Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

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.

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Load Up with Huge Platters of Puerto Rican Meats at Sol Food in San Rafael

I absolutely love Puerto Rican food. To be fair, Dominican and Cuban food hit the same spot for me, but whichever nationality cuisine it is, as long as there's heaping portions of roasted meat over rice and beans, I'm gonna be a happy camper.One day, on a drive about a half hour north of San Francisco to the quaint and sunny town of San Rafael, Amy stumbled upon some serious Puerto Rican food at a place called Sol Food. Amy was so blown away by the food that only two weeks later she felt compelled to drive me up there to see for myself.

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Authentic, Hidden Peruvian Cuisine at La Fina Estampa in the Polk Gulch

Now that I've moved to San Francisco, I've got a whole host of restaurants to explore in my new neighborhood. There are plenty of obvious eye-catching eateries on the main Polk Street drag, but there was just something about that unremarkable and completely illegible awning that caught both of our eyes while walking down one the side streets. It was getting close to dinner time and we weren't sure what we felt like having for dinner, so we decided to venture inside and try out this mysterious Latin American spot we knew absolutely nothing about.

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Pupusas Straight out of El Salvador with a Side of Fútbol at Balompié Cafe in the Mission

Down in the bustling primarily Mexican and hipster-filled Mission District, slightly off of the main drag is a nondescript El Salvadorian spot called Balompié Cafe. It doesn't exactly fit into either of the neighborhood's stereotypes because it's neither trendy nor Mexican.This El Salvadorian cafe is pretty no-frills and takes its fútbol seriously. Every one of the walls is covered in team flags and scarfs and yes, of course, the game is on every TV in the place. Yes, even when everyone is not in the midst of World Cup Fever. But at Balompié Cafe, they take their food even more seriously than their fútbol and has earned them quite the reputation for their rendition of the El Salvadorian specialties — pupusas.

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Fútbol & Foreign Food Truck Frenzy at SoMa StrEat Food

20140704_152816_editIf you're looking to watch the World Cup in San Francisco you've certainly got plenty of options. In my mind, the most obvious two would be at home if you want to watch alone or at a sports bar if you want to watch in public. But if you're looking for something a little different and also want a variety of unique food options and even more importantly want to be outdoors, read on!In the shadow of both a highway and a gigantic Costco, in a remote corner of town that could barely still be called SoMa, there's a really incredible place worth trekking to called SoMa StrEat Food. It's a large, triangular outdoor lot that draws plenty of young, hip yuppies for food, drink, and various forms of entertainment.

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Great Global Tapas with a Latin American Edge at Cascal in Mountain View

I've said it before, I'll say it again. It ain't easy finding great restaurants out in Silicon Valley, but they do exist if you look hard enough. Downtown Mountain View has proven over and over again that it's loaded with great spots and the Latin inspired tapas joint Cascal is no exception. Buckle up, this is gonna be a long one. But I guess that's bound to happen when you dine tapas style as a party of eight. I'll try to keep my commentary concise because honestly all of the food was really awesome.

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Drink Your Face Off with Bottomless Cocktails & Latin Brunch at Yerba Buena in Greenwich Village

DSC_3869_editNew Yorkers fucking love brunch. Not only do New Yorkers love brunch, but they love to drink cocktails aggressively while they're at it. It's a quintessential part of NY culture, to go out partying 'til 4 AM, wake up disturbingly hungover the next morning afternoon and rely on the old hair of the dog trick to get through the torturous pain that comes with a brutal hangover. And that's why All You Can Drink brunch was born, to solve this distinctly New York-y problem, but not all AYCD brunch spots are alike.Some brunches are super expensive, others have mediocre-to-poor food, others have crappy generic cocktails, and others are just too damn crowded to tolerate. When I'm in the mood for an awesomely excessive AYCD brunch, my go-to is Yerba Buena on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.

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