Dine Like a Local in San Francisco: Neighborhood Faves in the Bay Area

To find under-the-radar gems, head out to the neighborhoods. Often run by husband and wife teams, these noteworthy spots are just off the beaten path. But they are definitely not just for insiders only. Try one out on your travels to the Bay Area to dine like a local in San Francisco.

Noe Valley is known for many things—it’s where Mark Zuckerberg resides (along with the church that was featured in Sister Act)—but it’s not typically a dining destination. However, there are a couple of places that are destination-worthy including Contigo. Opened by a chef with a passion for Barcelona and his wife who runs the front of the house, the menu offers both tapas and larger raciones both cold and hot. Staple items since day one include wood oven-roasted Half Moon Bay sardines with avocado toast served with pickled red onions and smoked salt and Catalan coca flatbreads with seasonal toppings. A must-order dish is the Monterey chipirones (squid) a la Plancha with arroz negro, chorizo, squid ink, and aioli. Make a reservation at Contigo.

Dine Like a Local in San Francisco

Spaghetti Brothers
Spaghetti Brothers is off the main drag of the Marina and practically on the edge of the Presidio. True to its name, the spaghetti with uni could make an Italian diner weep tears of joy. The restaurant’s dark interior, strong drinks, and retro specialties, such as toasted ravioli served with marinara, garlic bread, and a chopped salad with feta, sharp cheddar, and salami give it an old school Italian-American vibe. In a word, it’s fun. Don’t miss the lively happy hours and the popular brunch, which is served until 4PM on Sundays. Make a reservation at Spaghetti Brothers.

Dine Like a Local in San Francisco

Chef Kris Toliao is a rising star to be sure. His skills were honed working for Dominique Crenn and at a 2 Michelin star kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo. His wife, Yuka Loroi, smoothly oversees both the front of the house and the beverage program. The reasonably priced wines, beers, and sakes perfectly complement Toliao’s imaginative cuisine. Dishes include the creative use of grains, housemade pickles, cured salts, and jams. Locally sourced fish is a specialty often combined with seasonal ingredients in dishes like Seared Catalina Island Yellowtail with summer corn, olive oil-poached carrots, summer kale kimchee, and bacon black rice. Even simple salads are elevated to something special, such as the Sonoma Little Gem, Green Beans & Strawberry Salad with Armenian cucumbers, dried blueberries, herbed crème frâiche, crispy brown rice, and almonds. Make a reservation at Cassava.

Dine Like a Local in San Francisco

1601 Bar & Kitchen
Another restaurant owned by a husband and wife team, 1601 Bar & Kitchen serves food from chef Brian Fernando that is a fusion of Sri Lankan and California flavors — and positively compelling. In fact, you can’t go wrong with a single dish on the menu. There are two choices for dining — a tasting menu or small plates. And the small plates are very well portioned for sharing. A few of the dishes on the tasting menu, such as the street food favorite egg hopper, are available as a small plate as well. It’s a lacy rice flour and coconut milk crisp crepe, topped with an egg and served with sambals. It’s in a decidedly odd location South of Market but still well worth seeking out. Though the house-smoked salmon and bavette steak are incredible, the vegetarian dishes, including a kale salad with coconut, Parmesan, and black garlic vinaigrette and the crispy okra with cashews, are equally satisfying. Make a reservation at 1601 Bar & Kitchen.

Dine Like a Local in San Francisco

1760 is on a stretch of Polk Street more known for late night drinking than eating, and yet it’s fitting that it’s the perfect spot to indulge in a post-work drink or a leisurely brunch on the weekends. The current chef adds welcome Filipino touches to the menu. On the menu, you’ll find Crab Fat Congee with crispy pork, a soft-cooked egg, and heirloom tomato, and on the dinner menu Pork Sisig with sieved egg, kohlrabi, and ginger aioli. These dishes are so tasty it, will make you wonder why Filipino food has yet to take the country by storm! Make a reservation at 1760.

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SF Restaurant Week 2016: 5 Can’t Miss Deals + Dishes

Ready, set, make reservations! From January 20-31, some of the hottest restaurants in the Bay Area are offering unbeatable deals for SF Restaurant Week 2016. There are $15 + $25 prix-fixe lunches and $40 + $65 prix-fixe dinners, reason enough to brave the dreary weather and discover something special. Plus, OpenTable will be donating $0.25 per diner to the 50 Fund, the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee — so get dining! Here are a few of the best deals on meals!

Roka Akor, Financial District/Embarcadero
This Japanese spot tucked away on the edge of the Financial District, North Beach, and Jackson Square is modern and luxurious and the open robata grill and sushi counter allow you to see the chefs in action. The restaurant is known for pristine fish and wagyu beef, and you’ll get to sample both at lunch or at dinner. For an appetizer, choose the Yellowtail Sashimi with Garlic Ponzu then move on to steak or their silky Miso Black Cod. Make a reservation at Roka Akor for SF Restaurant Week 2016.

