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The Best Places to Eat in SF in 2015
San Francisco magazine | Photo: Aubrie Pick | June 18, 2015
Avocado toast! Carnitas! Twelve-course tasting menus! It's a feast to inspire poetry— or at least appetites.
Grab and Go: Sweet Woodruff
798 Sutter St. (at Jones St.), 415-292-9090
Leave it to a couple of high-end chefs to imbue counter service with a shot of style. At their snug, well-appointed Tendernob spot, Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara (Sons & Daughters) serve up the three Ss: soups, salads, and sandwiches, all made with seasonal flare. It’s familiar but inspired fare: the $10 veggie melt contains shishito peppers and pea tendrils, while the $10 burger is embellished with homemade tomato jam. Fast-ish food that’s high on inspiration and low on pretense, it’s done with an ease and efficiency that belie the thoughtfulness behind it.
Outdoor Dining: Zazie
941 Cole St. (Near Carl St.), 415-564-5332
Anyone can drag some chairs into a backyard and declare it a patio, but Zazie understands that truly transcendent outdoor dining combines utility and an excess of charm (lavishly portioned French-Mediterranean grub also doesn’t hurt). And charming its back patio is: Clad in handsome planks of wood and surrounded by a tall fence garnished with lavish foliage, it’s a lush oasis that feels less like a restaurant than like a secret garden. As for utility, a fleet of heat lamps wards off the chill. Paradise: found.
Runner-Up: Arlequin Cafe
Breakfast: Farm: Table
754 Post St. (Near Leavenworth St.), FarMtaBleSF.CoM
While we have no shortage of brunch spots, restaurants serving weekday breakfast are much rarer birds. So consider Farm: Table a bird of paradise, soaring on currents of croissant egg sandwiches, homemade cereal, and toast that groans under toppings like mascarpone cheese and local fruit. It’s short on space, yes, but long on charm.
Runner-Up: Brenda’s French Soul Food
Brunch: Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St. (Near 17th St.), 415-487-1600
In a town overrun by ricotta pancakes and warmed-over hollandaise sauce, Bar Tartine stands proudly, defiantly on its own, populating its delectably unconventional brunch menu with the likes of sprouted-lentil croquettes, bacon-tripe stew, and puffy flatbread heaped with plush scrambled eggs, avocado, and housemade farmer’s cheese. It’s brunch with brains and soul—and without, thankfully, the obligatory hour-long line that attends more by-the-book counter-parts.
French Bistro: Gaspar Brasserie
185 Sutter St. (Near Kearny St.), 415-576-8800
Franck LeClerc’s dapper watering hole fulfills one of a French bistro’s chief requirements, which is to serve food whose unfussy appearance belies the exquisite pleasures it contains. Plump raw oysters come fantastically cold; a strapping $25 chunk of grilled bavette steak is served with pommes frites, cress, and bordelaise sauce, a deliciously old-school presentation that, like the rest of Gaspar, hews to tradition while still feeling vital and fresh.
Runner-Up: Monsieur Benjamin
Thai: Hawker Fare
680 Valencia St. (Near 18th St.), 415-400-5699
The street food of Thailand’s Isan region practically sings at the Mission outpost of James Syhabout’s Oakland stalwart. There’s lusty, darkly complex catfish jungle curry; beef tartare pumped up with beef tripe and bile; and the famously addictive beer nuts, spiked with chilies, lime leaves, and fish sauce. Syhabout is uncompromising—Yelpers love to complain about his ban on substitutions—but the payoff is exciting, challenging, exceptionally good food that clears your sinuses as it lifts your soul.
Runner-Up: Kin Khao
Seafood: Anchor Oyster Bar
579 Castro St. (Near 19th St.), 415-431-3990
Yes, Anchor oyster Bar has the dimensions of a welcome mat, and yes, you’re going to wait. But you’ll be amply rewarded with bracingly fresh seafood that tastes of the ocean and summer vacation—fat shrimp and mussels, sweet crab—and with the Platonic ideal of cioppino, rich with aquatic treasures and a savory tomato broth that pleads to be soaked up by thick slabs of complimentary buttery garlic bread. What can we say? The place is a catch.
