The Combo Plate @ De Afghanan Kabob House, Berkeley

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Kabob Trifecta: Chicken Kabob, Teka Beef, and Chaplee (spiced ground sirloin). Served with Pallow (brown basmati) and Challow (white basmati).

Although the busy corner of University and San Pablo is typically dominated by the smokey presence of Everett & Jones Barbecue, De Afghanan Kabob House offers the best food in the vicinity. I will admit, comparing Middle Eastern cuisine to American Southern cuisine is an apple-versus-orange proposition. But despite the inherent differences (and similarities) between barbecue and kabob, De Afghanan always earns my top honors for its exquisite simplicity. It’s almost strange that I would arrive at this conclusion. I have deep respect and appreciation for barbecue, and Afghani food is far less familiar to me. But barbecue is finicky, and if it’s not spot-on in its execution, it’s just not very good. Everett & Jones has good days and great days; De Afghanan is always [… read more …]

Quabili Pallow & Mantoo @ Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House, Oakland Chinatown

Quabili Pallow @ Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House, Oakland Chinatown.

It’s almost too hot to blog, but here we go: With any luck, my forthcoming ebook will be available for purchase by early August. It has been written, photographed, edited, re-edited, and it’s quickly becoming time to stop obsessing over every detail and to just push it out into the world. I’ll wait until it’s actually published before I reveal the title and subject matter.

Writing an ebook for the last three months has meant that I’ve been Napa bound nearly every weekend, and quite frankly, I’ve missed eating my way though the Greater Bay Area. The foods that I’ve been eating recently have been decidedly Western, so I was craving something more exotic, something from the other side of the world.

Kamdesh Afghan Kabab House not only fit the bill, but it also reawakened my taste for Eastern [… read more …]

The Pulled Pork Sandwich @ Slow, Berkeley

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The pig has many forms.

Submitted for your approval, this sandwich from Slow in Berkeley represents my last unmentioned morsel from 2012. This post has been on my back-burner since December, and its completion kind of got lost in the holiday shuffle. I should mention that, in the realm of pulled pork sandwiches, the version at Slow might not have show-stopper looks, but it is very well made, and it’s under $7. In terms of accoutrements — that is, bread and fixins — the sandwiches at Slow can vary quite a bit, which is to the restaurant’s credit (Slow sources its bread from Acme, not a bad choice, either). On this day, the Niman Ranch pork was adorned with coleslaw, and the side of potato salad was delicious and bountiful.

Fried Chicken Sandwich @ BarbersQ, Napa

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True School: The Fried Chicken Sandwich @ BarbersQ, Napa.

I don’t want to say that I’m obsessed with fried chicken sandwiches. For one thing, I prefer my fried chicken on the bone, so fried chicken sandwiches aren’t really my thing. Delicious? Yes; a priority? No. But the cult of Bakesale Betty has continued to occupy a small part of my mind, and it’s made me more aware of fried chicken sandwiches in general (for whatever that’s worth).

The blueprint for the fried chicken sandwich at Napa’s BarbersQ is almost identical to that of Bakesale Betty: One fried chicken breast, some coleslaw, bread. This is how it should be done. No need to reinvent the wheel. Of course, BarbersQ offers a more refined (that is, vastly more fresh) sandwich than Bakesale Betty, though at a slightly higher cost (then again, that cost does include fries).

This comparison presents one [… read more …]

Seven Meals I Hope to Eat Again in 2013

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Ramen’s Equal? The Bun Mam Soup @ Bun Mam Soc Trang, East Oakland.

If you’re reading this, then the world hasn’t ended. I, for one, feel relieved. There’s still so much great food to eat out there; I just wasn’t ready for our global unraveling quite yet. So, with the future confidently in mind (at least as much as it can be), I offer a handful of foods that I hope to revisit next year. Although I don’t like to repeat my meals out very often (as just one person, I’m trying to cast my culinary net as wide as possible), some foods prove so memorable, that they inevitably foster cravings. These are the same meals that eventually become my favorites, and they comprise the few times per year that I will eat “off the record,” just for the pure sake of eating, but without any official blog [… read more …]

Scouting Bay Area Sandwiches, and a Couple Other Half-Formed Thoughts

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Hella Tasty: The Tri-Tip Sandwich with “The Works” (#84) @ The Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe, Berkeley. In this case, “The Works” includes fresh cheese, grilled onions, pineapple, jalapeƱo, lettuce, tomato, and cilantro-garlic sauce. One of the great sandwiches of the Bay Area, for sure.

