Super Duper (Multiple Locations in San Francisco, North Bay, and South Bay)

Super Duper is the best burger place in the Bay Area. Even though it is on the expensive side, the ingredients are of high quality and very fresh, worth the price. A burger starts at $5.50, not including toppings like cheese, bacon, or avocado. On their website, they state that “burgers should not cost $3”, meaning that higher quality ingredients should be used and “higher cost is a direct reflection of our promise of creating fast food burgers using slow food values”.  You can read more about where they get their ingredients and their standards here.

Surprisingly, my favorite on the menu is not their burger but is their chicken sandwich. On their menu, the chicken menu is described as 100% natural free range chicken breast with chipotle aioli, starting at $7.50. The chipotle aioli is the star of the sandwich with the perfect about of spiciness that makes your eyes water but you continue to eat anyway. Personally, to make the sandwich go from good to great, I splurge and add cheese, bacon, and avocado for it to be more filling. It is served on fresh-tasting ciabatta bread that is made from an artisan bakery in San Francisco.

Their burgers are also amazing. The beef is cooked medium, and is perfectly juicy. They are topped with a unique secret sauce that makes them totally unique with a tangy aftertaste. Classicly served on a sesame seed bun, this burger makes a classic to something new again!

Of course, when you get a burger, you need a side of fries with it. Their french fries are always fresh, hot, and crunchy! For only $0.50 more, you can get garlic fries instead. The garlic fries are delicious and made with fresh garlic & 6-month aged cheddar- a perfect combination of flavors!

And if you’re still hungry, soft serves and milkshakes are also available! Made from my favorite creamery in the bay area, Straus Family Creamery, the shakes and soft serves are super as well. You can get the classic chocolate, vanilla, or swirl for both the milkshakes and soft serve, or if you’re feeling like going the extra mile, super shakes with toppings like cookies and strawberries are another option.

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Burger and fries from Super Duper. (credit: connoli_sisters)

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Kara’s Cupcakes (Multiple Locations in Northern California)

With “The San Francisco sweet” as their slogan, Kara’s Cupcakes is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for an authentic Bay Area dessert. The first Kara’s Cupcakes was in the Marina District in San Francisco by Kata Haspel Lind and has opened many locations throughout Northern California since.

I have been to two of the locations, and even though they are different, they have a similar atmosphere. Both were very sleek, clean, and modern. The walls and decorations were mostly white with pink and brown decorations, very simple with the main focus on the menus and cupcakes. The cupcakes are displayed in a class case in the center of the store so you can clearly see the flavors before you decide on what exactly you want to order.

The cupcakes are the perfect combination in a cupcake of frosting to cake ratio, and neither are too sweet. In my opinion, the best flavors are the classic ones:  sweet chocolate, sweet vanilla, and red velvet. They have perfected these recipes that takes an old favorite to a whole new level. The red velvet’s cream cheese frosting is both tangy and sweet leaving you wanting more, and for the sweet vanilla they use Madagascar vanilla, that adds an extra richness that you can taste in each bite.

Even though their classics are my favorite, I also love their original flavors as well. My abosulute favorite Kara’s orginal is the fleur de sel, a chocolate cupcake filled with caramel and chocolate ganache and topped with fleur de sel. I honestly think that the combination of chocolate, salt, and caramel is the best, and this cupcake really captures the highlights of each of the ingredients. Whenever I go to Kara’s, I make sure to pick this cupcake up!

Each month they make a limited edition cupcake that fits the theme. For example, in December they featured a peppermint cupcake, which was incredibly delicious and exciting to try. I like this element because it makes having that cupcake feel that much more special.

 

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Fleur de sel cupcake

 

Twirl and Dip (Food truck on 335 Martin Luther King Jr Drive, San Francisco, CA 94117)

Twirl and Dip has a very special place in my heart. When I think of my favorite foods at home, I immediately think of the creamy ice cream that Twirl and Dip creates.

Located in Golden Gate Park, this food truck can have very long lines filled with visitors, so it can take a while to get your ice cream. Even though the wait is awhile, it is so worth it. As you wait, you can decide exactly what you want on your ice cream- as they have plenty of flavors and toppings to choose from- or enjoy the scenery and people watching that surrounds the truck.

Their menu has plenty of variety with quality ingredients like homemade syrups, candies, sauces, ice lollies, and sugar cones. For ice cream, you can either have their classic soft serve flavors of  chocolate, vanilla, or swirl, or you can have the San Francisco favorite, Mitchell’s ice cream scoop (Strawberry, pistachio, grasshopper pie, coffee). I personally would recommend trying their soft serve for the complete Twirl and Dip Experience.

