Break out the confetti and champagne!! It's a perfect ten! Chef Chris Cosentino knows exactly how to work his way into that soft spot in my heart. All it took was a few of his crazy, funky, zany, inventive, and downright delicious over-the-top meat-filled culinary creations. Yes, that's right — I'm giving this place my first and only flawless 10/10 review, so buckle up for a long one as I explain why I'm so obsessed. You may know of Chris from his many stints on food TV, but I've found myself uncontrollably drawn to him because he cooks only the kind of food that he wants to eat. With his cooking, there's no remorse for pushing people's palettes to the edge of fear. Fear? Yeah, most of his food utilizes all of the delicious miscellaneous organs and obscure cuts of meat that many other chefs won't even dare to work with that most people don't ordinarily choose to consume — frequently involving complete nose-to-tail dishes. Fortunately for me, I share his love for well-prepared organ meats.
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.
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.
I feel like it's a good idea to always have at least one great date night spot in every neighborhood. San Francisco's Financial District is pretty quiet at night compared to the rest of the city, so it isn't always too easy to find a great place to serve this purpose. One night I was in the area looking for a nice place to take Amy to and I stumbled upon Salt House which I seemed like it might very well fit the evening's bill.
*Editor's Note 1/2/17: I'm sad to report that this eatery is no longer open. If the divey dinner aesthetic of Han's represents the "Tenderloin" part of the Tendernob neighborhood, then Sweet Woodruff would represent the "Nob Hill" portion. Only one block away from Han's but a world of difference away in vibe you'll find a completely opposite brunching experience with a much more trendy and modern take on the meal.
Last December, on a two-day trip to New Orleans, I had one of the most incredible meals of my life at Cochon Restaurant. We indulged in a variety of amazing specialties like Fried Alligator, Fried Boudin, Rabbit & Dumplings, Sweet Potato & Hog Jowl Casserole, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. After spending two days in rural Opelousas, Amy and I drove to New Orleans for a 24-hour stopover and made sure to have a reservation to return to Cochon for another insane meal. Located in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, only about a 15 minute walk south of the chaos of the French Quarter, Cochon, helmed by executive chef Donald Link, serves up mighty fine, upscale takes on hearty, Southern and Cajun cuisine. Whether you're in town for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, or for no particular reason at all, I urge you to make Cochon one of your dining destinations.
Like I said in my previous post at Palace Cafe, a friend’s wedding brought me to the literal middle of nowhere Opelousas, Louisiana. As it often occurs at weddings, many drinks were drunk which led an absurdly hungover morning. Before hitting the road to embark on a two hour drive to New Orleans, we knew needed some comfort in the form of a hearty, greasy fried food-filled meal. A quick search of the Opelousas area led me to discover a little shop called Kelly’s Country Meat Block & Diner, more commonly referred to as Kelly’s Diner.
Delicatessen is a really interesting place. Located in the heart of Nolita, it's definitely a scene. You know, the kind of place where the cool people hang out. The ground floor is a nice, spacious, sunlit restaurant known for its classic American comfort foods like mac & cheese and burgers. These qualities also make it a very popular brunch destination. On top of all of this, the basement below Delicatessen is a sort of loungey nightclub that regularly fills up with models and the rest of the cool crowd. In general I try to avoid popular, sceney places like this, but I've found the food and experience at Delicatessen is great every time. They serve really good, quality food in a casual atmosphere without any of the pretension you might expect. They serve nice cocktails, have a good wine list, and serve big, hearty dishes making it a great spot for a date night or a meal out with the family.
*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open. On this hungover Sunday morning, we were deciding where to meet up with my parents for brunch. I'm pretty particular about brunch since I don't like waiting in lines and don't want ordinary breakfast food I could make myself at home for a quarter of the price. After some quick thinking, Amy and I remembered the excellent dinner we previously had at Fatty 'Cue and figured their Asian inflected menu would probably serve as a excellent and interesting brunch spot.
I'm gonna let you in on one of New York's best-hidden secrets. Located in the NoHo area, there's an unmarked, members-only restaurant that doesn't even list its phone number publicly. Even if you can manage to get your hands on Bohemian's phone number you'll still need a referral to land a reservation. Seriously, when I called, the first question I was confronted with was "How did you get this number?" However, once you've breached their defenses and joined the ranks of their inner circle, you'll be treated to one of the most interesting, sexy, refined meals you can find in NYC.