Under “normal” circumstances, the burgers I had in In-N-Out would have sufficed. OK, probably had I made the fries animal style as well and order a 3×3 (i.e. three beef patties). So, here is the reason why I didn’t: Given I was on vacation, why not make the most out of it? How? Well, how about another restaurant in the area? With so many options, though with the caveat of it being a touristy area, the obvious question was… Where? How about something San Francisco is known for? Namely sourdough bread? How about clam chowder? Or, how about clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl? Given that Chris went to the sit down area of Bistro Boudin and it was a bit of a let down, Sherman and I decided to go to the quick order area instead…
In addition to this order-serve-and-eat-outside/cafeteria type of place, it was also a market of sorts full of books, souvenirs and so on. Again, this is a touristy area, what else should I expect? After making our order, it was wait for them to call my name.
Did you think we came all the way just for a single dish? Ha! In addition to the chowder, we ordered a pizza made with their sourdough. And to further make it simple, it was the tomato, garlic and basil pizza. Now, had we ordered a third dish, for certain, I would have gone for the crab cakes; alas, it was only the two of us… Or, my twin or my other ego or…
Were the topings good? Well, it is a matter of perspective: on one side, there was no shortage of soft tomatoes, which had a side effect of making the base cheese and dough slightly mushy after a while. The garlic was still a bit raw, so it might be offensive to some people. The basil didn’t really “show up” because it was added before baking (hence “cooked” through).
As for the dough itself, it didn’t develop leopard spots; however, since they were using a small electric oven rather than a larger, hotter one (to bake the breads?), I guess I shouldn’t have set my expectations too high. Now, it wasn’t bad but, as usual, it could have been better. But what I thought failed was that the key “feature”, the sourdough, well, I don’t think I tasted much of it.
Now, here is something that can be interpreted in more than a way: they served the chowder in the bread bowl as soon as the order came in to the prep area. It can go both ways because soup starts to get cold but, at the same time, the bread “soaks” the creamy soup. We were wondering if we should have asked them to prep a new one but chose not to in the end.
The chowder was mixed: while it had clam taste and noticeable pieces of clam, the pieces of potatoes partially overwhelm them as well. Furthermore, there wasn’t much of an expected bacon taste. Did I miss it? Finally, the one thing I wished it was different was the consistency. Rather than creamy, it was starchy, most likely from all the potatoes. In my case, well, I prefer mine creamy.
As for the bread bowl, alas, once again, mixed feelings. It didn’t have that “crunchiness”, crusty, hard texture I prefer from a sourdough. However, the bread did soak some of the chowder and, by itself, it had some airy consistency. All in all, by itself, as bread… Well, it wasn’t as good as people touted it to be.
In the end, Bistro Boudin failed in some aspects and ended up being your tourist trap. In fact after our meal, I was wondering if we should have gone to some of the other nearby places selling chowder in a bowl; however, in the end, we didn’t. Given the location, I wasn’t too hopeful they were that different. Of course, I could be wrong, so if somebody point somewhere else, I will give it a try next time I am there. Just not Bistro Boudin.
(Side note: I have been told that, due to its location, i.e., a touristy area, the final product is sold at this location is at a higher price than inside town. Whether this is true or not, it does not have any major impact in its hype and food).