SF Restaurant Week 2016

Burritt Room & Tavern, Downtown/Union Square
Located in a historic San Francisco building, this Charlie Palmer restaurant is loaded with charm and offers cozy dining in curtained booths. The three-course menu at only $40 features American Wagyu Strip Loin as one of the options for a main course, served with burgundy truffle omelet, buttered sourdough, pickled onion, and a burgundy reduction. Feeling frisky? With the money you saved, you can check in to the adjoining hotel downstairs. Make a reservation at Burritt Room & Tavern for SF Restaurant Week 2016.

SF Restaurant Week 2016

Luce, SOMA
Imagine dining at a Michelin star restaurant for only $65 at dinner. Actually don’t imagine, book it. Luce means light in Italian and with floor-to-ceiling windows and soaring ceilings it is an airy space that’s still quiet and somehow feels intimate accented by impeccably smooth service. The three-course menu includes a deconstructed take on s’mores with chocolate, marshmallow, and smoked caramel. Make a reservation at Luce for SF Restaurant Week 2016.

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Cheers to Vegetarian Awareness Month: Beyond the Salad + Sides at Saha in San Francisco

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As we bid adieu to Vegetarian Awareness Month — it’s been a good ol’ plant-filled time — we leave you with the message that it’s a big vegan-friendly world out there. Everywhere we look there are restaurants going plant-forward, with restaurants that showcase the most delicious of vegetarian and vegan cooking regardless of the meat on their menus.

Here in San Francisco at OpenTable HQ, we needn’t look far for unusual examples of the way in which what was once an alternative style of cooking and eating have merged with the culinary mainstream. Just blocks from our offices, a restaurant that was featured on our Top Vegetarian and Vegan-Friendly dining list, is the perfect example of how numerous different cuisine types lend themselves creatively to meatless dining.

And, as we recently discovered, some of the most innovative stuff is happening a stone’s throw away. At Saha, an Arabic fusion restaurant located in the Hotel Carlton on Sutter Street in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, Mohamed Aboghanem offers a style of cooking all his own, where he rethinks traditional Yemenese, Middle Eastern and North African fusion in a healthier, beautifully presented, local ingredient-driven style.

“People come to [Saha] because, especially if you are vegetarian, you feel like you have equal rights with the carnivores,” says the chef-owner who trained at the Cordon Bleu. “Half of the menu is vegan and gluten-free.”

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Dietary designations aside, his food is full of flavor, coaxed from spices of all kinds (turmeric, ginger, cayenne, all spice, cumin, sumac, and za’atar, to name a few), unusual beans and grains, and organic produce. Soy is scarce; alternative flours like garbanzo flour (naturally gluten-free) are not. Take the vegan knaffe (pictured): a vegan shredded phyllo with vegan cream cheese and wild mushrooms baked in a ramekin and served over coconut chermoulah chipotle sauce. No deprivation there.Continue Reading

World Cocktail Day: Celebrate Like a Pro with Tips from Morgan Schick of Aaxte

May 13, 1806 marked the day that The Oxford Dictionary published and defined the word cocktail:

Cocktail (noun): An alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or cream.”

We celebrate World Cocktail Day each year on the anniversary of that momentous day. But let’s be real; the cocktail has since become more than a simple wedding of ingredients and a flick of the wrist. To shed light on modern day cocktail menus and trends so that you can enjoy World Cocktail Day for all it has to offer, we sat down with Morgan Schick for a drink (or three!), the bar manager of revered San Francisco hotspot Trick Dog and the town’s newest Basque-inspired restaurant and bar Aatxe. A self-proclaimed charmer who openly admits to bringing his own liquor on long flights, Schick, who is part of the Bon Vivants, a nationally recognized cocktail, hospitality, marketing, and design firm, shares his secret recipe for understanding, mixing, and enjoying au courant cocktails.

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Have fun! Drinking is about a good time. Schick advises, “Take drinking seriously, but don’t be too serious.” Appreciate the craft and enjoy the art.

Ask the experts. “It’s hard to tell from a cocktail list if a drink will be sweet, sour, or bitter,” says Schick. Don’t hesitate to chat with the bartender, so you can feel confident about exactly what you’re ordering.

Write your own tale. A cocktail is an experience, not a drink. At Trick Dog, menus are conceptually themed and cocktails are named after colors, zodiac signs, and San Francisco landmarks. Give your home-mixed favorite a quirky twist by coining it after a memorable adventure, or order something extra exotic when out to make it a night to remember. Currently, the menu at Trick Dog is Chinese-themed, and anyone who dares to enter may order the Boduolige Shuang. Say what?  Count us in.Continue Reading