The Bore

No More... (my annual kvetch)

Showing up for restaurants in 2022 is going to require more than ordering takeout (although that helps, too). Photo: Mariah Tiffany for SFGATE.

Well, we’re pretty much in an eerily similar, exasperating pandemic position that we were in last winter. We’re seeing restaurants (and bars) making the hard decision to close their dining rooms, or temporarily close completely so their already severely short-staffed teams can stay healthy, quarantine, or recuperate from being infected with this Omicron variant that is surging and bringing the industry to its knees, again. Does it feel like a time for me to bitch about ten things I don’t want to see in the new year? Yet again, no. (Tinned fish, you currently get a stay of execution!)

So, this year, I’m putting the list on us. Here are ten things we should consider, do, shift, improve upon, and change as diners if we’re going to show the F&B industry some true support as they try to survive yet another hellish winter as we move into the third year of this pandemic nightmare we can’t seem to wake from. It’s time for the customer to not always and automatically be so right all the time. Some of this may come off as a bit accusatory, but you know who you are—I’m just saying it louder for the people in the back.

  1. Be patient about restaurant service. As you have (hopefully, maybe?) been hearing for the past two years, there’s a huge labor shortage. A number of experienced servers have left the industry, many of the new folks on the floor right now are pretty green, and almost everyone is short-staffed. I’ve been out with friends who get impatient that a server hasn’t come over to the table as quickly as they’d like, or annoyed that the food took longer to come out, or the restaurant was out of their favorite dish. You gotta let all that go right now. Take a look around. Observe. Be aware. Do you see how fast people are running and hustling? Do you see just a few people working the floor? Adjust your expectations accordingly. Places are so understaffed and over-extended, and the situation changes daily. Just take a breath and be understanding—people are trying their best. It definitely isn’t 2019, Toto.

  2. If you’re eating in SF restaurants, you need to show your proof of vaccination and i.d. at the door, which is part of the city’s health order. (And at a few places, they’re even asking for proof of your booster, which is a business’s choice to do so.) The request to see your vax card and i.d. is no surprise at this point in the pandemic, so have everything ready for the server or host or manager who now has to act like a door person at a club, in addition to every other task they’re doing. Create a favorites folder in your photos with just your vax card (and booster) and a pic of your i.d. so you can find it all and show it quickly and get this whole door gatekeeping thing over and everyone can start the fun part of their visit. No complaining, no comments, just show your documentation like you’re at the border to get into Germany and move along. Schnell!

  3. Can you imagine how hard it is to be wearing a mask for an entire shift, running plates to tables or working the line in a hot kitchen or pouring drinks at the bar or talking to people all night at a host stand? It’s stifling, exhausting, and uncomfortable. Folks in service have lost half their face to communicate with a smile (or a smirk), let alone their enunciation and projection over a loud room, so do your best to listen, pay attention, and follow their eye cues and expressions.

    Please approach the restaurant or bar with your mask on until you’re seated. We all know it’s a bunch of mask theater because once guests are seated, people take their masks off until the end of their meal, but maybe it’s time to rethink that. I try to get my mask back on when my server approaches the table, especially when it’s ordering time or something that will take a little conversation—I want to help protect them from who knows what I may unknowingly be carrying right now. Inside, outside, doesn’t matter. Don’t forget to put your mask back on whenever you’re getting up from the table, heading to the restroom, or going home—the staff really appreciates it, as well as your fellow diners. We also don’t want to see your nose. It has been two years, you should know how to cover it up with a mask that fits properly. And for crying out loud, if you need to cough or sneeze, do so into your mask and cover your mouth. No one wants to see you hacking over your steak au poivre.

  4. Are you seriously no-showing on your reservation, or do you know someone who thought it was okay to cancel a large group dinner at the last minute? Unless someone in your party has something Covid-related going on and you need to cancel, these other flaky cancellations are really messing up restaurants’ books (both reservations and revenue). It’s much harder to fill tables on the dime, which is why you’re going to be seeing more cancellation fees when you book a reso. Try to reschedule if someone is sick, but straight-up canceling an hour before your primetime reservation on a Friday because you just don’t feel like going out anymore and want to watch Netflix isn’t a good reason.

  5. I still can’t believe people are double- or triple-booking tables at places and deciding at the last minute where they want to go and dumping the other reservations. Don’t do that, ever. Just pick one and stick with it. That’s table hoarding, not unlike what happened with TP and hand sanitizer a couple years ago, which was not a good look.

  6. Do you have a sore throat? Weird cough? Funky fatigue? Are you supposed to be going out to dinner with friends? Now would be a great time for you to stay home until you can get tested, ideally with a PCR test. Don’t get your friends sick, industry people sick, your rideshare driver sick…the list goes on. Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s a great idea to get tested regularly—especially if you’re out being social.

  7. So, you’re going out to dinner. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, guess what: prices have gone up! There are supply-chain issues, rising costs of goods, ingredient issues, labor shortages, restaurants being forced to close on New Year’s Eve and eating their revenue that night and looking at a bunch of food waste, being rained out for five nights with barely any customers who want to sit in their parklet, having to buy Covid tests for their employees because our government is so inept, the list goes on. We need to adjust our expectations of what it means to go out, and how much it costs to have food served to us, whether it’s a BLT to go (bacon won’t cost what it used to) or an omakase dinner at the counter with wine pairings. Restaurants aren’t making money—they’re barely surviving with a mountain of debt—so the prices you see are where things are at for that business. We need to manage our expectations of what things should cost right now, and it’s not just because we’re in San Francisco, either. This is a global shituation.

  8. Here’s another thing to think about: if you can’t afford to tip a minimum of 20 percent, you probably shouldn’t be dining out. With everything the service industry is going through and being exposed to, the least you can do is tip well. If someone gives you a taste of wine or some other extra nicety, you absolutely should tip more. Even if they don’t do anything extra, can you afford 25 or 30 percent or more? Great, please do it! (Same goes for takeout: 20 percent says, “Thanks for everything you do and risk to make my food”—even more says, “I love you for it.”)

    I know, it adds up, and money is tight for many of us, but criminy, they’re wearing a mask all night and stressed out and exhausted dealing with cranky Covid-y customers and still barely making a living while trying to stay healthy. And guess what? Many places are now sharing tips with the house—which includes the hard-working kitchen (but not managers or the owners)—so don’t assume your $60 is allllll going to your server.

  9. Support old favorites. Order some takeout from your neighborhood joint. Grab lunch from the little mom and pop. Sure, it’s exciting to visit new places and check out the latest hot opening, but the spots that have been with us through thick and thin really need to see us—they’re fighting so hard to stay open. The closure of Universal Cafe a few weeks ago is an example of this—a quintessential SF neighborhood restaurant has left us after 27 years. Go see an old friend.

  10. Be nice. Be appreciative. Be kind. Be gracious. Thank the team for feeding you. It feels good to be a great customer, and the restaurant feels it too! Win-win. Tell your friends about your fabulous meals. Post compliments on Yelp and Google and social media—and maybe hold back on the negative quibbles for a momentito? So many of those things are entirely circumstantial right now. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive!

