North Bay correspondent Carey Sweet steps in for The Big Fella today, trekking to Sebastopol to check in with the whereabouts of Larry Vito, the old Stanford Court chef who was once buddies with James Beard. Nowadays, Vito is living the dream up north with his BBQ Smokehouse eatery:
Vito treats his 'cue like cuisine. There's room for thoughtful touches like an appetizer of silky smoked salmon striped with tarragon tartar sauce ... the workhorse is an enormous industrial smoker parked outside a tiny kitchen. Stocked with apple, oak and nut wood, the contraption imparts a ruby hue and deep smoke flavorAs graceful as his smokey meats are, there are some shortcomings: some menu items miss the mark (overcooked potatoes, "super-sweet" lemonade), and Sweet does not appreciate the "upselling" practice of asking if she'd like a $1.50 beverage to accompany her meal. Oh, and Smokehouse has neither booze nor walls, so plan accordingly. In the end, it's a two-star affair for the parking lot BBQ spot. [Chron]
Paul Reidinger visits an old San Francisco chef in Yahya Salih, whose new restaurant, Jannah, redeems the once-gloomy Fulton Street space it now occupies: "Salih's other city endeavor, the four-year-old YaYa, manages to combine Iraqi and Californian influences to impressive effect, and Jannah does much the same thing, at a lower price point, as befits its quasi-college-town location ... All the main courses are $11, and, as if that weren't enough, the list includes dishes and ingredients you don't often see." [SFBG]
Matthew Stafford files the first take on Levende replacement Coda. The two-month-old jazz spot won't win any awards for its food, but that doesn't mean it's a complete fail: "The backlit bar is a swingin' place to hang out and enjoy the music. And while the food isn't always up to the joint's high spirits and 'Round Midnight vibe, the total package is well worth experiencing." [SFW]
THE ELSEWHERE: The MIJ's Tanya Henry has high hopes for San Rafael's Sabor of Spain, the EBX goes trendy at Oakland's newish Burma Superstar, the PressDem is at Sebastopol's Henweigh Cafe, the Merc finds people-watching at Palo Alto's University Cafe, Bar Bites continues the Fish & Farm buzz, Beer & Nosh has lots of pretty images from Nopa, and over the weekend, the Tower of Bauer handed out a pair of stars to 54 Mint.