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  • Best Restaurant

    Gary Danko

    You sit down at the tiny bar, slightly disappointed that the surroundings aren't as elegant as they were at Chef Danko's last showcase, the Dining Room. Then you get into the lively, friendly rhythm of the place and you realize that although it may not be as finely appointed as, say, the Fifth Floor, Restaurant Gary Danko is more fun. Once you're seated, an amuse-bouche of silky asparagus-basil soup with morsels of lobster is offered for consumption, after which the... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Lapis

    You're dazzled the moment you walk in -- by the light, airy ambience, the sweeping bay views, the soaring ceilings, the rich draperies, the dramatically backlit bar, the thickly embroidered banquettes, and the deep-blue Mediterranean shade that informs not only the restaurant's color scheme but its menu as well. Chef Thomas Ricci has absorbed the width and breadth of the Mediterranean Basin, from Algiers to Istanbul, taking the unifying ingredients of fennel, eggplant, tahini, olives, pomegranate, garlic, garbanzos, and mint,... More >>

  • Best Bistro

    Zax

    This North Beach hideaway-hangout features a hip, arty ambience, a friendly bar ideal for single dining, and stellar, reasonably priced food of the Provençal variety: everything you need for the total bistro experience. The monthly changing, seasonally informed menu is made up of only six starters and six entrees, resulting in concentrated servings of culinary wit: a salad of mustardy frisée, sweet-smoky bacon, and three duck livers hot from the skillet, a perfectly poached egg perched atop; a twice-baked, crunchy-on-the-outside,... More >>

  • Best Discount Food Store

    The Bargain Bank

    Since opening in March 1999, the Bargain Bank has become a neighborhood magnet for its incredible buys on a vast, ever-changing array of food, candy, beverages, and household items, which come from overstocked suppliers. If you see something you like, better buy in quantity, because it could be gone within days or even hours. Beer and wine go for barely half the prices they sell for elsewhere. Candy is typically $1 a pound, breakfast cereal under $1.50 (for a box... More >>

  • Best Farmers' Market

    Heart of the City Farmers' Market

    If you can make a habit of stopping by here Wednesday or Sunday mornings, your days of picking through Safeway's much-fingered produce in search of a single ripe vegetable are over. Here you'll find stall after stall of California's seasonal output, all perfectly ripe and ready to eat, not to mention for sale at penny-on-the-dollar prices compared to local supermarkets. (A wad of ones and a pocketful of change will have you loaded down with more veggies than you can... More >>

  • Best Place to Grocery Shop Without Ever Leaving Your House

    Webvan.com

    Its prices rival those of any supermarket chain, and as of now, there's no delivery charge for orders over $50, so why endure the fluorescent lighting if you don't have to? Webvan will bring almost any imaginable food item to your door -- including fresh produce, meat, and seafood -- as well as your favorite wine, beer, soap, and shampoo. Let's face it: We're all creatures of habit, and Webvan considers this. Each time you place an order, a personal... More >>

  • Best Chinese Grocery

    New May Wah Supermarket

    The great thing about Clement Street -- the foggier, more pristine, latter-day Chinatown -- is the hustle and bustle and colorful produce of the original model, reinterpreted for the semi-suburban melting pot of the Richmond. The May Wah outlet on Irving is sunnier and more expansive, but the Clement venue makes you feel like you're shopping for dinner in some exotic Pacific Rim bazaar (which, of course, you are). Out front is a dazzling display of fruits, vegetables, and herbs... More >>

  • Best Russian Deli

    Gastronom

    No one beats the Russians when it comes to noshing, as Gastronom ably demonstrates. This sunny corner delicatessen overflows with the delicious sorts of tidbits that make full-fledged meals seem so unnecessary: tubs of red and black caviar, smoked salmon, herring, and whitefish, pâtés, three kinds of mushroom salad, a dozen cheeses, dolmas, flaky coulibiac, piroshki of all sorts, two dozen varieties of sausage, a silky beet-cabbage salad -- everything you need for the zakuski table. The shelves are stocked... More >>

  • Best Selection of Truffles

    XOX Truffles

    Open since late 1998, XOX Truffles is owned and operated by Jean Marc Gorce, a classically trained chef from France who spent five years as chef de cuisine at the celebrated San Francisco restaurant Fringale, followed by a stint as chef for the Westin St. Francis. After Gorce suffered a heart attack and was told to reduce the stress in his life, he retired from the restaurant business and opened this tiny shop and cafe with his wife, Casimira. They... More >>

  • Best (and Freshest) Gourmet Coffee Deal

    Café Abir

    There are as many theories on the best cup of coffee as there are caffeine junkies to dream them up. But the quality that isn't up for dispute is the "fresh-roasted" label; it's bandied about to describe everything from cans of Folgers to the beans in Starbucks' espresso concoctions. What's left unsaid in every bean-seller's claim is that roasted coffee beans rapidly lose their flavor; in a matter of days, many of the subtle tones that roasting imparts to the... More >>

  • Best Six Blocks of Liquor Stores

    Guerrero Street Between 18th and 24th Streets

    A liquor store can be more than a store that sells liquor, and when there is one, or more than one, at every cross street, it had better be -- if it wants to survive. Hence this liquor store-abundant stretch of Guerrero, where, if you haven't dropped by Pay & Save Liquor and Grocery at 18th in a while, the clerk may tell you he misses you, his eyes pleading for your return. Of course, you won't have the heart... More >>

  • Best Place to Find a Latvian Liqueur

    Cannery Wine Cellars

    When you need just the right wine, beer, aperitif, or liqueur to complement your authentic ethnic feast, head on down to this whimsical, impressively stocked emporium of high spirits. There are acres of well-organized vino, of course, but the fun of the place is its wide array of exotic booze: Croatian pelinkovac, Czech carlsbad, Hungarian unicum, Peruvian pisco, Turkish raki, cherry liqueur from Poland, orange brandy from Mexico, and on and on. One wall is dedicated to beers from Lebanon,... More >>

  • Best Spanish Restaurant

    B44

    The thing most local Spanish restaurants lack is the distinctive energy of the original model, especially the vida loca pizazz to be found in Barcelona's ever-buzzing tapas bars and bodegas. B44 is tucked into an alleyway not unlike those that harbor many bistros found in Barcelona's old quarter; the sidewalk out front overflows with diners enjoying the positively Catalan sunshine; the exposed-concrete, primary-colored, modern-industrial setting is totally Gaudi; the handsome bar is stocked with wines and sherries, España's favorite libations.... More >>

  • Best Abondigas

    La Rondalla

    647-7474 Yes, it is fun to say "best abondigas." But really, these are the best meatballs, as in meatball soup, in town. Their girth is somewhere between that of a golf ball and a baseball, the meat still pink on the inside, and huge pieces of zucchini, potato, and carrot give new meaning to the phrase "La sopa that eats like a meal." Throw in a squeeze of lemon -- and perhaps a strawberry margarita on the side -- and... More >>

  • Best Alternative Seviche

    Fina Estampa

    By now, just about everyone in San Francisco has tried seviche at least once, and though lime-cured seafood is hard to beat, it can, like anything else, get tired after a while. If you've reached this point, it's time you ordered the seviche mixto at the Peruvian-Spanish Fina Estampa -- a heaping plate of whitefish, prawns, mussels, squid, and onions, marinated in lemon juice, as opposed to lime, then touched with fiery aji chili sauce. Your taste buds have never... More >>

  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Thep Phanom

    There's something lively, cheerful, and undeniably authentic about the food at this Lower Haight classic: The chicken larb sparkles with mint and chili peppers; the hot-duck salad is earthly pleasure incarnate; the broiled prawns are sweeter and more delicious than you're used to; the peanut sauce is rich, chunky, and unfathomably deep. Other specialties include garlic-marinated, deep-fried quail, steamed seafood with basil and lemon leaves, skewered scallops with cucumber salad, and crab-stuffed, batter-fried prawns with Napa cabbage and garlic. The... More >>

  • Best Thai Plus

    Basil Thai Restaurant and Bar

    With its full bar, upbeat soundtrack, and chic décor, Basil makes you realize Thai food has come a long way. Classic pad thai and other standards are supplemented by innovative dishes such as the plamuk yang (grilled squid with tamarind vinaigrette) and a heavenly hoi ka ta (jumbo scallops with tempura long beans). Every meal at Basil should begin with po taak -- salmon, squid, and jumbo shrimp in a chili-lime-lemongrass broth so tantalizing you may need a few moments... More >>

  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    R & G Lounge

    The only time we ever dreamed about food was when we dreamt we were eating the crunchy prawns with candied walnuts and mayonnaise from the R & G Lounge. The food's terrific here, especially the stuff from the fish tanks that are the venue's dominant motif: roasted crab, batter-fried prawns, spot shrimp cooked two ways, whole steamed fish redolent of garlic and ginger. There are other, earthier delights as well: brisket with turnips, impeccably prepared fowl, exotic greens and vegetables... More >>

  • Most Healthy Chinese Food

    Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant

    This small and extraordinary dining emporium features tasty items fashioned from wheat gluten, interspersed with fresh vegetables such as the most succulent of mushrooms. Wheat gluten -- for those gourmets not in the know -- is the stuff that allows bread dough to snap together when pulled apart. It's nutritious, and, of course, free of animal fats. At Lucky Creation, gluten is shaped into delicious imitation meats for vegetarians who still fancy "pork," "beef," "fish," and "ham." The place is... More >>

  • Best Place to Rendezvous With a Secret Agent

    Li-Po

    You've seen it in a dozen Ian Fleming confections: The compelling-forbidding cavelike entrance, the golden Buddha grinning from his shrinelike crevasse, the picturesque lanterns dangling from the ceiling, the bar where a white-suited George Lazenby sips and waits. The supporting characters, placed atmospherically at tables and barstools, are impassive, wary, or colorfully verbose. This venerable Chinatown saloon (it was a sailor's hangout in Barbary Coast days) wears the exotic wickedness of its heritage like a badge of honor, and is... More >>

  • Best Jook

    Hing Lung

    The classic spot at which to sample jook -- the thick, soul-soothing rice porridge ribboned with scallions, fish heads, and other things -- is Sam Wo, legendary late-night purveyor of amusingly rude service, but the variety available at the larger, airier Hing Lung is far more extensive and (even to the untutored) surprisingly delicious. Abalone, roasted duck, fresh clams, and pork-blood curd (pass) are among the 19 jooks prepared and served, steaming hot; at the top of the list is... More >>

  • Best Chef

    Roland Passot of La Folie

    A staggering number of San Francisco restaurants serve up mind-blowing food -- Fleur de Lys, the Fifth Floor, and the Dining Room spring immediately to mind -- but Passot's incredible creations are not only in a class by themselves, they so completely transcend La Folie's unexciting, inelegant setting that the food demands separate and effusive notice. Luxurious ingredients are terrined and interwoven into transcendentally delicious artworks: duck consommé with foie gras flan, tuna and lobster tartare with osetra caviar, roti... More >>

  • Best Place to Hang Out and Feel Like One of the Guys

    Swan Oyster Depot

    You sit down on a rickety old stool at Swan's long, narrow marble counter and before you know it you're part of the establishment's large extended family. The humming atmosphere is warm, witty, and blue-collar, Old World courtly. The behind-the-counter wisecracks flow fast and furious as oysters are shucked, Dungeness is cracked, and regulars drop by for a bowl of chowder or the latest neighborhood gossip, adding to the whole schmooze-friendly experience. Watching the shucker-artists fillet a sand dab or... More >>

  • Best Place to Slurp Oysters

    Zuni Cafe

    Zuni is all about oysters -- well, and roasted chicken and people-watching, too -- the shucking of oysters, the slurping of them, the absolute Zen of them. The venue provides the classic setting in which to consume a platter: The battered zinc bar is present and accounted for, a long and fetching array of iced mollusks is displayed behind it, the varieties are noted on a chalkboard hanging above, and there's a chattering, hungry crowd enjoying draft beers and icy... More >>

  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Shalimar

    Most of the Indian restaurants around here are gorgeous, brocaded, teak-velvet palaces with spotlit Shivas in every crimson crevasse and humdrum, halfhearted food on every platter. Shalimar is exactly the opposite. In a tiny, noisy storefront setting of styrofoam cups, red plastic baskets, and fluorescent lights, a squad of Pakistani cooks can be seen chopping, skewering, and mixing up aromatic, delicious North Indian grub: fabulously moist, smoky tandoori chicken; creamy, earthy palak aloo fragrant with spinach and spice; pillowlike naan... More >>

  • Best Sushi, Pool, and Keno

    Peko Sushi

    Sometimes you're in the mood for a game of eight ball. Or maybe you'd rather drop a few bucks on keno. Or have a stiff drink. Or a spicy tuna roll with a side of sashimi, and then maybe a round of karaoke. Irving Street's Peko Sushi has all this and more -- darts, one of the most eclectic jukeboxes in San Francisco (from Abba to ZZ Top), plus a certain dive/sushi/Irish bar ambience that could never, ever be replicated... More >>