Thanks for reading, listening, taking some of this to heart, and reflecting upon how we can show up for the industry right now. We should be deeply concerned about this winter, and this upcoming year without more federal aid/a replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Follow the Independent Restaurant Coalition for action items and updates on next steps—subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social.

If you really miss me bitching about avocado toast and sunchokes, you can read past issues of the bore here.


Some of the most dazzling takeout of the year has been the stunning chirashi presentations from our city’s Japanese restaurants. This box of treasures was from Kuma Sushi + Sake. Photo: ©

For the past 14 years (since 2007!), I’ve been writing my annual end-of-year snarkfest, the bore, bitching about 10 overexposed/overdone things I don’t want to see in the new year, from fried chicken sandwiches to bone broth to NOmakase.

This year, obviously, things are painfully different. Our remaining restaurants are fighting their damnedest to hang on by a straggly thread, and I don’t have the spirit to take down avocado toast if it’s helping a place keep the lights on. If you’re a regular reader of tablehopper, you know I’ve set the dial of positivity over here to 11 this year. So, in that big mood, I’m changing the bore this year to the more: ten things I want to see more of in 2021. Let’s roll.

  1. With restaurants currently depending upon takeout (and delivery) as their sole and desperate attempt at survival, I know we’re all dealing with so much disposable takeout container waste. It’s mind-boggling how many quart containers and lids and clamshells and boxes and bags and chopsticks pile up at home (and into the trash). Sometimes, I scream—inside my head, with all the other things I am screaming about, like people who just can’t seem to keep their nose covered with their mask, or who don’t tip—when I witness how much waste can be generated from one meal. Which is why I’m so thrilled to see restaurants like Zuni, Voodoo Love, Azucar Lounge, Square Pie Guys, and Kasa Indian Eatery turn to solutions like Dispatch Goods, with reusable metal containers (kind of like a tiffin) that get picked up or returned after you enjoy your meal. In a recent post, Zuni said, “This is week two of reusable containers with @dispatch_goods. Last week we used 1,708 reusable containers instead of 1,708 compostable boxes. Thank you for your support.” More of this, please!

  2. I’ve been blown away seeing all the charitable programs and aid restaurants have been part of this year, from starting their own fundraisers to feed frontline workers, to cooking for the community out of the goodness of their heart, to offering free meals to industry folks, to running weekly food pick-ups for their out-of-work and undocumented employees (hey, Gavin, how about another round of disaster relief for them?), to being part of charitable meal programs, like the groundbreaking SF New Deal (paying restaurants over $13M to serve over 1,353,179 meals for neighbors in need as of 12/30/20, huzzah), Great Plates, Food Runners, World Central Kitchen, and many more. The generosity, commitment, and lion-hearted efforts to take care of our most vulnerable—even in the hardest times—has been incredible to witness, although so much of those efforts go unseen.

  3. The collaboration. I’ve been watching restaurant owners work together like no other time, from sharing resources to intel to PPE protocol to PPP advice to how to get the best deal on propane or where to find Mason jars. Some even created their own hybrid takeout projects together, like Lord Jiu’s (Lord Stanley and Mister Jiu’s), or are working with their neighborhood bars to offer food service. Restaurants are hosting pop-ups and featuring side hustle products and projects from their out-of-work staff and friends, and offering their spaces for them to prep and cook and serve. Way to take care.

  4. The activism. Many restaurants have become so much more vocal and visible about their political beliefs, showing support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, speaking out about racial injustice, having their own internal reckonings, working with their employees to implement changes, and help co-create a more just and aware and safe workplace for all.

    We have also seen how the federal government continues to abandon the restaurant industry, and not provide the aid that is so desperately needed and clearly articulated. In order to have a voice that gets heard, we’ve watched the formation of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (on a national level), and locally we saw the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition spring to action, and the GGRA has become an indispensable source of up-to-the minute information, representation, guidance, and advocacy for the industry. I’d like to give a shout-out to the two badass women who have been overworking tirelessly for both of these organizations: Gwyneth Borden (BAHC) and Laurie Thomas (GGRA). They are strong leaders, and we owe them tremendous gratitude for all their efforts and endless unpaid hours to help shepherd the industry through this pandemic. (Listen to the On the Fly podcast episodes with each of them, and be sure to listen to co-founder Trinh Banh of Good Good Eatz, another admirable organization that sprung up to assist Oakland’s Chinatown businesses.) Go fempire!

  5. I need something in my glass so I can raise it to everyone. Okay, that’s better. (It’s The Summit from Yanni at Nopa, it keeps you healthy.) Let’s pause for a moment and say “Cheers!” to the wondrous addition of to-go cocktails. Come to mama! From Tommy’s margaritas (gracias, sweet baby Jesus), to The Morris’s chartreuse cappuccino in a can (coffee-a-go-go!), to a Seven Stills park-ready pouch of Keep On the Grass, we’re seeing some rather innovative and fantastic cocktails designed to travel. I adore having a quart container or bottle (or can!) of ready-to-pour cocktails on hand in my fridge. Bartender, another round!

  6. While we’re at it, the addition of affordable family-style dinners has been so good—parents have had a particularly rough go in this pandemic, so anything to help them out is appreciated (and the meals also make you popular with your pod, roomies, and neighbors). Pans of lasagna. Whole chickens and sides. Quarts of goat birria. Prime rib dinners. Platters of enchiladas. Parm from Spruce?! Abbondanza! Thanks for feeding us. (All the meal kits and pantry options have also been a godsend, from quarts of ragù to aged ribeye to flour and yeast and TP when we needed them most.)

  7. The boxes! Big kudos to La Cocina for launching their weekly Community Food Box, created to support their roster of talented entrepreneurs who suddenly had all their catering disappear, which in turn inspired the Bayview Bistro Box, designed to support Black-owned and Bayview businesses. Please support these weekly box programs, they have a positive and tangible effect on so many businesses.

  8. The takeout innovation! We’ve had some downright stellar new takeout dishes rise out of this brutal pandemic landscape, including the Nopa fried chicken (and their take-home French toast kit, whut), the stoner garlic bread from Zero Zero (dude), pretty much everything from Lily (yes, chef Rob Lam is my friend, but his food is bangin’), the breakfast katsu sandwich from Liholiho, all the beautiful chirashi bowls (like Wako, Kuma, and Ju-Ni), the workers’ wreath at Reem’s, and pop-up sensations like Basuku cheesecakes, Tarts de Feybesse, and Mark ‘n’ Mike’s at One Market (oh, the No. 18…). We’ve had some real winners, folks. Comfort me with Palm City hoagies. I have also been so touched by the hand-written messages and hearts on the takeout bags. Cute. BIG LOVE.

  9. The backlash to using third-party delivery apps. (Or at least awareness of the harm they do to a restaurant’s bottom line.) Obviously, delivery is better than not ordering anything at all, and some people just don’t have the option to leave their abode, so do what you gotta do. But I’m heartened to watch so many people making a concerted effort to do takeout instead of defaulting to convenience, to walk a few blocks to support their neighborhood restaurants, or at least order through a restaurant’s website instead of through an app (sometimes it can be less of a commission fee). Please continue to do your part to help restaurants keep as much of every dollar you spend on their food as possible—it all adds up.

