After closing for repairs following a fire, Berkeley's Great China has now reopened. Loyalists say the standards, including ma po tofu and walnut prawns, are as good if not better than before the blaze.
Vietnam House, a restaurant on Eddy between Larkin and Polk, turns out sparkling renditions of Vietnamese classics like banh khot, yet doesn't get the foot traffic of Little Saigon's main-corridor eateries. Locals tell it straight: Work this spot into your regular dining rotation, and get creative by calling in advance to ask for special orders like tamarind crab and fried catfish.
Many who return home to San Francisco after exotic trips come to crave a dish that recalls their travels, and for visitors to northern Thailand, khao soi is that unforgettable meal. Find this street-food egg noodle dish in San Francisco at Jitlada Thai, Thai House Express, and Amphawa Thai.
If you're based in Oakland, where are your best bets for dim sum? At the newly reopened Peony, the shrimp har gow are particularly good, but a drive to Alameda's East Ocean or Richmond's Saigon Seafood Harbor might be worth the gas money.
Sate beef noodles can take many forms, it seems from a recent discussion on Chowhound. Hai Ky Mi Gia's version features beef and egg noodles in a thick peanut broth topped with fresh veggies, while the thin, light broth at Pho Ha Tien adds a kick of heat. One local adores the sate sauce prepared by a Malaysian woman for San Sun Restaurant in Chinatown, and says the sate beef soup that includes the sauce satisfies with smoky peanut and garlic notes.
Schmidt's, a German restaurant in the Mission, wows diners with its well-executed takes on filling classics like veal schnitzel and chicken liver mousse. After a recent visit to the restaurant, one local praised the smoked beer as "the awesomest beer I've had" and said the cured meat platter was outstanding.
For service similar to what you'd find in carefully curated European specialty shops, City Discount is a longtime San Francisco favorite for cookware nuts. Chowhound member rebeccakinney praises the inventory of well-selected standards like flour-sack towels and cake pans, plus the occasional treat like torrone (the Spanish and Italian nougat) sold by the slice around Christmastime.
For a cozy catch-up session over a hot beverage, which meeting places are best? The clubby atmosphere and hot toddies at the Presidio Social Club beckon, as do the Irish coffee at Nopa and Adesso's warm eggnog.
Hard cider from the Normandy region in France pairs well with food and adds a celebratory note to many occasions. Where can you find it in the Bay Area? Try Arlequin in Hayes Valley or Berkeley Bowl for bottles to take home, or cider bar Upcider on Polk for a comparative selection of sips.
Does anything taste better than a soft, spicy ginger cookie on a cold day? Find excellent examples at Blue Bottle Coffee in Mint Plaza and Flour & Co on Hyde Street.