  • Best Undiscovered Sushi

    Yoshi-san's Monkichi

    One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the abundance of neighborhood sushi restaurants. That is, until everyone else in your neighborhood discovers your favorite spot, and you find yourself huddled with the hungry masses outside No-Name on Church Street, wondering why those bastards inside don't eat faster. One way to avoid this is Yoshi-san's Monkichi, where Yoshi himself mans the sushi bar with amazing skill and grace. Special rolls, veggie rolls, miraculously crisp tempura, and, for... More >>

  • Best Hamachi Sashimi

    We Be Sushi

    The taste of good hamachi (yellowtail) is hard to describe: It's clean, light, delicate, a bit oily, but a good oily -- in fact, a miraculous, melting, soul-soothing oiliness that, at its best, seems to avoid the digestive process altogether, traveling straight to the pleasure center of the brain. While there is good hamachi to be had all over San Francisco, the no-nonsense We Be has the best, as evidenced by the fact that our eyes seem to roll back... More >>

  • Best Atmosphere at a Sushi Restaurant

    Blowfish, Sushi to Die For

    The draw here isn't just the food, but the show: anime on multiple TV screens, manga art on the walls, pulsing techno on the sound system, Japanese toys on shelves behind the beverage and sushi bars, beautiful (some might say handsome) sushi chefs, and a staff as colorful as the crowd lining up at the bar and sometimes out the door. The sushi is good, although not the best in the city, but raising the dishes a notch is the... More >>

  • Best Sushi Restaurant to Which to Take a Microbiologist

    Kitaro Japanese Restaurant

    Kitaro's well-rounded menu has all the traditional Japanese food offerings: bento boxes, udon, and donburi. But it's the sushi people line up for, especially on weekends. Kitaro, which has a distinctly Asian-pop culture feel to it, offers both traditional sushi and its own seaweed-and-rice creations. And with its long list of vegetarian and completely fish-free sushilike rolls, Kitaro also gives vegetarians and paranoid microbiologists a chance to play. Shiitake mushrooms, ume (pickled plum), asparagus, green beans, eggplant, and other veggies... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Ton Kiang

    To the inveterate snacker, the tidbit fanatic, the unapologetic lover of tapas, antipasti, and other foods miniature, dim sum is Nirvana Central. It's delightful: A nosh-laden platter appears at your table, you point at the particular combination of culinary ingenuity that strikes your fancy, and before long the dumpling or fried prawn or sparerib in question gives way to others until an eclectically satisfying time has been had by all. What's most striking about Ton Kiang's fresh-from-the-steamer dim sum is... More >>

  • Best California Cuisine

    Eos

    California cuisine might best be described as the food that results when our state's uncommon confluence of cultures meets up here on the edge of the Pacific Rim -- several zillion acres of produce on the right, the largest ocean in the world on the left -- and goes at it with wok and Dungeness. At Eos, Eric Wong and Phil West have taken outstanding flavors from each side of the Pacific Rim and points between, commingled them with wit... More >>

  • Best Kaiseki Tasting Menu

    Elka's

    If you want to sample from someone who's been creating Asian-inspired dishes since before most people had even heard the word "fusion," here's where you should go -- and by the way, you should also judge everything else from this starting point. Elka Gilmore's East-meets-West cuisine is available in a prix fixe for $68, or $53 for vegetarians, while the funky wine list is presided over by Randall Graham of Bonny Doon.... More >>

  • Best Cajun Food

    Cajun Pacific

    From the moment a basket of hot, fresh corn bread arrives at the table, you know this dinner is going to be good. The jumbo muffins come in two flavors, the sweet ones and the hot ones, the latter featuring pieces of jalapeño. Actually, everything about Cajun Pacific is jumbo, except the place itself, which has all of four tables. No problem for the lucky few who get there early, but the rest must wait outside with their noses pressed... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Luau

    Punahele Island Grill

    This place is so authentic that a big pile of macaroni salad comes with every order -- only true Hawaiians know that macaroni salad is the unifying food of their modern culture. And the mounds of shredded pork on every plate are so succulent they dissolve before you can begin to chew. The relatively atmosphere-free room is also what Hawaiian luaus really look like; in fact, you almost feel you're at, say, a wedding reception as you sit next to... More >>

  • Best Restaurant That's Also a Vacation

    Forbes Island

    One of the most trying aspects of getting away from it all is actually having to go somewhere, and when you figure in traffic jams, airport delays, packing, unpacking, repacking, etc., enjoying yourself can be a real pain in the ass. Forbes Island offers an alternative. All you have to do is make your way down to Pier 39's H Dock, where a pontoon boat will ferry you to the world's only man-made floating island restaurant, complete with its own... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Food Despite the View

    Julius' Castle

    You can't apply the old canard "the better the view, the worse the food" to Julius' Castle. How can a place with such an exquisite panorama at its windowsills -- 270 unobstructed degrees of Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, East Bay, and other attractions -- serve such unhorrible, even very good, food? Chef Christopher Keeley's dishes aren't as cuttingly edgy as the adzuki-scented fare served over in Valencia Gulch, but they're usually delicious: sweetly seared sea scallops with wasabi-singed tobiko caviar; a... More >>

  • Best Restaurant to Which to Take Indecisive Out-of-Towners

    Straits Cafe

    If one of the burdens San Franciscans are saddled with is the frequency of out-of-town guests, we at least have enough options to satisfy even the most picky diners at those obligatory dinners out. Even so, everyone's got that aunt who can't decide between Chinese and Indian, or maybe Thai. Singapore lies at the crossroads of several culinary thoroughfares, blending influences from India, Malaysia, China, and elsewhere. Straits handles Singaporean fare with such mastery that it'll own your heart and... More >>

  • Best Place to Don Pinstripes and Exude Latent Power

    Fifth Floor

    You may not have a home in Pacific Heights and a summer place at Emerald Bay and a chauffeur to tend to your two Mercedes and Junior's Alfa Spider, but at the Fifth Floor you can pretend you do -- and the maitre d', chef, bartender, and busboys will encourage the fantasy. When you emerge from the Palomar Hotel's elevator into the Japanese-accented foyer, make your requisite stop at the clubby, handsome bar for a Bombay Sapphire martini, then settle... More >>

  • Best Place to Wear White

    Neo

    Actually, a lot of people tend to wear black here simply to be different. That's because everything at Neo is white. The tables, the walls, the plates, the chairs, the waitstaff's clothes, the menu -- even the facade of the building is shrouded in a billowy white curtain. The white does not have an entirely heavenly feel, however -- it's not bright or blinding, but instead approaches a cream, an eggshell, an off-white. Meanwhile, the food is quite colorful --... More >>

  • Best New Addition

    Delfina

    If you've ever wondered how Delfina could get any better, revisit the place now. The remodel is finished, adding seats to the front and space in the back, as well as a wood-fired oven. The restaurant is both larger and more comfortable -- and you'd never know that it wasn't always like this.... More >>

  • Best Argument for Reincarnation

    Bruno's Restaurant

    When the old Bruno's on Mission, built in the '40s but sitting empty and forlorn for decades, opened its doors, it ushered in a whole new era for the San Francisco scene. Swing and jazz and supper clubs and big plush booths all became hot again, and Bruno's was the molten center of the scene. Well, the flame burned bright but finally fizzled, and Bruno's was shut down. But, like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, or little Ricky Schroder on... More >>

  • Best American Restaurant

    The Blue Plate

    What do you think of when you think of good, down-home American cooking? Fried chicken? Thick steaks? Pork chops? Garden salads? French fries? Hominy grits? Berry cobbler? Chocolate cake? Banana cream pie? The stuff served up at the Blue Plate is delicious, but it isn't exactly down-home: The salads are lively with mizuma and grilled peaches, the potatoes are ribboned with huckleberries, and the cobbler's topped off with granola. But chef/owners Ian Wolff and Cory Obenour also know when to... More >>

  • Best Open, Close, and Reopen

    Dine

    There once was a restaurant named Marais Which opened and closed before you could say, "Hey." Then came a striking new room named Dine Where Chef McClasky's food really does shine. OK, we can't rhyme. But that doesn't mean Dine isn't pure poetry.... More >>

  • Most Romantic Restaurant

    Fleur de Lys

    The experience of eating here can only be likened to dining inside a sumptuously appointed, unabashedly elegant Arabian Nights oasis: The soft folds of the venue's enfolding tent glow in the candlelight, exotic florals dazzle their way toward a wrought-iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling, an attentive yet discreet waitstaff murmurs you through the sort of warmly amorous evening you'll remember with your grandkids (assuming the evening has the expected effect). Nothing beats Michael Taylor's starry, starry setting in the... More >>

  • Best Restaurant for a First Date

    Pasha

    What you mostly want on a first date are: 1) plenty of distractions for those inevitable glazed-over moments; 2) exotic cuisine that will show your date what a globe-trotter you are; 3) a possibly humiliating version of fun that will show your date what a sport you are; 4) comfy seating arrangements; 5) alcohol. Pasha has all these features in abundance. The distractions are numerous: an eye-filling setting of crimson, gold, brocaded cushions, exotic tapestries, and magic carpets; a live... More >>

  • Least Romantic Restaurant

    McDonald's

    Inside, ballooning dot-commers stand in line for Fillets O'Fish while raging at their hapless colleagues on their headset cell phones. Outside, half-dressed homeless people suck down Cokes while raging at passers-by who don't give them money. Chip some bird crap off one of the picnic tables on the traffic island in the middle of the drive-thru and sit down. Study the red-eyed, oil-stained, footless pigeons surrounding you, waiting hopefully for an errant french fry or, more likely, for you to... More >>

  • Best Restaurant With Which to Surprise Someone

    Curbside Too

    The tiny, French sister of Antoine Alliaume's Curbside Cafe may not be as well known as it should be. But that's a good thing, when you think about it, because what better way to impress someone special than taking her to a place of which she's never heard? Reasonably priced, classic French dishes -- the chicken stuffed with crab velouté and the rack of lamb with rosemary demi-glace being two of our favorites -- are served with seasonal vegetables so... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Trend

    Artisanal Cheeses

    The consumption of cheese is, of course, one of the great perks of being human, but despite its pure and wide-ranging wonderfulness -- especially in concert with some harmonizing species of fruit, and particularly at the end of a meal -- cheese as dessert course was a rarity in American restaurants for several years. But over the past decade the continuing influence of Alice Waters and her ethos of honoring the locally raised has been felt not only in the... More >>

  • Best Place to Forget It's All Happening

    Dago Mary's

    Perhaps you are a disgruntled bohemian who, facing an Ellis Act eviction by your new yuppie landlord, has decided to fight back via random vandalism of SUVs. Or maybe your SUV was recently vandalized by a disgruntled bohemian; or your IPO went through the ceiling, or through the floor, or out the window; or that annoying Clint Reilly keeps fucking with your sweetheart deal to buy the Examiner. Regardless, you'll be welcome at Dago Mary's, where good drinks, classic Italian-American... More >>

  • Best Temple to Charles Addams

    The Rooster

    The macabre wit of the late, great New Yorker cartoonist is alive and breeding at this strikingly realized Mission District restaurant. It's difficult to check out the interior design from outside; you have to commit yourself and plunge on in. Once past the heavy draperies, let your eyes adjust to the candlelight and absorb your surroundings: the gilt-framed mirrors, the numerous and individually wrought chandeliers dripping with faux crystal, the intricately flourished, salmon-hued walls, the faded Victorian opulence. Christina Ricci... More >>

  • Best Monday Night Dining

    Enrico's

    Like the rest of North Beach, Enrico's is overrun every weekend with what one might call a bridge, tunnel, and airport crowd. But on Mondays, empty tables, a streetside patio, good drinks (try the mojito), well-paced service, and a nice selection of tapas and entrees make this a singularly pleasurable destination. Urban in a quiet, tranquil sort of way. Classy, yet unpretentious. Casual, but refined. The kind of ambience that makes you sit back and think: "This is why I... More >>

  • Best Patio Dining

    The Terrace Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel

    Outdoor dining in wind-swept, fog-shrouded San Francisco? When it's accomplished amongst the shrub-buffered alfresco-ness of the Ritz-Carlton's garden courtyard adjoining the Terrace Restaurant, nestled on the sunny eastern slopes of Nob Hill, you betcha! And this isn't merely a lovely and elegant setting -- especially this time of year, with the planters overflowing with blossoms and the large central fountain murmuring an aquatic sound design -- the food is Ritz-worthy. The Friday evening Seafood Celebration is a ridiculously sumptuous buffet... More >>

  • Best French Restaurant

    LuLu

    This SOMA landmark -- a trailblazer when Reed Hearon opened its doors in 1992 -- is still going strong nearly a decade later, serving up fabulously rustic creations in a noisy, high-spirited, oft-imitated milieu. The ripest, most aromatic fruits and vegetables and the freshest meats and seafood are complemented with dense, delicious house-baked breads, a wide array of fine wines, and all manner of mustards, vinegars, and condiments created on the premises. The result is memorable French food, improbably hearty... More >>

