Everyone that's even partially aware of the Austin dining scene has heard of Uchiko. It's generally regarded as one of the top dining destinations in the city and I've known for many years that I needed to see what all of the excitement was about for myself. I think the restaurant may have actually first come to attention when the now-famed chef Paul Qui tore his way through Top Chef Season 9. He basically wiped the floor with his competition utilizing his signature Asian fusion style and I took notice. Paul has since moved on from Uchiko to work on other Austin ventures such as his food truck East Side King and namesake restaurant Qui. But, Uchiko remains as exciting and buzz-worthy as ever.
Here's the thing about Napa. It's pretty freaking expensive everywhere. Between the wineries and their extra pricey tastings and the extremely high-end eateries, it's pretty easy to burn through a lot of cash quickly in Napa. Even if you actually want a meal on the cheaper side, it's not so easy to find anything that's actually good so it takes a bit more digging and information than most places and you're still likely to end up disappointed. But, I do actually know of some great meals that can be had in Napa for less than an arm and a leg and I'm happy to share this info with you.
What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
Austin, Texas is loaded with plenty of epic eating. Even breakfast – dominated by massive egg-filled breakfast tacos – is out of control awesome. But, for the most part, breakfast is limited to fast-casual options. So, if you want something sit-down and just a bit more formal, you've got to look a little bit harder. While I was in town looking for a nice, relaxed breakfast, we got a recommendation to head to a nearby spot called Elizabeth St. Cafe to get our fix.
One random Sunday in San Francisco, I woke up with an awful hangover from a crazy night of drinking the night before. How on earth was I gonna remedy this situation? Then it struck me! Soup! And you know what, I had just the thing from my todo list that would fit the bill, pho at Turtle Tower.
I've been pumped for the West Village arrival of Lumpia Shack from the moment I heard about the impending expansion. I've loved Filipino food for quite some time as you may have seen previously on Winston Wanders, but my passion has grown substantially while dating my quarter-Filipina girlfriend and eating with her Filipino family. More Filipino food in my life is definitely a good thing.
Tucked away on the outskirts of Mountain View, CA you'll find the lesser-known, tiny town of Los Altos. In this town, situated in a nondescript shopping center on the main highway there's a restaurant called Pho Vi Hoa that serves phenomenal bowls of pho 'til 10 PM. When rain strikes in Silicon Valley, I've found nothing more comforting than a big, steaming bowl of Asian noodle soup and I thank Pho Vi Hoa for providing a great one to me.
I drove 20 minutes across Silicon Valley to quench a Xiao Long Bao craving at Shanghai Dumpling and was sternly turned away at 8:35 by a strong "we're closed". The restaurant was still full and running at full speed, which led me to wonder if my blatant whiteness got me rejected from the nearly entirely Asian-filled restaurant. Um, hello, Yelp says you’re supposed to be open until 9:30 on Sunday nights! Way to be racist, Shanghai Dumpling. I acted quick on my feet and went elsewhere to get my Asian food fix that night. As it turned out, this particular shopping center was a sort of Cupertino Chinatown with a number of Asian dining options to choose from. Directly next door to Shanghai Dumpling there was a similar looking restaurant called QQ Noodle. Sure, why not. It was bright and clean looking and had pretty standard Asian restaurant decor. I figured I'd give it a shot and try to remedy my Asian dinner dilemma.
OH DEAR GOD, what have I done? Why the hell was I out 'til 4 in the morning last night? Why on earth did I drink so damn much? Ergggghhhhh. Does this sound familiar to you? I guess from time to time it happens to the best of us and when it does, you're gonna want to fix that hangover as soon as humanly possible. For me, it's become a bit of a hangover tradition to come to Congee Village for that awful New Years Day hangover. I almost always head there for a soothing and healing meal but New Years is certainly not the only excuse I need to go.
*Editor's Note 10/23/15: Best of Thai Noodle is under new ownership and is for some reason rebranding as Hippie Thai Street Food, presumably with a similar menu. Only time will tell if the food is the same. In the vibrant, artsy, dirty hippie-filled San Francisco neighborhood of Haight Ashbury, amongst the many clothing and bong shops, there are many dining options. Wading through the good and the bad isn't always an easy task, but I found a wholly unnoticed gem of a lunch spot called Best of Thai Noodle hidden in plain sight right on the main drag. It was a fairly small restaurant by Californian standards, but still had a tall, lofty ceiling and a big kitchen with fiery flaming woks open to the dining area. With just one glance at that wok setup and inferno, I knew this was gonna be great.