Best of the Bay 2009: Food and Drink - Page 3

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Our favorite delivery method is between two delicate fresh-made gingersnaps or chocolate cookies, individually wrapped in foil for easy transport. It's an It's-It for the locavore generation. What's next? An artisanal Big Stick? A sustainably-sourced Otter Pop? We can only hope.

2948 College, Berk. (510) 665-6054, www.ici-icecream.com

BEST HARD-TO-FIND BREAKFAST

There are no official hours at Pastores, the restaurant at the corner of Mission and Cortland that caters only to those in the know (which now includes you). But guessing when (and if) you can get huevos rancheros at this elusive Mission District kitchen is part of its charm. The front door is small and easy to miss. If you find it and then locate the scantily decorated restaurant at the end of a long hallway, you'll already feel as though you've accomplished something. But the real treat comes when your server — also the cook and owner — greets you as if you've entered her home, takes your order, and then places a heaping plate of spicy eggs, salsa, rice, and beans before you. Is that burning sensation simply the homemade salsa sizzling against your chapped lips? Or is it the pride of discovery and serendipity? We're going with the latter.

3486 Mission, SF. (415) 642-5385

BEST BACK-ALLEY WINE BAR

Not all wine connoisseurs are leisure-class snobs with fancy Italian boots, nice homes, and shiny sports cars. Some are the cooks, chefs, waiters, sommeliers, and bartenders who've been serving (deliciously) rotten grape juice to those with money to spend. It's the latter group of experts that cook-turned-wine-guru Chris Fuqua had in mind when he started Hotel Biron, a wine bar with an atmosphere and menu designed to match the paradoxically high-end/lowbrow proclivities of those in the service industry. What does that mean? Beer offerings that range from obscure pilsners to Tecate in a can. Scrumptious meat and cheese platters. A mind-blowing wine list. And an unpretentious location next to a row of Dumpsters down a mid-Market alleyway. All of which adds up to the perfect nightly hangout for those with one foot firmly planted on either side of the American dream.

45 Rose, SF. (415) 703-0403, www.hotelbiron.com

BEST "RESTAURANT" WITHIN A RESTAURANT

It isn't Lung Shan's eggrolls or its all-you-can-eat buffet that has foodies in skinny jeans forming a line outside the restaurant on Thursday and Saturday evenings. In fact, none of the patient patrons — who sometimes wait more than an hour for a table — are here to eat at the Chinese restaurant at all. Sure, they sit in its dining room and enjoy food that comes out of its kitchen, but on these nights, Lung Shan becomes Mission Street Food, a restaurant within a restaurant that features different culinary talent each time. The phenomenon has earned a fanatical following despite — or perhaps because of — the things it lacks: a set menu, a space of its own, a regular chef. Each evening sees different deliciously playful dishes, like the Milky Snixertweers Kat, a terrine of candy bars and vanilla ice cream. Prices are low (most entrées hover around the $10 mark), and the profits are donated to charity. You don't need a cookie to tell you that's good fortune.

2234 Mission, SF. Missionstreetfood.blogspot.com

BEST RECESSION-PROOF SUSHI

Common wisdom suggests that sushi can be either cheap or good, but never both. Ichi disagrees. The Bayview-based company run by Erin Archuleta and her partner Tim, a veteran sushi chef, prides itself on providing restaurant-quality, sustainable (when possible) sushi in unconventional settings, all at low prices.