Tag Archives: san francisco

The Little Chihuahua: a burrito sleeper you need to visit now

little chihuaha

For decades San Franciscans far and wide have debated over the city’s BEST spot for burritos. I stand by Gordo’s through thick and thin. But before you even try to compare apples to apples (or burritos to burritos), you need to prioritize what, to you, are a burrito’s essential qualities. For me, it’s first and foremost about the tortilla. I don’t care how flavorful the beans are – if they’re enveloped in a dry and crusty flour wrap, forget about it. The tortilla must be soft, pliable, chewy and hot, and the cheese must be fully melted onto it – not tossed in the middle of its fillings. Steaming or throwing the puppy on the grill with cheese on top usually gets the job done. Then, the meat, which must be grilled with only the subtlest of seasonings. It should not overpower the salsa, another key flavor generator. And of course, the guacamole should be fresh and not doctored with mayonnaise (vomit) or sour cream. My priority list could go on for paragraphs.

And while I may have my favorite spots, I am always on the lookout for other places that fulfill my top criteria for a great burrito, which is why I was thrilled to finally try The Little Chihuahua this weekend. With three locations, they evidently have a large fan base. The menu consists of what you would typically expect (burritos, tacos, etc), but also includes pozole, breakfast tacos, taco salads, and what I went out on a ledge to order – a black bean and fried plantain burrito. After reading the many Yelp reviews about this specialty item, I couldn’t resist, and thank GOD I didn’t because it completely hit the spot. The griddled tortilla bundles together sour cream, cheese, salsa, beans, and fried plantains to become the ultimate Latin combination of sweet and savory. I’d say a half of one of these dense puppies is the perfect lunch.

breakfast tacos

breakfast tacos

plaintain burrito

plaintain burrito

Because I came with a friend on a Sunday afternoon, we also decided to order the breakfast tacos off the brunch menu – two tacos with a generous portion of scrambled eggs, black beans, and cheese, and, in our case, delicious carne asada. A side of potatoes lays next to the tacos as if they’re not enough to fill the belly. Not to mention, all food comes with a complimentary side of chips and salsa (which you can fetch at the delicious salsa bar). Hangover cure? Check!

I loved the tacos, but as a burrito fanatic, I left elated that I’ve found a new burrito joint that will fill my occasional craving for a heavy, cheesy burrito. And, one thing The Little Chihuahua has that many other take-out joints do not is a clean and friendly setting for a sit-down meal – which comes in handy for those who like to eat their burrito as soon as it’s prepared. Get yee here now, and check out my Tastemade video for more angles of my burrito!

Grade: A+
Location: multiple
Website

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Californian Cuisine, Cheap Eat, Erin's Favorites, Mexican, San Francisco

Locanda: insanely delicious and varied menu – with cocktails!

locanda

Picking a restaurant that appeals to my dad is difficult for mostly because of our difference in taste, but also because of his “full bar or this restaurant is dead to me” dining perspective. A lot of San Fran’s latest restaurants only offer beer and wine, which is fine by me, but not by a man who was drinking martinis before it was cool or commonplace to do so. Fortunately, because Locanda’s cocktail menu is boasting with great concoctions, and the restaurant was next on my “to-try” list, it presented itself as the perfect option for a father-daughter dinner with my mom out of town.

delicious crusty bread

delicious crusty bread

Jewish style artichoke - fried and crisp with lemon

Jewish style artichoke – fried and crisp with lemon

chicken under a brick

flavorful chicken under a brick

Despite the fact that I’d say my dad and I rarely eat similar foods, we both left totally wowed by all aspects of the meal, from the attentive but not so clingy service, to the complimentary olive-oily flat bread, to the crispy fried jewish style artichoke, to the luscious linguine with crab and lettuce, to my awesome chicken under the brick with quinoa. A sign of a good menu is one that makes the ordering decision process a tough one, and honestly, I almost had a panic attack considering the possibility of eating one of five dishes I felt I couldn’t live without. While I may not choose the ricotta bread pudding with orange blossom honey (a little too dry for me) again, I’ll absolutely return to experiment the other solid Italian style food Locanda has to offer. Check out my video for more footage of our meal and my dad’s profession of love for Locanda.

