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ISO unusual ethnic cuisines

socalqtpi Aug 24, 2006 06:01 PM

We will be visiting SF this weekend from out of town. We will be staying near Guerrero & Duboce (Mission District?!), but are willing to drive 15-30 minutes out of our way for unusual (but good) ethnic cuisines.

We really enjoy Moroccan, Afghani, Hungarian, Polish, etc. I've read some of the recent posts from this board & have a tentative list made up, but I'd love to hear of any other suggestions.

Also, are there any good places for empanadas around there?


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  1. larochelle Aug 24, 2006 06:41 PM

    What's on your tentative list?

    Helmand (Afghani on Broadway) for lunch is my suggestion.

    18 Replies
    1. re: larochelle
      rworange Aug 24, 2006 07:01 PM

      Yeah, I'd love to see that list too if you are even considering Polish or Hungarian in San Francisco. While there are those restaurants in SF, they are not the top of their class and only good in terms of people who live in the area and are desparate for that type of food. Nothing I'd recommend to visitors.

      Personally, I wouldn't go the unusual ethinic route. Usually there are one or two restaurants that represent that cuisine and not best of its class. The better question is what ethnic cuisines does SF excel at and are different or better than where you live which seems to be LA. Don't do Korean here, if that's the case.

      Don't know the situation in LA for food from the Yucatan, but there are a few places here with Yucatasian one of the better and crazier places.

      Morroccan ... Aziza.

      And there is always that wild ethnicity of Northern Californian ... Coco500.

      1. re: rworange
        JoyM Aug 24, 2006 07:41 PM

        There's Yucateca food around here, other than Yucatasia? Where? Anyplace that has pollo pibil?

        1. re: JoyM
          Robert Lauriston Aug 24, 2006 07:45 PM

          Mi Lindo Yucatan. Pork pibil only so far as I know.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            chaddict Aug 26, 2006 01:10 AM

            Isn't Platanos Yucatecan?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Robert Lauriston Aug 26, 2006 03:15 AM

              It's pan-Latin with a Yucatecan dish or two.

            2. re: JoyM
              rworange Aug 24, 2006 09:38 PM

              El Yucateca on Geary

              To a lesser extent, Tommy's & Plantanos. Not counting places with one or two dishes on the menu. I read Tommy's has pollo pibil, but people always complain about the food.

              There's a large Mayan population in SF.

              1. re: rworange
                JoyM Aug 25, 2006 06:05 PM

                You know, I tried El Yucateca once and it was awful. I asked if they had pollo pibil, even though it wasn't on the menu, and they gave me an old, dried up tasteless chicken leg, so I never went back. I guess if a hound like you likes it, I should try it again, though.

                1. re: rworange
                  rworange Aug 25, 2006 08:55 PM

                  I guess you keep missing my posts about my passion for McDonalds filet of fish and Carvel ice cream and Safeway's tres leches cake fragrant with vanillan ... hardly a hound.

                  I wouldn't rate it above Yucatesa from my one visit and it doesn't seem like the type of place to order off the menu. If you do go, get a trial dish like a taco where the financial and flavor hit isn't as big. I still am interested in their menudo though.

                  1. re: rworange
                    chaddict Aug 26, 2006 01:00 AM

                    rworange, if by Yucatesa you mean Yucatasia, then please try it again. They have really expanded their menu and have much, much better dishes than the relleno blanco (sp?) that we both tried early on. Would love to hear your thoughts.

                  2. re: JoyM
                    Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2007 11:25 AM

                    Here's a list of eight Yucatecan places in SF:


                  3. re: rworange
                    Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 12:29 AM

                    Is there a Hungarian restaurant in SF since the Hungarian Sausage Factory and Bistro E Europe closed?

                    1. re: rworange
                      socalqtpi Aug 25, 2006 02:16 AM

                      I wish I could have found Hungarian or Polish, but I didn't.

                      Thanks for the recommendation to stay away from Korean food here, it's one of our least favorite cuisines.

                    2. re: larochelle
                      socalqtpi Aug 25, 2006 02:14 AM

                      Here is my list:
                      Aziza (Moroccan)
                      The Helmand (Afghani)
                      Piperade (Basque Tapas)
                      Saha (Yemen/Arabic Fusion)
                      Zarzuela (tapas)

                      I was originally thinking about Limon (Peruvian), but their menu wasn't all that interesting to me.

                      1. re: socalqtpi
                        Meredith Aug 25, 2006 05:59 PM

                        Aziza and Piperade are two of my favorite places in SF, and where I always take visiting friends who want something different. If you are going to be here over a weekday, defintitely do the Helmand's buffet. I am not sure they are open on weekends for lunch, but even without the buffet it would be a great place to lunch. Saha has been on my list to try for a while, so if I personally had to strike one option, it would be the tapas. I have yet to have tapas in SF that thrilled me enough to go back, they all seem a little underwhelming. The 7 courses of beef at Pagolac is always an experience (Vietnamese food).
                        If you need other lunch places, perhaps Tajine in the Tenderloin would work for you.

