Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 13 - Paprika

Various sources online alternately refer to Paprika as German, Hungarian, or Czech.  The term "gastropub" appears more than once.  The restaurant's own Facebook page calls it "Modern European".  I call it "mighty good".

We got a cute little corner table which was lovely and romantic, despite the fact that some jackhole had tagged the windows.  That's what you get for having your restaurant on Mission and 24th.  The service was so, so friendly, and the food was really good, and especially comforting on a cool San Francisco night.  Nalani had the Szeged Goulash which she described as, "my favorite, tangy, sour, rich, and awesome."  I ordered the Chicken Paprikash, solely because of that line in When Harry Met Sally, "Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash."  There was not, however, too much pepper in my paprikash, it was perfect.

We also ordered a small plate to start, your choice of gourmet sausage.  We had the delicious German Spice Sausage.  I think we could happily make a meal of just the sausage plates.

And then there's the beer.  Ah, beer.  Nalani had the Weihenstephan Hefe, which claims to be from a brewery first licensed in 1040, making it the oldest working brewery in the world.  Antiquity aside, the beer I got was our favorite, the Krusovice Dark, surprisingly light and refreshing for a dark beer, with no bitterness.

If I hadn't had to work the next day, I'd have had another.  Did I mention that the place is cozy, and the service is crazy friendly?  All in all, we were sad to leave.

Would We Go There Again

Absolutely.  We'd go out of our way for this place, and happily, we don't have to, one 10 minute bus ride takes us door to door.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 12 - Old Jerusalem

Many years ago I house-sat for my parents in Saint Paul while they were living in Italy for a year.  A few blocks from their house was a Middle Eastern restaurant called Mim's Cafe.  Not everything at Mim's was good, but the Shawarma was out of this world.  At least once a week for that year, I got take-out from Mim's (alternating the Shawarma with the Chicken Muraf, which was also stellar) and I've been looking for the equal of that Shawarma ever since.

Tonight we went to Old Jerusalem Restaurant on Mission and 26th.  I regret to report that my Shawarma quest is still ongoing.  The Shawarma (I got the lamb version) at Old Jerusalem was dry and uninspired.  But the Shish Taouk (grilled chicken) was delicious, and Nalani declared her Stuffed Falafel appetizer to be the best falafel she's ever had.

Also in the plus column was the mint tea (containing large sprigs of sparkling fresh mint) and the assortment of dips, olives, and mysterious pink things that tasted like horse radish.

Speaking of the mint tea, they forgot to charge us for it, and when I pointed that out, they said, "On the house."

Would We Go There Again

Based on the chicken and falafel, Nalani believes that this place has tremendous potential if you order right.  And everyone does need a Middle Eastern place in their repertoire.  But there's another well-reviewed Middle Eastern place a bit closer to us, so I'm going to have to check it out before I render a judgement.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week 11 - Whiz Burgers Drive-In

Whiz Burgers Drive-In has a cool sign.  That's why we wanted to go there.  They just have a scattering of tables out front, so you want to go on a beautiful day, and we picked a good one.  We were already in the neighborhood for an afternoon cheese-making class, so we walked over.  To the drive-in.  Does that seem right to you?

We got the stuff that you get at a basic burger place.  Burgers.  Fries.  Onion rings.  Strawberry milkshake.  (Someone later asked me why on earth I would get a strawberry milkshake.  Answer: strawberry milkshakes are awesome.)

There's nothing fancy about these hamburgers.  Whiz Burgers is never a place you'd bring up when trading "best burger" stories (you do that, right?).  You wouldn't take out of town guests here (take them to Chez Maman).  But you know what, these burgers ain't bad.  I think Nalani put it best: "This is a classic American hamburger.  The kind of burger you wish you could make at home, but you really can't."

Would We Go There Again

I wouldn't go out of my way to go here.  But if I were over on Valencia, browsing Paxton Gate and Dog Eared Books, and it was around lunchtime on a beautiful day, I would totally walk the two blocks over to South Van Ness and get me a burger.  Hey, maybe I'd bump into the two guys we met here today, who were both shooting pictures with Voigtlander Bessa rangefinders.  Cool.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Week 10 - Taqueria Vallarta

There's something about Taqueria Vallarta that reminds me of Mexico.  Is that an idiotic thing to say about a Mexican restaurant?  I don't just mean the food, I mean the place itself.  Sure, the murals on the walls depict the Golden Gate bridge, and the 49ers, and so on.  But there's something about the vibe, the open, high-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit, faintly grimy space that calls to mind the upper floor of the Central Market in Mérida, the first place I ever dined in Mexico.

There's a line out the door for the taco bar.  Just tell the nice man what you want, and he dishes it right up for you.  (Actually, he wasn't a nice man, he was sort of surly, but hey, he's slingin' good tacos, so who cares?)  They do serve other things at this place, but did I mention... taco bar?

So, you'll be getting the tacos.  We got the Chorizo, the Al Pastor, the Pollo Asado, and the Carne Asada.  Also two agua frescas, a cantaloupe and a hibiscus.  (We ordered that hibiscus out of a sense of obligation to try as many different things as possible.  But seriously, when you can get a cantaloupe agua fresca, don't order anything else.)

Usually when I order up some Pollo instead of some Carne, it's because I'm trying to eat less red meat, and I want to be good (insofar as eating tacos can be considered dietarily "good" at all).  Then I gnaw on some dry, stringy chicken, and gaze with envy at other people's delicious tacos.  But Taqueria Vallarta turns all that on its head.  Nalani and I both agreed that the Pollo Asado was hands-down the best, by far.  The Chorizo was a distant second, but Nalani says she'd just go back and order four chicken tacos.

Would We Go There Again

It's walking distance.  It's open late.  They have two-dollar tacos.  Why are we still talking about this?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week 9 - Goat Hill Pizza

Two words: "Neighborhood Night".  Every Monday night, Goat Hill Pizza serves all-you-can-eat pizza and salad for twelve dollars.  Seven bucks if you're between the ages of 5 and 12.  The appeal of this, for us, was not so much that we could stuff our faces until we hurled, but rather that it offered the opportunity to try a slice of every pizza on the menu.

We went to their Potrero Hill location (you can also find them in SOMA and West Portal) and it has a wonderful, neighborhood-y, family-friendly feel.  We got the best seat in the house, looking out at a rainy, Bladerunner-esque San Francisco skyline.

The salad bar is self-serve, but the pizza, fresh from the oven, is proffered on trays by roving waitstaff.  They come by your table, tell you what they have, and you say yea or nay, and then someone else comes by a minute later with yet more options.  Oh, and the staff is ridiculously friendly.  Seriously, there was one guy in particular we just wanted to box up and take home with us.

I believe that goat is campaigning for Obama.

In fact, the only flaw in this pizza paradise is the food.  It certainly wasn't bad, but the salad bar was perfunctory, and the pizza, for the most part, was merely average.  Nalani thought that most of the pizza was too garlicky, though I didn't have that problem myself.  In fact, the roasted garlic and goat cheese pizza was perhaps my favorite.  We both agreed that the salami pizza was damn fine.

Would We Go There Again

If we lived in the neighborhood and had kids, we'd probably be down there every Monday night.  It's hard to beat the comfortable feel and the value for money.  But we don't, and don't, so we probably won't be back any time soon.  To be honest, we don't actually feel like having pizza that often, and when we do, we usually want someone to bring it to us at home.