Grade: A
Location: 557 Valencia Street btwn 16th and 17th
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Californian Cuisine, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, San Francisco

Domo: tiny space, brief menu, big flavors

domo

One thing I miss most about New York is the overload of coveted sushi offerings. Restaurants with Japanese-born and trained sushi chefs. Restaurants with fish fresher than Tokyo. Sushi restaurants that are actually fun, not stale as a library, with cocktails and energetic music. These are few and far between in my little Pac Heights enclave (though I do love Umami on Webster), so I was thrilled to pin down Domo in Hayes Valley last night. Wow. This place is awesome.

Though I love sushi, I dread sifting through four-page-lists of roll combinations, which are often accompanied by an additional cut out menu of specials. Tuna, unagi, fried shrimp, avocado, and cucumber in different forms – the rolls start to blend together quarter-way down the list. Domo removes the perusing legwork with a clearly laid out, one-page menu. Simple and succinct. People don’t need 10 variations of spicy tuna, and they don’t want to put off catching up with friends to study a menu. And on Domo’s menu is a wide variety of hot and cold small plates, salads, and other concoctions I could never imagine on my own. As tiny and intimate as this bar-seat-filled spot may be, it’s got a menu that lures a big group of repeat customers every night (which means you should get there early if you want to avoid a wait).

Emily in Domo

Emily in Domo

Fortunately, my friend Emily arrived hungry, so we were able to sample a wide variety of dishes. And because each one was mouth-watering, I can vouch fairly that this is one of the best sushi spots I’ve tried in SF. We started with the daikon salad, thinly sliced, crisp layers of cool daikon topped with bonito flakes and garlic ponzu. The salad was light, crunchy, and pungent – a creative alternative to the typical wakame salad. We then tried the hamachi carpaccio, which was seared and beautifully plated with a light, tangy garlic ponzu, tobiko, and thinly sliced jalapeno – a fresh fish celebration. Then, the cold and simple Spicy Hulk roll, amazingly fresh spicy tuna with avocado surrounded by a crisp cucumber wrapper. I loved this because the spicy tuna was only subtly dressed – not laden with a garlicky mayonnaise like I find in most sushi restaurants. The two special rolls we ordered were incredible – the Wiki Wiki was a creative mix of fried shitake mushrooms, cucumber, and avocado topped with silky seared butter fish. Totally addictive. And crispy rice cakes, move over – I popped the fire cracker balls in my mouth pretty much like popcorn. These dense, miniature, panko crusted tuna balls with spicy mayo, unagi sauce, scallions and tobiko blow any other fried sushi out of the water.

daikon salad

daikon salad

hamachi with garlic ponzu

hamachi with garlic ponzu

fire cracker balls, like little nuggets of heaven

fire cracker balls, like little nuggets of heaven

two special sushi rolls

two special sushi rolls

spicy hulk roll

spicy hulk roll

Along with our cold, dry sake, the entire meal was incredible. Each roll was a piece of art, a stunning culmination of so much attention to detail that revealed itself as perfection to my tastebuds. This is undoubtedly my favorite sushi restaurant in San Francisco – it’s worth any wait, as well as the distance if you’re not in the neighborhood. If you need more incentive, plan a post-dinner stroll down Hayes to Smitten Ice Cream, where they freeze to order with liquid nitrogen to make some of the creamiest concoctions of your life.

Go here.

Go here.

My experience at Domo only further confirms my theory that Hayes Valley is THE place to be in SF!

Grade: A+
Location: 511 Laguna Street @ Linden Street
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian, Erin's Favorites, Japanese, San Francisco

Burma Superstar: casual Burmese in the Richmond

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 5.34.31 PM

My friend Amy and I are going through the same angst of trying to make the most of our last days in San Francisco before we depart for the other side of the world. And while at times treating every meal and moment like their last can get stressful and monopolize the time I should theoretically be spending packing, studying, and preparing for my trip, I couldn’t imagine a more fun activity to devote my time to.

