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  • Best Museum Food

    Asian Art Museum

    While most museum goers flee galleries during lunchtime, the Asian Art Museum enjoys an influx of visitors at noon, and many didn't come for the world-class collection. People who work in the Civic Center walk in with authority, bypassing the ticket office and heading straight into Café Asia, where Chef Melinda Quirino offers a seasonal menu at reasonable prices. Offerings include steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf, served with jasmine rice and snake beans, clay pot tea smoked lamb... More >>

  • Best Wheel of Creamy Fortune

    Polly Ann

    Most of San Francisco's trendier ice cream parlors are located east of Twin Peaks, but for all the indie cred you get from waiting in line at Humphry Slocombe or Bi-Rite, they don't offer the adventure you'll find at Polly Ann Ice Cream in the Outer Sunset. If you can't decide which of their dozens of exotic flavors to get, a big wheel on the wall can decide for you. To make it interesting, you're required to buy whatever the... More >>

  • Best Carnie Food

    Off the Grid

    Step right up to try a variety of carnie food every week all over the city from this parade of food trucks. With 15 locations around the bay and often accompanied by live music and swelling crowds, Off the Grid is a real cuisine circus from Vietnamese and Thai to fast-food Indian to good ole' American delicatessens. All the trucks — or should we say booths — bring the community together through food. Most of the vendors accept plastic payment,... More >>

  • Best Sushi Funhouse

    Kiki Japanese Restaurant

    The Inner Sunset doesn't lack for sushi restaurants, but none offer as much eye candy as Kiki Sushi. In the former location of House Restaurant, the front of Kiki's building is pleasingly cattywampus, with a Dr. Caligari-style slanted door and window. The style continues on the inside, with the high walls painted in yellows and purples, and plenty of framed prints from Hayao Miyazaki anime classics, particularly Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. Most importantly, the sushi is reasonably priced... More >>

  • Best Thing Made from Ice Cream

    The Ice Cream Bar

    While it may seem that Cole Valley's Ice Cream Bar has the Art Deco soda fountain aesthetic nailed, the malts and shakes themselves involve a kind of 19th century patent medicine. (Coca-Cola started out as a curative, after all.) The New Orleans Hangover — chicory coffee syrup, soda, Golden Eagle tincture and sweet cream ice cream — may not involve quite the alchemy of the Ice Cream Bar's phosphates and lactarts, but it's the perfect balance of rich sweetness and... More >>

  • Best Carnie Candy

    The Candy Store

    Have the shopkeepers at San Francisco's The Candy Store treat you to a complementary tasting or scoop you a pound of Licorice Rockies the next time you're in Russian Hill. Loyal circus-goers can even book the candy bar or cart for events and shop online for their favorite treats. At The Candy Store, you'll find jars upon jars of circus candy and novelty sweets that will take you back to your first carnival. The shop features a huge selection of... More >>

  • Best Kinky Cafe

    Wicked Grounds

    The cutest — and, to be fair, the only — BDSM coffeeshop in San Francisco can inevitably be found right next to Folsom Street. Wicked Grounds hosts an array of BDSM meetups, a gallery that cycles through kinky artists, a boutique, and a shelf of sex education books. They even sell Leland Carina's fetish greeting cards (one favorite is a whip-adorned thank-you note: "Thank you for beating me so well"). The nicest thing about WG is that it doesn't coast... More >>

  • Best Way to Eat A Whole Animal

    The Whole Beast

    If there were a "Truth in a Name" award, The Whole Beast would certainly be a contender. Chef John Fink commands a large Southern Pride smoker oven from which whole golden roasted animals emerge for sandwiches, wraps, or extreme and delicious dishes like porchetta nachos or on lamb poutine (fries, gravy, meat and cheese curds). You'll find the crew, including Fink's wife running the front of the house, at festivals around the year and regularly at the Fort Mason and... More >>

  • Best Staycation to Latin America

    Lolinda

    Argentina may be a 14-hour flight from San Francisco, but that doesn't mean you can't take a quick jaunt to South America for a great piece of grilled meat. Chef Alejandro Morgan at Argentine-style grill Lolinda (owned by the same team behind Beretta and Starbelly) is serving up wood-grilled meats, empanadas, and ceviches so good you might spontaneously tango. Add to that bar manger Chris Lane's exceptional cocktail like the The Devil's Backbone ($10, rye whiskey, Lagavulin Scotch Whisky, Averna... More >>

