Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Hometowns are usually full of restaurant institutions and Durham is no different. Though when you have limited time you don't always get a chance to re-visit on home trips. But there are also a handful of these places that I never even got to when I lived here way back when. Most of that was do to not really caring too much about what I was eating or looking for something new and different. Foodie, after all, is still a newish term. One spot I never made it to was Fishmongers. It was one of the first restaurants to open in 1983 in downtown near an area of remade tobacco warehouses called Brightleaf Square. It was all part of a revitalization effort for the area that still seems to be going on today. Here it is 32 years later and the place is still serving up seafood to the Bull City and I figured I'd waited long enough to try the place.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Seems like this is really turning into a donut trip--not that there's anything wrong with that. I find myself in Durham, NC and doing that whole Airbnb thing. The place I'm in happens to be down around 9th Street, near that Duke campus. It's been a changing stretch over the years that recently has started hosting trendy, hipster food places, something I'm not sure I thought I would ever really say about my hometown. One place down on this stretch that seems to have captured local folks attention is called Monuts Donuts. And well, you know, donuts, of course I'm gonna be all over that!

Friday, May 22, 2015


I'm on the road in the South and what better time to try something different. I'm passing through Atlanta, GA and its sprawling metropolis. Getting around this town can be a challenge, no matter what your mode of transportation. Thus, when new things pop-up near where a person lives folks are willing to give it a try, because who wants to drive across town in rush hour traffic. Fortunately while I was there, a new donut place opened within a 5 minutes drive from where I was staying and hitting them up before getting on the highway seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was called Da Vinci's Donuts and like most things in this town in was located in sort of an office building/strip mall complex.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Burgers in San Francisco have their own pantheon of favoritism. There are endless lists of which one is best overall, which is best serve by a burger joint, which is best served by a bar, best food truck one, best one served by a sit down restaurant, etc. The lists can be endless, meaningless, ever changing and non-stop. One burger that always seems to show up on these "lists" is from Marlowe. A burger so famous and popular that when Marlowe recently moved from one space to a larger one, they turned the old spot in a place that (mostly) solely features their burger. It's called, Marlowe Burger, obviously.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Now that I have Sundays off me and the SO are able to try out some of the events that only happen on weekends. One of those is Off The Grid Picnic in the Presidio--part of the ever burgeoning collection of food truck pods/events that Off The Grid has propulgated over the years. This one is relatively new in their pantheon, yet, as you can see in the picture below, it has become quite popular. The closer you get to the ocean in San Francisco, the more likely you are to encounter clouds, fog and wind. The Presidio is neither immune, nor different to this caveat. And hey, what better way to spend a few Sunday afternoon hours than being surrounded by running, screaming kids and pets while sitting on the damp ground trying to stay warm and eat. It's like a dream come true for me. To be honest I didn't exactly what to expect at this event. We'd been to the Fort Mason version of this event several times. It's on Friday nights and again, a place that can be windy and chilly. That even has grown exponentially over the years and has lots of trucks and food stalls to choose from. By the time we got there the place was packed, mostly up toward the top of the hill and while there aren't as many actual food trucks, roughly seven here, there are a fair number of food stalls offering up other choices.(For my reviews of what we got you can scroll down this blog to the previous 2 entries or just click here and here.) They had a DJ here and he was pumping out what I'll call old-skool r&b jams--from like the 80's early 90's--hello Shalamar! So I was on board with that. Plus, I think getting there a few hours after it started was enough time for the lines at the vendors to go down and we had no trouble just walking up to windows and getting served quickly. I think if you are planning to spread a blanket on the ground and truly picnic, you'd need to come early to get a good spot. But seeing as how neither I nor the SO had any intention of sitting on wet grass we were fortunate enough to snag one of the table and chairs that are on some of the porches of the buildings surrounding the parade grounds. Actually, most of the tables were open, I suppose you come here to sit on the ground, and if you are up for it go right ahead. Otherwise, now you know, there is another option that was readily available if wet pants aren't your thing. Good for us also, sitting off to the side allowed us to watch the action on the field without having to worry about being trampled or sniffed by either pets of kids. Beyond the fact the day was gray and windy, I will say it was a fun time to just go somewhere and hang out for a bit, or at least until our fingers started to turn blue. (Reminder--take gloves next time) All in all, it was a fun excursion and is definitely worth the trip for either families or for something different to do in town on a Sunday, at least for an hour or so. But be sure to layer up it can get chilly. Though if you are a true San Franciscan, you probably already are. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


