SF Bay Area eateries

Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 24. The scale used to be 0 to 10, so restaurants written about before 2012 may have only had their ratings adjusted by formula and not by hand (hence all the 2s, 5s, 8s, etc.) The scale works as follows:

PRO
24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16
pro
15 14 13 12 11 10
mixed
9 8 7 6 5 4
con
3 2 1
CON
0

An asymmetrical 0 to 24 scale may not be intuitive, I realize. But as a rule of thumb: a double-digit score means I liked it, while a single-digit score... less so. Also, as you might expect, scores from many years ago may not be very reliable, so do check the dates.

Click on the column titles to sort the entries!

Name Cuisine Address Last update Score
Salang PassAfghanFremont & Rose, Fremont2009-01-0614
It turns out that Fremont of all places has the largest Afghan population in the US. It also has a number of Afghan restaurants, but I keep coming back to this one. I like the vegetarian ashak, but Elizabeth likes the eggplant enough that given the entire Bay Area to choose from for her birthday dinner, she went with Salang Pass eggplant.
Helmand PalaceAfghanVan Ness btw Green/Union, San Francisco2013-01-2211
The sauces that came with the bread had me very optimistic: the spicy tomato sauce was particularly great. But the vegetarian aushak, while otherwise fine, was topped with undercooked split peas that put this place in "good but not great" territory.
Aryana Afghan CuisineAfghanCrow Canyon & Tassajara, Danville2016-09-138
Standard Afghan fare, minus my usual choice (vegetarian aushak) — I got a pumpkin appetizer (very good, though most Afghan places in my experience get this right as well) and a bolani appetizer (because the Yelpers had talked it up, though it turned out to be pretty bland). Why two appetizers and no entree? Because the prices here are pretty high: even for the two appetizers I ended up shelling out $24!
Khyber Pass KabobAfghanVillage & Amador Valley, Dublin2016-03-198
I pretty much always get vegetarian aushak at Afghan places, and this was no exception. Usually they have some sort of tomato or lentil topping in addition to the yogurt sauce, though, and the rendition here did not.
KabulAfghanEl Camino Real & Hull, San Carlos2007-09-265
It takes a while for the staff here to notice that you've walked in the door, and even longer to get you a menu. From said menu I ordered a really quite bad bulani appetizer and a better but still not stellar vegetable combo. I will say this: even a mediocre Afghan restaurant like this knows its way around a pumpkin.
Inn KensingtonAmericanArlington & Amherst, Kensington2012-10-2417
This has become one of my regular breakfast spots. I went through the following cycle with it: 1. "Wow, that meal was great! Now I want to try everything else on the menu!" 2. "I've now tried a bunch of other things on the menu and some of them were pretty blah! Maybe this place isn't so great after all!" 3. "You know, if I walk in knowing that if I order my favorite thing (the chilaquiles with that awesome simmered salsa) I will have a spectacular breakfast... shouldn't that alone be enough to land a pantheon rating?" For now I'm saying yes.
Cafe MAmericanFifth & Delaware, Berkeley2009-12-3011
Decent but unremarkable. On my most recent visit I was surprised to find the place packed, because I'm used to there not being a soul on the premises other than the servers.
ChowAmericanLafayette & Whitten, Lafayette2007-04-2211
I got a pizza here whose crust was fair at best but whose toppings were surprisingly good. I also had a decent if unremarkable rhubarb cobbler. I wouldn't make a trip to eat here but if I were standing in front of it again I'd be happy to go in again.
Mission Beach CafeAmericanGuerrero & 14th, San Francisco2016-09-1110
After spending well over an hour sitting among the horde of people on the corner waiting to get in, I finally had my name called. I got the "Mission Beach Huevos": a bowl of ranchero sauce with poached eggs and heirloom beans in it, topped with giant tortilla-chip slabs, which were topped in turn by dollops of creme fraiche and guacamole. Interesting! Pretty good! Not something I'd wait another hour-plus for, though.
SouthieAmericanCollege btw 63rd/Alcatraz, Oakland2016-07-208
Here I got a sandwich that sounded equal parts interesting and random: shaved zucchini, corn, watercress, sundried tomato spread, and a few other things. As for how it tasted, well, "random" won out over "interesting" by a fair margin.
FatapplesAmericanMLK & Rose, Berkeley2011-03-298
This is a landmark, at least to real estate agents who will often cite proximity to Fatapples in their ads, but, uh, it's just a little "family restaurant" like you'd find in Indiana in 1982. I got a waffle with a little thing of spreadable apricot sauce. It was okay.
Rick & Ann'sAmericanDomingo & Russell, Berkeley2010-12-158
I've been here a number of times (frequently in 2007, when I was at the Claremont a lot) and have tried a number of things... orange-cardamom French toast was very much like regular French toast, and potato cheese pancakes were too heavy for me, but I seem to recall that some of the specials were pretty good.
Eureka!Americanregional chain2014-11-226
One long wait to get my order taken and another long wait for my order to arrive. I got the truffle fries, which were acceptable but not noteworthy. No discernible truffle flavor but the hint of scallion was nice.
HomesteadAmericanPiedmont btw 40th/41st, Oakland2015-10-275
I went here for breakfast, when it's more casual, and had a creme fraiche custard (inoffensive but bland) and a beignet (fried to death, and left enough oil in my stomach that I got a bagel on the way home just because I felt like I needed to soak it up).
FireflyAmerican24th & Douglass, San Francisco2013-05-135
I was optimistic about this place when the bread came with a black bean and cumin spread rather than butter or olive oil. That black bean and cumin spread was great. Pea soup was meh. The entree I got was full of things I normally like (asparagus, fava beans, hazelnuts, etc.) but it was pretty bitter and getting through it was kind of a chore. Plus, Elizabeth got an avocado salad and half the avocado slices were brown! They comped us for the salad, so no harm done, but it was still not the best of all possible worlds.
FloraAmericanTelegraph & 19th, Oakland2009-01-075
Finally made it to this place, which is trying to establish a beachhead for upscale-ish dining in a dismal section of downtown Oakland. I can't really recommend it — my meal wasn't awful, but half the ingredients listed on the menu were delivered in homeopathic quantities.
Coco 500AmericanBrannan & 4th, San Francisco2008-06-305
Here I had a "truffled squash blossom flatbread" that was like an overdone pizza and an almond pound cake that was okay but nothing special.
ParagonAmericanThe Claremont, Berkeley2007-11-255
I gather that people come here (a) for the views, (b) for the drinks, (c) because it's located in the swanky hotel where they happen to be staying. Without these advantages, I can't imagine that the Paragon would get much business — the food is much more expensive than its quality would merit. Such a heavy hand with the rosemary!
Walker's Pie ShopAmericanSolano btw Curtis/Santa Fe, Albany2006-02-235
The newspaper clippings in the window rave, "Like eating dinner at Grandma's house!" and "A little slice of the Midwest right here in the Bay Area!" Might as well complete the effect by promising that the waiter will kick you in the head. Still, the word "pie" was in the name, so I stopped and got some pie. It was no different from the pie across the street at the Safeway.
Westside CafeAmerican (Southwestern-inflected)Ninth & Parker, Berkeley2012-08-298
I had some very good chilaquiles the first couple of times I came here, but since then they've been just okay. The gingerbread and coffee cake draw a lot of raves but I didn't find them noteworthy.
B StarAsian fusionClement btw 2nd/3rd, San Francisco2012-01-087
I happened to be in the Inner Richmond on a Sunday, so stopped here for brunch as I was intrigued by the prospect of azuki-bean-stuffed French toast with bananas and almonds. But it turned out that the azuki paste was gritty and not to my taste (East Asian food so rarely is). I was also intrigued by the vegetable samosa soup on the menu, but at $7 for a small and $13.50 for a large, I elected to pass.
Manhattan BagelBagelsnational chain2005-11-2711
The big local bagel chain is called Noah's, which sells hamburger buns with holes in the middle. The bagels at Manhattan Bagel (owned by the same company, apparently) are a bit bready themselves but are at least chewy enough to be passable.
Bagel Street CafeBagelsregional chain2011-11-035
Stopped here because I'd run across a positive review and it was on the way to campus. Won't be doing that again. If you want repeat business from me, you don't have to be as good as a bagel shop in Manhattan... but you do have to be as good as Manhattan Bagel. Which this is not.
Noah'sBagels, etc.regional chain2007-07-295
Noah's is a chain that offers bagels in such varieties as chocolate chip and peppercorn. And there's nothing wrong with that! Just because H&H didn't think of it first doesn't make it a heresy. Noah's also steams its bagels — in fact, I've seen banners outside the place that say "IT'S THE STEAM!" — and there's noth— actually, wait, there's something seriously wrong with that. Noah's "bagels" are basically hamburger buns. That's bad. Not because it deviates from New York orthodoxy, but because who wants to eat a toasted hamburger bun with cream cheese?
Starter BakeryBakeryfarmers' market booth2012-08-2216
Though it has some very decent competition, I have to give Starter Bakery the nod as the best there is at what it does, at least in the area. Kouignoù-amann are its specialty, with fillings such as Tcho chocolate and peaches from a few booths down, and it offers dozens of other goodies: twice-baked almond croissants, pistachio coffee cakes, all sorts of things. Unfortunately, you can't just swing by whenever you want; Starter mostly sells to cafes, and if you want to buy fresh stuff straight from the source, you have three windows to swing by one of their farmers' market booths: Saturday morning, Sunday morning, and Wednesday afternoon. Luckily for me, the Wednesday market is a few blocks from my house.
Acme Bread CompanyBakeryregional chain2007-07-1916
I go to the Berkeley location, at San Pablo and Cedar, to get sweet baguettes. What usually happens is that I buy a baguette to use for a meal later that day, and then I can't resist biting off the top end as I walk out the door, and then it is so delicious that I end up eating like half of it.
Della FattoriaBakerymultiple locations2015-07-1815
Apparently this place is based in Petaluma, but I know it from its booth at the Ferry Building farmers' market on Saturdays. The first time I tried it, I picked up a bear claw and a pineapple pound cake; the second time, a hefty disc of croissant bread pudding. Everything so far has been a winner.
OctoberfeastBakeryCenter btw MLK/Milvia, Berkeley2011-03-0115
This place no longer has a storefront, but I still regularly head to the Saturday morning farmers' market to snag some of their pretzel croissants. (And occasionally an almond danish.)
La ChâtaigneBakeryLafayette Circle, Lafayette2017-08-0314
The Isigny croissant I got here may be the best croissant I've had in the U.S.: flaky without being crispy/crunchy, light yet substantial (neither overly bready nor just an air pocket), and tasting of good butter without being greasy. I've had a couple of other pastries and they were very good as well. At first I thought "too bad I'm not in Lafayette more", but I can see myself stopping here on the way to e.g. Danville.
Emporio RulliBakerychain: Larkspur, San Francisco2016-09-1914
Original review: I'm just grading based on the pastries, since the separate case with the cakes and cookies has (sigh) no labels. C'mon, Italian bakeries, stop with the mystery food. Anyway, the pastry case, which does label at least a fair number of the items, contains a number of very good offerings: a rice pudding cake with orange zest and a chocolate frangipane number with a raspberry center spring to mind. By the way, only go to Larkspur — the service at the SF and SFO locations is terrible. Update: Hey, I got something other than a pastry for once: namely, an artichoke-mushroom quiche. It was really good! (As was the pastry I got along with it for dessert, but that was no surprise.)
La FarineBakerylocal chain: Oakland2014-07-2113
This used to be my neighborhood bakery, and I went all the time before my local branch abruptly disappeared — dispute with the building owner, apparently. Hélas. The selection of breakfast pastries isn't enormous — you've got a few kinds of croissants, a couple of scones, a morning bun, and that's about it — but they're pretty darn good, and there are also a fair number of cakes and cookies for dessertier moods. Even the bread is perfectly decent, though I tend to turn to Acme for my regular bread needs.
Bakesale BettyBakeryTelegraph & 51st, Oakland2011-02-0811
I guess this is mostly wholesale/catering? I walked in, saw several trays of unlabeled baked goods, had some awkward back-and-forth with the staff, and finally was able to get a scone and a cookie. They were pretty good... maybe a little cloying, but still worth an entry in the plus column.
La BoulangeBakeryregional chain2006-12-2311
Here I got a chocolate hazelnut croissant. It was good! It was also tiny! It was also expensive!
Great Harvest Bread Co.BakeryCollege & Birch, Oakland2005-10-2611
This is the only Bay Area branch of a national chain, and unfortunately it's a small one — small enough that it only has a few plastic-wrapped scones for sale instead of a rack with a dozen different kinds like at other branches. I'll still go for a honey wheat loaf from time to time, I guess, but for a chocolate caramel scone I'd be showing up weekly.
Beth'sBakeryMiller & Sunnyside, Mill Valley2014-04-0710
Here I got a sort of strawberry danish thing. It probably deserved more than a 10 but, grrr, unlabeled bakery case. Labels are our friends.
SugarieBakeryBernal & Tawny, Pleasanton2016-03-209
The croissants here are the kind that are very flaky on the outside, are kind of flat and doughy on the inside, and leave you feeling like you just ate half a stick of butter. Some people like that! I prefer a fluffier (some might say breadier) croissant, myself.
Thorough Bread and PastryBakeryChurch btw 15th/Market, San Francisco2016-09-038
Points for variety, but no extra points for outstanding deliciousness or anything. The croissants are that "all crunch and no chew" kind I don't care for.
Sweet AdelineBakeryAdeline & 63rd, Berkeley2011-07-018
Here I got a slice of almond cake. It was kind of dry.
Palo Alto Baking CompanyBakeryCalifornia btw Ash/Birch, Palo Alto2008-07-208
This place came up on a list of places to get a good croissant. It probably shouldn't have.
Tous Les JoursBakeryinternational chain2016-07-207
So, here we have a Korean bakery serving French pastries in the suburban U.S. All right then. A hazelnut banana tartine sounded awesome, but it turned out to be a rectangle of blandness.
Hopkins Street BakeryBakeryHopkins btw McGee/California, Berkeley2014-07-237
Now that my local branch of La Farine is gone, and Octoberfeast no longer has a storefront, I've been trying to find a place to get a good croissant. This isn't it; the croissants were basically just bread inside. Sad face.
Golden Gate BakeryBakery (Chinese)Grant btw Pacific/Jackson, San Francisco2007-05-068
I've heard people say that the custard tarts here are the best foodstuffs available in San Francisco town, so I finally got around to trying one. The custard was okay (if a bit too gloppy for my taste) but the shell was waaay flakier than I would have preferred.
CinnaholicBakery (cinnamon rolls)Oxford btw Center/Allston, Berkeley2011-09-155
I'd passed this place a few times and decided to give it a try. The cinnamon rolls are the sort of thing you would get at the mall, and while the chance to choose your own frosting flavor is a neat twist, it really just means that a few drops of flavored syrup are mixed into your white slop. (I got macadamia.)
Masse's PastriesBakery (desserts)Shattuck btw Vine/Rose, Berkeley2011-10-098
Some very complicated and pretty desserts for reasonable prices, though it appears that the top layer of all of them is rendered hoof. I discovered that this place is actually open for breakfast and tried one each of the almond and chocolate croissants; the chocolate one was pretty good, but the almond not so much.
the Bread WorkshopBakery and cafeUniversity & Acton, Berkeley2007-12-045
Points for having savory scones, though the one I got wasn't great. Neither was the croissant, which tasted sour (and not in a good way). And man, really unfriendly service.
Arizmendi BakeryBakery/cafeFourth & City Plaza, San Rafael2016-07-0713
I'm making a separate entry for this one, since it's quite different from the one in Emeryville. The pizza is worse. Everything else is better. One week this place had roasted peach sandwiches with arugula and mascarpone, which were sensational. And the bakery section offers up all sorts of interesting things, notably both sweet and savory bread puddings: blueberry coconut, chocolate cranberry pecan, artichoke olive.
Flour & CoBakery/cafechain: San Francisco, Berkeley2016-03-019
This place has some pretty good stuff — scones and little cakes and things. It has pop-tart-like thingies filled with things like butternut squash, lemon curd, and nutella (not all in the same one). It is also quite expensive, however.
Cafe AttilaBakery/cafeSan Ramon Valley & Purdue, San Ramon2016-06-217
I felt silly paying $8 for a scrambled egg on an English muffin, but I thought that "our caper herb garlic sauce" might turn it into something I couldn't easily make at home. But said sauce was just a thin spread that didn't add much.
Aroma CafeBakery/cafeFranklin & 19th, Oakland2013-02-157
Ever since having an awesome butterscotch and chocolate chip cookie from Pure Vanilla in Oak Bay, BC, I have kept an eye out for a really good cookie place here in the Bay Area. Yelp suggested this place. Cookies were reasonably priced, but kind of doughy and nothing special, except to the extent that cookies are inherently special.
Arizmendi BakeryBakery/pizzaSan Pablo btw 45th/Park, Emeryville2008-04-2911
This spinoff of the Cheese Board often surpasses its parent collective in the quality of its pizza, but you have to be extra careful about making sure you show up when it's fresh; unlike at the Cheese Board, which has enough turnover that you always get a high-quality slice, at Arizmendi you run the risk of getting one that's been sitting around for a while.
Brazil CafeBrazilianShattuck near University, Berkeley2008-02-265
I was dubious about this place because almost all the glowing write-ups centered on the meat, and sure enough, the avocado sandwich I got was eminently skippable.
Cafe DurantBreakfast and MexicanDurant btw Telegraph/Bowditch, Berkeley2016-07-186
In the '90s I spent a few years living in a dorm on Durant, so I would semi-regularly stop by this place on the way back from a late afternoon class and get a chimichanga. The place seemed kind of old and decrepit then, and adding an extra quarter century hasn't changed that. Recently I stopped by for a breakfast burrito and, yeah, it seemed like the sort of breakfast burrito you might get in the '90s. In Ohio.
Jodie'sBreakfast/lunchMasonic near Solano, Albany2014-06-1415
IN MEMORIAM. This was a real hole in the wall, with very tight seating for six, and most of the customers went there pretty much every day for twenty years. So if you're into chatting it up with a bunch of jovial old characters, including the proprietor, this was the place. I find it a little taxing, myself. But it was one block away from my house, and I had some really good things there — two standouts were the vegetarian Eggs Royston, which came with artichokes and an herbed cream sauce on an English muffin, and the vegetarian Skip-A-Roo, Anaheim peppers and eggs scrambled with a seriously tasty homemade salsa. Even something as simple-looking as the pancakes turned out to be winners.
Blackberry BistroBreakfast/lunchPark & Wellington, Oakland2005-10-2014
This looks like it's primarily a breakfast place, but I came at lunch and got some grilled polenta with zucchini slices and cheese, topped with herbs and some very good tomatoes (even in late October — man, it's good to be back in CA), all served on a bed of black beans. This is what I call a highly acceptable lunch.
Doyle Street CafeBreakfast/lunchDoyle near 55th, Emeryville2014-09-2612
At the Homemade Cafe in Berkeley I once got something called "Home Fry Heaven": breakfast potatoes with nacho toppings. It wasn't very good. This place offered a similar dish by the same name — but the first time I got it, it was a big winner, and while subsequent times haven't been as good, they've still been perfectly decent. Maybe the key is that the potatoes were slivered instead of cubed, or something? In any case, thumbs up. I've also liked the French toast and huevos rancheros here.
Meal TicketBreakfast/lunchSan Pablo btw Gilman/Harrison, Albany2011-03-2411
This place has a vibe not entirely unlike that of an east coast diner, but the food is ever so slightly highfalutin: your scrambled eggs might have roasted asparagus and sundried tomatoes in them, for instance. Quality is up and down.
ComfortsBreakfast/lunchSan Anselmo btw Pine/Woodland, San Anselmo2010-06-1211
I'd like to give this place a higher score because the dessert case features the best macaroons I have ever tasted, but I've been to the cafe twice now and my food was seriously underseasoned both times.
Homemade CafeBreakfast/lunchSacramento & Dwight, Berkeley2008-11-2911
This place has a dish that is basically nachos using home fries instead of tortilla chips. I thought that was a pretty good idea.
Caffe 817Breakfast/lunchWashington & 8th, Oakland2007-06-2211
Here I had a sandwich of mozzarella, artichoke and peppers. It was okay. I wish I could have had a glass of water with it.
Stacks'Breakfast/lunchregional chain2007-02-1611
Here I had a very good smoothie and banana macadamia coconut pancakes which were also pretty good.
Bill's CafeBreakfast/lunchregional chain2016-05-0110
I got the eggs caprese (a benedict with caprese fixings instead of meat). That seemed like it could fall anywhere on the spectrum: could be amazing, could be a matter of white tomatoes, rubbery cheese, and congealed hollandaise. It turned out to be in the middle. Fine, not memorable.
Royal CafeBreakfast/lunchSan Pablo btw Washington/Solano, Albany2012-08-1010
I was surprised to see this place leading the Albany Patch poll for best breakfast in Albany, since I've lived here for two years and had never heard of it. Turns out that it's an old diner that I'd passed a million times without looking twice at. However, the food is more up to date than you'd expect (e.g., I got a roasted eggplant omelette with sundried tomatoes). One oddity: there are two doors and no one is posted near either one. You have to walk past bunches of people already eating in order to be seated.
the Sunny Side CaféBreakfast/lunchlocal chain: Albany, Berkeley2011-08-318
The portions here are ridiculously huge — the breakfast burrito is essentially a midsize sedan filled with black beans and scrambled eggs, and one dish, I kid you not, is a mix of broccoli, spinach, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms between two pieces of French toast and topped with two eggs and hollandaise sauce on a bed of balsamic reduction. But there is no synergy of flavor in these creations; on the contrary, everything is really underseasoned. I wind up giving the salt shaker quite a workout just to conjure up some flavor.
Mama's Royal CafeBreakfast/lunchBroadway & 40th, Oakland2011-05-048
This place apparently opened the month I was born, and, dang, I sure hope I've aged better than it has. The food isn't bad, but I've had such bad experiences here (once I was seated near a mentally ill homeless man a delivering violent monologue to no one; another time the service was so slow that I got a $66 parking ticket) that I can't give it a very high score.
900 GraysonBreakfast/lunchGrayson & Seventh, Berkeley2010-12-208
Small menu, small portions (or maybe it just looks that way because of the big plates?). Tries to be whimsical but whimsy is neither delicious nor filling.
Bette's Ocean View DinerBreakfast/lunchFourth btw Hearst/Virginia, Berkeley2014-10-246
I've been here a few times, and it's generally been sort of middling, but the last time I went I had one of those expensive soufflé pancakes and it was just flat-out bad. Unfortunate.
Rockridge CafeBreakfast/lunchCollege near Lawton, Oakland2016-08-215
So I wrote this: "'Since 1973', this place proudly declares, and it doesn't appear to have changed in the interim. I ordered the migas with a side of home fries. The home fries were undercooked, underseasoned cubes of red potato; the migas were scrambled eggs on top of a handful of convience store tortilla chips. Austin has nothing to fear." And then in investigating a glitch I discovered that I had been here just two years before and completely forgotten it! The previous time, I wrote: "I gotta say, it sure looked like low-quality food. The potatoes in particular looked kind of gross: translucent gray cubes." Dang, I gotta make sure I don't order those potatoes a third time. Criminy.
Denica'sBreakfast/lunchregional chain2016-03-205
I went to the one in Dublin. Very confusing setup with multiple counters, long slow lines, and the chilaquiles I got, while voluminous, were bland — felt sort of like the Idaho version.
Gilman GrillBreakfast/lunchFourth & Gilman, Berkeley2015-01-155
Disappointing huevos rancheros here. Dry black beans, no actual ranchero sauce but just a dollop of salsa.
Sam's Log CabinBreakfast/lunchSan Pablo btw Solano/Marin, Albany2010-12-225
This place isn't terrible by any means, but the "corn cakes" I got (which were really very similar to regular pancakes) had an oddly metallic tang to them that I didn't care for.
the CounterBurgersinternational chain2016-08-0213
At this place you fill out the specifications of your burger, choosing from 22 sauces, 34 toppings, etc., for what I calculated as a bit over 3.4 billion possible combinations (not including extra cheese, extra sauce, or specials). That in and of itself doesn't mean much if the combinations don't add up to anything good, but I was actually pretty impressed by my first visit.
