Makli – Castro Neighborhood, San Francisco

19 May

IMG_1137I absolutely love Chinese food. What’s not to love right? Then why is it so hard to find decent (and here I mean edible) Chinese food in the United States. Most of the time despite my best efforts the food just fails. It’s either overcooked, undercooked, or swimming in a greasy mess that is supposed to be called a sauce.

Makli in the Castro neighborhood is unlike all of the rest. It’s amazing. It’s an unassuming place, and frankly you might walk right by this place without thinking twice. Pay attention people! This place is a gem for anyone who is craving a great Chinese meal. Best of all, this place gives you vegetarian options like you would not believe, including, vegetarian hot and sour soup. Yes, you read that correctly.

On my most recent trip to San Francisco, I was staying at a bed and breakfast just down the street from Makli. Hot and sour soup is a must no matter where I’m at and I have to say, Makli has the best. It’s spicy hot and tantalizingly tart all at the same time. You won’t find any better. The vegetarian lo-mein is just the opposite. It’s warm with that faint smokiness you can only get with properly prepared lo-mein. The vegetables are seared and slightly charred and cooked to a tender-crisp perfection.

The next time you’re in the mood for Chinese, get your little paws over to Makli. You won’t regret it and you can bet my first meal back in the city will be here too.

My rating…4 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

Shatasdogbowl.

Stanford’s – Walnut Creek, CA

16 May

IMG_1130Every time I visit my best friend in the East Bay, she always takes me to the same restaurant. You may be asking why and the reason…Stanford’s is one of those rare places that always serves, good, reliable, and affordable food.

On most visits, my friend and I indulge in their slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich. There are no words to describe this sandwich. I stand at just over six inches, and the sandwich is as big as I am. The pork is tender and mixed with house-made BBQ sauce it is then topped with crispy onions, coleslaw, dill pickles and served on a brioche bun. It doesn’t get any better than this.

My most recent visit found my friend and I deciding on something a bit lighter, the margarita pizza. The crust is out of this world. It’s thin and loaded with flavor. It is one of the only pizzas that I will eat the crust on when I’m finished. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that they’ve switched out the fresh basil leaves, for a vinegary pesto sauce, which in my humble opinion doesn’t work. Please, please, go back to the simplicity of fresh basil!

There are several locations in Oregon and Washington State, but their Walnut Creek location is the only one in California. If you’re in the East Bay and want a great lunch or dinner, it’s worth the drive. Trust me.

My rating…4 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

Hearth – Castro, San Francisco

9 May

IMG_1125I have found it! At long last there is a bakery deserving of the highest praise. Unfortunately, it’s not in Boston. It’s in San Francisco and believe it or not it’s in the Castro.

I’ve eaten pastries throughout the UK and the Netherlands. I’ve eating in some of the best bakeries in Montreal and pretty much in every city I visit in the United States, and Hearth is one of the best. They roast their own coffee right there in the shop and bake all of the pastries fresh every morning. Take for instance my first morning there.

I ordered a cappuccino and their Brie en Croute. The coffee is so perfectly blended, and the beans so expertly roasted, I for perhaps the first time in my little doggy life, didn’t need to put cream or sugar. It’s that freaking good. The Brie en Croute is what dreams are made of. Picture it. Brioche IMG_1127dough that has Brie inside of it, then all of that is wrapped up in croissant dough and baked to a golden, flaky perfection. As it comes out of the oven, green onions and sea salt are sprinkled over the top.

The décor of minimal, white walls, beautiful wooden tables, it’s classes and elegant without being sterile, or uninviting. There’s no loud music playing like in most coffee shops, and the staff…well, they are fantastic.

Do yourself a favor and get to Hearth. You’ll never go back to the other places around the city. Trust this little doggy. She knows a good thing when she sniffs it, and Hearth is it!

My rating…5 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

Mosto – Mission District, San Francisco

7 May

FullSizeRenderSan Francisco has a great food scene, everyone knows it, but those fancy restaurants that get all the attention are usually not my bowl of kibbles. That’s why I’m always searching for the hidden gems in the city. Mosto in the Mission is one of those gems.

People who know me, know that I love my Mexican food. They also know I’m somewhat of a tequila whore, okay not somewhat I am, and with over 300 types of tequilas and mescals at my tiny little toes reach, I am in heaven.

Mosto is a tiny place, but beautifully designed. It’s perfect for what they do, serve amazing tequila drinks and a few signature small tacos. Last night I order the taco el califa, and pastrami taco. The califa was piled with slices of warm, roasted cactus paddles, cheese and cilantro. The pastrami taco is out of this world with thin slices of tender and moist pastrami with a mustard-ancho aioli, and topped with their house-made slaw. One of the finest taco’s I’ve ever eaten. My only complaint and it pales in comparison to the overall meal, was that they changed their poblano and cheese taco, to a tamale. It was an amazing tamale, but I preferred their original taco version.

The El Mosto, their house margarita is always spot on, slightly tart, slightly sweet and oh so tasty.

