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Bay Area Food Insiders Relied on These Restaurants in 2020

Where those in the know went for takeout during this tumultuous year

The fried chicken at Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement was a 2020 go-to for activist, author, and chef Preeti Mistry
Minnie Bell’s/Instagram

We asked a group of local writers, restaurant industry voices, and other assorted, and uniformly brilliant, friends of Eater SF to weigh in on this past year in food (and what a year it was). We’ll share their answers to this, the annual “Year in Eater” survey, over the course of several articles over the next two weeks. First up: Their regular, go-to destinations for takeout and delivery in 2020.

First and foremost, the stalwart Funky Elephant. If there’s any East Bay restaurant I was desperate to see survive, that’s the one. The other key players for me were Vik’s Chaat House, June’s Pizza, and Prizefighter, the latter for cocktails to-go. I often started my day with 900 Grayson’s perfect $6 breakfast sandwich. — East Bay-based novelist Robin Sloan, the author of (among others) Sourdough and The Strange Case of the New Golden Gate

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, Maverick Jacks in Burlingame, Coco Ramen, and Palm City Wines. — San Francisco restauranteur Rica Sunga-Kwan, the owner of Portola District ice cream shop Churn Urban Creamery

I ordered a lot of Burma Love because at some points the only option for excitement in my day was food that was bold and spicy. And because I could add on a container of the spicy fermented tea leaf dressing and Burmese crunchy mix for “DIY” tea leaf salads. I also ordered too much pizza (Slice House, Square Pie Guys, Beretta) because if not now, when, and because pizza will always be the food that travels best? Oh, and Bacon Bacon continued to be my hangover savior. It’s way too close to my apartment. I probably need to move. — SF food writer Daisy Barringer

Once shelter in place hit, I probably stayed within a five-mile radius of my home in Richmond like 95 percent of the time. That meant lots of dumplings and scallion pancakes from New Dumpling, tofu stews and popcorn chicken from Gangnam Tofu, and whatever new thing (chirashi bowls, black curry, fruit sandos, etc., etc.) B-Dama’s Chikara Ono was selling out of the Berkeley Bowl West Cafe. Also more El Garage quesabirria than I care to admit. — Eater SF food editor Luke Tsai

Well, we made a transition at the beginning of the pandemic to living full-time in Russian River area. So, at first when we were moving out of our house in Oakland in May/June we were definitely hitting up many of our fav spots in Oakland to stock up. The Cook and Her Farmer for the burger, Minnie Bell’s fried chicken and the BEST mac ‘n cheese, Cosecha for chicken tinga and carnitas with stacks of fresh made tortillas and all the yummy salsas and guacamole. Up here our local favs have been The Backyard Forestville, Boon Eat + Drink and most of all Pizza Leah in Windsor. — Chef, activist, and author Preeti Mistry

I live in the Outer Sunset, and I’ve been committed to ordering from my favorite neighborhood spots regularly — poke burritos from Hook Fish (at least once a week), pies from the Pizza Place on Noriega (with ample over-ordering for days of delicious leftovers), Expresso burritos and pitchers of house margaritas to-go from Celia’s, chicken wings and kimchi pancakes from Toyose, enormous spreads from Old Mandarin Islamic, and body-and-soul-healing bowls of pho from Yummy Yummy. I’ll go further afield for long-time favorites — focaccia sandwiches from Mario’s, especially — and special occasions. Nopa, Che Fico, and La Ciccia still feel damn special, though I miss those dining rooms so much. — San Francisco food writer Lauren Sloss

Like everyone else, I gravitated towards what was most comforting, and in my case, that meant lots of carbs and fried things. I ate too many bagels from Boichik until my pants stopped fitting well and I had to stop. I ate a bunch of True Burger meals and fried chicken sandwiches from Bakesale Betty, along with ones from World Famous Hotboys, Mago and Hawking Bird. Flavorful stews and curries are other dishes I crave, and Annapurna in Old Oakland (which does its own delivery), Vik’s in Berkeley, Teni East Kitchen and Pyeongchang Tofu House in Temescal are just a few favorites when I need some warming. Finally, it’s not new, but it’s a new go-to for me: Patatas Kitchen in Emeryville. Everything on the menu is fresh, flavorful and it’s affordable too. My regular order is the chicken plate that comes with two sides and a sauce. — Berkeleyside Nosh editor Sarah Han

Honestly, I wouldn’t have made it through 2020 without Bernadette Melvin. I went to Bernie’s (coffee shop) every single day the first few months of lockdown, and as the neighborhood says, it’s not just coffee, it’s therapy. Per usual, I will be shocked at the end of the year to do my receipts and realize just how many egg sandwiches and grandma-style cake slices I’ve eaten at Black Jet. And I’ve taken so much comfort from Besharam’s mostly veggie Gujarati menu, especially the slow-simmered saags and stuffed rotis. — Eater SF reporter Becky Duffett

Old Mandarin Islamic, Hook Fish, White Cap, Toyose, and Aziza were all repeats. — Resy editorial director (and Eater SF’s founding editor) Paolo Lucchesi

I ordered the bucket of Thomas Keller’s fried chicken from Ad Hoc about once a month. Also, Bistro Don Giovanni because the hearty Italian dishes give me great comfort! — Napa food writer Jess Lander

My two main go-tos didn’t change — Little Star and RT Rotisserie remained favorites when I needed to treat myself. — SFist editor Jay Barmann

I live less than half a block from Palm City, so almost every day they’re open I likely grab something from there, be that a salad, a side, or a beer. Before it was shuttered by fire, Underdogs Too was my weekly breakfast burrito spot, and Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica is my special weekend pastry treat destination. When they pop up at Speakeasy Brewing, I always try to grab something from the Vegan Hood Chefs, and on my way home to eat it I usually grab a margarita from Celia’s by the Beach. And when I really really want comfort food, I’m all about the sesame prawns at Tsing Tao #1 with, if it’s open, the tea leaf salad and samusa soup at Pagan, just up the street. — Eater SF editor Eve Batey

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