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Lobster at Monsieur Benjamin Monsieur Benjamin

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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate Last Week

From sausage-stuffed olives to oversized sushi platters to buttery lobsters, 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.

December 17

Cicchetti at Sorella

A cocktail, cacio e pepe chips, and fried olives at Sorella. Lauren Saria

They looked so unassuming. Just a little glass bowl with fewer than a dozen nuggets inside. But when I picked one up and popped it into my mouth, I was immediately transported to my Happy Place via that tiny basin of fleshy green orbs stuffed with sausage and deep fried to a perfect golden brown. And olive ascolane is just one of a number of truly excellent bar snacks on the cicchetti menu at the newly opened Sorella. There’s also a bowl of “cacio e pepe” potato chips that shatter and release a puff of peppey, cheesy dust with every bite and a single, hulking chicken wing that’s (also) stuffed with sausage and lacquered in a honey chile glaze. The sweet kusshi oysters swim in a tart and grassy sea bean mignonette, even the perfectly crisp batons of zucchini demand to be thoroughly enjoyed with a dash of creamy meyer lemon aioli. The small plates are only available at the bar, but I’m already plotting another visit to dive deeper into chef de cuisine Denise St. Onge’s dinner menu of fresh pastas and more. — Lauren Saria, editor

To-Go Platter at Ebisu

Sushi platter at Ebisu Rachel Levin

Among the many things I never did pre-pandemic but I do now — for example, wearing my slippers to the grocery store and letting no leftovers go uneaten — I’ve also succumbed to takeout sushi for a raw fish fix. Our pre-covid neighborhood go-out-to was Koo, but for ordering in, they use too much packaging; not every roll, nor nigiri, needs its own box. Instead, I’ve gone back to an old favorite a few doors down, from my early San Francisco days: Ebisu. After almost four decades on 9th Ave, they’ve still got it. And what they’ve also got are pretty platters of fresh fish. (Plus, pictured here, a disproportionate number of avocado rolls, because they’re my kids’ favorite.) A big sushi platter makes even an ordinary Tuesday night at home feel like a party. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Whole-Roasted Lobster at Monsieur Benjamin

Lobster at Monsieur Benjamin Becky Duffett

Bellying up to the horseshoe bar at Monsieur Benjamin, I originally told my best food friend, “Maybe we should just get some drinks and snacks.” It is an outrageous time of year, after all — I was coming straight from a cookie party and headed into a prime rib dinner the next night. But she knew I was telling lies, and I knew I was telling lies, and before you know it, chef George Dingle was setting an entire Maine lobster in front of us: Dramatically splayed open, drenched with a persillade of garlic and parsley, flaunting antennae black-tipped from the grill, and served with a buttery heap of sautéed spinach and crisp frites, of course. Monsieur B is a pretty snappy place, but that did not stop us from wrestling this buttery beast, who had one of those extra thick winter shell that cracks like a gunshot. And because it was my birthday, my bestie gave me the big claw. What a class act, and what a crustacean spectacle. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

December 10

Large Combo Platter at Tia Margarita

Combo plate at Tia Margarita Becky Duffett

“I have been craving a very specific type of Mexican food,” my friend said from the far side of the booth. “Like a combo plate.” We were trying to go to Tommy’s, but the tequila institution is temporarily closed, so instead we wound up seeking Friday night margaritas at Tia Margarita. The Mexican restaurant first opened in 1963; now in the third generation of the family, it’s known for freshly squeezed margaritas in cactus glasses and a horseshoe-shaped bar that’s kind of a scene. I went all-in on a large combo platter, which means you get to pick three from an enchilada, chile relleno, tamale, taco, flauta, or burrito; then choose fillings from steak, pork, chicken, or cheese; and enjoy with sides of Mexican rice and beans smothered in cheese. All this arrives on a plate that arguably could be a tray. I liked the enchilada most of all, with tender shredded beef blanketed in a warm red chile sauce, and the chicken flauta was good and crunchy with a thick squiggle of sour cream. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Nom Tok Koo at Nari

Rachel Levin

I felt almost naked. My first dinner out in forever, indoors! No wooly hat, no puffy coat, no socks even. on this rainy night. Instead, I donned something I haven’t donned in awhile: a dress. For a freshly-swabbed, celebratory night in Nari’s private room, to celebrate nothing, really, except being boosted and alive. Just a dozen friends treating ourselves to a perfect Pim Techamuanvivit feast. We swooned over every single family-style dish, and there were, I believe, ten of them. But, for this blurb, I have to choose one — and so, the nom tok moo it will be: a slow-cooked, fork-tender, pork chop submerged in a soul-stirring sauce, which we swaddled with wide, crisp leaves of lettuce until too much wine was drank and every last bit of everything but our happiness, was gone. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Fried chicken at Fixins

