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  • Best Cioppino

    Rose Pistola

    Esquire food critic Roy Andries de Groot called cioppino "the finest regional dish in America," and anyone who's tasted San Francisco's signature specialty would be hard pressed to disagree. It originated back in Gold Rush times when immigrant Italian fishermen cooked up this local version of the seafood stews they loved -- cacciucco, brodetto, ciupin (hence the name) -- retaining the Mediterranean's indispensable contributions of onion, garlic, saffron, tomato, olive oil, and wine. The best cioppino can be made in... More >>

  • Best Hangtown Fry

    Tadich Grill

    Legend has it that back during the Gold Rush, in the boomtown of Placerville (also known as Hangtown, for its frequent rough-justice necktie parties), a prospector grimy with the mud and dirt of the Sierra foothills yet nouveau riche staggered into the first restaurant he saw and ordered "the most expensive thing on the menu." In those days, in that place, oysters were a barely rumored delicacy and eggs were a buck apiece, so the two were combined into a... More >>

  • Best Panna Cotta

    Pizzeria Delfina

    A key to the success of Delfina's splendid panna cotta is the buttermilk that is its very essence. The richness of this primary ingredient gives the dessert a silky, luxurious quality not often encountered in the culinary world. One of the simplest sweets ever conceived (its name means "cooked cream" in Italian, and that's just about all it is), panna cotta is perfectly representative of Delfina, a restaurant that revels in simple flavors beautifully prepared and presented. Craig and Anne... More >>

  • Best Sandwich

    Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake Ice Cream Parlor and Eats

    Any midnight snacker will tell you that the act of creating a sandwich is a complex discipline requiring an innate sense of balance and a willingness to push the envelope. The fried oyster po' boy and the ahi and wasabi BLT are two noteworthy successes in this area. Another is the Cuban pork sandwich, which (like every great sandwich) offers a lot of satisfaction from a relatively small package. The Citizen Cake version is outstanding. A tender roll fresh from... More >>

  • Best Bastardization of the Martini

    Gaylord India Restaurant

    Once upon a time, a martini meant one thing: gin and as minimal an amount of dry vermouth as possible. Then wimps with immature taste buds started substituting vodka for the gin, and the rest is history. Now we have chocolate martinis and apple martinis and Key lime martinis and, for all we know, Chilean sea bass martinis. We fought this escalating subversion of the great born-and-bred San Francisco cocktail down to the last olive pick -- until we tasted... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum (Chinatown)

    Pearl City

    Dim sum, for the uninitiated, is an inexpensive Chinese brunch or lunch comprised of small plates chosen from roving carts. Although it's not unheard of for experienced diners to order special dishes from the kitchen, most folks just point, select, and devour. In other cities you can generally only find dim sum on weekends, but, blessedly, here it's available seven days a week. This crowded, clamorous spot in the heart of Chinatown offers the typical lineup of savory shrimp and... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum (Richmond)

    Ton Kiang

    At Ton Kiang, the décor is posh (comfy booths, big round tables, pale walls, immaculate linen), and the dim sum is, too. The classics (cha siu bao, barbecued pork buns; siu mai, pork dumplings; wah tip, pot stickers) are perfectly made, and there are interesting, less common items (mol mai gai, sticky rice with meat wrapped in a leaf; siu ling bao, Shanghai meat dumplings). But our favorites are the many delicate changes rung on shrimp: dumplings stuffed with shrimp... More >>

  • Best Taco

    Pancho Villa Taqueria

    Enough already with the burrito talk: What we want is a good old no-commitment taco, a simple snack that pleasures and gratifies instantly with no lingering sense of guilt, remorse, or burgeoning waistline. Pancho Villa's Super Taco isn't the sort of taco you just pick up and scarf, however. Two soft, freshly made tortillas are piled high with shards of spiky marinated chicken, supple pinto beans, creamy guacamole, purple onion, shredded lettuce, sweet red tomatoes, sour cream, and a crowning... More >>

  • Best North African Restaurant

    Aziza

    Although Aziza exhibits most of the classic Moroccan-restaurant characteristics, it isn't your typical North African hangout. Sure, there are belly dancers, and the hand-washing ritual, and the deal where the waiter pours the mint tea into your cup from three feet up in the air. But brothers Khalid and Mourad Lahlou (Khalid has since left) created a venue in which the foods of their native Marrakech are touched with fresh new flavors and accents. Hummus is flecked with sun-dried tomatoes;... More >>

