Taqueria Los Coyotes

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Taqueria Los Coyotes is a happy medium between Jack in the Box and El Farolito.  If you ever find yourself wandering around the Mission in the wee hours after the bars are closed and you too impatient to stand in the El Farolito line, have no fear - Taqueria Los Coyotes is open till 3:30a on Fridays and Saturdays.

The menu here is ridiculously huge, from seafood to al pastor on a spit, to the standard tacos and burritos, but, honestly, I'm only zoning in on two things here :  carne asada fries and the California burrito.  

If you've ever been to San Diego, you been lucky enough to taste their carne asada fries and California burrito.  Even though the Bay Area has some pretty tasty Mexican food, no one can replicate San Diego's carne asada fries in true form.  I've hunted them down from Taqueria Las Vegas in Milpitas (thick fries?!) to Iguanas in San Jose (just terrible overall) and never found a suitable substitute until Tauqeria Los Coyotes.  So you may not get the mound of meat covering your fries like you do in San Diego, but Taqueria Los Coyotes is the best I've had in the Bay Area so far.  Thin fries, flavored carne asada topped with fresh avocado and salsa.  It hits the spot and it's good enough to tide me over until the next time I'm in San Diego.  

California burritos is probably the next food item that comes to mind when thinking about San Diego food.  I get my burritos without sour cream and usually that works out fine for me, but the California burrito here was a little on the dry side.  Not sure if it was because of the lack of sour cream or too many fries.  If you've never had a California burrito, then definitely partake in one here, but know that it doesn't do a real California burrito from San Diego justice.

Address:                       Taqueria Los Coyotes
                                             3036 16th St.
                                             San Francisco, CA

Type:                               Mexican

Popular chomps:  carne asada fries
                                             California burrito

Chomp worthy:       carne asada fries     


Anchor Oyster Bar

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Anchor Oyster Bar is probably more of a local scene versus famed Swan Oyster Bar.  Same setup with no reservations in this tiny restaurant.  Only a small number of counter seats and 4 tables makes for a bit of a wait.  Make sure you write your name, # in party, and time arrived on the white board when you walk up.

This cheesy garlic bread is delicious!  At first I thought a full order is too much ( you can order half an order, which is not listed on the menu), but the whole basket was devoured by end of meal.  Not too cheesey or garlic, but a nice balance between the two, along with a toasted crunch in every bite.

Clam Chowder at Anchor Oyster Bar - #28 on 2012 7x7 SF's Top 100 Eats
 The bowl of clam chowder here is a little on the smaller side compared to other bowls of clam chowder I've had.  It's a little thicker than Swan's chowder, but also has a sweet aftertaste.  Also, very few clams in this bowl.  Not something I would order again. I still prefer Basa Seafood's smokey bacon, chunky clam chowder.  (See post HERE).

Anchor Oyster Bar has a combination they do with a dozen oysters, 4 chilled prawns, and 8 steamed clams for $38.95, but I only wanted oysters, which are sold at $2.50 each.  The types of oysters vary daily.  I ordered 4 of each.  From bottom left, clockwise:  Washington Steamboats, New Brunswick Beausoleils, and British Columbia Kusshls.  Not a fan of the mignonette sauce here - a little too pungent.

The cioppino isn't on the menu, but if you ask for it they will make it for you.   Possibly the best thing here and the best cioppino I've had.  It's huge - enough for two people to share. The subtle spicy tomato base is slurp worthy, especially with the two garlic bread slices that come with the dish.  If you order the garlic bread, I suggest saving a couple pieces for soping up the broth.  One of the issues I have with cioppino is something is always overcooked, either the shrimp or the shellfish is too rubbery.  Anchor makes it absolutely perfect.  Each seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, and crab) are perfectly cooked so each piece is juicy and succulent.  Another bonus is they shell the crab for you so no need to ruin the eating momentum by cracking the crab.   

In order of favorite to least favorite (Bay Area):
Oysters: Hog Island  > Anchor Oyster Bar > Bar Crudo > Hog & Rocks >Swan Oyster (Haven't gotten to taste the oysters at Basa yet - tbd soon....)

