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.

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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