  • Best Bar Dining

    Mecca

    Despite the city's seemingly endless supply of fine dining destinations -- an embarrassment of riches that, we've heard, may soon result in restaurants opening inside of one another for lack of space -- getting a table on a weekend at a popular spot can still be difficult, and Mecca is no exception. Fortunately, Mecca also serves its full menu at the bar, providing access to ever-changing, often-brilliant seasonal fare, not to mention those cool little peephole lights that make your... More >>

  • Oddest Anomaly in the San Francisco Dining Scene

    King Jamaican Restaurant

    "Is this even a restaurant?" the curious and hungry wonder upon entering the nondescript storefront with yellowed photographs pasted over the windows. Inside, there are glass display cases overflowing with Rastafarian and Afrocentric items, incense, T-shirts, and reggae tapes. On the walls hang posters of dreadlocked icons. A suspended television blares reggae concert footage. There's a pair of perpetually empty tables. There are apparently no shoppers, and no staff. Finally, after five or 10 minutes, somebody shows up from the... More >>

  • Best Restaurant in Which to Have a Cultural Identity Crisis

    Zante Pizza & Indian Food

    Zante Pizza & Indian Cuisine is the unexpectedly successful marriage of South Asian flavors, Italian food, and the gritty feel of an all-American dive -- right in the heart of the Mission, so it's surrounded by burrito joints and bodegas. Though the menu is an exhaustive list of mostly North Indian curry dishes, tandoori, and rice entrees, greasy pizzas rotate in a glass case in the window, making it possible to grab a slice of pepperoni with your mattar paneer... More >>

  • Best All-You- Can-Eat Pizza

    Goat Hill Pizza

    Goat Hill has been spinning pies for more than 20 years, since back when ordinary folk could actually afford to live on Potrero Hill, and it's changed very little in that time. It still has the same red candles and red-checkered tablecloths, and it also still has an all-you-can-eat pizza bash every Monday night beginning at 5 p.m., when servers weave through the crowded restaurant, balancing steaming pizzas above their heads, feeding the hungry masses slice by slice. Think of... More >>

  • Best Culinary Arrival in Recent Memory

    Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

    Finally. The hot glazed arrived in the Bay Area in March, and not a moment too soon -- for years, we've been yearning for this special treat to make its way across the country from the Southeast. There is no doughnut like the Krispy Kreme. Period. In fact, we're not sure the KK product should even be called a doughnut, as it is vastly different from that found at the common corner cop-stop. By now, you should know the drill:... More >>

  • Best Newly Arrived National Chain

    The Cheesecake Factory

    Say what you will about the continued chain invasion of San Francisco, the Cheesecake Factory boasts a couple of features from which some local restaurants could learn. First, there are few places here where you can go and be seated to just have dessert and coffee. Think any of your favorite chichi eateries, with their exquisite paeans to sugar, are going to slip you in between dining parties for a $20 tab? Hardly. Second, even with reservations, it's typical to... More >>

  • Best Unapologetic Gluttony

    Brunch at the Crown Room

    It's hard to beat a muffin and a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. Unless you throw in, say, a half-dozen glasses of champagne, poached salmon, smoked salmon, oysters, mussels, seviche, eggs Benedict, omelets, fresh-squeezed orange juice, French toast, bacon, sausage, blintzes, roast beef, cioppino, a few pastas, a salad or two, then maybe some cheesecake, fruit tarts, petits fours, and -- hell, that's just the stuff we can remember. For a hefty $38.50, brunch at the Fairmont makes... More >>

  • Best Brunch

    Absinthe

    Unlike any other meal of the day or week, brunch is all about laziness, and languor, and the civilized appreciation of sloth as both lifestyle and art form. It's the time you either spend on the couch with lox, bagels, and the Sunday paper, or out at a stupefyingly lavish buffet spread that will do nothing to erase your acedia. The third alternative is to go to a place like Absinthe (make that exactly like Absinthe), where the preparation and... More >>

  • Best Waffles

    Sears Fine Foods

    Sears, which turns 62 this year, is famous for a number of things -- its preserved-in-aspic coffee shop milieu, its (apocryphal?) Cadillac waiting room -- but mostly it's famous for its tiny, light-as-air Swedish pancakes. We can take pancakes or leave 'em, but we love our waffles. (We're not alone: Back in Colonial days, the Dutch of New York customarily presented newlyweds with specially engraved waffle irons.) The Sears version is every bit as good as its famous pancakes; the... More >>

  • Best Soul Food Breakfast in Chinatown

    Powell's Place #2

    Opened in February 2000 as a spinoff of the original Powell's Place on Hayes Street, the new location is co-owned by former 10-time award-winning cable car bell ringer Carl Payne, who's now a cop at the Central Station on the same block. (The restaurant is decorated with SFPD souvenirs.) While Powell's Place may be best known for its fried chicken, its breakfast (served 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is one of the best from-scratch dining bargains in the area. A... More >>

  • Best Italian Restaurant

    L'Osteria del Forno

    This here's the total North Beach experience: a tiny jewel of an eight-table storefront trattoria smack on Columbus Avenue where the neighborly waitstaff makes you feel right at home and the kitchen produces amazingly flavorful Old World delicacies. The food's necessarily simple -- the kitchen doesn't even have room for a stovetop -- but the brick-oven pizzas, daily pastas, and focaccia sandwiches are worth waiting in line for (an inevitability if you arrive at prime time), the antipasti include such... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Brother-in-Laws Bar-B-Que

    Really good barbecue's hard to come by within San Francisco's municipal limits, but Brother-in-Laws has got the spice-dripping, porcine-powered goods. The smell of it hits you from a block away: meltingly good ribs, snappy hot links, moist, tender chicken, and crumbly brisket cooking a good long time in the sort of sauce that could make a vegan stop and reflect upon paths not taken. Most customers get the stuff to go, but there are a couple of tables (authentically bereft... More >>

  • Best Steak

    Ruth's Chris Steak House

    Loath as I am to admit it, the flesh served up at local legends Harris' and Alfred's, good as it is, isn't up to the cholesterol available at that global consortium known as Ruth's Chris. The New Orleans-based chain offers steaks I once described as "deep-red whipped cream," so hyperbolic was my bliss state. The rich, deeply flavored strips, fillets, rib eyes, and T-bones can literally be cut with a fork; maybe it's the unfortunate animal's corny diet, maybe it's... More >>

  • Best Caesar Salad

    Alfred's Steakhouse

    The trouble with most Caesars nowadays is they're either supplemented beyond recognition with grilled chicken breast or, God help us, Chilean sea bass, or they're treated like some variety of garden-fresh health food. Nothing could be further from the truth. The true Caesar, the noble Caesar, the Caesar we fell in love with beyond all boundaries of reason at a Guadalajara hotel when we were 5 years old, fairly drips with oil and cheese and raw egg and briny, salty... More >>

  • Best Unhealth Food Item

    Roasted Marrow Bones at 42 Degrees

    So much artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising bad stuff to gobble, so little time. From all the foie gras, crèmes brûlées, fettuccine Alfredos, and hot fudge sundaes available in this town, how does one choose a singularly corruptive sensation when one really wants to tie one on? Look no further than the roasted marrow bones at 42 Degrees. They are as rich, unhealthy, and delicious as any three of the deadly sins, the essential creaminess of the soft, fatty vascular tissue barely counterpointed... More >>

  • Best Cornmeal Muffins

    Powell's Place #1

    Powell's serves perfectly respectable Southern food seven days a week, and the blues-brimming jukebox out front overflows with good music, but the focus, the locus, the pièce de résistance of this venerable rendezvous is its corn muffins. In this sourdough-lovin' city it's difficult to find a cornmeal muffin worthy of its heritage (i.e., the great American breadstuff), but Powell's is hot and moist and crumbly, not too sweet, faintly granular with cornmeal, rich with butter -- outside as well as... More >>

  • Best Trailer Park Grub

    Butter Bar

    Amidst the glitter and gurgle of Butter sits a rather lovely little trailer-cum-concession stand offering a different kind of late-night eating alternative. And though the line for the loo always outdoes the one for Spam sammies, these goodies shouldn't be neglected. Tater Tots -- prepared to that delightful middle ground between soggy and crispy -- are the hot item for apps. Beanee Weenees, mac 'n' cheese, Fritos chili pie, SpaghettiOs, and Swanson TV dinners (the real thing!) are on the... More >>

  • Best Late- Night Seafood

    Belon

    Imagine it: Midnight on a weekend, and damn it, once again you've forgotten to eat dinner. You're too dressed up for a burrito, got over Mel's long ago, and are hoping for something more ... refined, yet simple, yet elegantly prepared. And you wouldn't mind a bottle of champagne to wash it down. Enter the grand belon ($66) -- 18 oysters, 12 mussels, six littleneck clams, six shrimp, lots of periwinkles, and half a Dungeness crab. Throw in mussels à... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Steak

    Globe

    It might be the cozy atmosphere. It may be the stylish customers. It could be the great staff. But, most likely, it's the late-night steak frites for two. The dish is still the best reason to visit Globe at the end of a long night playing -- or working, for all you restaurant slaves.... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Chinese

    Yuet Lee

    Though drinking late into the night can harm the liver, the brain, and, in more extreme cases, the desire to continue living when you wake up the next morning, another unfortunate side effect is hunger. But since Yuet Lee is open until 3 a.m., last call means the party's just started. While we've never had a bad meal at Yuet Lee, the abalone with chicken over rice or the fresh squid with greens are the kind of dishes that haunt... More >>

  • Best Delivery, Greater Noe Valley

    Haystack Pizza

    If you live in one of these neighborhoods -- Noe Valley, the Mission, Diamond Heights, portions of Potrero Hill, Glen Park, call if you're not sure -- you are, as you may know, one of the blessed. Seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends), you can have some of the finest pizza in the city delivered to your door. Plus gigantic, well-made salads (try the shrimp or antipasto). Plus 15 vegetarian dishes. Plus veal... More >>

  • Best Place to Feel Like Part of a Community While Interfacing Via Computer

    Chat Café

    Chat Café, a fairly new addition to the Castro, bills itself as "part of a great neighborhood." And indeed, it breaks the lone-wolf stereotypes normally associated with Internet cafes. Owners Tom and Michael have gone to great lengths to promote neighborly behavior at their splashy, dog-friendly, techno-quaint establishment. The décor is cheery and bright -- mix-and-match furniture in the colors of iMacs, to complement the ones offering Internet access in the back (free with purchase of food or beverage). A... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Wine List

    PlumpJack Cafe

    Vino, one of humankind's most ancient triumphs, should be a communal pleasure accessible to one and all, not just to the bourgeois wastrel with the wine cellar and the '66 bordeaux. The owners and sommeliers of PlumpJack do their best to right the scales of grapely appreciation; the restaurant's exhaustive, eclectic wine list is known for its surprisingly affordable nature, and all selections are priced at retail, resulting in levies considerably below the norm. There's a wide variety of California... More >>

  • Best Female With a Bottle

    Renee-Nicole Kubin

    In a man's world, Renee-Nicole Kubin, sommelier at the four-star Danko, has a lot to offer. Not only does she know her grapes inside and out, but she can handle a bottle in ways that will make you blush. Flirtatious, bold, and a finish that lingers: We're not describing the wine.... More >>

  • Best Place to Contemplate the Meaning of It All

    The Deck at Kelly's Mission Rock

    There's nothing like a mile-long, 500-trillion-ton oil tanker (we may be exaggerating) to make you feel like just a drop in the river of life. Throw in sweeping bay views, good food, and a few close friends, and you may wonder why you always seem to be running around looking for something when, in reality, everything you need is right in front of you. Though Kelly's serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, and also hosts bands, the bayside deck is... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Buzzed on Lychees

    Lisa's on Folsom

    At Lisa's on Folsom, a funky Hunan Chinese "food bar," everything's done with a bit of a twist. Walls are painted turquoise (to improve the building's poor feng shui), clear glass display cases serve as dining tables, and there are "Chinese tapas" on the menu, not appetizers. But the fun late-night spot's greatest innovations are its fruit-infused vodka cocktails. There's lychee strawberry, pineapple watermelon, blood orange, lychee mango, and pineapple strawberry watermelon, to name a few. In fact, anything with... More >>

  • Best Controversial Transformation

    Blondie's

    Ah, the joy of a Tuesday night aperitif at Blondie's -- soft, lilting jazz, an open-air patio, and some of the best (and largest) cocktails in the city. But then: Ah, the horror of Blondie's on a weekend, when frat types, suburbanites -- to be honest, we don't know who they are -- spill from the patio onto the street, drown out whatever music is playing, and make ordering a drink almost impossible. Though this seems to happen everywhere in... More >>

  • Best Place to Make the Move

    The Lone Palm

    Human mating is often like a dance, an achingly delicate melding of two souls, each with its own fears and insecurities, hopes and desires, burning lusts, and unbelievably grotesque fetishes. Sometimes, hooking up happens all by itself, and before you know it you're shopping together at Good Vibrations. And then, sometimes, things need a nudge. This is where the Lone Palm comes in. White tablecloths and votive candles elevate the Lone Palm to a place far above the typical dive... More >>