RoamBurgerstwo locations, San Francisco2013-04-0711
When your veggie burger comes topped with mustard, gruyere, watercress, caramelized onions, avocado, and parmesan truffle fries, what do you get to drink? A chocolate hazelnut shake, of course! I would have preferred a more conventional veggie patty (this one seems to be mostly beets and quinoa), and some bites were too bitter for my taste (too much mustard?), but they certainly have the right general idea when it comes to toppings.
Beep's BurgersBurgersOcean & Lee, San Francisco2016-10-1610
Veggie burger was pretty standard. Steak-cut fries were perfectly done, but needed seasoning; I think if I ever come back I'll go for the garlic fries instead.
Boss BurgerBurgersSolano near Cornell, Albany2015-03-0310
The only thing I can get here is the veggie burger — the fries are cooked in beef tallow — but that veggie burger was one of the better ones I've had.
Farm BurgerBurgersnational chain2015-03-067
The veggie burger I got was going to have to be really good to justify the ages I waited in the ludicrously slow line, and, yeah, not so much. (The "FB fries" also disappointed.)
Barney's Gourmet HamburgersBurgersregional chain2017-10-306
Bzzt. My veggie burger was unimpressive, and the supposedly sauteed mushrooms and onions were seared but otherwise uncooked. My chocolate blackberry shake sounded interesting but was basically a vanilla shake with mild hints of those other two flavors.
Doc's of the BayBurgersfood truck2015-08-096
I've had the black bean burger here a couple of times and am not really a fan, even though the green chile on top should have sealed the deal. I do like that you can get a combo of fries and green beans as a side, but these are not always of great quality, and in fact the last time I ate here I wound up feeling unwell afterwards.
Pearl's Deluxe BurgersBurgersPost near Jones, San Francisco2014-09-026
Here I got a veggie burger and garlic fries. The burger was fine but undistinguished, and while I initially liked the garlic fries' strong, sharp flavor, I did not like the way that on the walk home I felt like I had swallowed a hand grenade.
Grazzy BurgersBurgersSan Pablo btw Washington/Portland, Albany2013-12-306
This is a gourmet burger shop where I had a "black bean fiesta burger." Could have used more black beans, as the patty was mostly sweet potato. All in all it was quite good, though: it was topped with pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole with lemon, and cilantro lime aioli. A month later I went back for another. This time the guacamole was very bad — I couldn't believe they had actually served it in that condition. I'll call this a 6: first visit 12, second visit 0.
FlameBurgersCollege btw Ashby/Webster, Berkeley2009-05-065
Was tempted by a menu full of many vegetarian choices, but first they got my order wrong and then it turned out that the garden patties just aren't very good. Maybe the tofu ones are better, but I'll probably just stick with Bongo.
Whip Out!Burgersfood truck2015-01-113
Yeah, I'm pretty much done with this truck. Split pea burger has declined in quality (from no particularly great height), the promised "avocado" turned out to be avocado sauce, the bread pudding with strawberries and blueberries contained neither promised fruit… and it's expensive on top of all that. Feh.
Bongo BurgerBurgers and Mediterreanlocal chain, Berkeley2008-02-2611
Quite a few vegetarian options considering that this is a burger joint, among them a very tasty veggie burger made primarily of black beans.
the Musical OfferingCaféBancroft btw Dana/Telegraph, Berkeley2011-09-1311
At this place (half café, half classical music store) I had a pretty darn good eggplant sandwich on focaccia, along with some lentil soup that needed salt.
CafeinaCafeSolano near Carmel, Albany2011-07-2612
The breakfast wrap here is small and kind of expensive — but it's tasty enough that I keep coming back.
Northside CafeCafeEuclid & Hearst, Berkeley2012-06-1211
Here I got a perfectly decent breakfast burrito for a very low price ($3.99+tax!). It would've been nice to have some beans in it but the crunchy potato bits added a reasonable amount of interest on their own.
Morgan's CafeCafeShattuck btw University/Addison, Berkeley2012-03-219
Rave reviews on Yelp, but I didn't really see anything special. Menu was fairly minimalistic. Food was fine but unmemorable (I got a waffle and a smoothie).
Just for YouCafe22nd btw 3rd/Tennessee, San Francisco2014-03-168
Here I had a frittata and a beignet, both of which I vaguely recall as being okay. (Unfortunately, I went here in the middle of a personal crisis and so was too dazed to really register the experience.)
Alfonso's CafeCafeSan Pablo btw Bancroft/Chaucer, Berkeley2012-02-068
This is a little shack tucked away between a liquor store and an auto body shop, and looks to be a one-man operation (and presumably the man in question is Alfonso). Apparently the crepes are the main draw, and I had a savory one with artichokes and tomatoes and things. It was okay. The crepe was very crunchy/crumbly; I'm used to them being a lot spongier even when they're cooked relatively long. The proprietor seemed nice.
Au CoqueletCafeUniversity & Milvia, Berkeley2011-04-218
This place's big selling point is that it's open fairly late — you can go in at 1 a.m. and still avail yourself of a well-stocked dessert case. If I find another selling point I'll let you know.
Coupa CafeCafeRamona btw University/Hamilton, Palo Alto2008-08-068
I got a mediocre danish here and was intercepted on the way out by a dog who was clipped to a chair but who just dragged the chair around in pursuit of me and my danish. Several years later I went back in and discovered that there's a menu full of Venezuelan stuff; I got an arepa, but it wasn't much better than the danish.
Caffè StradaCafeBancroft & College, Berkeley2006-01-318
The pastries are nothing to rave about, but this place has a prime location on College and Bancroft, and hot white chocolate sometimes seems like just the right beverage on a chilly morning.
Tartine BakeryCafeGuerrero & 18th, San Francisco2005-12-198
Lots of amazing-looking tarts and pastries, but I haven't been too impressed when I've stopped looking and started eating. Croissants are overdone on the outside; the banana cream tart has too much whipped cream, excessively bitter chocolate, and a crust included more for scaffolding purposes than for taste.
Cafe YesterdayCafeUniversity btw San Pablo/Curtis, Berkeley2012-03-053
Here I ordered a breakfast burrito. It took freaking forever to come out and had an odd tang to it. The final insult was that the napkin dispensers were empty.
LemonadeCafeteriaregional chain2017-04-1210
Cafeteria food + chain restaurant doesn't seem like a winner, and the signature beverage was just okay (and should be sold in more than one size! I don't need that much beverage!), but I was surprised at how tasty my truffle mac & cheese and vegetarian chili were. They did convince me to come back sometime and try more things.
Easy CreoleCajunAlcatraz btw Ellis/Adeline, Berkeley2014-02-2010
This is sort of like Indian food: no matter what you order, pretty much, you will get rice covered with some slop (e.g., chili, creamed spinach, etc.). But it's pretty tasty slop, and the service is friendly.
the PlantCaliforniaregional chain: SF, Burlingame, Marin2014-04-1315
Here I had a very good plate of huevos rancheros with generous amounts of avocado and a lot of interesting twists (e.g., it was served on top of crispy tortillas which in turn were served on top of a white bean stew). Impressive.
GatherCaliforniaOxford & Allston, Berkeley2012-03-158
The regular menu looked a little too crunchy for my taste (the pizzas with cashew byproduct instead of cheese tipped me off there) so Elizabeth and I went for brunch. I had polenta with lentils and it was okay, but I didn't care for the veggie scramble she got — it tasted like it had goat cheese or something in it. Later I saw a cauliflower/cannelini sandwich on the lunch menu so I went in to give it a try. It was an interesting idea, but the execution was only so-so, with many of the beans significantly undercooked.
Venus RestaurantCaliforniaShattuck btw Bancroft/Durant, Berkeley2011-03-018
The 8 is a compromise score, since my meals here have ranged from really quite good (lemon-ricotta pancakes with fresh blackberry syrup) to fairly bad (a quesadilla full of undercooked, underseasoned vegetables; burned chocolate/raspberry pancakes) to just plain ugly (don't run out of food!).
Cowgirl Creamery SidekickCheese cafeFerry Building, San Francisco2013-10-1916
Gadzooks, that was the best grilled cheese I have ever tasted. Raclette, Holey Cow cheese, and chipotle pesto on thick slices of Acme bread. Yowza.
the Sacred WheelCheese cafeShattuck & 51st, Oakland2014-03-066
Here I got a grilled cheese. It was nothing special. How special can a grilled cheese be? Cowgirl Creamery proved it can be PRETTY DADGUM SPECIAL, so this was a disappointment.
Cafe ValparaisoChileanSolano near Carmel, Albany2013-09-1911
Pretty much everything I've had here has basically been high-priced goopy corn mush. But it's tasty enough high-priced goopy corn mush, and it's right near my house, so I imagine I'll keep going from time to time.
KirinChineseSolano btw Colusa/Ensenada, Berkeley2006-05-178
My quest for a Chinese place like Red Hot in Brooklyn brought me here a couple of times, but while it's not terrible it's also not even close. It's also extremely basic food. If you order noodles you get a big bowl of noodles with a few scallions. If you order asparagus you get a big plate of asparagus. I expect restaurant dishes to have a little more interest.
the ChairmanChinesefood truck2015-07-015
I don't normally like Chinese food, but this truck (which serves "bao", a.k.a. sandwiches) gets rave reviews, so I figured I'd give it a try. I got the miso tofu on a baked bun. It was virtually flavorless. Opinion of Chinese food: not improved.
Imperial Tea CourtChinesechain: San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland2008-02-145
I just got some scallion pancakes here. They weren't too great.
Chili PalaceChineseLewelling & Washington, San Lorenzo2006-07-185
I was seduced by the promise of scallion pancakes. They were not very good. Neither was the undercooked broccoli in oversweet garlic sauce.
Vegi FoodChineseVine btw Shattuck/Henry, Berkeley2006-02-275
There are only two Chinese restaurants I have ever liked. This one is definitely not the third.
Long Life Vegi HouseChineseUniversity btw Shattuck/Fulton, Berkeley2006-01-215
I got vegetable wonton soup, thinking fondly of Red Hot in Brooklyn, but these wontons were full of a harsh combination of raw mixed vegetables. With no scallion pancakes on the menu either I don't think I'll be back.
Philz CoffeeCoffee shopregional chain2014-10-255
I don't drink coffee, but I started going here because they carry a few Starter Bakery products. One day I decided to try some hot chocolate along with my pastry. The hot chocolate tasted like a whole lot of nothing with a bitter note on top. The only reason this doesn't get an even lower rating is that it is nice to be able to get a Starter Bakery croissant at 6:15 a.m. on a Wednesday.
SuzetteCrêpesSolano btw Evelyn/Talbot, Albany2012-11-288
This place isn't the best — the crepes are often rubbery, and the menu shrinks with each passing day — but it's on the same block as my house and is pretty cheap, so it's become part of my regular rotation.
Brittany CrepesCrepesUniversity btw 7th/8th, Berkeley2015-12-167
I'd had one of these folks' crepes at the Temescal farmers' market, and now they have a storefront. Seems a bit odd that they only have table service, given that crepes tend to be a grab-and-go sort of affair in general (and their market booth certainly is).
Crepes A-Go-GoCrepesregional chain2014-09-116
I came here a lot when it first opened in the early '90s, and it was very inconsistent: great one day, lousy the next, mainly depending on which of the brothers who ran the place was working the griddle. When I returned in the mid-'00s it was run by entirely different people and was still maddeningly inconsistent. But it seems to have finally achieved consistent mehness. Spongy premade crepes, low-quality fillings. Alas.
Sweet Pea's CafeCrepes, etc.chain: Los Gatos, Capitola2010-04-1611
I got the veggie scramble crepe. It was all right. The fillings didn't blend very well, though.
Ti CouzCrepes, etc.16th & Valencia, San Francisco2009-02-2311
I've now tried both the savory crepes and the sweet ones; my verdict on both is that they're decent but not hugely memorable.
CrepevineCrepes, etc.regional chain2006-11-195
When I first walked into one of these and looked at the huge menu board, I wanted to order about half of it. But this place has proved a disappointment: the crepes themselves have been bland and rubbery; the Florentine crepe was filled with a mass of unseasoned spinach; the Santorini dessert crepe could hardly have had less flavor. Even the peanut butter fudge cookie was bad.
CupkatesCupcakesfood truck2012-05-0211
On Wednesday evenings this truck can be found at the Off the Grid gathering of mobile food vendors. I never really got into the whole cupcake craze but the salted caramel cupcake here is really good.
Basque Boulangerie CafeDeli1st btw E. Napa/Spain, Sonoma2008-06-1214
One day I got to Sonoma very hungry but in a hurry. No time to sit down and eat. And I'd already had one crappy meal that day and wanted something good. If only Sonoma had some kind of casual yet interesting place where I could get maybe some pasta salad and a fancy cookie, I thought. And then there it was! After that I've returned often when I've been in Sonoma. The baked goods and desserts are great, and best of all: they're labeled.
Morucci'sDeliBoulevard btw Palana/Flora, Walnut Creek2016-07-3011
Here I got a sandwich with spinach and artichokes and pesto and things. I was struck by how the provolone was layered about four slices deep (generous!), but the tomatoes were essentially January tomatoes in July.
Grand Lake KitchenDeliGrand btw MacArthur/Euclid, Oakland2015-08-3111
Here I've had the savory French toast (rye bread, porcini batter, parmesan, arugula, wild mushrooms, poached eggs), which was an interesting change of pace but not a taste sensation, and the chilaquiles, which looked beautiful and had a generous helping of avocado but which was ultimately a little too bitterly spicy to get top marks. So, pretty good, but my curiosity is now satisfied.
the JunketDeliEl Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito2015-02-239
This place offers sandwiches in addition to selling a selection of groceries from Germany and Britain. I wasn't wowed by the avocado lentil sandwich I tried, but it was made with obvious care.
Saul'sDeliShattuck near Vine, Berkeley2011-10-138
This is a Jewish deli and restaurant whose existence I somehow just registered after six years back in the East Bay. I had a pretty basic plate of eggs with caramelized onions; it was all right. Next time I'll be more ambitious.
Domenico'sDeliHartz btw Church/Hartz, Danville2016-08-036
This was a comedown from my previous visit to a 680-corridor deli: unlike at Morucci's, here the cheese came only one layer thick. The roll was not the freshest, and the potatoes in the potato salad needed to be at least two clicks softer.
Zarri'sDeliSolano near Evelyn, Albany2012-04-040
Every single time I have gone in here — and it's right across the street, so I keep giving it chances — this place is out of what I try to order. I'll order e.g. an egg salad sandwich and the guy'll peer into the bin and say, "Nope, I got tuna" or something. If something is on the menu and you don't bother to keep it on hand, (a) take it off the menu and (b) bite me.
Loving CupDessertPolk near Union, San Francisco2013-01-0610
This place serves frozen yogurt, which I haven't tried, and rice pudding, which I have — c'mon, like I'm not going to try a place that offers toffee rice pudding and coconut rice pudding and a bunch of other flavors? That said, it turns out that it's really not any different from going to Trader Joe's and buying some rice pudding and sprinkling some toffee or coconut in, so.
Flavor BrigadeDessertFruitvale btw MacArthur/Coloma, Oakland2013-11-158
This place, which name-checks Philadelphia, offers Italian ice and frozen custard. The Italian ice is not what I remember from my own days in Philadelphia — the stuff I used to get is what I now see called a granita, while the stuff here is day-glo and more like snow than ice. Unfortunately, on my first trip they didn't have any of the flavors I'd been hoping for, so I ended up getting stuff like lime and grape that didn't go too well with the custard. I'll probably give it another shot at some point, though.
Just DessertsDessertchain: San Francisco, Oakland2008-03-298
I stopped at the SFO location on the way to the baggage claim. The person in front of me ordered a slice of carrot cake and received a slice of coconut cake. Then I ordered a peanut butter cookie and discovered after I had left that I had been given some kind of pecan bar. Buh?
Citizen Cake PatisserieDessertGrove near Gough, San Francisco2008-02-278
Okay dessert place, but too pricey for what you get.
SiftDessertregional chain2017-04-166
The web site says, "Yeah, we're frosting obsessed." I am not. This place has cupcakes and macarons and unlabeled cookie sandwich things (grr! you must label!) and some other concoction that was listed as cake and frosting smashed up and dipped in chocolate, and, just, no. Eating a blob of frosting sounds gross to me.
A Dora PieDessertUniversity near Milvia, Berkeley2015-02-246
This place sells pie, cookies, and meringues. They are all very expensive (e.g., the pie is $7 for a not particularly large slice) and nothing about the offerings I've tried has come close to justifying that price tag — it's pretty ordinary.
Chocolatier BlueDessertlocal chain, Berkeley2011-05-165
This place took over Sketch's storefront on Fourth Street. The ice cream is nowhere near as good, and the chocolates are $1.50 for a morsel barely larger than a chocolate chip... I have no idea why the chowhounds are over the moon about this place. Whutevah.
Satura CakesDessertlocal chain: Palo Alto, Los Altos2010-05-035
Not remotely good enough to merit the high prices.
Citizen CupcakeDessertStockton & Market, San Francisco2007-04-212
First thought after hearing this place recommended: "Wow, $3.50 for a cupcake! They'd better be huge!" First thought after seeing the tiny cupcakes: "Wow, $3.50 for a tiny cupcake! They'd better be good!" First thought after eating the cupcake: "Wow, $3.50 for a tiny, crappy cupcake! This place sucks!"
Sweet AdelineDessert (baked goods etc.)Adeline & 63rd, Berkeley2005-11-038
I got some cocoa-covered hazelnuts here that were too overpowering and a mini cake that was uninteresting and dry. But maybe I just made bad selections.
Icing on the CakeDessert (bakery)Main & Lundy, Los Gatos2009-02-2716
This place is terrific! The best bakery-bought cookies I've had since Campitelli in Anaheim went downhill, and they also have cupcakes and brownies and all sorts of crazy things. I cannot go to Los Gatos without stopping here.
Katrina RozelleDessert (bakery)chain: Oakland, Alamo2013-07-1114
The first time I went here I was not particularly impressed for some reason. The second time, 4½ years later, had me cursing the 4½ years I'd wasted. I got three cookies (praline, double chocolate, coconut macadamia) and each one had me exclaiming about how good it was.
CocolaDessert (bakery)Santana Row btw Alyssum/Tatum, San Jose2006-08-1811
Cheaper than Fleur de Cocoa, and the desserts seem to be of roughly the same quality. The croissants aren't quite of the same caliber, though.
Fleur de CocoaDessert (bakery)Santa Cruz btw Bean/Bayview, Los Gatos2006-07-2111
Many interesting jewelbox desserts, but not an explosion of deliciousness or anything. Croissants are good but comedically small.
Toot SweetsDessert (bakery)Gilman & Santa Fe, Albany2011-03-318
This is one of those places that offers "fine desserts" yet closes at six o'clock — yo, you might want to check into when dessert is traditionally eaten. But I finally did manage to swing by before it closed, and while I wasn't impressed by the cookie I got, I can't be too down on any place that offers mini German chocolate cakes.
Tart to TartDessert (bakery)Irving btw 7th/8th, San Francisco2005-12-038
I got two muffins here. The first was coconut, and it was good but a little over-sweet. The second was chocolate cream cheese, which turned out to be stuffed with filling like an enormous Hostess Ding Dong. One-word review: cloying.
Crixa CakesDessert (bakery)Adeline btw Ward/Stuart, Berkeley2005-11-208
A handful of cakes were on display when I came in, but they looked to be mostly soaked in alcohol or full of gelatin, so I ended up going with a bite-sized almond-flour dealie with raspberry jam. It was pretty tasty but this doesn't look like my sort of cakery.
Nothing Bundt CakesDessert (cakes)national chain2016-03-198
Happened across this place out in suburbia, gave it a try. The cake had a good texture and was otherwise fine but not revelatory.
RecchiutiDessert (chocolate)Ferry Building, San Francisco2007-08-1314
Not really an eatery, but since I usually buy a few chocolates and eat them immediately, I'll put them on this list. Very good chocolates — labeled and described! THANK you! — in a wide variety of interesting flavors.
BittersweetDessert (chocolate)College btw Lawton/Hudson, Oakland2012-02-1611
I went here one morning, having heard that the salted caramel hot chocolate was good, and got one; it was okay, but not particularly noteworthy. Then Elizabeth and I happened to be in the neighborhood, and I took her here, and she got the exact same thing, and it was really great. So I'm going to split the difference between the two experiences for the nonce.
Dandelion ChocolateDessert (chocolate)Valencia btw 18th/19th, San Francisco2017-04-0410
This high-end chocolate shop has a wide variety of chocolatey treats for surprisingly reasonable prices. I haven't tried the hot chocolate yet but it's on my list.
the Xocolate BarDessert (chocolate)Solano btw Tacoma/Ensenada, Berkeley2011-02-138
I guess this is a decent enough chocolate shop, though I always feel stupid after I gape at the ridiculous prices for high-end chocolate bars in stores and then get a few pieces at a chocolate shop that weigh less and cost more. (Here I got seven for $11.) This is especially true since I don't like dark chocolate. Anyway, I recommend the dulce de leche, vanilla, and gianduja, and very much do not recommend the Aztec.
Specialty'sDessert (cookies) and caferegional chain2008-02-2711
This place apparently serves things other than thick wedges of cookie, but I haven't tried anything else. The cookies are quite good.
the Crème Brûlée CartDessert (crème brûlée)food truck2014-06-0411
Little cups of crème brûlée, with various toppings available. The nutella strawberry crème brûlée is worth checking out.
Kara's CupcakesDessert (cupcakes)regional chain2017-01-196
Pretty meh. (I guess the fact that I gave it a 6 pretty much already covered that.)
Yogurt ParkDessert (frozen yogurt)Durant btw Telegraph/Dana, Berkeley2010-03-028
This place is a time capsule from 1977. I lived across the street from it for three years and went in maybe twice (and one of those times was to talk to a girl I had a crush on). The last time I randomly popped in I got the chocolate coconut, which was initially quite good but had a bad aftertaste.
Almare Gelato ItalianoDessert (gelato)Shattuck & Center, Berkeley2008-02-2611
New management, but so far pretty much identical to Gelato Milano, which was in the same space. I have sort of forsaken the Shattuck gelato places in favor of Sketch, but maybe I'll give them another shot on BART days now that it's getting warmer.
CaravaggioDessert (gelato)Shattuck btw Delaware/Francisco, Berkeley2014-06-199
Standard fare. I went a couple of times to do my due diligence, but the next time I feel like a frozen dessert, I'll be sticking with Sketch or Ici.
Gelateria NaiaDessert (gelato)regional chain, Berkeley2006-12-288
The selection is quite varied, but the gelato is just not all that great. It's grainy and often has icy chunks in it. Too bad, because I wish I could find chocolate orange and even Ferrero Rocher elsewhere.
Gelato ClassicoDessert (gelato)regional chain2006-01-078
I liked the spumoni I got in New York. Palo Alto beats New York in most regards but spumoni isn't one of them.
Michelle's Yogurt & SweetsDessert (ice cream etc.)Durant near Telegraph, Berkeley2005-10-2211
This place serves Bud's Ice Cream, which is pretty darn good. But I remember when it was Christopher's and had even better ice cream and wonderful cookies. What happened to Christopher's?
Fentons CreameryDessert (ice cream etc.)Piedmont & Entrada, Oakland2005-10-2011
Fentons (apparently with no apostrophe) has been operating in Oakland since the 1890s but has aimed for the 1940s in its current incarnation. If you are in the area and looking for a much-too-large sundae, this would be a good candidate.
CreamDessert (ice cream sandwiches)Telegraph & Channing, Berkeley2012-01-1910
This place serves a scoop of ice cream (many flavors to choose from) in between two warm cookies (many flavors to choose from) for two dollars. Kind of amazing given that at most places in the Bay Area a cookie will cost you two dollars all by itself. It's also open till midnight — or 2 a.m., on some nights. Hard to imagine a place more ideally situated next to seventeen dorms.
