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A pizza topped with mushrooms and whole basil leaves. Lauren Saria

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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate Last Week

From dark and dreamy bean dip to dainty quenelles of pate, Eater editors share their favorite dishes around town

Even with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bay Area remains a thrilling place to eat, yet night after night many of us wind up falling back on the same usual suspects. Fortunately, Eater editors eat out more often than most, and we take seriously our responsibility to steer you toward a better meal. We report all of our most exciting findings on a weekly basis, so check back regularly to find out what you should be eating too.

October 22

The Orchard at That’s Outta Sight

So maybe you’ve already heard about Eric Ehler’s pizza pop-up That’s Outta Sight. Fine. But allow me to point you toward a specific pie on the current menu, available five nights a week at Hayes Valley wine bar Fig & Thistle. The Orchard is a throwback to the culinary wonderland that is the Olive Garden — yeah, the one with the endless breadsticks and wickedly addicting potato-studded soup. Ehler’s homage combines mushrooms, scallions, and mozzarella plus (and here’s what attracted me to this beauty in the first place) rosemary honey and garlic butter to create a pizza that summons the very specific flavor memory of sopping up scampi and alfredo sauces with obscene numbers of those uniformly pillowy breadsticks. And as a person who, as a child, would annoy her family by repeatedly chanting “when you’re here, you’re family” (why? I couldn’t tell you), I can attest this ‘za is pure nostalgia and utterly enjoyable. — Lauren Saria, editor

Chicken liver pate at Routier

Two quenelles of pate on a patterned china plate with currants on top and a side of bread. Becky Duffet

On a Friday night, my reservation plans fell through, and I texted a friend at the last minute, begging her to go get a drink. We bellied up to the bar at Routier, the newish savory restaurant from the B. Patisserie team, which just snagged a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Both of us had already feasted on the lobster grand aioli and steelhead rillettes as takeout, and they do make cool takeout fare. But it was a dream to finally get to drink in the dining room, order a glass of crisp sparkling wine, and a couple of excellent snacks. We dug into a chicken liver pate, or as I like to think of it, the butter of the meat world, served in two generously spooned quenelles, with a mound of earthy and sweet currants on top. And a thinly shaved fennel salad, watery and crunchy with that licorice whisper. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Frijolitos con chips at Otra

A bowl of black bean dip and thick chips on a grey plate. Lauren Saria

I didn’t want to go out Wednesday, the super rainy Noah’s Ark of a night. But I’m not a bailer— especially not when a friend goes through the trouble to make a big group parklet reservation and specifically seek one out with a roof. Plus, we had a sitter. By the time we walked up to Otra, the rest of our party was warm, dry and drinking margaritas while digging into ceviche and platters of chips and dip. I ordered myself a margarita, too— the spicy margarita, which was the move, as Eater likes to say. Then someone passed me a platter scattered with a few sturdy, salt-tinged tortilla chips with an already half-scraped bowl of refried black bean dip. There might’ve been crumbled queso fresco and herby garnish on it before it got to me? Don’t know. All I got was a warm, thick, creamy, dreamy dip as dark as the streets we’d just driven through. Obviously, I ordered another round of chips to go with the rest of it. And obviously, another spicy margarita. (There were, of course, tacos, too. The slow-cooked carne tacos, most notably.) And obviously, cozy under the heater, I was glad I went out. A downpour during a drought, after all, is something to celebrate. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

October 15

Jerk Chicken at Kingston 11 Cuisine

Not to shamelessly name drop, but when the governor asked if I’d like to chat about the future of cocktails and parklets, I hauled ass across the bridge to Oakland bright and early on a Friday morning. Stepping through the door at Kingston 11 Cuisine, even through a mask and all the excitement, the warm spices and braising meats smelled distractingly good. Chef Nigel Jones kindly sent me home with a box of jerk chicken, rice and beans, and plantains, and when I finally got to eat lunch at 4 p.m., you could not have asked for a more soothing and satisfying meal. The chicken was richly marinated and slow smoked, the rice and beans were earthy and textured, and those fried plantains were oh so sweet. But please be smarter than a scattered reporter on deadline, and remember to order a rum punch to go. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

