San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

East Bay Barbecue

Robert Lauriston says that T-Rex’s spareribs are reliably great: “That’s my go-to place and order when I crave barbecue. Brisket seems more variable.”

“I’ve found the brisket at T-Rex to be a bit dry, but the long-cut short rib is HEAVEN,” says lexdevil. “The mild sauce has about as much flavor as ketchup, minus the vinegar. Hot is substantially better. The short rib, however, needs no help.”

Uncle Willie’s serves Robert Lauriston’s favorite brisket in the East Bay, but virtualguthrie describes it as: “Chopped, not sliced, good but not great. It could have been smokier and perhaps a little less fatty. However it was nice and tender and overall a satisfying experience.” On the other hand, the house-made links are “definitely a star. Homemade, coarse ground, and smoked to perfection. Not the most aesthetically appealing, but they really deliver in the flavor department.” virtualguthrie also detected some “spicy overtones,” perhaps from cloves, cinnamon, or coriander, and definitely a lot of black pepper. “If you like links, Willie’s is the place to get ’em.”

“I really like the brisket and ribs at Bo’s,” says Cheesy Oysters. “Links are good but not as chunky as Everett and Jones. It’s a little trippy to be able to get good beer and wine at Bo’s but that’s something I can get used to.”

As for Everett and Jones, quality varies by branch, says Cheesy Oysters: “I used to live near a local Everett and Jones and loved their ribs and links and sauce.” However, the location on Broadway near Jack London Square isn’t as good. According to jillyju, the location on Fruitvale in Oakland is worth it though: “I’ve now been twice, and each time the ribs were outstanding, as were the links.”

Finally, Munching Mark wants to put in a good word for KC’s Bar-B-Que. “Smooth sauce, nice as heck people, funky setting,” he says. “The links are as good as any I’ve had, and the pork BBQ is also wonderful.”

T-Rex Barbeque [East Bay]
1300 10th Street, Berkeley
510-527-0099

Uncle Willie’s BBQ and Fish [East Bay]
614 14th Street, Oakland
510-465-9200

Bo’s Barbecue [East Bay]
3422 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette
925-283-7133

Everett and Jones Barbeque [East Bay]
2676 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland
510-533-0900

Everett and Jones Barbeque [East Bay]
126 Broadway (near Jack London Square), Oakland
510-663-2350

KC’s Bar-B-Que [East Bay]
2613 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
510-548-1140

Board Link: BBQ in the East Bay: T-Rex, Brick’s Pig House, Chef Edwards, Flints??

Mapping Oakland’s Taco Trucks

“Whenever anyone asks about taco trucks the answer is search the board for lots of recs,” says rworange. “Well, yeah … but finding the SIGNIFICANT recs can be a pain.” rworange was motivated enough to put together a Google map of the best taco trucks in Oakland. Special props go to Ruth Lafler, notes rworange, for her pioneering reports.

Board Link: Map of Oakland Taco Trucks and Street Carts

Promising Pizza Pies

Melanie Wong stopped by the new Diavola Pizzeria and declares it “pretty awesome for only being open for four days.” Chef-owner Dino Bugica aims “to use local ingredients in a way that’s true to Italian roots”; his wood-burning pizza oven uses walnut and almond wood.

And as for Melanie’s margherita pizza, ordered scotto, or scorched, “the crust was nicely singed on the bottom lending a crispy initial bite that segues to a delicately chewy mouthful. While rather blank in flavor, the crust had a fresh, unadulterated taste. ... The crust’s soft chewiness and tender crumb made this pizza unique.”

The sauce is just crushed Italian tomatoes, nice and simple, Melanie says; the chef plans to make his own sauce from local tomatoes once the season gets under way. And though Melanie “would have liked a little more browning on the cheese, it was the right proportion for me and not overloaded.”

It’s not the perfect pie yet, though. “Cut into eight wildly uneven slices, this pizza wouldn’t win any beauty contests. The colorful basil and zucchini flowers, added after firing, weren’t distributed evenly, and one slice had none of either topping on it. The thickness of the crust varied dramatically between the two halves of the pie.”

Salumi is very good. Melanie prefers “it to early examples of Boccalone or the imported salumi from Italy that was served at Tigelleria in Campbell.” No salumi at lunch, though.

For breakfast or lunch, there’s also panini—“A man at a nearby table was having foodgasms over his brisket sandwich, one of six or so panini on the menu.”

Service is friendly and knowledgeable. It’s worth trying to get a seat near the open kitchen, to watch the chef at work.

