Top 10 chomps of 2012

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2012 seems to have just flown by!  It's been a pretty busy year for me of eats and travel.  So busy that I have yet to post my 2012 travels to India, Thailand, and Cambodia (to be posted soon)!  Unlike 2011's indulgences, this year has been full of eats that are more homey and casual - who knows what 2013 will bring...

My 2012 chomps (in no particular order):

Levain bread and jam from Outerlands (San Francisco, CA).  Sometimes the best thing can be just as simple as toast and jam.  The freshly made fluffy bread is topped with probably the freshest berry jam I've tasted in SF.  Another great thing is you can buy the loaf at the counter and attempt to replicate it at home.

Check out the original post on Outerlands ( HERE)

Fried fish tacos from Ricky's Fish Tacos (Los Angeles, CA).  Miles away from any type of large body of water, in a narrow driveway, a block away from the bustling Hollywood Blvd, who would have ever thought something so magical could exist?  From the perfectly fried to order fish, the cold, crunchy slaw, and the absolutely magical sauces, its the best fish taco I've had.

Check out the original post on Ricky's Fish Tacos ( HERE)

Nem Kaow (rice ball salad) at Champ Garden (San Francisco, CA).  Little crispy bits of rice and other simple ingredients make up this ridiculously memorable dish.  You won't stop thinking about it after its long gone.

Check out the original post on Champa Garden ( HERE)

The Rebel Within at Craftsman and Wolves (San Francisco, CA).  It was a  delight for all the senses as I bit into the savory muffin with a head scratching puzzling surprise inside.  Innovative, creative, and down right tasty.   

Check out the original post on Craftsman and Wolves ( HERE)

Meatball with fried egg sandwich (#13) at Banh Mi Ba Le (Oakland, CA).  When you eat banh mi, who eats anything, but the the combination (dac biet) or the bbq pork?  Not me, but at Banh Mi Ba Le I'm a #13 meatball and fried egg banh mi believer.  The most perfectly runny egg with flavorful meat and the best banh mi bread in Northern California.  Yes, the best banh mi sandwich in the Bay Area is a meatball one.

Check out the original post on Banh Mi Ba Le ( HERE)

Foie sandwich at Naked Lunch (San Francisco, CA),  2012 was the goodbye to foie, but hopefully not forever (see Chicago's foie ban history).  I didn't know how much I loved it till it was gone.  This year we've seen many preparations of foie, from fancy foie to foie in chocolate, but the one whose memory still lingers on the tip of my tongue is Naked Lunch's foie sandwich.  Thick slabs of foie sandwiched with lettuce and tomatoes.  Somehow the combination of it all just works. 

Check out the original post on Naked Lunch ( HERE)

Chicken Arepa from Mr. Pollo (San Francisco, CA).  Perfectly juicy and flavorful chicken in a crispy package.  This dish started my obsession with arepas and may possibly lead to spending my 2013 hunting more of these down.

 Check out the original post on Mr. Pollo ( HERE)

Cannele at Keiko a Nob Hill (San Francisco, CA).  I always love a new sweet treat I've never heard of, especially one with such a history.  The slightly waxy exterior gave a crisp shell to a custardy tasting center.   

Check out the original post on Keiko a Nob Hill ( HERE)

Hurache nopales at El Hurache Loco (San Francisco, CA).  Living in California, you think you've had all types of Mexican food before the age of 30.  Then you tastebuds meet el hurache.  Where have you been all my life?   California fresh ingredients only heighten what is already a  perfectly constructed piece of food art.

Check out the original post on El Hurache Loco ( HERE)

Shredded pork bowl at Daikokuya (Los Angeles, CA).  So its a ramen house, but the winner here was the chicken rice bowl.  From the crispy bits to the fatty juicy pieces, all covered in a sweet sauce, atop some beautifully fluffy white rice. Asian comfort food in its finest moment.

