Nestled amongst the many Fauxtalian sidewalk cafes clustered in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, I have managed to find one authentic, non-touristy spot that's actually worthy of your time and money – Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. Despite the shop's name, it actually doesn't have anything to do with cigars. They say it's just more of a nod to a time when food was prepared fresh every day, the kind of simple, old fashioned Italian food you can still experience at Mario's.
Mikkeller is not your average beer bar. Despite its questionable neighborhood surroundings on the cusp of the bad part of the Tenderloin (we actually watched cops draw guns on a crackhead in the street a block from the place on our way over), it's actually a very large, spacious, clean, polished space with a comfortable and appropriately adult, European vibe.
I'd argue that beer is almost always better when consumed along with food. It just pairs so well with anything and everything... but especially toasty, crispy things. One late evening while I was drinking with a few friends on Polk Street, we stopped in to a nearly unmarked bar called Woods Polk Station that I had heard good things about so that we could fill our bellies full of bubbly beer goodness and some tasty late-night munchies. The place was quite small and had a ski resort mountain lodge vibe with its fake flickering fireplace displayed on the TV overhead, quiet, laid-back vibe, and simple wooden bar slanging gorgeous goblets of craft draft beer. It's cozy and quiet and I think it's quite a nice option when you're looking to escape the general craziness of Polk Street with a few glasses of beer.
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.
When the sun is shining, I nearly always feel compelled to be outside with a drink in my hand. In need of a place to meet some friends in Sausalito on a Sunday afternoon, we decided on Bar Bocce – a highly regarded bar/restaurant right on the Sausalito waterfront that features plenty of outdoor space including a large fire-pit, narrow beach, and full-sized bocce court.
Listen up. I have found my new favorite restaurant IN THE WORLD. This place served me, without a doubt, the best food I've ever eaten. Twice. Both visits were, in my humble opinion — flawless. Where and what is this incredible restaurant, you ask? It's The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta near Union Square in San Francisco and you absolutely must go.
For Stanford students, there's only a few bars that everyone goes to. One of the biggest nightlife hotspots is NOLA, an aggressively Mardi Gras themed bar and restaurant that's gaudily decorated with scattered dangling beaded necklaces. It's the kind of place that I'd normally write off at first glance, assuming they'd only be able to make stupidly sweet and strong alcoholic punches and serve shitty bar food, but that assumption would be wrong.
Ahhh, the Fourth of July. A time when everyone's amped up about being an American. But what's more American than a greasy sports bar where you can get rowdy and drink beer and the entire menu either comes out of a deep-fryer or off a flat-top grill? You might not expect to find a real salt-of-the-earth sports bar in the Silicon Valley town of Sunnyvale, but somehow a great one does exist. With plenty of outdoor dining and drinking space, many TVs for viewing sports games, and of course some serious greasy-ass deep-fried bar food monstrosities, this place represents American food right. 'Murica.
*Editor's Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktails This is San Francisco's hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European. I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn't long before it filled out with the who's who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.