It’s taken me nearly two years, but I think I’ve finally found peace with the amount of rain in SF. Growing up in San Diego, we barely ever got rain. Now that I’ve accepted the fact that SF literally gets flooded every winter, I’ve found ways to embrace it. I recently spent an evening at Chambers eat + drink at the Phoenix Hotel and found that it was a perfect place to enjoy cocktails, a meal, and watch the rain.
Located in the Tenderloin, Chambers has always been one of those spots where the cool kids go for drinks and to be seen. But it’s also a place where you’d see a bunch of suited men sitting around a long table talking shop. And by far, you’re going to see A LOT of woo girls posting up in front of the “Be Amazing” sign at the back bar.
Equally as popular as Chambers is the neighboring Phoenix Hotel, in which it shares patio space. On a SF summer day, you might see guests taking a dip in the pool or lounging outside during a guest DJ set. But during winter, grab a seat by the windows and enjoy the show – both inside and outside of the restaurant. Rows upon rows of vinyl line the walls of Chambers, which would put any local record store to shame, and there are nooks all over the place to cozy up with friends.
We started our meal with a couple cocktails. Start with the Chambers 75, a flute of gin, champagne and elderflower – all of the best things a cocktail could ask for. My man is a whiskey drinker and I always go for gin so the cocktail menu appealed to both of us. Go for the Midnight Rambler with whiskey, scotch “essence,” and rhubarb bitters, or the Harlem Shuffle with lemon-infused gin, lime juice, agave, and a malbec float. Or, you can tell your server what you’re in the mood for and they’ll whip something up for you.
Whether you’re visiting for dinner or just a couple small bites before you continue your night, the food menu is definitely worth checking out. We tried the Brussel Sprout Salad with herbed goat cheese, spiced walnuts, Asian pear, and arugula, which paired nicely with the Confit Octopus served with chorizo, butter beans, and olives. If you’re one for different textures in all of your bites, these starters are perfect. Other options include items like Sizzling Kobe Tri-Tip, Tuna Tartare, and Pan Seared Foie Gras if you feel like indulging.
If you stick around for dinner, the Short Rib and Pork Chop are winners and are both served with complementary vegetables and starches. And to round out the evening, we finished the meal with a Chocolate Pâté served with a matcha whip cream, berries and pistachios. The meal was totally decadent but we didn’t feel weighed down by the meal.
The attention to detail and service at Chambers is striking. Along with the cordial hellos and niceties, our server and her helpers took note of my man’s left handedness and actually paid attention to how they were dropping off utensils or serving cocktails. It’s the little things like this that make for fantastic service.
As I’ve started spending more time in Oakland, I’ve fallen in love with the people, city views, boutique shopping, hiking, and food. Living and surviving in San Francisco is exhausting – from the commute to our politics – and Oakland and its people really remind me of living in San Diego. As I continue to explore the nooks and crevices of Oakland, here’s a list of some of the Oakland restaurants that are on my radar.
Itani Ramen for Sake, Ramen and Cool Vibes
Since opening its doors in May 2016, Itani Ramen and its owner Kyle Itani, have offered a lively Tokyo-style vibe inside its super hip spot right in the thick of it all on Telegraph Ave. Located just a few steps from the 19th St. BART station, Itani offers Japanese comfort food with casual service.
“We’re offering ramen for everyone,” Kyle told us at a recent press dinner. “People come for familiar flavors and good sake at an affordable price.”
Upon walking into Itani, you’ll be greeted with an open kitchen, old school jams over the sound system and the Japanese symbol for ramen on nearly every wall. For starters, go for any one of the Mini Rice Bowls (the Salmon 3 Way is great) or the Sloppy Stickers, fried pork gyoza drizzled with kewpie mayo, soy sauce, green onions, bonito tuna flakes and pickled ginger. Definitely get an order of the Crispy Pig Ears for your table – I wouldn’t be surprised if those garner a cult following in the couple months.