 Check out the original post on Daikokuya ( HERE)

Not to be left out!  My best meal of 2013 was at State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, CA).  Only a place like State Bird Provision could make something as kitchy as dim sum carts work.  Innovative dishes, concept, and tastes make it my clear winner for best meal 2013.
Check out the original post on State Bird Provisions HERE.

For my 2011 Top 10 Chomps check it out HERE



Adamson's French Dip

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Adamson's French Dip wasn't exactly on the top of my food list since I'm not really a huge fan of french dip sandwiches.  The concept of purposely making bread soggy just doesn't make sense to me.

I love restaurants that have a very simple menu, especially ones that serve one or two dishes.  There are a couple bbq sandwiches , but really their menu focuses on two things:  prime rib dip and the top sirloin dip.  Honestly, I wasn't too excited about this place until I saw them slicing the meat to order.  The meat can be purchased by the pound as well.
Another thing about this place that got me excited was they make their own root beer!  Just awesome,  but apparently you can only have it on draft when you eat in.   Still the bottled root beer was earthy, sweet, and refreshing.  I only wish I could have tasted it from the tap.
The potato salad is a side and not included in the combo meal.  It was really creamy with a slight tang.  It was more of a filler.  I did like that the creaminess was from the mashed potatoes and not from gobs of mayo.

Even looking at the sandwich, it didn't seem like much.  They give you a decent portion of thinly sliced prime rib.  The meat is sandwiched between a soft roll and for an extra $.25 each you can add cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and grilled jalapenos.  The meat is really flavorful and super juicy.  The grilled mushroom and cheese that I added were a nice touch, but the meat overpowered it in both taste and texture.  The cheese was a little skimpy.  I'm thinking double cheese next time.   

I was a little hesitant about dipping the sandwich in the au jus, but the sauce is so flavorful.  Possibly even more flavorful than the meat.  Previous au jus sauces I've had were somewhat flavorful, but mostly a liquidy mess.  I don't know if I've converted into a prime dip sandwich eater, but Adamson's is one of the better ones I've had, much better than Prime Dip (see post HERE).

The crispy fries were nothing special and I could probably do without it since the sandwich was pretty filling.

Address:                Adamson's French Dip 
                               806 W. El Camino Real
                               Sunnyvale, CA   
Type:                      sandwich

Popular chomps:    prime rib sandwich
                                root beer
Chomp worthy:       prime rib sandwich
                                root beer        


Lou's Cafe

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 Lou's is referred to as the Ike's sandwiches of the Richmond district.  By the size of the lines I see when I'm driving by, you would think it was Ike's.  Best time to swing by this place to avoid the lines is late in the afternoon or right before it closes.  Just remember it closes on Sundays.

The Llb special is one of the popular sandwiches on the menu.  It has pretty much everything on it:  roast beef, turkey, ham, swiss cheese, provolone and Lou's special sauce on dutch crunch bread.  First of all the bread - sorry, but the dutch crunch at Roxie's is MUCH better.  It might be the combination of everything smashed between the two pieces of dutch crunch that makes the bread a little soggy and not in an Ike's deliciously soggy mess kind of way.  Lou's sauce is their special secret sauce that is more of a jalapeno spread, but honestly I couldn't tell it was jalapeno flavored.  It tasted more like globs of salty (but not spicy) mayo.  An okay sandwich for the area, but not even close enough to be categorized in Ike's league.

The hot link sandwich on dutch crunch still produced a soggy dutch crunch exterior.  Disappointing since I believe the bread is such an important part of a sandwich.  The hot link was probably what made the whole sandwich.  Spicy with a little snap.

Address:                     Lou's Cafe
                                    5017 Geary Blvd
                                    San Francisco, CA
Type:                          sandwich          

Popular chomps:        breakfast sandwich
                                    LLB special
                                    jalapeno spread
                                    Roma's Club

Chomp worthy:           nothing  


Mr Pollo

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Mr Pollo is a $20 four course tasting menu plus an arepa in a modest spot in the Mission.  This quaint restaurant only has a couple tables and some counter seating so come early to secure a spot since they don't take reservations.  The menu changes daily depending on the daily pickings in the farmer's market.  The only other menu option is the arepa, which is a must get.  They suggest to share, but after eating one I suggest one for each person.

