Archive for Category ‘Gourmet Restaurant‘

Straw Carnival Fare – San Francisco, CA

Fate works in strange ways. Every week I drive across the city to get to the Bay Bridge. Always in the left lane going across Octavia, not paying much attention to whats passing by. But recently I glanced over and saw a wonderful site. A tilt-a-whirl seat in a window of a small restaurant. I glanced up and just barely caught that the place was called Straw Carnival Fare. That was more than enough to pique my interest. Growing up, I was convinced I would design rollercoasters, I had bought Coaster, a floppy disk based rollercoaster building simulator from the Scholastic Reader, and I was set. I later found out that excessive math skills would be needed, and dropped that idea pretty quickly.

But I have always had a love for theme parks, fairs, carnivals, games, all of that stuff. Rides, and corndogs; there is little else I need. I even built the website for the Marin County Fair a few years back. So I called my girlfriend right away and asked her to check it out. Reservations were made, and two weeks later we were there with 2 friends of ours.

The reason?


The Ringmaster. I have heard about burgers like this before, but it was only from a chain, and maybe only a combination of food from one chain with food from another chain. But when served up at a proper restaurant, it just seems much better.

What is the ringmaster exactly? A cheeseburger (that I obviously got with bacon) served on two glazed donuts. Many words can be used to describe this. Some would say “that’s so American” or “Gluttony”, but those people are annoying and should not be here. I would say Awesome and Must-try. There was a lot of anticipation for eating this, as we had made plans a few weeks ahead, so it had been lingering around in my mind for awhile.

I was definitely wary of how this would actually taste, as some things that are both awesome don’t always work together (i.e. those bacon chocolate bars). But first bite in, and you could just tell it worked. The sweet and savory was balanced just right.

The burger was very simple; bacon, cheese and meat, which has to be deliberate. The only thing that bothered me was having some of the grease end up on the donut buns, but the burger was really not that greasy. I don’t know how often I would describe something as being fun to eat, but this definitely was.

Recently, if you are getting a burger that is way out of the ordinary, it’s either got some stupid gourmet thing going on like a caviar aioli, or it’s all about how massive this is. The Ringmaster is neither, and it’s one of the most fun things I have eaten in years. On their own, the burger ingredients are tasty with the bacon being done very well. The patty was a really good size, not too thick, and thankfully not too greasy. The donuts were… well donuts. I can’t say I’ve really had a bad one, and these were no different. For buns, they are a bit tall, so you have to do the ole burger squash method to make it work, and you are going to get messy. But this restaurant definitely caters to that. The Ringmaster and a side of homemade chips is $11.75 and it’s another $1.50 for bacon. Pretty standard for an SF restaurant.

For non-burger lovers (ridiculous I know) there are still plenty of options, and some that are close to as interesting as the Ringmaster. A friend order the fried chicken and waffle monte-cristo, and that looked pretty delicious too. Everyone had fun here, and it’s just a great atmosphere for a smaller group of friends. Straw is very small, so it’s best to make a reservation, but I can’t recommend this place enough if you can’t decide between a nice dinner out and a burger place. I’d say the Ringmaster, or an equivalent, is something all burger lovers must try at least once!

Rating:
★★★★☆

Check them out at http://strawsf.com/

Johnny Garlic’s – Santa Rosa, CA

Love him or hate him, you all know who Guy Fieri is. Guy has been one of the heavy hitters in the super-celebrifying of the chef, and I am definitely guilty of going out of my way to stop at places featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. My girlfriend’s parents are fans of the show, and enjoy visiting featured places when they are traveling as well. So naturally they wanted to check out one of Guy’s own restaurants when they came up to visit.

So up north, beyond the outskirts of the Bay Area, is Johnny Garlic’s. It’s called a pasta grill, but the dishes are pretty all over the place, especially for its location. The menu has something for everyone on it, including vegetarians and generally picky eaters. But then it also has bison burgers, and some exotic animal as the Hunter’s Special. I’ve actually been a few times, and had things like the pizza, and everything has been pretty tasty. The bread they bring out is always a huge hit too. But that is not why we are here. We are here for this.
Burger and Destroy - Johhny Garlic's Burger

Checking their website and menu now, it looks like this burger has been updated. I had the Snake River BBQ Burger, but now it appears to have been replaced by Guy’s Big Bite Burger. They have added a pretzel roll (one of my personal favorites), and swapped the pepper-jack for cheddar. The BBQ burger was really good. Should this be surprising or not, I don’t know, but it really was solid. The bacon is thick and crispy, breaking apart cleanly with each bite. There’s some onion straws on top for some added crunch, though not overwhelming. The bun was actually really good, with a little bit of crunch to it. Almost a bummer that they went to a pretzel bun, when their regular buns were already rather good, and so many other places would benefit much more from it. What really pulled this burger together though was the BBQ sauce. Definitely a top notch and delicious sauce. It was sweet enough where it balanced the kick of the pepper-jack and brought the whole thing together. They use higher quality ingredients, and its definitely noticeable.