It was a full day at Off The Grid's Picnic in the Presidio and after stuffing ourselves full of meat what better way to finish off than with something warm and sweet. The dessert offerings where on the slim-ish side but there was one that stood out to both me and the SO, offering up deep fried delight--Girl Friday Zeppole.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


It's a gray overcast, windy Sunday in San Francisco (like most summer days) so why not spend it outside in the Presidio! Which is exactly what the SO and I did when we ventured out to experience Off The Grid's Picnic in the Presidio event held every Sunday 11-4pm in one of the foggiest and chilliest parts of town. But hey, we are used to this weather so no big whoop. Plus I'm wearing my 20 or so layers--we'll be fine. By the time we get there, the place is jumping and the main parade lawn area is mostly packed with folks, kids and dogs--camped out, picnicking on the damp ground. Yeah, not my idea of a super fun time but the surrounding buildings have porches with tables and chairs set up that are free to sit at, so that saves us from trying to find a place to sit (like I'm gonna do wet grass anyway). And with a fair number of food trucks and even more tent covered stalls offering up bites to eat, me and the SO were bound to find something we could eat. We made the rounds to check out whats what and as sometimes happens, the first place we came across was the vendor we ended back at. Cochon Valant--a Sonoma based barbecue outfit that does catering and events such as this around the Bay Area.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Specialty's is kind of a bakery/coffee shop/sandwich shop hybrid kind of place with several locations across the city. From what I can tell they sprouted up originally in California and have now have over 100 locations in CA, Washington and Illinois of all places. Years (and years ago) when I worked downtown I used to hit them up a lot for cookies, though mostly the day-olds as they were half price, which made them a much better bargain. Ah, the joys of saving a buck in San Francisco. Not being around where there shops are anymore I hadn't partaken of them in awhile. Recently I strolled by one just off Market Street and was feeling a bit peckish but didn't want a whole lot of something at that moment. (I know, strange, I wanted a small bite!) I thought why not see what they got. It looked like they had just put out a bunch of freshly made pastries and such so i think I hit them at the right time. I was in a savory mood (yes, again, strange!) not a sweets one and zeroed in on the stuffed croissants. Yes, they have the requisite ham and cheese thingy, but they also had a turkey and Swiss cheese one that caught my eye and stomach. It was only $3 (plus tax) which seemed a fair price for the size and weight of it. Added bonus, it was still warm. I only had medium expectations getting this, thus was pleasantly surprised by the buttery flakiness of the bread, the generous portions of both cheese and slices of turkey and most of all---an added dollop of ricotta cheese on the inside. This added both a tang and creaminess like butter that was pleasing and tasty to my tongue and tummy. Kudos to Specialty's for serving up this cheesy, meaty, buttery delight that hit the spot and conquered my savory craving of the moment. This will definitely be added to my list of quick affordable small bites in San Francisco, something that can sometimes be hard to come by. Though, with their multiple locations downtown, it will make it a little easier to find.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


The more things change the more they (sorta) stay the same. Just as Ironside called it quits on their SOMA location the space was snapped up by noted Bay Area pizza impresario Tony Gemignani. He of Tony's Pizza Napoletana, Tony's Slice House and Capo's, to name a few. It's called Slice House and it's serving up the same slices and pies you can find at his other Slice House locations around the Bay Area. He opened a few weeks ago, just in time for the Giants first home game, natch. They didn't really change out any of the decor from the previous tenant. Outside of a few photos of pizza, the space is pretty much the same as it was. In this instance, that works, I mean the space is what it is and was already generic enough to move from one thing to the next without needing to spend money on changes. Tony's is meant to be all about the pizza and it's what I was intent on trying since this was a new place in my own personal hood and I want to try and support them, even though I know their target right now is SOMA day workers and Giants fans. We'll see how things shake out once ball season is over, for now, let's have a slice of pie! 