Diavola Pizzeria [Sonoma County]
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville
707-814-0111

Board Link: Lunch @ Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria (Geyserville)

Al Pastor, Pineapple on Top

Just last week we featured a place that makes delectable-sounding al pastor with pineapple, but after visiting Los Portales, DezzerSF declares, “This is surely the best Al Pastor in the Tri-City, but I’d put it near the top of my list that I’ve tried.”

Yes, there’s a pineapple atop the spit, and you get a slice with your taco. “The seasoning here is subtle, but complex,” says Dezzer, “with a good bbq flavor from the spit.”

“I also tried the carnitas, which was shredded, nice and crispy outside, but still tender. The pork had very good flavor, not too oily, and their excellent salsa verde complemented the taco.”

There are at least three good salsas—verde, fresca, and chipotle—as well as the usual radishes and peppers. Tacos are on the pricey side, though: $2.20 each.

Taqueria Los Portales [East Bay]
36782 Cedar Boulevard, Newark
510-745-7754

Board Link: Tacos Al Pastor @ Los Portales (Newark)

Cantonese Barbecue Pork at Huong Lan

Melanie Wong’s favorite banh mi is at Huong Lan, but now she’s also discovered the restaurant’s cha siu. The San Jose location has a full-on Cantonese barbecue stand, “with hanging ducks and the usual suspects, plus some more Viet-centered steam-table items.”

“My mom bought some of the cha siu (barbecue pork) by the pound and we liked it very much. Not fatty, but still tender and full of flavor. Not surprising, as the bbq pork sandwich is one of our favorite options here.”

manda adds that the marinated, cooked chicken gizzards are a tasty deal: $2.50 for at least a pound.

Huong Lan Sandwiches [South Bay]
1655 Tully Road, San Jose
408-258-8868

Board Link: Cha Siu @ Huong Lan #1, San Jose

Cannoli, Filled to Order

It’s awfully rare to find freshly filled cannoli within SF’s city limits, but Melanie Wong says you can get that, Danesi coffee, and free wi-fi at the historic A. Cavalli & Co. bookstore and café in North Beach.

With an expanded menu including panini, salads, and house-made pastries, there isn’t much in the way of books these days, but “I did give in to a filled-to-order cannolo and an iced coffee on a hot day and was very happy,” she says.

Melanie says the other place in San Francisco where you can get a freshly filled cannolo is Vivande. But Robert Lauriston points out, “The cannoli at Pizzeria Delfina are first-rate. I’m not sure they’re piped to order but the shells are perfectly crisp.”

A. Cavalli & Co. [North Beach]
1441 Stockton Street, San Francisco
415-421-4219

Vivande Porta Via [Pacific Heights]
2125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
415-346-4430

Pizzeria Delfina [Mission District]
3611 18th Street, San Francisco
415-437-6800

Board Link: Cannoli and more @ Cavalli Books & Cafe (SF)

Destination Doughnuts in Los Altos

The new, family-owned Donut du Jour makes light, nongreasy doughnuts that rival those at Stan’s, says Claudette. The glazed old-fashioned, chocolate sprinkled, and “Boston-cream-pieish” varieties all make the grade. Each is only about three bites’ worth, nice for a snack.

buoncibo tried a raspberry-filled one that was “soft and plump, with a good amount of filling,” and also sampled an apple fritter that had “good amounts of cinnamon, but could have used more apples.”

“The early bird gets the coconut cream-filled doughnut rolled in burnt coconut,” notes rworange, who points out that the place opens at 5 a.m. and closes at noon weekdays, or 1 p.m. on weekends.

Just down the street at the new Esther’s German Bakery, the German coffee is nice and strong says Claudette, and “the salted and sesame pretzels were the best pretzels I’d ever had in the U.S., but not nearly as good as the ones I’d had in Germany.” Among the pastries, bee sting cake has a delicious custard filling and caramelized almond topping.

Donut du Jour [South Bay]
108 State Street, Los Altos
650-941-0258

Esther’s German Bakery [South Bay]
987 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos
650-941-4463

Board Links: Los Altos report: Esther’s, Donut du Jour, Cravery
Los Altos–Breakfast and lunch at Esther’s German Bakery?

Latin Food Crawl in Richmond

The al pastor from Taqueria La Selva’s taco wagon setup is a thing of beauty, reckons rworange. “This is no pre-formed, pre-cut pastor. The irregularly-cut slices in the spit are topped with two golden roasted rings of fresh pineapple,” she says. “It tastes even better than it looks … rich and complex with heat.”

Nearby, outside Central American market Mi Raza, there’s a lady turning out top-notch pupusas on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Hand-patted and cooked on the spot, they are the “least greasy pupusas” rworange has ever had. Loroco pupusa is just what it should be, she says, with the herb’s distinct flavor. The curtido is nice and tangy, with actual bits of puréed tomato in the sauce.

