I love that we live in a time where the modest and familiar burger is treated with the same skill and care as a seared duck breast or other fancy-sounding entrée. These impressive creations are no longer haphazardly assembled by slapping together unwanted scraps and trimmings and are no longer regarded just as greasy pub food. These burgers come a pedigree. Brilliant chefs now utilize custom butcher blends of meat and have truly mastered the art of balancing and enhancing those bold, rich, cheesy flavors while still retaining the burger's undeniably attractive gutbomb essence. These cherished burgers have now become a highlighted menu staple at most high-end restaurants and while many claim to serve the best in San Francisco, I think the title belongs safely to the one I've had at Stones Throw.
Unless you live in the Los Altos hills, I'm not sure why else anyone would drive out of their way to go there. It's certainly a cute little town with its own downtown main drag and array of restaurants, but it's definitely an out of the way trek from pretty much everywhere and there are similar downtowns all around Silicon Valley. But, one day at lunch a particular craving struck that I only knew how to fix at a single place. The craving? Oyako-Don. The place? Sumika.
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.
We showed up to this crappy little Silicon Valley strip mall in Santa Clara on a Tuesday at 11:30 AM on a lunchtime mission. Sure enough there was already a congregation of hungry and anxiously waiting patrons lined up out the door frothing at the mouth. But, I pushed my way to the front of the waiting room and successfully added my name on the handwritten list for my group of four. Why would I endure this kind of brutality on my lunch break? For ramen, of course – reputedly the best the Bay Area has to offer at that. Orenchi Ramen's reputation clearly preceded itself, but I was ready to experience it for myself.
As a recent transplant from NYC to San Francisco with plenty of reasons to be back in NYC often, JetBlue's brand new Mint service definitely had my attention right out the gate. It's a premium service flight offered only between New York JFK and San Francisco SFO or JFK and Los Angeles LAX. Considering that most of my family is still in the New York area (and I frequently need to fly between SFO and JFK), it feels almost as if this service was designed specifically for me.
After a full rush-hour traffic-filled hour and fifteen minute drive from Sunnyvale to San Francisco, I learned that the apartment I was driving into the city to see had fallen through. I was in a part of San Francisco that I knew nothing about and had no reason to suffer through more traffic to go deeper into San Francisco proper. So, I pulled off the highway and pulled up my trusty mobile resource, Foursquare to what else — find a solid meal nearby. I soon learned that I was in the quaint SF outskirts in a neighborhood known as West Portal and was presented with a really highly-rated Greek restaurant called Orexi topping my personalized recommendations. Perfect, Greek it'll be. Despite the crappy drive/apartment-hunt situation, I was determined to turn these lemons into lemonade, or shall we say grapes into fine Greek wine.
Hell's Kitchen, well not really. That chunk of New York City on 9th Ave. between 34th and 42nd tucked away behind Penn Station and Port Authority. It remains one of the seediest corners of the city even after the much publicized Giuliani and Bloomberg crackdowns on the lesser loved aspects of NYC. It's not often that I find myself in that god-forsaken corner of town, but since I was there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the ramen and other Japanese pub food at the nearby Tabata Ramen outpost.
Cioppino. Say it with me: CHEE-oh-PEE-no. Just as I was, you're probably wondering what on earth that could be. I really don't know how it happened, but somehow I had been blissfully unaware of this San Franciscan specialty until a friend insisted we go to Sotto Mare in San Francisco's Little Italy, North Beach. He had been before and desperately wanted to once again experience the local dish that he'd been dreaming of since he first tasted it a few years prior.
OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been having a tough time finding great restaurants over these weeks I’ve been spending in Silicon Valley. I’ve found a few gems that I’ll be sharing with you all soon, but it ain’t easy. However, there are a couple densely populated ‘downtowns' that help when hunting and downtown Palo Alto is one such example. Stanford University is located in Palo Alto, so there’s an actual restaurant row like you often find in college towns. After asking a local Palo Alto-based friend for dinner advise and receiving a glowing recommendation, we ended up at an upscale Greek restaurant called Evvia Estiatorio. It’s hard to pass on a claim that Evvia is the best restaurant in Palo Alto so our group of six headed there on a Monday evening to check it out for ourselves.