Burrito with Chicharrones at La Palma
I rarely order burritos, when given the option between them and tacos; I tend to prefer the corn tortillas, restrained toppings, and meat-to-carb ratio of the latter. But this burrito at Mission taqueria and grocery store La Palma was pretty killer. Just look how well it's put together: rice, beans, meat, guacamole, and sour cream integrate beautifully, giving you fully composed bites—no rice pockets here, guac overload there. It's expertly wrapped in a fresh, pliant flour tortilla that does its job beautifully. And c'mon, chicharrones in a burrito? Awesome.
Shuck Your Own Oysters at Tomales Bay
Wind your way through the redwoods, onto Highway 1, and drive up to an idyllic beach on a calm Pacific inlet. Settle down at the picnic tables with a six-pack or a chilled bottle of wine. And buy a bushel of oysters for well under $1/apiece, shucking away on the beach. Sounds like a perfect weekend afternoon to me. I generally prefer East Coast oysters to West Coast, but loved the tighter, smaller Golden Nuggets at Tomales Bay—and the joy of getting your hands all briny at the tables and feeling totally oysterman-self-sufficient, while not actually having to harvest the things or bring an oyster knife, is pretty unparalleled.
Corn Pancakes at State Bird Provisions
We had a killer meal at the newish and wildly popular State Bird Provisions, and I'll have a lot to say about it in a future post. Given that we tried 19 dishes—hey, there were four of us, and they're small plates, okay?—it's hard to choose one to highlight. But a week later, it's the corn pancakes I'm fantasizing about. They're packed with plump corn kernels, griddled with clarified butter to give 'em superior golden-brown edges, and then layered with the triple-cream Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. I love State Bird's small-plates approach to a menu, but if a bigger version of these guys ever appeared on a brunch menu, I'd annihilate them.
Toast and Coffee from The Mill
Yes, I said toast. Yes, I know you can get toast anywhere. But I'm pretty in love with this tiny coffee stand in the Western Addition. It's a current construction zone, soon-to-be coffee shop, that set up a makeshift operation inside their own future cafe. All they serve is coffee and toast. But the coffee is Four Barrel done right, and the toast is made from local favorite Josey Baker bread, long loaves cut into 2" slices and slathered in the day's chosen topping. A white bread with honey, butter, and sea salt one day; a seeded loaf with almond butter and sea salt the next—I have a hard time imagining a more appealing breakfast. (Except for the next slide.)
Is this the best croissant in the country? I don't know if I've decided. But I spent so much time pondering the question—and so much time just pondering this croissant—that let's just say it's one of the very best I've ever eaten and leave it at that. (See also: Tartine pain au chocolat, Tartine morning bun, Tartine ham and cheese croissant... and that's not even getting outside the pastry realm.)
Everything at Bar Tartine
Okay, I already mentioned Tartine, but Bar Tartine is different! I will have much more to say about the uncontrollably delicious everything I had for lunch here, but the chopped salad with bread was one of the most delicious things I've eaten this year. Yes, the salad. I have so much to say about this salad that I get a little overwhelmed, so let's just start with a description: their homemade paprika salami, peeled cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, red onions, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and a pepper jack cheese they make, over a base of delightfully tart and creamy dressing based on a yogurt that they make, too. But the bread with it, the bread. At other bakeries, "barley flax porridge bread" would sound severe and joyless. But at Bar Tartine, it's an oat-crusted loaf with a sublimely moist, stretchy interior, the most elastic bread innards I've ever seen. Forget best bread I've ever eaten, this is one of the best foodstuffs I've ever eaten. I finished a massive portion of it, embraced the overstuffedness, and took a 5-mile hill walk before I felt human again. Worth every bite.
Chicken Verde Taco at El Buen Sabor
When working at Serious Eats West last week (okay, Maggie Hoffman's apartment in the Mission), we took a quick lunch break down the street at El Buen Sabor. Her good advice was twofold: 1. "A single super taco is definitely enough for a lunch"; 2. "I know it doesn't sound exciting, but get the chicken verde." The result: a mound of super-moist chicken in a green sauce that soaked through two corn tortillas, with a pile of beans and guacamole and cheese on top and more chips than I could finish. For three dollars. It's not the best taco I've ever eaten, and given the Mission, it might not even be the best taco within a block. But having profoundly satisfying, dead cheap taqueria options all over the place? I'd kill for that.
For Gorgeous Locavore Food: Rich Table
Share the sardine chips and whatever pasta they're serving.
Rich Table: 199 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (map); 415-355-9085; richtablesf.com
Kale at Marin Sun Farms
Okay, there's no shortage of kale in other parts of the country, these days. But Northern California embraces it to such an extent that, at this burger-selling farm, it's the only side other than fries, and totally outshines them: deep-fried in pork lard (!), squirted with aioli, squeezed with lemon juice and showered with parmesan. If this appeared as an option next to every burger, I'd never order fries again.
So Much Good Cheap Beer
In many parts of NYC, $4 can get you a pint of... I don't know, High Life? Blue Moon, if you're lucky? At plenty of bars in SF, $4 can get something absurdly awesome. Like the house beers from Southern Pacific Brewing, say. Or higher-profile brews: Going for a quick beer with a friend before my flight out on Saturday, I ordered Pliny the Elder and got a full pint for $4. In terms of awesome-beer-per-dollar, that might be the best deal I've ever seen. It does mean that for the $10-including-tip I spent, I got a more-than-intended buzz on (32 ounces of 8% beer before lunch... not my usual game plan), but there are much worse problems.