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Hahdough’s bienenstich
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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Mining the latest dining gems SF has to offer

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Even with dining rooms closed for the coronavirus crisis, the Bay Area remains an exciting place to eat — but when you’re stuck at home it’s ever harder to think beyond your usual spots. Fortunately, Eater’s editors take our responsibility to steer you toward fresh new takeout options and hidden delivery gems seriously, (with the recycling bins filled with takeout containers to prove it). We report all of our most exciting finds here, so check back each week to find out what you should be eating, too.


December 18

Fried chicken and latkes from Firefly

Fried chicken from Firefly Becky Duffett

During Hanukkah, I like to catch a cozy reservation at Firefly in Noe Valley, which not only serves crispy latkes this time of year, but also crackling fried chicken all of the time. Going all in on the fried theme, I picked up both for takeout, and was pleasantly surprised that not only did they hold up in transit, but were accompanied by hilarious reheating instructions. A detailed one-sheet states, “As we all know, fried chicken is good. And it will be good hot, warm, tepid, cold, and maybe even frozen.” You could reheat your chicken in the oven or the microwave, if you must, but when it comes to biscuits, “Here we have to draw the line. DO NOT MICROWAVE YOUR BISCUITS, either literally or figuratively.” Emphasis is the restaurant’s own, and this continues at length. I think of Firefly as a neighborhood gem that flies under the radar, but when I posted to social media, numerous friends responded, from near and far, saying how much they loved and missed the spot, remembering first dates and festive holidays. Firefly, your fans miss you, but thank you for serving up delicious takeout in signature style. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Mochi Doughnuts at Mochitto Bo

Takeout container of oblong mochi doughnuts, with three dipping sauces Luke Tsai

Every other week, it seems like, B-Dama chef Chikara Ono introduces the East Bay to another culinary curiosity — another Japanese food item that doesn’t seem to be on offer anywhere else in the area. The latest: Ono’s take on mochi doughnuts, which he’s selling under the brand name Mochitto Bo — part of his expanding depachika, or Japanese department store food hall, concept that he’s operating out of the Berkeley Bowl West Cafe right now: black curry, milk bread sandwiches, and, now, these mochi doughnuts, all sold side by side out of the same storefront. Mochi doughnuts have been trending in the Bay Area for a hot minute now, but most places are essentially serving copycats of the bouncy Mister Donut style. Ono’s version doesn’t resemble a traditional doughnut so much as it does fried mochi, super-stretchy and served still hot, with a variety of sweet custard dipping sauces like matcha and black sesame. These aren’t the kind of doughnuts you’ll leave sitting in the box. For now they’re available on a pop-up basis only — the next edition is this Saturday at Berkeley Bowl West. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Bienenstich from Hahdough

Hahdough’s bienenstich
Eve Batey

The folks at Hahdough would likely be dismayed to know that I deployed their bienenstich as a birthday cake, but let me explain. Hahdough is the only traditional German konditorei-style cafes in the city, and one of the few places to get one of the country’s most iconic desserts, which is also known as beesting cake. My husband, who was born in Heidelburg, has been homesick of late, talking about his hometown’s holiday night markets (all closed this year as coronavirus surges) and desserts. So when I went to order him a birthday cake and saw this one with a description that included the phrases “a favorite memory of home for many Germans” and “looking to impress that one German you know? This is it,” I was sold. I went with the six-inch size, since I didn’t know how well its multitudes of vanilla cream would hold in the long run, and am regretting it now: we polished off the entire thing last night. But that cream as well as its yeasty cake and honeyed almonds would would be great with the coffee I’m drinking this morning. Next year, maybe I’ll get him a more dessert-y style cake for nighttime, and a tiny beesting for the morning after. — Eve Batey, editor


December 11

Happy Birthday Pizza at Raymond’s Pizzeria

Whole pizza in the box, topped with deep cupping pepperoni and dots of fresh mozzarella Luke Tsai

The last time I had the “Happy Birthday” pizza at Raymond’s Pizzeria was on my literal birthday — because what else are you going to order when you see that on the menu on your special day? This time, I got it on a random Wednesday to help get me through that mid-week slump, and the pie felt just as celebratory: about as many rounds of pepperoni as years I’ve existed in this world (the deep cupping kind, perfect for collecting little pools of salty pizza grease), festive dots of fresh mozzarella, and a glorious slick of oil rarely found on pizzas on this coast. But the crust is the thing at Raymond’s — so crunchy-chewy and beautifully blistered that it really did feel like a gift. — Luke Tsai, food editor

The unagi don from Konomama

Eve Batey

Konomama’s a rarity on the city’s west side, a Richmond District Japanese curry joint with a bounty of purposefully vegan, vegetarian, and seafood-only dishes well-suited to San Francisco diners’ political/dietary preferences. This menu item is small but mighty, a 16-oz takeout container filled to the brim with sweetly teriyaki-ed unagi, sharply pickled vegetables, and rich, filling black-and-white rice. It was everything I needed in a meal (sweet, sour, salt, protein, fiber, and grains) in one compact package. And it’s only $12, which seems incomprehensible given the clear quality of the ingredients. On top of all that, it travels extraordinarily well — the rice acts as a nice heating element, keeping the entire dish pleasantly temperate until I got it all the way home. — Eve Batey, editor

Coffee cinnamon roll from Astranda Bakery

I finally got my sticky paws on the coffee cinnamon bun from Astranda, and can confirm that it is in fact a sugar- and caffeine-spun dream, and worth the hype. Astranda is another new bakery popping up during the pandemic, and the buns are currently available on Wednesdays at Elda, on Thursdays and Saturdays at Excelsior Coffee and Magnolia Mini Mart, or on Fridays for delivery. But they go fast, so get ’em while they’re hot. There’s a deep caramel color to the crumb, which spirals into a soft and tender center, but the real kicker is both a coffee glaze and a coffee cream cheese frosting, which balances sweet with a touch of bitter. I actually watched Lea Sabado from Excelsior Coffee chase Eric Chow of Astranda down the street, because he forgot to drop off a tub of the frosting, and I really don’t blame her. Look, cinnamon rolls are supposed to be a sugar-intensive experience, but they’re just better with coffee. — Becky Duffett, reporter


December 4

Combination salad from Swan Oyster Depot

Swan Oyster Depot’s combination salad
Eve Batey

Polk Street’s Swan Oyster Depot is known for excellent seafood, long lines, and their strict anti-website policy, something that’s been sorely tested during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the spot hasn’t closed down once since the crisis began, pivoting to takeout only, building an outdoor dining space, and perhaps most improbably, joining Instagram. These days, they’re also available on Caviar (the only non-cash method to purchase their goods). After days and days of Thanksgiving leftovers, I wedged myself out of the house and into their door, cash in hand, for Swan’s combination salad: that’s shrimp, crab, and prawns on lettuce. Some folks get it Louie style, but I went oil and vinegar (as revealed by the SF Chronicle, it’s a combination of Dijon mustard and crab fat so come on), then, unable to wait any longer after days of just carbs, I wolfed it down on the bench of a nearby park. Simple and perfect, as always. — Eve Batey, editor

Fried Glutinous Rice Balls at Wojia Hunan

Fried glutinous rice balls topped with chiles and fermented black beans, in a takeout container Luke Tsai

Growing up in a Chinese-Taiwanese immigrant family, tang yuan were always a favorite holiday treat, eaten yearly during the winter solstice — or just whenever my dad got a craving, which was often). Typically, we’d eat these glutinous rice balls, stuffed with black sesame paste (my favorite) or other sweet fillings — plain in a bowl of hot, watery broth. It wasn’t until I started going to Albany’s Wojia Hunan, and discovered their fried glutinous rice balls, that I really knew of any other way to eat them. Everything is delicious at this little Hunan restaurant, especially if you like fiery and smoky flavors in your Chinese food, but the rice balls are the dish I can’t stop eating, and thinking about, every single time I get them. The sweet rice balls are, indeed, fried until the outside gets crispy, and then they’re tossed in a mix of chiles, garlic, and salty fermented black beans. It’s an incredible combination of flavors and textures — salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, chewy, sticky — and it made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about this dish I’ve been eating since I was a kid. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Beef pie and mash from Casements

Pie at Casements Becky Duffett

I’m sorry to say, because they’re no longer available, but if we’re being honest, the best thing I ate this week was no contest the pies at the British-Irish mashup pop-up at Casements. I have already hyped this up, but Chef George Dingle and the team from Monsieur Benjamin really delivered, serving up tidily ruffled pies, breaking into a crumbly hot water crust, piping with beef stew, and served with mash and gratuitous gravy. He even threw in a sausage roll, because what is a party without a sausage roll? And a tub of housemade brown sauce, or as my British boyfriend calls it, “the sophisticated ketchup.” Drink enough gin and squint hard enough, and you could almost imagine sitting in a pub in London, after a marathon day of Christmas shopping, and warming up with old friends. God, the holidays are going to be hard without bars this year. At least we have pie. — Becky Duffett, reporter

November 20

Bagels and lox picnic from Early to Rise

Early to Rise has reopened doors on Nob Hill, as a quiet corner brunch spot in the elegant tree-lined neighborhood, just over the hill from Grace Church Cathedral. The brunch pop-up only went permanent last year, and was only a prix fixe on the weekends, so it may have escaped notice. Then due to the pandemic, it was closed for the better part of this year. But it’s back, and it’s good. Chef Andrew McCormack, a former fine dining chef coming from Quince and Spruce, is making everything from scratch, from smoking his own bacon to frying off doughnuts to order. I loved the bagels and lox: The bagels are a nice tidy size, packed with seeds, and come out toasty and warm. The chive cream cheese had that perfectly lush and clean flavor. And the lox is lightly smoked, not too salty, hand cut, and oh so buttery. While you may be severely under caffeinated at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning (raises hand), the care shows all the way through, and it’s an eye-opener. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Garlic crab noodles from the Vegan Hood Chefs

Vegan Hood Chefs’ garlic crab noodles
Eve Batey

One of the most popular vendors at the city’s late, lamented Bayview Bistro food truck park. the Vegan Hood Chefs, a three-year-old venture from SF natives Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway, didn’t park their truck when the pandemic shuttered their spot. Instead, they moved to a catering, meal kit, and pop-up model, appearing at spots like the spacious patio of Speakeasy Brewing, and offering pre-orders for boxed dishes every Monday. Their menu is a rotating one, with nods to Southern-style comfort foods like mac and cheese one week, and enchiladas and ceviche. All of it’s vegan, all of it’s great. At a recent pop-up, the mood was Louisianan, with a shrimp boil, crab cakes, and a standout garlic crab noodles dish that, magically, contains neither butter nor crab. I’d take it over the “real” thing any day of the week. Follow them on Instagram to see where they’ll pop up next. — Eve Batey, editor

Combination Pho at Super Super

Overhead view of a bowl of pho topped with bean sprouts and fresh herbs, with slices of still-pink beef visible and a pair of chopsticks laid across the top Luke Tsai

