Category Archives: restaurant

A Brief Neighborhood Guide to San Francisco: The Upper Haight

(Note: This is part of my San Francisco neighborhood guide to be published individually, then in its entirety at completion. As a result of the ongoing business restrictions during the pandemic, some of the restaurants and retail businesses mentioned may close with no warning.)

Besides its location as the gateway to the treasures of Golden Gate Park, the Upper Haight is just a fun place to hang out and explore, a daily carnival that packs a lot into its seven commercial blocks. (Is there a better/livelier neighborhood event than the annual Haight Ashbury Street Fair?) It’s famous cross street (Haight-Ashbury) has been

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A brief neighborhood guide to San Francisco: the Mission

(Note: This is part of my San Francisco neighborhood guide to be published individually, then in its entirety at completion. As a result of the ongoing business restrictions during the pandemic, some of the restaurants and retail businesses mentioned may close with no warning.)

The Mission Just south of downtown, the culturally rich Mission is the epicenter of all that’s hip and happening in San Francisco these days. Not surprisingly, its demographic skews young, or young at heart – a youthful presence that began growing sometime in the 1980s (especially on Valencia) alongside what was, and still is, the city’s Mexican and Central American community.

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A brief neighborhood guide to San Francisco: Chinatown

(Note: This is part of my San Francisco neighborhood guide to be published individually, then in its entirety at completion. Also, as a result of the ongoing business restrictions during the pandemic, some of the restaurants and retail businesses I talk about in the guides may close shop with little warning.)

Chinatown The most iconic neighborhood in San Francisco is also the oldest Chinatown in North America (est. 1848) and largest outside Asia. When I used to visit San Francisco during my time away, I would stay at the SF Plaza, a basic old hotel on the corner of Bush and Grant. It’s right next to the Dragon’s Gate at the entrance of Chinatown, and it was fantastic, grabbing a morning coffee at Café de la Presse then wandering

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A brief neighborhood guide to San Francisco: North Beach

(Note: This is part of my San Francisco neighborhood guide to be published individually, then in its entirety at completion. Also, as a result of the ongoing business restrictions during the pandemic, some of the restaurants and retail businesses I talk about in the guides may close shop with little warning.)

North Beach Like the perfect picture postcard of San Francisco, there’s no mistaking what city you’re in on a stroll through North Beach, and why it’s so popular with visitors. Another reason: its supreme walkability, one of the best in the city (despite four lanes of Columbus Ave); there’s something interesting at every turn. It’s also the most traditional and

established of San Francisco’s neighborhoods – residents have lived here for decades and Italian families for generations – and with the richest history. From the Barbary Coast to the beats, jazz to punk rock, the North Beach scene was instrumental in all of those eras. It’s also home to the first club in the U.S. to go topless (The Condor). Back then, if you were young and hip and seeking excitement, you went to North Beach. Yes, these days it’s a tourist magnet, but it’s not ‘touristy’, and anyway the tourists bring some bustle, and stay mostly to Columbus Ave and the Italian eateries along it. Venture off the main drag and things quiet down a bit, and that’s where you’ll find some of the quirkiest shops in the city, especially along Grant Ave. (or could until recently). The family-run coffee shops and cafés might not be hipster favorites, but there’s no better place to nurse a cappuccino and watch the city pass by. Caffe Trieste is not only filled with characters – on both sides of the counter – it’s the OG of west coast coffeehouses, while Caffe Greco would be my daytime home if I lived anywhere near the area. The same holds for some of the city’s best and most colorful old-school bars, like Vesuvio’s, Mr. Bing’s and The Saloon (the city’s oldest bar and best for live blues). And while restaurants along Columbus are often dismissed as tourists traps, they can be a fun and truly Italian experience (e.g. playful banter with the maître d’). You’ll find the city’s best old-school Italian eateries in North Beach, and the best pizza (Capo’s and Tony’s). Washington Square (state’s oldest park), Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Saints Peter and Paul Church, City Lights bookstore, exquisite architecture (the Malloch Building), fantastic views, North Beach has a lot to offer and tops my list as the best neighborhood to visit.

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Weekend getaway: Santa Cruz

For someone who’s never been to California, the city of Santa Cruz is most likely what they imagine. Endless sunshine, miles of sandy coastline, surfers, hippies, old VW vans, legal weed, grungies and skateboard/street punks. More than any other Bay Area city or exurb, Santa Cruz embodies that classic California vibe – something like chilled-out surfer or stoned-out hippie – but mostly a contented attitude that comes when living within biking distance of the ocean is all that matters. It’s a beach town first, college town second, with blue-collar roots and hippie/yoga aspirations, the kind of place Cheech and Chong might retire to, or Jeff Spicoli would flunk out of if he ever got in.

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Weekend getaway: Healdsburg (and a bit of foodie history)

If you’re looking to spend a weekend exploring Sonoma wine country, consider making Healdsburg your base of operations. It’s easy to get to (minus any traffic woes) just off Hwy 101 about 10 miles north of Santa Rosa, so just enough removed from the small city sprawl, car dealerships and office parks of that area. Yet it still has all the conveniences and amenities you might need, and enough small town charm to make it feel like a proper country getaway from the city.

The biggest reason of all: it’s located at the intersection of three wine regions – the Russian River AVA, Dry Creek AVA and Alexander Valley AVA.

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Holy O’s!

Stans

According to Yelp, there are 555 donut-serving establishments in the city and east bay. And while an unknown number are cafes, coffeeshops and Chinese cafeterias, it’s obvious the Bay Area is not lacking in sugary fried dough substances. Some are good, some suspect, but generally we do a passable donut product here (not like the sad state of our bagels and pizza*). I thought it was pretty much like that, until I came across a thing so rare I was unaware it actually existed until sinking my teeth into its still warm, perfectly textured (not too dense, not too fluffy), generously iced dough, and was transported to a land of rainbows and unicorns and dancing Homers. And I’m not even a big donut fan. Continue reading Holy O’s!

Michelin no-stars are still pretty good

K&C

Every foodie worth their bamboo roasted sea salt knows that for three-star Michelin-rated dining in the Bay Area, there’s The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley. They probably know about our six two-stars, including Coi, Benu and Saison, and even the 34 one-stars. Continue reading Michelin no-stars are still pretty good

Where to go for Thanksgiving dinner in the Bay Area

Personally, I prefer Thanksgiving at home, where all I have to do is cook and eat, or just eat, lazing around in my old socks and watching movies on Netflix. The idea of getting dressed up and going to a nice restaurant for dinner seems like a lot of work, plus I tend to feel bad for the poor stiffs who have to work that day. Continue reading Where to go for Thanksgiving dinner in the Bay Area

8 reasons to get reaquainted with Sausalito (hint: it’s all about the food)

Sausalito is such a lovely town. Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge or take a ferry from San Francisco, stroll along its waterfront, check out the shops, have lunch at Scoma’s or grab a burger and fries at Hamburgers, maybe an ice cream at Lappert’s or a drink at No Name bar, and you’ve had yourself a pretty darn good day. But venture off the well-traveled tourist path of downtown, and you’ll find some of the best of what Sausalito, and Marin County, has to offer. Continue reading 8 reasons to get reaquainted with Sausalito (hint: it’s all about the food)