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

The Best Bay Area Food Gifts for Foreign Friends

When you're visiting friends who live abroad, which gifts best convey the bounty of the Bay Area's culinary delights? Locals recommend Blue Bottle coffee, sourdough bread, June Taylor jam, dried persimmons, and California wines that may be hard to find elsewhere.

Get It: Brunch at Hi Lo BBQ

The lines at popular brunch spots in the Mission are nearly as epic as the bills can be. Hi Lo BBQ, where Sunday brunch has been served for just a month, hasn't been discovered by the masses just yet, but diners are likely to descend on winning dishes like lemon-ricotta pancakes with pear compote and charred whole shrimp on a pillow of creamy grits.

Food’s Finally on the Radar at This SF Wine Hot Spot

Last year, the Heirloom Café in the Mission earned a rave review in the Financial Times for its wine list, but does the food match the quality of the drink? One Chowhound says to expect "comfort food in an elegant yet homey setting," with dishes that include an off-the-menu burger with triple-crème Époisses cheese mixed into the meat.

San Jose Pakistani Still Rocking

An update on a 2009 report on Pakistani grub at a San Jose restaurant: Five years later, Gulzaar Halaal Restaurant & Bakery is "still going strong" with tender kebabs and gorgeously spiced, crispy samosas that are head and shoulders above the unfortunate examples of clumped mystery meat that are all too common.

Roast Goose Hunting at SF’s Ming Kee

Meat's where it's at when you're talking about the Chinese barbecue joint Ming Kee, which recently reopened on Ocean Avenue. The roast goose, available weekends only, is a special treat; note also that the soy sauce chicken comes in two varieties, with the heritage breed of chicken at a premium price.

Fun Wines, Excellent Piggy at Oakland’s Barrel Room

The Barrel Room, near Union Square in SF, recently opened a Rockridge outpost. According to an early report on Chowhound, the broader food menu at the Oakland wine bar is suitable for a night out, featuring hearty bistro fare like porc au pruneaux and brandade of wild cod on toast.

In the Bay Area, Team-Building Food Events That Are Not Lame

Team-building events can be a drag, but a question about a food-related event for a coworkers brought up a number of intriguing ideas. Suggestions include a tour of St. George Spirits in Alameda, a foraging experience organized by ForageSF, and a volunteer gig serving food to the needy at Glide.

Mien Cuisine Pops Up at Naked Lunch

New Year's resolution to break out of a dining rut? Checking out the minority Mien cuisine that pops up on Sundays at Naked Lunch might do the trick: Chao Mien is the work of Lao-born chef Sarn Saechao, who highlights local ingredients in Southeast Asian–inspired dishes like salmon-stuffed roti and cilantro-flecked chicken dumplings.

Dim Sum Spots in Chinatown (Not Touristy, Please)

Along the Grant Avenue stretch of San Francisco's Chinatown, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the tourist hordes pushing through barkers flapping laminated menus for unexceptional restaurants. Where can you find good dim sum that's not overrun by tourists? Happy Chinese on Powell and City View on Commercial are two suggestions to add to your list.

Converting a Fish-Hater? Try These Restaurants

When you're dining with someone who finds the idea of fish a bit dodgy (particularly when there's a face attached to said fish), where should you go and what should you order for a seafood dinner that might intrigue the apprehensive diner? Chowhound suggestions include shrimp dumplings at any dim sum spot, salt and pepper squid at a Cantonese place like Yuet Lee, or excellent fish and chips at Martins West.