Fried chicken with mac n’ cheese and candied yams at Fixins. Lauren Saria

I’ll be honest: I didn’t have the highest of expectations when, home for holiday-related activities, I decided to grab dinner with a friend at Fixins, the Oak Park soul food restaurant from former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson (there’s also an outpost in LA). I mean, ok, sure the guy can do a lot of things impressively well but what does he know about frying chicken? Well, the answer is apparently “enough” because the two-piece fried chicken meal I had on that cold night was genuinely excellent. A just-thick-enough coating of batter clung precariously to juicy dark meat (you can choose light, I guess, if you’re into that), loosening itself with a satisfying crackle in every bite. It was hot, flavorful, and well-matched with sides of sweet candied yams and mac n’ cheese. But the real sleeper hit? The Uptown Salad, which comes topped with chili cheese flavored Fritos. Pure chaotic genius. — Lauren Saria, editor

December 3

Cheeseburger at Sam’s

A cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun with shredded lettuce and diced red onion. Lauren Saria

The first time I wandered by Sam’s, that grungy little sliver of a burger spot in North Beach, I remarked to my companion, “It has to be good, or it wouldn’t exist.” Of course, a quick Google would have confirmed my suspicions. Not only has the inconspicuous shoebox been around since 1966, but it was also famously crowned the home of one of the “top three” burgers in the world by the late Anthony Bourdain. Even unaware of these accolades, I wandered over at the very next opportunity, which happened to be after downing a few beers at Vesuvio up the street. And on the dregs of a couple cold pints, Sam’s made for a motion picture–perfect dinner. Sliding past the glowing front window — a perfect frame for a flat top filled with sizzling patties — and bellying up the counter, I ordered a cheeseburger and a paper plate of fries. The staff, even late on a quiet Wednesday night, were warm in a casual sort of way, chatting with customers and butting into our conversations with a droll joke or two. The burger, however, was a true archetype with its unremarkable sesame seed bun clapped around melted cheese and a just-charred patty. I love a substantial slice of tomato and a fistful of shredded iceberg just as much as the next burger enthusiast, but it’s the pungent pieces of red onions that really sealed the deal for me. — Lauren Saria, editor

Honey-Butter-Chili Sweet Corn from San Ho Won

Honey-butter-chili sweet corn Becky Duffett

Allow me to apologize up front, because it’s going to be a struggle to get a reservation, but one of the most revelatory meals I’ve had this fall was at San Ho Won, the highly anticipated new Korean barbecue restaurant from chefs Corey Lee and Jeong-In Hwang. Kicking back in a booth with a crew of friends, we feasted on refreshing soju highballs, smoky barbecue, spicy stews, crispy-bottomed rice, and not your usual banchan. The crowd-favorite double-cut galbi are delicious, with extra thick short ribs cooked perfectly from the crispy edge to the tender bone, then folded into jagged fresh sesame leaves. And the chef’s favorite spicy chicken tteokbokki chicken stew is bubbling with fiery red sauce and buried with tender chicken and chewy rice cakes. But one unexpected sleeper hit was the sweet corn with honey butter and chili, which was sweet, spicy, and drenched in glorious butter, with two picks pierced on either side, for typewriter-style nibbling. Ka-ching. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Cranberry-Apple Juice from Juicey Lucy

Vegetables and jars set out for juicing Rachel Levin

It’s hard coming off the gluttony and hangover of Thanksgiving week — before heading straight into more of it with latkes. I had Sunday to recover — and a date with my friend George. In lieu of brunch, we took an all-day urban walk in glorious weather. We started at the Mill, and while I’d already eaten a slice of my previously plugged Midnite pumpernickel, George got avocado toast, and declared it delicious (despite my concern that the avocado was mashed). Next, we motored through the DMV farmers’ market and stopped when we saw what we both needed: Juicey Lucy. Long silver-haired Lucy has been pressing fresh fruit and vegetables since 1994, and yet, I’d never tasted them. George admonished then treated me to the tonic that cured me: a mason jar brimming with a frothy fresh blend of lemons, apples, carrots, cranberries, and ginger. Revitalized, per Lucy’s promise, we walked all the way to Ocean Beach and back — by way of another, newer, local treasure: Golden Gate Park poet Brett Benson set up by the bison with his typewriter. I came home with a poem and a jar I’ll surely be bringing back for refills. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

