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Lauren Saria

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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

This week a great kofta massaman curry, mussels, and vegan chilaquiles

There’s certainly no shortage of excellent food to be found in San Francisco and the Bay Area — but there’s plenty worth skipping, too. Luckily for you, Eater editors dine out several times a week (or more) and we’re happy to share the standout dishes we encounter as we go. Here’s the best of everything the Eater SF team has eaten recently. Check back weekly for more don’t-miss dishes.

November 25

Mussels at Aziza

Lauren Saria

If you’ve dined at chef Mourad Lahou’s eponymous SoMa stunner then you already know the chef can cook. There, under soaring ceilings and glittering chandeliers, Lahou earned a single Michelin star putting up flaky duck-filled basteeya and brown butter couscous so perfectly textured it makes you want to cry. But at his Richmond District neighborhood restaurant Aziza he purports to deliver a more casual experience — and in terms of service, it is. But the food holds back nothing in terms of execution and flavor: a delicate chicory salad gets a light layer of green goddess dressing and just the right amount of salt, while a single eggplant, roasted to a rich buttery texture, soars from piquillo spice to currant-driven sweetness. These mussels, though, left me wanting more. More of the chubby bivalves, swimming in butter but still faintly briny and sweet underneath, and more of the smoky vadouvan butter, which we sopped up with thick slices of Josey Baker bread. In fact, it’s fair to say the whole meal left me craving another visit, which I hope to arrange soon. — Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Kofta massaman from Just Some Folks

Dianne de Guzman

After reading about Just Some Folks, I was delighted to get the opportunity to witness the dinner party in action and to try some of the food at last week’s La Cocina event. Everything was delicious, but what stood out was the kofta massaman. The fried koftas were made of sunchokes and paneer, with a nice crust that gave way to a soft interior; the massaman curry, meanwhile, was nicely seasoned with a lovely undertone of coconut milk. I kept spooning curry over my rice to the point that I felt almost impolite at a table of six that was sharing dishes. Pomegranate syrup, crispy beets, and microgreens rounded out the remainder of the dish. The only downside is that — thinking back on it later — I have no idea when I’ll be able to have it again given the ephemeral nature of pop-up dinners and Just Some Folks’ tendencies to shift menus from event to event. It’ll have to be a pleasant memory of food and wonderful table conversation unless I can somehow convince Anand to share the recipe. Until then, I’ll just have to immortalize it in my memory and here. And, true to any successful dinner party, I did exchange contacts with one person at my table — hi, Cassandra! — proof that Netta and Anand’s plan to bring people together is already working. Follow Just Some Folks on Instagram for upcoming pop-ups, @justsomefolks.sf.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Chilaquiles at Red Radish

This breakfast makes your day better. That might be the highest praise I can give the vegan dish of “eggs” and tortilla chips from Red Radish in Hayes Valley. I can tell you about the salsa, not too wet and just above medium spice, and I can tell you about the potato starch-renditions of the Just Eggs scrambled eggs being a lot like scrambled eggs (relevantly, also not too wet). What I would most emphasize about this dish, though, are the plentiful portions of black beans and avocado in a breakfast item that only costs about $14. I actually felt comfortably full after eating this parade of complementing textures, ranging from crispy to creamy to firm depending on which forkful I happened to bring up. So as I said, this breakfast improved my day, like exercising early after which everything gets better — except by way of my gut. Blame the bright colors or playlist of yacht rock 80s bangers including “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oats and “Brandy” by Looking Glass for my cheery disposition. But, at least in this harbor town, it was these chilaquiles that stole this sailor from the sea. Red Radish, 301 Hayes Street, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


November 18

Vegan bacon cheeseburger from Roam Artisan Burgers

Paolo Bicchieri

It’s wild to think “Shark Tank’s” Mark Cuban outbid Lori Greiner on Berkeley-based startup Umaro’s seaweed bacon as the two fought to get involved with the plant-based protein company. It’s even more wild to think that the kelpy non-bacon is not only worth eating, but serves as a downright delectable alternative to pork. Roam, the Bay Area-born burger company with numerous locations in the region started serving an entirely animal-less burger last week for $15 and the dish gave me life for every bite I was lucky enough to take. Violife’s dairy-free cheddar — a coconut oil-based alternative — gives the necessary chewy texture to complement Umaro’s salty, crispy “bacon.” The patty is made by Roam, concocted of quinoa, black beans, brown rice, and dates amongst other things, and is just as juicy and meaty as I’d have hoped. It reminded me of a lighter burger, like Dick’s in Seattle, rather than a big bison burger or anything terribly meaty. Udi’s gluten-free buns are available for those in need, though Pacific Coast Buns handles the bread for a standard order. Sweet potato fries are a smart side choice. I hadn’t been to Roam since 2018, and returning to try this vegan menu addition was a lovely chance to see how the Bay Area dining scene in the Bay Area is providing more and more options for plant-based eaters. Roam Artisan Burgers, 1923 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Kegani chawanmushi from Friends Only

Dianne de Guzman

There’s a lot to like about a meal at Friends Only, that new restaurant from the Akiko’s team, especially if you’re a sushi fan. Each bite was spectacular and showcased chef Ray Lee’s dry-aging sushi techniques, making it hard to pick just one bite as standing out from the rest. So, I’ll sidestep that and instead highlight a non-sushi item that was outstanding on its own: the kegani chawanmushi. This delicate egg custard dish arrived partway through the meal and was packed with horsehair crab meat, duck liver, and a generous shaving of autumn truffle on top. In fact, in my note-taking at the sushi counter, I typed a quick “an umami zing to the brain” in my Notes app before basically neglecting to write down any further details about the meal — perhaps a true-life example of wanting to live in the moment and take in a dinner in realtime. Still, the dish was a showstopper with the soft texture of the custard, the lumps of crab meat, and the earthy taste of truffles all mingling together. Paired with excellent cocktails, pleasant company, and conversation around the counter (while also chatting with the chefs behind it) made for a memorable dining experience, both in food and social context. It may be a difficult reservation to get, but it will be worth the extra work. Friends Only, 1501 California Street in San Francisco.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Shaved pig head salad at Liholiho Yacht Club

Lauren Saria

For the first time since March 2020, chef Ravi Kapur’s well-loved Liholiho Yacht Club on Sutter Street officially begins welcoming diners on November 22. And during a pre-opening event this week, the vibes were absolutely immaculate: the renovated restaurant feels reinvigorated thanks to subtle upgrades like a wavy paint job behind the bar, new cushions on the wooden booths, and sleek modern light fixtures, all bolstered by a driving soundtrack blasting over the speakers. The menu, however, might feel even fresher than the physical space. Few dishes return to the menu, and the ones that do have seen notable changes — for example, there are poppyseed steam buns but now they’re stuffed with slabs of housemade Spam instead of beef tongue. Don’t skip the creamy duck liver mousse, which comes smeared atop a slab of banana bread with pineapple, pink peppercorn, and celery to balance the unctuous paté. But the star of the show was a shaved pig head salad. Thin sheets of silky pork nestle inside a wreath of radicchio and chicory, lightly dressed in a fish sauce dressing and punctuated with peanuts and crispy shallots. Each bite fired on all flavor cylinders: bitter, sour, and umami in perfectly balanced, equal parts. If the energy in the room is any indication, San Francisco has been hungry for this restaurant’s return to Nob Hill, and it’s easy to see why. Liholiho Yacht Club, 871 Sutter Street in San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


November 11

Osetra caviar at the Matheson

Caviar and a jidori egg from the Matheson. Lauren Saria

More than a year has flown by since the Matheson arrived in downtown Healdsburg, and if you’ve been waiting for a sign to go check it out: this is it. It’s a three-in-one establishment meaning there’s a rooftop bar, ideal for happy hour or a pre-dinner cocktail and snack; a fine dining restaurant downstairs serving both tasting and a la carte menus; and the wine wall, a boozy playground with 88 options available to taste. If you have time, start there, and if you can swing it, set aside some of the dinner budget for a splash of something special ($40 for a 2019 Opus One, just to say you tried it, perhaps?). Then when you’re done, meander over to the Matheson’s main dining room where the chef’s tasting menu ($125) wowed from first dish to last — though it’s the first indulgent bite that’s stuck with me a week later. Rather than the delicate, briny profile you may expect from a caviar dish, the Matheson delivered deep umami flavor, marrying a pristine quenelle of mild osetra caviar with a creamy, golden jidori egg yolk. A bed of onion foam and shitake mushroom “xo” sauce lifted each bite, as a pinch of puffed rice provides a pleasant crunch. The Matheson, 106 Matheson Street, Healdsburg.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Ugly mushroom-filled pasta at Pomet

