For those of you who don’t spend 50% of your waking life scarfing down a
laundry list of delicious eats in San Francisco, allow me to fill you
in: There is a laundry list of delicious eats in San Francisco. And I
don’t just mean restaurants; I mean taco trucks, food carts, farmer’s
markets, cute girls on bikes pulling trailers full of pie, pizza mavens who've mobilized their ovens to sell
you a slice in the park…
It’s pretty much fat kid heaven on earth.
Last year, 7x7
did a pretty great thing: They whittled it down for us in a glorious
list of 100 Things to Eat (and Drink) Before You Die, also known as The
Big Eat, featuring 100 of the best morsels in the city. It was
brilliant! Controversial! Thought-provoking! Inspiring! “How many
have I had? I should try them ALL!!!!!!” Gorging ensued across the
city in an epic journey to experience the best of ze best, for sake of being an expert; for bragging rights.
Then, in the fall, this call to
action: Help create the list for 2010! Partake in the creation of the
long-awaited, deeply anticipated NEW challenge; introduce us all to area
newbies and give a second shot at renewed glory to old school
proprietors! How thrilling! When the people lead, the writers will
follow, etc….in rushed the suggestions of many, and it was good. Publish list!
…..aaaand cue sad trombone: This year’s list? Pretty much the same as last year’s list, save a piddly handful of updates. A
handful. LAME. I mean, come ON people. What on
earth is so special about the oysters from
the Swan Oyster Depot? Are they not same oysters you get… i
dunno, in EVERY other respectable oyster bar in the city??? Really. A
cheeseburger from Taylor’s Automatic???? Seriously???
Therefore, I nominate myself to bring a few additions to the table:
Go forth and chow down, my friends. (Drumroll, please…)
In no particular order, I present:
25 More Things to Try Before You Die (or while you wait for 7×7 to tell you something new.)
- The Tamale Lady. The very hallmark of my dissatisfaction with recent broad-sweeping summaries of SF’s most notable noshes? The GLARING omission of our civic treasure Virginia Ramos, famously known as The Tamale Lady. There are many imitators, but Virginia’s heaven-in-a-corn-husk is the original obsession, and undoubtedly the stand-out: delicious and perfect no matter your budget or blood alcohol content.
- Fried chicken dinner @ Firefly. A dish so popular, it has its own mailing list—seriously. Crispy perfection with savory peas & carrots, a halo of whipped potatoes, and an awe-inspiring buttermilk biscuit have patrons keeping an eye out for the email signaling it’s return to the menu a few times a year. Also, the restaurant proudly boasts this good news: “All our meat comes from happy, never mad, drug free animals; no hormones, antibiotics or crack cocaine”. Well whattaya know.
- Any variety of cookie @ Anthony’s Cookies. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which variety you prefer—chocolate chip, peanut butter, etc.—bottom line, these cookies are so delicious it will piss off your grandmother. A self-taught baking enthusiast, Anthony regularly rocks the world of Mission locals, many of who tell him not to bother closing the bakery box—they’re going to start eating before they reach the door. (Ok, so 7×7 gave props to his cookies n’ cream variety this year… but how do you even choose?!???)
- Tofu @ Eiji. Dismiss everything you thought you knew about that white jiggly mass in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, because this is a whole different food. Each serving homemade-to-order, it’s the perfect solution for the foggy winter blues. Trust me.
pastor tacos @ Tonayense (or their taco truck). Porkaholics,
rejoice! The ultimate in savory barbecued bits. Not only do they sauce
and season this hallmark of street food-style goodness just right, but
the corn tortilla is among the best money can buy. Topped with cilantro
and onions, a few of these make for a perfect dirt-cheap lunch option.
- “Air Mail” cocktail @ Beretta. You’re here, which means you have your lovely pizza, your lovely burrata cheese, your delightful décor, and superior company—go for this cocktail! Heralded as one of the 20 best cocktails in America by GQ Magazine, this concoction is food-friendly mixology at it’s very best (served in a vintage-style glass). Prost!
- Salt & pepper crab @ R&G Lounge. Let’s just say Merriam & Webster and I have a conference call scheduled to discuss this addition to the adjective “succulent”. If you ever thought Dungeoness crab was natures perfect food, prepare for the AWE of this tempura-fried delicacy.
- Cold house noodles @ Yamo. Are they yelling at each other? Are they just loud talkers? You’ll never know! The women who run this hole-in-the-wall on 18th Street have magic in their finger tips—I have yet to meet two people who agree on what their best dish is, but this $6 entrée accompanied by a fresh baby coconut is always a glorious meal.
- Grilled cheese sandwich @ Hog Island Oyster Bar. On a summer afternoon, you may not be in the mood for clam chowder. Accompany your obligatory dozen oysters with this heart-stoppingly incredible sandwich, stuffed with four gloriously gooey cheeses and crisped to perfection. (One is more than enough to share.)
- Macaroni & drunken Spanish goat cheese @ Blue Plate. Everyone has their favorite place to get schmancy mac and cheese, but what sets this one apart is that it’s a simple, sophisticated version of the original featuring sumptuously mild goat cheese. No truffles, no bacon, just pure molten comfort.