These days I crave noodle soup almost on a daily basis — a compulsion that sent me most recently to Super Super, a solid, neighborhoody Vietnamese spot in West Berkeley with a convenient back parking lot. What I love about the place is how they have their COVID-era takeout program down pat, my order packed up tidily in a big cardboard box when I arrived to give a real sense of abundance, like a mid-week gift to myself. There were chicken wings! There were shrimp rolls (an uncommonly fresh version, at that)! And the pho dac biet itself was exactly what I was in the mood for: a warming, familiar broth and an abundance of noodles and meat, including some nice fatty slices of brisket. As is my custom, I probably ordered too much food — not that that stopped me from cleaning my bowl. — Luke Tsai, food editor

November 13

Peruvian chicken dinner by Michoz

Aluminum tray filled with pieces of on-the-bone Peruvian grilled chicken, rice, fried yucca, and yellow sauce Luke Tsai

Before it got shut down in September, Broke Ass Cooks — a cross-cultural chicken-and-rice concept that a trio of fine dining chefs ran out of their driveway — was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed of the Bay Area’s pandemic pop-ups. Now, its new above-board descendent, Michoz, carries the torch, slinging Peruvian grilled chicken and chicken-fat rice out of a small West Berkeley cafe on weekends. As far as buzzy pop-ups go, it’s one of the better deals around: $55 for a heaping tray of food that’ll generously feed a family of four (or $27.50 for two people). I’m happy to report that the chicken was as juicy as advertised, but it was the various accompaniments that made this a memorable meal: the brilliantly acidic salad of raw onions and blistered peppers; the little tub of chicken “tea,” for sipping between bites; and maybe the best aji amarillo sauce I’ve tasted since Inka’s (real pollo a la brasa heads will know what I’m talking about) closed years ago. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Nga phe hin ohn tamin from Love Khao Swe

The nga phe hin ohn tamin from Love Khao Swe
Eve Batey

San Franciscans have a multitude of great options for Burmese food these days, but Love Khao Swe, a home chef-driven business from a mother-and-daughter team, offers a different menu than many of our local standbys, including a boba take on Burmese phaluda, beh joh (crispy split pea fritters that pair well with mohinga and are great on their own) and jet-u hin ohn tamin, a sweet-and-sour curried egg dish. One of my favorites is their Nga phe hin ohn tamin, a coconutty fishcake curry with shrimp and perfectly-prepared rice. The salty bounce of the fishcake plays well with the sweetness of the curry, and the whole thing feels like a beachside vacation on a plate. Like many home-run food businesses, their menu and ordering system is constantly changing, so folks interested on Love Khao Swe should watch their Instagram to see what’s available during their next pre-order window. — Eve Batey, editor

Quarter-pound burger from Beep’s Burgers

Last weekend, coming in from the cold and fog of the great outdoors, I was craving a cozy kiddy meal, the kind of baby cheeseburger that my father used to placate me with as a child who truly hated Sunday school. I pulled up on Beep’s Burgers, the old-school drive-in on Ocean Ave, which has been around since 1962. It was a treat, as always: The quarter pounder is all of $6.95, and the beef was smashed until almost lacy at the edges, then tucked into a cushiony bun with the requisite special sauce and American cheese (is there any other choice?). It’s not worth deciding between curly fries and jalapeño poppers, and my old man would have gotten the Twinkie milkshake, but I myself prefer the crush of Oreos. — Becky Duffett, reporter

November 6

Olive pizza at Sunset Squares

The olive pizza from Sunset Squares
Eve Batey

If you’d told me a year ago that I’d order and pay for pizza of unknown origins to be delivered to me by a masked stranger, I would not have believed you, but we’re through the looking glass, friends. So that’s what I did Monday night, after poring over the menu of Sunset Squares, a pandemic pop-up from a notable local chef who’s not publicly announced their name (a gesture toward privacy we’ll respect). $24 for six generous pieces is competitive with the established square spots in the space, and the quality is competitive, too, with top-notch cheeses and sauce, a crispy and caramelized crust, and an unbeatable combination of kalamata and castelvetrano olives. (For an extra $4, the pie can be made vegan, but I didn’t go for that option this time around.) They deliver 7 days a week, and if you order before 11 a.m., you can get a pie for that evening. DM via Instagram to order. — Eve Batey, editor

Burrito at El Mexicano

Luke Tsai

If this past Tuesday was a nationally-designated day of stress eating, I was happy to do my fair share: Not only did I step outside the house to procure lunch (a weekday rarity for those of us with a laptop attached to our hip), I decided the only thing that would do was a big-ass burrito, which my neighborhood taqueria, El Mexicano, was happy to supply. I did not go for the super (it was still a work day, after all), and El Mexicano’s burritos are heavier on the rice than is my usual preference — but that rice is well-seasoned as all get out, and because it was pure comfort I was looking for, I went for all of the tenderest, fattiest meats: half suadero and half cueritos (the fatty pork skin, slow-cooked until it’s all melty and jiggly-soft). I downed the whole thing in maybe 10 minutes flat, doctoring each bite with some of El Mexicano’s good red salsa. And while I can’t say I had the most productive afternoon after that, I will say I had no regrets. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Ganar at the Damel

You may notice a pattern in my eating habits, which is that nearly all of my favorite meals lately have been consumed within walking distance of Lake Merritt. That’s in large part because of the excellent and varied eating options surrounding the lake. It’s also because very few things — even a good meal! — make me feel calm these days, and spreading out a little picnic on the water does just that. Most recently, I picked up a late lunch from the Damel, an Afro-Brazilian restaurant and food truck — I visited the truck. The menu is quite expansive, featuring empanadas, a variety of grilled meat, seafood, and vegetable plates, as well as beignets and smoothies. I went with the ganar, a spicy-sweet dish of chicken and nearly caramelized onions in a mustardy sauce. It was excellent, served alongside creamy coconut rice and grilled vegetables. When the cook boxing up your order asks if you want hot sauce, say yes. It is extremely spicy, and very, very good. — Elazar Sontag, staff writer Eater.com

October 30

Veggie sampler at Cafe Romanat

Cafe Romanat’s veggie sampler
Elazar Sontag

Until this week, it had been months since I experienced the pure joy of spongy injera, silky-smooth buticha, and the assortment of stewed and braised meats and vegetables central to Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. In the early days of the pandemic, I sourced these pleasures from Enssaro, one of the very best restaurants in the Bay Area. When the restaurant closed abruptly (and temporarily, they assure me) a few months ago, I couldn’t find another restaurant whose injera had quite the same fermented tang, where the meat was as tender and flavored to the bone. After listening to me lament the loss of a favorite restaurant for the hundredth time, colleague Luke Tsai took pity and told me to try Cafe Romanat, just a few blocks from Lake Merritt. I ordered a veggie sampler featuring some of the restaurant’s greatest hits, and walked it to the lake where I set my mini picnic in the grass. Everything was excellent. The misir wat offered just a bit of heat, the red lentils tender and rich. The yellow lentils of the kik alicha were equally wonderful, but the gently cooked potatoes and cabbage in the atakilt were the standouts. I wrapped each bite in some of the restaurant’s tangy injera, scooped up a little buticha to cut through the spice, and started planning a return visit. — Elazar Sontag, staff writer Eater.com

Avocado toast at Rosalind Bakery

Rosalind Bakery’s avocado toast
Eve Batey

Here’s the thing about avocado toast: a lot of times it isn’t very good. I know, I know, heresy, burn the witch for dismissing this sacred food, the symbol of all that is coastally elite. But, folks, five times out of 10 it’s basically just glorified guacamole on bread, and four of those other times its just slices of avocado that are pretty, sure, but...it’s slices of avocado. Even I, someone completely uninterested in preparing my own food, can do that at home. So now we come to Rosalind Bakery’s avocado toast, which is that lonely one out of ten. Rosalind is that newish gem of a bakery that’s tucked into a Pacifica strip mall and supplies the rolls for those Palm City hoagies everyone’s raving about — but it never has the long lines or waits one associates with a buzzy spot, and you can take your baked goods or coffee to the beach, which is just steps away. Just shield your toast from the sand if you decide to dine at the water’s edge, and don’t make the same error I did and offer to share. It’s a simple concoction of mashed (but not obliterated) avo, lemon, “everything” seasoning, and pumpkin seeds (!) on the crusty, grilled sourdough they make on-site. All the ingredients shine and play off each other; sour, salt, and fat in harmony. Best of all, it’s $6 ($1 more and you can add an egg, but that seems like gilding the lily), and it’s hearty enough to be a full meal. — Eve Batey, editor

Diwali Feast meal kit from Besharam

Diwali feast from Besharam Becky Duffett

Did everyone tune into La Cocina’s Voices from the Kitchen last night? The storytelling event was just as heartwarming as usual, and even if it was virtual, it was fun seeing the speakers in their home kitchens. I was too slow to order one of the sold-out dinners from La Cocina, but decided to order from one of my favorite grads, anyway. Chef Heena Patel sent her staff home after months of trying to make pandemic dining work, but these days, she’s still cooking solo in the kitchen. We ordered the vegetarian tasting menu, and it was a true comfort. I love her doughs, with the buttery and griddled roti, and the samosa wrapped around fiercely peppered potatoes. Not to mention those saucy dal fritters, and the deeply simmered saag. It was so much nourishing food, and I was stuffed even before I got to the gulab jamuns — but as we all know, the human body contains a separate stomach for golden donuts soaked in rose syrup. This feast was only $40, and I can’t wait for Friday night leftovers. — Becky Duffett, reporter

October 23

Hand pie at Liholiho Yacht Club

Hand pie at Liholiho Becky Duffett

There’s a lot to take in on the Liholiho takeout menu at the moment. A friend of mine, who lives on Nob Hill, recently remarked how the Hawaiian restaurant bridges what it means to be a warm neighborhood spot, while still being worth the steep drive. And it’s true — Liholiho has always been a chill party, and it’s still kicking it at home, even if chef Ravi Kapur never imagined packing up sandwiches. There’s that off-menu spam on furikake rice, the katsu-style spam sandwich, sweet chili chicken nuggs, and oh hey, salted mango jello shots. But also a super cute hand pie! That is shaped like a pineapple, but in fact, is rocking Elvis-level peanut butter and banana jam. Don’t you just love peanut butter on a buttery crust, doubling the action? — Becky Duffett, reporter

Fried seafood at Hundal Sahib Fish and Chips

A spread of fried shrimp, onion rings, and fried fish Luke Tsai

I don’t always (or, actually, very often) go out for fish and chips, but when I do these days, I almost always head straight for Hundal Sahib Fish and Chips, a little family-run seafood shack located in an El Sobrante strip mall. It’s a spot that charmed me right away because of the friendliness of its owners and the dizzying array of menu options scrawled on four or five different white boards and chalkboards above the counter. If an ingredient can be dipped in batter and fried, there’s a decent chance they offer it here. At Hundal Sahib, the small, onion-y hush puppies that come with each order are plentiful, the house-made cocktail sauce has a big horseradish kick, and there’s a wide array of batter-fried vegetables (eggplant, zucchini strips, cauliflower, and more) to help you convince yourself that the meal is more wholesome than it actually is. But the fish — the pollock, especially — is the thing I come back for. Hundal Sahib’s version has a distinctive look: Each huge piece is a long, perfectly rectangular block. But the batter is impeccably seasoned and impeccably crisp; the flesh is moist and tender. The tartar sauce? The perfect complement. — Luke Tsai, food editor