November 19

Caviar Eclairs at Le Fantastique

After months of pandemic delays and waiting, Le Fantastique has finally opened, and it’s dazzling. The new wine slash fish bar from the Bird Dog team defies that description — chef Robbie Wilson is into raw, cured, and smoked fish, but he doesn’t mean Italian crudo or Japanese sushi, and who decided that raw fish has to be in one of those two categories, anyways? And he’s into bubbles, which I always thrive on, but especially during the holidays, the most effervescent time of the year. We were seated on a chesterfield in the Green Room, promptly handed a glass of bubbles, and served the caviar eclairs. They arrive on a small glass stand, the lid lifts so you get a whiff of smoke, and then you pop the whole puff into your mouth, and it explodes sweet with maple, smoky with caviar, and briny all the way through. It reminded me of the caviar eclairs from the Silver Palate Cookbook, my mother’s entertaining bible of the ’80s, which to be clear, I mean as a compliment. And then we got every raw fish plate on the menu, from the tender fluke to the fatty king salmon, and chased every one with another glass of cremant. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Ichiju Sansai at Nisei

Four black bowls on a wooden platter with pickled vegetables, rice, sliced grilled squab, and red miso soup.
“Ichiju sansa,” or “one soup, three sides,” the final savory course of the tasting menu at Nisei.
Lauren Saria

I’ve been anxious to get to Nisei since the ambitious Japanese-American restaurant opened way back in August. So when my long-awaited reservation fell on a cold and foggy San Francisco evening, it felt like fate. Because when it’s damp and dark by 3 p.m., a 10-course dinner of “Japanese soul food” feels like the perfect move. Chef David Yoshimura’s menu is grounded in washoku, the traditional Japanese approach cooking that emphasizes seasonality and balance. And from the first course to the last, he succeeds in showing a less common side of the country’s cuisine, one that dives deep with the richness of American unagi blackened over charcoal and soars to sweet heights with pumpkin chawanmushi dusted with black truffle snow. But the course that’ll be dancing in my head for weeks to come was the last in the parade of savory small plates: a multi-component course called “ichiju sansai,” or “one soup, three sides.” In a quartet of handsome ceramic black bowls, Yoshimura presents tsukemono (thin slices of near-translucent pickled vegetables), red miso soup swimming with threads of yuba, and perfectly cooked rice from Rue & Forsman Ranch scattered with crispy bits of squab leg confit. And of course, there was the squab: thick slices of tender and moist meat, grilled to a gorgeous garnet interior. — Lauren Saria, editor

Pumpernickel Bread at Midnite Bagel

As someone raised Jewish in America, I can say with semi-confidence that pumpernickel has gotten a bad wrap. In bagel form, it’s always the last pick. This morning, though, shopping at Bi-Rite, I spotted a brown bag of bread labeled pumpernickel and grabbed it — snubbing all the country and sourdough and whole-wheat loaves and sour or sweet baguettes. Pumpernickel! My beloved, long lost loaf! I hadn’t gotten the memo that Midnite Bagel is making bread, including the kind of soft, almost fluffy, pumpernickel bread I used to love as a kid. My pre-COVID memory of Midnite Bagel is the bagels-for-dinner pop-ups they held at Tartine. I never made it there, because to me, bagels are for breakfast. But today through tonight, Midnite Bagel pumpernickel was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Toasted in the a.m. with butter; then again at lunch, thinly sliced and sandwiched with salami, cheese, Dijon, and pickled jalapeños; and again after dark. I type this while baking marinated chicken thighs for dinner — with a salad of arugula, and fat hunks of pumpernickel in lieu of potatoes, warmed and waiting to be dipped. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

