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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An Epic Japanese Lunch Special at Sumika in Los Altos

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.

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Serious Seafood Sandwiches & Soup at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Napa

I can say with absolute certainty that Napa is not an easy place to find a delicious and reasonably priced meal. It’s filled to the brim with fancy schmancy high end spots ready to consume your entire pay check in a single fell swoop. Sure, some of those places are great or even incredible, but I wouldn’t suppose that a meal at that price point is always in the cards. When I find myself in Napa, there is one place that has a number of great, reasonably priced options that I find myself returning to time and time again – The Oxbow Market.

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Emeril & Guy Fieri BOTH Love Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop on Magazine St.

We had just endured a brutal red-eye from San Francisco to NOLA via LA to finally arrive at our Airbnb on the very fun, cool, and completely non-touristy Magazine St. After napping for a few hours to catch up on lost Zzzzs, we woke around lunch time and found ourselves in desperate need of something very satisfying to transition our minds and bodies over to NOLA time. A quick Foursquare search of the nearby neighborhood led me to a sandwich joint called Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop fully vetted by Guy Fieri and Emeril Lagasse on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Seriously, Emeril made a guest appearance on DDD just to hawk this place to the masses alongside The Spiky One. With a simultaneous seal of approval from both of these men, how could I not check it out for myself?

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California Freshness at Rusty’s Southern in the Tenderloin

I always get really excited when new restaurants open, especially when they are close to enough to my home that they can easily become part of my regular dinner rotation. This particular new opening in the Tenderloin was only under a week old, but I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to it. Rusty’s Southern may be in a dicey part of town, but this spacious spot is serving up affordable, California-inspired takes on North and South Carolinan Southern classics. In a town desperately in need of more Southern food, what more could you ask for?

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Wing Wings: Hands Down the Best Chicken Wings in SF

I was completely certain I was gonna love everything about Wing Wings. I absolutely love crushing buckets of chicken wings and I had heard such great things about the many unique varieties at this Lower Haight hole-in-the-wall and hot spot.

They’ve been featured in 7×7 Magazine’s The Big Eat 2013, on Grub Street’s Best Places for Wings in SF, on Epicurious’ America’s Best Chicken Wings List, and in plenty of other high profile publications. To put it simply, their reputation precedes them. Beyond what I had read about online, I’d had already had the chance to experience their impressive chicken-preparation skill via the transcendent Fried Chicken served at their Off The Grid Picnic at the Presidio pop-up stall. I knew this was gonna be good.

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Vibrant, Authentic, & Upscale Thai at Kin Khao in Union Sq.

Kin Khao is a restaurant that’s been on the tip of everybody’s tongue from the moment it opened just over a year ago. Nearly everybody loves Thai food, but there is just something totally unique about the twists that Kin Khao interweaves to these regional classics that gets people buzzing. It’s been written up in nearly every Bay Area publication – Hell, it’s even been written up in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and was included as #6 on Alan Richman’s 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 in GQ. What could it be about this Thai spot that makes it so damned special?

I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that both the chef and owner of Kin Khao have a pretty impressive food industry pedigree. Chef Mike Gaines spent a good chunk of time working at David Kinch’s famed molecular gastronomy hot spot Manresa and the owner and restauranteur behind Kin Khao is a famed Bay Area food blogger named Pim Techamuanvivit whose passion for her Thai heritage guides the restaurant’s concept. She also happens to be dating famed and celebrated Chef David Kinch who I’m sure has some tangential effect on the place. Yet somehow, with all of these compelling reasons to check this place out laid out in front of me, this was still only the first time I had gotten the chance to visit.

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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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A Meticulous, Experimental Tasting Menu at Barley Swine

*Editor’s Note 3/29/16: Barley Swine has relocated its entire operation to a larger space at 6555 Burnet Road since my visit.

Many of my previous visits to Austin had been during Austin City Limits where my schedule was jam-packed full of concert-going and nearly every moment of my usual 3-day stay was booked up. But, this Christmas-time trip was a little different. We were in town for a full week with plenty of time to relax and do bit of gastronomic exploration.

I’ve experienced a variety of Austin’s lower-key options including mini-trips to the outlying barbecue towns of Lockhart and Elgin, but I had never before really experienced Austin’s more elevated dining scene. First on my list of places to try was a little, Southern, tasting menu-only restaurant called Barley Swine and sister to another amazing Austin hot spot called Odd Duck – both which recently received 2015 James Beard Award nods.

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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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