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Michael Bauer Drafts 2.5 Stars for San Mateo’s Family-Friendly Beer Hall

Also: The early reviews of Che Fico, Bauer’s notes from Henry’s in Berkeley, and old school Puerto Rican at La Perla in Oakland


Che Fico

The latest addition to the Divisadero Corridor is “a new classic,” Eater’s Rachel Levin writes this week, “a place that both fits right in — and stands out.” David Nayfeld and Angela Pinkerton’s menu of antipasti, pizzas, and “peasant comfort” foods manages to live up to the stratospheric levels of hype, Levin says, and the pastas especially blew our critic’s mind. “Not an easy feat in a town where house-made tagliatelle has become almost as ubiquitous as burritos.”

Over at the Weekly, Pete Kane agrees, for the most part, predicting Che Fico will land at the top of many Best Restaurant lists by the end of the year. They diverge, however, on their opinions of the mafaldini (Levin: “bland fava-leaf pesto”; Kane: “an eminently satisfying al dente flavor-bomb”) and the cocktails, which Kane found to be a weak point at the otherwise thoroughly exciting restaurant. Although Michael Bauer has yet to give us his official take, his instagrammed teaser reveals another thing all three critics can agree on: Che Fico has the most beautiful plate of chopped liver you’ll ever lay eyes on.


For a suburban beer hall, Wursthall in San Mateo has enjoyed a fair amount of hype thanks to co-owner J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s reputation as a down-to-earth kitchen wizard. After a positive review from the Weekly, Michael Bauer weighed in with a similar sentiment this week: despite the old school beers-n-brats concept, the restaurant is “modern and bright,” “quick and casual,” and the food is “just what it should be.” [Full disclosure: This Eater SF correspondent has, on occasion, survived for weeks on Kenji’s Instant Pot chicken chile verde recipe.]

You can’t go wrong with any of the “precisely cooked” $16 sausages, Bauer says, but the “appetizingly moist” portobello chicken sausage stood out amongst the frankfurters and Sheboygans. The toppings and sides, like the “must-try” sauerkraut or the better-every-time house-made potato salad, also scored points with Bauer — as did the Beets and Wheats salad from the appetizer section. With five more sandwiches, three kinds of fried potatoes, two kinds of pretzel and 30 taps to round out the menu, Bauer finds two and a half stars for a beer hall that is “particularly suited for drinkers and nondrinkers alike.”


While it’s not a starred review, Bauer also has some nice things to say about the new spin on collegiate bar food at Henry’s in Berkeley. The pub was known as both an undergrad watering hole and the scene of a fatal hostage incident in 1990, Bauer weirdly notes, before singing praise of its transformation under new the new banner of the Graduate Hotel. Now that Kronnerburger chef Chris Kronner and co-executive chefs Justin Huffman (former chef de cuisine of Kronnerburger, and whom Bauer fails to mention in his review) and Jeffery Hayden (Del Popolo) have taken over the kitchen, “the place can be cheered as much for its food as for its convenience for celebrating a Cal Bears victory.”

The renovations are as “casual and comfortable” as they are classic, Bauer says, and the new iteration “could have been around since the original hotel opened in 1928.” (Aside from that whole Prohibition thing, of course.) The cocktails are “first rate,” the French fries are “excellent” and the “gooey meat” of the roasted lamb neck show a level of sophistication not normally associated with college game day.

La Perla

In Oakland’s Dimond district, Express critic Janelle Bitker found generous portions, warm hospitality and “straight-up, old-school” Puerto Rican flavors at La Perla. Chef-owner Jose Ortiz took over the space after his former employer Borinquen Soul left it behind to operate as a pop-up at Brix 581. Although many of Borinquen Soul’s recipes were originally Ortiz’s to begin with, observant regulars might notice that the chef has added a little extra flair and technique that he had be saving up for his own personal endeavor. The whole roasted red snapper, for example, “offered the ideal duo of crispy skin and delicate meat” and made a “bountiful feast” for two, all for around $20. Ortiz also steps up the traditional mofongo into trifongo — adding sweet plantains and mashed yucca to the fried green plantains to create a “softer and creamier” mash with a “mélange of sweet and salty flavors.” Meanwhile, the joy of seeing Ortiz show off his work on a 12-hour pernil while playing host to a tiny dining room inside of a liquor store more than made up for the fact that the pork needed a bit more seasoning.


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