“Hugo Street Retreat” Tamale at Yo Tambien Cantina

Not long ago, Yo Tambien Cantina posted a few screenshots from Yelp on Instagram. Reviews that the owners Isa and Kenzie, for some reason, decided to read. “They wing it with whatever ingredients they have,” one one-star-poster griped, calling it: “vegetarian semi-cooked food.” Another complaint: “toast (too toasted).” (A pro to me.) Also, apparently their sauce is a sin. Yelp is comedy, really. “Thank you for your support!!” the co-owners captioned. And then — a nice thing about Instagram — the real support from loyal customers poured in. After devouring the “Hugo Street Retreat” — a warm veggie tamale buried beneath a mound of cabbage slaw drizzled in chile oil, plus pickled onion, a halved egg, and what’s got to be an entire avocado — I thought I’d add my support, too, for this tiny neighborhood cantina. Which, despite all odds, has nourished the neighborhood throughout the pandemic with super fresh, local, organic ingredients. Sorry haters, they can wing it whenever they want to! And that sauce is so fiery and fucking amazing, I bought a jar. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Pumpkin Croissant at Jane the Bakery

A croissant topped with almonds and pepitas on a blue-flowered plate. Lauren Saria

Sorry to be basic, but I cannot overstate how fantastically flaky the pumpkin croissant is at Jane the Bakery. As evidenced by this behind-the-scenes video posted to the bakery’s Instagram, it's a twice-baked pastry that’s both filled with spiced and slightly sweet pumpkin-flavored filling and then adorned with another dollop of airy pumpkin butter — and that’s all before being rolled in pepitas and slivers of almonds and returned back to the oven once again. The final product sports a wreath of almost-candied nuts and seeds and is so crispy, each bite generates a flurry of bronze feuilles that flutter down your shirt and all over your table like itty-bitty autumn leaves. So yes, we may be soaking up the last golden gasps of summer, but with a cup of hot coffee and one of these to the start day, it’s actually totally fine by me. — Lauren Saria, editor

October 8

Katsu Curry at Dela Curo

A white plate with rice, shredded cabbage, and pork tonkotsu topped with inky black curry. Lauren Saria/Eater SF

It’s one thing to describe the deep, complex flavor of Chikara Ono’s Dela Curo (which appropriately translates to “super black”) curry, but to witness it is something else entirely. Staring into the inky depths of that sauce is awe-inspiring in the same was as looking up at the midnight sky — except instead of being mesmerized by twinkling pinpoints of starlight, you find yourself entranced by tiny but luminous orbs of caramelized fats from the long-simmered onions and beef that make up the backbone of that ebony gravy. During a weekday lunch, its smooth surface glistened in the afternoon sun, a visual indication of the rich and layered flavors that made a pile of thin sliced cabbage and pungent pickles an absolute necessity. And even though the thick slices of pork katsu were a little drier than I’d normally prefer, the abundance of that inscrutable curry made it an only minor inconvenience. — Lauren Saria, editor

Milano Sandwich on Dutch Crunch at Guerra Quality Meats

After running around last weekend, I was in desperate need of a big sandwich. And as readers already know, there are so many satisfying options in San Francisco. I rolled over to Guerra Quality Meats, the old-school Italian-American butcher shop in Parkside. As one kind reader tipped me off, and as I now wholeheartedly endorse, Guerra’s has arguably the best Dutch crunch in the Bay Area. I skipped over my usual Toscano with salami, coppa, and provolone, in favor of a marginally lighter Milano with turkey, havarti, and roasted red peppers. The Guerra family cares about ingredients, and it was real roasted turkey, no mystery meat, with buttery havarti, and the crunchiest crunch. I totally meant to save half for later. I did not. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

