San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

The Platonic Ideal of a Shortbread Cookie

Atomica found some shortbread cookies from a company called This Little Cookie. “These shortbread cookies are nothing short of outstanding. For me, they are the Platonic ideal of the shortbread cookie.” They have the perfect balance of sweet, butter, and salt. They were so good that Atomica had to write a letter to This Little Cookie praising it for its crazy shortbread skills. “Her damn shortbread cookie has made a believer out of me.”

It turns out that This Little Cookie is a company started by one of the bakers at Tartine; she has also worked at Chez Panisse. She does special-order cakes, too.

This Little Cookie products are available at Rainbow Grocery, and probably at other places around town.

Rainbow Grocery [Mission]
1745 Folsom Street, San Francisco

Board Link: This Little Cookie’s shortbread cookie

Perfect Rock Cod Tacos

Some of the most ingenious dining in the Bay Area is at Mateo Granados’s farmers’ market stand. Don’t wince at the high prices ($12 for an order of fish tacos), or be put off by the fact that this is a mere stand. The food will destroy you.

Melanie Wong had fish tacos from Mateo’s stand at the Healdsburg farmers’ market. Each taco had three strips of deep-fried rock cod, sourced from Dave, the fish guy at the market. The fish was impeccably fresh, and completely greaseless. It was topped with “basil-flecked pumpkin seed sauce [that] has to be one of the best things I’ve tasted this year” and “tender sprigs of young and gloriously fragrant basil.” In each bite, there was the taste of “lime, the crunch of the chopped greens, pungent bite of the red onions, and thin but very chewy and elastic tortillas combined with the fish, basil and delectable sauce.”

Mateo also does monthly dinners, in his punked-out modern Yucatán style. Check his catering website for more details.

Healdsburg Saturday Farmers’ Market [Sonoma County]
North and Vine streets, Healdsburg

Board Link: Dave’s Rock Cod Tacos a Mateo Granados

Amazing Singaporean Chicken Rice

Ever since Raffles closed down, elainew has had trouble finding any good Singaporean places—until now. The new and awesome little place that has satisfied her yearnings is Kopitiam.

The highlight so far is definitely the amazing chicken rice, she says. The rice is flavored nicely; the chicken is wonderfully tender, and comes with minced ginger and hot sauce. Curry chicken is mild but still pretty good; it comes with a nice broth. There are also neat little sets, like lunch set A: toast, freshly made kaya, soft-cooked eggs, and coffee.

Great service, too. The owners are friendly, superattentive, and willing to change the restaurant up to meet the demands of their patrons.

Kopitiam Restaurant [East Bay]
3647 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette

Board Link: Kopitiam: New Singaporian Restaurant in Lafayette

Paladar’s Succulent Cuban Sandwich

Paladar’s cubano sandwich is genuinely impressive, says Zach Georgopoulos. The roast pork is succulent, the ham has a nice smoky edge, and the mustard and pickles are excellently subtle. The bread is crusty, but soft in the middle. At $8.75, it’s a bit pricier than at other Cuban sandwich joints, but it’s completely worth it. Says Cat Chow, it doesn’t quite hit the perfect note of real Cuban sandwich glory, because they don’t use the right sort of bread. Then again, neither does any other place in the Bay Area.

Platanos maduros—fried sweet plantains—are freshly fried to order, hot, and not greasy at all. And they taste very nice, says Zach. Others feel differently: david kaplan found them to be soggy.

Paladar is a bit of an anomaly for its stretch of Kearny: It actually offers full table service. You can get to-go stuff, too, of course.

Paladar Café Cubano [Chinatown]
329 Kearny Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Paladar Cafe Cubano

Fresh-Made Tortillas, and the Steamed Tacos of the Miner

Sam B made an awesome discovery: El Cactus Tacos, a brand-new taqueria in the teeny-tiny town of Boyes Hot Springs. If you order tacos and you’re lucky, you’ll get gorgeous meats on beautifully fresh tortillas, pressed to order. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get tacos made with commercial tortillas—which are still great, but not quite as great as the fresh.

kare_raisu is completely impressed with the wonderful tacos mineros, or tacos of the miner. This is an oddball specialty, and really hard to find. Traditionally, it’s tacos wrapped in cloth and held over steam for long preservation—a necessity in old mining towns. The only other version she’s ever found was at San Diego’s Mama Testas, and the Mama Testas version “does not even hold a dribbling candle to these guys.” When you order it here, the taquero opens up a steamer pot and pulls forth a little aluminum foil package. The steaming has softened the tacos and melded them together. He opens up the package and ladles in a delicious chile-fortified tomato sauce, then scoops on the usual toppings. For $6, you get five glorious steamed tacos—two filled with a rich pork guisado, another filled with frijolitos and queso, and two with mashed potatoes. This place, she says, is “a cut above other taquerias.”