    We’re seeing some restaurants offer their own delivery—although I keep waiting for new delivery service alternatives to arise, like locally owned Candlestick Courier Collective, based on an ethos of actually caring about their workers—but in the meantime, I’ve been happy to see grassroots and volunteer-driven initiatives like North Beach Delivers, and new options like Feastin and Third Place help restaurants reach customers in new ways.

  10. The resilience. We have witnessed our hospitality industry leap through endless hoops, from adding outdoor dining and building creative (and costly) shared spaces to suddenly having it all taken away, to dealing with curfews, Covid exposures, daily supply chain challenges, turning their dining rooms into food factories, figuring out an entirely new takeout menu and the Toast app, upping their social media presence and becoming email marketing experts, creating employee and customer and delivery pickup safety protocols, launching cocktails to go, and putting together so many special takeout dinners (the holidays were remarkable)—all while hemorrhaging money. Most have just tried to stay open for their employees, and keep as many on as they could. It has been exhausting to witness, but also immensely inspiring.

    You can really see who takes safety to heart, both for their team and their customers. There have been so many unknowns about this virus—it’s a terrifying memory to recall where we were when this all started—and yet our hospitality industry still managed to show up on the frontline to serve, to feed, to take care, to support, to survive, to be an indispensable part of the community. There are so many heroes we don’t even know. So much generosity that goes unnoticed. So much taking care that goes unseen. So, we thank you. We feel you. We’re grateful for you. We love you.

More more more! How do you like it, how do you like it?

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing all of you a Happy New Year. 2020 was an utter dumpster fire, and it’s tempting to want to burn it all to hell, but there were a number of phoenixes who flew out of the ashes and piles of discarded PPE and are leading the way into 2021. Look up. Hold tight. And order some takeout.


Thank you for not depending upon delivery and generating more plastic. Photo: ©

It continues to be a tough time in the restaurant industry in San Francisco, with so many sad closures. But it also means that only the strong or beloved (or well-funded) may survive. Since restaurants need diners to keep coming back, let’s review some things they can do to keep us happy to return. (Plus a little something we need to do, too.) It’s a new decade—let’s shine.

  1. I’m done with all the goddamn steakhouses and A5 and wagyu. There are more than enough places peddling beef, really. It’s starting to get revolting. I thought we were moving toward a more plant-based way of doing things. Nope, instead, A5 is trying to edge out omakase as the latest expression of our city’s excessive wealth, but it’s a lot less interesting. Mooooot.

  2. Gold leaf adorning everything fits right along with all the wagyu, the latest ingredient in our gilded age. Because the quenelle of caviar just isn’t luxurious enough on its own.

  3. Since I’m complaining about luxury, I’d like to call for an end to pâtes de fruit as part of the mignardises service at the end of every single tasting menu. Who actually loves those sugary, gelatinous bites? They’re almost always too sweet, with cloying fruity flavors—not exactly the way I’d like to end my meal. (Thanks for the diabetes and cavities!) Based on all the leftover squares I see on tables, I know I’m not alone in my disaffection for the mouthful of sparkly jam.

  4. Now let’s flip the switch and bitch about something I’m seeing in fast-casual restaurants that only adds to the bleakness of the experience: serving an entrée on a silver metal tray. You know, the rectangular metal trays with a little lip around the edge, usually with a paper liner. For a burger and fries, fine, but for everything else, there are other serving options! This doesn’t need to feel like meal time at San Quentin. Pretty soon, I’m going to start banging them on the table and yelling, “Attica! Attica!

  5. I was also ready to riot when a deli in North Beach served me an Italian combo with mustard and mayo. Madonn’. Bottled Italian dressing is disgusting enough (don’t try to sneak that Hidden Valley BS on me—I always ask if they use a housemade vinaigrette) but the yellow mustard and mayo was enough to almost make me call Frankie Carbonara to pay someone a little visit, pronto. There needs to be an Italian combo inspector in the city, issuing fix-it tickets for all the atrocities committed against this classic sub. Basta, or you get some cement shoes!

  6. With all the ramen we’re swimming in, I can’t believe how many shops get the ajitama tamago/marinated egg wrong. So often, it comes out totally cold in the middle. Oh yeah, nothing like an ice-cold yolk in my hot bowl of ramen. Chef, I know the city won’t let you keep the egg sitting out, but there has to be a better way to warm that fucker up before plunking that ice cube into my bowl of noodles. And then there are the shops that just do a boiled egg, and it comes out with the blue ring. COME ON, kitchen basics here. Strive for eggcellence.

  7. We gotta talk about the sandos. The Japanese-style ones on milk bread, with a cutlet inside, or egg salad, or cream and fruit (hmmm). When they’re good, they’re so good—we’re talking housemade milk bread and a perfect katsu—but there are a bunch of mediocre ones being made (primarily for the Insta) and I’m bored. Side note: hey grammers, if it doesn’t taste good, don’t post it.

  8. The straw shituation. Every restaurant should have a stash of plastic straws (or even better: bamboo, or straw, or metal) for patrons with disabilities. As for these paper straws that fall apart in two minutes, a hard no. Don’t even serve them, seriously. There are other options out there, please source them. As for me, I carry my own metal straw in my purse, problem solved.

  9. The delivery shituation. Delivery is fraught with issues and complicated. But what shouldn’t be so complicated is what to pack everything up in. I can’t believe the excessive packaging and non-compostable plastic forks (silverware should be by request only!) and those all-in-one, plastic divider trays with the snap lids should be banished forever. Chinese food containers that still have the metal handle—why? So much waste. It’s time for a citywide delivery inspector as well.

  10. So, yeah, that delivery shituation. I get it, it’s an amazing thing to get a pepperoni pizza from The Pizza Shop delivered to your door when you’re hungover or sick or it’s raining out or you’re home from work late (or on deadline, which is what happens to me). Less people have cars, which is a good thing. And there are now businesses designed and optimized for delivery, which I have slightly less guilt about patronizing and ordering from (and promoting), but it’s not the only kind of restaurant we should have (although it’s quickly becoming what we deserve).

    Delivery should be an occasional convenience, not a way of life. Here’s one change you can make: do you want the salad or burrito or burger that’s at a place a few blocks away from you? Just go get it. It’ll save the restaurant the hefty percentage they’re paying the delivery app, and just may save the restaurant. (Green Chile Kitchen, RIP.) We’re becoming a city of shut-ins. Go see the people who make your food. (Or try making your own dinner?) Meet your neighbors. We gotta focus less on convenience, and more on long-term sustainability. Especially for the month of January—it’s never a good time for restaurants. Go visit them in person. I hope to see you there.

If you want to see my past 12 years of kvetches about truffle oil and activated charcoal and eating for the Insta, you can read past issues of the bore here.


Baristas who serve activated charcoal in lattes are cruising for a black eye. (Not really, but please, stop it.) Photo by jpellgen @1179_jp on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Oh hey, look at that, it’s a new year, and as is tradition over here, it’s time to call out some of the crappy food trends and poor food choices showing up on menus and tables in our fair city that need to take a hike. It’s up to us to avoid becoming a city of lemmings documenting and chasing every stupid thing on Instagram, again and again and again. And it’s a tough time for SF restaurants right now, which is even more of a reason to tighten things up.

