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  • Best Burrito

    Papalote Mexican Grill

    If you're doing a burrito stroll in the Mission, Papalote is a little off the well-trodden path by the standards of location, decor, and menu. Behind its bright-blue-tile facade, you'll find an ordering counter and a small but comfy dining room hung with cool framed photographs. The menu board includes some uncommon offerings in addition to the classic carne asada and chile verde: On the no-meat tip there's marinated tofu (tinted with achiote), soyrizo, and grilled veggies; for gourmands, there's... More >>

  • Best Fish Taco

    El Metate

    The secret to the delicious experience that is an El Metate fish taco lies in the crispy, spiced breadcrumb crust, which provides a great flavor and texture to complement the sweet white fish inside. The pure pleasure of this taco also lies in its simplicity — El Metate has an array of bottled hot sauces you can add, but it's really just the nicely breaded fish on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Yes, iceberg! But the contrast in texture makes... More >>

  • Best Pupuseria

    Elsy's

    Although pupusas have been delighting the residents of El Salvador for a few thousand years, these savory noshes only arrived here in the 1980s, when émigrés from the country's civil war introduced the pleasures of stuffed and grilled masa to the Mission District. Now the town is blessed with a plethora of pupuserias where loroco fiends can satisfy their cravings with equanimity. Our favorite is Elsy's, a sunny if nondescript hole-in-the-wall spot where a skilled artisan stands in the window... More >>

  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Mexico DF

    For those interested in Mexican cooking beyond the burrito, there's no better place to explore than the lively, stylish Mexico DF. Don't-miss dishes that issue from the open kitchen include the three-ceviche assortment, which might include mahimahi, scallops and octopus, and ahi tuna, all treated to a bath in different blendings of citrus juice and aromatics; astonishingly good pork carnitas; cactus salad; goat, served as grilled ribs or shredded in tacos barbacoa-style; whole roasted petrale sole in garlic sauce; and... More >>

  • Best Cheap Pitcher of Margaritas

    Puerto Alegre

    Unpretentious and homey, family-owned and operated Puerto Alegre has been around since 1970, serving inexpensive specialties (from the family's region of Jalisco and others) to happy hordes who often can be seen waiting patiently outside for a table to open up. Once inside, those hordes often order a pitcher of margaritas to wash down the tasty fare. Made with what Puerto Alegre terms top-shelf tequila, Grand Marnier, and fresh limes, the price has crept up over the years, but currently... More >>

  • Best Classy Margarita

    Garibaldi's

    If you're looking for a margarita to transcend all other margaritas — one that eschews BevMo's bottled mixer or Mission mariachi bands — check out the ones offered at Garibaldi's in Presidio Heights. Served straight up in a martini glass with the faintest dusting of salt around the rim, they're not only potent: they're lethal. Drink two while sitting inside this little upscale neighborhood restaurant and you'll suddenly begin feeling you've slipped away to Acapulco, or at least down the... More >>

  • Best Pizza

    Arinell Pizza

    Sometimes you're not in the mood for fancy, exquisite, artisanal pizza made with organic flour, topped with bufala mozzarella, baked in a wood-burning oven. Sometimes what you crave is a cheap, down-and-dirty N.Y.-style slice, or maybe two, slapped down on waxed paper hot and greasy-good from the oven, that you fold up and shovel down, enjoying the sweet tomato sauce, the melty cheese, and whatever toppings you've requested. Maybe you're a little drunk. Maybe you're just hungry. Anyway, Arinell, a... More >>

  • Best Chinese

    Shanghai House

    Shanghai House is a tiny, gleaming white box, cash-only, that doesn't take reservations (except for large parties), doesn't offer alcohol, doesn't have a Web site, and is way the hell out on Balboa. But aficionados of Chinese cuisine should beat a path to its door to sample its fresh and exciting food, especially its Shanghainese specialties. Be sure to ask to see both of the menus. One features well-done but familiar dishes such as mu-shu pork and kung pao chicken... More >>

  • Best Imperial Rolls

    Pagolac

    The myriad varieties of egg roll encountered throughout Asia are more or less trumped by Vietnam's Imperial Roll, a moniker bestowed by the French back in the Indochina era for more than colonialist reasons. It's a nosh fit for royalty, the imperial is, its standard deep-fried rice-papered pork 'n' shrimp dimensions elevated by the crunch of lettuce, zip of fresh herbs, and zing of nuoc cham, the essential Vietnamese dipping sauce. At Pagolac, a sleek, friendly dining spot in Little... More >>

  • Best Pho

    Good Noodle Restaurant (Pho Clement)