Dianne de Guzman

It’s pretty much sweater weather season, and despite the inclination to wrap myself in a blanket for most of the day, I instead found the food version of that feeling at Pomet. On a rainy night, I found myself in the cozy dining room of the Oakland restaurant with a companion, working our way through the seasonal menu. Staff recommended the ugly mushroom (their words) filled pasta with tomato miso butter made from Shared Cultures miso, topped with chanterelles and cheese. I can’t confirm that the pasta was filled with ugly mushrooms, but I will tell you it tasted wonderfully earthy. The pasta had a lovely bite, and the sauce helped add another layer of umami zing that had me spooning it over every crevice of chanterelle. The whole thing felt like a nice autumn hug, and in the warm glow of the room, I didn’t even regret leaving the cozy confines of my home for a dinner out. I also impulsively ordered the bread and butter — in this case, a sesame scallion bun with toasted nori butter — and both my dinner companion and I were truly impressed. The bread and butter option will most likely change by the time you get there, as Pomet is a highly-seasonal restaurant, but give the humble item some consideration on your next visit there. Pomet, 4029 Piedmont Ave, Oakland.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Rocky road bar from Xocolate Bar

Paolo Bicchieri

Here’s the scene: it’s Halloween and I’m partaking in the annual ritual of watching Linus waste his night in a pumpkin patch while his so-called friends mercilessly roast him from morning to night (otherwise known as “The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”). And though have a plate of assorted chocolate bars in my living room that I work through at any given moment, it was Halloween and I was dressed as an apple and I wanted it to be a special night. I opened one of MalenaMalena Lopez-Maggi’s storied East Bay-made chocolate bars, the rocky road variety. Candied pecans and Dandies vegan marshmallows dot the 2.2-ounce slab in such a thoughtful way that no single bite is overwhelmingly this or that. When I worked at a crepe shop as a bright-eyed 19-year-old, my boss told me to make sure each triangle of the hardy pancake had a bit of each ingredient. This chocolate bar is just like that — the balance of salty, sweet, and savory and accompanying texture soaring off the charts. I passed the bar around to my non-vegan pals, and it was a clear consensus: even when stacked against legendary Halloween sweets like Reese’s pumpkins and the insanity-inducing terrible joy of candy corn, Lopez-Maggi’s ice cream-inspired chocolate bar is a tremendous triumph. The Xocolate Bar, 1709 Solano Avenue, Berkeley.

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


November 4

Hot apple cider doughnuts at Rainbow Orchards

Lauren Saria

Thanks to the days-long cold snap currently accosting San Francisco, it’s really starting to feel like fall. But if you’re still not in the mood, then a trip out to Apple Hill should do the trick. The collection of some 55 farms in the Sierra Mountain foothills is the site of an annual cold weather pilgrimage for many NorCal residents seeking fresh fruit, hay rides, hard cider, and general autumnal frivolity. It’d be easy to fill an entire day eating and drinking around the hill, but if you’re going to make just one stop, make it Rainbow Orchards. The farm is locally famous for its pies, cider, and, most notably, hot apple cider doughnuts. The line for a half dozen might stretch through the barn and out the other side, but that’s only because they’re perfect: fried to order and tucked into a white paper bag while still warm. Each comes enveloped in a fistful of sugar with a delicately crispy golden exterior encasing a cakey, slightly sweet, a little tangy, interior. Take them outside to the picnic tables and wash them down with a glass of freshly pressed apple cider for a moment of simple bliss. Rainbow Orchards, 2569 Larsen Drive in Camino.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Salted egg salad tea sandwich at Sweet Condesa

Dianne de Guzman

I was recently invited to attend an afternoon tea-tasting experience with Sweet Condesa, making the trek out to Pleasanton for a gathering of foodies around the bay. Although owner Melody Lorenzo is well-known for her Filipino- and Latin-inspired sweets — particularly her purple-hued ube pies — I find myself wanting to give a shoutout to the savory side of the tea menu, particularly the salted egg salad tea sandwich. I’m a sucker for both salted egg-flavored things and egg salad sandwiches in general, so it was this unexpected combo of both that I’m still thinking about six days later. It wasn’t quite the salt-packed experience one might expect; the salted duck eggs, or itlog na maalat, was tempered by the use of mayonnaise and truffle honey, while the grape tomatoes gave it a dimension of brightness that I appreciated. The truffle honey was another inspired addition, adding sweetness and a bit of truffle funkiness to the mix, with an added crunch from a sprinkling of scallions on top. The sweets were, of course, on point — I particularly liked the ube pie cookie and the maja blanca panna cotta — but it’s worth saying that Lorenzo could also be a powerhouse with her savory bites if you can manage to explore past the sweets. For upcoming afternoon tea tastings, follow Lorenzo on Instagram @sweetcondesapastries.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Jackfruit pulled pork sandwich at the Barn

Paolo Bicchieri

A gravel driveway off of Highway 1, between Pillar Point and Half Moon Bay proper, works as Bifrost to the local dining Valhalla. If Nordic allegory isn’t getting the point across, here’s what’s important: the Barn on Cabrillo Highway draws a crowd on even a weekday morning. This $13 vegan sandwich, which can feature a gluten-free bun for those in need, is divine. Bits of apple mingle with pickled red onion, littered throughout the strands of the ultra-meaty and dark jackfruit. Chomping into the succulent dish was such an intense punch of rich flavor, balanced with the cabbage slaw, that both eyebrows shot right up, followed by an immediate second bite to get the bits that were lilting from the buns. Be smart and get an order of fries, crispy and thin like McDonald’s oily gems. I could extoll the virtues of eating barbecue sandwiches for a long time — is there someone out there who would dare to argue against such an activity? — but for those who know the simple joy of barbecue done right, it’s a pointless exercise. Eating amongst so many hungry highway drivers, underneath the sprawling outdoor dining area complete with thick blankets at the picnic tables, feels so homey. And the thick and rich medley between the bread just goes too soon; like Squidward after discovering the unbound pleasure of eating Krabby Patties, I just wish I had more of these saucy delights. The Barn, 3068 Cabrillo Hwy North, Half Moon Bay

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


October 28

Einkorn pelmeni at Birch & Rye

Lauren Saria

Opening a Russian restaurant in the year 2022 must have been a curious experience for chef Anya El-Wattar, who was originally born in Moscow. But about six months in, she and her team are doing an impeccable job transporting diners into the woody depths of a Russian forest with warmth and culinary skill. Right now you can choose either an a la carte or tasting menu experience at Birch & Rye, the latter of which also comes in a vegan variety. No matter which route you choose, El-Wattar walks you through a concise menu that reshapes Eastern European classics like borscht, cabbage rolls, and honey cake with a combination of traditional Russian and seasonal Californian ingredients. Take, as an example, the einkorn pelmeni, those delicate dumplings stuffed in this case with Liberty Farms duck. Each savory bundle — made from ancient wheat so pure, El-Wattar says it’s even safe for those with gluten allergies — swam in a wholesome duck broth along with a rainbow of tender local vegetables: thin ribbons of cucumber, chunks of charred corn on the cob, and shingles of bell pepper. It was both comfortingly familiar and surprisingly light and elegant, one of several dishes during the evening that I’d happily return to again and again. Birch & Rye, 1320 Castro Street in San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Cacao cremeux at Turntable by Lord Stanley

Paolo Bicchieri

My nonno was a creme brulee enthusiast, and I decided at a young age it was the pinnacle of elegant desserts. And, to be clear, cremeux is not creme brulee — it’s more like mousse. But Atlanta-based Mari Vega’s stint at Turntable at Lord Stanley on Polk Street introduced me to the dessert in a big way. The chef, who has a penchant for pre-Hispanic Mexican cuisine, conjured a riff on the French recipe that sports a toffee-like piece of inverted sugar on top. The idea is to plunge it into the chocolate and break it up with a spoon, ergo my creme brulee flashbacks. Sugary isn’t the word to describe the dish, not even the inverted sugar portion: filled with peanut and epazote, an aromatic herb native to Central America and Mexico, it’s almost a little savory. But, the overarching profile of the penultimate dish in the long and outstanding tasting menu, which also featured an endive popcorn dish brought out by none other than Zaira Asis of pop-up Casa Aya, was milk chocolate and cream. Each quivering spoon invoked a Hershey’s kiss, but the way it tasted when you were 8, not now as a very serious adult. Chef cooked up a number of stunners throughout the night, such as masa roja using corn from Bolita and a duck confit tamale. Her installation at the Russian Hill restaurant ends October 29, so if you want to experience a hint of elegance even my nonno may have swooned over, I suggest booking a table now. Turntable at Lord Stanley, 2065 Polk Street, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

King Wings at Square Pie Guys

Priya Kane

I was at home, just minding my business when a delivery night led to maybe some of the best wings I’ve had in recent memory: the King Wings from Square Pie Guys. Even though I announced the collaboration between chef Melissa King and Square Pie Guys a month ago, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had a chance to try them — and I’m so happy I did. First off, the double-fried wings had that crispness you want in a fried chicken, standing up to King’s red-hued sauce and giving a resonant crunch as you bite in. Secondly, that Szechuan chili honey sauce was that 1-2-3 combo of sticky, spicy, and sweet that really hits the spot. I’m the tragic brand of person who doesn’t insist on ordering wings whenever they’re available on a menu, but this is making me rethink that eating strategy. Square Pie Guys co-owner Marc Schechter said the wings could potentially land on the menu permanently — collaborations at the pizza shop tend to be available for a limited time, King’s included — and while he wouldn’t quite commit, I hope he considers this a plea to please, please keep them on. They’re really that good. Square Pie Guys, 499 Dr. Huey P. Newton Way, Oakland.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