Sketch Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)Fourth & Addison, Berkeley2014-07-0619
IN MEMORIAM, AGAIN. I was a regular at the old location back in the '00s: highish prices, limited hours, only a few flavors on any given day, but I was frequently gobsmacked by how good this place was. Let me put it this way: I don't know whether this was the best ice cream I've ever had, but it was the best burnt caramel ice cream I've ever had, the best hazelnut ice cream I've ever had, the best apricot ice cream I've ever had, and most definitely the best blackberry ice cream I've ever had. Also the best tangerine sorbet I've ever had. And the granitas were the platonic ideal of an Italian ice I'd been carrying around in my head since 1979. Good cakes and cookies, too. Then they went away for three years (the entire operation consisted of one married couple, and they had a baby), then returned for two — but now they seem to be gone for good.
IciDessert (ice cream)College & Ashby, Berkeley2013-09-2617
It seems that every time I go here it's better than the time before. This place hits a sweet spot between places like Sketch (excellent, but very simple flavors) and Humphry Slocombe (ridiculous hipster ice cream with flavors like bacon bourbon): we're talking caramel pistachio with cocoa nibs, malted vanilla toffee, stuff like that. Really good.
Lottie's CreameryDessert (ice cream)Main near Cypress, Walnut Creek2016-07-0114
High scores both for quality and for variety of flavors.
Bi-Rite CreameryDessert (ice cream)18th & Dolores, San Francisco2008-07-1514
Fresh-tasting artisanal ice cream — very good mouthfeel, to use the Newspeakish food writers' term. Big ups to roasted banana.
Three Twins Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)regional chain2015-03-3111
Three Twins offers up the best supermarket ice cream in the area, so I figured that when I was in Marin I'd swing by one of their shops and see whether there was anything on offer I couldn't get at the Berkeley Bowl. The one bonus flavor on offer was banana nut. It was good, but less impressive when competing with Ici than when competing with Ben & Jerry's.
IscreamDessert (ice cream)Solano near Colusa, Berkeley2011-04-1611
Small ice cream shop that replaced "Presto Prints 1-Hour Film Developing" — talk about your dead industries. Selection is small, but the ice cream is good.
Tucker's Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)Park btw Central/Alameda, Alameda2007-11-0911
Elizabeth said that the ice cream here seemed to be only slightly better than storebought. I think that's actually pretty good!
Real Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)El Camino Real & Calabazas, Santa Clara2005-12-0911
This Indian ice cream shop offers many unusual flavors and a few usual ones concocted for a different palate from that the supermarket brands aim for. Interesting but not really worth a special trip if you're not in the neighborhood.
Salt & StrawDessert (ice cream)regional chain2017-05-2810
I saw a long line as I passed this place, and noticed a grand opening sign, and since I was actually looking for some dessert I figured I'd check it out. Only after I got home did I discover that it's a branch of a Portland-based chain. The flavors are unusual like Humphry Slocombe without being stupid like Humphry Slocombe. I got the "freckled chocolate" and it tasted like artisan chocolate, so it passed the "not just like something I could get at Safeway" test.
PosieDessert (ice cream)Magnolia btw William/King, Larkspur2016-10-019
Hipster ice cream, though it doesn't look like the flavor selection is as insufferable as Humphry Slocombe's. I got their version of cookies and cream, which had full-sized soft-baked cookies embedded in vanilla ice cream.
Tara's Organic Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)College & Alcatraz, Berkeley2009-07-278
I guess this was okay, but it was just ice cream. Hardly a substitute for the late lamented Sketch on Fourth Street.
Loard's Ice CreamDessert (ice cream)regional chain2005-12-228
Decent ice cream, I guess.
SmittenDessert (ice cream)regional chain2015-04-067
The gimmick here is that your ice cream is made on the spot with liquid nitrogen; the resulting texture is a bit odd, sort of like paste. Prices are pretty shocking; for the price of a four-ounce cup, you can go to Safeway and get two pints of premium ice cream. The flavor selection is pretty limited, too.
Humphry SlocombeDessert (ice cream)local chain, San Francisco2015-03-145
This is a hipster ice cream shop with flavors revolving around booze and pork. I've gone a handful of times (and gotten things like vanilla and caramel) and not been impressed — the quality of the ice cream has actually been subpar every time I've tried it. (It's pretty icy.)
Ben & Jerry'sDessert (ice cream)international chain2008-04-035
Wow. Friendly service, but the ice cream I got... if you had given me a blind taste test and asked me what flavor it was, I would have guessed battery acid. Slightly sour, metallic, vaguely fruity. It was supposed to be coconut!
Mission PieDessert (pie)Mission & 25th, San Francisco2015-03-269
Happened to pass this pie place, saw they had banana cream, gave it a try. Decent but unremarkable. Prices are reasonable for the area.
Chile PiesDessert (pie)chain: San Francisco, Guerneville2017-03-267
This place is best known for its "pie shake", which is what it sounds like: a milkshake with a piece of pie blended into it. The result is something worse than a milkshake and worse than a piece of pie. The fact that it's $10 for a fairly small cup makes it an even worse choice.
Little GemDessert (waffles)Telegraph btw Haste/Dwight, Berkeley2016-07-135
I'd like to give this place a good review, because when the waffles are made correctly they're quite good. Sadly, more often than not I have bitten into my waffle to discover that the inside is still uncooked batter. If you're going to open a waffle shop, make sure the employees know how to use a waffle iron.
Peninsula Fountain & GrillDinerEmerson & Hamilton, Palo Alto2006-07-085
Hrm, bad news. Spent $6 on a milkshake that was full of ice crystals.
Le CroissantDinerBellam & Castro, San Rafael2008-02-102
I keep hearing great things about this place, but give me a break. This is the sort of place that you dread having to stop at while stuck in Wyoming on a cross-country drive. Oh, and the prices! I cannot believe that I spent $11 on one English muffin, a rectilinear brick of hash browns, and a bowl of pea-green slop that they called spinach. Oh, and the service! Or lack thereof, rather. This place sucks. I'll give it a 1 because I wasn't actually traumatized, but man, avoid.
Johnny DoughnutsDonutsfood truck2015-08-059
Apparently this place has a storefront in San Rafael, but I know it from the truck that comes to El Cerrito every couple of weeks. The first couple of times I tried it I was very impressed, as both the cronut and lime mascarpone bismarck were big winners. But everything else I've tried has turned out to be a totally standard donut, and the peach/strawberry one was downright bad.
Rainbow DonutsDonutsSan Pablo btw University/Addison, Berkeley2017-07-088
Reasonably good donuts, but donuts are just donuts. There is a ceiling on how good a donut shop can be.
Doughnut DollyDonutsregional chain: Oakland, Berkeley2014-09-268
Hipstery but good. Pillowy donuts that are pumped on the spot with one of four fillings.
Johnny's Donut ShopDonutsMount Diablo & Happy Valley, Lafayette2006-03-148
Johnny's is regularly chosen as having the best donuts in the East Bay. But donuts are just not a good food.
Stan's Donut ShopDonutsHomestead & Layton, Santa Clara2005-12-078
Significantly better than Happy Donuts, but still, just donuts.
Dream Fluff DonutsDonutsAshby near College, Berkeley2014-09-256
Pretty standard. Yelpers are silly.
Pepples Donut FarmDonutsSan Pablo near 61st, Oakland2013-11-136
Better than average donuts, but (a) that's not saying much, and (b) even if it were saying more than it is, $5 for two donuts is kind of absurd.
Happy DonutsDonutschain2005-11-215
I went here because I was still hungry after the pizza and had read that this place had been declared by one newspaper or another to have the best donuts in the Bay Area. If that is true then I guess it means that I think all donuts are gross, which is entirely possible.
Yung Le's FusionEast AsianWinchester & Payne, San Jose2008-10-098
Samosas in egg roll wrappers are an interesting idea, but otherwise this seems like a standard East Asian restaurant, meaning that I didn't much care for it.
NopaEclecticDivisadero & Hayes, San Francisco2009-11-0711
Elizabeth and I wound up here after she landed at SFO on a late-night flight. It was a bit odd to be eating dinner in a packed restaurant, watching the cooks whip up fancy appetizers and entrees, at well past midnight. The highlight was a tasty vegetarian tagine; I was significantly less fond of the overly smoky tomato sauce in the egg dish we got.
Venga EmpanadasEmpanadasValencia btw 15th/16th, San Francisco2017-04-049
I liked the flavor of the empanada I got here, though I was expecting to be able to identify distinct ingredients rather than having them all combined into a homogenous mush. Prices were reasonable.
El PorteñoEmpanadaslocal chain (San Francisco) with a truck2015-01-119
Decent empanadas, but expensive ($5 for a few bites).
Café ColucciEthiopianTelegraph btw Alcatraz/66th, Oakland2012-04-0514
The vegetarian sambussas here are easily among the best foods I have ever eaten. The veggie combo is also fine, but after those sambussas "fine" always seems like a bit of a disappointment.
EnssaroEthiopianGrand btw Perkins/Ellita, Oakland2016-08-0411
If you've been to a decent Ethiopian restaurant, then you pretty much know exactly what this place is like. Your totally standard red yellow green and cabbage.
Cafe RomanatEthiopianSanta Clara near Grand, Oakland2012-05-0811
Pretty standard Ethiopian food. Entrees are quite oily (in a good way). No idea how this ended up regularly topping my Yelp searches — it's pretty much the definition of "middle of the pack."
New Eritrea RestaurantEthiopianIrving btw 10th/11th, San Francisco2009-04-1111
Flat, square, delicious lentil sambusas; pretty standard vegetarian combo.
FinfinéEthiopianTelegraph & Blake, Berkeley2008-03-2011
Quite good! Like Café Colucci, Finfiné has a more elaborate vegetarian combo than most Ethiopian places. Thumbs up.
AddisEthiopianTelegraph & 61st, Oakland2005-12-228
I really like Ethiopian food, so it's tempting to give any Ethiopian restaurant at least a 5 right after digging in. This isn't bad, but I've had better, and the glacial service — it looked like one person was covering the entire restaurant — was a serious negative.
Kaffa Ethiopian CuisineEthiopianSacramento near Ashby, Berkeley2016-09-027
When I go to Ethiopian restaurants I always get the veggie sampler, so I did not feel at all put out by the fact that at this place it's the only thing on the menu. You just pick a size. Unfortunately, I wasn't super impressed; I'd had hopes that the kale Kaffa serves would be an improvement over the usual collard greens, but I actually liked it less. Thumbs-up to the lentil sambussa, though.
AbeshaEthiopianShattuck btw 52nd/48th, Oakland2013-07-117
Very good sambussas, but the veggie combo was pretty lackluster and the service was slo-o-ow.
Ethiopia RestaurantEthiopianTelegraph near Ashby, Berkeley2007-11-155
It is interesting to me that some Ethiopian restaurants are much better than others. Why? Because Ethiopian food, at least on the vegetarian side, consists almost entirely of stews! Stews don't require much in the way of technique, do they? And if skill doesn't enter into it, then really it's just a matter of finding a good recipe... and Ethiopia Restaurant needs to keep looking.
Zeni RestaurantEthiopianSaratoga btw Payne/Colombo, San Jose2006-01-125
I went here after reading a rave review that began, "Once a year two friends of mine, my boyfriend, and I rank our top favorite 20 restaurants in the whole world. Zeni ranked #5 on my list, #3 on my friend Brendan's list, and #1 (for the second year in a row) on my friend Lila's list." So I guess I'm with the boyfriend, because this place sucks. It's interesting how Ethiopian places can share 99% of their DNA and yet one's veggie combo is delicious and the next one's ranges from bland to bleah. Oh, and the sambussa here is like a croissant! As they say in Ethiopia, wtf?
Emeryville Public MarketFood courtShellmound btw Shellmound/64th, Emeryville2005-10-282
I went in figuring I'd be able to find something that would strike my fancy. This turned out not to be the case. Basically what we're dealing with here is a glorified mall food court with lots of neon and people waiting to scoop glop onto a styrofoam plate for you. It may be high-end glop, and it may even be good glop. But I found the experience too unpleasant to find out. The competitive aspect of having so many stalls in the place meant that every time I tried to look at a menu the people behind the counter would bark at me to approach and take their meat on a stick. When I finally did try to order something the woman behind the counter just shook her head and said no. Feh.
La NoteFrenchShattuck btw Durant/Channing, Berkeley2016-08-2321
Breakfast is a meal I was once reluctant to eat out for, figuring that I could make an omelette just as well at home. This Provençal place showed me how much better a restaurant breakfast could be. The Cote Nord is one of the finest breakfasts I have ever had: cream cheese on toasted levain bread with herbed scrambled eggs on top, red potatoes with rosemary, roasted tomatoes... seems simple, but it is awesome. The Cote Ouest, which swaps in an astoundingly fluffy omelette topped with delicious ratatouille, is another peak gastronomic experience. I will concede that not everything is a winner — I didn't care for the raspberry oatmeal, for instance — and I've even had, over the course of 10+ years, a couple of meals whose preparation was subpar. Service is hit or miss as well. But all in all I have to give La Note a top spot on this page.
La BedaineFrenchSolano btw Peralta/Tacoma, Berkeley2011-05-0815
This place has vacuum-packed meals that are almost exclusively for carnivores, and the few vegetarian entrees I have tried have not been to my taste really at all. But La Bedaine also has a lot of surprisingly inexpensive desserts — $2 for a chocolate tart, for instance — and many of them are just heavenly.
Cafe BriocheFrenchCalifornia btw Ash/Peral, Palo Alto2006-01-1811
French seems to be almost exclusively a carnivorous cuisine, so I rarely eat it. Here I got an eggplant and polenta napoleon with mushrooms. It was about par for the course for upscale places: unusual, but not actually any tastier than more pedestrian fare, and in no way worth the extra price.
GrégoireFrenchlocal chain: Berkeley, Oakland2014-01-1110
This is a tiny place that serves everything in takeout containers. By "everything" I mean things like "salad of hearts of palm and Wilgenburg tomato stuffed avocado" and "peach bread pudding with sour lemon cream." The menu is completely overhauled every month, and I end up going at least once more months than not. Quality has been spotty the past few years, though — lots of disappointments. Even at its best, you're basically getting the equivalent of a good Trader Joe's entree. (And prices can be a little crazy: $11 for a miniature breakfast burrito and some fingerling potatoes? C'mon.)
Café ClemFrenchKittredge btw Milvia/Shattuck, Berkeley2012-06-1110
I used to go to this place back when it was on Seventh, and was surprised to randomly happen past its new location on the way to the library. I got my usual egg salad baguette. Service was scattered as ever but overall it was a good lunch.
Rendez-Vous Cafe-BistroFrenchSolano btw Kains/San Pablo, Albany2012-03-036
Blintzes were okay, though the strawberries that came with them were virtually white: yes, it's March, but if something's out of season, replace it with something in season! Service was subpar; the waiter was initially somewhat brusque and then forgot all about me.
GaumenkitzelGermanSan Pablo & Cowper, Berkeley2011-06-305
Tried the broiled egg breakfast here. It turned out to be a blackened on top but severely underdone pair of eggs along with a few slivers of fruit, three pieces of brown bread, and a single spoonful of citrus spread. (I wonder about the potential longevity of this place because it's huge yet always empty — I was the only one there and I got the sense they were flabbergasted to have an actual customer.)
KokkariGreekJackson & Front, San Francisco2013-04-297
You will notice that there are not too many Greek restaurants on this page. I don't like Greek food. All vegetarian Greek food seems to involve some kind of goat or sheep cheese and I find those pretty gross. But Elizabeth likes Greek food a lot, and Kokkari did seem to be acclaimed as one of the top restaurants in San Francisco town, so I figured that I could at least give it a try. Anyway, I still don't like Greek food, but I can see that this must be a pretty good rendition. I liked the zucchini cakes and the two halves of baby artichoke I ate. (I also got an order of fava beans, much to the dismay of Pythagoras.)
Flora's GyrosGreekGolf Club & Old Quarry, Pleasant Hill2006-04-142
Rule 1: don't stand out in front of your restaurant smoking and giving incoming customers the hairy eyeball. Rule 2: don't be out of food in the middle of the afternoon. This was an East Bay Express suggestion. What a fiasco.
Boffo CartGrilledfarmers' market booth2012-08-089
Boffo Cart is a guy with a grill; I ran into the enterprise at the Albany Farmers' Market. The menu consists of one or two varities of calzones and panini, one or two meaty things, and (every time I've gone) romano beans. Tastiness is variable.
3-Sum EatsHipsterfood truck2012-07-0412
Here I got a grilled cheese sandwich with provolone, pepper jack, spinach, arugula pesto... and grilled peaches. Quite good! I like fruit in savory meals.
ShalimarIndianregional chain: Fremont, SF, Dublin2013-10-1618
The food here is very, very, very good. The one sticking point is that it's full of inedible bits that you have to spit out: cardamom pods, bay leaves, giant peppercorns. But other than that, the food is of pantheon-level quality. For a while I was reluctant to score this place appropriately because the atmosphere is so unpleasant: shredded chairs, styrofoam cups, squalling babies. Then I discovered the wonders of the to-go order.
RasoiIndianBurlingame btw Primrose/El Camino Real, Burlingame2017-05-3115
When I have a student on the peninsula I always make a point of stopping here to stock up on Indian food to stick in the freezer — the navratan korma (with fruit!) is a particular standout, but pretty much everything I've tried has been very good.
Lotus Cuisine of IndiaIndian4th & Tamalpais, San Rafael2016-07-1414
Very good — I was impressed by both the tarka dal and the naan I got at dinner, and while that dinner was expensive, the lunch buffet is well above average and is quite cheap.
Lotus Chaat & SpicesIndian4th near F, San Rafael2016-05-0514
I was skeptical about this place - I'd been to dosa spots before, and in my experience dosas were big, paper-thin, not particularly flavorful crepes with a couple of dollops of undistinguished spiced potatoes in the middle. And the ones here were fifteen to twenty bucks! Could the dosas here actually turn out to be significantly better than the other ones I'd had up to that point? It turns out that the answer was yes! An enthusiastic thumbs-up to, at least, the saag paneer dosa I got.
SwaadIndian13th & Empire, San Jose2016-04-2914
Hey, the Yelpers got one right! This place was uncommonly good, from the spicing of the samosas (inside and out) to the tenderness of the aloo gobi to the nuance of the tikka masala to the beauty of the garlic naan. Two misfires: the nuts-and-cherries naan was overdone, and, ugh, cucumber water.
ZanteIndianMission & Cortland, San Francisco2007-08-1414
Most of Zante's menu is your usual Indian food, but the place has become famous for one thing: Indian pizza. I'd meant to try it for a while, but seeing a mention of the place in Y the Last Man of all places motivated me to finally give it a try. It turns out that Indian pizza is delicious! The crust is meltingly soft naan, crunchy on the bottom; the toppings (mostly spinach, green onions, cilantro and cheese, but with a bit of eggplant, cauliflower and ginger as well) are also most excellent. It looked like there were some tomatoes and lentils thrown on there as well. Definitely a must-visit in San Francisco town.
Favorite IndianIndianregional chain2016-06-2312
The little hole in the wall near my old San Leandro place has come up in the world! It's now a regional chain, and at least one of the new locations is significantly fancier. I'm not totally surprised, because it was one of my standbys back in '05 and '06, and the lunch buffet I went to in '16 was comfortably above average.
High Peaks KitchenIndianCollege near Clifton, Oakland2015-05-2812
This place, like most Indian places, is hit or miss; I really like the cream sauces (tikka masala, shahi paneer, etc.), but the others are unremarkable, and vegetables are often not cooked through (I've had broccoli and potatoes here that were close to raw). Similarly with the breads: the garlic cheese naan impressed me, but other varieties have been too crackery for my taste.
Delhi DinerIndianSolano btw Ramona/Carmel, Albany2014-02-1012
This place is right near my house, so when I want Indian food and don't feel like driving, this is often where I go. At one point I called it "a solid neighborhood joint," but that's almost exactly wrong: there's little here that has made me think, "Yeah, that was solid." It's either, "Yeah, that was really good! What an awesome place to have a few minutes' walk away!" or "Yeah, that was a misfire."
Masala CuisineIndianInternational & 79th, Oakland2016-05-2611
This place is in the sort of neighborhood that right-wing red staters have in mind when they talk apocalyptically about Oakland on message boards. It is, shall we say, not gentrified yet. That's both inside and out; the restaurant is a kitchen and a table, and the place is a two-person operation, the two people in question being a friendly, talkative elderly couple who bring you samples of the food before serving it so you can tell them if you want it spicier or saltier or anything. Flavorings are pretty unusual, and I think my palate leans toward the more traditional. But it's certainly an interesting change of pace.
KabanaIndianUniversity & 10th, Berkeley2013-07-3011
The first time I went here I was impressed by the chana dal and the garlic naan. I went back soon afterward and got an aloo gobi and another garlic naan. This time the naan was nothing special, and the aloo gobi was kind of bland. So, still good overall, but no longer on my "noteworthy" list.
Flavors of IndiaIndianCollege near Alcatraz, Berkeley2011-01-1311
More options than usual — on my first visit I got a pinto bean curry — decently but not memorably executed.
SakoonIndianCastro btw California/Dana, Mountain View2010-08-2111
This place is extremely hit-and-miss. I very much like that it's got a lot of unusual dishes: I'd never seen avocado jhal muri before, or a peanut, coconut, and sesame seed curry. But while some of the unusual combinations are quite good, just as many are terrible. The service also has some glitches, with things coming up at weird times, waiters leaving food on a nearby stool but forgetting to actually put it on the table, etc.
TurmericIndianMurphy btw Evelyn/Washington, Sunnyvale2009-11-1511
I like the variety of the buffet here, and there's always something good (on my last couple of visits it was the cauliflower), but the curries seem to be distinctly off in that peculiar Amber way.
Naan 'N' CurryIndianchain: Berkeley, San Francisco2007-08-1511
The fare at this Pakistani fast food joint is way better than you might expect looking at the low prices, and some of the dishes really wowed me: the baingan bharta here was an order of magnitude better than any similar dish I'd had before (though I've since had even better). My experiences here have been all over the place, though: sometimes I come out thinking that this is top-notch and deserves a 5, and at other times am distinctly underwhelmed and am more inclined to go with a 3. Guess I'll split the difference.
Passage to IndiaIndianEl Camino Real btw Rengstorff/Clark, Mountain View2007-02-2711
This place has a vegetarian buffet every Tuesday, so I thought I'd go check it out. I was astonished: I counted around fifty items, possibly more. And not just the usual suspects, either: we're talking Indian pizza, roll-your-own dosas, adapted Chinese food, finger sandwiches, puff pastry, birthday cake... sadly, the quality does not match the variety. It's not bad, but it's nothing special.
PriyaIndianSan Pablo btw University/Addison, Berkeley2007-02-0611
I was initially impressed by the wide array of options at the lunch buffet here, but the quality is fairly pedestrian.
DasaprakashIndianHomestead & San Tomas, Santa Clara2006-07-2811
The lunch menu at this vegetarian South Indian place used to look like the outcome of someone doing a permutation problem by brute force, but even if you can't tell a vada from an iddly you couldn't go too far wrong. But Dasaprakash was devastated by India's ban on exporting lentils, which took out a huge chunk of its menu. The waiter suggested I try "The American Combination" but it was bad.
MehakIndianSacramento near Dwight, Berkeley2006-03-0911
I read something that said ranked Mehak right behind Priya on a list of Indian lunch buffets. Interestingly, it's pretty much the opposite of Priya in every way: tiny selection, unoriginal vegetarian dishes... but also fresh naan and hand-cut vegetables in the very good navratan korma.
Frontier SpiceIndianMain near Angela, Pleasanton2016-04-1710
I was pleased to see some unusual dishes on the menu; I got the "dum pukht gobi", but unfortunately the cauliflower was a bit underdone. The naan was very good, though.