    Formica tables, fluorescent lighting, a mishmash of decor including a big-screen TV and an aquarium among the Asian tchotchkes: we don't come to Pho Clement for the surroundings, but for the delicious pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and other simple dishes, available here in dazzling, inexpensive variety. There are 25 different phos on the menu — beef, chicken, and vegetarian —but you can design your own combination. Waitstaff will bring you a big bowl of broth, steam rising appetizingly from the... More >>

  • Best Ramen

    Katana-Ya

    Special orders don't upset them at Katana-Ya, a tiny noodle shop that looks like it was transported whole from the Ginza to its location a few blocks from Union Square. In addition to choosing different broths (beef, pork, or chicken, each seasoned with miso, salt, or soy sauce), you can ask for the noodles to be cooked hard or soft, and assemble toppings differently from those appearing on the menu (barbecue pork, fried chicken, roast pork, tofu, kimchi, greens in... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Sushi

    Hamano Sushi

    Tucked away in quiet Noe Valley, where you might actually be able to find a parking space, is a quiet, well-run, nonhipster, comfy if underdecorated Japanese restaurant and sushi bar. The large and reasonably priced menu offers more than two dozen kinds of nigiri sushi (plus nightly specials) and another 20 maki rolls, vegetable sushi, nicely prepared tempura, yakitori, and kara-age (fried chicken). Fresh oysters are available, and regulars love the fried almond shrimp. Seaweed salad in spicy sesame oil... More >>

  • Best Fancy Sushi

    Umami

    Umami, a rather opulent pan-Asian place, includes Korean bi bim bap, Vietnamese shaking beef, and fusion shibuya sliders (made with Wagyu beef, no less), on its menu. But sushi hounds hum "Simply the Best" here. They order traditional nigiri from sushi chef Akira Yoshizumi's frequently changing menu that features, in addition to the expected hamachi (yellowtail) and kanpachi (amberjack), four kinds of tuna, two kinds of mackerel, ocean trout (masu), and such seasonal rarities as wild sea bass (suzuki) and... More >>

  • Best Rice Dishes

    Takara

    When you're tired of the same old sushi, paella, pudding, and pilaf, head over to Takara in Japantown, where everybody's favorite grain is served in a delectable variety of preparations seldom encountered in cosmopolitan San Francisco. The restaurant's iron-pot rice, for instance, is cooked inside a big, rustic contraption with herbs, seasonings, and crabmeat; the simple, elemental flavors of rice and crustacean make for a pure and harmonious treat. In ochazuke, half a dozen filets of dreamy-creamy tuna sashimi are... More >>

  • Best Kimchi

    First Korean Market

    The specialty of this small but well-stocked Korean grocery store is its excellent tangy kimchi, the classic Korean pickled relish, which is made in-house daily. Varieties available include, in addition to the traditional Napa cabbage (whole or sliced), daikon radish (also whole or sliced), baby radish, and cucumber — a special favorite. The simple ingredients: water, salt, garlic, hot pepper, and salted shrimp, in addition to the main vegetable. A quart jar is $7.99; pints are $4.99.... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Gold Mountain

    From 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily, carts roll through the huge, slightly shabby Gold Mountain restaurant, bearing bamboo steamers full of freshly prepared dim sum. (Between 2 and 3, you can order from a one-page menu listing more than three dozen kinds.) Most of San Francisco's other favorite dim sum parlors are scattered across the city in places as varied as the Financial District and the Sunset. But Gold Mountain flies the dim sum flag proudly, right in Chinatown.... More >>

  • Best Pork Buns

    Clement Restaurant

    You know those big, starchy pork buns you wave away at the classy dim sum joints, the ones with the teaspoon of sugary mystery meat and a whole lot of encompassing breadstuff? They wouldn't see the light of day at Clement Restaurant, where the prosaic pork bun is raised to new standards of succulent gratification. Here the freshly baked dough is on the minimal side, more of a pillowy casing than a dominating force, while the warm, fragrant filling is... More >>

  • Best Bastilla

    Saha Arabic Fusion

    Although Saha's forte is the cuisine of the Arabian peninsula, the kitchen's interpretation of the North African delicacy bastilla is exceptional. Like its Middle Eastern dishes, this incorporates California-fusion accents that sacrifice none of the dish's singular richness. A cylinder of flaky, buttery phyllo hot from the fryer encloses a luscious filling of almonds, onion, parsley, scrambled egg, and minced chicken, every bite offering an astonishing array of tastes and textures, the merest dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon accenting... More >>