October 21

Beghrir pancakes at Aziza

Pancakes always make the weekend feel special, but the beghrir pancakes at chef Mourad Lahlou’s Richmond restaurant Aziza are a brunch occasion in their own right. If you’re not familiar — I’ll admit I wasn’t — beghrir is a thin style of Moroccan pancake made with semolina flour and, usually, sweetened with honey. Lahlou says Aziza’s sunny-colored batter takes a couple of days to prepare, and the cooking temperature has to be just exactly right to achieve the bubbly texture that makes each circle land somewhere between and French crepe and a good ol’ fashioned American flapjack. The bubbles are important for flavor, too: they create little air pockets into which the honey and butter can seep after being poured overtop of the short stack. That way each bite achieves the perfect, sweet, and syrupy balance. I’d happily return for another run at these pancakes alone, but if you find yourself out in the avenues for brunch (a new addition to the restaurant’s offerings) don’t skip the custardy French toast boosted by tart huckleberries and the Egyptian spice mix mecalef or the simple but stunning little gem salad, with each leaf laid out like a giant green flower. Aziza, 5800 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Cap in a cup from Brown Cap

A compostable cup holds a scoop of soft serve ice cream covered in a thin chocolate shell and flaky sea salt on top. Dianne de Guzman

The thing about chasing down pop-ups and food trucks as part of your job is that it can, at times, feel like work. You set alarms for food drops, you plan your evenings and weekends around pop-ups, and while the result is usually worth it — often some of the best new food around — the planning does lack the appeal of being something you discovered, you know, just while you’re out in the wild doing other things. So when I just happened upon the Brown Cap truck recently, it seemed like fate and I bought a “cap in a cup” despite the fact that it was 11:30 a.m. and I had stepped out of the house looking for lunch. The ice cream was nostalgia-inducing, and I’m not just talking about the cute, vintage truck the ice cream is served out of. The chocolate shell was reminiscent of the Magic Shell brand chocolate of my youth, yet this one tasted so much better with a rich, chocolatey flavor and that wonderful snap of thin, hardened chocolate. Nothing like the chalky store-bought version. The ice cream, meanwhile, was lovely vanilla Straus soft serve. Customers get a choice between sprinkles or sea salt, so I went with the latter, giving each bite a nice saline hit. I won’t tell you whether you need to start tracking down every pop-up or food truck, but if you ever see this truck parked in Albany, Berkeley, or Oakland selling ice cream, pull over. Brown Cap sells soft serve at both private and community events, watch the calendar via the business website and Instagram.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

The vegan delight from Pork Store Cafe

Paolo Bicchieri

There are just not a lot of restaurants in San Francisco where I’d want to eat every single day. But Pork Store Cafe on Haight Street is just that rare place, and the vegan delight is the ideal intersection of rural American prices and the Bay’s dining sensibilities. For $13.50, a gang of well-fried tofu cubes joins an army of extra-fried potatoes, with a reasonable array of spinach, tomato, and garlic to make for a more-than-hardy breakfast. Hitting the hashbrowns with a buckshot of hot sauce is the obvious move, as is swapping the toast for double hashbrowns if you live that gluten-free life as I do. The atmosphere at the restaurant is always incredible — the staff are service industry veterans and the walls are adorned with posters for Haight-Ashbury festivals and concerts through the decades. The coffee, always acidic and acrid, is $2.75 and bottomless, perfect to get a long-term buzz vibrating in your skull. In San Francisco, bars and bistros can be designed in such quirky, over-the-top ways that frequenting them on the regular can be cloying. I mean, who wants to go to the top of the Salesforce Transit Center for an NFT-centric dinner multiple times a week? Tucking into the wide elliptical plates of food at Pork Store Cafe, on the other hand, is a ritual I’d be glad to partake in any day. Pork Store Cafe, 1451 Haight Street, San Francisco.

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


October 14

Savory porridge from Sister Cafe

Dianne de Guzman

The story of the best dish I ate this week begins with a confession of sorts: I’m not a breakfast person. I like breakfast foods, but typically never at breakfast time since I usually only want black coffee early in the morning. Breakfast is typically only reserved for vacations or weekends when I have the time and space to eat something leisurely without being pressed to do something immediately after. So, under the circumstances of a non-work day, I found myself at Sister in Oakland during cafe hours. And while porridge has never really held my interest — I blame those envelopes of instant Quaker oats from my youth — I found this savory one too intriguing to pass up. The porridge was topped with kale confit, a pickled egg, and pickled ginger; that last item was what really sold it for me, as I spread bits of ginger onto each spoonful of porridge and kale. It added a bit of bite as I worked my way through the dish and played nicely with the kale and the crunch of toasted seeds. (And a jammy egg! Always a favorite addition to any dish.) I’m not quite a porridge person yet, but this is helping me get there. Sister, 3308 Grand Ave, Oakland.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Chateau d’Yquem sauternes from Lazy Bear

Lauren Saria

It almost feels unfair to compare an evening at Lazy Bear, chef David Barzelay’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Mission, to a dinner party. I mean, I’ve never gone to a dinner party where the host offered exquisite eggs whipped with sweet maple syrup and smoky bacon fat or cultured butter made from a live culture that’s old enough to enroll in elementary school. Most definitely I’ve never been to a dinner party where the host pulled out several bottles of what could be considered the world’s finest (certainly the most expensive) white wine, to be savored after dinner but before an onslaught of several more sweet courses for dessert. It almost goes without saying that the food at Lazy Bear — including a course featuring slabs of Fort Bragg sea urchin over nutty California-grown rice delivered aside a steaming bowl of broth so comforting I could have climbed inside for a cozy nap — is fabulous. So instead I’ll say how floored I was with the liquid offerings: a wine pairing that vacillated seamlessly between crisp natural whites and 1985 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, followed by after-dinner drinks including a verticle of Chateau d’Yquem sauternes that changed my perception of sweet wines forever. What makes it all work is likely the fact that there are nearly a dozen sommeliers on staff, who make each pairing or pour into an opportunity for education. In a good way, I promise. Lazy Bear, 3416 19th Street, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Kale kofta at Amber India Restaurant

Paolo Bicchieri

Patio dining in that alleyway stretch of shops between Market Street and Mission Street has been a delight since before the pandemic-inspired influx of parklets. The outdoor seating at Amber India, beneath an enormous tent, is well-heated, and the service is top-tier. But the food is the crown of the entire experience (as it should be if that wasn’t obvious). The kale kofta comes in a wide bowl of tomato and coconut, an exemplar of the restaurant’s vegan and gluten-free options. Each green orb requires time and thoughtfulness to work through — no bite-sized servings here. But for our party of three, four kofta was the correct amount, alongside orders of aloo gobi and vegetable korma. The remaining sauce simmers with cumin and should get upcycled into a bowl of rice or soaked into naan. With impeccable timing and grace, the service staff whisked away our clean dishes when it was all said and done. The meal hit every note from beginning to end, starring the indomitable and texturally-lovely kale kofta as the main attraction. Amber India, 25 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


October 7

Sour cream and onion quarter chicken from Birdbox

Lauren Saria

Who among us hasn’t inhaled an entire bag of potato chips dusted in dangerously addictive, green-flecked sour cream and onion flavoring, surreptitiously licking the extra powder off each and every fingertip? Ok, now imagine that instead of light-as-air chips, you’re getting all that umami seasoning on a piece of succulent, golden-brown fried chicken. It’s pure decadent, deep-fried bliss. I’ll be honest, even Birdbox’s quarter chicken box, which includes a drummette, flat, and breast plus two pieces of cornbread, makes a hearty lunch for one. But the midday food coma is totally worth it. In fact, I found myself shamelessly prying off each piece of crunchy batter, not wanting to waste a single morsel. And the cornbread? It’s no afterthought, each square sweet and buttery. Since you’re probably wondering, yes, the eye-catching claw-on fried chicken sandwich is also exceptionally good. But between the two, it’s this tangy onion-y specialty that I can’t wait to try again. Birdbox, 680A 2nd Street, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Spicy cauliflower at Z&Y Restaurant

Paolo Bicchieri

The colors popping off of chef Lijun Han’s plated ode to vegetables at Jackson Avenue’s Z&Y Restaurant testify to the dish’s freshness: the three varieties of peppers were served lightly fried with enough cloves of garlic to make a TikToker blush. The firmness of the cauliflower — a crunch that under other circumstances would be too close to raw — exemplified the Californian proclivity toward simplicity. Just looking at the vegetables draped on top of each other, like so many flowers in a bouquet, was an exercise in sensory stimulation. The dish came amid a fleet of vegetable-forward a la carte dishes for our group, but the menu has plenty for meat-eaters, too. And though it was spicy, it was also not nearly as spicy as what Han’s capable of creating considering the Szechuan peppercorn runs rampant in the chef’s hot pot and a few seafood dishes. Other standouts included a tofu and scallion appetizer, the most refreshing take on soy I’ve had in a long while, and chicken soup that proved why lip-numbing spice can be so enjoyable. Z&Y Restaurant, 655 Jackson Avenue, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Shrimp toast at Dumpling Time