Breads of IndiaIndianchain: Berkeley, Oakland, Walnut Creek2014-06-1010
There's a reason this place is called Breads of India and not Foods of India. There are five different unusual breads on offer, a different set every day, and in my experience they're generally excellent. And… I have learned to get those breads to go and eat them with Indian food from elsewhere, because the actual entrees tend to be bland and interchangeable. But really, the breads are top-notch!
Biryani BowlIndianregional chain2017-06-219
Points for having a more varied buffet lineup than is usual for such places, but no extra points for quality — not terrible but pretty blah.
MarhabaIndianFranklin btw 15th/14th, Oakland2015-10-209
Despite the laudatory Yelp reviews, the Indian buffet here seemed pretty standard. I'm sure I'd go occasionally if it were across the street, but I don't foresee myself trekking to Oakland for it again.
ZaikaIndianUniversity btw Shattuck/Milvia, Berkeley2012-02-099
I had the buffet here. The pea curry and chickpea curry were not to my taste at all, but the dal makhani was fine and the bhaturas were a guilty pleasure.
RasaIndianPark near Howard, Burlingame2016-12-018
Upscale Indian, apparently with a Michelin star, but no great shakes. I had an overly dry appetizer of brussels sprouts and butternut squash, and then absolutely had to try the truffle dosa, but it was just a regular dosa with a hint of truffle oil in it.
Prabh Indian KitchenIndianSunnyside & Parkwood, Mill Valley2014-04-078
Here I got a vegetarian thali. It was okay. Probably worth more than an 8, but there was a hair in one of the bowls and there was a very annoying little boy at the table next to me.
AnnapoornaIndianEl Camino Real & 23rd, San Mateo2010-07-038
I used to be a big fan of this place, having been wowed by its lunch buffet, but the last couple of times I've gone there it's been a big disappointment. The entrees seem to be just a bunch of broths lately.
Tandoori OvenIndianregional chain2009-01-208
This is a Indian entry in the "relatively upscale fast food" niche. I guess it was okay, though I didn't care for the shredded cucumber they seem to load into everything.
Udupi PalaceIndiannational chain2006-04-278
This is a vegetarian South Indian place, so the dosa and utthapam sections dominate the menu. On my first visit I got a bowl of tomato soup, hoping that it would be more interesting than Campbell's, and it was. But I also got an utthapam, and that was a disappointment, full of undercooked onion. I returned months later and got a dosa, which was slightly better. In all, this place is okay but doesn't merit the raves.
House of CurriesIndianlocal chain: Berkeley, Albany, Oakland2016-11-057
So the last time I wrote about this place, I said, "The palak paneer here is much better than the palak paneer at any other local establishment, and much better than any other entree I've tried here. How can you be so great at cooking spinach and kind of meh at everything else?" Well, on my last visit the palak paneer was meh too.
AjantaIndianSolano & The Alameda, Berkeley2013-04-097
This is one of the most acclaimed Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, and the menu makes it easy to see why, with unusual options such as lubia aur mukhbi and tandoori asparagus. But, um, it's just not very good. Or at least it's not to my taste. I pass it more days than not, since it's right on the main drag here, and every few years I think maybe this month's specials will merit the hype, and they just never do.
North IndiaIndian2nd & Minna, San Francisco2016-11-296
Here I got some chalky paneer in a tangy sauce that lacked body. Disappointing, but I was still grateful to have a place to eat at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Amber IndiaIndianregional chain2015-03-046
I went to the Amber in Mountain View back in '05 and got an expensive thali platter full of weirdly tangy dishes — tangy as in "this broth appears to have been made from boiled pocket change." Ten years later I tried the lunch buffet in San Francisco town: I liked that the items were not all bog-standard, but didn't like that they were fiery hot rather than actually flavorful.
Tandoori NiteIndianUniversity btw Oxford/Shattuck, Berkeley2014-12-266
Boring. An Indian buffet should be a chance to sample some unusual dishes you might not want to order a full entree of. Plunking down some saag and channa and calling it a buffet is almost insulting.
Café RajIndianSolano & Stannage, Albany2010-11-025
Figured I might as well try this place because it's right next to my house, but the bangan barta I got was far too reminiscent of baby food for my taste. Wonder if Shalimar might be inclined to open a Solano outpost...
Dollar Curry HouseIndianFulton btw Center/Allston, Berkeley2008-03-115
Everything here is either $1.00 or $1.99. How do they afford such low low prices? By not actually bothering to make the food all that good. I mean, I've certainly had worse, and I suppose you could make the case that if the food at Naan 'N' Curry costs 400% as much but is only 250% as good, then Dollar Curry House is the better deal. But I wouldn't make that case.
TablaIndianPimlico btw Santa Rita/Brockton, Pleasanton2005-11-115
"I've been to Tabla next to Trader Joe's," wrote one reviewer. "It's wonderful, comparable to any of the places in the South Bay." I misunderstood. I thought he meant the south end of the San Francisco Bay. But based on the navratan korma with its limp vegetables and dull sauce, I have to assume the Bay in question was Hudson's.
Vik's Chaat CornerIndian (fast food)Allston btw Fifth/Fourth, Berkeley2006-01-0611
This place is part of a warehouse that also includes a wholesale Indian grocery next door. The restaurant offers specials A, B, and C and regular menu items 1 through 10. I tried the 1 (garbanzos and crackers in a cold tamarind yogurt sauce) and the 6 (puffy crackers with cold garbanzos and potatoes) and was not impressed. But then I noticed that everyone was ordering the #9 — the orders at the cash register sounded like the end of the White Album. So I tried the #9, a huge puri with hot garbanzo curry, and it was quite good. A nice alternative snack to a burrito or slice of pizza. And with no matter what you order, you can have any cutlery you like, so long as it's a spork.
Chaat CafeIndian (fast food)regional chain2006-01-208
I got pesto naan here. It was cooked well, but I can't say I recommend pesto naan.
Red ChilliesIndian (Malabar)Main & Serra, Milpitas2017-03-2610
What a difference buffet makes! If Thai food is sort of like Indian food averaged with Chinese food, then Malabar food is like Thai food averaged with Indian food again, i.e., Indian food with a lot of coconut. I love coconut, so I thought I would be into this place, but the dishes I tried at dinner were not to my taste — the avial in particular was close to inedible — so I thought I should see whether the lunch buffet might have at least something I would like. It's hit-or-miss: the first time I was blown away, but subsequent visits have been middling. The one thing that puts this place in the blue zone is that the parathas are amazing. They're so good that I keep trying to order parathas elsewhere and am invariably disappointed.
Everest CafeIndian (Nepalese)Solano btw Tacoma/Ensenada, Berkeley2011-01-2811
On my first visit here I got a few different items, which turned out to be a good thing because if I'd just gotten the eggplant dish I'd think this place was mediocre. Instead, I switched to the navratan korma and discovered why this place gets raves. I guess we'll see which of these the other entrees come closer to.
Mt. Everest RestaurantIndian (Nepalese)Telegraph & Parker, Berkeley2012-02-2810
No lunch buffet, but I got a lunch special of palak paneer, chickpea curry, rice, naan, and salad for $9 after taxes and tip. It was fine.
AanganIndian (Nepalese)San Pablo near Solano, Albany2012-02-146
Suckered in by all the great Yelp reviews. Saag paneer and vegetable korma: bland. Vegetable momos: I guess I will never like these things. (One odd note: the proprietor seemed very worried that Elizabeth and I would get impatient and kept reassuring us that, first, a table, and then, our food, would be ready soon.)
Mirchi CafeIndian fusionFremont & Papazian, Fremont2008-05-2811
So far all I've had at this place is pizza, and hoo boy is it a mixed bag. Pizza is, fundamentally, part of the bread kingdom, and this is one of the best crusts I've encountered in California. The masala sauce used on the pizzas is also pretty good. But, gyah, the toppings! Too much cheese, and vegetables are thrown on at the end and come out almost completely raw. Seriously, you'll bite into a slice and find that it contains like half a raw onion. Awful. I thought I could avoid this by getting the palak paneer pizza — toppings should be precooked, right? Nope: paneer cubes, raw onion, and a few charred spinach leaves. Maybe I'll just have them make me a plain cheeseless masala pizza and top it myself at home.
TavaIndian fusionchain: San Francisco, Palo Alto2016-03-1510
Another Chipotle-style Indian wrap shop like Urbann Turbann, but I liked this one a bit more: the wraps are made to order from balls of dough, and the fillings were a bit higher quality.
Curry Up NowIndian fusionregional chain2015-07-0810
This place, which started as a food truck and expanded to multiple food trucks and then to multiple restaurants, offers up X-Treme™ Indian food. I was initially quite wowed by it, but lately it seems like every trip is worse than the last. (And getting my order wrong was a serious misfire.)
Avatar's Punjabi BurritoIndian fusionregional chain: North Bay2012-05-2010
This place serves curried chickpeas and rice wrapped in chapatis and calls the result "Punjabi burritos." They're fine if you like curried chickpeas and chapatis, which I do, but there's no great synergy like in a traditional burrito.
Urbann TurbannIndian fusionEuclid near Hearst, Berkeley2012-10-047
This place is an assembly-line taqueria, except the ingredients are Indian instead of Mexican: naan instead of tortillas, chutneys instead of salsas, etc. I've gone a handful of times and have had varying experiences — my most recent trip yielded a pretty flavorless chole faux-burrito so the 7 there might be a little high.
Kanishka'sIndian fusionBonanza & Commercial, Walnut Creek2016-05-216
Not actually bad, but still kind of ludicrous. The paneer appetizer was five little paneer french fries for eight dollars. The artichoke hummus was just a dollop of regular hummus, three or four little artichoke leaves, and a palm-sized piece of flatbread for nine dollars. Come on now.
TigerlilyIndian fusionShattuck btw Vine/Cedar, Berkeley2016-03-276
I went to brunch here and was sad to discover that the menu I'd seen online was not up to date; no coconut curry for me. Instead I got a naan pizza whose flavors didn't really add up to anything.
Table CafeIndian fusionMagnolia & Estelle, Larkspur2008-02-085
Forced to change a vowel by a Danny Meyer lawsuit, the former Tabla Cafe is a highfalutin wrap shop using dosai instead of tortillas. But the dosai are too bitter for my tastes, and the fillings, while very intriguing on the page, have not been very good in practice. I've gone several times thinking that the next dosa will be the really good one, but no luck yet.
JunnoonIndian fusionUniversity & High, Palo Alto2007-05-255
MA-B described New York's Tabla as "upscale Indian fusion, yet good." Junnoon really wants to be Tabla — there was a huge display of cookbooks by Tabla's Floyd Cardoz — but I went to Tabla a few times in New York and it was not actually all that great. Junnoon is worse. I saw "shells filled with spiced chickpeas" and they turned out to be half a dozen tasteless pastry shells filled with a couple of cold chickpeas and drizzled with an indifferent tamarind sauce; "avocado raita" suggested slices of avocado floating in a light yogurt sauce, but was instead a thick pudding the color of a plastic chair from the 1970s; "spring vegetable tahiri" was a box of bland rice with a few odds and ends of carrot and brussels sprout. I've never used a restaurant's salt shaker, but I really wanted one at Junnoon... yet none was provided. Verdict: upscale Indian fusion, and, uh, drive safely.
MantraIndian fusionEmerson btw High, Palo Alto2006-12-035
Good service, but unsuccessful food. I tried the paneer cuboid, which was a single piece of cheese with a shot of soup that tasted pretty much entirely of cucumber, and the fall stir fry, which was potato chunks in a blah sauce.
Momo MasalaIndian/TibetanHearst btw Euclid/Le Roy, Berkeley2014-02-075
Downscale undergraduate food. Downscale food is often great; undergraduate food, virtually never.
Pollo'sInternationalShattuck & Addison, Berkeley2013-11-148
I've known about this place for nearly a quarter of a century but never went in (I assumed it was mainly a chicken place). Then I read some rave reviews of their breakfast burrito, so I gave it a try. It was pretty standard. I did like the hot salsa it came with.
Caffé Delle StelleItalianMain & Lincoln, Walnut Creek2010-08-3114
I don't normally get pasta in restaurants, figuring that I can almost always make better pasta at home, but the pasta rustica here is a concoction of orecchiette, fontina, potatoes, and truffle oil that's hard to beat. Service suffers from the lack of waiters — at lunch, at least, it's just the proprietor dashing around.
TomatinaItalianregional chain2010-03-0814
Here you can get piadine, sizeable pizza-like flatbreads that you stuff with lettuce and other toppings and eat sort of like gigantic tacos. It's a chain but I'm pretty fond of it.
OlivetoItalianCollege & Shafter, Oakland2015-04-1712
Oliveto offers two menus, one for its swanky upstairs and a smaller one for its no-reservations downstairs. On either floor, expect tiny food: this is an upscale place, so while the prices look reasonable the portions are amusingly small. The $14.50 cannelloni, for instance, turns out to be four tubes the size of dry-erase markers. I guess when you order from the pasta column it's supposed to be a brief course before you plunge into your ribeye steak or whatever. Of course, the reason a place like Oliveto can get away with charging so much for so little is that the food is often pretty goddamn tasty. That said, not everything's a winner. Half the time I leave distinctly unimpressed. But the other half… (Update: I had to dock this place a couple of points for scaling down its breakfast offerings. The main thing I came here for was pizza at 7 a.m., and that's no longer on the menu. Feh.)
Flour + WaterItalianHarrison & 20th, San Francisco2013-04-2312
Asparagus and avocado appetizer: very good, especially the salsa verde in which it was dressed. Rye tagliatelle: fine, tasted like regular Phoenix pasta in a cream sauce. Margherita pizza: not bad, but somewhat disappointing. Too much char for my taste.
CuginiItalianSolano btw Peralta/Ordway, Albany2013-02-1812
Here I've had a couple of pizzas and a calzone… they're quite good, and feel somehow heavier/more substantial than your standard pizza. Pass on the manicotti, though — it looked good, but was cold inside and made me wonder whether it was a Stouffer's entree.
LucaItalianSan Pablo & Addison, Berkeley2012-04-0412
Though the ingredients are high-end — Acme bread, organic olive oil, etc. — this is still downscale Italian: fairly low prices, hole-in-the-wall ambiance, and messy food with big gobs of sauce and cheese. It's pretty good, though there aren't many vegetarian options.
Capo'sItalianVallejo btw Stockton/Grant, San Francisco2013-05-1011
Here we had the "quattro forni," a pizza-like thing that's a crispy piece of high-rise bread topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce; it's cooked in four different ovens and only twenty are available each evening. We also had an eggplant lasagna that was a gigantic platter of eggplant and heavy noodles under a thick blanket of cheese. This is not a place to stop in for a light meal, is what I'm saying.
Belli OsteriaItalianShattuck btw University/Addison, Berkeley2013-01-2311
This place specializes in ravioli, offering up three or four varieties per night. When I went, the only option was sweet potato and basil ravioli in a beet sauce with pecorino fonduta. I was dubious, but that radioactive pink sauce turned out to be really good! Still, after tax and tip, $18 for three ravioli is kind of nuts.
DopoItalianPiedmont btw Echo/John, Oakland2007-06-2011
I found myself in the mood for upscale Italian, so I decided to give Dopo another try. The first time I'd gone, the menu was extremely meaty and I had to get a plain pizza, but this time one of the main courses was summer squash and ricotta ravioli in pesto, so I got that. It was quite good — the pasta sheets especially so. But it was pretty small. Then I got dessert, a sludgy strawberry gelato that I did not care for. But I was still quite hungry! So I ordered a Calabrian pepper and garlic pizza to go and ate it in the car. I suppose that Italian dining does feature the idea of primi piatti and secondi piatti, but still, I am unaccustomed to having to order multiple main courses.
Jackson FillmoreItalianFillmore & Jackson, San Francisco2005-11-0911
Pluses: very quick service, an interesting menu (I got penne with avocado and almonds), and the food is almost as good as my own, which is saying something where pasta is concerned if I do say so myself (though the credit goes to Jack Bishop). Minuses: it's not quite as good as what I make and I wouldn't charge myself sixteen dollars after tax and tip for a bowl of pasta.
Caffè MacaroniItalianColumbus btw Jackson/Gibb, San Francisco2016-12-0610
I was kind of dubious about coming here despite the good reviews, because a look at the menu suggested that I would be having the baked ziti, and, like, I can make a baked ziti at home. That said, y'know, there is something to be said for sitting down at a table and asking for a baked ziti and reading a book and having a perfectly decent baked ziti appear a few minutes later.
Stella Alpina OsteriaItalianPrimrose & Chapin, Burlingame2017-04-269
Another upscale place, so big prices for tiny portions, but some of the food is good. Impressively pillowy gnocchi, and interesting pear and asiago pasta purses. The pear tart I got for dessert on my first trip was a miss, though, and my second trip was a miss all around: the cannelloni was way too heavy on the bechamel, and the soup was just a smooth liquid. Smooth liquid soups are meh by definition.
PiattiItaliannational chain2016-09-219
Stopped in here and got a burrata appetizer and a margherita pizza that seemed to have a tomato-cream base. I didn't know it was a chain until I looked it up, but I guess it stands to reason, since I was in Danville and what in suburbia isn't a chain?
54 MintItalianregional chain2016-03-139
This is one of those Italian bakery/cafes with pastries in the morning and pizza for lunch; I went to the one in Walnut Creek and got an apricot thing that was decent, a Nutella twist that was virtually tasteless, and a margherita pizza that looked puny and underdone, but tasted a bit better than it looked.
PiccinoItalianMinnesota & 22nd, San Francisco2013-06-049
Here we got a couple of pizzas whose crusts' pillowiness quotient left something to be desired. My margherita was okay, but I didn't like the cheese blend on Elizabeth's bianca.
Valenti & Co.ItalianSan Anselmo btw Woodland/Pine, San Anselmo2016-05-198
Food was fine, but yow, expensive. There was a choice between a small and large portion of gnocchi. I got the large. Based on the amount I received, I would call the large "small" and the small "homeopathic".
MozzeriaItalian16th near Guerrero, San Francisco2013-04-308
I made a reservation here on the basis of liking the looks of the Tuesday special for two — two appetizers, a pizza, a pasta dish, and a dessert for $39 — having no idea whatsoever that what this restaurant was actually known for was being owned and operated by deaf people. Ordering food involved lots of pointing at things. Anyway, the arancini appetizer and the bombolini dessert were the highlights; in between, we got a burrata appetizer that was kind of a non-entity, an ultra thin and floppy crusted margherita pizza, and a bowl of agnolotti in broth that was not very good (the pasta was a bit underdone and the broth had a bitter note to it). We also waited several years between the pizza and pasta courses.
Gypsy's Trattoria ItalianaItalianDurant btw Telegraph/Bowditch, Berkeley2011-10-278
This place in Berkeley's undergraduate district apparently gets rave reviews, and while I can't concur with them, I can see why it gets them. Like, when I first got to Cal, I thought Blondie's Pizza was great: for a dollar you could get a huge slice of pizza, and it was better than Little Caesars!! Twenty-odd years later, you can come here and for six bucks you can get a plate of pasta, and it's better than the Olive Garden!! Then eventually you get around to eating at some restaurants that aren't suburban chains and you realize that these weren't exactly high bars to clear.
PIQItalianShattuck & Addison, Berkeley2011-05-058
This is an Italian bakery/cafe with some significant usability problems. See, there's a menu board, but you can't actually order off it, because the actual food for sale is in a display case, haphazardly labeled and bearing little resemblance to the aforementioned menu board. Food ranges from subpar to decent.
Caffe RiaceItalianSheridan btw Birch/Park, Palo Alto2010-05-058
There are several Italian places I have tried over the past few years that serve really tiny amounts of food with really light textures and sophisticated flavors, accompanied by a high price tag. This isn't one of those. I got the cannelloni and they were huge, solid, extremely mainstream... and accompanied by a high price tag. Seems to be a local special-occasions place. The way the Olive Garden was for September Young.
L'Osteria del FornoItalianColumbus btw Green/Union, San Francisco2008-10-028
I've heard of restaurants that didn't have an oven; this place has only an oven, so everything's either uncooked or baked. This basically means roasted vegetables (which have been okay when I have gone, though the cauliflower gratin was bland), focaccia sandwiches (okay, but a sandwich is just a sandwich), and pizza (which I haven't tried).
Osteria Cucina ToscanaItalianHamilton & Ramona, Palo Alto2007-09-188
Passed it many times but never went in because I looked at all the vegetarian items and thought, "I can already make all of those." This time I thought, "Hmm, well, they have ravioli, and when I've gone to Dopo and Eccolo the ravioli has involved these ethereal pasta sheets and hasn't looked like something out of a plastic case." So I gave it a shot. Osteria's ravioli looked like it came out of a plastic case. I was unhappy until I received my dessert, a gianduja flan that made up for the mediocre main dish.
Rose PistolaItalianColumbus btw Green/Union, San Francisco2007-01-078
Not too much for me to choose from here. I got the cheese-stuffed focaccia with truffle oil, which turned out to be a very flat flatbread (I was expecting something fluffier) for which I was charged $2 more than the menu indicated.
Bucci'sItalianHollis btw 59th/61st, Emeryville2006-06-208
Perhaps the Italian dishes are good, but I got a pizza and it was not so great. Just a wee bit too far on the fried side. The one I got seemed promising (onion, peppers and pesto) but the toppings just didn't come together.
Gran MilanItalianJacuzzi btw Central/Washington, Richmond2016-01-127
This is an Italian bakery/cafe tucked away in an industrial shopping center between two freeways. None of the items in the cases are labeled. I have tried a pizza (fine, but nothing you couldn't get out of a box at the supermarket), pistachio croissant (i.e., regular croissant with a glop of olive-green paste on top), and olive breadstick (subpar). I have yet to try the hot chocolate or the desserts.
Panta ReiItalianColumbus & Stockton, San Francisco2012-05-157
Tony's was closed as scheduled, and Da Flora turned out to be closed for no reason, and L'Osteria del Forno also turned out to be closed for no reason, so my friend and I wound up going to the first place that was open. I'm always dubious about places that feel the need to put a carnival barker out front to bring people in, and when I got a look at the menu nothing really appealed, but I went with a bruschetta appetizer and I have to concede that it at least surpassed my low expectations.
IdealeItalianGrant near Vallejo, San Francisco2012-02-027
I got a pizza margherita here, and while it was not bad, it was also about as bad as a pizza can be while still meriting the term "not bad." Very thin crust, uniform orangey smear on top. Tartufo for dessert was pretty good, though not $7 good.
Da FloraItalianColumbus & Filbert, San Francisco2013-02-076
Vegetarian-friendlier than I had been led to believe, and while the food sites were full of scary tales about an eccentric proprietor, she was nowhere in evidence. However, while I am not averse to paying biggish prices for minuscule portions if the food is super great, this meal did not qualify. The supposedly legendary sweet potato gnocchi were unremarkable, and the manicotti was not to my taste (too bitter and wrapped in a crepe rather than pasta).
Riva CucinaItalianHeinz near Seventh, Berkeley2012-01-246
Not many points for the food, as my meal here wasn't good — I got gnocchi (which was bland mush) in an artichoke sauce (which was bitter). But bonus points for the service, which was excellent — attentive and pleasant without being obsessive or unctuous.
PerbaccoItalianCalifornia btw Front/Battery, San Francisco2016-12-135
Yeah, no. This is an upscale place, which means huge prices and tiny portions. But not only did the food not justify that state of affairs, it wouldn't have justified low prices and huge portions. I got a ravioli dish, and I know that these sorts of places are pretty aggressive about making pasta al dente, but this was just too far under: the pasta had that raw pasty texture that suggested multiple minutes of further boiling was required. Soup was $13+tax/tip/SF fees for a couple of spoonfuls of meh. But at least I can finally cross it off my list.
Trattoria La SicilianaItalianCollege btw Ashby/Webster, Berkeley2008-10-245
Very friendly service, and the entire meal wasn't a bust, but wow, was I ever wrong about the pesto gnocchi. I thought, "Hey, at worst it'll be like the gnocchi I make at home with some pesto out of a jar." But no: the "pesto" was a slightly gritty, day-glo green liquid that tasted no better than it looked, and the gnocchi were gummy little pellets.