October 16

Jerk chicken dinner at Coco Breeze

Takeout container with several pieces of jerk chicken wings and drummettes, pelau rice, and fried plantains, with a purple flower as garnish Luke Tsai

Sometimes, things just wind up working out. This past weekend, I went to grab takeout from Coco Breeze, the new Trinidadian spot in East Oakland, on what seemed to be a particularly busy night for them: The steel drums were going, folks were dancing on the sidewalk, and someone informed me it was the chef’s birthday. Some half an hour after I placed my order, I was told the curry goat I’d been craving was all sold out after all, along with half of the rest of the menu, and would I perhaps like a plate of jerk chicken instead? I did, but I’ll admit I carried a bit of disappointment with me until I got home and took my first bite of that chicken (all wings and drummettes), which was unspeakably tender, with a surprising medicinal-herb flavor I loved, along with a jolt of legit heat. What I loved was how the spicy juices from the chicken seeped into the slightly sweet pelau rice, infusing each bite with a complex interplay of flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, and bitter. That curry goat I’d wanted? All but forgotten, though I’ll be back for it again someday soon. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Smoked beet sandwich at Mark ‘n Mike’s

Mark ‘n Mike’s smoked beet sandwich
Eve Batey

Mark ‘n Mike’s, the New York-style deli popup at One Market, boasts mile-high sandwiches packed with pastrami, turkey, or brisket. But folks who eschew land animals aren’t left out: one of the items in the “Big Sandwiches” section of their menu is a plant-based smoked beet sandwich, paired with pickled onions and arugula. Your options for bread are rye of challah (the latter of which would move it from vegan to vegetarian), and one can add on Russian dressing or — for an extra $1.75 — havarti or Swiss cheese. I went for the rye and skipped the extras, and I’m glad I did. The generous portion of sliced beets was just lightly smoked, a cloud playing off the sweetness of the beet (and obscuring that vegetable’s sometimes off-putting earthy flavor). The pickled onions and the peppery arugula gave the sandwich just the right snap and bite. In the end, it was like eating a very flavorful, thoughtfully-composed beet salad, but sand utensils and with a couple piece of bonus bread. Paired with their super solid German-style potato salad (a bit of a bargain, as a generous portion is $2.95) and you’ve got yourself a meatless deli party. — Eve Batey, editor

Queen’s tea at home from Lovejoy’s Tea Room

As much as I enjoyed that new over-the-top afternoon tea party from Son & Garden, in my heart of hearts, the most restorative afternoon tea experience in San Francisco is still at Lovejoy’s in Noe Valley. The tea room is a tucked-away neighborhood gem, with mismatched vintage armchairs and cups and saucers, a far cry from those glitzy downtown hotel lounges, much more like you’re settling into your great aunt’s living room. I worried about Lovejoy’s at the beginning of the pandemic, along with all other restaurants, where that indoor dining experience is so integral to the charm. But you know what? The shabby-chic tea room has pivoted with aplomb, and is now setting the settees out on the sidewalk, as well as boxing up the afternoon tea to go. The good loose leaf tea comes tied up in a sachet, the smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches are cut fresh, and the crumpets and scones reheat like a pillowy dream in a low oven, ready to be slathered with butter and jam (crumpets) and clotted cream and lemon curd (scones). Also, they’re offering free delivery to senior citizens, which is just too kind, if you know any ladies of a certain age who could use a nice treat. Long live Lovejoy’s, queen of cream tea. — Becky Duffett, reporter

October 9

Chicken shawarma plate at King of Kabab

Clear plastic takeout container, with hummus in one compartment, chicken shawarma in a green sauce in another, and a pita covering up the third Luke Tsai

Nothing warms the heart quite like the sight of meat sizzling on a vertical spit — except, perhaps, the sight of two of those meat-encumbered spits spinning side by side, as you’ll find at King of Kabab, a South Berkeley neighborhood favorite where the gyro and the chicken shawarma are both sliced hot off the spit. The wraps here are solid, if a little lettuce-heavy, so what I’d recommend instead is ordering one of the plates, which come with wonderfully flavorful seasoned rice; a scoop of hummus; and, in my case, a heaping portion of chicken shawarma that was a little bit crispy at the edges and tossed in a zippy green sauce. Wonderful. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Classic yakitori bento box from Hina Yakitori

I finally got around to ordering the chicken box from Hina Yakitori, and I don’t know what my problem was, and why that took so long, because what’s not to love? It’s a box of chicken for less than twenty bucks from a Michelin-starred team! There’s the scent of grilled chicken and anticipation in the air when you step up to the window. The delight of cracking open a bento box, arranged with a bed of rice, gingery ground chicken, and an array of skewers, from plump meatballs to bites of thigh to one lone wing. It was a good amount of food, and a fun date night, especially if you throw in that recommended bottle of riesling, which was dry, citrusy, and the perfect counterpoint. I’m going back for the wagyu box, next. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Cranberry Coconut Scone at Arsicault Bakery

A collection of pastries from Arsicault Bakery
Arsicault Bakery/Instagram

Of course we all know that Arsicault Bakery’s croissants are next-level stuff, buttery treats that will make you unable to consume a grocery store crescent roll without making an unpleasant comparison. So you can imagine my irritation when my husband returned from a run to the bakery’s newish Book Concern location with a box laden with...scones. (OK, there was an almond croissant in there, but I seized on the scones like they were some sort of personal attack.) I ate one, under protest, so enraged that I didn’t even take a photo. What a fool I am. This scone, their cranberry coconut offering, might be the best scone I have ever had. It was crumbly (as a scone must be) and had a scone-appropriate soda bite. But then there were the jazzy cranberries, which tasted sharply cran-y, as opposed to just showing up for local color. The coconut gave everything a nice fatty heft, and softened the cranberry’s edges. This is what you want when you need a special breakfast treat, and an Arsicault croissant feels like too much. — Eve Batey, editor

October 2

“At-Home Experience” at Pinoy Heritage

Takeout box for a Filipino tasting menu, with many courses boxed up in microwavable containers Luke Tsai

Chef Francis Ang’s world-beating Filipino pop-up has tried its hand at about as many different forms of takeout as anyone during this pandemic: elaborate, multi-course meal kits; bar bites; and, most recently, a to-go version of his festive kamayan feasts. And, as I learned this past week, Pinoy Heritage also offers one of the most credible take-home fine dining tasting menus I’ve experienced since the start of the pandemic. For $100 (for two), I received a tidy seven courses, including a mango salad, turmeric rice wrapped in a banana leaf, a thick double-bone pork chop, and a whopping three dessert courses (as my kids were delighted to discover). Everything was packed up prettily in microwave-safe containers, with simple instructions for reheating and assembling, so I coursed out a couple of dishes at a time, like I was eating at a real fine dining restaurant. Most memorable of all was the sturgeon laing, an elegant take on the traditional taro leaf stew that was so nice to look at, with thin radish slices fanned out on top, I almost felt bad eating it. But eat it I did, wielding a crispy rice cake to scoop up the soft-cooked greens and fish. It tasted even better than it looked. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Crab sandwich at Nick’s

Nick’s crab sandwich
Eve Batey

After reading Becky’s meditation on crab sandwiches Thursday, I knew I needed one for myself — which, of course, means a trip to Pacifica, a town that in my opinion owns that beat. My destination was Nick’s Lounge and Bar, a Rockaway Beach institution known for its grilled Dungeness sandwich. The situation is simple: Grilled Wedemeyer sourdough, generously buttered, a generous portion of fresh crab, and a slice of tomato. It’s not cheap ($27.95), but charge much less and you’re raising some pretty serious concerns about the state of that crab. For an extra $2.25 one could add avocado, which seems like fatty mouthfeel overkill. For $1.75, you can also order it with cheese, which seems sacrilegious (sorry, Becky). As-is is the way to go, sweet crab and buttery bread at the shoreline, watching the sun set through the smoke. — Eve Batey, editor

Chocolate sandwich cookies from Black Jet

In preparation for Sandwich Week, I ate sandwiches aggressively for a week straight. It was a deeply satisfying experience, if not particularly slimming, with many revelations that Philly-style hoagie from Palm City! The roast beef with crispy onion action from Lucinda’s! The sweet and milky crab roll from Woodhouse! But to cleanse the palate after a lot of mortadella, one needs something sweet. The theme must have seeped into my subconscious, because I went straight from sandwiches to sandwich cookies — the chocolate sandwich cookies from Black Jet. I don’t really like big brand Oreos, which are saccharine, but a from-scratch chocolate wafer is a beautiful thing. Black Jet uses pitch-black cocoa powder, which purrs fierce and smooth chocolate flavor, and she sandwiches it around grandma-style American buttercream. — Becky Duffett, reporter


September 25

Vegetarian fiesta at Prubechu

Prubechu’s vegetarian fiesta
Eve Batey

Spare Mission District Guamanian spot Prubechu your “how much of a ‘fiesta’ can it be if it’s vegetarian?” jokes, as I suspect that they have heard them already. What we’re talking about, really, is the dream entree for anyone who wishes they can make a full meal of just sides: generous portions of coconutty creamed spinach cousin golai hagon suni, sharp slaw-like pickled kimchi, red rice so flavorful I worried that it was cooked in meat stock (it’s not), a big pile of smoky broccoli, and just-spicy-enough tamales gisu. It’s a lot for a just one person, especially when you’re trying not to linger too long in an outdoor setting — but my leftovers held up excellently overnight, and made for a substantial (microwaved sans kimchi) lunch the next day. — Eve Batey, editor

Poutine at Augie’s Montreal Deli

Poutine — fries covered in brown gravy and white cheese curds — on a white plate Luke Tsai

It seems like a good minute has passed since the period of time when every ambitious bar-restaurant that hired a name chef put some kind of fancy poutine on the menu: lobster poutine, or wagyu beef poutine, or poutine made with the ingredients of okonomiyaki. That trend seems to have died down a bit (though loaded fries, as a broader food genre, are timeless), but to this day, I haven’t found any place in the Bay Area that does the classic, real-deal Québécois version as well as Augie’s Montreal Deli, where the brown gravy is the traditional (deeply comforting) St. Hubert stuff you can get out of a can; the cheese curds are gigantic and properly squeaky; and the potatoes are triple-fried, which means they hold their crispy edges, almost miraculously, even after they’ve been soaking in that gravy for a good 20 minutes. For the best takeout experience, order the gravy on the side, as I did during my Augie’s run this week, and pour it on once you’ve gotten home. You might not be able to finish the entire mammoth portion by yourself — but you’ll probably come closer than you imagine. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Clutch espresso blend from Excelsior Coffee