Burger and Destroy - Johhny Garlic's Burger

This messy burger caught me off guard, as it was a bit better than I was really expecting. I figured it would be good, albeit standard, but everything worked really well together. It’s a bit higher priced at 13.95 with a side of fries, but that is most likely a balance of local meat and a sprinkle of unicorn dust for that bbq sauce. As a whole, the restaurant is a good place for friends or family; it’s a little loud, there are tv’s up, and the waitstaff is pretty consistently great. The onion rolls they serve with oil and vinegar get devoured plate after plate, and if you can survive for dessert they have some pretty decadent options as well. Prices seem a couple dollars too high on some items, but it is good food and a good time.

Rating:
★★★★☆

You can get more info at http://www.johnnygarlics.com/

Wayfare Tavern – San Francisco

After a few recommendations with my girlfriend around, it was decided that we would try Wayfare Tavern. As you may have already found out, I am a big fan of places you can go for a nice date night, yet still have an awesome burger. Win-win for everyone. When she is happy, I’m happy. And when she is happy and I am eating a burger, the world is a beautiful place.

I also don’t watch a lot of tv but there are a few things I watch obsessively; hockey, it’s always sunny, top shot, and anything on the food network. Wayfare Tavern happens to be Tyler Florence’s restaurant, and he has always seemed like a good chef and a good guy. I appreciate the fact that he’s gained a little weight recently too; it helps me trust him. So all signs were a go for Wayfare Tavern.

Since this is one of the few nice night out restaurant’s I have reviewed so far, I’ll go into some of the other details a bit more than I normally would. Wayfare Tavern is in downtown SF and is a pretty cool two story restaurant. It was crowded, as we went on Friday after work, and wasn’t a quiet place. It wasn’t obnoxiously loud either, but not a candlelit dinner where you whisper sweet nothings back and forth between bites.

I am very big on bread, and they served us some giant popovers after we ordered. They were huge, awesome, delicious and fun to eat. And to make it twice as good, they came back and offered us more after we finished our first ones. For the main course, obviously, I ordered their burger. They use a “proprietary grind” of local meat, brie and smoked bacon on a brioche roll. It came with a generous portion of fries too, that were good without being over-herbed like so many other nicer restaurants tend to do.

Wayfare Tavern - Burger and Destroy

This burger was very interesting. It is not the kind of burger you could eat all the time, but I am really happy I tried it. All that thick, melted brie ended up overwhelming me a little over halfway through the burger. I am not a huge brie guy but it has been growing on me lately, so this may have been all I was able to handle. The consistency of the cheese was also really different compared to our typical burger cheeses. The crispiness of the bacon helped quell the gooey wave of cheese that flooded from every bite, but the flavor was still overpowered by the cheese. All of this was on top of a brioche roll, and as expected after the popovers, it was a really good roll. The meat was cooked perfectly, and was a little thicker than the average patty. It is apparent that there was some serious thought in this burger.

Even though the burger didn’t quite work for me, I would definitely recommend you at least try it. I can see that being a burger people would love as everything is top notch, the flavors just didn’t quite click with me. And again, this is a really nice place to take someone special and have a good time. My girlfriend loved her pasta dish, and the bite I had was delicious. I would definitely recommend this restautarnt, though if I go back I don’t know if I will get the burger again. But that’s just me, and if you love brie then you have to try it.

Rating:
★★★½☆

Learn more about them at:
http://www.wayfaretavern.com

 

Buckeye Roadhouse – Mill Valley, CA

A weekend excursion driving around Muir Woods left us hungry and without a clue where to eat. We ended up right at the Buckeye, so decided to go for a little nicer dinner. The Buckeye has been around since the 30’s, yet I can’t ever recall going there. Maybe once growing up, but I wrote it off for being a boring place where adults just talked about nothing important all night.

