Besties: Eat the Best
Best Of The Gays
by Sean Timberlake
It's that time again: We asked, you told, and the results are in. Here are your favorite foodie spots (plus a few that maybe didn't make your radar.)
San Francisco has always been the brunchiest of cities, with lengthy queues in front of dozens of joints every Sunday. (Anyone else remember the champagne-drenched brunches at Ryan's? Sigh.) You picked the venerable Café Flore (2298 Market Street), celebrating 40 years in the heart of the 'hood. No doubt their bacon bloody Mary and mimosas with fresh-squeezed orange juice factored into your vote.
Same sandwich, different day. Café Flore serves up their brunch menu seven days a week, so you keep coming back for more. Truly, more than one person in my circle swears it's the best burger in town. The mac and cheese is a big draw, too.
Why of course it's Café just kidding. Even La Flore couldn't hold a candle next to Michelin-starred Frances (3870 17th Street) brought home the gold with their market-driven menu. The bacon beignets are a must-have, but there's nary a miss to be had. It can be tricky to get into, though (pro tip: Go early as a walk-in), so if you're seeking an alternative, Catch (2362 Market Street) and Nopa (560 Divisadero Street) tied for second place.
You were sweet on the case full of tarts, cakes and cookies at community mainstay Sweet Inspiration Bakery (2239 Market Street). It may have had something to do with their famously generous portions. (Heck, skip dinner and go straight to dessert!) We're also pleased to see them expand their gluten-free offerings.
Best Bar Food
Not just any pub grub for you, nosirree. You give high marks to HiTops (2247 Market Street) for their stepped-up chow to accompany the drinks. Fries, corn dogs, buffalo wings and soft pretzels form the backbone of the menu, but items like the Yucatecan pork chop on a stick step outside the comfort zone. Sandwiches and burgers up the ante on portion size if you're laying foundation for a solid evening of swilling.
Best Late Night
When the sidewalks roll up and you're looking for a little absorption food, the options are limited. You picked Orphan Andy's (3991 17th Street) for their hearty selection of straight-up diner chow that fills the void, and is conveniently located stumbling distance from all the Castro bars. Nopa got a nod in second place, but they're only open 'til 1 am, whereas the Orphan is up all night long.
Best Restaurant with a Patio
This one's sort of a gimme. After all, where other than Café Flore even has a true patio, much less one as expansive and well-manicured?
Best with a View
It's probably not for the unparalleled perspective on the new-construction condos cater-corner, so we're guessing you picked Café Flore for the view of the other patrons, though the tables that flank Market Street are a lovely place to watch the parade of humanity strolling through the neighborhood.
Best Place for a First Date
Oh, my hands are shaking as I open the envelope. Ohmigod! Ohmigod! You picked Café Flore yet again! You like it! You really like it! Okay, to be fair, on a warm evening when the patio is lit up, the place is quite romantic.
Best Place for a Last Date
Why it's Café Flore yet again; perhaps because it's the most likely place where you can commence the rebound before even closing out the check. Hopefully this wasn't also the first date.
Best East Bay Restaurant
The world owes a lot to Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley). In 1971, Chef Alice Waters started with the novel idea that food should be fresh, simple and local – a major departure from the leaden, sauce-covered continental cuisine that had dominated restaurants previously. Without her, we wouldn't have our farmers markets with kaleidoscopic arrays of heirloom vegetables, nor locally made artisanal foods like Laura Chenel's goat cheese (the first made in the U.S.), Acme Bread, Cowgirl Creamery and many others. Countless alumni (a.k.a. Chez mafia) have gone on to open esteemed eateries of their own. Today, 43 years in, Chez Panisse continues to deliver a world-class dining experience that remains rustically homey and never stuffy. Small wonder, then, that you chose it. There really was no competition.
And now, here are my picks for a few possibly overlooked categories.
Best Retro '90s Food
Elements of the menu at Firefly (4288 24th Street) have not changed in nigh 20 years, and that's just the way I like it. Every time I have the shrimp and scallop pot stickers and the fried chicken of your dreams with a damn fine buttermilk biscuit (aptly named, indeed), I am transported back to the (first so far) Clinton administration.
Best Old-School Italian
Original Joe's (601 Union Street) isn't in its original location anymore, having upgraded from their burned-out Tenderloin digs into the former Fior d'Italia space in North Beach a couple years back. Everything about the restaurant smacks of a place you might have gone with your grandparents back in the day, from the plush red banquettes and lustrous wood paneling to the glacially chilled martinis to the bespoke oval plates topped with red sauce Eye-talian dishes. And that's just perfect.
Most Unfairly Reviled Food Product
Everybody is prattling on about how the $4 toast at The Mill (736 Divisadero Street) is the harbinger of the end days for San Francisco, a symbol of the excesses of the new tech culture that has squeezed out all that is good and real in our city of misfits. First of all, this isn't a slice of Wonder Bread. It's an inch-thick slab of freshly baked rustic bread, perhaps the best you've ever had, delectably topped. Second, it's actually only $3.50 or $3.75, depending on your choice, so it's already up to 12% cheaper than you thought. Finally, how much did you spend on that crappy scone or muffin at Starbucks that was made who knows where made with who knows what and has been sitting in the case for who knows how long? So, yeah.
Least Problematic Language Barrier
The husband-wife team who own Mozzeria (3228 16th Street), and nearly the entire staff, are deaf. That turns out to be no obstacle to creating a comforting dining experience nor turning out top-notch wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas (they're certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) and arguably the best meatballs in town. All it takes is a little pointing, shrugging and smiling, and everything goes smoothly.
Read more of Sean Timberlake's food reviews at www.punkdomestics.com