The Little Star Pizza at Little Star Pizza

My Last Supper — a Friday, mid-March 2020, before lockdown was Little Star Pizza. A multi-family, chaotic kid, Pac-Man-huddled affair. (Preceded by parental cocktails at Che Fico — and had I known it was going to be a year or two until I ate inside a restaurant again, I would’ve stayed through dessert.) No offense to Little Star. I love Little Star. The sort of love that routinely led me to eat four slices of its eponymous spinach-fortified deep dish per sitting. Yet, I hadn’t had it since. Until last night, at my son’s request, for his birthday dinner. Fitting, as it’s ultimately cornmeal crust cake. Turns out, my slice count — like SF’s COVID rate — has dropped. (To three.) ICYMI, which you didn’t: UCSF’s Bob Wachter tweeted he’s ready to dine indoors again. I guess that means I should be comfy with dining indoors again, too? If/when I do, it won’t be at the narrow, windowless box that is this Divis location. That’s ok: Little Star shines brightest at takeout anyway. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

October 1

The Sesame Leaf at Ettan

Sometimes Palo Alto can be so soothing compared to the riot of San Francisco, and it was warm and calm stepping out of my car on a Tuesday night, after winding through small back alleys to Ettan. I’ve always loved the former Three Seasons space, with its striking skylight at the center, and now comfortable outdoor tables crook around the building so you can settle into booths with cushions with colorful umbrellas hanging upside down overhead. The new upscale Indian restaurant has been busy, thanks to a menu crafted by chef Srijith Gopinathan of Michelin-starred Campton Place (two stars to be precise, as reaffirmed this week). All of the dishes were beautiful and colorful, with many layers of textures and bright, arching flavors and aromas. One prime example is the sesame leaf, which starts with a thin and crispy sesame leaf as the base, and piles on chaat-style cool yogurt and tangy tamarind, perfectly diced mango, and crumbled sesame brittle. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Ramen at Ramen Shop

I have a thing about hot, brothy food — I really only like to eat it when it’s cold outside. Not completely out of the ordinary, I know. But still, maybe a little rigid. And so I was a wee bit worried about the early September eve reservation my friend Jan made for four at Oakland’s Ramen Shop. It was bound to be warm and sunlit, and I would just have to suck it up. (Pun intended.) But then, lo and behold, as George and I were driving — no, sailing — over the Bay Bridge during what, in 2019, would’ve been standstill rush hour traffic (COVID silver lining!), it started to do something it hadn’t done in a while: drizzle. By the time we were sitting at a picnic table, in the parklet, under a sturdy plastic roof, it started to full-on rain. Pitter. Patter. Slurp. Is there anything better than eating a seemingly bottomless bowl of ramen outdoors with friends in the rain? Especially Ramen Shop’s ramen? I had the miso, brimming with braised pork, slabs of roasted eggplant, butter corn, and a thick tangle of noodles. Mmm. Nope! — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Brown Sugar Kitchen

Once again, I was lucky enough to eat a lot of great food last week. There was a stunning trout roe chirashi bowl at the Anchovy Bar (I practically inhaled the whole thing tout seul) and a chewy White Rabbit matcha cookie from Sunday Bakeshop that brought me back to childhood in the best way. But as soon as I scrolled past the woefully terrible photo I snapped of a pristine piece of fried chicken from Brown Sugar Kitchen my mouth began to water at the memory. It took only one, perfectly fried, supremely juicy leg to convince me that Tanya Holland is some sort of fried chicken whisper — the coating was thin but somehow substantial, clinging precipitously to slippery dark meat and punched up with a magical medley of herbs and spices. The salty entree called for bubbles, of course — and don’t even get me started on the biscuits. That number of flaky layers ought to be some kind of criminal. — Lauren Saria, editor

September 24

Sea Urchin “Carbonara” Lo Mein at Ernest

Sea urchin “carbonara” at Earnest Lauren Saria/Eater SF

There’s a lot to love about Brandon Rice’s pristine corner of the Mission, from the short but thoughtful list of cocktails to the gloriously rich aged beef and bone marrow dumplings. (Consider yourself warned: the Miami Vice Royal is so skillfully balanced it’ll take some serious power of will to not suck it down in a single, sweet gulp.) But the dish that truly had me swooning was Ernest’s unassumingly named lo mein, which is actually a decadent plate of springy noodles bathed in velvety carbonara infused with the gentle, briny kiss of sea urchin. Whether you’re the kind of fine diner who jumps at the sight of uni or someone who feels relatively indifferent about its appeal — I find myself somewhere in the middle depending on the day — it’s impossible not to do a little happy dance over this buttery, smokey plate, dappled with bits of bacon and wisps of Parmesan. — Lauren Saria, editor