                        1. re: Meredith
                          Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 06:09 PM

                          Helmand's open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner seven days.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Mark P Aug 30, 2006 03:42 AM

                            The Helmand is closed for lunch on Monday. I've learned this the hard way.

                        2. re: socalqtpi
                          Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 06:15 PM

                          Aziza's great and I don't think you'll find the like elsewhere.

                          Bocadillos makes the best tapas I've had in SF. Same chef-owner as Piperade.


                          Saha was OK and you won't find the like elsewhere but once was enough for me. Best Middle Eastern food I've had recently was at Ziryab.


                          1. re: socalqtpi
                            Ruth Lafler Aug 29, 2006 08:30 PM

                            I wouldn't call the dishes at Piperade "tapas" -- they're much too substantial, even the "small plates." Perhaps you're confusing it with it's sister restaurant, Bocadillos, which does serve tapas. Either way, the food is good.

                        3. Robert Lauriston Aug 24, 2006 06:52 PM

                          Which nationality of empanadas? If you search there was a thread on that within the past year or two.

                          Other less common cuisines to search for threads on:

                          - Afghani
                          - Basque
                          - Basque tapas
                          - Burmese
                          - Cambodian
                          - Chiuchow / Chaozhou / Teo Chow / Chinjiew
                          - Ethiopian / Eritrean
                          - Breton crepes
                          - Guatemalan
                          - Hakka
                          - Korean
                          - Lao / Laotian
                          - Muslim / Islamic Chinese
                          - Nicaraguan
                          - Persian
                          - Peruvian
                          - Indian pizza
                          - Neapolitan-style pizza
                          - Salvadorean
                          - Shanghai
                          - Singapore / Malaysian
                          - Sichuan / Szechuan
                          - Taiwan / Taiwanese
                          - Taiwanese-style Sichuan
                          - northern Thai
                          - Turkish
                          - Vietnamese bahn mi
                          - northern Vietnamese
                          - Xinjiang
                          - Yucatan / yucatecan

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            socalqtpi Aug 25, 2006 02:20 AM

                            Wow, what an extensive list of restaurants! Wish there was a list of restaurant suggeestions to go with that since I'm sure it would take me forever to cull through all the posts.

                            As for which nationality for the empanadas...I was thinking Argentinian.

                            1. re: socalqtpi
                              Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 04:02 PM

                              For Argentine empanadas, El Raigon or Villa Del Sol.

                              It might take an hour or two to search and browse threads for all those cuisines.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                rworange Aug 25, 2006 09:01 PM

                                Aw, Robert you made me scroll back to the top to see if the OP had a car since Villa Del Sol is in South San Francisco.

                                From what I read on the web, Villa Del Sol seems to be the best bet for Argentinian food in this area where that cuisine isn't a strength.

                                I've read mixed reviews on El Raigon's empanadas.

                                There's also Cafe Andree in the Hotel Rex which, while it is a mixed fusiony menu, the empanadas are supposed to be based on a family recipe of the chef. I had it and felt ripped off paying $7 for a tiny empanada which didn't wow me with flavor.

                          2. a
                            answerman Aug 24, 2006 10:36 PM

                            There's a great Nepali place in Bernal Heights called Little Nepal.

                            I'd check it out.

                            (415) 643-3881
                            925 Cortland Ave.
                            San Francisco, CA

                            1. anna Aug 25, 2006 12:14 AM

                              One Polish restaurant I know of is Old Krakow on West Portal. Haven't been there for years so I can't speak for the quality. Also on WEst Portal is Bursa, which is Turkist. I usually go once every other month or so and the food has been consistently good.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: anna
                                rworange Aug 25, 2006 12:53 AM

                                The Eastern European food in SoCal is so much better than anything in this area, that a person would be foolish to waste their time at the adequate at best and usually miserable Old Krakow.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 04:03 PM

                                  The Polish place with the good rep on this board is Chopin Cafe.

                                  1. re: rworange
                                    Kristine Aug 25, 2006 07:53 PM

                                    I like Walzwerk on S. Van Ness and 14th. It's East German has great food, large portions and a wonderful selection of German Beer on tap as well as by the bottle. The place is pretty small, kind of funky, but service has always been friendly. It's alsp very close to where you'll be staying.

                                    1. re: Kristine
                                      Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2006 07:58 PM

                                      Walzwer has good beer but a relatively small selection: five taps and eight bottles. Fun place, young crowd.


                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        Chuckles the Clone Aug 29, 2006 08:31 PM

                                        Which, to be fair, is four taps and five bottles more than its
                                        equivalent in Germany. Being able to order, simply, "bier" or
                                        at most having to narrow it down to "pils" adds to the authenticity.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          Robert Lauriston Aug 29, 2006 08:35 PM

                                          Sure. I'm just saying if you want a big selection of German beer go to Schroeder's or Suppenkuche.

                                  2. Tripeler Aug 25, 2006 06:36 AM

                                    A few years ago we dined at Old Krakow on West Portal and were very happy with the meal.
                                    The most unusual ethnic cuisine for my money is likely Burmese food, but most Burmese places have Chinese and Thai items on the menu, so you must specifically seek out Burmese dishes.

