#39 Namu Gaji: Okonomiyaki

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The Place:

San Francisco excels at the small restaurant, and Namu Gaji is a great case in point.  Catty corner (caddy?  cady?) to Dolores Park is where you’ll find this thin, cozy, Pan Asian restaurant.  A cool tidbit of info about these guys is they actually have their own fossil free farm in Sunol that they source a lot of their veggies and herbs from, truly capitalizing on the farm to table craze.

The restaurant has a really rustic feel with a lot of rough wood including a beautiful single piece communal table in the middle.  You order at the register and then find a seat to wait excitedly for your food.

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The Dish:

Okonomiyaki (takes a little practice to pronounce as it doesn’t really roll of the tongue right away) is a Japanese dish which consists of a savory pancake topped with a variety of different ingredients.  Namu Gaji cooks their’s in a cast iron dish and tops it with cabbage (self explanatory), scallion (green onions), kimchee (stinky fermented vegetables but in a good way), bonito flakes (thinly sliced dried fish), oko sauce (no idea), kewpie mayo (a specific brand) and you can add a protein if you want (we went with chicken).

First off, this thing looks RIDICULOUS.  Major points for presentations on a few levels.  The crisscross of the two types of sauce looks very cool, and to add to that, the bonito appears to dance as it crinkles from the heat.  It comes out pretty hot so after letting it cool we dug right in.

The texture and flavor hits you like a truck right away.  The pancake itself is fluffy and light, but the combination of the mayo, sauce and other ingredients make for an intensely rich blend of sweet, salty and umami.  There are definitely some unique flavors from the bonito and the kim chee, but for us, it was right up our alley.  The only downside to this dish is its richness, so we just suggest getting it along with other dishes to share with people (our preferred dining style anyway).

In addition, we also ordered their KFC Style Chicken Sando, which holy geez, might have actually been the best fried chicken sandwich either of us have ever had.  If it were up to us, it would be on The List as well, but for now we’re just covering the Okonomiyaki.

The Verdict:

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This place and dish get the quadruple thumbs up (don’t worry, that’s just both of us giving two thumbs up, not one of us having grown an extra pair of thumbs).  It’s the type of casual place that SF does so well.  Easy to get in, great food, and not a lot of fuss.  Just quality, unique food that your stomach will thank you for.

Dig In,

A & K

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#84 Plow: Crispy Potatoes (’15)

The Place:

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We don’t venture out to Potrero Hill often, but when a friend of ours (who just happens to work at Plow) asked us what our breakfast plans were, we jumped at the chance to try the famed SF breakfast spot.

Plow has your classic neighborhood restaurant feel.  It’s small, charming, and away from the noise and commotion of the city.  We immediately felt relaxed when we strolled up, which for breakfast, is a huge plus.  Inside everything is colorful and brightly highlighted by the streams of natural light that flow in through the large windows.  The open kitchen produces wonderful smells as the staff nimbly navigates the confines of the interior (tight but not too tight).

The hallmark of any good restaurant is a solid staff, and Plow definitely has that.  They are attentive and energetic, refilling coffee, water, and drinks before you even need to ask. The kitchen churns out food without even batting an eye, and everything just seems to flow.  We will note, one of the only downsides we noticed is that on the weekends, wait times can climb up to two hours or more.  But hey, that’s a sign that other people have deemed this place awesome 🙂

The Dish:

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While we were there for potatoes, we had been told that everything is fantastic.  So what better way than by ordering The Plow, which is 2 pancakes (lemon ricotta or almond flour), 2 eggs, potatoes, and a side of meat.  BAM!!

We went for a split of both pancakes, eggs over easy and scrambled, and pork sausage.  Now that is how you eat breakfast.

First the potatoes.  These bad boys are REAL good.  Boiled, smashed by hand, then fried with rosemary and onions, they are both crispy and fluffy.  The saltiness of the potatoes blends in with the rosemary and onions to create a great flavor.  Throw in a little hot sauce or ketchup and it’d be hard to find better breakfast taters.  We would steal from other people’s plates to get these tasty morsels (and we did).

The rest of the meal didn’t disappoint either.  The pancakes were quite excellent, with the only issue being separating the sweet from savory on the plate (which is not a real issue).  The lemon ricotta was light and almost cake-like, though the nuttiness of the almond flours were our favorite.  The eggs were cooked to perfection, and the scrambled were very creamy but not too wet.  Wrapping it up was the sausage, spiced appropriately and cooked by someone who obviously knew how to do it right.  This is some high quality food, a step above the norm for breakfast.  Needless to say we were very full at the end of this meal.