My favorite combinations on the menu is either the swirl soft serve on a sugar cone topped with toffee and the toffee sundae. Even though these are very similar, they do have some differences. The toffee sundae includes chocolate and butterscotch sauce, almonds, whipped cream, and a cherry, but does not include a cone. For me, it depends on my mood. For example, if I want an extra special treat I go for the sundae mostly because their whipped cream is very rich yet light at the same time; it is absolutely to die for. But other times, I find it hard to resist the sugar cone: with a hint of cinnamon and the right crunch, it’s my favorite!

My mom, the person I visit this truck with the most, also likes the toffee, but sometimes gets their vanilla soft serve in a sugar cone topped with their hardening dark chocolate sea salt dip. This to me is also pretty good, and has the right amount of salt to chocolate ratio.

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Toffee Sundae pictured in front of the food truck.

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Vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve topped with Toffee in a sugar cone and vanilla soft serve chocolate dipped with salt.

Original Joe’s Westlake (11 Glenwood Ave, Daly City, CA)

Originally opened in 1956, Joe’s of Westlake was a stable of Daly City, but in 2014, Joe’s was closed for two years. It was sold, completely remodeled, reintroduced as Original Joe’s Westlake, and it opened again in 2016. Everyone was very excited to see the new and improved Joe’s, with waits for over an two hours in the first few months within opening. With the complete remodel, fans were nervous to see if they changed the menu from the classic Italian-American dishes, but the owners kept the favorites on the menu while creating amazing additions as well. The owners managed to give Joe’s a more modern vibe while maintaining the same classic atmosphere.

When I went to Joe’s for the first time after the remodel, I was excited to try their bread (which comes as a free starter when you wait for their meal) to see if it was the same, fresh bread that they used to serve. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was, but served with a creamier butter than before. This to me was a great first impression because it proved to me that Joe’s kept the classics and improved them to completely satisfy old and new fans.

Since my first visit, I have been to Joe’s many times to the point where I have tried every pasta on their menu. I am a huge pasta lover, and none of Joe’s pastas are disappointing. The pasta is perfectly cooked al-dente and accompanies the flavor of the sauce that it comes with. Out of all nine of the pastas, I believe that they each are very well made, but my two favorites are the Shrimp Scampi with Linguine and the Spaghetti Carbonara. The Shrimp Scampi with Linguine not only has perfectly tender pasta and shrimp, but it also has a nice unexpected kick of pepper with it that leaves you wanting more. The Spaghetti Carbonara is very rich and creamy and filled with pancetta, making it irresistibly delicious. Their plates are so big that you are able to take them home and make them for another meal, which is another huge bonus.

What Makes A Good Restaurant (Interview with Robert Bates)

For this blog, I talked to former chef, Robert Bates, on what he believes makes and breaks restaurants. He grew up in New York, but has lived most of his adult life in the Bay Area, Bolinas and San Rafael. At 65 years old, he now cooks in a kitchen for a rehab, which is less stressful then what he used to do ten years ago, working and managing hectic restaurant kitchens.

“I first decide on whether or not to go to a restaurant by looking at the appearance of the building is in. If the windows are dirty or if the building is obviously being neglected in any other way, I refuse to eat there. I believe the appearance of a restaurant reflects how much time and care they put into their food as well. I do not want to feel like I’m eating improperly cooked food  off of dirty dishes,” Bates said.

“Next, I look at their menu. In my opinion, restaurants that have too many different, unrelated options, are not usually very good. Like if a restaurant serves Italian, American, and Chinese food, and does not focus on one type of cuisine, then I immediately know the quality of the food is poor,” he continued.

Another important factor that people tend to overlook when deciding if a restaurant is good or not, is the wait staff. Bates said that he believes that waiters and waitresses should always be trained properly so that they are knowledgable and polite to the customers. “One of my biggest pet peeves is when a waiter does not know what goes into the food when asked a question about different dishes” Bates said. “It also bugs me when they take away my dish too quickly or before everyone at the table is finished, it makes me feel rushed and I find it incredibly unprofessional.”

When I asked what his favorite restaurant in the Bay Area was based on these expectations, he said, “Spiazzo in West Portal is by far the best. They are tidy, with great food and the best staff.”

Robert Bates: (415) 302-2951

Tpumps (4 Locations in the Bay Area)

Tpumps is a tea store that specializes in custom bubble tea drinks. It started in San Mateo, a suburb about twenty minutes away from San Francisco and has expanded all over the Bay Area and into Los Angeles. When someone goes to Tpumps for the first time it can be overwhelming because the menu is so vast and has countless combinations to choose from.