At least that kinda fits the bill now. We were seated upstairs, and the place was loud. Like really loud, in every part of the restaurant. But we received the special table, tucked in a little alcove, adjacent to the largest party. 14 or so middle aged people, one upping each other and talking about their friends with a few properties here or there. Blah. We literally butted up right against them, as
some people would come to talk to the people nearest us, and actually stick their butts on our table.
Wonderful. So much for having a nicer dinner with my girlfriend.

Already a little perturbed, I didn’t feel like getting something fancy on the menu, so I went with the 1/2 pound ground angus burger. $15, with cheese and fries and the normal fixings. Definitely up there in price.

Angus Burger at Buckey Roadhouse - Mill Valley CA

And as somewhat expected, it seemed to be an “out” burger; an option for people who want something cheaper-ish or don’t know what to order. The patty ranged from really thick to normal size, and the taste of how it was cooked varied pretty strongly in each part. The cheese was, well, just cheese. It didn’t stand out from the rest of the ingredients, and was just generally bland. I am not a poppy seed fan, though they didn’t interfere too much. The bun itself was also just so so, nothing like the bread they served before dinner which was delicious. The fries were standard, but tasty.

No real surprise here. While not bad, it definitely was not very exciting or inspired. The more I ate of it, the less I wanted, and ended up leaving more than a couple bites. Worth a stop? Maybe, just not for the burger. They had a smore pie that was pretty interesting and tasty, and the service was good. We actually got the dessert for free, and 50% off our food, which was really nice. We didn’t say a word, but he knew it was pretty bad at our

table. So that was a real nice gesture, but didn’t help the burger out any.

Rating:
★★½☆☆

Check out their menu at:
http://www.buckeyeroadhouse.com/

15 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Zazie – Cole Valley, San Francisco

Zazie is a romantic little French restaurant that gets very little ink for just how good it is. Every dish has been delicious (I’ve heard, as I only order one thing, save for the surprise Prix Fixe menu on Valentine’s Day). Zazie is perfect for a special occasion; the atmosphere is really great inside, which you will almost never hear me talk about, but for a nice place it lacks the snobbishness of many others. Every meal starts with an incredibly fresh and hot roll, which is far too small for how delicious it is. This roll was definitely a precursor of what was to come. And to end the meal they have some insanely decadent desserts. My favorite is the chocolate-coma inducing Baked Chocolat Chaud, which tastes almost like brownie batter topped with tons of melted marshmallows. Absolutely delicious.

But none of that matters here. What is important is that Zazie is hands down the best place to take your significant other for a special occasion/romantic dinner, and still have one of the best burgers you can get your hands on. They offer one burger, the Zazie burger, with white cheddar, tomatoes proven├žals, and a side of grilled potatoes. I don’t know what tomatoes proven├žals are, so they are swept off to the girlfriends plate. The bacon for a $2 additional charge is well worth it, and brings the total for this bad boy to $14.

Zazie Burger

The whole time you wait for your burger, all you can do is think about that tiny roll they served you early on. I think the service is reasonably quick, but after eating that little roll the only thing running through my head is how I could probably eat about 20 more, or if the people at the table next to me won’t be looking when the waitress drops off their rolls. Time seems to just crawl, which is just about all I can do after eating the burger and then the dessert. Finally the burger arrives, and it delivers. The bun is just as good as that little roll, buttery and crisp on the outside. White cheddar has been popping up more often lately, and it is a trend I like (hopefully it becomes the next pomegranate or avocado or sweet potato fries). The white cheddar and bacon, again a crucial addition, are a stellar combination. It’s obvious Zazie takes pride in what they serve, and both the cheese and bacon are rich and flavorful. The bacon is crispy enough where you won’t have to worry about pulling the rest of it out when you first bite into it, which as we all

know can throw off the whole balance of a burger. Surprisingly, the fancy leafy greens on top also compliment the burger very well.

Zazie Burger

This has to be one of the most well-balanced and refined burgers out there, while still being a true burger. I didn’t know this burger existed when I went to Zazie for the first time, and was expecting to have to eat something way too “fancy” where I’d just end up pushing about half the plate to the side. Instead I was absolutely blown away by this burger. Wouldn’t matter if this was from a burger shack, a trailer, or the fanciest restaurant, this is a top 5 burger all the way. Add in the killer dessert, and the fact that you can impress your date there, who will be more than happy with their menu whatever their taste may be, and you’ve got one of best experiences for any burger lover.

If this burger were any cheaper, I’d be there twice a month for sure.

Rating:
★★★★★
Zazie Restaurant's Twitter
Zazie Restaurant's Facebook Page
http://www.zaziesf.com

941 Cole Street, SF
415-564-5332