  • Best Bar in Which to Squander a Sunny Late Afternoon

    Emma

    Nothing's more decadent than ignoring all of those deep-seated Puritan inclinations and spending a beautiful sunny afternoon, not hiking or picnicking or building a sandcastle, but sipping a tall cool drink in a sleepy saloon. The thing that makes Emma so ideal for this purpose is its beautiful and unsqualid interior. Situated in the San Remo Hotel, the bar opened in 1906 and was recently restored to its vintage grandeur, complete with intricate tiling, stained glass, and long wooden bar... More >>

  • Best Degree That Might Not Impress Prospective Employers

    Tequila Ph.D. From Tommy's Mexican Restaurant

    Higher education can be a bitch: classes, homework, thesises -- or are those theses? Regardless, after a while it makes your brain hurt. Unless, of course, the degree you seek is a tequila Ph.D. from Tommy's, where 145 pure blue agave tequilas, the largest selection outside Mexico, make for a unique educational opportunity. After a mere 70 double shots, plus a written test, you too will be among the few, the proud, the doctors of agave. Bartenders might do well... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    Mendocino Brewing Co.'s Eye of the Hawk Ale

    We're living in precarious times, but there are benefits to existing at this particular juncture in the cosmos: namely, the preponderance of really good beer. Mt. Tam Pale Ale, Lagunitas IPA, Pete's Wicked Lager -- the choices are endless. But Eye of the Hawk, brewed up in Ukiah since 1984, is perfectly splendid. It's got character, a robust sort of afterbite, and a crispness that's welcome on a hot day as well as with roast chicken, cassoulet, and other bistro... More >>

  • Best Micro- brewery Tour

    Anchor Brewing Company

    Those of us who love beer are particularly, universally enamored of Anchor's sudsy product, prepared as it is in such an interesting range of styles and flavors and with such craftsmanlike care (Anchor produces a mere 100,000 barrels a year, compared to, say, Sierra Nevada's 500,000). Touring the brewery's Potrero Hill plant is lots of fun. You begin in the handsome, mahogany-and-brass taproom, a friendly place decorated with toy beer trucks, vintage photographs, beer trays from around the world, and... More >>

  • Best Bloody Mary

    Golden Gate Ferry

    There's nothing particularly special about the Bloody Marys served on the ferryboats that embark, many times a day, for Sausalito and Larkspur -- your basic vodka, tomato juice, and Tabasco in a plastic cup; nothing so captivating as, for instance, the wasabi-and-sake-informed concoction prepared at Ponzu -- but the setting can't be beat. There's the salty, briny oxygen; the rhythmic swaying beneath your feet; the wheeling sea gulls and the bobbing sailboats and the stiff western breeze. And, at one... More >>

  • Least Pretentious Mission Bar

    The Attic

    We're not sure why exactly, but the Attic stands out from the rest of those see-and-be-seen haunts that have sprouted all over the Mission like mushrooms in cow manure. Maybe it's the dim lighting that lets you literally hide away at a back table, or the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink décor, or the well-worn stand-up piano that hosts periodic bizarro cabaret nights, or the intimate live music on Sundays. Whatever it is, it gives this place the most relaxed "neighborhood" vibe in an... More >>

  • Best Beer-Drinker's Resource

    The Toronado

    Regular stopovers at this Lower Haight watering hole are an education in both regional and international beer-making for the post-Miller generation. A call board above the bar lists 45 or so offerings on tap and hand pump, grouped by brewery (mostly local), and the selection generally includes both year-round local champs and hard-to-find seasonal offerings. Those with more far-searching desires pore over the chalkboard for the bottled offerings (heavy on Belgian ales -- the Toronado's specialty, if the place can... More >>

  • Best Flaming Bowl of Liquor

    The Scorpion

    While Trader Vic's in Emeryville boasts the most enormous Scorpion, and the Outer Richmond's Trad'r Sam's offers the tastiest Scorpion for the best value (with a frothy splash of champagne added, to boot), the Lilo's Scorpion bowl wins for presentation -- the Bacardi-fueled flame in its ceramic center adds just the right touch of tropical mystery. The exact ingredients remain a mystery as well. According to one waitress the sticky-sweet beverage is a concoction of "a bunch of rum, and... More >>

  • Best Place to Drink Between Sets at the Fillmore

    Someplace Else

    When the opening band turns off its amps and the crowd throngs upstairs to slake its thirst for alcohol, you're out of luck if you're not first in line. Sure, you might snake your way through to the bar -- and spill half your drink in the sea of elbows before the second act is onstage. Altogether better is to get your hand stamped and head down the street to Someplace Else. A normally uncrowded (even on weekends) and cozy... More >>

  • Best Selection of Beef

    Tehama Angus Ranch Annual Bull Sale

    Did you ever -- while sitting through an ill-crafted boyfriend excuse, some election-year political cant, or a high-concept minute of dot-com TV advertising -- get the feeling you were being sold a line of bull? And did you kind of, well, like the feeling? We hear you, and we've found just the place to fix your bull-sale jones. Bill Borror, owner of the Tehama Angus Ranch has plenty of bull for sale every September -- some of the finest, well-marbled... More >>

  • Best Bakery

    Boulangerie Bay Bread

    At long last a harmonic convergence has occurred, and food critics and consumers alike in this city of opinions and picky predilections have come to an agreement: Boulangerie Bay Bread is the best bakery in town. Whether you need a huge round of wheaty and sour levain for your road trip, a too-beautiful-to-eat fruit tart for entertaining clients at home, or a toothful and sugary almond croissant for your breakfast, this is the place to come. Don't let the long... More >>

  • Best Black Bean Cakes

    Eastern Bakery

    All black bean cakes come down to two elements -- the black bean filling and the surrounding crust -- and the Eastern scores high marks on both counts. The filling is rich, smooth, and almost creamy, with a deep, earthy quality that transcends sweetness; the flaky, lard-enriched crust is its perfect complement. For those purist aficionados of the black bean purée, period, the Rose Black Bean Cake is the way to go. It has three times the amount of filling... More >>

  • Best Fresh Vegetables With a Smile

    Valencia Farmers Market

    It's hard not to feel good about yourself as you stroll into the Valencia Farmers Mar-ket. Out front, lemons, oranges, pineapples, strawberries, and -- when in season -- fresh sweet cherries beckon to the passing herbivore. Inside, rows of bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and spinach -- not to mention celery, carrots, mushrooms, avocados, three kinds of tomatoes, even more kinds of potatoes, onions, leeks, broccoli, and Italian eggplant -- put the N in "Nice roughage!" Besides all this garden bounty,... More >>

  • Best Italian Cafe With Literary Flair

    Caffè Proust

    If you like a side of literature with your linguine, check out Caffè Proust. OK, so linguine's not on the menu, but other pastas are. And yes, Marcel Proust was French, but he was fond of Italy, and the proprietors of Caffè Proust are Italian, so there you are. The restaurant is a tribute to the writer, featuring "Proust references everywhere" (to quote its menu), as well as serving as home base for the Marcel Proust Support Group (www.proust.com). CP... More >>

  • Best Cioppino

    Florio

    If anything could be called San Francisco's municipal dish, it would be cioppino. Invented by Italian fishermen working the bay a century ago, it is related to bouillabaisse and cacciucco Livornese and other Mediterranean fish stews in its wine-garlic-tomato-based character, but cioppino includes Dungeness crab and other local sea creatures and features a richer, spicier texture than these Old World dishes. (Another mark of its local character: It is unimaginable without sourdough on the side.) Florio's version is impeccable; the... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Duck

    La Villa Poppi

    So much promise, so much disappointment. Duck can be such a moist, juicy, crispy, smoky, wonderfully fragrant experience, but it all too frequently ends up on the platter heavy and overdone, with all the pleasure cooked out of it. Not at La Villa Poppi, however, where owner/chef Greg Sweeting, a veteran of many an Italian kitchen, has been known to feature the fowl on his oft-changing menu with spectacular results. "The duck is the way we did it in the... More >>

  • Best Homemade Gourmet Lunch in Hunters Point

    The Outback Cafe

    When developers break ground at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the Outback Cafe will finally begin to get the business it deserves. Until then, it will remain an oasis on the edge of an EPA Superfund site. The little cafe is truly one of the best-kept secrets in the neighborhood -- many people who have lived or worked in the area for years have never discovered it, which is all the better for the few who go there every day for... More >>

  • Best Waiters

    Sam's Grill

    One of the first restaurants we remember going to as a kid was Schroeder's, the century-old German joint on Front Street. The stags' heads and beer steins were certainly noteworthy, but what impressed us most was our waiter, a brisk, tuxedo-clad pro with a perpetually raised left eyebrow and a mordant sense of humor. Later in life we realized that the waitstaffs at all of San Francisco's old-time Financial District restaurants -- Tadich's, John's Grill, et al. -- are entirely... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Painting, Revisited

    The Kiss II

    Last year, we gave this honor to The Butler's in Love -- Absinthe, at Bix, by artist Mark Stock. But a funny thing happened while we were researching the award: Staff at Bix provided a postcard depicting Butler, plus another of The Kiss II, which also hangs at Bix and was also, as it so happens, painted by Stock. We put both on our desk, contemplated them for a year, and while the eerily smoldering Butler is still one of... More >>

  • Best Gelato

    Ciao Bella

    There is ice cream, and then there is gelato, the dense, intense ambrosia that is so readily available in Firenze and Roma and more or less nonexistent hereabouts (despite nominal imitations). The Ciao Bella version, however, is perfectly wonderful. The company started in New York's Little Italy in 1983 and currently manufactures its mind-altering product in two places -- New Jersey and here, smack in the middle of SOMA. At its adjacent cafe you can sample such varieties as Scharffen... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    Mutsuhiko Murashige has mastered all the standards of the all-American treat while adding a few improvements of his own. At Joe's, one can indulge in a green tea sundae or two scoops of adzuki bean ice cream. Murashige immigrated to San Francisco from Japan and bought the little Richmond District ice cream parlor that had been selling cones since World War II. He didn't change the name because Joe's was easy for customers to remember and pronounce. But Murashige did... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    xyz

    There are a few special moments that make life worth living: your wedding day; the birth of your first child; the waiter saying, "Would you like to look at the dessert menu?" Many's the time the carte in question has not crowned (or rescued) the preceding meal with sufficient succulence, but Salina Rubio's contribution -- the finest reading this side of M.F.K. Fisher -- is one damnably delicious thing after another. There's the triple chocolate terrine, a dense, decadent devil's... More >>

  • Best Place to Suck Giant Tapioca Balls Through a Straw

    Wonderful Food Company

    Watch out, Jamba Juice -- Taiwanese pearl milk teas are poised to be the next liquid craze. The drink -- a delicious concoction of giant tapioca balls, condensed milk, and black tea -- is a near-addictive Asian treat that began gaining popularity in the States a few years ago. San Francisco picked up on the trend early, and a number of spots in the Richmond and the Sunset serve the drink, though each milk tea joint has its own secret... More >>

  • Best Cafe Mocha

    Alfred Schilling Chocolate, Pastry & Restaurant

    We've made mistakes in our lives, we admit. Once we tried a Starbucks frapuccino, and it tasted like the milk left over after eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. We're adults, for chrissake (our Pez addiction notwithstanding). To complete the finicky, sophisticated, bon vivant lifestyle we so carefully attempt to project, we turn to chocolatier Alfred Schilling's velvety dark cafe mocha every time. Both sophisticated and primal, this mocha takes us on forays Juan Valdez never imagined. (Schilling's exotic décor... More >>

  • Best Internet Cafe

    Quetzal

    Unlike some Internet cafes, in which computers seem like an afterthought, at Quetzal they are the centerpiece: 10 new iMacs in a rainbow of colors, with high-speed DSL access at only 16 cents per minute, or $9.95 per hour. But the cafe has much more to offer: coffee drinks served in super-sized cups; a large, serious menu of sandwiches, bagels, breakfast items, salads, soups, pizzas, and beverages; and big-screen TV. It also has the three qualities a serious cafegoer deems... More >>

  • Best Place to Chill Out

    Imperial Tea Court

    There's Golden Gate Park, but you never know when an errant Frisbee's gonna smack you upside the head. There's a trip up the coast, but outwardly directed road rage is a dangerous and ever-present probability. No, give us the Imperial Tea Court when the stresses of daily life have taken their toll and a little quiet time is absolutely imperative. Despite its location near the always-bustling North Beach-Chinatown border, this quiet, wood-paneled venue is a thoroughly soothing getaway spot. The... More >>

  • Best Sushi and Then Some

    Moki's Sushi and Pacific Grill

    If you haven't been to Moki's, we strongly -- nay, vehemently -- urge you to get your ass to Bernal Heights tout de suite. A brilliant sashimi combination is surpassed only by even-more-brilliant specialty maki, or, for those who prefer their food cooked, Polynesian-inspired dishes such as spicy corn fritters with Indonesian soy sauce, dayboat scallops, and a luscious sterling salmon with mango-cucumber sambal. If you like sushi but your date does not, this is the place to go. And,... More >>

