God, I hate walking through this part of town. How the hell did I even end up in the Tenderloin? Well, it was a Saturday afternoon and I knew I was in the mood for some raw seafood. I considered getting sushi and thought about stopping into Swan Oyster Depot, but the line was already way too long. But still, I had another idea that was close by and had a raw seafood dish I had been meaning to try since I first landed in SF.
So, I'm back on my quest to find all of the comfort foods I used to rely on in NYC in the Bay Area. This journey's mission: Soup Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao and Hand-Pulled Noodles. I'd heard great things about the cheap, authentic, Bourdain-approved Chinese food at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset so one hungover Sunday morning when that particular craving struck, I hoped in my car and headed over to check it out.
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.
Just because I moved away from NYC doesn't mean I still don't have a few more gems tucked away to tell you all about. One of my more frequented go-to date night spots from my New York days is a tiny Portuguese restaurant located on the western edge of SoHo serving homey, upscale, and unusual food in a cozy, window-lined space that faces out onto the quiet, infrequently trafficked streets. I think Pao! still remains off-the-radar for most people and prior to Union Bar & Kitchen opening, it really was the only viable date night option in the area.
I might be a little sadistic when it comes to spicy foods. I love consuming them, but I also love watching my friends squirm eating them. Among the many spicy cuisines out there, I'm particularly fond of authentically hot Thai food, although my body usually disagrees with that decision within a few hours of the meal. In NYC, I've often found it hard to find Thai restaurants outside of Queens that will take a white guy seriously with regards to flavors and spice levels. I often find myself let down by the mild and watered down dishes served to me and if I really want it made right, I have to be very insistent that I know what I'm getting myself into. This is definitely not the case at the San Francisco mini-chain Lers Ros Thai. Everything on their menu is very authentically prepared, spice level included.
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.
Located only one block from Stanford's the restaurant-lined Palo Alto main drag, University Avenue, you will find an unassuming Italian restaurant called Vero. With its tall, vaulted, wood beamed ceiling, candlelit dining room, and open kitchen, it’s quite an inviting restaurant to spot passing by. Though most guests were dining inside, we opted for one of their outdoor seats to take advantage of the miraculously warm early-March Californian weather.
I want to share one of the most fun, excessive, over-the-top meals I've recently had with you all. On the northern edge of the East Village on 1st Ave. at 13th St. there's a cool, newish place called Jeepney. You won't be able to miss the gigantic, bold, yellow signage. Jeepney is a self-described Filipino gastropub that serves hearty Filipino specialties alongside Southeast Asian inflected cocktails. Jeepney is owned by the Maharlika guys and has the same hip, cool vibe as the sit-down spot. I've gotta warn you though, the hip decor at Jeepney isn't exactly Safe For Work. On this particular Thursday evening, Amy and I were accompanied to dinner by two of my close friends from Foodspotting, Meng and Dr. Klein. We had all heard great things about a special feast at Jeepney served every Thursday (and has subsequently expanded into Wednesdays too) by reservation only called Kamayan (kuh-MY-uhn) Night. We were all very excited to check it out. Before arriving that night, I had no idea what I was getting myself into except that there was going to be a massive amount of Filipino food that we would be eating it with our hands!
This vacation couldn't have come at a better time. As the entire country fell into a below-zero deep freeze, I was headed for some sun and heat in Turks & Caicos with my girlfriend Amy and her family.