South FWB (an acronym for “food and wine bar”) is a great little hideaway in San Francisco’s SOMA (the acronym for “South of Market” district), directly across from the CalTrain station on Townsend Street. It’s intimate but comfortable, stylish but not pretentious, and the food and service will not disappoint. In short, South FWB is a hidden culinary gem in a city full of great restaurants.
THE DISH: GRILLED PORK LOIN
South FWB offers a very simple, nicely grilled pork loin, drizzled with its own jus, and capped with small strips of pear and micro-greens. The pork has perfect grill marks, and a small ramekin heaped with crispy shoestring sweet potatoes adds a spicy touch. Simplicity is bliss; the grilled pork loin is a seasonal lunch offering.
THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5) THE DAMAGE: $14 (lunch) THE SKINNY: SOUTH FWB RESTAURANT
The Spot: Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Ristorante, South San Francisco CA
Sodini’s Bertolucci’s is the kind of old-school Italian joint that you would imagine finding in downtown Las Vegas, or in Eastern New Jersey. With its giant signage, black-and-white awning, and exterior murals of Italian landscapes, it’s a holdover from another era, and a surprising discovery off the main drag in South San Francisco. Giant, framed turn-of-the-century European posters, a wraparound gold striped curtain, a garden fountain, and swirling red booths that swallow you like the jaws of Jonah’s whale make the interior like a Sopranos backdrop, but cleaner.
Sodini’s Bertolucci’s is a fun place to eat, with friendly service and hearty lunch portions at a decent price. Sodini’s Bertolucci’s is probably my favorite place to have lunch in South San Francisco thus far.
The Dish:Spaghetti & Meatballs
Along with Joey & Eddie’s in SF, Sodini’s Bertolucci’s makes the meanest spaghetti and meatballs I’ve eaten in a long, long while. There’s a nice amount of hearty ragu across the pasta, efficiently cooked, and the meatballs are slightly firm on the outside and perfectly tender inside. Just a well-done classic that I hope more people will venture to Sodini’s Bertolucci’s to enjoy.
The décor at Osteria La Buca is charming and warm for an urban conversion, with high ceilings, exposed steel beams and brick walls. The interior blends simple sophistication into an overall feeling of a neighborhood joint and since that part of L.A. doesn’t have many, it’s a nice feeling to be there. The place has three dining sections: two downstairs and one upstairs. The little front garden room where people want to sit most looks to me like a sad terrarium or after-thought of a smokers’ lounge in a forgettable foreign airport. You’re too close to the neighboring tables, which is OK if the food is stellar. It just depends if you like that room enough to sit close or if you have the L.A. gene that requires you always be seen. I prefer the front wraparound area downstairs, which feels more like a bustling neighborhood cafe.
The all-Italian wine list is a nice touch, but most diners would need some waiter assistance with selections from a list of grapes and blends uncommon to the typical American palate. Unfortunately, my waiter at Osteria La Buca automatically pushed the most expensive glasses to us. I knew two other choices were equally good and about half the price, so this was a bad takeaway. Pushing higher priced menu items without consideration for the customer is just a pet peeve of mine regarding restaurant service. Hopefully, that guy’s not working there anymore.
THE DISH: MEATBALLS (appetizer)
The most recent night I dined at Osteria La Buca, meatballs were a special appetizer. They were excellent and perfectly cooked, the way an ancient family recipe warrants. It was a bit odd that the meatballs didn’t sit on, say, some polenta or something to make the appetizer a bit heartier. But the meatballs properly hit the spot nonetheless, with fresh-baked crostini to soak up the ruddy marinara sauce.
THE DISH:Fire-grilled, Szechuan-spiced BABY BACK PORK RIBS
The pork ribs at Roy’s are one of those appetizers you might order on a whim, then you’ll dream about it for the next week until you can get back and have more. They’re a perfect mix of spicy-hot and sweet, and finger lickin’, finger lickin’ good y’all. If in downtown SF and in need of a cocktail and appetizer, get right to Roy’s and get yourself right.