Runner-Up: Swan Oyster Depot
3814 Noriega St. (Near 45th Ave.), 415-731-0232
With its nightly closing time of 2 a.m., its menu of hearty Korean food, and its location inside a repurposed residential garage in the Outer Sunset, Toyose fufills late-night dining’s chief mandate of providing improbably good grub at an improbable hour in a somewhat improbable setting. If you want kimchee fried rice or Spam stew after midnight, you’ll find them here. If you want a booth whose roll-down blinds shield your soju-fueled shenanigans, you’ll find that here, too.
New-Wave Mexican: Nopalito
1224 9th Ave. (Near Lincoln Way), 415-233-9966
Seasonal, thoughtful, and a hell of a lot of fun, Nopalito captures the incredible vibrancy of Mexican cuisine while tipping its hat to Northern California. Its virtues are arguably best illustrated by its carnitas, rendered fall-apart tender by a braise of orange juice, bay leaves, and dark beer. Even the tortillas are remarkable. Sturdy, pliant, and deeply corny, they’re not so much vehicles for a feast as a feast themselves.
Kid-Friendly: Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack
3230 Mission St. (Near Valencia St.), 415-206-2086
Inevitable stains aside, it’s really hard to go wrong with kids and spaghetti. Particularly when the spaghetti in question is served in the resolutely relaxed confines of emmy’s newly expanded digs, where kids can raise merry hell while their parents drain $8 cucumber saketinis and pitchers of sangria. What’s more, the food—a child-friendly mishmash of pasta, meatballs, and mini–mac ’n’ cheese—is far better than it needs to be. It’s also reasonably priced, making this friendly lower-Bernal spot the smartest kid on the block.
Food Truck: Ebbett’s Good to Go
Here’s what it comes down to: the Bowl. That gorgeous, ridiculously fulfilling $11 assemblage of pulled pork (or baked tofu), brown rice, avocado, queso fresco, and black beans sums up why we happily submit to the lines that form wherever Ebbett’s good to go is parked. Add a roster of superb, enormous sandwiches—the Cuban sports slow-roasted duroc pork and a mess of chipotle aioli—and you have a food truck that is truly transporting.
Runner-Up: Señor Sisig
Tasting Menu: Lazy Bear
3416 19th St. (Near San Carlos St.), 415-874-9921
San Francisco is lousy with tasting menus, but precious few as effortless and bighearted as the one David Barzelay and his cooks turn out at Lazy Bear. From its opening salvo of dutch crunch pain d’épi and cultured butter to pastry chef Maya Erickson’s tray of mignardises, it’s a knockout, its 12-plus courses further enlivened by the restaurant’s communal-dining format, a welcome reminder that tasting menus taste better when they’re shared among friends—and strangers.
Date Night: Cafe Jacqueline
1454 Grant Ave. (at Union St.), 415-981-5565
Given that romance is in the eye of the beholder, what constitutes a romantic restaurant is entirely subjective. That said, Cafe Jacqueline fills an abundance of requirements: Cozy, flatteringly lit, and quiet enough to encourage conversation, the petite North Beach stalwart radiates low-key charm. What’s more, chef-owner Jacqueline Margulis’s ethereal savory and sweet soufflés are built for sharing. Plumbing their rich, fluffy depths may be the sexiest thing two people can do together with their clothes on.
Sushi: Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar
3282 Mission St. (Near 29th St.), 415-525-4750
You can order perfectly delightful rolls and nigiri à la carte at Ichi, but really, it’s all about the omakase, a progression of exquisitely fresh fish that chef and co- owner Tim Archuleta orders like wines at a tasting. Paired with minimal accoutrements—a dusting of green salt here, a dab of garlic-ponzu sauce there—each course is a study in artistry and pleasure, in marine life elevated to the realm of the surreally delicious.