  • Best Falafel

    Sunrise Deli

    You can demand lots of delicious Middle Eastern things at the eat-in Sunrise Deli, from a half-pint of hummus ($3.49) to a 45-to-50-pound roast lamb stuffed with rice and chopped lamb ($400), but what you shouldn't miss is the excellent falafel sandwich. The secret, the owners say, is the freshness. Their recipe includes garlic, onion, a little chopped green onion, and enough minced parsley to turn the falafel nicely green under the crunchy brown crust. Stuffed in a split pita... More >>

  • Best Muslim Chinese Restaurant

    Old Mandarin Islamic

    As exotic as the notion of Islamic Chinese fare sounds, China has an estimated 20 million Muslims. Don't be fooled by the restaurant's humble appearance: This place is dynamite — and so is the dish titled "Extremely Hot Pepper," for obvious reasons. Order a Peking hot pot and simmer your own meals, or rely on the expert staff for specialties such as the cumin-smothered Mandarin lamb, delicious onion pancakes, or cucumber bean curd (the best tofu dish you'll ever eat).... More >>

  • Best Indian Restaurant Within an Irish Pub

    Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House

    "You got your vindaloo in my Guinness!" "You got your Guinness in my vindaloo!" If you overhear the above conversation, you could only be in Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House. While curry houses in counterintuitive locations are as common in the British Isles as slot machines in Nevada supermarkets, Indian restaurants within pubs are a novelty here in San Francisco. How did this happen —a mutual disdain for the British? Perhaps. But the real answer, according to bartender Jenny... More >>

  • Best Weird Cocktail

    Argus Lounge

    Is there some kind of statute of limitations on the tastefulness of jokes about a pint-sized murder victim? Especially if said victim sported a coif right out of Dynasty, held a title from the National Tiny Miss Beauty pageant, and suffered under a comically accented first name? In other words, are we allowed to scoff at JonBenét Ramsey yet? (Let's face it: If she were alive today, you would totally hate her.) More than a decade after her pageant-queen dreams... More >>

  • Best Gay Bar

    Truck

    Located in an unlikely corner of the world — part Mission, part SOMA, and a long, drunk walk from the Castro — Truck feels like the handsome lovechild of Moby Dick and Daddy's (er, "440 Castro"), except without the tourists. The bar's name, emblazoned in a Tonka-like font next to the door, might sound like just another fetish joint, but Truck is more playful than that: it's a tractor-trailer fantasy, complete with mudflaps and lots of chrome. The bartenders are... More >>

  • Best Drag Bar

    Marlena's

    In a city where drag performers tend to favor the postmodern — where drag becomes arch-ironic "drag" — the Saturday night Follies at Marlena's offer a refreshingly unself-conscious alternative: old-school ladies sing Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline for a crowd that includes the pre-Stonewall set and the Hayes Valley gentrifiers. You'll never pay a cover, the drinks are potent, and the clientele isn't liable to give you any attitude. (Fresh young things from the Castro probably won't find a hot... More >>

  • Best Bar for Fireplaces and Peanuts

    The Homestead

    The Homestead is one of the few newish S.F. bars that felt like a neighborhood haunt from the day it opened. That's due in large part to two factors: the peanuts — the shells of which patrons are encouraged to simply scatter on the floor — and the fireplace, which is tucked in the far corner of the bar. On foggy San Francisco nights, the Homestead's hearth is the perfect place to warm the cockles of your heart while its... More >>

  • Best Beer Selection

    The Monk's Kettle

    A hoitier-toitier version of Gestalt House down the street, Monk's Kettle is the brand-new Mission neighborhood bar that'll really help you work on that beer gut. Touting a menu thicker than an issue of Vogue, the bar and restaurant pours 100 hand-crafted brews from the bottle, and has at least 24 on tap, including Abbeys, ales, Lambics, Gueuzes, barley wine, and bière de Champagne. Hell, yeah! Thankfully, the staff has taken great pains to give every brew listed an extensive... More >>

  • Best Greek Wine Bar

    Parea Wine Bar and Cafe

    The name is derived from one of those evocative, multilayered Greek phrases that's nearly impossible to translate, but if you think back to the last time you got together with a few good friends over a nice bottle of wine, the glow of the spirits enhancing the talk and the fellowship, you understand the essence of paréa. This beautiful little rendezvous is in the affable tradition of cozy Hellenic tavernas where mezes are nibbled and retsina is quaffed, and there's... More >>

  • Best Salumi

    Bar Bambino

    This charming, rather casual small cafe and wine bar is so proud of its salumi collection that it constructed a special glass display case for both art and industry. Hanging salamis and cheeses make for enticing sculptural compositions, while a salumerio carves little masterpieces for you to admire on the plate before conveying to your mouth. Bar Bambino cures some of its own meats, and acquires others from local and international artisans. Knowledgeable servers will tell you what's on hand... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Dining Space

