|The St. Louis style pork ribs alone are worth a visit.|
Not quirky at all was a half-rack of St. Louis style pork ribs ($14.95 with two sides), fleshy and delightfully messy as the result of a balanced, barely sweet barbecue sauce. Both the faint flavor of smoke and a touch of heat were able to shine through. Our tablemates, including a 9-year-old, brawled for these ribs down to the last speck of charred crust. On the side, a small pan of creamy macaroni and cheese arrived gratin style with a light smattering of breadcrumbs. Baked beans were sweet and meaty, a nice foil to the ribs.
Ramen has come up on the culinary scene more and more lately, and worldly food-loving San Franciscans couldn't be more happy about it. Don't believe me? Check out expert ramen aficionado Luis Chong's Ramen Week right here on SFoodie. We're cultured and we're starving, OK? Give us the damn ramen.
Everyone is so stoked about the plethora of restaurants/pop-ups/food trucks/back yards/basements/dumpsters/etc to get all sorts of different types of ramen -- everyone, that is, except us vegetarians and vegans. Luckily, lots of ramen eateries are starting to bring it with the veg selections, finding that even the most die-hard meat-mouths often don't want to consume a whole piglet with their noodles. One of the places doing it best is Ken Ken Ramen.
Just a few steps down Larkin street from the always-packed lunchtime institution Saigon Sandwich, Prime Dip Gourmet Sandwiches quietly goes about its business creating straightforward, French dip style behemoths. Crackly rolls, supplied by neighbor Lee's Deli, are built to withstand flash floods of au jus. The burly roasted prime rib sandwich ($8.99) earned its top billing with a stack of thinly sliced, secretly seasoned (we asked three times), fat flecked beef that's plunged into a small vat of hot drippings before being carefully nestled in its casing.
After three weeks in action as a brick-and-mortar operation, former pop-up favorite Cathead's BBQ is settling nicely into the old Big Nate's space. Shortly after an inaugural visit, SFoodie was magnetically drawn back, with nothing but brisket on the brain. Marinated in Coca Cola, peppers, and spices for two days, Cathead's brisket ($7 as a main, $8 as a sandwich) heads to the smoker for nine hours over a pile of cherry and hickory wood, rendering the beef fork-tender, faintly sweet, and, rare in San Francisco, overwhelmingly, beautifully smoky. Watching the pitmaster hack the beef up with a cleaver all axe-murderer style and then dump it into a pie tin (i.e. your plate) only enhanced the experience. Also tender was a trio of St. Louis pork ribs ($7,) but they suffered from being drenched in an overly sugary BBQ sauce. We would have preferred the ribs served dry, allowing us to add a few squirts of sauce with the bottle provided on our table.
Although Alameda is almost literally smack dab in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area, it's always been somewhat of a culinary wasteland*. However, lately there's a sea of promising restaurants opening, and some of the old classics are kicking it up a notch. One is Julie's Coffee and Tea Garden, an adorably tiny cafe on Alameda's main drag, Park street. Julie's offers an incredible selection of teas and a lunch menu that'll rival anything on Church street, scone for scone. Plus, an impossibly lovely backyard teaming with succulents, heat lamps, and wooden picnic tables. You'll have no choice but to question why you're selling off your babies and organs just to live in that shit box in the Tenderloin. Hello, Alameda!
Now, onto the food. Oh, the food.
"Prepare to Be Filled!" is the business's motto, and the steakhouse burger SFoodie tried was, indeed, filling: A double-handful with a high-domed bun and a half-pound, half-inch-thick patty splayed atop giant leaves of lettuce and tomato slices. It's a burger that requires constant shifting to eat, with meat that slips across the vegetables at every move and mushrooms and horseradish sauce escaping with the ease of a wriggling two-year-old.
There's a new, extremely healthy, veg restaurant in the East Bay with roots going back over 15 years to the old Organic Cafe in Oakland. A macrobiotic institution in Oakland, the Organic Cafe changed names to Manzanita and then to Shangri-La Vegan, but the food mostly stayed the same, thanks in large part to Tenzin, the faithful chef through it all.
If you've ever tasted Tenzin's cuisine, you'll know what a true artist in the kitchen can do. This man is like the vegetable and grain whisperer, teaching children to love kale with one wave of his magic spatula. Seriously, he's a master of healthy and delicious, and he's finally got his chance to shine in a brand-new restaurant of his very own, Polata Organic.
Thai IDEA Vegetarian is a brand-new restaurant on Polk. It's adorably tiny, and feels really new and clean. Which it is. Which is nice, considering you'll most likely have to step over a paramedic resuscitating someone's grandma or Nick Nolte's twin eating a pigeon to get inside. We kid -- Tenderloin jokes are the worst!
Anyway, Thai IDEA is cute and shiny, basically what a living room in a Thai Ikea might look like. The bathroom is especially worth a trip, if you're a connoisseur. But we're here to talk about the food, so let's do this!Everything on Thai IDEA's dinner menu looked amazing to me and my lovely dining companion, so it was hard to narrow it down. The first dish we decided on was the Firecracker Balls ($8.95), which are veggie ahi tuna roll pieces, panko-crusted, and then deep-fried.
All in all, an estimated 17 stores in San Francisco are currently being stocked with freshly made foods, and according to Dave Devincenzi, district manager of SF's Central District, the company plans to convert another 22 locations in 2012. (SFoodie asked Walgreens' media relations department for confirmation of those numbers, but has not yet heard back.) "In the Bay Area, roughly 60 percent of our stores will have Fresh Eats," Devincenzi says. "In San Francisco, I think it would probably be higher."
The product line for the stores varies from the Financial District to the outer neighborhoods. Most of the freshly prepared foods come from a central commissary near Sacramento, Devincenzi says, and one of the counter people SFoodie spoke to confirmed the stock is replenished every day.