December means my annual pilgrimage to the Bay Area. Mornings are spent sleeping in. Afternoons are for last minute shopping trips. Evenings are filled with outings, rain or fog. I typically write about Orange County, so until January it's all about the peninsula.
I did not fully appreciate the concept of dining out until beyond my college years. Therefore, trying to sound like an expert on San Francisco (or any city up here) dining would probably be met with disagreement. What I will share are the places I ended up at and what I've enjoyed.
One summer I found myself working in Burlingame. It was for a bed & breakfast reservations group. My manager had a file folder specifically for take-out menus. The surrounding neighborhood was quaint. Storefronts were an eclectic mix of big names and local finds. A walkable place with no high rises. I was enamored. Nowadays, I have a cousin and a favorite dining companion who reside here, and this is how I found myself coming back. Also, there really is only one part of the city to explore.
Crepevine was a place I used to frequent with old classmates. It was also my first experience with crepes. Still going strong and with a bounty of locations, it doesn't surprise me that they've prospered over the years. I remember the days when they didn't take credit cards. I loved their savory and sweet entrees, never straying from the namesake dishes. Secretly, I've always been curious of their "Benedictions". .
A short walk away, you can pop in the Pez Museum. I found this either on Bay Area Backroads or Food Network. This is a teeny place, but worth a visit if you're close by. It has a charm that fits right in with its surroundings. Not to be outdone by sweet nostalgia, the Powell's Sweet Shoppe chain set up a branch around the corner. Your dentist will never forgive you.
Finding somewhere open late in this town (that isn't strictly a bar) is no problem when Straits is around. Part lounge, part restaurant, it hovers with a club atmosphere. My main reason for coming here was to hang with my cousin. Secondly, it was to grab a late meal. We shared some butter chicken and samosas while 'B' threw back a martini. It's more of a social gathering place with Asian-influenced dining options than a dinner destination.
The space currently occupied by Kabul has an unfortunate track record. Fortunately, this isn't their only location. Afghan cuisine was unexplored territory for me until last night. Recommended by a friend (who knows me better than I thought), my taste buds salivated as soon as I read all the lamb entrees. The food is hearty and comforting. If you're going to indulge in carb cravings, skip the bread and appreciate the pallaw or challaw (basmati) rice that accompanies most dishes.
My dining companion had a Groupon for $50 worth of food at Medallion, formerly the location of Kuleto's. It was oddly quiet for a Saturday night. They have an early bird 3-course prix fixe for $25 featuring prime rib. However, I was there for steak. 'A' previously tried their grass fed meats and was not pleased with the taste. 14 ounces of Premium New York Gold (corn fed) with blue cheese crumbles and toy box tomatoes found its way to my table. It was cooked and seasoned just so. The creme brulee we ended with, not so much (how do you mess that up?). While this is a formal space, guests were casually dressed. Also, service was much slower than necessary. A date or celebratory place, visit when you've got time on your hands.
While not walking distance to the aforementioned establishments, by far the BEST brekkie in the area is nestled within the residential neighborhood containing Idaho Street.....Nini's Coffee Shop. Two words: salmon hash. Ok, it's listed as San Mateo, but it's practically Burlingame. The Yelpers say it best. Lots of seating options. Huge selection with portion sizes to match. A long wait, but with hot coffee to pass the time.
It's the city with a little bit of this, and a lot of that. It's easier than parking in SF, and there's ample shopping for walking off the meal. I have multiple reasons for stopping by, and now you have (at least) one, too.