Hi everyone. I’m not sure where the last few months went, but I blame any lost time on recently having to set my clock forward. Daylight savings time is an easy scapegoat these days. Instead of expanding on all that, I’ll just stick to what I do best: recommending restaurants and playing movie soundtracks on the keyboard. From a family-run lasagneria to the best chicken wings in the city, here are the five places in SF and the East Bay I can’t stop ordering from. Also, let me know what you’re watching. I’m halfway through The One on Netflix and could use some fresh ideas.
All-Around Favorite: Prubechu
I wouldn’t be surprised if Prubechu had some kind of pinging device that tells my brain to “go to Prubechu” whenever I’m looking for something to eat. This Guamanian restaurant in the Mission is incredible, and for many reasons. I’ll start with the ko’ko wings, which are spiced with a secret house blend and come with a side of tangy lemon fina’denne sauce. Then there’s my personal favorite, tinaktak - a creamy dish with handmade egg noodles, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and coconut beef, which will make you feel like you’re wrapped in the coziest blanket on the planet. Aside from serving excellent Chamorro dishes, Prubechu has shown off its versatility during the pandemic with takeout, delivery, a huge outdoor space with social-distancing and safety precautions in place, patio pig roasts, and special occasion boxes to go.
For Large Slices: Rotten City Pizza
Fact: Pizza is pandemic food. I’ve had more slices in the last year than in my 30-something years of existence combined (or, at least, it feels that way). One spot I can’t get enough of is Rotten City Pizza in Emeryville. Their pizzas are large, the crust is thin with a nice stiffness, and they use high-quality ingredients for the toppings. Before the pandemic, I used to love grabbing a pie from there and enjoying it over drinks at Prizefighter down the street, but my go-to move now is to get their new “fat slice,” which is essentially two large slices (a.k.a. a quarter of a pizza) topped with cheese, pepperoni, or whatever other pizza they’re serving that day. Get one and enjoy it under some sun down the street at Doyle Hollis Park.
For Coffee: Excelsior Coffee
Two things to know about me: I drink a lot of coffee. I also drink a lot of coffee from this Excelsior spot. The nearly two-year-old cafe makes a damn good latte, which you can get alongside delicious ube brownies from Ube Area and bags of beans to go. They also frequently collaborate with local pop-ups, like Rize Up Sourdough, and exceptional cinnamon roll makers Astranda Bakery. What I love most about Excelsior Coffee is their engagement with the neighborhood community - they recently hosted a socially-distanced block party complete with classic cars, motorcycles, and food from spots like Senor Sisig and Mama Soco Birria.
For A Memorable Lasagna Experience: Marcella's Lasagneria
Marcella’s is a family-run Dogpatch “lasagneria” that’s open for lunch. The first time I looked at the menu, I knew I was in good company. They have seven lasagnas to choose from: eggplant, mushroom, verdura, butternut squash, abruzzo with house-made sausage, bianca, and bolognese, and each one is layered with ultra-thin pasta, creamy béchamel, and tomato sauce. Unless you get a whole sheet that serves six, the lasagnas are made for one and are roughly the size of a small, thick novel. There are also several ways to experience Marcella’s lasagna - outside under a white tent on their sidewalk patio, or for takeout (you can also ask for it cold and warm it up at home for later).
For a bomb-ass lunch: Chica
A trip to this Mexican cafe-restaurant on Oakland Avenue whenever I’m in need of a quick and delicious lunch has become one of my tried and true pandemic rituals. That’s because they make beautiful “Mexi-Bowls” that are heavy on the proteins and the greens, two things I need to get through long days attached to my computer. You choose one base (lettuce, rice, or veggies) and one topping (I love the carnitas or the fried chicken). The bowls are then dressed up with cucumber, pickled red onion and jalapeños, pumpkin seeds, and herbs - basically, everything you need to feel like you’ve stepped into the world’s greatest farmer’s market. Chica also makes tacos, tortas, excellent chilaquiles, and agua frescas. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their iced Dirty Horchata - it comes with a double shot of espresso and powers me up for my evenings.