THE SPOT: ROY’S RESTAURANT, San Francisco CA
(Note: Roy’s has quite a few restaurants in different locations; this is a review of the baby back pork ribs at Roy’s in San Francisco, CA.)
A bastion of Asian fusion cuisine, with deep (taro) roots in the Hawaiian Islands, Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s Restaurant is truly a flurry of flavors. Although I don’t visit Roy’s often, when I recall certain dishes I’ve enjoyed there, I contemplate why I’ve not been there lately and consider how soon I can get back there. A great way to enjoy Roy’s, if you’re not up for a dinner in the formal dining room, is to go for some appetizers and a couple of their wicked cocktails (Original Hawaiian Martini, Mango Mojito, etc.) The bar at Roy’s is probably a great place to start a date, as the drinks are awesome, the servers are friendly, the atmosphere is rich but relaxed, and the app’s are worth the trip alone.
THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5)
THE DAMAGE: $15
A better way to go is Roy’s combo appetizer (pu pu) platter for $28. It includes a couple ribs and a handful of other great appetizers on one giant plate.
As one of the few restaurants in North Beach that are really good, Joey & Eddie’s won me over the week it opened. The décor is comfortable but low-key, with a large, spacious and open main dining room of deep booths and dark wooden tables and armless, captain’s style chairs. The service is good, friendly, and professional, and the bartenders are sharply attentive and make nicely stiff drinks.
The family style concept of Italian food, made popular through restaurant chains like Buca di Beppo and, on the higher end, Maggiano’s, is nothing new. But Joey & Eddie’s brings the family style Italian meal and makes it feel like a North Beach restitution, like it returns something lost and lovely to one of America’s great neighborhoods.
The Dish:Spaghetti & Meatballs
When many people recall the comfort foods of their childhood, spaghetti and meatballs is a most frequent memory on that list. Basic spaghetti and meatballs is one of those dishes that young, inexperienced moms can generally pull off, but like any apparently simple dish, the difference between good and great is profound.
It’s about the sauce, whose greatness and thickness can vary by regional or familial preference. And it’s also about the meatballs, which take a considerable talent, or love, or patience. Or a great recipe from a great great-grandmother.
Joey & Eddie’s restaurant is on target again, serving up one of my favorite spaghetti & meatballs in San Francisco. It’s a giant plate of great sauce, perfectly cooked pasta, and magnificent meatballs. And it’s fun to dig into that big platter and share it, maybe like your family used to during your childhood.
The Damage: $20 or $27 (“a little to share” or “a lot to share,” respectively)
THE SPOT: SODINI’S BERTOLUCCI’S RISTORANTE, South San Francisco CA
Sodini’s Bertolucci’s is the kind of old-school Italian joint that you would imagine finding in downtown Las Vegas, or in Eastern New Jersey. With its giant signage, black-and-white awning, and exterior murals of Italian landscapes, it’s a holdover from another era, and a surprising discovery off the main drag in South San Francisco. Giant, framed turn-of-the-century European posters, a wraparound gold-striped curtain, a garden fountain, and swirling red booths that swallow you like the jaws of Jonah’s whale make the interior like a Sopranos backdrop, but cleaner.
THE DISH: CORNISH GAME HEN
God bless the place that has Cornish game hen as a menu staple. I wish more restaurants served the lovely young bird. It’s the daily lunch special at Sodini’s Bertolucci’s on Tuesdays, and on the dinner menu that night as well. (Lunch specials here also include soup or salad; I thought the traditional minestrone was good.) The plate has not one, but two hens, perfectly roasted and seasoned with salt, pepper, with fresh rosemary sprigs tucked in. The fowls lay atop creamy polenta, with seasonal veggies (like squash) along for the ride. The veggies are unremarkable, but the polenta is great.