- Meyer lemon cupcake @ Kara’s Cupcakes. For those of you who are totally over the whole designer cupcake thing (like my beloved gastronome girlbuddy at The Hipster Home), this sweet-tart confection is should be your exception to the rule. Not-too-dense-nor-exceedingly-delicate, luscious, and cute as a button; it’s a reminder of what cupcake whimsy should be. (Only looking for a taste? Kara’s makes miniature sizes of most varieties!)
- Bloody Mary @ Zeitgeist. A place that openly proclaims “Hangovers installed and serviced” better know how to make a damn good bloody. And they do. Good lord in heaven.
rolls @ Spork. Ok, ok, ok—I can imagine the frustration of the
chef: learning that it’s the friggin’ complimentary dinner rolls that
have stolen my heart, but really: There are few things more perfect
than these piping hot, crusty-salted brioche-style rolls. Does the rest
of the menu warrant spectacular raves? But of course.
taco (or burrito!) @ Papalote. Chef/owners Miguel and Victor
Escobedo are deserving of many accolades, but none as well-deserved as
their remarkable ability to make a 100% vegan protein this mouth-watering. Dubious though
you may be, the seasoning of the sauce and surprisingly hearty texture
make this not just a good filling for your taco, but an incredible one…
even for the carnivorous at heart.
- Cha-cha bowl @ Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ (AT&T Park). No, I’m NOT kidding. This bowl of killer dirty rice, chicken, and choice of heavenly sinus-clearing sauces is THE most satisfying and delicious way to soak up those ballpark beers and revitalize your love of the Giants, even as they…. you know… lose.
- “World’s Best Handroll” @ Zushi Puzzle. A sumptuous creation made on request, it’s the tastiest morsel to ever not be on the menu. Here are your instructions: Sit at the bar. Ask glorious chef/artiste/funnyman Roger to make you “the world’s best handroll”. Observe his mind-boggling skills as he builds it with one hand: soy paper, fried soft shell crab, and a myriad of fresh secret ingredients. Devour!
- Bread pudding @ Tartine. Oh, how that line may seem sooo long on a Sunday morning… but damned if I ever pass up dessert for breakfast. You’ve never eaten bread pudding until you’ve eaten this one.
- Fried Egg Sandwich @ Luna Park. There’s just something about it… A certain undeniable je ne sais quoi. Yes, of course it has bacon and cheese… but the addition of fresh arugala and avocado, piled on picture-perfect sourdough toast (with the structural integrity of the Golden Gate Bridge, I might add) make this a must-have at brunch.
- YoYos @ Weird Fish. First, I will tell you that this is one of the most succulent deep-fried drunk foods on the planet. Next, I will tell you that they are as addictive as they are delicious. Lastly, I will tell you that they are, in fact, pickles. Deep. Fried. Pickles. Say what you will; you will soon learn that I am not wrong.
- Pulled pork plate @ Baby Blues BBQ. No matter where your barbecue allegiance lies, this tender juicy pile o’ swine is an undeniable joy to behold (and to feast on)… Then there are the house made condiments, which push the envelope to show-stopping proportions. My recommendation? A splash of apple cider & sweet pepper vinegar with a drizzle of ginger Tabasco.
Gobi @ Mefhil Indian. Cauliflower. That’s right. If you’re a
non believer, take your yoga pants and shove it– because nothing
captures the spectrum of real, honest-to-goodness Indian flavors like
this humble dish, and this place has a special way with curry… While
you’re here, I might also advise that you let your server do the
choosing. Namaste, babe.
- Humboldt Fog @ Cowgirl Creamery. Yippee-kay-yay, mother f*ckers, and bring some crackers, too. We may be a ways from Humboldt County, but these lads and ladies have done justice to this triple-cream majesty—definitely worth wading through the commuter crowd to grab a few ounces from their outpost in the Ferry Building.
& chips @ Edinburgh Castle. This tasty treat actually hails
from ’round the corner, delivered to the bar until 11pm most nights– but
order it here, because once you’ve doused this superior crisp cod and
taters in malt vinegar, all nestled in yesterday’s newsprint, that pint
of Smithwicks will soar to new heights… The perfect pick-me-up on trivia
- Maple-bacon donut @ Dynamo donuts. Is the trend of Baconphilia a thing of the past? Who cares! For those of you who struggle with the choice of a sweet or savory breakfast, this donut is the answer. I mean…. if you’re going to have a donut, you might as well do it right. (Bee tee dubs, I personally find the “spice” in their famed chocolate spice donut to taste like Old Bay Seasoning. Maybe that’s just me.)
- Brioche kashi pan with yuzu marmalade & sage @ Sandbox Bakery. Talk about afternoon delight. Talk about sleeping in on a Saturday, then climbing up the hills in Bernal Heights for a glorious reward! This is the perfect bite of sweet-savory-sticky joy, topped with crispy herbal kick… and it’s no wonder: Asian-French fusion BAKING done with finesse is the hallmark of owner/baker, Mutsumi Takehara, former pastry chef of both Slanted Door and Chez Panisse.