What:Mazzola Bakery @MazzolaBakery A few blocks of the main Court Street drag of Cobble Hill is a tiny, jam-packed, take-out only, old-school sweet and savory baked goods shop called Mazzola Bakery. There's a huge variety of baked treats available, but I'll be honest, I've only ever had a single item from Mazzola, but it's sort of thing I dream about that I'll buy multiples extras of the bring back home on my flight.
Where:Cobble Hill / Carroll Gardens 192 Union St. Brooklyn, NY 11231 [wpgmza id="298"]
When:Seriously, I could be in the mood for this item literally any day – any time of day. I'd also like to mention that it's particularly good at soaking up a hangover. Just cross your fingers that they're not already sold out when you visit.
What:Panuchos Let's name all the Mexican dishes you're used to finding in restaurants. Tacos, burritos, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, flautas, tostadas, etc, etc, etc. I bet we could go on and on and on. But, how about a "panucho"? Ever heard of that? I certainly hadn't before this meal, but I'll get more into that later. Near the corner of Broadway and Columbus, right where Italian North Beach meet Chinese Chinatown, a brand new eatery recently opened. That's where a tiny shop that formally housed a divey Vietnamese restaurant called Vietnam was and where this Yucatan-region Mexican specialist, Panuchos, is now housed. In my observations, the clientele consists mostly of blue-collar Spanish-speaking workers in the area — which I take as a positive indicator of the authenticity of food made at the place. I guess you'll just have to read more to see.
Where:On the border of North Beach and Chinatown 620 Broadway San Francisco, CA 94133 [wpgmza id="295"]
When:Great for a solo lunch at the counter, take out, but probably even best for a late-night bite to soak up all of your boozy North Beach mistakes. They're open til 3 AM!
What:Two Sister's Bar and Books @2sistersbar The best cocktail spot in Hayes Valley also just so happens to serve up incredibly delicious bar bites.
Where:Hayes Valley 579 Hayes St. San Francisco, CA 94102 [wpgmza id="259"]
When:Perfect for whenever you need a quiet bar and a great cocktail. It's an ideal date night spot, works really well for brunch as well, and is excellent for solo dining/drinking too. Their happy hour is also an excellent deal. Don't miss out on that extra special value Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 pm and Saturday or Sunday from 1 to 4 pm where you can snag $3 draft beers, $5 house wines, a $5 happy hour cocktails, or a $5 happy hour snack.
What:Lord Stanley @Lordstanley_SF You can file this one under 'I just don't get it.' Despite the fact that Bauer and most SF reviewers absolutely adore this trendy Nordic date spot, I just can't seem to understand the effusive outpouring of positivity.
Where:Russian Hill / Polk Gulch 2065 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 [wpgmza id="269"]
When:It's definitely suited for an elegant date night, but don't expect extraordinarily exciting flavors.
What:NOLA @NOLARestaurant One of three Emeril-owned restaurants in his hometown of New Orleans. The menu is full of Cajun classics, with plenty of unique twists to keep things interesting.
Who:A first name is all he needs: Emeril. The dude is a legend and one of the major pioneers in food television. He has somehow managed to stay both very relevant and lovable over all of these many drastically different years.
Where:French Quarter 534 St. Louis St. New Orleans, LA 70130 [wpgmza id="288"]
When:Perfect for a cautious New Orleans first-timer's first foray into Cajun cuisine. The menu is quite accessible, but everything is still executed really really well. There's also plenty an experienced New Orleans eater can find to love at NOLA too.
What:State Bird Provisions @StateBirdSF This restaurant hardly needs an introduction. One of SF's hardest tables to land. Theyare famed for the way they embrace the dim sum system to serve creative New-Californian cuisine.
Who:The married chef-oweners, Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza, have both earned themselves a James Beard award as Best Chefs: West in 2015 for the restaurant among many other accolades.
Where:At the intersection of Japantown, Lower Pac Heights, and the Western Addition (aka NoPa) 1529 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA 94115 [wpgmza id="287"]
When:Perfect for a special occasion splurge or super-impressive date night dinner.
I absolutely love how full of super old school places the New Orleans high-end dining scene is. There are tons of these places that remain as popular, famous, and incredible as they were when they opened well over 100 years ago. But, of course, that's not all that New Orleans has to offer. There are plenty of young upstart chefs doing extremely innovative things, evolving the long-standing culinary traditions.
What:Mingalaba A very authentically prepared and reasonable priced Burmese food. Also, super-close (only a twelve-minute drive) from SFO.
Where:Downtown Burlingame 1213 Burlingame Ave. Burlingame, CA 94010 [wpgmza id="286"]
When:Elegant and stylish enough for a date night, but also casual enough for a cheap lunch in Burlingame. Also, if you've got a layover in SFO and want to get your Burmese fix, this is the place to go.
In the city of New Orleans, there are two contenders vying for the enviable title of most iconic sandwich. Sure, the Po' Boy gets a majority of the attention with its vast variety of fillings and multitude of shops specializing in the dish (which all claim to serve the very best). But, for my money (and belly), I'd argue that the Muffuletta should be the NOLA specialty sandwich torch bearer.