You can catch up on previous years of kvetches here (just be sure to scroll down). The first bore was posted in 2007, and I can’t believe we’re still seeing hamachi crudo. Anyway, let’s dive in!

  1. I get it, we’re in California and we love our avocados and can eat them all year, but criminy, does avocado toast have to be on every damn menu? Really? And anyone who wants to order it as an appetizer in a restaurant needs to live a little—come on, try something you can’t make at home for breakfast with your eyes closed.

  2. Fried chicken sandwiches. I’m bored. I think we already have enough good ones to choose from, no need for more. Bwok.

  3. Omakase everything. Omakase everywhere. Expensive AF omakase. And at many places, it’s not even omakase—it’s more like a fixed menu. No surprises. No customization. No specials. Everyone gets the same thing. Just call it a set menu or a tasting menu. NOmakase.

  4. Salt makes most things taste better, but some folks need to lighten up on the fleur de sel on top of their chocolate chip cookies. There’s a sprinkle, you know, just a hint of salt for a little pop, and then there are salty AF cookies that have me reaching for a glass of water, and that is wrong. It’s happening too often. I just want a tasty chocolate chip cookie, not a salt lick.

  5. I can’t believe I’m still encountering slippery, satiny napkins with polyester in them. Those things are the worst: they slide off your lap, fail to absorb anything, and are just tacky. What is this, a dining scene in Dynasty?

  6. Enough with restaurants copying Instagram bait décor: the neon signs, the tiled floors and entrances that say something so we get #stupidpicturesofyourfeet, the wacky wallpaper in the bathroom that inspires people to stage a selfie photoshoot instead of getting the hell out of there so the folks waiting outside can use the facilities.

  7. Speaking of Instagram bait: can we just stop with the tiki bars? I’m ready to sharpen a spear and capture some bartenders, tie them to coconut trees, garnish them, and force them to drink their entire menu.

  8. There sure is a lot of crappy matcha out there, and it’s making its way into everything. Mucho matcha. And I can’t believe some of the garbage matcha lattes people are drinking. Insist upon the good stuff, you deserve it. Really.

  9. Activated charcoal is also fired. Ooooh, black food, so goth and metal and soooo ready for Instagram, but it doesn’t taste like anything, and did you know it can potentially interfere with some medications? It’s the opposite of unicorn food, but the same dumb gimmick.

  10. Italian restaurants that give you a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with your bread are full of shit. Just find me an Italian restaurant that does that in Italy. And lemme guess: the server is going to offer you a cappuccino after your dinner.

Basta! Until next year!


Hey gurl. Sorry about your hair. Looks like it got a little fried. Photo: ©

There were a lot of things wrong with 2017. Really wrong. So when we turn to food for comfort and escape, we need restaurants to show up for us. Here are 10 ways I’d like to see SF restaurants try harder, do better, make us happier, or just be different. Longtime tablehopper readers know I prefer to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive in my column, but every year “the bore” is when I get to turn the spigot and get a little ranty (sorry for the swearing, mom!).

If you’re wondering why I didn’t call out unicorn food or toast, you can check out all my past issues in past issues here.

  1. Last year I was too busy taking on 10 things I didn’t want to see on Instagram anymore to call out poke, but you can trust and believe I was keeping it on watch, and now it’s on blast. How many goddamn poke places do we need? I groan every time I see another “Coming Soon!” sign with a fish and bowl on it. I understand it’s light and a convenient way for all those “carbs are soooo evil” folks to eat, but too much of that tuna is poor quality, overfished, unsustainable, sprayed with dye or carbon monoxide to boost its pink color. It may not even be tuna at all and may actually be some tilapia or escolar that was hit with some FD&C Red No. 4. Yeah, so healthy. If you’re going to eat poke, at least ask about its sourcing and support the places that do it right.

  2. Since we’re on fish…you know what makes me insane? When a sushi chef tells you, “This is my favorite fish,” and then proceeds to blast it with a torch. Ahhhh, yes, nothing like the taste of the odor manufacturers put into butane and propane now all over that formerly pristine piece of fish you just served me as part of my overpriced $170 omakase experience. Now I’m the one with the torch—watch me as I’m about to torch my bill and walk out the door.

  3. Let me tell you how the menu works…” Um, I think I have this: I see things I like on the menu, I order them. End of story. If you have to tell me how it works, your menu is what needs some work. If you want to tell me how many plates you recommend since you’re a shared plates joint, or if things are served family style, great, go for it, knowledge is power, but otherwise I think I’ve got it. Really.

  4. Man. I was waffling over this one, but I think I’ve finally had it with all the custom pottery, especially now with all the casual places with the faux handcrafted plates. I get it, pottery is beautiful, and personal, and feels good, and supports local craftspeople, and fits a total NorCal aesthetic and legacy we’ve had for a long time. But sadly it has become the latest piece in the omnipresent reclaimed wood/subway tile/Edison bulb SF-style story. What’s wrong with some gorgeous porcelain? Or at least pick some fun glazes and colors. Otherwise I’m gonna start yelling “Opa!” and get smashy.

  5. As a lover of burrata, it pains me to do this, but we really need to lay off the burrata as a default appetizer. So basic. There really isn’t that much you can do to it to make it interesting that I can’t do my own damn self at home. Maybe we need to relegate it to late summer only, during peak tomato season. (Note: A16 can keep theirs on the menu since they were one of the first to serve it.)

  6. Okay, this one is personal. There are very few foods I can’t eat, but weirdly shiitakes are one of them. If I eat them, I taste them for 48 hours—they obliterate my palate. And let me tell you, after a few hours of that they are beyond gross. (I have one other friend who shares this odd reaction.) So I guess it’s how those poor cilantro-averse people feel when they find cilantro sprinkled indiscriminately all over everything…because I can’t believe where shiitakes turn up. Shiitakes—especially the rehydrated ones—are so strong and assertive, and when used outside of Asian dishes, they pretty much suck. SHITakes. So why are there fucking shiitakes on an Italian funghi pizza? Unless it’s some kind of Asian fusion disaster pizza, those mushrooms have no business even looking at a pizza. Or in a vegetarian jambalaya? Or snuck into a stuffed pasta? No! (Dumplings, fine.) Personal aversion aside, I just think there are so many other delicious mushrooms for chefs to choose from. Go forage already.

  7. Crappy prosecco as the default sparkling wine by the glass is so mean, so lazy, so unnecessary. Is that really the best you could do? Was the deal for your restaurant so good you had to sell your bev director’s soul to Mionetto or La Marca? We’re not at some Olive Garden in Fresno, we’re in San Franfuckingcisco.

  8. Whenever a restaurant hands me a stemless wineglass, there’s a little part of me that dies. As a water glass, fine, go for it, but otherwise it makes me feel like I stepped into a Real Housewives episode and someone poured me a glass of cougar juice and just watch as my glass is going to get all warm and smudged with my fingerprints in about 10 minutes. Please, no basic bitch wineglasses unless we’re poolside.

