Best of the Bay 2009: Food and Drink - Page 11

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www.kitchenettesf.com

BEST BURGERS OVER 40

Not all burgers are created equal. You know it, we know it, and Hamburger Haven does too. Think about it: Anybody can heat up a patty, slap it on a bun, and call it grilled gold. But that doesn't mean it's going to taste good. It takes a lot of effort, love, and time to create a true masterpiece. Which is exactly what Hamburger Haven has been cranking out since 1968. Hamburger Haven does breakfast, dinner, and dessert, but the real focus here is on burgers. BBQ sauce-<\d>slathered, chili-drenched, Reuben-inspired — you name it and Hamburger Haven does it better than anyone else in the city. Which partially explains why the place has been around so long, but not entirely. The simple down-home charm of H.H. is what we appreciate. From the decor, to the service, right down to the presentation, Hamburger Haven is a no-nonsense burger shack where the only frills you'll find will be mashed inside your buns. Simple, pure, haven-ly.

800 Clement, SF. (415) 387-3260

BEST PLACE FOR A PARISIAN DINNER DATE

On a charming, leafy Castro block, one with the spirit of a European neighborhood, sits L'Ardoise Bistro, a real-deal French bistro that effortlessly marries casual intimacy with romantic intrigue. Gracious French staff, closely set tables, and a chalkboard (the restaurant's namesake) evoke your most beloved Parisian dinners, replete with the effortless sexiness that we love in a city like Paris. But what places it among S.F.'s beloved classic bistros, like Chapeau! and Clementine, is heartwarming food. Your date can't help but cozy up to you after perfectly cooked coq au vin, duck leg confit, or seafood gratin. Escargot, pommes frites, and charcuterie also abound, with plenty of French wines to pair with. And the love needn't dissipate once you get the check.... Portions are generous and the highest priced dish on the menu is $19. Viva la romance!

151 Noe, SF. (415) 437-2600, www.ardoisesf.com

BEST WABI-SABI AND COFFEE

We're not sure if Hollow, the new café in the coffee-shop-deprived Inner Sunset, is actually an example of wabi-sabi design principles. But it's undeniable the shop embraces simplicity, an affinity for nature, and an appreciation of the unconventional — the essence of the Japanese aesthetic philosophy, which the co-owners (an interior designer and freelance programmer) wholeheartedly appreciate. In fact, everything about Hollow is modest and unconventional: its tiny space; its earthy palette of green, brown, and silver hues; its limited selection of quality delicacies (truffles, cashew cookies) and Ritual espressos (no drip coffee here); and its selection of rustic trinkets for sale (birdcages and nests, African masks, antlers, retro matchboxes, and alchemist vases). Whether you know about Buddhist-inspired art forms or not, you'll find that this cabinet of caffeine and curiosities is an exquisite sanctuary in the Inner Sunset.

1435 Irving, SF. (415) 242-4119, www.hollowsf.com

BEST FREE BBQ

Everyone knows the best hangover busters are a good, protein-heavy meal and a bit of hair of the dog. Problem is, those who need relief most tend to be the ones who spent the most money getting themselves hungover in the first place. What to do when you only have enough cash for beer or food, but not both? If it's Sunday, go to (the aptly named) Bender's. Every week the Mission dive provides free BBQ, including meat and veggie options. At $2, Pabst Blue Ribbon is so cheap you can afford to have hair from several dogs. And for those who live close enough, just hop on your fixie and take advantage of indoor bike parking.