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Bay Area Food Writers Share Their Top Restaurant Standbys

Quite a few tacos were consumed

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Four tacos at the Xingones pop-up
Tacos from Xingones
Noah Cho

We asked a group of local restaurant critics, journalists, and other assorted, and uniformly brilliant, friends of Eater SF to weigh in on this past year in food. We’ll share their answers to the annual “Year in Eater” survey over the course of several posts during this next week. First up: The restaurants they returned to time and time again in 2019.

Janelle Bitker, food enterprise reporter at SF Chronicle: I developed a new habit of going to Ramen Shop for their only-on-Mondays tsukemen. If I went out for breakfast on any given weekend, it was 90% likely to be Standard Fare or Bartavelle. San Francisco lunches were most often at Bini’s, though I got very excited once Square Pie Guys started doing lunch.

Eve Batey, senior editor at Eater SF: Since I live in the Outer Sunset, almost all of my standbys are on the west side. I probably spent the most time at Violet’s negroni tap, Underdogs Too for breakfast burritos, and Celia’s by the Beach for comfort food.

Elena Kadvany, food reporter at Palo Alto Weekly: Zareen’s Palo Alto is two blocks away from our office, but I’d go well out of my way for owner Zareen Khan’s comforting Indian-Pakistani fare — for the chicken tikka masala, pillowy garlic naan, and complimentary chai. Whenever I’m in San Mateo I make a pilgrimage to two non-restaurants: Takahashi Market, for the fatty and filling salmon belly musubi, and Suruki Supermarket, whose daily half-off sale is the only line I feel good about waiting in. Get there before 6 p.m. so you don’t miss out on the best sashimi, umeboshi onigiri, and homemade mochi.

Soleil Ho, restaurant critic at SF Chronicle: I was really surprised by the House of Prime Rib, which I maintain is Chuck E. Cheese for boomers. I’ve gone a few times with a bunch of writer friends who initiated me in how to do HoPR right: understanding what my “order” was gonna be (English cut!), grabbing the off-menu items (beet horseradish!), and saving room for the dessert slice. I love places with unspoken rules and gestures like this.

Luke Tsai, editor at Eater SF: I live near Richmond’s 23rd Street corridor, which means I eat a lot of tacos — probably most frequently at Los Mexicanos (for their suadero and cueritos tacos and their massive carnitas tortas). Or else we go for back-of-the-liquor-store pupusas and jiggly Salvadoran-style tamales at Norma’s Meat & Deli. Weeknights are all about convenience: Definitely too many Krispy Krunchy fried chicken runs to count. On weekends, I like to bring the kids to New Dumpling, in El Cerrito, for perfect, two-bite dumplings and unapologetically greasy scallion pancakes.

Sarah Han, editor at Berkeleyside Nosh: I could eat at Tacos Oscar two to three times a week — it’s that good. Other spots on repeat are Teni East Kitchen, the Kebabery, Soba Ichi, Cafe Colucci, Cafe Reveille and TrueBurger. The Rice & Pickles lunches at Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley is a new favorite.

Becky Duffett, reporter at Eater SF: I can never stop downing the sparkling rosé and deviled eggs at Monsieur Benjamin, the big roast duck situation (with the liver pâté! with the peanut butter hoisin!) at Mister Jiu’s, and those raw trout tostadas with frizzled leeks at Cala.

Paolo Lucchesi, editorial director at Resy: Zuni, always. SPQR has been a restaurant that has been special to me since it opened, and I go there every fall. El Huarache. La Ciccia. Golden Boy. Hai Ky. Outerlands. Toyose. Old Mandarin.

Katherine Hamilton, restaurant critic at East Bay Express: Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement for hot sauce-marinated, rosemary-encrusted fried chicken. Italian Homemade Company for slices of lasagna the size of a brick and excellent gelato and tiramisu. Xingones at Fort Green Bar for tacos. Rio California whenever I need a nice pick-me-up during lunchtime at work — their chicken coxinhas and feijoada are sure to please, and I can’t get enough of their creamy salad dressing. La Grana Fish for weekend-morning aguachile verde with shrimp, fresh tuna tostadas, and quesabirria tacos with consome. And for a bigger group, I love Wojia for the awe-inspiring giant chafing dish stuffed with a whole fish, slices of lamb, and pretty much every vegetable you could imagine.