  • Best Way to Catch a Buzz from Your Taco

    Tango & Stache

    You may reconsider drinking as your primary cocktail delivery system after trying the food at bar pop-up Tango & Stache. Chef Joshua Oakley finds inspiration for his tacos in drinks at the bar, with dishes like Negroni pork belly tacos, Wild Turkey rye whiskey pulled pork nachos, and rum milk punch-braised shoulder tacos. Oakley, a former cook at Bar Bambino, Michael Mina, and Gary Danko, got the idea after an accident left him with a broken foot and a lot... More >>

  • Best Sandwich Off a Truck

    Mayo & Mustard

    A sandwich off a truck may not seem super-exciting until you try Tony's BBQ tri-tip sandwich ($7 for 6-inch or $9 for 8-inch; sliced tri-tip steak, cheddar, BBQ sauce, horseradish sauce, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions, jalapeño, pepperoncini) from the Mayo and Mustard truck. Swathed in brown parchment paper, hot and drippy with shaved tri-tip and melted cheddar, the sandwich has a genius that lies in the truck's custom Dutch crunch bread. This bread provides a sturdy and flavorful... More >>

  • Best Dessert Off a Truck

    The Rib Whip

    As you can probably tell from the name, Rib Whip doesn't specialize in dessert — but if the truck sold nothing but wedges of its Grandma Ruth's Buttermilk Pie ($5), there would still be a line. The graham cracker crust is the secret weapon, adding crispy texture and sporadic lightly salty bites that keep the whole thing from becoming too cloying. A light layer of buttermilk custard sits above the crust, silky and tangy and just as bold as you... More >>

  • Best Vegan Food Truck Dish

    KoJa Kitchen

    Delicious vegan fare and food trucks may seem like polar opposites, but while fatty and meaty describe the bulk of street food offerings, KoJa Kitchen, a truck that combines Korean and Japanese cuisine, successfully shows how delicious meat-free can be. Its Tofu Teriyaki Zen ($5.25) is composed of a glazed Portobello mushroom and tofu patty with a ring of pineapple and a pinch of shredded lettuce. While that description may not have you jumping out of the pork belly taco... More >>

  • Best Gut-Busting Lunch

    The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

    There's comfort food, and then there's a vortex of comfort food inside more comfort food. A grilled cheese sandwich made with macaroni-and-cheese might be the very manifestation of a San Francisco foodie's id. Gooey, crunchy, and guaranteed to ruin your appetite for the remainder of the day, the sandwich has a simplicity that proves that all that umami nonsense is just a distraction from living out your inner 6-year-old's dream — and all for only $8. How has no one... More >>

  • Best Flight of Anything

    Brenda's French Soul Food

    You can get a Scotch flight at Bourbon and Branch, a rum flight at Hobson's Choice, three whiskey flights at any one time at Southpaw BBQ, and flights of wine and IPA just about anywhere. We endorse them all, because flights make being discriminating lots more fun. But it's the beignet flight at Brenda's French Soul Food that triumphs, hands down. A hybrid between a doughnut and a fancy Hot Pocket, the four beignets — plain, chocolate, Granny Smith apple... More >>

  • Best 'Side'show

    Plow

    As good as a meal can be, sometimes the sides simply shine. Luckily at Plow, you don't need to commit to one dish as listed on the menu — feel free to mix-and-match select portions of some main courses as add-ons to create your own personalized, diverse breakfast or lunch. The crispy potatoes have skins that shatter on the tongue, the homemade pork sausage patties are sweet and just a tad spicy, the corn millet muffin packs tons of flavor... More >>

  • Best Clown Car Restaurant

    Rickybobby

    The discomfort we're willing to endure to eat delicious food is remarkable. After a Muni trip or constitutional spent in the comfortable isolation of headphones and wide sidewalks, community seating can be shocking. Even so, San Franciscans will endure discomfort to eat delicious food, even if it means piling atop each other. Rickybobby in the Lower Haight doesn't take reservations and doesn't do take out, so if you want to experience their short rib lasagna or knockout double bacon cheeseburger,... More >>

  • Best Place to Find Comically Oversize Carrots

    Manila Oriental Market

    There's much to like at this Excelsior mainstay — including remarkably inexpensive beer and live seafood. But the most eye-catching feature is its cudgel-sized carrots. These Chernobyl vegetables often clock in at four inches wide at the base and more than a foot long. Toting one around inspires disbelieving expressions at an overtly phallic object seemingly ripped straight from low-grade adult films. The carrots, incidentally, are only 39 cents a pound — which only buys you half a carrot. Also,... More >>

