The Plant

It’s so sad to me when people hear the names of restaurants like Plant and say something like, “Ugh, does that mean there’s nothing good on the menu?” When did plants become bad to eat? Why do meat eaters have to eat meat with every meal ever? I digress (and kinda apologize; you do what you want).

Plant is not a vegetarian restaurant. It is sorta healthy-ish, doesn’t have anything deep fried, and doesn’t have meat other than seafood and poultry. In fact, their website tells me they serve: all organic produce, all free range poultry, and sustainable seafood. Sounds good to me. And yes, they do have many meat-less dishes and some veggie-adventurous items (tempeh, anyone?). And it’s great! I love this place.

Inside The Plant on Pier 3.

This was my first time at their only “restaurant” location (versus a “cafe”) in the city on Pier 3. It’s a small-ish restaurant with a modern, industrial feel (welcome to San Francsico), and outdoor, bayside seating. I went here on that ridiculously beautiful Sunday a couple weeks ago and, unfortunately, had to take an inside bar seat since all the outdoor tables were reserved for dinner. Who woulda guessed?

Their other locations are “cafes” where you order at the counter, and they’re not open for dinner. Um, with the strange exception of  the SFO location, which is open all day. I can only imagine being blessed enough to enjoy Plant Organic at a freaking airport. Especially after having been to the domestic terminal of two Chinese airports, whose food is akin to something the Nazis might devise. Or like something from Arby’s.

Ok, can I tell you my favorite-est favorite thing from Plant yet? Can I, can I?? The veggie burger!!! I love veggie burgers. I’m making it a quest to find the very best one in SF. Herbivore, you dog, you’re very, very good. But Plant, you might be the winner… at least so far. The “Plant Burger”, as they call it, is red. Like beets! Which are apparently a main ingredient. Along with lintels, mushrooms, cashews, and bulgur wheat. And the burger tastes like none of those; it’s just yummy deliciousness. In a fab bun that I’m not sure if they make in house (I asked; the bartender — my server — didn’t know), but it’s really good either way.

The California Plant Burger. Shown lightly braised in all its glory.

The Plant Burger dinner meal deal.

Nom nom nom.

They have a bunch of choices for the burger: California Plant Burger (avo, cheddar), Swiss Mushroom Plant Burger, Wasabi Plant Burger (sauerkraut, wasabi raspberry aioli — uber adventurous), and of course, the plain Plant Burger. For lunch it comes with salad, for dinner it comes with red potatoes and salad. Yum!

Plant also has other good things (salads, sandwiches, noodle bowls, pizzas and all sorts of other creative stuff) for lunch and dinner. And brunch at two locations, apparently. If you’re looking for healthy, tasty, and SF-interesting, head to Plant! And nod your head to me when you bite into your veggie burger and realize it’s awesome.

Plant Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cafe Jacqueline

Looking for a romantic dinner for two in the City? Cafe Jacqueline fits the bill: dim lighting; cozy, high-ceilinged dining area; chic vintage minimalist decor. This North Beach restaurant isn’t your standard Little Italy establishment for sure, but it’s also unique in the City as a whole. Which isn’t something you find too often.

What Cafe Jacqueline does is souffles. What is a souffle? It’s something that people of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation revered and feared. Like Donald Trump’s hair nowadays. People probably used to look to Julia Child for guidance on this difficult and notably finicky dish; I’d just go to Jackie*.

Since Wiki says it best, I’ll just quote that a souffle is a “lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert”. Yeah, that. As a savory dinner dish, it’s like a ramekin-ed, puffy quiche. As a dessert, it’s like an airy, warm cake.

Chocolate souffle. Read on.

While some of the fancier restaurants around offer souffles on their menu, this is the only restaurant I know of that is dedicated exclusively to this one dish. Dinner? Savory souffle with cheese and veggies. Dessert? Chocolate or fruity souffle. Each is made for two people to share, making it a great place for a romantic date.

So, naturally, I went with my mom. We shared the spinach souffle for dinner and the chocolate souffle for dessert. You order both at the same time because it takes FOREVER for Jacqueline (I believe she’s the actual person back there, the one with the wooden spoon and all the magic) to queue these things up. A few tips:

  • This is not Applebee’s. You will not be in and out of here in an hour. This is a three-hour minimum ordeal. Prepare adequately.
  • The service is slow (addendum to above). Again, not Applebee’s. They will not come to your table every 45 seconds to make sure you don’t need yet another side of ranch dressing. I found the staff to be courteous and friendly, but they aren’t in a rush and they don’t expect you to be either.
  • Reservations are a good idea. There are a limited number of tables, this place is popular, and there appears to be usually just the one seating. If you’re serious about going, call ahead.
  • The souffles are hot. I know you’re hungry, but you’re going to burn the shit out of yourself if you’re not patient. I learned the hard way; I advise that you do not.
  • You can have groups bigger than two people, but the souffles are meant for two people. As Alicia would say, sharing is caring.