The Verdict:

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You should go to Plow for breakfast.  However, don’t go because you are hungry, go because you want good food and can afford to take your time.  Some people can’t stand the wait (we cheated by knowing someone), but if you put yourself in the right frame of mind, it’s a great dining experience.

Dig In,

A & K

 

 

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#2 Bar Crudo: Seafood Chowder (’14)

The Place:

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Located on busy Divisadero street, Bar Crudo focuses on simplicity.  Simple decorating, a simple kitchen, and simple (but great) food.  The restaurant is long and narrow with two levels, and one small, open kitchen on the bottom floor.  One of the first things you see when you walk in is huge shelves packed with ice and covered in fresh seafood.  Just try not to get excited at the sight of all those fresh goodies waiting to be devoured, we dare you.

The menu has very few hot dishes, instead highlighting the raw seafood in a variety of accompaniments and a long beer list to boot.  Though we were there to try one of their hot dishes, we definitely made sure to get some of that sweet, sweet raw fish that was eyeing us.

The Dish:

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What’s the first thing you judge a chowder on?  For us, it’s the amount of stuff inside.  Curse the chowder that fails to offer more than a few small clams, or a couple lumps of whitefish.  Those chowders are jerks.  THIS chowder however, is chock full of ocean stuff.  Things like fish, shrimp, mussels, squid, bacon, and potatoes.  You can see it poking out of the chowder when the server brings it by.

Of course, the second thing you judge a chowder on is how it tastes.  This one tastes like Poseidon himself might have prepared it.  It’s creamy, spicy, smokey from the bacon, but most interestingly (and what puts it over the top for us) it’s got a great tanginess to it.  It’s not a surprise why this is on the List.  If it’s cold out, this is what you want to eat.  Even if it’s not cold out, you want to eat this.

The Verdict:

Yep, yes, yeah, uh huh, affirmative.  This is some good chowder.

Dig In,

A & K

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#61 Machine Coffee and Deli: Crankshaft Tuna Melt (’13)

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The Place:

A tiny box of a deli with a few seats outside (but usually some activity around it), Machine Coffee and Deli sits right on Market St between 6th and 7th.  At first glance it looks like a small coffee shop that would service the 9 to 5ers with their coffee needs.  However, we came here to try some of their food.

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The Dish:

A tuna melt reminds us of childhood.  It was a dish your mom or dad made for you as an easy to make, filling option when the fridge was bare.  Usually nothing more than bread, tuna, and melted cheese on top, it never really stood out.  Machine has decided to up the quality of things and attempt to re-introduce us to this classic.

The Crankshaft Melt comes with albacore tuna, arugula, housmade pickles, and Shelburne cheddar.  This combination comes off well, as the tartness of the pickles, the cheddar-iness of the cheese, and the tuna all blend together nicely.  The arugula gives some additional texture, and the choice of a toasted baguette is a solid addition as well.

The Verdict:

Machine does a great job of upgrading this dish of our youth.  They take quality ingredients and make this sandwich straight and to the point.  If you’re looking for lunch, or craving a tuna melt, you are pretty well off checking out this little deli.

Dig In,

A & K

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#99 Little Skillet: Fried Chicken and Waffles (’12)

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The Place:

Tucked down an alley way a few baseball throws away from AT&T Park, Little Skillet is a window to food excellence (quite literally, there’s no restaurant, just a pickup window).

Though it’s now adjacent to sister Victory Hall, a full bar with seating and ordering options from Little Skillet, the window serves up one of comfort food’s superstars.

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The Dish:

Fried chicken and waffles is not something either of us were familiar with growing up, and at first mention, didn’t really appeal to us (give us a break, we were young and ignorant).  However, we remember the first time we tried it, and it was pretty clear what the draw was.  You take salty and spicy, mix it up with sweet, and throw in some great crunchy texture.

That concept can be executed with varying levels of success, depending on a lot of variables.  You have quality of chicken, what you coat it with, how it’s cooked, the waffle batter, type of syrup, and others.  Little Skillet executes on all fronts spectacularly.  The chicken is golden brown, and the breading is crunchy but not to oily, and has a good kick of spice.  When you bite in the chicken is very moist and leaves your mouth watering for more.  The waffles, not to be outdone, are glorious.  Warm and fluffy, these bad boys have a nice little crust that soaks up the maple syrup like a heavenly sponge.  But everything together in one bite and words cannot describe the experience.