I just moved into a creaky old house in Mission Terrace, and have been exploring the food spots in my new mini neighborhood, as well as the surrounding Excelsior. More on sandwiches, tacos, and noodles soon, but first, coffee: Excelsior Coffee is a cool spot that opened last year, serving strong blends out of sleek space on Mission. True to the neighborhood, it’s got this electric motorcycle theme, and a vintage ride mounted above the baristas. Picking up a latte for now and a bag of the “clutch” espresso for later, it kept me revving smoothly all week, from the second-story vantage of my new writing desk, where at least once a day motorcycles swoop through below and set off car alarms. Even my new friend and plumber Rick, while fixing a leak in the living room ceiling, said “this is very good coffee.” I agree, Rick. — Becky Duffett, reporter


September 18

Meatball pizza at Benchmark Pizzeria

Anyone who’s ever ordered a true Neapolitan-style pizza as a takeout item knows that it’s a bit of a dangerous proposition: The soupy, melty center tends to quickly cool down and congeal, and the crust loses any semblance of crispness. So during these takeout-only times (at least in my household), I’m especially appreciative of the more hybridized crust at Kensington’s Benchmark Pizzeria — deeply flavorful and a little thicker and more substantial than the fancy, certified versions, with a well-blistered crispness that stands up to a 15-minute car ride and, just as important, reheats beautifully. Dinner the other night was a beauty of a meatball pie, but the restaurant’s take on a classic margherita, or its salami pie on the kids’ menu, are just as good — especially with one of Benchmark’s cold, crisp Caesar salads on the side. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Lobster grand aioli and financiers from Routier

Becky Duffett

On an apocalyptic smoke day, I drove across town to stop by Routier, that new savory spot from the B. Patisserie team. Finally seeing the warm dining room in person was restorative in and of itself, although it made me even more nostalgic for the days when we could have settled into a velvet banquette with a glass of Sancerre to shake the week off. But the takeout was still a fresh change of pace. The swordfish rillettes were lush with mayo and fresh dill. The heirloom tomato salad was sunk into a fabulously fishy dressing. The grand aioli was a pretty array of chilled lobster and colorful romanesco and radishes. And may I recommend a double order of the financiers for dessert. You knew that award-winning pastry chef Belinda Leong wasn’t going to mess around, and the humble almond cakes were maybe the best I’ve ever tasted, biting down into crispy edges and crunchy almonds into an incredibly tender crumb, and opening up the big flavors of brown butter and toasted nuts. You will want leftover little cakes to go with your morning latte. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Pimento cheese at Town Hall

Town Hall’s pimento cheese with, yes, saltines
Eve Batey

Everyone is eating like a child these days, the reasons for which likely merit a psychological exploration I have no interest in embarking on at the moment. But for evidence of the kid food trend, I’ll refer you to the rise of everything macaroni and cheese or the wave of chicken nugget menu additions to support my case. My not-so-inner child wants breads and spreads, chips and dips, anything where part A is flat and salty, and part B is spreadable and salty, and the two are joined at my discretion. So far, the best version of this I’ve had is Town Hall’s pimento cheese spread, which is served with saltines (another kid food) and a couple terrific pickled peppers. The cheese is smooth, flavorful, and has just enough bite. The saltines are...saltines. Something I would never go out of my way to eat, but such a comforting, nostalgic presence on the plate. And the peppers are sharp, and fresh, with an undercurrent of heat. The cheese-and-pepper combination made me feel grown up, while the crackers fed the kid that lurks just underneath my increasingly battle-weary surface. — Eve Batey, news editor


September 11

In-N-Out’s grilled cheese and “Animal Style” fries
Eve Batey

In-N-Out’s “secret” menu isn’t that much of a secret, but any time I pick up an order, a fellow patron seems blown away at the wild and weird food I’m picking up. Here’s my order of choice, picked up via drive thru in Daly City Wednesday: A grilled cheese with extra pickles (it’s just a burgerless burger, with a little extra cheese) and “Animal Style” fries, which is that same gloppy, plasticky American cheese from the burger melted over fries, with a load of grilled onions and the restaurant’s “burger spread” on top. The former does the trick, in terms of creating the illusion of main course consumption, but the Animal fries are where it is at, a baby born from the union of poutine and a casserole served at a wake. If allowed to cool, they form a solid mass that you can pick up and bite into like an apple, but while warm they’re navigable via fork. It’s salt, carbs, onions, and comfort in a little cardboard boat with a vaguely-apocalyptic Bible verse that I consumed in the pitch dark, at noon. What a week. — Eve Batey, news editor

Boba from OMG Tea

Boba from OMG Tea Becky Duffett

In a fit of despair, following a somewhat sad lunch of leftover dumplings, I decided to chase the blues with boba. I buzzed over to OMG Tea in Portola, which some call a secret neighborhood, some call the garden district, but either way, is home to a satisfying concentration of cool food businesses. OMG Tea uses Taiwanese tea, with fresh ingredients, and customizes to order. And despite a mask-muffled mixup on sizing — I was hoping for a small milk tea with large pearls, and in fact received a large milk tea with small pearls — it was sweet. Classic milk tea, with just the right amount of reinvigorating sugar, and silky pearls that still have that bite in the center. Also, they serve some teas in bottles that look like lightbulbs, and also, I just like saying, “Oh em gee tea!” to myself in the car. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Ants Climbed the Tree from Great China

Takeout container of glass noodles tossed with shrimp, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts Luke Tsai

Great China has been my go-to spot for Peking duck for so long that I’ve come to think of it as a special occasion restaurant — a place to splurge on that duck with all the fixings, and fresh Dungeness crab buns, and other big platters of expensive seafood. So I sometimes forget that the Berkeley restaurant is also a great place to pick up a regular-ass meal, albeit one that’s still tasty enough to make your entire week. The kitchen team there is masterful with things like simple stir-fried greens, and during my most recent takeout visit, they stunned me with one of the better versions I’ve had of the Sichuan classic “Ants Climbed the Tree” — named after the appearance of little chunks of meat (usually ground pork) “climbing” up the glass noodles. Great China’s version stands out from the crowd, at least here in the Bay, for having a legitimate chili kick to it, and for being a true textural marvel: Instead of pork, the noodles are tossed with big chunks of shrimp and pleasantly chewy shiitake mushroom, plus little bits of water chestnut to add a delightful crunch. (The shrimp is why the dish is listed in the seafood section of the menu, where I’d never think to look for it.) We had it with mei cai kou rou (aka “thrice cooked” pork belly), garlic fried rice, and king trumpet mushrooms sautéed with Napa cabbage — a “regular-ass” meal I enjoyed even more as leftovers the next day. — Luke Tsai, food editor

September 4

Green salad at Wildseed

Wildseed’s green salad
Wildseed/Instagram

When I think about getting a salad at Wildseed, I tend to pass. Not because their salads are bad (they’re not), but because the restaurant’s full menu is plant-based, so I’m typically lured in by their mock meats and hearty bowls, saving salads for days I’m ordering from restaurants that don’t serve anything else I can consume. But the other day I “needed to” pick up some gelato at Gio, and Wildseed was across the street, so I thought what the heck. Now I’m wondering why I waited so long to try their unprepossessingly-named “green salad,” which sounds like the side you reluctantly order instead of fries but is instead a fun and colorful veggie party of tiny tomatoes, cucumber chunks, little gems, avocado, and hemp seeds. Nothing elaborate, just simple crunch meets fat meets sweet and savory. It was exactly what I needed, and was so good that I almost forgot about the gelato. — Eve Batey, news editor

Chicken shawarma wrap at Shawarmaji

A very long, griddle shawarma wrap, show on the red-and-white checkered paper that it had been wrapped in Luke Tsai

For months now I’ve been meaning to check out Shawarmaji, the Jordanian-style chicken shawarma shop that has been set up inside the Forage Kitchen incubator’s cafe space for the past six months — every time I saw a photo of those layers of chicken rotating on the spit, I’d feel a little twinge of desire. Somehow no one had prepared me for how big their shawarma wraps are — as long as a dosa or, as chef Mohammad Abutaha puts it, a “missile,” the flour tortilla griddled to a pleasing, golden crisp. The main thing, though, is that I’m hard-pressed to think of the last wrap I ate that was as maximally flavorful as this one. There was the well-spiced chicken, of course, sliced straight off the spit — but also pungent, salty cucumber pickles; a whisper of heat; and a huge hit of garlic from the house-made toum, a white sauce so delicious that Shawarmaji sells it by the tub. (Pro tip: It makes for a helluva dipping sauce for fries, as well.). I got my wrap “Abboudi style,” with the fries tucked inside, and it wound up being a heftier meal than I expected. But Reader, do not fret: I finished every bite. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Bienenstich (bee sting) cake at Hahdough

Bee sting cake from Hahdough
Becky Duffett

I finally caught up with my fairy godmother for a coffee and cake date (over Zoom, of course — even sparkly septuagenarians are tech savvy these days). In her wild twenties, she lived for a few years in Berlin and Vienna, where she picked up that grand cafe habit of something sweet in the afternoon — but not too sweet, mind you. I never got to take her to Hahdough, the only dedicated German bakery in San Francisco, because sadly, almost as soon as it opened, it closed again for shelter in place. But the hardworking bakery never shut off the ovens, and has been selling all those pretty cakes through the window this entire time. I dropped off a few slices of Black Forest with chocolate and cherries, the Prinzregententorte for little princes who love thinly stacked sponge, and the orange and cassis with those beautiful colored layers and pastry bottom. But I myself slipped home with a slice of the Bienenstich or “bee sting,” a yeasted yellow cake with a thick layer of cream and a crunch of candied almonds on top. — Becky Duffett, reporter

August 28

Maple-bacon-apple donut from Dynamo Donuts

Maple-bacon-apple donut from Dynamo Donuts Becky Duffett

I had to move last weekend, and while I am incredibly grateful to have a beautiful new home, especially at a time when so many Californians have been losing theirs, the process was even more headache-inducing than usual in the smoke. The antidote: Donuts. I personally feel that if you have to do something particularly painful, you might as well get donuts. Breakfast meeting? Taxes? Packing up the last decade of your life, including hundreds of cookbooks, and all that vintage crystal glassware your mother swore you needed? The answer is always donuts. I really wanted to go to Happy Donuts in Noe Valley for one last maple-bar bender, but forgot they’re cash only. So we had to go with fancy donuts that accept credit cards — in Dynamo we trust. The maple donut, sprinkled with bacon, and studded with apple, is a cozy treat. And the spiced chocolate might be my all-time favorite, with that dark cake donut rolled in cinnamon-chipotle sugar. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Bagels at Saul’s Deli

Four bagels (poppy, everything, sesame, plain) on a wooden pizza peel Luke Tsai

In the ongoing Bay Area bagel wars, it’s one of the old hands that’s shot back to the front. That’s what I thought, anyway, when I tried the new bagels at Saul’s Deli, Berkeley’s longrunning Jewish deli. Of course, prior to a month ago, Saul’s had technically never made its own bagels, instead sourcing them from Oakland-based Baron Baking, whose bagel maker, Dan Graf, now makes the bagel dough for Saul’s, delivering it fully shaped, but not yet boiled or baked, each morning. I (and the New York Times) was obsessed with the Baron bagels when they first came onto the scene in 2012, but no one talks about them much these days, largely because the bagels are only sold to wholesale accounts, making it hard to score a fresh-baked version that isn’t already far past its peak. So the new Saul’s bagel — a fresh-baked Baron bagel, basically — is pretty much my dream come true: It’s got that well-blistered exterior, that nice snap to the crust, a satisfying chew, and a deep flavor born of long fermentation. Oh it was good. I took half of my sesame bagel with cream cheese and lox, and the other with a thick layer of salted butter, and immediately started daydreaming of when I’d be able to head back to the Saul’s takeout window to snag another batch. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Passionfruit milk chocolate donut from Dynamo Donuts

