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contributor restaurant picks

Everyone loves food and everyone has a favorite. Asterisk San Francisco contributors visited with their favorite restaurants in the city and shares with you the highlights and faves in the city's vast offerings of gastronomic delights. From Pakistani to the best vegetarian restaurant in town, we have a restaurant for you to to satisfy any craving!

Contributor Restaurant Picks
Contributor: Mark Holland

In a city full of restaurants trying to one-up each other with cryptic menus and hipster wait staff, Swan’s is a breath of fresh air. This place has been around for decades and has changed very little. Family owned and operated, complete with a retail fish market and delivery in the Polk area. Swan’s has the best fresh shellfish anywhere in the city, and at a fair price. They open at 8 A.M. and I often go early to avoid the long, mid-day lines. The service is swift and genuine, and the menu is succinct. Dine alongside septuagenarians who regale decades-old stories about Swan’s, and feel relieved that you haven’t missed their very best as the place has been virtually the same since the day it opened. No website, no credit cards, no reservations, no bullshit.

Must Try: Clam Chowder

Christopher Taggart at Baer Ridgway
Contributor: Jeremy Joven

I first ate at Pakwan over three years ago while walking a dramatically different Valencia Street (pre-sidewalk upgrades), in search of a place to live in the Mission. I still remember the smells coming out of the kitchen and thinking—oh my godI need to have that! At the time, the restaurant had wobbly tables and a low health department rating; none of which stopped me from trying. Years later, wobbly tables fixed and the health rating on the upward spike, I come to eat at Pakwan weekly, savoring every bite of their delicious Beef Nihari, beef stew seasoned with curry, cilantro, fresh julienne cut ginger, and jalapenos paired with the most aromatic basmati rice I’ve ever had. Dinner for two never costs more than 25 dollars with plenty of leftovers to enjoy.

Must Try:
Chai Tea. Once you’ve tried their Chai, you will never want it from any other place. Another must is the delicious Chicken Tandoori with fresh onions.

Brenda's Soulfood
Contributor: Heather Barton

As a Southerner I’m damn proud to call soul food one of my stereotypical addictions. I’m also glad Brenda’s opened the year I moved to the city, otherwise my withdrawals would be manifesting through expensive airfare and unfulfilling imitations.  

I’ve been trying to get clean since 2007. City programs attempt to help with an endless supply of local, fresh produce and vegan dine spots, but I end up relapsing about once a month. Brenda’s gives me what I need: a fix of sweet butter, bacon, melted cheese, fried bread, and that’s right—GRITS, y’all. I’m hooked.   
The location may not be prime, but the food is and it shows with a daily line of patrons down the block. How they laugh at the KFC next door!

Must Try:
Crawfish Beignets to start, Shrimp 'n' Grits to savor, and Sweet Watermelon Tea to wash it down!

Julia Gleason
Contributor: Julia Gleason

I love burritos or anything burrito-like, but sadly, my outrageous obsession has led me down the path of Mexican-palette overload. Naturally, when I came to the realization that shawarmas are the Lebanese equivalent to a burrito, I started to maniacally pursue this new tasty phenomenon. I’ve now done my share of sampling the SF goods but nothing compares to the deliciousness that is Ali Baba’s Cave on Valencia Street. I’m a shawarma-smitten kitten.
Their lamb is spit roasted and tender, and complimented with soft potato strips, hummus, Tzatziki cucumber yogurt, and a spicy mystery sauce. It comes wrapped in a large, crispy lavash, heated on an open grill and served to you in less than 10 minutes. This is the kind of fast-food a girl can get used to.

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