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Our Food Critic's Favorite Dishes and Drinks of 2014 

Tuesday, Dec 23 2014
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Keeping up with new restaurants is a Sisyphean task in this town — ignore the scene for a few weeks and suddenly the dining landscape can be as unfamiliar as the surface of the moon. So it's understandable if you missed a few spots. In no particular order, here are my favorite dishes and drinks from restaurants that opened this year, the items that stood out in my memory when I thought back on all the meals I had in 2014. And yes, this is a very subjective, personal list. Even I didn't eat at every new restaurant last year, nor did I have many great sweets or East Bay meals. Just a few things to work on in 2015.

Frankeroni at 4505 Burgers and BBQ

Ryan Farr and his team have been serving their deep-fried mac and cheese at farmers markets for a few years now, but when they opened their barbecue-and-burger shack in the old Da Pitt space on Divisadero, it was suddenly available from lunch to late-night. A beautifully fried brick of macaroni and cheese liberally studded with 4505 hot dog bits, the frankeroni is crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, and as good a proof as any of the existence of God. 705 Divisadero, 231-6993,

Beef tendon puffs at Alta CA

One of the year's best bar snack innovations came from Daniel Patterson's mid-Market restaurant in the form of this take on chicharrones. These ephemeral puffs engineered by Alta chef Yoni Levy often come to the table directly from the fryer, still emitting the occasional pop as their pockets of fat give way. The flavor is light and beefy, with a soft, clean vinegar aftertaste — a worthy start to a meal of bistro classics seen through a California lens. 1420 Market, 590-2585,

Sours from Almanac Beer Co.

Everyone seems to be making sour beers these days, but most of them end up tasting like old vinegar. In 2014, Almanac brewmasters Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan showed off their brewing skills with a dozen new beers in their Farm to Barrel series, including sours made from (and tasting of) local fruit. Dogpatch Strawberry, Farmer's Reserve Pluot, Heirloom Pumpkin, and Valley of the Heart's Delight, a blend of foraged apricots, loquats, and cherries, are among my many favorites.

Pizza at The Mill

Toast slinger Josey Baker expanded his repertoire very slightly this year with the addition of weekly pizzas at The Mill. The charismatic baker and his team began turning out Monday night pies with whole-wheat sourdough crusts that sounded like they'd be the worst kind of wholesome, but turned out to be surprisingly light and buttery. Toppings are simple — usually just cheese with a few vegetarian additions like arugula or spring onions and garlic — but the resulting pizzas are always satisfying. 736 Divisadero, 345-1953,

Pork chop at Trou Normand

One night, well-lubricated by excellent cocktails at this Bar Agricole spinoff, our fingers still greasy from the luscious slices of housemade charcuterie we'd consumed moments before, we were presented with a beauty of a pork chop, a thick, decadent, meaty dream. I didn't know that I could have such strong feelings about this particular cut of meat until I tasted it, salty and sweet, with a ribbon of pure, seasoned fat that you could dissolve on your tongue like a savory dessert. It is unequivocally worth the $36 price tag. 140 New Montgomery, 975-0876,

Albacore sandwich at Red Hill Station

Good sandwiches are a dime a dozen, but great ones ... those are more difficult to find. Bernal Heights' new seafood restaurant served probably the best sandwich I ate this year, a beautiful slurry of tuna slow-poached in olive oil, mixed with lemon juice and capers, and served in a buttered, toasted Acme roll with a schmear of garlic aioli. It makes for a messy bite to be sure, but once it's gone, you have the singular pleasure of licking the garlicky olive oil drippings off your fingers. 803 Cortland, 757-0480,

Daisy Duck at Chino

Due to the mysterious, cyclical nature of trends, slushy cocktails came back in a big way in 2014. Though most were a step above the frozen margaritas and piña coladas you'd be served at a swim-up bar, Chino bartender Danny Louie's seasonal, boba-laced concoctions are the only ones that I'd go out of my way to order again. I fell especially hard for the summertime Daisy Duck, made with vodka, peach, and ginger — it was just on the right side of sour, tasted of peak-of-season peaches, went down dangerously easy, and paired wonderfully with an order of the fresh shrimp wontons in chile oil. 3198 16th St., 552-5771,

Kua Kling pork ribs at Kin Khao

Pim Techamuanvivit's upscale joint near Union Square brought a new dimension to the city's Thai food this year, offering dishes and ingredients that go way beyond pad Thai and green curry. Of several impressive items on the menu, the dry-fried pork riblets are the most mind-blowing thanks to their layers of flavor: first lemongrass, lime leaves, and curry, then spices that broke over the taste buds in waves. Now when people complain about "Americanized Thai food," I'm a step closer to understanding what they mean. 55 Cyril Magnin, 362-7456,

Caesar popcorn at The Dock at Linden Street

Just because something is ridiculously simple doesn't mean it's not innovative. Chef James Syhabout, also of Commis and Box & Bells, is known for twisting American flavors in delightful new ways. At West Oakland's brewery/restaurant The Dock at Linden Street, he takes popcorn and douses it in Caesar salad dressing. Not enough to get it soggy, just enough to give it an addictive anchovy- and Parmesan-rich flavor, making it the perfect accompaniment to one of Linden Street Brewery's bold beers. 95 Linden, Oakland,

Greek frozen yogurt at Souvla

I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but the Greek-style frozen yogurt at Hayes Valley's gyro emporium is the kind of dessert I can get behind. It's thicker than most frozen yogurt and balances sweetness and tartness with aplomb. But it's the toppings that really make it: cinnamony baklava crumbles; a shot of sour cherry syrup; or my personal favorite, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. And because the restaurant's excellent salads are meals in themselves, I never feel guilty about ordering dessert. 517 Hayes, 400-5458,


About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.


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