  • Best Restaurant

    Gary Danko

    You sit down at the tiny bar, slightly disappointed that the surroundings aren't as elegant as they were at Chef Danko's last showcase, the Dining Room. Then you get into the lively, friendly rhythm of the place and you realize that although it may not be as finely appointed as, say, the Fifth Floor, Restaurant Gary Danko is more fun. Once you're seated, an amuse-bouche of silky asparagus-basil soup with morsels of lobster is offered for consumption, after which the... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Lapis

    You're dazzled the moment you walk in -- by the light, airy ambience, the sweeping bay views, the soaring ceilings, the rich draperies, the dramatically backlit bar, the thickly embroidered banquettes, and the deep-blue Mediterranean shade that informs not only the restaurant's color scheme but its menu as well. Chef Thomas Ricci has absorbed the width and breadth of the Mediterranean Basin, from Algiers to Istanbul, taking the unifying ingredients of fennel, eggplant, tahini, olives, pomegranate, garlic, garbanzos, and mint,... More >>

  • Best Bistro

    Zax

    This North Beach hideaway-hangout features a hip, arty ambience, a friendly bar ideal for single dining, and stellar, reasonably priced food of the Provençal variety: everything you need for the total bistro experience. The monthly changing, seasonally informed menu is made up of only six starters and six entrees, resulting in concentrated servings of culinary wit: a salad of mustardy frisée, sweet-smoky bacon, and three duck livers hot from the skillet, a perfectly poached egg perched atop; a twice-baked, crunchy-on-the-outside,... More >>

  • Best Discount Food Store

    The Bargain Bank

    Since opening in March 1999, the Bargain Bank has become a neighborhood magnet for its incredible buys on a vast, ever-changing array of food, candy, beverages, and household items, which come from overstocked suppliers. If you see something you like, better buy in quantity, because it could be gone within days or even hours. Beer and wine go for barely half the prices they sell for elsewhere. Candy is typically $1 a pound, breakfast cereal under $1.50 (for a box... More >>

  • Best Farmers' Market

    Heart of the City Farmers' Market

    If you can make a habit of stopping by here Wednesday or Sunday mornings, your days of picking through Safeway's much-fingered produce in search of a single ripe vegetable are over. Here you'll find stall after stall of California's seasonal output, all perfectly ripe and ready to eat, not to mention for sale at penny-on-the-dollar prices compared to local supermarkets. (A wad of ones and a pocketful of change will have you loaded down with more veggies than you can... More >>

  • Best Place to Grocery Shop Without Ever Leaving Your House

    Webvan.com

    Its prices rival those of any supermarket chain, and as of now, there's no delivery charge for orders over $50, so why endure the fluorescent lighting if you don't have to? Webvan will bring almost any imaginable food item to your door -- including fresh produce, meat, and seafood -- as well as your favorite wine, beer, soap, and shampoo. Let's face it: We're all creatures of habit, and Webvan considers this. Each time you place an order, a personal... More >>

  • Best Chinese Grocery

    New May Wah Supermarket

    The great thing about Clement Street -- the foggier, more pristine, latter-day Chinatown -- is the hustle and bustle and colorful produce of the original model, reinterpreted for the semi-suburban melting pot of the Richmond. The May Wah outlet on Irving is sunnier and more expansive, but the Clement venue makes you feel like you're shopping for dinner in some exotic Pacific Rim bazaar (which, of course, you are). Out front is a dazzling display of fruits, vegetables, and herbs... More >>

  • Best Russian Deli

    Gastronom

    No one beats the Russians when it comes to noshing, as Gastronom ably demonstrates. This sunny corner delicatessen overflows with the delicious sorts of tidbits that make full-fledged meals seem so unnecessary: tubs of red and black caviar, smoked salmon, herring, and whitefish, pâtés, three kinds of mushroom salad, a dozen cheeses, dolmas, flaky coulibiac, piroshki of all sorts, two dozen varieties of sausage, a silky beet-cabbage salad -- everything you need for the zakuski table. The shelves are stocked... More >>

  • Best Selection of Truffles

    XOX Truffles

    Open since late 1998, XOX Truffles is owned and operated by Jean Marc Gorce, a classically trained chef from France who spent five years as chef de cuisine at the celebrated San Francisco restaurant Fringale, followed by a stint as chef for the Westin St. Francis. After Gorce suffered a heart attack and was told to reduce the stress in his life, he retired from the restaurant business and opened this tiny shop and cafe with his wife, Casimira. They... More >>

  • Best (and Freshest) Gourmet Coffee Deal

    Cafe Abir

    There are as many theories on the best cup of coffee as there are caffeine junkies to dream them up. But the quality that isn't up for dispute is the "fresh-roasted" label; it's bandied about to describe everything from cans of Folgers to the beans in Starbucks' espresso concoctions. What's left unsaid in every bean-seller's claim is that roasted coffee beans rapidly lose their flavor; in a matter of days, many of the subtle tones that roasting imparts to the... More >>

  • Best Six Blocks of Liquor Stores

    Guerrero Street Between 18th and 24th Streets

    A liquor store can be more than a store that sells liquor, and when there is one, or more than one, at every cross street, it had better be -- if it wants to survive. Hence this liquor store-abundant stretch of Guerrero, where, if you haven't dropped by Pay & Save Liquor and Grocery at 18th in a while, the clerk may tell you he misses you, his eyes pleading for your return. Of course, you won't have the heart... More >>

  • Best Place to Find a Latvian Liqueur

    Cannery Wine Cellars

    When you need just the right wine, beer, aperitif, or liqueur to complement your authentic ethnic feast, head on down to this whimsical, impressively stocked emporium of high spirits. There are acres of well-organized vino, of course, but the fun of the place is its wide array of exotic booze: Croatian pelinkovac, Czech carlsbad, Hungarian unicum, Peruvian pisco, Turkish raki, cherry liqueur from Poland, orange brandy from Mexico, and on and on. One wall is dedicated to beers from Lebanon,... More >>

  • Best Spanish Restaurant

    B44

    The thing most local Spanish restaurants lack is the distinctive energy of the original model, especially the vida loca pizazz to be found in Barcelona's ever-buzzing tapas bars and bodegas. B44 is tucked into an alleyway not unlike those that harbor many bistros found in Barcelona's old quarter; the sidewalk out front overflows with diners enjoying the positively Catalan sunshine; the exposed-concrete, primary-colored, modern-industrial setting is totally Gaudi; the handsome bar is stocked with wines and sherries, España's favorite libations.... More >>

  • Best Abondigas

    La Rondalla

    647-7474 Yes, it is fun to say "best abondigas." But really, these are the best meatballs, as in meatball soup, in town. Their girth is somewhere between that of a golf ball and a baseball, the meat still pink on the inside, and huge pieces of zucchini, potato, and carrot give new meaning to the phrase "La sopa that eats like a meal." Throw in a squeeze of lemon -- and perhaps a strawberry margarita on the side -- and... More >>

  • Best Alternative Seviche

    La Fina Estampa

    By now, just about everyone in San Francisco has tried seviche at least once, and though lime-cured seafood is hard to beat, it can, like anything else, get tired after a while. If you've reached this point, it's time you ordered the seviche mixto at the Peruvian-Spanish Fina Estampa -- a heaping plate of whitefish, prawns, mussels, squid, and onions, marinated in lemon juice, as opposed to lime, then touched with fiery aji chili sauce. Your taste buds have never... More >>

  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Thep Phanom

    There's something lively, cheerful, and undeniably authentic about the food at this Lower Haight classic: The chicken larb sparkles with mint and chili peppers; the hot-duck salad is earthly pleasure incarnate; the broiled prawns are sweeter and more delicious than you're used to; the peanut sauce is rich, chunky, and unfathomably deep. Other specialties include garlic-marinated, deep-fried quail, steamed seafood with basil and lemon leaves, skewered scallops with cucumber salad, and crab-stuffed, batter-fried prawns with Napa cabbage and garlic. The... More >>

  • Best Thai Plus

    Basil Thai Restaurant and Bar

    With its full bar, upbeat soundtrack, and chic décor, Basil makes you realize Thai food has come a long way. Classic pad thai and other standards are supplemented by innovative dishes such as the plamuk yang (grilled squid with tamarind vinaigrette) and a heavenly hoi ka ta (jumbo scallops with tempura long beans). Every meal at Basil should begin with po taak -- salmon, squid, and jumbo shrimp in a chili-lime-lemongrass broth so tantalizing you may need a few moments... More >>

  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    R&G Lounge

    The only time we ever dreamed about food was when we dreamt we were eating the crunchy prawns with candied walnuts and mayonnaise from the R & G Lounge. The food's terrific here, especially the stuff from the fish tanks that are the venue's dominant motif: roasted crab, batter-fried prawns, spot shrimp cooked two ways, whole steamed fish redolent of garlic and ginger. There are other, earthier delights as well: brisket with turnips, impeccably prepared fowl, exotic greens and vegetables... More >>

  • Most Healthy Chinese Food

    Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant

    This small and extraordinary dining emporium features tasty items fashioned from wheat gluten, interspersed with fresh vegetables such as the most succulent of mushrooms. Wheat gluten -- for those gourmets not in the know -- is the stuff that allows bread dough to snap together when pulled apart. It's nutritious, and, of course, free of animal fats. At Lucky Creation, gluten is shaped into delicious imitation meats for vegetarians who still fancy "pork," "beef," "fish," and "ham." The place is... More >>

  • Best Place to Rendezvous With a Secret Agent

    Li-Po

    You've seen it in a dozen Ian Fleming confections: The compelling-forbidding cavelike entrance, the golden Buddha grinning from his shrinelike crevasse, the picturesque lanterns dangling from the ceiling, the bar where a white-suited George Lazenby sips and waits. The supporting characters, placed atmospherically at tables and barstools, are impassive, wary, or colorfully verbose. This venerable Chinatown saloon (it was a sailor's hangout in Barbary Coast days) wears the exotic wickedness of its heritage like a badge of honor, and is... More >>

  • Best Jook

    Hing Lung

    The classic spot at which to sample jook -- the thick, soul-soothing rice porridge ribboned with scallions, fish heads, and other things -- is Sam Wo, legendary late-night purveyor of amusingly rude service, but the variety available at the larger, airier Hing Lung is far more extensive and (even to the untutored) surprisingly delicious. Abalone, roasted duck, fresh clams, and pork-blood curd (pass) are among the 19 jooks prepared and served, steaming hot; at the top of the list is... More >>

  • Best Chef

    Roland Passot of La Folie

    A staggering number of San Francisco restaurants serve up mind-blowing food -- Fleur de Lys, the Fifth Floor, and the Dining Room spring immediately to mind -- but Passot's incredible creations are not only in a class by themselves, they so completely transcend La Folie's unexciting, inelegant setting that the food demands separate and effusive notice. Luxurious ingredients are terrined and interwoven into transcendentally delicious artworks: duck consommé with foie gras flan, tuna and lobster tartare with osetra caviar, roti... More >>

  • Best Place to Hang Out and Feel Like One of the Guys

    Swan Oyster Depot

    You sit down on a rickety old stool at Swan's long, narrow marble counter and before you know it you're part of the establishment's large extended family. The humming atmosphere is warm, witty, and blue-collar, Old World courtly. The behind-the-counter wisecracks flow fast and furious as oysters are shucked, Dungeness is cracked, and regulars drop by for a bowl of chowder or the latest neighborhood gossip, adding to the whole schmooze-friendly experience. Watching the shucker-artists fillet a sand dab or... More >>

  • Best Place to Slurp Oysters

    Zuni Cafe

    Zuni is all about oysters -- well, and roasted chicken and people-watching, too -- the shucking of oysters, the slurping of them, the absolute Zen of them. The venue provides the classic setting in which to consume a platter: The battered zinc bar is present and accounted for, a long and fetching array of iced mollusks is displayed behind it, the varieties are noted on a chalkboard hanging above, and there's a chattering, hungry crowd enjoying draft beers and icy... More >>

  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Shalimar

    Most of the Indian restaurants around here are gorgeous, brocaded, teak-velvet palaces with spotlit Shivas in every crimson crevasse and humdrum, halfhearted food on every platter. Shalimar is exactly the opposite. In a tiny, noisy storefront setting of styrofoam cups, red plastic baskets, and fluorescent lights, a squad of Pakistani cooks can be seen chopping, skewering, and mixing up aromatic, delicious North Indian grub: fabulously moist, smoky tandoori chicken; creamy, earthy palak aloo fragrant with spinach and spice; pillowlike naan... More >>

  • Best Sushi, Pool, and Keno

    Peko Sushi

    Sometimes you're in the mood for a game of eight ball. Or maybe you'd rather drop a few bucks on keno. Or have a stiff drink. Or a spicy tuna roll with a side of sashimi, and then maybe a round of karaoke. Irving Street's Peko Sushi has all this and more -- darts, one of the most eclectic jukeboxes in San Francisco (from Abba to ZZ Top), plus a certain dive/sushi/Irish bar ambience that could never, ever be replicated... More >>

