Jessica Battilana’s list of 10 things to eat right now in San Francisco, including Andytown’s corn muffins, Souvla’s Feta-Brined Rotisserie Chicken and Kin Khao’s Khun Yai Green Curry with Rabbit.
Andytown Coffee Roaster’s Corn Muffin
The world is fairly plagued by terrible muffins, besieged by flavorless mountains with the texture of cotton balls, studded with out-of-season fruit. Too greasy, too sweet, too tough. The corn muffin at Andytown Coffee Roasters, a mod shop in the Outer Sunset, is a happy exception. It’s tender and gently sweet; made with rice flour and coarsely ground cornmeal, which adds texture (incidentally, it’s gluten-free). Andytown makes various seasonal versions of the muffin, including a savory one. But the muffin’s best feature is unseen until you take your first bite: At its center is a generous spoonful of raspberry jam, a Hostess-style surprise.
3655 Lawton Street
Izakaya Rintaro’s Squash Korokke
I’ve fallen hard for Sylvan Brackett’s pork-filled gyoza, for his elegant, deceptively simple tamako (egg omelet), for his juicy, citrus-scented tsukune (chicken meatballs), grilled to juicy perfection. But of all the incredible items on this new izakaya’s menu, it’s the kabocha korokke that I can’t quit. The croquettes, thin patties of mashed curry-scented squash, are first rolled in Acme pain de mie breadcrumbs, then fried until golden and crisp. Sided by a snowy pile of cabbage and house-made tonkatsu sauce, they’re perfect with a cold beer.
82 14th Street
Les Clos’ Eggs en Meurette
Though the neighborhood is not Parisian-feeling in the least, Mark Bright’s wine bar, Les Clos, does a decent job replicating the kind of spot you might happily stumble upon in the 8th arrondisement. The French-heavy wine list is terrific, heavy on Burgundy, and the menu includes cheese and charcuterie plates, a natural pairing for wine. But you should order the eggs en meurette instead, a classic bistro dish comprising eggs cooked in a rich red wine sauce studded with bits of bacon. The inky sauce in Les Clos’ version is satiny and rich, bathing pearl onion halves, maitake msuhrooms, roasted tomatoes and cubes of braised short rib. The eggs are poached separately (quelle domage!) then reunited with the sauce, but it still adds up to a very good approximation of the dish, one you could have any time of day. Order a side of toast for mopping and a glass of Pinot for sipping.
234 Townsend Street
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Banana Cream Brioche Donut
Knowing what I know of food trends, it’s almost certain that the marquee pastry at this Tendernob bakery is destined to be the California croissant, a flaky novelty pastry filled with smoked salmon, wasabi and nori. That’s all well and good, because it means more brioche donuts for me. The fillings change frequently, but the donut itself—fluffy and greaseless, with a wafer-thin brown crust that’s testament to expert frying—is always extraordinary. And if the filling happens to be banana cream on the day you stop by, your first bite revealing a custard filling that’s banana-y but none too sweet, like the best slice of cream pie ever? Well, that’s just a happy bonus.
1042 Larkin Street
Linea Caffe’s Brown Rice Salad
Faced with a menu that includes Belgian waffles both sweet and savory, it would be easy—understandable, even—to overlook the brown rice salad. But though it is humble, the amalgam of chewy brown rice, slivers of shitake mushrooms and cucumber, napa cabbage, tiny broccoli florets, cubes of creamy avocado and crunchy pumpkin seeds, all bathed in a soy-sesame oil dressing spiked with rice wine vinegar, is deeply satisfying. If you’ve made an abstemious New Year’s resolution, this salad will be your new best friend.
3417 18th Street
Souvla’s Feta-Brined Rotisserie Chicken
Somewhere along the line, chicken became the butt of culinary jokes, the milquetoast order that meant a diner had neither an advanced palate nor a sense of adventure. Yet Zuni Café’s roast chicken has enduring popularity, and lines continue to form at Roli Roti’s weekly stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Another bird to add to your list: Souvla’s rotisserie chicken. First soaked in feta cheese brine, then cooked on a rotating spit until succulent and browned all over, their bird is the word. Since whole birds are only available after 6 pm, console yourself at lunch with the chicken sandwich: that same rotisserie chicken, pulled from the bone, shredded and combined with shaved fennel, supremes of navel orange, pickled red onions and a tangle of pea shoots, dressed with a garlicky, feta-rich “granch” dressing.
517 Hayes Street
These days, almost every restaurant in San Francisco has a burger on its menu, even places where you’d least expect to find one. The crowding of the field has, paradoxically, made it even more difficult to find a great burger, one that’s neither too fancy nor too gimmicky. It makes sense that Belcampo, a sustainable meat company that raises, slaughters and processes its animals on a gorgeous tract of land near Mount Shasta, would serve a great one at its butcher-shop-cum-restaurant in Russian Hill. The five-and-a-half ounce grassfed patty is deeply beefy and well seasoned, served on a plush sesame seeded bun with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and lettuce. A side order of the French fries—cooked in combination of beef tallow and rice bran oil, like they once were at McDonald’s—is essential.
1998 Polk Street
Monsieur Benjamin’s Blanquette de Veau
Chef Jason Berthold’s version of this French workhorse would be worth ordering if only for the expertly turned potatoes, a fussy technique that renders the spuds into elongated footballs, about as frequently seen in restaurants these days as a unicorn. But the stew—its white-on-white palette interrupted only by a parsley garnish—is a wonderful reminder that some dishes become part of the classical canon for a reason. Chunks of tender veal breast, button mushrooms, pearl onions and the potato footballs are napped in a white cream sauce enriched with bone marrow; it’s at once rich and delicate, and so satisfying it’s a wonder it ever fell out of fashion.
451 Gough Street
Kin Khao’s Khun Yai Green Curry with Rabbit
Pim Techamuanvivit says it was homesickness that forced her to open Kin Khao—the Bangkok-born restaurateur couldn’t find the Thai food she’d grown up eating, so she taught herself how to cook it. Kin Khao’s menu is a paean to the dishes she missed most, built on house-made curry pastes, spice blends and ingredients she scrupulously sources. On a rainy night, it’s the rabbit curry I dream of. A braised rabbit leg and springy rabbit meatballs join seedy Thai apple eggplants in a luxurious coconut-milk-based sauce, flavored and fragranced by that exceptional green curry paste. The only problem with the food at Kin Khao is that it will ruin you for Thai from anyplace else.
55 Cyril Magnin Street
Pink Zebra’s Hurricane Popcorn
Pink Zebra chef Jesse Koide’s resume is eclectic: He cooked at Blowfish sushi, did a stint at Farina and just finished four years as head chef at Mission Chinese Food. With Pink Zebra, which he operates out of the dining room of Tao Yin, the chef finally has a place of his own, and that place serves Hurricane Popcorn. It’s a snack that has all the addictive appeal of Chex Mix but with popcorn instead of cereal and the added bonus of crispy fried pig’s ears. The hurricane includes a generous dusting of furikake that Koide makes himself, and ample amounts of butter and lime juice. Like all great snacks, it’s impossible to stop eating.
3515 20th Street