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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate Last Week

From Philly-style hoagies to hearty pappardelle and hot chicken sandwiches, Eater editors share their favorite dishes around town

Philly-style hoagie Becky Duffett

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.

January 21

Hot Bird at Kowbird

A hot chicken sandwich on a counter. Lauren Saria

I’m not too proud to admit I was intimidated at the thought of taking on the Hot Bird at Matt Horn’s much-anticipated Kowbird, which opened in West Oakland just a week ago. Afterall, the chef told me directly to my face about how he’d notched up the heat after a diner complained his hot chicken wasn’t actually all that hot a couple years ago. In any case — and, ok fine, due to the insistence of my more intrepid colleague — we ordered one of the Nashville-inspired sandwiches, which comes on a extra-large Martin’s potato roll that’s lacquered in butter and dusted with cardinal-colored chili spice. Great news: Horn wasn’t lying when he promised it would be manageably spicy; the combo of fermented and dried chiles lends a more complex and flavorful heat that sidesteps being sheer pain and lands squarely in the delicious category. Per Instagram, the restaurants been coping with long lines and a gas leak, but I’m already looking forward to a second visit. — Lauren Saria, editor

Italian American Hoagie at Palm City Wines

Philly-style hoagie Becky Duffett

I had brothers visiting from Portland last weekend and asked what they wished to do and eat. “Anything involving the sun,” said the elder. And upon further reflection, “Sandwiches.” “Dude, yes, the big Italian sandwiches,” the younger agreed. So after a long walk on Ocean Beach, we arrived at Palm City Wines, hungry for hoagies. They grew ominously silent while we waited 20 minutes for an outdoor table, but once the rosé, chips, and giardiniera started flowing, spirits were restored, and when the hoagies arrived, it was “fuck yeahs” all around. The Italian American is a Philly-style icon, stuffed with ever so thinly sliced mortadella, finocchiona, mozzarella, and parmesan, with peppery arugula and spicy nduja mayo, bundled into a seeded roll. Believe it or not, Palm City has actually slightly sized down these monstrosities, and although I myself could still only handle half, my littlest brother did in fact demolish an entire Roast Pork, which is hero level sandwich ambition. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Spicy sausage & peppers pizza at Baia SF

I’m running late to the Baia party. This is a classy party: brick walls, fancy symphony goers buzzing in and around the establishment, and trendy hit queen Olivia Rodrigo on the evening’s playlist. And this party is most certainly a dinner party. The celebrity guest at this swanky affair? Somehow, an Impossible sausage, gluten-free pizza. I have eaten many, many gluten-free and vegan pizzas. But this pizza, for us Celiac folks, is a triumph. This pizza’s globs of Impossible meat, for us part-time vegans, is a pleasantly salty reminder of the cured meats we left behind. This pizza did not slap. It sang. — Paolo Bicchieri, reporter

Pappardelle at Altovino

Pappardelle Rachel Levin

Saturday night. We’d cancelled our omicron-y long weekend plans and longed to do something to get us out of our 2020-like funk. A scroll through Resy revealed an outdoor table at Altovino, all the way in Nob Hill. Hm. It would be an adventure. A peek at a part of the city I hadn’t been to in two (or is it three? or 30?) pandemic years. The wine, winter salad, and hearty pappardelle, made with heart — and tangled in a 10-hour bolognese of veal, pork, dry-aged beef, and prosciutto, showered in a heap of parmesan — was well worth the trip, parking, and every penny. We watched an empty cable car rumble by. Our server promised to send us his awkward senior-year photo. And as we strolled back to our car, past the Bay Bridge twinkling through a narrow sliver of a steep street, I felt a San Francisco surge, of a different kind. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

January 14

Dutch Crunch Pastrami Sandwich at Hot Johnnie’s

A pastrami sandwich on Dutch crunch bread cut in half. Lauren Saria

I recently ate my way through the Castro on a drizzling midweek evening, collapsing (at least, emotionally) into the cozy dining room at Canela for tapas and wine before ending the night over plates of fresh pasta at the utterly charming Poesia, which might have the most-underrated back patio in all of San Francisco. But if I’m being honest, the thing I want to go back to immediately is the fat sandwich I devoured from Hot Johnnie’s, the somewhat idiosyncratic pastrami sensation that opened in the neighborhood last summer. Owner Jonathan Young says he spent many long months perfecting his pastrami methodology, braising big hunks of beef before infusing each brisket with loads of smoke. The Dutch Crunch sandwich comes on the Bay Area’s favorite bread (from a secret bakery source Young isn’t sharing) layered with thick slices of flavorful pastrami, muenster cheese, pepperoncini spread, and tart little house pickles. — Lauren Saria, editor