The Verdict:

If you like chicken and waffles you will like these chicken and waffles.  If you don’t like chicken and waffles, you will probably still like these chicken and waffles.

Dig In,

A & K

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#11 Huxley: Jane Bread w/ Smoked & Whipped Lardo (’15)

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The Place:

Someone described Huxley to us as a diamond in the rough, and it is just that. Hidden in the tenderloin, surrounded by dingy storefronts and questionable characters, sits this little restaurant. Blink and you will miss it. With only about 25 seats, Huxley is incredibly cozy. The kitchen is open to the dining room and we sat at the counter so we could watch the cooks do their work.

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The Dish:

For those who don’t know, lardo is not lard. It is cured Italian pork fat, which is sometimes cured with a variety of herbs. It’s essentially pure fat, but it’s REALLY good pure fat (think pork belly fat or salami fat). We’re not entirely sure what their process is, but Huxley has had a genius idea of smoking and whipping the lardo into a spread. The dish is served with a rustic bread from the nearby Jane bakery. Bread and fat, what could be better?

We’ll admit, this dish may not be for everyone, but we thought it was pretty good. The spread has this rich umami like flavor, and the smokiness isn’t overpowering. The bread is soft yet hearty, and is the perfect vessel for the spread.  We also tried their avocado toast with sea urchin and sesame seeds, another fantastic mouth assault that might not be for everyone (you either love sea urchin, or want to avoid it like the plague).

The Verdict:

We feel this is perfect for a cold day when you’re feeling adventurous. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is something we can get down with.

Dig In,

A & K

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#17 Una Pizza Napoletana: Pizza Margherita

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The Place:

Restaurants get started for many reasons.  Some are passed through families, some spring from a few friends who like to cook, others are business ventures aimed at making money, and then there are the ones that are formed out of a pure passion.  Una Pizza Napoletana is one of those that exists because of one guy’s passion.  For the last 5 years, the owner Anthony has not only made every single pie that’s been served, but he’s done it his way.  No salads, no reservations, no substitutions, the best ingredients, early hours (they are open until the dough runs out), and only 5 pizzas on the menu.  A lot of people don’t like restauranteurs who set strict rules for the dining experience, but we feel that if someone has a vision, they have the right to carry it out as they see fit (especially if the product is fantastic).

The building itself is one of the more unassuming in SF, just a plain white block surrounded by other plain cityscape.  Minimalism is definitely a theme inside the restaurant as well as out.  When you enter, the center of the room is taken up by a single counter / prep station, and behind it a huge, custom built wood burning pizza oven.  Other than a small service station for wine and beer, and about 10 tables, the rest is bare.  Behind the prep station stands the owner, rhythmically patting out dough, topping pizzas, and deftly rotating pies through the oven.  It’s fun to just watch him work, steadily making pizzas one at a time.

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The Dish:

When we are eating Neapolitan pizza, we look for a few key things; crust, sauce, and distribution of ingredients.  When the margherita comes out at Una Pizza it immediately passes the visual inspection.  The crust is covered with those beautiful black blisters, the sauce is so bright red that you need sunglasses, and the cheese is scattered in small droplets and melted to perfection (plus you can see the glistening olive oil on top).  While looks are important with food, taste is king, and this pizza rules.  Those blisters add the perfect amount of smokiness, while the acidity of the sauce and the salty creaminess of the cheese just sing together.  The crust isn’t too thin, so it doesn’t get sloppy in the middle, and the fact that the cheese is added in small droplets (instead of 3 or 4 big pools) means that you get a little in every bite.  The basil on top is just the nail in the coffin of excellence.

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The Verdict:

We definitely loved it.  Going to Una Pizza is an experience, and to fully enjoy it you have to be willing to do things the owners way, so it may not be for everyone.  We had to stop ourselves from asking for pepper flakes (we put them on every pizza), and just trust that they know what they are doing.    The waits are usually long, the pizza isn’t cheap (because it’s made with REALLY good ingredients), and there are no other dishes, but it’s worth it to go watch some very passionate people do what they love.

