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Food & Drink

  • Best Restaurant

    Jardinière

    One restaurant might prepare dramatically memorable food. Another might create a unique and luxurious ambience. A third might offer service that's intelligent as well as attentive. When you find a restaurant that encompasses all three -- an improbable scenario, here or anywhere -- you've hit the jackpot. Jardinière, Traci Des Jardins' 4-year-old success story, is one of them. The waiters are so attuned to the kitchen's gustatory pleasures that their opinions are an invaluable resource. The setting is one of... More >>

  • Best Fusion Food

    Cafe Kati

    There's nothing new about fusion cooking; fish and chips, Belgian chocolate, the fiery curries of India, and the tomato-based dishes of the Mediterranean are just a few examples of post-Columbian culinary intermingling. Fusion doesn't often reach the ethereal heights attained at Cafe Kati, however, where India, Japan, and Southeast Asia meet France, Italy, and the great American farm belt to startlingly tasty effect. Crisp little tacos are stuffed with seared ahi, local Dungeness, and a dollop of wasabi; flaky American... More >>

  • Best Place to Wait for the Movie to Start at the Castro

    Marcello's

    You never know how popular a movie is going to be at this theater until you can actually see the length of the line stretching down Castro Street. But you do know you're going to be hungry right before the movie and that you need a place to rendezvous with your fellow cinemagoers. Solution: Meet 'em at Marcello's pizzeria right across the street, where you can not only satisfy your cravings for something filling and delicious, but you can check... More >>

  • Best Italian Deli

    Molinari Delicatessen

    Molinari reminds you in a purely visceral manner how richly the Italian experience is imbued with good eating. When you walk in, the wonderful smells of sausage and garlic and cheese inspire wholesale noshing, sipping, and cooking. The place is jammed, floor to rafters, with all the ingredients for a memorable feast. Sharp, crumbly Reggiano and pungent Gorgonzola. Blood-red prosciutto and fennel-sweet finocchiona. Imported gnocchi, pearly arborio, and pasta in every conceivable configuration. An endless supply of wines, from pinot... More >>

  • Best Japanese Grocery

    Super Mira

    A few months ago we took it upon ourselves to cook up a six-course Japanese meal despite a collective lack of experience in sushi-rolling and tempura-frying and a cupboard bereft of harusame and shoga. Luckily, Super Mira (and its predecessor, Super Koyama) has been around for years, providing virtuoso and beginner alike with all the ingredients for an authentic and delightful Japanese banquet. The produce baskets brim with kabu, gobo, fuki, and taro root; the fish department offers up glistening... More >>

  • Best Mexicatessen

    La Palma

    Delicatessens have come a long way since they arrived here from central Europe, pickled herring intact, a century ago; today in the great American melting pot we have our French delicatessens, Italian delicatessens, Scandinavian delicatessens, even Chinese delicatessens. The Mexicatessen is a welcome Hispanic variant. At La Palma, a crowded, friendly, always busy venue in the heart of the Mission, a squad of artisans creates tamales, tostaditas, and tortillas out of preservative-free, freshly ground masa before your eyes. The deli... More >>

  • Best Tamales

    Barrasa Market

    It's hard to find a good tamale nowadays; the once ubiquitous handful of stuffed masa has been more or less supplanted by the perfunctory burrito. But this Latin American delicacy, in which cornmeal dough is wrapped around the filling of your choice and steamed until hot and aromatic, has been a multicultural mainstay from Cape Horn to the Rio Grande for millennia. Barrasa keeps the tradition alive. The front of this tiny grocery is given over to the preparation of... More >>

  • Best Antipasto

    Emma

    Remember when an Italian meal meant spaghetti and meatballs, a candle stuck in a Chianti bottle, and a preliminary platter of cold cuts and pickled cauliflower? Emma, an imaginative little hideaway in the grand old San Remo Hotel, defies North Beach tradition with an antipasto distinct from the cellophane-scented norm. Chef Mark Lusardi's "before the food" platter changes daily, depending on what's fresh, and might include such creations as sweet peppers braised with fennel; smoky, onion-edged garbanzo beans; or red,... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    24th Street Cheese Company

    There's a memorable moment in Stevenson's Treasure Island when a castaway is rescued after three years of living beyond the blessings of human civilization. His first, avid words: "Got any cheese?" God knows the 24th Street Cheese Company has cheese -- enough, in fact, to make up for three decades of rennetless privation. A huge, ever-evolving blackboard dominates a shop comparatively modest in size considering the abundance it shelters: well over 200 cheeses from around the world. Luckily, you can... More >>

  • Best Reason to Go to Fisherman's Wharf

    Eagle Cafe

    For years the Eagle served breakfast and bourbon to the deckhands and crabbers of Fisherman's Wharf, back when it was a real wharf with a real fishing fleet minus all of the gimcrack and wax museums. When the Pier 39 development came along and threatened the Eagle's nest at the foot of Powell Street, the whole structure was hoisted up, transported a block or two, and set down, lock, stock, and liquor license, atop the new amusement pier. And with... More >>

  • Best Bread

    Noe Valley Bakery

    San Francisco is renowned for its fabulous bread, and the Noe Valley Bakery is a contemporary reason why. As a co-conspirator in the relatively recent artisan-bread craze, the shop bakes a fantastic selection of marvelous loaves studded with figs, apricots, walnuts, and other delights, but Noe Valley's good old-fashioned San Francisco sourdough is simple and superb: beautifully textured, crusty, and dense with microorganismic flavor. You can get Noe Valley breadstuffs throughout the Bay Area, but it's fun to drop by... More >>

  • Best Pan Dulce

    La Victoria

    Panaderías -- Mexican bakeries -- are located throughout the Mission, particularly along 24th Street, but La Victoria is a longtime favorite. Every panadería's specialty is pan dulce, delicately flavored, lightly textured rolls dusted with sugar and baked into whimsical shapes. At La Victoria they're crumbly on the outside, feathery within, and barely confectionery enough to earn the name "sweet breads" -- the perfect foil for a hot, frothy mug of Mexican chocolate, the delicacy's ideal dipping companion. Several varieties of... More >>

  • Best High Tea

    Ritz-Carlton

    Afternoon tea is as ritualistic a pleasure as anything out of Imperial Japan, and the Ritz-Carlton has preserved all of the meal's myriad gratifications down to the smallest detail. The locale, in the hotel's Lobby Lounge, is an opulent, pale-rose setting of antique oils, orchid blossoms, and crystal chandeliers. On one recent rainy day the gray-marble hearth was crackling away while a harpist strummed appropriately gentle sounds. The tea itself, brewed from top-flight Taylors of Harrogate in a Wedgwood pot,... More >>

  • Best Place to Feel Positively Gallic

    La Boulange de Polk

    We know a couple who prepared for a move to Paris by coming to this bakery every morning for three months straight. La Boulange is an acclimating bit of la Rive Gauche on the slopes of Russian Hill, complete with surrounding Old Country accents (every French national in town seems to end up here) and sun-dappled sidewalk tables ideal for café-sipping and girl-watching. The tarts, brioches, croissants, and quiches are matched in quality only by the stuff at Boulangerie, the... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian Cheesesteak

    Jay's Cheesesteak

    Thanks to Jay's, "vegetarian cheesesteak" is no longer an oxymoron. Though this hip and hip hop-inspired Mission eatery serves nine kinds of cheesesteaks (from the original to a pastrami cheesesteak), Jay's also caters to the vegetarian crowd with its tasty seitan sandwich. Seitan is a chunky wheat gluten with a meatlike texture, and it is sliced, grilled, and loaded -- steaming and greasy -- onto a thick roll with grilled onions and cheese. The seitan sandwich is a culinary triumph... More >>

  • Best Brie Sandwich

    Big Sherm's

    This small eatery's motto -- "You can't get fresher than this!" -- applies to the friendly but spirited service as well as its amazing sandwiches. Though there are 32 sandwiches (nine of them vegetarian friendly) and four kinds of salads on the menu, the brie sandwich (No. 26) is a standout. Thick slabs of creamy, flavorful brie are sliced onto focaccia, topped with tomatoes, fresh basil, red onions, sun-dried tomato pesto, Dijon mustard, and mixed greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.... More >>

  • Best Jewish Deli

    Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen

    Though it'll stir up lots of tsuris to place the best Jewish deli outside of San Francisco, Saul's beats any of the city's lesser efforts by a mile. Sure, you can get an overpriced bowl of matzo ball soup at David's downtown or a chewy corned beef on rye at Moishe's Pippic on Hayes, but at Saul's, the tables -- stocked with pickles -- groan under the weight of the deli's enormous triple-decker sandwiches. The Niman Ranch pastrami and corned... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    Red Nectar Ale, Humboldt Brewing Co.

    So much beer, so little time. The superior suds to be sampled in Northern California are so numerous it's difficult to pick a favorite: Anderson Valley's mellow Boont Amber? Anchor's intensely delicious Liberty Ale? Sierra Nevada's megahoppy Big Foot Barley Wine? Humboldt's Red Nectar has all the mouth-filling maltiness of a fine amber as well as a complex, hoppy temperament rich with warm, spicy undertones. Although it makes a fine accompaniment to Thanksgiving turkey and humble chicken sandwich alike, this... More >>

  • Best Comfort Food

    Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese at Blue

    The wind zooms cold down Market Street. Your stomach's grumbling, but you know your fridge is empty. It's time to duck into Blue for a hearty dish of pasta and protein, the gourmet mac and cheese your mama never made. Far superior to the gooey glop served by expatriate Middle Americans -- and nowhere near the neon orange concoction that comes in a box -- Blue's blend is one big pile of yum. Chef Jose Torres serves a mix of... More >>

  • Best Food Court

    Emeryville Public Market

    Though it has a Borders Books, a Universal Artists Cinema Multiplex, and a few other shops and services, the Emeryville Public Market is basically a big food court. But don't be alarmed -- at this market "best" and "food court" aren't incompatible terms. First, you can get just about anything you want in its warehouselike space -- from sushi to schwarma to spaghetti, from Afghan to Mexican to Creole. What's more, most of the food is better than the standard... More >>

  • Best Place You Wouldn't Expect to Find Great Pancakes

    Flipper's Gourmet Burgers

    Who would have thought a burger place would have great breakfasts? The menu goes way beyond the basic greasy eggs, toast, and potatoes; instead, it offers specialties such as the Morning Charge: shredded potatoes cooked with grilled onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, cilantro, and two kinds of cheese, and served with eggs and toast. It's perfect! But by far the best item on Flipper's breakfast menu is the pancakes. Order them with blueberries and get ready for a treat. The cakes... More >>

  • Best Block for a Culinary Tour of the World

    Valencia Between 16th and 17th Streets

    There are 15 restaurants on this block of the Mission, representing eight distinct cuisines: everything from the tasty Mexican fast food of La Cumbre, El Toro, or Mariachi to the upscale Vietnamese-meets-California-cuisine of the Slanted Door. If it's Indian food you crave, sit down to a meal at Scenic India or get some delectable curries and appetizers to go (don't forget the ice cream!) at Bombay Chaat and Ice Creamery. For Asian flair, try Yum-Yum House's Chinese dishes or Sunflower's... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Luau

    Punahele Island Grill

    This place is so authentic that a big pile of macaroni salad comes with every order. Only true Hawaiians know that macaroni salad is the unifying food of their modern culture. And the mound of shredded pork on every plate is so succulent it dissolves before you can begin to chew. With not much more atmosphere than a banquet hall, this is what Hawaiian luaus really look like. You get the feeling you are at a wedding reception as you... More >>

  • Best Alcoholic Cream Soda

    Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.

