Archive for bay area

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.


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!)


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

Better than a “Butter Cake”

Posted in Around the Bay Area, bakery, pastry with tags , , on April 3, 2015 by junkfoodie

B Patisserie (2821 California Street @ Divisadero St. SF)has quickly become one of my favorite bakeries in SF. Although there are many that I go to for one fantastic item (Knead on 24th for the Pomme d’Amour for example), B has not one but TWO great items which I can not get enough of. One is the decadent Banana Chocolate croissant, which is gooey, comforting and tender an flaky as well. if you are lucky enough to get one of these hot out of the oven, you will not be able to eat this without making a mess. Globs of molten banana, rich melted chocolate and shards of whisper-light croissant flakes will be stuck to your hands, shirt, pants, seat, etc. It is absolutely worth it, and this is coming from a decidedly non-chocolate lover!

Banana-chocolate croissants and Kouign Amann from B Patisserie

Banana-chocolate croissants and Kouign Amann from B Patisserie

Even better is their renowned Kouign Amann (queen-ah-mon). This sounds very fancy, but it’s literal translation is “Butter cake”. Hailing from Btittany, this is supposed to be a Breton cake made with bread dough layered with butter and sugar. In the hands of the team at B, it becomes a fluffy, crispy, flaky crown of puff pastry-like dough with a sugary top. Perfect with a cup of coffee. if you get this to go, PLEASE make sure you eat one as soon as you step outside the door, before you get it home. Although it may still be good when you get home, it will be almost magical eaten hot from the oven!

The shop itself is very nice, and they have much more than these two items; scones, various pastries, sandwiches, salads, coffees, etc. It’s very popular, clean and chic, but I prefer to act like a complete pig in the privacy of my car or house, away from the  judgmental eyes of normal eaters.

The resume of co-founder Belinda Leong is very impressive as well. After graduating from the culinary program at City College of SF, she started her career at Gary Danko on the savory team, while helping out in he pastry department. After various stints at places throughout Europe and the US including Pierre Herme and Fauchon, she then became the pastry chef at Manresa. If you like pastry and are near SF, do yourself a favor and make a trip here.

Best Chinese Roast Duck & Roast Pig in SF

Posted in Around the Bay Area, Chinese, junkfoodie Hall of Fame with tags , , on April 3, 2015 by junkfoodie

Well, junkfoodie is back after a long absence due to laziness. I’ve done a lot of eating, but no blogging. Here is one of my favorites for under $10 in the City. Not only is it cheap and tasty, it may be the best in it’s class in the Bay area.

My go-to place for Chinese BBQ in the City is Cheung Hing (2339 Noriega St. @ 30th Ave.across the street from Safeway.). It is a mostly takeout place, but they do have 4-5 tables inside the bare, clean (if slightly greasy) interior. Service is pleasant, but typical for a non-English speaking Chinese place.

I usually order some variation of the two-item BBQ plate ($7.25). This time, I got the roast duck and roast pig. The duck is crispy skinned, not too greasy and has a nice sweet/salty flavor. The duck is ladled with a scoop of salty duck jus, which adds to it’s succulence.

Cheung Hing

The roast pig here is the thing…crispy, crackling skin, which you expect, but also a nice. moist meaty hunk ‘o porkiness attached. There isn’t a huge layer of fat, but what makes this version so good is the subtle smokiness in the meat which only enhances it’s sweetness.

Served over a bed of fluffy rice and a pile of boiled cabbage, it’s a great under $10 meal, and one of the best examples outside of Hong Kong.

Best seafood bite…maybe ever?

Posted in Around the Bay Area, junkfoodie Hall of Fame with tags on April 3, 2015 by junkfoodie

I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy (and lazy). Many folks have implored me to get back to posting, and a meal I had recently has compelled me to get back on the horse. I had dinner at Michael Mina (252 California Street SF 94111), and it was one of the most memorable meals i’ve had in a long time, particularly due to the main course, which was possibly the best seafood dish I’ve ever tasted…ever! more about that later. Granted, the meal was a bit more than the Junkfoodie’s usual $10 and under, but worth a post nonetheless.
The meal started with a seemingly innocuous slice of bread with a small ramekin with a mysterious substance in it. As it turns out, it was the most addicting blend of ricotta cheese, honey, and black pepper. I would have been happy with this course alone!

Michael Mina's bread with honey ricotta and black pepper

Michael Mina’s bread with honey ricotta and black pepper

The next bite was an amuse-bouche of a perfectly crispy-yet-gooey mini grilled cheese sandwich with a shot of heirloom tomato soup. Just like being a kid again (if your mom had a Michelin star)!Perfect.

Mini grilled cheese sandwich with heirloom tomato soup shot amuse bouche

Mini grilled cheese sandwich with heirloom tomato soup shot amuse bouche

My “first” course was the Ahi Tuna Tartare with ancho chile, habanero-sesame oil, pine nut and mint served with toast points. Pretty, nice tableside service, but for me this was the low point of the meal, relatively speaking. Not bad mind you, just not spectacular.

