SF Restaurant Week starts Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 until January 31st in San Francisco and is presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Participating restaurants will offer special prix-fixe menus during this time.
Lunch (2 courses) will cost $15 or $25. Dinner (3 or more courses) will cost $40 or $65.
It’s a great time to get out there and try a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try and get a feel for the restaurant at an affordable price. Over 100+ restaurants will be participating in SF Restaurant Week in 2019.
Some restaurant participating include Barbara Pinseria & Cocktail Bar, flour + water, Nami Gaji, PABU Izakaya, Sushi Ran, and more.
Diners who visit at least 4 restaurant can submit entries with proof to the official Facebook event page for a chance to win up to $1,200 in dining gift certificates to different restaurants.
The official hashtag for SF Restaurant Week is #SFRW – Follow SF Restaurant Week on Instagram @eatdrinksf and on Twitter @eatdrinksf
I have a deep love for hotel bars. Usually there is a relaxing environment to them that still speaks elegance and many times quality bartenders find themselves there enjoying a bit of a relief from busy nightclubs and dive bars. Daffodil restaurant bar inside The Orchard Hotel San Francisco and located just minutes from Union Square fits the bill.
The bar has a focus on sustainability and local and is still in the middle of blossoming and expanding its menu. One of their local products they serve is Lake Tahoe Vodka which is distilled in Mountain View, California and made with Lake Tahoe water. The bar aims to use farm-fresh ingredients whenever available as well in its cocktails.
The Orchard Hotel is inspired by “Orchard Road” in Singapore, one of Asia’s most famous shopping streets and a luxurious place to shop, dine, and explore. Owner, Mr. S.C. Huang and family, hope to recreate that feeling in their boutique hotel.
Many Americans were first introduced to Singapore last year when “Crazy Rich Asians” became a world-wide success and one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen.
On the cocktail list you’ll find the Singapore Sling, La Mission Mary, Swiss Sidecar, Vesper Martini, and more with daily specials also available. The Singapore Sling was created in Singapore in 1915 at Long Bar inside Raffles Hotel and is a tasty gin concoction. If you’ve never had one I recommend giving one a try.
Beer fans can indulge in 21st Amendment Brewery from San Francisco, Ballast Point from San Diego, and it wouldn’t be a San Francisco bar without Anchor Steam. Wine enthusiasts can find a variety of California wines from Parducci Wine Cellars, Wilson Creek Winery, and Sterling Vineyards…to name a few.
Prices are fair for a tourist area in San Francisco and will range between $6 for a beer and $14 for a cocktail depending on your choices. Daffodil offers happy hour daily from 4:30PM-6:30PM and offers 1/2 price beer, house wine, and well-drinks.
USA Today‘s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards currently has Cigar City Brewing at TPA (Tampa International Airport) in the running for two categories: Best Airport Bar/Restaurant Atmosphere and Best Airport Bar.
Cigar City Brewing opened last year in the Airside C of Tampa International Airport and is serving and brewing local craft beer to airport visitors daily with Cuban food. Popular crafts such as Jai Alai, Invasion Pale Ale, Maduro, and Florida Cracker can be found at the airport brewery along with other selections.
Votes are accepted daily and Cigar City and TPA is looking for locals in Tampa and fans of the craft beer success story to help spread the word.
Cigar City Brewing was founded by Joey Redner in 2007 in Tampa and pays homage to the rich history of Tampa and Ybor City. It is one of the biggest supports of Tampa Bay’s craft beer scene that now includes over 100 breweries. Cigar City produces over 60,000 barrels of beer a year and has released over 6,000 individual brands of beer. Their annual Hunapu’s Day release party is one of the most popular and exclusive craft beer events in the country.
I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show this year in San Francisco. This food-industry trade show features 80,000+ specialty food and beverages as well as thousands of new products, industry networking events, and 1,400+ exhibitors from around the planet.
I was able to try hundreds of new products coming to the food industry. These are the 10 brands that left the biggest impression on me and that I’m recommending to my readers.
Ithaca Cold-Crafted Hummus: A premium hummus brand that is achieved by using cold processing techniques that preserve nutrients that are normally lost when heating ingredients to make hummus. There are no GMOs, no preservatives, no citric acids, no artificial ingredients, no canola, and no soy. What’s really incredible is how fresh this hummus tastes with each bite. My favorite flavors were the garlic hummus and lemon dill.