  • Best Joe's Special

    Original Joe's

    Like Caesar salad and chicken à la Marengo, Joe's Special was apocryphally invented when a beleaguered chef threw together whatever was left in his larder and served it to his hungry clientele. Another version has it that some Prohibition-era jazzmen stormed New Joe's on Columbus and demanded a high-protein snack after a full night of jamming. In any case, this simple, hearty dish has become as synonymous with the whole Joe's hypothesis as grilled steaks, open kitchens, and Italian accents.... More >>

  • Best Potato Chips

    Grand Cafe - Brasserie and Bar

    One of the truly satisfying moments in American literature takes place after the hero of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms deserts the Army and swims, hikes, and freight-hops across the wet, cold Italian countryside. Bedraggled and exhausted, he makes his way to a hotel bar in Stresa and enjoys a restorative repast of martinis and potato chips. The Grand Cafe is the closest thing San Francisco has to a belle époque watering hole: towering ceilings, ornate woodwork, lushly upholstered banquettes,... More >>

  • Best Smoked Sturgeon

    East Coast West Delicatessen

    Smoked salmon is as prevalent in San Francisco as dandelion greens and blood orange granita, but it's nearly impossible to track down smoked sturgeon, the uncrowned king of deli-case delectables. At Barney Greengrass and many another Manhattan delicatessen, its characteristic flavor and texture -- rich, meaty, and not as creamy as lox -- is a continuing source of gustatory pleasure. One of the few places you can find it out here (at least north of Beverly Hills) is at East... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Chez Spencer

    Every great restaurant begins with intense, freshly harvested flavors combined and dovetailed in harmonious combinations. Chez Spencer, a dazzling new restaurant in the classic French tradition, takes this concept to new heights. The platters created by chef Laurent Katgely are complex, exciting, and rich with possibilities; they take you on a journey from flavor to intricately unified flavor, reaching resolution with the last forkful of scallop or swallow of wine. Meltingly rare lamb chops interact with a roasted tomato confit... More >>

  • Best Fusion Restaurant

    The House

    East meets West harmoniously indeed at the House, where the bright, crisp flavors of Chinatown make beautiful music with the lusty tastes and textures of North Beach. Proprietors Larry and Angela Tse, who grew up in this bicultural neighborhood, create and serve fresh, inventive, often complex platters exquisitely balanced between the delicate and the vivacious. Viz.: tuna tartare with fried nori; fried calamari with creamy miso; a tuna BLT with wasabi mayo; baby greens with fried polenta and miso dressing;... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Pier 23 Cafe

    When you want the classic two-handed hamburger sans cranberry mayo, feta cheese, and other annoying addenda, Pier 23 is the place to go. Nothing could be finer than sitting at one of those big, round patio tables on a sun-drenched day, listening to Carmen McRae and Tony Bennett on the juke, watching the boats go by, and allowing the whole sweep of the bay to infect you with a beatific tranquility. A few scrawny palm trees add to the South... More >>

  • Best Place to Sip Kuo Kung Chiew

    Rosewood

    If you ever have a hankering to nurse a glass of this repellent Chinese liqueur -- a dark, viscous amalgam of Fernet-Branca, linseed oil, and Vicks VapoRub -- the Rosewood, the sleekest watering hole in San Francisco, is the place to try it. Kuo Kung Chiew is only one of the many aperitifs, cordials, and digestifs from around the world served on the premises (Cynar artichoke liqueur, anyone?). Of course, you can also order your standard martini or Manhattan or... More >>

  • Best Mud Pie

    MacArthur Park

    It's getting awfully hard to find mud pie in this town, which is a pity because it's well known that mud pie is the most satisfying dessert ever conceived by humankind. This sentiment is shared by everyone who adores chocolate, and if you don't you must be some kind of a Martian or something. Anyway, mud pie is as good as it is because it combines three items that are already delightful on their own -- mocha ice cream, chocolate... More >>

  • Best Gnocchi

    Da Flora-A Venetian Ostaria

    Anyone who's ever attempted to make gnocchi, the tiny Italian dumplings that have been eaten and enjoyed since the days of Imperial Rome, knows how easy it is to end up with something resembling small pellets of lumpy concrete. This never happens at Da Flora, a cozy, candlelit ostaria draped in wrought iron and red velvet, where the gnocchi are light as a cloud. Although gnocchi can be made of potatoes, semolina, flour, spinach, or some combination of the above,... More >>