  • Best Undiscovered Sushi

    Yoshi-san's Monkichi

    One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the abundance of neighborhood sushi restaurants. That is, until everyone else in your neighborhood discovers your favorite spot, and you find yourself huddled with the hungry masses outside No-Name on Church Street, wondering why those bastards inside don't eat faster. One way to avoid this is Yoshi-san's Monkichi, where Yoshi himself mans the sushi bar with amazing skill and grace. Special rolls, veggie rolls, miraculously crisp tempura, and, for... More >>

  • Best Hamachi Sashimi

    We Be Sushi

    The taste of good hamachi (yellowtail) is hard to describe: It's clean, light, delicate, a bit oily, but a good oily -- in fact, a miraculous, melting, soul-soothing oiliness that, at its best, seems to avoid the digestive process altogether, traveling straight to the pleasure center of the brain. While there is good hamachi to be had all over San Francisco, the no-nonsense We Be has the best, as evidenced by the fact that our eyes seem to roll back... More >>

  • Best Atmosphere at a Sushi Restaurant

    Blowfish Sushi to Die For

    The draw here isn't just the food, but the show: anime on multiple TV screens, manga art on the walls, pulsing techno on the sound system, Japanese toys on shelves behind the beverage and sushi bars, beautiful (some might say handsome) sushi chefs, and a staff as colorful as the crowd lining up at the bar and sometimes out the door. The sushi is good, although not the best in the city, but raising the dishes a notch is the... More >>

  • Best Sushi Restaurant to Which to Take a Microbiologist

    Kitaro Japanese Restaurant

    Kitaro's well-rounded menu has all the traditional Japanese food offerings: bento boxes, udon, and donburi. But it's the sushi people line up for, especially on weekends. Kitaro, which has a distinctly Asian-pop culture feel to it, offers both traditional sushi and its own seaweed-and-rice creations. And with its long list of vegetarian and completely fish-free sushilike rolls, Kitaro also gives vegetarians and paranoid microbiologists a chance to play. Shiitake mushrooms, ume (pickled plum), asparagus, green beans, eggplant, and other veggies... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Ton Kiang

    To the inveterate snacker, the tidbit fanatic, the unapologetic lover of tapas, antipasti, and other foods miniature, dim sum is Nirvana Central. It's delightful: A nosh-laden platter appears at your table, you point at the particular combination of culinary ingenuity that strikes your fancy, and before long the dumpling or fried prawn or sparerib in question gives way to others until an eclectically satisfying time has been had by all. What's most striking about Ton Kiang's fresh-from-the-steamer dim sum is... More >>

  • Best California Cuisine

    Eos Restaurant and Wine Salon

    California cuisine might best be described as the food that results when our state's uncommon confluence of cultures meets up here on the edge of the Pacific Rim -- several zillion acres of produce on the right, the largest ocean in the world on the left -- and goes at it with wok and Dungeness. At Eos, Eric Wong and Phil West have taken outstanding flavors from each side of the Pacific Rim and points between, commingled them with wit... More >>

  • Best Kaiseki Tasting Menu

    Elka's

    If you want to sample from someone who's been creating Asian-inspired dishes since before most people had even heard the word "fusion," here's where you should go -- and by the way, you should also judge everything else from this starting point. Elka Gilmore's East-meets-West cuisine is available in a prix fixe for $68, or $53 for vegetarians, while the funky wine list is presided over by Randall Graham of Bonny Doon.... More >>

  • Best Cajun Food

    Cajun Pacific

    From the moment a basket of hot, fresh corn bread arrives at the table, you know this dinner is going to be good. The jumbo muffins come in two flavors, the sweet ones and the hot ones, the latter featuring pieces of jalapeño. Actually, everything about Cajun Pacific is jumbo, except the place itself, which has all of four tables. No problem for the lucky few who get there early, but the rest must wait outside with their noses pressed... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Luau

    Punahele Island Grill

    This place is so authentic that a big pile of macaroni salad comes with every order -- only true Hawaiians know that macaroni salad is the unifying food of their modern culture. And the mounds of shredded pork on every plate are so succulent they dissolve before you can begin to chew. The relatively atmosphere-free room is also what Hawaiian luaus really look like; in fact, you almost feel you're at, say, a wedding reception as you sit next to... More >>

  • Best Restaurant That's Also a Vacation

    Forbes Island

    One of the most trying aspects of getting away from it all is actually having to go somewhere, and when you figure in traffic jams, airport delays, packing, unpacking, repacking, etc., enjoying yourself can be a real pain in the ass. Forbes Island offers an alternative. All you have to do is make your way down to Pier 39's H Dock, where a pontoon boat will ferry you to the world's only man-made floating island restaurant, complete with its own... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Food Despite the View

    Julius' Castle

    You can't apply the old canard "the better the view, the worse the food" to Julius' Castle. How can a place with such an exquisite panorama at its windowsills -- 270 unobstructed degrees of Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, East Bay, and other attractions -- serve such unhorrible, even very good, food? Chef Christopher Keeley's dishes aren't as cuttingly edgy as the adzuki-scented fare served over in Valencia Gulch, but they're usually delicious: sweetly seared sea scallops with wasabi-singed tobiko caviar; a... More >>

  • Best Restaurant to Which to Take Indecisive Out-of-Towners

    Straits Cafe

    If one of the burdens San Franciscans are saddled with is the frequency of out-of-town guests, we at least have enough options to satisfy even the most picky diners at those obligatory dinners out. Even so, everyone's got that aunt who can't decide between Chinese and Indian, or maybe Thai. Singapore lies at the crossroads of several culinary thoroughfares, blending influences from India, Malaysia, China, and elsewhere. Straits handles Singaporean fare with such mastery that it'll own your heart and... More >>

  • Best Place to Don Pinstripes and Exude Latent Power

    Fifth Floor

    You may not have a home in Pacific Heights and a summer place at Emerald Bay and a chauffeur to tend to your two Mercedes and Junior's Alfa Spider, but at the Fifth Floor you can pretend you do -- and the maitre d', chef, bartender, and busboys will encourage the fantasy. When you emerge from the Palomar Hotel's elevator into the Japanese-accented foyer, make your requisite stop at the clubby, handsome bar for a Bombay Sapphire martini, then settle... More >>

  • Best Place to Wear White

    Neo

    Actually, a lot of people tend to wear black here simply to be different. That's because everything at Neo is white. The tables, the walls, the plates, the chairs, the waitstaff's clothes, the menu -- even the facade of the building is shrouded in a billowy white curtain. The white does not have an entirely heavenly feel, however -- it's not bright or blinding, but instead approaches a cream, an eggshell, an off-white. Meanwhile, the food is quite colorful --... More >>

  • Best New Addition

    Pizzeria Delfina

    If you've ever wondered how Delfina could get any better, revisit the place now. The remodel is finished, adding seats to the front and space in the back, as well as a wood-fired oven. The restaurant is both larger and more comfortable -- and you'd never know that it wasn't always like this.... More >>

  • Best Argument for Reincarnation

    Bruno's Restaurant

    When the old Bruno's on Mission, built in the '40s but sitting empty and forlorn for decades, opened its doors, it ushered in a whole new era for the San Francisco scene. Swing and jazz and supper clubs and big plush booths all became hot again, and Bruno's was the molten center of the scene. Well, the flame burned bright but finally fizzled, and Bruno's was shut down. But, like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, or little Ricky Schroder on... More >>

  • Best American Restaurant

    The Blue Plate

    What do you think of when you think of good, down-home American cooking? Fried chicken? Thick steaks? Pork chops? Garden salads? French fries? Hominy grits? Berry cobbler? Chocolate cake? Banana cream pie? The stuff served up at the Blue Plate is delicious, but it isn't exactly down-home: The salads are lively with mizuma and grilled peaches, the potatoes are ribboned with huckleberries, and the cobbler's topped off with granola. But chef/owners Ian Wolff and Cory Obenour also know when to... More >>

  • Best Open, Close, and Reopen

    Dine

    There once was a restaurant named Marais Which opened and closed before you could say, "Hey." Then came a striking new room named Dine Where Chef McClasky's food really does shine. OK, we can't rhyme. But that doesn't mean Dine isn't pure poetry.... More >>

  • Most Romantic Restaurant

    Fleur De Lys

    The experience of eating here can only be likened to dining inside a sumptuously appointed, unabashedly elegant Arabian Nights oasis: The soft folds of the venue's enfolding tent glow in the candlelight, exotic florals dazzle their way toward a wrought-iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling, an attentive yet discreet waitstaff murmurs you through the sort of warmly amorous evening you'll remember with your grandkids (assuming the evening has the expected effect). Nothing beats Michael Taylor's starry, starry setting in the... More >>

  • Best Restaurant for a First Date

    Pasha

    What you mostly want on a first date are: 1) plenty of distractions for those inevitable glazed-over moments; 2) exotic cuisine that will show your date what a globe-trotter you are; 3) a possibly humiliating version of fun that will show your date what a sport you are; 4) comfy seating arrangements; 5) alcohol. Pasha has all these features in abundance. The distractions are numerous: an eye-filling setting of crimson, gold, brocaded cushions, exotic tapestries, and magic carpets; a live... More >>

  • Least Romantic Restaurant

    McDonald's

    Inside, ballooning dot-commers stand in line for Fillets O'Fish while raging at their hapless colleagues on their headset cell phones. Outside, half-dressed homeless people suck down Cokes while raging at passers-by who don't give them money. Chip some bird crap off one of the picnic tables on the traffic island in the middle of the drive-thru and sit down. Study the red-eyed, oil-stained, footless pigeons surrounding you, waiting hopefully for an errant french fry or, more likely, for you to... More >>

  • Best Restaurant With Which to Surprise Someone

    Curbside Too

    The tiny, French sister of Antoine Alliaume's Curbside Cafe may not be as well known as it should be. But that's a good thing, when you think about it, because what better way to impress someone special than taking her to a place of which she's never heard? Reasonably priced, classic French dishes -- the chicken stuffed with crab velouté and the rack of lamb with rosemary demi-glace being two of our favorites -- are served with seasonal vegetables so... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Trend

    Artisanal Cheeses

    The consumption of cheese is, of course, one of the great perks of being human, but despite its pure and wide-ranging wonderfulness -- especially in concert with some harmonizing species of fruit, and particularly at the end of a meal -- cheese as dessert course was a rarity in American restaurants for several years. But over the past decade the continuing influence of Alice Waters and her ethos of honoring the locally raised has been felt not only in the... More >>

  • Best Place to Forget It's All Happening

    Dago Mary's

    Perhaps you are a disgruntled bohemian who, facing an Ellis Act eviction by your new yuppie landlord, has decided to fight back via random vandalism of SUVs. Or maybe your SUV was recently vandalized by a disgruntled bohemian; or your IPO went through the ceiling, or through the floor, or out the window; or that annoying Clint Reilly keeps fucking with your sweetheart deal to buy the Examiner. Regardless, you'll be welcome at Dago Mary's, where good drinks, classic Italian-American... More >>

  • Best Temple to Charles Addams

    The Rooster

    The macabre wit of the late, great New Yorker cartoonist is alive and breeding at this strikingly realized Mission District restaurant. It's difficult to check out the interior design from outside; you have to commit yourself and plunge on in. Once past the heavy draperies, let your eyes adjust to the candlelight and absorb your surroundings: the gilt-framed mirrors, the numerous and individually wrought chandeliers dripping with faux crystal, the intricately flourished, salmon-hued walls, the faded Victorian opulence. Christina Ricci... More >>

  • Best Monday Night Dining

    Enrico's

    Like the rest of North Beach, Enrico's is overrun every weekend with what one might call a bridge, tunnel, and airport crowd. But on Mondays, empty tables, a streetside patio, good drinks (try the mojito), well-paced service, and a nice selection of tapas and entrees make this a singularly pleasurable destination. Urban in a quiet, tranquil sort of way. Classy, yet unpretentious. Casual, but refined. The kind of ambience that makes you sit back and think: "This is why I... More >>

  • Best Patio Dining

    Ritz-Carlton Hotel

    Outdoor dining in wind-swept, fog-shrouded San Francisco? When it's accomplished amongst the shrub-buffered alfresco-ness of the Ritz-Carlton's garden courtyard adjoining the Terrace Restaurant, nestled on the sunny eastern slopes of Nob Hill, you betcha! And this isn't merely a lovely and elegant setting -- especially this time of year, with the planters overflowing with blossoms and the large central fountain murmuring an aquatic sound design -- the food is Ritz-worthy. The Friday evening Seafood Celebration is a ridiculously sumptuous buffet... More >>

  • Best French Restaurant

    LuLu

    This SOMA landmark -- a trailblazer when Reed Hearon opened its doors in 1992 -- is still going strong nearly a decade later, serving up fabulously rustic creations in a noisy, high-spirited, oft-imitated milieu. The ripest, most aromatic fruits and vegetables and the freshest meats and seafood are complemented with dense, delicious house-baked breads, a wide array of fine wines, and all manner of mustards, vinegars, and condiments created on the premises. The result is memorable French food, improbably hearty... More >>

