June 7, 2023


Be Inspired By Food

The San Francisco Bay Area’s ideal foods in 2020

Even in a difficult year, incredible foodstuff was accessible in the Bay Place. Here are critic Soleil Ho’s favorites.

By Soleil Ho |  | 

Even nevertheless 2020 has been complete trash all all over, the Bay Area’s food scene has ongoing on, while with the precarity of a flickering match in a storm. Amid the chaos and stress of weathering a pandemic in one of the toughest-hit countries in the earth, options to take in nourishing and soul-gratifying food items have develop into even additional important. Lifestyle has changed for all of us, even though I’m satisfied to report that incredible and accessible food items and experiences are nonetheless out there in the Bay Location.

This 12 months, I seasoned a terrific variety of eating places by way of takeout box. To cope with a key fall in in-man or woman eating (exacerbated by on-and-off bans on the follow), dining places and pop-ups leaned into dishes that could make the trip in 1 piece. Significant hoagies, modeled after the WWI-era sandwich that fed Italian Us citizens doing work in Philadelphia’s shipyards, have been a well-liked pivot. Comforting “fast food stuff,” like pizzas and pav bhaji, have also been a stable presence in a time when we have all sought solace in no matter what techniques we could.

As we have changed to fulfill the problems of 2020, so has our food items. Here’s just a sampling of some of the greatest items I’ve experienced the privilege to take in this yr. If you have not tried out any of these, use our new options to e-mail on your own a wish list, duplicate and paste the restaurants to a notes application or include to a Google Maps list.


San Francisco Bay boquerones at Anchovy Bar

In the San Francisco Bay’s waters, famously loaded with Dungeness crabs and halibut, are colleges of small anchovies that we almost never, if at any time, try to eat immediately. But in the fingers of the crew driving Anchovy Bar (and the Progress and Point out Bird Provisions), who cleanse and brine them nearly proper off the boat, the humble baitfish become succulent and aromatic with citrus. They pair really properly with the avocado and slices of toast that accompany them. The dish’s availability coincides with the fishing time, which spans April to November.


Basque cheesecake from Basuku

Whilst his day job slowed down for the duration of the pandemic, culinary guide Charles Chen devoted his extra time to refining his very own variation of the burnt Basque cheesecake: 1 that captured the milk-forward taste of Japanese desserts. The last products is a triumph, comprehensive of caramel notes from the browned top rated and as silky in texture as a perfectly-ripened Brie. At the moment, the cake is manufactured by Chen in compact batches, which he sells by pop-up functions and by means of different dining places across the Bay Location.


Casoncelli Bergamaschi at Belotti

The 1st time I went to this cozy Italian spot in Rockridge, I was overwhelmed with the wide range of handmade pasta on the menu. Randomly, I chose the casoncelli, a dish modeled after chef Michele Belotti’s mother’s rendition. Formed like individually wrapped gumballs, the toothsome pasta is crammed with a sophisticated mixture of remedied and cooked meats and Grana Padano cheese, a mix greatly increased by a powerful, organic strike of sage. Pancetta contributes sweetness and a faint smokiness beef adds bulk and the melty body fat in the prosciutto and ground pork shoulder retains the mixture tasting moist and high-class. Selecting this was like hitting the jackpot on my initial slot machine pull.


Summertime danish at Breadbelly

Topped with a luscious, drippy and downright suggestive fig, this constrained-edition pastry from the Richmond District’s Breadbelly bakery superbly captured the plenitude of late summer’s fruits: heat and daylight reworked into sheer sweetness. The candystripe fig from K&J Orchards was nestled in a bed of honey-flavored pastry cream and surrounded by flaky pastry studded with sesame seeds. The seeds’ toasty, somewhat savory taste was a sublime counterpoint to the sweetness of the other substances. Out there for just a couple of short weeks in August and September, the pastry was a little something really distinctive in the bakery’s currently outstanding roster of seasonal specials.


Shengjianbao at Dumpling Property

Shengjianbao — a cousin to the more common, h2o balloon-like xiaolongbao — are hard to get ideal. Stuffed with meat and broth, then steamed and fried, the dumplings provide a good deal of strategies for the approach to go mistaken. But many thanks to Lily Wong’s auteurist hands, the variation available at Hayes Valley’s Dumpling Home are loaded with a good deal of properly-seasoned soup and sculpted with an curvaceous, vase-like framework. Their golden brown bottoms are a satisfaction to crunch into, while warn your tablemates in advance so they never get squirted in the facial area with incredibly hot broth: Ingesting these is a complete practical experience. Earlier, the dumplings were only out there for in-human being dining, but the dish is now accessible for takeout.


Eggplant hoagie at Flour + Water Pasta Shop

At Flour + Water’s pandemic-period aspect job, which sells food kits and far more everyday fare than the supper-concentrated flagship, I was impressed most of all by the hoagies, which are as big as any burrito you can get in the Mission. With the exception of the fried hen sandwich, which comes on a smaller sized-dimensions roll, the hoagies — served on foot-extended rolls — are certainly very good for two foods, making this a incredibly inexpensive lunch item. The eggplant parm is an exemplar of this sandwich style, with business and crisp bread plenty of dampness from a grassy kale-pepita pesto, marinara and garlic butter and an audible inside crunch from items of fried eggplant.