Clam Chowder:  Basa Seafood > Hog Island > Anchor Oyster Bar > Old Port Lobster Shack > Sam's > Swan Oyster > Cook's Seafood

Cioppino: Anchor Oyster Bar > Sam's   

Address:                        Anchor Oyster Bar
                                              579 Castro St.
                                              San Francisco, CA

Type:                                seafood

Popular chomps:   oysters
                                              clam chowder
                                              garlic bread
                                              steamed mussels/clams      

Chomp worthy:       oysters
                                              garlic bread        


Fluffy Snow

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This Tawainese to HK to Southern California sweet treat has finally made its way to Northern California.  To date, I've only been able to locate a couple spots in San Francisco/Bay Area that serve this snow ice dessert.  Disclaimer: Snow ice/shaved snow/xue hua bing is not Hawaiian shaved ice. 
Fluffy Snow serves up slushy drinks, some savory stuff and other Asian dessert, but its most known for its snow ice.  The yellow machine in the corner shaves up this new fangled dessert.  Blocks of flavored frozen milk are put into the machine then carved to form ribbons of fluffy ice.

There are a handful of "signature" set snow ice combinations, but you can customize one as well.  After choosing a snow ice (green tea, lychee, mango, milk, peanut, or strawberry), then one drizzle and two toppings are selected.
Hawaiian shaved ice is made by grinding plain ice and then drizzling with syrups and adding toppings.  The taste mostly flavored ice.  The texture of snow ice is really light, like playing/eating a cloud.  I was fascinated by just scooping it up.  The taste of ice cream without the heaviness.  This is possibly my new favorite dessert obsession for the upcoming summer (will make it a goal to eat at all the dessert cafes this summer that serve it). 
Decided to try a custom creation with milk snow ice drizzled with condensed milk and topped with aloe vera and honeydew.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, like most Asian desserts.  The aloe vera and honeydew toppings made this dessert refreshing to eat.

 Fluffy snow offers a handful of combinations of snow ice called Signatures.  Strawberry seemed the safest choice with strawberry snow ice drizzled with strawberry syrup and topped with cheesecake squares and fresh strawberries.  It comes in the larger container, which I think is a more appropriate sharing size.  The strawberry snow ice is bursting with strawberry flavor.  I did note that compared to what I read about snow ice, this place seems to be a little more on the icey side than on the creamy side.  Will research more with other cafes.

Another dessert treat at this cafe that caught my eye was the red velvet cake pops.  Somewhat of a gimmick, but I can't resist red velvet.  These cake pops were made of alternating layers of red velvet cake and marshmallow and cream in a 80s revival of a push pop.  The flavors were just okay, but it definitely fun and creative.

Address:                           Fluffy Snow
                                                 1314 Noriega St.
                                                 San Francisco, CA
Type:                           dessert/Asian

Popular chomps:       strawberry snow ice
                                                  milk snow ice
                                                  red velvet cake pop     
                                                  mango snow ice

Chomp worthy:            strawberry signature snow ice
                                                   milk snow ice    


Pizzetta 211

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Pizzeria Delfina is my #1 favorite in the Bay Area, but Pizzetta 211 is definitely up there.  The small, quaint atomsphere at Pizzetta and their delicious pizzas make it worth driving all the way to the Richmond district.  Eating here makes you feel like you are eating in someone's kitchen.  It only has about 4-6 tables with a couple of those tables located outside so there can be a wait sometimes.  I suggest going here in the middle of the afternoon, around 3p,  if you don't want to wait.  I like to sit at the counter because you can watch them making the pizza.  There are about 6 types of pizzas on the menu made with seasonal ingredients and are changed weekly.   

The classic margarita pizza at Pizzetta is one of my favorites in the city and I've eaten a lot of them.  The style of pizza at Pizzetta is thin and crispy.  I love how a basil paste is used here instead of the leaves, which allows more of the taste in every bite.

Pizzetta usually has at least one pizza with a farm fresh egg on the menu.  Get it!  They put TWO perfectly runny, oozing eggs on top of the pizza, while many places only serve one, so there's twice as many runny yolks to dip your pizza in.  The farm egg, bacon, ricotta, green garlic, and fava leaf pizza is delicious.  All the ingredient balance well together and each bite keeps you wanting more.  It's hard to decide which I like better, this pizza or the margarita. 