Proud Label: This is a new brand that makes spreads made with different vegetables. It was in the Incubator Village at the Fancy Food Show. Each one I tried was truly delicious with my favorite being the Product Label Red that is made with beets and pepper. It tasted like it would go great on a breakfast item (maybe even some Huevos Rancheros). The Proud Label Orange was also delicious and uses carrots, cauliflower, and spices to create a great spread. I hope to see these in stores soon.
Blue Evolution: An incubator that grows seaweed in Baja California and Alaska and is finding new ways to introduce them the public. Right now they sell penne and rotini pasta to the public, but soon they will release seaweed popcorn which was an awesome experience to try and is something I’ve never thought of doing before. I want more soon.
Ocean’s Halo: Speaking of seaweed. It seemed to be an emerging trend at the Fancy Food Show. Ocean’s Halo had a variety of products on display but their kelp-based ramen broth blew me away as well as their soy less sauces made with seaweed. There are so many things I want to try now from this brand after this experience.
Villa Piva Jucies: Southern Brazil is creating 100% natural juices that have no preservatives, no added water, no added sugar, and juices that are gluten-free and lactose-free. They are quite tasty and my favorite was the apple juice made with hibiscus, cinnamon, and ginger. Their tangerine juice was also quite tasty and is made with lemongrass. I’d recommend giving them a look.
Exotic Food Thailand: This brand from Thailand is beginning to sell Thai chili sauces made with Stevia which is a nice alternative to the sugary Thai products currently on the market and can be helpful for diabetics who still want to have some sweeter flavor in their food. Upon sampling these sauces, even I would make the switch if the product becomes available to me.
Shimadaya: This Japanese brand makes Shin Uchi Frozen Ramen which was probably one of the booths I ran past the quickest, but actually had a lasting impression because it tasted quite good and requires very little preparation. Just 20-40 seconds boiling depending on whether you want standard or thick noodles. This product is not out just yet on the market, but is coming soon.
Roam Free Bison Bites: Food with a mission describes Roam Free Bison Bites. The owner, Brittany Masters, hopes to make grass-fed bison a staple of the American diet again. She owns a sustainable start-up ranch in Western Montana that smokes premium bison meat in small batches and flavors with organic spices. The bison jerky snacks are high protein (24 grams per snack) and sugar-free. Farmers need Americans to eat bison again to help make their farms grow and become more sustainable. Personally, I found the snacks to be quick yummy and healthier than beef jerky.
The Swiss Rosti: This is a product from Portland, Oregon that can be used as snack, side dish, or hor d’oeuvre and is made with vegetables blended with potatoes or sweet potatoes. The one I tried was the Curry Lentil flavor whcih is made with shredded parsnip, carrot and potato filled with Curried Acorn Squash and Cauliflower. It was gluten-free, vegan, and incredibly delicious! I would buy these.
Aedan Foods: This is a local SF food business that makes fermented rice with something called koji which can be used as a food starter for different dishes. They offer different fermented items for cooking including miso, shio koji, amazake, and sagohachi. Their products use non-GMO and organic ingredients. I tried the shio koji and it was delicious. Fermentation is so important in Asian food cuisines and there is plenty of ways this can be used in cooking. I’ve never seen something like it in the Southeast. There’s a bit of a learning curve to their products, but they have recipes and plenty of information on their website.
Looking for a special place to spend Valentine’s Day 2019 in Tampa? I have you covered.
Here are some options for ways to spend a meal or some time with someone special. Make sure you make your reservations early as Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days in the restaurant industry.
Rooster & The Till: One of Tampa’s hottest restaurants in Seminole Heights is offering a 4-course prix fixe meal for $60 per person with an optional wine pairing for $30 per person. Space is limited and reservations must be made by phone (813) 374-8940 6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
Noble Rice: One of the best sushi restaurants located in South Tampa is offering a Valentine’s Day Omakase dinner starting at 5:30PM on February 14th. Tickets are $165 per person and are very-limited (already 50% sold!) to keep a romantic atmosphere. Omakase will feature 14 bites including toro, otoro, A5 wagyu beef, uni, and their top of the line seasonal fish with dessert included. Add a sake & champagne pairing for $65 per person. Book your reservation on Tock. 807 W. Platt St., Tampa, FL 33606
Coppertail Brewing Co.: Take your special someone out to a Valentine’s Night Market at Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City. The event will run from 6PM-10PM and feature 60+ makers in the backlot. Sip some local craft beer while you stroll through the market. Check out more info at the new Coppertail Market website: www.coppertailnightmarket.com2601 E. 2nd Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
Yacht StarShip Cruises: Escape to a cruise on the bay with Yacht StarShip for Valentine’s Day with your significant other. Lunch and dinner cruises are available and start at $49.95. Tickets include food, live entertainment, roses, champagne, and more. Check out their website for all the options available.
