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True Laurel Gave Michael Bauer Cocktail Anxiety

Also: Pete Kane on Botellón’s arrival in the Castro and a two-for-one barbecue review in the East Bay

Patricia Chang

True Laurel

Confronted with cocktail jargon like “Jersey lightning” and “fermented shinko tonic,” Michael Bauer says he was struck with “a rush of anxiety” he hasn’t felt in forty years while dining at True Laurel. With a little help from his server, Bauer waded into a couple of bar director Nicolas Torres’s creations like the Top Dawg (“tasted like something you might get in a Japanese restaurant”) and the A-Dilla (“the smell reminded me of ham”) before Chef David Barzelay’s “intricately conceived” menu calmed him down.

The Dungeness crab fondue dusted with Old Bay seasoning and served with sourdough toast, chips and an array of veggies garnered a “must-order” rating from Bauer, as did the fried mushrooms with a “modern” onion dip. The parade of hits continues with the “conversation starter” load baked potato topped with bacon miso butter and bonito flakes, a “filling” bone broth ramen, and a “stomach bomb” patty melt griddled in rendered beef fat. All together, Bauer says Barzelay and Torres have created a three-star “winning formula.”

Bauer Blog

This week’s fast-casual hits from Bauer include a return to the “warm embrace” of La Ciccia in Noe Valley and Napa’s “little-known gem” Miminashi. At the former, Chef Massimiliano Conti pays a fitting tribute to the island with dishes like a “smoky herbaceous” octopus stew and lamb tenderloin doused in saba. The latter, meanwhile, has become Bauer’s go-to Napa recommendation after two years in business. Come for the “superb” chawanmushi and 125-item Cocktail Rolodex, but stay for the yellowfin sashimi and the kombu-grilled albacore belly.


In the Castro, the Weekly’s Pete Kane has high hopes that Botellón could do well in the neighborhood’s “fragile” restaurant scene. Even though it falls into the “increasingly flabby” New American genre, Kane says there are plenty of wonderful dishes on the menu, like a gooey potato bomba, ahi carpaccio and an “eminently satisfying” funghi pizza. While the lamp pops were merely “competent,” the pork chop had “a lot of action for less than $20.” In fact, the biggest misfire seems to be the “glib inanity” of the names on the cocktail list.

Smokin’ Woods and Roderick’s BBQ

In the East Bay, Janelle Bitker says “there hasn’t been a better time in recent memory to feast on smoked meat.” And the word must already be out because Smokin’ Woods, the perma-pop-up inside Forage Kitchen, regularly sells out of its forearm-sized, Fridays-only beef ribs before 2 p.m. But diners won’t be disappointed if they miss the ribs because of chef James Woodard’s brisket, which Bitker declared “the best I’ve tried in California,” and the “unusually substantial” beef links. Rounding out the menu are a trio of “truly excellent” sides like baked beans, and crispy mac n’ cheese and an “ideal version” of potato salad.

The barbecue tour continues at Roderick’s in East Oakland, where Bitker found a stand-out, “helplessly soft” pulled pork sandwich and a rack of “remarkably juicy and tender” smoked ribs. While the brisket came out slightly dry, the smoked chicken was actually “more satisfying than beef” and Chef Roderick knows not to mess around too much with the sides, including a “gloriously savory and meaty” batch of collard greens.

True Laurel

753 Alabama Street, , CA 94110 (415) 341-0020 Visit Website


821 Coombs St, , CA 94559 (707) 254-9464 Visit Website