Like other dishes I’ve enjoyed at Bertolucci’s, the portion is enough for lunch and a take-home snack or light dinner. For the price, it’s a solid value but, more importantly, it’s delicious.
THE DAMAGE: $14, lunch (includes soup or salad) and $19, dinner
There are meatballs that are forgettable (Chef Boyardee, and his ilk in many mediocre restaurants), and those that inspire drool when remembered. The roasted veal meatballs at Town Hall in San Francisco are the drool-y kind. Creating meatballs with veal instead of the more traditional pork-beef blend was inspired, and ladling rich peppercorn gravy over potato puree instead of pasta pushes the dish to perfection. This meatball dish is fantastic, and just one of many reasons I love Town Hall.
The Damage: $12
This is a high-value appetizer for the price. It’s rich and complete, a generous portion that’s great to share.
So for SOMA folks, this is a nice little bar & restaurant that gets too crowded during Giants baseball season, but offers a decent spot for drinks and appetizers when AT&T Park is not rolling out with orange and black clad fervor to the nearest bars, like this one.
The Dish: BBQ Ribs / Baby Back Ribs
A nice little rib appetizer, paired with a good, crisp house-made slaw that comes alive with a smack of salt and pepper. Not worth a trip across town, but definitely holds its own as a local offering.
Frisee restaurant is one of those places that you discover, bring friends to, they pass it along, and so on, but it doesn’t get enough good press. So eat there now, whilst you can. The décor is lime-fresh, with a small counter in front of high windows looking out onto Market Street, and seating lined down a long banquette that feels like a groovy lounge.
But it’s not so hipster that you can’t bring your Mom to enjoy a meal there. That’s because Frisee staffs genuinely nice (but not overbearing), professional, and caring servers. Even if you’ve never been there, they make you feel like you’re coming back to a friend’s house. The staff, the food, the cool hidden gem vibe all make Frisee a great find and a great place to chow when you’ve got that burger urge.
THE DISH: FILET BURGER
So we’ve been on a steady burger diet, for the benefit of the people and Mr. Kite, and among San Francisco’s burger purveyors, we’ve got to rank Frisee among the top (so far).One thing that makes Frisee’s burger more enticing from the get-go is its plush menu vocabulary.To wit: All-natural (hormone-free, antibiotic-free), grass-fed, filet mignon hamburger.
Be still my bloody heart.
But there’s more.Point Reyes blue cheese, toasted red onion, tomato relish, butter lettuce, Dijon mustard and mayo on an onion roll. Wow…seriously?
Plus, it comes with crisp, Kennebec fries topped with a balsamic drizzle. Compare the Filet Burger @ Frisee by price and value to other burgs in town, and you’d be hard pressed to eat burgers anywhere else in SF. (Prove me wrong.)
The Filet Burger is available during brunch, lunch, or dinner.
When you spend a full page on your website glorifying your burger and you call your burger “The Burger,” you had better deliver something beyond special. Hungry burger lovers are licking lips in anticipation, in a literal way. Despite the great environment, a house-made bun, and 8 ounces of Niman Ranch beef, “The Burger” just doesn’t deliver. (Especially for the high price which, for now, I’ve conveniently forgotten). The condiments, the toppings (typical white onion, tomato, lettuce, pickle), even the fries, meh…
I encourage the great folks at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant to revise the recipe, up the ante, confound the condiments, shock the vegetables, bustle the hedgerow, whatever it takes to step this up to its reputation. Because every other dish I ate at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant was rocking. Every one but “The Burger.”
THE SPOT: BIG SUR BAKERY & RESTAURANT, BIG SUR CA
To say I love this restaurant is an understatement; it’s a wonderful, warm place to dine in Big Sur, the chefs are conscious and caring, and the food, on the whole, is great. You know, the burger was OK but at the price, it should be awesome.
THE GRADE: DISAPPOINTING (0 out of 5)
THE DAMAGE:Expensive for a burger that you will not fall in love with