TABLEHOPPING I’m writing this end-of-year recap while looking at thousands of pictures of food from 2012 (oh, I see, that’s how I got these love handles). New Year’s Eve is just four days away, but my tidal wave of sparkles and bubbles is starting early at a party I’m hosting with Louis Roederer Champagne at Marianne’s, the private room at one of this year’s new hotspots, The Cavalier. Yes, it’s Champagne o’clock, and look at that, my watch is running fast. There’s a lot to toast this year! Here are brief highlights of places I’m fired up to have in our culinary scene, and look forward to visiting more in 2014. Let’s roll the tape. And Happy New Year, pop!
Patisseries and bakeries
So much beauty in the pastry case at b. patisserie, everyone needs to try the honey cake (and knishes!) at 20th Century Café, and the croissants and savory creations at Le Marais Bakery in the Marina are so destination-worthy.
A simple but good one can be found at the revamped Fog City (it’s the way you wish a McDonalds cheeseburger would taste — they are even making the American cheese in house!), and the renovated MKT at the Four Seasons has a delicious duck fat burger (the steak tartare is also really, really good). The beef and bacon burger at RickyBobby in the Lower Haight is the business, and the version at Mason Pacific comes on a pretzel bun with smoked tomato, so tasty.
Is it a bar or a restaurant?
I love being able to do double duty at places with great cocktails and vittles, like Hard Water (have you had their fried chicken, the fried milk-braised celery hearts?!), Trick Dog (the late-night kitchen hours are brilliant — and the boneless chicken wings and Manimal-style thrice-cooked fries are gifts to drunks and stoners everywhere), and then there’s the renovated Tosca, now serving some of the city’s best meatballs and housemade bucatini all’amatriciana (and start with the Trouble in Paradise cocktail).
Gotta hand it to Saison for having one of the sexiest bar menus — the same can be said of the china and stemware. Gorgeous doesn’t come cheap.
Russian Hill gets a two-fer: 1760 (the crudos!) and Stones Throw (squid ink conchiglie pasta for the win), while the Castro is cozying right up to Fable, and Nico is trying to charm Laurel Heights.
Mexican party bus
Padrecito is getting Cole Valley tipsy on good drinks (La Copa Verde, we are talking about you!) to go with goat tacos (points for selling a kale taco), while La Urbana is curing hangovers with its chilaquiles and Mexican Dude. And bienvenidos to the fiesta, Sabrosa.
For your must-try list: the Italian combo and Arista at Merigan Sub Shop, the lampredotto (it’s tripe, yo) at Elmira Rosticceria, and the Rachel at Shorty Goldstein’s in the FiDi.
Just damn tasty
Maruya in the Mission is giving us a new counter where we can enjoy some top sushi (arigato!), while the Sri Lankan-influenced 1601 Bar & Kitchen brings us the egg hopper, my idea of a killer app. The new menu at Betelnut is also rocking the party (like the char siu spring rolls and hamachi sashimi).
The Cavalier in SoMa is plying us with eggs and soldiers and a mighty fine burger, while Coqueta flirts with us over gin and tonics and pintxos.
Thanks for not taking all my money
It’s so good to have Guddu de Karahi back with us (and his tandoori fish), while the second location of Ramen Underground in Japantown means you can find a place to sit while you enjoy its spicy miso ramen. The tortillas from the Burr-eatery truck, get ’em! And I’m digging the savory waffles at Linea Caffe.
Wine bar 2.0
Fortunately we have moved past the lousy style and cheap wines at too many wine bars around the city — there are good bites and pours at the funky 20 Spot, excellent Italian wines from true wino pros at InoVino and La Nebbia, and some fab Frenchie picks at Aquitaine (plus a duck Reuben at lunch).
Here today, gone tomorrow
Sorry to say farewell to all the cool Kiwis (and their fresh ingredients) at pop-up restaurant Waiheke Island Yacht Club.
Fresh on the scene
Looking forward to trying Verbena (from Berkeley’s Gather crew), getting smoky at TBD in SoMa, getting my Hunanese banquet dinner on at Leader House, and diving deeper into the menu at Daniel Patterson’s Alta CA (you gotta get the cracked wheat porridge with hen of the woods mushrooms). 2014, you’re looking damn good.