super sweet and exactly what we needed to wake up our palates before our appetizers.
The appetizer menu was not at all what I expected. No jalapeno poppers, hot wings or anything of that nature. This place offered real food: oysters Rockefeller, bacon wrapped prawns and arugula pesto pizza. I like to try calamari wherever I go, but I had the [nearly debilitating] craving for raw meat that comes every month. The other ladies ordered soup and calamari. I ordered the beef carpaccio. When it arrived, everyone stared at my plate like i had ordered a Tru Blood. “What is it,” someone finally asked. I explained that it’s thinly sliced raw meat dressed with a mustard sauce and capers. They nodded skeptically and declined to try it, which was fine because I ate it all before they finished their soups. It was exactly what I needed. I felt more like myself after.
For an entree, I ordered the ciopinno, a tomato based seafood stew. DELISH. I’d had it in Savannah, but only as an appetizer. A full bowl was just what I needed. This was a true taste of San Francisco. I’d always thought cioppino was an Italian dish. Not so. It’s a San Francisco thing. That was probably my favorite thing about the trip.
The verdict: I DEFINITELY recommend Annabelle’s Bar and Bistro (at least the cioppino)– even if you aren’t staying in the hotel across the street.