If You Love This Overpriced San Francisco 'Hood, Move Here Instead

Published On 01/25/2017 Published On 01/25/2017
San Mateo Central Park | Flickr/scottmdi
Peet's Coffee
Fentons Creamery
Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
La Viga Restaurant
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Flickr/Tony Webster
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1. Shandong Restaurant 328 10th St #101, Oakland, CA 94607

The soft and juicy dumplings at the always-crowded Shandong Restaurant are the stuff of East Bay legend. Packed with savory flavors from components like tender beef and crisp cabbage, the dumplings are handmade with machine-like speed and served to your table with the same velocity, so they're as fresh as humanly possible. You'd be wise to order spicy beef chow mein and the sesame paste noodles too, just be sure to spend the extra buck to have them prepared with the house's hand-pulled noodles.

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2. Gum Kuo Restaurant 388 9th St #182, Oakland, CA 94607

Nestled into the Pacific Renaissance Plaza (the shopping mall at the center of Oakland's Chinatown), this beloved counter-serve is immediately recognizable by the succulent meats hanging in its window, attracting long lines of locals for authentic Cantonese BBQ, jook, and congee. As cheap and comforting as it gets in Chinatown, Gum Kuo's fan-favorite jook (rice porridge) is ideal for a cool and foggy day, particularly the salted pork or preserved duck egg. As for those meats in the window, they aren't just for show: pair your hearty porridge with the incredibly moist BBQ roast pork and you'll understand why the owners of this tiny Honk Kong-inspired joint display them proudly.

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3. Spices 3 Restaurants 369 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607-4248

This hole in the wall in Oakland's Chinatown specializes in seriously spicy Szechuan fare. Expect chili oil, chili peppers, and curry on the meat-centric, family-style menu. The hot pots are definitely a standout, especially the "Murder Style Gangsta Casserole" but vegetarian plates are equally piquant -- the vegetarian casserole isn't described as "Numbing" for no reason.

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4. White Horse Bar 6551 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Though many bars across the country stake the same claim, White Horse Bar on Telegraph Avenue is the self-dubbed oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian bar in the country. Since 1933, it's been a beacon of hope and community for LGBT locals, offering them not only a safe and welcoming space, but also a damn good time: you'll find karaoke nights, drag shows, and DJ dance parties all on the calendar here. Plus, you can sip classic cocktails that are as cheap and reliable as you'd expect from your friendly neighborhood watering hole.

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5. The Ramp 855 Terry Francois St, San Francisco, CA 94158

Hanging out in a shipyard while drinking sounds like a potentially dangerous combination, but at The Ramp, it’s nothing but a good idea. Open for brunch, lunch, and evening appetizers (the menus are American and seafood-centric), this popular waterfront hole-in-the-wall is situated directly next to the San Francisco shipyard in Dogpatch, meaning the views of tankers are exceptional -- and so is the brunch lineup, particularly the top-notch Bloody Marys and the juicy Angus beef burgers on locally baked buns. Not to mention, if you stick around long enough (and down enough drinks), there's live Latin music and outdoor dancing later in the day.

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6. Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing 2505 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

The folks behind Magnolia Brewing Company expanded their beloved operation with this hip warehouse-style brewpub in Dogpatch (exposed pipe and reclaimed wood abound), which not only boasts a huge, on-site brewing system that can produce up to 30 barrels, but also -- across the room -- smoked-in-house BBQ offerings including sausage, brisket, and Wagyu beef ribs. There's even a full-of-surprises cocktail program that slings exceptional whiskey concoctions like the Dutchman's Flat with rye, ginger, honey, lemon, toasted Nori, and beef bouillon (didn't see that one coming, did you?).

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7. Chez Panisse 1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

Open since 1971, Alice Waters' now iconic Chez Panisse first put terms like "California cuisine" and "slow food" on the map by introducing Bay Area diners to seasonal, produce-heavy small plates. Set in a bungalow-like space, the two-level restaurant includes a downstairs, reservation-only dining room that serves a three-to-four course dinner Monday-Saturday. Upstairs, the Café offers a more casual, à la carte alternative available for both lunch and dinner. Both menus change every day, but anything you order is signature Alice Waters.

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8. Peet's Coffee & Tea 2124 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709

Before outposts starting popping up across the country, Peet's began as a revolutionary coffee experience right here, on the corner of Vine and Walnut in North Berkeley, where Holland native Alfred Peet impressed locals and helped change the American coffee game with his rich and complex small-batch brews. Situated in the Gourmet Ghetto area, the original Peet's is cozy, wood-laden, and full of vintage coffee makers and canisters, plus the diverse teas, scrumptious treats, and high-quality beans -- from pungent Ethiopian to lush Arabic mocha -- you've come to expect from the popular chain.

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9. Cheese Board Pizza 1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

The culinary offshoot of the worker-owned Cheese Board Collective, this three-in-one pizzeria, bakery, and cheese counter has been melting Berkeley tastebuds since 1985. There's only type of veggie pizza (never meat) and one type of salad per day, and each is available until they sell out. The Cheese Board is well-known to have some of the best pizza around, so there's usually a wait (especially at peak lunch and dinner hours), but live music from local artists keeps you entertained. If you don't like the element of surprise, the website lists the pizzas for the week ahead, but truth be told, they're all insanely good.

