A rotating exhibit of the things I love most about living in San Francisco.

Posts tagged “restaurant review

april 1st, where food goes to die, the lucky penny diner, san francisco

Overheard: “if the United States had lost the war and become a Soviet Block country, this is the kind of food we’d be eating in the diners.”

And it’s true. This is horrible stuff. It’s where food goes to die. (Twice.)

As the door to the kitchen swings open, one can see the rows of plus-sized generic-label cans of vegetables that supply the diner. The lone waitress for the whole dining room comes and goes from the kitchen with her arms full of plates of bad food moving one way, and dirty dishes with half-eaten food the other. Your wait for her attention is time best spent deciding whether or not you’ll stay a minute longer.

For my main, I ordered a hot turkey sandwich because, well, I used to like those growing up. The one presented to me here was a nightmare. The slices of deli turkey were dried out. There was a greenish tinge to some of the edges. The slices of white bread were a little stale, too. The gravy was bland with a sort of film on the top, covering the sandwich and the mashed potatoes in a gelatinous goo. They were instant mashed, but by now that was expected. Ok, you can’t really mess those up; I added salt and butter margarine. And pepper. Yes, you certainly do have a choice of sides here, and all of them have shelf-lives in the dozens of years. Copper penny carrots, grey-ish kernels of corn, mushy green beans- you might remember any or all of these from the school lunch program with which you grew up. Yuck. There’s a memory I didn’t want.

The service was awful. Not that the waitress was mean. She wasn’t. The part of her psyche that could get angry, sad, or be pluckily ironic, or ironically plucky, was probably long dead. She was just. . . blank.

Some restaurants harken back to the past with sort of nod to nostalgia. Not this place. No whimsical memorobilia on the shelves here. There’s nothing joyous in this dusty place. It’s just that old, and hasn’t been renovated in that long. The furniture has aged. The vinyl booths have torn and discolored. Try not to touch that vinyl with any exposed skin. And, don’t buy the open-faced hot turkey sandwich.


lunching series, the Green Chile Kitchen review


Green Chile Kitchen, NOPA, San Francisco

Green Chile Kitchen, NOPA, San Francisco

Lunch with my friend D. always is a treat. In this review I shall refer to him only as D. in order to protect his privacy, because he is quite famous. And not only is D. a world-renowned author and a pillar of the community but also, he just happens to be a foodie of the first order.  (Suffice to say, he is simply fabulous.) So for all these reasons and more, it was a joy to try out a new restaurant with him, the Green Chile Kitchen, a Western Addition/NOPA restaurant that serves dishes inspired by the food of New Mexico.


my friend D., we lunched together at the Green Chile Kitchen

my friend D., his identity intentionally concealed, arriving to join me for lunch at the Green Chile Kitchen

Before getting to a review of the food, I feel a hiccup must be pointed out. The restaurant is not that new so I was surprised that upon entering there was a bit of confusion with regard to the service. No one greeted us and as it was a big restaurant. . . what to do? Where was the menu? Oh, there’s a basket of them near the door. Should we seat ourselves or order at the counter? We managed to flag down a server (it was 12.30pm) and we were instructed to proceed first to the register to place our orders. Scanning the paper menu at the register took some time, given how extensive it is and how unusual some of the dishes are. . . they merit a good read (this could definitely create a bottleneck at rush hour) We made our selections and paid, and then we got our flags with numbers to take with us back to our table.

The decor was austere, with lots of heavy wooden furniture and catholic iconography. The room almost had the feel of a Spanish mission. . . some of the pieces were gorgeous. . .

As for the food, we ordered the following:

the vegetarian quesadilla was delicious: jack & cheddar cheese, potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, red onions & calabacitas

the vegetarian quesadilla was delicious: jack & cheddar cheese, potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, red onions & calabacitas

the vegetarian burrito, "so-so" : organic pinto, refried or black beans  organic rice, lettuce, pico de gallo & red or green chile

the vegetarian burrito, "so-so" : organic pinto, refried or black beans organic rice, lettuce, pico de gallo & red or green chile

The food was good, but not great. While the ingredients themselves clearly were of top quality, and while the food was beautifully plated, the end result still felt a bit disappointing. The burrito was unremarkable, bland. The quesadilla though was much better; while mild, it was rich and had a deep savory richness that we both loved. The drink, what was it called??, was horrible. Bottled vinegar. Yuck!