Sunday, May 3, 2015


Lee's Deli is as ubiquitous in San Francisco as Starbucks, or at least it seems that way. What started as one local downtown sandwich shop has grown into 13 Bay Area locations serving up sandwiches made to order and a hot/salad bar for both breakfast and lunch. I do find myself in there before work loading up on bacon, just because I can and it's slightly cheaper, easier and less messy than buying and cooking it myself. One of my go to sandwich faves here is the egg salad. I'm also calling it the messiest sandwich in San Francisco. The egg part is pretty basic--lots of eggs mashed up with what is either a hint of mayo or water--I'm still not sure and the ladies behind the counter aren't very forthcoming. Still, even with it's mysterious creaminess, I get it anyway--I like taking chances that way. They also don't skimp on the portion, it is piled on beyond the edges of the bread making it more than a handful to eat. Here you can get unlimited toppings and seeing as how the egg salad itself doesn't have much beyond egg, I add on lettuce, tomato, purple onion, sprouts, pickles, mustard and mayo on two slices of toasted 9 grain. Sprinkle on a little pepper and for $3.75 plus tax it is a sandwich that hits all the vegetable, grains and proteins needed for a filling lunch--something I do have every now and then. All of these things lead to a big 'ol mouthful that I end up using a fork to get through as the egg and toppings usually fall out all over the wrap. It's like egg salad plus a veggie salad on a sandwich. Sometimes I'll go whole hog, literally, and have them add bacon, something that may not be that unusual as the ladies don't even think twice before doing it. I'll also give them props for not skimping on anything you decide to get on your sandwich. You don't have to get egg salad when go as they have multiple other options to choose from, and considering most all of their choices run under $5 they are a refreshing option to the $8-$10 "artisan" ones that are rife in this town. If you want a good sandwich that isn't going to break your lunch budge Lee's is a good place to get a piled high bite made the way you want at an affordable price--a rarity sometimes in San Francisco.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


