Join us for Tag Along, where local writers, artists, food authorities, and celebrities shine a spotlight on the best food and drinks in their favorite Bay Area neighborhoods.
For Matt Ho of Bodega SF, memories of growing up in the city are tied to food. Ho was raised in the San Francisco restaurant industry as his parents and extended family ran the first iteration of their Tenderloin restaurant, Bodega Bistro, for 14 years. That restaurant closed in 2017, but Ho, as the second generation, pushed to reopen the business in 2022 as Bodega SF earning a nod as Eater SF’s Restaurant of the Year. Since that opening, Ho’s gone on to roll out the Felix, an underground bar located next door to Bodega serving cocktails inflected with Asian flavors and ingredients.
As a longtime San Francisco resident who’s lived in different parts of the city over the years, Ho can get talking about the places he would visit with family and friends for food at the mere mention of a neighborhood. Chinese supermarkets and delis on San Bruno Avenue near Candlestick Park. Breakfast in Cole Valley. Fried chicken and chow mein at Happy Bakery on Irving Street after Sunday school. Now living in Potrero Hill, Ho has a list of favorite restaurants that he hits up for dinner or a pre-work lunch. Join Eater SF as we accompany Ho on a tour of the neighborhood spots he’s come to enjoy regularly around Potrero Hill.
88 Division Street, San Francisco
Although technically a bit outside of Potrero Hill, Saap Ver has become one of Ho’s favorites, both for delivery and dining out. Ho says his Thai friends turned him onto the restaurant, recommending what Saap Ver calls its “authentic country-style Thai street food.” Colorful Thai movie posters cover the walls and bunting adorns the ceiling, giving the restaurant a lively and fun feel.
Ho likes to order the stir-fried squid in a salted egg yolk sauce, which is punctuated by bits of bell pepper and carrot, and topped with scallions. Thai shrimp paste fried rice with sweet pork, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp usually also ends up the table — “You don’t really see shrimp paste fried rice much,” Ho notes — and a huge bowl of beef noodle soup with flank steak, beef meatballs, plus Chinese broccoli, bean sprout, and celery. The beef noodle soup is Ho’s personal favorite and serves as his alternative to pho. “I’ve just been around pho so much, I just can’t eat it that often,” Ho says. “Thai beef noodle soup is just in between for me, where it’s hearty enough, it’s familiar and it’s a different flavor that I just really enjoy.”
495 De Haro Street, San Francisco
Ho also frequents Corazon Maya, a food truck serving Yucatán dishes, for lunch. He would drive past the truck frequently when it was set up outside of (now-closed) Anchor Public Taps, and eventually his curiosity got the best of him. Ho now swears by the truck’s panuchos, a corn tortilla that’s fried then filled with black beans and topped with chicken, tomatoes, pickled onions, and cabbage.
On this occasion, the panuchos were all sold out. Instead, Ho went with salbutes, a puffed tortilla (but without the black bean stuffing) topped with a choice of meat, cabbage, tomatoes, pickled onions, and avocado, as well as an order of mulitas, a mix of cheese, meat, onions, and cilantro held together by two corn tortillas on the outside. Ho tops each dish with the truck’s salsas, which he notes are “really good, very fresh, and spicy, so it has a good kick to it.”
1220 16th St, San Francisco
Ho likens Wolfe’s Lunch, a small corner spot, to Art’s Cafe in the Inner Sunset. “I was missing a Korean breakfast kind of spot [around Potrero],” Ho says, “and this is really a homey kind of place.” Diner standards such as eggs, pancakes, burgers, and sandwiches make up the bulk of the menu. A handful of Japanese dishes such as donburi, udon, and katsu, plus the restaurant’s Korean specials of bulgogi, bibimbap, and kimchi fried rice with Spam round out the list.
For Ho, it’s a nice quiet place to clear his head and grab lunch before a busy service, and he typically gravitates toward bibimbap or the hamburg steak, which he orders on this trip. “They use a chicken and pork combo, with tofu to really bind it,” Ho says. “It’s super soft and the gravy is nice, and it’s really easy to eat, especially if I’m drinking the night before.”
1315 18th Street, San Francisco
Ho’s cousin is a “coffee snob” and recommended he try out Farley’s, a cafe favorite that’s been running in Potrero Hill since 1989. The Golden Latte — a creamy drink with warm spices including cardamom and turmeric, which gives the drink its golden hue — won raves from both Ho and his cousin. It’s a relatively new drink to Ho, but won him over and turned him into a regular customer. The shop offers a small selection of snacks and bites should one get hungry, and a surprisingly current magazine section encourages lingering over coffee.
Ho’s curiosity and willingness to try new places and support other businesses have led him on this track of finding neighborhood gems. Like others, Ho would drive by these restaurants constantly without dropping by — until he made it a point to give them a try. “Going to new places will open your perspective and make you a little more adventurous,” Ho says. “It’s always good when you try something new and it sticks.”