Once again, I’ve scoured the city end to end to find you, dear reader, the most memorable things to eat right now. This is by no means a definitive ranking of deliciousness or “best of” list; instead, these are spaces I want to revisit, people I want to see and things I want to eat over and over again—to me the true marker of something special.
Kalbijjim AT Daeho I can’t recall where I first learned about the kalbijjim (Korean braised beef short rib stew) at Sun Nong Dan in Los Angeles: David Chang’s Instagram or Jonathan Gold’s review in the LA Times a few years back. For the uninitiated, picture this: a sizzling cast-iron bowl arrives at your table screamingly hot—it contains a big pile of braised short rib and oxtail, bones and all, along with softened carrots, onions and tteok (crispy cylindrical rice cakes); its thick, sticky, spicy/sweet sauce bubbles and boils daringly at you. On the peak of meat medley mountain is a sprinkle of shredded white mozzarella that covers like snow and is torched tableside by the server into one ooey, gooey melty mess. If this fiery hell of a dish sounds like heaven to you, you’re in luck: It’s rumored that a former chef at this LA institution helped open Daeho on Post Street in Japantown, where you can find the exact dish. Having tasted both versions, I believe the rumor to be true. Get the spicy level 3—it’s very doable—and cool yourself down with an ice-cold glass of Hite. 1620 Post St., Instagram: @daeho_sf
Lobster Roll at Daily Driver You know who makes pretty good bagels in San Francisco? Michelle Polzine over at 20th Century Café on Gough. You know who else does delicious bagels? Joe Wolf and Amy Brown over at Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond—I like their unique addition of pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Wise Sons makes fine bagels, too (though their bialy is where it’s at if I’m being honest). I’m not sure who ranks amongst “the best” bagel and in what order, and I’m not sure it really matters, either. But I’ll tell you what: Daily Driver, a new purveyor of delicious bagels in The Dogpatch, does something different: They form their bagel dough into a hollowed cylindrical bun, boil then bake in a wood-fired oven, stuff with a generous amount of steamed lobster lightly coated in lemon aioli, then brush with their wonderful hand-batted, Jersey cow cultured butter. I love it so much, I rank it the number one lobster bagel roll in San Francisco. 2535 3rd St., dailydriver.com
Chicken in a Spacesuit at Moongate Lounge. Chef Brandon Jew’s Moongate Lounge, located above his five-starred Mister Jiu’s (one star courtesy of Michelin and the other four from Yelp, for those who are counting) is my favorite new place to grab a cocktail in San Francisco. The space is just so vibey and well-designed—it’s like you’re in a James Bond movie and also a Drake video at the same time (Jew admits artist James Turrell was an inspiration for the illuminated skylight). On the beverage side, may I suggest you start with the Ariel, a citrus-y and strangely salty (in a good way) vodka drink whose distinct sour salinity comes from li hing mui (dried Chinese plum powder). You’d be especially wise to pair this cocktail with the Chicken in a Spacesuit, which features a chicken boudin blanc wrapped in a puffy mantou dough topped with fermented cabbage, tarragon, pickled scallion and garlic lemon aioli—it’s the best damn pig in a blanket you’ll have in your life. 28 Waverly Pl., moongatelounge.com
Seasonal Rice Bowl at Yo Tambien Cantina. Yo También Cantina is a hip little breakfast and lunch spot in the Inner Sunset run by Isabella Bertorelli and her wife, Kenzie Benesh. Since the beer and wine license is a work in progress, the current concept is more café than cantina, with a small selection of flavorful, soulful, market-driven sandwiches, salads, and bowls. Go with the seasonal rice bowl, which contains organic brown rice topped with an herby salad and a weekly changing combination of interesting components. One week, for example, you might find shaved asparagus with bagna cauda and manchego, while another week you could have black beans and plantains with queso fresco and pickled jalapeños. My most recent visit featured mussels, blue potatoes, padrones and aioli and I felt like I was in a café on Abbot Kinney living my best healthiest Kinfolk life. 205 Hugo St., yotambientropical.com
Breakfast Burrito at Breakfast Little Andrew Perez is a San Francisco native and first-generation son of Mexican immigrants. He grew up in The Excelsior and worked lots of random odd jobs for years before getting into food. Breakfast Little is his little breakfast joint on 22nd Street in The Mission. Blink and you might miss it: It’s less than 400 square feet—smaller than the average size of a one-bedroom in San Francisco, according to a recent survey. But Perez makes the most of the space, featuring a tight menu inspired by the San Francisco he grew up with. For example, there’s a breakfast sandwich that features pan de sal, a slightly sweet, fluffy roll he gets from a local Filipino bakery; or molletes (Mexican black bean and cheese toast), but in lieu of the bolillo traditionally used he slices good ol’ sourdough sourced from another local bakery. My favorite thing on the menu is his breakfast burrito, which features a flour tortilla that’s grilled then slathered with a house-made garlic aioli, squirted with sriracha, stuffed with two scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, a mix of cheddar and jack cheese and—the best part—a handful of crispy tater tots. It sounds like a gut-bomb, but it’s relatively small, crushable, and is a textural delight. 3224 1/2 22nd St. Instagram: @breakfastlittle
More things to eat from Omar Mamoon. Follow Omar on Instagram @ommmar