The San Francisco Bay Area is seemingly a bottomless well of culinary greatness. Impeccable ingredients, seasonal sourcing and international flair all contribute to the area’s success. I made three trips to San Francisco in 2015 and spent quality time in Oakland along the way. Learn about my 10 favorite Bay Area dishes from the past year.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Selections appear in order of preference.
10. Del Popolo Chocolate Pudding
Earlier in the year, I enjoyed Jon Darsky’s next-level food truck, a retrofitted shipping container with an almond wood-burning Stefano Ferrara pizza oven and a glass and steel façade. In December, he debuted a fixed place pizzeria in the TenderNob with exposed rafters, white and grey walls sporting framed portraits, and a beautiful wood burning oven. The fluffy pizzas and seasonal sides had their merits, but my favorite dish of the night was Chef de Cuisine Jeffrey Hayden’s devastating chocolate pudding with a fleur de sel dusting and judicious dollop of vanilla bean flecked whipped cream. I later learned two keys to the success of this pudding: premium TCHO dark chocolate from across the Bay Bridge in Berkeley, and patience, since this pudding requires 46 hours to set properly.
9. Beauty’s Bagel Shop Classic
This wood-fired Montreal style bagel emporium from Blake Joffe and Amy Remsen features reclaimed wood, tile and brick accents, and sidewalk seats with colorful tables. The sturdy bagels with considerable chew are terrific vessels for sandwiches, whether they house egg, cheese and chicken scrapple, or perhaps something that swims. I particularly enjoyed the Classic ($7.75) sandwich with silky hand-sliced lox, cream cheese, red onion, and capers.
8. Rich Table Watermelon Sundae
No breakfast granola can touch the Watermelon Sundae I enjoyed at Rich Table, the contemporary California restaurant in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley from chefs Evan Rich + Sarah Rich. Their terrific Watermelon Sundae ($11) dessert was clearly inspired by a bowl of granola. Squares of juicy watermelon join tiny scoops of tangy buttermilk ice cream, savory basil, and popped sorghum crunch made with the grassy, caramel-like sweetener that’s popular in the South. This was a great bowl that would work just as well for breakfast or dessert.
7. Dandelion Chocolate Nibbun
This small-batch Mission District café and production facility from Cameron Ring and Todd Masonis showcases sensational single origin chocolates. Pastry chef Lisa Vega has the enviable task of utilizing these unique chocolates in state of the art baked goods. Her Nibbun ($4.25) is a bittersweet morning bun filled with Camino Verde chocolate custard and nibs, rolled in cinnamon nib sugar. Slice the pull-apart pastry and the center resembles a zebra.
6. Neighbor Bakehouse Ham & Cheese Croissant
Chef-owner Greg Mindel and wife Christine debuted this creative, focused Dogpatch bakery in January 2015. Order at the counter of this space, which sports a brick and glass front and has wood benches and picnic tables on the patio seating. The small selection usually sells out by noon, for good reason. I really enjoyed their Ham & Cheese Croissant ($4.25) with everything spicing, buttery pastry, and a touch of mustard to crank up the savory quotient.