Dianne de Guzman

I have a soft spot for a lot of things, and food-wise, dim sum outings rank pretty high. It’s been some time since I’ve visited an outpost of Dumpling Time, and when a new location popped up in Berkeley it felt like time for a revisit. As a warning for anyone I dine with, if there is shrimp toast on the menu I will most likely order it. I have yet to encounter one I didn’t like, and Dumpling Time’s version is no different. But what I do like about their version, however, is the decision to use a Chinese doughnut as the base instead of a slice of bread. The result is an airier bite that had me dreaming up all sorts of new possibilities for the dish — shrimp toast focaccia, anyone? Props also for the addition of spicy aioli, which I dragged pieces of my “toast” through diligently. If you don’t believe how much I enjoyed it, know that without consulting each other, Eater SF Editor Lauren Saria gave mention to the same shrimp toast back in March. An unplanned, double recommendation from two editors? A rarity. Dumpling Time, 1795 Fourth St, Berkeley.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


September 30

Mushroom har mok from Kin Khao

Mushroom har mok from Kin Khao
Lauren Saria

It’s only been about a week since chef Pim Techamuanvivit made a much-anticipated return to downtown San Francisco, reopening her more casual Thai restaurant Kin Khao on the ground-floor of the Parc55 hotel near Union Square. During a midweek dinner the tight room was absolutely bustling; clearly, San Francisco diners are excited to have the restaurant’s bright, spicy, fish-sauce-y flavors back in the mix. Our table hit on many favorites — those sticky fried chicken wings, thick slices of caramelized pork belly, and a plate of noodles beautifully kissed with deep back char tangled up with chicken, egg, and XO sauce — but the highlight has to be the very first plate of the night: a petit jar layered with curry drenched mushrooms and a thin pool of coconut cream to be spread over light-as-air rice crackers. Due to a lucky bit of happenstance, we actually ended up with two orders and happily devoured both in mere minutes. Kin Khao inside the Parc 55 Hilton, 55 Cyril Magnin Street, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Apple cinnamon hand pie from Mariposa Baking

Paolo Bicchieri

It’s summer in San Francisco, more or less, and with a fresh dazzle in my step, I recently bit into an apple cinnamon hand pie from one of San Francisco’s most-forgotten allergen-sensitive bakeries: Mariposa Baking Company. The crimped crust was a bit dry (probably stiffed given that lack of gluten and all that) but it did its job as a sturdy wall to keep the gooey, well-spiced, warm apple sweetness inside. For those of us who worked at McDonald’s in our high school years or those who still foray through the golden arches, this is basically the chain’s apple hand pie in a really good way. Vegan and gluten-free treats may be critiqued as platonic iterations of traditional sweets — though try telling that to sorbet or dark chocolate — but the nostalgia and sense of normalcy are too joyous to listen to the haters. I’d just worked through the curry empanada, which was mild in flavor, but hardy and invigorating on a sunny afternoon. Mariposa Baking Company, 1 Ferry Building, unit 32, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Deconstructed Pimm’s cup at Causwells

Dianne de Guzman

As Eater SF shared last week, Marina favorite Causwells returned from a brief closure with an updated food and drink menu (and look) that made me excited to try out a number of things on a recent trip to the Chestnut Street restaurant. What stood out the most from the meal was this beautiful version of a Pimm’s cup. The drink came in a hobnail glass bottle, to be poured over spherical iced ... something. I wasn’t exactly sure what the green and red spheres were — though they reminded me of melon balls from my childhood — but as I slowly worked through my drink I was amazed to find the drink maintained its distinctive flavor, a mix of Pimm’s, cucumber, gin, citrus, mint, and ginger ale, even as I continued to sip and the frozen balls continued melting. I eventually grabbed a fork to fish out a round green ice thing and found it was cucumber juice, frozen — cold-pressed cucumber and strawberry juices, specifically. An ingenious touch. Causwells, 2346 Chestnut St, San Francisco

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


September 23

Waffles with acai at Judahlicious

Paolo Bicchieri

The elderly gentleman next to our table had a Seattle Supersonics hat on as he excitedly told a woman that he, too, was upset and confused that the usual mailbox on the corner had been removed and that he, too, would have to go to the other end of the avenue to drop off his mail from here on out. That’s what I love about the Judah Avenue corridor. There are so many bangers: TBD-status icon Outerlands; now-defunct Trouble Coffee given new life as DamnFine Coffee; and newcomer, Beach’n. The last of the three shares an owner with Judahlicious, a full vegan and mostly gluten-free cafe and smoothie shop. The acai waffle, gluten-free, is well worth the $12, which is sort of jaw-droppingly cheap for upscale and vegan food in San Francisco. Sort of obviously, the waffle itself tastes like (and chews like) the waffles you’d make yourself in your early 20s — no, not artisan and craft, but the vehicle it needs to be. The acai, a globular scoop on top of pepita-laden granola, is bracing and sharp in a refreshing way. Probably the best part of dining at Judahlicious is the way the allergen-friendly fare fits into the flow of the rest of the neighborhood. It feels normal, and that’s not outside of the quirky characters populating the cafe, as, for many of us, those people seem to be just as important as the meals themselves. Judahlicious, 3906 Judah Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Crudo at Low Bar

Dianne de Guzman

Okay, I know that I’m getting somewhat predictable in my dishes these last few months, but honestly, it feels like Crudo Summer and I’m going for it. Besides, it’ll be winter soon enough, and I’m sure I’ll fill this column with soups and dumplings in no time. In my off time, I’ve been tracking down some pop-ups that have caught my eye on Instagram, which led me to Low Bar in Oakland to check out Provecho, where I tried this lovely crudo with passionfruit leche de tigre, sliced cucumbers, slivers of kumquat and agrumato. The fish was fresh and the sesame seeds gave it an extra pop of crunch alongside the cucumbers. Ever the glutton, I’d be remiss to not mention another excellent dish: the black adobo pork confit served over tender broccolini. It was nice crispy bits of pork under a blanket of black adobo sauce, balanced by bites of broccolini. Two very different dishes, but the ones that hit the most for me this week. Follow Provecho on Instagram for upcoming pop-ups, @pro_ve_cho.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Pâté de Campagne at Maison Nico

Lauren Saria

What started as an innocent coffee stop quickly turned into a blowout breakfast because, truly, I dare you to stand in front of the stunning pastry case at Maison Nico and not order one of just about everything. All said and done I ended up with a trio of sweet(ish) pastries — a custardy canelé, a brown butter chocolate chip cookie, and a gorgeous croissant — plus a spread of savory goods — a slab of paté with a hunk of baguette, a creamy paté en croute, and an impossibly flaky seasonal quiche. All in all, the savory items outshone the sweets, and I’m still swooning over the country paté in particular. The creamy texture, smooth as butter really, belied the deeply savory flavor, a result of that heady combo of pork belly, duck liver, and parsley. Spread over crusty portions of bread and paired with a nose-clearing Dijon mustard, it transported me right out of San Francisco. I could have sworn I was actually enjoying un tasse de cafe somewhere in l’Occitane...I’m already dreaming about my next trip. Maison Nico, 710 Montgomery Street, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


September 16

Smoked salmon rillettes at La Société

Lauren Saria

It’d be easy to write off La Société as a mere hotel restaurant with an experienced fine dining chef and a cadre of big restaurant group alumni to support. But that’d also be a real mistake. The team truly took their “we’re not just another hotel restaurant” mantra to heart, deftly shoehorning a modern French bistro and a menu peppered with delightful surprises into a corporate hotel lobby. Executive chef Alexandre Viriot pulls some of his less-traditional French cooking techniques from his time spent in kitchens run by French culinary titans including Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, elevating what could have been a bland vegan entree of stuffed vegetables with an impressively flavorful quinoa prepared like pilaf. But even in a parade of plates that each glittered in its own right — onion soup gratinée bolstered by bone marrow, duck à l’orange swaddled in crispy umber skin — the deceptively simple smoked salmon rillettes made its mark. Virot layers minced smoked salmon cut by spicy horseradish with glowing orbs of salmon roe, everything bagel spice, and a translucent horseradish gelee. Smeared on slabs of Firebrand pain d’epi, each addicting bite balances crunchy nuggets of dried garlic, onions, and sesame seeds with salty roe and the pungent root for a dish that’s definitively French while also feeling fresh, modern, and shockingly light. La Société, 50 Third Street in San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Crispy pata at Ramen Shop