  • Best Place to Buy Exotic Canned Fish

    Parkside Farmers' Market

    This decades-old Sunset establishment isn't really a farmers' market — though it's best known for its produce and Mediterranean fare. But it's a treasure chest for those who crave exotic canned fish. Sardines, herring, mackerel from Morocco, Lithuania, Latvia; they've got it all. Even somewhere they write in Cyrillic on something that we're assuming is fish. It's also easy on the wallet. If you're preparing for the apocalypse, or just want to stock up on cans for when the rapture... More >>

  • Best Muslim Chinese Restaurant

    Old Mandarin Islamic Chinese

    Like a beacon in the fog, this storefront restaurant is a warm destination in the chilly Outer Sunset. In fact, there are delightful warm pots, which are communal soup dishes that boil on your table. Or if you prefer hot instead of warm, try the "extremely hot pepper." This dish lives up to its title and manages to be both flavorful and spicy as hell. Other favorites include the cumin-heavy Mandarin Lamb, meat or vegetable pancakes, and, if you know... More >>

  • Best-Priced Farmers' Market

    Alemany Farmers Market

    The old real estate adage is that it's all about location, location, location. And so it is with the real-estate upon which farmers markets sit. After all, the very same vendors often hawk their wares at numerous different locales. But it's always appreciably cheaper at the Alemany Farmers' Market, which is open on Saturdays from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and is on a scrap of land in the shadow of Highway 280 where a swap meet holds court the... More >>

  • Best Quail

    LihoLiho Yacht Club

    This past year brought a flock of dishes featuring California's state bird to menus across the city. With a respectful nod to the signature fried version at State Bird Provisions, the crispy quail at roving pop-up LihoLiho Yacht Club won our hearts. Chef Ravi Kapur grew up in Hawaii, and uses the Aloha State's international prism — drawing from Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean cuisines — to create his ever-shifting menu. It's seen in the quail, which is deep-fried... More >>

  • Best Brunch Drink

    Bar Tartine

    Urban legend has it that the mimosa as a brunch drink was invented in San Francisco by Alfred Hitchcock back in the 1950s. Whether or not that story's true, 50 years later the mimosa has advanced far beyond the usual orange juice and champagne to the candied beet mimosa at Bar Tartine. The unusual drink came about by accident about a year ago, when chef/fermenter extraordinaire Cortney Burns was making a candied beet tart and had a bunch of leftover... More >>

  • Best Bacon

    Foreign Cinema

    As far as we're concerned, the biggest tragedy of all the bacon-flavored-everything nonsense of the past few years is that it's obscured the fact that bacon by itself is one of the greatest foods known to man. And the slow-cooked brown sugar bacon at Foreign Cinema is the stuff that bacony dreams are made of. Chef/co-owner Gayle Pirie starts with thick-cut, applewood-smoked bacon, puts it on a sheet pan, and covers it with a goodly amount of brown sugar (like,... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Rich Table

    Occasionally a restaurant springs into being fully formed, like Momotar, the boy in Japanese folklore found floating downstream in a peach. Rich Table, which opened in late July 2012 in Hayes Valley under the leadership of husband-and-wife team Evan and Sarah Rich, is such a restaurant. Its playful take on California comfort food was enough reason for the early buzz: Items like house-made sardine potato chips, yeasty doughnuts dusted with mushroom powder, and "dirty hippies" (a shot of buttermilk panna... More >>

  • Best Feat of Culinary Strength

    Pho Garden

    When it comes to pho, we're usually satisfied by a "small" order and overwhelmed by a large. So we're probably not the best candidates to take The Challenge at Pho Garden, wherein contestants must eat 2 pounds of rice noodles, 2 pounds of combination beef and tripe, and 4 quarts of broth in less than an hour to get a free meal and their photo on the wall (though, truth be told, you don't have to finish the broth; just... More >>

  • Best Deep-Fried Monstrosity

    Batter Up

    We've always had a soft spot for corn dogs, but all too often they're a disappointment: either flaccid or over-fried, and overwhelmingly salty. The frymasters at Batter Up in the Excelsior have perfected the art of the corn dog. For starters, you don't have to go with a hot dog — you have your pick of sausages ranging from chicken-apple to Louisiana hot link (of course, Evergood all-beef frankfurters are available for purists). Then there's the batter, which is just... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Floor Show

    M.Y. China

    The open kitchen at M.Y. China, celebrity chef Martin Yan's upscale Chinese restaurant at the top of Westfield Mall near Union Square, provides a show in itself. Through the glassed-off walls, you can watch the chefs engage in a dance of pulling noodles, forming dumplings, wok-tossing dishes, and generally showing off their culinary acrobatics. But the real entertainment hasn't started yet. At a certain point in the night, a chef — usually Master Noodle Puller Tony Wu, world champion noodle-puller... More >>