Renee GourmetItaliandelivery, El Cerrito2013-04-224
Yelpers were crazy about this place, which delivers handcrafted frozen pizzas to your door. The lesson, as always: Yelpers are crazy, period. Not only is this not good pizza, it's not even good frozen pizza. Reading between the lines, as they marvel at the "not greasy, not oily, clean tasting" pizza, I have to think that either these reviewers have only had chain pizza up to this point (and, yes, this is a big improvement over Domino's) or else they just don't like pizza.
La FinestraItalianLafayette near Whitten, Lafayette2007-07-202
The bread came with a dish of dipping oil full of herbs and garlic and cheese and things. It looked delicious. I tried it and it was very bitter! I kept trying different parts trying to find a better flavor but it was bitter all the way through. And then when my bad, gummy gnocchi arrived, it was in a sauce that was even more bitter. At that point I became somewhat bitter myself.
Genova DelicatessenItalian delibtw Telegraph/Shattuck, btw 51st/49th, Oakland2014-03-078
"ZOMG I fly from L.A. to Oakland on the regular to get a Genova sandwich!!" Calm down, Yelp. The sandwich I got here was fine. It was nice that there was a cold vegetable mix (artichokes and peppers and suchlike) to keep it from being lettuce and tomatoes on a bun. But the hyperbole is "whut?"-inducing.
Cha-YaJapaneseShattuck & Virginia, Berkeley2006-01-0219
This all-vegan Japanese restaurant, which proudly declares that it does not even serve "honey made by the hard-working bee," has given me a chance to enjoy a cuisine that was previously inaccessible to me. I had never had miso soup before, and didn't even know how it was supposed to be consumed; fortunately, I was right in my guess that you just pick up the bowl and drink out of it. It was delicious! I had also never had sushi before; the nigiri sushi with avocado was quite good, and I am sure I'll be trying other varieties here. Even a big bowl of vegetables and soba noodles in a light broth turned out to be extremely good. The only misfire has been the pineapple chunks with some dubious gritty sauces on top. I'm still not a fan of East Asian cuisine in general, but this is a winner.
RyowaJapanese (ramen)University btw Shattuck/Milvia, Berkeley2005-11-078
I guess I'll give this one a blue rating because I can't say that I rue my decision to come here, but I am really thinking that East Asian food may just not be for me. The noodles were fine, and the broth was acceptable, but the various sprouts and seaweeds and soy products in my ramen were just not to my taste.
EphesusKebabsLocust & Mt. Diablo, Walnut Creek2007-11-055
The kebab I got was actually pretty good, though it better have been after I paid ten bucks for a stick with some mushrooms and zucchini on it. The white bean salad I got was bad, the beans almost rock hard.
Bowl'dKoreanSolano btw Santa Fe/Curtis, Albany2012-02-0314
This was actually my introduction to Korean food — it had long been the biggest dark spot in my culinary map, like North Korea on a nighttime satellite photo. As noted elsewhere on this page, I generally don't like East Asian food. But this place is now in my regular rotation. I pretty much always get the dolsot bibimbap with the mixed rice, mung bean pancake, and citrus dressing. I still haven't developed a taste for most of the little side dishes, though. (Exceptions: I really like the radish soup and the spicy fried tofu. But the various kimchis and jellies... no thanks.)
SpoonKoreanAshby & 9th, Berkeley2013-02-0413
This slightly more casual spinoff of Bowl'd has a lot of menu overlap, but I wanted to try something I couldn't get at Bowl'd, so I got the spinach miso soup. After my first few spoonfuls I was uncertain how much I liked it, but it soon grew on me and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit! Looks like the Bowl'd crew has another winner.
RojbasKurdishUniversity & MLK, Berkeley2016-09-148
So once upon a time there was a Kurdish restaurant called Kobani that served terrific falafel wraps, and then closed, and then (much to my surprise) reopened, but was nowhere near as good. And then as if to announce that this was no longer the Kobani of old, it changed its name to Rojbas. I tried a Rojbas falafel wrap to see whether it was closer to the first Kobani or the second. Sadly, it was the second.
La FusionLatin fusionPine near Kearny, San Francisco2016-11-0112
Here I got a mushroom turnover with a cylinder of mashed potatoes for $24, so, yeah, it's one a' them upscale places, but it was actually quite tasty (the promised truffle oil actually showed up in more than a homeopathic dose!) and pretty much exactly the right amount of food: didn't leave hungry, didn't leave overstuffed.
HabibiLebaneseWashington btw Fremont/Roberts, Fremont2007-04-208
This place got a crazy high rating on Jatbar. I have no idea why. The food here is totally pedestrian. Not bad, just... there are a million Mediterranean places no worse than this.
HomeroomMacaroni and cheese40th & Shafter, Oakland2013-06-186
This is a place that offers mostly various preparations of macaroni and cheese, with a handful of other items (salads, specials). I haven't been impressed, sadly — I'd much rather whip up some at home. (Also, the first time I went I forgot my lactase pills and wound up very sick for the better part of a week.)
DishdashMediterraneanMurphy btw Washington/Evelyn, Sunnyvale2006-08-0314
I ordered something here thinking that I was going to get a big pile of vegetables and rice, and instead it was an artfully crafted vertical stack surrounded by a moat of tasty herb-tomato-yogurt sauce. And for what turned out to be an upscale place, there was a surprisingly decent amount of food for the price. One exception: the baklava, while impressively varied, is $6 for four very small pieces.
Falafel StopMediterraneanregional chain2017-06-2211
I got a poached egg dish here with falafel balls on the side. The falafel was nothing special, but the eggs were good — maybe they should change their name to Poached Egg Stop.
Gotta Eatta PitaMediterraneanregional chain2016-04-2411
Yet another entrant in the "it's like Chipotle for _____ food" genre. In this case, the food is Mediterranean; you start with a falafel sandwich and say yes or no to each of the offered fixings as you work your way down the the line. I'm not complaining — I was very glad to be able to say no to the cucumbers and yes to the eggplant.
Sunrise DeliMediterraneanBancroft btw Telegraph/Dana, Berkeley2008-02-2111
Tasty falafel, with unusual add-ins such as avocado.
La MediterranéeMediterraneanchain: San Francisco, Berkeley2005-11-2811
I am used to having to get a plate of hummus and baba ghanoush at places like this, and I was considering doing so here until I noticed a more interesting plate further down the menu. So I got a plate of little phyllo bundles stuffed with cheese and spinach and such... and came away feeling an awful lot like I'd just eaten a plate of hummus and baba ghanoush. I dunno, I guess I find eastern Mediterranean food kinda samey.
Ba-BiteMediterraneanPiedmont btw 40th/MacArthur, Oakland2015-10-0410
It was nice to happen across a Mediterranean place where there was actually another choice for me aside from a falafel wrap. I got a bowl of fried cauliflower with tahini sauce on a bed of rice and lentils. It seemed like the ingredients may have been at the end of their shift, but it was still decent enough.
Falafel HutMediterranean4th near A, San Rafael2017-10-089
When I first tried this place, more than a decade ago now, I ranked it as pantheon-level. It has gone steadily downhill (the potatoes in my last falafel deluxe weren't even cooked though!) and I can't even rank it as a solid thumbs-up anymore. Sad face.
Oren's HummusMediterraneanchain: South Bay2017-04-058
The hummus didn't really do anything for me — all other hummus pales in comparison to Holy Homous in Victoria BC. But the pita bread! So soft and fluffy! I bought a pack of five to put in my freezer and ended up gobbling it up pretty quickly.
ZaytoonMediterraneanSolano & Kains, Albany2016-11-308
First trip: pretty decent lentil soup with a lot of celery and whatnot in it, followed by a mezze platter that was very small for the price and made up of misses and mehs. Second trip: unmemorable moussaka, but a tasty and surprisingly generous dessert of ice cream over crumbled baklava.
Oasis CafeMediterraneanMt. Diablo btw Oak Hill/Happy Valley, Lafayette2016-07-068
Good bread, good balance of ingredients, but the falafel was basically a paste rather than a set of crispy patties.
Wally's CafeMediterraneanSan Pablo btw Adeline/40th, Emeryville2015-03-278
Weird location in the back room of a dive bar — walk down the alley if you want to go straight to the restaurant part. The complimentary lentil soup and tiny baklava were nice, but my falafel sandwich failed to impress.
Sophia CafeMediterraneanSolano & Masonic, Albany2011-04-148
I liked the very fluffy pita bread used in the falafel sandwiches, but filling was far too cucumber-heavy for my tastes.
Zut!MediterraneanFourth btw Hearst/Virginia, Berkeley2011-03-128
The menu didn't match the one online — grr. So I wound up just getting a regular margherita pizza, which was okay but not really noteworthy. A real shame that Eccolo, which used to be in this space, closed down in the economic collapse.
Oasis GrillMediterraneanregional chain2017-02-167
First bite: "Oh, this is better than I was expecting!" Every subsequent bite: "Oh, it's just the hot sauce that's good. All other ingredients are meh. Oh well."
Bacheeso'sMediterraneanlocal chain: Oakland, Berkeley2016-03-067
Here's what I wrote several years ago: "For under ten bucks this place offers a brunch buffet with an impressive array of offerings, a little different every weekend: I've seen pesto penne, vegan lasagna, stewed peaches with kale, eggplant and tofu stew, stuffed artichokes with aioli, moussaka, French toast, scrambled eggs with spinach, and much much more. It's all quite good, too." And now it's over fourteen bucks, there are fewer options, and the food is generally cold, even quite early in the day. Hence I am chopping the score in half.
ArabicaMediterraneanKittredge btw Fulton/Shattuck, Berkeley2013-10-156
Here I got a "pitaza," which turned out to be pretty much like a regular pizza, only with three times as much cheese as a person could possibly want. If I go back I think I'll stick to the more traditional fare.
Jerusalem Organic KitchenMediterraneanSolano & The Alameda, Berkeley2011-11-235
Here I got a falafel sandwich that was bad in two ways: one, it didn't seem to contain any of the eggplant or potato I had ordered and paid for, and two, the falafel itself was really no good at all — blobs of gritty beige mush. The hummus and bread were okay, I guess. It's weird to think that on the other side of the San Rafael bridge is this exact same item done a thousand times better.
PomegranateMediterraneanUniversity btw California/Sacramento, Berkeley2008-04-085
My food was marred by gritty spinach, but the main problem was that the restaurant was woefully understaffed — it looks like the proprietor attends to every table. I realize that in our wintry economic climate it may not be easy to hire a waiter, but I wasn't the only customer exasperated by the slow service.
Holy LandMediterranean (Israeli)College & Ashby, Berkeley2009-01-285
Forgot to write this up when I went here, which pretty much sums up how much of an impression it made. Much better places around for falafel.
Los MolesMexican65th & Hollis, Emeryville2015-02-1014
As the name suggests, this place specializes in mole — every weekend Los Moles offers a brunch buffet, with unlimited beans, rice, chips, fresh fruit, pastries… and no fewer than eight different mole sauces in giant pots. The weekday breakfast burritos are small but shockingly cheap (around three bucks), with options such as enmoladas for those with more of an appetite.
CosechaMexican9th near Washington, Oakland2014-09-2714
I was dubious about this place when I walked in — it's not a restaurant, exactly, but rather a counter in a sort of warehouse with communal seating. I ordered the chilaquiles, which were pretty expensive. But when the plate arrived, wow, it was gorgeous. (And, uh, tasted good too! With food that's pretty important.)
ComalMexicanShattuck btw University/Addison, Berkeley2012-08-2114
This is a big, modern place serving fairly upscale Mexican cuisine. I've had: tlayudas, a plate-sized tortilla topped with pureed beans, melted cheese, and a red salsa (sort of like a pizza), then topped with cherry tomatoes, herbs, and queso fresco and cut into wedges; tetelas, sort of like triangular empanadas; a chile relleño; and a very good flan. I was reminded of nothing so much as Tacubaya circa 2005, before it went downhill. In fact, here's my summary: imagine that Tacubaya, instead of going downhill, had doubled its prices. Sadly, I can't really make a habit of going to Comal because it's stupidly expensive. But as an occasional treat, thumbs up.
PrimaveraMexicanFerry Plaza, San Francisco2015-03-1413
This is a stand at the Ferry Building farmers' market on Saturday mornings; they offer a handful of things, including chilaquiles. The line is long but moves reasonably quickly.
NopalitoMexicanBodega & Eastman, Petaluma2017-02-0812
Looks like a really downscale crapateria, but the chile relleño burrito I got was surprisingly good. Sophisticated seasoning, and the chile wasn't just a blob in the middle of the burrito like at most places that offer the dish.
Los CilantrosMexicanShattuck btw Prince/Woolsey, Berkeley2014-12-0212
Pricy, small portions, but quite good, and I particularly like how the menu ranges beyond your standard fare to encompass things like tlacoyitos.
TropisueñoMexicanYerba Buena near Mission, San Francisco2013-05-2712
The burritos here are pretty huge — I was reminded of ordering burritos in New York and receiving what were essentially throw pillows full of beans and rice. I got a chile relleño burrito: the chile itself wasn't great (undercooked) but everything else was fine. I was even able to get mole in it.
ConsueloMexicanSantana Row & Olsen, San Jose2010-05-0211
Another place with a stack of corn tortillas and three dipping sauces — I guess that's the new thing these days. I went here for brunch and got scrambled eggs with mole on a huarache. It was okay, but it said it came with potatoes, and seriously, it was like 1/6 of a single red potato. C'mon.
AndaléMexicanUniversity btw Ramona/Emerson, Palo Alto2006-07-0911
Burritos are okay, but pretty expensive and not really noteworthy. I was pleased to see vegetarian flautas available, but they were also expensive and the "veggies" promised on the menu turned out to be mashed potatoes.
Dona TomasMexicanTelegraph btw 51st/49th, Oakland2006-02-1711
This place bills itself as being not an American-style "Mexican restaurant" but rather an example of the sort of thing you'd find if you went looking for a good restaurant in Mexico City. Overall the food is quite good, but I didn't like the thick, oily chips, the underdone squash, the prices, or the actual space. I think I'll stick with Tacubaya.
El Molino CentralMexicanCentral & Sonoma, Boyes Hot Springs2017-12-0210
I saw online that this place offered Swiss chard enchiladas and some other froufrou offerings, so I was picturing some sort of swanky establishment frequented by wine country aristocrats. Turns out that it's a little shack. You park on gravel. But they did have Swiss chard enchiladas! Which were okay.
Taqueria CancunMexican4th & Santa Margarita, San Rafael2016-08-1510
It'd been ages since I'd had a chimichanga and even longer since I'd had a good one, so when I saw this place had a vegetarian chimichanga on offer, I gave it a go. It was pretty good! I was impressed that they fried it exactly the right length of time.
El JarroMexicanMt. Diablo btw Lafayette/Lafayette, Lafayette2016-07-1310
This is a table-service place, not a taqueria. It doesn't have a lot of vegetarian options, but I did see on its web site that it offered up enfrijoladas with avocado, and one afternoon when I was in town and felt like having that, I went in. The enfrijoladas were satisfactory.
Maya FondaMexicanUniversity near McGee, Berkeley2016-04-1910
This is a small Mexican grocery with a taqueria counter up front. I got a burrito. First few bites: "This is surprisingly good!" Last few bites: "I'm not too sure I feel very well."
La CremaMexicanSolano & San Pablo, Albany2016-06-259
There used to be this Mexican restaurant near my house that became one of my favorites; it was called Montero's, and was nicely low-key with a wide variety of vegetarian options. Heaping plates of awesome Mexican comfort food with just a dash of panache. Then it closed, and reopened under a new name, and then closed again, and reopened under the old name but with a menu that was halfway between the two incarnations, then closed again for a long time. Now it's open again under the name "La Crema". La Crema is okay, but I miss the substance of a Montero's brunch. La Crema's offerings are comparatively meager. And they top the chilaquiles not with avocado but with lettuce!
NopalitoMexicanBroderick btw Fell/Oak, San Francisco2010-05-068
This is a modern, semi-upscale place with some decent dishes (a pretty good blue corn quesadilla filled with braised greens) and some misses (a really bland tamal dulce). It's all quite expensive for what you get: $14 for a mini-quesadilla and a single quartered taquito, for instance.
Taqueria TlaquepaqueMexicanLincoln & Curtner, San Jose2007-04-238
This isn't really a taqueria but a full restaurant with table service, which came as a rude surprise when I first came in hoping to grab a burrito and be out the door in five minutes. That time I left because no one even came to show me to a table. On my second visit I was eventually seated, but the service remained questionable as what arrived at my table bore only a passing resemblance to what I had ordered. It was a heavy 1970s-style Mexican meal, but not too bad, I guess.
MayaMexicanEast Napa and First, Sonoma2006-09-178
I really like the selection of vegetarian small plates here, but I do wish they were actually, y'know, better. The chile in the chile relleño was way underdone, and the flash-fried artichokes weren't much better than the ones at Giant Artichoke.
EstrellitaMexicanSan Antonio btw Loucks/Sherwood, Los Altos2006-08-018
This place seems to have only one vegetarian offering, the "vegetarian plate" which consists of three items: a quesadilla full of undercooked zucchini, an enchilada full of undercooked zucchini, and a tamale that is actually quite good.
Canasta KitchenMexicanfood truck2015-07-017
The food's pretty good, but way too expensive for what you get: $9 for a taco, $10 for a huarache, and in both cases it's just a slab of fried corn topped with a few beans and a mountain of lettuce.
Christopher's Nothing Fancy CafeMexicanSan Pablo btw Marin/Dartmouth, Albany2012-02-047
The food here certainly looks good, but the heavy hand with the tomatillo sauce is a killer — I've had three things here (chile relleño, enchilada, chimichanga) and they've all been drowned in the stuff. That said, the food tends not to burst with flavor otherwise, and it's quite expensive, so I don't think this place will be joining my regular rotation despite its proximity. (The chips and salsa are good, though.)
Remy'sMexicanHaste near Telegraph, Berkeley2016-08-256
So first Mario's moved from its spot on Telegraph to this place on Haste, and then closed after more than half a century... but it was never actually very good, so I didn't exactly lament. They do give you a lot of food, but too much of it is school cafeteria quality.
FlacosMexicanAdeline & Emerson, Berkeley2012-02-236
This place has a regular booth at the Berkeley farmers' markets, and I finally got around to trying one of their tamales. It wasn't terrible or anything, but neither did it surpass a Trader Joe's microwave tamale, so.
ReposadoMexicanHamilton btw Emerson/Ramona, Palo Alto2010-08-095
Here I got the vegetarian sopitos, which turned out to be corn cakes topped with an impressively unappealing combination of unidentifiable pale rectangular crunchy things.
Sangria's RestaurantMexicanMonterey near 2nd, Morgan Hill2010-04-235
It's very nice how they bring out fresh tortillas for you (and keep doing so!), and I could tell by the unusual flavors that they were trying for something high-end, but unusual doesn't equal good. This place would be a 3 if there were more vegetarian options or if it were just a little cheaper, but as is, in the end I couldn't justify it.
El Huarache AztecaMexicanInternational btw 38th/39th, Oakland2008-01-185
I have read reviews of this place praising it to the high heavens for years now, but always thought it was off-limits because it is an "authentic" Mexican restaurant situated in the barrio and therefore bound to use tons of lard. It was only recently that I learned that it is a lard-free establishment. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that there are many vegetarian options — I was stuck with a plain huarache (corn tortilla stuffed with beans) and sope (corn tortilla topped with beans). They weren't terrible but I have no inclination to go back.
Mario's La FiestaMexicanTelegraph & Haste, Berkeley2007-09-255
When I was a small child my mom used to make me and my brothers accompany her to the mall all the time. Often for lunch I would go to the food court and get a big hunk of cheese dipped in batter and fried. By the time I got to college, my tastes were much more sophisticated, and I would frequently go to Mario's La Fiesta. There I would order a big hunk of cheese wrapped in a tortilla and fried. I tried it again out of nostalgia. It is not so tasty as it was when my only basis for comparison was the Buena Park Mall.
Tres TruckMexicanfood truck2016-11-064
I'll let this sneak into the purple zone because my taco wasn't actually BAD, but for $3.50, it was pretty pitiful. Odds and ends of vegetable in a single small corn tortilla. C'mon.
Casa LatinaMexican (bakery/taqueria)San Pablo near Delaware, Berkeley2011-07-055
Passed this place, realized I pass it a lot and had never gone in, looked it up on Yelp, read a lot of rave reviews. "Nachos are crazy good!" "The vegetarian nachos here are delicious!" No, they are slightly below average. Inferior chips, gloppy orange cheese, bad guacamole.
the Burr-EateryMexican (burritos)food cart2014-06-016
This place is pretty histrionic about NOT being Mission-style: no rice, no avocado, no sour cream, and "if you want it super, put a cape on it." The food tastes fine, but the prices are pretty ludicrous, at $5 for a tube of refried beans the size of a taquito.
TwisterMexican (burritos)food truck2014-06-044
When I saw that this place offered "burrito cones" I was intrigued, but the one I got turned out to be quite bad: flavorless beans and rice in an equally flavorless cold fried tortilla. But I figured that before I did a writeup I should try a standard burrito as well. It wasn't much better. Thumbs down.
Tacos El ReyMexican (taco truck)near Ashby & Seventh, Berkeley2011-09-2014
This truck doesn't serve the best Mexican food in town, but it may offer the best value: a very respectable veggie burrito, with avocado, for $4.50, and a decent taco for all of $1.25. It's usually parked on Ashby west of Seventh but is sometimes a block north on Potter.
El ManantialMexican (taco truck)55th & MLK, Oakland2016-11-1613
Very good taco truck in the parking lot of a gas station. My first visit was a bit better than my second, though.
Tacos El AutlenseMexican (taco truck)San Pablo near Garfield, Albany2012-05-3011
I went here after discovering that the Hot Shop was closed for vacation. Pretty decent veggie burrito, well within acceptable parameters.
Tacos Mi RanchoMexican (taco truck)1st Pl & 1st Ave, Oakland2015-01-2410
Totally standard fare. Good prices for what you get, but I'm not going down to Oakland again for food identical to what I'd get across the street.
Cholita LindaMexican (tacos)farmers' market booth2013-06-3011
Rave reviews for these tacos on Yelp, so one week I tried them instead of getting my usual Pizza Politana. The booth at the Temescal farmers' market only has three choices (fish, pork, tofu), so I got the tofu tacos, which really are just tofu and slaw and some sauce — no beans, no guacamole, nothin'. Still pretty darn good, though.
La TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)Mission near 25th, San Francisco2016-09-1816
When I first moved back to California I tried a bunch of highly recommended Mission taquerias and wasn't impressed by any of them. So when fivethirtyeight.com gave this place its nod for best burrito in the U.S., I didn't expect that recommendation to work out any better than the earlier ones. But on my first trip here I got probably the best burrito I've ever eaten. Certainly it was the best made: tortilla was perfect (meltingly soft), beans were perfect, avocado was perfect, proportions were perfect. Salsa was good but maybe a little too hot. Price was very reasonable (under six bucks!). Overall, wowzers. Sad to say, each subsequent visit has been worse than the last. I don't know whether it's going downhill or whether my brain is just down-regulating, but at present this place is hanging onto pantheon status mainly due to memories, not recent performance.
Tacos SinaloaMexican (taqueria)local chain: Oakland, Berkeley2015-11-0515
Over the years I've checked out many highly regarded taco trucks, and had always found them pretty average. But I'd never been to the heralded ones along (seedy) International Boulevard, so when I happened across some people raving about Tacos Sinaloa in particular I decided to brave the iffy neighborhood and check it out. And… it totally lived up to the hype! Cheap and awesome. So I went home, ready to write about how I would be making the occasional trek to get a plate of these tacos… only to discover that Tacos Sinaloa had opened up an actual storefront just a few days earlier, in Berkeley, much closer to home! (A thirty-second jog from my old dorm, for cryin' out loud.) Very cool to see something good spring up on Telegraph, which as of late had become (in Local H parlance) a road of holes. (Update: I have now tried the burritos as well, which are better than your average burrito, but the tacos are still the clear winners.)
