Really Unusual Burmese Soup & Salad at Burma Superstar in the Richmond

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I don’t think I’m unearthing any secrets with this one. This famed Burmese restaurant in the Richmond has been featured on the Food Network numerous times and is reputed for having constant lines out the door. Somehow, when I showed up at 12:30 on a Sunday, a time when I assumed the restaurant would be at peak capacity, it in fact had no line. I was seated at a two-top on my own immediately. Amazing.

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Fiery South Indian Chettinad Curry at Aachi Aappa Kadai in Sunnyvale

I must be a sick person, but sometimes I enjoy watching my friends squirm and turn bright red while experiencing authentically spicy food. This wasn’t the first time this week that I had nearly brought a buddy to tears of spicy pain. On this evening, four of us headed to a restaurant called Aachi Aappa Kadai in a very Indian-heavy area of Sunnyvale, CA to sample food from the Chettinad region. With a name like that with so many A’s at the start, I’ve got to wonder if they did it to get their name at the beginning of the Yellow Pages (when they were still relevant).

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Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans
Formality & High-End Cajun at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

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When’s the last time you put on a suit to go to dinner? I can’t really remember the last time, but I think it may have been my sister’s Bat Mitzvah 10 years ago? And yeah, I was probably wearing the same suit. In my experience, I’ve found that New Orleans is an amazing place to visit whether you’re looking for great music, great dining, or great drinking. But, if you’re looking for a really special meal, there’s one very famous restaurant that seems to keep on living in a completely different, older era.

This restaurant, Commander’s Palace, is housed in a Victorian mansion right in the middle of the primarily residential Garden District neighborhood and has been a staple of the New Orleans fine dining scene since 1880. As you could imagine, many famed chefs have passed through these kitchen doors including the esteemed New Orleans celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse.

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Solid Bowls of Ramen & Other Japanese Pub Food near Port Authority at Tabata Ramen

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Hell’s Kitchen, well not really. That chunk of New York City on 9th Ave. between 34th and 42nd tucked away behind Penn Station and Port Authority. It remains one of the seediest corners of the city even after the much publicized Giuliani and Bloomberg crackdowns on the lesser loved aspects of NYC. It’s not often that I find myself in that god-forsaken corner of town, but since I was there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the ramen and other Japanese pub food at the nearby Tabata Ramen outpost.

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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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Big, Hot, Soothing, Bowls of Noodle Soup at Pho Vi Hoa in Los Altos
Big, Hot, Soothing, Bowls of Noodle Soup at Pho Vi Hoa in Los Altos

Big, Hot, Soothing, Bowls of Noodle Soup at Pho Vi Hoa in Los Altos

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Tucked away on the outskirts of Mountain View, CA you’ll find the lesser-known, tiny town of Los Altos. In this town, situated in a nondescript shopping center on the main highway there’s a restaurant called Pho Vi Hoa that serves phenomenal bowls of pho ’til 10 PM. When rain strikes in Silicon Valley, I’ve found nothing more comforting than a big, steaming bowl of Asian noodle soup and I thank Pho Vi Hoa for providing a great one to me.

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A Rare, Spicy Indian Take on Chili at the Desi Food Truck in SoHo
A Rare, Spicy Indian Take on Chili at the Desi Food Truck in SoHo

A Rare, Spicy Indian Take on Chili at the Desi Food Truck in SoHo

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In the western reaches of SoHo there are tons of office buildings loaded with hungry workers in need of a good lunch. This draws a wide variety food trucks to the area to line those streets on a daily basis. Most of these trucks are the hipster-fusion variety which attract long lines and park on either Varick or Hudson just below Houston.

But if you walk just one block back east, you’ll find a strange triangular park called SoHo Square Park on 6th Avenue between Broome and Spring. At the top edge of the park, on most days, you’ll find a bright yellow food truck painted with very stereotypical Indian stylistic colors and decorative flourishes called the Desi Food Truck serving humble Indian dishes and never has a line.

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Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View
Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View, CA

Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View

By this point I think I’ve proven that I’m passionate about ramen. My time in NYC has given me plenty of opportunities to learn what I love and what makes a great bowl. So now that I’m spending most of my time in Silicon Valley, there’s no reason not to hunt for that perfect bowl out here as well.

Since I’m working in Sunnyvale and Mountain View is a short eight minute drive from the office, that always seems like an obvious and easy choice for a post-work meal. Feeling a bit ill and in need of a great bowl of curative soup, I decided to find a good ramen joint in town. After a bit of research, I decided on a shop called Maru Ichi which sounded like it would serve exactly what I needed.

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Old World Cajun Cuisine at Palace Cafe in Opelousas, LA

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How on earth did I end up in Opelousas, Louisiana? Well, my girlfriend, Amy, is from Texas and Louisiana isn’t that far. Some of her friends from high school ended up working in Lafayette, Louisiana and we all ended up in the area for their wedding.

As is my usual plan of action wherever I am, I had to find great food. Since I was in Cajun country, I knew that was the kind of food I needed to get for lunch. After a bit of online research, I decided on a spot in downtown Opelousas, right near the courthouse called Palace Cafe.

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Fast, Healthy, Korean in the Desolate Sunnyvale Culinary Wasteland
Fast, Healthy Korean Food in the Desolate Sunnyvale Culinary Wasteland at Bibimbowl

Fast, Healthy, Korean in the Desolate Sunnyvale Culinary Wasteland

In Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is one of the more vacuous towns in the area. It’s mostly filled with bleak, white-washed office buildings, parking lots, and roads leading nowhere. If you work there, as I currently do, you’ll quickly learn how limited the lunch options are, especially if you want to walk to lunch.

Fortunately for me, I’ve found a lunchtime gem in a nondescript mini-mall called Bibimbowl just a half mile’s walk from the office serving fresh, healthy, high-quality Korean food at a reasonable price.

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