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I was pretty despondent when my best friend moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area a couple years ago, but it’s been great visiting her and getting to know San Francisco, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities. She’s a culinary school graduate and an extremely talented baker, so of course, she knows some of the best spots to eat and drink in the city. Here are some of the places she introduced me to on my last visit:
Loqui 3609 18th Street. Friday and/or Saturday (7:30ish-11:00 p.m. or sold out)
The food adventures started at Loqui, a Mexican street food pop-up that opens on Friday and Saturday evenings in the back of Tartine Bakery. Each weekend brings one type of antojito, and on the night I was there, there were two carne asada taco options—regular and primo. After consulting with the chef, I got the primo, which is the standard taco (meat, onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole), plus a layer of beans and cheese. So many good things about this taco, starting with the incredible homemade flour tortilla with its charred blisters and soft, flaky layers. The meat is grilled then braised, making it tender and flavorful, and the thin layer of beans and cheese gave the taco the perfect amount of creaminess and saltiness. Adding some dry salsa—ground chilis and seeds—took it to a whole new flavor and texture level.
Linea Caffe 3417 18th Street
Newly-opened Linea Caffe combines several concepts in its compact 300-square-foot space. The shop is a collaboration between Andrew Barnett, founder of Ecco Coffee, and Anthony Myint of Mission Chinese Food, Mission Bowling Club, and Commonwealth. The coffee menu consists only of espresso-based drinks, and food options include sweet and savory waffles as well as substantial salads. My macchiato was excellent, sweet and balanced, and aesthetically enhanced by the gorgeous Heath Ceramics demitasse and saucer. Intrigued by the savory waffle choices, I ordered the egg soufflé waffle topped with chèvre and fines herbes. The waffle was light and airy, and the fresh, bright combination of herbs was especially wonderful paired with the pungent, melted chèvre. I’m not sure how well salad goes with espresso, but they sound pretty delicious, and as an added bonus, $1 from each salad goes to 350.org, a grassroots movement devoted to solving the climate crisis.
Craftsman & Wolves 746 Valencia Street at 18th Street
Peering at the pastries in Craftsman & Wolves is like looking into a jewelry counter—everything is so beautiful and artfully executed. I ordered the chocolate croissant stack, mostly because it was so pretty. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment. The dough seemed tough, like it had been overworked or over baked, and there wasn’t nearly enough chocolate in each bite. The passion fruit poppy seed madeleine was much more successful, with the sweet tartness of the cake and crunch of the seeds making it a perfect companion to my coffee. My friend decided on the B-A-N-A-N-A-S (brown butter, blond chocolate, vanilla, marshmallow, banana shortbread), which turned out to be the absolute winner of our combined order. It was a study in textures and tastes with the sweetness and softness of the banana mousse and delicate layer of blond chocolate, the slight saltiness of the banana-infused shortbread crust, and the chewiness of the toasted marshmallow garnish.
Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop 18th Street soft serve window, next to 3692 18th Street
Adjacent to the perpetually long lines of Bi-Rite Creamery is their much calmer soft serve window, which offers two flavors of soft serve every day AND (previously unknown to me) cookie ice cream sandwiches! I was tempted by the dark chocolate cookies with mint chip ice cream, but my all-knowing friend steered me toward the sugar cookie balsamic strawberry sandwich. It was an unseasonably warm day in the Bay Area, so we walked across the street to Dolores Park, where we could sit and enjoy our treats. Immediately after finding an unoccupied patch of grass at the park, I tore open the wrapper and promptly entered ice cream heaven. The soft cookies would have been a tad too sweet on their own, but the tang of the balsamic complemented them perfectly.
Tartine Bakery 600 Guerrero Street
Any trip to the Mission would not be complete without a stop at Tartine. Having just gorged on my cookie ice cream sandwich, I didn’t get any pastries, but I had to stop in for a freshly baked loaf of bread. Tartine bread occupies a league all of its own—deep, rich brown loaves with crackling crusts and moist, chewy interiors. My favorite is their sesame bread, the basic country loaf encrusted with toasted sesame seeds. The sweet, nutty seeds work so well with the complex, earthy, slightly sour dough. Fresh loaves come out around 4:30 p.m. daily, expect to wait in line for them.