    Vanilla beer? Strange, but true, and it's just one of the peculiarities of the Thirsty Bear, where seven tasty house microbrews are juxtaposed with a lengthy tapas menu in a brassy, industrial, South of Market setting. Even if the bartenders do look at you a little funny for ordering it, the sweet-smelling brew -- which seems closer to A&W than Amstel -- is just the thing for washing down zesty offerings such as patatas al ajillo (aka "garlic fries") and... More >>

  • Best Health-Conscious Chinese Restaurant

    Dragon Well

    Chinese restaurants have never been known for serving health food, but Dragon Well comes closer than most. On a lunch date in the Marina, chew like an elated goat on vegetarian tofu salad while sipping iced tea with a fleshy litchi globule floating in it. Here, there's no need to excavate the kung pao from blankets of grease; most everything is light and tasty. Bathed in sunlight from huge bay windows, you can daydream of faraway shores over salt-and-pepper calamari... More >>

  • Best Damn Cup of Hot Chocolate

    The Grove

    What's a person gotta do to find a decent sugar rush in this town? For years, your best option was Bepples pie shop on Union Street, but with that respectable establishment (and its magnificent chocolate cream pies) now gone, options for a good chocolate fix are a bit limited. Enter the Grove. In most ways it's not much different from its neighboring see-and-be-seen yuppie Marina hangouts. There's the Chestnut Street location, the dark lighting, and the wood-paneled walls, not to... More >>

  • Best Curry-Induced High

    The Ganges

    In recent studies, certain kinds of curry have been shown to have mild narcotic effects and be slightly addictive. What better place to "turn on" than the Ganges, a vegetarian restaurant that looks like it was built in someone's living room. Under the tapestries and the seductive drone of the raga cassettes, a flavor revelation takes place. The temperature rises from spices attacking the blood. The pupils dilate. Twenty-two ounces of watery Indian beer calm the nerves, and all that's... More >>

  • Best Éclairs

    Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery Store

    San Francisco is blessed with a handful of Russian bakeries, but on certain Saturday afternoons, the Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery Store seems to have the longest line stretching out the door. For good reason, too. Its variety of pastries under glass is practically a shrine to sweet-tooth temptation: multicolored meringues, biscuits, cakes, and a slew of native Russian treats. The standout is Moscow and Tbilisi's chocolate éclair -- the best damn éclair you'll find anywhere. You can achieve creamy, flaky,... More >>

  • Best Cheap Meal Before Dropping a Wad at the AMC 1000 Van Ness

    Pho Hoa

    Soup is a year-round dish in San Francisco's blustery climes, but few can touch the savory, filling bowl served up on the fringes of the Tenderloin at Pho Hoa. Pho is the Vietnamese beef broth redolent with anise and other unusual spices (you can request no cilantro). It comes with a thicket of rice noodles and the meat of your choice. Opt for pho tai, containing slices of rare steak that gradually lose their pinkness in the steaming liquid. Tart... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Before a Giants Game

    Primo Patio Cafe

    While the box-seat crowd preps for a ballgame with overpriced libations and victuals at Paragon and MoMo's, the real fans -- the ones with a covey of Croix de Candlestick pins embedded in their well-worn Giants caps -- rally at a nearby no-frills Caribbean spot called the Primo Patio Cafe. Dining is alfresco (with heaters, thank Jah), setting the evening off on a pleasant note of urban adventure. Primo's signature dish is the jerk chicken platter, a major-league helping of... More >>

  • Best Music to Eat Sushi By

    Hanabi Japanese Restaurant

    Japanese lanterns, bamboo, and chopsticks are things you expect to find in a Japanese restaurant. Portishead on the PA and wasabi in the shape of a happy face are not. Those are just two reasons we love Hanabi, a haven for Lower Haight hipsters in the gourmet ghetto that also features ethnic standouts such as Thep Phanom and the Indian Oven. Portishead is one of the more mainstream artists you'll hear at Hanabi. More likely suspects are avant-garde ambient producer... More >>

  • Best East Coast Pizza

    Pizza Orgasmica

    Ever wake up feeling like you just want to eat the Farmer's Daughter, or wrap your lips around a hot, lovely Aphrodite, or explore the pleasure-filled temptations of Kamasutra? Well, you're in luck -- that is, if you were thinking about pizza. As its name suggests, Pizza Orgasmica likes to give its pies sexy names -- and it lives up to them. Its pizzas, with their thin, bubbly crust, are also the closest you'll find in this town to those... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Memphis Minnie's Bar-B-Que Joynt

    The second you open the door to Memphis Minnie's, you're hit with sensory overload. The screaming yellow walls and red trim nearly make you squint, while the overwhelming smell of barbecue is enough to give you, well, let's just call them convulsions. Don't be alarmed. This is some damn fine barbecue: beef brisket smoked for 18 hours till it's nearly falling apart, and pork ribs so tempting they practically require detox. Along with the real meat, Minnie's offers chicken, andouille... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Restaurant

    Yokoso Nippon

    Yokoso Nippon is also known as "No Name Sushi." With no signage, no alcohol permit, no phone, no reservations, and no way to pay other than cash, this little hole in the wall wouldn't seem to have much to recommend it. But the place has its charms. Part of its odd allure stems from the lack of frills and the mismatched tiles and tables, but the quality of the food and the value for your money are what keep the... More >>

  • Best Underappreciated Fancy French Restaurant

    Charles Nob Hill

    Forget Masa's, Fleur de Lys, and La Folie. Charles is the French restaurant to attend when you've got a special occasion to celebrate (and a small wheelbarrow of cash to fork over). This tiny, 60-seat eatery -- the stomping ground of Melissa Perello, who trained under current Masa's chef Ron Siegel -- is tucked away in the bowels of a Nob Hill apartment complex. The sign outside is so unobtrusive that it's perfect for a hushed rendezvous -- maybe that's... More >>

  • Best Caffeine High

    Peet's Coffee and Teas

    It's Monday morning, a time when San Franciscans find it socially acceptable to exchange the evil eye and a grunt, the universal signals for "I haven't had my coffee yet!" Because, let's face it, most of us aren't morning people. For some, any coffee-flavored hot water is enough to get their motor running, but for others the only real coffee is strong coffee. A growing number of the latter are "Peetniks," loyal followers of Peet's Coffee and Teas. Since 1966,... More >>

  • Best Braised String Beans

    Hunan Chef

    This no-frills eat-in/take-out restaurant is smack dab in the middle of one of the city's least dot-communized 'hoods: Bernal Hill. The standard cooked flesh and deep-fried creatures are featured, but Hunan Chef also sports a decent selection of vegetarian dishes, seaweed soup, and mango sauces. But here's a tip you'll thank us for: Hunan Chef braises the best damn string beans around. Succulent, long, green, firm beans flecked with little chunks of crispy garlic will make your day and ward... More >>

  • Best Sandwich

    Peter's Favorite Breakfast Sandwich

    Stix Restaurant, 1200 Sixth St. (at Mission Bay), 255-7849 Next to Mission Bay Creek and the golf driving range where San Francisco cops go to meet their snitches, Stix offers one of the most lunch-friendly atmospheres to be found South of Market. The glass walls allow diners to look out on the golfers and green lawns, and Nita, the cashier, always has a friendly word. And the delicious sandwiches, pasta, salads, pizza, and daily specials are worth going a bit... More >>

  • Best Dog-Friendly Cafe

    Atlas Cafe

    This is one of those finds that is probably best kept secret, but here goes: The Atlas Cafe has an attached patio with an outdoor heater, sheltered by a clear plastic tent. Under the tent are tables at which people sit with, yes, their dogs! Laid-back workers serve up great, cheap food, and there is jazz on weekend nights. Best of all, you can hang out under the tent for hours, drinking hot ginger lemonade and eating smoked trout while... More >>

  • Best Tofu

    Pyung Chang Tofu House

    If a mild, white bean product is not the first thing that pops into your head when thinking, "What am I in the mood for tonight?," the Tofu House will change that. This Korean-operated restaurant in Oakland has taken tofu to new heights with its specialty, silky tofu soups called "soon." The menu offers nine varieties of soon, which consist of wonderfully spicy meat, seafood, or vegetable soup with a layer of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth tofu on top. Recommendations include the... More >>

  • Best Irish Coffee

    The Albatross

    Chucking some well whiskey and Nescafé into a glass and spraying Reddi Wip on top does not make an Irish coffee. A good one requires first-rate coffee, high-quality Irish whiskey (such as Jameson's), and fresh cream. While many bars or pubs get one or two of these essentials right, few deliver on all three. The Albatross in Berkeley is one of the few British Isles-styled pubs that make a top-notch Irish coffee by using the right ingredients, mixing them in... More >>

  • Best Place to Sip Wine Before Dinner

    Liberty Cafe

    In a city that has thousands of excellent restaurants, one might wonder why anyone would choose to visit the Liberty Cafe, a restaurant that practically ensures a wait on weekend nights because it is limited to 12 tables and doesn't take reservations. The secret behind Liberty Cafe's popularity may lie down a narrow breezeway that leads to the rear of the restaurant. There you will find a little guest house cheerfully painted white, a cottage that serves as a bakery... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Fruit and Cheese on a Sunny Afternoon

    Cafe Bastille

    Cafe Bastille is in downtown San Francisco on Belden Place, a surprisingly placid, restaurant-lined alley artfully hidden amid some of the tallest buildings in the city. While the interior décor of Cafe Bastille is intended to imitate a Parisian Metro station, it's the fresh-air seating that makes for the most unique dining experience, which is clearly meant to hearken to the outdoor bistros of Paris. The alleyside location of the cafe allows for outdoor seating that is largely protected from... More >>

  • Best Tom Yum

    Yamo Thai Kitchen

    If you live in the Mission, you may have walked past Yamo Thai Kitchen dozens of times without even noticing the place is there. This tiny, family-run spot is about as bare bones as it gets -- one counter, nine stools, a whole lot of to-go boxes, and a tom yum (Thai-style hot and sour) soup so potent it can shatter souls with one sip. Owner Nanthana Sorathorn isn't the least bit shy when it comes to using lemongrass and... More >>

  • Best Tiramisu

    Ristorante Ideale

    Step into Maurizio Bruschi's Ristorante Ideale and life will seem a little bit better. The décor is warm and soothing, the bread is fresh-baked, and the food -- from a flawless saltimbocca to the almost criminally flavorful spaghetti baked in cartoccio -- just plain kicks ass. Then comes the crescendo -- tiramisu -- which translates as "carry me up" and will indeed take you higher via a cloudlike blend of bitter chocolate, espresso, mascarpone, and ladyfingers. Plenty of places serve... More >>

  • Best Local Cookbook

    Savoring San Francisco

    If you've ever wondered how Betelnut got the fire into its emerald fire noodles (no longer on the menu, unfortunately, and sorely missed), or can't stop thinking about the salmon paillards you had at Globe, Aqua's miso-marinated sea bass, or Fringale's Roquefort ravioli, have we got a cookbook for you. Local authors Carolyn Miller and Sharon Smith have put together a splendid collection of recipes from some of the city's finer restaurants, revealing the secrets behind Osaka Grill's Chilean sea... More >>