    Ducca

    An al fresco lunch taken in the glamorous de Chirico-esque outdoor dining area of Ducca, the Venetian-inspired restaurant in the newly renovated Westin Hotel downtown, amounts to a mini-vacation. The broad piazza, semiscreened from busy Third Street by ornamental gates and planters, offers sunny seating on the patio or a gaily shaded terrace. There's a cityscape of towers, but also lots of eerily empty sky. As you nibble on chicheti (Venetian bar snacks such as fried anchovies, rice fritters, and... More >>

  • Best Resurrection

    Helmand Palace

    When a good chunk of Telegraph Hill fell off and landed in the Helmand's back yard more than a year ago, San Francisco lost its best Afghan restaurant (and one of North Beach's best bargains). It took more than six months, but lovers of aushak (big leek-stuffed ravioli-like dumplings), mantwo (smaller pelmeni-like beef-and-onion dumplings), and kaddo (pumpkin topped with meat sauce and garlicky yogurt) can satisfy their cravings at the restaurant's new spiffy location near Russian Hill, now called Helmand... More >>

  • Best North Beach Restaurant

    Cafe Divine

    Cafe Divine encapsulates several irresistible aspects of the North Beach experience. Situated at the southeast corner of Washington Square, its sidewalk tables afford matchless glimpses of the street life that define the area. The cafe itself is housed in the beautiful old Dante Building, and reflects the neighborhood's rich legacy with paintings by local artists, live jazz on the weekends, and a handsome Italian maple and mahogany bar with brass espresso machine. Best of all, three stellar meals and an... More >>

  • Best Bone Marrow in a City Overwhelmed by Bone Marrow

    Chapeau!

    For the past few years, bone marrow has been popping up on San Francisco restaurant menus. For instance, Poleng Lounge serves it along with wedges of coconut bread; Tartine pairs it with its legendary country loaf; and Serpentine actually serves up gamey buffalo bone marrow. But Chapeau! out on Clement offers the sort of marrow that could convert even the meat-adverse. Served with its rib roast, a gluttonous dish for two that comes with four sauces — blue cheese, peppercorn,... More >>

  • Best Salads

    Pluto's

    The best salads are the ones you toss together yourself, and at Pluto's, a chain of eight NorCal quasihealthy fast-food joints, you (almost) do just that. Each venue has a well-stocked salad station where you tell the server behind the counter what you'd like; happily, the ingredients at hand are several steps above what you might find at your typical salad bar. Choose from impeccably fresh field greens, romaine lettuce, or baby spinach as your foliage du jour. The fun... More >>

  • Best Fondue

    Melt!

    Who'd think that the best fondue in San Francisco was hiding in plain sight at a cozy neighborhood cafe in North Beach that offers free wi-fi, projected movies, open-mic nights, and trivia contests, in addition to coffee and light fare? Maybe the place's name should have been the tip-off. Anyway, Melt's fondues come in four flavors (classic Neufchatel, Welsh Rarebit, Scrumpy Rarebit, and Stout Rarebit), and two sizes (serving two for $30, three to four for $40, but more in... More >>

  • Best Funky New Orleans Joint

    Coco's Crawfish

    There's a no-nonsense utilitarian air here: The decor is limited to big mirrors, big tables, and a couple of big-screen TVs in a big, bland room. You come to eat, and eat messy. You order fresh crawfish, shrimp, Dungeness crab, oysters, and clams by the pound; sausage and (frozen, alas) cob corn by the each; everything is thrown together in a plastic bag with N'Awlins crab boil spices and butter, heated up in more ways than one (they'll ask you... More >>

  • Best Sand Dabs

    Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant

    The dainty sand dab is the sweetest and tenderest of Pacific flatfish, and Sam's knows just how to showcase its delicate flavor. As one of San Francisco's premier purveyors of fresh seafood — it's been around since 1867 — this brass-and-mahogany time capsule has plenty of experiential know-how. A half-dozen perfectly boned and filleted dabs are griddled until perfectly ivory-hued and succulent, drizzled with hot butter and chopped parsley, and conveyed, burbling and fragrant, to your table. Served with nothing... More >>

  • Best Fried Dishes

    SPQR

    SPQR, the smaller and more casual (no reservation, no tablecloths) Roman-style osteria on Fillmore opened by the folks who own the excellent A16 in the Marina, offers a half-dozen fried options. All are delicious, but our favorites are the chewy little sweetbreads flavored with garlic and oregano and served with cooling chopped celery and lemon wedges; the iconic Brussels sprouts with garlic, capers, lemon, and parsley, ordered by just about everybody; and chicken livers still meltingly tender under their crisp... More >>