The tasting menu started off with a farmer's market salad with seasonal fruits and vegetables including pomegranate, Asian pears, arugula, shaved fennel, mandarin oranges dressed in a pomegranate reduction.  Fresh and light tasting, it was a refreshing way to start out the meal.

Unfortunately, the dim lighting doesn't do justice on the beautiful, bright red color of the curry beet soup.  Beets are one of the few vegetables I'm not a huge fan of, but this soup made me a believer that beets can taste good.  The curry flavor was subtle, but tasty.  The Chinese mustard greens were a different story.  The bitter taste from the small clump was a little too overpowering. 

Mr. Pollo offers two types of arepas: chicken and lamb, but today's offering was chicken only.  They recommend sharing the arepas, but really you want to take one each.  They are that good and you will be angry you shared.  Not sure which is better:  the scrumptiously juicy chicken or the crusty cornmeal exterior that gives off little crispy bits.  Whatever it is, its absolutely delicious.  If you don't stop in for a meal, definitely get the arepas!
Grilled smelt with watermelon radish and squash.  Nothing really stood out in this dish, especially since it followed the arepa!
The pork tenderloin was the last dish of the $20 set course and I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a dessert course.  The pork was juicy and tender.  The cauliflower puree and roasted broccoli was fresh, but the whole plate was a little meager for my taste, especially since it was the last course of the meal.  Overall, the whole meal was good and a fun experience, but it left me still famished.  Thank goodness for Rosemunde (see post HERE) across the street,

Address:                  Mr Pollo
                                 2823 Mission St.
                                 San Francisco, CA  
Type:                        Latin American

Popular chomps:      $20 tasting menu

Chomp worthy:         arepa     


Taqueria Pancho Villa

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I've walked by this taqueria dozens of times and noticed lines of people and its never really piqued my interest until now. 

I should have turned around right when I saw the sign that said we use no lard!  Lard is what makes Mexican food tasty!

This taqueria has more aguas fresca flavors than I've seen, too bad the strawberry flavor I ordered was too sweet (from too much sugar) and had hardly any fruit flavor.
The carne asada burrito just lacked that gritty taste (possibly from the lard) I think about when I crave a good burrito.  A step above Chipotle and Papalote (see post HERE), I can see it being a possible option if healthy burrito in a taqueria setting is your thing.

Address:                 Taqueria Pancho Villa
                                3071 16th St.
                                San Francisco, CA 
Type:                       Mexican/taqueria/burrito

Popular chomps:      carne asada burrito
Chomp worthy:         nothing     


Bacon wrapped hot dog

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Once nightfall hits (usually after 11p Fridays and Saturdays), the bacon wrapped hot dog carts start making their appearance.  Often found either in the Mission area or on Mission around 4th to 8th St, these carts are not made equal.  The carts are usually operating illegally without a permit so they do change locations, but following the smell will lead you to your happy ending. 
There's a reason why these hot dog carts come out during drinking hours.  No one in their right mind would eat one of these greasy, fat filled dogs during the day.  That being said, after a couple drinks these dogs make for a satisfying end to a sometimes tumultuous night.

Bacon wrapped hot dogs from a cart - #87 on 2012 7x7 SF's Top 100 Eats
I'm not one to eat either mayo or ketchup on hot dogs, but you MUST get these bacon wrapped hot dogs with everything!  Everything means jalapenos, mayo, ketchup, mayo, and grilled onions.  Its one sloppy, greasy bite after another, but just resist getting another one.  Trust me you'll regret it in the morning. 