  9. I understand that keeping little candles and tea lights lit all night in a restaurant can be a pain. Or open flame may be an issue. But those ugly little battery-powered tea lights are not the answer. You know the ones—the orange or icy blue/white ones that flicker? Yeah, those. They’re obnoxious. They’re artificial and tacky and cheap and have no place at the table. At da club, fine, but keep them away from my food.

  10. Toxic masculinity. Uh huh, the boys club is being raided and sexual harassment is finally 86’ed from the menu. So all of those abusive, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, oppressive, vile, egotistical, sexually predatory motherfuckers are being outed, called out, ejected, shamed, and need to clean their act up. Check your privilege, listen to HR, hire more women and put them in positions of power and just see how well a healthy business that respects its employees can operate. Otherwise we’re all going to stand here and watch the door hit you on the ass on your way out.



Ooh, a rainbow cheese pull and sprinkles on a sandwich (WHY LORD) and let’s get those nails in there too. Photo via Instagram by @revistatumexico.

I decided instead of writing my annual “the bore” rant of 10 things I don’t want to see in restaurants in the new year (trust, I was all ready to take down poke and overpriced omakase—you can read all my former the bore posts, all 11 years of them!) to doing something a little different this year.

Since Instagram pretty much determines the popularity of what we’re eating these days, I present the 10 food images I’m sick of seeing on Instagram. I have been guilty of a few of these image fouls myself, but I henceforth promise to do my part to not contribute to the same old Instagram visual lexicon that is beginning to make my brain hurt. Let’s change it up out there, gang! Join me? You too can prevent #genericinstafoodshots.

  1. Hand holding ice cream cone in front of a wall. Extra deductions: pastel nail polish, brightly colored wall as a backdrop that you walked two blocks to get to, taiyaki (fish-shaped cone) soft serve, ice cream dripping just so on fingers, colored cone, ice cream flavors chosen strictly for their color.

  2. Drippy egg yolk food porn. Extra deductions: video of yolk being pierced and running all over the plate, Boomerang of bread being dunked.

  3. Food stacking (especially a stacked sandwich or burger halves). Also applies to bagels, burritos, cookies, doughnuts with fillings. Extra deductions: gooey cheese pull strands, Sushirrito/sushi burrito, oozing egg sandwich, colored bread, hands holding the sandwich and in the shot strictly because of pastel or deathlike nail polish color.

  4. Hand holding up a burger or ice cream or sandwich or cupcake or whatever the fuck it is you’re eating in the middle of the street. (Did you really take your burger off your plate, tell your friends to hang on, run outside, and wait for traffic to clear so you could go in the middle of a busy city street and snap a picture of your burger? Let’s just pause for a second and take this all in.)

  5. Overhead table shot with different hands doing things oh so casually, like plucking a dumpling with chopsticks, reaching for a piece of cheese, or picking up a glass of rosé. “Susan, can you move your hand over to the oyster platter and pick the small one up? No, that one. OMGGGGGGG, this shot is so good!” Extra deductions: obviously staged placement of cell phone, sunglasses, book.

  6. Picture of cocktail/wineglass/glasses cheersing from a rooftop or balcony with the skyline/sunset in the background. Extra deduction: rosé.

  7. Hand holding glob of noodles with chopsticks above the bowl. Yo, your noodles are getting cold. (Also applies to a forkful of spaghetti.) Extra deduction: Boomerang of noodles going up and down.

  8. Goddamn feet in the bottom of the image while a hand holds trendy Instagram food item of choice (ice cream, macchiato, boba drink, poke bowl). Extra deduction: it’s a tiled floor that says something, shoes that are a bright color, there is a dog.

  9. Gloopy sundae or milk shake with melting ice cream and sauces dripping down the sides. Extra deductions: there are doughnuts on the ice cream, candy, sugary cereal, cookies, excessive sprinkles that would chip your veneers. Anything from New York’s Black Tap.

  10. Eating for the Insta. People, please. Stop ordering food that is only meant to be fetishized for Instagram and then, wait for it…you don’t even eat it? Every time you rip apart a doughnut for a slo-mo video and throw it away after the shot, you should donate to your local food bank as penance.


Down the drain. Flickr photo by librarianishish.

It’s another new year, which means it’s time for my annual ranty list of things chapping my hide about our local culinary scene. Normally, I like to keep things positive over here at hopper HQ, but it’s fun to get all kvetchy and cranky once a year. So, let’s dish. (And if you’re wondering why I’m not bitching about juice or subway tile or tweezed foraged purslane, check out previous editions of the bore here.)

  1. I really don’t want to do this, because I love them, but deviled eggs are just on too many damn menus. Blazes! At least do something really creative with them. (A little chip of bacon on top doesn’t count.)

  2. I also called this out in my recent (and winning, holla!) Time Out piece, but it most certainly bears some repeating here: bone broth. Why not call it what it is? Which is stock. Stock has been with us for many, many years. Stock is sturdy. Stock is dependable. Stock is made of bones. (Or even call it broth. You know, beef broth. Should feel familiar.) The rebranding of stock as bone broth is too much. (And cafés selling cups of bone broth? Also too much.)

  3. Thumbs down on all the bad ramen, and when it’s bad, it’s the same everywhere. Weak tonkotsu all over the place. Salty city. Sad noodles. Poorly prepared egg. Bamboo shoots that taste like a can. Chashu that had no love as a child. The list goes on and on.

  4. Octopus. Why so much octopus? I keep finding little octopus arms on plates all over the city. Let’s give this sensitive creature a break from the menu.

  5. Chefs who use raw sunchoke or just too much sunchoke, period. There’s a reason its nickname is the fartichoke. Take it easy on us. (And no sneaking escolar on the menu either. Excuse me, butterfish. Whatever you call it, it’s not the nicest thing to serve to diners.)

  6. Crappy grilled cheese. If you order a Cubano, or a grilled cheese sandwich, or a Reuben, or French onion soup, I want that damn cheese to be melted. Blistered. Runny. Oozing all over the damn place. HOT CHEESE. Like, gonna burn the roof of my mouth off, give it to me. Too many times I find rubbery, unmelted cheese in items that have melty cheese as their foundation. Fail! People will wait those extra few minutes for cheesy perfection. I promise.

  7. National food days. Who the hell cares if it’s National Pizza Day? It’s National PIzza Day every day in my book. And National Espresso Day. And National Cheese Lover’s Day. When is National Make It Stop Day?

  8. Rectangular dishes. 1994 called [with some smooth jazz playing in the background] and it wants them back. Unless I am eating maki or something off a skewer or some other elongated food worthy of a horizontal dish, there’s a reason plates are round: they’re easier to eat off of. Rectangular plates are trying too hard—all they succeed in doing is pushing your silverware to the edge of the table and your food off the plate. Square plates, also fired.

  9. I know, I know, this is about to be the biggest case of #firstworldproblems, but I get annoyed when a delivery person calls me on my phone and says, “I’m pulling up.” Oh yeah? That’s so great to hear. But I am still not getting out of this chair until I hear my front door buzzer. There’s a reason I called for delivery, and it’s probably because I’m in a caftan and my hair is a wreck and I’m barefoot and I don’t want to step foot outside. I’m tipping you well and probably paying an onerous delivery fee on top of it, so just bring the food to my door like delivery people are supposed to do, kthanksbai.