  • Best Fish and Chips

    Ace Cafe

    When it comes to fish and chips, there are two nonnegotiables. One: The breading must have crunch. Two: The fish must have tenderness. It also helps immensely if the chef is British, and even more so if the chef is Henry Dombey or his protégé, Daven Hayes. They can be found waxing clever and wielding spatulas at the back of Ace Cafe — a biker bar named after a racing cafe in London — almost every night. It's the kind... More >>

  • Best White-Trash Diner

    Butter

    If you're tired of swanky speakeasies and clubs with dress codes, come on down and enjoy some wholesome, all-American, artery-clogging, trailer-park fun at Butter. The bar's métier is babysitter-manufactured cuisine — in other words, lots of microwaveable oldies-but-goodies to exacerbate your heartburn. It may well be the only place in town where you can feast on cheese-smothered Tater Tots (although its specialty is really the deep-fried Twinkie) and imbibe forties from a paper bag while taking in cinematic classics like... More >>

  • Best Gut Bomb

    Ike's Place

    The colorfully named sandwiches people line up for in the Castro feel as if they weigh two pounds, dripping wet. And indeed they do drip, with layers of juicy meats, chopped fresh vegetables, and special sauces (the popular garlicky "dirty sauce" in particular), assembled just for you by boyish soul-patched Ike, who works behind the counter with his cheerful mom. Sure, they'll make you a single-ingredient sandwich (which they call UnOriginal), but regulars return for the Backstabber (chicken breast, marinated... More >>

  • Best Interactive Kids' Meal

    Puccini & Pinetti

    If you find yourself downtown with kids in tow, and you want something slightly more ambitious and comfortable than greasy fast-food outlets or the Westfield Centre Food Court, you could do worse than Puccini and Pinetti. Hidden among the expected spaghetti with butter and cheese and macaroni on the kids' menu is this touch of genius: a build-your-own pizza. Tots choose three ingredients from a list of meats and vegetables. Their toppings are brought to the table, along with unbaked... More >>

  • Best Unpretentious Fries

    Hotel Utah

    A while back, we asked a well-known foodie about where to find the best french fries in town. The answers appalled us somewhat: Oola, some restaurant that puts truffle oil on them, Zuni, and that unbearably smarmy place that specializes in fries and serves them in froofy paper cones with "housemade" ketchup and mayo were among the chosen. We don't have anything against frills, but fries, for us, are nullified by froof. So we say that, in addition to your... More >>

  • Best Freebie

    Spork

    There's lots to like about this chic little New American eatery, which took over the space of an erstwhile KFC. But perhaps the single best thing is the huge, pull-apart dinner rolls, shaped something like a giant three-leaf clover. They boast an airy golden crumb under a glossy, eggshell-thin crust lightly dusted with crunchy salt crystals. Pulled warm from the oven and served with honey butter, they're the apotheosis of the old-fashioned Parker House roll. And, best of all, they're... More >>

  • Best Bagels

    House of Bagels

    Too many so-called bagels sold in San Francisco are more like savory doughnuts: squishy, soft, altogether anemic. But the real chewy N.Y.-style boiled-water bagels are still in fashion at House of Bagels, an unimpressive-looking deli that offers an impressive lineup of food in addition to its baked goods. The bagels are available in many flavors: plain, poppyseed, sesame, onion, cinnamon-raisin, everything, whole-wheat (seeded or plain), corn, garlic, blueberry, salt, rye, pumpernickel, jalapeño, egg, and asiago. House of Bagels also offers... More >>

  • Best New Bakery

    Thorough Bread and Pastry

    Everything at the two-month-old Thorough Bread is so pretty it hurts. And, happily, its baked goods taste as good as they look, to coin a phrase. The place is affiliated with the San Francisco Baking Institute (www.sfbi.com). Thorough offers more than a dozen different breakfast pastries in addition to prizeworthy croissants, brioche, scones, and muffins. Homey cookies include peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and the rarely seen cinnamon-dusted snickerdoodle. Hand-shaped breads are baked fresh daily in a hearth oven and are... More >>

  • Best Venerable Bakery

    Stella Pastry & Cafe

    Stella, along with a few other bakeries, delis, and butcher shops, is one of the long-term survivors of the many Italian purveyors that dotted North Beach when it was truly San Francisco's Little Italy. The owners are apparently too busy turning out classic treats to keep track of their own history ("About 50 years" was the answer, when queried as to how long they'd been open). Among those classic treats they're dishing out are the familiar cream-filled cannoli and biscotti... More >>