It's back to SOMA StrEat Food Park time, because you know this is one of my favorite funky places to hit in San Francisco. It works especially well for me and the SO as we can usually find something for each of our taste buds from their array of food trucks. On this particular day we both laid eyes on the same truck and tried it together. Which is always fun as you can order more things to try without looking like a glutton. Though, weirdly, that doesn't usually stop me. Anyway, this week's truck was Beyond The Border, serving up traditional, home made Mexican flavors.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Seems Franklin Barbecue decided to come to town with a pop-up event at Magnolia's Smokestack in Dogpatch. I was moderately enthused to see this, then I saw the price--$130--for a plate of brisket, 2 beers and a copy of their book. Tickets were to go on sale Friday April 24th at 9 am. Me and the SO discussed whether it was worth it or not--that's a lot of money. It's not like this is Lazy Bear where you get a 12 course meal or something. It was one shot deal. Then the price oddly dropped to $70 and no longer included a copy of the book (which you can get on Amazon for $18). Strange, but okay, and me and the SO just decided to suck it up and pay the money. Sort of a doing to be doing it kind of thing. I was up early Friday morning and had the Eventbrite page open 15 minutes before sale time. At 8:57 am I began hitting the refresh button over and over till suddenly at 9 am the tickets got listed. I clicked the date, add 2 tickets (a pop-up told me there were 31 tix available) and hit the buy button. Instantly I got a message that tickets were now no longer available for this event. I looked at the clock on my computer and it just tripped over to 9:01 am. ARGGGHHHH!! That's right, somehow, every ticket (for both days of the event!) sold out in less than a minute! I was pissed (and yes I know I wasn't the only one to miss out). Granted I was ambivalent about going but to get so far as to decide to go and be shut out so quickly was beyond irritating. It reeked of suspicious ridiculousness. You were limited to 2 tickets per person and I'm guessing there were probably 30-40 tickets available for each day and in some mysterious computer generated way they were all gone. As of now, no tickets are showing up on the secondary market like StubHub or Craigslist, but I say give it time. I'm sure someone has gamed the system (they usually do) and they will show up at some point before the event in May at an exorbitant price. And for that I say f**k you Eventbrite, Smokestack and Franklin Barbecue for making something so difficult for the regular folk to get in to. After some quiet reflection (and some time to calm down), it's fine by me--NORTH CAROLINA BARBECUE IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE WAY BETTER than that texas stuff anyway. And that is something you can't take away from me. Whew! All good now--how 'bout some food news.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Ah, the Tenderloin, it's the new hot neighborhood for restaurants and gentrification--though I'm just passing through to cover the food. A handful of the places opening are quite affordable, which means they are at least taking the hood into consideration. But, beyond the new places, are a fair number of spots that have been kicking around the 'Loin for some time and they are serving up tasty delights. One such spot is a dessert place I tried when it first opened 5 years ago (before I started this blog) and figured enough time had passed I should try it again. It's called Hooker's Sweet Treats, a name that is both seemingly unfortunate and highly fitting for the neighborhood (I'm not going to give a history of the Tenderloin here--better just to Google it while you are enjoying the treats).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Secret menu items are all the rage, or at least they have been for some time now. From Starbucks to In-And-Out Burger to Chipotle and so on, these so-called off menu items are the holy grail of in the know foodies who want to feel like they are trying something other folks don't know about--like they are in some secret foodie spy ring or something. Just say the magic words to the cashier or server and they will nod or wink knowingly and poof, like magic, a dish that is not on the menu for the world to see, presents itself for your culinary amusement. These dishes are not limited to chain restaurants either, supposedly homegrown faves also offer these off-menu dishes, again, if you are in the know. Sometimes I follow this out of amusement, sometimes I decide to give one a try to see what all the fuss is about. Such was the case when news that Adam Richman was in town filming his new show Man Finds Food and trying 4 "secret menu" items in San Francisco. One of those dishes is at Little Skillet in SOMA. Since it is around the corner from where I live, it was an easy choice to try it out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I'm continuing my hole in the wall week with a trip down cookie lane. Dogpatch is an up and coming neighborhood (though they've been saying that for years now) and it does have some out of the way spots to get a quick bite to eat. One such place is tucked away in the back of one of the American Industrial Buildings on 3rd Street and it can be difficult to find if you haven't been there before. Called Jolt N Bolt Cafe, it is strictly a Monday through Friday lunch spot for those who work in the hood. They make a handful of salads and sandwiches for the tech crowd offices in the building but they also make their own baked goods on premises and this, of course, is what drew me in. Particularly the large chocolate chip cookie you see above. I'm a sucker for big chocolate chip and this one did not disappoint. It's as big as my hand and loaded with tiny little chocolate bits pretty much throughout every bite. The edges are crisp leading to a soft center. The middle is also thick, but unlike other cookies, it is cooked properly and neither too doughy or or too dry. For me, it is one of the better large size cookies in this town. At $2.25 a pop, the price and what you get match up nicely to make it worth it. The only thing that could make it better is to be served warm, but that's not always possible, plus a few seconds in the microwave can take care of that easily. The do offer a smaller size version of this for $1 and it also good, but hey, why bother. If I'm gonna cookie it up I'm going all the way for the big one and enjoy every bite will chowing down on it. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