Runner-Up: Saru Sushi Bar
Barbecue: 4505 Burgers & BBQ
705 Divisadero St. (at Grove St.), 415-231-6993
You can smell the appeal of 4505 Burgers & BBQ two blocks away, that mouthwatering aroma of wood smoke mingled with slow-cooked meat. and you can taste it in the brisket, pork, and chicken that emerge from the pit, tender and served with white bread and sliced Vidalia onions. Chef-owner Ryan Farr doesn’t adhere to a particular style of barbecue, which is fine, because its allure is universal.
Meal Delivery: SpoonRocket
Between its under-15-minute delivery time and its long roster of offerings, including soba noodle salad, banh mi, and barbecued ribs paired with mac ’n’ cheese, Spoonrocket presents a delectable—and, at an average price of $8 after tax, affordable—alternative to the brown paper bag. The service’s quality–to–price point ratio is impressive— heck, it can even pull off perfectly chilled smoothies.
Ice Cream: Mitchell’s Ice Cream
688 San Jose Ave. (Near 29th St.), 415-648-2300
Ice cream parlors tend to spark fierce tribal loyalties among San Franciscans. Our allegiance lies firmly with Mitchell’s, for the simple reason that it is the only place where we’d wait 20 minutes in the chilly fog for a freezing-cold scoop of ice cream. The texture is consistently rich and creamy, the flavors (everything from plain chocolate to lucuma) are robust and adventurous without trying too hard—and the happiness coefficient of a single cone is incalculable.
Runner-Up: Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop
Cocktails: Bar Agricole
355 11th St. (Near Folsom St.), 415-355-9400
A good cocktail program doesn’t just complement a restaurant’s menu; it’s as essential to the restaurant as the food itself. Nowhere is this better understood than at Bar Agricole, where Thad Vogler and Eric Johnson’s lengthy cocktail list marries tradition with high-quality ingredients to create classic drinks that feel utterly modern without being trendy. Where else will you find a Presidente fashioned with curaçao made in Fresno from biodynamic grapes and oranges? And more to the point, where else will you find one that tastes so good?
Dessert Menu: Rich Table
199 Gough St. (at Oak St.), 415-355-9085
Rich Table is a serious restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and nowhere is its playfulness more apparent than on Sarah Rich’s dessert menu, where stinky raclette gets dressed up as ice cream and a salted pretzel sundae conducts a seasonal ménage à trois of tarragon, persimmon, and pretzel ice cream. Like the best pastry chefs, Rich knows how to forge holy unions between the classic and the borderline insane; may she continue doing so for a long time.
Bar Bites: The Alembic
1725 Haight St. (Near Shrader St.), 415-666-0822
Great bar food doesn’t merely line the stomach; it elevates the spirit as surely as any high-octane cocktail. or at least it does at the Alembic, where pickled quail eggs are sprinkled with sea salt, chubby Castelvetrano olives are roasted with chili jam, and salt cod is made tran- scendent as whipped brandade, a hot, creamy puddle scooped up with sumac-dusted potato chips. It’s 100 percent Pleasure by Volume.
Indie Coffee Shop: Andytown Coffee Roasters
3655 Lawton St. (at 43rd Ave.), 415-753-9775
Allow us to offer a disclaimer here: everyone has a best coffee shop, and it’s most likely determined by its proximity to one’s home or workplace. We love Andytown, a wee beacon of white tiles, house-roasted beans, and uncommonly good pastries. Located a few blocks from the ocean in the Outer Sunset, it’s an oasis in the fog, a neighborhood coffee shop worth leaving your neighborhood for.
Runner-Up: Saint Frank Coffee
Chain Coffee Shop: Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Multiple Locations, peets.com
We know, we know, we know: there are plenty who say that Peet’s has sold its soul to the devil. But look: Forty-nine years after Alfred Peet opened his first shop in Berkeley, his empire continues to sell steadfastly reliable, even excellent coffee, frequently roasted dark and always sold with a refreshing lack of pretension. It’s just a solid—and, at $1.80, affordable—cup of joe, and for that, we are grateful.
