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: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.
Yes, I know this year-end list is beyond belated. Actually, I'm probably over a month late. Normally, I'm not one to make these kinds of excuses, but my life has been pretty hectic lately. As you may or may not know, I'm getting married in a couple of months, so my time has recently come at an extreme premium and I haven't been able to commit as much attention as I'd like to this little
publication obsession. With that being said, over the next couple of months, I'll be playing around with post style and formatting a bit in an attempt to find new ways to rapidly pump out awesome food articles with fewer publishing limitations on my end. Please feel free to give me feedback on the new content — I'm planning to review this little experiment in a few months and we can take it from there.
Shanghai Bun is not a place that I can judge fairly. It's only about an eight minute drive from the house I grew up in and was a quintessential part of my culinary obsession's growth during my high school years. The small shop's name is a cue to their most popular dish – a dish that goes by many names. This dish was at the time completely foreign and unfamiliar to me, but quickly became the focus of my ever-growing need to find the best version around. Before my friend introduced me to Shanghai Bun, I had never before had the pleasure of trying freshly steamed Xiao Long Bao (aka soup dumplings, steamed pork buns, tiny steamed buns, Shanghai dumplings, juicy buns, and more). But, all it took was one time – my soup dumpling addiction was triggered and I never looked back.
If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
*Editor's Note 1/6/16: This J-Town location of Ramen Underground has unfortunately shuttered, but their Financial District location still remains open. I, like most food lovers over the past five years, have become obsessed with big, authentic bowls of ramen noodle soup. In my nationwide explorations, I've come across an extremely wide variety in terms of style and quality, but for some reason I have been struggling to find a great, comforting bowl in San Francisco. I've had a number of satisfactory bowls, but I was convinced that if I looked hard enough, I was going to find an outstanding version. For a city so close to Japan and the rest of Asian, I was finding it hard to believe that it would be so difficult to find – especially because I had already found perfection in Silicon Valley of all places.
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.
That naughty V word. You know the one I'm talking about. No, not that one you perv. I'm talking about "Vegan". I don't think it would come as any surprise to any of my readers that I'm pretty obsessed with meat. All types of meat. And to be honest, I usually don't consider a meal complete without the inclusion of some sort of meat. But, a situation recently arose that gave me the perfect excuse and opportunity to check out a completely vegan restaurant that I actually had interest in trying. Amy's vegan and gluten-free cousin was staying with us in SF and it was my task to find suitable places to eat that we could all enjoy. I had heard wonderful things about the Mission vegan Mexican spot named Gracias Madre so I figured that it had the greatest shot at solving our puzzle. Seriously though, people love this restaurant. By reputation, it's the kind of place that people claim will make meat-eaters completely forget that everything they are eating is even vegan. That's a tall order – I'll see about that. I'll put that crazy claim up to the ultimate test – me.