Address:                       bacon wrapped hot dog cart
                                      Mission St.
                                      San Francisco, CA
Type:                             late night eats/hot dog

Popular chomps:           bacon wrapped hot dogs with everything

Chomp worthy:              bacon wrapped hot dogs with everything


Littlejohn's Candies

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Candy stores seem to be popping up all over the city.  First Hooker's Sweet Treats (see post HERE) and now Littlejohn's.  All these candy stores make it a little hard to start the new year being good.   

San Francisco is the second location of this sweet shop (the original being in Los Angeles).  Littlejohn's has a little bit of something for everyone.  From English toffee, chocolate dipped fruit, to homemade fudge. 

All the candies are made in house!
Its hard to pass up their signature English toffee, especially when they tempt you with a free taste as you walk in the store.  Sweet, crunchy toffee topped with pieces of walnut remind me of Almond Roca but better. 
The English toffee boxes make for the perfect holiday gift.  I know I passed out a couple boxes...

Address:                 Littlejohn's Candies
                                1422 Market St.
                                San Francisco, CA

Type:                       candy/chocolate

Popular chomps:     English toffee

Chomp worthy:        English toffee      


The Pot's

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The cold weather that has been creeping into the city has me starting to search for soup spots.  I've begun to notice that the first sign of the fall/winter weather I start to crave for hot pot.
This all you can eat hot pot is $23 on the weekdays and $26 on the weekends.  Compared to the a la carte costs at Little Sheep, this is a better bargain.
When I was a kid hot pot only had 1 flavor.  I thought that Little Sheep (see post HERE) was genius having two partitions in their pot,  but now The Pot's adding their spin with THREE soup options in one pot!  From left; clockwise (curry, spicy, and congee).  My favorites in order:  spicy, curry, and congee.  The congee was good, but the rice ended up burning halfway through the meal.  
From bottom left; clockwise:  green onions, cilantro, garlic, hot sauce.  Herbs and spicy additions for their house made sauce to dip your meats and vegetables in.
The Pot's housemade sauce looks like soy sauce, but it has a little sour aftertaste.  I'm more of a purist and I don't usually use the sauces in hot pot especially when the broths are so flavorful.
Wonton stuffed with cheese, shrimp balls, and fried stuffed tofu.  I didn't think I would like the stuffed cheese dumplings, but the cheese was perfectly gooey and not overwhelming at all.
Enoki mushrooms
The thing slices of lamb are a must for me when I have hot pot.  The meat tasted delicious with both the spicy and the curry sauce.
beef slices.

Fried tofu
Beef with red wine.  Surprisingly good.
Fresh shrimp.  As with all fresh shrimp, only a small amount of cooking time is needed.
I thought the fish portion would be one or two small slices, but it ended up being a pretty good size portion. 
fried bean curd, shrimp balls, and Shanghai dumplings
Since one of the soup broths was a congee, I decided to try the Chinese donut.  Even though it was late at night, the Chinese donut was crispy and perfect for dipping.
Tripe.  Delicious with the curry broth.
Sausage.  I've been to hot pot many times in my life and this was the first ever I've seen spicy sausage.  Just ordered it for kicks and it was a nice change from the usual sliced meat and seafood.
I always have the hardest time figuring out which Chinese vegetable is what and what its English translation is.  I was aiming for Napa cabbage, but somehow I ended up with Romaine lettuce.  This is the first I've seen of Romaine lettuce in a Chinese restaurant much less a hot pot place.  The lettuce wilted quickly in the broth and I found it to misplaced.
Sliced lotus root.
Udon noodles.  These were really good with the curry broth.
Rice vermicelli noodles.  The noodle option for me that signals the end of a hot pot dinner.

Address:                    The Pot's
                                   2652 Judah
                                   San Francisco, CA
Type:                          Chinese/soup

Popular chomps:        curry broth
                                   spicy broth

Chomp worthy:          curry broth
                                   spicy broth
                                   cheese stuffed dumpling
                                   fresh fish