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Four New Restaurants We’re Crazy For

A rustic Jewish-Italian mashup, sushi that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and off-the-beaten-path tacos.

SLIDESHOW

Che Fico’s wood-fired chicken with agrodolce.

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A view of the dining room.

Photo: Douglas Friedman

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A view of the bar.

Photo: Douglas Friedman

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Wooden Spoon.

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Mi Zacatecas Mezican Food.

Photo: Luke Tsai

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Che Fico
NoPa
Do peasants really dine on bright and earthy salads of grilled chicken hearts and gizzards, tossed with pickles, peas, and olives, then napped in aioli? They might in chef David Nayfeld’s interpretation of “cucina Ebraica,” or rustic Jewish-Italian cooking, which is executed with consummate skill at this NoPa hot spot. Nayfeld also roams beyond the Ghetto di Roma into contemporary-chic Cal-Italian terrain, crisping thin-crust pizzas in a wood-fired oven and flecking their blistered edges with parmesan. He slow-roasts whole lamb loins and plates them in portions large enough for four. And he rolls out some of the city’s finest pasta. The visiting Roman peasant, however, will have to budget wisely and show up early to get a seat—reservations get snatched up quickly. 838 Divisadero St. (at McAllister St.), 415-416-6959 —Josh Sens

Wooden Spoon
Castro
Located on the first floor of the Swedish American Hall, in the space previously occupied by a Basque eatery, the Castro’s newest breakfast and brunch spot keeps to a fairly straightforward NorCal orientation with a wholesome quinoa bowl, vegan chorizo patties, and a Dungeness crab soft scramble garnished with edible flowers and fried lemon rinds. At lunchtime, the restaurant offers a small selection of salads and open-faced sandwiches. But breakfast is the meal to get. In one of the few nods to the building’s Scandinavian ties, you can start your day off with lacy Swedish pancakes. Pair them with a classic salt-rimmed Bloody Mary—served with a wooden spoon, naturally. 2172 Market St. (near 15th St.), 415-946-3005 —Luke Tsai

Utzutzu
Alameda
While its name means “reality,” this seven-seat sushi bar has a kind of dreamlike quality, with its hidden-away upstairs location and chic jazz speakeasy atmosphere. Mostly, though, it’s the food, by chefs Joji Nonaka and Asuka Uchida, that seems too good to be true. Like its Oakland sister restaurant, Delage, Utzutzu offers a nightly set menu ($100) that meanders, pleasantly, away from the typical all-sushi omakase format. The meal might start with delicate housemade tofu and include an interlude of a single impossibly plump grilled clam. Meanwhile, Nonaka, the sushi chef, places each pristine piece of nigiri and each nori-wrapped bundle of fatty tuna in front of customers one at a time in a way that invites easy banter. Stellar sushi without the self-seriousness? That, truly, is the dream. 1428 Park St. (near Santa Clara Ave.), 510-263-8122 —L.T.

Mi Zacatecas Mexican Food
Oakland
You wouldn’t think to travel to this corner of deep East Oakland in search of some of the Bay’s best tacos. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at this out-of-the-way spot, which is not a counter-service restaurant so much as a takeout window with a tented outdoor patio. Take one bite of the puffy, airy-light, and intensely corn-fragrant gordita that is characteristic of the Zacatecas state of central Mexico, and you’ll know you’ve come to the right place. Even the toppings for standard street tacos depart from the norm—say, ground beef mixed into potatoes so soft they’re practically mashed. And the lush, soupy barbacoa, served with oversize handmade tortillas, is a worthy weekend-only indulgence. 9896 MacArthur Blvd. (at 99th Ave.), 510-491-3133 —L.T.

 

Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco 

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