Mission Chinese Food Inside Lung Shan Restaurant, 2234 Mission Street
The nondescript exterior of Mission Chinese Food gives no hint of the inventiveness happening inside. But once you enter, you know you’re in for some excitement. There’s a party atmosphere, with loud music blaring from the speakers and a brightly lit, red paper dragon hanging from the ceiling. My friend is vegetarian, so we stuck to the meatless options. Two of our dishes—Ma Po Tofu and Egg-Egg Noodle—were lackluster, but the Tiger Salad was fantastic. In simplest terms, it’s a minty green salad wrapped in thick rice paper and drizzled with spicy chili oil. The flavors were diverse with the nuttiness of the white and black sesame seed garnish, slight bitterness of the greens and herbs, savory saltiness of the roasted seaweed, tang of the turnip vinegar, and sweetness of the rice wrapper. The restaurant was packed, so we shared a four-top with a couple who was awesome enough to let me try their squid ink noodles, and I am so glad they did. This dish was absolutely incredible! The noodles were stir-fried in lamb fat, with chickpeas, fennel, cumin, and mint, and served with lamb broth for dipping. I wanted to be polite and only had one bite (it was a struggle), so I can’t make too many comments on the dish, but let’s just say, if this is on the menu when I go back, I’m ordering a whole plate for myself.
Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop 621 Polk Street (open 24 hours, cash only)
Several hours later, close to 1:00 a.m., we turned up at Bob’s Donuts in Nob Hill, where a line had formed for fresh, hot donuts. Bob’s is the place to go for quality, classic donuts, made entirely from scratch. It’s also the place to go if you want to participate in their donut challenge, which entails consuming a donut that’s around a foot in diameter in under three minutes. (Someone attempted it while we were in line. The donut won.) I settled on a raised crumb donut that I’d seen coming out of the fryer. I was excited about having a different texture alongside the basic glazed, but the flavors of the yeast donut and the cakey crumbs didn’t mesh well for me. Fortunately, my friend ordered a few more donuts for us to try: a glazed, a maple glazed, and a buttermilk bar. The glazed was one of the best I’ve ever had—light, fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness. The maple glazed was also great, a touch light on maple flavor, but not overpoweringly sweet. I’ve never been much of a buttermilk bar girl, but Bob’s version is amazing—dense and moist inside and covered with a thick layer of glaze. We put the leftover half in the refrigerator when we got home, and it was just as good—maybe even better—having it cold the next morning.
Outerlands remains one of my favorite spots in the city. The interior with its wood walls and organic decorations is so cozy, and blankets are provided for those sitting at the outdoor tables. It was my first time at the restaurant for brunch, and my friend recommended that I get their popular Dutch pancake. I ordered the savory version with bacon, maple syrup, and housemade ricotta cheese, and she chose the sweet one with fresh strawberries. We also ordered hot ginger lemon apple cider with bourbon. I’ve since replicated the sweet, spicy beverage at home; it’s a perfect remedy for colds and chilly autumn nights. Baked in a cast iron pan, the pancakes looked like pieces of art, perfectly browned and impressively puffy. The dough was slightly sweet, and paired equally well with the salty, thick chunks of bacon and the jewel-like strawberries. The ricotta was absolutely elegant—so smooth, so creamy, so subtly sweet and salty. Absolutely dreamlike, just like the restaurant as a whole, and a perfect way to close out the weekend.
Tip: if you don’t have a reservation, kill some waiting time at tiny Trouble Coffee with a brew and their delectable cinnamon toast, or next door at Celia’s with a margarita.
Jessica is staff writer for Eastside Food Bites. Read more about her on our Contributors page.
Montreal is not only beautiful, it’s also one of the best food cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The people are so nice, and they’re seriously dedicated to good food. My kind of population. Meat, bread and cheese seem to be the general appetite, and I swear, poutine is beyond ubiquitous. You see it advertised in every restaurant window—more than a mainstay, it’s an obsession, and one I was quite happy to take on for the 3 days I was in Montreal.
I didn’t have a bad meal, but there were some heartbreaks: Patisserie Au Kouign Amann, whose version of the buttery pastry is reportedly life changing, was closed for vacation; I was just too freaking full to fit any of La Pretzelleria’s twisted wares in; and I didn’t get to experience the chocolate babka bliss of Cheskie’s Bakery. However, I will go back to avenge my losses.
