During this pandemic, our beloved dining and drink communities continue to reel, so my dining column remains in takeout/delivery mode. We’ve now welcomed outdoor dining in SF (with many modifications) as of June 15, which will be followed by indoor dining July 13.
One of the highlights of my day is ordering from any one of our world-class Bay Area restaurants — some of which I’ve now started visiting in person.
Join me in helping to keep them alive, all while satiating yourself and indulging in episodes of edible escapism.:
Hi Neighbor Group’s Junju, Schmaltz, Ines & Atta Girl Hospitality
With “pivot” being one of the overused words of the season, Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (Trestle, The Vault at 555, Corridor) executed one of the smartest swivels I’ve seen in recent months, launching their The Incubator Series. It allows their chefs, cooks, and bartenders opportunities to create their own concepts, providing marketing and business models and a kitchen rolling out delivery or pick-up. They started with four top-notch concepts:
The Vault chef Robin Song’s Junju calls on his Korean roots and takes his former beloved pop-up further (his bulgogi beef and banjan — Korean bites — are initial standouts).
Corridor sous chef Beth Needelman’s Schmaltz serves her Jewish American comfort food (damn, those Reuben meatballs and dill-harissa labneh!)
Trestle sous chef Nicole Zell’s ines serves Uruguayan/Argentinian dishes she’s evolved from her mother and grandmother’s recipes (her empanada dough is pitch-perfect with corn spinach my favorite empanada, followed by a classic beef-raisin).
Vault bartender Kaitlin Ryan’s AttaGirl Hospitality delivers her balanced, crushable cocktails via bag, easy to pour and drink at home (all are worthwhile but particularly love Get Your Wiggle On, a margarita variation of tequila, lime, Thai chili, agave, cacao). // 100 Van Ness Avenue (pick-up on Fell Street), hineighborsf.com
Radio Africa & Kitchen
Long one of our Ethiopian greats, Radio Africa & Kitchen started as a pop-up in his home and Bay Area cafes. Ethiopian native and chef Eskender Aseged moved to SF in the late ’80s, cooking with a truly impressive roster of legendary chefs, including Jeremiah Tower, Joyce Goldstein, Nancy Oaks, and Daniel Humm. His popular concept eventually gained a brick-and-mortar in Bayview in 2012, swiftly becoming a refined-yet-relaxed Ethiopian destination. Currently still in takeout mode, try dishes like chicken-kale jambalaya, saffron prawns over couscous, or beef mushroom meatballs. // 4800 3rd Street, www.radioafricakitchen.com
Ristorante Marcello & Gold Mirror
SF has deep Italian roots. Especially heartwarming for a bi-coastal Sicilian like myself are our many under-the-radar, old school restaurants that recall the Rat Pack-esque glories (like “red sauce”) of yesteryear. Two of SF’s classics are quietly serving the Outer Sunset/Parkside. Please don’t let these OG Italian treasures die. — Ristorante Marcello is doing curbside pick-up (Wednesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.) or delivering themselves only to the immediate area. I’ve dined in that blessedly dated dining room for 20 years, while it has been going strong decades longer, with Marcello himself answering the phone all along. Their garlic-heavy spaghetti alla matriciana rules, alongside American-Italian classics like veal or eggplant parmigiana. // 2100 Taraval Street; no website — Gold Mirror is another Parkside/Sunset “red sauce” treasure since 1969, marked by medieval chandeliers and castle windows painted on the walls. Order the likes of short rib ravioli, osso bucco, pasta Siciliana, their beloved veal cannellonis or heaping slices of lasagna bolognese. Order for takeout or via UberEats or DoorDash. // 800 Taraval Street, goldmirrorsf.com
Troya has long been an SF Turkish gem with the original on Fillmore and a more recent second location in SoMa. Their classic muhammara (red pepper, pomegranate, walnut dip/spread) is one of the best in town. They also serve more gourmet (quality ingredients) pita wraps, manti (beef dumplings), and a killer black lentil-eggplant-zucchini veggie moussaka. But all hail their new Turkish kahvalti ( or breakfast — available 10am-3pm weekends). They offer a spread of Turkish breads, top-notch shakshuka (eggs baked in tomato-eggplant sauce with sausage) and an artful tray of delights, dotted with cheeses, dried and fresh fruits, dips like their muhammara and tahini honey butter or labneh (yogurt) and fruit parfait. // 2125 Fillmore Street; 214 Townsend Street, troyasf.com
