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Stellar dishes at ordinary restaurants

Sometimes an inexpensive place will have one dish they do exceptionally well. (the spinach ravioli at Fillipo's original
restaurant on College in Oakland qualifies)Can people think of others?

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  1. Not much of a restaurant, but I'll nominate the baked pork buns from Cafe Bakery on Noriega in SF as a one-trick pony. I've tried the various things that others have recommended there and not been interested in ordering any of them again. However, the pork buns are the standard for measuring all other comers. The price for them has gone up to a buck apiece.

    Cafe Bakery thread -
    http://chowhound.com/topics/show/29999

    1. Chow, on Church at Market St. Great food, great menu, great service, and lunch tab for two persons was very reasonable. Pork chops, pasta, seafood, you name it.

      7 Replies
      1. re: wbfey

        What dish do you think Chow does exceptionally well? Not sure it's that terrific across the board.

          1. re: jupiter

            I use to love the cobb salad there but then it seems they changed a few things and now I don't love it as much.

            1. re: chaddict

              what did they change?
              i have been eating the cobb salad there for the last 6 years, and it actually seems to be the only consistent thing on the menu that doesn't fluctuate between terrible and terrific (aside from the special lemonades...)
              one small qualification: i hate blue cheese so i always have them substitute the blue with goat.

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            Oddly, the pepperoni pizza. They have a wood-fire oven (at least at the Church location) and the proportion of sauce and cheese suit me. To my bf's horror, I prefer it to Delfina Pizza.

            1. re: Meredith

              Delfina does about as well as anybody can with a gas deck oven, but you can't beat wood for pizza.

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              I had the ginger cake twice in one week while I was in town a couple of weeks back. I'm not sure about the rest of the menu, but that, at least, was a delight.

          3. I think it's rare for a restaurant to make only one thing well. If there's a good cook in the kitchen and good ingredients, there's going to be more than one good dish.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Don't you think your two preconditions --- good cook and good ingredients --- are rather rare themselves?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Sure. There are lots of restaurants where nothing's good.

            2. I think Chow is permanantly mediocre, or worse. I go there on Thursdays only for their sandwich of the day: steak sauteed with peppers and onions.

              Blue Plate has an amazing roasted hearts of romaine salad.

              Ti Couz's (non organic) house salad is the best in the city. Nice dressing and ecclectic greens.

              Soizic in Oakland has an outstanding ginger custard. So good you shouldn't share!

              3 Replies
              1. re: sailorbuoys

                I wholeheartedly agree about the Ti Couz salad.

                1. re: heidipie

                  And I agree about Soizic's ginger custard. I would add their BELGIAN ENDIVE SALAD with pears, gorgonzola cheese and spiced walnuts. Freakin' addictive.

                  1. re: heidipie

                    But I don't agree that Ti Couz is a one trick pony.

                    I always love their complete or mushroom|cheese crepe.
                    And their Ti Couz 10 (both the alcholic and the non-alcoholic versions) is one of my absolute favourite cocktails in town.

                    So I would say they certainly do more than the one thing well.

                2. Ricky's Corner in Rodeo, which is mostly a bar/lounge, does pretty good fried chicken. It becomes exceptional when you factor in the $7 price. That's what everyone orders, and you stray from that at your peril.

                  More about Ricky's -
                  http://chowhound.com/topics/show/45887

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Second. Even at weekend full meal prices.

                  2. Giovanni (or Caffe Giovanni) in Berkeley. Their free house-made (I assume) focaccia is super delicious. It arrives hot, tasting of olive oil (but not oily), and it's different from all the other focaccia I've had. When I used to go to Giovanni I'd always make sure to get another batch before we left so I'd be able to sneak some home.

                    When it came to their entrees, however, if you looked up "Eh" in the dictionary, there would be a picture of their ravioli.

                    1. The salt and pepper crab at Thanh Long is a one hit wonder. Even the garlic noodls that everyone orders with the crab are overcooked and edible only for tradition's sake.

                      1. Mr. Chan's at Daly City is the ultimate cheap eats place with some really good dishes. The fried tofu is excellent, but only if you're eating at the restaurant. I got it to go before and they got soggy when I got home. It also has a surprisingly good version of general's chicken. The chow fun is also really good, with some nice charred flavors. Oh yeah, all the dishes I mentioned are less than $5 and can easily feed two.

                        1. Assuming we're not being overly strict about the "one thing only" ...

                          Chow: short ribs ($13ish for a lot of food)

                          Caffe DeLucchi: panna cotta $6

                          I wouldnt say those place dont have anything else worth
                          eating, but I always get the same thing at either of those
                          places now.

                          1. Moshi Moshi pork chops