It’s hard to pick just one dish from Ramen Shop’s Filipino dinner pop-up that took place last Friday — I could write so much about the unexpected and awesome touches the team made to each dish, from the pickled vegetables to the pinakbet to the bagoong — but I suppose if I had to pick one, I’ll go ahead and pick the crispy pata. As a Filipino American who has had her fair run-ins with this item over the years, I have to say that this is maybe the first time I’ve had it where the skin maintained its perfect pork skin-crisp, while the interior meat remained nicely tender. Why has it taken so long to have a version this perfect? I can only assume it’s sorcery that kept Ramen Shop’s crispy pata from drying out, but however it’s done, shout out to the crew for a thoughtful approach to dinner. And if you don’t take my word for it, my mom approved of the dishes as well. If the Oakland restaurant decides to try out another round of this Filipino pop-up: run, don’t walk. Ramen Shop, 5812 College Avenue, Oakland.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Bonbon collection from Jade Chocolates

Paolo Bicchieri

There are many dynamo chocolatiers in the Bay Area, but each of Mindy Fong’s Jade Chocolates represent points on a timeline, rings on a felled Redwood. Take her mint ginger meltaway: the crystalized ginger, surrounded by fatty coconut oil, contains a chewy center with the same texture as the candied treats that run rampant in Chinatown. The sesame bonbon tastes like biting into a just-baked sesame ball on Grant Avenue, somehow just as smoky and savory. The single origin Ecuadorian bonbon reminds the buyer that, indeed, Fong’s confections are not just artifacts of the United States’ oldest Chinatown but also global commodities shipped from around the world, this particular South American treat imparting a hint of chili. The tea service offered at Jade Chocolates brings it back to a hyperlocal history; the current prix fixe menu is all derived from tribes in the Ohlone federation. The tiered lunch includes dishes such as climbing bean salad, curry pumpkin bisque, and salmon blini followed by desserts such as acorn nib shortbread and chocolate pumpkin bread. But back to the chocolates: the cardamom bonbon is like drinking the dredges of a peppery chai, and the olive oil and yuzu bring some of that same fattiness seen in the mint ginger meltaway (perhaps a Fong signature). Whether it be to take home a box of chocolate or to sit and enjoy a decadent afternoon tea, Fong’s tribute to identity, origin, and sumptuousness is like a textbook speaking to so many issues of today. A must-read, so to speak. Jade Chocolates, 607 Grant Ave, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


September 9

Halibut ceviche at State Bird Provisions

Paolo Bicchieri

Chef Stuart Brioza trolleyed around State Bird Provisions’ dim sum-style carts with a partner the evening I visited the Fillmore restaurant. Chef Alejandra Espinoza, founder of Somos restaurant in Quito, Ecuador, worked throughout San Francisco’s pop-up scene in the 2010s and returned to the city to cook a series of dinners at La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, the Progress, and State Bird. The Ecuadorian ceviche, which as Espinoza points out is sans Asian influence like the dish’s more famous Peruvian compatriot, contains a rich medley of flavors ranging from lemon verbena to cucumber, pops with brightness, and sports a texture like warm crunchy peanut butter. A tomato shrimp salad, also stuffed with peanuts, was a delight, the thick chunks of fruit serving as the perfect reminder that this is no tweezer-food meal. (Espinoza says she shudders when she sees diners dissecting ceviche bit by bit or eating a tamale with a fork and knife, Bill de Blasio style.) The entire meal, but no dishes more so than the halibut ceviche, was a gourmand’s embarrassment of riches. Even the squid salad, topped with charred mandarin, each an explosive burst of citrus, felt indulgent rather than delicate. A palo santo ice cream sandwich, sporting freeze-dried cacao pulp and a metric ton of chocolate and cream, was the joyous exclamation mark to the entire affair. If the State Bird team at State Bird ever needs a bit more support, I hope they call Espinoza to pull up for a longer stay. State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Egg yolk tonnarelli at Sorella

Pasta topped with caviar and uni at Sorella. Lauren Saria

It’s been a quick nine months since the team behind San Francisco fine dining legend Acquerello debuted a more-casual little sister restaurant Sorella over on Polk. The restaurant’s small menu of cicchetti, or Roman bar snacks, won me over early — I mean, how can anyone resist Calabrian sausage stuffed chicken wings and delicate potato chips dusted with cacio e pepe seasoning? — but a recent dinner provided an opportunity to dig deep into the full dinner spread. Our table ordered most of the menu starting with pillowy potato leek focaccia and beautifully charred baby squids stuffed with prawns, scallops, and sausage. The housemade pastas left the strongest impressions, including a charcoal-colored squid ink linguini tossed with hunks of lobster and tomato confit and delicate ravioli folded around morsels of corn and porcini mushrooms then scattered with more golden kernels and a healthy heaping of chanterelles. But (and ok, fine, I’m being biased) my pick — a caviar and uni-topped tangle of square-edged tonnarelli — stole the show. Cooked to a perfect al dente bite, each noodle shone under the glossy layer of peppercorn-piqued sauce with bites alternating between salty pops of salmon roe and buttery waves of Fort Bragg sea urchin. My only complaint: Having to share. Sorella, 1760 Polk Street, San Francisco.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Pastrami breakfast sandwich at Delirama

Dianne de Guzman

While sometimes food writers project the reputation of being On It with the latest food obsessions, I will confess here that I’ve long chased after — but never actually succeeded at procuring — a pastrami sandwich from pandemic-era pop-up Pyro’s Pastrami. So while running an errand at nearby Pegasus Books, I decided to dip into Delirama, the pop-up’s hot new permanent home, to see what I’ve been missing. I was a bit early for a proper pastrami sandwich, but the deli’s breakfast menu is still a sight to behold with the shop’s fresh-baked bagels and bialys serving as vessels for delicious, meaty bites of pastrami. I don’t know about you, but I feel like The Move for a breakfast sandwich is to get the softer bialy as your base rather than a bagel (but you can select either), making for an easier time getting that bread-egg-cheese-pastrami goodness into your mouth. The meat had that nice amount of saltiness and pull-apartness that I enjoy in a good sliver of pastrami, and the classic egg-cheese combo didn’t disappoint. I’ll most likely be back to try the non-breakfast sandwich at some point (they’re generally served after 11 a.m.) but honestly? This is worthy of a return on its own if you enjoy a good breakfast sandwich, with the added bonus of no line in the morning to boot. Delirama, 1746 Solano Avenue, Berkeley

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


September 1

Egg salad sando at Cafe Okawari

Lauren Saria

This small South Beach cafe gets the most shine for its chicken katsu sandwich, but don’t overlook its eggier option. Cafe Okawari’s egg salad sandwich makes a feast in both the literal and metaphorical senses — as in, I dare you to resist snapping a photo of this adorably layered lunch with that creamy golden yolk nestled into a thick layer of delicately diced hard-boiled eggs. It’s an affordable ($12? in this economy?) and light meal, perfect for a pre-game snack (because, you know, you really must save room for a 5th-inning hot dog) or mid-week lunch. Built on two slices of airy shokupan, the combination of soft milk bread and smooshy egg salad provides a masterful example of the intentionally unbalanced soft-on-soft-on-soft texture that makes this Japanese sandwich so uniquely satisfying. And just in case a trip to the east side of town isn’t in the plans for the near future, know that you can also have Cafe Okawari delivered; just place your order on the restaurant’s website. Cafe Okawari, 236 Townsend Street, San Francisco

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Spinach quinoa cake at Savor

Paolo Bicchieri

Under a bit of streetlamp light, Mohamed Aboghanem leans out of his restaurant Savor’s kitchen window to talk to a frazzled-looking man who’s asking for a nighttime cup of coffee. Aboghanem smiles, assuring him he can get whatever he wants before offering him a free cup. Teenagers buzz around the tables to keep customers happy, though everyone looks pleased as punch as tinny music sung in Arabic lilts around the corner cafe. Look, I am a fully biased diner. I write this in my Sunset District T-shirt, for god’s sake. But even if this restaurant didn’t open one block away from my house, I’d be excited about Aboghanem’s new restaurant. Everything is vegetarian, many items gluten-free and many vegan, and when I came in the next morning for breakfast I tried the quinoa cake covered in creamy spinach. The crunch and body of the falafel-esque puck isn’t overly crispy and works as an excellent vehicle for the vegetable slaw on top, with oil running the rim of the plate. I worked through an order of poached egg atop yogurt and one of mushroom shawarma, both flavorful and thoughtfully seasoned, and no item on the ever-changing menu cost more than $15. Aboghanem is hopeful for lighting up this neck of the Sunset, and I for one am both optimistic and hopeful. Savor, 401 Irving Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Classic hummus at Obour Foods

An open jar of hummus from Obour Foods is seen atop a black table. Dianne de Guzman