Ybor City Wine Bar: This local wine bar in Centro Ybor is offering a Valentines Themed Wine Society event on February 13th from 7PM to 10PM. Guests will enjoy a wine tasting paired with chocolate and include Zin-Phomaniac Zinfandel and Chocolate Shop Red Blend among other surprises. Contact Ybor City Wine Bar at (813) 999-4966. 1600 E. 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
Shrimp Boat: One of the best hidden secrets in Bloomingdale is offering Lobster and Prime Rib as a special on Valentine’s Day. Of course their shrimp dishes are all incredible as well. If you’re looking for a great meal at a casual restaurant in the Brandon/Valrico area, check out Shrimp Boat. (813) 571-5858 1020 Bloomingdale Ave, Valrico, FL 33596
Haven Tampa: Treat your Valentine to a special curated 5-course Chef’s tasting menu at $75 per person and add a wine or whiskey pairing for $45 per person. Available Valentine’s Day only. Reservations available on OpenTable. 2208 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa, FL 33606
Terra Gaucha: This Brazilian Churrascaria is one of the best I’ve had and they offering a special offer to those who dine there on Valentine’s Day. A pass to return for a complimentary meal in the future. Come hungry because the meat flows non-stop at this steakhouse. Reservations available on OpenTable. 1108 S. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33629
Rusty Pelican: This waterfront dining destination on the Courtney Campbell Causeway is offering two options on Valentine’s Day: a V-Day gala or a romantic 3-course sit-down dinner menu. Reservations for dinner are available on OpenTable. 2425 N. Rocky Point Dr., Tampa, FL 33607
Did I miss something? Feel free to e-mail me at carloseats[at]gmail[dot]com with any options I may have missed.
When you tell a fellow American that you lived abroad in Seoul, South Korea they usually ask a few questions about kimchi, bulgogi, and bibimbap and whether you visited North Korea or ate dog…but most people in the United States are comfortably unaware that some of the best fried chicken in the world is made in South Korea. Boy are they missing out.
Chicken and beer restaurants are some of the hottest concepts in Seoul and charge premium prices for quality chicken, pickled radish, potato wedges, and beer. Craft beer’s growing popularity in Seoul has also brought new pubs that are pairing the beers with specialty chicken such as Brew 3.15 Korean Fried Chicken and Craft Beer by popular Seoul Eats blogger Daniel Gray. Luckily, there are options inside the San Francisco Bay Area that can be enjoyed.
OBTown or Oriental BBQ Town in Oakland, California serves some of the most authentic Korean fried chicken that I have enjoyed since leaving South Korea. The restaurant doesn’t like anything special from the inside and the inside blasts Korean Pop songs from the early 2010s including many I loved while studying abroad at Yonsei University.
One of my friends who I dined with regularly in Seoul introduced me to OBTown and I make it a point to head there every single time I visit California. The chicken is moist and succulent. KFC is double-fried and cooked to perfection. Secret recipes of seasonings vary from establishment to establishment but these chickens are not dry or plain. The only restaurants that compare are in Duluth or Koreatown in Georgia (I’m sure L.A. probably also has some good choices).
You’ll want to share with a friend as most Korean food is made for group dining (something Americans often ignore when they dine at Korean restaurants).
The Korean name is called Yang Nyum Chicken (양념 치킨) and can come spicy, sweet & spicy, or plain. Personally, I enjoy every type of Korean Friend Chicken but your preferences can certainly be satisfied. The various chicken dishes will run you back about $20.
The really great thing about Korean Fried Chicken is that it can be paired with almost any food and still taste great so feel free to also order from the other plentiful Korean options on the menu or just order more chicken because it is truly incredible. I do recommend a Korean lager beer with it such as CASS to wash it down.
OBTown has a late-night happy hour from 9PM to 11:30PM that is also a MUST.
Do yourself a favor and get to OBTown in Oakland as soon as possible for some excellent Korean Fried Chicken and you will be hooked. You will not regret it.
Tampa founded the Cuban Sandwich in the 1800s and is home to the annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival. it would be a mistake to visit Tampa without grabbing one. There are dozens of options on where to eat and each place and many options are great.