  • Best Martini

    Maxfield's

    It's said that the martini was invented 140 years ago by Professor Jerry Thomas, bartender at the Occidental Hotel on Montgomery Street. The Savoy Cocktail Book called Thomas "the greatest bartender of the past," although contemporary accounts indicate that his martini was made up of half gin and half sweet vermouth, an appalling thing to contemplate. The real deal -- the elusive, almost vaporous transcendence we have evolved enough to appreciate -- is shaken and proffered with admirable artistry at... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Celebrate the Sunset

    It isn't absolutely necessary to be out by the seashore to celebrate the sunset. Dusk is a state of mind as much as an astrological given, a languid meteorological declaration that the workday has ended and a bit of revitalization is in order. The best place to accomplish post-vocational repairs to both body and spirit is a friendly saloon, particularly one with its own individual ambience and no shortage of bourbon. Our city is inhabited by several of these salutary... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Get Non-Diner Food After the Bars Close

    Going out in San Francisco poses a dilemma. Nothing brings on an appetite like a late night of drinking, but because most of this pulsing metropolis shuts down well before last call, the post-bar masses have few options to satisfy their cravings -- mostly 24-hour diners serving burgers and greasy fries. So where to go for decent grub? Tucked throughout the city are some alternative venues where barflies can sate those post-carousing munchies on something other than onion rings. Osha... More >>

  • Three Best Places for Adventurous Ice Cream Lovers

    So you really love ice cream? Think you've tried it all -- tin roof sundaes, Monkey Wrench, peanut butter, bubble gum? We've got news for you: You haven't even licked the surface. There's a small universe of ice cream flavors waiting to be tried -- avocado, cardamom, ube (see what we mean?). A visit to the shops below are guaranteed to expand your horizons about what flavors are possible -- or, for that matter, even appropriate. Bombay Chaat and Ice... More >>

  • Best Vegan Restaurants

    There is a wonderfully tasty alternative to the typically American killer diet of saturated fat, cholesterol, and artificially created hormones. It's called vegan food, and it's made without any animal-based substance. No meat. No butter. No cheese. Which means, with any luck, no heart attacks, no cancer, no obesity. (Provided, of course, that you exercise and don't smoke or drink yourself to the grave.) It may sound a bit austere, but fear not. San Francisco is a haven for vegans,... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Elisabeth Daniel

    Elisabeth Daniel belongs to the grand tradition of opulent dining exemplified by Ernie's, Fleur de Lys, and, more recently, Gary Danko and the Fifth Floor. Its seasonal cuisine, rich with caviar, foie gras, truffles, and other delicacies, is served with languid precision in six intricate, imaginative courses. Each dish is presented with an aesthetic worthy of its aspirations: poached oysters with osetra; sweetbread-pâté ravioli with shavings of black truffle; fabulously tender, hand-rolled couscous with green olive oil; roasted quail with... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Oriental Pearl

    Part of the fun of the dim sum experience is pointing out what you want from a passing trolley and getting it instantly -- the essence of immediate gratification -- but all too often the snack in question has been sitting around in a steam table, getting tired and listless. Not an issue at Oriental Pearl, where all of the dim sum is freshly cooked to order. The difference is immediately obvious: Oriental Pearl's dumplings, cakes, and pot stickers are... More >>

  • Best Brunch

    Liberty Cafe

    Brunch is a meal as distinct from all others as the weekend is from the weekday -- the meal when a body can relax, reflect, stretch out, and exult in dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. Except, of course, eating. The Liberty Cafe not only serves an imaginative brunch of uniform high quality -- a house-made, nut-ribboned granola; pungent, hearty corned-beef hash; marvelous French toast made with house-baked challah and fresh fruit in season -- it's located in... More >>

  • Best Lox & Bagels

    Swan Oyster Depot

    So what do you do when you have a hankering for really good lox and bagels and you live 3,000 miles west of Amsterdam and 86th? Make the trek to upper Polk Street, where a six-block jaunt between establishments will yield a brunch well worth the Muni fare. Start at Swan Oyster Depot, where the gregarious countermen will fillet and slice the creamiest, butteriest smoked salmon in the city before your very eyes. Next, hoof it on up to the... More >>

  • Best Pot Stickers

    U-Lee

    We know someone who came to San Francisco 16 years ago for a job interview and discovered U-Lee's extraordinary pot stickers during his visit. To this day he is convinced his decision to relocate here was subliminally influenced by the nip of ginger that elevates U-Lee's creations (it doesn't hurt that they're also huge). A no-frills storefront at the corner of Hyde and Jackson, U-Lee does most of its business in takeout. All of Russian Hill is wise to U-Lee,... More >>

  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Kabuto Sushi

    After nearly 20 years in business, you'd think the wrinkles would be long since ironed out at Sachio Kojima's Kabuto, and you'd be correct. The experience begins with hot, steamed towels, then gets interesting as you contemplate an elaborate, three-volume menu that would take at least 10 visits to explore. You'll no doubt realize the daily specials are the best thing to order, after which you'll move on to the sashimi combination -- some 25 pieces of the freshest raw... More >>

  • Best Kaddo

    The Helmand

    Sure, we could have given these guys best banjan (sautéed eggplant), best aushak (Afghan ravioli), or best aush (beef/yogurt/noodle soup). And don't even get us started on the chowpan (rack of lamb) or any of the other lamb dishes at the city's best, and only, Afghan restaurant. Though everything on the menu is superb, no dish has haunted us as thoroughly as the Helmand's kaddo -- a thick wedge of pan-fried pumpkin baked with brown sugar until it reaches a... More >>

  • Best Thai and Vietnamese Restaurant

    Malee Thai & Vietnamese

    A few places (but not many) serve better Thai food, just like a few places (still not many) do better Vietnamese. But when you want both -- a balancing act comparable to serving French and Italian cuisines -- you simply must pay a visit to Malee Jones, chef/owner of the friendly little spot known to us as MT&VR&B. To experience the subtlety of French-influenced Vietnamese fare, try the exquisitely delicate spring rolls. Or, for a ferocious example of the Thai... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    Get your scoops of 42 homemade flavors while you can, as a nonrenewable lease may force the Murashige family from the popular Richmond District ice cream parlor and grill that has been a landmark on the corner of Geary and 18th since World War II. Mutsuhiko Murashige bought Joe's when he immigrated to San Francisco from Japan in the late 1970s, preserving the original recipes of now long-forgotten but classic flavors like rum raisin, butter brickle, and root beer swirl.... More >>

  • Best Cocktail List

    Bruno's

    While the return of chef James Ormsby to Bruno's is some of the most exciting news to hit the Mission since Ormsby first helped revive the place back in 1995, the thing that really stands out at this swank jazz and supper club is the drink list. Sometimes, a place will offer 10 or even 20 house cocktails, but we don't know anyone who lists a whopping 72 and delivers as splendidly as Bruno's. The beauty of this list is... More >>

  • Best Oshinko

    Sanraku Four Seasons Japanese Restaurant

    From what we've seen, there's always a line at this traditional, brightly lit sushi house, and from what we've tasted, the wait is justifiable. The tempura is so crisp it bristles like autumn leaves, the dragon sushi (a sort of sushi casserole layered with unagi, smelt eggs, shiso, and tempura flakes) is better than most orgasms, and the tuna tataki salad in soy-jalapeño sauce is better than that. Still, the real standout is one of the simplest dishes -- oshinko,... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    Eos

    Although it's known primarily for its excellent wine cellar and its imaginative take on fusion cuisine, Eos is equally adept at the art and science of fabulous desserts. Recent examples have included a sort of über-Twix bar made of house-baked shortbread, milk chocolate ganache, coconut sorbet, and coconut brittle; a napoleon of vanilla gelato, sake-marinated blackberries, and Scharffen Berger chocolate; a wonderfully moist tiramisu ribboned with caramelized bananas; and best of all, a dazzling reinterpretation of baked Alaska in which... More >>

  • Best Pan-Asian Restaurant

    Betelnut Pejiu Wu

    If a nuclear bomb were to detonate over the Bay Area, vaporizing thousands if not millions of innocents in a hot, bright flash, we have a feeling that, when the radiation began to clear, there would still be a line to get into Betelnut. Open since 1995, the place has already become a San Francisco institution, a result of the consistently excellent selection of small plates drawn from across East Asia. Every meal should begin with salt-and-pepper prawns and Celia's... More >>

  • Best Comeback We're Praying Will Happen

    Tong Palace

    We don't care what anyone says: Ton Kiang does not serve the best dim sum in San Francisco. Yank Sing probably doesn't either, though Mayflower might, but the thing about all these places is that it takes forfreakingever to get a table on weekends. Thus, we set off toward Clement one Sunday seeking a quicker dim sum fix and stumbled into a place called Tong Palace. Instead of nabbing dishes from passing servers, an extensive menu allowed us to make... More >>

  • Best Discount Asian Foods

    Richmond New May Wah Supermarket

    The thing about May Wah is that the place offers a little bit of everything -- guava tea, clay pots, red bean mochi, eel, fresh lobster balls, fresh squid, dried squid, canned squid, Crest toothpaste, playing cards, not to mention the notoriously stinky, spiky-skinned, and often dangerous durian fruit. The other thing about May Wah is that the prices are absurdly cheap -- after all, where else can you get coconut milk for 59 cents, curry paste for 69 cents,... More >>

  • Best Columbus Avenue Bar

    Mr. Bing's

    The bar is triangular at Mr. Bing's, and the drinks are so stiff they may actually melt your bones. The strange, circular indentation in the ceiling can resemble (depending how many drinks you've had) either a strange, circular indentation or a portal to another dimension, and on weekends the crowd is young, decidedly non-yuppie, and prone to some very serious tippling. Need we say more? OK, how about this: Vesuvio (255 Columbus) is always full of tourists; Specs' is technically... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Name

    Dine

    Sometimes, a restaurant opens with a name like, say, Venture Frogs, which can annihilate appetites at a distance of 50 miles. But then, at other times, you get a moniker like Dine, a crisp, single syllable that suggests so much it leaves us breathless. One eats a potato chip, but dines on seared chicken livers with applewood smoked bacon, bruschetta with white anchovies, wild mushroom and baby spinach risotto with truffle oil, lavender-scented rack of lamb, or maybe hazelnut-crusted Chilean... More >>

  • Best Family-Style Chinese Restaurant

    Eight Immortals

    Depending on how interested you are in authentic Chinese food, and depending on how squeamish you get around squab heads, chicken feet, jellyfish, and sea cucumber, Eight Immortals will seem like either a slice of heaven or your worst culinary nightmare. Hopefully, the former is true, and if it is, you simply must pay a visit to this bustling seafood joint on Taraval, which delivers excellent, multicourse, prix fixe banquets at decidedly wallet-friendly prices. For example, the last time we... More >>

  • Best New Greek Restaurant

    Mezes

    As wonderful as Kokkari is, San Francisco has long been underserved when it comes to Greek food. But the picture brightened considerably last year with the opening of Chestnut Street's Mezes, which is named after the traditional Greek tapas-style appetizers. This warm, friendly spot delivers such classic Hellenic fare as dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), spanakotiropita (cheese-spinach pie), and sublime mussels in ouzo broth. The tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber dip) can be unexciting, but the kolokithokeftedes (zucchini-potato cakes) are as seductive as a... More >>

  • Best Bloody Mary

    Azie

    We could go on and on about the wonders of Azie. The décor is sumptuous, the Nine Bites appetizer is better than most sex, and the live DJ at the bar means you're not dining on your grandmother's haute cuisine, but a 21st-century style of fusion executed so flawlessly that foie gras steamed with snapper seems as natural as tomato sauce with pasta. But perhaps the most haunting taste of all comes from the drink list -- the Azie Bloody... More >>