Back A Yard Caribbean Grill
In support of our local black-owned businesses, Back a Yard just happens to serve some of the best, most authentic Jamaican food in all of the Bay Area, beginning years back in Menlo Park with a single shop. . Back a Yard is in takeout and delivery mode at all five restaurants (via all major delivery apps). Their transport-you-straight-to-Jamaica daily specials continue, like jerk fishplates or coconut curried shrimp. Their curried goat is always on the menu, as are an array of combo plates if you want to mix and match meats, fish and/or vegetarian plates. // Five locations, backayard.net
One of the best plant-based, vegan restaurants in SF (and some of the healthiest Mexican food anywhere) is Gracias Madre, which long pre-dated its LA sequel. The chill Mission restaurant has long done vegan right in dishes like fried cauliflower in spicy cashew cheese or jackfruit carnitas tacos. One of my favorite dishes is the hefty bowl uno, laden with tempeh chorizo (the best chorizo meat substitute I’ve yet had for someone who finds most a pale shadow of the real thing), black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, brown rice and romaine lettuce. // 2211 Mission Street, gracias-madre.com
Chubby Noodle/Don Pisto’s
Peter Mrabe’s Chubby Noodle and Don Pisto’s restaurants have long brought comfort food goodness with a cheeky attitude. They are diversifying options with takeout/delivery (via Uber Eats, Caviar) from their Marina location for both Chubby Noodle and Don Pisto’s, plus cocktails and a different Chubby Noodle menu from their North Beach spot. — Don Pisto’s has evolved. After recent travels in Texas, Mrabe has smartly morphed Don Pisto’s into a Cali rarity: Tex-Mex, down to handmade, TX-style flour tortillas and large tacos, Coca-Cola carnitas and killer queso made with three kinds of cheese (including Velveeta for cheesy-good Tex-Mex silkiness). // 2030 Lombard Street; www.donpistos.com — Chubby Chinese (Marina) rocks Chinese-American comfort food with spicy garlic noodles, house sauvignon blanc and so-tender firecracker chicken in red chile, garlic, honey and toasted sesame. Chubby Noodle North Beach offers a different menu, including chicken stir-fry udon, Thai curry shrimp noodles, pho and ramen, as well as cocktails to-go (try Taste, a cocktail of chili-washed tequila, pineapple, turmeric, carrot). // 570 Green Street (North Beach); 2030 Lombard Street (Marina); www.chubby noodle.com
With its scenic setting on the Bay and live music, Pier 23 Cafe Restaurant & Bar has been an Embarcadero institution for classic San Francisco seafood dishes (think Dungeness crab galore, chowder, and house favorite cod fish tacos). They are doing takeout/delivery of dishes like Dungeness crab and shrimp Louie salad or melt sandwiches. More notably, they recently rolled out at-home meal kits, with cooking and/or reheating instructions. Try ready-to-cook Dungeness crab cakes (with soup and salad), Dungeness crab mac & cheese, or their fish tacos: six pieces of local cod, six flour tortillas, black beans, roasted cauliflower, a small green salad, house tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole and “good as childhood” chocolate chip cookie dough to bake at home. // Pier 23 The Embarcadero, www.pier23cafe.com
After being closed since March, one of SF’s best upscale Mexican spots since 2013 just reopened at the end of May for takeout/delivery. Serving some of the most creative chilaquiles anywhere (Padrecito, please bring those back!). Their modern Mexican tacos adhere to traditional preparations, using freshly pressed masa tortillas and ancestral offerings, but more modernized selections — like their stellar duck confit en marmalada (marmalade) tacos layered in refried black beans, chicories, dry jack, and seasonal marmalade — populate their menu. Available for pick-up or via Caviar. // 901 Cole Street, www.padrecitosf.com
//Should you be interested, you can sign this petition to help “save restaurants” — including these local institutions — by asking the government for a stabilization fund for independent restaurants. Feature photo courtesy of Radio Africa Kitchen.