The Mana’eesh at Reem’s

My new puppy has me reliving quarantine takeout these days, so on a Saturday night, seeking fresh options, I placed a pickup order from Reem’s. Did I realize it was a Lowrider Cruise Night in the Mission? No, no I did not, but it was a very Mission experience trying to find a parking spot with cars and people bouncing in the streets. Reem’s is an Arab bakery featuring beautiful bread, savory dips, and sweet desserts, the makings of a great snack dinner. Stepping up the window, the mana’eesh was freshly toasted and still warm in the bag, releasing the aroma of fragrant za’atar. We dunked it in smoky babaghanouj and nutty muhamarra, along with a fattoush salad filled with peppery arugula and cherry tomatoes, that would have been enough for a dinner alone. But then there’s baklawa, and who am I to say no to baklawa, especially with those paper-thin phyllo layers and the scent of rosewater. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

The Breakfast Sandwich at Outerlands

I’ve loved everything about Outerlands since it first opened — back in, wait! whoa! 2009?! The warm bread. The warm people. All that gorgeous wood. The way it feels, fog or shine — morning, noon, and especially night — like a respite from the rest of San Francisco. Outerlands was always everything I always wanted in a restaurant. (Well, except for no epic long wait.) There was one little thing I wished it had, though, that it never did. Only because I knew it would do it well: a breakfast sandwich. But last weekend, starving, walking my pandemic puppy by the beach, I remembered: Outerlands was open! With online ordering — and, omg, a breakfast sandwich. A fried egg, with melted cheddar, arugula, a little aioli — plus bacon and a perfect September tomato — on a pillowy, housemade potato, seed-speckled, brioche bun. Bypassing the line, my order was ready as I rolled up. I took a seat on the driftwood bench, balanced the compostable box on my lap, and devoured the (ouch, $20) breakfast sandwich of my dreams — before my dog did. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

September 17

All Things Uni at Robin

Uni sushi at Robin Rachel Levin

Before my husband and I were married, before were dating, before we ever even made out— we were roommates. Roommates who’d go on sushi dates once a week. From Sushi Ran to Sushi Zone, Tekka to Sebo (ah, remember Sebo), we tried them all. Including Robin (me, three times, on Eater’s dime.) It was a tradition we kept up until the pandemic, when we quit raw fish cold turkey. Takeout sushi isn’t the same. All of which is to say: After almost two years of no sushi dates, we wanted to go big, and so we went Robin. Reunited with the truffle-dusted sesame noodles! The foie snow! And all things uni, like that spoonful of a nori chip with a fat tongue of uni draped over wagyu beef, with Asian pear and shallots. It was so good to eat you again, Robin. To pay you, however … just kidding. It’s worth saving our sushi pennies. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Whole Fried Fish at Liholiho Yacht Club

A whole fried fish with cilantro-ginger sauce at Liholiho Yacht Club Lauren Saria

I rolled the dice walking in at Liholiho Yacht Club on Friday night and was rewarded with two seats at a front bar with a great view of 18th Street. I started with the Notorious P.O.G., a simple but satisfying blend of tequila and fruit juices, inspired by those bright pink cans you’ll find just about everywhere in Hawai’i. Which I associate primarily with lazy summer breakfasts at my aunt’s house in Honolulu, usually an extravagant spread of sweet bread, fresh fruit, eggs, and Portuguese sausage serenaded by her pet parakeets singing happily in the next room. Recalling the boisterous late-night family gatherings of those summers, I couldn’t resist ordering the signature whole fried local fish — I’ll never forget the time an uncle showed up with two 5-gallon plastic buckets teeming with tilapia to throw on the grill. Liholiho’s was infinitely more elegant: delicate and flaky white fish flavored with coconut and turmeric and expertly fried, sporting a thin but crispy coat of batter. A side of punchy cilantro-ginger sauce provided pungent pop. Paradise found. — Lauren Saria, editor