  • Best Gnocchi

    Da Flora

    The handwritten menu at North Beach's cozy Da Flora changes often, with one exception -- owner Flora Gaspar's "signature" sweet potato gnocchi. In fact, according to Flora, attempts to change the sauce the gnocchi are served with have been met with fierce opposition by regular customers, meaning (to us, at least) that the dish has reached the apex of culinary perfection. Subtly sweet, sublimely melting, served with a decadent sherry-cream sauce and rich, smoky bacon, these gnocchi will take your... More >>

  • Best Bitters to Have Swept the Restaurant Community

    Fernet Branca

    The cool thing about Fernet is that the American pronunciation rhymes (and sort of rhymes) with a whole bunch of words. Thus, we're able to announce that a great Ferneternity has formed among the city's restaurant workers, who never seem to be far from this bitter, minty diges-tif. Produced by Milan's Fratelli Branca Distillery since 1845, this top-secret formula of chamomile, wormwood, rhubarb, chicory, and more than three dozen other herbs and spices is said to stimulate the appetite, settle... More >>

  • Best Bar

    The Overflo

    It might be impossible not to like the Overflo (and if you've been to the Overflo and think you didn't like it, you're wrong). The lighting is dim, the drinks are stiff, and owner/bartender Mark Allen is so hospitable he might actually be the coolest dude in San Francisco. His father opened the place in 1976, and since then the Overflo has been all sorts of things -- a Marine bar; a rowdy, edge-of-the-Tenderloin dive; a hangout for cops, lawyers,... More >>

  • Best Way to Save $15

    Eat at Sno-drift

    There are lots of ways to save $15 -- buy three fewer burritos over the course of a year, walk 15 times instead of taking Muni -- but if you happen to be young, hungry, and prone to working it on the dance floor, dining at Sno-drift on a Friday night may be the best method of all. If you arrive early, you not only avoid a hefty cover charge but can enjoy chef Sharon Ardiana's splendidly executed, affordable club... More >>

  • Best Sibin

    An Sibin

    Turnover among the city's bars is as inevitable as rain, but still, we have to admit we were deeply saddened when we heard that a divey little Irish bar named Mulligan's bit the dust. The crowd was seedy, the drinks were stiff, and the jukebox was often cranked loud enough to vibrate the follicles out of your scalp. In other words, it was a wonderful place, but maybe not as wonderful as the Irish DJ bar that has replaced it.... More >>

  • Best Appetizer

    Appetizer Trio of the Day at Cosmopolitan Cafe

    Consider the appetizer -- the foreplay in the culinary dance of love. It should be light, enticing, and should make you want more, teasing the palate until your entree arrives, strikes like a thunderbolt, and sends you into the soothing afterglow of dessert. Though Steven Levine's Cosmopolitan Cafe excels in all these areas, the most impressive offering is the labor-intensive appetizer trio of the day -- a different seasonal ingredient (crab, artichoke, asparagus) is prepared three ways (crab tempura, crab... More >>

  • Best Interactive Dish

    Mel i Mato at B44

    All too often, and especially in the Bay Area, food is treated with so much reverence that the festive nature of dining out is smothered under a blanket of unction and parsley oil. But at B44, an ever-hopping tapas joint in the Financial District, fun is an infectious constant. That's especially true after your plates of Catalan delicacies have been cleared away and it's time for the meal-closer known as Mel i Mato. It revolves around el porronet, a bota... More >>

  • Best Cookies

    Blue Chip Cookies

    The trouble with most chocolate chip cookies nowadays is their texture (dried out) and their chip count (not enough of 'em!). Blue Chip bakes top-quality cookies that are as light and chewy as your grandma's -- you can just taste the butter, vanilla, and brown sugar -- and every bite is packed with chunks of excellent, endorphin-producing chocolate. There are 12 variations on this simple artwork -- the chocolate chip-walnut is damnably good -- but unless you're enamored of coconut,... More >>

  • Best Sausages

    Rosamunde Sausage Grill

    The humble sausage may be the ideal culinary tidbit. Deceptively simple, richly satisfying, and infinitely varied, sausages have been proliferating and evolving since Homer wrote about them in the Odyssey, and for cause: Properly prepared, they're crisp, luscious, sweet, and spicy all at once, the perfect portable snack. Rosamunde is a hip, cozy temple to this ancient delicacy. Out of their tiny Haight storefront the proprietors serve up a dozen delectable varieties, including knackwurst, bockwurst, bratwurst, andouille, a smoked-lamb sausage... More >>

  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Ana Mandara

    There aren't many Vietnamese restaurants as elegant as Ana Mandara. Le Colonial, its closest competitor, has the edge when it comes to ambient luxury, but it doesn't have Ana Mandara's dazzling sense of French Imperial retro-whimsy: the curved staircases, the burbling fountains, the cushioned wicker, the voluptuous icons, the acres of polished marble amid a jungle of palm fronds. The food's better, too -- crisp, lively, pleasantly pan-cultural, and among the best in the city. Examples: the house cocktail of... More >>

  • Best Mediterranean Restaurant

    42 Degrees

    The Mediterranean Basin and its common, sun-kissed currency -- olives, fennel, grapes, and so on -- have provided fertile inspiration to many a local restaurant. 42 Degrees takes its name from one of the region's tastier coordinates -- the latitudinal line bisecting Portugal, the Basque Country, Corsica, and Tuscany. The house cuisine concocted by Jim Moffat and the recently departed Mark Denham does those regions proud. There are rich, creamy marrow bones with garlic and croutons; a fennel salad with... More >>

  • Best Bar Snack

    Potato Chips at LiveFire

    Sometimes a shot of Old Granddad just isn't enough -- you want something substantial in your belly to go along with the purple glow of the jukebox and the click and plunk of the billiard balls. Usually what you're likely to get is a simple choice of beer nuts or pretzels. But LiveFire, a ballpark-oriented eatery with a killer view of the Embarcadero, offers a really delicious snack option at its windowside bar: potato chips. These aren't just any potato... More >>

  • Best Steak

    Osaka Grill

    There are perhaps a half-dozen absolute "bests" foodies everywhere can agree on -- the primary excellence of Scottish smoked salmon, the ne plus ultra of Parma prosciutto -- and Kobe beef is one of them. This fabled tribe of Japanese cattle is raised on a rich diet of pasture grass, rice, beans, and beer, given a daily raw-gin rubdown, and bred to be the most lushly marbled beef in the world. The result is a steak nearly as buttery and... More >>

  • Best Bar Food

    Hawthorne Lane

    Without a doubt, Hawthorne Lane is one of the finest restaurants in San Francisco. The prices are steep, but chef Bridget Batson lives up to them with her painstakingly subtle, Asian-inspired riffs on California cuisine. Even better is the bar menu, where the prices rarely exceed $10 and the somewhat more down-home small plates never seem to disappoint (try the tempura green beans with sweet-and-sour mustard sauce; ahi tartare over crisp nori chips; and the spectacular, ever-changing pizzas like rock-shrimp-broccoli-rabe-pesto... More >>

  • Best Place to Meet Emma Peel

    Dot

    When you're out trolling for a retro-'60s superspy, preferably one with a Carnaby Street accent and a taste for Day-Glo paisley, Dot has all the atmo you could possibly require. The place looks like a cross between a swingin' bachelor pad of the Matt Helm variety and the futuristic lair of a fanatical supervillain. Dots are the dominant motif. Descend around the undulant entranceway past the Orwellian virtual hostess into a bar rife with pastel banquettes, cobalt-colored cocktails, white-lipsticked Bond... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Away From It All

    Forbes Island

    Capri is too far away, you've had it with Hawaii, and St. Bart's is totally yesterday. So where does the overstressed San Franciscan go for a tranquil island sabbatical? Forbes Island, that wallet-friendly alternative to the Caribbean a Frisbee's throw from Fisherman's Wharf. Island chieftain Forbes Kiddoo himself picks you up in his launch from Pier 39, and after a quick jaunt past Pier 39's barking sea lions you're on his palm-strewn artificial island, sipping a mai tai. Before dinner... More >>

  • Best Nuts

    Morrow's Nut House

    Morrow's is one of those places that make you realize how good something can be that you've taken for granted your whole life. It's a tiny storefront, not much bigger than a walk-in closet, and the aroma of frying nuts is irresistible when you're strolling past on your way to Union Square. Inside you see arrayed before you immense, top-quality nuts from all over the world -- Oregon hazelnuts, Georgia pecans, English walnuts, Hawaiian macadamia nuts, Brazilian Brazil nuts, and,... More >>

  • Best Fudge

    See's

    Schmidt, Teuscher, and XOX are perfectly respectable when you're in the mood for a precious little package of Eurotrash truffle, but when you want a nice thick slab of belly-pleasing American fudge, See's is the place to head for. Despite its megachain status, See's continues to cook up fabulous chocolates on a regular basis, turning such simple foodstuffs as cocoa, butter, and sugar into the purest of palatable pleasures. Its deeply satisfying fudge is supple and creamy, not chewy or... More >>

  • Best Bare Buttocks in a Restaurant

    Boys Toys

    We haven't been by Boys Toys for a while, so we can't say if the arrival of the Grand Cafe's Thomas Hogan has saved the menu from mediocrity. Still, we're willing to bet our grandmother's Magic Wand that the entertainment is just as captivating. Dinner in the upstairs Boardroom restaurant is accompanied by a never-ending parade of young female dancers, who reveal impressive displays of limberness and some of the finest rear ends you'll ever see sandwiching a G-string. Lord... More >>

  • Best Burrito

    El Farolito

    Not that you would, but you could ... have a burrito with sesos (aka beef brains) or lengua (tongue) at El Farolito, the best of the burrito bunch adjacent to the 24th Street BART station. Even with some of the top Mission District Mexican food just steps away, diners seem to be perpetually lining up inside this somewhat cramped, less than sparkling hole in the wall. Why? It might be the aromas of fresh grilled steak and chopped onions wafting... More >>

  • Best Gut-Busting Burrito

    Taqueria La Cumbre

    It's impossible to stroll through the Mission without tripping over a burrito, which isn't surprising, since the Mission is widely regarded as the center of the burrito universe. Some are good, some are great, and some are just plain huge, as is the case with the super-deluxe burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre. For a whopping $6.75 (high by Mission standards) you get what can only be described as a beast -- beans, rice, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, and a... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Burger Joint

    Most places outside the fast-food realm serve hamburgers as an adjunct or an afterthought, but as its name implies, Burger Joint is all about burgers. It's inevitable that such laserlike culinary concentration would result in a highly refined example of the burger-flipper's art, and such is the case here. They start with organic Niman-Schell beef, form it into patties slender enough to allow appreciation of its subtle flavors yet thick enough to satisfy the carnivore within, and broil it over... More >>

  • Best French Fries

    Pier 23

    French fried potatoes come in every size, shape, consistency, and flavor (in Belgium they fry them in rendered kidney lard to unexpectedly tasty effect), but only a few attain that slender, crunchy, salty nirvana that can inspire equal measures of pleasure and addiction. If you encounter such ambrosia in a getaway atmosphere rife with repose and conviviality, you've got yourself a snack food that can stand on its own with neither burger nor fish stick to support it. Pier 23... More >>

