The Power of the Press

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1, 2016 by junkfoodie

A few months ago on this site, I crowned the tiny Richmond District bakery Arsicault as having the best croissant in San Francisco. Back then, on a busy day, there might be three people ahead of you in line.

In the middle of August, none other than Bon Appetit Magazine proclaimed Arsicault as the best new bakery in America! That was great news for the bakery’s business, but bad news for those of us that supported Arsicault since the very beginning…

 

arsicault line

The line now stretches down the block, typically for about an hour, sorta like Mr. Holmes, Tartine and others have experienced during their 15 minutes of fame.

I had a chance to catch up with the affable owner, Armando Lacayo, on a recent visit, and he seemed a little awestruck by his success. He says the hardest part of the recent influx of new patrons is trying to keep everyone happy. Even with a 4 pastries per person (two of any one kind max) limit, he still sells out of everything daily, usually by 10:00AM., leaving some in the line with nothing. In spite of his success, he remains humble, often going outside to chat with folks in line. When I asked him if he had any plans for expansion, he played it coy, saying “We have to get our act together first”. When I asked him to explain what he meant, he shrugged and said they have to become more efficient. he is looking to hire more bakers as he can’t sustain the hours he’s been putting in. In fact, he’s had to resort to closing on Mondays starting  8/29/16.

 

armando

The good news is, the product hasn’t suffered too much. The croissants are still the best around, and the chocolate-almond croissants are better than before. The kouign-amann ranks up there with the City’s best (b.Patisserie) as well. Armando did say that due to the demand, he had to cut back on breadth of his offerings, so we are now limited to his most popular 6-8 items.

arsicault product

 

Good things happen to good people, so congratulations Armando!

 

 

Still the best burger in L.A.*(*fast food edition)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2016 by junkfoodie

Los Angeles is arguably the burger capital of the world. The birthplace of McDonald’s, In & Out and Bob’s Big Boy is also a hotbed for a host of  higher-end “Gourmet”-style patties, and everything in between.

 You can argue for weeks over what the “best” burger in L.A is. Some might argue for the classics at the venerable ( and newly re-opened) Cassell’s or the old-school Apple Pan. Others may claim Father’s Office has the best. Still others will clamor for the double-double at In & Out.

For my money, the “best” burger in L.A. Is at Original Tommy’s. 

 

Opened in 1946, I still prefer the primal location at the intersection of Beverly and Rampart Streets in LA. There are 30+ locations of Original Tommy’s throughout the Southland, but for some reason, the food seems to taste better standing ( there is no seating) in the warm L.A. evening enjoying a chili burger or tamale while watching a cross section of Angelenos come through.

  

Although not very photogenic, the burgers are a thing of beauty. The griddles burger and melted cheese are sucked in the fluffy bun and slathered with their secret recipe chili and topped with mustard, chopped onion, pickle slices and a large slice of ripe tomato. For about $3.00, it’s also a great value. Not only will it fill you up for half a day, it is extremely satisfying.

If you are not in the mood for a burger, or if you are like me and want to supplement the burger, I’d recommend a chili tamale. A shredded beef filled tamale with a ladle-full of their famous chili topped with a slice of cheese, chopped onions, pickle slices and a slice of tomato, all for under $4.00!

  

What makes this so good is the chili; beefy and thick, it has a slightly spicy kick with a little lick of cumin. It is perfect consistency for a burger as it is thick enough to stay on the burger without spilling off the bun.

A huge SoCal classic meal with fries and a soda for $10-12 that you will crave for weeks to come! A junkfoodie hall-of-fame winner!

Authentic Tijuana style tacos in Vegas

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2016 by junkfoodie

if you spend any time in Vegas with kids, you know how hard it is to find cheap eats that both adults and kids will enjoy ( assuming the adults don’t enjoy fast food). 

One great option is Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. They have several locations in Las Vegas with a very convenient in located at 3049 Las Vegas Blvd. just past the Wncore by Wynn in the front of a strip mall. 

