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Restaurants & Bars 14

Four months of lunches

Windy | Jul 31, 200511:54 PM

Where did July go? I squeezed in a few new places downtown but regrettably not much to write home about:

Linda's Place on Mission at 1st. I really want to like this place. It's incredibly cheap, the menu is simple, and they have four kinds of chilis on the table. I just wish the food were better. I had asparagus chicken rice plate with egg flower soup for $4.75 and an .80 Thai iced tea. Another time curry chicken. I'll probably return--we all need a neighborhood greasy spoon. On par with Happy Donuts' cheap rice plates without the happy service.

Oishii Cafe in Embarcadero 5. We went to bid one of our favorite animators farewell. I shared the unagi and cucumber roll and got combo 1, chicken teriyaki and tempura bento. The place is pretty with tables inside and out by Justin Herman plaza, but the food was somewhat flavor-free. Service was completely haphazard, half of us served before the others even though we had the same dishes. A citrusy salad dressing was the highlight; too bad there was so little lettuce. Makes Kamakura seem like a destination by comparison. Stick to the sumoburger and admire the bright green bamboo forest wallpaper.

Bistro Burger on Mission & Beale. I got the special of the day, a Niman Ranch Philly cheesesteak, with fries or coleslaw and a drink for $6.95. Michael got a grilled chicken sandwich. My meat was good, but there was too much sauce (sauce on a cheese steak?) and too many pepper seeds. Plus the roll was soggy. Cole slaw inexplicably had raisins. Fries were frozen, on the dry side, and we left half of them over. Ambiance leaves something to be desired, especially the patented napkin dispensers. Not as awful as I've made it sound, but not much to recommend it either.

Portico on 1st and Mission. Eric got a pizza and salad combo, which looked pretty good; I got a half sandwich and salad. This is a fine deal. Huge Caesar salad tossed to order. The chicken salad sandwich is pretty good. Plus they have a wide assortment of Mitchell's ice cream. It is a strange place--the tables needed clearing the day we were there, and a homeless man was combing through, picking up leftover food to eat (which given how much I left over was perhaps understandable). The 1/2 chicken looks good.

Chipotle on New Montgomery. I know, it's a chain. I had an hour to kill before an event at 111 Minna, and it looked clean. Plus I like the idea of hormone-free meat. (And in fact I like McDonald's, although I almost never go there.) I got three tacos (carne asada and carnitas) plus a side of guacamole. Impressive beer selection. Awful taco shells, all dough, no corn or taste. The carnitas weren't bad, just not greasy enough. Salsas were mediocre, tortilla chips stale. But the side of guacamole was delicious, unadulterated ripe avocado; maybe you could stick to guacamole and buy a bag of chips next door at Working Girls. After this failure, I gulped down a Midori sour at the gallery.

B44 on Belden Lane. As noted in a previous post, we celebrated an al fresco birthday here. A server wiped away parsley on my plate with his finger (ugh). High prices for lunch ($28 a piece without wine, dessert, or multiple courses), okay seafood and sausage paella, an ethereal grilled halibut sandwich, and bottomless glasses of iced tea. Olive oil dip was good, the diagonally sliced baguettes soaked in it better.

One day at Ferry Plaza, we decided to eat inside at the tables by the skylight, perched on the third floor. Carrying a bowl of anemic bun and $6.50 bahn mi from On the Bridge failed to gain us entrance; alas, they are private public tables, in a building restored with your tax dollars. We didn't take our disappointment out on the guard, though, and happily found tables out by the bay. BTW those chicken tenders from Taylor's look awfully good.

Determined to end the month on a better note, I dragged Derek (ChowFun) to Harbor Village in Embarcadero 4 for dim sum. Neither of us had been for a while. In fact it was even better than I remembered, especially anything with shrimp and the roasted duck. Wonderful flat fried tofu puffs stuffed with shrimp with bits of water chestnut. Perfect har gow and shu mai. Black sesame mochi were room temperature so a little disappointing, but not greasy or overly sweet. Also they had lots of dishes we hadn't seen before and didn't have room to try. Service was attentive and excellent. Harbor Village will be closing for a remodel of the kitchen beginning August 28 and reopen six months later. Lavish lunch for two (7 plates plus a soda) came to $45 including tip. I still prefer HKFL, but this was much better than recent experiences at Yank Sing.

I attended a party after work at the second floor bar at the W, inside the cozy curtained nooks. Complementary margaritas were more than decent. Appetizers occasionally were better than just good because they were free, especially espresso cups filled with room temperature corn chowder with drops of basil-infused oil. Great people watching, draped over the balcony, although XYZ below was half empty.

Il Massimo's Friday happy hour remains a fun scene before the crowds line up at Americano. They've added sangria to their offerings ($3.50 from 3 to 9), and cherry (soju) martinis. I still haven't tried the profiteroles yet, as I'm working my way through the sorbets, but I've been assured they're worth it.

Does chocolate count? Frederick Schilling of Dagoba was at Fog City News on Friday, sampling their new single origin bars, and they are yummy. (So is he.) We particularly liked the Los Rios and the Pacuare (Costa Rica) bars, although the Milagros (Peru) is worth a taste too. Their Mon Cherri remains my favorite; Fred recommended the lavender if you can find it.





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