PicanteMexican (taqueria)Sixth btw Gilman/Camelia, Berkeley2015-05-1015
This is a big, gringo-friendly taqueria near my house that plays a critical role in my dining rotation: on those days when I know I should eat but nothing sounds good, I come here, get the cheese enchiladas, and am always eminently satisfied.
El FarolitoMexican (taqueria)regional chain2015-04-2515
So I thought I was trying somewhere new, but apparently I went here in '05 and got a bad enough burrito that I didn't come back until ten years had passed and I had forgotten my earlier visit. But my '15 burrito was excellent — not paradigm-shifting like La Taqueria, but definitely first-rate.
Gordo TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)chain: Berkeley, Albany, San Francisco2014-05-2814
This place is just a little ways up the street from my apartment, and every time I go, I am like, "Bleah, I don't feel like going all the way to somewhere good — I guess I will just settle for Gordo." And then I am like, "Goddamn, this Gordo food is delicious." Why do I keep forgetting that last part? (I guess because that "every time" is a little exaggerated — this place is a little inconsistent. But the hits outnumber the misses by a lot.)
La Calaca LocaMexican (taqueria)51st & Telegraph, Oakland2010-01-2514
I wasn't a big fan of the burrito or the agua fresca that I got here in 2007, but I came back to try the nachos and they were much better. Like the burrito, they're sort of odd — in place of the usual jack, the nachos come with a dusting of sharp white cheese — but the chips are first-rate and the other toppings aren't bad either.
TacubayaMexican (taqueria)Fourth btw Hearst/Virginia, Berkeley2009-12-2814
This place has gone downhill a fair bit since I first gave it a rave review back in 2005. Though there's still a decent chance that any given visit will include a dynamite tamale or chile relleño or something, a lot of the vegetarian options aren't so hot (tostadas tend to be bland, fideo and frijoles con todo are just okay, torta is hit and miss), and there aren't enough of them. And when the place is busy the distribution system tends to break down — I've watched dishes sit on the counter for fifteen minutes as the confused servers try to figure out what goes to which table.
La CornetaMexican (taqueria)regional chain2016-10-2013
I wasn't expecting much from this burrito when I saw it being put together — old-looking rice with peas in it, a chile relleño out of the microwave — but to my surprise it was soft, moist, and delicious.
Taqueria Monte CristoMexican (taqueria)University btw Sacramento/Acton, Berkeley2013-05-2413
After I learned that Taqueria Monte Cristo was open till midnight — most of the other decent taquerias in Berkeley close at ten — whenever I would find myself hungry at 11:30 p.m. I would think, "Do I stay in and cook something or do I go to Taqueria Monte Cristo?" But I never chose the latter option because I'd gone a couple of times during daylight hours and not been impressed. But recently I have taken advantage of their late hours, and have been pretty impressed! The crispy vegetarian taco would be great at 1:30 p.m., let alone 11:30.
XoloMexican (taqueria)Telegraph near 19th, Oakland2013-05-1113
I'd read that portions were small for the price, and they are. $8.50 for a chile relleño burrito that's on the slender side. The first time I had one, it initially seemed pretty meager — no rice, really just a thin tube of black bean puree… except when I got halfway through I found that I was really enjoying it. Whatever they mix into that puree makes for a good balance of flavors. These burritos are seriously good.
Chile JalapeñoMexican (taqueria)San Pablo near 67th, Oakland2012-03-3012
My first three trips to this taqueria juuust over the border from Berkeley went like this: (1) super vegetarian burrito: "this is seriously delicious! I may come here a lot!"; (2) super nachos: "this is seriously mediocre! I may stop coming here!"; (3) breakfast burrito: "this is just good enough that I don't know whether to keep coming here or not!"
Taqueria BahiaMexican (taqueria)B btw 4th/5th, San Rafael2016-08-3011
Here I had some eminently respectable chilaquiles. The chips I munched on while I was waiting were very good as well.
Fresco Mexican GrillMexican (taqueria)Shattuck btw Allston/Center, Berkeley2013-11-2111
This place has really good breakfast burritos for a low price ($4.50). So good that after getting a few of them I went back one afternoon to get a regular burrito. The regular burrito was bad. So, the 11 over there is really like a 13 for breakfast and a 5 for lunch and dinner.
La MissionMexican (taqueria)University & Chestnut, Berkeley2011-09-1411
I thought this place had pantheon written all over it after I went down late at night and got a taco that was huge and awesome, but since then I've tried an also huge but merely good burrito, mediocre enchiladas, and mediocre nachos... ah well. Guess I'll stick to the taco, then.
Taqueria TalaveraMexican (taqueria)Solano & Peralta, Berkeley2011-04-2511
Here, despite the skepticism of both the cashier and the cooks, I was able to get a vegetarian burrito with mole sauce. It was interestingly different. Other selections haven't been so hot, though, and prices are rather high.
the Little ChihuahuaMexican (taqueria)Divisadero near Page, San Francisco2010-04-2711
This place had a plantain burrito I wanted to try. It turns out to be a burrito with a giant plantain in the middle. Maybe not the way I would have gone. I've also had the nachos and as I recall they were fine.
PapaloteMexican (taqueria)24th & Poplar, San Francisco2010-04-1811
Tried a couple of burritos here in the '00s: a vegetable one dominated by dry potato chunks, and a regular bean-and-cheese that was good but nothing special. I can now also report that the nachos are pretty middle-of-the-road. But, man, the chips and salsa they bring out to placate you while you're waiting for your food (and it can take a while) are really top-notch.
El MetateMexican (taqueria)Bryant btw 22nd/23rd, San Francisco2010-04-1711
This place might have a higher rating if not for the fact that the vegetable mix in the vegetarian burrito consists of carrots and broccoli that seem just about raw. Similarly, the nachos are generally pretty good, but what's up with that goopy guacamole?
La CumbreMexican (taqueria)chain: San Mateo, San Francisco2007-11-0211
I've been here twice and it was like two different places: once the tortilla was grilled and the filling was dominated by bean liquid. The second time the tortilla was steamed and the filling was actually a little dry (but tasty). So I dunno!
MijitaMexican (taqueria)Ferry Building, San Francisco2007-08-1311
It's slightly more expensive than La Super-Rica. Its selection is significantly smaller than that at La Super-Rica. But the fact that I feel I can compare it to La Super-Rica indicates that this place is very promising! I had the closest thing I've had to a quesadilla tradicional in the past ten years; Elizabeth had a vegetarian taco; we split an agua fresca; all were great.
Taqueria El BalazoMexican (taqueria)regional chain2006-11-2611
I had a chile relleño burrito at the San Ramon location of this chain. It was pretty good.
La BurritaMexican (taqueria)local chain, Berkeley2006-09-1211
I've had some excellent burritos here, as well as the best chips I've had since returning to the Bay Area. But it's hit-and-miss. The nachos are terrible, for instance, and I've had some subpar burritos along with the really good ones.
La CosteñaMexican (taqueria)Old Middlefield & Rengstorff, Mountain View2006-08-2311
This small Mexican grocery has a burrito counter in the back. Apparently the locals consider it legendary but I found it merely passable.
360 GourmetMexican (taqueria)national chain2006-03-0511
This is a chain but not a completely bad one. And if you're walking past Gate 8 at 5:25 in the morning and are very hungry, you might well find that the breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, sour cream, ranchero sauce and potatoes is exactly the correct food.
Taqueria Can-CúnMexican (taqueria)Mission & 19th, San Francisco2005-12-0611
I am getting the sense that actual Mission burritos are not for me. Can-Cún supposedly has the best vegetarian burritos in the Mission, and the one I got was better than the one from El Farolito, but c'mon, it was worse than Chipotle and Chipotle's a chain. The flaky tortilla was an interesting change of pace, but not as good as a steamed one. The mix of fillings was okay but somehow less than the sum of its parts.
Taqueria el Buen SaborMexican (taqueria)Valencia & 18th, San Francisco2017-05-2810
Pretty good. When I had a few bites of my super chile relleño burrito, I had that "Oh, good, this isn't just a standard meh burrito" moment of relief, but now that I've checked it out I don't think I'd go back — there are better options a lot closer.
El PalenqueMexican (taqueria)chain: San Mateo, South San Francisco2017-03-2210
Really downscale, but the Yelpers seemed to like it, so I gave it a try. I can't say it was great, since the rice in my burrito was unpleasantly dry, but I have to say that I ordered it wet and the sauce on top was uncommonly good.
El AguilaMexican (taqueria)Contra Costa & Ellinwood, Pleasant Hill2016-10-0210
Looks like a nondescript strip mall taqueria, but it turns out that the fare is on the froufrou side. The garnishes make every plate look like a flower arrangement.
Sol y Luna TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)Shattuck btw Berkeley/Hearst, Berkeley2015-04-2310
I'd read that this place was supposed to be good for nachos, and the nacho plates are indeed meticulously composed; they're above average to start, though slightly below average at the end, as the chips totally disintegrate. I did eventually get around to trying a burrito here, but I was less impressed — the tortillas are just thrown, dry, on a grill, and end up with an unpleasant texture.
El Burro PicanteMexican (taqueria)University btw Milvia/Shattuck, Berkeley2013-10-0710
Friendly service, open till midnight, cheap. However, the same is true down the street at Monte Cristo, and the fare there is more flavorful than the tacos I got on my first visit here.
TomaMexican (taqueria)Steiner btw Lombard/Chestnut, San Francisco2013-04-1410
Pretty good but pretty expensive. Nice to see sopes available along with the usual burritos. Also nice that calabacitas (pretty good ones, too) are available in place of a meat filling.
Taqueria CancunMexican (taqueria)Mission near 19th, San Francisco2015-07-099
I'd read that this place was particularly heralded for its vegetarian burrito, but I found it to be very much in the genre that made me think Mission burritos were a lost cause back in '05: the dominant note was a slightly bitter combo of sour cream and cold cheese.
NachoriaMexican (taqueria)Lorton btw Howard/Burlingame, Burlingame2017-11-268
This is an interesting outfit: it's a taqueria that emphasizes nachos, and by that I mean ballpark nachos more than standard taqueria nachos. That is, this is the only taqueria I've been to at which the nachos were actually topped with bright runny day-glo cheese sauce rather than, y'know, cheese. It's an interesting change of pace but a pretty expensive one (a full plate of nachos with guacamole and sour cream and such runs $17 plus tax).
Mexico TipicoMexican (taqueria)Mission btw Brazil/Excelsior, San Francisco2016-11-038
Pretty much the same lettuce and sour cream burrito as at Taqueria Guadalajara. I'll give this place an extra point for having much better chips.
Guacamole 61Mexican (taqueria)Shattuck & Vine, Berkeley2016-05-078
The latest place to take over the cursed Picoso space. It's okay, but it's substantially more expensive than comparable places nearby, yet not quite as good.
High Tech BurritoMexican (taqueria)regional chain2010-05-078
In 1994 I thought this place was the bomb. I was a regular at the Orinda branch, back when there was an Orinda branch. Usually I got the quesadilla with pinto beans, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. Anyway, I was out in the sticks and saw one of these, so I went in to see how it was after all these years. Answer: it's a totally standard chain taqueria.
Taqueria El Grullense J & GMexican (taqueria)El Camino Real & Kendall, Palo Alto2010-05-048
Not really noteworthy in either direction.
Taqueria Pancho VillaMexican (taqueria)chain: San Francisco, San Mateo2008-10-108
This is a friendlier space than other Mission taquerias: clean, brightly lit, with an expansive, readable menu and no lard... but that's like praising a McDonald's in Nebraska for not being a meth lab. So I'll just say that I've had some good burritos here (I mainly go to the San Mateo one) and a lot of mediocre ones.
TalaveraMexican (taqueria)Solano & Peralta, Berkeley2007-10-308
This place apparently used to have psychotically bad ownership. It might be better now, but the burritos are just okay.
Taqueria la FamiliaMexican (taqueria)Shattuck near Ashby, Berkeley2007-04-198
Unremarkable burrito. Shredded iceberg lettuce = bad.
Cactus TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)local chain: Berkeley, Oakland2006-05-168
I had a really good burrito and agua fresca my first time here, and so thought this would be one of my favorite places, but since then I have had a bad enchilada, a bad quesadilla, a bad mejor plate and bad tamales, so maybe I should stick to the burritos or maybe I just got lucky the first time.
ChipotleMexican (taqueria)international chain2006-01-318
This used to be one chain whose food I actually enjoyed. But it seems like every time I go it's worse than the last.
Cancún TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)Allston btw Shattuck/Fulton, Berkeley2005-12-308
Here I have had an unimpressive, expensive burrito that seemed curiously empty somehow, and nachos made with bad chips.
Taqueria GuadalajaraMexican (taqueria)Mission & Onondaga, San Francisco2016-10-277
My burrito here was dominated by sour cream and lettuce.
Taco GrillMexican (taqueria)12th & 34th, Oakland2012-11-287
After reading bunches of raves about this place I decided to make the trek down to Fruitvale. I got a vegetarian burrito, and while the preparation was high quality, it was loaded with a carrot-heavy vegetable mix that was not to my taste and dominated the other flavors.
Los Cantaros TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)San Pablo btw Park/45th, Emeryville2015-05-026
Little did I know when I ordered a super bean and cheese burrito that the word "bean" was singular for a reason. It was a gluey tortilla surrounding a filling that was mostly sour cream. Wait time was long. (I also got a boring breakfast burrito when the place was virtually empty and the wait was even longer.)
Two AmigosMexican (taqueria)Stanley & Bernal, Pleasanton2016-04-105
Yelp, you so crazy. 4½ stars for a taqueria that doesn't even come particularly close to average? I say thee nay.
Pancho'sMexican (taqueria)Durant btw Telegraph/Bowditch, Berkeley2011-12-015
This is a place is that little alcove on Durant, notable mainly for being open until like 2:30 a.m. or something like that. Not much else to recommend it, it turns out... the nachos are supposed to be the house specialty and they're pretty weak.
La PalmitaMexican (taqueria)San Pablo near Gilman, Berkeley2011-04-225
I got nachos here, and they were pretty inexpensive and the chips were fairly suitable for the purpose, but the guacamole was dubious and the beans were very bland.
Zona RosaMexican (taqueria)Haight & Shrader, San Francisco2008-08-085
Zona Rosa was on Telegraph and Durant when I lived in Spens-Black Hall, and it was therefore my introduction to Mission-style burritos. So does the fact that I now place it firmly in the "meh" category mean that it was better then or that my taste was worse?
Taqueria GuadalajaraMexican (taqueria)14th & 143rd, San Leandro2006-07-255
This is like a little piece of the Mission right in San Leandro. That isn't a compliment.
La CascadaMexican (taqueria)Center btw Fulton/Shattuck, Berkeley2006-04-045
Dodgy nachos — mediocre chips, mediocre guacamole, drowned in sour cream. And the breakfast burrito's eggs and black beans are whisked together into a thin gruel.
El Sombrero TaqueriaMexican (taqueria)University & Shattuck, Berkeley2006-01-245
For sixteen years I never went in here because, even in 1990, the sign looked really outdated. I figured the whole place would be stuck in a time warp, like going to a Mexican restaurant in 1977. Then I finally poked my head in and it looked like any other taqueria, so I decided to give it a try. They say you can't judge a book by its cover but in this case I probably should have trusted the sign.
La CanastaMexican (taqueria)Buchanan & Union, San Francisco2005-11-175
The vegetarian burrito was a big tube of refried beans and rice in a dry, powdery tortilla. Friendly service, though.
Taqueria Los PericosMexican (taqueria)Pelton Center & 14th, San Leandro2005-10-195
I kind of liked the vibe of this place — apparently it's where a lot of the local Latino high school kids come to grab some chow, listen to the jukebox, play video games and flirt with each other, like an updated version of a malt shop on a 1950s TV sitcom — but the food was not so good.
The Burrito TruckMexican (truck)62nd & San Pablo, Oakland2017-03-086
Very disappointing. Beans were almost non-existent.
the Hot ShopMexican fusionSan Pablo near Solano, Albany2013-10-1918
I'd been here a couple of times during my time in San Leandro just because I had to check out what Afghan/Mexican fusion was like; now that I live a five-minute walk away, it's more than just curiosity that makes me a regular visitor. I can't think of any conventional burrito shops that turn out better fare than the ones on the special menu here. Honey-curry, garlic-lime, cajun, artichoke, they're all sensational.
AquiMexican fusionlocal chain: San Jose and environs2008-09-1011
This is Mexican fusion, so you get stuff like artichoke enchiladas and wasabi wraps and things. It's okay. For some reason I tend to leave feeling not so hot.
Green Chile KitchenNew Mexicanregional chain2015-03-3114
I really like New Mexican food, so I've kept coming back to Green Chile Kitchen even though it's uneven. Good thing, too, because it seems to be on an upswing — I've now had several delicious meals in a row here. Those used to the cheap and gigantic meals you get in Albuquerque will also find the big prices and small portions here jaw-dropping, but, well, this ain't Albuquerque. I actually like the fact that I can get a meal here and walk away knowing that I haven't just gained five pounds. I also like the fact that this place has done well enough that since my previous update, it has expanded to San Rafael — easier to park in than San Francisco town! Now if they'd just put another branch in one of these empty spots on Solano…
La UltimaNew MexicanHartz & Short, Danville2007-01-245
I love New Mexican food, but this place had almost no vegetarian options. I was stuck with a bunch of overdone and underseasoned broccoli and carrots wrapped in a dry tortilla and a sopaipilla that wasn't worthy of the name.
the AdvocateNorth African fusionAshby near College, Berkeley2015-11-1512
Here I got a burrata and tomato flatbread and a side of roasted cauliflower — not quite as good as the equivalent pairing at Pizzeria Delfina, but a lot easier to get to.
EugeneNorthwesternSolano & Stannage, Albany2016-03-168
Very few vegetarian options here, but after a seasonal menu change I noticed they were offering a "chile relleno strata" that, unlike the rest of the offerings, didn't have salmon in it. It turned out to be basically a smallish cube of breading on a plate dominated by a chicory salad. It wasn't bad, but I won't be rushing back.
Toss Noodle BarPan-AsianShattuck btw Kittredge/Bancroft, Berkeley2014-10-2112
Choose a starch, choose a sauce, choose a protein. I got the Hokkien noodles with Malay sauce and tofu, hold the fish and oyster sauces. I normally dislike East Asian food but I had an odd craving for it and this place satisfied it nicely.
Four FlavorsPan-AsianMarketplace, San Ramon2016-06-217
Yet another "Chipotle except _____" place, and in this case the _____ is Thai. Nice to be able to customize your Bowl of Stuff, but having the noodles congealing in a pot is suboptimal, and the green curry was barely detectable. Much better to just go to a Thai restaurant.
César LatinoPan-LatinPiedmont btw 41st/40th, Oakland2010-02-145
This used to be a clone of the one in Berkeley, but as of 2010.02 it's serving a new Pan-Latin menu. The squash fritters were bland, the avocado sandwich came on subpar bread and was crazy expensive, the mushroom empanadas were flat-out bad, and worst of all, the flan in the flan chocolate cake was made with fuckin' goat milk! Grotesque. The rajas tacos were pretty good but laughably tiny for $3 a pop.
PlátanosPan-LatinGuerrero & 18th, San Francisco2007-01-145
Every time I went for pizza at Delfina I passed this place and thought, "Hmm, maybe I should go here instead! I have been to Delfina many times!" And then one day Delfina was way the hell too crowded, so I decided to try Plátanos. And I'm glad I did... because now I won't have that dilemma anymore.
Phoenix PastificioPastaAddison near Bonar, Berkeley2007-08-0817
This isn't really an eatery, but as with Acme it's too great a treasure not to be on this list. It's a tiny, hard-to-find pasta manufactory that seems to exist mainly in order to sell its wares at the Berkeley farmers' market three times a week, but you can also just swing by and stick your head in to place an order. The fresh pasta here is at least an order of magnitude better than any other pasta I've had.
Zand'sPersianSolano & Carmel, Albany2007-12-045
The sign in the window advertises that this place has the "Best Falafel Sandwiches in Town." I had eaten half my mediocre sandwich when it suddenly struck me: this place is in Albany.
El MonoPeruvianSan Pablo btw Eureka/Lincoln, El Cerrito2016-06-108
Here I got one of the three vegetarian options, a mix of underdone green beans and soggy french fries with a mound of rice. The sauce it came in was okay, though, and the green sauce that came on the side was very good — drizzling it on top raised the quality of the meal by an order of magnitude.
SliverPizzaCenter btw Shattuck/Oxford, Berkeley2014-09-1118
This place was started by Cheese Board alumni and the pizza is identical to Cheese Board pizza, except this place has the following advantages:

  • it's open seven days a week, not five
  • it's open until 10 p.m., not 8
  • there's no midday break
  • the line rarely has more than a couple of people in it
  • there's much more seating
  • no deafening music (this is huge)
  • two different types of free salsa

So even though it's a few blocks farther from my place, I have to give Sliver the slight nod over the Cheese Board. It's a real bonus to be able to sit down and read in peace while enjoying my pizza.

Zachary's PizzaPizzachain: Oakland, Berkeley, San Ramon2009-01-0918
Zachary's stuffed pizza was once my favorite food, bar none, but I have since tacked on over a decade of culinary experience and I'm less hyperbolic about it now. It's still pretty awesome, though, and those who prefer other stuffed pizzas (such as those at Little Star with their lamentable crust) are stuffed with crack.
Cheese Board PizzaPizzaShattuck & Vine, Berkeley2012-12-0617
The Cheese Board is a worker-owned collective with a pizza shop next door to the cheese shop. Every day from Tuesday through Saturday it offers exactly one kind of pizza (always vegetarian); the only decision to make is how much you want. The pizza is extremely good — so much so that if the kinds I like (e.g., tomato asiago) were always available, this place would probably score a 22. As it stands, I come here pretty much every day they're serving something I like, which means that multiple trips in a single week are not uncommon. One negative note: the web site has suddenly become unreliable, with the ingredient lineup frequently changing at the last minute. Irksome.
Pizza PolitanaPizzafarmers' market booth2013-05-0516
I randomly happened across the Temescal farmers' market one weekend and, while I wasn't hungry then, noted for future reference that there was a wood-fired pizza booth in the lineup. The next time I was awake on a Sunday morning I went down there to check it out. It turns out that the pizza is great — you can see on this page how many Bay Area pizzerias I've tried, and this place might serve up the best margherita out of all of them. And I haven't even mentioned that you pay about half what you'd pay for a comparable pizza elsewhere. This is now a must-visit whenever I happen to feel like having some pizza at 10 a.m. on a Sunday (which is the case startlingly often).
Tony's Pizza NapoletanaPizzaStockton & Union, San Francisco2012-05-0615
This place has positioned itself as the Bay Area's pizzeria for the connoisseur: stacks of awards (World Pizza Cup, Pizza Champions Challenge, International Pizza Championships), specialty flours, multiple types of oven. Also multiple styles of pizza: Neapolitan, Roman, Sicilian, New York, New Jersey, and many more. My favorite is the 1000° coal-fired pie that means I no longer have to dream about Luna Pizza back in Connecticut. Elizabeth is partial to the sicilian pizza with burrata and the assertively cheesy artichoke pie. Yeaahhh, pizza.
Pizzeria DelfinaPizzalocal chain, San Francisco2009-11-0215
I've been back in the Bay Area for a while now and have tried many pizzerias. Of those I've tried, Pizzeria Delfina makes some of the very best pizza — the crust in particular is terrific. Which makes Delfina's insistence on limiting itself to a handful of frou-frou pizzas (a few variations on plain cheese, a too-bitter broccoli rabe, and some meaty ones) very disappointing.
Bare Knuckle PizzaPizzaWebster & 12th, Oakland2017-10-1814
On a sketchy street corner, one guy (Viet Nguyen seems to be his name) makes pizzas in a weird, cramped spot with people going up and down a narrow twisting staircase. The pizzas take a long time and I saw a couple get sent back due to mixups. But the one I got was pillowy, sweet, and delicious. I was impressed and will be back.