Unfortunately, I’m not a sake connoisseur but Itani has a sake list that will suit any palate. Carafes of sake and shochu range from $33 to $49, which seems to be the norm for Oakland restaurants. As far as the ramen goes, the Shoyu ramen with ginger chicken, pickled cherry tomatoes and fennel oil was standard, but the Shivering Cold Noodle Salad might be the winner here. Poached chicken is served on a bed of cold noodles with pickled ginger, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, snap peas, corn, and dashi soy dressing would be great on a warm night or paired with some warm sake.
In keeping with the cool Tokyo style, the dessert menu certainly is a curious one. Grab a token from the cashier and use it on the Dessert Vending Machine in the front. You’ll have your pick of Match-flavored Pocky, red bean cakes, or whatever else is rotating that evening.
If you’re looking for a quick bite before a show at The Fox, or need some carbs to soak off some booze while you’re out at about, check out Itani Ramen.
Hutch Bar & Kitchen for Soul Food
Ever since my trip to New Orleans, I’ve had a deeper love for soul food and Southern charm. Upon walking into Hutch Bar & Kitchen, I had a flashback to Nola with just a twinge of Oakland cool. Not to mention an enormous wall lined with 100+ whiskeys.
The menu at Hutch perfectly mingles local ingredients into their Southern menu and their cocktails make for a great way to start a night out. The whiskey list reads like an encyclopedia and the cocktail menu offers some classics. I started our night with a Hutch Sour, the restaurant’s take on a Pisco Sour, before diving into some apps.
Go for the Bacon & Cheddar Grit Croquettes for a taste of the South and some oysters for a taste of our local waters. You’ll find larger plates like Mary’s Fried Chicken served with collards and rice, or Fish & Grits if you’re in the mood for some seafood. The Hunter’s Gumbo and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf were also highly recommended, but we’ll wait to try those on our next visit. Everything was tasty and offered some Southern-inspired tastes.
If you’re in the neighborhood and just want to stop by for a drink, I highly recommend ordering a dessert to complement. The Vanilla Bourbon Bread Pudding is certainly boozy but only in the best way possible and the Hutch Affagato will smack you in the face with its St. George NOLA coffee liqueur. If I lived in this hood, you’d definitely find me at the bar sipping on any of their deliciously sounding nightcaps.
Check out Brunch at Eve’s Waterfront Now before Everyone Else Does
We got wind of Eve’s Waterfront as soon as they opened in September and I absolutely had to check this place out before the hype got the crowds all riled up. Perched on the bay and facing Alameda Island, Eve’s is an awesome hidden gem. The building itself looks unassuming, but the view of the water from inside is so worth the drive.
Growing up near the beach, I never really trusted “waterfront dining” because they usually turned out to be tourist traps with mediocre, overpriced food. But Eve’s finally broke the cycle and is offering some serious mouth-watering fare.
We visited on a rainy morning for brunch and I was caught off guard by the enormity of the space. The main dining room is two levels, the wood-paneled bar could fit dozens of people, and the waterfront decks will be prime real estate when it’s warm out.
Brunch at Eve’s is stellar, especially when you can add a couple of morning cocktails to the gamut. Go for the Eve’s Sunset with infused pineapple vodka, lime and pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur, or my favorite, the Embarcadero 75, with gin, citrus juice, and champagne. The Bloody Mary was also delicious had a slight brininess, which I always love.
We started the solid food part of our meal with the highly recommended Eggnog French Toast drizzled with a citrus curd and espresso maple syrup, which was buttery, eggy and slightly crisped. Order one for the table – it’s so stinking good. The Dagwood Breakfast Club was amazing and I would have finished the whole thing had it not been for the French Toast. Fennel sage sausage, a fried farm egg, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato and aioli are sandwiched between two pieces of sourdough. My brunch mate ordered the Salmon Hash, with Yukon gold potatoes, poached eggs and a béarnaise sauce. Both were heavenly and worth every penny.