A trio of Dynamo donuts
Eve Batey

If readers had any doubts that this feature is a true, legitimate picture of what we’re actually eating during any given week, this (as Luke put it) “trifecta of round doughy things” is proof positive that the new levels of stress we all hit this week sent us all carb-wards. My husband was my enabler, wresting me from my laptop earlier this week and leading me to the coffee table, where he’d arranged Dynamo’s passionfruit milk chocolate, vanilla bean, and chocolate hazelnut lavender offerings on my favorite plate. “You can take ten minutes,” he said, pulling my phone from my hand and putting it in my sock drawer. I didn’t want to be a jerk — I mean, he drove from the Outer Sunset to Dynamo’s Mission District storefront to surprise me with donuts — but I was reluctant to leave my desk until I bit into that passionfruit one, a flavor I’d often contemplated and passed over due to fears of a dislikable fruit/chocolate flavor collision. My fears were unfounded, as the passionfruit has exactly the right bite to keep the milk chocolate from getting too cloying, and the cake was light and not too sweet. It was enough to renew my spirit (and blood sugar) and send me back to work with a smile on my face. And you know what? I could take ten minutes. We all can. — Eve Batey, news editor

August 21

Focaccia pizza from Haight Loaves

Eve Batey

Like so many folks during the pandemic, baker Joseph Norton (Lazy Bear, Neighbor Bakehouse) has launched his own small-scale food business, a largely-online-ordering-based operation called Haight Loaves. His Thursday and Sunday bakes yield sandwich, country, and spelt loaves galore — and every so often, things get a little wilder, and there’s pizza. That’s what happened earlier this week, when (with Nardello’s Fresh Pasta) Haight Loaves passed out boxes of the stuff to a socially-distanced crowd (including me) who’d gathered outside a random residence to receive the goods. Even removing the fun speakeasy for food vibes from the equation, this simple herb and cheese pizza is an event, crunchy and soft, with just enough toppings to reach every edge — but not so much dairy or sauce that it felt greasy or gloppy. I keep checking Haight Loaves’ social media to see when they’ll be doing pizza again, because I can’t stop thinking about it. So far, no word. — Eve Batey, news editor

Hummus plate from Pomella

Hummus plate topped with strips of grilled lamb from Pomella Luke Tsai

A few years back, any time I felt like I wanted a restaurant meal that would make me feel at least a little bit virtuous, I’d head over to Ba-Bite, a quaint counter-service Israeli restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, where dinner would consist of three or four little mezze-style salads, a few rounds of pita, and a big bowl of what I believed to be the most delicious hummus in the whole Bay Area. One of the silver linings of this pandemic, then, is the resurrection of Ba-Bite (which closed in 2018) in a new space almost directly across the street. Now the restaurant is called Pomella, but the food is more or less the same, and all of it quite wonderful: bright Shirazi salads; crisp, garlicky falafel; a juicy chicken tagine over couscous that my family devoured in minutes. In particular, eating chef Mica Talmor’s hummus — smooth, full-flavored, airy-light, was like being reunited with an old friend. The hummus plate comes topped with your choice of protein, like strips of well-marinated grilled lamb, is a whole, satisfying meal — a damn party, honestly — unto itself. — Luke Tsai, food editor

August 14

Loroco pupusas from La Santaneca

La Santaneca’s cheese and loroco pupusa with spicy slaw
Eve Batey

For more than 50 years, La Santaneca de La Mission has served excellent Salvadoran food to crowds in its cozy storefront on Mission Street near 24th. These days, those crowds line up for takeout from its lengthy menu, with many adding an order of pupusas, as theirs are known as some of the best around. As a non-land-animal eater I don’t want to think too hard about why their griddled corn concoctions taste so good (ignorance is truly bliss), and the best of all are the ones made with cheese and loroco, an edible Central American vine that’s packed with vitamins and minerals and also tastes really great as a counterpoint to the pupusas’ gooey cheese and chewy flatbread. La Santaneca is cash only and doesn’t deliver, so your best bet is to walk up during off hours, cool your heels for about 20 minutes, then take your bag of pupusas (there’s two in every order), sauce, and slaw off to a second location before they get cold. — Eve Batey, news editor

Seedless watermelon from Stephens Ranch

Watermelon from Stephens Ranch Luke Tsai

Friends, have you ever reconfigured the shelving in your refrigerator to accommodate a single piece of produce? Summertime is, of course, the time for eating watermelon, and on hot days like the ones we’re expecting in the Bay this weekend, the idea of diving headfirst into a cool-crisp beauty holds a lot more appeal than just about any cooked food item. In fact, the best things I’ve eaten for several weeks running are the seedless watermelons sold at the Feather River Farms stand at the Marin Farmers Market — though according to the sticker on the rind, the seedless variety comes from a Yuba City farm called Stephens Ranch. I’m sure you’re familiar with that moment of reckoning when you split a watermelon open, hoping against all hope that you aren’t unlucky enough to have stumbled into a pale, mushy dud. But I’m happy to report that these have been sheer bliss: bright-red, crisp, sweet, shirt-stainingly juicy, and, just as important, bracingly cold. In fact, right after I cracked into that first melon, I immediately set about rearranging my fridge, at least until the end of the season, to make sure there’d be room for even the largest specimens. Because priorities, right? — Luke Tsai, food editor

Tasting menu from August (1) Five

Tasting menu from August (1) Five Becky Duffett

After a couple of not-stellar curries that shall remain unnamed, last weekend, I went all in on the tasting menu from August (1) Five. And while it might resemble more standard American takeout expectations — yes, there’s the chicken tikka, and sure, samosa, it was also just better. The paneer was milky fresh and fluffy, the daal was rich in cream and spice, the chicken was tangled gratuitously with threads of saffron, and the lamb biryani was piled with frizzled shallots. Personally, I can never resist a sticky toffee pudding, which will satisfy even the sweetest of teeth. For $75, it generously fed two for two meals, and leftover curry for lunch is a quarantine comfort. I do worry about this jewel box of a restaurant, over by the empty Opera House, tucked behind construction on Van Ness. Even if the blue velvet dining room is curtained off at the moment, please don’t forget, it’s one of the loveliest upscale Indian restaurants in SF. — Becky Duffett, reporter

August 7

Chicken liver terrine from Monsieur Benjamin

Chicken liver terrine from Monsieur Benjamin Becky Duffett

Listen, I have taken comfort in lasagna and fried chicken just as much as the next quarantine-r. But what a thrill when Monsieur Benjamin finally reopened for takeout, bringing back some refinement to Friday night. The last time I was at the French favorite, I was with a girlfriend, at the bar, wearing heels and a leather jacket, and ordering glass after glass of sparkling. Remember what life was like? And would it ever be the same? I pondered, placing an online order. Reader, I may have cried a little bit when I popped open the box of chicken liver terrine. It was meticulously perfect: tidily square, utterly smooth, the butter of the meat world. And the ouefs mayonnaise with dabs of herb oil! The butter lettuce salad sweet with tarragon and chervil! The ultra crisp packet of frites, stamped with a fox! If it’s wrong to dunk steak in bearnaise while sitting cross-legged on a couch, then I don’t care to be right. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Pabellon arepa from Arepas en Bici

Pabellon arepa from Arepas en Bici Luke Tsai

One of my favorite feel-good stories of this pandemic has been the story of Arepas en Bici, the Venezuelan arepa bike delivery service that a laid-off San Francisco chef, Victor Aguilera, started running out of his Nob Hill apartment. But until this week, when the chef offered East Bay delivery for the first time, I’d never actually tried the food. And, well, I’m happy to report that the arepas are indeed quite good, as are the guava pastelitos and the tequeños (Venezuelan cheese sticks), which came with a little tub of guasacaca, a garlicky avocado sauce, for dipping. My favorite, though, was the pabellon arepa — the fat, fluffy corn cake stuffed to overflowing with shredded beef, black beans, and sweet fried plantains. The good news is that the food held up fairly well to the long trek across the bridge, and Aguilera hopes to make an East Bay run a couple of times a month moving forward. Of course, there’s nothing like a fresh arepa, hot off the griddle, so I’ll keep dreaming of the day when Aguilera’s aspiration to open a full-blown Venezuelan restaurant is realized — and the day it’s finally safe to go sit down and eat there. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Marina greens from Project Juice

Project Juice’s Marina Greens smoothie
Project Juice

There are two plotlines in this week’s entry: My complete lack of moderation, and my inability to safely digest celery. I awoke, last Sunday, with what could only be described as a food hangover: after weeks of reliance on various permutations of carbs and dairy (nachos, pizza, pupusas, grilled cheeses) in an effort to comfort-eat my way out of 2020, I hit a wall. I was backed up, miserable, sweaty, and itchy. I believe that so-called “cleanses” are bunk, but my body desperately needed a break from what I’d been doing to it, at least, in solid form. Juice, then, seemed like an obvious choice, but there’s one more thing to know: I am so dangerously allergic to the juicery mainstay known as celery that I must carry an EpiPen with me when I dine out in case of even cross-contaminated dishes. (It is always fun at group Eater events to watch my colleagues watch me bite into a potentially celeried food, waiting to see if I’ll blow up like Deacon Frost in Blade). San Francisco-founded chain Project Juice boasts a multitude of celery-free juices and smoothies, so there I turned. My favorite — and the one that I called upon multiple times to get me over this hump — is the Marina Greens, a blend of raw coconut water, cold-pressed orange juice, kale, spinach, avocado, aloe, cold-pressed lime juice, and spirulina. Do I have any illusions that I am now magically healthy after drinking a tubful of these (actually!) quite delicious and not yuckily “green” drinks this week? No, I do not. But I do feel...less bad. In 2020, that might be all I can ask. — Eve Batey, news editor


July 31

Tea leaf kale salad at Teni East Kitchen

The tea leaf salad at Teni East Kitchen
Teni East Kitchen/Instagram

In the early months of shelter in place, I got creative with my meals. But as the concept of time became ever more unfamiliar and confusing, and as I lost a little steam (and inspiration), I pretty much settled on two or three restaurants near my house that do really solid takeout. Teni East Kitchen in Oakland is one of those spots. The Burmese restaurant is consistently excellent, and I’ve found enough favorites on the menu that I can order takeout once a week and not burn out. Like other great Burmese restaurants, Teni does a wonderful tea leaf salad. And while other spots, like Burma Superstar, opt for a crunchy green lettuce for the base, Teni uses baby kale, which stands up to the pungent tea leaves, and gives the salad a little more heft. For my most recent Teni takeout feast, I also ordered the pea shoot salad, the chickpea tofu bathed in a creamy, sweet sauce, the coconut veggie curry, a satisfyingly chewy bowl of spicy noodles, and the baby bok choy, deeply umami and delicious. Everything on the menu (except maybe the salads) stores well as leftovers, but the truth is I didn’t leave much for the next day. — Elazar Sontag, staff writer Eater.com

