Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Innovative Mexican Food in the Mission District

When guests ask me where to go for Mexican food, I usually respond by suggesting they visit Mexico.  Most of San Francisco's so-called Mexican restaurants consist of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, and little more.  It is hard to find Mexican restaurants in San Francisco that serve really quality Mexican food with the diversity of flavors and dishes one finds in Mexico.

Last night, I stumbled upon Lolo in San Francisco's Mission District.  This restaurant features contemporary, Mexican-influenced small plates.  We had traditional dishes such as grilled prawns and guacamole with blue corn chips; innovative dishes like crab and chorizo tostadas, gorditas with braised short rib, and mahi mahi tiradito; and just simple grilled artichokes.  The wine list is small but varied, featuring wines from South America, Spain, and California.

Service was very friendly.  The decor features recycled materials in a colorful display.  We were told that the owner has a similar restaurant in Guadalajara and that the materials for Lolo's decor were brought up from Mexico.

Being on 22nd Street between Valencia and Mission, Lolo is out of the way for most visitors.  However, it is easily accessible by BART (San Francisco's subway system).  Exit 24th Street, walk 2 blocks north on Mission and 1/2 block west on 22nd.  You won't be disappointed. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tunisian Food in San Francisco

San Francisco has restaurants serving food from all over the world.  My mechanic is from Tunisia so, being the good foodie I am, I asked him if there is a good Tunisian restaurant in San Francisco.  He said Cafe Zitouna, on the corner of Sutter and Polk Streets, is the best.  I tried going many months ago but showed up on the one day of the week the restaurant is closed - Monday.

Today, I finally had a chance to sample Cafe Zitouna's food.  The menu features a variety of Tajines (stews), which the owner said are similar to Moroccan tajines, and couscous dishes, which he said are like those made in Algeria.  I tried the Loubia Tajine, a lamb stew with white beans in a saffron sauce.  The meal was simple but tasty.  Accompanying the tajine was a chunk of baguette to sop up the saffron sauce.  The iced Moroccan mint tea was a refreshing accompaniment to the meal.

The menu also includes a variety of appetizers and salads, kebab sandwiches and plates, and even breakfasts that combine North African and western ingredients.  Being Halal, no alcohol is served.

The decor at Cafe Zitouna is simple, and the prices very reasonable.  The location is not one visitors are likely to find themselves, so you'll need to seek out Cafe Zitouna if you want to try Tunisian food on your visit to San Francisco.  The restaurant is open Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.  On Friday, the restaurant opens at 2:00 p.m.  If you are planning to dine after 7:30, call first to make sure the restaurant has not closed early for the day.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Visiting Northern California Lighthouses

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's quarterly newsletter of fun things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California is now available.  The August edition talks about visiting lighthouses on the California coast from Monterey to Marin County.  To see this edition, click here.  The next edition, which will come out in November, will cover lighthouses from Sonoma to Del Norte County.