Unusual, Extremely Spicy Dishes Drew Me to House of Thai in the Tenderloin

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.

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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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Solid, Cheap as Hell Mexican at Taqueria Latina in Sunnyvale

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Finding a decent meal in Sunnyvale has always been a challenge and always will be. But, when I dig deep enough and keep my eyes firmly peeled, I have actually been able to find a few local gems.

On this particular day, I took a mile-long walk down a suburban road I’d never been down before stumbling onto something intriguing. For the majority of the walk, I saw nothing worth a second glance, but then I spotted it. It shined in the distance like a shining beat-up beacon of hope. The sign read Taqueria Latina.

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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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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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Serious Sausage Sandwiches & Epic Meats at 4505 Butcher in the Mission

*Editor’s Note: I’m sad to report that this butcher shop is no longer open.

4505 Butcher Shop is a big deal in SF. Formerly an extremely popular farmers market stall, this brick-and-mortar shop functions primarily as a permanent place to purchase really high-quality meats for home use. But, beyond the gorgeous cuts of steak and other game meats sold, they also make a variety of awesome sausages and hot dogs in-house. In fact, I hear that’s really how they made their name and became so popular.

All of their hot dogs, sausages, and cuts of meat are made sustainably from animals raised locally in Northern California and come with a glowing reputation for being some of the very best butchery around. In fact, these days there are many bars and fine dining establishments that proudly serve 4505 bacon-studded hot dogs in a variety of fancy preparations.

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Unique Spanish Basque Brunch at Huertas in the East Village

I completely ignored the opening of Huertas in the East Village when I first heard about it. All too frequently I find myself disappointed by tapas joints, so I often don’t bother to give them a chance. But, then I read a glowing write-up from my most trusted food writer – Robert Sietsema that made me completely reconsider. My tastes pretty much always fall directly in line with his, so I knew that if he loved the place, I was probably gonna love it too.

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The Very Best Airport Food I’ve Ever Eaten

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It’s getting to be that time when we look back on the year in review and 2014 was a very big year of travel for me. Between working remotely in Silicon Valley while still officially living in NYC, moving from NYC to SF, and other miscellaneous leisure travel, I spent a lot of time in airports.

I know that airports get a bad rap when it comes to dining options and you know what, most of the time the food really does suck. But, every now and then I’ve been able to come across some truly excellent dishes. Beyond that, I’ve even managed to find a number of dishes served in airports that blew me away – the overacheivers – the kinds of things I would get even if I wasn’t stuck eating in an airport. Without further ado, read on below to see the best of the best to eat before you fly in the sky. (more…)

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