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Over here at the Daze we are still fighting the economic downturn one restaurant (and one meal) at a time. Here are some more places to spend the money we no longer have and some legitimate reasons to do so…In San Francisco.

For Breakfast…Great Eastern

If New Orleans seems to be suffering from a lack of breakfast joints, San Francisco seems to be overrun by them. And I mean that in the best possible way. The Filmore district in particular is teaming with cafes offering fresh coffee, croissants, egg dishes and weather permitting, lovely sidewalk seating. It’s a great place to walk around on a lazy Saturday morning. Being the perpetually difficult blogger that I am (want breakfast when I can have it and don’t when I can) I decided to forgo the obvious Eggs Benedict three ways and headed to Chinatown for dim sum. It’s San Francisco after all.

On recommendation, my reluctant group of eaters decided to try Grand Eastern, a multi-level (additional dining in the basement) spot on Jackson street. They have dim sum 7 days a week, entrees begin at 11am. A lot of the fun of dim sum is trying to get the attention of a lady wielding an angry cart of dumplings, the flash second lid pick up (usually impossible to make out more than a blur of something white) of each steamed basket and the resolved I-have-not-idea-what-that-she-just-gave-me walk of shame back to your table. I still recommend this for any first time dim sum eater. At Great Eastern, the ordering process mimics that of many sushi restaurants. Instead of cart service,  you are provided with an itemized list of offerings and a place to mark the desired quantity beside each. The format produces hot and fresh dishes, arriving at the table as you order them, giving you time to eat each at a leisurely brunch like pace. And perhaps for this reason, the dumplings are outstanding. Some favorites: Snow Pea Sprouts and Shrimp, Steamed Vegetarian, and plain Shrimp. They have a large selection of dim sum that is not in the dumpling category, most of which is also excellent. The steamed Spareribs were flavorful, with a generous portion of meat on each small bone. The Eggplant Stuffed Shrimp Paste had a perfect eggplant to shrimp paste ration and the Deep Fried Shrimp roll was a great version of the traditional, often slimy, steamed version. The Baked Pork Buns were a table favorite with each bite producing a mouthful of sweet pork that seemed to ooze, on command, out of the buttered bun. There were a couple of missteps: the Taro Cake with Dry Pork was misleading with only a few bits of pork and all Taro–a dense root vegetable that found in the middle of the mildly flavored cake, were like lumps of flour forgotten in a dough. The jellyfish salad, was also, according to the person who has the most experience with it, lacking vinegar. While rejected by most, it was a big hit with our youngest diner, who entertained himself for the entire brunch with a strand of jellyfish (note to new moms: order the jellyfish salad in the beginning of the meal, you’ll be glad you did). For desert, we had Coconut Milk Pudding, a delicious and palette refreshing end to an outstanding breakfast.

Great Eastern

649 Jackson Street

San Francisco, CA 94133

(415) 986 2500

For Lunch…Willow Wood Market Cafe

Driving the winding roads along the Sonoma Coast is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. My instinct in general is to pack a picnic, find a spot on one of the many beaches along the gorgeous coastline, and uncork a lovely bottle of wine purchased from one of the wineries I had visited that day. It is happiness that knows no bounds (especially if you are still there at sunset). This last trip shifted focus from wine to food, and we decided to forgo the packed lunch in search of a restaurant that might best capture that same feeling at the table. We found it in the form of  Willow Wood Market & Cafe in the tiny town of Graton. It’s a cozy spot with wood tables and chairs and the perfect garden out back to enjoy your meal in the sunshine. The breakfast menu offers exactly what you might be looking for in a lazy Sunday brunch: Eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, omelets. It also has some dishes you might know you are looking for like ham and Jarlsberg-stuffed french toast topped with berries and maple butter. There is an extensive list of Polenta dishes as well. But the stars on the menu are the gourmet sandwiches (incidentally, the NY Times Dining section just declared gourmet sandwiches the latest trend, so hell, get on the bandwagon).  Cheddar cheese, steak, and avocado providing you aren’t driving (the food coma is instant) is quit possibly the trifecta of sandwiches. The roast chicken sandwich was rated by the waitress as her favorite, and was indeed excellent. But the winner: the baked egg salad sandwich with Fontina cheese and pancetta. It’s not at all appealing on the menu. I fear there is no way to make it sound appealing here. Just trust me. I trusted my friend (who had had it before) and I’m in love.  It’s a perfect mix of breakfast and lunch with all the work done for you. Just pick up and eat.  Two of the three sandwiches sampled came with a less than exciting cold pasta salad (they never seem to quite work)–I recommend replacing this with a garden salad or fruit. Depending on your appetite start with an order of garlic bread and fresh pesto. You’ll be glad you did.

Willow Wood Market and Cafe
tel. +1 707.823.0233
9020 Graton Road
Graton, CA 95444

For Dinner…Pacific Cafe

Free glass of wine while you wait. It’s the most obvious way to start the review. And an apt example of what you are looking at when it comes to the service and atmosphere of this San Francisco institution. Opened in 1974, it doesn’t seem to have had a makeover since. You wouldn’t want it to. It’s just that kind of a place. The kind of place where an elderly couple in the booth across from us played Pinnacle over coffee. A sure sign you should follow suit and be prepared to eat. A lot. Of creamy, rich, buttery, sometimes fried, excellent seafood. In particular, crab. A giant plate of meaty Dungeness Crab in butter and garlic. It’s stupidly, hand dirtying, good. You won’t be able to stop eating it. Crab Bisque. A sinfully creamy concoction with whole chunks of crab in every bite. As for the other fish we tried: the flounder was tasty on it’s own but needed the heaping parsley infused butter to bring out its real flavor. And the Abolone was, I’m going to say it, OK. I respect it’s hard-to-get status. I respect it’s expense. As for eating it, it was breaded and fried and good. But not great.

Pacific Cafe

7000 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121-1623
Phone: (415) 387-7091

There you have it.

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