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10. Commis 3859 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

This Oakland eatery is the only fine dining spot in the East Bay to boast a Michelin star (let alone the two that it has). Chef James Syhabout helped open Coi with Daniel Patterson and opened Hawker Fare, and you’ll see those Asian influences come through in dishes like Dungeness crab with coral and dried pickled celeriac or a simple radish with charred mustard broth and speck ham. The eight-course tasting menu is $125, while the pairing menu will cost you an extra $75.

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11. La Viga 1772 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

Manuel Martinez’s simple yet expert Latin restaurant, La Viga, helped put Redwood City on the culinary map in 2012, influencing countless other chefs to migrate to the Peninsula and shape it into a dining destination. Mexico City’s fish market is the inspiration for the name and the strong roster of seafood dishes, like coconut prawns and seafood paella. The menu's must-try dish, though, is the ceviche, particularly the sampler trio featuring shrimp, mahi mahi, and red snapper, which lets you taste as much fish as possible -- and gets you off the hook from settling on just one.

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12. Vesta 2022 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

While this bright and chic pizzeria in Downtown Redwood City has become a packed local favorite for dinner, it still saves a good number of spots for walk-ins, meaning you just might get your hands on its incredible wood-fired pizza without a reservation. The topping combinations are creative yet approachable, like sausage & honey or tart pear & burrata. Don't skip out on the small plates, which somehow rival the crusty pies (that's saying a lot), including the practically mandatory mushroom toast and the earthy cauliflower dish with toasted almonds, currants, serrano chili, honey, and breadcrumbs.

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13. The Patty Shack 909 Main St, Redwood City, CA 94063

Offering hefty and creative burgers inside a sleek space adorned with vintage athletic memorabilia, The Patty Shack is a satisfying and sporty respite from the abundance of taquerias in Redwood City. Come for one of the inventive burgers (e.g. The Midnight with a fried egg, bacon, and Cheddar) and stay for one of the nearly 20 local and domestic craft beers on tap. OK, you're also staying for the mac & cheese grilled cheese while you watch one of the giant flat-screens. OK, honestly, you're never leaving because there's a Cap'n Crunch milkshake.

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14. The Hog's Apothecary 375 40th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

The Hog's Apothecary in Oakland's Jewel Box area takes a modern approach to the beer hall concept, giving it an upscale twist with an expertly curated, sometimes-obscure lineup of local craft beer and gourmet bar snacks. With 33 rotating taps, you have your work cut out for you, but ordering one of the nightly flights is a sure-fire route to discovering your new favorite brew. Though the beer roster certainly takes center stage, the food is in no way an understudy, which you'll realize as soon upon biting into the pork belly and sauerkraut corndog. The stripped-down, industrial-style interior with communal tables provides a chic finishing touch.

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15. Homeroom 400 40th St, Oakland, CA 94609

Dedicated to perfecting one of man's greatest foodstuffs, Homeroom is a mac & cheese joint decked out with wooden tables built from salvaged Sequoia High football bleachers and a chalkboard map of California. The kitchen rethinks the classic after-school dish with gourmet variations like Dungeness crab mac and Mac the Goat, which plays host to chèvre and scallions, and continues the trip down memory lane with comforting desserts like oversized homemade Oreos and decadent fudge brownies.

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16. Burma Superstar 309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

This buzzy Richmond restaurant more than lives up to its name: It's become a superstar in its own right for exceptional Burmese cuisine that has guests braving long lines for lunch and dinner daily. A meal at Burma Superstar begins with the tea leaf salad, made with fried yellow beans, garlic, sesame seeds, tomatoes, and dried shrimp and folded into a romaine lettuce base table-side. Another hit is the samusa soup, a soothing dish that symbolizes the influence of China, Thailand, Laos, and India in Burmese cuisine. The vegetarian soup combines lentils, falafel, cabbage, and onions with potato-filled samusas in a fragrant broth. There's plenty of heat on the menu too, as seen in stir-fried lamb with dried and fresh chiles, and wok-tossed shrimp garlic and jalapenos.

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17. Sam's Chowder House 4210 North Cabrillo Highway, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

No trip to Half Moon Bay is complete without hitting up this waterfront gem, which sports an outdoor area complete with fire pits and Adirondack chairs, plus Christmas lights adorning a beach bar patio. Though the stunning ocean views will remind you that you are, in fact, in California, the nautical decor and New England-inspired menu will transport you to the East Coast. Prepare to feel like a Bostonian with creamy clam chowder, an overflowing lobster roll, and an oyster po-boy anointed with spicy remoulade and smoked bacon.

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18. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company 390 Capistrano Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

House-brewed beers and California-inspired plates are cranked out at the laid-back Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. It offers a dog-friendly fire pit and patio overlooking the water, where you can sip craft suds, partake in trivia night, and listen to live bands. Alongside your malty amber ale, you'll want to order one of Half Moon's fresh seafood dishes, such as Baja tacos, prawns & chips, or Dungeness crab in either the garlic, pesto, or cajun variety. (Fun fact: Dungeness crab fishing is illegal in the San Francisco Bay because the region is considered a breeding and hatching ground, so much of SF's Dungeness comes from Half Moon Bay.)