Ahi tartare

Ahi tartare

My second course was the Shabu-Shabu with toasted sesame sauce, ponzu and Prime beef rib cap. A very nice tableside service once again with the captain carefully placing the beef into the bowl and quickly pouring the broth over it. Melt in your mouth tender, full of beefy flavor! Didn’t need the sauces at all to be delicious. I tasted everything floating in the broth, including what seemed to be zucchini shavings, mustard flower, and shiso leaf.

Shabu shabu

Shabu shabu

Finally, the best dish of the night (year?) for me. The black cod with uni sushi rice, mustard flower, king trumpet mushrooms and dashi broth….absolutely unforgettable. The fish was absolutely flawless. the outside was perfectly crispy, and seemed to literally dissolve on your tongue. the flesh was meaty, silky, moist and full of fish flavor (in a good way) without being overpowered by the other components of the dish. the vegetables, the broth and especially the meaty, succulent nuggets of king trumpet mushrooms were savored untl there was’t even a speck of food on my plate. This was easily the best bite I’ve had so far this year!

Black cod with uni rice.....

Black cod with uni rice…..

New favorite bowl of noodles: Thai Boat Noodles at Zen Yai Thai!

Posted in Around the Bay Area, noodles with tags , , , , on December 9, 2013 by junkfoodie

My new current favorite bowl of noodles is at a small hole-in-the wall Thai place in Little Saigon in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. The place is clean, but not too much to look at. I recently led a group from Explore San Francisco through Little Saigon, and we stopped in for a bowl of these noodles. We were the only non-Thai customers in here on a Saturday afternoon. There are two chalkboards on the wall listing specials, but they are only written in Thai. Local SF foodies may know to order this off menu special, and if you get a chance, stop by and grab a bowl. The name Boat Noodles are a nod to the noodle vendors that sell their noodles from boats in the many waterways of Thailand.ImageYou can choose from beef or pork, thick or thin noodles, large or small bowl. I chose the small bowl of pork with thick noodles this time. The thick noodles are toothsome and slightly firm. Sliced pork, meatballs, some spinach-like greens in a small bowl covered in broth and topped with cracklings(!). The broth is what makes this dish though… long simmered broth, laden with chiles and intensified by the addition of beef blood! The blood lends a dusky, deep flavor without the metallic, “bloody” taste one might expect. Just enough heat from the chiles makes tray full of dried chiles, jalapenos, chile paste and sauces unneccesary. So good, you’ll finish the noodles, meat and cracklings, and probably want to lift the bowl to your lips and finish that broth.


Falafel Drive In – San Jose, CA

Posted in Around the Bay Area, junkfoodie Hall of Fame with tags , , , , on September 23, 2013 by junkfoodie


I first heard of Falafel’s Drive In (2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128) years ago after seeing it featured on the Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives. I stopped by and had a gyro’s sandwich $7.25 large), and was severely underwhelmed. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. A few months later, I happened to be in the area and I thought I’d give it another shot.

If you are going to a place  called Falafel’s Drive In, you kinda have to try the falafel, don’t you? I tried the falafel ($5.50 large), and NOW I get it. I’m by no mean’s a vegetarian, but I get this every time I come here now, along with a side of their hummus. I know you all know what a falafel is, but if you don’t, it is a deep fried ball of ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with onions, spices, etc. In the wrong hands, these can be dry and tasteless, but these are perfect. They are fried perfectly so they form a nice crunchy crust while keeping the inside moist and succulent. The falafel sandwich is served in a pita with lettuce,, tomato, onion, yogurt sauce and their fantastic home-made hot sauce. Even if you don’t like things spicy, you must get their hot sauce. I always ask for extra hot sauce, and they fill a paper boat of it for me. The hot sauce is sweet and tangy, with just a bit of heat.Perfect for the falafel. The sandwich itself is very balanced; crunchy, nutty, almost meaty falafel, crunchy vegetables, creamy yogurt sauce and the aforementioned hot sauce.


The hummus is nice and creamy, and is served with slices of pickled radish and cucumber and dollop of the hot sauce and topped off with a drizzle of olive oil. A bag of pita bread comes with it as well ($6.75 large).


Part of the appeal of the place is that it has been around since 1966, and retains not only the old-school neon sign, but the local, small town drive in feel, even though the city has grown up all around it. The rest of the menu includes, burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings and wonderful shakes. The fresh banana shake is my favorite ($3.25).

There are other middle eastern favorites on the menu as well, including the gyros (meh), kifta, foul, koubby and more. Haven’t tried any of those except the gyros, and I probably never will because the falafels are that good. Is it the best falafel in the world? Who knows, but certainly the best I’ve ever had. Definitely know what Guy Fieri meant now.