Anyone who lives in or near Menlo Park has more than likely been to (or at least heard of or driven by) Cafe Borrone. It’s a family-owned restaurant doing everything from waffles to open-face turkey melts to salads, soups, pasta and more. This year, they opened a sister restaurant called Borrone MarketBar in a smaller space next door. The verdict: delicious, unique and hard to believe it’s a Menlo Park restaurant. It’s a little fancier than Cafe Borrone (I.M.H.O.) and more of a special occasion dinner, though the prices are pretty good for what you get. Solid portions and very, very well done food. They also have various prepared foods available for take out (housemade pasta, salads, marinated meats, desserts, etc.). To top it all off, they have a beautiful oyster bar, lovely outdoor seating (well set back from El Camino and near the train station so it’s its own quiet haven) and a full liquor license.
I particularly enjoyed a proscuitto/burrata/grilled leeks appetizer plate, crab spaghetti and a gin fizz, but everything was excellent. Make sure you save room for dessert; the bombolone are out of control (see below).
Don’t miss the recently revamped Hog Island Oyster Co. at the Ferry Building. You might have to wait outside in a short line, even on Wednesday evening, but it’s worth your time (plus, you can stare at the gorgeous Bay view behind you if you’re really grumpy about waiting).
Exquisite oysters, excellent drinks (I loved the Marshall Mule), salads, ceviche, mussels — oh, and grilled cheese, because why not. Sitting outside on a nice night is beautiful but the inside is great too — it was expanded and remodeled earlier this year.
Leave it to a San Franciscan to have her first breakfast in Manhattan be avocado toast. But Cafe Gitane — a wonderful little French/Moroccan spot in Nolita — does it quite well, perhaps better than some West Coast cafes. It is absolutely sublime when paired with an order of baked eggs with basil, tomato and cream. My only complaint about the eggs was that the yolks were not runny at all, but the flavor more than enough made up for it. I wish I could have returned for lunch or dinner, because many other menu items look delicious.
Cafe Gitane // 113 Jane St. and 242 Mott St., New York City
If you live in San Francisco and haven’t eaten at Lolinda, stop what you’re doing and make a beeline for this Mission restaurant immediately. Though it’s dubbed an Argentinian steakhouse, you need to get to the subhead: Argentinian steakhouse with strong California sensibilities. You could do quite well here as a pescatarian or vegetarian, with delicious veggie and fish dishes (the ceviche and swordfish skewers, in particular). Though I would feel bad for them, because they won’t get to taste what might be the best pork chop I’ve ever had, the most wonderfully juicy and flavor-stuffed chorizo sausage, among other meat dishes. A small serving of chimichurri sauce comes with most dishes; I wish I could get a bucket to go to slather on everything I eat on a regular basis.
Incredible space, as well, plus quality cocktails and wine and wonderful service. (Oh, and there’s a magical bar and Mexican restaurant on the roof that is always packed but worth checking out. Though if you’re going to eat, downstairs is where it’s at.) I can’t wait to go back.