The Ultimate Cocktail

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Maysville – New York, NY

Being that I’m a heat-seeker it should come as no surprise that I even like my drinks spicy. And what makes the alchemy of the Bourbon Bonnet such a triumph isn’t just the spice. It’s the refreshing contrast of elements, like the sweetness of the pineapple juice against the jalapeno infused bourbon. And while the spiciness is worth a warning for some, the bigger caution is that they are WAY too easy to drink. So much so that you’ll easily be three or four in before you even realize you left your underwear in the bathroom.

Minetta Tavern – New York, NY

While you’re sitting there stuck at the bar waiting for a table, do yourself a solid and turn lemons into a warm and fuzzy buzzy. Three sheets to the wind later you’ll care less about the fact that you just waited two hours for a burger. The drink is comprised of Tito’s Vodka, cucumber, agave nectar, rhubarb bitters, lime and something that apparently makes you fall in love with the notion of ordering a second round of Rhubarb Sophies.

The Rickhouse – San Francisco, CA

There’s something about this place that just makes you want to drink whiskey. And there’s something about the La Bonne Vie that makes you lose track of that whiskey. I would imagine the smooth bourbon is partly to blame. And the refreshing lemon and grapefruit juice doesn’t hurt either. Keeping it far from sweet. As does the fresh basil, which brightens the whole thing up. And bitters to bring an old school complexity and depth to the whole thing.

Balaboosta – New York, NY

There is a lot right about Balaboosta, but none righter than the thirst-quenching, buzz-inducing Hana. Made with Fifty Pounds Gin, triple sec, lime and arak, it’s a crazy mash up of cultures in a high ball. But apart from just being a kickass cocktail, the Hana pairs so unbelievably well with the food due to the arak.

Brushstroke – New York, NY

Apparently the Japanese Cucumber with Almond has been on New York Magazine’s top ten cocktail list 2 years running. I know this because our rather braggadocios waiter informed us of such. But as cocky as he was, he was also well within his right, because it really is quite something. Made with gin, lime, cucumber (obviously), and coarse ground roasted almonds used to dust the rim as a variation on the sugar and salt that you normally come across on most other cocktails.

Mata Chica – Ambergris Caye, BZ

It’s been a while since I was there, but that’s how enduring my love is for the rum punch at Mata Chica (of Temptation Island fame). Made by a charismatic young man named Winston, the balance of sweetness to refreshing to inebriating was dangerously perfect. Luckily you are in the middle of nowhere, with not a car in sight for miles, so drinking and driving isn’t even an option. Drinking and drowning, however…

ABC Cocina – New York, NY

You could give Tom Cruise a week and unlimited tosses and twirls with bottles and cocktail shakers, but I sincerely doubt he could ever make a cocktail as staggeringly good as the blood orange margarita at ABC. Not that there’s too much more to describe as the name of the drink itself is rather self explanatory, that said, the euphoric sensation you get when it hits your lips is beyond explanation.

Truck – Bedford, NY

I find it hard to go with just one drink here because the Power Wagon margarita is more than just a drink, it’s a franchise. A brand unto itself, spinning out seasonal versions like a game on the App Store. For example, here are some of the “updates:” grapefruit, blood orange, cranberry, pumpkin, jalapeno and of course the formidable classic. And everyone one of them is awesome. And everyone one of them is as strong as all get out, so go easy or go with a designated driver.

Burger & Barrel – New York, NY

Most Bloody Mary purists are about to scoff, so I’ll wait while you preemptively get those scoffs out of the way…. Done? Good. So, while I do indeed love the classic and have had my fair share of some delicious ones, this inventive twist on the tried and true had me at jalapenos. Made with tequila instead of vodka, the Bloody Maria puts the Mary through a Mexican lens and out comes a hybrid that could give the Prius a run for its money.

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The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

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Greens – San Francisco, CA

As vegetarian places go, Greens is way up there for me. And a huge part of the reason behind that is this sandwich alone. It is so damn good we bought the cookbook right there on the spot, just so we could replicate it at home. It’s fontina with marinated cremini mushrooms and harissa on a bread that knows how to be the man behind the man.

