San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Huitlacoche Quesadilla at Doña Tomas

Doña Tomas is still making excellent food, says deelish–especially the terrific huitlacoche (corn smut fungus) quesadilla that one could eat at every meal, every day. Chiles rellenos are also excellent, not breaded or deep fried, just stuffed with smooth, meltingly yummy goat cheese and roasted. The masa is fresh and tastes of sweet corn. Earl Grey feels the service is sloppy, and the food is only very good, not great. And Mari likes the juicy, crispy carnitas, despite the fact that they are rubbed with Mexican oregano.

For dessert, try ice cream served with baked apples, raisins, and pecans, sprinkled with cajeta.

Restaurante Dona Tomas [Temescal]
5004 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

Board Links

Doña Tomas–Recent Reviews?

Truffles and Coffee

5-Star Truffles and Coffee is a charming, unassuming place, offering excellent house-made truffles, along with espresso drinks and other beverages. The owner makes the chocolates from Cacao Barry chocolate, says larochelle a box of 20 truffles runs $7.99. Also, you get one truffle free when you purchase a beverage. Flavors include hazelnut, espresso, Earl Grey, and wine. Many flavors are quite subtle, but the caramel is unctuous and buttery. Definitely worth a visit, says Absonot.

5-Star Truffles and Coffee [Western Addition]
411 Divisadero St., San Francisco

Board Links

5-star truffles and coffee on divisadero

That’s Right, Fisherman’s Wharf

rworange thinks that the best creme brulee in San Francisco is at Alioto’s in Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, that’s right. Fisherman’s Wharf.

It’s classic crème brulee–no trendy flavors, just the richest custard and crackliest sugar crust around. It pairs beautifully with the excellent espresso. Sit at the end of the bar, stare out at the Bay, Alcatraz, and the tourist scene passing silently beneath the window, and listen to the chat as actual locals stop by the bar. And enjoy the creme brulee.

Alioto’s [Fisherman’s Wharf]
8 Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Board Links

List of good creme brulee places in the city

Merguez Sausage

Merguez, a spicy, delicious Tunisian sausage traditionally made from lamb and beef, has many fans. Depending on your wallet and your willingness to consume trafe, you have several excellent merguez options around the Bay Area.

A huge hound favorite is Fatted Calf. They sell merguez (and other charcuterie so good it would entitle the maker to knighthood in certain countries) at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Of course, merguez is traditionally halal, but the Fatted Calf version is full of tasty pork fat. You are warned. It costs about $9 per pound.

Fabrique Delices merguez, which is sold at farmers’ markets around the area (and often appears on the menu at restaurants such as Chez Maman and Couleur Café), is of top quality but dubious halal-ness. It costs $10 to $15 per pound.

Baron’s Meats offers a house-made, halal version, made entirely of lamb–even the casings. It costs about $5.99 per pound.

Finally, Salama Halal Butcher sells a bona fide halal merguez, made of a combination of beef and lamb, for $3.99 per pound. Gary Soup notes that it’s less spicy and less fatty than the Fatted Calf merguez, and not quite as tasty, but it’s reasonably priced and assuredly authentic, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Fatted Calf

Berkeley Farmers’ Market [East Bay]
Center St. and Martin Luther King, Berkeley

San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market [Embarcadero]
The Ferry Building
Foot of Market Street on the Embarcadero, San Francisco

Baron’s Meats
1650 Park St., Alameda

Baron’s Meats
(In the Star Grocery)
3068 Claremont Ave., Berkeley

Fabrique Delices [Citywide]
Stands at 13 Bay Area Farmers’ Markets

Chez Maman [Potrero Hill]
1453 18th St., San Francisco

Couleur Cafe [Potrero Hill]
300 DeHaro St, at 9th St., San Francisco

Salama Halal Butcher
604 Geary St., San Francisco

Board Links

Will work for merguez sausages.

Wing Lee is Awesome

Wing Lee Bakery might have some of the best har gow in town, says niki rothman. They’re really big, with thick, tender, lovely rice dough–and they let you taste before ordering. Siu mai is also excellent, bigger than you usually see, with a clean, subtle sweetness. Chunks of rehydrated straw mushrooms add a nice smokiness. Custard tarts are top-notch, and pot stickers are large and delectable. Prices are extremely reasonable–siu mai are 3 for $1.40 and $28 will buy you more than you can carry.

Wing Lee Bakery [Richmond]
503 Clement St., San Francisco

Board Links

Superior Take-Out on Inner Clement

Top Class Sicilian Chow at Mezzo Mezzo

rworange is so impressed with Mezzo Mezzo that after only one visit, it’s firmly among her top five restaurants in the Bay Area. This place is a gem, and the food is extraordinary, displaying not only attention to quality but soul.