The line is usually long because it is so popular, especially at the location in the Sunset District in San Francisco, but they offer a sample of one of their favorite combinations for customers to try as they wait and decide on their order. I love this because not only does it make the wait more enjoyable, it has lead me to try flavors outside of my comfort zone that have turned into my favorites!

The first thing someone must do is to decide what size they want (24oz or 320z) and if they want their tea hot or iced. I personally recommend getting an iced tea for the classic experience mostly because I have never seen anyone get a hot tea.

Then, they must choose up to three flavors of the 35 offered to create their flavor of their green or black tea. This is the hardest part of the whole process because you want to pick flavors that compliment one another. My personal favorite and one that is even advertised as a customer favorite, is their passion fruit, tangerine, guava, that is created to recreate the Hawaiian juice, Passion Orange Guava (otherwise known as POG). This transports me back to Hawaii and fills me with fond memories- it’s basically a tropical getaway in a cup!

After you decide your flavor(s), you can add milk to the tea for a creamier taste for no extra charge.

Next, you decide how sweet you want your tea (no sweet, light, normal, or very).

Finally, you choose what topping (or toppings for an extra charge) you want. Toppings include honey boba, red bean, taro, or popping boba. My favorite is the popping boba that includes an extra flavor explosion when you bite into it!

You really cannot go wrong as the store has a policy to remake your drink for any reason until you are satisfied, so t pump it up!

Sol Food (Two locations in Marin)

Sol Food does not only satisfy your stomach, but also your sol. It has puerto rican cuisine that makes you feel like you were transported with their authentic atmosphere of bright colors and loud music and flavors of spice and richness in every bite.

It is in an unexpected area, Marin, when you think it would belong in San Francisco; it adds a bit of diversity to the Marin scene and dining options. Even though it is unexpected, it is a mega popular restaurant. Almost everyone I know from the Bay Area has their eyes widen with excitement if you mention Sol Food to them: they love it.

It is opened for all three meals, and although I’ve never ordered off of their “desayuno” menu, I heard it is worth trying.

My personal favorite (for lunch or dinner) is their Sandwich de Pollo which is described as “Baked chicken, ham, sauteed onions, tomato, organic greens, Swiss cheese and cilantro-lime mayonnaise on French bread”. For less than 11 dollars, this sandwich fills you up with rich meats and flavors that will leave you speechless.

Even though I swear by this sandwich, most of my friends believe that their Bistec Sandwich is superior. Described as “Thinly sliced steak and sauteed onions, avocado, Swiss cheese and  garlic mayonnaise on French bread”, this is perfect for avocado lovers and anyone who loves a great meal.

 Of course, to complete the meal, you have to get their fried plantations or their french fries as a side. Either (or both!) of these make the meal so much more rich and enjoyable tasting fresh, authentic, and nothing you can get anywhere else in Marin.

To wash down all of these amazing flavors, try their juices, lemonade, or iced tea. All of these are made in house with fresh ingredients that you can see throughout the restaurant. The menu is so much bigger than described here as I have only tried a fraction of what they have to offer, so I encourage you to try something new as well!

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Sandwich De Pollo

Blue Barn (Multiple locations throughout the Bay Area)

This next restaurant lives up to it’s name; as you enter, you are literally walking into a blue painted, barn shaped building. Not only does the outside have a barn-like atmosphere, but the inside does as well: wood decorations and tables, Einstein lightbulbs, and mason jars for glasses. In addition to the homestyle decor, the food is as well. You can choose from an array of comfort food that tastes like homemade heaven.

There are four locations of Blue Barn in San Francisco and Marin, and they each have slightly different menus; some offer fried chicken and frozen dairy treats, while others do not. They all do have the same basic salad and sandwich menu.

My personal favorite is their turkey sandwich which is described on their sandwich menu as “roasted turkey breast, goat cheese, sundried tomato, watercress, & kale-almond pesto on a ciabatta roll”. I am a huge fan of turkey sandwiches, and this one may be my favorite. It has an unexpected tanginess to it from the pesto and goat cheese that makes your mouth water with delight. I either order this with a side of fresh greens, or shoestring french fries. These have an additional cost, but it turns the sandwich into a delightful meal.

I also recommend their grilled cheeses. They take a little longer to make, but are worth the wait. They’re the perfect combination of warm, buttery, cheesy goodness that will make homemade grilled cheeses seem inadequate.

