Bahn Mi and More on a Food Tour of Hayes Valley with Gourmet Walks, San Francisco

Can you believe I’d never had a bahn mi sandwich before taking a food tour of Hayes Valley with Gourmet Walks in San Francisco? I had seriously been missing out. A bahn mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made with traditional ingredients like pickled carrots, cucumber and jalapeno. It’s all the rage on the culinary scene lately, with pop-ups emerging on every corner claiming to make the best of the bunch.

There’s no better place to try a bahn mi sandwich than San Francisco. A major port to Asia, it is one of the few places that has both a Chinatown and Japantown. The oriental influences are strong in this coastal city, and that leads to a wide variety of asian cuisine for guests to enjoy.


I had the pleasure of navigating the city with Gourmet Walks, a company specializing in food tours. They only partner with the best, and are a must-try for foodies in the Bay Area. In fact, on my tour we were accompanied by professional recipe creators for cooking companies and magazines. It was evident we chose wisely.

Here’s what you need to know to taste your way around one of San Francisco’s hippest areas!

About Gourmet Walks

Gourmet Walks San Francisco receives consistently high reviews on TripAdvisor because of their knowledgable staff, high-end partners and generous portions. Tours typically last 3 hours, but you will barely notice the time passing as you make your way through the neighborhood, learning while snacking along the way.

For instance, I had no idea that Hayes Valley was meant to serve as an alternative to brick and mortar shops to make it easier for newer brands to emerge. They buildings are more transitional in nature, made from shipping containers, and there’s a zoning exception in place on behalf of the Hayes Valley Community Association that limits the region to businesses with 11 locations or less.

Gourmet Walks initially started as a chocolate tour (because who doesn’t love chocolate?) but expanded to include tours of Alamo Square, Fillmore Street, Russian Hill and more. You can view the calendar and reserve your spot on their website. Hurry, spots book quickly and they limit the tours to ensure you get all the attention of a small group.

Where is Hayes Valley?

Hayes Valley is a charming neighborhood tucked away near Alamo Square and South of Market. It is easily accessible my MUNI, Uber or even walking if you’re in the vicinity. In recent years, Hayes Valley has morphed into the artistic hub it is today, with rotating art sculptures throughout the main park, Patricia’s Green.

On a nice day, you’ll hear musicians playing for tips and kids laughing in the children’s park. This is a favorite spot among locals, and a vast improvement from the freeway that once occupied the land.

Stops on the food tour

Food tour of Hayes Valley with Gourmet Walks San Francisco

The food tour includes 7 stops in all. At the beginning, you’re given a list of all the partners, including their address and telephone numbers. You eat at about 3/4 of the places listed.

Our tour specifically included everything from cured meats to falafel to gingerbread cupcakes. I always worry when I go on a food tour that I’ll leave hungry, and this was especially true in San Francisco since I’d skipped breakfast that morning and went in ravished. I was happy to see that my fears were unfounded, and that I left stuffed and contended thanks to Gourmet Walks.

Benefits of a guided food tour

While you can surely stop at all these restaurants yourself, there are some added benefits to going in a group. First, you’re often greeted by the owner or manager in order to get a better introduction to the restaurant. Your guide can answer question on the spot. Our guide, Maria Antonia, had been living in the area for years and was excited about every new spot that had opened up during that time.

There’s also an added benefit as a solo traveler since you meet so many other people on a food tour. The size is manageable enough for you to get to know everyone and walk at your own pace.

Finally, it’s ambitious to go to so many places in a short period of time. Going on a tour encourages you to make the most out of your visit and experience dining options you would not have seen otherwise.

Know before you go

It’s advised that you wear comfortable shoes and show up 10 minutes before your tour is set to depart. Don’t fill up beforehand, and make sure to let your guide know if you have any food allergies or preferences.

Bring cash to tip afterwards, though your meals are paid for and included in the price of your ticker. Also, bring a bottle of water.

Our last stop included beer and wine, but there was a soda-option for anyone with a non-alcoholic preference.

Overall, I definitely recommend spending part of your day with Gourmet Walks San Francisco. And if, like me, you finally get to try a bahn mi, your taste buds will thank you.


Till next time, safe travels!

Liked this post? Pin me below.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a discount on my tour. All opinions are my own. 


2018-08-27T00:44:41+00:0014 Comments


  1. Jenn and Ed Coleman November 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Looks super yum. We love food tours. We have taken a couple of food tours in Tijuana and it was really fun (yummy… interesting…) I think the operators do a great job of mixing the “Must see” places with hidden gems. You get to see and taste so much more with the walking / small bite format than you would just ubering in and picking the top Yelp eatery.

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 11:04 pm - Reply

      I completely agree! even if not every dish is a hit, or the guide isn’t as animated as your last one, you really can’t go wrong with a variety of food in a new place!

  2. Juliann November 20, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Yum, yum, YUM! I love food tours and San Francisco is such a food mecca. I would definitely take one of these Gourmet Walks. I hope there’s lots of walking involved because I’d need to keep moving so that I could enjoy every single bite!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      Haha there was plenty of walking, thankfully San Fran has the weather for it. I had no idea how much I was missing in this city!

  3. Susan Ripley November 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Yum! I love Banh Mi and this photo has me salivating. I just took my first food tour recently in Spain and it’s converted me. I loved how much I learned and appreciated the food, culture, and history much more than I would have if I was on my own. This company looks like an awesome choice for SF!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      All the yes here!! I am obsessed with the food in Spain, can’t think of a better place to eat till you drop!

  4. Ivy November 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I loooove banh mi. That first pic is making me salivate. I’ve never taken a guided food tour just because I’m a picky eater and I don’t want to be wasteful or not get my money’s worth, haha! Everything you tried on this tour sounds delicious though

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      That’s a fair point! And some of the tours can be costly for sure. Maybe a specialized one where you know you’ll like everything served, like a chocolate tour!

  5. Cat November 23, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I love going on food tour like this! The guide takes you to all the great local food spots that normally tourists wouldn’t know! All you need to do is enjoy the food 🙂

  6. Ashley Hubbard November 25, 2017 at 3:58 am - Reply

    I absolutely love food tours – I just did the best vegan one in Dublin. It showed me places and options I would have never found on my own!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 3:21 am - Reply

      They’re the best! I’ve been on a few already and you can’t go wrong 🙂

  7. Allison Wong November 25, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Food tour is the best way to discover new food in the city! San Francisco is such a melting pot even with exotic food like the Vietnamese bahn mi could be found.

    • Jen on a Jet Plane November 29, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      I fell in love with San Francisco! Have to go back for Japantown and eat everything there haha 🙂

Leave A Comment