  • Best Restaurant

    Jardiniere

    One restaurant might prepare dramatically memorable food. Another might create a unique and luxurious ambience. A third might offer service that's intelligent as well as attentive. When you find a restaurant that encompasses all three -- an improbable scenario, here or anywhere -- you've hit the jackpot. Jardinière, Traci Des Jardins' 4-year-old success story, is one of them. The waiters are so attuned to the kitchen's gustatory pleasures that their opinions are an invaluable resource. The setting is one of... More >>

  • Best Fusion Food

    Cafe Kati

    There's nothing new about fusion cooking; fish and chips, Belgian chocolate, the fiery curries of India, and the tomato-based dishes of the Mediterranean are just a few examples of post-Columbian culinary intermingling. Fusion doesn't often reach the ethereal heights attained at Cafe Kati, however, where India, Japan, and Southeast Asia meet France, Italy, and the great American farm belt to startlingly tasty effect. Crisp little tacos are stuffed with seared ahi, local Dungeness, and a dollop of wasabi; flaky American... More >>

  • Best Place to Wait for the Movie to Start at the Castro

    Marcello's Pizza

    You never know how popular a movie is going to be at this theater until you can actually see the length of the line stretching down Castro Street. But you do know you're going to be hungry right before the movie and that you need a place to rendezvous with your fellow cinemagoers. Solution: Meet 'em at Marcello's pizzeria right across the street, where you can not only satisfy your cravings for something filling and delicious, but you can check... More >>

  • Best Italian Deli

    Molinari Delicatessen

    Molinari reminds you in a purely visceral manner how richly the Italian experience is imbued with good eating. When you walk in, the wonderful smells of sausage and garlic and cheese inspire wholesale noshing, sipping, and cooking. The place is jammed, floor to rafters, with all the ingredients for a memorable feast. Sharp, crumbly Reggiano and pungent Gorgonzola. Blood-red prosciutto and fennel-sweet finocchiona. Imported gnocchi, pearly arborio, and pasta in every conceivable configuration. An endless supply of wines, from pinot... More >>

  • Best Japanese Grocery

    Super Mira

    A few months ago we took it upon ourselves to cook up a six-course Japanese meal despite a collective lack of experience in sushi-rolling and tempura-frying and a cupboard bereft of harusame and shoga. Luckily, Super Mira (and its predecessor, Super Koyama) has been around for years, providing virtuoso and beginner alike with all the ingredients for an authentic and delightful Japanese banquet. The produce baskets brim with kabu, gobo, fuki, and taro root; the fish department offers up glistening... More >>

  • Best Mexicatessen

    La Palma Mexicatessen

    Delicatessens have come a long way since they arrived here from central Europe, pickled herring intact, a century ago; today in the great American melting pot we have our French delicatessens, Italian delicatessens, Scandinavian delicatessens, even Chinese delicatessens. The Mexicatessen is a welcome Hispanic variant. At La Palma, a crowded, friendly, always busy venue in the heart of the Mission, a squad of artisans creates tamales, tostaditas, and tortillas out of preservative-free, freshly ground masa before your eyes. The deli... More >>

  • Best Tamales

    Barrasa Market

    It's hard to find a good tamale nowadays; the once ubiquitous handful of stuffed masa has been more or less supplanted by the perfunctory burrito. But this Latin American delicacy, in which cornmeal dough is wrapped around the filling of your choice and steamed until hot and aromatic, has been a multicultural mainstay from Cape Horn to the Rio Grande for millennia. Barrasa keeps the tradition alive. The front of this tiny grocery is given over to the preparation of... More >>

  • Best Antipasto

    Emma

    Remember when an Italian meal meant spaghetti and meatballs, a candle stuck in a Chianti bottle, and a preliminary platter of cold cuts and pickled cauliflower? Emma, an imaginative little hideaway in the grand old San Remo Hotel, defies North Beach tradition with an antipasto distinct from the cellophane-scented norm. Chef Mark Lusardi's "before the food" platter changes daily, depending on what's fresh, and might include such creations as sweet peppers braised with fennel; smoky, onion-edged garbanzo beans; or red,... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    24th Street Cheese Company

    There's a memorable moment in Stevenson's Treasure Island when a castaway is rescued after three years of living beyond the blessings of human civilization. His first, avid words: "Got any cheese?" God knows the 24th Street Cheese Company has cheese -- enough, in fact, to make up for three decades of rennetless privation. A huge, ever-evolving blackboard dominates a shop comparatively modest in size considering the abundance it shelters: well over 200 cheeses from around the world. Luckily, you can... More >>

  • Best Reason to Go to Fisherman's Wharf

    Eagle Cafe

    For years the Eagle served breakfast and bourbon to the deckhands and crabbers of Fisherman's Wharf, back when it was a real wharf with a real fishing fleet minus all of the gimcrack and wax museums. When the Pier 39 development came along and threatened the Eagle's nest at the foot of Powell Street, the whole structure was hoisted up, transported a block or two, and set down, lock, stock, and liquor license, atop the new amusement pier. And with... More >>

  • Best Bread

    Noe Valley Bakery

    San Francisco is renowned for its fabulous bread, and the Noe Valley Bakery is a contemporary reason why. As a co-conspirator in the relatively recent artisan-bread craze, the shop bakes a fantastic selection of marvelous loaves studded with figs, apricots, walnuts, and other delights, but Noe Valley's good old-fashioned San Francisco sourdough is simple and superb: beautifully textured, crusty, and dense with microorganismic flavor. You can get Noe Valley breadstuffs throughout the Bay Area, but it's fun to drop by... More >>

  • Best Pan Dulce

    La Victoria Mexican Bakery and Cafe

    Panaderías -- Mexican bakeries -- are located throughout the Mission, particularly along 24th Street, but La Victoria is a longtime favorite. Every panadería's specialty is pan dulce, delicately flavored, lightly textured rolls dusted with sugar and baked into whimsical shapes. At La Victoria they're crumbly on the outside, feathery within, and barely confectionery enough to earn the name "sweet breads" -- the perfect foil for a hot, frothy mug of Mexican chocolate, the delicacy's ideal dipping companion. Several varieties of... More >>

  • Best High Tea

    Ritz-Carlton Hotel

    Afternoon tea is as ritualistic a pleasure as anything out of Imperial Japan, and the Ritz-Carlton has preserved all of the meal's myriad gratifications down to the smallest detail. The locale, in the hotel's Lobby Lounge, is an opulent, pale-rose setting of antique oils, orchid blossoms, and crystal chandeliers. On one recent rainy day the gray-marble hearth was crackling away while a harpist strummed appropriately gentle sounds. The tea itself, brewed from top-flight Taylors of Harrogate in a Wedgwood pot,... More >>

  • Best Place to Feel Positively Gallic

    La Boulange de Polk

    We know a couple who prepared for a move to Paris by coming to this bakery every morning for three months straight. La Boulange is an acclimating bit of la Rive Gauche on the slopes of Russian Hill, complete with surrounding Old Country accents (every French national in town seems to end up here) and sun-dappled sidewalk tables ideal for café-sipping and girl-watching. The tarts, brioches, croissants, and quiches are matched in quality only by the stuff at Boulangerie, the... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian Cheesesteak

    Jay's Cheesesteak

    Thanks to Jay's, "vegetarian cheesesteak" is no longer an oxymoron. Though this hip and hip hop-inspired Mission eatery serves nine kinds of cheesesteaks (from the original to a pastrami cheesesteak), Jay's also caters to the vegetarian crowd with its tasty seitan sandwich. Seitan is a chunky wheat gluten with a meatlike texture, and it is sliced, grilled, and loaded -- steaming and greasy -- onto a thick roll with grilled onions and cheese. The seitan sandwich is a culinary triumph... More >>

  • Best Brie Sandwich

    Big Sherm's

    This small eatery's motto -- "You can't get fresher than this!" -- applies to the friendly but spirited service as well as its amazing sandwiches. Though there are 32 sandwiches (nine of them vegetarian friendly) and four kinds of salads on the menu, the brie sandwich (No. 26) is a standout. Thick slabs of creamy, flavorful brie are sliced onto focaccia, topped with tomatoes, fresh basil, red onions, sun-dried tomato pesto, Dijon mustard, and mixed greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.... More >>

  • Best Jewish Deli

    Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen

    Though it'll stir up lots of tsuris to place the best Jewish deli outside of San Francisco, Saul's beats any of the city's lesser efforts by a mile. Sure, you can get an overpriced bowl of matzo ball soup at David's downtown or a chewy corned beef on rye at Moishe's Pippic on Hayes, but at Saul's, the tables -- stocked with pickles -- groan under the weight of the deli's enormous triple-decker sandwiches. The Niman Ranch pastrami and corned... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    Red Nectar Ale, Humboldt Brewing Co.

    So much beer, so little time. The superior suds to be sampled in Northern California are so numerous it's difficult to pick a favorite: Anderson Valley's mellow Boont Amber? Anchor's intensely delicious Liberty Ale? Sierra Nevada's megahoppy Big Foot Barley Wine? Humboldt's Red Nectar has all the mouth-filling maltiness of a fine amber as well as a complex, hoppy temperament rich with warm, spicy undertones. Although it makes a fine accompaniment to Thanksgiving turkey and humble chicken sandwich alike, this... More >>

  • Best Comfort Food

    Blue

    The wind zooms cold down Market Street. Your stomach's grumbling, but you know your fridge is empty. It's time to duck into Blue for a hearty dish of pasta and protein, the gourmet mac and cheese your mama never made. Far superior to the gooey glop served by expatriate Middle Americans -- and nowhere near the neon orange concoction that comes in a box -- Blue's blend is one big pile of yum. Chef Jose Torres serves a mix of... More >>

  • Best Food Court

    Emeryville Public Market

    Though it has a Borders Books, a Universal Artists Cinema Multiplex, and a few other shops and services, the Emeryville Public Market is basically a big food court. But don't be alarmed -- at this market "best" and "food court" aren't incompatible terms. First, you can get just about anything you want in its warehouselike space -- from sushi to schwarma to spaghetti, from Afghan to Mexican to Creole. What's more, most of the food is better than the standard... More >>

  • Best Place You Wouldn't Expect to Find Great Pancakes

    Flipper's Gourmet Burgers

    Who would have thought a burger place would have great breakfasts? The menu goes way beyond the basic greasy eggs, toast, and potatoes; instead, it offers specialties such as the Morning Charge: shredded potatoes cooked with grilled onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, cilantro, and two kinds of cheese, and served with eggs and toast. It's perfect! But by far the best item on Flipper's breakfast menu is the pancakes. Order them with blueberries and get ready for a treat. The cakes... More >>

  • Best Block for a Culinary Tour of the World

    Valencia Between 16th and 17th Streets

    There are 15 restaurants on this block of the Mission, representing eight distinct cuisines: everything from the tasty Mexican fast food of La Cumbre, El Toro, or Mariachi to the upscale Vietnamese-meets-California-cuisine of the Slanted Door. If it's Indian food you crave, sit down to a meal at Scenic India or get some delectable curries and appetizers to go (don't forget the ice cream!) at Bombay Chaat and Ice Creamery. For Asian flair, try Yum-Yum House's Chinese dishes or Sunflower's... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Luau

    Punahele Island Grill

    This place is so authentic that a big pile of macaroni salad comes with every order. Only true Hawaiians know that macaroni salad is the unifying food of their modern culture. And the mound of shredded pork on every plate is so succulent it dissolves before you can begin to chew. With not much more atmosphere than a banquet hall, this is what Hawaiian luaus really look like. You get the feeling you are at a wedding reception as you... More >>