November 12

Steak Dinner and Rum Punch at Palmetto

Beef-fat fries at Palmetto Becky Duffett

Is there anything more fun than a snazzy steak dinner with a rum punch, one might ask? I already loved the Kon-Tiki in Oakland, that over-the-top tiki bar where you can feast on zombies and fried chicken sandwiches, and it was a thrill to finally try Palmetto, the new cool cocktail bar from the same owners, which is also an experience. New cocktail bars do seem to be very into ferns and neon these days, but Palmetto takes the trend up a notch with pastel pinks and blues for the walls and booths, black-and-white checkered floors, and a big sweeping bar. All of the cocktails and savory dishes were delicious, especially the beef-fat fries with fines herbes and mayo, because who needs ketchup when you have kewpie, and the grilled steak dinner, which fans out strip or ribeye on a nutty sunchoke puree with a punchy vinaigrette over the top. Chase it all with a shorty glass of Floral Depot Punch, which is three types of rum, washed in milk and spritzed with absinthe, and sweetened with hibiscus honey. It’s poured over a big ice cube. Why yes, it is pink. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Breakfast Burrito at Lucho’s

Breakfast burrito at Lucho’s Rachel Levin

Last Saturday, I went on a long run, then dashed over to Ingleside for my kid’s soccer game, then realized — I was starving. So I kicked her to the curb and headed toward Beep’s for a classic drive-in burger (because I love Beep’s ). But then I took a wrong turn, and soon spotted sidewalk swarmed with would-be brunch goers. Lucho’s? Hadn’t heard of it. I placed a to-go order. Then waited — just long enough to realize everyone working there was so nice. As in: let-me-show-you-where-the-hidden-restroom-is-as-if-I’ve-never-shown-anyone-before nice. The place was slammed and still, a server parted the crowds like the Red Sea to bring me my breakfast burrito with a genuine smile. Back at the field, I peeled back the foil: It was warm and wide, bulging with bacon, eggs, cheddar, just enough salsa, and maybe more potatoes than I typically like in my breakfast burrito? But they were damn good potatoes. My daughter’s team lost her game. Again. But I had won. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Sheng Jian Bao from China Live

Four doughy dumplings with black and white sesame seeds on top in a small pan. Lauren Saria

It’s been more than five years since a certain celebrity chef in a certain now-defunct quarterly food magazine, so brazenly crowned sheng jian bao the most underrated dumpling in the entirety of the world. And yet, unlike their juicier counterpart xiao long bao (which for better or worse are pretty widely available these days), these crispy bottomed beauties remain relatively hard to find — even in a city as blessed with delicious dumplings as San Francisco. Which is all to say, if you’re dining at George Chen’s China Live, you really ought to order some. As tends to be the case with excellent dumplings, truly enjoying a quartet is almost as much about appreciating the care and sheer effort that goes into their making as simply reveling in their deliciousness. SJB require yeasted dough and being both steamed and pan fried, which means the underside of each doughy package gives a satisfying crunch. Inside, you’re rewarded with a rush of meaty broth and a pearl of pork, making each one a tennis-ball sized marvel of both flavor and skill. — Lauren Saria, editor

November 5

Dim Sum at Palette Tea House

Dumplings at Palette Tea House Lauren Saria

Upon learning I’d have family visiting all the way from Hawaii last week, I booked a big table at Palette Tea House, where I knew they’d not only get to enjoy some impressive dim sum, but also stellar views of the bay. I figured, can’t go wrong with that combo, right? Well, to say it was a hit would probably be an understatement. They were bowled over by the stylish dining room, with its colorful lanterns and zen touches, and found the service flawless, with staff sweeping in to remove basket after empty steam basket, only to replace them moments later with more tender little dumplings and heaping plates of salt and pepper squid. Yes, the rainbow-hued XLB were ordered and enjoyed, but the true stars were the special dishes like that aforementioned squid (how they got that crispy coating so perfectly thin I’ll never know) and a duo of uber-fancy dumplings: one topped with big chunks of fresh king crab and another crowned with luminescent orbs of ikura. Oh, and let’s not forget the mound of fried rice, studded with wagyu beef and showered with thin shavings of black truffle. I mean, come on. — Lauren Saria, editor

Melanzana alla Parmagiana at Che Fico Alimentari

Parmigiana at Che Fico Alimentari Rachel Levin

I was COVID neurotic (still sort of am). I didn’t go out, didn’t even do takeout, for too many of those first long months of the pandemic. The one thing I did do, though, early and often, was cruise by Che Fico at least once a week for a curbside pickup of a frozen melanzana alla Parmagiana to stuff in my freezer for another dinner at home. It was always one of the best. The other night out at Alimentari, I finally saw what that extraordinary eggplant entree looked like, released from its snug little tin, and in all of its oozy, cheesy, red-saucy glory: so elegant! on a white scalloped plate, adorned with sprigs of fresh basil. Still, for a weird second, I was nostalgic for my burnt, bubbling, pandemic kitchen presentation. But then I took a bite, and another of sip wine, and looked across at one my best friends in town and realized, duh: this melanzana is, of course, even better in the fresh parklet air. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Mission Margarita at Junior