Beecher’s – New York, NY

Figs, honey and cheese are like the Three Musketeers of deliciousness. And Beecher’s puts them together in proportionate perfection on a raisin walnut bread that only adds to the party. I know it sounds so stupidly simple that you could even make it home, but as I have said more times than you would probably care to hear, simplicity is the root of greatness.

Melts – Armonk, NY

Similar to Beecher’s, this place is a treasure trove of grilled cheese greatness. But once you sift through all of the treasure you will come upon the Hope Diamond of grilled cheeses, The Heat. Made with home pickled jalapenos to get that perfect level of spiciness, cherry peppers, Sriracha and muenster. It will melt your heart, along with your tongue.

Greens

Fort Mason Bldg. A San Francisco, CA 94123(415) 771-6222greensrestaurant.com

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It’s not the easiest place to find in the world, but seldom do the best things in life come easy, and Greens is easily one of the best vegetarian eateries on God’s green Earth. So, now that I’ve fully conjugated the word “easy” and slid a blasphemous pun in there for good measure, let me top things off with a twist on a dated phrase – Yes, Greens is all that and a bucket of chicken, without the chicken. From the earth-sourced decor with tables that look more like trees to the stunning view of the bay and Golden Gate beyond, you can see that this place takes the whole au naturale thing pretty serious, not that you have to dine in the nude or anything, although an intriguing restaurant concept for certain.

Speaking of intrigue, it is astounding how quickly this place will make you forget all about meat. Just one bite of their grilled cheese sammy with cremini mushrooms, harissa and fontina and you will understand why the Earth is worth saving, apart from the obvious reasons like living here and mankind ceasing to exist.

The side of couscous salad with peppers and raisins had the spicy-sweet thing going on and only served to make things even more irresistible. Their other salads are fantastic as well. In fact, we were so impressed by Greens we purchased their cookbook on the spot. Not something we often do, which should speak volumes about this place. But please don’t go based on the food mentioned above. The menu is always changing, but in such capable hands, I doubt you’ll go wrong. And if you do, it’s probably your fault.

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Bob’s Steak & Chop House

500 California St. San Francisco, CA 94104(415) 273-3085bobs-steakandchop.com

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Having been to more steakhouses than I would ever want to admit in front of a group of cows, there is one thing that becomes painfully apparent. They all start to blend together, especially chains like this one. I mean, as long as you know how to cook a steak and can make reasonably good mashed potatoes, you’re pretty much guaranteed three knives. Then, it all comes down to décor and service, a few inventive sides and dessert.

Well, with all of that said, Bob knows how to cook a steak. The filet was very moist and tender with just the right amount of char. The mashed potatoes were creamy and silky. Also, the carrot they serve in between (pictured) was quite good, roasted to bring out its own natural sweetness, then glazed to add even more sweetness on top of that.

Service was fine, granted he kept dripping the wine all over my setting. And décor, while dated, seemed to add to the charm of the place in some bizarre sort of way. Sort of like a cute elderly person going through their second childhood. But in restaurant form.

And as for dessert, the bread pudding was just okay. Not terrible, but I as you’ve probably already read ad nauseam, I’ve had much better. So, as I insinuated from the beginning… Three knives.

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Boulettes Larder

Embarcadero Plaza 1 Ferry Bldg. San Francisco, CA 94111 • (415) 399-1155bouletteslarder.com

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I absolutely love the location of this place, tucked away in a corner of the stunning Ferry Building.. And the décor is awesome with the communal table right there in the kitchen. Plus, the tables outside with a majestic view of the bridge is pretty sweet too.

But the food, like so many other places in San Fran, aiming for clean and simple, nets out as basic and bland. It’s like some SF chefs think that just because the ingredients are local, organic and fresh, that that’s enough. But news flash, you have to actually do something with them!!! They have local, organic and fresh ingredients in Napa too, but they also actually bother to put some herbs, spice, sauce, or spin into the dish!

