646-0018. Bolivian, BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Rico's touts its salsas, and they are good, but so is almost everything else on the mainstream Mexican menu. (Staff) 943 Columbus, SF. 928-5404. Mexican, L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
AsiaSF Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Asian-influenced tapas at this amusingly surreal lounge. The drag queen burlesque spectacle draws a varied audience that's a show in itself. (Staff) 201 Ninth St, SF. 255-2742. Fusion, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Bacar means "wine goblet," and its wine menu is extensive and affordable. Chef Arnold Wong's eclectic American-global food plays along nicely. (Staff) 448 Brannan, SF. 904-4100. American, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Basil A serene, upscale oasis amid the industrial supply warehouses, Basil offers California-influenced Thai cuisine that's lively and creative. (Staff) 1175 Folsom, SF. 552-8999. Thai, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Big Nate's Barbecue is pretty stark inside mostly linoleum arranged around a pair of massive brick ovens. But the hot sauce will make you sneeze. (Staff) 1665 Folsom, SF. 861-4242. Barbecue, L/D, $, MC/V.
Butler and the Chef brings a taste of Parisian café society complete with pâtés, cornichons, and croques monsieurs to sunny South Park. (PR, 5/04) 155A South Park, SF. French, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
NOB HILL/RUSSIAN HILL
Crustacean is famous for its roast Dungeness crab; the rest of the "Euro/Asian" menu is refreshingly Asian in emphasis. (Staff) 1475 Polk, SF. 776-2722. Fusion, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
East Coast West Delicatessen doesn't look like a New York deli (too much space, air, light), but the huge, fattily satisfying Reubens, platters of meat loaf, black-and-white cookies, and all the other standards compare commendably to their East Coast cousins. (Staff) 1725 Polk, SF. 563-3542. Deli, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
La Folie could be a neighborhood spot or a destination or both, but either way or both ways it is sensational: an exercise in haute cuisine leavened with a West Coast sense of informality and playfulness. There is a full vegetarian menu and an ample selection of wines by the half bottle. (PR, 2/06) 2316 Polk, SF. 776-5577. French, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Grubstake might look like your typical Polk Gulch diner sandwiches and burgers, open very late but the kitchen also turns out some good mom-style Portuguese dishes, replete with olives, salt cod, and linguica. If you crave caldo verde at 3 a.m., this is the place. (Staff) 1525 Pine, SF. 673-8268. Portuguese/American, B/L/D, ¢, cash only.
*Matterhorn Restaurant offers dishes that aren't fondue, but fondue (especially with beef) is the big deal and the answer to big appetites. For dessert: chocolate fondue! (Staff) 2323 Van Ness, SF. 885-6116. Swiss, $$, D, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Mekong Restaurant serves the foods of the Mekong River basin. There is a distinct Thai presence but also dishes with Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and even Chinese accents. (PR, 1/06) 791 O'Farrell, SF. 928-2772. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Olive might look like a tapas bar, but what you want are the thin-crust pizzas, the simpler the toppings the better. The small plates offer eclectic pleasures, especially the Tuscan pâté and beef satay with peanut sauce. (Staff) 743 Larkin, SF. 776-9814. Pizza/eclectic, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Pagolac For $10.95 a person you and two or more of your favorite beef eaters can dive into Pagolac's specialty: seven-flavor beef. Less carnivorous types can try the cold spring rolls, shrimp on sugarcane, or lemongrass tofu. (Staff) 655 Larkin, SF.