In the meantime, here’s what I did eat:
Beauty’s Luncheonette has been around since 1942, and the Beauty Special is a big reason why. The bagels with lox sandwich is a thing in Montreal, and this one is just about perfect, served on a sweet and sesame seeded St-Viateur’s bagel (more on those later). The restaurant itself is cute, cute, cute, with classic diner ambiance and friendly conversation with the original owner’s son, Larry, who points you to your seat from his perch at the counter. They serve a good cup of coffee, golden, buttery pancakes, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Beauty’s Luncheonette, 93 Mont-Royal West, Montreal, QC H2T 2S5
Au Pied de Cochon:
I fell in love at first sight with Au Pied de Cochon when Cathy Chaplin wrote about it on gas•tron•o•my, and then I saw the Quebec episode of No Reservations. What can I say? The over-the-topness sang my name. Chef Martin Picard’s restaurant is a foie gras fantasy and maybe the best heart attack you’ll ever have—a great big gob of gourmet. The Duck in a Can is a gimmick, of course, but it sure is tasty. They undo the can table side, plopping a pile of duck, foie gras, garlic and cabbage over toast and celery root puree. I guess we didn’t need to get the foie gras poutine, too.
536 Avenue Duluth Est Montreal, QC H2L
We recently found ourselves in Baltimore, Maryland for a wedding and decided to make a weekend of it. My husband spent some of his formative years in the city and was happy to get back. I’ve only been once before, but I was excited, too. Baltimore is a beautiful place, where an element of danger is always lurking–a nice neighborhood is always bordered by a scary one. Yet, it’s where north meets south, so it’s also more polite than other east coast cities, and you’re greeted by almost everyone you meet on the street.
Foodwise, there’s a lot to discover. We didn’t have a car, so we were relegated to places we could reach by walking and short bus rides. Still, we found plenty of good eats. Here’s the weekend wrap up:
Crabs, of course, are a must. We headed to Captain James’ Crab House with some friends. There, we ordered piles of crabs, which you choose by size (medium-jumbo), and I learned how to crack ’em like an expert. Okay, not really, but I learned a technique that I will, hopefully, master some day. The hush puppies and french fries were deep-fried goodness, the pitchers of beer icy cold. Oh, and Michael Phelps was there. 2127 Boston St., Baltimore MD, 21231
Keeping with the crab theme, I had the spectacular Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict from Miss Shirley’s Cafe. My husband always turns up his nose at crab cakes served in LA restaurants, which I used to think was just snobby, but now I see the light. These were so flavorful and flaky. Add the southern charm of a fried green tomato, and, well, you can imagine. The restaurant, itself, with its inner harbor location and huge portions, would be a tourist trap if the food wasn’t so dang good. 750 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Northern Michigan has a lot to offer. Not only is it beautiful, with unbelievable scenic drives and gorgeous lake views, the food scene is also pretty spectacular. With a baby in tow, we didn’t hit up the type or amount of restaurants that we usually would, but we definitely ate well. And that’s the thing about this part of the country—the local produce is outstanding, the fish is fresh, the ice cream is creamy and the prices are super affordable, so you don’t really need to do any fine dining to have a great gastronomical experience.
I’m not superstitious about most things, but I think the first meal of the year is important. What you eat on New Year’s Day should set a precedent for the next 364 days to come—and this year is a leap, so 365.
With this in mind, I was a little skeptical yesterday when we stepped into Eggs n’ Potatoes, a little strip mall cafe in Ojai. We had dreams of brunching out at The Farmer & the Cook, which was suggested by Natalie of Fashion Intel, but they were closed just like most restaurants on our last morning in the tiny town. So, Eggs n’ Potatoes (formerly Eggs n’ Things) it was.
The service was a bit lackadaisical and the decor is all roosters, but the blueberry pancakes? Stellar! My love for whole grain pancakes is well documented, so I was pretty excited when I saw that oat bran batter was an option. And when I forked into the stack and realized that each cake was awash in fresh blueberries, my New Year’s breakfast optimism was revived. Whipped butter and real maple syrup provided even more life blood.
I’ve returned from my trip to France, and I’ll be back to writing about LA very soon, but in the meantime, I thought you might like to see some delectable sights from the Flower Market of Cours Saleya in the Vieille Ville (a.k.a. Old Town Nice). There were plenty of beautiful flowers, but I was more interested in the food, of course. I was really blown away by the quality and variety offered in this (almost daily) market–from a robust selection of produce to vibrantly colored salts (pictured above) and confections that were seriously a site to behold.
It’s no secret that France is a food lover’s dream come true, and this market really blew me away!