  • Best Alcoholic Cream Soda

    Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

    Vanilla beer? Strange, but true, and it's just one of the peculiarities of the Thirsty Bear, where seven tasty house microbrews are juxtaposed with a lengthy tapas menu in a brassy, industrial, South of Market setting. Even if the bartenders do look at you a little funny for ordering it, the sweet-smelling brew -- which seems closer to A&W than Amstel -- is just the thing for washing down zesty offerings such as patatas al ajillo (aka "garlic fries") and... More >>

  • Best Health-Conscious Chinese Restaurant

    Dragon Well

    Chinese restaurants have never been known for serving health food, but Dragon Well comes closer than most. On a lunch date in the Marina, chew like an elated goat on vegetarian tofu salad while sipping iced tea with a fleshy litchi globule floating in it. Here, there's no need to excavate the kung pao from blankets of grease; most everything is light and tasty. Bathed in sunlight from huge bay windows, you can daydream of faraway shores over salt-and-pepper calamari... More >>

  • Best Damn Cup of Hot Chocolate

    The Grove

    What's a person gotta do to find a decent sugar rush in this town? For years, your best option was Bepples pie shop on Union Street, but with that respectable establishment (and its magnificent chocolate cream pies) now gone, options for a good chocolate fix are a bit limited. Enter the Grove. In most ways it's not much different from its neighboring see-and-be-seen yuppie Marina hangouts. There's the Chestnut Street location, the dark lighting, and the wood-paneled walls, not to... More >>

  • Best Curry-Induced High

    The Ganges

    In recent studies, certain kinds of curry have been shown to have mild narcotic effects and be slightly addictive. What better place to "turn on" than the Ganges, a vegetarian restaurant that looks like it was built in someone's living room. Under the tapestries and the seductive drone of the raga cassettes, a flavor revelation takes place. The temperature rises from spices attacking the blood. The pupils dilate. Twenty-two ounces of watery Indian beer calm the nerves, and all that's... More >>

  • Best Éclairs

    Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery Store

    San Francisco is blessed with a handful of Russian bakeries, but on certain Saturday afternoons, the Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery Store seems to have the longest line stretching out the door. For good reason, too. Its variety of pastries under glass is practically a shrine to sweet-tooth temptation: multicolored meringues, biscuits, cakes, and a slew of native Russian treats. The standout is Moscow and Tbilisi's chocolate éclair -- the best damn éclair you'll find anywhere. You can achieve creamy, flaky,... More >>

  • Best Cheap Meal Before Dropping a Wad at the AMC 1000 Van Ness

    Pho Hoa

    Soup is a year-round dish in San Francisco's blustery climes, but few can touch the savory, filling bowl served up on the fringes of the Tenderloin at Pho Hoa. Pho is the Vietnamese beef broth redolent with anise and other unusual spices (you can request no cilantro). It comes with a thicket of rice noodles and the meat of your choice. Opt for pho tai, containing slices of rare steak that gradually lose their pinkness in the steaming liquid. Tart... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Before a Giants Game

    Primo Patio Cafe

    While the box-seat crowd preps for a ballgame with overpriced libations and victuals at Paragon and MoMo's, the real fans -- the ones with a covey of Croix de Candlestick pins embedded in their well-worn Giants caps -- rally at a nearby no-frills Caribbean spot called the Primo Patio Cafe. Dining is alfresco (with heaters, thank Jah), setting the evening off on a pleasant note of urban adventure. Primo's signature dish is the jerk chicken platter, a major-league helping of... More >>

  • Best Music to Eat Sushi By

    Hanabi Japanese Restaurant

    Japanese lanterns, bamboo, and chopsticks are things you expect to find in a Japanese restaurant. Portishead on the PA and wasabi in the shape of a happy face are not. Those are just two reasons we love Hanabi, a haven for Lower Haight hipsters in the gourmet ghetto that also features ethnic standouts such as Thep Phanom and the Indian Oven. Portishead is one of the more mainstream artists you'll hear at Hanabi. More likely suspects are avant-garde ambient producer... More >>

  • Best East Coast Pizza

    Pizza Orgasmica

    Ever wake up feeling like you just want to eat the Farmer's Daughter, or wrap your lips around a hot, lovely Aphrodite, or explore the pleasure-filled temptations of Kamasutra? Well, you're in luck -- that is, if you were thinking about pizza. As its name suggests, Pizza Orgasmica likes to give its pies sexy names -- and it lives up to them. Its pizzas, with their thin, bubbly crust, are also the closest you'll find in this town to those... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Memphis Minnie's Bar-B-Que Joynt

    The second you open the door to Memphis Minnie's, you're hit with sensory overload. The screaming yellow walls and red trim nearly make you squint, while the overwhelming smell of barbecue is enough to give you, well, let's just call them convulsions. Don't be alarmed. This is some damn fine barbecue: beef brisket smoked for 18 hours till it's nearly falling apart, and pork ribs so tempting they practically require detox. Along with the real meat, Minnie's offers chicken, andouille... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Restaurant

    Yokoso Nippon

    Yokoso Nippon is also known as "No Name Sushi." With no signage, no alcohol permit, no phone, no reservations, and no way to pay other than cash, this little hole in the wall wouldn't seem to have much to recommend it. But the place has its charms. Part of its odd allure stems from the lack of frills and the mismatched tiles and tables, but the quality of the food and the value for your money are what keep the... More >>

  • Best Underappreciated Fancy French Restaurant

    Charles Nob Hill

    Forget Masa's, Fleur de Lys, and La Folie. Charles is the French restaurant to attend when you've got a special occasion to celebrate (and a small wheelbarrow of cash to fork over). This tiny, 60-seat eatery -- the stomping ground of Melissa Perello, who trained under current Masa's chef Ron Siegel -- is tucked away in the bowels of a Nob Hill apartment complex. The sign outside is so unobtrusive that it's perfect for a hushed rendezvous -- maybe that's... More >>

  • Best Caffeine High

    Peet's Coffee and Teas

    It's Monday morning, a time when San Franciscans find it socially acceptable to exchange the evil eye and a grunt, the universal signals for "I haven't had my coffee yet!" Because, let's face it, most of us aren't morning people. For some, any coffee-flavored hot water is enough to get their motor running, but for others the only real coffee is strong coffee. A growing number of the latter are "Peetniks," loyal followers of Peet's Coffee and Teas. Since 1966,... More >>

  • Best Braised String Beans

    Hunan Chef

    This no-frills eat-in/take-out restaurant is smack dab in the middle of one of the city's least dot-communized 'hoods: Bernal Hill. The standard cooked flesh and deep-fried creatures are featured, but Hunan Chef also sports a decent selection of vegetarian dishes, seaweed soup, and mango sauces. But here's a tip you'll thank us for: Hunan Chef braises the best damn string beans around. Succulent, long, green, firm beans flecked with little chunks of crispy garlic will make your day and ward... More >>

  • Best Sandwich

    Peter's Favorite Breakfast Sandwich

    Stix Restaurant, 1200 Sixth St. (at Mission Bay), 255-7849 Next to Mission Bay Creek and the golf driving range where San Francisco cops go to meet their snitches, Stix offers one of the most lunch-friendly atmospheres to be found South of Market. The glass walls allow diners to look out on the golfers and green lawns, and Nita, the cashier, always has a friendly word. And the delicious sandwiches, pasta, salads, pizza, and daily specials are worth going a bit... More >>

  • Best Dog-Friendly Cafe

    Atlas Cafe

    This is one of those finds that is probably best kept secret, but here goes: The Atlas Cafe has an attached patio with an outdoor heater, sheltered by a clear plastic tent. Under the tent are tables at which people sit with, yes, their dogs! Laid-back workers serve up great, cheap food, and there is jazz on weekend nights. Best of all, you can hang out under the tent for hours, drinking hot ginger lemonade and eating smoked trout while... More >>

  • Best Tofu

    Pyung Chang Tofu House

    If a mild, white bean product is not the first thing that pops into your head when thinking, "What am I in the mood for tonight?," the Tofu House will change that. This Korean-operated restaurant in Oakland has taken tofu to new heights with its specialty, silky tofu soups called "soon." The menu offers nine varieties of soon, which consist of wonderfully spicy meat, seafood, or vegetable soup with a layer of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth tofu on top. Recommendations include the... More >>

  • Best Irish Coffee

    Albatross Pub

    Chucking some well whiskey and Nescafé into a glass and spraying Reddi Wip on top does not make an Irish coffee. A good one requires first-rate coffee, high-quality Irish whiskey (such as Jameson's), and fresh cream. While many bars or pubs get one or two of these essentials right, few deliver on all three. The Albatross in Berkeley is one of the few British Isles-styled pubs that make a top-notch Irish coffee by using the right ingredients, mixing them in... More >>

  • Best Place to Sip Wine Before Dinner

    The Liberty Cafe

    In a city that has thousands of excellent restaurants, one might wonder why anyone would choose to visit the Liberty Cafe, a restaurant that practically ensures a wait on weekend nights because it is limited to 12 tables and doesn't take reservations. The secret behind Liberty Cafe's popularity may lie down a narrow breezeway that leads to the rear of the restaurant. There you will find a little guest house cheerfully painted white, a cottage that serves as a bakery... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Fruit and Cheese on a Sunny Afternoon

    Cafe Bastille

    Cafe Bastille is in downtown San Francisco on Belden Place, a surprisingly placid, restaurant-lined alley artfully hidden amid some of the tallest buildings in the city. While the interior décor of Cafe Bastille is intended to imitate a Parisian Metro station, it's the fresh-air seating that makes for the most unique dining experience, which is clearly meant to hearken to the outdoor bistros of Paris. The alleyside location of the cafe allows for outdoor seating that is largely protected from... More >>

  • Best Tom Yum

    Yamo Thai Kitchen

    If you live in the Mission, you may have walked past Yamo Thai Kitchen dozens of times without even noticing the place is there. This tiny, family-run spot is about as bare bones as it gets -- one counter, nine stools, a whole lot of to-go boxes, and a tom yum (Thai-style hot and sour) soup so potent it can shatter souls with one sip. Owner Nanthana Sorathorn isn't the least bit shy when it comes to using lemongrass and... More >>

  • Best Tiramisu

    Ristorante Ideale

    Step into Maurizio Bruschi's Ristorante Ideale and life will seem a little bit better. The décor is warm and soothing, the bread is fresh-baked, and the food -- from a flawless saltimbocca to the almost criminally flavorful spaghetti baked in cartoccio -- just plain kicks ass. Then comes the crescendo -- tiramisu -- which translates as "carry me up" and will indeed take you higher via a cloudlike blend of bitter chocolate, espresso, mascarpone, and ladyfingers. Plenty of places serve... More >>

  • Best Local Cookbook

    Savoring San Francisco

    If you've ever wondered how Betelnut got the fire into its emerald fire noodles (no longer on the menu, unfortunately, and sorely missed), or can't stop thinking about the salmon paillards you had at Globe, Aqua's miso-marinated sea bass, or Fringale's Roquefort ravioli, have we got a cookbook for you. Local authors Carolyn Miller and Sharon Smith have put together a splendid collection of recipes from some of the city's finer restaurants, revealing the secrets behind Osaka Grill's Chilean sea... More >>