  • Best Guacamole

    Maya

    The rich, creamy, slightly musky character of the avocado can be enjoyed in soups, on burgers, and even in ice cream (hello, Mitchell's), but it's most pleasurably experienced when combined with chopped onions and lime juice and scooped up with a corn chip. There's a lot of guacamole in this town, but none is more strikingly festive than Maya's. Big, ripe chunks of the fruit are tossed with chopped tomato, fresh cilantro, minced onion, and as much slivered chili pepper... More >>

  • Best Margarita

    Tommy's Mexican Restaurant

    You know the line, the Mark Twain line, about the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Well, you can add spring to that, at least this year. The last few weeks have had us all fantasizing about a quick trip to Mexico. Of course, we either can't afford it or our bosses won't let us go. But if we can't have the Mayan Riviera for a few days, we can at least have a damn... More >>

  • Best French Restaurant

    Chapeau!

    Well, we're not in love with the room (the sweet murals on the wall can't disguise the fact that diners are shoehorned into tables set mere inches apart). But we are still madly in love with Chapeau! for several other reasons: the thoughtful service, the gentle prices (a dazzling three-course menu, with lots and lots of choices, at $29.75), and, above all, the food. Chapeau!'s strong suit is its impeccable cooking. We have dreamy memories of seared foie gras with... More >>

  • Best Cambodian Restaurant (S.F.)

    Angkor Borei

    We came for the amazingly generous $6.50 lunch special (a bowl of House Special Soup, lemon grass-scented coconut milk broth filled with tiny mushrooms, chicken, and vegetables, followed by two choices from a list of nine excellent dishes, including spicy chili squid, mild red curry chicken with green beans, and charbroiled chicken), but stayed to be wowed by the delicious, unusual Cambodian specialties at this Bernal Heights restaurant. We love the appetizer of fresh spinach leaves accompanied by a miniature... More >>

  • Best Cambodian Restaurant (East Bay)

    Battambang

    The extraordinarily sophisticated cuisine served at this small, clean, unprepossessing storefront around the corner from Oakland's Chinatown belies its setting: Battambang is a real find. Everything we've tried is so exciting, so memorable, that we're torn between repeating a favorite dish (somlaw ktiss, a soup of fresh pineapple and sweet basil in red lemon grass and coconut milk broth; saramann, a beef, green bean, and yam curry; grilled lamb chops; creamy jackfruit custard) and choosing at random from the dozens... More >>

  • Best Vietnamese Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant

    Cordon Bleu Vietnamese Restaurant

    The place is tiny (the Formica counter fronting the open grill seats eight, and there are just three tables tucked in the back), and the menu is, too. There are only five items on offer at Cordon Bleu: imperial rolls, aka spring rolls; shish kebab, which here does not involve any kind of a skewer but is razor-thin slices of rib-eye steak, soaked in a sugary marinade and crisped on the grill; country salad, which is largely chopped cabbage; meat... More >>

  • Best East German Restaurant

    Walzwerk

    Walzwerk may be the only East German restaurant we've ever eaten at outside of East Germany, but it's much more than just a curiosity. Its thrift-shop décor, dining room watched over by large photos of Marx, Lenin, and Engels, and carefully curated bathroom filled with the detritus of East German popular culture would pall a bit if the food were kitschy, too. But it's not. The kitchen turns out very personal versions of German classics: The potato pancakes are plump,... More >>

  • Best Wine-Tasting Restaurant

    LuLu

    Every night at LuLu there are half a dozen or more featured wine flights: four different 2-ounce pours of wines from a specific region (crisp whites of northern Italy or Rhône varietals, for example) or grape (pinot noirs from Burgundy and the Loire, Willamette, and Napa valleys), priced between $10 and $28 (the high price is for a dessert flight of rare Icewines from Canada). In addition to the artfully arranged flights offered by the restaurant, you can assemble your... More >>

  • Best Pastries (Indoors)

    Tartine Bakery

    We enjoy the cheesy lunch specialties served here immoderately (savory bread pudding, quiche, gougère, and the open-faced interpretations of croque monsieur), even though the strongest thing you can wash them down with is coffee (the food, as well as the clientele, cries out for a glass of white wine). But we are astonished by the superb pastries, especially the flawless crusts on the coconut cream tarts, topped by suave sliced mango, and the chocolate-banana cream tarts.... More >>