A few vendors can be found in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church on Sundays while the two Spanish-language Masses are going on (which begin at 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.). Look for the one under a shady tree selling tamales, pan de elote, and bags of fresh fruit with chile.

“The pan de elote are wonderful: oblong, griddled and pancake-like filled with fresh corn flavor,” says rworange. “In texture [they’re] somewhere between cornbread and a pancake and about 1/3 inch thick.”

As for the pork tamales, she says, “the pork in the moist masa tasted like it had been roasted rather than stewed. Now why hasn’t anyone else thought of that? There was a rich porky flavor like getting a slice of roast pork out of the oven.”

Taqueria La Selva [East Bay]
1049 23rd Street, Richmond
510-237-0913

Mi Raza Market [East Bay]
1045 23rd Street, Richmond
510-232-5620

St. Mark’s Catholic Church [East Bay]
159 Harbour Way, Richmond
510-234-5886

Board Links: Richmond: After mass street chow at St. Mark’s–pan de elote and pork tamales
Richmond street feast part 2: Taqueria La Selva–the best al pastor tacos vapor in the Bay Area
Richmond street feast part 3: Mi Raza Market’s sidewalk pupusa lady

Anchor & Hope’s East Coast Seafood

Anchor & Hope, the newish fish house opened by the Rosenthal brothers and Doug Washington, does East Coast–style seafood with a twist. Lobster salad involves a “delicious blend of spices” and the classic roll, says Corte Medusa, while eetnsleep appreciates its light, olive oil–type dressing. But at around $30 for the roll, slaw, and fries, notes Xiao Yang, East Coast nostalgia ain’t cheap.

For dessert, Corte Medusa recommends the house-made chocolate cake with salt and nuts on the frosting.

Reports from Anchor’s first week, back in May, were mixed: Absonot found the sea urchin appetizer and the ceviche outstanding. “The Portuguese stew was also wonderful. Really complex flavors in a very satisfying broth.” But the lobster roll underwhelmed.

While not a fan of the restaurateur trio’s other San Francisco ventures, Salt House or Town Hall, goingoutagain liked Anchor more, finding the service friendlier and the place less pretentious.

Anchor & Hope [SOMA]
83 Minna Street, San Francisco
415-501-9100

Board Links: Anchor & Hope
Anchor & Hope
Trip report–Anchor & Hope on 83 Minna Street San Francisco

Sonoma County Pizza

One of the best new vendors at the Friday morning farmers’ market in Sonoma is Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza, says Melanie Wong, who visited and posted photos. Kashaya’s day job is baking for Whole Foods in Petaluma, and she learned about wood-burning ovens while working at Della Fattoria.

The pizzas are baked to order in a brick oven on a trailer that’s fired up well before the market opens and transported there hot.

“The pizza crust, made with organic flour, is great with the special nuance that wood smoke and high heat add,” says Melanie Wong. “Chewy-tender on the puffy edges, stretched extremely thin in the middle, crisp on the bottom, and full of yeasty goodness.” Melanie ordered hers “scorched,” but it got a little tough when it cooled; the regular well-browned way is probably better.

Spinach, ricotta, and garlic pizza perfectly balances salt and savory against the green leafiness of the baby spinach. Other topping combos include potato, rosemary, and mushroom; and apricot, strawberry, and slivered almonds. Some toppings run out toward the end of the market, so order early. Pizzas are $7 regular size, or $12 large.

Kashaya sells at both the Tuesday and Friday Sonoma markets and the Cotati market on Thursday evenings. She also does catering.

Over in Petaluma, Melanie also tried pizza at a franchise of one of Oregon’s favorite pizzeria chains, Pizzicato. At lunch, two slices with a fountain drink is $6.99 with tax, and costs even less if you order cheese pizza.

“The crust is very thin, well-browned, and crispy-chewy,” she says. “The April special had savory bits of scallions and fresh herbs combined with sweet caramelized red onions and nuggets of prosciutto.”

“Toppings aren’t pedigreed,” she continues, “yet they’re wholesome and fresh and good quality at this price.” The place is located in a strip mall next to Whole Foods, and has “a fast-food feel.”

Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza [Sonoma County]
Sonoma and Cotati farmers’ markets
707-303-6064

Pizzicato [Sonoma County]
615 E. Washington Street, Petaluma
707-762-2216

Board Links: Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza (Sonoma, Cotati, Santa Rosa)
Pizzicato’s Two Slice Lunch Deal (Petaluma)