  

It looks chaotic for the uninitiated, as there are three lines for ordering depending on the type of meat you want, and a separate line for drinks and paying. They are known for their adobada a.k.a. Al pastor, so I got in that line first:

  

The adobada was delicious, carved off the spit with a small chunk of pineapple from the top.

  

It was tender, juicy and flavorful, and not overly saucy like most. Perfect.

The line for the carne asada was a bit longer, and they offered sopes, mulas (like a taco with another tortilla on top), tacos, quesadillas, tostadas or fries withe the carne asada. It was pretty good, smoky and flavorful, but a little on the dry side.

  

I also tried the suadero ( braised beef “breast”), the lengua (beef tongue), the sesos (brain), which were all good, but the standout for me was the Azteca.

 

This was an improbably delicious combination of carne asada, chorizo and roasted nopal (cactus). Maybe not for everyone, but I thought it was delicious.

The downsides: a little crowded at peak times, a tough walk from the center of the strip if it is 100+ degrees out.

The upsides: delicious, authentic food and bargain ( for Vegas) prices, family friendly, self service drinks, including the (fountain-style) horchata,  tamarindo, jamaica aguas frescas.

 

All in all, a GREAT place for budget-friendly family eats in Vegas!

  

Best croissant in SF

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2016 by junkfoodie

  

in my never ending quest to find the perfect croissant outside of Paris, I always stop into any French-style bakery to try the plain croissant to see how it stacks up to Eric Kayser.

So far, my favorite in SF is hands down at Arsicault Bakery in the Richmond District. This unassuming place doesn’t look like much on the outside, located at 397 Arguello Street, just north of Clement Street. Inside, a small display case and counter displays the days offerings. The pain au chocolat, koiugn amann and berry paille were all good, but this is about the plain croissant.

  

Here are the pain au chocolat and plain croissant before I touched them. For me, a good croissant is crispy and flaky on the outside with a hundred layers of dough, with a soft, tender interior. This is how the Arsicault croissant looks after I touched it:

  

Nice and buttery, the shards of flaky goodness fell all over as the croissant shattered in my hands. Perfect.

The only downside to this croissant is that it may prevent you from eating thei other excellent treats, including a crusty almond croissant and savory ham & cheese croissant.

  

The amiable owner, Armando Lacayo proudly displays a vintage bakery delivery cars in the mezzanine of his cafe. The cart dates back to the 1900’s and is from Armando’s great-grandparents bakery, Arsicault Boulangerie in France.

  

This wins junkfoodie’ vote for Best Croissant in SF… For now. The search continues!

SF Classic: Liguria Bakery

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2016 by junkfoodie

it’s been a while, but junkfoodie is back once again. A recent early morning visit to North Beach prompted me to write about one of the oldest bakeries left in SF; Liguria Bakery. Opened in 1911, this family run bakery is a San Francisco institution. Still owned by the Soracco family, this focaccia-only bakery has not changed much since I was a kid.

  

They now offer more non-traditional varieties, like jalapeño/cheese, but I suppose  you have to be adaptable to survive these days. I remember them offering plain, onion, “pizza” and raisin only, so I ordered one plain and one raisin this time.

  

Each piece is still a good sized portion, probably12″x14″, and for $4.00, it’s an amazing value for the quality and neighborhood! One of the things I enjoy the most about Liguria is the old-school vibe of the place, from the minimalist decor to the old fashioned butcher paper and twine wrapping.

If you are lucky, Mama Socorro will wait on you, and you’ll get to see her wrapping up your order. 

 

As for the focaccia, it is light and airy with a nice, crisp edge. The raisin is perfect for toasting at home, and slathering with butter. The onion makes a great mid-day snack and the plain is the perfect accompaniment to a plate of homemade pasta. You can also grab a slab to go, pick up an espresso and nearby Caffe Trieste and enjoy and alfresco breakfast in Washington Square park.

Liguria Bakery

1700 Stockton Street @ Filbert St.

North Beach at the NE corner of Washington Square Park

ShakeDown: ice cream in the TL!

