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!

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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