We’re checking off our must-tries rather quickly, and after a Sunday at the Tourist Club with Mayflower sandwiches and beers, we decided to move down the list to Burma Superstar, a popular Burmese restaurant in the Richmond. After living in SF for over two decades, I was surprised to have never heard about this place, which just shows what a bubble the Pac Heights / Marina area can be. But Burma Superstar is just one of the many diamonds in the rough on Clement Street.

After reading the many rave-reviews about this place (it was even on Food Network!), I was pumped to try it. And because I’m funemployed and heard that the wait can be horrendous, I arrived more than an hour before my two friends Amy and Sarah, which proved unnecessary on a Monday night. There was an average of 10-15 minute wait times for parties of 2-4, but I’m sure as the week progresses the wait gets longer.

Though we were seated at an awkward table practically inches from the kitchen, we could still appreciate the laid back charm at this place. No frills. But despite not having a hard-liquor license, they have an interesting selection of shochu, beer, and wine cocktails. Not knowing too much about Burmese food, we ordered what came recommended in our research and by our waitress. First, we started with one of my favorite things: the platha, a multi-layered, buttery fried bread that comes with a chicken curry dipping sauce that I could eat on top of rice for days. It’s addictive, and the bread is as crisp as a potato pancake. We then shared the two most popular salads, the tea leaf salad and the rainbow salad, which the waiter mixes a la table. The tea leaf salad comes with tea leaves that almost look like the wilted spinach in sag paneer, crunchy peanuts, and fried garlic that give so much texture and flavor to the crisp romaine lettuce. That said, I preferred the rainbow salad, a noodle salad with four types of noodles, a green papaya slaw, fried tofu, and a tamarind dressing. A platter that arrived to the table looking so bland turned into one of the most exciting Asian salads I’ve had.

platha goodness

platha goodness

waiter explaining salads pre-mixing

waiter explaining salads pre-mixing

Rainbow salad

Rainbow salad (photo from SF chronicle)

tea leaf salad

tea leaf salad

For our main, we shared the vegetable curry delux, a bowl of tomatoes, okra, squash, eggplant, and tofu jam-packed and simmering in an earthy lentil curry. As opposed to some curries I’ve tasted that have a measly portion of vegetables swimming in a ton of sauce, this one was very vegetable focused with the sauce as more of an afterthought, which I loved. The vegetables were different and the tomato really freshened up what otherwise was a pretty hearty dish. Delicious on the coconut rice topped with fried onions!

vegetable curry

vegetable curry

The best part about the meal was that despite eating what seemed like a ton of food, we didn’t feel sick or uncomfortable, which I attribute to the focus on vegetables and fresh ingredients. There is a ton to try on the menu, so next time I may go back with a few meat eaters to sample some of the chicken dishes that looked to die for. Definitely worth a visit if you like interesting, flavorful food in a relaxed setting with super friendly and efficient service.

Grade: A
Location: 309 Clement St between 4th Ave & 5th Ave
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian, Featured U.S. City Posts, San Francisco

SusieCakes: another SF bakery to the rescue

l

Thanks to SusieCakes, I now have a place where I can find the perfect slice of cake – chocolate, red velvet, coconut, or carrot cake-mood alike. The thing that gets me about most cupcake shops is that 1) they limit themselves to cupcakes when they could easily make cakes and 2) the cupcakes are laden with excess, sugary frosting, and 3) they are just too fancy for my taste. SusieCakes stocks their display case with a variety of beautifully frosted treats that are straight forward, homey, and scrumptious. It’s my west coast Amy’s Bread. My favorite? The red velvet mini cupcake, but for any homestyle flavor you’re craving, you really can’t go wrong here. They even sell SF Giants cupcakes.

tiny shop

tiny shop

red velvet

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

Definitely worth a special trip if you’re not in the neighborhood, or check out one of the 8 locations throughout California!

