We’ve all been there. It’s past 11PM. You’ve been out for a few cocktails and your stomach is grumbling, your glucose levels are dropping, and you need one thing, and one thing only…FOOD. Somehow though a late night burrito or Mission bacon-wrapped hotdog is not what you are looking for. You are searching for a place to rest your laurels for the evening. A spot to sit back, and engage in a serious chow fest and heck, if the ambiance is not too shabby, why not?
I’ve lived in the city for about 3.5 years and have had my share of late night eats but here are my Top 5. Agree, disagree, offer up alternatives, but one thing I know is that these havens know how to satisfy an appetite.
1) Yuet Lee:
Yes, I am starting this list with Yuet Lee on Stockton and Broadway – in the heart of Chinatown. Call it a shout out to my half-Chinese heritage. Or the fact it is open till 3AM. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve showed up at Yuet Lee post Ghostland Observatory concert or some cocktails at Rosewood, ready for a little beef chowfun (not for the faint of heart or anyone hoping to drop some poundage). Yuet Lee is the real deal. This is not a stylish Chinese fusion hot spot. Nope, you can tell by the health code rating of “B” that the chefs at Yuet Lee are not messing around. Some of you may grimace at that fact, but any person who appreciates real Chinese food knows that you do not go into a restaurant with a rating better than “B.” Maybe it is the fact that the best Chinese vegetable I had was off a street corner in Taipei, but authenticity, especially when it comes to Chinese food, requires a bit of risk. I am not alone in my support of Yuet Lee. Rumor has it that Hubert Keller, famed chef of Fleur de Lys and new Burger Bar, frequents this location for his fill of Chinese food in the city. For your late night visit I recommend any of the following: Requisite beef chow fun- may be greasy but worth it, Chive and Sturgeon dish – trust me, Black Bean Barbeque Oysters, Watercress leaves or Snowpea shoots if the watercress leaves are out of season, Spicy Salt Pork Spareribs. Just please don’t embarrass me by ordering some whitewashed dish like Sweet & Sour Pork of Beef and Broccoli. Come on. You’re better than that.
2) Brazenhead: http://www.brazenheadsf.com/
Maybe it is because this was the site of one of my first dates in SF (while the date was forgettable – he was a Trojan – my UCLA peers are turning in their graves – the full plate of beef carpaccio I devoured was not). Or because my friend has a hilarious story involving what he calls a Medallion Gate – further explanation needed. Either way, Brazenhead is a secret spot in the Marina, nestled between apartments on Buchanan and Greenwich that is perfect for a nightcap and a hearty serving of American cuisine. The atmosphere is intimate, with low ceilings, dim lights and lots of wood paneling. It reminds me of being on a boat or maybe cozying up in a hunting cabin – I am still trying to figure out which one. It’s open late – till 2AM so you can run in post Triangle bar ridiculosity for a tasty NY Pepper Steak or for my favorite, the Brazenhead burger. Just a tip, there is no sign and they only take cash or ATM, but they will bring the ATM machine to your table which is always a plus.
Yes, I can’t believe it but I am actually putting two restaurants from the Marina on this list. I hit up Delarosa for the first time two days ago after grabbing a late showing of “Sherlock Holmes.” Delarosa comes to us from the same guys who gave us Starbelly and Beretta in the Mission, with acclaimed chef Ruggero Gadaldi serving up Roman style pizzas, creative antipasti and according to my buddy MisterArcher (
) the best fried dougnuts you’ve ever had. My friend and I arrived famished at 9PM on a Sunday, and were happy to see that Delarosa’s kitchen is open until 1AM. The arugula, shaved parmesan and fennel salad started our return to Italy that night. We ate every last bite of the rich rosemary, potato, radicchio and gorgonzola pizza, one of the best thin crust pizzas I’ve had since my trip to Naples. Delarosa offers a number of impressive beers on tap, with the taps actually jutting out of the metal wall that serves as a backdrop for the restaurant’s bar. Yet on the drink front, Delarosa’s cocktail selection deserves the most attention. I enjoyed “The Monarch” – a blend of gin, elderflower, mint and lemon – that made me abandon my long-standing prejudice that gin tastes like you are sucking on a metal pipe. The Monarch was refreshing, light with just the right amount of sweetness. Other cocktails that I’ll be sure to try on my next visit include the Swedish Punch (rum, brandy, Batavia Attack – no idea what this is, pineapple, lemon, black tea, and prosecco) and Satan’s Whiskers (good name). Many of the drinks at Delarosa surprised me with their usage of Curacao, but given its bright blue color and college association with the rather dangerous drink known as an “Adios Mother You Know What” I abstained from selecting any of them. Delarosa’s ambiance is swanky, diverse beats fill the background and communal tables are spread throughout, encouraging you to get to know your neighbour (the older gents to our right hit on the cougars to our left – it is the Marina after all). Our server was attentive, knowledgeable and pleasant and the bill will not break the bank either. I’d definitely check out Delarosa but expect to wait if you go at rush hour, it is white hot right now.
Bix is old school San Francisco. Tucked away on a cute little alley known as Gold Street, Bix could be easily missed by the casual passerbyer. The scene reminds me of the days of the Rat Pack. Large banquettes, dual levels, and gold-colored upholstery make the space almost ostentatious. Almost. Instead it’s a throwback to class and the popular speakeasy. Bix is a bit more upscale, and while you’re waiting for a table, you can enjoy live Jazz music nightly, complete with a grand piano and dolled-up singers or musicians. While my visit was more focused on the drinks than the food, I can say they serve up a mean deviled egg and the plates of smoked trout salad and dayboat scallops with foie gras whet my appetite. I’ve enjoyed a couple different cocktails but was mightily impressed with the Huckleberry Gin Fizz (Gin, Huckleberry Juice, Soda) and the Bix Manhattan (Maker’s Mark and Carpano Sweet Vermouth). The drinks are not for the faint of heart, they pack a punch that will last for a while but what do you expect with a classy establishment like Bix?
My Top 5 Late Night Eats list would not be complete without one greasy spoon entry. I first hit up the Grubstake four years ago, post New Years Eve at R Bar, before I even lived in the city. Mind you that first visit did not end with a late night meal since my party decided that 3AM spelled bedtime, not hamburgers. But…I never forgot this small restaurant housed in an old San Francisco railcar on the edge of Nob Hill/Polk Gulch/The Tenderloin. After moving to the city, I held a Burger Club here and was more than impressed with the Nugget burger (cheeseburger with bacon and a fried egg) and the Patty Melt – probably one of the best patty melts I’ve had in my lifetime. I was even more surprised to learn that the Grubstake has a plentiful and popular Portugese menu with authentic Bacalhau, Linguica and Caldo Verde. Really though, what else is more attractive at 4AM (yes, Grubstake is open till 4AM nightly) than a well-executed burger? In my opinion, nothing. Which is exactly why I will end this list with the Grubstake.
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