  10. How many boba and bubble tea places do we need in this fair city of ours? The vast majority of these shops are mediocre at best. It’s like they’re trying to be the next juice or smoothie or frozen yogurt shop that propagated like rabbits these past years. Slow your roll.



Hey you, on the side of the plate. I see you. Photo: ©


Oh my. At least this hot mess is in the center of the plate (see #4). Photo: ©

As any longtime tablehopper reader knows, the end of the year means it’s when I put on my crankypants and talk some smack about things irking me about our local culinary scene. If you’re sensitive to the words “fuck” and “shit,” you may want to hop along to another section right now. In other words, don’t write and complain to me about fresh language like some lady did last year. Hilarious.

Before you start wondering why I haven’t ranted about tired items like reclaimed wood and juice bars, you’ll most likely find them in previous installments of the bore.

And if you’ve got your pitchfork out with me and you’re all ready to throw toast on the bonfire of bitching, well, sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not going to carp about toast. Toast is safe, for now. If anything, I’m just tired of everyone complaining about the pseudo ubiquity of bougie toast, or that $4 toast (which in actuality is $3.50 at the oft-cited The Mill, but whatever) is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with San Francisco right now. What’s wrong with San Francisco is greater than toast, and we all know it.

  1. Macarons. These little rainbow shits have become the new cupcake. So many places make and sell them in all their oh-so-whimsical colors and flavors, but they usually taste like Technicolor sawdust, all crumbly or too dense or too sweet. Unless you’re going to make Pierre Hermé’s eyes widen in sheer delight, please, leave the macaron experiments in your kitchen. I’m in no mood to taste the rainbow.

  2. Restaurants, can we please stop with the naming of your business after a street address number, or adding the number in your name? All those name-number combos are taken up now. Come on, you can do better. (And I’m watching you, don’t start looking at ampersands.)

  3. Since we’re on restaurant names, what’s up with all the dirty lately? Dirty Habit. Dirty Water. Dirty French. Ooh, so edgy. So cheffy. Dirrrrrty. Let’s keep the dirtiness between the sheets, and not at the table. Sweep it up.

  4. Ingredients plated on the far side of the plate. This lopsided action is beginning to make me laugh. What’s wrong with plating at the center? Does everything have to be on one side? No, it doesn’t. And it doesn’t make it more artistic or visually interesting. Find your center.

  5. Okay, more plating kvetching. If you are making a smear on the plate, chefs, please pause for a second and make sure it isn’t brown, or orange-brown, or anything that is going to make me think for even a second that I have a skid mark on my plate. LOOK AT YOUR DISH. DOES ANYTHING LOOK LIKE BABY POO, EVEN A LITTLE BIT? YES? THEN DON’T SERVE THAT SHIT.

  6. Did I really just get served a dessert with a mint sprig and a halved strawberry? Wasn’t that outlawed in 1987? It’s the parachute pants of garnishes. Stop it, right now. And put down that squeeze bottle, I see you’re about to squiggle some chocolate poo on there. Just don’t.

  7. Servers or somms (shudder) or winemakers who touch and tap the mouth of a wine bottle with their hands while talking about it. What’s with the patting of your hand over the rim of the bottle? I see this all the time at wine tastings, and I cringe. That’s so grubby. I don’t want to even think about what and who your hands have been touching all day. Knock it off.

  8. What the hell is going on with all these lukewarm espresso drinks? I have never had so many tepid cortados, and who said it’s okay to ruin a macchiato with a 1:1 ratio of barely steamed milk? Does anyone even know what macchiato even means? It sure as hell doesn’t translate as “cold-ass milky shot of espresso that feels like someone forgot about it on the counter for 10 minutes.” I don’t know who decided it’s de rigueur to flat white-ify everything, but any Italian or Cuban would kick these fucked-up tepid drinks to the curb, and I’d be happy to help them do so. Baristas, please, keep them to yourselves, because lukewarm milk sure doesn’t make me appreciate the nuances of the espresso more, and I’m tired of the cocked eyebrow if I ask for the milk to be hot.

  9. Crappy sushi places. I can’t believe how they keep breeding, like farmed salmon. Many of us are out here trying to eat sustainable sushi and attempt to show the ocean a little bit of respect and then yet another crap sushi place comes along and serves enough shitty sushi in one night to wipe away a year’s worth of one’s efforts to eat sustainably. Don’t patronize these cheap places, people, it’s like fast-food devil sushi.

  10. Uni. Trust, I love the stuff. A lot. I order uni all the time. But does it really need to appear on everything? It’s like the new runny farm egg.

And…scene. Until next year!


Yup, all done. Photo by avlxyz (via Flickr).

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for my annual bitchfest about things I’d like to see disappear (or changed) in our local dining scene. This little snarky tablehopper tradition has been going on since 2007, so before you start wondering how on earth I failed to complain about all the reclaimed wood, check out these previous editions of the bore.

  1. Juice. All these fresh- and cold-pressed juice shops are like our new fro-yo, breeding like rabbits all over the city. How many juice shops do we really need? (Don’t get me started on all the people broadcasting that they’re on a three-day juice cleanse on Facebook and complaining about it every day. #firstworldproblems) Sure, I like to get my green drink on, but usually I’d rather spend the $12 on a cocktail with some fresh-squeezed juice in it instead, thanks.

  2. Overpriced street food. Sometimes I do a major double take at the prices of some of the plates coming off of food trucks. And when the food is mediocre? Or skimpy/precious? What the hell. Nothing like standing in a line so you can eat pricey and undelicious food in the cold wind to make the novelty of food trucks wear thin.

  3. The death of SF’s dive bars is really beginning to bum me out. Yes, those liquor licenses and their real estate are highly coveted and precious things, but cities need grit, damn it. A place where you can hide out or hang out over a $5 drank and meet characters. If you’re going to take over a divey neighborhood bar, gut it, and start doubling the price of drinks, at least try to put some heart and soul into it. Honor what (and who) was there before. Some folks are bar owners, and others just act like business owners—your patrons know the difference.

  4. Spring mix. A writer pal was complaining on Twitter about what a cop-out it is, and I have to agree. Sandwich places are the worst offenders. “Let’s just add this spring mix with a gloppy balsamic dressing on the side.” There are so many other interesting lettuce options out there, ones that won’t rust and wilt so easily. Mix it up, yo.

  5. I am not a fan of places that serve slightly complicated food and expect you to eat off a lounge table. It’s impossible to dine with any semblance of grace—have you ever tried to twirl pasta at a knee-high table? You end up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame as you hunker over your steak. If you’re going to have low tables, offer food that’s easier to pick up and eat.

  6. Okay, so last year I vented about unisex bathrooms (and even worse, the ones with no toilet seat covers, ugh). There is one thing I failed to include in that rant: the need for a damn coat hook or purse hook. A table does fine, thanks, but if there isn’t a hook or a table in your bathroom, can you please work that out? Like right now? And no, the door handle is not the answer.

