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Mussels vindaloo at Whitechapel (Photocredit: Kelly Puleio)

 

Del Popolo

Eat This Now: 9 must-try dishes in San Francisco right now

San Francisco is a tough town to keep up with. And we're not referring to the ever-evolving, always-a-step-ahead tech world, but rather the city’s diverse and delicious food scene. You barely have a chance to visit last month’s hottest new dishes before you're all wrapped up in the excitement of the coming months’ new attractions (ahem, The Bywater, Ippudo in Berkeley). If you're still playing catch-up too, here are nine favorite dishes to check out around town right now.

The mobile pizzeria Del Popolo drops anchor in Nob Hill
Fans of Jon Darsky’s naturally leavened, Neapolitan-style pizzas have been chasing his mobile pizzeria around town for years now, but in November the chef celebrated the opening of his much-anticipated brick-and-mortar shop in Nob Hill. As stellar as the classic Margherita is, you would be remiss to skip the winter squash pie, topped with squash and baked to earthy sweetness, with creamy mascarpone, salty-savory bacon, and rosemary.

Check out what the buzz is all about with Cala’s mussel tamal
There’s no denying that Gabriela Cámara’s recently opened, seafood-centric Mexican restaurant in Mid Market is one of the biggest and most buzzed about openings of 2015— Michael Bauer even named it his number one best new restaurant of the year. The menu is filled with items designed to give diners a broader perspective on Mexican cuisine, and the mussel tamal is a standout, presenting the shell-on bivalves encased in fresh masa with leeks and serrano chiles, all wrapped in a corn husk.

Sam Wo is back with old favorites and some new tricks, too
After closing down back in 2012 to due to some building code-related issues, this beloved 100-year-old Chinatown institution has finally re-opened in its shiny (well, not really) new digs on Clay Street. The menu has remained more or less unchanged, with cult favorites like barbecue pork rice noodle rolls and the classic wonton soup still holding court, but you will find a couple new items in the mix, too, including the finger-lickin-super-good fried salt-and-pepper chicken wings.

The Whitechapel switch: Come for the gin, stay for the mussels
While this new gin-fueled venture from the talented folks behind Smuggler’s Cove is an obvious drinks destination, it also offers some tasty food to match. Playing off of the spirit’s heritage and history, the menu is a unique combination of Dutch, English, and Indian influences. Speaking of the latter, the mussels vindaloo (pictured) makes for surprisingly awesome and satisfying bar fare, with a creamy-spicy sauce that will make the accompanying fluffy griddled naan disappear quickly.

A to-die-for seven-layer honey cake at Mama Papa Lithuanian Bakery
Get your unique sweets fix at this recently opened sister bakery to Alameda’s Mama Papa Lithuania restaurant. Made by the owner’s mother (aka the namesake mama), the Medutis, a sweet textured seven-layer honey cake, is definitely a standout in a case full of surprising new delights.

Craving delicious Vietnamese soup? Cafe Kim Thuy makes the decision easy
Only a couple of months old, this is a welcome addition to Oakland’s dense Vietnamese restaurant scene along and around International Boulevard. Ordering is made very easy at this family-run spot: There is one type of rotating noodle soup served each day, for $10. Be sure to stop in on Fridays for the bun cha ca, which features fish cakes and fresh dill. If this cool weather keeps up, it’s sure to become your go-to soul-warming dish.

Dirty Water serves up hot and blistered peppers like you’ve never had them
This swanky Twitter building newbie puts an interesting twist on the always-popular starter of blistered shishito peppers, pairing them with padróns and serving both over rich, creamy grits that absorb and temper the kick.

Ninebark’s two Michelin-starred chef keeps things as simple as possible, but no less incredible
Okay, so it’s a little ways outside of the city (in downtown Napa, to be precise), but this multi-level project from two Michelin-starred chef Matthew Lightner is worth the mileage. The food is seasonal and California-inspired, but with a much simpler and back-to-basics preparation, in contrast to the avant-garde techniques the chef has come to be known for. That’s not to say there isn’t refinement and cleverness in the kitchen. Take the must-order tartare for example, a surf-and-turf combo of aged beef, lobster tail, and ahi tuna with pickles, tomatoes, and egg yolk that is Lightner’s wink-and-a-nod to seven layer dip.

Hankering for a comfort food fix? Let Scotland Yard solve that for you
If you’ve got a craving for some supremely satisfying pub grub, look no further than the Marina’s new beer and comfort food joint, Scotland Yard. Plenty of tasty, creative options abound, but c’mon, we all know you just want a burger, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Especially in this case: The Yard Burger delivers a thick patty topped with bone marrow aïoli (swoon), sharp aged English Cheddar, and cornichon remoulade.

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