I don’t profess to be a foodie. I can’t pinpoint the region of the world a dish comes from just from the smell, or discern the origin of the lightly toasted nut shavings on my dessert. I just know what I like and I LOVE to EAT! You probably won’t be able to guess it by just looking at me, but I can put away some food. So it should be no surprise, that when I travel, I am hell bent on finding and having some really amazing food and scoping out the top locally recommended spots, whether it’s a dive bar or a 5 star treat.
The week before Christmas, I decided to give the San Francisco Bay Area restaurants a spin. I had been there countless times before for work and to visit to Berkeley and Stanford in Palo Alto when I was considering business school, but never really took time to explore. I had no idea how big of a gastronomic find the Bay was until I started meeting up with friends for meals around town. It is truly a food lover’s paradise for three primary reasons:
- The sheer quantity of restaurants — There seemed to be 5 different things to chose from on every block! I love choices!
- The diversity of foods – I found and sampled everything from authentic Brazilian cuisine to tasty Burmese treats and everything in between.
- Hours of operation — Besides the Waffle House and the like, there aren’t many good food spots that are open late in Atlanta. I’m always excited to satiate late night hunger pains with something other than fast or crap food.
Enjoy the highlights of some of my fave gastronomic adventures in the Bay and let me know some of your own.
Ensarro (Adams Point District, Oakland, CA)
My first encounter with Ethiopian food was in DC in Adams Morgan. I don’t recall the name of the place, but my room mate at the time wanted to meet with some researchers from the NIH and they selected this spot. The food was pretty good, but I’m not really into sharing food eaten with your hands with a complete stranger. I’m no germ-o-phobe, but that was just a bit much for my first time meeting them. Thankfully at Ensaro, I was with a friend from Atlanta who I wouldn’t mind sharing with, but they brought us separate plates anyway. I had my Ye Bere Tibs, cubed beef cooked in a Berbere sauce, all to myself. I still can’t quite get used to that spongy bread, but the meal was good enough to not even really notice. And right across the street is Merritt Park which is beautifully lit up at night. If you make it to Ensarro, mention EthiopianRestaurant.com and you can get a 10% discount.
Burma Superstar (Inner Richmond, San Francisco, CA)
As somewhat of a delayed celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, I made sure to head over to Burma Superstar before returning to Atlanta. They don’t “take reservations” but call to get on the list and show up a bit before you expected wait is over, but please be on time, because this place stays packed! And rightfully so. I had the infamous tea leaf salad as a starter. This salad has been featured on the Food Network and as the website claims, they go to Burma to get the tea leaves. I don’t care where they get them from, that salad is AMAZING. They mix all of the ingredients at your table: tomato, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fried garlic, romaine lettuce & lemon — super fresh! Check out the video to learn a little more about Burma Superstar.
Fred’s Place (Sausalito, CA)
I’m from the south and if it’s deep fried, I’ll probably eat. So there’s no surprise that after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, I had to have the deep fried french toast at Fred’s Place. It was like having funnel cakes for breakfast. Two large pieces of challah toast were cooked on the grill the usual way, then drowned in batter and deep fried til golden brown. Can you say heaven? The entire experience was like being at the Waffle House, but the cooks and servers had all of their teeth, no visible tattoos and wore hair nets. The only thing missing was a side of hashbrowns smothered, covered and chunked.
Brazil Cafe (Berkeley, CA)
As a prequel to my New Year’s trip to Brazil, I decided to check out the highly recommended Brazil cafe in the middle of downtown Berkeley. I had the tri tip bowl and mango smoothie to wash it down. The cilantro sauce and caramelized onions were a perfect blend to top this rice and chicken dish. Despite the gloomy weather outside, the atmosphere inside was bright and cheery and made feel like I was magically transported to a quaint restaurant on the beach in Copacabana. FYI, parking is a beast in this area. So please be mindful of your meters. They will not hesitate to give you a ticket while you’re chowing down.
San Francisco did not disappoint when it comes to restaurant selections. I’m looking forward to my next trip to discover new bay area restaurants and I’m bringing a huge appetite with me!