After a recent brush with a lackluster hummus that didn’t quite reach that hummus taste I was looking for, I began seeking out other options. I remember trying this hummus at the Kensington Farmers Market a while back, and when I found myself back there on a recent weekend I sought Obour Foods out. The hummus was just what I was looking for: a smooth chickpea spread, balanced with the brightness of lemon and a bite of garlic, and topped with a generous sprinkling of Aleppo chile. I found myself trying to spread it on anything I had available: wedges of pita, crackers, and bread. I also (finally) did a smart thing and purchased a jar of garlic toum from Obour, which I have used as a base for vegetables, from oven-roasted broccolini to a thrown-together salad of cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini, and crumbled bits of goat cheese. I can’t wait to try the other offerings on my next trip to the farmers market or the Ferry Building. Obour Foods, 1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


August 26

Chilean sea bass ginger nuoc nam at Bodega

Paolo Bicchieri

Just a block off of Market Street, on a most unsuspecting street, lies one of the strongest contenders for best meals and services I’ve eaten in the Tenderloin. Often I return to the same haunts but Bodega made a big swing for the belt. Each item on the menu packed its own punch, from the bo tai chahn with strips of filet mignon layered under a stack of crispy shallots and Maui onion to the bright yuzu and coconut foam-topped oysters. The sea bass was a gift; the body of the fish was cooked just right while the bottom was seared to offer a spicy gingery crunch, which worked in lockstep with the bed of roasted tomatoes below. Even the jalapeno dressing on the accompanying greens is thoughtful, an extra kick. The design of the restaurant is a treat, too, and our server graciously put up with annoyingly specific questions from our party regarding which exact parcel of water in British Columbia our oysters were fished from. The desserts, a mango mousse and an ube panna cotta, balanced each other — we couldn’t get through all the mousse but whipped through the panna cotta, a knowing smile on our server’s face. Like the end of any good fight, I left battered and beaten, stumbling out the door. If there’s a champ in the neighborhood right now, it might just be this unsung hero. Bodega, 138 Mason Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Tasting menu at Atelier Crenn

Lauren Saria

Dining — and fine dining in particular — can be lots of things: delicious, hopefully, but also entertaining, thought-provoking, unpredictable, dramatic, and downright fun. My recent dinner at Atelier Crenn was all of these, with each course satiating both the eyes and palate and mind with consistently unexpected combinations of flavors (stonefruit and geoduck, for example) and delightful juxtapositions of textures. Take, for example, the very first course, a delicate shell of white chocolate that shatters to release a flood of alcoholic apple cider, a preview of the kind of playful, thoughtful, and technique-drive food diners have in store during their dinner; it’s also a restaurant staple and chef Dominque Crenn’s riff on the Kir Breton cocktail her mother used welcome guests with at their home. That geoduck and stonefruit tart, showcasing intricate petals of both ingredients surrounded by impossibly tender crust, is a strong contender for my favorite plate of the night, but a creamy combo of spot prawns and several varieties of seaweed — some raw, some deepened and distilled down to a crocodile green power — perfectly highlighted the kitchen’s ability to reimagine ingredients and elevate them beyond recognition with success. Atelier Crenn, 3127 Fillmore Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


August 19

Tacu tacu at Limón

Paolo Bicchieri

It’s a tough moment to realize all the wasted potential of rice and beans in comparison to how the legends at Mission District’s Limón so neatly and powerfully prepare the two simple ingredients. Central and South American chefs are no strangers to making space for their countries’ food in San Francisco, and chef Martín Castillo alongside his brothers Antonio and Eduardo have been Mission District paragons of Peruvian power since 2002. Their tacu tacu is a thunderous way to spend $10: rice and beans joined in an ovular shape with two vibrant ají sauces, thick sweet platano, and a bit of garlic. Plantains regularly bring me to my knees; such a delicious treat, yet growing up in rural Washington I’d never even heard of one, nor tried it, until I was in my early 20s. Gravitas aside, eating at any of the Limón outposts in the Bay (including the inbound and enormous Mountain View location) is a tried and true treat. The pisco sours will send you home in a tizzy, exactly as they should, and rotating menu specials, like chicken and waffles powdered in sugar, make it worthwhile to visit regularly. Limón, 1001 South Van Ness Street, San Francisco.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Hazelnut praline kouign amann from Starter Bakery

Dianne de Guzman

I want to be dramatic and write, “last night a kouign amann saved my life” but if I’m being honest, this Starter Bakery kouign amann didn’t save my life — though it did provide a bright spot in a week marred by COVID. I’ve been dodging the virus as best I could since 2020, but last Wednesday I tested positive, and rather than having all the eating adventures I usually do, I’ve instead been sleeping off my tiredness for the last week — so when I say a kouign amann helped with the drudgery of a forced quarantine, I truly mean it. Relegated to dinner deliveries and grocery store orders from Berkeley Bowl, I impulsively added a hazelnut praline kouign amann to my grocery list and later realized how much this flaky, delicious pastry item perked me up and made me feel (somewhat) human again. The hazelnuts on top are wonderfully candied and sit above a bed of delicious and just-sweet-enough chopped hazelnut spread. Starter Bakery also has its kouign amann layers down to a perfect shatter-bite, so I was in blissful hazelnuty delight for just a few minutes. It was transportive and perfect. Thanks, Starter. Starter Bakery, 901 Gilman Street, Berkeley.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Everything but the Bagel doughnut from Doughbot

Everything but the Bagel from Doughbot in Sacramento. Lauren Saria

My good carb-loving friends, have you ever woken up on Sunday morning craving a hit of glucose and torn between the sugary temptation of a doughnut and the savory satisfaction of a bagel? Well, here’s some fantastic news: Doughbot, a new Sacramento doughnut shop has done the good work of combining these two excellent breakfast options for you. The Everything but the Bagel doughnut (technically, the shop calls it a malasada, but having enjoyed many years' worth of Leonard’s Bakery’s exceptional sugar-dusted confections, I will respectfully decline to apply that term here) sports a healthy coating of everything seasoning and delivers a hefty punch of cream cheese filling flavored with chives, garlic, and spices. It might sound like a longshot — like the delicately lifted yeasted dough could never stand up to such a substantial filling, but nevertheless, it did. The combination of light, deep-fried dough and savory cream cheese kicked started my Sunday on just the right note. Doughbot Donuts, 2030 10th Street, Sacramento.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


August 12

Hot Ham sandwich at Lucinda’s Deli and More

Lauren Saria

With apologies to everyone if I jinx it for us, I can’t help but note this San Francisco Fogust has been decidedly un-foggy. And since a sunny day in this city is truly something to cherish, this week I made time to soak up some vitamin D at Alamo Square Park during lunch. If you, too, would like to enjoy a perfect al fresco midday meal with views of those famous Painted Ladies, I highly suggest placing an online order and stopping first at Lucinda’s Deli and More, literally kitty-corner from the southwest corner of the green. The Italian American is a popular choice while others favor the tuna melt — but, hey, why not buck the trend and go for a hefty Hot Ham sandwich? With a high wind threatening to snatch napkins and discarded brown paper wrapping, hold tight to this enormous sub, which balances an inch-high stack of Boar’s Head ham with nose-clearing grated horseradish, thick slices of tomato, arugula, garlic mayo, and gently pickled carrots and cucumbers. A slab of crusty ciabatta makes a sturdy base, softening only slightly if you find you need to save your second half for later. Lucinda’s Deli & More, 535 Scott Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Aloo gobi at Himalayan Tandoori and Curry House

Paolo Bicchieri

On the side of the road, next to a vape shop and behind houseplants set loose upon a concrete patio to grow high like hay in summer, a squat office building plays host to Nepalese food as good or better than any I’ve found in San Francisco. The entrees at Himalayan Tandoori and Curry House in Sebastopol, including a well-spiced aloo gobi and a subtle and sumptuous vegetable biryani, were accompanied by steaming aloo tiki and pakora vegetables crisped into ball-like bites. Rather than feeling stiffed with small portions, I couldn’t believe how much food came with each item: aloo tiki arrived stacked in a pyramid of 10 or so chewy and flavorful patties, and the cilantro in the sauce, most likely dhaniya ko achaar, rang bright. The price point, too, was a relief: $7 for the pakora, $14 for the aloo gobi, and $19 for the hardy biryani. While Dancing Yak remains a favorite in the Mission and my girlfriend cherishes Himalayan Pizza and Momo in the Tenderloin, if anyone should find themselves in need of an escape from the city and heading north, give yourself the treasure of a stop at this quick-serviced, unsung restaurant. Himalayan Tandoori and Curry House, 969 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Big Mac nirigi at Chome

Lauren Saria

Stepping off the crowded sidewalk on Mission near 18th Street and into the itty bitty dining room at Chome truly does feel like being instantly transported to another world. No more than half a dozen tables congest the tiny space, which is chaotically decorated with strings of flags, twinkling lights, flowers spurting out of recycled wine bottles, and a number of cheeky signs — “there’s no place like here,” one rightfully proclaims. The menu is similarly and pleasantly all over the place, forcing diners to compile a meal from options including sashimi, a range of charcoal-grilled skewers, crispy brussels sprouts, ramen, udon carbonara, and so incredibly much more. Considering all that, the existence of the Big Mac nigiri kind of only makes sense: an over-the-top piece of sushi stacking A5 wagyu under a thick slice of fatty tuna belly under a gob of creamy uni all capped with a spot of inky black tobiko and some truffle sauce, just for good measure. It’s not likely you’ll need more than one order, and splitting the pair with a dining companion might be the recommended move. But you can’t deny the pleasure of indulging in a bite that’s at once too much and, in a way, just enough. Chome, 2193 Mission Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