Address:                         Pizzetta 211
                                               211 23rd. Ave.
                                               San Francisco, CA
Type:                                 pizza

Popular chomps:    margarita (tomato, basil, mozzarella) 
                                    any pizza with farm fresh eggs

Chomp worthy:        margarita
                                               farm egg, bacon, ricotta, green garlic, and fava leaf pizza         



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Homeroom serves up a huge variety of mac and cheeses:  spicy, white cheddar, and even chorizo.

Their home made root beer is worth a try if you like root beer.  The strong flavor of root really resonates in every sip especially in the after taste.
Homeroom serves up a handful of brunch items on the weekends from 11a-3p.  The breakfast mac is the only brunch mac and cheese.  Creamy cheddar based mac and cheese mixed with bacon and top with a runny egg.  I added the bread crumbs for extra crunch.  The egg wasn't as runny as I would have liked and the bacon could use more salty smokey flavor.
Super cheesy with bits of hot dog and topped with potato chip crumbles.  They use thicker macaroni here, which works well with the creamy sauce. 
Banana cream pie served in a mason jar with slices of banana, drizzles of caramel and vanilla wafers.  Good banana flavor, but the consistency was too thin for my taste.

Address:                          Homeroom
                                                400 40th St.
                                                Oakland, CA 
Type:                          American

Popular chomps:     Trailer mac
                                                Mexican mac
                                                 homemade root beer
                                                 spicy mac        

Chomp worthy:         Trailer mac        


Taqueria Sinaloa

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 I've been feening for some good tacos, especially since the ones in Redwood City haven't been meeting my expectations.  I had been feeling like I've been eating a lot of disappointing sub par tacos these days.  So I had to hop over to East Oakland, where the food rarely fails me.  Taqueria Sinaloa did not disappoint.  Bonus points for being close to the freeway if ever in need of a quick snack.
No need to grab and go, there's a small sitting area with tables and chairs to sit and enjoy your taco.

The taco truck menu.  The tacos are $1.25 here except for tripe, which is $1.75.  

The tacos here come on two perfectly griddle corn tortillas - so perfect that they have a nice crunch to them.  From bottom left;clockwise: carnitas, al pastor, carne asada, chorizo.

While all the tacos were delicious, the carnitas taco shines above them all.  Shredded pork made into a small thin patty and griddle to create a crispy top layer.  Almost reminiscent of corned beef hash.  The crunchy bits of the carnitas along with the crispy tortillas makes this taco one of the best tacos I've eaten in my life and that's a lot of tacos.
The chorizo taco was covered in mounds of sweet tasting chorizo. 

The griddled crunch of the tortilla makes all the difference in a taco and gives it that extra special touch.  The al pastor meat was more sweet than spicy, but I could not help but comment over the wonderful crispy tortilla.

 Not the best carne asada I've had in my life, but above average flavor and well seasoned. 

Upon ordering at the first truck, I spotted this truck across the parking lot.  It says Mariscos Sinaloa (seafood), so I had thought it would be all seafood, but actually its the same menu as the first truck with a couple addional seafood items. 

The menu on the mariscos truck.  It's pretty much the same except for the shrimp burrito, shrimp taco, fish taco, tostadas, and seafood cocktails.

The fish taco is lightly breaded with a small scoop of salsa.  The fish was really fresh and light, but I preferred the taste of the meat tacos over the seafood.  

 Sinaloa isn't shy about piling on the tostadas with shrimp.  Each plump, juicy shrimp was marinated in a sweet sauce and mixed with cucumbers, onions, and cilantro.

Address:                     Taqueria Sinaloa
                                           2138 International Blvd
                                           Oakland, Ca

Type:                             Mexican

Popular chomps: tacos (all meats)

Chomp worthy:     carne asada taco
                                            carnitas taco
                                            al pastor taco                            


Umami Burger

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Yes!  Only a 5 minute wait to get a table here on a weekday (Tues) night versus 45 min plus on the weekends.  Umami has a pretty decent waiting system, where they take down your name and number on their Ipad and text you when your table is up.  There are a handful of regular item burgers on this Southern California burger chain, but they also have daily specials on their "secret" menu.

