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Best Savory Bread Pudding
2495 Third St. (at 22nd St.), 252-2000
A signature starter at Serpentine, a chic eatery housed in an industrial space in the Dogpatch neighborhood, is its homey savory bread pudding, a crusty hillock that tastes better than it looks (trust us). Under its browned exterior hides a frequently changing amalgam of seasonal ingredients (perhaps nettles, roasted onions, and Swiss cheese; or fennel, baby spinach, roasted garlic, and Swiss cheese), incorporated in an eggy custard full of bread chunks. For a few extra dollars, you can add roasted carrots and mixed greens to the plate, bumping up the appetizer to a perfect vegetarian supper.

Best Barbecue (Outdoor)
Ironwood BBQ
Golden Gate Municipal Golf Course
47th Ave. (at Fulton), 751-8987
On a sunny day, dining on good, inexpensive barbecue in an unexpected and hidden location can truly feel like the Best of S.F. Above a spacious (and free!) parking lot is a modest pro shop that hides a food counter, where you can order from a reasonably priced menu featuring pulled pork, brisket, and baby back ribs. You can have these served as sandwiches atop scalloped potatoes and beans (known here as a Bogie Bowl), or as plate meals, accompanied by two sides from a list including coleslaw and green salad, served on sectioned paper plates with disposable cutlery. There are a few indoor tables, but on a nice day, head for the shaded patio, from where you can catch a glimpse of the Pacific as well as peaceful duffers and champions golfing on the manicured greens.

Best Southern-Style Cookin'
John Akins
Alemany Farmers' Market, 100 Alemany (at Putnam)
Heart of the City Farmers' Market, U.N. Plaza (near the corner of Fulton and Hyde)
There's a surprising abundance of soul food in San Francisco, a testament to a culinary resistance to the rising clout of the organic food movement, which hasn't entirely captured the breakfast crowd that drizzles melted butter over a plate of grits. Fortunately, Southern foodies don't have to choose between their taste buds and their arteries. On Wednesdays, they can visit John Akins underneath his tent at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market in U.N. Plaza. On Saturdays, they can find him at the Alemany Farmers' Market among a row of tents set behind the painted concrete produce stalls. Anyone who longs for a taste of Southern home cooking will savor each bite of Akins' cinnamon buns and his peach cobbler tart. But the real treat here is the sweet potato tart. The potatoes come thinly sliced in this diamond-shaped pastry, like apples in a galette, elevating a regional delicacy to a taste-treasure.

Best Venerable Tea Room
Lovejoy's Tea Room
1351 Church (at Clipper), 648-5895
Open since 2000 (which counts as venerable in these parts and in this economy), Lovejoy's looks as if it's been in existence forever — or at least since Victorian times — thanks to its eclectic, cozy decor, featuring overstuffed upholstered furniture, mismatched china and silver, and shelves laden with Anglophilic tchotchkes. To accompany your choice from around two dozen teas, dine on pastries, crumpets, excellent tea sandwiches (an astonishing 17 varieties available), and full teas including scones with Devon cream, shortbread, sandwiches — even hummus made with smoked salmon or artichokes. Heartier fare includes shepherd's pie, sausage rolls, and quiche. If you want to take home teas and Devon cream, or decorate your own parlor like Lovejoy's, visit Lovejoy's Attic, its antique-store annex across the street.

Best Place to Get Buzzed at Brunch
Axis Cafe and Gallery
1201 Eighth St. (at Irwin), 437-2947
We sort of hate to tell you about this place, because it's oh-so-easy to get a Sunday brunch table at the moment. But this industrial-chic Potrero Hill cafe, complete with fireplace and sun-drenched (and otherwise heated) patio dining, is bound to be discovered. With a spacious dining area, walls adorned with rotating works from California Academy of Art students, and laid-back service, Axis is ideal for relaxing with a good friend over a cool green apple bellini ($8) or three on a lazy weekend midmorning. For those who choose to forgo the hair of the dog, the coffee is strong and the sugar is cubed (adorable). We're usually drunk by the time the food arrives, but we're pretty sure it's excellent regardless. Favorites include the tomato basil soup ($4 or $6); spicy ahi tuna with hearts of palm, avocado, and fried wontons ($12); and if you insist on traditional brunch fare, we suggest the fried egg sandwich with fontina, bacon, avocado, and roasted peppers ($8.50). Just please don't start showing up every Sunday with all your friends, or we're going to stop telling you things.

Best Popovers
The Bistro at Cliff House
1090 Point Lobos (at Great Highway), 386-3330
Popovers are eggy, light, almost hollow soufflélike rolls, with a fragile and glossy crust, and best when served fresh. Practice makes perfect, but most restaurants don't even attempt to bake the steam-leavened treats. In San Francisco, reliable beauties are available at the Bistro. The Bistro serves breakfast and lunch daily, accompanied by what it calls "our famous popovers" and the same fabulous ocean views available for much more moolah at the fancier Cliff House eateries, Sutro's and the Terrace Room. (Caveat emptor: The Bistro, unlike the other two Cliff House spots, has a no-reservation policy, unless there are 12 or more in your party.)


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