Mike Winston’s Best Meals of 2015

Yes, I know this year-end list is beyond belated. Actually, I’m probably over a month late. Normally, I’m not one to make these kinds of excuses, but my life has been pretty hectic lately.

As you may or may not know, I’m getting married in a couple of months, so my time has recently come at an extreme premium and I haven’t been able to commit as much attention as I’d like to this little publication obsession. With that being said, over the next couple of months, I’ll be playing around with post style and formatting a bit in an attempt to find new ways to rapidly pump out awesome food articles with fewer publishing limitations on my end. Please feel free to give me feedback on the new content — I’m planning to review this little experiment in a few months and we can take it from there.

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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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California Freshness at Rusty’s Southern in the Tenderloin

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?

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Off-Menu Offal Loaded Soup at Zen Yai in the Tenderloin

Offal-lovers, are you listening? Boy, have I got a dish for you.

If you’re like me, you probably really enjoy eating freaking unusual dishes. This dish I’ve got is definitely going to interest you. In the The Tenderloin, only a block or two from the other outstanding Thai restaurants I’ve already written about like Lers Ros Thai and Sai Jai Thai, I’ve found another place worth venturing through this crackhead-infested neighborhood to. This place is called Zen Yai and they have an off-menu dish I had been meaning to try that drew me in for a visit one morning.

You’d probably never even know to order this dish unless you had the ability read Thai or enjoy scraping the internet for food finds as much as I do. I can’t read Thai, but I did get word of this crazy dish somewhere and knew I had to see what all the fuss was about. I can’t even remember where I first heard about the dish, but one hungover day I was in the mood for soup and wanted to try something particularly funky and interesting. To be honest, I didn’t really even know anything about what I was ordering myself except that it involved plenty of offal. I was ready for the gastronomic adventure.

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Cheap, Legit Mexican Food from a Liquor Store in The Tenderloin

Is it a liquor store? Is it a taqueria? Well… Los Hermanos Taqueria is both and it’s actually also a convenience store, grocery, and butcher as well.

This strange place is situated right in the middle of the bad part of the Tenderloin and it’s about as unassuming as eateries get. But the hand painted signage, complete with a handful of Spanish speaking Mexican clientele and mariachi music drew me in. And I knew I had to eat Mexican food in a liquor store at the very least for the story.

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Hipsterized Southern Brunch at Sweet Woodruff in the Tendernob

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*Editor’s Note 1/2/17: I’m sad to report that this eatery is no longer open.

If the divey dinner aesthetic of Han’s represents the “Tenderloin” part of the Tendernob neighborhood, then Sweet Woodruff would represent the “Nob Hill” portion. Only one block away from Han’s but a world of difference away in vibe you’ll find a completely opposite brunching experience with a much more trendy and modern take on the meal.

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Hangover Cure: Korean & American Fusion Breakfast at Han’s Coffee Shop in the Tendernob

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Locals always have the best food tips. One drunken night out the town in San Francisco, I ended up chatting with a 10-year SF resident at a bar and it became abundantly clear that I was gonna be pretty hungover the next morning. After informing her that I was staying in the Union Square area, she told me that I absolutely must go to Han’s in the morning to cure my hangover.

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