A few years ago, nobody around here knew what an izakaya was. The Japanese word literally means "sitting in a sake shop," but it's evolved to encompasses all manner of casual Japanese eating and drinking establishment. Now San Francisco has been hit with a slew of izakayas in the past year or two. We've got Nombe, Nojo, Hecho and Chotto. All of them have simply grilled, seasoned meats that are served on skewers; some have traditional sushi as well. There's also a sustainably minded izakaya called Ki on the way in the Mission. And Sebo, a sushi spot that's long been devoted to the highest quality raw fish, has recently expanded its menu to include cooked items, making it more of an izakaya-type hangout.
So by now, even those who don't have a clue what "izakaya" means, have probably eaten at one. We sat down with two of our city's successful Japanese chefs, Hiro Sone of Ame and Mari Takahashi of Nombe, for a long-overdue schooling in all things izakaya. Here you'll get the male and female perspective on what it all means.
Leave it to San Francisco to turn something as humble as a corn meal-batter-coated hot dog into an exercise in culinary wit. At its best, a corn dog should be hand-dipped and deep-fried to order—none of this pre-frozen business. At its purest, the meal should be eaten standing up, or while perched on a stool, al fresco, of course. But after asking around town, it's clear that corn dogs have broken free from their carnie stereotype, graduating onto many a San Francisco menu. Here goes our list, running the gamut from quick and dirty deliciousness to posh, dine-in "dogs."
In San Francisco, there are ways to celebrate Passover with nary a moment of matzo dry-mouth nor a whiff of stinky gefilte fish. As delis like new pop-up Wise Sons create carefully homemade renditions of traditional fare, everyone from Marina bakery SusieCakes to FiDi Italian restaurant Perbacco is getting in on the holiday action. Here's our list of San Francisco Passover options that'll have gentiles across the land thinking about a conversion—or at the very least, a reservation.
Hitting a sausage place at the intersection of Market and Sixth to kick off the weekend doesn't exactly sound like the greatest idea. But how about a quick breakfast, devoid of tiresome lines, straight from the perfectionists behind Foreign Cinema's cult-followed brunch? Genius, right?
In January of this year, Foreign Cinema's Gayle Pirie and John Clark started serving morning meals at their two-year old mid-Market "sausage emporium," Show Dogs. And if the steady stream of weekend patrons filing through this past Saturday means anything at all, it was a very good idea. Breakfast is served every morning now, starting at 8 a.m. on the weekdays and at at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
After a recent trip to Bar Tartine to try Nick Balla's new menu, I've got liver on my mind. I blame his his duck leg cabbage roll inspired by a Northern Hungarian sauerkraut soup called kapusznica that his father used to make. The Eastern Europe-inspired menu addition buries strips of sous vide-cooked Sonoma Liberty duck liver in a pile of black trumpet mushrooms, dried cherries and homemade sauerkraut, all wrapped up in a tender cabbage leaf. It's a mess on the plate, but the sweet, sour and spicy flavors bewitch, bite after bite.
The best thing since sliced bread is most definitely "The Mousetrap": sliced sourdough stuffed with sharp cheddar and havarti. At least that's what The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen's co-owner Nate Pollack will tell you about his 10-month-old restaurant's best-seller. He and his wife and business partner Heidi Gibson sell about 100 Mousetraps daily, most of them with added Applewood-smoked bacon and tomato. "The most surprising thing about operating a grilled cheese restaurant is how much regular business we get," says Pollack. "We have people who eat here every day for breakfast and lunch."
Who knew? There's a market— a big one—for "adult" grilled cheese. Pollack tipped us off that April just so happens to be grilled cheese month. And as any self-respecting grilled cheese restaurant should, The American is celebrating.
In January, the Mission's Nombe izakaya brought on chef Vincent Schofield to replace Nicholas Balla, who had shuffled over to a little spot nearby called Bar Tartine (more on that here). So the world turns in the realm of chefs and restaurants. Although Balla is a bit of a golden boy in these parts—earning rave reviews from almost everyone who tastes his food—Schofield is no slacker. Besides forging ahead on a new direction at Nombe, he just opened Parkmerced taqueria Taco Libre and regularly checks in on the kitchen at SoMa's miniscule Darwin (212 Ritch Street). In early January, Schofield embarked on a prodigious journey to Tokyo with Nombe owner Mari Takahashi for a crash course in all things Japanese. So the big menu changes he implemented over the last month at Nombe come truly inspired. Schofield took some time out to give us the skinny.
In 1974, a new watering hole brought a wacky idea to the Financial District. London Wine Bar on Sansome Street (which has since closed) was modeled after the common European tasting room and boldly dubbed itself “America’s first wine bar”—a claim that’s widely believed to be true among the vino-scenti. Pamela Busch’s now defunct Hayes & Vine made a similar statement when it opened in Hayes Valley in 1994. But it wasn’t until 10 years later that Hotel Biron, District, Nectar Wine Lounge, and Busch’s second wine bar, Cav, galumphed into town like a cork-popping brat pack begging to be followed.
Remember The Chai Cart? It was only two years ago that self-described "corporate slave" Paawan Kothari decided to quit her job in the high-tech world and follow her passion. She started selling authentic Indian chai from a bicycle trailer, peddling around the Mission and SoMa with her freshly brewed drinks until the bike was stolen from her garage last summer, and her street biz, sadly, came to an abrupt halt.
Kothari deserves mention as one of the first to the Indian street vendor game. As she considers getting back into it —you can still buy her freshly made products at Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods and Bi-Rite—Indian food options are quickly sprouting up all over the city.
Last fall, we published the 10 Best Lunches Under $10 in Union Square. It was so popular, we figured why not do every neighborhood? So we asked Eater editor and 7x7 contributor Carolyn Alburger to give us her 10 favorite dishes under $10 found in her home turf, the Haight-Ashbury. Check out our other 10 under $10 features while you're at it.
In the Haight-Ashbury, it's much easier to score weed than a good bite to eat. Here, perfectly dingy, storied watering holes, tie-dye t-shirts, tattoo parlors and tourist-magnet Ben & Jerry's run the show. If you're hungry, here's where to go.
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