                                    1. chaddict Aug 26, 2006 01:10 AM

                                      OK, in the Mission District, here are two of my favorites right around the corner from each other: Yamo (Burmese, 18th near Mission) and the above mentioned Yucatasia (Mission btwn 17th and 18th). Yes, I am a broken record. Both are dirt cheap. Oh, and Minako (organic Japanese, same block as Yucatasia).

                                      El Frutilandia (24th and Folsom, Cuban/they say Puerto Rican but I don't know...) is a little hit and miss but I love their Thurs. night special of chicken fricasse and the pasteles can be quite good.

                                      You can try the Red Balloon (Nicaraguan, Mission near 24th) for us and write a report : ) (I have only ever had their nacatamales and have been too lazy to try more.)

                                      If you do a search for Mission restaurants, almost all the answers will be ethnic of some sort.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: chaddict
                                        Tripeler Aug 26, 2006 03:21 AM

                                        I had NO idea of Burmese food in the Mission. Thanks for the GREAT tip. Your other choices are my kind of places as well. Keep playing that record.

                                        1. re: chaddict
                                          Chuckles the Clone Aug 29, 2006 08:33 PM

                                          Yamo is Burmese now?!? Excellent! Any idea what ever happened to
                                          crazy Anna who was running the place when it was Thai?

                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                            chaddict Aug 30, 2006 03:48 PM

                                            Sorry for the delayed answer (internet probs)...

                                            It turned Burmese about the beginning of the year. No idea what happened to Anna, sorry! But give Yamo a try.

                                        2. Robert Lauriston Aug 29, 2006 08:14 PM

                                          Another one I forgot: Issan (northern Thai).

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            PolarBear Aug 29, 2006 10:22 PM

                                            Robert, any places in the Bay area that offer Isan cuisine? I found reference to one called Chiang Mai on Geary btw Park Presidio and 15th but the two reviews were split.


                                            Only other one I found on CH was Sai Jai Thai, on O'Farrell St in the Tenderloin. One hound did reco Chiang Mai for their curry.

                                            1. re: PolarBear
                                              Melanie Wong Aug 30, 2006 12:25 AM

                                              The volunteers at the Thai temples in Fremont and San Bruno are largely Issan and make their dishes in that style.

                                              1. re: PolarBear
                                                Robert Lauriston Aug 30, 2006 03:47 AM


                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  Melanie Wong Aug 30, 2006 04:11 AM

                                                  A thread that id's some Lao/Issan spots.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                    rworange Aug 30, 2006 04:28 AM

                                                    Ah, dueling links ... I'm going to throw this in as a possibility.


                                                    I've been going thru old Chowhound links today trying to get a fix on Issan food compared to what is on this menu. While there is no really out-there dish, I'm getting a feeling this place might just have possibilites. I'm thinking of stopping by tommorrow and checking it out more.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      Melanie Wong Aug 30, 2006 04:40 AM

                                                      rw, often the dish will have the same name at an Issan restaurant but have a completely different style of preparation, so reading the menu alone is little help.

                                              2. s
                                                Sixy Aug 29, 2006 10:11 PM

                                                How about Lovejoy's tearoom. In Noe Valley.


                                                wonderful place to sip the afternoon away with a pot of tea.

                                                1. f
                                                  Fine Aug 29, 2006 10:25 PM

                                                  What, pray tell, is Xinjiang?


                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Fine
                                                    Melanie Wong Aug 30, 2006 12:25 AM

                                                    Google is your friend.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      Robert Lauriston Aug 30, 2006 03:49 AM


                                                    2. re: Fine
                                                      lucieluce Dec 5, 2006 11:53 PM

                                                      Xinjiang is a province to the north/east of China. Its lands are a mixture of desert and stringy grassland. Its people are mainly nomads. Its religion Muslim. Xinjiang food is characterized by lots and lots of lamb dishes and BBQ items, spiced with Tseran (not sure how it is spelled: 孜然), a reddish kind of powdered spice with fragrance and a kick. There's a lot of pasta and breads too. Breads are either very chewy and/or has minced lamb in it. XinJiang yogurt is also among the best that I've ever had, and XinJiang melon and pears are divine fruits rarely to be had outside of Asia. I'm not aware of any authentic XinJiang restaurants in the SF area, but if you go to Beijing, you'll see lots of them, especially the BBQ skewer stands, selling each for 1 RMB. For the adventurous, I'd recommend lamb kidneys and liver. There are some restaurants in SF that have dishes with Tseran 孜然, like OLD MANDARIN ISLAMAC RESTAURANT, but they are more Northern Chinese cuisine than XinJiang specifically.

                                                      Old Islamic Mandarin Restaurant
                                                      3132 Vicente St.,San Francisco, CA 94116
                                                      (415) 564-3481 HOURS Daily 11.30am-9.30pm

                                                    3. m
                                                      Maya Dec 6, 2006 05:30 PM

                                                      You didn't mention Mexican, but if it interests you try El Delfin on 24th and Folsom. Also there's Sheba Lounge for really excellent ethiopian.

                                                      1. Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2007 11:26 AM

                                                        Chifa Peruano (Peruvian Chinese):


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