Michael Bauer and his Oakland-phobic friends journeyed across the Bay to pay a visit to Starline Social Club, the 60-seat bar and restaurant with a 400-person ballroom on the second floor. Bauer spent a lot of time describing the “salvaged” look of the place and the “bearded, well-tattooed” and yoga mat-carrying patrons, all which contribute to him concluding it “may look like a dive.” That is, until he tries the food and drink. “The food belies the surroundings,” he wrote, calling out the beer-battered onion rings as “one of my favorite dishes of the year.” The pork banh mi “was as good as what I had at the most famous stand at the main market in Hanoi,” he said, and while the collard greens that come with the half fried chicken “would make a discerning Southerner swoon,” the chicken itself “didn’t have the same allure as the onion rings; the heavy coating fell off in big sheets leaving bland steamed skin and flesh.” Despite the (mostly) knockout food, Bauer said the experience varies widely between visits and one night “felt amateurish and half-cocked” as not much food was available and service was “lackadaisical.” In the end, Bauer “walked away wondering what Starline Social Club really wants to be,” concluding it’s “not quite a restaurant and not quite a bar” and “still finding its way.” 2 stars. [The Chron]
For his weekly update, Bauer headed to Frascati in Russian Hill and experienced “deja vu” with the “familiar as an old friend” menu and even “the same man” sitting at the counter having dinner. The “pillowy” gnocchi “was as satisfying as on previous visits” and the roast chicken had “skin almost as brittle as if it were fried,” even though it was “oversalted.” Overall, “there’s not an ounce of pretension in this food or service, which is as good as you’ll find at much more expensive restaurants — but with a particularly friendly edge.” It all adds up to “the right formula to appeal to this charming neighborhood.” 2 ½ stars. [The Chron]
Did Peter Kane like The Advocate in Berkeley? Kinda sorta maybe is the TL;DR version. The deep dive version: “...while The Advocate serves many lovely dishes, a few basic errors (most dealing with temperature) made it hard to justify the price,” he wrote. The “standouts” included chickpea fries, chicken liver and “dreamy” lamb sugo with pappardelle. But the heirloom tomato and cucumber salad was “a wash” and the $25 pork loin was “straight up baffling.” “It was an underdone dish in terms of concept and execution, and for that price, unacceptable,” he wrote. Other lapses included not swapping out dirty dishes and an automatic 20 percent service charge, but Kane praised the good acoustics and “pretty damn good” cocktails. It seemed like a straight 50/50 split of things he liked and did not, though he concluded that overall, The Advocate “isn't quite enough Moroccan bang for the buck.” [SF Weekly]
“There’s nothing precious” about Shakedown in the Tenderloin, Anna Roth wrote of the organic ice cream shop with “scoops, sundaes, shakes and smoothies” that “offer a worthy competition to the Humphry Slocombes, Bi-Rites and others of our world” Daily-changing flavors have ingredients like “whiskey and goat cheese, and are served in gluten-free waffle cones and bowls.” Roth calls out the shop’s best seller, the Jacker Crack, a popcorn-infused ice cream with dulce de leche and crushed peanut brittle, as “destined to become their Secret Breakfast.” It’s all so good that “sometimes a new flavor can sell out in an afternoon.” Safe to say Roth loves the place. [The Chron]
This week, Luke Tsai is pleased that the East Bay now has two “plucky entrepreneurial efforts” selling authentic arepas. Miss Arepita, a traveling arepa purveyor, sells arepas that are “puffy and almost snowy-white, with just a hint of color and a thin film of crispiness all around their surface. The downside was that the wetness of the fillings made these prone to sogginess, which meant the arepa sandwiches started to fall apart after a while,” Tsai wrote. Those fillings were worth it, though, particularly the reina pepiada, or chicken salad, which was “perfectly balanced — savory, moist, and just rich enough,” and Tsai’s favorite. Then there’s Venezuelan Cafe in West Berkeley, a pop-up held in the Vietnamese Cafe V. The arepas here are “crispier and more well-blistered” than Miss Arepita’s, leading to a more “sog-resistant sandwich vessel,” and Tsai preferred them ultimately. He also recommends the tequeños, or “stretchy cheese sticks that were wrapped in a pastry crust and deep-fried” and the empanadas. Venezuelan Cafe was started by by the dishwasher’s wife, and it’s been so successful that Cafe V is turning Venezuelan full-time next month. “Given how tasty everything at the popup version has been, there's good reason to be excited,” he concluded.