If you’re in the Mission area of San Francisco and are hunger for some of the best tacos in the area, head on over to Mosto. You won’t regret it and you’ll never go back to the “other” places.

My rating…5 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

Flour Bakery – Back Bay Boston

29 Apr

images (1)There are a lot of famous bakeries around the country, and every time I find myself in one of these places, I stop and have to ask myself…why? Why am I here? Why is this place so popular? I’m spending how much? Well, I’m happy to report that Flour Bakery (all locations) is no different. How in the world have they gotten so famous?

I was out on this beautiful spring day for a nice long walk. Yes, they do let me out of the house on occasion and sometimes without my leash! But I digress. I stopped in at the Back Bay location of Flour. Why you might be asking after I just stated my dislike for the place. Honestly, I keep thinking that I’m missing something because I just don’t get it.

The pastries are so sweet they actually hurt your teeth. No, it’s not an exaggeration. The sweetness factor actually makes me cringe every time. It doesn’t matter what you order it’s all overly sweet and way over priced.

Oh, and if you want good coffee, go elsewhere. Like most places they think they have to compete with the huge nasty coffee house chain that serves over-roasted, bitter coffee.

One good thing did come of today’s visit. I think I’ve finally satisfied myself that I’m not missing a thing. It’s just overly sweet, overly priced pastries. There is nothing more for me to know. Next time I’ll just keep on walking.

 

My rating…2 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

Daedalus – Cambridge, MA

24 Apr

UnknownThere are a few places in Cambridge that have always been my go to place when I want good reliable food. Daedalus was one of those places. The food isn’t fancy, and it isn’t pretentious. That’s what I liked about it. Yes, you did read the past tense correctly, and for very good reasons.

Now I need to preface this by saying that it’s been a while since I was here. Perhaps a year or more, but I just always thought Daedalus was always going to remain true and not be one of those restaurants that try to “reinvent” themselves. This reinvention failed miserably in my opinion.

I knew something was askew when I walked into the restaurant and was greeted not with the smell of steaks, or burgers grilling, oh, no. It was garlic. The entire restaurant reeked of it. I probably would have walked out and gone elsewhere, but I was there to meet friends, so I lingered at the bar and waited with a very strong cocktail.

I ordered the Chicken Kabobs with vegetables and couscous. Of course, if I would have been blindfolded I would never have known what I was eating as everything tasted like garlic. There was no discernable difference in the taste between the chicken, the green pepper, or the onion. I’m sorry, I may be unique here, but I like to taste the various flavors of my food; the sweetness of the peppers, the smokiness of the grilled onion, and yes the flavor of the chicken – shocking I know.

The risotto was just as bad as the kabobs. Yes, I know risotto has garlic in it, and I’m totally fine to use garlic as a subtle flavor in the background. Again it’s about the balance of flavors. But there just isn’t any balance in anything. It’s all one note, garlic.

I have always been a firm believer that the only reason to douse your food with garlic is to cover up the fact that you are not serving fresh, flavorful food. Why else would you want to disguise the subtle nuances of food? It’s the blending of flavors that make good cooking, truly good cooking. And here is where Daedalus fails. There is no point for me to go and pay twenty dollars for a meal and only taste the garlic.

The only reason I’m giving them 3 paws is that the wait staff is fantastic. The service is top notch. You’re actually treated like someone, not just another possible tipper. At least they are still doing this part of their business right.

My rating…3 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

West Side Lounge – Cambridge, MA

21 Apr

ThumbHandlerOkay, I must confess something to my constant readers. I’ve been hiding a secret from the world. I know it’s a terrible thing I have done, but I just didn’t want the news to get out about this little gem of a restaurant called, West Side Lounge. I wanted it to remain my secret, but I can’t hold back any longer. I must share my absolute love of this place.

Picture a dimly lit restaurant, beautiful décor, local artist’s works hanging from the walls, a menu that doesn’t have one bad item on it, and a staff that treats you like you’re part of the family. That’s West Side Lounge.

My most recent visit was no exception. The waiter, sometimes bartender, sometimes host, Jeff greeted us with a warm smile and a handshake. He’s one of the reason’s I keep coming back. He’s a sweetie! I ordered my usual margarita and they know just how I like it, silver tequila, straight up, and no salt. This night, I ordered the Edamame Fritters and Favorite Chicken Ever (that’s the name of the dish, and there’s a reason why it’s call this). The chicken is always juicy and cooked to perfection. It’s sitting on a large bed of goat cheese whipped potatoes, which is sitting in this warm, silky gravy with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

In all my years of traveling and eating at restaurants, I have never come across a place like West Side Lounge. The food, the cocktails, the service is always spot on, never changing. You know what to expect when you walk in the door. There are a lot of place in Cambridge in Boston to get great food, but it usually comes with attitude, arrogance, and a price. But not here at West Side Lounge, it’s some of the best food Cambridge has to offer with none of the pretension. And when you go, say hi to Jeff. He’ll treat you right.

My rating…5 Paws

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With love from my dog bowl to yours….Happy eating.

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