What’s on Omar Mamoon’s list of must-eats this spring?
The Obispo de Cuba cocktail at Obispo, the Korean egg bread at Breadbelly, a good hot dog at Good Dog, chicken from the spit at Isla Vida (the perfect place for a pre-show dinner at the Fillmore) and everything, yes everything, at Verjus!
Obispo is spirits bishop Thad Vogler’s new cocktail bar on 24th Street in the Mission. Whereas his previous projects focused on agricole (Bar Agricole) and calvados (Trou Normand), rum is the star liquor here. Try the Obispo de Cuba, a cocktail inspired by midcentury bon vivant/writer Charles H. Baker Jr., who first wrote about it in the 1940s. The drink originated in Havana and is basically a daiquiri with a touch of California Cabernet. Vogler puts his own spin on it, substituting a more fermented, slightly funkier Jamaican rum in lieu of its Cuban counterpart as well as a splash of light-bodied French Beaujolais, which helps round out the lime’s acid, adds a pink hue, and lets the spirit itself truly shine. It’s shaken and strained into a cold coupe, tastes a tiny bit tart and slightly sweet, and pairs excellently with the bar’s buttery empanadas. 3266 24th St., obisposf.com
Gyeran Bbang at Breadbelly Breadbelly is the pop-up turned bakery from Kate Campeciño-Wong, James Wong, and Clement Hsu, a trio of friends whose collective culinary CV includes experience at In Situ, Monsieur Benjamin, AQ (RIP), Coi, Mourad, and more. The extreme talent in the kitchen executes a unique menu of different and delicious Asian American pastries. We already know you’ll order the neon-green kaya-covered toast for the Gram, but don’t snooze on the gyeran bbang (or Korean egg bread)—it’s ridiculously delicious. Here they use cornbread laced with gochugaru (chili powder) and thinly sliced scallions, then layer with a jammy boiled egg and sharp cheddar. Get there early to get it fresh out of the oven, or simply ask them to rewarm it—it’s an excellent breakfast and pairs well with coffee. 1408 Clement St., breadbellysf.com
Good Dog at Grem’s Good Dog A doggery is 19th- century slang for a saloon or dive bar; a hot doggery is a 21st- century term I just invented for a place that sells hot dogs—Grem’s Good Dog on South Van Ness is the latter. Housed in a building located in the Cash & Carry parking lot that was previously home to a very different and confusing drive-thru concept offering everything from juices to burritos, Grem’s offers a simple menu of sausages and hot dogs and nothing else. I like the good ’ole Good Dog, which features a snappy all-beef hot dog with the typical toppings (mustard, ketchup, onion, relish) on the bottom so as to make it easier to eat while driving or walking (there’s a take out window too). The notable key here is the bun—it’s made by Starter Bakery in Berkeley and is slightly sour, soft and fluffy, and cut on the sides before being seared in butter and parmesan for perfection. Pro tip: Cash & Carry is a large food-service supply store—it’s like a Costco but for chefs and restaurant owners. It’s a great place to go if you’re throwing a large party or big BBQ on a budget and need large quantities of food (like 48-packs of hot dogs). 170A South Van Ness Ave., gooddogsf.com
Cuban Chicken at Isla Vida Chicken always gets a bad rap for being boring, but if I were forever stuck on a deserted island and could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would without a doubt be chicken. It’s delicious in every possible preparation. Deep-fried! Braised! Broiled! Grilled! Roasted! Broasted! Rotisserie! And it’s this latter preparation, specifically rotisserie over a wood-fire grill, that Jay Foster’s latest Afro-Caribbean restaurant, Isla Vida, does so well. Marinated in an herby garlicky Cuban mojo sauce and served with a simple side salad with pickled vegetables, it’s a very smart, healthy and delicious use of $8. You’ll feel light, refreshed, and ready to conquer the day. 1325 Fillmore St., islavidasf.com
Everything at Verjus I can’t stop thinking about Verjus. It’s a place I’ve wanted to exist in San Francisco for a very, very long time. On the surface, it’s simply a natural wine bar offering a high level of food and cooking from Michael Tusk, chef of Cotogna and three-Michelin-starred Quince. But if you spend enough time at Verjus, you’ll start to see hints of its global influences underneath. There’s one part Parisian bistronomy vibes à la l’Avant Comptoir felt in both the small plates of refined French fare and above-eye-level menu placement. There’s another layer of San Sebastian/Spanish influence with the gilda pintxo and tortilla that sit at the bar (where you can properly then enjoy with a cold vermouth). And finally, in the adjacent room, there’s a wall of wines that you can order by the bottle and enjoy with a curated selection of conservas, cheeses, house-made charcuterie and other provisions available for purchase to stay or to go—just like at Roscioli in Rome. It sounds like a Western European mishmash, but in a beautiful, magical way it all works cohesively and chaotically simultaneously. Chances are the concept will tighten with time, but right here, right now, Verjus is perfect in my eyes. 528 Washington St., verjuscave.com