Mission Margarita at Junior Becky Duffett

Grabbing a drink with a friend this week, I started to mentally spin through all of the hot new cocktail bars that I still need to try, when he simply suggested Junior — and suddenly a tightness that I hadn’t even felt around my heart eased just a little bit. Junior is that unpretentious neighborhood cocktail bar at the corner of 24th and Utah, which opened in 2017 with a focused menu of four-ingredient cocktails, and it’s still such a chill spot to grab a $12 drink and kick it with your friends. The same impulse bubbled back up, when I felt like I should try one of the interesting new drinks on the list, but I beelined straight for that Mission Margarita, which smacks sweet-tart with fresh lime juice and breathes just the right amount of smoke from mezcal. Regulars filtered through the door in steady waves, the bartender actually had time to change songs when she wasn’t feeling the music, and there are plenty of super burritos nearby, should you require real dinner. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

October 29

Prime Rib at House of Prime Rib

Prime rib at House of Prime Rib Becky Duffett

Months ago, one of my besties and I snagged a reservation at the one and only House of Prime Rib, and last night was the night. As Eater readers know and love, it’s a San Francisco institution: We pulled up on Van Ness, threw the keys to the valet, and pushed through the doors to a packed dining room. Squeezing into a cozy red booth, a Manhattan arrives with the shaker, so you can keep topping up. Servers toss the salads tableside, spinning them over bowls of ice, and dumping them onto chilled plates. And chefs in tall hats trundle the meat carts, to carve off a slice cut thin (we would never), thick (yes please for me), or extra thick with bone in (my friend is a legend). House of Prime Rib claims to be an “English style” steakhouse, and maybe they’re referring to the Yorkshire pudding? But from the theatricalities to the sheer noise volume, I would like to quibble that this is one of the least English experiences you’ll ever have. It’s all San Francisco and simply a thrill. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Bambi Taco at Bambi Vegan Tacos

A metal tray with tacos and a patty melt from Bambi Vegan Tacos in downtown Sacramento. Lauren Saria

The SF Chronicle is singing the praises of a few Sacramento gems this week, but if you’re going to be in my beloved City of Trees, I’d suggest making a stop at Bambi Vegan Tacos, a new-ish brick-and-mortar from the folks behind a food truck of the same name. The menu is short and sweet: just a few tacos, a trio of sandwiches, and a salad — and, of course, it’s all vegan. After an early evening dinner while I was home visiting family, I’m kind of obsessed with the namesake Bambi, a vegan taco with serious Sacramento street cred. It’s a crispy taco, thin and a touch greasy, filled with richly spiced mushroom “beef” that’s so deep and flavorful you don’t even care if it’s meat or not, plus a tangle of cooling crema slaw. What pushes it over the edge for me, however, is the dusting of Parmesan cheese on that shiny shell, a callback to the Jimboys Tacos’ famous Parmesan-dusted beauties, which I grew up eating as a kid. The only downside is that the restaurant is currently only open Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for lunch, but trust me, it’s worth slipping into your schedule. — Lauren Saria, editor

Seltzer from the Seltzer Sisters

Seltzer from the Seltzer Sisters Rachel Levin

I’ve eaten some decent things this week. I’ve also been cramming on deadlines, including tomorrow’s: a kids’ book for Phaidon about all sorts of amazing things other people eat. So ... do you want to hear about my leftover soup? (Mmm: the beluga lentil from Dinner a Love Story, which I made during the storm and it has lasted). Or my morning peanut butter toast? (Santa Cruz dark roasted chunky, always, enhanced by a fat, fresh slice of my friend Azikiwee’s Rize Up sourdough.) Actually, I’ll take this opportunity to tout the best thing I drank this week — and, honestly, all day, every week: Seltzer Sisters. After years of being La Croix–shamed by friends and family alike, I finally ordered fizzy water delivery, just like my Brooklyn grandparents used to. And now, two crates of bottles brimming with powerful bubbles show up at my door every two weeks. Toss all those empties aside and call up the lovely, real-live humans at the Bay Area’s own three-decade-old seltzer company — and you could, too. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

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 Ernest Lauren Saria

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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