The tortas are good, but not as great as the tacos.

We don’t have an exact address, but the town is small enough that nobody seems to have any problem finding the place.

El Cactus Tacos [Sonoma]
Address unknown, Boyes Hot Springs

Board Link: El Cactus Tacos–Tacos Mineros?

Hard-Core Fudge Energy

Anita’s Gifts and Things makes seriously, majorly great fudge, says katya. It’s definitely some of the best fudge she’s ever had. Maple pecan fudge is deliriously yummy; it reminds her of the pecan pralines she ate nonstop in New Orleans. Chocolate peanut butter fudge is soft and delectable; and dark chocolate walnut fudge is just great.

Anita’s is currently only open Saturdays, because of a family emergency. “Only being open one day a week and running a fairly empty shop makes me worried about the livelihood of this gem of a store,” says katya. So solve her problems, and go buy some fudge.

Anita’s Gifts and Things [Peninsula]
676 Laurel Street, San Carlos

Board Link: We Won’t Budge from this Fudge: Anita’s Gifts and Things in San Carlos

Best Chilean Empanadas Outside of Chile

“I spent a year living in Chile (and ate LOTS of empanadas) and I can definitely say these were the best Chilean empanadas I have had outside of Chile. In fact, the only complaint I have is that I thought they were too small! I should have ordered two!” says Dave MP. The baked crust has a nice balance of crunch and softness, and there’s a good crust-to-filling ratio. The filling is ground beef, sweet sautéed onions, and raisins, along with the traditional bit of hard-cooked egg and an olive.

He’s talking about a stand in the Alemany Farmers’ Market. It is not obviously an empanada stand; it’s Guisell’s coffee stand. Just ask for empanadas. She also makes great coffee, and incredible alfajores, says Atomica.

The All Star Tamale stand at the same market has excellent tamales. The sweet tamale is moist and fresh.

Alemany Farmers’ Market [Mission District]
Places info
100 Alemany Boulevard (at the junction of Highways 101 and 280), San Francisco

Board Link: Alemany Farmers Market: Chilean Empanadas and All Star Tamales

Consomé de Barbacoa

Next to the California Street branch of Mercado Marlen in Mountain View is Taqueria Marlen. It is very, very good, says grinch. His wife adds that it reminds her of her youth in Mexico—it tastes just like the sort of food you get at the in-between spots when you’re traveling from town to town.

They have some magic stuff, including lamb barbacoa tacos and consomé de barbacoa. Barbacoa is meat slow-cooked over an open fire; consomé de barbacoa is the juice runoff from the making of the barbacoa. You sip the consomé as you eat the tacos. I can’t think of a better life experience than that.

Taqueria Marlen [Peninsula]
Next to Mercado Marlen
2530 California Street, Mountain View

Board Link: Mercado and Taqueria Marlen in Mt. View

Home-Style Peruvian in the Mission

Here’s a neat little discovery: real home-style Peruvian, smack-dab in the middle of the Mission District. kare_raisu is excited about the place; on her first lunch, she had escabeche de pescado. There was truly awesome steamed white rice, boring beans, and very nice fried fish. The fish flesh is a little stiffened from long marination in vinegar—whether this is a plus or a minus is up to you.

El Perol Restaurant [Mission District]
2590 Mission Street #7, San Francisco

Board Link: El Perol–Homestyle Peruvian in the Mission

A Serious Rarity

Now here’s a discovery: pescado zarandeado at Antojitos La Texanita. This is some seriously delicious fish, says kare_raisu. It’s a halved tilapia, shallow-fried, and judiciously sauced with chile and tomato on the flesh side. There is also some mysterious spice energy going on. The spine peels off in one pull; the fish underneath is moist. Put some pieces into a warm tortilla with some slices of perfectly ripe, buttery avocado and a bit of juice from one of the eerily nice limes. It is the perfect fish thing.

There is also the best version of huarache con pollo asado ($6) she has ever had. It’s a multilevel, multiflavor, multitexture construction: Cotija dust, ripe avocado, shredded lettuce, salsa roja, flavorful chicken hunks, refritos, and crisp, warm cornbread. And the best sopecito de picadillo ($2) she’s had—a nice, handcrafted sope with diced zucchini and carrot.

Everything is very homemade: Order a taramindo; you might see a dude shelling tamarind pods for you. One of the cooks is Oaxaqueño; you may be able to talk her into making some Oaxacan food, if you’re nice enough.

This is genuinely glorious food.

Antojitos La Texanita [Sonoma County]
250 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa

Board Link: Excellent Lunch at Antojitos La Texanita [Santa Rosa]