Heirloom salad at Blue Barn

Blue Barn’s heirloom salad
Blue Barn/Instagram

After a day of eating mindlessly at my computer (actual text I sent my husband yesterday: “sorry I ate all your almond butter cups, I don’t know what happened”), I try to reset with a healthy dinner and a trip out of my neighborhood, so Blue Barn has become a go-to for me. The drive to its Marina district location gets me away from my usual, well-worn haunts, and its huge salads are flavor-packed and filling. Lately I’ve been gravitating toward the heirloom, that’s romaine, tomato, corn, green beans, and squash. Its garlicky croutons and healthy serving of fresh mozzarella keeps it from feeling too prescriptive, so I go to bed feeling non-deprived but still virtuous. I’m not silly enough to think that a bowl of greens after a day day in which I eat whatever trash I have around the house is a great, long-term plan for health and wellness, but it’s a start — and with this salad, it’s a start that’s delicious and a delight to eat. — Eve Batey, news editor

Fried Cornish hen at San Ho Won

fried Cornish hen stuffed with yellow chive fried rice
San Ho Won’s fried Cornish hen
Luke Tsai

I didn’t know that fried Cornish hen stuffed with bacon and yellow chive rice was a specific thing I craved until I saw it on the Tock menu for San Ho Won, Corey Lee’s forthcoming Korean restaurant, which is currently operating out of the kitchen at Benu. So of course I put in my order that very morning and spent the rest of the day wondering about the stuffed bird: Would it be a little bit like the sticky rice filled chickens I’d occasionally eaten at Chinese banquets? Would it have the outrageous crunch I typically associate with Korean fried chicken? The answer was yes and yes, but also, nothing quite prepared me for just how thick a specimen it would be, and how crisp and craggy the batter even served at room temperature. There was chili oil for dipping and chicken and ginseng soup — a nod, perhaps, to samgyetang, the better known Korean stuffed Cornish hen dish — to cut through any heaviness, plus all of the other extras (the chilled tofu! that albacore salad!) that make San Ho Won’s prix-fixe meals one of my most memorable takeout options to come out of this pandemic. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Sun Crest peaches from Masumoto Family Farm

Sun Crest peaches from Masumoto Family Farm Masumoto Family Farm

Okay, so this is not a takeout container full of pizza or noodles, per se, but if I’m being honest, the thing I couldn’t stop eating and thinking about this week was peaches. Stone fruit season is cresting in Northern California, and while there are many wonderful farms, my favorite peaches and nectarines come from Masumoto Family Farm. A third-generation Japanese-American family-run operation, they grow half a dozen different heirloom varieties, which means slurp-worthy specimens that are oh so juicy, with a long arch of big acid and big flavor. Catch them while you can at Berkeley Bowl, BiRite, and Good Eggs, or if you happen to be road tripping through the Central Valley, the stone fruit drive thru is open for business. (Disclosure: I am the editor at Good Eggs, but no one is forcing me to turn around and spend my paycheck on a half flat of peaches every week.) — Becky Duffett, reporter


July 24

Carne asada fries at Tacos Mi Rancho

I always feel a deep and profound love for Oakland when I’m sitting on a grassy patch at Lake Merritt. This feeling tends to grow when I’ve got a big platter of loaded carne asada fries in my lap. This is the kind of deeply comforting food that I crave after a week spent cooking every meal myself. This week, I picked up my fries from the Tacos Mi Rancho truck a few minutes from the lake. The fries — which are slightly limp when you open the steamy box a few minutes later — are ordinarily dressed with nacho cheese, sour cream, and cilantro on the spot. I asked for the cheese and sour cream on the side, hoping that would give my fries a better shot at crispness. I’m not convinced it made much difference, but sitting under the multi-color Fairyland sign, pouring nacho cheese over a pile of steak and fries as I took a sip of the boozy slushie I picked up at Lake Chalet was, without a doubt, the highlight of my week. — Elazar Sontag, Eater staff writer

Lobster Louie Salad at Old Port Lobster Shack

Lobster Louie from Old Port Lobster Shack Becky Duffett

I’m on a jag with summery seafood salads these days, and kept rolling with a Lobster Louie from Old Port Lobster Shack in Portola Valley. The Shack is tucked away in an upscale shopping center, and not to start a surf war, but it’s got maybe the best lobster roll I’ve had in the Bay, better than any in the city — buttery, pillowy buns stuffed with big hunks of meat. However, after a long week of hard eating, I wasn’t up for the full sandwich, fries, and beer. “Can I have a salad?” I asked the teenagers behind the counter, already fearing this was a mistake, fully expecting a sad iceberg situation. But no! The Louie was a delight, with satisfying piles of crunchy cukes, creamy avocado, and the kind of cherry tomatoes that actually taste like sunshine when you pop them beneath your teeth. And a serious stash of crustacean, claws and all, ready to drown mercilessly in Russian dressing. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Quesabirria at El Garage

Quesabirria at El Garage Luke Tsai

Now that El Garage has finally landed at its new Richmond storefront, ending its fans’ months-long quesabirria drought, the question everyone seems to be asking is: Is it as good as you remembered? Is it worth the hype? After queuing up a big order during the restaurant’s first weekend open, I can confirm: The red-tinted tacos are coming hot off the grill three to an order, satisfyingly crunchy and charred at the edges, and the slow-cooked beef birria inside is still some of the juiciest and most chin-dribbling I’ve had, even before dunking the whole thing in El Garage’s rich, clarifying consomé. Though nothing compares to quesabirria eaten just minutes after it was pulled hot off the griddle, while sitting on the curb or on the hood of your car, these are also tacos that travel surprisingly well — the crisping of the tortillas gives them just enough structural integrity. Just make sure you get your order in about a day ahead of time — the restaurant’s new pre-ordering system is a breeze compared to the two-hour-long lines of its most frenzied pop-up days, but it does mean you have to plan your quesabirria consumption in advance. — Luke Tsai, food editor


July 17

Crab cakes and Caesar salad at Anchor Oyster Bar

Crab cakes at Anchor Oyster Bar Becky Duffett

I was thrilled to spy that Anchor Oyster Bar has reopened for takeout. The Castro’s neighborhood fish counter is maybe my boyfriend’s favorite restaurant in the city, the kind of spot where he doesn’t even whinge about waiting an hour in the fog, before squeezing in at the counter for a massive cioppino that’s effectively a garlic steam facial. Donning the bib, it’s like going into battle. For takeout, however, we started with more couch-friendly crab cakes and Caesar salad, and they warmed the cockles of my cold hard heart. Not too much breadcrumb nonsense, good and crabby, nice and crispy, with a serious tub of mayo business on the side. And the Caesar was creamy and cheesy, with extra large and chewy sourdough croutons. Order online to pick up. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Derby cake at Mazzetti’s

Mazzetti’s derby cake
Mazzetti’s/Instagram

It’s easy to get spoiled for choice at Mazzetti’s, a family-owned Italian bakery berched over a Pacifica freeway. While every option is good, from its biscotti to cookies to pies to pastries, its derby cake — a concoction of chocolate and vanilla sponge, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries and bananas — is what I keep coming back to. Maybe it’s because the fruit tricks me into feeling like I’m eating something healthful? Maybe it’s because its only available as an eight-inch-round cake, so I have an excuse to stop at my neighbors’ with a gifted slice? Or maybe it’s because there’s a distinct comfort in picking one of the most popular cakes (or so they say) from a spot where the workers seem to know everyone’s name, don’t mind if you vacillate over your choices, and have been in the game for over four decades. New and cool spots and dishes are (ha ha) my bread and butter, but these days, sometimes it’s nice to get a classic from a warm, cozy place that has its routine down to a science. — Eve Batey, news editor

Chicken jhol momos at Tashi Delek

Chicken jhol momos (dumpings in a brown gravy), with a bowl of lamb curry off to the side Luke Tsai

These days I’ve been craving momos, and so I find myself heading to El Cerrito on a near-weekly basis to get takeout basis from my favorite Nepalese/Indian/Tibetan/Bhutanese spot, Tashi Delek, which, in case you’re wondering, is also the only Bay Area restaurant I’m aware of that specializes in all of those respective cuisines. That means dinner can be a thrilling mix of South Asian dishes that are hard to find individually, much less all in one spot — hand-pulled noodles in a clean broth with thin slices of buffalo, the Tibetan meat pies known as sha bhaley, and probably my favorite local version of the spicy-sweet Indo-Chinese fried cauliflower dish, gobi Manchurian. The highlight of this week’s order was the chicken jhol momos: ten plump mini momos — wonderfully spiced with thick, chewy handmade wrappers — all drenched in a savory brown gravy tinged with the numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorn. It was a new flavor for me — and once I got a taste, I couldn’t get enough. Call in or order online for takeout, or get delivery via DoorDash. — Luke Tsai, food editor

July 10

Chorizo polenta cakes from Cocina Maíz

Cocina Maíz’s chorizo polenta cakes
Eve Batey

Cocina Maíz has been serving Oaxaqueño food (much, but not all, of it plant-based) for a couple years now, mainly at pop-ups in SF and the East Bay as well as via a burgeoning preorder-and-pick-up business (deliveries are also available in parts of the East Bay). They’re at Bernal Heights live music dive the Knockout through this weekend to celebrate the bar’s 15th anniversary, which is where I picked up their chorizo polenta dish, a satisfying and wholly vegan dish that mixes the bright tastes of corn with the spice of faux chorizo and the bite of cilantro. It wasn’t heavy or greasy (an issue some cite with meat-mocking foods) and felt fresh and bright. I’d eat this a couple times a week if I could. — Eve Batey, news editor

The #1 at Banh Mi Ba Le

Cross section of a banh mi from Banh Mi Ba Le in El Cerrito, with cold cuts, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro Luke Tsai

Is there a more ideal takeout lunch than a well-constructed banh mi? Maybe two banh mi. I’d somehow neglected to get my fix since the start of shelter in place, so over the long weekend I set about making up for lost time by heading over to Banh Mi Ba Le — the tiny El Cerrito storefront as opposed to the better known (and also excellent) location in East Oakland. My standard order here is the meatball banh mi with a runny-yolked fried egg (if you know, you know), but, snagging a second sandwich — because, why not? — I was reminded of the timeless deliciousness of the #1 combo, which at Ba Le, like many banh mi spots, features a mix of cold cuts, head cheese, and pâté. The wonder is in how beautifully all of the components come together: the crunchy-soft bread; the earthy, livery smear of the pâté; the gelatinous chew of the head cheese; the perfectly calibrated amount of cucumber, jalapeño, and pickled daikon; and, for good measure, that extra little MSG kick of Maggi seasoning. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Sunset roll from Hamano Sushi