  • Best Artichoke Frittata

    Lucca Ravioli Company

    Lucca's looks satisfyingly like a movie set of a delicatessen for a Warner Bros. picture made in the '30s, so we're not surprised when we learn it's been in business since 1925. It's the kind of well-stocked place in which a few minutes' browsing will turn up any number of good things, such as high-quality Italian tuna packed in oil, imported mortadella, beautifully packaged biscotti, and (as the name implies) excellent house-made ravioli. But we're in love with its artichoke... More >>

  • Best Polenta

    Zuni Cafe

    It's the simplest thing on the menu at the wonderful Zuni Café, just a bowlful of creamy, corny polenta topped with a drizzle of mascarpone or shards of sharp Parmesan, but it's one of the most satisfying dishes we've ever had. We always order one for the table, and it disappears with alacrity.... More >>

  • Best Pig Wrapped in a Tortilla

    Taqueria Cancun

    We rate the pig here very highly, especially the cumin-scented al pastor, but what really elevates the burritos and tacos made at Can-Cun above those made at other Mission taquerias is the inclusion of thick slices of perfectly ripe avocado in lieu of sometimes dubious guacamole.... More >>

  • Best Restaurant-as-Movie-Set

    Tadich Grill

    We get a thrill every time we walk into Tadich's: It looks to us just like a restaurant should, from its carefully maintained, gleaming dark wood to its sparkling white-tiled floors. We like the curly-backed bentwood chairs, the art deco light fixtures, the clean aprons on the waitstaff. The building at 240 California St. has housed Tadich Grill only since 1967, but photographs of the previous location, 545 Clay (since 1912; the restaurant has moved several times since it opened... More >>

  • Best Dive Bar

    Phone Booth

    At the nexus of hipster bar, queer bar, and neighborhood bar lies the Phone Booth. During the locust swarm of trendy bars symptomatic of the dot-com era, this low-key lounge served as a much-needed oasis, far from the ever-present Cosmopolitans and blue Gap shirts. The place's charm is in its consistently casual, friendly demeanor and its reasonable prices. A Mission watering hole for many years, the Phone Booth has its die-hard (yet amicable) regulars, but adds a dash of dewy... More >>

  • Best Quesadilla

    El Metate

    It may be tough figuring out who holds the title of best taqueria, but choosing the best quesadilla-maker is easy. Nestled in what was supposed to be the modish Bryant Street stretch (Blowfish, the Monkey Club, et al.), El Metate's small, unimposing site belies its tantalizing menu. The place opened late last year, offering an amazingly simple, tasty quesadilla: With three cheeses and a choice of meat, placed between tortillas and then grilled and quartered, it lacks the oiliness and... More >>

  • Best Green Salsa

    Casa Sanchez

    Three generations of the Sanchez family own and operate this quintessential Mission taqueria, which comes complete with colorful murals, an umbrella-studded patio, Mexican beer, and tasty stews in addition to the standard tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. The Sanchezes make their own chips and red and green salsa, which they distribute to supermarkets all over the Bay Area. It's all good, but the green salsa is to die for. Lovingly squeezed in an on-site vat by hand from peppers, tomatoes, chilies,... More >>

  • Best Health Foods

    Rainbow Grocery

    Rainbow's huge warehouse grocery carries organic fruits and vegetables, exotic cheeses, biodegradable shampoo, homeopathic remedies, rows and rows of vitamins including natural aphrodisiacs, and delicious vegan desserts (baked without dairy). There is not a speck of dead flesh to be found in the clean, brightly lit, nice-smelling emporium. Plus, it is a worker-owned cooperative. The 200 or so employees tend to be artists, writers, and musicians who favor non-mainstream lifestyles. They are a swell bunch of folks and are very... More >>

  • Best Expansion by a Local Burger Joint

    BurgerMeister

    For years, the BurgerMeister at Carl and Cole streets, right next to the Muni stop, has filled Cole Valley with the smell of good, grilled, made-to-order hamburgers. Now the popular local joint has expanded to another location, 138 Church St. in the Castro, also close to a Muni stop. The new storefront, clean and well-lit, has all the important ingredients of the original: a friendly staff, quick service for either eating in or takeout, and high-quality burgers, fries, milkshakes, and... More >>