Multiple Locations, samovartea.com
While many tea lounges are handmaidens to tradition (and doilies), Samovar manages to respect the past while embracing the future. From the android- controlled tea-brewing crucibles at its Valencia Street location to the ginger-quinoa waffles on the menu at its airy Yerba Buena digs, the chainlet makes tea consumption a thoroughly modern pursuit. And the teas themselves—a Gatorade-hued matcha, an herbal lemongrass-spiked turmeric—marry surpassing quality with impressive variety. We’ll drink to that.
Runner-Up: Lovejoy’s Tea Room
Juice Bar: Project Juice
Multiple Locations, projectjuice.com
Our city is awash in cold-pressed juice, but not all liquefied greenery is created equal. Project Juice is in a class of its own thanks to a lengthy roster of juices, smoothies, nut milks, and so-called Wellness Shots that are both inventive (turmeric lemonade! activated coconut charcoal!) and tasty. Concoctions like the mint chip shake even taste like dessert, which is pretty much the highest compliment you can give a juice bar.
Runner-Up: Pressed Juicery
Espresso: Linea Caffe
3417 18th St. (at San Carlos St.), 415-590-3011
You can’t pull a shot in this town without inciting skirmishes over who does it best, but Linea Caffe pulls no punches when it comes to delivering peerless espresso. Co-owner and coffee legend Andrew Barnett’s version sports a sweet, eminently drinkable flavor profile laced with notes of caramel. Made from the café’s own micro-batch-roasted beans, it goes down nice and smooth, as does the refreshingly unpretentious customer service.
Runner-Up: Four Barrel Coffee
Cheesemonger: Rainbow Grocery
1745 Folsom St. (at 13th St.), 415-863-0620
The dizzying variety of Northern California goat cheeses is reason enough to venture to Rainbow Grocery, where the cheese counter is all but buried beneath an excellent (and reasonably priced) selection of foreign and domestic cheeses. Everything from organic French roquefort to brunost, the Scandinavian whey cheese, is here, along with full product lines from local darlings like Straus and Cowgirl creameries. Best of all, head monger Gordon Edgar and his staff are generous with advice— and free samples.
Runner-Up: Cheese Plus
Farmers’ Market: Alemany Farmers’ Market
100 Alemany Blvd. (Near Crescent Ave.), 415-647-9423
Between its incredible variety and incredible prices, Alemany is a veritable horn of plenty, the embodiment of Northern California’s seasonal bounty. Whether you seek a jar of local honey, three-bunches-for-$5 organic rainbow chard, piles of organic red walnuts, or yam leaves and pea tips, you will find it at the lot that every Saturday gets turned into the farmers’ market to end all farmers’ markets.
Runner-Up: Heart of the City Farmers’ Market
Butcher: Prather Ranch Meat Co.
Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero at Market St., 415-391-0420
Though Prather Ranch is a butcher of the new-school variety, with organic, Certified Humane meats sourced from its small network of farms, its level of service is purely old-school. If you want to talk about how to prepare an impeccably fresh $10.99-per-pound chicken breast or discuss the myriad uses for an eight-pack of all-beef hot dogs, the Prather staff will do so happily. It’s the most modern of butcher shops: one that treats both animals and customers humanely.
Runner-up: Avedano’s Meats
Chocolatier: Charles Chocolates
535 Florida St. (Near Mariposa St.), 415-659-8770
Four words: Sweet-Salty Cashew Bar. They describe one of Charles Chocolates’ most popular products, and also the downfall of many a San Francisco diet. But chocolatier Chuck Siegel is no one-hit wonder: His truffles, bars, chocolate-covered nuts, and fleur de sel caramels all offer gorgeously smooth chocolate, balanced flavors, and equal doses of fun and refinement. And, of course, the promise of hopeless addiction.