I'm continuing my hole in the wall theme this week with a visit to a place I've walked by innumerable times, but never went in. I was working down by the Ferry Building recently and when lunch time rolled around, I just didn't want to deal with the lines or the high prices there, so I set out to roam a few blocks over to see if I could find a more reasonable bite to eat. As I crossed over Drumm Street I spotted Les Croissants and thought, maybe I should just have a donut for lunch--yes I do that sometimes-don't judge me. I feel like this place has been here for as long as I've lived in this city and I've always thought of it as one of those Happy Donut alternatives if I'm ever in the hood. Though, as I said, I hadn't tried them and now seemed as good a time as any.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Sometimes neighborhood spots you go to on a regular basis for one thing can occasionally surprise you with something else. Down the street from me is a Happy Donuts, that ubiquitous, not really a chain, sort of a whole in the wall, sometimes sketchy, everyday donut shop serving up the basics from old-fashions to apple fritters. I've been to the one located at 3rd and King Street near AT&T Park more times than I'd care to admit. At one time this place was in danger of disappearing due to high rents, property values and whatever other shenanigans San Francisco real estate holds these days. Somehow, it overcame these odds, several different owners and sort of a makeover to maintain it's corner spot and be mine (and sadly boat loads of baseball fans) go to spot for a quick donut fix. In all the years I've visited they have served other stuff there like sandwiches and fried stuff, but I never really paid attention. I'm just here for the donuts--as they say (more like blinded by the donuts). A few years ago, the current owners added something called "Famous Louisiana Fried Chicken" to their moniker and while I'd briefly glanced at the menu, I'd never really considered it. One day last week, I'm not sure why, I was hankering for some fried chicken and when the Safeway near was actually sold out, I thought, well, why not give this a try. They've been serving it for awhile now, so if it wasn't any good they'd have stopped right? Seemed like as a good a reason as any to give their chicken a shot. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Sometimes you run across the most unexpected things in random places. Such was the case recently when I was in tiny sandwich shop grabbing a bite and came across the little nugget above. Being from the South I am an ardent fan of pecan pie, even though the best of them can be sugar bombs of the utmost sweetness. Still, I'm usually undaunted by that and decided to give this pre-packaged version a shot to see if it even comes close to the original. As you can see in the below picture they come close to replicating the filling in both color and texture. (It's an interesting mix of brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, butter and vanilla, for the most part) They also got a cooked crust type topping that should have been a mix of pecans and sugar (see lots of sugar). For the most part, it sort of tasted like a pecan pie. Though comparatively, the crust wasn't quite buttery enough and it lacked actual whole pecans on top to give it some needed crunch and texture. I'm pretty sure there were small bits of crushed pecans on top, but they were few and far between. Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite nuts and I just happened to have some of them around the house so I added my own to this version and sure enough, it brought the flavor level up a notch and the sugar level (at least taste wise) down a notch. So overall, not terrible, moderately edible, a very sweet treat and in a pinch, a decent $1 dessert substitute for those of us who can stand a sugar bomb or two. I do think if they up the actual pecan quotient it could be even better than most, though, considering the cost of nuts these days, probably not gonna happen. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Sprig: A new, "artisanally crafted", sometimes chef curated, meal delivery service/start-up, offering hot, fresh delivery in 20 minutes (or so) that has taken off in San Francisco since it was launched.

Matthew Accarrino: recently nominated James Beard Award chef de cuisine at SPQR. Him and the restaurant have gotten acclaim from the get go a number of years ago. He's been best chef something or other over the last few years and even has his own book (then again, don't they all).

Convergence: moving toward one point and coming together to meet and form one interest, purpose or goal.

Such was the case for Sprig and Accarrino who came together and coordinated on some chef curated meals by him, coincidentally, just a day after he was named a finalist for a James Beard Award--Best Chef: West. I'd not been to SPQR since he started his run there and I had been wanting to try Sprig since I'd heard about it. When I saw the Accarrino pairing, it seemed like the perfect time to order from them, see if they measure up to what they are offering and to try the chefs food. Granted, he didn't actually cook each dish, I'd need to hit up SPQR for that, but he did create the recipes, chose the ingredients and, I'm assuming, showed the Sprig chefs how to prepare the dishes to his specifications, thus I'm just going with "it's just like he did it himself."

The Chef from SPQR book author photo.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Sometimes you gotta' hand it to Safeway to directly market to customers in a particular neighborhood, such is the case with the one at Church and Market. I just happened to be through there killing time one day and came across this little pre-packed selection they are calling the grilled chicken and humus box. Me, I'm gonna call it gay lunchables (that's not a slight--I owning it and buying it!) because it is offering up protein and veggies in a convenient grab and go when you are fresh out of your gym workout/bike ride/hike/yoga/whatever. I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes you don't want those useless cracker carbs or whatever else they pack up and pass off as snacks. This is a perfect fit, even for those of us who like to pretend we are occasionally healthy and aren't looking for some bready sandwich thing. It's hard to mess up the veggie part so those were fine. The chicken was on the dry side a tad and they need to fix that, it had good flavor though and hey, it had grill marks and pretty much hit the spot. For $3.99, I considered it a bargain bite for the on the go healthy snack concious gym boy (or girl) and for those of us pretending to be. Well done, Safeway, now if you could just offer this at your other locations as I have yet to see it anywhere but the Market/Church one. What? You don't think folks heading to AT&T Park want a quick healthy bite to wash down with their beer? Okay, maybe not, but this would pair really well with some garlic fries, I'm just saying.