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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A Perfect Balance of Quality, Price, and Value at Live Sushi Bar in Potrero Hill

It’s not always easy finding a great sushi place in San Francisco. Often times the quality at inexpensive spots is unacceptable and the high-quality places are just way too expensive. And if you can manage to find an excellent and reasonably priced spot like Domo Sushi, it’ll constantly be plagued by long lines and waits due to its extremely popular Hayes Valley location. That’s why I was so happy to find Live Sushi Bar in the less trafficked Potrero Hill neighborhood. It has consistently proven its ability to hit that sweet spot of freshness, price, value, and ease of access. And I know you’ll love it too.

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Simply Spectacular Fresh Seafood at Swan Oyster Depot in Lower Nob Hill

Ah yes, the world famous Swan Oyster Depot. This 100-year-old Lower Nob Hill institution is certainly one of the more famous San Francisco eateries and I’m lucky enough to live on the same block as this revered bastion of seafood. With a place so good, so close by you’d probably expect to find me there on a weekly basis, but there’s two things that constantly hold me back – open for lunch and there’s constantly tourists lined up out the door.

Literally every single time I’ve walked by this lunch-only hot spot – between their opening at 10:30 AM and their closing at 5:30 PM – there has been a substantial line to contend with. This is a very discouraging sight for someone like myself who absolutely refuses to wait in lines for anything, no matter how amazing the results may be.

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Tataki Gives Sustainable Sushi a Good Name in Lower Pac Heights

In the past, I’ve never really bothered much to concern myself with social consciousness with regards to food and waste. I don’t think you could blame me too much though, because I had never before lived in a place where it was such a high concern or integrated part of the cultural fabric. As it turns out, just being in San Francisco pretty much forces you to become very aware of the impact your consumption has on the environment simply through the requisite use of separate trash, recycling, and compostable bins everywhere you go.

Beyond waste management though, I’ve learned you can further be accountable for your actions by the types of meat, seafood, and produce you buy. By choosing responsibly sourced, environmentally friendly meat, seafood, and produce at your grocery store you can be sure the stuff you love so much stays around for a long, long time. And even beyond home shopping, there are ways to make good choices when you’re dining out. For instance, when the desire for awesome sushi strikes, you can choose to go to a place like Tataki in Lower Pac Heights that refuses to serve any sushi made with anything but sustainably sourced fish.

I know, I know. I can hear you groaning already. Sustainability? Social consciousness? What happened to Winston when he moved out to Cali?? Don’t worry, it’s the same old bacon-loving me, I’m just embracing living in San Francisco and trying to learn as much as I can. Trust me, this sushi tastes just as good as the unsustainable alternative and doesn’t even cost more than the quality stuff you’re used to.

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Winner Winner Pasta & Cocktail Dinner at Zero Zero in SoMa

If you’ve read at all about the SF dining scene, it would be difficult to avoid hearing about Zero Zero. They’ve been written up in just about every major and minor publication for their upscale Neapolitan pizzas and cocktails, but prior to this visit I just never had any reason to head over to that Northeastern part of SoMa for a meal. But one day I found myself in that part of town at around 10 PM hungry and in need of a good cocktail or two, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what the hype was all about.

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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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For the Best Sushi in Silicon Valley, get Omakase at Sushi Tomi

There are tons of sushi joints in Silicon Valley, especially in Mountain View. A lot of these places are pretty mediocre, but one stands above the rest with its vastly superior fish quality. This place is Sushi Tomi.

As you’d probably suspect with a place of this caliber, the word is out. So any night you try to stop by, you will inevitably need to contend with a line out the door. It’s worth it. You may have noticed that I normally don’t ever wait in lines for food, but this evening we waited a very reasonable twenty minutes for a table for three and were treated to some amazing high quality fish for our patience.

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Strong Cocktails and Amazing Bar Snacks at YOLO in Fort Lauderdale
Strong Cocktails and Amazing Bar Snacks at YOLO in Fort Lauderdale

Strong Cocktails and Amazing Bar Snacks at YOLO in Fort Lauderdale

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Fort Lauderdale is a funny place. On one hand it’s the place where everyone’s Jewish Grandma goes when the Tristate weather is too cold and on the other hand it’s a beachy, party-your-face-off Spring Break destination with a clubby nightlife scene. And yet somehow it works as both simultaneously.

This visit happened to coincide with most college Spring Breaks, but that wasn’t the reason I was in town. I was actually coming for a relaxing weekend, to lounge on the beach with my girlfriend and family and have a quick visit with Grandma. But, as you already know, no matter where I am, I’m going to seek out great food and this trip was no exception. So on Saturday night we headed to the downtown Las Olas strip to a loungey bar restaurant that was seriously called, wait for it, YOLO.

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An Incredible Lunch Special with Super Fresh Sashimi at Tomoe Sushi

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Sushi is one of those things that nearly all New Yorkers love. There’s such a vast difference in quality between the cheap stuff and the expensive stuff that it’s often hard to find really great, fresh sushi without feeling like you won’t be able to pay your rent. If you want impeccably prepared fish without breaking the bank, look no further than Tomoe Sushi on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village.

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