Given the uneven nature of our experience, I think the reason to go to this restaurant is the following: it provides solid, good food (and sometimes really good) but moreover, provides a convenient venue for the people of the neighborhood to connect. In terms of menu and decor, it’s one of the coolest spaces on the block. It is spacious enough for the ladies who lunch, it is friendly to parents with babies in tow, to the laptop warriors who want plenty of space to stretch out while they work over lunch, and for the singles that want to linger over a book and people watch. The restaurant provides a fine stage for all these things but to be fair, can also get fairly loud, too, during prime time.

the verdict?

I’d definitely go back to try some of the other menu items, as there were many things that looked appealing, but I’m not in a hurry.




The Green Chile Kitchen,

1801 McAllister St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Neighborhood: Western Addition/NOPA

(415) 440-9411

Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 9 am – 9:30 pm, Fri-Sat 9 am – 10 pm


After lunch, however, we discovered a real gem, one block to the south. Green Chile Kitchen has a partner bakery, Chile Pie and Ice Cream. We decided to ‘peak-in’, despite being full from lunch. We both decided we’d have to make a point to come back for this one. The pies are gorgeous, made of organic ingredients and every bit as gorgeous as the ones you’d find at a church bake-sale. Perhaps more so. They also serve Three Twins ice cream which is another star on the local ice cream scene and again, all organic. Stay tuned for a review as we’ll be going back to Chile Pie and Ice Cream, most definitely!

amazing pies at "Chile Pie and Ice Cream", NOPA, San Francisco

amazing pies at "Chile Pie and Ice Cream", NOPA, San Francisco

Lemon Buttercream Pies at Chile Pie and Ice Cream

Lemon Buttercream Pies at Chile Pie and Ice Cream, SF

lunching in san francisco, chicken and waffles at Farmerbrown’s Little Skillet (and bratwurst. for reals.)

best fried chicken, chicken and waffles at Little Skillet, SOMA, SF

best fried chicken, chicken and waffles at Little Skillet, SOMA, SF

The best fried chicken I’ve found in San Francisco is at Farmerbrown’s Little Skillet, bar none. The skin is so perfectly seasoned, with lots of black pepper and a nice spice blend as a base. Crisp without being dry, the skin comes of cleanly and easily, releasing a plume of steam as you peel it away. Next you’ll start to pull the meat. It is succulent and juicy. The waffle is thick and dense, Belgian-style with deep pockets for your syrup but frankly, it’s so good you might not even need to use it. . . did I mention the dusting of powdered sugar?

best fried chicken, chicken and waffles at Little Skillet, SOMA, SF

best fried chicken, chicken and waffles at farmerbrown's Little Skillet, SOMA, SF

I’ve also tried another combination on their tempting menu, bratwurst and sauerkraut on a waffle. It works. Trust me.

bratwurst, saurkraut, waffle at Little Skillet, San Francisco

bratwurst, sauerkraut, waffle at Little Skillet, San Francisco

For a chicken and waffle place, Little Skillet makes a mean bratwurst. I dare say it is among the best you can get in the City. The sauerkraut is fresh and light- they didn’t go cheap. The waffle, unsweetened, makes an excellent bread, and serves as the roll for your sandwich. Don’t knock it ’til you tried it!

The verdict, I’ll be going back A LOT.

Seating, not inside. You place your order at a window, in an alley. There are some benches in the alley on which to sit. If it’s not raining, or super cold. It’s still worth it. Go.