Blue Line PizzaPizzaregional chain2016-07-2114
This was quite good! Similar to its parent Little Star (i.e., like Zachary's but with a cornmeal-based crust), but somehow better — Little Star has always left me cold for some reason, but my Blue Line pizza was a winner.
Nick's PizzaPizzaShattuck btw 62nd/63rd, Oakland2013-12-2814
While the Sliver folks left the Cheese Board to serve identical pizzas, the Nick of Nick's Pizza left the Cheese Board's cousin Arizmendi to do his own spin on the basic concept. While a Cheese Board pizza is a fairly slick production, carefully balancing vegetables, cheeses, herbs, and oils, the pizzas at Nick's look more humble. For instance, the first one I got was just a big, fairly dry sourdough crust on which cheese and fresh artichokes had been haphazardly heaped and then thrown in the oven. And it was sooo good. Everything I've had here has been high quality stuff.
Locanda RavelloPizzaProspect & Front, Danville2016-09-2813
Here I got a pizza with eggplant and artichokes and whatnot with a heap of burrata in the middle and a thick layer of arugula on top. It was quite good and came out shockingly fast.
Pizza HackerPizzaMission near 29th, San Francisco2015-04-3013
On my first trip here I got the "Top Shelf Margherita" made with dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes — which are among my favorite eating tomatoes, but which I haven't had much luck cooking with. They're too delicate. And I found that to be the case here. The pizza was gorgeous, but I found myself craving an earthier sauce. On my second trip, I got the "Rocket Man", which had a lot to recommend it: the slight bitterness of the arugula was balanced with generous amounts of lemon; the grana padano on top and the fresh mozzarella beneath were both very flavorful, the former pleasantly sharp, the latter complexly sweet; really, it was top flight stuff, except that there was a bit more char to it than I prefer. I've read that this place draws inspiration from Portland's Apizza Scholls, and I see the resemblance: beautiful pizza with the best ingredients, but not my favorite style.
A16Pizzachain: San Francisco, Oakland2014-12-3013
I've been to the SF location a couple of times and didn't particularly care for it, but my visit to the Rockridge branch left me significantly more impressed. While the rachetta — half pizza, half calzone, looks like a tennis racquet — didn't completely work for me due to the Bellwetheriness of the ricotta, the fried montanara pizza was a winner. Fun gimmick: the pizzas arrive unsliced, and you cut your own pieces with a pair of giant scissors they provide for you.
All Good PizzaPizzaJerrold near 3rd, San Francisco2014-10-3013
Somewhat crackery crust, with the sauce baked into it, and a whole lot of cornmeal giving it crunch. Pretty tasty though!
Casey's PizzaPizzafood truck2014-06-0113
The pizza here is pretty expensive, at $10 for two slices (the minimum order), but otherwise there's not much to complain about. The crust is nothing particularly special but the quality of the toppings is excellent, at least on the margherita.
PizzalinaPizzaSir Francis Drake & Sunny Hills, San Anselmo2013-08-1713
Here I got a potato-leek pizza. It looked kind of weird because the cheese came in glops, but it was quite good.
BuildPizzaShattuck & Bancroft, Berkeley2013-05-2313
This place applies a taqueria's assembly line model to artisan pizza. A million little bins of toppings and you indicate which ones you want. The key thing is that, the gimmick aside, the pizzas are actually very good. Or at least, they are when you select a reasonable combination of toppings. From what I've seen most people construct atrocities.
Old ChicagoPizzaPetaluma near Western, Petaluma2017-02-2712
Here I got a deep dish with artichokes. It was tasty, and the second half reheated surprisingly well. Good job, Old Chicago.
Nizza la BellaPizzaSan Pablo btw Solano/Washington, Albany2015-03-2812
This place also serves Niçois food (hence the name) but is known for its pizza. Most of the pizzas could stand a significant flavor boost given how expensive they are, but the one exception is the "Bonjour Bella" breakfast pizza — why do they not just take the egg off that one and serve it at dinner?
Pizzetta 211Pizza23rd & California, San Francisco2012-01-2212
I went here a few times in the late '00s and was never tremendously impressed; the pizzas looked pretty but didn't pack the extravaganza of flavor I'd expect given the prices. But the one I had most recently (mascarpone and arugula) was very good, so things are looking up!
Arinell PizzaPizzachain: Berkeley, San Francisco2011-05-1212
When I went to Cal in the early '90s there was basically only one place to get anything resembling New York pizza, and this was it: large, irregularly cut, very flat slices served by the drummer for Crucified Vomit. It looks like the sort of place where they drop the pizza on the floor and then pick it up and brush the cigarette butts off it. And yet it's actually surprisingly good! At least, I'm always surprised when I venture in.
Slicer PizzeriaPizzaPiedmont near Pleasant Valley, Oakland2015-03-1711
This place is very much like the slice shops that were all over the place when I lived in New York. I got a cheese slice (totally standard) and a special with spinach and ricotta and whatnot that was quite good but so limp it was like the crust wasn't even there.
Benchmark PizzeriaPizzaOak View & Colusa Circle, Kensington2014-08-0511
Crust: excellent. Toppings: quality seems fine, but somehow flavor is missing. I've had to take my pizza home and sprinkle on some salt and parmesan to get it to taste like much of anything. Prices: pretty high for what you get.
Amici'sPizzaregional chain2011-05-2411
This is a Bay Area chain that turns out pizza far superior to your typical chain pizza — and in some places where I spent a lot of time in my tutoring days, like San Mateo and Dublin, it was actually one of the best choices when I needed to grab something before teaching a lesson. But not really the sort of fare that could compete in a city with better choices (e.g., Berkeley).
Little Star PizzaPizzachain: Albany, San Francisco2010-09-1411
The local pizza snobs seem to prefer this place to Zachary's, and years after trying it in SF and not being very impressed, I moved to Albany and discovered that there was a just-opened branch in my new neighborhood. I gave it another try, and while it's not bad, I still prefer Zach's. The crust is a crumbly cornmeal job which does not appeal.
Bobby G's PizzeriaPizzaUniversity near Shattuck, Berkeley2010-08-0511
Wasn't impressed by the slice I got a couple of years ago, but I went back and tried a full chile and avocado pizza and it was above average.
Boot and Shoe ServicePizzaGrand btw Santa Clara/Mandana, Oakland2010-07-0211
This is a spinoff of Pizzaiolo, which I've never liked... but, hey, I can't not try new high-end pizza in the East Bay. And for some reason I found this a bit of an improvement over its parent. The margherita pizza I got was not a lot of food for the price — it's smallish and very thin — but it was a respectable pie. (And if you're wondering what's up with the name: this was an old cobbler's shop and I guess they didn't want to change the sign.)
MarzanoPizzalocal chain, Oakland2010-04-2511
Pizzas here are big (I could only eat 2/3 of one) and cheap ($10 if you go at off-peak hours), but the crust is kind of bland.
Pizza AnticaPizzaregional chain2007-08-1011
Artisanal pizza comes to minivan land. Interesting combinations such as "Bartlett Pear, Sweet Garlic and Mt. Tam Triple Cream Cheese" and "Heirloom Potato, Caramelized Onion and White Truffle Oil" made me giddy at the thought of how suburban kids who otherwise order in Domino's must react. But there's been some downhill motion as it has expanded into a chain.
Extreme PizzaPizzanational chain2007-03-0811
Mid-list pizza. While it has a long way to go to catch the avocado quesadilla pizza at Antonio's in Amherst, I recommend Extreme's similar pie with black beans, tomatoes, cheese, onions and two kinds of chiles.
Milano PizzeriaPizza9th btw Irving/Judah, San Francisco2005-12-0311
This place distinguishes itself from the pack with better than average cheese and a sauce that is more like an arrabiata than a typical pizza sauce. The crust is good also. But it somehow comes together as less than the sum of its parts. And what is it with the raw peppers?
Rise PizzeriaPizzaBurlingame btw El Camino Real / Primrose, Burlingame2017-11-1210
Pretty standard entry in this new wave of "make your own pizza" places (as if pizza places haven't always let you pick your own toppings?).
Hector's PizzaPizzaMcDowell & Casa Grande, Petaluma2016-10-1810
Here I got a thick crust pizza with artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, and grapes. An interesting change of pace.
Caffe BaonecciPizzaGreen & Bannam, San Francisco2013-06-0310
This place offers up ultra-thin crust pizza (the outer rim is like a papadam). I got a zucchini pizza, which was interesting in that I think it was the first pizza I've had seasoned primarily with black pepper. Anyway, it's fine but I don't see myself returning more than once in a blue moon given the other options here in the Bay Area.
Pizza BelloPizzaHopyard & Valley, Pleasanton2016-04-239
Okay for the suburbs. Points off for the cost ($20 for a small) and for the fact that the toppings so clearly came out of cans.
Pizza ModaPizzaUniversity & Acton, Berkeley2014-08-089
Extremely variable. Go when the place isn't packed and the pizza is usually really good. When it's busy, though, the quality declines (and the service declines precipitously).
TamalpiePizzaMiller btw Camino Alto/Valley, Mill Valley2014-04-219
Beautiful pizza, good texture to the crust, flavors seemed maybe a little off — the olive oil was on the bitter side, for instance.
PizzahhhPizzaHearst near Euclid, Berkeley2013-09-039
This score is for the food, which is significantly better than national-chain pizza for very low prices. But I won't be going back, because the store is festooned with inane libertarian propaganda.
Emilia's PizzeriaPizzaShattuck & Ashby, Berkeley2011-05-179
The pizza here looks gorgeous, but it's not the transcendent experience one would hope for. Mid-list.
Passione PizzaPizzafood truck2016-10-098
Despite the name, and despite what the "cuisine" box says, there is a difference between pizza and flatbread with cheese on it, and this is the latter. Not bad, but not really pizza.
Tandoori PizzaPizzaGrafton near Dublin, Dublin2016-09-108
More of these Indian pizzerias seem to springing up, but so far none of them I've tried can even touch Zante. At this one I got an aggressively seasoned cauliflower pizza, and it was okay, but the cauliflower was a little crunchy and the actually pizza-making left something to be desired.
Namaste PizzaPizzaSan Pablo & 60th, Oakland2015-10-118
This is Indian fusion pizza, but it ain't no Zante. The Indian part is perfectly fine — it's the pizza that needs work. Rubbery and tasteless is no way to go through life, cheese.
PieologyPizzanational chain2014-11-098
Figured I should try this if only out of completism. I've seen it described as "the Chipotle of pizza", and yeah, like Build on Shattuck, you point at the toppings you want and someone on the other side of the counter adds them. Except Build uses standard pizza dough and Pieology uses something that cooks up faster and ends up very crackery. Better than the fast food chains but worse than the real pizzerias that are all over the place around here in this day and age.
RistobarPizzaChestnut & Scott, San Francisco2011-10-028
The pizza here is decent. But let's get real. I can go to the Cheese Board and order two slices, and the Cheese Board folks will throw in a third for three. This will amount to more food than a full Ristobar pizza... probably even without the free slice. The Cheese Board pizza will be significantly better ("excellent" rather than merely "decent"). And... it'll be $5.44, rather than, at minimum, $14.53+tip.
Bonfire PizzeriaPizzaTheatre Square, Orinda2011-03-118
The 3 is generous: I like pizza. And, sure, it's a hell of a lot better than Domino's. But we're looking at a stiff, half-fried, weird-tasting crust with toppings that don't really meld. (The service, though well-meaning, is amateur hour: a bunch of Miramonte High kids getting confused about every step of the transaction of selling a pizza. They were seriously befuddled about the fact that I had the same name as someone who worked there — they kept trying to give him my order, and it wasn't a joke.)
PaisanPizzaSan Pablo near Dwight, Berkeley2010-11-098
Not a particularly distinguished entrant in the high-end pizza arena. My "paisan pizza" — their name for a standard margherita, for apparently their own "margherita" cuts some corners — was pretty good, but Lizzie and I had to giggle at how her potato-artichoke pizza was clearly just a matter of someone boiling a potato, cutting it into wedges, and throwing it on top. No special seasoning, no attempt at the sort of alchemy you get at places like the Cheese Board.
PizzaioloPizzaTelegraph btw 51st/49th, Oakland2010-08-208
People keep talking as if this is the Bay Area's premier pizzeria, so much so that I go back every couple of years only to be disappointed anew. I finally decided to try it while Elizabeth was in town so we could sit down and try some of the non-pizza options — we got an heirloom tomato salad with black-eyed peas that was quite nice, and a dish of rigatoni that I thought was okay if overpriced, but then the pizza arrived and, yup, unimpressive as ever.
BerettaPizzaValencia & 23rd, San Francisco2010-02-178
Lots of vegetable antipasti, though the two we got (cauliflower for Lizzie, zucchini for me) weren't especially inspired. The pizzas are also quite skippable — indifferent crust rolled really thin to make a cracker with toppings. And the toppings we tried (burrata, roasted vegetable) weren't really anything to write home about either. A decent (but really expensive) rhubarb-almond cake knocked this up to a 3.
Pizza NostraPizzaDe Haro btw 16th/17th, San Francisco2010-02-068
The pizza itself isn't too bad, but I'm pretty bummed out that the vegetable sides are gone — they made for better toppings than the official ones. Boo.
Pizzeria PiccoPizzaMagnolia btw William/King, Larkspur2009-12-268
The regular pizza is a little overcheesed, underspiced and charcoally, and the toppings on the more ambitious pies never seem to amount to anything good.
Tommaso'sPizzaKearny btw Pacific/Broadway, San Francisco2009-03-048
I recall liking this place when I went with Elizabeth in '06, but when we attempted to return, it was closed even though the web site specifically said that it would be open that day. I really hate that. When I finally did give it another try I got a vegetarian pizza and it wasn't that great: topping overload. Throw in its location and I doubt I'll be back.
Escape from New YorkPizzalocal chain, San Francisco2008-08-088
This pizza appears to have very recently escaped from Blondie's.
the Red GrapePizza1st W near W Napa, Sonoma2008-05-268
Ultra-thin crust pizza that failed to impress. Supposedly the white pizza is better than the red, so maybe I'll give it another chance if ever I'm in the mood for white pizza.
Speederia PizzeriaPizzaLaurel & Cherry, San Carlos2007-10-048
I read a number of reviews that said that this place was like an authentic New York slice shop. I've lived in New York and can verify that this is the case. It is like an authentic New York slice shop — specifically like the New York slice shops that make too many pizzas for the amount of turnover they get and consequently offer up pizzas that look as though they've been sitting around for days. Tastes all right, but unappetizing.
Mission PizzaPizzaWashington near Paseo Padre, Fremont2007-05-168
Here the crust and cheese are merely an incidental foundation for overwhelming piles of toppings. In the case of the two vegetarian pizzas I've tried, the toppings appeared to be nearly raw. Meh.
A Slice of New YorkPizzaStevens Creek btw Tyler/Cypress, San Jose2007-03-278
Standard slice: pretty good! Sicilian slice: seriously wretched!
Blondie's PizzaPizzaTelegraph & Durant, Berkeley2007-03-138
When I moved to Berkeley, it was this place and not Zachary's (which I discovered much later) that I was writing home about. It's not actually all that good! But it is a notch better than the chain pizzas which were all I knew as a kid in OC. It's very bready and greasy, but not in an entirely bad way. And I see they've cleaned the place up at some point in the past fifteen years.
Pizza My HeartPizzaregional chain2007-03-108
This is a Bay Area chain with passable slices.
LaVal'sPizzaEuclid btw Hearst/Ridge, Berkeley2006-03-088
The slice I got wasn't bad — not nearly enough sauce, but the crust was good — but the wait was long and I'm not a huge fan of the 1970s pizza parlor aesthetic.
Lo Coco'sPizzalocal chain: Berkeley, Oakland2006-03-038
Bready, unremarkable pizza that, based on the prices, seems to think that it is much better than it actually is.
Cicero's PizzaPizzaBollinger & Miller, San Jose2005-11-218
This is pizza of the "small fried disc" school, like that served at the pizzeria within walking distance of my old place in Massachusetts. Of course, even though it was only a couple of blocks away, I only went to it once, which tells you something.
Main Street PizzaPizzaSolano near The Alameda, Berkeley2017-09-257
Two New-York-style slice shops opened up on Solano Avenue within a few days of each other. They're both mediocre: worlds better than Domino's, but nothing I'd seek out. The slices here are saucier than at the one down the street. (Fun fact: this place is in the former Khana Peena location and seems to be run by the same people; it still says Khana Peena on the receipts.)
IslicePizzaSolano near Evelyn, Albany2017-09-247
Two New-York-style slice shops opened up on Solano Avenue within a few days of each other. They're both mediocre: worlds better than Domino's, but nothing I'd seek out. The slices here are cheesier than at the one up the street.
Gioia PizzeriaPizzaHopkins btw McGee/Sacramento, Berkeley2015-11-217
This pizza is New York style, by which I mean you walk in and see a bunch of mummified pizzas in the case and you ask for a slice and they sorta-kinda reheat it. Sometimes the pizza is good enough to overcome this process (I recall liking the asparagus and spring onion slice) but sometimes not so much. For about ten years I kept making mental notes to try getting a freshly baked full pie here, and I finally got around to doing so, and… somehow it still tasted mummified!
Gay Nineties Pizza CompanyPizzaMain & Abbie, Pleasanton2015-03-077
Back in the '90s — and given the name of this place I guess I should specify that I mean the 1990s rather than the 1890s — I took a fair number of cross-country drives, and often found myself in motel rooms in flyover country leafing through the Yellow Pages to find somewhere to eat. It was always nice to be in someplace like Ogden, Utah, and find a local pizzeria that was surprisingly good. They usually felt like this, too: historic building, very thick crust. So, yeah — in one of those places, this would be quite a find. I'm glad I don't live in one of those places.
Lucia'sPizzaShattuck btw University/Addison, Berkeley2017-11-056
That "sprouty scamorza" pizza sounded so good on the menu but was a real disappointment: a thick slab of undercooked white cheese on bread, with a stingy smattering of other ingredients. I may come back to try a margherita just for the sake of comparison, but at the moment, low marks.
RossoPizzachain: Santa Rosa, Petaluma2017-02-226
In 2008 I went to the Santa Rosa location, 70 miles away, after reading a review calling this the best pizzeria in the Bay Area (or Greater Bay Area, given how far away Santa Rosa is). It wasn't very good. Nine years later I went to the Petaluma location, having forgotten about my '08 trip, to find that once again it wasn't very good. Tomatoes, eggplant, olives… I like all those things! It seemed like it'd be great! But it was bitter and just less than the sum of its parts. At least this time I was already in Petaluma.
Golden Boy PizzaPizzaGreen near Jasper, San Francisco2016-10-256
Why, Yelpers? Is focaccia pizza such a novelty to you that you'll give it 4½ stars even when the quality is this low? I mean, it wasn't the worst, but the opportunity cost…
Chicks and LovePizzaLocust btw Lacassie/Cole, Walnut Creek2016-07-176
Flatbread (not real pizza dough) topped sort of like a pizza and then baked in a toaster oven. When I went, the toaster ovens were "running cold" and so even though I was quoted 20 minutes, my order still wasn't done after 45. At least I got my money back.
Rotten City PizzaPizzaHollis & 66th, Emeryville2016-02-116
Leave the "city" out, and you've got the basic idea. Har har. I wouldn't actually go that far, but I've been in here a couple of times — most recently when I happened to be in Emeryville late and night and was really craving a slice of pizza — and I'm afraid the pizza just isn't very good. Floppy, congealed texture, iffy flavors.
Artichoke Basille's PizzaPizzaDurant & Bowditch, Berkeley2013-12-026
This is a mini-chain out of New York that has planted its flag halfway between Telegraph and Unit 1. It's competing in the Blondie's space, as the business types would say. I no longer consider that a good space.
On FirePizzaCrow Canyon & Crow Canyon, San Ramon2016-06-295
The pizza I got looked very good but tasted like burning. Seriously, this place makes a very big deal about their wood-burning ovens, but even though my pizza was not overdone, it still tasted like burnt wood.
Zero ZeroPizzaFolsom btw 4th/5th, San Francisco2016-03-145
The crust was reasonable, but on top of the already high base prices I paid extra for mozzarella di bufala, and it was really bad — basically a paste.
GialinaPizzaDiamond & Kern, San Francisco2010-04-095
Not good. Ketchuppy sauce, cheese like deposits of paste, crust that tasted almost entirely of flour. And by the time I finally got my pizza it had clearly been sitting around a while.
Goat Hill PizzaPizzaConnecticut & 18th, San Francisco2010-02-135
Not appreciably better than any other pizza from the "bread with a giant slab of congealed cheese on top" school. This is the sort of pizza I would expect to find if I were driving through Kansas.
Pizz'a ChicagoPizzachain: Palo Alto, San Jose2009-02-125
Yes, I actually felt like deep-dish (as opposed to stuffed) pizza when I tried this place, so it wasn't that I didn't get what I was expecting. It's just that it wasn't very good.
Patxi's Chicago PizzaPizzaEmerson btw University/Lytton, Palo Alto2006-01-075
The pizza here is like Zachary's, only with smoother sauce, and about 700% more salt.
LanesplitterPizzalocal chain2011-07-072
Had some bad pizza here in 2005: clumpy, mealy cheese, and the sauce and crust were not so hot either. Decided to give it another try six years later. It was just as bad. Avoid.
West Coast PizzaPizzaUniversity & McGee, Berkeley2008-08-222
This was served at an office meeting. Laughably bad.
Round Table PizzaPizzaregional chain2006-08-242
Very bad, but I'll give it a one because it is the sort of badness that prompts amusement rather than anger.
Fat Slice PizzaPizzaTelegraph btw Durant/Channing, Berkeley2005-11-082
I think I heard somewhere that this place was just another branch of Blondie's, yet I always found it to be significantly worse (and that's saying something). It sure was worse this time. I threw out my slice after eating about 1/3 of it.
Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice HousePizzaStockton btw Union/Columbus, San Francisco2017-02-050
I like the coal-fired pizza at the real Tony's, but this sidecar restaurant with takeout is a dumpster fire. Laughably bad service. They give everyone a number, and then actually call maybe 20% of the numbers that come up. Ask whether your order has come up, and they're hostile about it. Wait patiently while your pizza congeals for half an hour, and when they finally give you your order, they're hostile about it. They may not have New York pizza down entirely, but they certainly need no further coaching in New York attitude.
StarbellyPizza/Eclectic16th btw Market/Pond, San Francisco2010-05-0114
I've grabbed a couple of pizzas here. One I didn't care for, since I didn't realize that the sauce would be black garlic and that black garlic is awful. But I went back and tried a regular margherita pizza and that was quite good. The inner crust is too thin — it's basically a sheet of soggy paper — but the outer crust is close to ideal. And I do like that there are numerous vegetarian options.
Smoke's PoutineriePoutineinternational chain2014-12-125
When I first heard of poutine as a teenager, the context was "look at the gross things people in other countries eat" — poutine, the universal opinion seemed to be, was to Quebec what haggis was to Scotland. Eww. Then in the 21st century I ended up spending a lot of time in Canada and saw places that served poutine as if it weren't a joke. I even found a place that served vegetarian poutine that was very good (Pink Bicycle in Victoria). Now apparently poutine has achieved fad status; first there was that cart in Portland, and now here's an outpost of a Canadian chain right on Durant Avenue in Berkeley. I tried it. And… it ain't no Pink Bicycle.
Sol FoodPuerto RicanThird/Fourth & Lincoln, San Rafael2010-04-078
This place has two locations, a sit-down spot on Third and a take-out spot a block away on Fourth. I got the one vegetarian thing, the beans with olives, rice, avocado, and plantains. It's decent enough but expensive for what you get — I could make this at home for $1 but it costs $10.
PlatanoSalvadoranUniversity btw Milvia/Shattuck, Berkeley2012-05-079
The pupusas are pretty good, but I think this is a sit-down restaurant with a counter-service eatery trapped inside trying to get out. Service is very slow, and things like the salads are kind of dubious. If this place offered the pupusas at a window and served them in little baskets or wrapped in foil to go, I would go here a lot more often.