Runner-Up: Recchiuti Confections
Kale Salad: Brenda’s Meat & Three
919 Divisadero St. (Near Mcallister St.), 415-926-8657
Let’s be honest: No one goes to Brenda’s Meat & Three, that shrine to hot-buttered, deep-fried southern charm, for a kale salad. But you should: Chef-owner Brenda Buenviaje mixes kale with chicory, red grapes, toasted almonds, red onion, salty feta cheese, and a sugarcane vinaigrette, creating a salty-sweet-bitter-crunchy-tender flavor monolith. at $8.25, it is—like everything else at Brenda’s—a meal unto itself.
Runner-Up: Darwin Café
Burger: Original Joe’s
601 Union St. (at Stockton St.), 415-775-4877
There’s a reason Original Joe’s has been making its classic burger the same way for seven decades. Its “hamburger sandwich” is a massive homage to meat, the onion-studded patty cradled between two buttered halves of a Boudin sourdough baguette. The bread is strong enough to stand up to the juiciness of the burger, and the meat-to-bun ratio is spot-on. At $14, it’s not on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but it’s large enough for even big eaters to share. Not that you’ll want to.
Whole Pizza: Una Pizza Napoletana
210 11th St. (at Howard St.), 415-861-3444
There’s divinity in the dough at Una Pizza Napoletana—or at least that’s one explanation for the showstopping Neapolitan pies Anthony Mangieri turns out four nights a week. With their charred, pillowy crusts and judiciously applied toppings, like buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes that weep ambrosial juice, they’re a testament to the beauty of simplicity. Yes, they’re expensive—$25 a pop—and yes, the menu is limited to five pizzas. But who needs salad when the pizza is this sublime?
Runner-Up: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Avocado Toast: Frog Hollow Farm Cafe
Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero at Market St., 415-445-0990
You can’t throw an avocado without hitting a piece of toast in San Francisco, but the folks at Frog Hollow Farm’s Ferry Building Café understand the combination’s essential truth, which is that it demands no fancy twists. And so their $10 version is the embodiment of simplicity: Acme’s green onion slab toasted with olive oil, rubbed with garlic, topped with an entire sliced avocado, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Nothing more, nothing less, and wow, is it amazing.
Burrito: Taqueria Cancún
Multiple Locations, taqueriacancunsf.com
Taqueria Cancún’s $8.25 burrito mojado al pastor is less foodstuff than landmass, a magnificent monolith that ably meets our demands for quality and quantity. Its pork is supple and well seasoned, its rice moist, its beans tender, and its pièce de résistance is a garnish of sour cream and red and green salsas designed to mimic the Mexican flag. Plunked in a puddle of cheese-laced sauce, it reclines like a fat man in a kiddie pool, beckoning you to dive in.
Runner-Up: Papalote Mexican
Grilled Cheese: Outerlands
4001 Judah St. (at 45th Ave.), 415-661-6140
A grilled cheese sandwich should be a simple affair: two pieces of bread, some cheese, and some sort of fat. Outerlands understands this principle of simplicity and exploits it to glorious effect, turning out specimens that ooze molten gruyère, cheddar, and provolone from between brawny slabs of homemade bread. Slicked with garlic oil and grilled in a cast iron pan, they’re bare-bones decadence at its finest.
Runner-Up: Mission Cheese
Ramen: Izakaya Sozai
1500 Irving St. (at 16th Ave.), 415-742-5122
In a city that does ramen in near-endless iterations, Sozai spares you the decision-making by dealing in a single, perfect version of the soup. Pork-based tonkotsu broth, bursting with umami, provides the backdrop for this low-frills rendition, stocked with springy noodles, braised pork belly, a sheet of seaweed, and half an egg. A short list of extras gives you a few options to consider. Otherwise, your only choice is how early you want to arrive to avoid the line.
