Mike Winston’s Best Meals of 2015

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.

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Gracias Madre Serves Vegan Mexican That Even Meat-Eaters Will Love

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.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

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.

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Serious Sausage Sandwiches & Epic Meats at 4505 Butcher in the Mission

*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this butcher shop is no longer open.4505 Butcher Shop is a big deal in SF. Formerly an extremely popular farmers market stall, this brick-and-mortar shop functions primarily as a permanent place to purchase really high-quality meats for home use. But, beyond the gorgeous cuts of steak and other game meats sold, they also make a variety of awesome sausages and hot dogs in-house. In fact, I hear that's really how they made their name and became so popular.All of their hot dogs, sausages, and cuts of meat are made sustainably from animals raised locally in Northern California and come with a glowing reputation for being some of the very best butchery around. In fact, these days there are many bars and fine dining establishments that proudly serve 4505 bacon-studded hot dogs in a variety of fancy preparations.

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Pupusas Straight out of El Salvador with a Side of Fútbol at Balompié Cafe in the Mission

Down in the bustling primarily Mexican and hipster-filled Mission District, slightly off of the main drag is a nondescript El Salvadorian spot called Balompié Cafe. It doesn't exactly fit into either of the neighborhood's stereotypes because it's neither trendy nor Mexican.This El Salvadorian cafe is pretty no-frills and takes its fútbol seriously. Every one of the walls is covered in team flags and scarfs and yes, of course, the game is on every TV in the place. Yes, even when everyone is not in the midst of World Cup Fever. But at Balompié Cafe, they take their food even more seriously than their fútbol and has earned them quite the reputation for their rendition of the El Salvadorian specialties — pupusas.

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Awesome, My Mouth Went Numb at Lers Ros Thai in SF

DSC_3738_editI 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.

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