Restaurant Review

Brunch fitness

A brief guide to New Year's late-morning-and-early-afternoon gluttony

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Good morning, sunshine! Or shall we say good afternoon? You are perhaps in need of a solid dose of protein, vitamin C, and a little hair of the dog in observance of this fine new trip around the sun? No worries — we are blessed to live in a city that takes its lingering late morning gluttony very seriously. Here are eight sites to struggle out to for New Year's Day brunch.Read more »

Le Colonial

Mise en (Cosmo) place: The atmospheric former home of Trader Vic's serves French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine

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DINE Could there be a more enchanted address for a restaurant in San Francisco than 20 Cosmo Place? No. "Cosmo" gives us an urban, even cosmopolitan, glamour, while "place" suggests, at least, a degree of refuge from the maelstrom of city traffic. Cosmo Place does not disappoint; it has something of the air of Shepherd Market, the warren of quaint lanes stashed well off the main thoroughfares in London's posh Mayfair district, and also of the small plazas ringed with outdoor cafes you might find near the waterfront in Barcelona.Read more »

Bacco

Turning out lovely, California-inflected versions of Italian classics in Noe Valley
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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE Two autumns ago, I popped in on Bacco, in Noe Valley, and found a house in good order. The restaurant, opened by Vincenzo Cucco and Paolo Dominici in 1993, turned 14 that fall, and little had changed through the years except that the color scheme of the two dining rooms had gone from pumpkin to butter and sage, and a "Zagat-rated" sticker had appeared in the window at the door. I left with a sense of calm reassurance, like a parent who's just peeked through a bedroom door to see a child safely tucked in.

But safety is one of the world's illusions. Read more »

Coda

Lighting a candle to the new jazz club's intimate vibe and Cal-Ital menu
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paulr@sfbg.com

Coda is just the sort of stylish urban vault where you'd expect to find votive candles flickering on every table, but you don't. It's the visual equivalent of a promising dish that's lacking a final dash of some seasoning. The space has the look of a sound stage — exposed-brick walls, concrete floors, a large dining area uncluttered by pillars — and while there is something exciting about the vastness, vast spaces also fill up easily with darkness. Read more »

Tony's Pizza Napoletana

Stellar pies in a variety of styles, all baked in a troika of visible ovens
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paulr@sfbg.com

Carrying coals to Newcastle is hard work, so when we've finished up, how about some pizza to refresh ourselves? And where would we begin the search — North Beach, the Newcastle of pizza? No, too obvious. Chic pizza these days is found practically everywhere in the city except North Beach — in Dogpatch, in Glen Park, in the Mistro, and the Marina. Read more »

Noodle Theory

Straight out of Oakland
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paulr@sfbg.com

The migratory patterns of restaurants might not be as riveting or significant as those of birds, but they do offer their little quirks and joys. When an Oakland restaurant opens a second front across the bay, in the city — The City, our very own — one sits up and takes notice. I am talking about Noodle Theory, which is the first Oakland, or indeed East Bay, restaurant to hop across our little mare nostrum that I can think of in quite a while, or maybe ever. Read more »

Noeteca

Coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, and good food throughout the day
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paulr@sfbg.com

Wine — unlike, say, Coca-Cola — has never been a big breakfast drink. Unless you count mimosas, which are basically an exercise in camouflage anyway, champagne bearded with orange juice to give the appearance of healthfulness. Read more »

Greens

Thirty years on, the vegetarian Mecca still looks sensational and tastes as good as ever
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paulr@sfbg.com

If there is a better-known vegetarian restaurant in the world than Greens, I've never heard of it. But — that sounds a little like hype, and hype is on cozy terms with falsehood. Greens is also 30 years old this year, and since restaurants often age in dog years, or worse, we are talking about a place that can't ignore the many risks of geriatric life, among them fatigue, complacency, boredom, and a descent into tourist-trappiness. No doubt there are others.

Apart from the fusty, undersized sign above the door, Greens still looks sensational. Read more »

Buns and the city

Digging in to the streetwise beef of Urbun Burger and Mission Burger
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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE In our hamburger-challenged city, the Mission District would not seem to be a particularly promising place to go burger-hunting. The hamburger is the all-American statement food, while the Mission is many things, but probably not all-American. Among the most conspicuous burger outlets in the Mission is Whiz Burger, which has held down the corner of 18th Street and South Van Ness since time immemorial and even has a parking lot, as if Arthur Fonzarelli might soon be rolling up in a '57 Chevy. Read more »

Magnolia

Mixing brewpub standards with the occasional Louisiana twist in the Upper Haight
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paulr@sfbg.com

Imagine a casting call for a beer commercial — a beer, I should add, marketed toward cool young people and not geezers or swollen couch slugs — and you'll have some idea of the scene at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery on any given night. Loose halter tops, soccer butts, and headsful of tousled hair dot the Rathskeller-scape, while the human noise (let's call it the roar of youth) is so loud and steady as to achieve a transcendence. The noise is beyond noise; it warps reality and becomes another dimension. Read more »