San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Steak Frites and Moules

Couleur Café has been a longtime favorite for Joan Kureczka, and the menu has just changed for the better. Steak frites are now served with a good, clean red wine and shallot sauce—much better than the muddy, overly rich Roquefort sauce from the old menu. There are lots of new mussel preparations. Moules Potrero is very good: mussels in white wine broth, with tarragon and tomatoes.

The café’s got jillyju’s gold-standard burger, too.

Couleur Café [Potrero Hill]
300 De Haro Street, San Francisco

Board Link: New menu at Couleur Cafe—this place just gets better and better

Carnitas to Dream About

Earl Grey stumbled across Guanajuato Market, where he found an excellent butcher, with house-made chorizo and lard in two colors. And tubs full of mole, and dreamy carnitas. “The carnitas still haunts me,” he says. He’s going to stop on any future trips through Vallejo.

Guanajuato recently opened a taqueria and grill next door.

Guanajuato Market [Solano County]
1652 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo

Board Link: Guanajuato Market in Vallejo

Do You Want to Get Slayed by a Stew?

Feijoada is the glorious, long-cooked, ultradense, ultrabeautiful, ultra-hard-core pig stew of Brazil. Typically, your classic feijoada will include pork ribs, pork loin, pig’s tail, pig’s ears, pig’s trotters, spicy pork sausage, fresh linguiça, cured linguiça, and beef jerky. Oh—and beans and greens.

After going a little crazy in the brain for feijoada, rworange tried out three versions of the dish in the Bay Area, which may be a little more than one human should ever be allowed to have in a single month. We pray for her gastrointestinal integrity.

Her clear favorite is 25 West’s. It’s not only the best Brazilian dish she’s had in San Francisco—it’s one of the best dishes she’s had in the Bay Area period. “The purple black beans were loaded with sausage and long-cooked pig parts. The pork tasted like everything good about pig.” And, astoundingly, for all this pork energy, it’s not really that greasy—just rich, tasty, and satisfying. “On a cold rainy day I can’t think of a better dish.”

You get pig’s foot. You get some neck bone that you suck the meat off of. You get crispy bits of bacon. And you get huge hunks of pork, dyed purple-black by the beans.

For those of you who are creeped out by the more unusual pig parts, you may want to try Brazil Café’s feijoada. It’s tasty, but not in the same class as the 25 West version. It does have a noticeable lack of feet, tail, or neck, though. Wusses.

25 West [East Bay]
25 W. Richmond Avenue, Richmond

Brazil Café [East Bay]
1983 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

Board Links: Death by feijoada crawl part 1 – 25 West Brazil Restaurant … mercy !!!
Death by feijoada crawl part 2 – Nino’s Pizzeria and Brazilian Restaurant
Death by feijoada crawl part 3 – Brazil Café

Sebo Starts Sunday Izakaya

Sebo’s decided to change up its game, and now serves izakaya on Sundays. It turns out, the restaurant’s just as talented with the grilled, baked, and fried pub fare as it is with sushi. A few Chowhounds dropped by for the first izakaya night: Favorites include some home-style classics, like bitter melon with egg, and daikon. The outstanding dishes of the first night were grilled fish collar and marinated eggplant, says felice. And the kakuni is the best version she’s ever had, including in Japan. “[M]ost are overly seasoned, only to be eaten with rice, or not fatty enough. This version was soft, melty, and perfectly salty-sweet.”

shortexact is a natto junkie, and he particularly dug the inari yaki—grilled inari with natto, topped with green onion. His favorite part: two homemade tamago yakis. The tamago is firm yet lightly juicy. “These are among the very best in the Bay Area that I’ve tried; it gives the tamago from Kitsho in Cupertino a run for its money. … Totally subtle, complex and a work of art.”

Prices are pretty great, given the quality of the food: $5 to $8 a dish. The menu will change quite a bit every night.

Sebo [Hayes Valley]
517 Hayes Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Izakaya at Sebo

The Double-Secret Andhra of Dublin

On the outside, Tabla Flavors looks like a Taco Bell. Here is the first secret: It’s not a Taco Bell. It’s an Indian restaurant.

On the inside, Tabla Flavors looks like your usual South Indian restaurant, with all the staples—dosai and whatnot. Here’s the second secret: The cooks are all from Andhra Pradesh. So when Melanie Wong started asking if some of the menu specialties were actually Andhra dishes, the cashier—who was utterly surprised, and very pleased by all this questioning—pointed out all the best Andhra dishes hidden in the menu.

Cut mirchi is a spectacular appetizer. These are fresh green jalapeños fried in flaky chickpea batter and sprinkled with spiced salt, freshly cut sweet onion, and cilantro. These are perfectly, wildly addictive—especially dunked in coconut chutney.

The lamb curry on the specials board that day was actually Andhra pepper-fry, semiwet style, with lots of gravy. And it will be hot, if you ask for it hot. Spring dosa is beautiful, covered in a fine sheen of oil yet not greasy. It’s as thin and crispy as a dosa gets. And it’s filled with fresh green beans, scallions, carrots, and cauliflower, all lightly spiced, making it an unusually delicate dosa.

Tabla Flavors [East Bay]
6830 Village Parkway, Dublin

Board Link: South Indian @ Tabla Flavors in Dublin

It’s All Good … Really

Everybody goes completely, dancingly, clappingly wild for It’s All Good Bakery. Its most famed dish—sweet potato pie—makes legions of Chowhounds swoon. But don’t forget to try the other stuff, because, just like the name says, it’s actually all good. And it’s all buttery. This place is sort of a black-hole implosion of butterfat.