Spinach souffle about halfway through… I was hungry and forgot to take a picture at the start.

Spinach salad

Butter lettuce salad

The food was good. The salads were not the best (spinach was mom’s and she said it was good; butter lettuce was mine and was really just butter lettuce with a light spritzing of something slightly more flavorful than water… could have done without it). The spinach souffle (with gruyere) was really, really good. Salty. Flavorful. Fluffy. Recommended.

The chocolate souffle was good, but I fear I was hoping for something different that downplayed the goodness. What I really wanted was molten chocolate cake (a la Lake Chalet or Buon Appetito) that somehow contained more volume of sugar than there was volume of actual cake. This was a light, fluffy cake with some melty goo in the middle. It was not overly sweet. I think it was well-executed (and, again, ridiculously hot: danger) and tasted very good. But it was not corn-syrup-super-duper-sugar madness that I come to expect (and desire) from a chocolate dessert. Just know that going in and you’ll be fine. Or, don’t be me and you’ll probably be fine too.

Chocolate goo innards of chocolate souffle. Mmmm…

Overall: CJ does a great job. Go, be merry, and eat souffles.

*I’m taking liberties with her name. I hope she’s cool with that.

Cafe Jacqueline on Urbanspoon


I’ll make this quick since I didn’t take any pictures. But, since all vegetarian sampler platters look the same at Ethiopian restaurants, I’ll just show you a pretty picture of another one I’ve eaten before:

Vegetarian Sampler

Sheba is an Ethiopian restaurant, bar, and piano lounge on Fillmore, just around the corner from the Fillmore concert hall. I love Ethiopian food. There’s not a whole lot of it in the city, so I’ve been slowly but surely seeking it out. I’ve only tried one other place in the Avenues somewhere, and I didn’t love it. This one was better.

They have nightly jazz starting at 8, which I was not interested in, so we arrived at 6.30 and were out before the music started. But, if you’re into jazz, it’s a nice place to enjoy such things. The atmosphere was classy and dim, and the service was pretty good. All of this deviates from the “traditional” Ethiopian hole-in-the-wall places I’ve been to in the past, and they weren’t unwelcome changes.

The food was definitely good. Not the best I’ve had in the Bay Area, but I would certainly go back. It was a bit spicy for me (read: there was some minuscule amount of spice), but the dishes served in the sampler were all my favorites for sure (it was exactly like the picture above, taken at Enssaro in Oakland — perhaps the best Ethiopian I’ve yet had in the Bay). There’s a place rumored to be located in the Haight that is my next target. Me heart some Ethiopian foods.

Sheba Piano Lounge on Urbanspoon


Two “m”s, one “s”. Tommaso’s. Opened in 1935 (under the name Lupo’s), this Italian eatery has stayed the course for over 75 years donning the same cave-like location and winning awards for their pizza. They’ve got an interesting story and are one of the great restaurant successes of SF.

Margherita pizza from Tommaso’s

When you ask for restaurant recommendation in SF, particularly in North Beach, you’ll often hear the name Tommaso’s. At least I have. And since I walk by the place every day (no joke) on my way to work, it’s a wonder it’s taken so long for me to go. But alas, now I can say I have experience the great Tommaso’s.

I liked it. I like most restaurants, I guess. Honestly, it wasn’t entirely my style, but the food was good and so was the company (Carissa and EJ met me there).

Being 75+ years old, not unlike my grandpa (love you grandpa!), the style is sort of old school. Think along the lines of Banchero’s (or any old Italian diner, if you’re not from Hayward). It’s been kept up pretty well, but there aren’t any windows (bordered on two sides by other buildings, kitchen in the back, no windows in the front), it’s a bit dim, and the service is what you would expect from a “family-owned” place as opposed to, like, an Applebee’s. You know what I mean.

And since the reputation is so ridiculous, the place is packed. We went on a Saturday night and they don’t take reservations. So, we waited in the too-small foyer for 45 minutes or so for our table. At least they’ll give you drinks while you wait.

Vegetarian antipasto plate from Tommaso’s

The menu offers a few appetizers, many salads, seafood, pasta, pizza, and Italian dinners. It’s down-home style — not light “California” Italian — like so many other restaurants in North Beach. We, obligingly, ordered a pizza to share and a veggie appetizer plate.

Margherita pizza in dim light

Both were good. I love veggies and so did my companions. We gobbled them up quickly. The pizza wasn’t thin Italian style, but wasn’t heavy American style either. It was somewhere in between, and it had lots of (read: adequate amounts of) cheese. It was tasty. I don’t know if I’d go running to Zagat about it, but I did like it. Carissa thought the place we went last time (another North Beach restaurant) was better. And Carissa never sugar coats things.

I’d definitely go back to Tommaso’s if the opportunity arose, but I probably wouldn’t, say, steer a group of my friends there if they asked me where to go. Just my two cents; Zagat can keep on with the praises all they want.

Tommaso's on Urbanspoon