  7. As someone who dines out about six nights a week, I encounter all levels of service, and I find there are some overzealous servers who make it impossible to carry on a conversation with your tablemates. Unnecessary interruptions about whether you’d like more water (just pour it—my glass is almost empty and it’s free), if I am enjoying my meal (whoooa Nelly, I’m still chewing my first bite, gimme a second), whether I’m finished or not (my plate is clear, my silverware is in the 4 o’clock position, yeah, I’m pretty done), or inquiring if I need anything else (you’d know if I needed anything else, I’d ask you) are just superfluous questions that distract guests from their time together. Often the best service is seen but not heard.

  8. I’m tired of people visiting a restaurant during their opening week and bitching about what they didn’t like on Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook (and who most likely didn’t tell the manager what wasn’t working, so the restaurant didn’t have the opportunity to fix it). Ease up on the passive-aggressive complaining, folks.

  9. Bad restaurant music. Dear restaurant owner, you fretted over the fabric for the chairs, the linens, the menu font, the flatware, the water glasses, but how could you so completely miss the boat on the music? You can tell when a place has carefully chosen the music (instead of mindlessly allowing Pandora or some other channel to run it for them; or even worse, letting the staff take turns playing their iPods). Don’t know what you’re doing? Hire a music stylist. And playing LCD Soundsystem full blast doesn’t help create a lively vibe in your dining room, only frustration since your diners can’t hear each other. We aren’t working in your kitchen, we’re eating in your restaurant.

  10. Programs. Cocktail programs. Drink programs. Wine programs. Beer programs. Charcuterie programs. Cheese programs. I’m as guilty of using the word “program” as the next food writer or publicist, but it has officially been stricken from the tablehopper record henceforth.

And that’s a wrap!


Put a fork in it. Flickr photo from jcarlosn.

Ah yes, it’s a new year, when it’s my annual tradition to kvetch and complain about those annoying little things that got caught in my culinary craw over the past year. I wish there were a shortage of things to write about, but what can I say, this thing practically writes itself.

And before you start wondering where my rants are on choice items like “farm to fork” or truffle oil, you’ll probably find them in previous installments of the bore.

  1. Our city is starting to look like a coffin made of reclaimed wood. Look, I’m glad you’re not sawing down precious redwood for some two-by-fours for your flooring, but is that reclaimed barn floor from Kentucky really the only design material we have access to?

  2. Subway tile. (See previous.)

  3. Mason jars, Weck jars… All these canning jars holding everything from wine to flowers to pickles. It’s all so twee. I am beginning to feel like an extra on Little House on the Prairie. (Can’t wait for the locusts to come.)

  4. Changing centuries now, let’s look at our current state of lukewarm food. I blame all this damn overcomposing on the plate. There needs to be a coup d’état to overthrow the tyranny of tweezer cuisine. It’s like being served a terrarium: a little soil here, some foraged flowers there, some sponge cake, a dollop of foam, a swath of puree, and voilà, here is your lukewarm plate of food with 15 ingredients, madame. For $29! I am so honored. Look, I’m not against making the plate pretty, but let’s not forget people are eating the food and not just looking at it.

  5. Servers who greet a table of women with “Hey guys!” This happens far too often. I’m cool with being casual, but we have smarts, beauty, excellent intuition, and bleed every month, so please, show some respect.

  6. The ampersand. Local food businesses are beginning to sound like a law firm of animals (Animal Firm?): Hog & Rocks. Hops & Hominy. Beast & the Hare. Craftsman & Wolves. Pig & Pie. Unless it’s milk & cookies, let’s give it a rest.

  7. I sometimes wonder if chefs and restaurant owners have eaten recently off their own plates, with their dining room’s flatware? Because then they would see how the entrée plate is so ginormous that there’s no easy way to rest your knife. I had a bowl of soup with edges that were so high that it was hard to spoon into it—I wondered if it was a joke (nope, it wasn’t). I have also been served desserts with a spoon when the dish clearly required a fork. All I’m asking is this: chefs, look at how your food is being served before you serve it.

  8. Chef bands.

  9. Live tweeting. Whether you’re Anthony Bourdain live tweeting one of your shows—or almost as bad—Perez Hilton live tweeting your French Laundry meal, please, enough with the navel-gazing and just focus on the task at hand. Watch your show. Eat your dinner. Shut the eff up.

  10. Coed bathrooms. Really, they are the worst. And when they don’t have toilet seat covers? Makes me want to bust out a Sharpie and write all over the walls: “A clueless man designed this bathroom.”

Whew, okay, time to put a sock in it. Did I forget a big one? Do you feel like bitching too? Go ahead and email me. XOXO!


Flickr photo by Mr. T in DC.

Yup, it’s another year, which means it’s my annual opportunity to gather some grist for my cranky mill. Nope, no 2011 recap of my favorite meals here, nor a hot trend prediction recap (“This year is all about MARSHMALLOWS! And flax! And Peruvian food (again).”). It’s time to talk smack!

And before you start wondering where are my rants on food trucks, pizza, pop-ups, or cupcakes, you’ll probably find them in previous installments of the bore.

  1. My, my, there sure is quite a bit of foraging going on out there. A little too much. Going out to your restaurant garden and cutting some rosemary isn’t foraging. That’s faux-raging. Picking up ingredients at the farmers’ market? Nope, not foraging. That’s called shopping. Unless someone at your restaurant is out in the forest or fields or seashore pulling some Connie Green-esque culling and getting some dirt under their nails and poison oak on their person (hopefully not in the bathing suit area, oy), let’s take it easy on touting the foraged ingredients.

  2. Farm to fork. Farm to table. And the winner: farm to glass cocktail program. You know when McDonald’s starts (ab)using “farm to fork,” it’s time to quit. Can we all agree to make these little Farmville catchphrases stop before I scratch my eyes out? Thanks.

  3. Let’s take a look at one of my ongoing menu language peeves: “Organic ingredients used whenever possible.” Look, it’s actually possible all the time. Seeing that on the menu immediately makes me visualize the Sysco truck pulling up in the back of the restaurant instead of the chef having Om Organics or GreenLeaf on quick dial. Unless the menu gives the diner an actual percentage (“85% of our ingredients are organic!”) or name-checks the organic purveyors, it’s better for all of us if that murky line is taken off the menu.

  4. Okay, let’s continue with the menu ranting. This is a can of worms for me to even bring it up, but let’s just say I’m tired of all the Healthy San Francisco surcharges and percentages on menus and receipts. Yup, it’s a complicated issue, and it’s still being figured out. I’m glad our city’s workers have access to healthcare. I understand why restaurateurs are angry that it’s cutting into their already compromised bottom line. But I am not going to engage in a discussion with my server about the topic, nor call over the GM to discuss tableside (unless I’m being charged tax on the surcharge). Can’t we just bury that cost somewhere like a mafioso with a body in their trunk?

  5. Is it 1986? Based on the lines of “food cocaine” I keep seeing on plates (salt, seasoning, pepper, sesame, etc.), I guess that’s our new cheap (and legal) thrill. But wait, I’m still hungry. And I actually feel kinda sleepy. What the hell was the point of that line?

  6. How many more times do we need to see Edison bulbs in restaurants and bars? Here’s a bright idea: figure out some other cool lighting options.

  7. Paninis. I cringe every time I see this. It’s time for an Italian lesson. A panino is one sandwich. Panini are two or more. Panino, panini. Va bene? No more paninis! Or I’m going to fit you for some cement shoeses.