Runner-Up: Orenchi Beyond
Sandwiches: Pal’s Take Away
2751 24th St. (at Hampshire St.), 415-203-4911
Jeff Mason knows his way around— and between—two slices of bread. Everything on his menu, be it Aunt Malai’s Lao sausage with soy-yuzu mayo or spiced chicken and celery root on a bacon dynamo doughnut, sings a song of balanced flavors and vibrant originality. It helps that Mason uses the very best ingredients—Josey Baker bread, produce from local farms—but honestly, he could slap butter on Wonder Bread and we’d still line up for it.
Runner-Up: The Sentinel
Pho: Aux Delices
2327 Polk St. (Near Union St.), 415-928-4977
From the herbs at the top to the vermicelli at the bottom, Aux Delices does pho right. Chef Tina Nguyen’s $9 bowl of beef broth, clear as consommé, sings in low savory notes as scents of jalapeño, lime, and holy basil waft upward and paper-thin slices of steak darken from pink to beige in the hot liquid. It’s exactly what pho should be, delicate as a rare cup of tea but powerful enough to vanquish your hangover and make you long for your own Vietnamese grandmother.
Runner-Up: Good Noodle
Soup Dumplings: Dim Sum Club
2550 Van Ness Ave. (at Filbert St.), 415-529-2615
The first rule of Dim Sum Club: Ignore its somewhat oddball setting on the ground floor of a Van Ness avenue hotel. The second rule of Dim Sum Club: Focus on what matters, which is the supreme awesomeness of the $6.50-for-six soup dumplings. endowed with shiny, supple skins that enclose savory, aromatic pork and a hot gush of broth, they’re pleated parcels of soupy perfection.
Runner-Up: Bund Shanghai
Roast Chicken: Mourad
140 New Montgomery St., Ste. 1 (Near Natoma St.), 415-660-2500
It arrives at the table with the fanfare of an ocean liner pulling into port, a majestic hunk of fowl sporting crackly, burnished skin and exceptionally tender meat. Brined in lemons, olives, and saffron, it’s accompanied by a fleet of sides and sauces, a glorious green chermoula and confit potatoes among them. Meant to serve two, Mourad Lahlou’s $75 roast chicken is the rarest of birds: an entrée that encapsulates the promise of hospitality.
Runner-Up: Zuni Café
424 Octavia St. (Near Linden St.), 415-252-9289
So much of the pleasure in eating a sausage comes from the environment in which it’s eaten: Ideally, said environment should be boisterous, beer-stained, and sunny. Of course, the sausage should be wildly delicious, too, and on both counts, Biergarten delivers. Sitting at one of its picnic tables, arming oneself with a towering stein, and cutting into a plump, juicy, perfectly grilled bratwurst is a surefire path to joy, a carnivorous delight for which we can only say “danke.” Runner-Up: Schmidt’s
490 Pacific Ave. (at Montgomery St.), 415-775-8508
While San Francisco isn’t lacking for good pasta, there’s a certain black magic found in the dough at Cotogna, a certain voluptuous quality that leads you to abandon care and restraint in favor of simple pleasure. From the silky, featherweight strands of tagliolini tangled with sweet chunks of crab to the raviolo di ricotta, laid out like a throw pillow and bulging almost indecently with its egg-and-cheese filling, chef-owner Michael Tusk isn’t manufacturing pasta so much as bliss.
Runner-Up: La Ciccia
517 Hayes St. (Near Octavia Blvd.), 415-400-5458
These days, souped-up fries dot menus all over town, covered in toppings like pastrami, kimchee, gravy, and truffles. Forget all that—Souvla’s are basic perfection. Dusted with kosher salt and parsley and topped with mizithra cheese, they’re crisp on the outside, steamy on the inside, and such a testament to the glory of a potato that you’ll forget you even liked ketchup.