August 5

Uni creme brulee at Third Cousin

Paolo Bicchieri

Legend goes that chef Greg Lutes of Bernal Heights’ Third Cousin tried to impress an old flame with uni flan and failed so hard he needed a parachute before serving the dish — so he opted for caramelizing sugar on top of the not-flan. The result is, as my girlfriend describes it, like ocean butter. This savory and sweet ode to umami is exquisite and executed, conceptually and flavorfully, just as it should be. If there’s something special about shelling out big money for dinner (though, to be fair, Third Cousin falls on the affordable side of fine dining) it’s for food that one could never even imagine, like this dish. The bread (or gluten-free crackers) stand in as crunchy portkeys for the caviar, roe, and tobiko, all perched atop the whipped eel. The entire meal, a smorgasbord ranging from octopus with nectarine and lobster risotto, provided a hearth on the otherwise blustery hill Cortland Avenue arcs over; duck confit was tender and chewy, and lime mango panna cotta provided the ultimate zing. Like a startling exclamation point, though, our conversation returned again and again to Lutes’ signature dish. Third Cousin, 919 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Sea scallop tartare at Monsieur Benjamin

Dianne de Guzman

I don’t know whether to blame the pandemic or my lack of skill at making anything related to seafood, but after being seafood deficient since 2020, I’ve spent this entire summer of venturing out for as much crudo, ceviche, tartare, and sushi as I can get my greedy hands on. Case in point: this scallop dish from Monsieur Benjamin. Sure, one could argue that these scallops, seated on a bed of ice, were meant as a shared appetizer among two civilized humans. But, I could also argue that I don’t care. I felt a twinge of guilt as the huge tray of ice and scallops slid in front of my solo seat at the bar, but honestly, I tried a piece and knew in my goblin heart it was probably best I didn’t share. The scallops are chunked into bite-sized pieces and tossed with chives, minced Fresno chili, yellow Chartreuse, and a smidge of lemon zest. Each spoonful gave creamy, umami, seafood-y bites of scallop, with light heat and crunch from the chilis, and brightness from the lemon. I didn’t stick around for dinner, unfortunately, but here’s a secondary shout-out to the oeuf mayonnaise — Monsieur Benjamin’s take on the deviled egg — which thankfully you can order individually by the half-egg and go as gluttonous or restrained as you’d like. Monsieur Benjamin, 451 Gough Street, San Francisco.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Beignet at Just For You Cafe

A powdered sugar-dusted beignet on a white plate. Lauren Saria

On a sunny afternoon, I stopped into this Dogpatch cafe for a late solo lunch, planning to scarf a shrimp po’boy and beignet while digging out of a deep email backlog. Then the friendly server asked if I’d like to start my meal or end it with the sugar-dusted doughnut and, after taking a brief pause, I realized, why not start a meal with dessert? So I did. The single, side plate-sized pillow of dough arrived almost immediately and in my excitement, I ripped in right away — a silly beginner’s mistake. A ripping hot puff of air assaulted me as soon as I bit in, followed by a torrent of dusty sugar falling all over the table and my shirt. But I kind of didn’t care. A little burn and a lot of mess was honestly a small price to pay for the simple pleasure of hot, fresh, and perfectly puffy beignet enjoyed at a sun-soaked window-side table on a weekday afternoon. Just For You Cafe, 732 22nd Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


July 29

Ankimo and ikura handroll at Handroll Project

A handroll made with rice, ikura, and grated front monkfish liver held in a wooden U-shaped stand on a counter. Lauren Saria

If you’ve ever wondered, “Could I really eat 11 handrolls in just over an hour?” Let me confirm: Yes, you can. Or at least, I can and easily did because the handrolls at Handroll Project are so incredibly diverse that inhaling fistfuls of sushi rice, wrapped in thick sheets of nori and gilt with fresh fish, somehow just leaves you wanting more. Chef Geoffrey Lee, also the culinary talent behind Michelin-starred Ju-Ni and Hina Yakitori, works magic on the temaki form, turning each bite into a marvel of contradictions — through the juxtaposition of sweet, creamy scallops and fresh avocado against the delicate crush of amber tobiko and with the contrast of finely chopped tuna layered over a brightly medicinal shiso leaf and dusted a scattering of shallots. But the most perfect example of these beguiling contrasts comes in the form of the ankimo and ikura handroll, a riff on one of Ju-Ni’s most-famous plates. Lee sinks creamy monkfish liver pate to sub-Arctic temperatures before dropping a thick mantle over house-smoked ikura. The cold shavings of fatty ankimo blanket a trove of crimson orbs of caviar, each bursting with oceanic flavor. Handroll Project, 598 Guerrero Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Cucumber salad at Slug

Dianne de Guzman

I stopped into Slug with a friend this week, excited to try a handful of dishes alongside some glasses of wine as we caught up. While everything we ate was impressive — and so pretty — the dish that stood out most was the cucumber salad. I already wrote about it after chef Spencer Horovitz really dug into the details, but what I will say in this space is that I was really impressed with the textures and how they played against the umami flavors. There’s the crunchiness of the cucumbers, but also the different-crunchiness of the crispy chickpea crumble, and the other-other crunchiness of thinly sliced radishes. On the umami side, the kombu-poached potatoes give diners exactly that, but also serve as a softer texture; the roe then gives some nice tiny pops of salt. To be quite honest, I can’t even really begin to tell you what the base is, but my friend and I dragged every bit of vegetable we could through that sauce. And as a secondary dish alert: Get the scallop crudo. If you like crudo. Oh, and anything on the menu that includes a side of butter. Trust. Slug, 102 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Verdura di mercato at Che Fico

Paolo Bicchieri

After three to four hours incinerating in an oven at 200 degrees, the tomatoes lacked any semblance of firmness through the glacially slow transformation. Corn is served beneath the jammy discs in two ways: the whole kernel, offering a necessary textural balance, and as almost a sauce, distilled through a sieve. My dad and I — Pops as he’s known — were stunned at Che Fico’s newest item: can tomatoes really taste like this? Isn’t there something else hidden in this dish? How have we, two Italian Americans, not tried such fine food from our culture before? We couldn’t contain our glee. This recent vegan addition to the menu came after an order of melone, also vegan, another simple and dense plate accompanied by smoky olive oil, basil, and mint. We devoured an order of fresh mozzarella which, allegedly, goes from curd to table in about eight minutes. The eggplant comes caramelized and adorned with chunks of ricotta like tiny, creamy cotton balls. The polenta, an item I have massive affection for writ large, had echo chambers of flavor and depth in its parmigiano-laden bowl. For all of the hubbub about Che Fico’s “controversial fee,” the bottom line is my meal far exceeded any expectations I had going up those stairs. Kyle, our server, was knowledgeable, gregarious, and, at least in my books, an honorary paisano. Che Fico, 838 Divisadero Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter


July 22

Wedge salad at Ashes & Diamonds

Dishes of food including a wedge salad, steak, and roasted chicken. Lauren Saria

For the most part, Napa Valley visitors probably aren’t planning their wine tasting itineraries around food — which is kind of shame because that means a lot of people are probably missing out on the excellent but still-approachable lunch at Ashes & Diamonds. The gorgeous mid-century modern tasting room and the lineup of lively wines make A&D a logical destination for any wine country vacationer, but, if I’m being honest, it’s chef Ethan Speizer’s menu I’m still stuck on several days later. The full wine and food experience ($165) includes a tasting and family-style lunch that might start with sous chef Madison Gabor’s addictively thick and crispy fermented potato bread with tangy labneh and culminate with a whole roasted chicken, sporting suntanned skin and floating on a bed of sturdy black chickpeas. Twice now I’ve enjoyed an excellent iceberg wedge salad, drowned in herby green goddess dressing and showered with a made-in-house furikake blend featuring crispy garlic and crunchy quinoa. It’s the kind of salad that’s eminently satisfying in its simplicity, the type of dish you want to imagine you could recreate at home — but know you’ll probably never attempt and probably couldn’t even come close to approximating well. Which, I guess, is probably fine since it gives me a good excuse to get back to A&D again soon. Ashes & Diamonds, 4130 Howard Lane, Napa.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Seed loaf with yummy spread at Firefly