Here are some recommendations on 10 places to enjoy a Cuban Sandwich in Tampa:
No. 1 – The Floridian – Cubans don’t get much better than The Floridian. This is a classic, no frills, Tampa restaurant (originally from Treasure Island across the bay which is not affiliated) that has excited my taste buds over and over again. The way they press the bread hits the palate just right. The Floridian has won the International Cuban Sandwich Festival 3 times which is the maximum you can win. The award is well-deserved and The Floridian is well worth your time, plus the prices are great. 4534 West Kennedy Street Tampa, Florida. (813) 287-6622 www.tampasbestcuban.com
No. 2 – Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop – This is a dive in Ybor City that I have frequented many times with my Mom. They say mother knows best and Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop is truly a wonderful place to enjoy an authentic and flavorful Cuban Sandwich or any sandwich really (dear lord the steak). The deviled crabs are a nod to Tampa’s past and the Cafe con Leche is excellent. Finding parking can be a little difficult and you should certainly bring cash, but it is worth the effort. 2002 North Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 223-5157
No. 3 – La Segunda – The shop that supplies Cuban bread to most restaurants throughout Tampa also opened a swanky new dine-in restaurant this past year and it deserves a look. La Segunda has been making Cuban bread since 1915 and lasted four generations as a family-business. Take an entire hand-made and freshly-baked Cuban bread loaf with you and enjoy some great eats. 4015 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida, 33609. (813) 540-9119http://www.lasegundabakery.com
No. 4 – Bearss Sandwiches – This is an old-school sandwich shop near Carrollwood that makes a ton of great things, but their Cubans are also incredible. The staff does have attitude by design, so be prepared for that and make sure you know your order before you get to the register. They stay busy because of their quality and history, but there are many people in Tampa who have yet to enjoy a sandwich at Bearss. 14022 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 961-9486.
No. 5 – Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine – During the great food truck battles of the early 2010s, Faedo’s constantly reigned supreme knocking out hundreds if not thousands of Cubans throughout the Tampa Bay area and now the owners have settled down into a restaurant. Their Cubans are absolutely loaded with ingredients and buttered on-top, they are quite tasty and many of the inspiration that the Faedo couple draws on comes from growing up in Tampa and being influenced by the immigrant foundations of the City of Tampa. Michelle Faedo’s is also a champion of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival and has won the maximum number of awards available for a business to compete. 1218 Ray Charles Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 284-6106
No. 6- Riverview Fresh Market – Living in the Tampa suburbia of Riverview for years caused me to go looking for a quality Cuban and Riverview Fresh Market, known before as Bori-Mex, serves excellent sandwiches and has a mean Cuban. It may not be superior to some of the titans of Tampa Bay, but for a neighborhood shop and bodega it does pretty well at satisfying all my taste buds and making me happy. 9613 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 374-2353
No. 7 – Columbia Cafe – Although Columbia is not my favorite place to get a Cuban, they have been serving one for longer than anyone else in Tampa Bay and opened with the Cuban on their menu in 1905. The views on the Tampa Riverwalk and a Cuban Sandwich in hand with freshly baked La Segunda Cuban bread and a glass of sangria is an ideal day for me in Tampa. 801 Old Water Street #1905, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 229-5511.
No. 8 – Cafe Hey – This was one of the first restaurants to be established in what is now known to most people as Tampa Heights. When the area was just developing I was regularly making trips to Cafe Hey for a quality Cuban Sandwich and it did not disappoint. 1540 North Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 221-5150
No. 9 – Bodega – Many people swear by Bodega and the upstart founded in 2013 has managed to successfully appear in both Tampa and St. Petersburg in just a few years. The owners call it “Latin street food” and their flavor profile is more of an interpretation rather than rooted in history like most Tampa Cuban powerhouses. The lines don’t stop forming and for a town where people bounce from one place to next easily, Bodega has become a household name. 5901 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 533-3333 http://www.eatatbodega.com
No. 10 – Don Pan Bakery – If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a correlation between bakeries and great Cubans and Don Pan is no exception. Their Cuban Sandwich is solid and a contender for the area. Don Pan was rapidly expanding around Tampa for some time, but seems to have scaled back and is focusing more now on operations. 202 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609. 813-350-0500
I was born and lived in San Francisco until I was 8 years old. During my childhood Caribbean restaurants were far and between. Caribbean culture in general was mostly hidden from public view.
Most food media was limited back then as well since it was the 1990s and media did not have the multicultural voices of today. My exposure to Caribbean cuisine growing up was mostly from home cooking until we moved to Florida where it thrives.
Now that I am back in San Francisco I see a number of restaurants taking root in the direction of this food and I welcome it.
Today I decided to check out Isla Vida (Island Life) after finishing an article about The International Cuban Sandwich Festival and making myself crave a Cuban nearly 3,000 miles from home. Isla Vida has a Miami-like vibe to its interior with floral features (without the house music) although there is still room for growth in the interior. It has only been around for a few months.