If early quarantine called for comfort food lasagna and fried chicken, I’m personally swinging back to lighter sushi and salads. A friend recently asked me for a favorite sushi spot in and around Noe Valley, and while there are certainly buzzier omakase counters across this expensive city, honestly, I can’t quit Hamano. Hamano is a neighborhood fixture at what must have been a very quiet corner of Castro and Jersey when it opened more than 30 years ago. These days, it’s run by chef Jiro Lin, a longtime employee who did a stint at Saison before coming back and taking over ownership in 2016. The Sunset roll is a favorite, filled with spicy tuna and shrimp tempura, topped with seared salmon, and finished with a savory brush of garlic ponzu. And okay yes, there’s fried chicken — a chicken katsu curry with an extra crispy cutlet and that deeply satisfying lagoon of beef-enriched sauce. — Becky Duffett, reporter

June 26

Chupe de Camarones at El Mono

Chupe de camarones, an orange shrimp chowder topped with a poached egg, from El Mono Luke Tsai

In many ways, it feels like my pandemic diet has consisted mostly of an endless parade of soupy, saucy things to eat over rice — which is to say that, even with everything else going on, I’ve at least been keeping myself well fed. Those kinds of dishes have been my comfort food since I was a kid, after all. This week, it was an order of chupe de camarones, or Peruvian shrimp chowder, from El Mono, a small neighborhood joint in El Cerrito. It’s a wonderfully creamy, bright-orange chowder, more sauce than soup, slightly sweet and fragrant with the fruity heat of the Peruvian pepper known as ají panca. Crowned with a poached egg and served with a big scoop of rice for sopping everything up, it was the kind of dish that’s messy in the best kind of way. Of course, I licked the bowl clean. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Ham and Cheese Croissant from Kahnfections

Ham and cheese croissant from Kahnfections Becky Duffett

It was a caffeine-fueled dream to cover the recent opening of Noe Cafe, the corner laundromat that’s been transformed into a sleek new-wave coffee shop in Noe Valley. In addition to an eye-opening oat milk latte, I’m very into the pastry situation. The owners are a barista and a roaster, and while they’re roasting beans on site, they’re leaving the baking to the pros. The case has a sweet lineup of local bakeries, including doughnuts by Dynamo, bagels by Poppy Bagels, and croissants by Kahnfections. It was a good reminder of how wonderful Kahnfections’ croissants are, like the ham and cheese pictured, which is stuffed with thinly sliced ham and nutty cheese, tucked into buttery pastry layers, with a tidy knot on top. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Berliners at Hadough

“I accidentally ordered way too many doughnuts from Hadough,” my neighbor messaged me. “Can I bring you some?” You don’t have to text me twice for free pastries, regardless of origin, but Berliners from Hadough, the new NoPa bakery with a perennial line, felt more precious than gold. These aren’t the standard jelly-filled doughnuts you’d find in the island at your office kitchen on Fridays (ah, remember those halcyon days of working in an office?), these are light, yeasty, fluffy things with a jammy filling that’s more than just food-coloringed glop. The cherry-filled doughnuts were tart and sweet in equal measure, and actually tasted like fruit. The vanilla-filled ones were similarly complex, Bavarian cream that actually felt Bavarian. These things are the real deal. — Eve Batey, news editor

June 12

Avocado Toast Kit at Douglas

Avocado toast at Douglas Becky Duffett

Douglas has been stocking up throughout shelter in place. The upscale wine shop slash corner store has been featuring local farms and partnering with star restaurants, feeding the neighborhood with everything from third-wave coffee to displaced ducks. I recently had an opportunity to try the avocado toast meal kit, and before any trolls start grumbling, allow me to freely acknowledge that yes, I am an elder millennial. Does anyone need an avocado toast kit, you ask? Well, the thick slab of seeded sourdough came fresh from the mill at Midwife and Baker. The butteriest avocados in all the land rolled in from the ranch of Tom Brokaw. There are perfectly jammy eggs, pickled coriander seeds, and grassy fronds. Honestly, even if you massacre tapping and scooping out the eggs, it was so beautiful. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Dungeness crab cake burger at Westlake Joe’s

The Dungeness crab cake burger at Westlake Joe’s
Eve Batey

The Original Joe’s location at Westlake Village has its curbside pick-up game nailed: You order by phone, pull up under its awning, and a guy masked by an Original Joe’s logoed bandana (a garment I would most definitely buy, just saying) will run your food straight to your vehicle. In my case, this was their Dungeness crab cake burger (when I ordered, I asked “this is just crab, right? This isn’t a hamburger with a crab cake on top?” to the mirth of a Joe’s staffer. “Come on, you know somewhere like the Cheesecake Factory would do that shit, right?” I said. The laughter continued.), a menu item I could easily eat three times a week. The brioche bun withstands the combined dampness of dressing and crab, which is important given that the meal has to travel. Speaking of the dressing, it’s a slaw with an oddly piccata-like quality, a spiky concoction of cabbage, lemon, and capers that plays off the sweet, rich crab cake to excellent effect. In addition to curbside pickup and takeout, the menu at Original Joe’s, Westlake is also available for delivery via Uber Eats and Grubhub. — Eve Batey, news editor

Fried catfish and shrimp at Mississippi Catfish

Fried catfish and shrimp at Mississippi Catfish Luke Tsai

My love of restaurants tucked inside liquor stores, gas station convenience stores, and other offbeat locations is well-documented, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of favorite restaurants in Richmond is Mississippi Catfish, a fried seafood spot tucked next to a smog check station, run by Thomas Wright, a real-deal native of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Of course, in these (mostly!) takeout-only times, the quaintness of the space is a secondary consideration, and on a recent fish-fry kind of Friday, Mississippi Catfish came through like it always does: cornmeal-battered fried catfish that was uncommonly crisp, greaseless, and well seasoned; flawless butterflied shrimp; and tiny, oniony hush puppies so good and savory that I’d gladly eat them by the bucketful. — Luke Tsai, food editor


May 29

Nam kao at Sue’s Kitchen

Nam kao at Sue’s Kitchen Luke Tsai

This pandemic has me feeling nostalgic for the weirdest things — like the time, several months ago, when, just before delivering some very bad news about the condition of my gums, my dentist tipped me off on his favorite restaurant in the East Bay: Sue’s Kitchen, a Lao-Thai restaurant hidden away in a little strip mall in El Sobrante, where, he told me, the best things to order were the Lao dishes. The good doctor didn’t lead me astray. I’ve since eaten at Sue’s a handful of times in person, and this week, when the craving for nam kao hit, I knew exactly where to put in my takeout order. My favorite part of Sue’s version of the Lao-style crispy rice ball salad, served with fresh herbs and lettuce, is how big and crunchy the savory-sweet shards of deep-fried rice balls are — a true textural delight. On a hot day —even one when the restaurant had run out of the fermented pork sausage that’s traditionally part of the salad (subbing ground chicken instead) — this hit the spot. — Luke Tsai, food editor

“Death Star in a Jar” by Revenge Pies at Macondray

Death Star in a Jar by Revenge Pies Patricia Chang

Revenge Pies, the underground pie shop, slid back into action a couple of weeks ago. Pre pandemic, Elizabeth Simon was selling slices out of a pie window in the Mission, but these days, she’s exclusively supplying Macondray, that lush new bar in Russian Hill. Macondray has a number of delicious items on the menu, including spicy margaritas, lobster rolls, and crinkle-cut fries sprinkled with malt vinegar powder. For dessert, Revenge Pies is kicking in pie jars, a cute and creative way to repackage her pastries to go. It’s almost like a pudding-cup situation, with that signature all-butter, vodka-tenderized crust packed into the bottom, and spoonable fillings poured on top. There are a few flavors, including the season’s first peaches and coconut cream. You’re welcome to try them. But I know what I’m getting. The “death star in a jar” is blackout dark chocolate, punching lots of vanilla and a good pinch of salt. I snagged two, imagining I would share one with my boyfriend. Reader, I did not. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Bangkok scramble at Derm

Derm’s Bangkok scramble
Eve Batey

I’m too old to get hungover, but when I do, one of my surefire destinations has always been the blessedly quiet dining room of Derm, a Thai restaurant on the stretch of Geary Boulevard that runs along the back of USF. When I found myself in boozed-induced pain this week, Derm was there for me again — it’s weekend and weekday breakfasts, especially its excellent Bangkok scramble, are the closest I’ve come to a time machine I’d take to tell night-before me that I shouldn’t chase three beers with two more margaritas. The Bangkok is a glorious marriage of U.S. breakfast staples like cheddar cheese and eggs with Thai flavors like sour/spicy/fishy tom yum sauce, cilantro, and delicately flavored shrimp. It’s a combination that probably shouldn’t work, but it really, really does — both as a fantastic meal, and as a cure for my previous night’s terrible decisions. Meals from Derm are available for takeout or delivery via Caviar. — Eve Batey, news editor


May 22

Negroni mi amore at Violet’s Tavern

Violet’s negroni mi amore
Eve Batey

After recommending the takeout negroni mi amore at recently reopened Violet’s Tavern last week, it seemed silly not to remind myself why it was worth mentioning — so Friday I grabbed two doubles of the cocktail, a concoction of Junipero gin, St. George terroir gin, Lewis & Clark gin, Martalletti vermouth di Torino, Martini & Rossi rosso vermouth, and campari, all poured from a nitro tap. The bag a Violet’s staffer will hand you contains your drink in a vaguely medical-looking bottle, an orange for zesting, and instructions on how to prepare the cocktail, none of which involve the weird-ass stuff Stanley Tucci did. I used a Mason jar to hold my cocktail, because I like the old-timey-moonshine-and-still vibe it brings, but my husband used an insulated coffee cup to ensure his drink remained cold. We have this tray to make big-ass ice cubes, so I dropped two of those in (the drink, after all, was a double), sliced off a bit of zest, ran the peel along the jar’s rim, and took a sip. The cocktail was silky, sweet, and bitter perfection, if I do say so myself, and it lasted all the way to the beach and back. A single negroni mi amore to go is $10, or the double-batched will run you $19. Call menus are here, walk in (that’s what I did), or get delivery via Caviar, Postmates, Doordash, or Uber Eats.— Eve Batey, news editor

Banchan from JunJu

pork stew and banchan from JunJu Luke Tsai

The best thing about getting Korean takeout from JunJu, chef Robin Song’s new virtual restaurant, wasn’t the main course — a pork stew — hearty and satisfying as it was, studded with big, meaty bones to gnaw on and sweet fingerling potatoes. No, the best thing was the little tubs of banchan: the bean sprouts tossed with fava beans, the baby mustard greens, the two different kinds of kimchi, and, my favorite, a tub of squishy marinated mushrooms I would have been ecstatic eating as a meal all on their own, with a bowl of rice to soak up all the juices. I love to eat this way, grazing absentmindedly — a spoonful of stew chased down with rice and mushrooms, then some kimchi, maybe, with the next bite of rice, each flavor and texture offsetting the others. The very best part? I had enough leftover banchan to set out as side dishes for my next two or three meals, upping my weekly vegetable intake — and overall happiness — by about 200 percent. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Funghi pie from Fiorella