Milkshake and Curly Fries from Beep’s Burgers

Milkshake and curly fries Rachel Levin

It was cold and rainy and three days into the new year. Not the kind of moment to crave a milkshake — unless you’re a kid after the first day of omicron-school with time to kill before soccer. Which is how I found myself sitting with said kid, in the car, sucking down icy, extra-thick, chocolate shakes and paper baskets of crisp, tightly curled curly fries from Beep’s. “More French fries in 2022” one formerly local food writer friend happened to post on her Instagram. Hear, hear! I’ll toast my milkshake to that. — Rachel Levin, freelance writer and former Eater SF restaurant critic

Rosca de Coco at Cafe de Casa

Brazilian coconut buns Becky Duffett

After venturing down to the docks to talk to crab fishermen, photographer Patricia Chang and I were soaked with rain. We stumbled laughing into Cafe de Casa, an unexpectedly cozy and warm coffee shop on Leavenworth, serving Brazilian coffee, fresh juices, acai bowls, coxinha (chicken croquettes), and more. I grabbed a Rosca de Coco (coconut bun) to go, and in the rush to get back on Slack, completely forgot it in the depths of my purse. Until my puppy went ominously quiet, because she had fished it out and was casually strolling upstairs with the entire takeout container between her teeth. “Excuse me miss!” I screamed. “That is my coconut bun.” And pried from the jaws of disappointment, what a not-sad desk breakfast it was: A pillowy swirl, with a touch more chew than a tender brioche, brushed with condensed milk, and dusted with a light snow of coconut flakes. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

January 7

Hong Kong-Style Wonton Noodle Soup at Beyond Cafe

A white bowl of noodles and soup with a spoon. Bao Ong

Since it opened a few months ago, diners have filled one wall at Beyond Cafe full of praises, including this one: “We drove 380 miles to have lunch here! We [heart emoji] everything!!!” I’ll go even further: I would fly across the country to have the Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup ($11) at this SoMa restaurant. Everything about this classic dish was perfect, especially during a rainy visit over the holidays. The clear broth — with a distinct taste of shrimp, pork, and fried flounder — must have been bubbling away for hours. A half dozen or so bite-size wontons weren’t bobbing in the bowl but were carefully tucked under a tangle of springy egg noodles (some would argue this is how it should be served so the noodles don’t overcook). Unlike many other spots, Beyond Cafe serves its soup in smaller bowls like you’d find in many casual Hong Kong cafes. Still, I left feeling full after slurping spoonful after spoonful of the balanced broth in between bites of the dumplings. I’m already thinking about my next trip to San Francisco, when I no doubt will make another visit and ask for a marker to say I flew nearly 3,000 miles for this dish. — Bao Ong, Eater New York editor

Pupusas Revueltas at Pupuseria Metapan

Pupusas revueltas on a paper plate at Pupuseria Metapan Becky Duffett

I like many moved during the pandemic and now call home the micro-neighborhood of Mission Terrace, which borders the much broader Excelsior. There’s a large Central American population in the area, and evidently good pupusas are to be found. Pupuseria Metapan is a small Salvadoran restaurant squeezed in on Mission, filled with festive poinsettia tablecloths and multi-colored twinkle lights over the holidays. The pupusas were fork-raking crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, stuffed with many different fillings, from camarones to chicharrones, zucchini or queso; the revuelta that’s a triple mashup of pork, beans, and cheese; or the loca that’s fully loaded with a large number of those things. There’s a full menu of other comforts, too, but a couple of $4 pupusas alone makes for a satisfying meal, especially with a pile of the curtido pickled cabbage and dollop of thick and tangy crema. — Becky Duffett, deputy editor

Berkshire Pork Chop from Boulevard

The weeks leading up to Christmas were a blur so I went all in on soaking up the holiday cheer during the days between the holiday and the New Year. I looked at Christmas lights in Golden Gate Park, sipped Champagne beneath the shiny rotunda at Union Square’s Neiman Marcus, and indulged in a full-on feast at Boulevard, where the dimly lit and uber-glamorous dining room shone with twinkling lights and stars dangled from the ceiling. We started with elegant amuse bouche, paraded on to a tart and fresh hamachi crudo, and rolled into a small plate starring crispy calamari and Spanish octopus. But there’s a reason Nancy Oakes and executive chef Dana Younkin left the pork chop on the menu; after all these years it’s still a stunner. It’s no longer grilled, but rather cooked on a live-fire oven from Italy. An obsidian char obscures the perfectly juicy and remarkably flavorful meat. I’m not usually a pork chop kind of gal, but thank goodness my dining companion had the smarts to order this dish. — Lauren Saria, editor

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