2000s Archive

Fanny Singer’s Bay Area Picks

Originally Published October 2009
When I’m not eating at Chez Panisse (confession: Alice Waters is my mom), I gravitate toward the kinds of low-key restaurants—many serving authentic ethnic eats—that dot the Bay Area.

1. What Vik’s Chaat Corner, in Berkeley (2390 4th St.; 510-644-4432), lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for with generous portions of ridiculously inexpensive South Indian street food. The enormous, golden poori with chickpea curry and the delicate dosas are all-time favorites.


2. Over in Oakland, the fried-chicken sandwich with tangy cabbage slaw at Bakesale Betty (5098 Telegraph Ave.; 510-985-1213) is hyped to high heaven, and rightly so.

3. There’s hardly a meal more satisfying than a perfect pizza, a crisp salad, and good wine. At Pizzeria Delfina (3611 18th St.; 415-437-6800), the thin-crust broccoli rabe pie, paired with a glass of Aglianico, is almost always on my mind come dinnertime.

4. At Contigo (1320 Castro St.; 415-285-0250), everything on the Catalan-inspired menu—from octopus salad and wood-fired flatbreads to roast chicken suffused with aromatics and perfectly cooked halibut with romesco—is worth savoring.

5. On a stretch of the Tenderloin where Vietnamese restaurants outnumber other legal operations, Pagolac (655 Larkin St.; 415-776-3234) stands out. Order the Seven Flavors of Beef and a variety of sausages and thin slices of beef arrive with platters of lettuce, crisp vegetables, fresh mint, and rau ram for a DIY feast. Grill the meat yourself, then wrap it up with a handful of greens in rice paper, all for a ludicrously small sum.

6. When I’m in the mood for clean, simple comfort food, I go to a Japanese hole-in-the-wall called Eiji (317 Sanchez St.; 415-558-8149) for a hot bowl of made-to-order tofu with accoutrements like fresh ginger and shiso.

7. If California had a mascot sandwich, it would be the Mexican torta. And there’s no better version than the behemoth they craft at Tortas Los Picudos (2969 24th St.; 415-824-4199). Get it with “everything”—a sundry mix of colorful vegetables, avocado, queso fresco, and house-made salsas.

8. At Poc-Chuc (2886 16th St.; 415-558-1583), a Mayan-Mexican BYOB in the Mission, the warm, homemade tortillas are wonderful dipped into black bean stew filled with braised pork shoulder and garnished with cilantro and onions.

9. The line snaking from the Primavera stall (1 Ferry Plaza; 707-939-9350) on Saturdays at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is there for a reason: the huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, and tacos, all made with fresh, stone-ground masa.

10. I never thought of the hot dog as a necessary component of my diet until I tried the one at Prather Ranch Meat Co. (1 Ferry Plaza; 415-391-0420), and now I’m lucky if I escape the Ferry Building without adding one of these organic, all-beef dogs to my Primavera brunch.

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