There was still a full coat of morning dew on every windshield I walked by. The sun had barely risen, but I was already awake, out of bed, and standing…
By reputation, Bob's Donuts is known for making the very best doughnuts in San Francisco. That's a huge reputation to live up to and I'm lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on how you look at it) to live only one block from the place to be able to put it to the test. I already knew that late-night was the time to go because between 11 PM and 2 AM is when they make all of the doughnuts fresh for the next day's batch. That's also when all of us Polk Street drunkards are craving deep-fried doughnut sweetness.
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.
A Hanukkah miracle has occurred. I walked by Swan Oyster Depot when I was going out for lunch AND THERE WAS NO LINE. That just doesn't happen. I walked right up and grabbed a seat at the bar. Now, it's not often I write a post about just a single dish, and it's even less often I write about a place twice, but everything is so freaking incredible at Swan Oyster Depot that I just had to. This time, there was just one dish on my mind – not something listed on the giant menu overhead – something I saw Anthony Bourdain eating on the San Francisco episode of The Layover – a dish simply called Crab Fat.
Who would be surprised to hear that this New York Jew loves bagels and lox? No one? OK. There are plenty of foods that I can now have in San Francisco that I could never get my hands on before in NY. And in fact there are many food that I could get in NY that are done so much better in SF. But, there are still a few dishes that I find myself truly homesick for that I can't seem to replace. Topping that list – a quality bagel with cream cheese and lox. By reputation, I didn't expect much from San Francisco bagel shops. In fact, I figured they'd be pretty abysmal based on the things I had read online. But, one day I woke up particularly hungover with an uncontrollable urge to crush a bagel with lox. On this day, nothing was going to stop me from embarking on this quest despite the fact that I knew it would likely disappoint me. So I headed six blocks north on Polk St. to my best nearby bet – a place called The Bagelry.
I think it's about time I gave Aliment its much deserved due. Since that very first weekend away from New York in San Francisco over six months ago, Aliment has proven to be a reliable go-to restaurant when I'm in need of an excellent meal in the Union Square/Nob Hill area. Before this visit, I had only been to Aliment for brunch, but I was so impressed by every single dish I ate on every single visit that when I was in need of a last minute Saturday night table for four in the 'hood, I was confident that Aliment would be able to deliver. Somehow, despite how great this place has consistently proven itself to be, it continues to remain off the radar for most San Franciscans.
What the hell is wrong with you San Francisco? 9 AM, really? There's really a massive brunch crowd with a line out the door at 9 AM? I was convinced that for once we were up early enough to beat the brunch rush at the perpetually swamped Nob Hill breakfast and lunch only joint Mymy, but no.
Ah yes, the world famous Swan Oyster Depot. This 100-year-old Lower Nob Hill institution is certainly one of the more famous San Francisco eateries and I'm lucky enough to live on the same block as this revered bastion of seafood. With a place so good, so close by you'd probably expect to find me there on a weekly basis, but there's two things that constantly hold me back – open for lunch and there's constantly tourists lined up out the door. Literally every single time I've walked by this lunch-only hot spot – between their opening at 10:30 AM and their closing at 5:30 PM – there has been a substantial line to contend with. This is a very discouraging sight for someone like myself who absolutely refuses to wait in lines for anything, no matter how amazing the results may be.
This is exactly the kind of hidden-in-plain-sight hole-in-the-wall I live to discover. Just a half block off the main Polk Street drag you'll find a tiny little rather unimpressive looking shop with a bright blue awning that reads "Cordon Bleu". No, it's not a French restaurant as I first assumed based on the name. It's actually a long-standing, super low-key Vietnamese joint that's been in this location for many decades but still manages to slip below most people's radars undetected.
As a recently departed New York Jew on his way to San Francisco, one of my biggest concerns about the relocation was the ease of access to quality Jewish deli meat. I kid you not, I was really worried. I'm happy to report that this is no longer a concern for me as I've found Miller's East Coast only a few blocks from my new San Francisco apartment and it is able to completely fill that gaping void in my life.