Personally, I don’t think the apocalypse is upon us. If the world didn’t implode when Sandra Lee prepared her infamous Kwanzaa cake in 2003, then I think we’re probably good through 2012, and well beyond. However, with December 21st less than a fortnight away, it’s still as good of a time as any to clear out my “to do” folder. And why not? A couple of these photos have been in turn-around for months, so it’s time to finally give them some daylight. Other pics were part of a sandwich run-down that never really developed a decent angle or hook. So, yeah, I just [… read more …]

The Double-Up @ True Burger, Oakland

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The Double-Up @ True Burger, Oakland. Sure, the garlic mayo is a nice touch, but the burger would still be great with regular mayo, or for that matter, no mayo.

Ketchup, mustard, mayo, bacon, blue cheese, peanut butter, mushrooms, bone marrow, foie gras: There’s dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to spin the modest hamburger. But who’s to say which direction is the best? Believe it or not, even bacon has its detractors, and here in California, foie gras has actually been outlawed (though more because of philosophy than flavor). So what I’m saying is, if condiments and add-ons represent personal opinions and matters of taste, then the burger and the bun represent the cold hard facts. And this is how a hamburger, every hamburger, ought to be judged.

True Burger, like other great hamburgers, takes the essence of the burger into its own hands by (a) grinding [… read more …]

My Top 10 Chicken & Waffles in the Bay Area

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Chicken & Waffle @ The Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland.

Here’s 10 versions of chicken and waffles taken from around the California Bay Area. I’ve ranked them according to my own personal preferences, although the middle of the pack could easily be shuffled on any given day. I’m pretty adamant about the top two on this list, however, and have long championed the Brown Sugar Kitchen and the Boon Fly Cafe as my favorites in this category. The Boon Fly Cafe actually offers my favorite version of fried chicken in the Bay Area (Ad Hoc’s fried chicken included), although some of the other restaurants on this list are certainly close contenders. In the waffle category, it’s a bit of a different story; the Brown Sugar Kitchen is the hands-down winner, and every other restaurant is a distant second. Even going simply by the photos, you’ll notice [… read more …]

The Strange Cult of Bakesale Betty

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Now almost $10: The Fried Chicken Sandwich @ Bakesale Betty, Oakland.

I have to marvel at the Bakesale Betty juggernaut: The place itself has no signage, no branding, no menu (as far as I can really tell), and their website is a true lesson in apathy. Holy smokes. The storefront is open for just a couple hours per day, six days per week. During this time, there’s usually a line of folks out the door, most of whom are waiting for the fried chicken sandwich, pictured above. I’ve been there a few times — the most recent was just a couple weeks ago, after something had reminded me of Bakesale Betty, and I got to wondering if I had been missing something. Before that, I had been there a little over three years ago.

I just don’t jones for this sandwich the way that most other people must, [… read more …]

The Reggie Jackson Special @ Lois the Pie Queen, Emeryville

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The Reggie Jackson Special @ Lois the Pie Queen, Emeryville.

The last time the San Francisco Giants had their backs against the wall, when they were down, 0-2, to the Cincinnati Reds last week, I mentioned the Outta Here Cheesesteak at AT&T Park. It was my last order of business for the 2012 baseball season, which seemed to be on the verge of ending for San Francisco. However, following that cheesesteak post, the Giants managed to win three games in a row, on the road no less, to topple the Reds. And so I considered that to be a sign. Not wanting to disturb the good vibes, I left that cheesesteak post up as long as possible. But its charm seems to have finally worn out; the Giants are once again in a dire situation, down 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals.

As a result, I’ve decided to [… read more …]