San Francisco Bay Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.

A Large Halo of Crisp Cheese

The Squeezeburger at Squeeze Inn Hamburgers is definitely on the list of excellent cheap things to eat in Napa, says Dan Wodarcyk. A Squeezeburger is one-third pound of beef, fried rather than grilled, on a sesame bun with romaine lettuce, red onion, tomato, mayonnaise, and mustard. Add to this about one-third pound of cheddar cheese, put a bun on it, and then cover the thing for a few minutes to melt the cheese. “What you end up with is a large halo of crisp cheese surrounding the burger,” says Dan Wodarcyk. A Squeezeburger will run you $5.50. Add jalapeños, if you like, for 50 cents. Squeeze Inn also serves fresh-cut, skin-on french fries.

Squeeze Inn Hamburgers [Napa Valley]
3383 Solano Avenue (near Redwood Road), Napa

Board Link: Squeeze In, Napa Burgers

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Pho Ga

Range chicken hor fun (rice noodle) soup at Huang’s Kitchen will definitely satisfy your craving for pho ga (clear Vietnamese chicken soup) if you don’t feel like waiting in line at Turtle Tower down the street. Huang’s Kitchen promotes itself as serving “Chinese cuisine,” and the proprietors are from China, not Vietnam, but the chicken hor fun soup is pretty much straight-ahead pho ga, with the added attraction of being made with fresh rice noodles, says Melanie Wong.

The soup features a generous serving of tasty free-range chicken, poached and then served off the bone with its firm skin. Chewy, velvety fresh rice noodles flow easily through the clean chicken broth without clumping together. The stock isn’t quite as rich as that at Turtle Tower, but it’s very good, with a taste of bones and just a bit of sweetness in the finish. It comes topped with fragrant chopped cilantro and green onion, with a pho-style serving of bean sprouts, jalapeño, basil, and lemon on the side.

Huang’s Kitchen [Tenderloin]
611 Larkin Street (between Ellis and Eddy streets), San Francisco

Board Link: Range chicken hor fun soup (aka Pho ga) @ Huang’s Kitchen, SF

Mariquita’s Mystery Box

Lacinato kale, French fingerling potatoes, heirloom butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes, long red Tropea onions, erbette chard, mustard greens, and Chantenay carrots—Cynsa scored a “mystery box” from Mariquita Farm with generous quantities of all of these and more. Mariquita Farm has a regular community supported agriculture (CSA) program to which people can subscribe, but those interested in what the farm calls “guerilla vegetable deliveries” can preorder a mystery box full of good stuff and pick it up on a Thursday night at the farm’s roving delivery location. (Folks also can preorder specific veggies off the available list on the website, like a bag of pimiento de Padrón peppers for $6.)

The mystery box costs $25, and Aaron was shocked to find out how much stuff is in it—at least three times the value in produce, he says. The selection may be even more varied and interesting than the regular CSA box. And it’s a ton of produce—bunches of greens that stretch rubber bands to the breaking point, big bags of peppers, bunches of carrots larger than those at the farmers’ market. It’s a great deal from a well-regarded farm that supplies some of the top restaurants in the area.

Mariquita Farm
Different locations; check website

Board Link: I love Mariquita’s Mystery Box


Loló, a just-opened restaurant in the Mission, serves Latin American fusion cuisine with Turkish and Mediterranean influences. The proprietors also own trendy restaurants in Guadalajara, Mexico, says Mari. They use local ingredients and do fusion cuisine well, says dobalina. Panko-encrusted fried shrimp wrapped in thinly sliced jicama (like little tortillas) is exceptional. “Never had anything like it,” says dobalina. Scallops and calamari are cooked perfectly, paired with a complementary sauce that’s flavorful yet subtle. Flank steak is tender and cooked to perfection, with excellent flavor. It’s the most expensive thing on the menu, at $18. Other items are priced around $9 to $12.

Loló [Mission District]
3234 22nd Street (between Valencia and Mission streets), San Francisco

Board Link: Anyone tried Loló? SF

Let Your Taxi Driver Tip You

“I take cabs all the time, and noticed that most cab drivers love to talk about food. Many are recent immigrants with distinct memories of food in their home countries; cabbies cover enough ground to eat pretty much anywhere they want,” explains pane. “For the past couple of months I’ve been asking for specific recommendations about restaurants and dishes and then eating as directed.”

One cabdriver told him that the Salvadoran restaurants around didn’t seem right. “He said that most Salvadoran places seem too fusion to him: it’s Salvadoran food cooked by Mexicans who know how a pupusa is constructed, but don’t know how it should taste.” So the driver recommended two places.

First is El Salvador Restaurant. It’s a pupuseria. The pupusas are quite good, with nice, crisp, browned exteriors, says pane. The curtido is very nice—quite tart and a bit spicy. Two pupusas, chips, and salsa run $4.50, but the chips are pretty unexciting, actually.

Second is Los Planes de Renderos, which is the cabdriver’s absolute favorite. He eats there every week. It’s small, it’s bustling, there are families everywhere, and it does a lot of takeout. And the food is exceptional. “I am no tamale expert,” says pane, “so take this how you will: this was the best tamale I’ve ever had. The dough was fluffy perfection. The filling was a combination of dark meat chicken, green olives and potatoes. I had a piece of bone and one olive pit in the tamale, but the deliciousness was well worth the choking hazard.”