Truffle fries made with cheese melted on top of fries and drizzled with truffle oil.  It's one of the "secret" menu items.  The earthy scent of truffles smells heavenly and the taste is delicious as well.  Super cheesy with hints of truffle.  

The cheesy tater tots were another "special" item of the day.  They were lightly crisp with a super soft, mushy center.  I was expecting tater tots covered in melted cheese, which I think would have been amazing.  I wished these had more of a crunchy texture and more cheese flavor.  The cheese flavor was very subtle.

Umami's house made ketchup doesn't taste like ketchup at all.  It has a little sweet and sour taste to it.
I was pretty excited to find out that they had the bone marrow burger on the special for the day.  The burgers at Umami are noticeably smaller, but also taller than regular burgers.  The bone marrow burger came with tempura fried bone marrow atop a juicy patty and pickled vegetable.  The burger was so decadent and rich.  The bone marrow just oozed perfect fatty flavor in every bite.  It probably could have done with another type of pickled vegetable to balance out the richness, but other than that it was delicious.

The bone marrow burger (medium rare) dissected.
Umami really hits home for me.  It puts two of my loves in a burger:  bone marrow and truffle.  Now only if they could put them both in ONE burger.  A large patty with melted truffle cheese and truffle oil between two buns makes up the delicious truffle burger.  The cheese used in the burger is similar to the cheese on the fries so you get a big dose of truffle flavor from that.  The meat itself didn't seem to have any truffle flavor or bits in it, which would probably actually equate to a $25 burger versus the actual $12.  Just wished the burger wasn't so bun heavy.

The truffle burger (medium rare) dissected.

Address:                       Umami Burger
                                             2184 Union St.
                                             San Francisco, CA

Type:                               burgers

Popular chomps:  bone marrow burger
                                             cheesy tater tots
                                             truffle fries
                                             truffle burger      
                                             bacon wrapped scallop burger                      

Chomp worthy:     bone marrow burger
                                             truffle burger
                                             truffle fries 


Vientian Cafe

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Vientian Cafe serves up Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese food, but its best known for its Lao food.  Its my absolute favorite place to eat Laotian food.  Possibly the best (and most legit) Lao food outside of a home cooked meal that you can find in the Bay Area.  Its best to come here with a larger (but not too large, like 4-6, - the restaurant is tiny), so you can order more dishes.  Also, a must eat place if you enjoy spicy. 
 They offer both Thai style and Lao style papaya salad here, but it's a Lao restaurant so I highly recommend order the Lao style salad (tum mak hoong).  Thai papaya salad is sweet, sour, spicy, and a tad bit salty, whereas the Lao papaya salad is mostly spicy and salty.  The Lao version doesn't have peanuts and has fermented fish sauce.  The spiciness level here is really spicy.   

Lao papaya salad is commonly served with lettuce and noodles to ease the spiciness.

The basket that contains the sticky rice.
Sticky rice is another popular item eaten with papaya salad and is a must order for me.
The angel wings are Vientian Cafe are lightly fried with a tangy, sweet sauce.

Kao soy (Khao soi) is made with wide rice noodles, chilis, ground pork, garlic, green onions, and fermented soy beans.  Not as spicy as it looks, but hits the spot after a late night out or on a cold day.  Some people like to add more chilis or tamarind to taste. 
Pork pad see ew is one of the handful of Thai dishes on the menu.  Its a safe option if you don't eat spicy. 

Address:                       Vientian Cafe
                                             3801 Allandale Ave.
                                             Oakland, CA

Type:                                Lao/Thai/Vietnamese

Popular chomps:   angel wings
                                              nam kao
                                              lao papaya salad with sticky rice
                                              lao sausage
                                              kao soy
                                              beef larb
                                              mok pa

Chomp worthy:       angel wings
                                              nam kao
                                              lao papaya salad with sticky rice
                                              lao sausage
                                              kao soy