A Super-Legit, Dirt-Cheap, Hole-in-the-Wall Banh Mi Shop in Sunnyvale

Another day, another lunch. Working in Sunnyvale has definitely had its lunchtime limitations, but when I looked hard enough, there was definitely greatness to be found. Asian food has proven itself as the area’s strong suit so it was almost unsurprising that there’s a real, legit, banh mi-slinging hole-in-the-wall in Sunnyvale. This shop, called Cam Hung, is located in an extremely nondescript strip mall parking lot much like every other decent eatery in Sunnyvale and would be next to impossible to spot if you weren’t intentionally seeking it out. It’s literally not visible from the street and has almost no signage to catch the eyes of passerbys so its a little amazing that they get traffic.

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Where to Find a Ridiculously Meaty Banh Mi for Only $5 in the Mission

Though the Mission is best known for its abundance of casual, inexpensive taquerias, monstrous burritos, and other Latin American street foods, those are certainly not the only kinds of cheap eats you can find. If you know where to look, there are actually quite a few non-Latin gems. Take for instance, Duc Loi – a gigantic grocery store right on bustling Mission Street that looks just like any other market with one major difference – its vast selection of hard-to-find ethnic Latin American and Asian ingredients.

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A Hot, New, Sexy, Southern Date Spot in the French Quarter

Let’s face it. If you’re in New Orleans, you’re gonna end up in the French Quarter. Where you’re there to take in the history or to check out the Bourbon Street madness – to drink a hurricane at Pat O’Briens or any of the other drunk-magnet bars – you’re bound to end up there.

Since you’re definitely going to be there, you’re gonna need to know of a few great places to eat. Despite it being a very touristy area, there are still many actually great places to eat. There are famed oyster halls like Acme, cheap eats classics like Central Grocery and Cafe Du Monde, and the many famous, super old-school, French dining parlors. But, you can still definitely choose wrong and end up with a really bad meal. If you want something new, exciting, and different, I’ve got just the place. This restaurant, Sylvain, is a hot addition to the French Quarter dining scene that’s perfect for a civilized, sexy, date night full of great Southern food and cocktails.

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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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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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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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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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There’s So Much More Than Just Pizza at Pizzeria Delfina in Palo Alto

As an ex-New Yorker now living on the West Coast, I’ve been trained to go to Italian eateries with low expectations, particularly if they claim to specialize in pizza. I know I’ve been spoiled by the ease of access to the very best pizza slices in the country, but I’ve already learned that you can in fact find great pizza in the Bay Area in square slice and Brooklyn-style neapolitan form. Still, I didn’t expect much from Palo Alto’s Pizzeria Delfina despite its very positive reputation.

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Authentic, Hidden Peruvian Cuisine at La Fina Estampa in the Polk Gulch

Now that I’ve moved to San Francisco, I’ve got a whole host of restaurants to explore in my new neighborhood. There are plenty of obvious eye-catching eateries on the main Polk Street drag, but there was just something about that unremarkable and completely illegible awning that caught both of our eyes while walking down one the side streets. It was getting close to dinner time and we weren’t sure what we felt like having for dinner, so we decided to venture inside and try out this mysterious Latin American spot we knew absolutely nothing about.

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Eat Your Heart Out with Offal Thoughts & Other Brilliant Gastropub Fare at Liquid Bread in Campbell

I’ve already gushed on this blog about how much I love Liquid Bread in Campbell on my first visit. Staying in the area once again, I figured it was worth a second trip to try some more of their incredible creations. I knew, in their skilled hands, I’d be fine ordering just about anything so I chose a few dishes that wouldn’t ordinarily entrust to a less skilled and proven restaurant to pull off.

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