  • Best Martini

    Maxfield's

    It's said that the martini was invented 140 years ago by Professor Jerry Thomas, bartender at the Occidental Hotel on Montgomery Street. The Savoy Cocktail Book called Thomas "the greatest bartender of the past," although contemporary accounts indicate that his martini was made up of half gin and half sweet vermouth, an appalling thing to contemplate. The real deal -- the elusive, almost vaporous transcendence we have evolved enough to appreciate -- is shaken and proffered with admirable artistry at... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Celebrate the Sunset

    Owl Tree

    It isn't absolutely necessary to be out by the seashore to celebrate the sunset. Dusk is a state of mind as much as an astrological given, a languid meteorological declaration that the workday has ended and a bit of revitalization is in order. The best place to accomplish post-vocational repairs to both body and spirit is a friendly saloon, particularly one with its own individual ambience and no shortage of bourbon. Our city is inhabited by several of these salutary... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Get Non-Diner Food After the Bars Close

    Going out in San Francisco poses a dilemma. Nothing brings on an appetite like a late night of drinking, but because most of this pulsing metropolis shuts down well before last call, the post-bar masses have few options to satisfy their cravings -- mostly 24-hour diners serving burgers and greasy fries. So where to go for decent grub? Tucked throughout the city are some alternative venues where barflies can sate those post-carousing munchies on something other than onion rings. Osha... More >>

  • Three Best Places for Adventurous Ice Cream Lovers

    So you really love ice cream? Think you've tried it all -- tin roof sundaes, Monkey Wrench, peanut butter, bubble gum? We've got news for you: You haven't even licked the surface. There's a small universe of ice cream flavors waiting to be tried -- avocado, cardamom, ube (see what we mean?). A visit to the shops below are guaranteed to expand your horizons about what flavors are possible -- or, for that matter, even appropriate. Bombay Chaat and Ice... More >>

  • Best Vegan Restaurants

    There is a wonderfully tasty alternative to the typically American killer diet of saturated fat, cholesterol, and artificially created hormones. It's called vegan food, and it's made without any animal-based substance. No meat. No butter. No cheese. Which means, with any luck, no heart attacks, no cancer, no obesity. (Provided, of course, that you exercise and don't smoke or drink yourself to the grave.) It may sound a bit austere, but fear not. San Francisco is a haven for vegans,... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Elisabeth Daniel

    Elisabeth Daniel belongs to the grand tradition of opulent dining exemplified by Ernie's, Fleur de Lys, and, more recently, Gary Danko and the Fifth Floor. Its seasonal cuisine, rich with caviar, foie gras, truffles, and other delicacies, is served with languid precision in six intricate, imaginative courses. Each dish is presented with an aesthetic worthy of its aspirations: poached oysters with osetra; sweetbread-pâté ravioli with shavings of black truffle; fabulously tender, hand-rolled couscous with green olive oil; roasted quail with... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Oriental Pearl Restaurant

    Part of the fun of the dim sum experience is pointing out what you want from a passing trolley and getting it instantly -- the essence of immediate gratification -- but all too often the snack in question has been sitting around in a steam table, getting tired and listless. Not an issue at Oriental Pearl, where all of the dim sum is freshly cooked to order. The difference is immediately obvious: Oriental Pearl's dumplings, cakes, and pot stickers are... More >>

  • Best Brunch

    The Liberty Cafe

    Brunch is a meal as distinct from all others as the weekend is from the weekday -- the meal when a body can relax, reflect, stretch out, and exult in dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. Except, of course, eating. The Liberty Cafe not only serves an imaginative brunch of uniform high quality -- a house-made, nut-ribboned granola; pungent, hearty corned-beef hash; marvelous French toast made with house-baked challah and fresh fruit in season -- it's located in... More >>

  • Best Lox & Bagels

    Swan Oyster Depot

    So what do you do when you have a hankering for really good lox and bagels and you live 3,000 miles west of Amsterdam and 86th? Make the trek to upper Polk Street, where a six-block jaunt between establishments will yield a brunch well worth the Muni fare. Start at Swan Oyster Depot, where the gregarious countermen will fillet and slice the creamiest, butteriest smoked salmon in the city before your very eyes. Next, hoof it on up to the... More >>

  • Best Pot Stickers

    U-Lee

    We know someone who came to San Francisco 16 years ago for a job interview and discovered U-Lee's extraordinary pot stickers during his visit. To this day he is convinced his decision to relocate here was subliminally influenced by the nip of ginger that elevates U-Lee's creations (it doesn't hurt that they're also huge). A no-frills storefront at the corner of Hyde and Jackson, U-Lee does most of its business in takeout. All of Russian Hill is wise to U-Lee,... More >>

  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Kabuto Sushi

    After nearly 20 years in business, you'd think the wrinkles would be long since ironed out at Sachio Kojima's Kabuto, and you'd be correct. The experience begins with hot, steamed towels, then gets interesting as you contemplate an elaborate, three-volume menu that would take at least 10 visits to explore. You'll no doubt realize the daily specials are the best thing to order, after which you'll move on to the sashimi combination -- some 25 pieces of the freshest raw... More >>

  • Best Kaddo

    Helmand Palace

    Sure, we could have given these guys best banjan (sautéed eggplant), best aushak (Afghan ravioli), or best aush (beef/yogurt/noodle soup). And don't even get us started on the chowpan (rack of lamb) or any of the other lamb dishes at the city's best, and only, Afghan restaurant. Though everything on the menu is superb, no dish has haunted us as thoroughly as the Helmand's kaddo -- a thick wedge of pan-fried pumpkin baked with brown sugar until it reaches a... More >>

  • Best Thai and Vietnamese Restaurant

    Malee Thai & Vietnamese

    A few places (but not many) serve better Thai food, just like a few places (still not many) do better Vietnamese. But when you want both -- a balancing act comparable to serving French and Italian cuisines -- you simply must pay a visit to Malee Jones, chef/owner of the friendly little spot known to us as MT&VR&B. To experience the subtlety of French-influenced Vietnamese fare, try the exquisitely delicate spring rolls. Or, for a ferocious example of the Thai... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    Get your scoops of 42 homemade flavors while you can, as a nonrenewable lease may force the Murashige family from the popular Richmond District ice cream parlor and grill that has been a landmark on the corner of Geary and 18th since World War II. Mutsuhiko Murashige bought Joe's when he immigrated to San Francisco from Japan in the late 1970s, preserving the original recipes of now long-forgotten but classic flavors like rum raisin, butter brickle, and root beer swirl.... More >>

  • Best Cocktail List

    Bruno's

    While the return of chef James Ormsby to Bruno's is some of the most exciting news to hit the Mission since Ormsby first helped revive the place back in 1995, the thing that really stands out at this swank jazz and supper club is the drink list. Sometimes, a place will offer 10 or even 20 house cocktails, but we don't know anyone who lists a whopping 72 and delivers as splendidly as Bruno's. The beauty of this list is... More >>

  • Best Oshinko

    Sanraku Four Seasons Japanese Restaurant

    From what we've seen, there's always a line at this traditional, brightly lit sushi house, and from what we've tasted, the wait is justifiable. The tempura is so crisp it bristles like autumn leaves, the dragon sushi (a sort of sushi casserole layered with unagi, smelt eggs, shiso, and tempura flakes) is better than most orgasms, and the tuna tataki salad in soy-jalapeño sauce is better than that. Still, the real standout is one of the simplest dishes -- oshinko,... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    Eos Restaurant and Wine Salon

    Although it's known primarily for its excellent wine cellar and its imaginative take on fusion cuisine, Eos is equally adept at the art and science of fabulous desserts. Recent examples have included a sort of über-Twix bar made of house-baked shortbread, milk chocolate ganache, coconut sorbet, and coconut brittle; a napoleon of vanilla gelato, sake-marinated blackberries, and Scharffen Berger chocolate; a wonderfully moist tiramisu ribboned with caramelized bananas; and best of all, a dazzling reinterpretation of baked Alaska in which... More >>

  • Best Pan-Asian Restaurant

    Betelnut

    If a nuclear bomb were to detonate over the Bay Area, vaporizing thousands if not millions of innocents in a hot, bright flash, we have a feeling that, when the radiation began to clear, there would still be a line to get into Betelnut. Open since 1995, the place has already become a San Francisco institution, a result of the consistently excellent selection of small plates drawn from across East Asia. Every meal should begin with salt-and-pepper prawns and Celia's... More >>

  • Best Comeback We're Praying Will Happen

    Tong Palace

    We don't care what anyone says: Ton Kiang does not serve the best dim sum in San Francisco. Yank Sing probably doesn't either, though Mayflower might, but the thing about all these places is that it takes forfreakingever to get a table on weekends. Thus, we set off toward Clement one Sunday seeking a quicker dim sum fix and stumbled into a place called Tong Palace. Instead of nabbing dishes from passing servers, an extensive menu allowed us to make... More >>

  • Best Discount Asian Foods

    Richmond New May Wah Supermarket

    The thing about May Wah is that the place offers a little bit of everything -- guava tea, clay pots, red bean mochi, eel, fresh lobster balls, fresh squid, dried squid, canned squid, Crest toothpaste, playing cards, not to mention the notoriously stinky, spiky-skinned, and often dangerous durian fruit. The other thing about May Wah is that the prices are absurdly cheap -- after all, where else can you get coconut milk for 59 cents, curry paste for 69 cents,... More >>

  • Best Columbus Avenue Bar

    Mr. Bing's

    The bar is triangular at Mr. Bing's, and the drinks are so stiff they may actually melt your bones. The strange, circular indentation in the ceiling can resemble (depending how many drinks you've had) either a strange, circular indentation or a portal to another dimension, and on weekends the crowd is young, decidedly non-yuppie, and prone to some very serious tippling. Need we say more? OK, how about this: Vesuvio (255 Columbus) is always full of tourists; Specs' is technically... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Name

    Dine

    Sometimes, a restaurant opens with a name like, say, Venture Frogs, which can annihilate appetites at a distance of 50 miles. But then, at other times, you get a moniker like Dine, a crisp, single syllable that suggests so much it leaves us breathless. One eats a potato chip, but dines on seared chicken livers with applewood smoked bacon, bruschetta with white anchovies, wild mushroom and baby spinach risotto with truffle oil, lavender-scented rack of lamb, or maybe hazelnut-crusted Chilean... More >>

  • Best Family-Style Chinese Restaurant

    Eight Immortals

    Depending on how interested you are in authentic Chinese food, and depending on how squeamish you get around squab heads, chicken feet, jellyfish, and sea cucumber, Eight Immortals will seem like either a slice of heaven or your worst culinary nightmare. Hopefully, the former is true, and if it is, you simply must pay a visit to this bustling seafood joint on Taraval, which delivers excellent, multicourse, prix fixe banquets at decidedly wallet-friendly prices. For example, the last time we... More >>

  • Best New Greek Restaurant

    Mezes

    As wonderful as Kokkari is, San Francisco has long been underserved when it comes to Greek food. But the picture brightened considerably last year with the opening of Chestnut Street's Mezes, which is named after the traditional Greek tapas-style appetizers. This warm, friendly spot delivers such classic Hellenic fare as dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), spanakotiropita (cheese-spinach pie), and sublime mussels in ouzo broth. The tzatziki (yogurt-cucumber dip) can be unexciting, but the kolokithokeftedes (zucchini-potato cakes) are as seductive as a... More >>