Taqueria la BambaSalvadoran (taqueria)Old Middlefield & Rengstorff, Mountain View2005-12-088
I found a web site giving the burritos here a 9.88 out of 10. That strikes me as about 6.88 too high. Underdone tortilla, blah mix of cold fillings.
CassaveSalvadorianSan Pablo & 54th, Emeryville2014-11-268
I admit that when I go to a restaurant and receive a gigantic plate of food I sometimes grumble that I would have preferred to pay half as much and receive half as much. But when I ordered a breakfast special here — eggs! casamiento! plantains! AND a pupusa! — I was a little disappointed when each item was just a little dollop of food on a big plate.
Giordano Bros.Sandwiches16th near Valencia, San Francisco2017-03-2310
This place bills itself as a little piece of Pittsburgh in the middle of San Francisco town. It serves sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw in them. Not too shabby, and I appreciated that service was really fast even though I accidentally visited while the place was packed with people watching the NCAA tournament.
Montague's Gourmet SandwichesSandwichesChanning near Telegraph, Berkeley2013-02-216
I gotta stop reading Yelp, or at least take the pool of contributors into account. 4½ stars for these totally generic sandwiches? Things I should have factored in: it's on Telegraph; the people who eat on Telegraph are the 19-year-olds in the high-rises; most of those people are comparing what they eat to fast food chains and the dining commons; being better than Subway therefore ends up gathering dozens of "ZOMG BEST SANDWICHES EVER" posts. This is totally skippable.
Ike's PlaceSandwichesregional chain2010-09-09N/A
This place has been in the news a lot because the long lines in the Castro location have led to an eviction fight. Me, I just went to the one squirreled away in a huge corporate office building in Redwood City (phone orders only). The sandwich as a whole was very tasty, with the baked-to-order bread and the house sauce as particular standouts. It was cheap, too! ($6 for a large sandwich, chips, and a beverage.) So I originally gave this place a 5. Then I went back a second time, tried the grilled cheese, and was violently ill for a day and a half. So I highly doubt I'll ever be able to bring myself to go back.
I.B.'sSandwiches (hot)Durant near Telegraph, Berkeley2005-10-229
I went to this place a lot when it first opened fifteen years ago. I always got a plain cheesesteak, sometimes with mushrooms, but never with lettuce or tomato or onions or condiments or any of the other things that would have livened up the meat and bread. "Someday I'm going to make you a real sandwich!" insisted the girl who worked there. Fifteen years later, I am finally ready for all the stuff I used to leave off — the only problem is that I don't eat steak anymore. So, just to get some closure, I went in, I got a veggie sandwich (mushroom, avocado and bell pepper instead of steak) with all the trimmings, and it was quite good and unmistakably an I.B. hoagie. But it's entirely possible that I will never get another.
Cafe PaniniSandwiches, etc.Shattuck btw Center/Allston, Berkeley2011-10-118
I had a pretty good sandwich here (pesto, artichokes, tomatoes, melted mozzarella, and some other things on a toasted baguette) but, man, how long does it take to make a sandwich? Having come here directly after Saturn Cafe's flameout I started to wonder whether I'd become unstuck in time.
Mission Rock ResortSeafoodTerry A. Francois btw Illinois/16th, San Francisco2013-06-238
This one wasn't my choice, as the "cuisine" tag there should indicated. Brunch with Elizabeth's paleo friend. Luckily, it being brunch, there were at least a couple of vegetarian options. I ordered the French toast and it was fine. (That said, the "mixed berries" turned out to be two strawberries. Doh.)
FondaSmall platesSolano & Curtis, Berkeley2008-10-1114
Almost gave up after sitting for ten minutes without anyone coming to my table, but in the end I was glad I waited because the huevos rancheros I got were very good. Though I'm not a big cheese person and even a sprinkling of manchego was a bit much for me.
PlumSmall platesBroadway & 22nd, Oakland2012-05-058
Having eaten here shortly after visiting Millennium, I found it interesting to reflect on the difference in how I felt about the two establishments. In theory, I should like them both roughly equally. Yes, Plum gives you about half as much food — but it also charges about half as much, so it all balances out, right? Except somehow it doesn't. To see harissa prominently listed among the components of a dish at Plum, and then to see that said harissa consists of literally three small droplets on the side of the plate… I mean, that's just meager. Yes, the food at Millennium was a little better (Plum being more "interesting" in that upscale way), but really it was that ethos of "these three artichoke slivers constitute the artichoke portion of your $11 artichoke appetizer" that sunk Plum for me.
LaïolaSmall platesChestnut near Fillmore, San Francisco2008-07-218
At this tapas place I got one of those potato/egg cakes, which came with a preposterously small amount (less than a teaspoon) of fava bean compote, and some fried sticks of chickpea batter; I thought about getting corn cakes, but I'd had my fill of fried food by that point. I also had a cheesecake served with pistachio brittle on top and blueberry compote underneath.
À CôtéSmall platesCollege btw Taft/Lawton, Oakland2011-08-205
I can't say this place is completely terrible, but I can say that it's stupidly expensive ($40+ per person) given its propensity to turn out clunkers (e.g., roasted eggplant flatbread that's mediocre at best) and to run out of food.
César EspañaSmall platesShattuck btw Vine/Cedar, Berkeley2011-06-195
This is mainly a tapas place, so the dishes are very small. They are also very expensive. You pay eight bucks and out comes this tiny little dish of food. The first few times I came here those tiny little dishes of food were so delicious that I gave this place a top score. But each visit has been less impressive than the last, with fewer vegetarian options, and at this point I'd say that César has crashed through "disappointing" and into flat-out "bad." Can't really see myself going back.
Va de ViSmall platesMt. Diablo & Main, Walnut Creek2010-08-175
Here I got a tower of insufficiently roasted vegetables and a chile relleño filled with a cheese that was too strong for me. They were both quite expensive.
Déjà VuSmoothiesBurlingame & Hatch, Burlingame2017-02-0514
I got a strawberry, pineapple, and coconut smoothie here; I wasn't expecting much, and so wound up being pretty shocked at how much I enjoyed it. Now I'm wondering how visit #2 will be, now that my expectations have been raised.
RobeksSmoothiesnational chain2008-04-1511
I got a smoothie here and it was pretty darn good, which surprised me because this place was within walking distance of my house back when I lived in kind of a wasteland. It soon disappeared, though.
Juice AppealSmoothiesShattuck & Center, Berkeley2007-08-1311
This is probably the best smoothie place I've tried so far in the Bay Area, but (1) it's still worse than the places I got smoothies in Orange County and even Holyoke, and (2) the first time I went the guy behind the counter was a complete ass. It looks like he's gone, though.
Planet JuiceSmoothiesregional chain2005-12-0211
Decent smoothies, with a surprisingly rare create-your-own option.
Jucy'sSmoothiesCollege & Miles, Oakland2006-02-285
Weak smoothies. Why isn't Juice Stop in the Bay Area?
SqueeezeSmoothiesSolano btw Kains/San Pablo, Albany2017-11-063
Here I got the berry smoothie. First impression: basically undrinkable due to the lack of sugar. I took it home and added some sugar just to make it palatable. Second impression: the texture was dominated by powdered seeds. Ergo, still basically undrinkable. That it was expensive added insult to injury.
San Francisco Soup CompanySoupregional chain2010-09-245
San Francisco Bland Nutritive Medium Company.
SoopSoupShattuck & Vine, Berkeley2006-09-155
In my review of A Beautiful Bowl of Soup I mentioned that I'd been to many restaurants that started by serving up an amazing bowl of soup and then a mediocre meal. At Soop, soup is the mediocre meal. I've had a few varieties now and they've all been pretty bland.
Luka'sSouthernBroadway & Grand, Oakland2011-02-1311
(I guess only the brunch is explicitly Southern, but that's what I went there for.) Quite good, but also pretty expensive: e.g., $1.50 for a single slice of regular red tomato to be added to a sandwich... and the sandwich itself, at $13.50, was smaller than the equally tasty $5 sandwich I got at the similar named Luca the day before.
Aunt Mary's CafeSouthern/SouthwesternTelegraph btw 43rd/44th, Oakland2014-05-1714
The brunch menu here has some stuff that goes well beyond the usual. I've had a million versions of eggs before, but never simmered in a combination of roasted tomatoes, horseradish, and Tabasco sauce, then served on top of gruyere toast.
BarlataSpanishTelegraph & 49th, Oakland2011-07-018
Heard about this place, decided to give the vegetarian paella a try. It was okay but skippable. Giving it a 3 rather than a 2 because the bread was pretty good.
La MarchaSpanishSan Pablo near University, Berkeley2015-12-166
The food was tasty enough, and the service was fine, but it was the same issue as at most tapas places — not only were the portions really small for what they cost, but they were also insubstantial. Like, a little dish of brussels sprouts and a little dish of scallions set me back nearly twenty bucks. It was like paying for a large pizza and not getting the crust, sauce, or cheese.
West of PecosTex-MexValencia btw 16th/17th, San Francisco2017-06-1112
I got the huevos rancheros with red and green chile. Tasty enough.
New Thai BistroThaiValley & Santa Rita, Pleasanton2017-04-0215
The name doesn't show a lot of foresight, but that's the only real criticism I can level. I've been here a couple of times and have been super impressed: on my most recent visit I got the emerald noodles and the vegetables were just perfectly cooked. It is exceedingly easy to make eggplant terrible and this was some of the best eggplant I've ever had.
Bangkok Thai CuisineThaiUniversity btw Acton/Sacramento, Berkeley2015-06-0913
I had a craving for massaman curry and decided to give this place a shot. Not only did the curry hit the spot, but it turned out that the place also offers vegetarian tom kha, and a very good rendition too.
AtchaThaiSan Pablo & Moeser, El Cerrito2016-11-069
A big thumbs-up for having a vegetarian menu, and the food is well-prepared (fresh vegetables and all that). But I guess maybe they rely on fish sauce for flavor, and leaving it out leaves nothing left? My tom kha was fine, but my pad thai was very bland.
LarbThaiSan Pablo btw Central/Lincoln, El Cerrito2017-10-288
Okay, but not particularly memorable. (Actually, what I do remember was that the different curries on the menu listed different vegetables as ingredients, but it turns out that all vegetables are in all curries. I tried to order one that didn't have bell peppers, but it did and I consequently went home with a headache.)
Osha ThaiThailocal chain, San Francisco2015-03-028
I can't speak for every location, but the one I went to put itself forward as hip and urban, not your typical "one big room in a strip mall" type of Thai place. Food was okay. The rice-to-curry ratio was way too low, but I was with twenty other people and consequently the service was too scattered to remedy this.
Thai Idea VegetarianThaiPolk btw Willow/Eddy, San Francisco2012-05-278
Looks like vegetarian Thai has finally made it other places besides Seattle and Montreal… unfortunately, that doesn't automatically mean that really good vegetarian Thai has. I thought this might be a good place to stock up on food to stick in the freezer and reheat the way I do with Shalimar, but unlike that of Shalimar, this place's fare isn't really an improvement over Trader Joe's.
Wat MongkolratanaramThaiRussell near MLK, Berkeley2012-03-048
This is not a restaurant. It's a Buddhist temple. But every Sunday it offers a brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. First, you stand in a line and exchange your money for plastic tokens. Each token is a dollar. Then you stand in a different line to get your food (separate lines for vegetarian and non-vegetarian; the vegetarian line is about a tenth as long, which worked out nicely for me). It's six tokens for one dish, seven for two, and eight for three. If you order your food to go, you bring your own containers. Bring bigger containers and you get more food. And as for the food… well, it's okay. I liked the tofu in the eggplant dish, for instance. If these were $12 restaurant dishes I might be more critical, but for $2.67 per large entree I can't complain much.
MekongThaiO'Farrell & Larkin, San Francisco2006-12-188
This was the first place I found in the Bay Area promising vegan Thai food. Just as well that it turned out not to be all that great — it's in a pretty crappy neighborhood.
Lao-Thai KitchenThai (and Lao)Solano btw Santa Fe/Carmel, Albany2014-05-2612
Here I had a very acceptable vegetarian pad thai.
Potala VeganTibetanSan Pablo btw Dartmouth/Marin, Albany2012-07-0315
You only get three options at this vegan Tibetan establishment: a full meal (different each day, components listed online), a medium-sized version of the full meal, or a small "simple meal" of steamed items with no sauces. The meals don't sound very promising, consisting as they do of items such as "brown rice with millet" and "steamed collard greens with tofu basil sauce," but it's pretty amazing how much flavor this place packs into such virtuous-sounding fare. It is pretty awesome to have this kind of pantheon-level food within a short walk of my house.
Shangri-La VeganTibetanLinden & 40th, Oakland2013-04-2412
Apparently this place is an ancestor of Potala — the Cheese Board to Potala's Sliver. It's almost identical, except the food is significantly blander.
NomadTibetanSolano & Tacoma, Berkeley2014-06-1511
This is much more of an East Asian than South Asian place, and consequently is not really up my alley, though the noodle dish I got was good for the genre.
Turkish KitchenTurkishShattuck btw University/Berkeley, Berkeley2008-02-148
I came here because I'd heard the baba ghanoush was great; it's okay. But it's kind of strange — much closer to the color and texture of whipped cream cheese than of hummus. Also, the waitress with the pigtails is super cute.
TroyaTurkishClement & 5th, San Francisco2012-01-157
Here I had a "vegetarian moussaka," which turned out to be some odds and ends of eggplant and zucchini baked in a shallow ramekin of bechamel sauce. Unmemorable in either direction.
SultanaTurkishEl Camino Real btw Santa Cruz/Oak Grove, Menlo Park2007-12-175
The red lentil soup and the bread were quite good, but the "spinach manti" turned out to be a small scattering of tiny thick ravioli swimming in an ocean of yogurt. Almost insulting for the price.
PiccoUpscaleMagnolia & King, Larkspur2013-06-2415
A fresh batch of risotto served on the half hour: very cool. Avocado bruschetta with balsamic vinegar and sea salt: excellent. Fries: very good, and the pistachio romesco was terrific. Corn and stracchiatella ravioli with corn and wild mushroom sauce: not my favorite, but showed me that they know how to do pasta. Intense chocolate cake: too intense for me, but the salted caramel ice cream that came with them was a winner. Butterscotch bread pudding: not the best, I'm afraid. Service: excellent. Price: high enough that this will have to be a place for rare occasions (though being in Larkspur is a rare enough occasion). All in all, though, definitely recommended.
CanteenUpscaleSutter near Jones, San Francisco2007-03-2411
At this tiny establishment (for once being alone was a huge advantage! no wait for a spot at the counter!) I had what was billed on the menu as "a big pancake" and turned out to be of middling size. But it wasn't your standard flapjack — it was kind of custardy, and different enough to be interesting despite the subpar strawberries. Also, I was overcharged, but not by enough to be worth complaining to the waitress about.
RivoliUpscaleSolano btw Peralta/Neilson, Berkeley2007-02-2011
Dinner for two here included purée of sunchoke soup with toasted pumpkin seed oil and crème fraîche (which ultimately I came to regret eating, because it led me to believe that sunchokes were okay, only to discover later that they are evil incarnated in vegetable form); sweet potato gnocchi with yellow foot and king royale mushrooms, brown butter cream and toasted hazelnut gremolata; wild mushroom, baby artichoke, mozzarella and ricotta lasagna with rouille, fonduta, mint salsa verde and grilled asparagus; warm chocolate brioche bread pudding with whipped cream and blood orange caramel and chocolate sauces; and mascarpone cheesecake with sour cream topping, shortbread cookie crust and fresh strawberries. It was pleasant enough, but it paled in comparison to the previous day's lunch at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara, where dishes cost an average of $3. At Rivoli I paid $72 and only eating lots of bread kept me from leaving hungry. That's the thing about upscale places: you're paying for service and presentation. Those things are nice, but to me flavor is infinitely more important.
Chez Panisse CaféUpscaleShattuck & Vine, Berkeley2006-09-218
I have been here twice. The first time was part of my pizza quest: I've been trying to sample every notable pizza spot in the Bay Area and Chez Panisse was a notable omission. I have read some people rank it #1 for Bay Area pizza, so my expectations were high. I was unimpressed. The pizza was overfloured and not even half as good as the pizza at the Cheese Board across the street. But I figured I shouldn't rate Chez Panisse as a pizzeria, so I went back and got a fixed menu. Salad: too bitter. Spaghetti with arugula pesto and oven-dried cherry tomatoes: okay, but not as good as the pasta I made at home the evening before. Strawberry ice cream with strawberries and biscotti: the strawberries and the biscotti were good, and the ice cream had a nice flavor, but was a little icy. Now, sure, you might say that the reason some consider Chez Panisse the best restaurant in North America is downstairs dinner, not upstairs lunch. But some of the best meals I've ever had — okay, I'm chiefly talking about dessert here — have been in the outer room of Gramercy Tavern at lunchtime. So far it doesn't look like Chez Panisse is even in the same league.
ViognierUpscale4th & B, San Mateo2006-07-318
Here I got a "margherita" pizza that turned out to be a dinner-roll crust topped with mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes and then absolutely drenched in balsamic vinegar.
Bay WolfUpscalePiedmont btw 40th/MacArthur, Oakland2011-08-205
You know the drill: big prices, small portions. This is okay when the food is great, but nothing here has really impressed me. This was a coin flip between a 2 and a 3, but having the server flat-out forget part of my order tipped it to the bad side of the fence.
Lalime'sUpscaleGilman btw Neilson/Tevlin, Albany2008-10-262
We got four things here and none of them was good. Tomato soup tasted like burning; stuffed chile tasted like sheep cheese; pizzetta tasted like water; salad tasted like mold. Cost: $60.
MillenniumVeganCollege near Chabot, Oakland2015-08-0412
I occasionally check foodie message boards to find new places to eat, but it's hard to find vegetarian-friendly places without adding "vegetarian" as a search term, and that usually pulls up lists of specifically vegetarian restaurants. Greens I went to right after moving here, but even time I looked at Millennium's menu online, it looked very mushroom-and-tempeh, and I didn't try it until I'd been here nearly seven years. But when I finally took the plunge, I liked it. I got a black bean and plantain torte, a dish of potatoes, olives, and peppers in phyllo dough, a risotto cake, all accompanied by big dollops of different condiments and contorni to make each bite a little different (and to differentiate it from something I could throw together at home). And then… I didn't go back. It was in San Francisco town, after all. But recently it moved to Oakland, which is close enough to home for me to finally make another visit (still good, if not as big a wow as the first time), and while it's a little pricey to make a regular thing of, I certainly expect a shorter gap between visits.
Sanctuary BistroVeganCamelia & Tenth, Berkeley2016-01-227
This place is fancy, if not quite schmancy; that means that, e.g., the potatoes in the Niçoise salad will be one single fingerling potato, cut into dime-sized discs. You know the drill: expensive for what you get, and more pretty than particularly flavorful. But again, it's hard to resist a place where more than 10% of the menu is something I can order.
GreensVegetarianFort Mason, Building A, San Francisco2006-02-2212
This is among the most hit-or-miss places I've ever been. Some items are among the best food I've had in the Bay Area: black bean chili, caldo soup, pasta e fagioli... and yet I've also had a fair amount of bad food here, including a mushroom and leek tart that tasted not so great and vegetable brochettes that tasted like not much at all. Yet I still come back from time to time, if only for the novelty of a menu from which I can order anything.
UbuntuVegetarianMain btw Pearl/First, Napa2008-04-108
The 3 is basically just for the experience of looking at a menu and having less than 90% of it off limits. And a lot of the offerings at least sound promising. But I got an appetizer consisting of a dollop of romesco sauce that tasted like water and a plate of fried "sunchokes," which turn out to be evil incarnated in vegetable form; "delicate greens with grilled strawberries" that came with two (2) strawberries and which consisted of a tangle of needly stems; and a "rhubarb citrus float" in which the rhubarb and citrus turned out to have sunk, making it into a fruity soda with some junk at the bottom. Total cost: over $30! And I even had to specifically ask for a fork and a napkin. And the menu did not warn me that sunchokes are evil incarnated in vegetable form! Man, why did I give this a 3 again?
SourceVegetarianDivision near De Haro, San Francisco2013-02-244
I'm being nice with this score, since I always want to give bonus points to places that offer more than a couple of vegetarian options. But the "smashed potato" pizza I ordered was pretty awful — one of the worst I've had in quite some time. (I get potato pizza all the time… but it's never come with gravy before. Gravy that wasn't listed in the menu description, mind you.)
Saturn CafeVegetarianAllston & Oxford, Berkeley2011-10-112
The first time I went here I tried the "nacho fries," thinking that the notion of steak fries with nacho toppings sounded intriguing. Turns out that there's a reason that most places use tortilla chips. But hey, that's just one item, so I decided to give the place another try. On my second visit, I just sat at my table in a mostly empty restaurant and it quickly became clear that no one would be coming by to take my order ever. So fuck 'em.
Pica PicaVenezuelanValencia & 15th, San Francisco2017-04-0611
The arepas and crepes themselves are very tasty: that sweet sticky corn is a great change of pace from a tortilla. But the food here does seem a bit expensive for what you get.
TamarineVietnameseUniversity & Tasso, Palo Alto2008-01-0411
Upscale Vietnamese fusion, yet good. (Apologies to MA-B.) The highlight was the banh mi roti, pan-fried flatbread with a bean dipping sauce and a delicious curry dipping sauce. The fact that it has disappeared highlights the fact that making a satisfying vegetarian meal out of Tamarine's menu is difficult. Yes, asterisks indicate that many of the menu items can be made vegetarian, but this is only true in the sense that a hamburger bun is a vegetarian hamburger.
Golden LotusVietnameseFranklin & 13th, Oakland2005-10-2111
Now that I am back on the Pacific Rim I would like to try to develop a taste for East Asian food, which I generally don't much care for. This all-vegetarian place seemed like a reasonable place to start, since I could try things without worrying about what they were made of. To start I got the banh xeo, a Vietnamese crepe; the crepe itself was delicious but it was wrapped around a blob of fake pork and bean sprouts the size of a football. I quickly ended up eating around the filling. Then I had spicy garlic green beans with tofu. I dunno. I know people who go crazy about the sauces at Chinese and other Asian restaurants but they just don't do much for me. All in all it was a pleasant meal but I'm still not a convert.
the Slanted DoorVietnameseFerry Building, San Francisco2010-06-258
It took me five years to make it here because, despite this restaurant's status as a local institution, I just don't like East Asian food. But after a fresh round of recommendations I finally tried it, and... I just don't like East Asian food.
White LotusVietnameseMarket near St. John, San Jose2006-04-125
Typical fake meat place. Cha-Ya and Brooklyn's Red Hot have proven that vegetarian East Asian food doesn't have to suck, so why does it everywhere but those two places?
SahaYemeniSutter near Larkin, San Francisco2008-02-272
To give you a sense of how far short this place fell of my hopes for it — they managed to screw up water. Water should not taste like cucumbers! Horrible. Anyway, we ordered four things: bland fouel that had been turned into a paste (it's not supposed to be like refried beans!); vegetable baklava, kind of gross; mushroom ravioli in a mango sauce that were okay if you took the mushroom mixture out; and "Middle Eastern pizza" topped with vegetables that were both charred and way underdone.
Jougert BarYogurtBurlingame btw Hatch/Lorton, Burlingame2016-12-014
I remember the frozen yogurt craze of the early '80s — it's just like ice cream, but good for you somehow! — but mostly missed out on the next one twenty-odd years later that was less about chocolate frozen yogurt with sprinkles and gummy bears on it and more about tangy plain frozen yogurt on which you put some fruit yourself. Continuing in that direction is this place, which dispenses with the "frozen" part: it's plain Greek yogurt with toppings. Five stars on Yelp with over a hundred reviews! Named one of the top 100 places to eat in the U.S.! And, uh, what? I got a small cup of bland yogurt with a little bit of topping and paid $6.49 for it. I'm really missing what people see in this.


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