Executive Chef Bruce Paton is pulling out the guns at Eve’s and you definitely should add this spot to your foodie list. We didn’t even touch the lunch and dinner menu so trust that we’ll be returning and reporting back.
Get Your Meat Sweats at Galeto
If you’ve been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you know the drill. Grab a plate, head to the salad bar for some carbs and veggies to accompany your main course, and sit back and watch as men yielding massive skewers come by and drop off beautiful cuts of meat. The routine is no different at Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse in Old Oakland.
We visited for dinner one night and tried nearly a dozen different meats, ranging from sirloin and rib eye, to sausage and grilled chicken wrapped in bacon. The wine list is sizable and there are a few Brazilian-inspired cocktails that’ll make a great addition to your meal. And what better a way to settle your belly full of meats than with a Dulce de Leche Crepe or a Belgian Chocolate Petit Gateau?
Thank you to all of the restaurants who invited us into their space! See you all soon!
There’s a constant, woeful rotating door when it comes to restaurants in San Francisco. It’s sad for only a moment after hearing about one of our favorite restaurant or bar’s sudden closing – only because we know it’s a matter of time before a new place opens. Tamarind Hall is a brand new Thai restaurant that just opened up in North Beach and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to check it out.
Tamarind Hall is a beautiful space that took over King of Thai’s nearly decade-long residency on the corner of Vallejo and Grant. Bangkok-born Salisa Skinner opened her restaurant in August with some serious shoes to fill. Luckily, her approach to casual bites and drinks is fitting the bill of what San Francitizens are looking for when it comes to Thai food in SF.
Upon walking into Tamarind Hall, we were greeted with music you’d hear in a rad wine or cocktail lounge and beautiful oil paintings of Muay Thai kickboxers. With a 60-seat dining room and long bar in the back, you can find a secluded table or something near the windows for people watching you’ll only ever get in SF.
Salisa has a law and Silicon Valley background, but always had a love for preparing food rooted in her family’s history and recipes. Her dishes are extraordinary – from authentic Thai ingredients to the actual presentation of her plates.
“I want this restaurant to celebrate the common people of Thailand along with my passion for street food,” Salisa says. “I’m not trying to compete with the Thai restaurants in the city. I’m doing my own thing.”
And it shows.
We started our meals with a couple cocktails. Go for the Thai Mango Mojito made with fresh chunks of mango, or the delicious Siamese G-Spot with tequila, St. Germain, lychee juice, and grapefruit juice. You’ll find other classic cocktails on the list, along with concoctions with unique Thai infusions.
Salisa proceeded to bring out some of her favorite and most-popular dishes for us to try. Thankfully we came with an empty belly. Go for the Chicken Satay presented on a piece of banana leaf and topped with a cucumber salad and peanut sauce. My mom makes a mean chicken satay and these were definitely on par with the southeastern flavors I had growing up.
The Mango Salad was definitely a favorite and is served with dried anchovies, crispy onions, cherry tomatoes, and peanuts tossed in lime juice and palm sugar. We also tried the Yam Makua Yao salad where smoky grilled eggplant is topped with soft-cooked duck eggs, mint, coriander, house-cured bacon and crispy garlic. Most of the dishes are topped with gorgeous orchids and edible wildflowers, adding even more beauty to these plates.
There’s a ton of other starter to choose from, ranging from Fresh Rolls and Curry + Roti, to Glass Noodle Salad and Tom Yum Goong soup. Popular starters appear on the restaurant’s happy hour menu, so drop by Monday-Friday from 5-7 p.m. if you want a taste of what these guys have to offer.
Tamarind Hall’s Pad Sew Ew.
Whenever I try out a new Thai restaurant, I always judge the place by their Pad See Ew and Tamarind Hall has a killer version. Another popular noodle dish is the Crab Meat Khanoom Jeen. Hunks of crab in a lemongrass curry are piled next to vermicelli noodles, basil and mint leaves, boiled eggs, and chopped cabbage before your server blends it all together in front of you. Obviously you’ll find other Thai classics on the menu, but talk to your server if you’re in an adventurous mood.