  • Best Bloody Mary

    Azie

    We could go on and on about the wonders of Azie. The décor is sumptuous, the Nine Bites appetizer is better than most sex, and the live DJ at the bar means you're not dining on your grandmother's haute cuisine, but a 21st-century style of fusion executed so flawlessly that foie gras steamed with snapper seems as natural as tomato sauce with pasta. But perhaps the most haunting taste of all comes from the drink list -- the Azie Bloody... More >>

  • Best Gnocchi

    Da Flora-A Venetian Ostaria

    The handwritten menu at North Beach's cozy Da Flora changes often, with one exception -- owner Flora Gaspar's "signature" sweet potato gnocchi. In fact, according to Flora, attempts to change the sauce the gnocchi are served with have been met with fierce opposition by regular customers, meaning (to us, at least) that the dish has reached the apex of culinary perfection. Subtly sweet, sublimely melting, served with a decadent sherry-cream sauce and rich, smoky bacon, these gnocchi will take your... More >>

  • Best Bitters to Have Swept the Restaurant Community

    Fernet Branca

    The cool thing about Fernet is that the American pronunciation rhymes (and sort of rhymes) with a whole bunch of words. Thus, we're able to announce that a great Ferneternity has formed among the city's restaurant workers, who never seem to be far from this bitter, minty diges-tif. Produced by Milan's Fratelli Branca Distillery since 1845, this top-secret formula of chamomile, wormwood, rhubarb, chicory, and more than three dozen other herbs and spices is said to stimulate the appetite, settle... More >>

  • Best Bar

    The Overflo

    It might be impossible not to like the Overflo (and if you've been to the Overflo and think you didn't like it, you're wrong). The lighting is dim, the drinks are stiff, and owner/bartender Mark Allen is so hospitable he might actually be the coolest dude in San Francisco. His father opened the place in 1976, and since then the Overflo has been all sorts of things -- a Marine bar; a rowdy, edge-of-the-Tenderloin dive; a hangout for cops, lawyers,... More >>

  • Best Way to Save $15

    Eat at Sno-drift

    There are lots of ways to save $15 -- buy three fewer burritos over the course of a year, walk 15 times instead of taking Muni -- but if you happen to be young, hungry, and prone to working it on the dance floor, dining at Sno-drift on a Friday night may be the best method of all. If you arrive early, you not only avoid a hefty cover charge but can enjoy chef Sharon Ardiana's splendidly executed, affordable club... More >>

  • Best Sibin

    An Sibin

    Turnover among the city's bars is as inevitable as rain, but still, we have to admit we were deeply saddened when we heard that a divey little Irish bar named Mulligan's bit the dust. The crowd was seedy, the drinks were stiff, and the jukebox was often cranked loud enough to vibrate the follicles out of your scalp. In other words, it was a wonderful place, but maybe not as wonderful as the Irish DJ bar that has replaced it.... More >>

  • Best Appetizer

    The Cosmopolitan Cafe

    Consider the appetizer -- the foreplay in the culinary dance of love. It should be light, enticing, and should make you want more, teasing the palate until your entree arrives, strikes like a thunderbolt, and sends you into the soothing afterglow of dessert. Though Steven Levine's Cosmopolitan Cafe excels in all these areas, the most impressive offering is the labor-intensive appetizer trio of the day -- a different seasonal ingredient (crab, artichoke, asparagus) is prepared three ways (crab tempura, crab... More >>

  • Best Interactive Dish

    Mel i Mato at B44

    All too often, and especially in the Bay Area, food is treated with so much reverence that the festive nature of dining out is smothered under a blanket of unction and parsley oil. But at B44, an ever-hopping tapas joint in the Financial District, fun is an infectious constant. That's especially true after your plates of Catalan delicacies have been cleared away and it's time for the meal-closer known as Mel i Mato. It revolves around el porronet, a bota... More >>

  • Best Cookies

    Blue Chip Cookies

    The trouble with most chocolate chip cookies nowadays is their texture (dried out) and their chip count (not enough of 'em!). Blue Chip bakes top-quality cookies that are as light and chewy as your grandma's -- you can just taste the butter, vanilla, and brown sugar -- and every bite is packed with chunks of excellent, endorphin-producing chocolate. There are 12 variations on this simple artwork -- the chocolate chip-walnut is damnably good -- but unless you're enamored of coconut,... More >>

  • Best Sausages

    Rosamunde Sausage Grill

    The humble sausage may be the ideal culinary tidbit. Deceptively simple, richly satisfying, and infinitely varied, sausages have been proliferating and evolving since Homer wrote about them in the Odyssey, and for cause: Properly prepared, they're crisp, luscious, sweet, and spicy all at once, the perfect portable snack. Rosamunde is a hip, cozy temple to this ancient delicacy. Out of their tiny Haight storefront the proprietors serve up a dozen delectable varieties, including knackwurst, bockwurst, bratwurst, andouille, a smoked-lamb sausage... More >>

  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Ana Mandara

    There aren't many Vietnamese restaurants as elegant as Ana Mandara. Le Colonial, its closest competitor, has the edge when it comes to ambient luxury, but it doesn't have Ana Mandara's dazzling sense of French Imperial retro-whimsy: the curved staircases, the burbling fountains, the cushioned wicker, the voluptuous icons, the acres of polished marble amid a jungle of palm fronds. The food's better, too -- crisp, lively, pleasantly pan-cultural, and among the best in the city. Examples: the house cocktail of... More >>

  • Best Mediterranean Restaurant

    42 Degrees

    The Mediterranean Basin and its common, sun-kissed currency -- olives, fennel, grapes, and so on -- have provided fertile inspiration to many a local restaurant. 42 Degrees takes its name from one of the region's tastier coordinates -- the latitudinal line bisecting Portugal, the Basque Country, Corsica, and Tuscany. The house cuisine concocted by Jim Moffat and the recently departed Mark Denham does those regions proud. There are rich, creamy marrow bones with garlic and croutons; a fennel salad with... More >>

  • Best Bar Snack

    Potato Chips at LiveFire

    Sometimes a shot of Old Granddad just isn't enough -- you want something substantial in your belly to go along with the purple glow of the jukebox and the click and plunk of the billiard balls. Usually what you're likely to get is a simple choice of beer nuts or pretzels. But LiveFire, a ballpark-oriented eatery with a killer view of the Embarcadero, offers a really delicious snack option at its windowside bar: potato chips. These aren't just any potato... More >>

  • Best Steak

    Osaka Grill

    There are perhaps a half-dozen absolute "bests" foodies everywhere can agree on -- the primary excellence of Scottish smoked salmon, the ne plus ultra of Parma prosciutto -- and Kobe beef is one of them. This fabled tribe of Japanese cattle is raised on a rich diet of pasture grass, rice, beans, and beer, given a daily raw-gin rubdown, and bred to be the most lushly marbled beef in the world. The result is a steak nearly as buttery and... More >>

  • Best Bar Food

    Hawthorne Lane

    Without a doubt, Hawthorne Lane is one of the finest restaurants in San Francisco. The prices are steep, but chef Bridget Batson lives up to them with her painstakingly subtle, Asian-inspired riffs on California cuisine. Even better is the bar menu, where the prices rarely exceed $10 and the somewhat more down-home small plates never seem to disappoint (try the tempura green beans with sweet-and-sour mustard sauce; ahi tartare over crisp nori chips; and the spectacular, ever-changing pizzas like rock-shrimp-broccoli-rabe-pesto... More >>

  • Best Place to Meet Emma Peel

    Dot

    When you're out trolling for a retro-'60s superspy, preferably one with a Carnaby Street accent and a taste for Day-Glo paisley, Dot has all the atmo you could possibly require. The place looks like a cross between a swingin' bachelor pad of the Matt Helm variety and the futuristic lair of a fanatical supervillain. Dots are the dominant motif. Descend around the undulant entranceway past the Orwellian virtual hostess into a bar rife with pastel banquettes, cobalt-colored cocktails, white-lipsticked Bond... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Away From It All

    Forbes Island

    Capri is too far away, you've had it with Hawaii, and St. Bart's is totally yesterday. So where does the overstressed San Franciscan go for a tranquil island sabbatical? Forbes Island, that wallet-friendly alternative to the Caribbean a Frisbee's throw from Fisherman's Wharf. Island chieftain Forbes Kiddoo himself picks you up in his launch from Pier 39, and after a quick jaunt past Pier 39's barking sea lions you're on his palm-strewn artificial island, sipping a mai tai. Before dinner... More >>

  • Best Nuts

    Morrow's Nut House

    Morrow's is one of those places that make you realize how good something can be that you've taken for granted your whole life. It's a tiny storefront, not much bigger than a walk-in closet, and the aroma of frying nuts is irresistible when you're strolling past on your way to Union Square. Inside you see arrayed before you immense, top-quality nuts from all over the world -- Oregon hazelnuts, Georgia pecans, English walnuts, Hawaiian macadamia nuts, Brazilian Brazil nuts, and,... More >>

  • Best Fudge

    See's

    Schmidt, Teuscher, and XOX are perfectly respectable when you're in the mood for a precious little package of Eurotrash truffle, but when you want a nice thick slab of belly-pleasing American fudge, See's is the place to head for. Despite its megachain status, See's continues to cook up fabulous chocolates on a regular basis, turning such simple foodstuffs as cocoa, butter, and sugar into the purest of palatable pleasures. Its deeply satisfying fudge is supple and creamy, not chewy or... More >>

  • Best Bare Buttocks in a Restaurant

    Boys Toys

    We haven't been by Boys Toys for a while, so we can't say if the arrival of the Grand Cafe's Thomas Hogan has saved the menu from mediocrity. Still, we're willing to bet our grandmother's Magic Wand that the entertainment is just as captivating. Dinner in the upstairs Boardroom restaurant is accompanied by a never-ending parade of young female dancers, who reveal impressive displays of limberness and some of the finest rear ends you'll ever see sandwiching a G-string. Lord... More >>

  • Best Burrito

    Taqueria El Farolito

    Not that you would, but you could ... have a burrito with sesos (aka beef brains) or lengua (tongue) at El Farolito, the best of the burrito bunch adjacent to the 24th Street BART station. Even with some of the top Mission District Mexican food just steps away, diners seem to be perpetually lining up inside this somewhat cramped, less than sparkling hole in the wall. Why? It might be the aromas of fresh grilled steak and chopped onions wafting... More >>

  • Best Gut-Busting Burrito

    Taqueria La Cumbre

    It's impossible to stroll through the Mission without tripping over a burrito, which isn't surprising, since the Mission is widely regarded as the center of the burrito universe. Some are good, some are great, and some are just plain huge, as is the case with the super-deluxe burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre. For a whopping $6.75 (high by Mission standards) you get what can only be described as a beast -- beans, rice, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, and a... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Burger Joint

    Most places outside the fast-food realm serve hamburgers as an adjunct or an afterthought, but as its name implies, Burger Joint is all about burgers. It's inevitable that such laserlike culinary concentration would result in a highly refined example of the burger-flipper's art, and such is the case here. They start with organic Niman-Schell beef, form it into patties slender enough to allow appreciation of its subtle flavors yet thick enough to satisfy the carnivore within, and broil it over... More >>

  • Best French Fries

    Pier 23 Cafe

    French fried potatoes come in every size, shape, consistency, and flavor (in Belgium they fry them in rendered kidney lard to unexpectedly tasty effect), but only a few attain that slender, crunchy, salty nirvana that can inspire equal measures of pleasure and addiction. If you encounter such ambrosia in a getaway atmosphere rife with repose and conviviality, you've got yourself a snack food that can stand on its own with neither burger nor fish stick to support it. Pier 23... More >>

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