Dig In,

A & K

#23 San Jalisco: Chicken Mole

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The Place:

We like taquerias.  Places like El Farolito, La Taqueria, Papalote where you wait in line, order, and then grab your food when your number comes up.  It’s easy, fast, and represents most of the Mexican restaurants you come across.  We however, kinda prefer the classic sit-down style which is a little more rare in the city.  Something like Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, where you get to enjoy the ambiance and explore the always excellent wall decor (from family art to interesting sculptures to sombreros), and generally take your time before wolfing down your food.  San Jalisco, tucked out in the Mission, is one of those places where you instantly feel comfortable and warm.

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The Dish:

San Jalisco makes The List for a few different dishes; their mole, chilaquiles, and albondigas soup.  The one we went for this time was the Chicken Mole (along with the Chili Verde Pork).  It comes with the classic setup of rice, beans, and corn tortillas (all food should come with these things…..ok, maybe not ALL food).  We’re not sure if we’re not big fans of mole in general, or not crazy about this one in particular.  It’s very rich and very sweet, almost overpoweringly so.  We tempered it with some hot sauce and salsa, but there was still a flavor we just weren’t wild about.  This isn’t to say that the food at San Jalisco isn’t good, because the chili verde was fantastic.  This dish just may not be in our wheelhouse.

The Verdict:

While this dish didn’t exactly make the grade for us, the rest of their offerings more than make up for it.  If you enjoy the simple sit-down style of Mexican dining, San Jalisco is a great option.

Dig In,

A & K

#73 (2014) M.Y. China: Wild Boar Scissor Cut Noodles

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The Place:

Located in the Westfield Mall’s “Restaurant Collection”, M.Y. China casts a great first impression with it’s polish and style.  The design is very modern, with lot of dark wood and granite, and a nice open kitchen.  That part is especially cool because you get to watch the noodle makers do their thing, stretching huge balls of dough into long, slender noodles.  Overall it feels like a nice mix between high end and approachable.

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The Dish:

In addition to the noodles and the boar, the dish had bean sprouts, scallions, and wood ear mushrooms.  Simple, straightforward, and our type of dish.  One of the things M.Y. hangs it’s hat on is it’s noodles and we can see why.  The noodles in this dish were shorter, scissor cut noodles, that had a shape like a green bean.  The texture of these babies were soft, with a nice plump mouth feel, and a great vessel for the sauce.  The boar was juicy, and not at all gamey, and the veggies added a nice crisp balance.  Overall this was a solid dish, not much flash, but plenty of substance.

The Verdict:

We think there’s something to be said for good Chinese food, especially since so many people associate Chinese with the cheap takeout they get when hungover and too lazy to move.  M.Y. China is nice, the food is good, and getting to watch the cooks work adds a nice bonus to the meal.  If you find yourself in the mall, skip the food court and get yo self some noodles.

Dig In,

A & K

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And we are back! (with 2013’s #19 Craftsmen and Wolves: Rebel Within)

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It’s been a while party people!  After a winter hibernation (and very busy schedules) we are back on the food scene and ready to again adventure through the culinary landscape that SF has to offer.  So enough with the flowery hellos and tears of joy, lets check out some food!

The Place:

First off, what a name.  Craftsman and Wolves may be our favorite moniker of all time, and we’re jealous we didn’t come up with it.  Located on Valencia street in the Mission, Craftsman and Wolves is a modern take on a bakery (or in their words, a “contemporary patisserie”).  Every pastry and dish has elements of familiarity mixed with the type of interesting ingredients or techniques you see from top notch places around SF.  The modern interior is simple and hip, and lets the focus rest on the display cases full of goodies.

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The Dish:

A lot of places in SF are what we would call good hearted.  Craftsman and Wolves is just plain evil.  WHO PUTS A SOFT BOILED EGG IN THE MIDDLE OF A SAVORY MUFFIN!!!!  (sorry, caps lock got stuck there) What kind of evil genius enablers are these people?  Are they trying to turn us into addicts?  If you can’t tell, we are in love with this dish.  I mean, how couldn’t you be, just LOOK AT IT.

This dish is amazing.  The muffin itself is asiago, sausage, and green onion.  When you get it, it looks so unassuming, so innocent.  Yet when you cut inside the golden truth is revealed is all it’s gooey glory.  The texture is fantastic, not too moist, but not dry, and the egg drips out perfectly creating a little yellow pool.  All other savory muffins now have something to look up to.

The Verdict:

Stop reading this and go get one.

Dig In,

A & K

 

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