Off-Menu Offal Loaded Soup at Zen Yai in the Tenderloin

Offal-lovers, are you listening? Boy, have I got a dish for you.

If you’re like me, you probably really enjoy eating freaking unusual dishes. This dish I’ve got is definitely going to interest you. In the The Tenderloin, only a block or two from the other outstanding Thai restaurants I’ve already written about like Lers Ros Thai and Sai Jai Thai, I’ve found another place worth venturing through this crackhead-infested neighborhood to. This place is called Zen Yai and they have an off-menu dish I had been meaning to try that drew me in for a visit one morning.

You’d probably never even know to order this dish unless you had the ability read Thai or enjoy scraping the internet for food finds as much as I do. I can’t read Thai, but I did get word of this crazy dish somewhere and knew I had to see what all the fuss was about. I can’t even remember where I first heard about the dish, but one hungover day I was in the mood for soup and wanted to try something particularly funky and interesting. To be honest, I didn’t really even know anything about what I was ordering myself except that it involved plenty of offal. I was ready for the gastronomic adventure.

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Fresh Out Of The Fryer at Bob’s Donuts in Lower Nob Hill

By reputation, Bob’s Donuts is known for making the very best doughnuts in San Francisco. That’s a huge reputation to live up to and I’m lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on how you look at it) to live only one block from the place to be able to put it to the test. I already knew that late-night was the time to go because between 11 PM and 2 AM is when they make all of the doughnuts fresh for the next day’s batch. That’s also when all of us Polk Street drunkards are craving deep-fried doughnut sweetness.

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Sampling the Much-Hyped Black Seed Bagels at Mile End Delicatessen in NoHo

Like I’ve said before, one of the dishes I find myself missing the most living out in San Francisco is the simple New York staple of a bagel with lox. I haven’t quite found myself a viable replacement yet, so when I find myself back in New York I know 100% of the time I’m going to venture out to get my fix.

In the time since I’ve left the city, there seems to have been a resurgence and revitalization of Jewish comfort food in NYC with placed like Baz Bagels and Black Seed popping up and Russ & Daughters expanding into a full sit-down cafe. After reading much about the now famed Montreal-style bagels being baked at Nolita’s Black Seed Bagels, I knew I had to give them a shot. The write-ups often fall at polarized ends of the spectrum with those in the negative camp often harping on the lines, cost, portion, and quality so I was excited to check them out for myself to make my own judgements. Instead of wandering down to Nolita where Black Seed’s main shop lives, I decided to head to Chef Noah Bernamoff’s closer-to-home Canadian sister restaurant Mile End in NoHo – where I had heard Black Seed bagels were also being served.

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An Authentically Laid Back, Under-the-Radar Italian Cafe in SoHo

Bar Ciccio is the kind of place you could walk by a million times and never notice. It’s located on a strip of 6th Avenue that gets ridiculously minimal intentional foot traffic and the shop front is so understated that you probably wouldn’t even realize it’s open for business. In fact, the place is completely subterranean and is located down a flight of stairs frequently obscured by scaffolding, but to miss this truly authentic Italian joint would be a big mistake.

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Epic Deep-Fried Sandwiching at Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What?

No, really. That’s the name of the place: Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What? We were wandering around the South Congress Austin neighborhood popping into awesome places like Allens Boots, Uncommon Objects, and Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds. While walking further down the strip we found ourselves up getting hollered at by a food vendor who successfully sucked into a lot full of food trailers including his own – the aggressively named Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What?

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On the Hunt for XLB & Hand-Pulled Noodles at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset

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.

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Rekindling My Long Lost Love at Tompkins Square Bagels

A few years back, I was living in the East Village and Alphabet City area and was truly disappointed and amazed to find that that section of the city was utterly and hopelessly bagel-less. What a travesty! I was forced to trek the ten blocks north all the way up to Gramercy to get a decent bagel. Obviously that doesn’t sound like a hell of a lot of distance these days compared to my current bagel trekking situation on the West Coast, but back then that seemed like an extraordinary hike for a simple bagel in New York.

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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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