Pecan pie classic delights rworange with the perfection of its pecan energy. There are small, whole toasted pecans; a nice filling; a buttery, crisp crust. “It reminds me how good pecan pie can be.” Also: not toothachingly sweet. The peanut butter cookie is glorious—large, moist, and crumbly. “These $1.35 cookies are scads better than cookies two to three times the price (I’m talking to you Teacakes).”

Yellow cake is excellent: extremely light and moist. And rworange’s favorite cake? The coconut. And we mean, it’s her favorite cake in the whole Bay Area. With a pineapple filling, too.

It’s All Good Bakery [East Bay]
5622 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland

Board Link: Oakland and Vallejo: It’s All Good Bakery – warm sweet potato pie

Coleslaw with Pickled Pork Skin!

There’s a tamale truck in the parking lot of the Dutton Avenue Lola’s Market. It has good tamales—dense but moist. Better still, there is a massive jar of coleslaw with cueritos—pickled pork skin—in it. For $2, you can get a big serving of cueritos coleslaw with cheese sprinkled on top. It’s a good combination—crispy slaw, chewy pork skin, and cheese. How awesome is that? Be the first on your block to have pickled pork skin slaw! Be the first on your block to be able to say “pickled pork skin slaw” five times fast!

No one tells you there’s cueritos in the coleslaw. Imagine what it’s like, says rworange, to be sitting in a dark car, chowing on what you think is perfectly ordinary coleslaw, and then you hit a chewy batch of skin that’s like a gummy worm, but porky. It’d freak you out. Luckily, she’s done the research for you—you can be forewarned, and forearmed. Be ready for the pork skin.

Tamale truck in the Lola’s parking lot [Sonoma County]
440 Dutton Avenue #17, Santa Rosa

Board Link: Santa Rosa–Tamale Truck at Lola’s with cueritos cole slaw

The Best Pupusas Are in Ingleside

Taqueria Margoth is a humble, family-owned Salvadoran joint. It has the absolute best pupusas in the city by a long shot, says inmandarin. Chicharrón pupusa is phenomenal—filled with mighty shreds of fried pork, bursting with flavor, and boasting the thinnest, crispiest flour shell of any pupusa you’ve ever seen. It’s a completely different balance of outer shell and doughy innards from your run-of-the-mill pupusa. It may not be authentic, but who cares? It’s delicious!

The masa quality of the tamal pollo ($1.75) blows away every other tamal joint inmandarin has tried. It’s steamy hot, ultragrainy, and wonderfully soft.

If you thought Ingleside was a dead-end neighborhood for food, you are so wrong. Go eat some tamals.

Taqueria Margoth [Ingleside]
300 Plymouth Avenue, San Francisco

Board Link: taqueria margoth–a hidden gem of ingleside.

Veracruz Wonder

What you learn in the Chowhound game is to take your recommendations wherever you can get them. Students are a good source. Lillian Hsu had a student who once brought in some stunning homemade cheese empanadas, made by her mom. So when the same student dropped by and told Lillian that her parents were opening up a little Veracruz restaurant, Lillian hurried down. What she found was a Veracruz wonder, at a small place called El Rincón Jaracho.

Lamb barbacoa is truly excellent, and comes literally falling off the bone. Their waitress instructed them to add the lamb meat to the red soup, along with diced onions, cilantro, and a few squeezes of lime. What they got was tender meat, with a few choice bits of fat, soaking up the beautiful flavors of the soup. Mole casero is also excellent—rich, flavorful, but not overpowering on tender chicken, with a bit of spicy guacamole.

The Guanabana agua fresca gets high marks, too—it gives El Ojo de Agua’s licuados a run for their money.

El Rincón Jarocho [East Bay]
3851 International Boulevard, Oakland

Board Link: El Rincon Jarocho: a bit of Veracruz in Fruitvale (Oakland)

Mexican Master in a Mall, with Flan!

Taco Max is a weirdly great Mexican place in a mall. At this teeny joint in the Coddingtown Mall, Arturo—the guy working the grill, and taking orders, and waiting tables, and running the cash register—is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who used to own a Mexican restaurant in Miami. Various problems shut that business down, so now he’s back, gathering investors for another restaurant—and in the meantime, running what’s probably the best mall food stand around. He’s from Cuernavaca, so it’s a rare peek into that region’s cooking.

His food is well and lovingly executed, says Eat_Nopal. Following Arturo’s suggestions, he had cochinita pibil taco with tender, earthy pork and marinated red onions; fish al pastor taco (a beautiful hunk of pan-seared fish in achiote rub); and beautiful chicken vegetable soup. And a truly outstanding flan. It’s a flan napolitano, Cuernavaca style, which puts it somewhere between a normal flan and a cheesecake.

Arturo has dialed into the local farmers, too; he makes specials whenever he can get his hands on seasonal stuff from the area. He’s also very flexible and will do custom meals if you give him enough lead time.

The food is not perfect—it’s one man, and he has to make some compromises, like prefab tortillas. But overall this place is great, and Arturo really cares about his customers.

Taco Max [Sonoma County]
329 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa

Board Link: Taco Max (Santa Rosa)... EN smiles