Quality Cocktails & Seriously Delicious Smokey Bar Food at The European in Union Square

*Editor’s Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktails

This is San Francisco’s hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European.

I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn’t long before it filled out with the who’s who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.

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Snappy Sausage Sandwiches at Rosamunde & Killer Craft Beer Next Door at Toronado in SF
Sausage Sandwiches at Rosamunde & Killer Craft Beer at Toronado in SF

Snappy Sausage Sandwiches at Rosamunde & Killer Craft Beer Next Door at Toronado in SF

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What could be more perfect than the combination of beer and sausage? It’s an old-as-time classic pairing, but I think I’ve found the solution to this basically unanswerable question. How about gourmet game meat sausages eaten with a ridiculously good craft draft beer?

In the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco there is a spot where you can have the best of both worlds, together. Butted literally right up against each other are Rosamunde Sausage Grill and a bar called Toronado. It’s a fairly well known fact that you can order sausages at Rosamunde and bring them right next door to eat in Toronado and this was precisely the plan. Ultimately though, it was pretty packed in Toronado, so we just ate our links in the sausage shop before heading right next door for some brews after.

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The “Best Damn Crab Cioppino” at Sotto Mare in North Beach
Cioppino & Other Seafood at Sotto Mare in North Beach SF

The “Best Damn Crab Cioppino” at Sotto Mare in North Beach

Cioppino. Say it with me: CHEE-oh-PEE-no. Just as I was, you’re probably wondering what on earth that could be. I really don’t know how it happened, but somehow I had been blissfully unaware of this San Franciscan specialty until a friend insisted we go to Sotto Mare in San Francisco’s Little Italy, North Beach. He had been before and desperately wanted to once again experience the local dish that he’d been dreaming of since he first tasted it a few years prior.

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Super Fancy Scientifically Brewed Coffee & Fresh, Flavorful Brunch at Blue Bottle in SF

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Everyone has an opinion when it comes to coffee. I too am a bit of a snob and would rather cut myself than drink the burnt, ashy-tasting muck they serve at Starbucks. So, the San Francisco and New York based Blue Bottle has been a godsend for me. When it comes to coffee, they treat it more as an art and truly more like a science than anywhere else I’ve ever drank the stuff. This, of course, draws hoards of mustachioed hipsters who are happy to wait daily in long snaking lines, but Blue Bottle is one of the few places I’m willing to put up with it.

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Hidden French Fine Dining at Café Claude in Union Sq.
Hidden French Fine Dining at Café Claude in SF

Hidden French Fine Dining at Café Claude in Union Sq.

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I get strange cravings sometimes.

Escargot and Beef Tartare probably are not the first things you’d think of having on a hungover Saturday solo lunch, but I guess I’m a little different than most people. I knew what I wanted and I knew where to go to get it, so I took a fifteen minute walk from my Union Square hotel on a very grey, rainy San Francisco day to quench my thirst for fine French cuisine. Café Claude, whisk me away to Paris!

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Spectacular Sicilian Pizza Slices at Golden Boy in North Beach
Spectacular Sicilian Slices at Golden Boy Pizza in San Francisco

Spectacular Sicilian Pizza Slices at Golden Boy in North Beach

As a native New Jerseyan and current New Yorker, I feel like I’ve earned the right to hold pizza in other places to high standards. Usually I scoff at the idea of anywhere else in the US producing any such worthy slices of my patronage, but I’ll damned if I didn’t stumble across some truly excellent pizza in San Francisco at Golden Boy Pizza.

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Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in SF
Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in San Francisco

Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in SF

*Editor’s Note 10/23/15: Best of Thai Noodle is under new ownership and is for some reason rebranding as Hippie Thai Street Food, presumably with a similar menu. Only time will tell if the food is the same.

In the vibrant, artsy, dirty hippie-filled San Francisco neighborhood of Haight Ashbury, amongst the many clothing and bong shops, there are many dining options. Wading through the good and the bad isn’t always an easy task, but I found a wholly unnoticed gem of a lunch spot called Best of Thai Noodle hidden in plain sight right on the main drag.

It was a fairly small restaurant by Californian standards, but still had a tall, lofty ceiling and a big kitchen with fiery flaming woks open to the dining area. With just one glance at that wok setup and inferno, I knew this was gonna be great.

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