Where to go for Innovative Twists on Japanese Traditions in Austin

Everyone that’s even partially aware of the Austin dining scene has heard of Uchiko. It’s generally regarded as one of the top dining destinations in the city and I’ve known for many years that I needed to see what all of the excitement was about for myself. I think the restaurant may have actually first come to attention when the now-famed chef Paul Qui tore his way through Top Chef Season 9. He basically wiped the floor with his competition utilizing his signature Asian fusion style and I took notice. Paul has since moved on from Uchiko to work on other Austin ventures such as his food truck East Side King and namesake restaurant Qui. But, Uchiko remains as exciting and buzz-worthy as ever.

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Gracias Madre Serves Vegan Mexican That Even Meat-Eaters Will Love

That naughty V word. You know the one I’m talking about. No, not that one you perv. I’m talking about “Vegan”.

I don’t think it would come as any surprise to any of my readers that I’m pretty obsessed with meat. All types of meat. And to be honest, I usually don’t consider a meal complete without the inclusion of some sort of meat.

But, a situation recently arose that gave me the perfect excuse and opportunity to check out a completely vegan restaurant that I actually had interest in trying. Amy’s vegan and gluten-free cousin was staying with us in SF and it was my task to find suitable places to eat that we could all enjoy. I had heard wonderful things about the Mission vegan Mexican spot named Gracias Madre so I figured that it had the greatest shot at solving our puzzle. Seriously though, people love this restaurant. By reputation, it’s the kind of place that people claim will make meat-eaters completely forget that everything they are eating is even vegan. That’s a tall order – I’ll see about that. I’ll put that crazy claim up to the ultimate test – me.

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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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A Meticulous, Experimental Tasting Menu at Barley Swine

*Editor’s Note 3/29/16: Barley Swine has relocated its entire operation to a larger space at 6555 Burnet Road since my visit.

Many of my previous visits to Austin had been during Austin City Limits where my schedule was jam-packed full of concert-going and nearly every moment of my usual 3-day stay was booked up. But, this Christmas-time trip was a little different. We were in town for a full week with plenty of time to relax and do bit of gastronomic exploration.

I’ve experienced a variety of Austin’s lower-key options including mini-trips to the outlying barbecue towns of Lockhart and Elgin, but I had never before really experienced Austin’s more elevated dining scene. First on my list of places to try was a little, Southern, tasting menu-only restaurant called Barley Swine and sister to another amazing Austin hot spot called Odd Duck – both which recently received 2015 James Beard Award nods.

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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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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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Aliment is the Nob Hill Neighborhood Joint You’ve Always Wanted

I think it’s about time I gave Aliment its much deserved due. Since that very first weekend away from New York in San Francisco over six months ago, Aliment has proven to be a reliable go-to restaurant when I’m in need of an excellent meal in the Union Square/Nob Hill area.

Before this visit, I had only been to Aliment for brunch, but I was so impressed by every single dish I ate on every single visit that when I was in need of a last minute Saturday night table for four in the ‘hood, I was confident that Aliment would be able to deliver. Somehow, despite how great this place has consistently proven itself to be, it continues to remain off the radar for most San Franciscans.

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If You Want Great Food, Go to the Airport

As a recent transplant from NYC to San Francisco with plenty of reasons to be back in NYC often, JetBlue‘s brand new Mint service definitely had my attention right out the gate. It’s a premium service flight offered only between New York JFK and San Francisco SFO or JFK and Los Angeles LAX. Considering that most of my family is still in the New York area (and I frequently need to fly between SFO and JFK), it feels almost as if this service was designed specifically for me.

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Simple, Satisfying Date Night Fare at Salt House in the Financial District

I feel like it’s a good idea to always have at least one great date night spot in every neighborhood. San Francisco’s Financial District is pretty quiet at night compared to the rest of the city, so it isn’t always too easy to find a great place to serve this purpose. One night I was in the area looking for a nice place to take Amy to and I stumbled upon Salt House which I seemed like it might very well fit the evening’s bill.

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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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