An Old World Italian Meatball Sandwich Diamond in the North Beach Rough

Nestled amongst the many Fauxtalian sidewalk cafes clustered in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, I have managed to find one authentic, non-touristy spot that’s actually worthy of your time and money – Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. Despite the shop’s name, it actually doesn’t have anything to do with cigars. They say it’s just more of a nod to a time when food was prepared fresh every day, the kind of simple, old fashioned Italian food you can still experience at Mario’s.

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Where to Find the Best Israeli Hummus in the Bay Area

When I was living in New York, I used to eat falafel sandwiches, hummus, and other Middle Eastern specialties A LOT. It was one of those cheap things that I could grab on nearly every corner and still manage to convince myself that I was actually eating healthy. This thought was probably completely false since falafel balls are deep fried and pita bread is super-carb heavy, but it still had to be better than the fast-cheap alternative. Looking back, I realize that I must have been pretty naïve thinking that great, cheap falafel shops could be found every, even outside of New York. But, upon moving out west, I had to face the harsh realization that in California I no longer had easy access to great Middle Eastern food. I am happy to announce, however, that I have actually found a place in the Bay Area that up to my high standards and has proven itself as a more than suitable place to get my fix – Oren’s Hummus Shop.

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Magnificent, Modern Southern Cuisine at Odd Duck in Austin

Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore‘s also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both.

The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer’s touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.

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Date Night with Fancy, Open-Faced Sandwiches at Tartinery in Nolita

I’d never thought to go to Tartinery in Nolita before, but I’ll be damned if that place wasn’t an absolutely perfect spot for an impressive first date. You wouldn’t know it from the street, but inside the understated exterior of this restaurant there’s an incredibly sexy, well-thought-out, subterranean dining room with large vaulted ceilings with exposed brick walls accented by lots of black iron and flickering candle lights. It’s a really incredible space and if you’re looking to put the vibe in the air, this place is perfect for that.

The menu is also great for two people getting to know each other. It features a vast array of French-inspired open-faced sandwiches known as tartines. And there’s a wide selection of very accessible toppings offered – so you know that picky eater Tinder first date is going to be able to find something they can eat – yes, even vegetarians.

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Eating a Whole Dungeness Crab Head at Swan Oyster Depot

A Hanukkah miracle has occurred. I walked by Swan Oyster Depot when I was going out for lunch AND THERE WAS NO LINE. That just doesn’t happen. I walked right up and grabbed a seat at the bar.

Now, it’s not often I write a post about just a single dish, and it’s even less often I write about a place twice, but everything is so freaking incredible at Swan Oyster Depot that I just had to. This time, there was just one dish on my mind – not something listed on the giant menu overhead – something I saw Anthony Bourdain eating on the San Francisco episode of The Layover – a dish simply called Crab Fat.

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Elizabeth St. Cafe is a Completely Adorable French-Vietnamese Breakfast Spot in Austin

Austin, Texas is loaded with plenty of epic eating. Even breakfast – dominated by massive egg-filled breakfast tacos – is out of control awesome. But, for the most part, breakfast is limited to fast-casual options. So, if you want something sit-down and just a bit more formal, you’ve got to look a little bit harder. While I was in town looking for a nice, relaxed breakfast, we got a recommendation to head to a nearby spot called Elizabeth St. Cafe to get our fix.

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Simply Spectacular Fresh Seafood at Swan Oyster Depot in Lower Nob Hill

Ah yes, the world famous Swan Oyster Depot. This 100-year-old Lower Nob Hill institution is certainly one of the more famous San Francisco eateries and I’m lucky enough to live on the same block as this revered bastion of seafood. With a place so good, so close by you’d probably expect to find me there on a weekly basis, but there’s two things that constantly hold me back – open for lunch and there’s constantly tourists lined up out the door.

Literally every single time I’ve walked by this lunch-only hot spot – between their opening at 10:30 AM and their closing at 5:30 PM – there has been a substantial line to contend with. This is a very discouraging sight for someone like myself who absolutely refuses to wait in lines for anything, no matter how amazing the results may be.

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Vibrant, Destination-Worthy, Vegetarian-Friendly Burmese at Rangoon Ruby in Palo Alto

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A mere three days after my first Burmese food experience in San Francisco, I found myself in Palo Alto face-to-face somehow with another Burmese restaurant. Odd, I thought, considering I had never come across Burmese food anywhere else in the US before. But a quick bit of research informed me that the original chef from the famed Burma Superstar I had recently visited had defected a few years back to open his own Burmese restaurant in the heart of Palo Alto called Rangoon Ruby. I wasn’t gonna ask any more questions because I had already become quite obsessed with the healthy-ish, but still super-flavorful Burmese specialties and was excited for more opportunities to explore the cuisine while I was staying in town.

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Fast, Cheap, Flavorful, No-Frills Indian at Shah in Sunnyvale

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Finding a good, satisfying, filling meal in Sunnyvale is always a challenge. I’ve proven before that it can be done if your looking for a sandwich, greasy bar food, Japanese, or Korean food. Hell, I’ve already had some pretty darn good Indian food in Sunnyvale before, but I thought that place was a little hit-or-miss and was still on the lookout for a bit more consistency. A little bit of web research brought my attention to Shah, a highly rated spot on El Camino Real, though I definitely didn’t realize the dining experience was going to be as bare bones as it was.

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Sangria, Cured Meats, Other Spanish Imports at 100 Montaditos in Greenwich Village

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This story begins four years ago. Just after graduating from college I took a month-long backpacking trip around a number of European cities. One of the many stops was in Madrid and on that leg of the trip, my buddy Evan and I stopped for a budget-friendly tapas and beer-filled lunch at the now shuttered outdoor Plaza Santa Ana location of 100 Montaditos. Seeing as we were traveling on the cheap, their dollar beers and mini sandwiches known as montaditos were a perfect fit for us. And would you look at that, I even managed to scrounge up some old photos from that first trip.

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