Paolo Bicchieri

Let me begin by saying I have an affectionate place in my heart for loaves of all kinds. Growing up on every birthday I begged for meatloaf, polenta pasticciata, and asparagus; but once I was diagnosed with celiac and started to eat less meat, meatloaf was not so doable. Eating this appetizer at Noe Valley’s Firefly, in a small way, brought me back to the sweetness of eating what I want with zero fuss or hassle. The seed-filled, thick partitions of loaf fill in for bruschetta or garlic bread, and the white bean dip is worthy enough to apply to the other dishes at the table. Such other important orders include: Japanese sweet potato tostones with spicy citrus–ginger glaze (crunchy, chewy, subtly sweet), heirloom tomatoes and nectarines served on top of vegan cream cheese and vegan feta (ultra tangy and oily, a major highlight), and quinoa and pine nut-stuffed round squash (I much preferred the starters to this entree, though the hardiness warmed my soul like stew on a cold foggy night). The entire menu is gluten-free, and moreover, almost all of it can be made vegan. The seed loaf is also only $10, a rarer and rarer price point these days. Throughout the whole meal, I kept wishing for more slices of seed loaf with more yummy spread — for the record, that’s the dish’s official name. Maybe it’s my nostalgia goggles, but I could go for a starter of seed loaf any night of the week. Firefly Restaurant, 4288 24th Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Salted egg yolk milk tea at U :Dessert

Dianne de Guzman

Somehow, I’ve never stepped into a U :Dessert Story before — a tragedy, yes — yet I’ve certainly seen its confections on social media, photo-ready Asian American desserts such as many-layered crepe cakes or bingsu loaded with chunks of fruit over shaved ice. This week I ventured in and was lured into trying the salted egg yolk milk tea. As a disclaimer, I’m not well-versed in this savory ingredient as a drink flavor, but, as background, for the last two years I’ve just about tried every salted egg yolk chip or snack I could get my hands on in the Bay Area. When my drink arrived, it came with a thick cheese cream top and crumbles of egg yolk sprinkled over, while the glass itself had a thin layer of a salted egg yolk spread at the top. Rather than the funky, hit-you-in-your-face punch that salted egg yolk chips have — and I mean this in the best way! — the drink was a nice, not-too-sweet milk tea that had a pleasantly subtle savory undertone to it. This was well-balanced and pleasant for an afternoon break. U :Dessert Story, 1849 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


July 15

Kimchi pancake at the Crew

Paolo Bicchieri

I was much younger and working as a supervisor at a Korean restaurant in my hometown when I first tried kimchi, but until last week, I’d never tried it in its pancake modality. I was initially convinced gooey cheddar cheese strung between onion and cabbage held together this crispy circle — at least until my pal popped that balloon, muttering between bites, “egg.” The richness achieved in this simple dish, topped with green onion and (for the bold) hot sauce, is pretty wild. The pancake ($18.95) eats more like a vegetarian pizza, cut into tremendous slices and served with a paddle, though I manhandled the triangles until my fingers were oily. It doubled as a chance to reflect on the joy of saddling into a restaurant I’ve never tried, in this case the Crew on Noriega, rather than hitting my staple places. I learned from Eater NY food critics Ryan Sutton and Robert Sietsema to walk a neighborhood and see where people are eating right around the corner from the place you’ve been told is so great, to pay attention to who’s eating what and where. As I whipped through the last slice of kimchi pancake, a few soccer jersey-wearing teenagers and somebody’s parent came in and sat down. Young people, old people, newbies, seasoned pros — some food stands the test of time, no matter when you come to it. The Crew, 1330 Noriega Street, San Francisco.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Black curry and A5 wagyu at Nisei

A piece of A5 wagyu beef with a black pool of curry and local morel mushrooms. Lauren Saria

I’ll cut right to the chase: It’s been almost a full year since Nisei, chef David Yoshimura’s fine dining Japanese restaurant debuted in Russian Hill, and if you’ve been waiting for the restaurant to get settled before heading in for the 10-course tasting menu, now is officially the time. There was not a single miss during my recent dinner, starting with a Salazar oyster luxuriating in a bed of English pea and wasabi foam and culminating with an exquisite cup of miso soup fortified with lamb bone and served with seasonal tsukemono, lamb fat infused Rue & Forsman Ranch rice, and an incredibly tender rack of lamb. From Day One, Yoshimura’s black curry — an obsidian wonder, luxurious and all-at-once mild, sweet, and rich — has been a stunner, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that the supplemental course starring it earned a spot as my favorite of the night. It might sound like heresy, but the kitchen served that inky substance with a ribbon of deep-fried — yes, deep-fried — A5 wagyu wrapped in a thin milk bread crust. It was a wonder of textural contradictions with that delicately crunchy bark encasing buttery soft beef. Pure genius. Nisei, 2316 Polk Street, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Halo-halo lumpia at the Lumpia Company

Pieces of banana are wrapped in a fried, crispy lumpia wrapper with small sauce containers of ube dipping sauce and Rice Krispies cereal. Dianne de Guzman

If my best dish from last week was a reminder of why comfort food is Good, then this week’s is about the nice things that can happen when you try something new. I was ordering some (savory) lumpia from the Lumpia Company window when I spied this halo-halo dessert lumpia special on the board, stuffed with banana, coconut jelly, red bean, and jackfruit. I will admit I was skeptical, but as halo-halo is a longtime childhood favorite, I was also willing to take a gamble. I was delighted to find that while this dish was certainly halo-halo-y, in my mind it played more like turon — a Filipino snack of banana and jackfruit in a fried, caramelized lumpia wrapper — on steroids (and for what it’s worth, it’s billed more as turon on social media). The banana and jackfruit acted as a base, while the beans added a tiny bit of bite and smooth, creamy texture, and the coconut jelly contributed just that tiny bit of extra-ness that I certainly didn’t hate. And rather than a caramelized exterior these were churro-ized with a combination of sugar and cinnamon rolled onto the outside of the wrapper. There were accompanying cups of ube custard sauce and Rice Krispies to complete the halo-halo experience, but honestly the halo-halo lumpia turon was good on its own. The Lumpia Company, 372 24th St, Oakland.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor


July 8

Liberty Farm Peking Style Roast Duck at Mister Jiu’s

Liberty Farm Peking Style Roast Duck at Mister Jiu’s. Lauren Saria

With a good reason to celebrate on the calendar, I rounded up a group of friends and demanded (not an exaggeration) we go to Mister Jiu’s to mark the occasion by sharing one of this city’s most iconic dishes. We slid into one of the plush semi-circle booths, with views of Chinatown beyond the open windows, and before our server had the chance to take our drink order I submitted my request: “We’d like to order the duck.” In my defense, it does take a full hour for the glossy bird to arrive at your table, but the time passed in a blink as we ripped apart a fluffy sourdough scallion pancake, dug into a mountain of fried rice topped with shards of crispy chicken skin, and sipped glasses of crisp chenin blanc. Then came the main event: a gorgeous umber platter of duck, sliced to reveal dusty pink meat. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say a paper-thin pancake wrapped around a smoky slice of duck, slathered with peanut butter hoisin and a dollop of liver pate, then buried under a flurry of cilantro and thin-sliced green onion is one of the best bites in San Francisco. Mister Jiu’s, 28 Waverly Place, San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

Stuffed squash blossoms and porcini mushrooms at Boulevard

Paolo Bicchieri

For those who follow my dining exploits throughout the city, my affinity for a well-prepared, meaty mushroom will come as no surprise. Boulevard, the waterfront restaurant with a Hearst Mansion-like interior design, prepares the fungus for those looking for a high class meal with zero fleshy bits. My server guided me through the menu with tactful precision: I’d want to start with the heirloom tomatoes, order the squash blossoms and mushrooms for my main, and end with the French and Sebastopol cheese selection (with gluten-free crackers). After the first bite into the oily tomatoes, cut like peaches and topped with coarse salt, I knew my server was a real one. And the main may be the most well-balanced dish I’ve eaten — the delicate texture of the squash blossom totally supported by the crisp crunch of snap peas, with the artichoke heart and mushroom both serving as proper chewy vehicles for fava tabbouleh. This restaurant is a welcome postscript to any vegetarian list — for the vegans, not so much. Those final dabs of Northern California cheese paired with grapes for dessert are high caliber creamy, meaning the animal lovers are best suited to sit this one out. Boulevard, 1 Mission Street, San Francisco

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Hoi An chicken rice at Bodega SF

Dianne de Guzman

I know as food writers we’re meant to be adventurous eaters, trying the latest things and thinking up creative ways to describe it. But sometimes what I want out of a meal is something comforting, done well, and when that happens, it’ll win me over for the entire week. That’s the case with anything chicken rice-related, which I will oftentimes try to force myself away from ordering, so I can try a New Thing, but when I happen to succumb to my base urges to order something I’ve had many times over, I’m reminded of why it’s a solid go-to. Such is the case of the Hoi An chicken rice at Bodega SF. I dropped in for a lunch and while there were plenty of other delicious looking options, I decided to go with my tried-and-true. It was just a lovely dish of flavorful turmeric chicken rice topped with crispy shallots, poached chicken with slivers of thinly sliced onion and cilantro leaves, and a flavorful broth to sip as I worked my way through lunch. It’s such a comfort food item for me, I am glad I listened to my gut and caved in. (And because it’s turning into my tradition to tack on an extra dish, I have to also shout out the banh cuon rice rolls — worth an order if you have room for it.) Bodega SF, 138 Mason Street, San Francisco.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

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