Grade: A+
Location: 2109 Chestnut btwn Steiner and Pierce Streets
Website

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured U.S. City Posts, San Francisco, Sugar Surge

Jane on Fillmore: a neighborhood café to die for

JAne

As bustling of a food-city that San Francisco is, I’ve always been disappointed by the lack of bakeries or coffee shops with awesome home-baked goods. New York City is chock-full of them – from Amy’s Bread to Billy’s Bakery, there’s a bakery available to the cookie obsessed and the cake fanatics in every neighborhood. Sure, San Fran has a few cupcake shops (I love Kara’s cupcakes off Chestnut), and incredible artisanal bakeries that aren’t as accessible to the Pacific Heights resident (Tartine is amazing), but homey cafés with an abundance of cakes, muffins, cookies, scones, and other butter, flour & sugar concoctions are SERIOUSLY lacking. Maybe my 4 years working at UC Davis’s Coffee House, which pumped out cakes (and cookie samples) by the hour, caused my withdrawal. Whatever it is, it’s a well justified concern.

jane from second floor

jane from second floor

Thankfully, Jane on Fillmore street has recently come to the rescue. Over the last few weeks of fun-employment, despite having the chance to explore all my neighborhood has to offer, I just can’t get enough of this café’s almond milk cappuccinos and scrumptious baked goods. The plentiful case displays more than enough options, but I can proudly say that I’ve pretty much tried every single one of them. They’ve got a buttery citrus brioche. A savory scone with ham, chives and cheese. Banana bread – both vegan and regular. A vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffin for those sweet-craving mornings. The blueberry-banana muffin for the days I’m pretending to eat a healthy breakfast. There’s also a “Cooking for Breakfast” cookie that’s subtly sweet and stuffed with dried fruit and oats, for those who those who like that sort of thing. The cookies – which include flavors like sprinkles, salted white chocolate chip oatmeal, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate toffee chip, and peanut butter-quinoa-millet are to die for, especially the ones that sandwich a scoop of cream cheese frosting. As I write this blog, I’m noshing on a “Crazy Cookie” filled with chips, chocolate chips, toffee, and marshmallow. True, it doesn’t get much crazier than this.

cappuccino

cappuccino

my fantasy display case

my fantasy display case

cake of the day

cake of the day

savory quiche

savory quiche

But that’s not all – Jane has amazing food to order as well, all homemade and most of the time organic. The granola – both vegan and regular – is like crack. I’ve bought them both, and I eat the oats by the handful. The breakfast sandwiches, like the one with egg, cheese, avocado, and roasted tomatoes stacked between two thick-cut pieces of griddled sourdough bread, are the perfect hangover helper. And the salads (there are about 10 of them) are fresh, healthy, and delicious, especially the ones with their house-made green goddess dressing. And how could I forget the energizing green smoothie with apple, lemon, kale, and ginger?

chopped veggie salad with green goddess dressing

chopped veggie salad with green goddess dressing

salad nicoise

salad nicoise

smoked salmon platter

smoked salmon platter

egg white breakfast sandwich

egg white breakfast sandwich

The space itself is beautiful as well – the natural light and the black and white motif are the perfect setting for zoning out on a laptop. And, though it’s always bustling in here, the energy is contagious, not overwhelming.

To put it lightly, I am freakishly obsessed with this place, and I fear that my pre-business school food budget is going to rapidly dwindle if my daily habit continues. But when I’m saddened by the thought of a day without a creamy almond milk cappuccino, I realize that it’s totally worth chipping into my school books’ budget. I’m just waiting for the day that the barista remembers my name.

Grade: A+
Location: 2123 Fillmore between Sacramento and California Streets
Website

2 Comments

Filed under Brunch, Cheap Eat, Erin's Favorites, San Francisco

Featured City Post: San Francisco’s Rich Table, elevated comfort food in farm-like rusticity

sfgate

Whenever I visit San Francisco for work, I try to maximize the productivity of my trip by squeezing in a visit to a new and noteworthy restaurant. Last week, it was Rich Table, a bustling Hayes Valley hot-spot that the man at the bar called “the hottest table in town.” Though we scored a last minute reservation for 7:15pm, my friend and I decided to give up our spot at the communal table (separated by planters, the reservationist assured us) to sit at the bar for a better view of the open kitchen and admittedly, the very attractive chefs.

