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Jun 9, 2010 04:38 PM

Innovation: the CHOW tour

We’re hitting the road! Two of our CHOW editors, Lessley Anderson and Roxanne Webber, will soon be scouring three large and food-obsessed cities — NY, San Francisco and LA -- looking for deliciousness with a twist: innovation.

For the San Francisco leg of the trip, we want to hear from local hounds: Where would you go to experience creativity or originality, if given the budget and the time? For that matter, what does innovation mean to you? We're not expecting this to be exclusively or even majorly high-end dining. It may be a pop-up restaurant, or a particularly clever wine program, or a bold return to an old-timey craft like salumi.

For all who remember the OG CHOW Tour, the Jim Leff caloric extravaganza, you know the model. Roxanne and Lessley will be on the road starting July 1, traversing the cities for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; they start in San Francisco, then Los Angeles, then New York, for about a week in each place. They'll be blogging, posting video, and tweeting along the entire tour. In fact, you can start following them now on Twitter: @lessleyanderson and @roxanne_chow.

We're excited, they're excited, we hope you'll be excited too and will follow along. In fact, we hope you'll join them sometimes -- they'll be tweeting their location and will love the company.

All suggestions are welcome, we'll be checking in before they leave and on the way as well. Guide them!

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  1. Probably Plum in Oakland if it's open in time.

    1. Manresa, Commis.

      Manresa Restaurant
      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      1. Coi. Commis. I don't think Plum will open until late July.

        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

        3 Replies
        1. re: Michael Rodriguez

          Yeah, I think Coi would be a more obvious candidate than Plum, which is not open yet. I would also like to nominate the somewhat controversial Lafitte just for the hell of it. Canteen and Bar Crudo are good candidates. Not sure to what extent the usual pizza suspects would be regarded as innovative.

          Bar Crudo
          655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

          1. re: nocharge

            How about Cheeseboard in Berkeley? They have a good balance of innovation, but keep a hold of solid pizza staple taste preferences.

            1. re: cmramos

              The Cheese Board's unique style of pizza was innovative when they came up with it circa 1985, but it's a bit late to call it that now.

        2. Incanto for popularizing offal (and doing it really well).

          Ubuntu (Napa) for revolutionizing vegetable cooking (Fox's influence is still all over the menu)

          Adesso (Oakland) for the sheer number and quality of house-made salumi.

          Cheeseboard/Arizmendi for their idiosyncratic and distinctly Bay Area take on pizza. i think I have to throw Pizzaiolo's Monterey Bay squid and aioli pizza in with the "innovative", too.

          If I want to try wine from a grape I've never heard of, I go to Dopo or A Cote (both Oakland),
          or La Ciccia.

          Don't know if you're looking at innovation in cocktails, too - but Grand Ave in Oakland has a Murderer's Row of restaurants with great cocktail programs (both inventive and classic) - Camino, Grand Tavern, Boot and Shoe Service, and Sidebar.

          Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
          1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

          La Ciccia
          291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

          5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

          A Cote
          5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

          4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

          The Grand Tavern
          3601 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

          Boot and Shoe Service
          3308 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

          2 Replies
          1. re: daveena

            Oh yeah, À Côté is in a class by itself in terms of esoteric grape varieties. How many restaurants would dare to put Pfneiszl Kékfrankos on their list let alone sell it by the glass?


            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Not a restaurant, but I've seen some pretty esoteric varieties at the wine bar in the Ferry Building.

          2. High end with drink pairing: Coi (The wine pairings are unusual with cocktails, sake, beers making the occasional appearance. Patterson is pretty innovative as it is, but if you want to push the chef to the limits, I've heard you can ask him to go vegan or raw...)

            Ice cream: Humphrey Slocombe for Golden Saffron Beet sorbet (or go on an ice cream tour of the Mission with Bi-Rite, HS, Mitchell's, and Mr&Mrs, and....) or Scream for sweet pea sorbet

            Find a popup: Mission Street Food (which is on hiatus for a honeymoon, unfortunately) or Tendejon de la calle (in Healdsburg)

            Vegetarian that will make you forget meat: Although the chef has left, early reports seem to imply that Ubuntu still has the stuff.

            Chinese: Jai Yun--instead of a menu with 10,000 items, the chef decides.

            Bakery with a japanese twist: Sandbox Bakery with negi-miso pan!

            Take a butchery class with 4505 Meats or Avedano's or Fatted Calf. Too bloody? Take a class on making preserves with Happy Girl Kitchen or June Taylor (you are on an expense account, right?) or go to something at 18Reasons.

            Take a foraging hike with Iso Rabins or check out his Underground Market.

            Learn to bake and give away bagels on Monday with Sour Flour.

            Eat the offally dishes at Incanto and be amazed at how not offally they are.

            Get a guerrilla CSA basket from Mariquita Farms. (Can't commit for yearlong weekly baskets? No problem!)

            Get a growler full of House's rose kombucha or try a flight of Drinkwell's fermented sodas. If you are looking for really weird flavors, check out Cultured in Berkeley.

            Have Sunday brunch at a Thai temple or sample the overly gourmet street food that is popping up everywhere. For ex, 4505 meats at the Thu Ferry Bldg, healthy home cooked Indian at Green Coriander, Adobo Hobo, the dude who makes those bacon potato chips, and on and on...

            Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
            1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

            235 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Fatted Calf
            644-C First Street, Napa, CA 94559

            Mission Chinese Food
            2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            4505 Meats
            1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111, CA

            Sandbox Bakery
            833 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Adobo Hobo
            Dolores Park, San Francisco, CA 94114

            7 Replies
            1. re: sfbing

              These are some great suggestions, thanks for sharing!

              What do you think about "innovative" lunch options? We're thinking about Wexler's, Out the Door, and the Thursday Ferry Plaza lunch vendors so we can hit 4505, Namu, and the Arlequin pastry stand.

              I've also been thinking about how to work in more of the Bay Area's great Asian and Latin cuisine. Any spots come to mind that have an "innovative" twist? Jai Yun seems like a good contender.

              Roxanne of CHOW

              Jai Yun
              680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

              Out the Door
              1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1. re: Roxanne Webber

                I like Out the Door but what's innovative about it?

                Out the Door
                1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The OTD on Bush is serving a mishmash of Vietnamese and Western breakfast items. I don't think it is that odd, but a common breakfast growing up for me was an over easy egg and ham banh mi with maggi sauce, so what do I know?

                  I love pho for breakfast, unfortunately OTD is terrible at making pho.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I was curious about the Bush location's wine on tap program. Have you scoped it out?

                  2. re: Roxanne Webber

                    For sure stop at 4505 and Namu at the Thursday Ferry Building market. At 4505, get anything 'zilla style, and please convince them to bottle their money sauce (has a "$" on the bottle at the stand)! The cheeseburgers (on the small side) are also divine, and you can usually pick up a Gob while you're there. Namu has many interesting items to try and hits on your interest in finding Asian food with a twist.

                  3. re: sfbing

                    Mission Street Foods is closed because they are opening up Commonwealth next door. Their last dinner was June 5th. I went, and it was disappointing overall. Hoping they get recharged for the new place.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      coincidentally, JUST saw this post:


                      Mission Street Food is going to start Mission Chinese Food in the same Lung Shan locale, SEVEN nights a week, beginning in July.

                      Lung Shan Restaurant
                      2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110