There I was, seated inside of a gold-painted shipping container, face-to-face with a live-streaming 23-year-old girl in Havana. What in the world should we talk about? First, names. Then I…
If I were to tell you about a trendy, hipstery pizza place in Texas serving authentic and innovative Neapolitan-style pies, what city do you think it would be in? I bet your first guess would be Austin, but I'm here to show you that this kind of awesomeness can also be found in the extremely underrated Dallas dining scene if you know where to look. The place I'm specifically talking about is located in the Deep Ellum neighborhood, which is basically the Williamsburg of Dallas. It has a thriving live music scene, loads of dive bars, and plenty of interesting casual dining options to explore.
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.
Let me say this up front – I truly do LOVE garlic. But, I still wasn't really sure what to expect from a place that prides itself on being a "garlic restaurant". The Stinking Rose and their garlic-focused menu are very famous – famous enough that I had heard about them long before moving to San Francisco. I knew that pretty much every item on the menu was going to involve garlic, I was just hoping they'd be able to transform and highlight the featured ingredient in interesting and delicious ways. I really wasn't sure if this place was actually going to be good or if the garlic thing was all gimmick and schtick. All I knew for sure was that I had to check it out for myself.
With a name like Vikings Giant Subs, I was ready to be utterly blown away by massive sandwich portions. This sub shop has with a very positive reputation that it's built over the past 15 years and I was excited to figure out if it could fill the Meatball Parm void moving from NYC to SF left in my life. On a daily basis, I find myself missing New York's Alleva and their absolutely perfect Meatball Parm so I've been on a constant hunt for its replacement.
As an ex-New Yorker now living on the West Coast, I've been trained to go to Italian eateries with low expectations, particularly if they claim to specialize in pizza. I know I've been spoiled by the ease of access to the very best pizza slices in the country, but I've already learned that you can in fact find great pizza in the Bay Area in square slice and Brooklyn-style neapolitan form. Still, I didn't expect much from Palo Alto's Pizzeria Delfina despite its very positive reputation.
It's not always easy to find quality restaurants in Silicon Valley, but Mountain View has proven time and time and time again that there's some really excellent places to eat and drink on their main downtown drag. There are not many restaurants that I have loved enough to eat at multiple times out here, but Scratch has sort of become my go-to, not-sure-what-I'm-in-the-mood-for dinner and drinks spot.
One week a year (well really 10 days but who's counting), Mulberry street transforms into a perpetual street fair to celebrate Italian culture and cuisine at The Feast of San Gennaro. I usually stumble my way over there to check out the madness and this year is no different. With a number of coworkers in tow, I head over on a leisurely Thursday, lunchtime stroll. The fair runs the entire seven block span from Canal Street to Houston Street up Mulberry. The usually vehicle-friendly street is turned into a pedestrian-only walkway with most of the restaurants installing al fresco dining areas in the street in front of their shops.