  • Best Muffins

    Abigail's Pastry & Fine Foods

    A really good muffin is hard to find: Too many of 'em are overly fluffy, grossly overweight, or ponderous with below-par extras like chocolate chips and canned pineapple. Although Abigail's isn't a full-fledged bakery along the lines of Tartine, Arizmendi, or Citizen Cake, its muffins are among the best you'll encounter within the city limits. They're on the small side, crunchy around the edges, and substantial yet gossamer-textured within: an ideally light and lovely way to greet a new dawn.... More >>

  • Best Dumplings

    Cinderella Bakery and Cafe

    Cinderella, open since 1953, is the go-to spot for Russian baked goods and cooked specialties. Partisans debate their favorites: Do you go there for piroshki, borscht, or stroganoff? Do you tote home dark rye or light rye, rum roll or hamentaschen, cherry cake or honey cake? You go to your Russian Orthodox church, and somebody else will go to theirs, but count yourself a fool if your table does not boast at least one plate of Cinderella's unrivalled dumplings, whether... More >>

  • Best Crepes

    Crepes a Go Go

    The accommodating crepe is the compleat, all-purpose foodstuff. It's equally at home filled with cheese, spinach, and eggs at breakfast time; spread with Nutella and fresh strawberries as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up; bursting with chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and onions and served up for supper; or employed as a late-night hangover preventative with a salubrious stuffing of almonds, honey, and bananas. The hotcake specialists at Crepes a Go Go are extremely adept at crafting a French pancake to suit your immediate needs.... More >>

  • Best Artful Cakes

    I Dream of Cake

    Casual passersby may be forgiven for thinking the storefront of 1351 Grant, with its displays of stacked boxes, circles, and other shapes colorfully decorated with flowers, glossy metallic beads, and buttons and bows, is an appointment-only gallery specializing in Pop Art. It is by appointment only, but its specialty is amazing edible art: special occasion cakes, designed and baked in-house. These spectacular creations (including a bust of Napoleon that looks exactly like alabaster, stiletto heels worthy of Manolo Blahnik, and... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    La Copa Loca

    The biggest problem at La Copa Loca ice cream shop in the Mission is making your mind up. There are a couple of dozen irresistible flavors of superb gelato and sorbetto on display in the glass-fronted counter, a distracting array of ice cream cakes and sundaes in a revolving case, and, looming overhead, a densely printed board offering long lists of specialty sundaes, liquados, smoothies, and milkshakes. (And coffee drinks, juices, hot crepes, and panini. But we're here for the... More >>

  • Best Cake

    Yasukochi's Sweet Stop

    Longtime San Franciscans know that Yasukochi's Sweet Stop, a tiny bakery inside the Super Mira Market in Japantown, offers a cake that is said to duplicate the famous Coffee Crunch, one of the specialties of the vanished long-ago bakery-restaurant Blum's. Sold in single slices ($2.95) or as a towering whole cake ($25), the yellow cake layered with whipped cream and topped with crunchy coffee-flavored morsels is airier than the confection we remember — and it's also absolutely divine. If the... More >>

  • Best Pie

    Mission Pie

    Finding a good slab of pie in this town has been problematic at least since Bepple's closed its doors several years ago, but the world changed for the better in January 2007 when Mission Pie opened for business. Here, marvelously buttery crusts filled with apples and pumpkin and sweet potato appear fresh from the oven and ready for the eating, gladdening hearts and pleasing stomachs as only America's greatest gift to the culinary arts can do. The apple variety is... More >>

  • Best Cupcake

    Kara's Cupcakes

    Cupcakes have gotten all grown-up on us in the 21st century. Kara's Cupcakes, which sources all of its ingredients (most of which are organic) locally, are quite beautiful, elegant, and affordable at $3 each. Such exciting combinations as vanilla or chocolate cake with a coconut cream cheese frosting, chocolate cupcake with espresso buttercream (aka the Java), and carrot or banana cakes with cream cheese frosting are displayed like jewels in modernistic cases. For another quarter, you can go baroque and... More >>

  • Best Cheesecake

    Zanze's Cheesecake

    Sam Zanze's immaculate little shop in Ingleside, open Wednesday through Saturday, serves only one thing: a superlative lighter-than-air cheesecake in three sizes and six flavors: traditional, blueberry, chocolate, mocha, raspberry, and kirsch topped with cherries. Around Thanksgiving, pumpkin appears. That's it. Zanze's is proof that if you bake a better cheesecake, the world will beat a path to your door — for 29 years. Forget the heavy cream-cheese-topped-with-sour-cream model, though it has its virtues: Zanze's confection is so soufflélike that... More >>

  • Best Cannoli

    Victoria Pastry Co.