Runner-Up: John’s Grill
Pizza by the Slice: Golden Boy
542 Green St. (Near Jasper Pl.), 415-982-9738
From midday office workers to late-night drunks, there are very few people whom Golden Boy can’t satisfy with its resplendently cheesy Sicilian-style slices. Sporting a crisp, chewy, improbably light focaccia-like crust slicked with sweet tomato sauce, and bearing a surfeit of toppings, from pesto to pepperoni, they are comfort and satisfaction incarnate. The neon finger out front may appear to be pointing to the door, but really, it’s gesturing toward salvation.
Runner-Up: The Pizza Shop
Charcuterie: Trou Normand
140 New Montgomery St. (Near Natoma St.), 415-975-0876
Though charcuterie plates have become almost as common as napkins, Trou Normand’s stands out for both its beauty and its bounty. Blushing ribbons of prosciutto. Lush slabs of duck pâté. Dozens of cured meats, rillettes, and more, all of them butchered in-house and served at just-so temperatures that make their flavors pop. With the help of whole-grain mustard, refreshing fennel salad, quivering aspic, and a crusty pain d’épi, it’s a pretty platter that goes whole hog, and then some.
Haute Hippie Food: Seed + Salt
2240 Chestnut St. (Near Avila St.), 415-872-9173
There’s no gluten, dairy, processed sugar, trans fats, or GMOs at this snug, stylish Marina café, but there is a surplus of flavor and innovation that sets it far beyond the typical tempeh peddlers. Crunchy, umami-rich eggplant bacon ably holds up its end of the bargain on a BLT, while gluten-free breads inspire respect (and pleasure!) rather than the usual terror. It’s health food that doesn’t taste like compromise, and that’s no small thing.
Dim Sum: Hong Kong Lounge
5322 Geary Blvd. (Near 17th Ave.), 415-668-8836
The dim sum canon is represented in all of its dizzyingly diverse glory at this perennially packed Outer Richmond mainstay: Think pneumatic baked pork buns, shrimp siu mai with skin as wrinkly as a Shar-Pei’s, lotus leaf–wrapped sticky rice studded with chicken and other savory delights, and XO noodles with the sheen of silk stockings. Everything comes out fresh, hot, and fast, all the better to sate the hungry crowds—and whet their appetite for more.
Runner-Up: Yank Sing
Tacos: Taqueria Vallarta
3033 24th St. (Near BalMY St.), 415-826-8116
Yes, there are many, many exemplary tacos in the Mission. But the best we’ve found come from Taqueria Vallarta, where the meat is both plentiful—they’ve got everything from tripe and tongue to carne asada and carnitas—and expertly cooked and seasoned, the pliant tortillas are worthy of their cargo, and the DIY salsa bar is purely delightful. The bare-bones setting makes it that much easier to focus on the luxury on your plate.
Runner-Up: Taqueria San Jose
Breakfast Sandwich: Devil’s Teeth Baking Company
3876 Noriega St. (Near 46th Ave.), 415-683-5533
When does a breakfast sandwich transcend the bonds of mere nutritional fuel and ascend to the realm of the divine? When it looks and tastes exactly like the $5.50 specimen served at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company. Constructed on a buttermilk biscuit with roughly the diameter of a manhole cover, it’s stocked with silky scrambled eggs and customizable add-ons like cheddar cheese, bacon, and avocado. A gentle giant, it could coax the devil himself out of bed.
Runner-Up: Parlor 1255
Bread: Marla Bakery
3619 Balboa St. (Near 37th Ave.), 415-742-4379
Choosing the best bread in San Francisco is a fool’s errand: there’s plenty of bread, and most of it is very, very good. that said, we have fever dreams about the loaves that emerge from the ovens at Marla Bakery, from the earthy, slightly sour crunch of co-owner and baker Amy Brown’s dark seeded rye bread to the lacquered crust and sweet, eggy crumb of her challah. regardless of the variety, it’s consistently excellent bread that inspires loyalty, and compulsive eating.
Runner-Up: Tartine Bakery & Cafe
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco