California Freshness at Rusty’s Southern in the Tenderloin

I always get really excited when new restaurants open, especially when they are close to enough to my home that they can easily become part of my regular dinner rotation. This particular new opening in the Tenderloin was only under a week old, but I couldn't help but find myself drawn to it. Rusty's Southern may be in a dicey part of town, but this spacious spot is serving up affordable, California-inspired takes on North and South Carolinan Southern classics. In a town desperately in need of more Southern food, what more could you ask for?

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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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Get Schooled in the Art of Mac & Cheese at Homeroom in Oakland

Who doesn't love Mac & Cheese? Just about every American has a sort of nostalgia towards it. I think there's just something about that dense, cheesy mess of noodles takes us right back to grade school and having Mom whip together a quick after-school snack.But now as an adult living in the Bay Area, I've figured out where everyone goes to relive those childhood memories in the form of boozy brunch. In the mostly residential Oakland neighborhood of Temescal, there's Homeroom – a super-casual schoolhouse themed spot whose name and decor only serve to further the emotional connection between the food and being a little kid.

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Goodbye NYC. Bucket List Part 1: Beauty & Essex

20140723_192939_editIf you didn't see it coming and haven't heard the big news yet, Amy and I are relocating from NYC to San Francisco. So, there's gonna be lots more West Coast eating and writing is on the horizon. But before making the move, we've had enough time for us each to pick one last date night spot to cross off of our NYC to-do lists. Amy's pick was the ever-trendy Lower East Side cool-kid hot spot Beauty & Essex and mine was the shall-we-say more meat-centric Peter Luger's Steakhouse which you can read about here.Beauty & Essex is about as trendy as restaurants get in NYC. It's actually as much a nightclub as it is a restaurant. It's the kind of place you get decked out to go to drink fancy cocktails and nibble on small plates next to models and the who's who of the NYC nightlife scene. You shouldn't be surprised if you find yourself seated near to a celebrity or two — if you can get in. If you're coming just for evening drinks, there's likely to be a line wrapped around the block. Amy knew this was where she wanted to go, so she booked a reservation well in advance, so we had no problem getting seated for dinner though getting inside the restaurant was a bit of an adventure in its own right.

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Come for the Hot Dogs, Stay for the Mac & Cheese at Dogmatic

DSC_2069_edit*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open.Along the Greenwich Village strip of MacDougal between Bleecker and 3rd Street, there is an extraordinary density of fast, cheap eateries and college-focused sports bars. This probably developed as a direct result of its proximity to the heart of NYU.Even with so many choices, I still always get excited when new additions arrive. For instance, this week I was treated to the opening of Dogmatic, a diminutive, pristine, bright white, glowing shop with a small and unique menu that recently relocated from the Union Square area. The menu consists mostly of hot dogs and hamburgers and claims to make "naturally good fast food".

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