Posted in Around the Bay Area, ice cream with tags , , , on September 16, 2015 by junkfoodie

The Tenderloin in SF has long been known as a seedy area, with a lot of hidden food gems if you know where to look. It is now starting to gentrify, starting with the hipster bars, upscale restaurants and small boutiques. One could always go to the TL and find great Vietnamese food, authentic Thai cuisine, dive bars, hookers, crack or heroin. What it was not known for is a place for great ice cream…until now.

Shakedown outside

Shakedown SF 835 Geary St. SF 94109

Shakedown crew

the Shakedown crew

Shakedown is the coolest ice cream shop in the least likely location. Right in the thick of the TL, you might drive or walk right past it without giving it a second look, and that would be a mistake. The graffiti-style artwork covering the façade might have you mistake the place for another abandoned storefront or the latest skate shop, but inside you will find some fine artisanal ice creams made by some of the most down to earth people selling high end ice cream anywhere. These guys may look like they are running a craft brewery or tattoo parlor, but they are very passionate about their craft.

Ask any of them about their flavors, and you’ll see how much they care as they describe how their S’Mores ice cream is made with housemade marshmallows, graham crackers made from scratch, and chocolate ganache which is whipped up on site.

Order a scoop or two in a waffle cone and you’ll see how carefully they make the cone to order in front of you, delicately removing the hot waffle from the iron, rolling it by hand , then thoughtfully dropping a marshmallow (homemade no doubt) into the bottom of the cone to keep your ice cream from leaking out.

The flavors are some of the most interesting in the City. Their flavors change often, but if you can, try the Pennsyltucky (pieces of walnut chocolate chip pie swirled into bourbon ice cream), Jacker Crack (popcorn infused ice cream with swirls of dulce de leche & crushed peanut brittle), the aforementioned S’mores, or two of my favorites: the Acapulco Gold (pineapple ice cream with Grand Marnier) and the Pineapple Orange Guava sorbet ( made with Pineapple, Cara Cara oranges, SoCal guavas and coconut milk). They do great shakes and imaginative sundaes as well.

shakedown case

Not only do the décor and crew make this place perfect for the neighborhood, it’s also open late: until 11:00PM Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, Midnight on Fridays, 1:00AM Saturdays, and closed on Tuesday. The best part about this place is it is still relatively under the radar, so no Bi-Rite like lines! Come check it out next time you are in the area, we need to keep these guys around for a while.

Shakedown SF 835 Geary Street SF, CA 94109 (415)374-7523

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse-SF

Posted in Around the Bay Area, bakery, pastry, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 12, 2015 by junkfoodie

baked sign

Mr. Holmes has become a cult favorite among Bay Area foodies for their “cruffins”, a good-intentioned mashup of a croissant and a muffin. Two lines form each day outside this bakery; one for folks wanting to buy a cruffin, and one for everyone else. Even the line for everyone else is long, so this tiny shop must be doing ok!

cruffin ladyThe line for the cruffins can actually start 30 minutes prior to opening. just before they are ready to open for the day, one of the Mr. Holmes employees will come out and happily hand each of those in the cruffin queue a sticker.

image

Each sticker enables that person to purchase a maximum of 2 cruffins. This ensures that everyone with a sticker will be able to get one. At some point, whenever they run out of the allotted stickers, the employee will inform those still waiting in the cruffin line that did not receive a sticker that they are welcome to wait, but they are not guaranteed to get one! If all the sticker holders do not buy the maximum 2 cruffins, there may be some left! I’ve seen some people wait in line for almost an hour only to be told there are none left!

The cruffin flavors change daily, so you get what you get. We’ve had black walnut, chocolate cherry ( I think) and S’Mores. For me the cruffins are not bad depending on the flavor, but I actually prefer the filled doughnuts(especially  if they have passion fruit! ), the bostock, or even their “Amelie Amann”.

smores cruffinS’Mores cruffin

Wait Time: 1-1/2 cups of coffee

Hype factor: High

Lived up to the Hype: not for the cruffin

Signature item: cruffin

Fall back item: filled doughnut( especially the passion fruit!)

image

Come back and visit for our next chapter in the Best of SF’s bakeries!

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