    A good cannoli is like a party waiting to happen: Contained within its demure dimensions is enough ring-a-ding-ding to incite wholesale festivity and a conga line or two. Victoria, a cherished 94-year-old Italian bakery renowned for its special-occasion wedding, zuccotto and St. Honoré cakes, also fries up an outstanding cannoli. Begin with its outer casing, a delicate, feathery pâté à choux far removed from the jawbreakers endemic to most examples of the genre. It's stuffed with a rich, lush housemade... More >>

  • Best Medicinal Chocolate

    Dolores Park

    Aftermath of a fever dream: You're lounging on the grass in Dolores Park on a perfect weekend afternoon, watching dogs, babies, dogs with Frisbees, babies with Frisbees. A handsome young man materializes out of the mist, bearing a tray hung from a strap around his neck, something like a New Age cigarette girl, but instead of cigarettes the tray holds homemade chocolate truffles costing $5 each. The price sounds a trifle steep, but these are not just any chocolate truffles:... More >>

  • Best Fancy Desserts (Tie)

    Farina Focaccia & Cucina Italiana

    The desserts at both Farina and Yoshi's go far beyond the standard sweets you might expect at Italian (tiramisu, affogato) and Japanese (green tea or red bean ice cream) restaurants. Both places offer exciting, carefully composed dishes that do more than merely offer a bit of sugary distraction at the end of a meal. At Farina, chef Paolo Laboa changes his menu frequently. Greatest hits include fried milk fritters served with citrus salad and blood-orange vanilla sauce; a peach-and-raspberry crostata... More >>

  • Best Macaroon

    Italian French Baking Co.

    The essence of the macaroon is its dense, pleasantly coarse texture, a gustatory earthiness achieved by forsaking the affectations of finely milled flour for pestled almonds or hazelnuts or some other palatable pseudostarch. Barely leavened with sugar and egg white and baked in a slow oven, it's one deceptively simple übercookie. At the Italian French Bakery in North Beach, the macaroon attains a lush majesty that belies its prosaic ingredients. Here the filler of choice is flaky coconut meat, and... More >>

  • Best Frozen Yogurt

    Caffe Ambrosia

    Sure, we all know how thick, fermented mammal milk has been consumed for thousands of years from Central Asia to the Mediterranean, and how its lactic bacteria helps fight all manner of life-shortening microbes and slaps around cholesterol and carcinogens to boot, but our most pressing question at the end of the day is: Does it taste good? Most importantly, in its frozen state can it hold any sort of a candle to the pleasures of ice cream? At Caffe... More >>

  • Best Peanut Butter Cup

    Chocolate Heaven

    Why do we give power and glory and Nobel Prizes to backroom politicos and atomic scientists when we don't even know the name of the genius who first dipped a Hershey bar into a jar of peanut butter? The black velvet of the chocolate, the earthy creaminess of the peanut butter, the salty and the sweet in harmonic convergence ... Madre de Dios! Judy's Candy Company, a Berkeley-based confectioner purist enough to stir its caramels in antique copper kettles over... More >>

  • Best Coffee Bean Roasters

    San Francisco Coffee Company

    Wine you age, not coffee. When the roasted beans sit, like national brands do for weeks or months on grocery store shelves, the beans turn into bitter little rocks that lose their flavor and aroma. The locally roasted product delivered by the San Francisco Coffee Company gets to your home grinder in a few days at the peak of freshness. The big companies use computers to set the temperature and time of the roast, but here they use an 80-year-old... More >>

  • Best Coffee Joint

    Cup of Blues

    Do you love a good cup of coffee but have zero interest in elitist foodie culture? Do you long for that first espresso in the morning but couldn't care less if it's made on a La Spaziale or an Ala Di Vittoria? Are you sick of dealing with highly refined attitude and even higher prices in hipster coffee emporia? Have no fear. Cup of Blues serves up great coffee in a cozy little shop that's blissfully devoid of all pretension.... More >>

  • Best Tea

    Leland Tea Company

    There can't be too many places to enjoy a well-brewed cup of tea, and Leland Tea Company provides an especially homey and welcoming environment in which to enjoy it, with exposed brick, funky wood tables and chairs, and vaguely Art Nouveau ladies painted on the walls. The charming William, one of the owners, will greet you and lead you through their special Loose Leaf Tea Bar possibilities: dozens of canisters you can open and sniff to determine your favorite (they'll... More >>

  • Best Tea Supplies

    Red Blossom Tea Co.

