Lolita’s Taco Shop, Bonita, CA
Whenever anyone asks me what they should eat in San Diego, I tell them that they MUST go to Lolita’s and order carne asada fries. I grew up eating this San Diego specialty, made of french fries topped with the best carne asada, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and hot sauce.
Lolita’s recently kicked it up a notch by offering tsunami fries, which is carne asada fries topped with perfectly cooked shrimp. My life will never be the same.
Lolita’s Taco Shop, locations throughout San Diego.
Crispy feta with kabocha puree, brown butter chestnuts and crispy kale
Mason Pacific, San Francisco, CA
Silly us. We were debating over parmesan potato skins or this dish. You can’t go wrong with roasted potatoes with cheese, but this dish was so delicate and flavorful that we licked the bowl clean. The little additions of pepita, balsamic and orange peel really rounded out the flavors.
We have a reputation with our friends as non-leafy green eaters, so when Jeremy saw the one leaf of kale, he commented, “That is the perfect amount of kale for this dish.”
Mason Pacific, on the corner of Mason and Pacific in San Francisco. Reservations on OpenTable.
Tonkotsu ramen with chashu pork belly
Happy new year, everyone! I asked Jeremy if he wanted a fancy NYE meal, even throwing out options like scallops, steak, and crab, but he asked for ramen. Here’s what we ate just before midnight.
Vik’s Chaat, Berkeley, CA
We didn’t eat much Indian food in Southern California, so it’s been exciting to try so many new-to-us dishes at this amazing Indian restaurant in Berkeley. I’ve called it the “ideal” restaurant. Good for groups, free parking, vegan/vegetarian-friendly, accepts credit cards, not pretentious, and tons of actual Indian people as customers. The fact that it’s just a couple miles away is just icing on the cake.
This is pani puri, which are puffed pieces of dough that you stuff with potatoes, garbanzo beans, and tamarind chutney, then eaten with a spicy, minty sauce. So much texture and flavor in one little bite!
2390 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
Salty beef and crispy pork noodle
Classic Guilin Rice Noodles, Oakland, CA
Oakland Chinatown isn’t nearly as much of a tourist hub as San Francisco’s, which is a good thing because the food caters to locals and isn’t marked up. Classic Guilin Rice Noodles recently opened, and it’s one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood. This outpost is one of a small chain, with other locations in Guangxi, Shanghai, and Nanyang.
Guilin food hails from Guangxi province in China. The menu features a list of guilin mi fen (rice noodles), with your choice of proteins. Each bowl comes with a soy sauce egg, pickled green beans, peanuts, garlic and scallion. A small cup of beef broth is served on the side. Prices range from $5.50 to $7.
261A 10th Street, Oakland, CA 94607.
Ricotta gnudi, garlic braised pork meatballs, sage
SPQR, San Francisco, CA
SPQR was finally awarded a Michelin star in 2013 and deservedly so. The food is outstanding. I loved the casual ambiance inside this restaurant on Fillmore Street, including the Motown music that played during the meal. Weekend lunch offers a three course meal for $34, which is a steal considering this course alone goes for $23 on the regular menu.
Open for dinner nightly, lunch on weekends.
Reservations on OpenTable.
Red velvet pancakes
Cinnamon’s, Kailua, Hawaii
When it comes to brunch in Oahu, there are two very popular places in Kailua that are often recommended. We prefer Cinnamon’s. These red velvet pancakes are ridiculous! They also offer fusion-y breakfast fare, like Kalua pork benedict and a Chinese omelet with char siu. I’m also partial to places that offer bottomless iced coffee.
Reservations taken for groups of 8 or larger, otherwise prepare for a wait!
Ice cream sundae
Fentons Creamery, Oakland, CA
Fentons is an institution here, famously immortalized in Pixar’s movie, Up.
Fentons opened in 1894, and is the birthplace of the popular ice cream flavor, Rocky Road. Bay Area ice cream is known to be really fancy or outlandish, but Fentons is a wholesome American place with classic flavors and toppings.
Hush puppies with honey butter
Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, Berkeley
Southern food is sort of a new thing for us, as there weren’t many restaurants in San Diego that offer this type of fare. Although we eat at Brenda’s in San Francisco fairly often, we stick with our favorites, the biscuits, shrimp and grits, and beignets. We obviously can’t compare the dishes at Angeline’s to the real deal, but we loved everything we ate at Angeline’s, including these hush puppies with honey butter.
Reservations are available on OpenTable. Good for groups. Open for dinner every day and lunch every day but Monday.
Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen
2261 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 548 - 6900
Albacore Tuna Tataki
ICHI Sushi, San Francisco
This delicate dish features seared albacore tuna, sudachi, shallot, shiso vinaigrette, micro greens, and fried shallot. ($12.95)
ICHI Sushi is a tiny restaurant in Bernal Heights serving the freshest sustainable sushi in traditional preparations. Although we usually stay clear of sushi restaurants that are not run by Japanese people, the food here was excellent. The menu also boasts a selection of cold and hot plates, and the pork belly should not be missed.
3369 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94110
No reservations, dinner only, and closed on Sundays.