  • Best Bar Dining

    Mecca

    Despite the city's seemingly endless supply of fine dining destinations -- an embarrassment of riches that, we've heard, may soon result in restaurants opening inside of one another for lack of space -- getting a table on a weekend at a popular spot can still be difficult, and Mecca is no exception. Fortunately, Mecca also serves its full menu at the bar, providing access to ever-changing, often-brilliant seasonal fare, not to mention those cool little peephole lights that make your... More >>

  • Oddest Anomaly in the San Francisco Dining Scene

    King Jamaican Restaurant

    "Is this even a restaurant?" the curious and hungry wonder upon entering the nondescript storefront with yellowed photographs pasted over the windows. Inside, there are glass display cases overflowing with Rastafarian and Afrocentric items, incense, T-shirts, and reggae tapes. On the walls hang posters of dreadlocked icons. A suspended television blares reggae concert footage. There's a pair of perpetually empty tables. There are apparently no shoppers, and no staff. Finally, after five or 10 minutes, somebody shows up from the... More >>

  • Best Restaurant in Which to Have a Cultural Identity Crisis

    Zante Pizza & Indian Food

    Zante Pizza & Indian Cuisine is the unexpectedly successful marriage of South Asian flavors, Italian food, and the gritty feel of an all-American dive -- right in the heart of the Mission, so it's surrounded by burrito joints and bodegas. Though the menu is an exhaustive list of mostly North Indian curry dishes, tandoori, and rice entrees, greasy pizzas rotate in a glass case in the window, making it possible to grab a slice of pepperoni with your mattar paneer... More >>

  • Best All-You- Can-Eat Pizza

    Goat Hill Pizza

    Goat Hill has been spinning pies for more than 20 years, since back when ordinary folk could actually afford to live on Potrero Hill, and it's changed very little in that time. It still has the same red candles and red-checkered tablecloths, and it also still has an all-you-can-eat pizza bash every Monday night beginning at 5 p.m., when servers weave through the crowded restaurant, balancing steaming pizzas above their heads, feeding the hungry masses slice by slice. Think of... More >>

  • Best Culinary Arrival in Recent Memory

    Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

    Finally. The hot glazed arrived in the Bay Area in March, and not a moment too soon -- for years, we've been yearning for this special treat to make its way across the country from the Southeast. There is no doughnut like the Krispy Kreme. Period. In fact, we're not sure the KK product should even be called a doughnut, as it is vastly different from that found at the common corner cop-stop. By now, you should know the drill:... More >>

  • Best Newly Arrived National Chain

    The Cheesecake Factory

    Say what you will about the continued chain invasion of San Francisco, the Cheesecake Factory boasts a couple of features from which some local restaurants could learn. First, there are few places here where you can go and be seated to just have dessert and coffee. Think any of your favorite chichi eateries, with their exquisite paeans to sugar, are going to slip you in between dining parties for a $20 tab? Hardly. Second, even with reservations, it's typical to... More >>

  • Best Unapologetic Gluttony

    Brunch at the Crown Room

    It's hard to beat a muffin and a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. Unless you throw in, say, a half-dozen glasses of champagne, poached salmon, smoked salmon, oysters, mussels, seviche, eggs Benedict, omelets, fresh-squeezed orange juice, French toast, bacon, sausage, blintzes, roast beef, cioppino, a few pastas, a salad or two, then maybe some cheesecake, fruit tarts, petits fours, and -- hell, that's just the stuff we can remember. For a hefty $38.50, brunch at the Fairmont makes... More >>

  • Best Brunch

    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

    Unlike any other meal of the day or week, brunch is all about laziness, and languor, and the civilized appreciation of sloth as both lifestyle and art form. It's the time you either spend on the couch with lox, bagels, and the Sunday paper, or out at a stupefyingly lavish buffet spread that will do nothing to erase your acedia. The third alternative is to go to a place like Absinthe (make that exactly like Absinthe), where the preparation and... More >>

  • Best Waffles

    Sears Fine Foods

    Sears, which turns 62 this year, is famous for a number of things -- its preserved-in-aspic coffee shop milieu, its (apocryphal?) Cadillac waiting room -- but mostly it's famous for its tiny, light-as-air Swedish pancakes. We can take pancakes or leave 'em, but we love our waffles. (We're not alone: Back in Colonial days, the Dutch of New York customarily presented newlyweds with specially engraved waffle irons.) The Sears version is every bit as good as its famous pancakes; the... More >>

  • Best Soul Food Breakfast in Chinatown

    Powell's Place #2

    Opened in February 2000 as a spinoff of the original Powell's Place on Hayes Street, the new location is co-owned by former 10-time award-winning cable car bell ringer Carl Payne, who's now a cop at the Central Station on the same block. (The restaurant is decorated with SFPD souvenirs.) While Powell's Place may be best known for its fried chicken, its breakfast (served 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is one of the best from-scratch dining bargains in the area. A... More >>

  • Best Italian Restaurant

    L'Osteria Del Forno

    This here's the total North Beach experience: a tiny jewel of an eight-table storefront trattoria smack on Columbus Avenue where the neighborly waitstaff makes you feel right at home and the kitchen produces amazingly flavorful Old World delicacies. The food's necessarily simple -- the kitchen doesn't even have room for a stovetop -- but the brick-oven pizzas, daily pastas, and focaccia sandwiches are worth waiting in line for (an inevitability if you arrive at prime time), the antipasti include such... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Brother-in-Laws Bar-B-Que

    Really good barbecue's hard to come by within San Francisco's municipal limits, but Brother-in-Laws has got the spice-dripping, porcine-powered goods. The smell of it hits you from a block away: meltingly good ribs, snappy hot links, moist, tender chicken, and crumbly brisket cooking a good long time in the sort of sauce that could make a vegan stop and reflect upon paths not taken. Most customers get the stuff to go, but there are a couple of tables (authentically bereft... More >>

  • Best Steak

    Ruth's Chris Steak House

    Loath as I am to admit it, the flesh served up at local legends Harris' and Alfred's, good as it is, isn't up to the cholesterol available at that global consortium known as Ruth's Chris. The New Orleans-based chain offers steaks I once described as "deep-red whipped cream," so hyperbolic was my bliss state. The rich, deeply flavored strips, fillets, rib eyes, and T-bones can literally be cut with a fork; maybe it's the unfortunate animal's corny diet, maybe it's... More >>

  • Best Caesar Salad

    Alfred's Steakhouse

    The trouble with most Caesars nowadays is they're either supplemented beyond recognition with grilled chicken breast or, God help us, Chilean sea bass, or they're treated like some variety of garden-fresh health food. Nothing could be further from the truth. The true Caesar, the noble Caesar, the Caesar we fell in love with beyond all boundaries of reason at a Guadalajara hotel when we were 5 years old, fairly drips with oil and cheese and raw egg and briny, salty... More >>

  • Best Unhealth Food Item

    Roasted Marrow Bones at 42 Degrees

    So much artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising bad stuff to gobble, so little time. From all the foie gras, crèmes brûlées, fettuccine Alfredos, and hot fudge sundaes available in this town, how does one choose a singularly corruptive sensation when one really wants to tie one on? Look no further than the roasted marrow bones at 42 Degrees. They are as rich, unhealthy, and delicious as any three of the deadly sins, the essential creaminess of the soft, fatty vascular tissue barely counterpointed... More >>

  • Best Cornmeal Muffins

    Powell's Place #1

    Powell's serves perfectly respectable Southern food seven days a week, and the blues-brimming jukebox out front overflows with good music, but the focus, the locus, the pièce de résistance of this venerable rendezvous is its corn muffins. In this sourdough-lovin' city it's difficult to find a cornmeal muffin worthy of its heritage (i.e., the great American breadstuff), but Powell's is hot and moist and crumbly, not too sweet, faintly granular with cornmeal, rich with butter -- outside as well as... More >>

  • Best Trailer Park Grub

    Butter Bar

    Amidst the glitter and gurgle of Butter sits a rather lovely little trailer-cum-concession stand offering a different kind of late-night eating alternative. And though the line for the loo always outdoes the one for Spam sammies, these goodies shouldn't be neglected. Tater Tots -- prepared to that delightful middle ground between soggy and crispy -- are the hot item for apps. Beanee Weenees, mac 'n' cheese, Fritos chili pie, SpaghettiOs, and Swanson TV dinners (the real thing!) are on the... More >>

  • Best Late- Night Seafood

    Belon

    Imagine it: Midnight on a weekend, and damn it, once again you've forgotten to eat dinner. You're too dressed up for a burrito, got over Mel's long ago, and are hoping for something more ... refined, yet simple, yet elegantly prepared. And you wouldn't mind a bottle of champagne to wash it down. Enter the grand belon ($66) -- 18 oysters, 12 mussels, six littleneck clams, six shrimp, lots of periwinkles, and half a Dungeness crab. Throw in mussels à... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Steak

    Globe

    It might be the cozy atmosphere. It may be the stylish customers. It could be the great staff. But, most likely, it's the late-night steak frites for two. The dish is still the best reason to visit Globe at the end of a long night playing -- or working, for all you restaurant slaves.... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Chinese

    Yuet Lee

    Though drinking late into the night can harm the liver, the brain, and, in more extreme cases, the desire to continue living when you wake up the next morning, another unfortunate side effect is hunger. But since Yuet Lee is open until 3 a.m., last call means the party's just started. While we've never had a bad meal at Yuet Lee, the abalone with chicken over rice or the fresh squid with greens are the kind of dishes that haunt... More >>

  • Best Delivery, Greater Noe Valley

    Haystack Pizza

    If you live in one of these neighborhoods -- Noe Valley, the Mission, Diamond Heights, portions of Potrero Hill, Glen Park, call if you're not sure -- you are, as you may know, one of the blessed. Seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends), you can have some of the finest pizza in the city delivered to your door. Plus gigantic, well-made salads (try the shrimp or antipasto). Plus 15 vegetarian dishes. Plus veal... More >>

  • Best Place to Feel Like Part of a Community While Interfacing Via Computer

    Chat Café

    Chat Café, a fairly new addition to the Castro, bills itself as "part of a great neighborhood." And indeed, it breaks the lone-wolf stereotypes normally associated with Internet cafes. Owners Tom and Michael have gone to great lengths to promote neighborly behavior at their splashy, dog-friendly, techno-quaint establishment. The décor is cheery and bright -- mix-and-match furniture in the colors of iMacs, to complement the ones offering Internet access in the back (free with purchase of food or beverage). A... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Wine List

    PlumpJack Cafe

    Vino, one of humankind's most ancient triumphs, should be a communal pleasure accessible to one and all, not just to the bourgeois wastrel with the wine cellar and the '66 bordeaux. The owners and sommeliers of PlumpJack do their best to right the scales of grapely appreciation; the restaurant's exhaustive, eclectic wine list is known for its surprisingly affordable nature, and all selections are priced at retail, resulting in levies considerably below the norm. There's a wide variety of California... More >>

  • Best Female With a Bottle

    Renee-Nicole Kubin

    In a man's world, Renee-Nicole Kubin, sommelier at the four-star Danko, has a lot to offer. Not only does she know her grapes inside and out, but she can handle a bottle in ways that will make you blush. Flirtatious, bold, and a finish that lingers: We're not describing the wine.... More >>

  • Best Place to Contemplate the Meaning of It All

    The Deck at Kelly's Mission Rock

    There's nothing like a mile-long, 500-trillion-ton oil tanker (we may be exaggerating) to make you feel like just a drop in the river of life. Throw in sweeping bay views, good food, and a few close friends, and you may wonder why you always seem to be running around looking for something when, in reality, everything you need is right in front of you. Though Kelly's serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, and also hosts bands, the bayside deck is... More >>

  • Best Place to Get Buzzed on Lychees

    Lisa's on Folsom

    At Lisa's on Folsom, a funky Hunan Chinese "food bar," everything's done with a bit of a twist. Walls are painted turquoise (to improve the building's poor feng shui), clear glass display cases serve as dining tables, and there are "Chinese tapas" on the menu, not appetizers. But the fun late-night spot's greatest innovations are its fruit-infused vodka cocktails. There's lychee strawberry, pineapple watermelon, blood orange, lychee mango, and pineapple strawberry watermelon, to name a few. In fact, anything with... More >>

  • Best Controversial Transformation

    Blondie's Bar & No Grill

    Ah, the joy of a Tuesday night aperitif at Blondie's -- soft, lilting jazz, an open-air patio, and some of the best (and largest) cocktails in the city. But then: Ah, the horror of Blondie's on a weekend, when frat types, suburbanites -- to be honest, we don't know who they are -- spill from the patio onto the street, drown out whatever music is playing, and make ordering a drink almost impossible. Though this seems to happen everywhere in... More >>

  • Best Place to Make the Move

    Lone Palm

    Human mating is often like a dance, an achingly delicate melding of two souls, each with its own fears and insecurities, hopes and desires, burning lusts, and unbelievably grotesque fetishes. Sometimes, hooking up happens all by itself, and before you know it you're shopping together at Good Vibrations. And then, sometimes, things need a nudge. This is where the Lone Palm comes in. White tablecloths and votive candles elevate the Lone Palm to a place far above the typical dive... More >>