Sitting at the bar always warrants a stiff drink to start the night, and since San Francisco is really one-upping New York in the specialty cocktail department, I knew I had to try one. The bartender’s gin and ginger concoction of course came in an old fashioned champagne coupe and went down like a refreshing glass of water. They also have a great selection of wines by the carafe that are conveniently grouped by price; the gruner veltliner I’ve decided is now my favorite.

One important thing to note as a bread-lover – it’s delicious, but it’s a $4 sacrifice. Come prepared to spend it, because it’s definitely a must- these 1-inch thick slices of fennel sourdough are toasted to order and served with house-churned butter. The rest of the meal, however, did not match up to the bright energy of the place. The crab cioppino was a mess of over-oiled, over-salted crab meat with a pathetic sprinkling of dried artichoke chips, and the chicken lasagna evoked memories of chow mein with it’s large pieces of chicken and long green onions. The small popped corn sprinkled on top was random and seem disconnected from the rest of the dish. We hoped to be saved by the vegetarian entree, roasted potatoes with arugula salsa verde, but for $19, I would have rather eaten 10 bags of McDonald’s french fries. Small potatoes sprinkled with salsa was probably a poor order choice in the first place, but the flavors didn’t match up to the saltiness to the rest of the meal.

fennel bread

fennel bread

chicken lasagna

chicken lasagna

Unfortunately, the performance was not enough to encourage us to stay for dessert; we walked a block up for a pot de creme and wine at Absinthe to ensure a satisfying end to the meal. But Rich Table is an interesting place that combines thoughtfully plated, interesting food in casual comfort. The chefs obviously care about what they’re doing here, and they’re taking a risk to do something different. So, I’d definitely like to go back and try a few other dishes – I’m not writing this off as a goodbye just yet.

Grade: B
Location: corner of Oak and Gough

4 Comments

Filed under American, Featured U.S. City Posts, Fun Group Dinner

Featured City Post: SPQR in San Francisco

SPQR

I’ve been trying to make a trip to SPQR from the moment I discovered it on my stroll down Fillmore street a few years back. Long waits and few open reservation availability always held me back, but I finally had my chance early this Monday after a plane right from New York and a long day at work. Small plate Italian Mediterranean food in a cozy modern space is exactly what I wanted to calm my email-cluttered mind and plane-food filled belly. Wine is a priority here, as proven by the ceiling-high rack behind the bar that reveals the restaurant’s copious selection of Italian wine. Food does not pale in comparison – sharing is a must because there’s just too much good stuff to bypass.

Fortunately, I was with people who embraced tasting and exploration, which was a blessing considering the three additional specials that made me even more unsettled about narrowing down my options. Sitting at the chef’s table didn’t help the situation either – every dish they fired became my new order just because it looked so irresistible. From start to finish we scored homeruns, starting with the beautifully composed chicory lettuce, almond, goat cheddar and pear butter salad – a plate of greens so beyond the boring, I actually considered it one of the best parts of the meal. The crab-quinoa salad was just as special; the quinoa was cooked to a crisp, rolled and connected two generous heaps of beautiful lump crab meat dressed in a light, tangy vinaigrette. The pastas stole the show as I expected given the sheer uniqueness of every option;  the parsnip tortelli with espresso-aged cheese and mushrooms unleashed a heart-warming brown buttery scent that was almost as decadent as its rich and earthy taste, and the smokiness of the swordfish mezzaluna with dill made it one of the most interesting pastas I’ve tried. We rounded our meal off with a perfectly seared arctic char and mushroom budino, essentially a dense compilation of buttery mushrooms and breadcrumbs, otherwise known as my heaven.

chicory salad

chicory salad

crab and quinoa salad

crab and quinoa salad

swordfish mezzaluna

swordfish mezzaluna

mushroom tortelli

mushroom tortelli

seared arctic char

seared arctic char

dessert.

