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What's your favorite way, way out of the way food obsession (Bay Area)?

What single food item or meal is so good that you'll go to any lengths to get it? Maybe a grocer or specialty shop in Antioch that sells a candy bar that can be gotten nowhere else, even though you live in Daly City, or the trek from San Jose to Sonoma for that one little dive diner where the $5.99 pancake platter makes it worth the trip. What lights up your board so much that the trip (relatively Bay Area only, please) is inconsequential to the destination?

I want to know the true obsessions here! The ones where you'll go at least 15 miles out of the way for it without a question.

To start, my personal obsession is the chai at Raman's Coffee and Chai in Half Moon Bay. I will regularly drive 45 minutes in each direction, east bay to HMB, braving bridge tolls and horrible (yet beautiful) driving on 92 where it goes to 2 lanes just for a $3 cup of this liquid heaven. Sometimes I'll even get several and put them in a thermos to last an entire day.

Raman's Coffee and Chai
101 Main St
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 712-1257

Who's the next crazy person to add to the list?

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  1. Even though I live in the East Bay near the highest concentration of Korean food in the Bay Area, I buy my kimchi in the SF Richmond district, which is an hour round trip if there's no traffic.

    We occasionally drive to Napa for the lard-fried chicken at BarbersQ.

    3900 D Bel Aire Plaza, Napa, CA 94558

    First Korean Market
    4625 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Why the kimchi better than what is available at Koreana? Is it hotter, crisper? Do they have a greater variety?

      1. re: wolfe

        It tastes better. I have no idea why. The stuff is made fresh in the back of the store, and it contains just vegetables, hot pepper, garlic, salt, and salted shrimp. They pretty much always have cabbage, daikon, and bachelor radish, occasionally other seasonal vegetables such as cucumbers or spring onions.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Fresh is not a term I'd use to describe any kimchi I've ever eaten :-). This sounds most intriguing...

    2. Bar.b.q'd oysters at the Marshall Store, up the coast in Marshall, right on Tomales Bay. Heaven on a half shell. About an hour from Mill Valley, where I live, but the drive is gorgeous, and the absolutely fresh, barely sauced and grilled bi-valves are the best anywhere.

      4 Replies
      1. re: annabana

        I wouldn't drive out there just for that, but it's a great place to stop after a hike in Point Reyes.

        To my taste they're pretty heavily sauced. if you want them with just a drop, order them grilled plain and add sauce to taste.

        Marshall Store
        19225 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA 94940

        1. re: annabana

          Where is this place? We must have driven past it numerous times! Where is it in relation to Tony's or Hog Island? Can you see it from Hwy 1?

          1. re: Sarah

            Sarah, The Marshall Store is just north (maybe 1/2 mile) of Tony's on route 1., on the bay side, right next to a small boat yard. There is usually a large painted sign saying fresh oysters. RL, I have to disagree, to my taste (which of course is subjective,) the q'd o's are not oversauced, as they come to the table swimming in their own almost completely clear liguor. Just my opinion tho'.

            1. re: annabana

              There's a photo on their site:


              It's just a matter of taste. I like the way they do them fine, but when I grill oysters myself I put just a drop of Tabasco.

        2. The two I'm thinking of are Gumbah's in Vallejo (for Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches) and Wild Floud Bakery in Freestone. I'm sure I'll have a few more to add.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Agent 510

            I grew up on Mare Island in the late 80's and fondly remember Gumbah's. Is is still around?

              1. re: wolfe

                I'm actually going to have to stop in soon instead of driving by. I wonder if they decided to keep the old name since that is still the sign on the restaurant.

                Anyone know if they decided to stay with the Gumbah's name?

          2. I specificaly drive from the East Bay to Hardin Gardens in Sonoma. I love their produce.

            In season, I'll drive to the Crane Melon Barn in Santa Rosa for the melons

            Ninth Annual Chowing with the Hounds Picnic! October 3rd, 2009

            2 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              I've driven 45 minutes out of my way for the wings at Russian River Pub.

              1. re: tvham

                I think this would be a better topic if it were "what would you go 45 minutes out of the way for"

                especially in a place like SF, how much time it takes out of your schedule is often more important than actual mileage, considering how slow it can be to drive from certain parts of the city

            2. Pizza at Little Star in SF from where we live in San Jose. They have the best pizza in the Bay Area. Simply great Chicago style deep dish with an amazing crust.

              Little Star Pizza
              846 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

              Little Star Pizza Valencia
              400 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              1 Reply
              1. re: katya

                Oh, how could I forget Ad Hoc?!? I've been four times from SF specifically for dinner, including on a Monday for fried chicken.

                Ad Hoc
                6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

              2. I feel so unoriginal but I must second BarBersQ for the fried chicken (and vinegar chicken and mac n cheese).

                And Wild Flour . . I am especially obsessed with their Fougasse. . .nothing better hot out of the oven. . we like to stroll over to the Statue of Liberty and eat it all while it's hot.