As a case in point I ordered the lobster and eggs, not realizing that it would be just that, pieces of lobster mixed into scrambled eggs. No herbs on top. No spice or marinade or butter on the lobster. In fact, I doubt they even used butter on the pan to cook the eggs. Or salt. I mean c’mon! Eggs without salt, why even bother? You might as well serve granola without yogurt or milk. Oh the humanity!

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NOPA

560 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117 • (415) 864-8643nopasf.com

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Great space and vibe. Contemporary, airy and open. Lots of energy. Even at 2am. And just about the only place open after midnight in SF to get a bite to eat. But not just a bite- a pretty damn good bite. The flat bread starter was awesome and the pork chop was stellar. Perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. Solid beer and wine list. The only miss was the bratwurst, but what can you expect so far from Wisconsin?

Service was also friendly and attentive, to which I give added kudos, after all, at 2am I would imagine that not only are you tired, but you are also tired of dealing with inebriated customers. So, to be as pleasant as she was is admirable. Well, that or I was just too drunk to notice.

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Anderson Bakery

50 Post St. San Francisco, CA 94108(415) 262-0079andersenbakery.com

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Not sure what standards people are judging these croissants by on Yelp, but it’s clearly a highly delusional one. The almond croissants are WAY too bready. Like something you’d find at virtually any chain in the airport. This doesn’t even make my top 100. Hell, Au Bon Pain is better!

In fact, I don’t even live in a major city and my local bakery makes an almond croissant that would make Andersen himself cry. Granted, it’s also one of the best croissants I’ve ever had, period, including Paris and New York, but enough about better places that are too far away to do you any good.

My closer recommendation, walk around the corner to Bread & Cocoa. It’s the real deal.

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Yankee Pier

San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3 Gate 72
780 S Airport Blvd. San Francisco, CA94128 • (650) 821-8938yankeepier.com

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It’s in an airport, so you can’t obviously walk in expecting Iron Chef, but then again, it also does hit the spot. And it’s better than the shit they serve on planes these days. But if you want to hold them to task, here would be my nits:

The Greek Omelet while good-ish, was a bit over-buttery, which sort of defeated the purpose of my getting it with egg whites. And the home fries were sad and soggy.

Fortunately the service was quick and very friendly. And décor, well, you’re at an airport, so I’ll give them a pass on that one.

Back on the kudos side, I do actually think it’s better than Boudin bakery’s pre-made breakfast crap, but that’s not saying a ton since it’s located in a food court, even if it does bear the name of a Thomas Keller establishment.

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The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

1 S Park St. Apt 103A San Francisco, CA 94107(415) 243-0107theamericansf.com

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Ya gotta love the grilled cheese sandwich. It can virtually do no wrong. That said, there are varying degrees of right, and this place is definitely doing a lot of things right.

For starters, their tomato soup, a must with GC, is killer. Has a nice sharp cheddar in it to give it some kick. And I loves me some kick.

And the shroom and Gruyere sammy goes perfectly with the soup. However, my one nit is that it doesn’t stand alone. It needs the soup with it to truly shine.

But then the jalapeño popper sammy came along (pictured) and… NAILED IT! This thing is like a grilled dream come true. Assuming you like spicy and you’re not on a diet. But then again, if you’re on a diet you really shouldn’t be entertaining the notion of a grilled cheese restaurant, now should you?

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The Rickhouse

246 Kearny St. San Francisco, CA 94108(415) 398-2827rickhousebar.com

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From the moment you walk in you feel like you stepped into a cabin-like pub in the South. Or in the English countryside. I don’t know- just not in San Francisco. With it’s library wall of booze (pictured) and it’s catwalk wooden banisters on the second level. I really dug the vibe.

Even the live music was great, playing a totally unexpected genre of mellow jazz.

The Four Points was also a nice surprise. A bourbon cocktail made with grapefruit. Refreshing and dangerously drinkable. In fact, Uber has probably made more money off of this drink than the bar.

My only complaint, and yes, I’m that guy. The hard to please, always gotta find something sort… But acknowledging it is always the first step, right? Anyways, my one gripe is service. While certainly friendly, it is also buzz-killingly slow. Fortunately there’s a second, less crowded bar in the back. Unfortunately, it’s not as fully stocked as the front bar.

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