God, I hate walking through this part of town. How the hell did I even end up in the Tenderloin? Well, it was a Saturday afternoon and I knew I was in the mood for some raw seafood. I considered getting sushi and thought about stopping into Swan Oyster Depot, but the line was already way too long. But still, I had another idea that was close by and had a raw seafood dish I had been meaning to try since I first landed in SF.
When people ask me what I miss most about New York, the answer pretty much solely correlates to food. There are a lot of things that are better out here in SF, but there's some things that I've found particularly difficult to get my hands on. Specifically, I truly miss my weekly stops in at the old Italian meat and cheese shrines at Di Palo and Alleva in Little Italy. Their prosciutto, mozzarella, porchetta, meatballs, and other sliced meats rank as some of my favorite things to eat in all of New York and it sort of feels like I've lost a part of myself without them in my life. Upon moving to SF, I learned the hard way that finding incredible versions of these simple Italian classics wasn't nearly as easy as it was back east. Sure, SF has North Beach – its own unsatisfying version of Little Italy, but just like New York's Little Italy, most of it is just touristy dreck. In SF, to find the good stuff, you've got attack the city with a little bit more of an informed approach. And that's exactly what brought me to Lucca Delicatessen on this Sunday afternoon.
That naughty V word. You know the one I'm talking about. No, not that one you perv. I'm talking about "Vegan". I don't think it would come as any surprise to any of my readers that I'm pretty obsessed with meat. All types of meat. And to be honest, I usually don't consider a meal complete without the inclusion of some sort of meat. But, a situation recently arose that gave me the perfect excuse and opportunity to check out a completely vegan restaurant that I actually had interest in trying. Amy's vegan and gluten-free cousin was staying with us in SF and it was my task to find suitable places to eat that we could all enjoy. I had heard wonderful things about the Mission vegan Mexican spot named Gracias Madre so I figured that it had the greatest shot at solving our puzzle. Seriously though, people love this restaurant. By reputation, it's the kind of place that people claim will make meat-eaters completely forget that everything they are eating is even vegan. That's a tall order – I'll see about that. I'll put that crazy claim up to the ultimate test – me.
Mikkeller is not your average beer bar. Despite its questionable neighborhood surroundings on the cusp of the bad part of the Tenderloin (we actually watched cops draw guns on a crackhead in the street a block from the place on our way over), it's actually a very large, spacious, clean, polished space with a comfortable and appropriately adult, European vibe.
I'm so excited, it's finally here. I'll keep this short, but the brand new location of my all-time favorite Silicon Valley restaurant Rangoon Ruby, has opened a sister location a block from my SF apartment. In a space that used to be a lackluster sushi spot called Sushi Rock, my beloved Palo Alto Burmese favorite has planted roots. From the moment Sushi Rock had shuttered, I was aware because the place is actually in directly eye line from my apartment window. I anxiously awaited something new and interesting to come and take over the space. And I was over-the-moon elated when I saw a Coming Soon banner indicating that it would be a location of the exact place I missed most after transitioning from Palo Alto to SF.
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?
Back when I was living in New York, I think I took for granted the fact that it really was "the city that never sleeps". Literally any hour of the day, I could get my hands on anything I craved. Bars stayed open to 4, delivery services ran around the clock and worked lightening fast, and there was always a restaurant open serving exactly what I was in the mood for, no matter what crazy hour it was that I wanted it. Now, let's compare that to San Francisco, where bars start winding down at 1 AM and close at 2. It's a place where most restaurant and bar kitchens close around 10 PM and food delivery is an utter joke. If it's past 10 PM and you feel like having a great late night meal, you've got to approach the situation with a little more care and a lot more knowledge.
In general, the Inner Richmond is known for its vast array of authentic Asian restaurants. It's certainly not thought of as an opportune place to be able to get Mexican food, but there I was on a Sunday afternoon doing exactly that. After a stop by the Presidio for Off The Grid's Picnic at the Presidio to find ridiculously large crowds and excessive lines at every food vendor, I hopped onto Foursquare in search of a lunch alternative. Sure, mostly Asian food dominated the search results, but there was still a single listing that differed completely from everything else called La Ciudad de Mexico that caught my eye. San Francisco is definitely a town known it's Mission style burritos, and there are plenty of great options for those around, but there is another traditional, handheld Mexican street food that La Ciudad de Mexico specializes in that tends not to get as much love – the torta.
*Editor's Note 4/17/15: O-Toro has since relocated to a larger space only a block away at 298 Gough St. I'm constantly looking for sushi joints in the Bay Area serving really high quality fish at very reasonable prices. I've got spots all over the region (see: Wayo, Tataki, Sushi Tomi, Live Sushi Bar, and Geta) and I've even already got a place I love in Hayes Valley, but Domo is quite small and doesn't take reservations so it's not super easy to rely on it as a go-to spot in that neighborhood. Only a few blocks away is another well-reputed sushi den called O-Toro that actually does take OpenTable reservations and also sounded like it had a lot of potential to become my new go-to sushi bar in that neighborhood.
It's all in the water – or so they say. Continuing on our quest to find real, authentic New York style bagels in San Francisco, we ventured with our ex-New Yorker friends to the Inner Richmond to give their recommended spot called House of Bagels a shot. Despite the place's personal recommendation, I still approached the trip cautiously due to BuzzFeed's SF bagel blog tongue lashing.