This is probably the most bizarrely happy-go-lucky place anywhere on the entire planet. On this day, torrential rain was falling from the sky, the shop's WiFi was out so the normal music source was unusable, and many of the ingredients had not and were not going to be delivered. But, that couldn't hold the Dat Dog staff down – it's not in their nature. In fact, from the moment I laid my eyes upon that gigantic, two-story, neon, multicolored building on New Orleans' Magazine Street, I knew there was something special about the place. I think passing through those Heinz mustard-colored doors functioned as a sort of portal to a comically super-happy alternate dimension.
Though the Mission is best known for its abundance of casual, inexpensive taquerias, monstrous burritos, and other Latin American street foods, those are certainly not the only kinds of cheap eats you can find. If you know where to look, there are actually quite a few non-Latin gems. Take for instance, Duc Loi – a gigantic grocery store right on bustling Mission Street that looks just like any other market with one major difference – its vast selection of hard-to-find ethnic Latin American and Asian ingredients.
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.
Back when I was living in New York, I think I took for granted the fact that it really was "the city that never sleeps". Literally any hour of the day, I could get my hands on anything I craved. Bars stayed open to 4, delivery services ran around the clock and worked lightening fast, and there was always a restaurant open serving exactly what I was in the mood for, no matter what crazy hour it was that I wanted it. Now, let's compare that to San Francisco, where bars start winding down at 1 AM and close at 2. It's a place where most restaurant and bar kitchens close around 10 PM and food delivery is an utter joke. If it's past 10 PM and you feel like having a great late night meal, you've got to approach the situation with a little more care and a lot more knowledge.
In general, the Inner Richmond is known for its vast array of authentic Asian restaurants. It's certainly not thought of as an opportune place to be able to get Mexican food, but there I was on a Sunday afternoon doing exactly that. After a stop by the Presidio for Off The Grid's Picnic at the Presidio to find ridiculously large crowds and excessive lines at every food vendor, I hopped onto Foursquare in search of a lunch alternative. Sure, mostly Asian food dominated the search results, but there was still a single listing that differed completely from everything else called La Ciudad de Mexico that caught my eye. San Francisco is definitely a town known it's Mission style burritos, and there are plenty of great options for those around, but there is another traditional, handheld Mexican street food that La Ciudad de Mexico specializes in that tends not to get as much love – the torta.
You guys know I eat a ton of food. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I'm also quite passionate about my cocktails. Some would even go so far as to call me a lush. Well, this year provided no shortage of impressive and outstanding cocktails (and obviously food as I've already recapped). And since the end of the year is rolling around, it only seems fair to look back and remember the best of the best cocktails as well. I've even inclcuded a list of ingredients for each drink recipe so you can try to whip them up for yourself at home... if you're particularly talented. Warning: there are some really obscure ingredients in a lot of these, a lot of them are rather complicated to concoct. Also, I don't have any of the proportions for the different parts... so good luck!
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 the past, I've never really bothered much to concern myself with social consciousness with regards to food and waste. I don't think you could blame me too much though, because I had never before lived in a place where it was such a high concern or integrated part of the cultural fabric. As it turns out, just being in San Francisco pretty much forces you to become very aware of the impact your consumption has on the environment simply through the requisite use of separate trash, recycling, and compostable bins everywhere you go. Beyond waste management though, I've learned you can further be accountable for your actions by the types of meat, seafood, and produce you buy. By choosing responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly meat, seafood, and produce at your grocery store you can be sure the stuff you love so much stays around for a long, long time. And even beyond home shopping, there are ways to make good choices when you're dining out. For instance, when the desire for awesome sushi strikes, you can choose to go to a place like Tataki in Lower Pac Heights that refuses to serve any sushi made with anything but sustainably sourced fish. I know, I know. I can hear you groaning already. Sustainability? Social consciousness? What happened to Winston when he moved out to Cali?? Don't worry, it's the same old bacon-loving me, I'm just embracing living in San Francisco and trying to learn as much as I can. Trust me, this sushi tastes just as good as the unsustainable alternative and doesn't even cost more than the quality stuff you're used to.
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.