  • Best Bar in Which to Squander a Sunny Late Afternoon

    Emma

    Nothing's more decadent than ignoring all of those deep-seated Puritan inclinations and spending a beautiful sunny afternoon, not hiking or picnicking or building a sandcastle, but sipping a tall cool drink in a sleepy saloon. The thing that makes Emma so ideal for this purpose is its beautiful and unsqualid interior. Situated in the San Remo Hotel, the bar opened in 1906 and was recently restored to its vintage grandeur, complete with intricate tiling, stained glass, and long wooden bar... More >>

  • Best Degree That Might Not Impress Prospective Employers

    Tommy's Mexican Restaurant

    Higher education can be a bitch: classes, homework, thesises -- or are those theses? Regardless, after a while it makes your brain hurt. Unless, of course, the degree you seek is a tequila Ph.D. from Tommy's, where 145 pure blue agave tequilas, the largest selection outside Mexico, make for a unique educational opportunity. After a mere 70 double shots, plus a written test, you too will be among the few, the proud, the doctors of agave. Bartenders might do well... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    Mendocino Brewing Co.'s Eye of the Hawk Ale

    We're living in precarious times, but there are benefits to existing at this particular juncture in the cosmos: namely, the preponderance of really good beer. Mt. Tam Pale Ale, Lagunitas IPA, Pete's Wicked Lager -- the choices are endless. But Eye of the Hawk, brewed up in Ukiah since 1984, is perfectly splendid. It's got character, a robust sort of afterbite, and a crispness that's welcome on a hot day as well as with roast chicken, cassoulet, and other bistro... More >>

  • Best Micro- brewery Tour

    Anchor Brewing Company

    Those of us who love beer are particularly, universally enamored of Anchor's sudsy product, prepared as it is in such an interesting range of styles and flavors and with such craftsmanlike care (Anchor produces a mere 100,000 barrels a year, compared to, say, Sierra Nevada's 500,000). Touring the brewery's Potrero Hill plant is lots of fun. You begin in the handsome, mahogany-and-brass taproom, a friendly place decorated with toy beer trucks, vintage photographs, beer trays from around the world, and... More >>

  • Best Bloody Mary

    Golden Gate Ferry

    There's nothing particularly special about the Bloody Marys served on the ferryboats that embark, many times a day, for Sausalito and Larkspur -- your basic vodka, tomato juice, and Tabasco in a plastic cup; nothing so captivating as, for instance, the wasabi-and-sake-informed concoction prepared at Ponzu -- but the setting can't be beat. There's the salty, briny oxygen; the rhythmic swaying beneath your feet; the wheeling sea gulls and the bobbing sailboats and the stiff western breeze. And, at one... More >>

  • Least Pretentious Mission Bar

    The Attic

    We're not sure why exactly, but the Attic stands out from the rest of those see-and-be-seen haunts that have sprouted all over the Mission like mushrooms in cow manure. Maybe it's the dim lighting that lets you literally hide away at a back table, or the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink décor, or the well-worn stand-up piano that hosts periodic bizarro cabaret nights, or the intimate live music on Sundays. Whatever it is, it gives this place the most relaxed "neighborhood" vibe in an... More >>

  • Best Beer-Drinker's Resource

    Toronado

    Regular stopovers at this Lower Haight watering hole are an education in both regional and international beer-making for the post-Miller generation. A call board above the bar lists 45 or so offerings on tap and hand pump, grouped by brewery (mostly local), and the selection generally includes both year-round local champs and hard-to-find seasonal offerings. Those with more far-searching desires pore over the chalkboard for the bottled offerings (heavy on Belgian ales -- the Toronado's specialty, if the place can... More >>

  • Best Flaming Bowl of Liquor

    The Scorpion

    While Trader Vic's in Emeryville boasts the most enormous Scorpion, and the Outer Richmond's Trad'r Sam's offers the tastiest Scorpion for the best value (with a frothy splash of champagne added, to boot), the Lilo's Scorpion bowl wins for presentation -- the Bacardi-fueled flame in its ceramic center adds just the right touch of tropical mystery. The exact ingredients remain a mystery as well. According to one waitress the sticky-sweet beverage is a concoction of "a bunch of rum, and... More >>

  • Best Place to Drink Between Sets at the Fillmore

    Someplace Else

    When the opening band turns off its amps and the crowd throngs upstairs to slake its thirst for alcohol, you're out of luck if you're not first in line. Sure, you might snake your way through to the bar -- and spill half your drink in the sea of elbows before the second act is onstage. Altogether better is to get your hand stamped and head down the street to Someplace Else. A normally uncrowded (even on weekends) and cozy... More >>

  • Best Selection of Beef

    Tehama Angus Ranch Annual Bull Sale

    Did you ever -- while sitting through an ill-crafted boyfriend excuse, some election-year political cant, or a high-concept minute of dot-com TV advertising -- get the feeling you were being sold a line of bull? And did you kind of, well, like the feeling? We hear you, and we've found just the place to fix your bull-sale jones. Bill Borror, owner of the Tehama Angus Ranch has plenty of bull for sale every September -- some of the finest, well-marbled... More >>

  • Best Bakery

    Boulangerie Bay Bread

    At long last a harmonic convergence has occurred, and food critics and consumers alike in this city of opinions and picky predilections have come to an agreement: Boulangerie Bay Bread is the best bakery in town. Whether you need a huge round of wheaty and sour levain for your road trip, a too-beautiful-to-eat fruit tart for entertaining clients at home, or a toothful and sugary almond croissant for your breakfast, this is the place to come. Don't let the long... More >>

  • Best Black Bean Cakes

    Eastern Bakery

    All black bean cakes come down to two elements -- the black bean filling and the surrounding crust -- and the Eastern scores high marks on both counts. The filling is rich, smooth, and almost creamy, with a deep, earthy quality that transcends sweetness; the flaky, lard-enriched crust is its perfect complement. For those purist aficionados of the black bean purée, period, the Rose Black Bean Cake is the way to go. It has three times the amount of filling... More >>

  • Best Fresh Vegetables With a Smile

    Valencia Farmers Market

    It's hard not to feel good about yourself as you stroll into the Valencia Farmers Mar-ket. Out front, lemons, oranges, pineapples, strawberries, and -- when in season -- fresh sweet cherries beckon to the passing herbivore. Inside, rows of bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and spinach -- not to mention celery, carrots, mushrooms, avocados, three kinds of tomatoes, even more kinds of potatoes, onions, leeks, broccoli, and Italian eggplant -- put the N in "Nice roughage!" Besides all this garden bounty,... More >>

  • Best Italian Cafe With Literary Flair

    Caffè Proust

    If you like a side of literature with your linguine, check out Caffè Proust. OK, so linguine's not on the menu, but other pastas are. And yes, Marcel Proust was French, but he was fond of Italy, and the proprietors of Caffè Proust are Italian, so there you are. The restaurant is a tribute to the writer, featuring "Proust references everywhere" (to quote its menu), as well as serving as home base for the Marcel Proust Support Group (www.proust.com). CP... More >>

  • Best Cioppino

    Florio

    If anything could be called San Francisco's municipal dish, it would be cioppino. Invented by Italian fishermen working the bay a century ago, it is related to bouillabaisse and cacciucco Livornese and other Mediterranean fish stews in its wine-garlic-tomato-based character, but cioppino includes Dungeness crab and other local sea creatures and features a richer, spicier texture than these Old World dishes. (Another mark of its local character: It is unimaginable without sourdough on the side.) Florio's version is impeccable; the... More >>

  • Best Place to Eat Duck

    La Villa Poppi

    So much promise, so much disappointment. Duck can be such a moist, juicy, crispy, smoky, wonderfully fragrant experience, but it all too frequently ends up on the platter heavy and overdone, with all the pleasure cooked out of it. Not at La Villa Poppi, however, where owner/chef Greg Sweeting, a veteran of many an Italian kitchen, has been known to feature the fowl on his oft-changing menu with spectacular results. "The duck is the way we did it in the... More >>

  • Best Homemade Gourmet Lunch in Hunters Point

    The Outback Cafe

    When developers break ground at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the Outback Cafe will finally begin to get the business it deserves. Until then, it will remain an oasis on the edge of an EPA Superfund site. The little cafe is truly one of the best-kept secrets in the neighborhood -- many people who have lived or worked in the area for years have never discovered it, which is all the better for the few who go there every day for... More >>

  • Best Waiters

    Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant

    One of the first restaurants we remember going to as a kid was Schroeder's, the century-old German joint on Front Street. The stags' heads and beer steins were certainly noteworthy, but what impressed us most was our waiter, a brisk, tuxedo-clad pro with a perpetually raised left eyebrow and a mordant sense of humor. Later in life we realized that the waitstaffs at all of San Francisco's old-time Financial District restaurants -- Tadich's, John's Grill, et al. -- are entirely... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Painting, Revisited

    The Kiss II

    Last year, we gave this honor to The Butler's in Love -- Absinthe, at Bix, by artist Mark Stock. But a funny thing happened while we were researching the award: Staff at Bix provided a postcard depicting Butler, plus another of The Kiss II, which also hangs at Bix and was also, as it so happens, painted by Stock. We put both on our desk, contemplated them for a year, and while the eerily smoldering Butler is still one of... More >>

  • Best Gelato

    Ciao Bella

    There is ice cream, and then there is gelato, the dense, intense ambrosia that is so readily available in Firenze and Roma and more or less nonexistent hereabouts (despite nominal imitations). The Ciao Bella version, however, is perfectly wonderful. The company started in New York's Little Italy in 1983 and currently manufactures its mind-altering product in two places -- New Jersey and here, smack in the middle of SOMA. At its adjacent cafe you can sample such varieties as Scharffen... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    Mutsuhiko Murashige has mastered all the standards of the all-American treat while adding a few improvements of his own. At Joe's, one can indulge in a green tea sundae or two scoops of adzuki bean ice cream. Murashige immigrated to San Francisco from Japan and bought the little Richmond District ice cream parlor that had been selling cones since World War II. He didn't change the name because Joe's was easy for customers to remember and pronounce. But Murashige did... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    xyz

    There are a few special moments that make life worth living: your wedding day; the birth of your first child; the waiter saying, "Would you like to look at the dessert menu?" Many's the time the carte in question has not crowned (or rescued) the preceding meal with sufficient succulence, but Salina Rubio's contribution -- the finest reading this side of M.F.K. Fisher -- is one damnably delicious thing after another. There's the triple chocolate terrine, a dense, decadent devil's... More >>

  • Best Place to Suck Giant Tapioca Balls Through a Straw

    Wonderful Food Company

    Watch out, Jamba Juice -- Taiwanese pearl milk teas are poised to be the next liquid craze. The drink -- a delicious concoction of giant tapioca balls, condensed milk, and black tea -- is a near-addictive Asian treat that began gaining popularity in the States a few years ago. San Francisco picked up on the trend early, and a number of spots in the Richmond and the Sunset serve the drink, though each milk tea joint has its own secret... More >>

  • Best Cafe Mocha

    Alfred Schilling Chocolate, Pastry & Restaurant

    We've made mistakes in our lives, we admit. Once we tried a Starbucks frapuccino, and it tasted like the milk left over after eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. We're adults, for chrissake (our Pez addiction notwithstanding). To complete the finicky, sophisticated, bon vivant lifestyle we so carefully attempt to project, we turn to chocolatier Alfred Schilling's velvety dark cafe mocha every time. Both sophisticated and primal, this mocha takes us on forays Juan Valdez never imagined. (Schilling's exotic décor... More >>

  • Best Internet Cafe

    Quetzal

    Unlike some Internet cafes, in which computers seem like an afterthought, at Quetzal they are the centerpiece: 10 new iMacs in a rainbow of colors, with high-speed DSL access at only 16 cents per minute, or $9.95 per hour. But the cafe has much more to offer: coffee drinks served in super-sized cups; a large, serious menu of sandwiches, bagels, breakfast items, salads, soups, pizzas, and beverages; and big-screen TV. It also has the three qualities a serious cafegoer deems... More >>

  • Best Place to Chill Out

    Imperial Tea Court

    There's Golden Gate Park, but you never know when an errant Frisbee's gonna smack you upside the head. There's a trip up the coast, but outwardly directed road rage is a dangerous and ever-present probability. No, give us the Imperial Tea Court when the stresses of daily life have taken their toll and a little quiet time is absolutely imperative. Despite its location near the always-bustling North Beach-Chinatown border, this quiet, wood-paneled venue is a thoroughly soothing getaway spot. The... More >>

  • Best Sushi and Then Some

    Moki's Sushi and Pacific Grill

    If you haven't been to Moki's, we strongly -- nay, vehemently -- urge you to get your ass to Bernal Heights tout de suite. A brilliant sashimi combination is surpassed only by even-more-brilliant specialty maki, or, for those who prefer their food cooked, Polynesian-inspired dishes such as spicy corn fritters with Indonesian soy sauce, dayboat scallops, and a luscious sterling salmon with mango-cucumber sambal. If you like sushi but your date does not, this is the place to go. And,... More >>

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