Granny’s potatoes at Horn Barbecue

Sure, the smoked brisket at Horn Barbecue in West Oakland is a superstar value ready in line for, with the way it melts like butter onto a slice of bread, but can we communicate about the potato casserole you can get as a aspect? The tacky potato casserole, motivated by operator Matt Horn’s grandmother’s recipe, is thick with cheddar cheese, butter and cream of rooster soup, with a sprinkle of environmentally friendly onions to give the luscious mass an astringent counterpoint. It is the sort of consolation foods you very long for when you want to be soothed the variety of matter you could simply take in by the spoonful though looking at “Genuine Housewives” in your pajamas.


Shrimp toast at Intu-on

At Intu-on Kornnawong’s Isaan Thai pop-up, the chef serves up irresistible and small bites like this shrimp toast, which I get each time I go. A mousse of shrimp and pork excess fat coats a thick, fluffy slice of Japanese milk bread, which is then fried and topped with cilantro and pickled red peppers for a vivid pop of acid. Kornnawong takes advantage of acid like a refrain takes advantage of its sopranos, wielding the superior notes to pull an usually major dish up, up and up.


LDC Nuggets at Lion Dance Cafe

Tofu nuggets, very long a punchline for the anti-vegetarian group, have been overdue for an picture rehabilitation, and Oakland’s Lion Dance Cafe has performed it. At their Singaporean-Italian vegan cafe, C-Y Chia and Shane Stanbridge’s acquire on the nugget, built from regional Hodo tofu, is massively labor-intensive. They freeze the tofu to give it a coarser, firmer texture then they brine it to infuse it with a lot more taste. The nuggets arrive breaded, fried and garnished with Thai basil and fried curry leaves, whose experienced, roasted aroma is the first point that hits you when you open up the takeout box. I daresay they are leagues better than any hen nuggets I have ever had.


Breakfast tacos from LoJo’s Taco Store

Tucked absent in a aspect space at this neighborhood butcher store and sector in Bernal Heights is this small pop-up that specializes in breakfast tacos. It’s the smaller particulars here that add up to a wonderful photograph: handmade and pliant flour tortillas from La Palma significant-quality bacon, steak and chorizo (a no-brainer, many thanks to the butcher store future door) flavorful handmade tofu “chorizo” and thoughtful variants in toppings, like corn salsa and fluffy, browned potatoes, that make just about every taco sense unique and really worth ordering. Seize a single of each individual and toss down a blanket at close by Holly Park to make the most of your Saturday morning.


Pav bhaji at Pav Bhaji Hut

There aren’t that several spots in the Bay Area the place you can get pav bhaji, the popular Maharashtrian rapidly food. Which is odd due to the fact the blend of flavorsome mashed veggies, refreshing chopped onion and cilantro, and smooth toasted rolls is a authentic crowd-pleaser. Fortunately, the rendition served at Pav Bhaji Hut is bang-on, with shiny Parker Property-adjacent bread rolls, a curry topped with a pat of wealthy Indian butter, and a depth of taste that arrives only from very long, affected person cooking. For anything a lot more over-the-leading with gooey, tacky character, consider the rigorous spicy cheese variant.


Mush-a-roni pan pizza at PizzaLeah

When round pies are the basis of this tiny pizzeria in Windsor, a limited number of square pan pies are available each day. The thick, feather-gentle crusts take on a crackly complete in the pan and have a shocking lightness from generous fermentation. The Mush-a-roni, which won pizzaiola Leah Scurto initially location at the 2018 U.S. Pizza Cup, has a very simple composition that will fulfill just about any one: A foundation of purple sauce with pepperoni and sliced mushrooms is garnished with salty shaved Parmesan and julienned basil. The flipside to the simplicity is that, with no bold toppings or gimmicks to hide powering, everything need to be executed with the utmost care. In that way, the pizza is a revealing showcase of how very seriously Scurto and her team take the craft of pizzamaking.


Cha ca la vong at Thien Long

A nod to the famous restaurant in Hanoi that specializes in this grilled fish dish, the cha ca la vong at Thien Very long is an fantastic rendition of a classic. Catfish fillets are seasoned with turmeric and, in pre-pandemic times, despatched out to your table with onions and fresh new dill atop a sizzling grill. On the facet are springy rice vermicelli noodles, contemporary herbs, lettuces and rice paper, which is technically optional, however a need to-purchase. Creating the perfect bite includes making a minimal rice paper wrap from just-grilled fish and a couple pinches of herbs, which you then dip in a pungent sauce produced with super-fermented shrimp, mam tom. Smelling sizzling dill and onions all all-around me in Thien Long’s eating home is one particular of the items I overlook the most about pre-pandemic eating. The restaurant is serving the dish for takeout.


Canele at Wild Rabbit Bakery

The standard canelé, a tall French pastry with a burnished, caramelized exterior and a tender custard inside, is so simple and disappears in just two bites. It appears to be like like a little bundt cake, sized for a cat or infant. Its style is eggy, with some dim notes from the outer shell and flavorings of vanilla and rum, and the approach of building it is a puzzle that has stumped many pastry chefs. At Wild Rabbit Bakery in Oakland’s Grand Lake community, baker and co-operator Michael Addison spent a yr mastering the technique. Copper molds conduct warmth evenly a coating of beeswax and clarified butter grant them a gorgeously glossy sheen. It is the most effective canelé you can get listed here outside the house of a lengthy tasting menu at a good dining restaurant, and even then, it’s not all that taken out from its haute brethren.