Dessert at places with beautifully composed food could always use more ice cream, but I still remember it being tasty. Sadly, not remarkable enough for me to remember what exactly it was..but that may have just been a result of devouring my tiny glass of marsala wine.

The experience of tasting food prepared by such highly skilled chefs cooking right in front of me is definitely an undervalued one; I would have paid a premium just for the entertainment value. It’s like tasting the wine when you’re at the vineyard – it’s so much more memorable and delicious when you can see where and how exactly it’s prepared. It’s as if you’re involved in the process. Next time I’m in San Francisco, I’m definitely coming back to SPQR, and I’m no doubt requesting the same seat. Tables are for grown-ups seeking focused conversation!

Grade: A+
Location: 1911 Fillmore Street between Bush and Pine
Website
*top photo from starchefs.com

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Erin's Favorites, Featured U.S. City Posts, Italian

Kitchen Adventures: The City Kitchen Cooking Class

IMG_1501

communal dinner after communal cooking

A while back, I took a cooking class at ICE in New York and swore off professional courses for a long, long time. It’s not that the class wasn’t educational, it just simply wasn’t fun. The teacher instructed us like a slave driver, the air conditioner broke, and I was tasked with chopping onions for two hours for a 20-serving dish. By the end of it I was starving, my eyes were burning, and I smelled like onions for days. To ICE’s defense, we received a refund to make up for almost dying in the boiling kitchen, but the experience forever tainted my romanticized view of cooking school.

Fast forward to last week, when I signed up for The City Kitchen‘s “Fall Farmers Market” cooking class in SF to see my bff Sarah’s sister in action as one of the Head Instructors.   The 3.5 hour time commitment made me nervous, but upon being greeted with a massive cheese board in a beautiful loft space, my flashbacks of scary cooking teachers subsided. I could at least drink freely here without getting my hand slapped (yes, this happened). The City Kitchen’s classes are perfect – their beautiful North Beach event space makes for a comfortable and homey environment, and the instructors take care of all of the grueling and boring prep work to leave participants with the fun stuff – drinking, socializing, some cooking, and assembling. There’s just enough hands-on work to really feeling like you’re contributing, but not so much that you’re sweating like a sous chef at a 5-star restaurant by the end of it. Most importantly, every dish we learned to make – baby kale salad with persimmons, quail with wild rice risotto, halibut with celery root pureeapple tarte tatin – was hearty and awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I just made a family-sized portion of the apple tarte tatin tonight. I must have learned something, because it was crispy, buttery, sweet, tart, and plain and simply dee-lish!

Chef Meghan teaching us how to cut bacon

Chef Meghan teaching us how to cut bacon

IMG_1492

Sarah and I working on the tarte tatin

Tarte tatin ramicans

Tarte tatin ramekins

quail and wild rice risotto appetizer

quail and wild rice risotto appetizer

halibut with realllly crispy bacon

halibut with realllly crispy bacon

Sarah and mommy

Sarah and mommy

Individual rosemary tarte tatin. How amazing does this look?

Individual rosemary tarte tatin. How amazing does this look?

my skills put to test at home

my skills put to the test at home

If you’re ever in SF and looking for a fun and unique after-work activity, or want to plan a customized event for your team or for your friends, I highly recommend The City Kitchen. They’ve got the recipe for the perfect class experience down (Always accessible cheese plate + Wine + Short Lecture + Assisted Cooking at Station of Choice + Family Dinner), and their classes are only $90 – far cheaper than the horrible ones I’ve tried in New York.  And if you aren’t able to make it to Sf for a class, check out their videos, which are fun to watch as well.

2 Comments

Filed under Featured U.S. City Posts, Kitchen Adventures

Featured City Post: St. Regis Lobby Bar in San Francisco

St. Regis Bar: swanky, sceney, overpriced but incredibly juicy pork buns from Ame restaurant. And that is all.

pulled pork bun – so delicious (pic from Yelp)

Grade: B (ridiculously overpriced)
Location: 3rd and Mission
Website

1 Comment

Filed under Business Meal, Featured U.S. City Posts