I knew the history growing up around crab rangoon. It wasn’t a very easy to find appetizer, but suddenly I started hearing people talk about it again on YouTube when I suddenly noticed Asian vloggers telling you that it’s not authentic Chinese food. They’re right, it’s authentic San Franciscan food.
I never saw crab rangoon offered at any of the Chinese restaurants in the City and I even started trying to find it on the menus and finally found it at one restaurant in the Outer Sunset. Oddly enough it’s easier to find at the Hawaiian restaurants you’ll find around the Bay Area, but it’s rare at Chinese restaurants.
So here’s the funny thing about all this. While crab rangoon was invented and first served at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville before moving on their locations it’s nearly impossible to find today in San Francisco. Yet when I moved back east to Northampton, Massachusetts every Chinese restaurant sells it. The grocery stores even sell frozen packages of it.
If you have no idea what crab rangoon is [and you’ll quickly see why it’s not authentic Chinese] it’s a fried appetizer that consists of a won-ton skin filled with crab, green onions and…cream cheese. Tastes great in my opinion, but definitely not Chinese. Vic Bergeron took a few liberties when he built his Tiki Bar empire with some of the recipes he introduced.
If you can find it in San Francisco you should try it. I rather like it and you can point out as I do that it’s an authentic San Franciscan dish.
I was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.
It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.
The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.
When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.