By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
The Bistro at Cliff House
1090 Point Lobos (at Great Highway), 386-3330
Popovers are eggy, light, almost hollow soufflélike rolls, with a fragile and glossy crust, and best when served fresh. Practice makes perfect, but most restaurants don't even attempt to bake the steam-leavened treats. In San Francisco, reliable beauties are available at the Bistro. The Bistro serves breakfast and lunch daily, accompanied by what it calls "our famous popovers" and the same fabulous ocean views available for much more moolah at the fancier Cliff House eateries, Sutro's and the Terrace Room. (Caveat emptor: The Bistro, unlike the other two Cliff House spots, has a no-reservation policy, unless there are 12 or more in your party.)
Best Jelly Doughnut
I Preferiti di Boriana
33 Ferry Building (Embarcadero and Market), 402-0421
Italy loves gobs of sugary dough fried in deep fat (and who doesn't?), offering a boot-wide abondanza of Neapolitan zeppole, Sicilian sfinci, Bolognese sfrappole, and Tuscan bombolini, perhaps the fairest of them all. Bigger and fluffier than your standard doughnut hole, these toothsome clouds of yeast, flour, and eggs are cooked in oil, dusted with sugar, and filled with chocolate, custard, or (best of all) raspberry preserve. I Preferiti di Boriana imports pastas, cheeses, wines, and olive oils from the Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano, but its outstanding Italian commodity is its old family recipe for bombolini. Prepared every morning from fresh and imported ingredients, they're light yet slightly chewy in texture, just sweet enough to complement a shot of espresso, and tucked inside is a dollop of tart raspberry jam rich with seeds and brambly flavor. They're also available stuffed with chocolate, custard, or Nutella at $2.50-$2.75 apiece.
Prather Ranch Meat Company
32 Ferry Building (Embarcadero and Market), 391-0420
That rich, tender beefsteak you've been enjoying at Jardinière, the Slanted Door, Tartine, and other culinary hotspots comes from Prather Ranch, a 34,000-acre spread near Mount Shasta where humanely raised livestock graze on an organic diet of hay, barley, and rice. The resulting beef is dry-aged for two weeks, ensuring plenty of silky, succulent flavor. It's sold by the roast and the steak (we like the beautifully marbled boneless ribeye), but if you want to cook up a sensational burger, opt for the smoky, dry-aged, twice-ground beef (Prather grills the burgers at the Ferry Building farmers' market Tuesdays and Saturdays). The company also sources pork from Capay Valley pigs raised on organic fruits and vegetables; grass-fed lamb, buffalo, and veal from Oregon; and pasture-raised chickens from Soul Food Farm near Vacaville.
Bars and Clubs
Best No-Talent-Required Karaoke
Karaoke Night at the Attic
3336 24th St. (at Mission), 643-3376
Promises of no-pressure karaoke nights are usually false, with even the divey-est, most out-of-the way places sporting their fair share of divas. Not so at the Attic's karaoke night, which happens the third Monday of every month. The complete lack of flair ensures that every flaw in every squeaky voice will be laid bare for the jovial, drunken audience members, who do not care how poorly you sing. There is no stage provided; performers read lyrics from a screen set up on a bar table in a makeshift arena that consists of a couple of booths. What singers lack in talent, they often make up for by leaping from one booth to another or, even better, lying on one while humping the air and ecstatically singing Blondie hits. Always wanted to belt out the Cure's "Lovesong" sans embarrassment and quite possibly to much cheering? This is the place.
The Moss Room
55 Music Concourse (in the California Academy of Sciences), 876-6121
Okay, it isn't exactly a bar and there aren't actually any happy hour discounts, but sipping a Manhattan at sunset in the LEED platinum-certified California Academy of Sciences' Moss Room is lulling enough to rival well drinks at your favorite downtown dive. It opens half an hour after the museum closes, and sits pretty below the academy's "living roof," a lush canopy of plants accessible from the third floor. Most people come for the food — fresh organic California cuisine — but hanging out at the marble bar and admiring the stunning 28-foot-tall wall of dried moss, ferns, succulents, and grasses is another great way to pass the time. Squid-shaped lamps, a layered ceiling that works to diffuse noise, and a glassed-in private dining room that seats up to 15 add to the green-topian elegance. You might find yourself shelling out lots of dollars for an après-office cocktail (basic cocktails cost $12 to $15), but all the offerings — including a dizzying array of fine wines served in paper-thin glasses, separated on the menu into sustainable, organic, and biodynamic — and the sense that you've stumbled into a Disneyland ride for adults make the occasional visit well worth the splurge.
Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason (at California), 772-5278
In an era of crumbling institutions, rampant greed, and change for the hell of it, the all-but-certain demise of the Tonga Room may be the saddest slap at historical preservation to date. The grandest of the city's tiki bars blossomed just after World War II and in the decades since has delighted natives and visitors alike with its over-the-top decor, foliage-festooned umbrella drinks, and regularly scheduled tropical downpours. Those of us who grew up delighting in the wall-to-wall tribal masks, totem poles, palm fronds, and ship's riggings will miss the floating-raft dance band, the hollowed-pineapple cocktails, the rumble of thunder, and the flash of lightning just as keenly as we mourn the once-bustling Embarcadero, the Fillmore's jazz joints, and other vanished relics of this restless city.