  • Best Place to Channel Your Inner Caveman

    KronnerBurger

    "Rare and salty" are the main attributes advertised on the menu at Kronnerburger, Chef Chris Kronner's hamburger pop-up. And it's not an exaggeration: This is the type of burger that causes juices to run down your hand and into your sleeve when you bite into it. The burger itself satisfies on a primal level, but you can take it one step further by ordering it with marrow, which comes with full-on pieces of cow bone protruding from the serving tray... More >>

  • Best Central American Import

    Pollo Campero

    Before Pollo Campero opened in San Francisco in late 2012, the closest outlet of the massively popular Guatemalan chicken chain was in Southern California, and rumors abounded of an underground fried chicken importing and distribution network. Thankfully, now all would-be bootleggers need to do is head to the new sit-down restaurant on Mission Street. The secret to Pollo Campero's cult status is the fried chicken, which has been marinated in a proprietary herb, garlic, and citrus mix for 12 hours... More >>

  • Best Educational Happy Hour

    Fatted Calf

    San Francisco is crazy about live butchery demonstrations — they're practically a spectator sport at foodie events, and at Fatted Calf, cocktail hour entertainment. Step into Hayes Valley upscale butcher shop on any Wednesday between 5:30 and 7 p.m. to see the skilled staff break down portions, halves, or whole pigs. As you watch them use hacksaws and boning knives to deftly slice between meat cuts — explaining what they're doing along the way, of course, and in the process... More >>

  • Best-Looking Food Truck

    Del Popolo

    Jon Darsky, the man behind Del Popolo, the Ryan Gosling of San Francisco food trucks, spent $180,000 to repurpose a 20-foot shipping container and fill it with a two-and-a-half ton, Italian-made, wood-fired pizza oven that reaches 800 degrees and cooks pizzas in a minute. Not wanting to hide the investment behind corrugated metal, Darsky had the brilliant idea to cover one side of the shipping container in glass doors that allow hungry visitors to watch the action going down inside... More >>

  • Best Insider Breakfast

    Craftsman and Wolves

    It looks innocent enough on first glance: a sausage, chive, Asiago, and Parmesan cheese-speckled muffin calmly sitting on the counter at chef William Werner's stylized patisserie Craftsman and Wolves. But it's not called The Rebel Within for nothing. Bite in and a cascade of salty egg yolk flows out, thanks to the inclusion of a soft-boiled egg inside. Fork and knife is probably the best approach if you care about the shirt you're wearing. The team only gets in one... More >>

  • Best Excuse to Nap Under Your Desk

    Deli Board

    The ideal workday lunch is full of protein, fresh vegetables, and other brain food that keeps you powering through the inevitable afternoon mental dip. But there's an exception to every rule, and here that exception is the Boca sandwich from Deli Board. The massive sub has an unholy combination of pastrami, brisket, and corned beef, all packed inside a French roll. Along for the ride is an (un)healthy portion of Muenster cheese, brown mustard, and the establishment's proprietary, piquant "board... More >>

  • Best Chicken Strips

    Chubby Noodle

    This was the year that fried chicken really found a stronghold in San Francisco, but for all the variations, not many places have embraced the simple white meat chicken strip. It's a shame, because strips are easier to eat and share with friends, and while white meat's lack of skin is admittedly a detriment, the increased surface area of a strip allows for more fried goodness. At Chubby Noodle, a pop-up inside North Beach dive Amante, the buttermilk-brined and fried... More >>

  • Best Predictor of a Rough Morning to Come

    Li Po Cocktail Lounge

    Like most bad decisions, it seems like a good one at the time. The charmingly shabby Chinese dive, Li Po, is known for one thing: a concoction called the Chinese Mai Tai. The drink is a lethal blend of Whaler's Rum, Castillo Light Rum, Bacardi 151, pineapple juice, and a mysterious "Chinese liqueur," which is given a quick whir in a blender and served frothy and cold in a plastic hurricane glass. The only thing missing is the umbrella. Chinese... More >>

  • Best Bar With Free Popcorn

    Lucky 13

    We've all had nights where we realize too late that we never ate dinner and have to put something in our stomach besides beer, but don't want to leave the bar. That's when you really appreciate a bar with free popcorn. Several spots in the city have it, but our favorite is Lucky 13 — the popcorn is always fresh, and it's paired with free cheddar Goldfish, a great beer selection, good prices, a pool table, and an enclosed patio.... More >>

