HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Your "One Dish"

The restaurants experience is seen through different eyes, taste, and smell. That experience for one, is love, and for another, not feeling the love. We all have that favorite dish that our mouths start watering when we just think about it. Let it be know that I love dives, always have and always will. If I had to choose between fine dining or dives for the rest of my life, I choose dives. For me my "One Dish" is the "Mixed Plate" of carnitas at the Jalisco Café in Oakland. (served Friday Saturday Sunday only) Now I have been eating that dish for 30 plus years, and have never strayed from it once. That pork and tripe mix rings my bell, along with those fresh corn tortillas, the green table sauce with lots of onion, and the bowl of jalapenos and carrots. The glossy beans and wonderful rice is a thing of authenticity, no canola oil here. Top it off with a couple of Tecates in the can with lime and salt and I have arrived.

Now please don’t rain on my parade and tell me about better carnitas somewhere else, but please tell me about your “One Dish” and I promise I won’t rain on your parade.

My mouth is watering,


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pork leg stew at Thai House Express.

    I would say rice ball salad at Champa Garden, but the last time I was there it was off.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I like the sound of rice ball salad, Robert. Could you give a detailed description, please?

        1. re: wolfe

          I was hoping that I could replicate this, but I don't have a clue as to preserved pork.

          1. re: pikawicca

            It is a sausage. Melanie Wong has commented on it and in fact tracked down an Issan sausage. Don't know if it still available but perhaps she can help.
            Additional assistance
            The rice salad is nam kao. I liked Champa's version, but liked Vientian Cafe's even better, as the sour sausage is only half-cooked and the pungency and tartness shows off much better. Melanie 2006

            I haven't tried it, but the Laotian market in Santa Rosa has frozen Issan/Lao style sausage.
            Melanie Wong Dec 27, 2003 04:08AM


      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Rice ball salad at Champa Garden is one of mine also (and it wasn't off the last time I had it).

        The other is the crepe at Lotus Garden. Have to have it whenever I go there, and if it has been a few weeks I have to go there just to have it.I am not sure whether or not it is the best Vietnamese crepe in San Francisco (I've had a very good one at Yummy Yummy also, but Yummy Yummy is across town and Lotus Garden is down the street), but it is the one I crave...

        (had it last night, along with roasted crab from the tank. yum.)

        Albondigas would be on my list if I could ever find a really good version with house made tortillas in this town. Sigh. Might be time to start the search again....

        Champa Garden
        2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

        Lotus Garden
        3216 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. re: susancinsf

          Albondigas at Casa Vickie's on17th and Julian (maybe 13th and Julian?) in San Jose. They make the tortillas there and it's passable good. Not mama's, but passable good and all.

          1. re: karma_bites

            Thanks for the mention, will remember this next time I am down that way.

            What else do you like there?

            Casa Vicky Catering & Cafe
            792 E Julian St, San Jose, CA 95112

        1. re: mc2

          What a coincidence, I had this last night! While it's up there, my vote goes to the shiitake dumplings at Eos.

        2. Not sure if it’s my favorite dish ever, but the bbq eel "bahn mi" sandwich at Sea Salt in Berkeley is really mouth watering and very satisfying for me.

          1. I refer to this as the "drive by must stop item", as in if you're driving by and you're hungry, you stop almost automatically or compulsively.

            Sorry, life's too short to only have one. I'll stop at these places even I'm not hungry just because I'm there.

            Carnitas at La Bamba in Mountain View
            Burger or Chicken Fried Steak at Tennessee Grill
            Donut at Bob's Donuts
            Top Dog walking in Berkeley

            2 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              Tell me what makes the burger and CF steak at Tennessee Grill so special. I'm new to that 'hood, and had breakfast there for the first time last weekend and thought it was terrible. The grits had no salt in them, were verging on cold, and the hash browns were mushy. Oh, and there were runny whites in my over easy eggs.

              I am open to being persuaded that I missed their strong points, though.

              1. re: Pistou

                Like all cheap mom and pop places, it's a matter of what you order. The hashies are terrible and so are a few other things. If you want a clue on what's good, sit at the counter at the cook station and watch what they make and watch what others are ordering. That's all I can say, no convincing. Re: burger, fresh ground, charbroiled, cooked to spec, $4.15 w/ fries.

            2. Baguette French toast covered with fresh seasonal berries at Mama's on Washington Square.

              1. Locally, I find myself thinking of the xian doujiang (savory soy milk soup) at Shanghai House (available on weekends only). The xiaolong bao is good there too, but the xian doujiang is the best I've had outside China since the early days of Fountain Court, and getting it to accompany a steamer of XLB is the frosting on the cake.

                1. The tartare at Bix. In fact, I had it last night....

                  1. For me it's the brisket at Memphis Minnie's.

                    Memphis Minnie's BBQ
                    576 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    1. Roast pork with potatoes at L'Osteria del Forno.

                      1. Special Occasion - Roasted Lamb's Neck with Gremolata at Incanto (Noe Valley).

                        Casual - Fried Chicken and Waffles at 900 Grayson (Berkeley).

                        1. Chicken taco with beans and rice at La Mexicana, Oakland--with a chile relleno on the side. Forgot to mention the fresh handmade tortillas.

                          1. "We all have that favorite dish that our mouths start watering when we just think about it."

                            No we don't. How boring this sounds. My perfect dish is the next new and creative dish that dilates the pupils of my eyes and makes me exclaim "How did they do that?"

                            I felt this way, the first time I had olive oil ice cream. The foie gras custard at Manresa was next. A carrot juice raviolo at Coi produced similar sensations. What will be next? I don't know, but I'm looking forward to it.

                            1. In no particular order:
                              1) Potato puree (mashed potatoes) at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon Paris
                              2) Mac and Cheese, Oak City Grill, Menlo Park
                              3) Rossini Burger at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

                              Burger Bar
                              3950 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV

                              Oak City Bar & Grill
                              1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                              L'Atelier de Jo
                              Rue de Montalembert, Paris, Île-de-France 75007, FR

                              1. Since this is posted on the SF Bay Area board, please keep your suggestions to the restaurants in this region. If you want to share your world wide favorites, please start a new thread on the General Topics board.

                                1. I'd have to say the chestnut pasta at Riva Cucina in Berkeley. I rarely think of a specific dish and rarely day-dream of returning for something specific, but that would be it, these days. It was the best pasta dish I've had anywhere, ever. Including in Italy.

                                  I do also think about the pumpkinseed crusted fish at Montero's in Albany. I get it for breakfast with home-fries instead of mashed. When I'm sick of eggs.

                                  1. I just wanted to put in another plug for the squid and pork belly over egg and miniscule potato cubes at Bar Tartine. It was very tasty and memorable.

                                    My "one dish" often involves picking a pork belly or beef slow roasted or anything with a poached egg on top.