    This small, family-run operation has been importing loose-leaf teas, roots, herbs, and brewing paraphernalia from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan (plus Wisconsin) for 25 years, and not only does it have an amazing selection of oolongs and pu-erhs to choose from, the staff also know what they're talking about. To make sure you get exactly what you want, bouquets will be sniffed, rainfall and elevation will be discussed, atlases will be consulted, and (many, many) samples will be poured. The... More >>

  • Best Cheese Store

    Say Cheese

    This adorable little wood-floored shop, open since 1976 in Cole Valley, offers a truly amazing array of about 300 beautifully kept cheeses and meats, which you can purchase by weight or have made up into delectable sandwiches. The lists of cheeses are carefully chalked onto wood-framed boards. The knowledgeable staff will guide you through the selections, offering you slivers of different possibilities, whether you're buying pounds for a party or ounces for yourself. They know how to store cheese, and... More >>

  • Best Grocery Store

    Bi-Rite Market

    Yep, it sounds like the kind of place where Andy Griffith and pals might have lollygagged over frosted glasses of ice-cream soda. But since 1964, this family-owned and -operated bodega has been a palliative for San Francisco's salubrious-minded foodies (and today, a great alternative for those who dig Whole Foods but prefer to support Mom and Pop). This diminutive boutique market specializes in organic produce, high-end breads, sustainably raised meats, fine artisan cheeses, and pretty much anything else you'd care... More >>

  • Best Specialty Market & Butcher Shop

    Avedano's Holly Park Market

    Avedano's, the recent resurrection of a location that has been home to a variety of food businesses for more than a century, houses a variety of food businesses itself. It provides necessities for the locals and temptations to draw the gastrotourists. There's a full-service butcher shop, boasting cases full of grass-fed beef and lamb, free-range fowl, and sustainably caught fish and shellfish. The refrigerator holds organic dairy items, imported sodas, and organic baby-food purees. The fresh fruits and vegetables come... More >>

  • Best Mission Produce Market

    Mi Ranchito

    Forget Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and all those other grocery stores where you have to have sold a kidney to afford the produce that might as well be from another galaxy. That's just not healthy, okay? You need that kidney. And if you live in the Mission like a good little hipster, then there's some perfectly delicious, local, cheap produce right in your hood. Mi Ranchito, formerly known as L&M Produce Market, is where sensible people are picking up mushrooms... More >>

  • Best Bulk Food Store

    Other Avenues

    So Other Avenues isn't in the pulsing heart of the city, and it's not the most convenient place to drop in before a picnic at Dolores Park. But the N-Judah stops in front, and taking the trip across town to this natural-foods cooperative is worth the time if you like buying organic, mostly locally grown food by the pound. Other Avenues carries more than 30 whole-bean coffees; nearly 40 blends of granola and breakfast cereals; 50 varieties of nuts, seeds,... More >>

  • Best Old-Style Italian

    Sodini's Green Valley

    When you're feeling sentimental for an old-style Italian restaurant, quit reminiscing and get to Sodini's Green Valley Restaurant in North Beach. The ambiance you long for includes the requisite checkered tablecloths and candles stuffed in old wine bottles. There's a cozy bar area, where locals often stop in for a quick glass of wine and a bit of gossip with the bartenders, who seem to know everything going on in the neighborhood. It's also not unusual to see politicos or... More >>

  • Best High-End Italian

    Perbacco

    San Francisco is blessed with many excellent Italian restaurants (several of the best have opened in the past couple of years). They include neighborhood pizzerias, osterias, and trattorias. But for alta cucina, the full-on, high-end experience in a posh place offering everything from soup (minestra) to nocce (frutta secca), the ristorante of choice is Perbacco. The glamorous, two-story space can be noisy, but the extraordinarily exciting food, focusing on the Piemonte and Ligurian regions, will rivet your attention. Everything on... More >>

  • Best Lemon Tart

    Serpentine

    We’re suckers for lemon meringue pie. The combination of flaky pastry, smooth tart filling, and airy topping, if done right, never fails to thrill us. (Sometimes we like it even if it’s done wrong.) But Serpentine’s Meyer lemon tart with toasted marshmallow and blood-orange sections thrilled us as never before. That’s because we’ve never had a lemon meringue pie that threatened to float off its plate and disappear into the stratosphere. It looks like a farmhouse pie made to finish... More >>

  • Best Sandwiches

    Specialty's Cafe & Bakery

    He mismanaged the British right out of their American colonies and Hawaii was renamed after him for a century or two, but what really concerns us here is that John Montagu, the fourth earl of Sandwich, was so chronically distracted by the excitement of the gaming tables, his evening sustenance was usually a slab of meat slipped between two slices of bread. The recipe has been improved upon since the 18th century, and here in San Francisco the sandwich-chomping possibilities... More >>

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