Eat + Drink
Yes, this city is lousy with Mexican restaurants, but we don’t begrudge the opening of one more, particularly when it is located in the Castro, a neighborhood that sorely needs more good food. Chilango (the name is slang for someone who grew up in Mexico City) replaced Aztec Taqueria back in October, and was opened by former Mexico DF chef-partner Roberto Aguiar Cruz. Handmade organic tortillas, Niman Ranch meat and a menu that emphasizes street food found around the Distrito Federal are now the order of the day.
It happened like this: Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher started serving their version of Southern food from the kitchen of an Excelsior bar called Broken Record. But just as we were falling in love, they up and left us. The duo—who met at Boulevard and between them have worked at some of the city’s finest kitchens, including Range, Quince and Campton Place—packed up their knives and left for a tour of barbecue joints and regional restaurants throughout the South, beginning in Ostler’s hometown of Austin. Says Zacher, “I was struck by how great the barbecue was and how terrible the sides were. Loaves of Wonder bread, bland beans—just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s good. The Californian in me cringed.”
One night last fall at a wine dinner at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters got up to address the dining room and made a surprising confession. “Shame on me,” she said, “for paying so little attention to California wine. I had no idea what was going on underneath my nose all this time. And to think that it was through my daughter, Fannie, that I discovered something so important around me.”
I said it couple years back in a blog, but I'm going to say it again: Restaurants in this town are too f-ing cold! I am reminded of this when I'm eating dinner with my scarf on (as I was just doing a few minutes back).
In fact, quite often I find myself eating with my coat on too. Especially when the door of a restaurant is open, which it often is. For example, I was at Contigo the other night and the door to the back patio was propped open, leaving those inside—without even the patio's space heaters over them—shivering in their seats. And I just exited a lunch at Tropisueño where the front door was open for the duration of the meal.
Lulu Meyer, associate director of operations at CUESA, brings us weekly updates for the best of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market—rain (and oh, is it raining) or shine.
Winter greens, packed with good-for-you vitamins, are at their prime right now. Braised, sautéed or wilted in soups they add great texture and flavor to many recipes. With all the the rain and gloomy weather this week I started dreaming about things that are best cooked slowly and eaten out of bowls. At the market I gravitated towards the beautiful greens currently available and found some of my personal favorites.
The great thing about sandwiches is that they can be so many things—it’s just a stack of bread, meat, vegetables and condiments, and the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. When you get a good sandwich it’s like a symphony. Bread is very important—lots of places in San Francisco use toasted sourdough baguettes or Dutch crunch, which just tears your mouth apart.
I go to Charlie’s Deli Café, which is near my house in Bernal Heights. It’s a straight-up deli, and you can get anything you want. Their specialties aren’t any big deal, and I don’t have a particular favorite, but they make a good sandwich, and you can eat it across the street at Precita Park and watch people play with their dogs.
Each week, we bring you our picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF.
1. Madrone Lounge's Anniversary: While this deal may be last-minute, it goes all night. The hopping Divisadero bar/gallery is turning one, and extending their usual happy hour to the entire evening. That means $2 PBRs and Budweiser tallboys, $4 shots of Spikesville Whiskey, $5 mojitos, and other tasty delights. DJs will shift hourly, culminating in a big dance party for the final two hours. (Tonight, Wednesday, January 20, 6 pm-2 am, at Madrone Lounge, 500 Divisadero St., NOPA.)
It’s going to be raining all.week.long, but that’s no excuse to become a hermit. Grab some friends and drop in to the winter wine tasting at 18 Reasons on January 21 from 7-9 p.m.. Bi-Rite Market wine buyer Trac Le will guide you through a tasting of various bottles, all for the nominal fee of $10 ($5 for members).
If you’re tired of the same old SF restaurant grind—last week Flour + Water, this week Barbacco, next week Frances—you might want to try something a little different and go underground. For upwards of $200 per person, the newly launched Phoenix Supperclub, a “roaming restaurant” created by chef Tommy Halvorson (of Bix ,Gary Danko, Chez Panisse), will whisk you up in a limo, deliver you to a “secret San Francisco location” that might be a modern gallery or rambling mansion, and serve you nine langorous, wine-paired courses. You won’t know where you’re going until you arrive.
Three people with one thing in common—a love for Japanese food—meet through the Small Business Association and decide to go in on a restaurant concept together. They take over a funky space—a former taqueria on Mission Street, that was a 50s diner before that—complete with a huge arched mirror and black-and-white checked floors; change little; insert an izakaya restaurant; tack a banner out front advertising the name Nombe (which translates from Japanese to something to the effect of “boozer”) and open the doors until 2 am on weekends.