                We also make the occasional drive to Fairfax Scoop especially in the summer when they have strawberry ice cream and Blossom Bluff Peach ice cream.

                I drive from Oakland to San Francisco regularly for pupusas. . .I am partial to the ones at Balompie. . .I think because they are the first ones I ever had so I just like them best. Also, if I am in the city early enough I like to stop at La Oaxaquena for pan dulce and maybe, if I am hungry a tlayuda and one of their stellar licuados.

                7 Replies
                1. re: pastryqueen

                  Pastryqueen, where is the statue of Liberty in Freestone? I've been to Wild Flour Bakery & it's good. We combine the trip w/ Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay. Another stop is Willie Bird Turkey in Santa Rosa.

                  1. re: hhc

                    It's on private property now, at what used to be the Wishing Well Nursery. It's a little hidden -- at the far end of a small pond that's found off the gravel lot next to the beautiful sage green house. It's a black Statue of Liberty, and I always thought it was a hoot. The area near the pond is overgrown now, and I'd tread lightly because it's private property, but you might be able to sneak a peak.

                    Pastryqueen, you sound like my kind of Chowhound. I am also obsessed with the fougasse at Wild Flour. That's one of my long jaunts for great grub as well. That and chasing down pimenton in large quantities in the Bay Area. And wild mushrooms.
                    The best peaches. Obscure cheeses.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      yes. . that little deck overlooking the pond is quite rickety. . .I did not realize it was now private property. . .I have never had anyone say anything as I enjoyed my warm fougasse. There is also this really great quail sculpture made out of can lids and pressure gauges. . . not nearly as well kept as it was when it was the nursery but still a point of interest. . . .maybe if someone catches you there, you can offer them a piece of your fougasse. :)

                      Maria. . we are acquainted. . .via blancmange. ;)

                      1. re: pastryqueen

                        Is that who I think it is? My god, you're talented. Genuine admiration here. Please send a note to the email on my profile.

                  2. re: pastryqueen

                    Thanks, pastryqueen, for the specific recs at La Oaxaquena. I've had it on my list since a post nearly a year ago when it first opened but there doesn't seem to been much written about it since (could be my lame searching skills).

                    1. re: grayelf

                      also if they have the plato de venado or torta de venado, get it. . it's hard to come by and they do it well.

                      1. re: pastryqueen

                        Thanks again! I did read that venado was on the menu, but I have heard that what's available can be hit and miss -- makes it more "Mexican" to me :-).

                  3. Falafel Drive-In for a falafel sandwich and banana shake. One of the best falafels in the area and that shake is so great.

                    Falafel Drive-in
                    2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Shane Greenwood

                      We go to around 10 San Jose Sharks games a year from Sacramento, and Falafel is our go to pre game venue. Those shakes are amazing, and I am not really a big fan of banana flavored food.

                    2. If I'm in the general vicinity I will stop at Taqueria La Bamba in Mountain View or a carnitas plate or Bud's Burger in Vallejo for fries.

                      1. If I'm ever craving the best hot dog in the world, I'll travel from SF to Berkeley's Top Dog on Durant Avenue. They have a variety of sausages, each of which gets grilled to a tasty brown finish. The buns are the perfect complement to the dogs. Just writing this up makes me want to head over there.


                        1. I am also a fan of Wild Flour Bakery. They keep limited hours, so best to check before making a special trip. Also in Sonoma County is the St. Jorge cheese from Matos. 3669 Llano Road in rural Santa Rosa. Heaven.

                          1. Probably not chowhound worthy, but I've been known to go from Walnut Creek to San Ramon just to go to In-N-Out.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: 3ringcircus

                              We come from Vancouver to get Burmese tea leaf salad -- does that count? :-)

                            2. I live in Sacramento, and I cannot go to Berkeley without going to the Cheese Board for their asiago/gruyere cheese rolls. They are amazing, especially when you buy them warm.

                              1. I drive from SF to San Jose primarily for Vietnamese food and food stuffs (deer jerky, banh hoi, meatballs for the freezer, etc). My secret vice is going to Mitsuwa and stocking up on the Black Black caffeine gum. Oh, and the incredibly large selection of tsukemono or japanese pickles.

                                1. I also regularly drive halfway up the peninsula from San Jose for Speederia (great New York style pizza) in San Carlos and New Kapadokia (best Turkish food ever - lentil soup is a must try) in Redwood City.

                                  We also drive to Berkeley basically just to eat at Pie in the Sky (great cheese slices) and plan the rest of our day around that.

                                  When I lived in Berkeley, I regularly drove to Walnut Creek for the sublime spag 'n balls (made with sausage) at Mary's Pizza Shack.

                                  Speederia Pizzeria
                                  711 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                                  Pie In The Sky
                                  2124 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                  New Kapadokia Restaurant
                                  2399 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063

                                  Mary's Pizza Shack
                                  2246 Oak Grove Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

                                  1. I have, on more than one occasion, hopped into the car to go to Castroville for fried artichoke hearts from that big artichoke walk-up place. And from there, to The Central Texan BBQ down the street for brisket...