Welcome to the Best Things We Ate This Week. This guide is filled with all the dishes you need to have on your table, whether you’re dining out at a new San Francisco hot spot or a tried-and-true gem. Go forth, scroll through, and use this for reference the next time you’re deciding where to eat next. If you want a list of great takeout meals, we have a guide for that too.
Mandalay is a guaranteed mood-booster: there are bright yellow walls, ornaments and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, plus friendly staff who make you feel like you’ve just walked into a homey family reunion. And the mango chicken from this Burmese spot in the Richmond also has the ability to completely turn around a terrible day. It’s sautéed and caramelized with slices of onion, green chilis, and mangos, and packs just the right amount of sweetness and heat. Getting it with coconut rice is a must. Everything else on the menu, from the ong no kaw soi to the pan-fried string beans, is ideal for sharing—so come with a group, and order the mango chicken and as many other plates as will fit on the table.
- Julia Chen, SF Staff Writer
Hummus with chicken shawarma
Walking into this family-run Middle Eastern spot in Upper Haight feels like stepping into a friend’s cozy living room, with bright murals and cushy red and black banquettes that wrap around the space. And the same comforting energy applies to the food too, from the shawarma wraps and torpedo-shaped falafel to the fluffy pita. The silky-smooth hummus topped with a heap of chicken shawarma was a standout on a recent visit. The creamy dip was excellent by the spoonful and also dipped in the still-warm pita. It wasn’t long before the entire plate of it was gone.
Lobster Pad Thai
The pad thai at this new Thai restaurant in Oakland had me at hello (sorry, not apologizing for the dated movie reference). That’s because the moment the huge mound of thin rice noodles, fried tofu, and egg hit the table, I immediately felt like happy-weepy Renée Zellweger confessing her love to an equally happy-weepy Jerry Maguire. The spicy dish is shiny pearl-levels of beautiful and it’s also delicious—with two frankly adorable lobster tails resting over the whole thing like a celebratory cake topper. I’ve eaten pad thai countless times, but it’s been awhile since I encountered one this memorable.
- Lani Conway, Senior Editor
Going to Chuy’s Fiestas in the Mission is always an exercise in self-control. On print, everything from the long menu sounds amazing—and based on what we’ve tried, it all is. It’s hard to go wrong here, but however many dishes end up on your table, be sure the twin ceviche tostadas are among them. Each light, refreshing ceviche (one with tilapia, the other with shrimp) is topped with perfect chunks of avocado, and gets a nice touch of acidity from the fresh lime juice. These are an excellent way to start off a meal here.
Panucho with cochinita pibil
You have a lot of great options when you head to Taqueria Los Mayas, the casual, counter-service Mexican restaurant in the Richmond, from huge empanadas to aguachile to tacos with homemade tortillas. And everything here is great, but we’re doing you a great disservice if we don’t tell you to get the panuchos. The base for the Yucatecan specialty is the fried corn tortilla, which has a thin layer of black beans inside. Get yours with the slow-cooked cochinita pibil or the beer-marinated poc chuc. Cabbage, pickled onion, avocado, and crema then get piled on top, and when it arrives at your table the only thing to do is eat it all up and (probably) head back to the counter for more.
King George sando
While doing research for our day-off lunch guide, I decided to take a long mid-day break and head straight to Family Cafe in North Beach to soak up some sun on their plant-filled parklet. Once there, my vegetable-deficient self immediately gravitated toward the King George sando, which is stacked with a salad’s worth of colorful veggies. This vegan sandwich is also a masterclass in layering different textures, from the crunchy, perfectly-julienned carrots to the soft avocado and steamed beets. I’ll be back for another on my next “sick” day.
Cappelletti di zucca
Fall is officially here, and with it comes lots of squash. I got my first taste of this season’s bounty at Itria, a new-ish Italian spot in the Mission that just added cappelletti di zucca to their rotating menu of pastas. The roasted squash-filled pockets with seared radicchio and aged balsamic were slightly sweet, and tasted more like a dessert than a main course, in the best way possible. And using the rest of Itria’s bubbly house-made focaccia to sop up the rest of the buttery sauce was a must.
Baby bok choy
There are lots of reasons to head to Mister Jiu’s. For starters, it’s perfect for a special occasion, or any time you feel like dropping some serious money on a whole roasted duck. And the Chinese American dishes are flat-out incredible. Case in point: the baby bok choy. It’s simply and perfectly stir-fried with garlic and oyster sauce, and each bite releases a flood of magical juices that feels like a shot of serotonin going directly into my brain. The dish unlocks the full potential of a vegetable in a way that’s hard to beat.
There are several guarantees to having dinner at this cozy Nepali restaurant in Bernal Heights: you will leave well-fed and happy, and possibly tipsy from all the free wine refills chef Prem Tamang may personally pour you, especially if it’s a slow night. One reason for the feel-good vibes you’ll get at Cuisine of Nepal comes courtesy of the steamed chicken and vegetable momos. They’re served plain with a side of chutney, or drenched in a creamy soup of blended tomatoes, chilis, and other spices that warm your tongue. Go with the latter, complement it with the sizzling lamb and the chicken cashew cream curry, and call it a night.
Five-spice chicken with garlic noodles
Much like rewatching seasons 1-6 of Grey’s Anatomy for the billionth time, the garlic noodles with five-spice chicken from this Vietnamese spot in the Sunset bring me comfort—and lots of it. Sitting in front of a pile of these chewy, buttery noodles and inhaling the garlicky scent is my preferred form of self-care. And when those noodles are combined with the tender pieces of crispy-skinned chicken doused in fish sauce, there’s really nothing better. Plus, the whole plate only runs you $12 ($13 if you add imperial rolls), and you’ll definitely leave full.
It’s physically impossible to come to Beit Rima and not order the mezze sampler, which is so beautiful I want to commission a still life painting of it for my bedroom. The plate is loaded with scoops of baba ganoush, hummus, lebna, and my favorite muhammara in the city—plus crispy falafel, tahini, and pickled veggies. Be sure to get one of their steaming hot, za’atar-covered hand-kneaded pitas to soak up every last bit with.
This new-ish Spanish restaurant in North Beach is home to excellent low-proof cocktails, a fun, lively atmosphere, and quite possibly my favorite potato dish in the city: the patatas bravas. They aren’t cubed like you might see at other tapas spots—instead, paper-thin layers of potato are stacked, fried, and served over drizzles of aioli and bravas sauce. You’ll probably put in another order before you’re even done with the first. Wash it all down with a glass of their great sangria.
Juicy pork bao
Despite opening up just last year, Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley is packed every night, both inside and on their parklet. That’s because everything that comes out of their kitchen is fantastic, from the delicate xiao long bao to the dry-fried chicken wings. But what keeps me coming back are the shengjianbao. The juicy pork buns have a thick, chewy skin, crispy pan-fried bottoms, and a burst of hot, flavorful soup inside—which you may or may not accidentally projectile spray across the table with your first bite. It’s walk-ins only, but even if there’s a line, it’ll move quickly, and your meal will be 100% worth the wait.