Funghi pizza from Fiorella Becky Duffett

Friday night calls for pizza, so last week, I buzzed over to Polk Street. It was a somewhat unsettling experience, given how many people were out drinking on the street, face masks flipped up (although not as bad as in the Marina, apparently). I held my breath and stepped up to the open doorway at Fiorella, which now has that second location, bringing its Neapolitan-style pies to more fans. And while their beautiful pizzas are inarguably better straight from the fiery inferno of the oven, dropped on the table like with a tendril of smoke, the old adage remains true — cold pizza is better than no pizza at all, and Fiorella’s pizza is still better than most. I liked the classic margarita with sweet tomatoes and milky mozz, but I loved the mushroom mix with buttery crescenza and fontina. Don’t miss those arancini, either, which are currently studded with sweet peas, and come with saffron aioli for dunking. — Becky Duffett, reporter

May 15

Strawberry panzanella from Palm City

The strawberry panzanella at Palm City
Eve Batey

The strawberry panzanella at Outer Sunset wine bar Palm City contains two things I am wary of: strawberries and focaccia. I know, that’s funny because they’re both in the name, but after my husband said “you have to get this salad, it has really delicious greasy bread” I was intrigued, as he hates salad and I love greasy things. It’s a really terrific and unexpected pairing of flavors, between the bitter range of lettuces, sweetness of the strawberries (they’re Dirty Girl, if you’re keeping track), saltiness of the Valbreso feta, all coated with cider vinaigrette and a heavy dose of tarragon. And, oh yeah, huge chunks of focaccia they make in house, and in such small batches that they won’t even let you order it by itself. That means the only way I can get my greasy bread fix is with a bunch of veggies, so in a certain sense Palm City is saving me from myself. Palm City is currently takeout only, online orders can be placed here. — Eve Batey, news editor

Fried chicken from Nopa

Fried chicken from Nopa Becky Duffett

Our friend Marcia Gagliardi over at Tablehopper has been waxing poetic about Nopa’s fried chicken, and she’s really not wrong. I finally slid in an order on a Friday night, and pulling up to the curb and stepping out of the car, you could just smell it — fried chicken in the air. Reader, it was perfect: half a chicken, brined in buttermilk until plump and juicy, and double dredged for a good thick crust. I loved how seasoned it was, all the way through, with a pinch of warm spice in the batter, and a drizzle of sriracha honey for a lick of heat and sweet. It was wonderful warm for dinner with a glass of bubbles, and just as satisfying straight out of the fridge the next morning. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Water-boiled fish from Sichuan Style

A spread of dishes from Sichuan Style Luke Tsai

A least a couple of times a month, I get a hankering for the good, tongue-numbing burn of Sichuan peppercorns, which usually means that — pandemic or no — I head over to Berkeley’s Sichuan Style, my favorite local spot for the cuisine. Did you know that Sichuan food travels pretty well? This past week we stuck to all of our usual favorites: the wok-charred cabbage; the well-spiced, belly-warming cumin lamb; the big, puffy wedges of sesame bread; and, my favorite, the water-boiled fish, with its tender fish fillets and the wonderful numbing heat of its chile-laced red sauce. I must have eaten four bowls of rice, and, after we made short work of all the fish, I did my mom’s old frugal trick: I saved the leftover sauce to cook some tofu for the next day’s lunch. — Luke Tsai, food editor

May 8

Sicilian sandwich from Guerra Quality Meats

Sandwich from Guerra Quality Meats Becky Duffett

In compiling the list of the essential butcher shops in San Francisco, I stumbled upon a neighborhood gem, which I am ashamed for not frequenting sooner. Guerra Quality Meats has been breaking down steaks, chops, and other classic cuts in West Portal since 1954, and the old-school shop is now run by the second generation of the family. Plus, they’ve got outstandingly meaty sandwiches, available for preorder and curbside pickup. On a Sunday morning, after trying and failing to socially distance on the overcrowded bike paths of Lake Merced, there is nothing like an oversized Italian sandwich, stuffed with salami, coppa, and hot peppers, slicked with mayo, and on a chewy ciabatta roll. It’s enough to nearly restore one’s faith in humanity. These are the sandwiches that great weekends are made of. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Breakfast chiles rellenos at Lucho’s

The chiles rellenos breakfast at Lucho’s
Eve Batey

Before Mexican restaurants widely catered to vegetarian diners, chiles rellenos were often my entree of choice — I mean, it’s a fried pepper stuffed with cheese, what can go wrong? Now that more spots than ever embrace the meatless, I haven’t had the dish in a while, but I was wooed back by the version offered at Lucho’s, a newish Cal-Yucatan spot located in one of San Francisco’s most adorable neighborhoods, the Lakeside District. These days, I’m not dining inside its light-filled, triangular space — their food arrives at my home in a box proffered by my husband. But inside the same excellent breakfast take on chiles rellenos remains: a pepper stuffed to bursting with scrambled eggs and cheese, fat cut by a heavy dollop of slaw and seasoned radishes. The whole mess rests atop a black bean puree so good that I’m worried that this dish might not be that veggie, after all. Lucho’s takeout menu is here. — Eve Batey, senior editor

Al pastor tacos at Tacos El Autlense

Now and forever, taco trucks are some of the heroes of food world — and during this pandemic, they’ve been some of the ones feeding frontline workers and also folks who are down on their luck and just in need of a hot meal. And thankfully, many of them are still open for business, so when I got a craving for al pastor earlier this week, I drove down to Tacos El Autlense, which is still parked in its usual spot outside the Hotsy Totsy Club, making a go of it even though a lot of its usual clientele — people drinking at the bar — aren’t around these days. A plate of tacos is, of course, a perfectly portable food, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it travels well, as anyone who’s eaten cold, limp tortillas can attest. So you can forgive me, I hope, for diving in as soon as I sat down in my car, when the tacos were still good and hot. And man did these hit the spot: the lengua as tender as you could ask for, the birria soupy and generously meaty. Best of all was that al pastor — full-flavored, crisp at the edges, and topped with a red salsa that was bright and full of verve. I polished off the whole plate in about a minute flat. — Luke Tsai, editor

May 1

Crystal shrimp dumplings at Dumpling House

Crystal shrimp dumplings from Dumpling House Becky Duffett

Reaching the depths of despair on a Friday night of quarantine, my boyfriend attempted to cheer me up. “What do you want for dinner? Do you want to get takeout?” “Dumps,” I snapped back. “I will only accept dumps.” I’ve been ordering takeout a little closer to home, in an effort to stop using those villainous delivery apps. So we took a flyer on a newish neighborhood spot, Dumpling House in the Castro. It was nothing fancy and just what the therapist ordered — good, simple dim sum, at a price point where you can load up your plate and still have leftovers to munch cold for breakfast. I have expressed this opinion before, but personally, my favorite type of dumps are shrimp har gow. In this case, the “crystal shrimp dumplings” were stuffed with plump pink shrimp, glowing through thin wrappers, and they didn’t die too badly in transit either. The restaurant has online ordering for pickup, or delivery through Postmates, Caviar, or Grubhub. — Becky Duffett, reporter

The kale Caesar from Square Pie Guys

Even my dog was interested in Square Pie Guys’ kale Caesar
Eve Batey

I know, I’m writing about a salad from a pizza place? What kind of virtue signaler am I? But this salad — made with a finely-chopped mix of crisp kale and romaine (ha ha remember when we thought romaine would kill us?), sweet cherry tomatoes, just-garlicky-enough croutons, and grana padano. It’s dressed with a pesto-y green goddess dressing, which, if Caesar purists didn’t already hit close tab, that was likely the final straw. They’re right, this isn’t a Caesar in any sense of the word, but who cares. It was just the right amount of tangy, fatty, and crunchy to counterbalance the Detroit-style pizza — and out of the whole meal, it was the only part where my husband and I bickered about who’d get the last portion. You can order takeout from Square Pie Guys here, delivery is available in-house or from Caviar or DoorDash. — Eve Batey, senior editor

The chirashi bowl from AS B-Dama/Berkeley Bowl West Cafe

Chirashi bowl and bentos from B-Dama/Berkeley Bowl West Luke Tsai

These days, we have to take our joys where we can find them. For me, the most luxurious indulgence of the pandemic (apart from, like, an unconscionable number of long, hot baths) has been a near-weekly chirashi bowl. Mostly I’ve been getting them from the Berkeley Bowl West Cafe, where the sushi chefs at AS B-Dama and Delage have embedded for the shelter in place — it’s a separate building adjacent to the grocery store, so you have to gingerly thread your way through the long line of would-be shoppers. For as long as I can remember, B-Dama has run the supermarket’s sushi and Japanese prepared foods section, but the new takeout operation is on a whole other level, in part because everything’s prepared to order: The fried chicken comes hot and crunchy; the rice is still warm and fluffy when you unwrap the onigiri. And that chirashi bowl? Generous slices of the butteriest pieces of fish scattered on a bed of fresh rice that was still slightly warm. All for just $12 (!). Check B-Dama’s Instagram page for the most recent menu — text orders to 510-421-6023, or get delivery via DoorDash. — Luke Tsai, editor

Old Port Lobster Shack

851 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City, CA 94063 (650) 366-2400 Visit Website

Tacos Mi Rancho

1434 1st Avenue, , CA 94606 (510) 395-1403 Visit Website

Benchmark Pizzeria

1568 Oak View Avenue, , CA 94706 (510) 647-9724 Visit Website

Lucho’s

2675 Ocean Avenue, , CA 94132 (415) 347-7416

Square Pie Guys

1077 Mission Street, , CA 94103 (415) 872-9290 Visit Website

Fiorella

2339 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 340-3049 Visit Website

Sue's Kitchen

448 Valley View Rd Ste H, El Sobrante, CA 94803

Mississippi Catfish

12440 San Pablo Avenue, , CA 94805 (510) 215-2526

El Mono

11740 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530 (510) 778-8884 Visit Website

Sichuan Style Restaurant

1699 Solano Avenue, , CA 94707 (510) 525-9890 Visit Website

Pomella

3770 Piedmont Avenue, , CA 94611 (510) 250-9215 Visit Website

Nopa

560 Divisadero Street, , CA 94117 (415) 864-8643 Visit Website

Banh Mi Ba Le (El Cerrito)

10174 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

Douglas

1598 Sanchez Street, , CA 94131 (415) 590-3261 Visit Website

Tashi Delek

11224 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530 (510) 232-9316

El Garage

1428 Macdonald Avenue, , CA 94801 Visit Website

Raymond’s Pizzeria

130 Railroad Avenue, , CA 94801 (510) 609-4961 Visit Website

Wojia Hunan Cuisine

917 San Pablo Avenue, , CA 94706 (510) 526-9088

Delage

536 9th Street, , CA 94607 (510) 823-2050 Visit Website

Berkeley Bowl West Cafe

920-998 Heinz Avenue, , CA 94710 (510) 898-9555 Visit Website

Anchor Oyster Bar

579 Castro Street, , CA 94114 (415) 431-3990 Visit Website

Violet's

2301 Clement Street, , CA 94121 (415) 682-4861 Visit Website
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