The menu is fairly simple with Cuban and Jamaican influences and Isla Vida proudly refers to itself as Afro-Caribbean. The signature items are the smoked chicken and sandwiches as well as the Guava BBQ Ribs.
The restaurant is fast-casual but feels similar to a sit-down restaurant. If it was in South Florida, there would be a DJ inside spinning music, but the playlist was pretty enjoyable regardless.
Chef and Co-Owner, Jay Foster, and Co-Owner, Matthew Washington, are one of the only black business owners in the Fillmore which is a historically black neighborhood once called “Harlem of the West”, according to KQED.
I went for the Cuban Sandwich or Cubano ($13) as they call it. The Cuban Sandwich is originally from Tampa so I wanted to compare and contrast how people in San Francisco are enjoying their Cubans compared to my home city.
The Cuban Sandwich at Isla Vida comes with oven-roasted and wood-fired pork, ham, manchego, mustard, and a pickle on bread and comes with a helping of mixed greens, dressing, and shoestring fries.
The first thing I noticed is that the sandwich does not have salami. Salami is included in a traditional Cuban in Tampa due to influences from Italian immigrants that goes back to the 1800s and a is a foundation of the sandwich. Although I did find myself missing my salami, I was quite happy with the additions added by the chef.
The second thing I noticed is the swap of dijon mustard which is something that might have people from Tampa fuming, but for me the dijon mustard worked really with the smoked pork stacked on top of the sandwich. The swap of Swiss cheese for Manchego wasn’t noticeable in my opinion due to the bold flavors throughout the sandwich.
I admit that I am much more open-minded than some of my fellow diners in the East Coast who expect their roots to be maintained exactly that way, but to me food is always evolving and chefs should be respected for taking risks and rewarded when it works well.
One of the biggest differences is the addition smoked pork. Isla Vida is not the first place to use smoked pork in the country, however restaurants in Tampa move towards pulled pork as a topping on their Cuban. The smoked pork really worked on Isla Vida’s Cuban and it has a very unique and flavorful finish that is perfect when you hit the aftertaste of ham, mustard, and crunchy bread as you take each bite.
The only thing I would add is more ham to the sandwich to better balance the smoked pork, it is great but personally I would add more ham to taste it more.
The smoked pork almost made me want Guava BBQ sauce on my sandwich, but I feel I would have completely betrayed my sandwich and roots if I fully entertained that so I ruled against it.
The portion size was generous. I could have easily have split the sandwich with someone and ordered some more sides, but I hardly can ever finish a Cuban in general. Your mileage may vary. The salad and fries were plentiful.
I would like to try the tostones and maduros in someday to see how they line up to my experiences. Isla Vida is also offering brunch and I am interested in giving that a shot in the future as well.
Hopefully they also add some cocktails in the future as that would be a major add. I also found myself craving a Cafe con Leche with my sandwich and I think it would be a powerful addition to the menu if done right.
I will return to Isla Vida in the future for more food and am happy to recommend it as a former judge to the International Cuban Sandwich Festival.
Restaurant Name: Isla Vida
Cuisine: Caribbean, Cuban, Jamaican
Address: 1325 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
The International Cuban Sandwich Festival, held annually in Tampa is seeking home entries for this year’s festival which will occur on Sunday, March 31st, 2019 at Ybor City’s Historic Centennial Park. The festival is now in its 8th year.
The organizers of the festival are seeking home chefs or someone with an incredible Cuban recipe to enter their competition. The new category is officially called: “Homestyle Cuban Sandwich Smackdown Contest!”
There will be cash prizes and media packages for winners of the new category.
Interested participants can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry because entries are limited.
For those who don’t know, the Cuban Sandwich was created in Tampa by immigrants in the last 1800s who worked in Ybor City’s cigar factories. Ybor City was home to a number of immigrants during this era with community buildings such as the Cuban Club and Italian Club. Those buildings can still be seen today in Ybor City.
Despite some controversy with Miami, Tampa is the home of the Cuban Sandwich and has been served since at least 1905 in restaurants there.
Gigglewaters is offering a free movie and beer to those impacted the current U.S. government shutdown with proof of position each night until the shutdown ends. The local speakeasy in Safety Harbor, Florida is a popular spot to catch old flicks and enjoy some excellent food and cocktails.
The current government shutdown is one of the longest in U.S. history and has no clear end in sight for government workers and contractors. More than 400,000 are working without pay during the shutdown according to CNBC.
Gigglewaters is located at 737 Main Street Safety, Harbor, Florida 34695. You can reach them at (727) 669-7077. Visit them online at www.gigglewaters.com