For a great end to the perfect meal, if the location has the dairy menu, you should get a soft serve. Like Java Beach, they use a local creamery, Double Eight, which is located in Petaluma, a town close to the Bay Area. They have suggested pairings with many toppings, shakes, floats, or you can be creative and create your own. This ice cream does not disappoint. 

I have been to two of the four locations (Marin and Chestnut Street), and a piece of advice I have for those planning to dine inside is to not expect to find seating because both locations are extremely small and crowded.

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Turkey sandwich at the Palace of Fine Arts

Java Beach Cafe (Two Locations in the Outer Sunset)

If you are ever relaxing at Ocean Beach or find yourself in the Outer Sunset and in need of a sandwich or snack, Java Beach is the place for you. The locations are opened early in the morning until 8 or 11 at night (depending on which location), so they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have a variety of food for a small cafe that fits any craving you may have.

For breakfast, they have multiple coffee based drinks, from black coffees to fancy frappes; pastries like croissants, muffins, and donuts; specialty bagels with various toppings; and granola with fruit bowls. Honestly, you cannot go wrong with any of these options. They are made so well with fresh ingredients and portions that leave you satisfied.

For lunch and dinner, they have a variety of salads and sandwiches on the menu. The sandwiches are heavenly. They use fresh bread, my personal favorite is their dutch crunch, and each is served with a side of potato chips or coleslaw. Though there’s many great options you can choose from, you have to get the Pesto Tomato Mozzarella Melt. This is served as an open faced sandwich on dutch bread made with a creamy pesto and mayonnaise spread and topped with melted mozzarella and warm tomatoes. It’s the perfect combination of warm and gooey and will have you come back for more. Because I love this sandwich so much, I usually do not get many salads here, but I have tried their classic caesar salad, which is basic but still good.

At Java Beach by the Zoo, they offer my absolute favorite dessert: soft serve. Their machines are made from organic cream from Californian dairy farm, Straus Family Creamery. They offer the classic flavors of chocolate and vanilla, which you can get in a cup, cone, shake or root beer float.

Both locations are less than a block from Ocean beach where you can enjoy your food and drinks inside with surfboards as tables or outside overlooking the ocean. For more information (exact address, history, and menu items) visit their website.

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Yogurt and fruit bowl with hot chocolate (creds: @fuudgram)

How To See Disneyland In One Day

IMG_8961.JPGIn this post, you will learn how to explore and enjoy Disneyland in one day. This is perfect for those who do not have the time and or money to go to Disneyland for a long period of time. Disneyland is a very big and overwhelming place, and with this guide you will be equipped with tips on how to get the best experience in one day.

Step 1: Buy a one-day park hopper.

This is a standard ticket that lets you travel both Disneyland and California Adventure. The price on how much a ticket costs depends on the busyness of the season that you pick to go. For example, it is cheaper to go in September than in December, so keep that in mind when deciding what date to pick. You can purchase tickets online at disneyland.disney.go.com.

Step 2: Plan your trip.

Know what you want to do before you get to the park. You can check out maps of the park online beforehand to see exactly what way to walk in order to be most efficient. There are some must-see attractions and rides like the classic Pirates of The Caribbean and California Screamin’, but you should decide what you are most excited to see and plan a route that makes sense to where the rides are. Make sure to take photos at the best spots like Cinderella’s Castle, so you can keep the memory with you! (above you can see an example of one I took!)

Step 3: Prepare for a long day.

To get the most out of Disneyland, you should arrive at the park when it opens and leave when it closes. Depending on the day, this can mean twelve hours. You should be prepared for this by bringing water, weather-dependent gear (umbrella or sunglasses) snacks, sunscreen, and shoes that are comfortable to walk in. You want to be as comfortable as possible while exploring disneyland and once you enter the park you cannot leave so make sure not to forget anything!

Step 4: Avoid long lines.

When getting in line for rides, separate from your group (if you’re not with children) and go into the single rider line instead. This has you ride with strangers, but the wait time is much shorter. You should do this for rides that continuously have long lines, but for rides like Splash Mountain, you should go with your group because there is a photo at the end. You should also go to a ride with a long line and get a fastpass that tells you when to go back to a separate, shorter line. Another way to avoid the line is to download the Disneyland Wait Times App which tells you how long the lines are.

Step 6: Know where to shop.

Do not spend too much time shopping. At Downtown Disney, you can find a wide variety of souvenirs that will satisfy your shopping needs, so you do not have to search for what you want at the stores around the park (unless you want to).

Step 7: Have fun at the happiest place on Earth!