  • Best Sub

    King Foot Submarine

    Not much competition here. San Francisco is a bad sandwich town, so any place that doesn't charge $10 for two slices of Wonder bread and some gristle probably rates a mention. Even so, King Foot, a tiny sub shop in the Lower Haight, is great by any measure. The subs come hot or cold, 6-inch or foot-long, with tuna, meatball, salami, roast beef, and so on. The toppings are fresh; the lettuce isn't that awful Subway confetti that's usually dumped... More >>

  • Best Old-Timey Soda Fountain

    St. Francis Fountain

    When the St. Francis Fountain, a genteel Mission refuge since 1918, closed its doors in May 2002, many feared it wouldn't reopen. But in November its neon sign lit up again, highlighting a shiny new paint job (alas, no more pink) and its own vintage signs back up on the walls. The ice cream is no longer made on the premises (though it's the next best thing: Mitchell's), but the outstanding sandwiches -- like the 49er, a BLT with egg... More >>

  • Best Brunch Alternative to Chloe's

    Fattoush

    On any given sunny weekend morning, the corner of Church and 26th streets is jammed with people waiting to get into Chloe's, a tiny Noe Valley brunch institution. But what those hungry-looking people apparently don't know is that half a block away is a gem of a restaurant with a beautiful courtyard, outstanding breakfasts, and no line. Fattoush is a tasty Middle Eastern restaurant, but its weekend brunch menu features the kind of cholesterol-heavy American fare we crave: corned beef... More >>

  • Best Place to Pretend You're in Paris

    The Butler & The Chef Bistro

    Ah, Paris. Lazy afternoons sipping wine in a small cafe, eating crepes and frites, making fun of all the tiny dogs. We'd like to go back, but in the absence of lottery winnings we'll take the Butler & the Chef, a wholesaler of French antique bar and kitchen furniture that has brought us a wonderful little slice of France at the west end of South Park. Needless to say, the interior is authentic, from the bistro tables to the black-and-white... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Slabs of Pure, Lip-Smacking Snack Fat

    European Food Wholesale and Deli

    Imagine a bar of bacon consisting of alternating layers of meat and fat. Now imagine no layers of meat. Just solid, snow-white fat. Now imagine eating this raw. Now, open your mind to the notion that, sliced very, very thin and placed on a fresh pumpernickel rind, this might not be as revolting as you imagined. European Food Wholesale offers occasional stacks of what Russians call salo near the cash register. The store sells what must be 150 different shapes... More >>

  • Best Thin-Crust Pizza

    Gaspare's Pizza House & Italian Restaurant

    We're Chicago-style deep-dish pizza lovers through and through. Plus we prefer pesto to tomato sauce any day. So imagine our surprise when Gaspare's thin-crust, tomato-sauced veggie pie took our breath away. Not overly sauced, not overly cheesed (and we do love cheese), it allowed the toppings to take precedence. Delectable. Start off your meal with Gaspare's Special Salad; the house-made dressing is a charmer, not too oily. Yes, we know, it's beginning to sound like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears":... More >>

  • Best Sweet Potato Pie

    Delancey Street Restaurant

    The residents of Delancey Street's treatment program have been making this pie for 12 years for the foundation's restaurant. It is based on a recipe from somebody named "Sonny's Mother," who hailed from Louisiana. But any other historical details about it have been lost. One thing is certain: There is absolutely no sweet potato pie that remotely compares to Sonny's Mother's. The bright orange filling contains hints of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and is decadent and rich enough to be... More >>

  • Best Totally Unpretentious Bar

    Dave's

    Where can you get a hot dog with everything and see good art? Where can you order a top-shelf margarita and settle in for a good read? Where do people always look relaxed and happy? Why, at Dave's, of course. Walk into Dave's, and no one looks up to see what you're wearing. The 'tenders are friendly, the jukebox is good but never turned up loud enough to drown out conversation, and the food is delicious and not fried. The... More >>

  • Best Crepes

    Ti Couz Creperie

    Ti Couz (meaning "old house") serves up the tastiest crepes in the city, hands down. As its name suggests, the restaurant has a distinctly down-home atmosphere, and the crepes are prepared Breton-style (a culinary tradition of northern France). The price range is a reasonable $2-10. Ti Couz offers more than 100 combinations, but one of our favorites is the smoked salmon crepe (made with buckwheat flour, topped with crème fraîche). For sweet tooths, the ever-popular Nutella, banana, and vanilla combination... More >>

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