El Salvador Restaurant [Mission District]
2278 Mission Street (between 18th and 19th streets), San Francisco

Los Planes de Renderos Restaurant [Excelsior]
12 Persia Avenue (near Mission), San Francisco

Board Link: Taxi Cab Recs: Salvadoran Food

A Towering Bowl of Matcha Shaved Ice

“When the weather’s warm, a cup of tea and the shaved ice at Kissako Tea revive the spirits,” says Cynsa. So whenever there’s a heat wave—which, for her, means anything above 73°F—she plops down at Kissako and gets her favorites: ginger green tea and a big bowl of matcha shaved ice. The shaved ice comes ujikintoki style, which means there’s a dollop of red bean paste on it. “The green Ujikintoki shaved ice melts creamy and soft on the tongue to contrast with the spoonful of sweet red beans…followed by sips of hot ginger green tea for an additional kick. It’s quite an enjoyable combination of flavors… for a quick interlude between browsing through the Kinokuniya bookstore and my friend’s search for dvds of Korean soaps that play on Japanese tv.”

Matcha latte here is also quite good, says Wendy_san. Unfortunately, the sweets are overpriced and of the same sort you can buy in the nearby grocery store.

It’s hidden under the stairway of the first floor of the Japan Center.

Kissako Tea [Japantown]
1581 Webster Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Ginger Green Tea and Ujikintoki Shaved Ice

Insanely Great Fresh Tortillas

Tortilleria Jalisco makes fresh, stunning flour tortillas. There’s a little window, and a sweet lady will hand you your choice of amazing tortillas. They are hot, and they are heaven, says kare_raisu.

And it’s owned by women—there’s a nice article about that part of the business.

It’s a tie, kare_raisu says, with the only other truly great tortillas in Sonoma County: La Reyna’s corn tortillas.

Tortilleria Jalisco [Sonoma County]
897 W. Napa Street, Sonoma

La Reyna [Sonoma County]
8465 Old Redwood Highway #720, Windsor
707-836-9721 or 707-836-9700

Board Link: Tortilleria Jalisco–Sonoma

Cooked-to-Perfection Fish Tacos

Día de Pesca has the best fish tacos that kimchee has had in the last four years in the Bay Area.

It’s a quirky little joint—basically a taco truck in a parking lot, but nicer. It’s got cloth awnings, concrete patio tables covered in mosaics, and umbrella-covered benches. You order at a little table set up outside the truck, and then they run your order to the truck and fry you up some serious fish taco excellence.

There are major choices here. You can pick from tilapia, snapper, salmon, halibut, tuna, shrimp, scallops, or crab. It’s a ridiculous variety, says kimchee. And each kind kimchee has tried has been cooked to perfection: “soft & flaky, seasoned well, and a little chargrilled-in goodness.” The tacos are served on pairs of fluffy corn tortillas, with cabbage, pico de gallo, and generous amounts of creamy avocado and chipotle sauce.

Also look for seafood quesadillas. The other patrons seem to dig ’em.

Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Día de Pesca [South Bay]
55 N. Bascom Avenue, San Jose

Board Link: Best fish tacos in the Bay Area found at Dia de Pesca in San Jose!

Top-Notch Sake Selection in Hayes Valley

The place is True Sake—a dazzling, sake-only shop that probably has the best selection in the United States. It’s an amazing store, says Robert Lauriston. It stocks over 150 sakes, and it imports stuff you won’t find anywhere else. The staff is excellent; artemis came in knowing nothing about sake, asked one of the staff, and got probed gently for information—what she liked about sake, what she was eating that night, what her price range was—and got a recommendation for a sake she loved. The staff is helpful to newbies and experts alike, says chocolateninja.

“What’s great about TS is that they have such a broad and comprehensive stock, including the super-fresh releases, unpasteurized, barrel-aged, and sparkling,” says twocents, who recommends seeking out the female staffer in particular as an information source. Your editor Thi actually spent a very happy two hours here, chatting up this same staffer, who turns out to be a huge fan of whiskey and tea as well. We talked about the souls and feels of the various sakes, with many useful comparisons made to high mountain oolongs, white teas, and bourbons. Her recommendations were spot-on.

What you won’t find here is any California-made sake. Everything is imported from Japan. You also won’t find kasu, the sake by-product used to flavor fish and soup. For that, says david kaplan, you’ll have to go to a market in Japantown.

True Sake [Hayes Valley]
560 Hayes Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Sake only store in SF? Other sake recommendations?

A Lovely Place for a Lazy Breakfast

Café Leila is pretty much the perfect place to have a lazy breakfast or a wrap, or just to hang out and have some excellent tea or coffee, says rworange. It’s everything that’s good about Berkeley, in café form. It’s got an almost entirely organic menu, fair trade organic coffee, and an extensive tea menu. And all the food is fresh and great.

The Greek omelet is delicious—filled with spinach, feta, farm eggs, and scallions. “The fresh dill folded into the egg made this omelet,” says rworange. Home fries are nicely browned, topped with a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkled with chopped green onions. Her omelet also came with tasty watermelon and toast with good raspberry jam.

The place is beautiful, too—“well thought out and inviting,” she says. There’s a patio with greenery and fountains, a nook with nice couches, and music at just the right volume.

Café Leila [East Bay]
1724 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley

Board Link: Berkeley: Lovely Cafe Leila – patio, fountains, organic chow, tea menu, stone-milled matcha