The NFC championship game is on Sunday and features teams from two of America's best food cities, San Francisco and New York.
As a New Yorker and a serious Giants fan, I am going to try to overcome my intense, enormous bias towards my hometown food and team. 49ers fans should take some solace in the fact that we have some Bay Area natives at SEHQ to keep me in line.
Let's score the game by quarters, each with a different category: burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and frozen desserts.
First Quarter: Burgers
New York Giants: The burger battle is incredibly close and hard-fought. NY's non-cheffy, regular burgers, featuring the likes of Shake Shack (which can now be designated a local chain), FoodParc, and the brand-new-Gotham Steak 'n Shake, are pretty swell, and its fancypants burgers like Minetta Tavern and Prime Meats offer the deeply satisfying pleasure only burgers made with prime dry-aged can bring. And I recently discovered a phenomenal fancypants burger at Roberta's for $12 that may be worth twice that.
San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco's non-cheffy regular burgers at places like Joe's Cable Car (get the Patty Melt) are also really fine but don't quite rise to the level of their New York counterparts. SF's cheffy burgers feature the likes of Zuni Café's labor-intensive beauty and Serpentine's dry-aged beef burger on a fresh, soft, and butter-toasted roll on an Acme bun with house-pickled onions and bread-and-butters. Marlowe and Nopa both do a great job, too, according to SF Serious Eats writer Lauren Sloss. She also recommends the Tuesday night burger special at Rosamunde's. And if you're mentioning Shake Shack, you've gotta give credit to In-n-Out.
The Score: This battle comes right down to the wire, but at the end of the first quarter the score is Giants 7; 49ers 6.
But as the clock was winding down the 49ers are driving.
Second Quarter: Sandwiches
Both of these cities are phenomenal sandwich towns, so this is going to be another hard-fought quarter.
San Francisco 49ers: SF sandwiches that might have me moving to the Bay Area include the insane breakfast sandwich from 4505 Meats, the San Francisco Style Red Lox sandwich from Cap'n Mike's, and the Cuban from Boccalone (all three of which can be found at the insanely delicious Ferry Plaza Market). Moving beyond that excellent eater's destination, The Sentinel, Molinari, Ike's, and Pal's Takeaway all earn SF points. The legendary Tartine, too, if you can stand the line. And if we're including Oakland, then we should call out Bakesale Betty's glorious fried chicken sandwich.
New York Giants: The Giants can offer up the following sandwiches as they march down the field: the pastrami sandwich at Katz's (iconic and seriously delicious), any sandwich at Parm, the Heebster at Russ and Daughters, and house-cured ham and cheese sandwich from Gramercy Tavern.
The Score: I can't possibly give either city the edge in the sandwich department, so as the clock winds down in the first half, each team has scored a touchdown in the second quarter. The overall score is now 14 to 13 (Giants just barely ahead) as each team heads into the locker room.
Third Quarter: Pizza
San Francisco 49ers: As someone who has eaten many slices in both cities in the past ten years, I can tell you that New York's pizza dominance over the Bay Area is not that clear-cut any more. First of all, one of New York's (and America's for that matter) greatest pie men, Anthony Mangieri was traded last year to San Francisco. Mangieri's Una Pizza Napoletana is bolstered by quite a few slices of pizza heaven in town, including Bruce Hill's Pizzeria Picco, Charlie Hallowell's Pizzaiolo, Craig Stoll and Anthony Strong's Pizzeria Delfina, Flour + Water, as well as Emilia's in Berkeley, thereby giving the Bay Area a whole pie's worth of great pizzerias. Lauren Sloss, Seth Mazow, and David Kover point us to Patxi's and Little Star for great deep-dish, and Tony's Pizzeria Napoletana should count for points, too.
New York Giants: But even with Mangieri's loss, New York is still no slouch when it comes to great pizza. We've of course got (and all of these have been loved on SE many times before) Motorino, Paulie Gee's in Greenpoint, Totonno's in Coney Island, DiFara's in Midwood, Best Pizza in Williamsburg, and Roberta's in Bushwick (I could keep going..) give no pizza ground up.
The Score: In fact, I have to give New York the edge based on pizza diversity, 7 to 6. So going into the final quarter the Giants are leading the 49ers 21-19. Damn we are headed for an intense and exciting food finish. What a game and what a meal, for that matter.
Fourth Quarter: Ice Cream and Gelato
San Francisco 49ers: There is no doubt about it; San Francisco is one helluva ice cream town these days. Bi-Rite Creamery's ice cream is creamy and intensely flavored, Humphrey Slocombe's flavors are more fanciful, sometimes even downright whimsical but they almost always make sense, and Mitchell's exotic flavors and creamy texture should also not be missed. Three Twins is a great local producer, and there's Ciao Bella in the Ferry Building. Both Bay Area native Carey Jones and SF writer Lauren Sloss recommend Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous in the Dogpatch. SF even scores points in the soft-serve department; many places serve Straus Creamery's soft serve with extraordinary toppings, including Zero Zero and Pizzeria Picco. (Bi-Rite's got soft serve too.)
New York Giants: Though New York can't match either Bi-Rite or Humphrey, they can counter with much of the ice cream and gelato found in Brooklyn these days. BKLYN Larder's fior di latte gelato, Ample Hills Creamery's salted crack caramel, and Blue Marble's classic strawberry. As for pastry-cheffy gelato, I'm not sure SF has an answer for Meredith Kurtzman's insanely delicious offerings at Otto. Her olive oil gelato will be the one all others will be judged by. As for soft serve and frozen custard, Big Gay Ice Cream may score a field goal for its name and personality alone, and of course Shake Shack's frozen custard is ever-reliable.
The Score: I'm going to give SF the edge in this quarter, but barely, 7-6, because there's no denying it's one of the best ice cream towns in the country.
Giants 27, 49ers 26. Was I biased? Do tell, serious eaters.