  • Best Circus-Like Restaurant That Isn't Trying to Be a Circus at all

    Tommy's Joynt

    From the outside, with that neon sign and garish, over-painted exterior, Tommy's Joynt looks like a haven for freaks and weirdos. Then you go through those heavy double doors and find a series of interconnected rooms bursting with random kitsch from the better part of a century: Lots of new and old beer signs, dusty old German oil paintings, beer steins galore, and various pieces of Bay Area memorabilia. (There's even an autographed photo of Metallica hanging from the bar.)... More >>

  • Best Burger Menagerie

    Belly Burger (Pork), Fins on the Hoof (Lamb), Fivetenburger (Beef)

    It used to be that burgers only came from one animal: cow. And while beef still dominates the meat-on-bun genre, a few food truck chefs have pushed the burger into new territory without losing the essence of the all-American meal. At Belly Burgers, chef Tom Pizzica grinds fresh pork belly to create a Classic Belly Burger ($6 for one, $10 for any two; pork belly patty, fried pobalno and serrano pepper aioli, tomatillo relish, cotija cheese) that is so good... More >>

  • Best Stilt-Walking, People-Painter

    Audette Sophia and Catalyst Arts

    You may not know art – but you will when you become it. The transformation from ho-hum existing flesh to living canvas is the art of multidisciplinary performer Audette Sophia. Business functions become forms of expression when her face and body-painting skills are applied to otherwise mundane operations, and no event or gala is forgettable when her stilt-walking, fire-dancing troupe comes to mark the occasion. From head-to-toe and child to adult, the entire body is the available canvas, with private... More >>

  • Best Culinary DisruptErs

    Good Eggs

    By Anna Roth San Francisco may be the undisputed leader in tech innovation, but the city's food scene has moved beyond farm-to-table ingredients and is causing its own distruption. Witness the astronomic rise of Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowien, a young chef who decided to start experimenting with Sichuan peppercorns and riffs on Chinese food like kung pao pastrami at a Mission pop-up a few years back (2234 Mission St., 863-2800. MissionChineseFood.com). He's now the darling of the national food... More >>

  • Best Stunt Eating

    Little Griddle

    By Tamara Palmer San Francisco is a world center of hyperlocal, organic, artisan food. It's a place where fresh produce is revered and treated like pure art and restaurants are proud to proclaim the use of the most sustainable, humanely treated, and supremely coddled ingredients. But we also know how to dabble and even revel in supremely wrong cuisine, a kind of digestive sport where the trashiest specimens barely fit for human consumption ends up splashed on the feeds of... More >>

  • Best Exotic Food Delivery

    Lers Ros

    By Anna Roth It's Tuesday night, you've opened a bottle of wine, and have Netflix queued up to binge-watch something delightful. All that's left is to order dinner in, but you're tired of the same old delivery options. These S.F. restaurants offer something outside the norm for those evenings when you want to explore the boundaries of a new cuisine but don't want to leave the cozy confines of the couch.Lers RosAlligator, frog, rabbit, quail, boar, and other meats beyond... More >>

  • Best Poutine

    By The Dapper Diner Poutine, the eastern Canadian equivalent of In-N-Out's animal-style fries, is a pile of thin- to medium-cut french fries crispy enough to withstand a ladle's worth of brown gravy, on which a generous serving of crumbled cheese curds are dropped, melting slightly from the heat of the fries and gravy. It is the 2 a.m. greasy bar food for which you would kill your best friend. It is the salty and satisfying snack that tastes like ambrosia... More >>

  • Best Breakfast Sandwiches

    By Josh Leskar If you want to get technical about it, any sandwich consumed first thing in the morning is a "breakfast sandwich." But we know what you're really after as you roll groggily out of bed: oozing, melted cheese, fluffy scrambled or fried eggs, optional (but not really) meat of choice, all encased by sweet, glorious carbohydrates. Whether to cure your hangover woes or simply start the day off heartily in ideal proportions of fat, protein, and carbs, here... More >>

  • Best Elusive Beer

    Russian River Brewing Company

    By Anna Roth There's a dividing line between beer drinkers: those who have tried Pliny the Younger, and those who have not. The triple IPA made by Russian River Brewing Company (725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2337. RussianRiverBrewing.com) is the stuff of legend, a serious brew with 10.5 percent alcohol content that's only available in very limited quantities during the first few weeks of February. People talk about Pliny the Younger in hushed, reverential tones; they only share their... More >>

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