When you get to play tourist in your home town.

[crossposted from Meathenge.com]

Tower of Del Monte Canned Goods at The Cannery, San Francisco

My mother in law was in town for a few days, so Mr. Meathead and I took the opportunity to take her to some of our favorite restaurants, and even one new place! Not all the pix are even half top notch, but all the food was reeeeeal good.

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers, Solano Ave in Berkeley/Albany

Thursday night after we picked her up at the airport we started with quick burgers and salads at Barney’s. No pix because this was an impromptu trip. But Barney’s never disappoints. They have the best burgers and best salads in the area. I always get the French or Parisian burger. It is on a baguette that is chewy enough you don’t lacerate the roof of your mouth, and both are served with bleu cheese.
1591 Solano Ave. Berkeley 510-526-8185
House of Chicken ‘N’ Waffles, Jack London Square in Oakland

We’ve been chompin’ at the bit to try it since we found out that a [non-Roscoes] Chicken ‘N’ Waffles had re-opened in Oakland. Our first morning had us down at Jack London Square to take the Oakland Ferry over to the city for a day of brisk sight seeing via public trans. What more obvious place to have breakfast than House O’ Chix & Waffs.
Um, ok. I have to tell you. This was the best fried chicken I’ve had in any restaurant setting. Ever. It beats out Powell’s Place in The City just barely. What really made it tick was the great selection of combo’s. When I saw the “Princess Jordon” combo sportin’ two chicken wings, greens, macaroni & cheese w/ a corn muffin on the side I was sold. There was no turnin’ back for me. All of it was astounding. And guaranteed to send you to an early grave. The wings were pipin’ hot and fresh out of the fryer. Crispy tastey like nobody’s bizniss. The macaroni and cheese was made with a whole lotta real cheddar and done to purrfection. The greens had tons o’ flavor and pork. And Mr. Meathead’s “Renaldi’s Request” of a laaaaaarge fried chicken breast, waffle and corn muffin looked just as delish. Mom-in-law had grits and gravy. Forgot to take a pic I guess, but we all tried the gravy. It was real gravy. Like moms from the olden days used to make. Real. With bits in it.
House of Chicken ‘n Waffles, 444 Embarcadero (at Broadway), Oakland; (510) 836-4446. Open 8 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, until 4 a.m. Friday- Saturday.
Chef’s Chinese Food, El Cerrito Plaza

We were going to try to go to the Tonga Room in The City for happy hour snacky buffet, but we found out last minute that they were closed due to the hotel workers strike. So we raced back home and scurried to “Chef’s”… a local favorite of mine and Mr. Meathead. We also forgot to take pictures because we were so hungry.
Ignore the lunch counter steam table food. It is very cheap but highly inferior to their sit down fare. Most dishes we’ve tried here have been outstanding. With honourable mention going to General Tso’s Chicken, Spicey Fried Chicken Wings (my favorite), Salt & Pepper Prawns and some Garlic Porky Item. The only thing I’ve had here I didn’t like was the Kung Pao. It just wasn’t right. And the chow mein left a little to be desired. But the Sizzling Rice Soup and Crab Puffs are bombalicious. And the staff is always very efficient and super friendly. Friday night was busy, but all other times they are very reasonable. They have sit down lunch specials that will blow your socks off for $5.95. They are a couple doors down from Trader Joe’s at the El Cerrito Plaza. Prices are very reasonable.
Chef’s Chinese Food 225 El Cerrito Plaza 525-8737
The Royal Cafe, San Pablo Ave. in Albany

A favorite since I moved back into the area. Not only is the food good, but the atmosphere is very kitschy. Mr. Kallisti, through example, gave me the strength to order one of the poached egg hollandaise items. We both do not like, under any circumstances, any runny bits when it comes to our eggs. And I have repeatedly have had trouble ordering “poached hard” eggs in restaurants. It has brought me to tears before. But the “Eggs Blackstone,” which we both ordered, sounded so good that we thought we’d risk it. The waitress promised they’d do it right, she didn’t like runny either. To our delight they came out perfect. “Eggs Blackstone” is poached eggs on top of 12897 lbs of thick cut smokey bacon and grilled tomatos atop an english muffin and drowned in mighty fine hollandaise. Home fries to the side.
MAN, were these good. It was the best breakfast ever and I think a new favorite. The most bacon I have ever been served at a single sitting. Really. Mom-in-law had a fancy omelette. She said it was really good. I believed her.
The Royal Cafe, 811 San Pablo Ave. Albany, CA 510-525-6066
Viva Pizza Restaurant, Columbus Ave. in North Beach

Viva’s has long been my favorite Italian restaurant in North Beach. I liked it better in the no frills homey hole in the wall it occupied next door, but the food has not changed much since their move. They’ve always been priced below the going rate in the neighborhood, and the food is a fantastic and rustic Italian. Oh, but I’ve never had their pizza. Can’t comment on that.
No matter how hard I try, since the first couple visits I inevitably order either the Carbonara or the Romana. Their Carbonara is in a thick rich cream sauce with thick bacony slices of panchetta and peas. It is really, really, REALLY heavy, and really good. The heaviness usually means I order the Romana, which I did last night as well. A linguini in a tomato and porcini sauce with porcini’s, buttons, panchetta, tomatoes and green onions. The most delectible ever.
We also had the proscuitto antipasto. Very generous amounts of proscuitto wrapped around fresh mozzarella, garnished with calamata olives and roasted red peppers and garlic. Eat with copious amounts of roasted garlic and sourdough. Mr. Meathead had penne w/ artichoke hearts and hot, hot spicey italian sausage. Very tastey.
There is always at least half a plate of pasta to take home.
Viva Pizza Restaurant, 318 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, (415) 989-8482
Sandpiper, Dockside Cafe and Restaurant, in Bodega Bay

This one is for my father. Until recently, I’ve been seafood phobic. Over the years I’ve tried to chip away at my sometimes irrational repulsion at feasting on our friends from the sea. Ironically enough I started with sushi in my mid twenties. Now I’m gracefully chomping down scallops and fried oysters. But I’m still reticent to order big fat plates of seafood at restaurants if they aren’t fish and chips or shrimp scampi. Our second excursion this year out to the Sandpiper Restaurant in Bodega Bay was a perfect opportunity to take the plunge. See that big plate o’ Red Snapper up there? That was mine. See Dad! I did it!
The Sandpiper is an unassuming little dockside seafood restaurant at the marina in Bodega Bay. Their clam chowder is exquisite, and yes! I had a bowl! I also ordered the Grilled Red Snapper on a bed of crab, bay shrimp and monterey jack cheese. It was superb! Mr. Meathead had the Fried Seafood Extravaganza, and Mum had the Fish & Chips… all reported yummy tastiness. Service is super friendly and their t-shirts and business cards all read “DON’T EAT THE CLAM CHOWDER!!!”… An experiment in reverse psychology that I have to admit works really well as we each had a bowl.
I recommend The Sandpiper for our local Dungeness Crab season. We came here last winter and a whole crab is priced well below the going rates in the Bay Area proper. And is reeeeeeeeal good.
Oh, and check it. There were li’l sandpiper’s in the bay right outside the the restaurant. And other glorious sea birds.
Sandpiper, Dockside Cafe and Restaurant
The “Best Little Restaurant in Bodega Bay!” Nurture yourself with homemade local seafood specialties to vegetarian delights. Beautiful bay view. Look for the sign to Marina and Bodega Head.
1410 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay
(707) 875-2278