When I was living in New York, I used to eat falafel sandwiches, hummus, and other Middle Eastern specialties A LOT. It was one of those cheap things that I could grab on nearly every corner and still manage to convince myself that I was actually eating healthy. This thought was probably completely false since falafel balls are deep fried and pita bread is super-carb heavy, but it still had to be better than the fast-cheap alternative. Looking back, I realize that I must have been pretty naïve thinking that great, cheap falafel shops could be found every, even outside of New York. But, upon moving out west, I had to face the harsh realization that in California I no longer had easy access to great Middle Eastern food. I am happy to announce, however, that I have actually found a place in the Bay Area that up to my high standards and has proven itself as a more than suitable place to get my fix – Oren's Hummus Shop.
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.
In an area filled with many fancy, upscale sit-down restaurants, Souvla is a welcome addition to the Hayes Valley neighborhood. With its cheap, high-quality spit-roasted meats served in either sandwich or salad form, excellent selection of Greek wines, and absolutely delicious french fries this casual, yet elegant spot is a real winner. It's the kind of place that's cheap enough for a random weeknight dinner and at the same time sexy enough to work as a great casual date night spot. There is no waiter service, which sort of takes away from the date night vibe, but it's done so well that I really can't complain. This place is a real gem.
After a full rush-hour traffic-filled hour and fifteen minute drive from Sunnyvale to San Francisco, I learned that the apartment I was driving into the city to see had fallen through. I was in a part of San Francisco that I knew nothing about and had no reason to suffer through more traffic to go deeper into San Francisco proper. So, I pulled off the highway and pulled up my trusty mobile resource, Foursquare to what else — find a solid meal nearby. I soon learned that I was in the quaint SF outskirts in a neighborhood known as West Portal and was presented with a really highly-rated Greek restaurant called Orexi topping my personalized recommendations. Perfect, Greek it'll be. Despite the crappy drive/apartment-hunt situation, I was determined to turn these lemons into lemonade, or shall we say grapes into fine Greek wine.
In a neighborhood where models, fashionistas, and shopping enthusiasts roam wild it's almost unsurprising that a cafe like Chobani exists. I'll be the first to admit that I openly scoffed at the idea of a fresh Greek yogurt specialty shop when they first opened up in SoHo, but I'll also be quick to tell you that everything is actually incredible. You, like me, are probably saying "Really? It's just Greek yogurt with toppings in a bowl?" Well yes, that would be the simplistic way of looking at it. But, there are actual chefs back there behind the glass wearing actual chef coats putting together super-fresh, interesting, flavorful sweet and savory Greek yogurt and gourmet topping combinations.
OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been having a tough time finding great restaurants over these weeks I’ve been spending in Silicon Valley. I’ve found a few gems that I’ll be sharing with you all soon, but it ain’t easy. However, there are a couple densely populated ‘downtowns' that help when hunting and downtown Palo Alto is one such example. Stanford University is located in Palo Alto, so there’s an actual restaurant row like you often find in college towns. After asking a local Palo Alto-based friend for dinner advise and receiving a glowing recommendation, we ended up at an upscale Greek restaurant called Evvia Estiatorio. It’s hard to pass on a claim that Evvia is the best restaurant in Palo Alto so our group of six headed there on a Monday evening to check it out for ourselves.
The other day I stumbled across a tiny shop called The Frog's Crown Bakery tucked away on a minimally trafficked section of West SoHo. This little cafe serves bakery standards like coffee and sweet pastries, but I was actually drawn inside by the ethnic savory options I noticed advertised on their front window.