A Perfect Day of Eating & Wine Tasting Across Paso Robles

To celebrate my lovely girlfriend Amy’s redacted birthday, we planned a glorious weekend getaway to the Paso Robles wine country. We had heard excellent things about the remote region’s beauty and density of high-quality wineries so it seemed like a great way to spend a couple of days and the perfect way to mark the occasion.

On the Friday of her birthday weekend, Amy drove down from San Francisco to pick me up from work in Sunnyvale before we headed off into the beautiful, winding, south-of-SF countryside only to stop quickly in Moss Landing for dinner before reaching Paso Robles at around 11 PM.

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Simple, Satisfying Date Night Fare at Salt House in the Financial District

I feel like it’s a good idea to always have at least one great date night spot in every neighborhood. San Francisco’s Financial District is pretty quiet at night compared to the rest of the city, so it isn’t always too easy to find a great place to serve this purpose. One night I was in the area looking for a nice place to take Amy to and I stumbled upon Salt House which I seemed like it might very well fit the evening’s bill.

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Get Schooled in the Art of Mac & Cheese at Homeroom in Oakland

Who doesn’t love Mac & Cheese? Just about every American has a sort of nostalgia towards it. I think there’s just something about that dense, cheesy mess of noodles takes us right back to grade school and having Mom whip together a quick after-school snack.

But now as an adult living in the Bay Area, I’ve figured out where everyone goes to relive those childhood memories in the form of boozy brunch. In the mostly residential Oakland neighborhood of Temescal, there’s Homeroom – a super-casual schoolhouse themed spot whose name and decor only serve to further the emotional connection between the food and being a little kid.

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Cheap, Legit Mexican Food from a Liquor Store in The Tenderloin

Is it a liquor store? Is it a taqueria? Well… Los Hermanos Taqueria is both and it’s actually also a convenience store, grocery, and butcher as well.

This strange place is situated right in the middle of the bad part of the Tenderloin and it’s about as unassuming as eateries get. But the hand painted signage, complete with a handful of Spanish speaking Mexican clientele and mariachi music drew me in. And I knew I had to eat Mexican food in a liquor store at the very least for the story.

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Everyone Seems to Love Starbelly Except Me

Starbelly is generally regarded as the best restaurant in The Castro so I definitely went into this meal with high expectations. People rave about this place and their renditions of Californian farm-to-table local organic comfort food. I certainly haven’t dined in the Castro enough to be able to confirm or deny if it really is the best restaurant in the neighborhood, but I knew I definitely had to check it out for myself.

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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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Grab Breakfast at The Dipsea Cafe on Your Way to See the Redwoods

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Ever since I was seven years old playing Crusin’ USA on Nintendo 64, I’ve wanted to see the gigantic Californian Redwood trees in person. Finally, almost 20 years later, now that I’ve moved from NYC to San Francisco, I easily have the ability to go to them whenever the urge strikes. All it takes is a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to the North Bay followed by a truly treacherous, narrow, winding, fog-shrouded, mountainside drive up to Muir Woods.

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Goodbye NYC. Bucket List Part 1: Beauty & Essex

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If you didn’t see it coming and haven’t heard the big news yet, Amy and I are relocating from NYC to San Francisco. So, there’s gonna be lots more West Coast eating and writing is on the horizon. But before making the move, we’ve had enough time for us each to pick one last date night spot to cross off of our NYC to-do lists. Amy’s pick was the ever-trendy Lower East Side cool-kid hot spot Beauty & Essex and mine was the shall-we-say more meat-centric Peter Luger’s Steakhouse which you can read about here.

Beauty & Essex is about as trendy as restaurants get in NYC. It’s actually as much a nightclub as it is a restaurant. It’s the kind of place you get decked out to go to drink fancy cocktails and nibble on small plates next to models and the who’s who of the NYC nightlife scene. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself seated near to a celebrity or two — if you can get in. If you’re coming just for evening drinks, there’s likely to be a line wrapped around the block. Amy knew this was where she wanted to go, so she booked a reservation well in advance, so we had no problem getting seated for dinner though getting inside the restaurant was a bit of an adventure in its own right.

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Impeccable Modern American Cuisine at Scratch in Mountain View

It’s not always easy to find quality restaurants in Silicon Valley, but Mountain View has proven time and time and time again that there’s some really excellent places to eat and drink on their main downtown drag. There are not many restaurants that I have loved enough to eat at multiple times out here, but Scratch has sort of become my go-to, not-sure-what-I’m-in-the-mood-for dinner and drinks spot.

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Michael Goes West (Texas): Big Bend Park & Marathon Edition

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After Marfa, our next stop is supposed to send us southward to Terlingua and into Big Bend State Park for a river tour down the Rio Grande. I woke up that morning in our Marfa airstream trailer to the never ending clatter of rain striking our tin roof. I immediately picked up my phone and called up the folks at Big Bend River Tours to find out if our river tour would be canceled due to unsafe weather, but was quickly assured that it was completely clear down in Terlingua. Somehow, considering the fact that we’d had nothing but rain for five straight days, I found that hard to believe, but I held out hope.

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