Little Skillet (link to website and menu)

360 Ritch St
(at Brannan St)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Neighborhood: SOMA

(415) 777-2777

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 am – 2:30 pm

Interesting factoid: do you know why chicken and waffles were thrown together in the first place? In an era in which jazz musicians were leaving their gigs in the wee hours of the morning (or night, depending on your point of view) it was too late for dinner service and too early for breakfast service so. . . they sort of combined them. The pairing was born!

great bakeries of San Francisco: Golden West

Golden West Bakery, San Francisco

Golden West Bakery, San Francisco

I meant to get this review out yesterday but alack, I had a busy day at work (keeping me in the office past six on a Friday, eek!) and next, today was spent doing a lot of cooking. (That cooking invariably includes getting the house ready for company, which entails catching up on a huge assortment of associated postponed chores. But I digress . . . )

My aforementioned long day at work Friday was fueled by a great morning cake, and that was sourced at Golden West, home of the most gorgeous signage in town and the reason for the gorgeous aroma permeating Trinity Plaza. (So the ‘Au’ is of course the chemical symbol for gold, and the sign is a representation of gold as seen on the Periodic Table of Elements.) Golden West is so inviting, located as it is in a narrow alley of the financial district, flanked by skyscrapers which keep the alley in shadow most of the day.  And in July, mornings are just plain cold and dark anyway, so the glowing golden sign is a real beacon! The food is your reward.

For my first sample from Golden West bakery I chose a raspberry (which the owner pointed out was market fresh) coffee cake. When handed to me it was STILL WARM. Nice touch. I clutched that bag of cake near- this July morning was 50 degrees or so and I’d just been on the scooter for about 20 minutes getting here from the Castro through morning rush traffic. Biting into the cake was gorgeous, there’s a nice crispy exterior which contains a very dense, moist crumb. The berries did taste über-fresh. They’d still retained their berry-ness rather than turning to mush, like frozen berries do. The cake was not too sweet, allowing instead the tartness to come through, rounded by a solid butteriness. And like I said, what a score that it was still warm.

The service was exceedingly friendly and everything points to a place to which I’d LOVE to return.

Raspberry coffee cake from Golden West, Financial District, San Francisco

Raspberry coffee cake from Golden West, Financial District, San Francisco

great bakeries in San Francisco, Thorough Bread & Pastry

If butter is love then this is an . . . ‘uncomplicated’ relationship.

Thorough Bread and Pastry, San Francisco

Thorough Bread and Pastry, San Francisco

I adore Thorough Bread and in fact, I’ve made it part of my week. It’s my reward actually. Conveniently located on the way to work, I love starting the workday here with the expectation of being greeted not only by the overflowing case of gorgeous pastries and breads, but also by the friendliness of the bakers who work there. (And, I’ll confess, B. in particular!)

A working bakery, you can watch a small army of bakers working, cheerfully I might add, just feet from you as you order your breads at Thorough Bread. The café is affiliated with the San Francisco Baking Institute, so you can expect consistency and the highest bar in terms of quality. The variety is bountiful. The butter is plentiful.

Everything I’ve ever bought at Thorough Bread has, in my experience, been the best of its kind. From muffins to scones to croissants to cookies and so much more, I don’t believe you can go wrong here. There are also other items on regular rotation that I’ve not seen before in any other bakery. You owe it to yourself to try the bostock for instance. . . a thick-cut slice of brioche soaked in rum which is then baked with a layer of almond cream with sliced almonds and finally, finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. Or try the Gibassier, an impossibly light and airy bready doughnut, gently perfumed with orange zest and cardamom, finished with a light dusting of sugar (still, overall it avoids being ‘too’ sweet) The almond croissant is to die for.

Beyond breakfast and breads, there’s a small menu of sandwiches available for lunch. Enjoy on in the lovely garden patio located toward the back of the store surrounded by birds, vines and succulents:-)

I’ve been spreading the word about Thorough Bread in my own small way because when I find a local business with heart, like this one, I want to support it in any way I can. I love my neighborhood- and Thorough Bread & Pastry is a big part of what I love about it!

Thorough Bread and Pastry

248 Church St

(between Market St & 15th St)

San Francisco, CA 94114

Neighborhood: Castro

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