The Holy Trinity at Horn Barbecue

Meats at Horn Barbecue Becky Duffett

Does anyone really need a recommendation to go to Horn Barbecue at this point? Eater readers know what’s up, and have been waiting in long lines for Matt Horn’s smoky, succulent barbecue for oh so many months. But let’s be honest — Horn is worth the hype, and by far, the best thing I ate this week was a meaty late lunch on the back patio. We racked up the holy trinity of barbecue: brisket, ribs, and pulled pork, threw in a hot link for luck, and rounded it out with mac and cheese, grandma’s potatoes, creamy slaw, and banana pudding. The meats were sweet, smoky, and fall-apart tender, the kind of labor intensive, long-stoked barbecue that is so hard to come by in the bay. A few hot tips: Go on a weekday, go at off hours, and still be prepared to chill in line for half an hour or so. But order big and hoard leftovers. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

September 9

Pad Priking Hed at Nari

Fried mushrooms in curry paste and stir-fried skirt steak at Nari Lauren Saria

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks of dining, which means picking a single standout dish — normally something to look forward to — now feels a little unfeasible. There was that longorous dinner at Mourad with flawless service; fluffy couscous infused with the irresistible richness of brown butter; and a gorgeous wreath of roe, tomatoes, and salmon gently kissed with applewood smoke. And what about that B. Patisserie kouign amann with its flaky, crackly, sugary exterior and devastatingly fluffy interior? (Turns out I ate that one so fast I didn’t take time to get a photo.) In any case, I’ve landed on the fragrant pad priking hed at Nari, which was just one of a tableful of great dishes enjoyed there. A mango salad packed pickly, pungent heat but these maitake mushrooms and green beans were fried to a resounding crisp and delivered a measured and very pleasant level of spice — the kind that levels your lips a little tingly, but just enough to keep you diving back in for more. — Lauren Saria, editor

Heritage Pork Chop at Luna

Pork chop at Luna Becky Duffett

Certain people really love pork chops, and seek them out across town, from the fan favorite at Nopa, to that deep belly cut from Cockscomb (RIP). There’s a new contender at Luna, where the chef is coming from Wayfare Tavern, and knows his steaks and chops. It’s a heritage pork chop, still on the bone, cut an inch thick, and generously brined. With a good hard sear on the outside, a steak knife slices down into juicy, sweet, and salty meat. And it’s reclined on a cloud of creamy polenta floating on a glossy pool of masala jus, so you’ll want to swipe hard before every bite. It’s also worth noting that Luna has a solid list of $12 cocktails, and who doesn’t love the rare $12 cocktail in San Francisco? A seat inside would give you a view of the new jewel-toned interiors, but if you’re meeting a friend who’s understandably worried about delta, the parklet is still fun, even with the mariachi bands and occasional truck trundling by on Valencia. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Burger Dog from Hot Dog Bills

Burger dog from Hot Dog Bills Rachel Levin

I’m not a golfer, and yet — even though I don’t own a (required) collared shirt — I went golfing, at the 160-year-old Olympic Club. On its Par 3 course — which is kind of like glorified, much-harder, mini-golf, except with sweeping views of the Pacific and Fort Funston’s hand gilders in lieu of a faux windmill or Transamerica replica. Golf, schmolf. The real reason I went was to try the storied, trademarked, Burger Dog — from Hot Dog Bills, a family-owned snack shack since 1950. Made with ground chuck and sirloin, the Burger Dog is shaped, yes, like a hot dog (albeit one that’s been run-over by a golf cart), and griddled-to-order with melted American cheese, pickles, and sautéed onions on a soft warm bun. Bill Clinton has had a Burger Dog. Obama has had a Burger Dog. And you, too, can have a Burger Dog, if you golf. Or ever get back to the Chase Center, which got a Hot Dog Bills of its own. Or: just make your own. Aided, if you like, by the (very unnecessary) Burger Dog mold for 25 bucks. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

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