Save room for dessert because Tamarind Hall’s Sticky Rice with Mango is one of the best I’ve ever had. The rice is silky and sweet and the mango was perfectly ripe.
Tamarind Hall, despite taking over a special street corner in the city’s foodie history, is destined for success because of Salisa’s passion for food and the people of Thailand. For more information, visit www.tamarindhall.com.
I’ll go out for a bowl or Phó or some spring rolls at least once every couple of weeks – especially since I live in a SF neighborhood that offers some serious Asian cuisine. That number goes up even higher when Karl the Fog starts rearing his ugly head, making for super chilly nights. There’s something so comforting about a big bowl of soup, or some Vietnamese-spiced noodle and rice dishes. However, when looking to step up my Vietnamese-food game, I got introduced to Le Colonial, an amazing, hidden spot for fancy French Vietnamese dishes.
Located near downtown SF and open for more than 15 years, Le Colonial is where you should go when looking for a romantic spot for a date, or to impress your colleagues and business partners. Fancy some authentic Vietnamese dishes with a touch of French flair? This place is perfect.
Take in the fresh air and pull up a seat outside within the lush courtyard, or find a spot in the main dining room, or sneak away upstairs and find a seat in one of the many nooks at the Lounge for live music and people watching. The wine and specialty cocktail list is enormous. I’m a sucker for “healthy” cocktails and the Bright Eyes was calling my name: Boudier Saffron Gin, aperol, carrot juice, orange bitters, and muddled carrots.
We started our meal by ordering the Appetizer Tasting Platter, which came with an assortment of Vegetable Spring Rolls; Crispy Rolls with crab, shrimp and chicken; Baby Back Pork Ribs glazed with hoisin and passion fruit sauces; Coconut Crusted Mini Crab Cakes; and Ahi Tuna Tartare. This platter is perfect if you can’t decide between a few different starters.
Le Colonial is known for its Bo Luc Lac, or Shaken Beef, and it’s pretty clear why. Filet mignon is cubed and is wok-seared in a sweet and savory soy sauce before served on a bed of watercress with pickled red onion, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and crispy lotus chips. This dish is stunning and you’ll love tearing into it to get the perfect bite. I highly recommend you order a bowl of their Coconut Rice and their Crispy Sweet Chili-Glazed Brussel Sprouts. Those dishes alone are well worth the trip to Le Colonial.
You’ll find some standard Vietnamese dishes on the menu, like Chicken Pho and Roasted Lemongrass Chicken, along with French-inspired cuisine like Steak Au Poivre Vert and French Seabass. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, soup, or beautiful pieces of meat, there’s something for everyone. Save room for dessert because you’ll find items like the Le Colonial Banana Roties, caramelized bananas on baked cassava cake and Orange & Lime Crepes Cake.
For some of us, taking a break from their local Vietnamese mom and spot to try out “fancier” interpretations of traditional rice and noodle dishes offer perspective into the country’s tastes. The combination of the ingredients may be exactly the same, but the presentation, service, and ambiance makes for a world of change. For more information, on Le Colonial, visit http://www.lecolonialsf.com/.
In case you missed it, Eat Drink SF is back at it this weekend showing off some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, along with some amazing wine and spirit makers. The Fort Mason Pavilion was dressed up to the nines, offering space for rows of restaurants, cooking demos, giveaways, and so much more.
Check out some of the photos from Saturday’s Grand Tasting event.
One of the reasons that I love going to Eat Drink SF every year is because of the people — chefs, mixologists, wine makers, and event attendees. San Francisco is undoubtedly a foodie city and people here love celebrating the legacy of our old restaurants, as well as the new kids on the block making waves in the industry. No matter how you slice it, this event brings people together to celebrate our crazy bubble and all of the personalities within.