The name of the restaurant translates as something like “half and half,” and the half-cream of spinach, half-cream of tomato soup is a work of art. Neither soup is assertively flavored, but there is a richness to them that is very soulful and satisfying, especially accompanied by the wonderful bread. Dense yet light, soft, flour-dusted slices of bread are so good rworange wishes they’d open a bakery.

Panini with speck, roasted eggplant, and cheese is outstanding. “I haven’t had a better sandwich even on my trips to Italy,” says rworange. Surprisingly, the vegetarian panini is even better, with pesto, greens, and softly smoky provolone. House-made cannoli are also a standout, thick shells filled with ricotta and the suggestion of candied fruit.

ItaloChick rates the food as truly spectacular, and praises the warm, inviting atmosphere. rworange gives extra points in that area, too, noting that she got great service while inadvertently doing her worst impression of a bag lady.

Mezzo Mezzo Ristorante
1025 C St., San Rafael

Board Links

MAJOR Marin gem–Nothing half & half about San Rafael’s Mezzo Mezzo … Top-class Sicilian ciao
Mezzo Mezzo in San Rafael?

Chocolate Ice Cream Tarted Up with Olive Oil

You would not believe the stuff that is going on at Bi-Rite Creamery. For one, they’re serving double ginger ice cream, which is hot, intense, and the soul of ginger, says rworange–she’s never had better, period. But Sam’s Sundae ($4.50) will make you realize the point of pouring a golden drizzle of olive oil over ice cream. It adds rich velvetiness to the experience, especially when married with Maldon sea salt and chocolate ice cream. It’s all about the whole flavor of the dish, not the frou-frou aesthetic of daring-for-the-sake-of daring. The ice cream itself is solid, so “if it gets tarted up a little, it doesn’t matter because the foundation is good,” says rworange.

Whipped cream is of excellent quality, reminiscent of creme fraiche–but it’s misplaced on this sundae. Have it on something else. And davina loves Sam’s Sundae, too, but thinks it’s so intense in flavor that it should be half the size.

Emily Hope loves the salted caramel ice cream. The intense, rich, perfectly salty flavor is outstanding, with a caramel taste that stays just this side of burnt caramel. Totally worth the $8.00 a pint.

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street, San Francisco

Board Links

SF–Bi-Rite Creamery update–Chocolate olive oil sundae with Malden salt, popsicles & the best ginger ice cream ever

A Big, Yummy Cake

Do you need a yummy cake to feed a crowd? One South Bay option is Prolific Oven, which can make you a large sheet cake of very good quality. jkg notes that if you’re not sure which flavor to get, they sell slices, so you can do “research.”

katg likes the Asian-style cakes sold by Sheng Kee Bakeries, with light, yummy frosting and fruit inside. They sell cakes big enough to feed 25-30 people.

And Lori SF likes the cakes at Fleur de Cocoa.

Prolific Oven [Peninsula]
550 Waverley St., Palo Alto 94301

Sheng Kee Bakery [Citywide]

Fleur de Cocoa [South Bay]
39 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos

Board Links

Where to get a yummy big cake?

Gregoire in Piedmont Is the Best Deal in Town

If you’re seeking cuisine featuring grass-fed meat, organic produce, and sustainable fish and poultry, Gregoire is the best deal in town, says Morton the Mousse. Gregoire makes delicious food from organic ingredients at a very reasonable price–around $25 per person for dinner.

Australian lamb chops, served with garlic and herb vinaigrette, are incredible–very fresh, with a clean flavor, and none of the gamy qualities associated with less-than-perfect meat. Order them rare and hey, they actually cook them rare. Moroccan-style braised short ribs are perfect comfort food; falling-off-the-bone tender meat with enough substance to make for an enjoyable chew. The meat used is very high-quality grass-fed beef from Montana, and you won’t find many cuts with such a well-balanced flavor profile.

Finally, don’t miss the potatoes that Gregoire does so well, and check out the banana bread pudding for dessert.

Gregoire [Piedmont]
4001 B Piedmont Ave, at 40th St., Oakland

Board Links

Gregoire in Piedmont–Still Doing Things Right

Meat Sauce

Tucked away in a surprisingly unpretentious neighborhood is Sociale. Bettey thinks that chef Tia Harrison makes a real mean meat sauce–lasagna bolognese is absolutely delicious, though it’s clearly intended for those with a strong palate for salt. If you’re not into salt, steer yourself to more appropriate dishes. Sociale also offers really tasty wine at a variety of price points.

Sociale [Laurel Heights]
3665 Sacramento St., San Francisco

Board Links

Meat sauce