  8. Food writers! Bloggers! Yelpers! Can we plllllllease stop with the mouthgasms? The foodgasms? The orgasmic food? Describing a dish as an orgasm in one’s mouth doesn’t particularly make me want to swallow.

  9. Everyone needs to slow the eff down with all the izakayas, ramen, and barbecue. And pizza continues to be a runaway train. Yes, these are things that were missing from our dining landscape, but does everyone have to do it? I guess it’s all gonna come down to survival of the fittest. In the meantime, why the hell don’t we have a decent souvlaki space in this town? Anyone? PLEASE EXPLAIN! Le sigh.

  10. Can one of these online reservation sites please come up with an alternative to the phone callback reservation confirmation? I just love having to access my voicemail, call back the number that is invariably NOT the number my cell phone registered, and getting stuck in some endless restaurant automated voicemail phone tree for three minutes until I can leave a message and say, “Yes, my ass is coming tonight! I am not flaking!” My dentist and my seven-person hair salon have an email confirmation system. It’s flawless. No phone calls. Let’s get it together out there.

Did I forget a big one? Do you feel like bitching too? Feel free to email me your additions. (Unless it’s about Healthy SF—like I said, can of worms.)


All of the items on “the bore” list need to end up like this pig.

Or to hell. Whatever, it’s a new year, so let’s just give these things a rest, shall we?

  1. As a dedicated and daily espresso drinker (addicted? Who, me?), nothing chaps my hide more than receiving a bowl of those cursed cubes of light brown sugar that take, oh, five minutes to dissolve into my espresso. Look, I’m all down with you using some natural/non-bleached/non-C&H refined sugar, but let’s use one that dissipates before my freaking coffee gets cold, okay? Damned hippie sugar. Granulated is good. (And don’t even get me started on the random twists of lemon rind that sometimes appear alongside my espresso. What the hell? Save it for my cocktail—because you are driving me to drink.)

  2. While we’re on it, dear servers, please stop offering me a cappuccino after dinner. And did someone really just offer me a latte at 10pm? Yeah, nothing like a big, steaming glass of hot milk and two espresso shots after a five-course dinner. The Italians have it right—save the hot milk espresso drinks for the morning (exception: artists, DJs, and other late-night types who wake up late).

  3. Restaurants that blatantly announce or promote their secret menu items. Uh, where’s the discovery in that? And you get zero cred for that move, I mean, come ON. Unless you’re In-N-Out, I don’t need to know about your BIG SECRET MENU ITEMS unless I become a regular and you’ve been open for at least a year. So zip it.

  4. Nom. Nom nom nom. Noms. Nomz. (Oh yeah, and “sammies.” What is this, Foodie Romper Room?)

  5. Sliders. Just seeing that word makes my skin crawl.

  6. Pop-up. Another one that is beginning to bug, partly because of the misuse and omnipresence of the term. The next thing that’s gonna pop up is my middle finger. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these temporary “one night only” business appearances. And I guess that’s why people say “pop-up,” because it’s quicker than saying “temporary” or “one night only.” I have no answers. I’m just bitching. Next!

  7. Uncomfortable seats. How am I expected to sit through a meal on a cold metal bench, a cushion-less wood banquette, a small wooden barstool with hard edges, or worst of all, those damned vintage Tolix metal chairs that dig into my hips and are only meant for skinny French bitches? I know they look cool. But in actuality, they’re the worst: they’re made out of cold metal, and they make my ass look big. Uh, thanks.

  8. The Ike’s saga. Jesus H. Christ. It’s open. It’s closed. It’s open. It’s moving. It’s staying. It’s opening elsewhere. Ahhhhhh! It was like the the Wikileaks of the local food media scene. Can’t believe Ike’s is in “the bore” yet again this year. Make. It. Stop.

  9. Restaurants constantly retweeting compliments from guests about themselves. So tacky. Unless you are revealing some insider tip about your business through said retweet, let’s lay off all the tweets that start with a “Thank you!!!” and then end with the remaining 140 characters of self-flattery. Yeah, we get it, someone thinks you’re freaking great. Why don’t you just forward all these compliments to your mother? Oh wait, she’s probably the reason you’re needing all this additional approval from everyone. Whatever, go get more therapy and cool it on the self-congratulatory RTs.

  10. Useless restaurant websites. I can’t believe I have to go over the basics, but here goes:

  • no flash intro (thanks for wasting my time for 20 seconds, can I just get the information I’m looking for?)
  • hell, no flash at all (how do you expect all these iPhone/iPad users to look at your website?)
  • um, why the eff don’t you have your hours listed?
  • LIST YOUR GODDAMN CROSS STREET—why are you making me go to Google Maps to find you? (Rude.)
  • no music (you hear me? Stop it! No one likes that song but you. It sucks. I don’t care if there’s a stop or pause button for it. You’re not a DJ or music label, so lay off the tunes. I mean it. Someone is gonna get a spanking.)
  • phone numbers that spell something (just give me the digits, yo—you’re not a cab company I’m trying to remember when I’m drunk)
  • old menus (thanks for sharing that menu from 2007 with the Chilean sea bass on it)
  • menus without prices (shady)
  • and I know this is a pet peeve for some: PDF menus. But I disagree on that one—if it means the menu stays current and up to date, PDF away. I know, website maintenance is a pain. Really, trust me, I know.


Rant. Over.


Flickr photo of yawning (fanged) kitty from Sara Heinrichs.

At the beginning of every New Year I have my annual snark about ten things I think are overexposed, overdone, and, quite frankly, I am over. But when I was writing this year’s list, sure, there are some things we’re seeing a bit too much of, but, for example, do I want to see the end of renegade food vendors with Twitter accounts? Or pizza? No, I certainly don’t. So below is a somewhat couched version, kind of a “rant lite.”

  1. Handmade pasta. So, I understand if you’re an Italian restaurant. And I’m the first to agree, pasta is delicious—especially the handmade stuff. But must it be on more menus than not? Why does everyone think they can make good gnocchi? I find I’m more disappointed than not. The last strand of linguine for me was when handmade pasta turned up as a course at The French Laundry. Basta!

  2. And yes, let’s talk about pizza mayhem. Trust, it really is one of my favorite things to eat. And it sure is recession friendly. But it’s getting out of hand and crazy hyped. My rule has been one great pizza place per neighborhood, maybe two if they’re pretty different—and that’s it! Let’s pause on the pies.

  3. Okay, I have absolutely no qualms to squawk about ultra lounges. Sure, they are somewhat effective in magnetizing the people I don’t want filling up my preferred bars and clubs, but come ON. This is San Francisco, not Vegas.

  4. The insane line of people at Ike’s. People, WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON? Are they sprinkling some shake on your Backstabber? Or is it the thrill of ordering sandwiches named Menage a Trois or MILF? I like Ike’s sandwiches, some of them are really good, but the sidewalk scene on a Saturday afternoon just boggles my mind. It’s like an Academy of Art jitney bus dropped off a gaggle of starving skinny jean-ed hipsters. I’m not sure when to go to get my sandwiches there anymore.

  5. I know some people are waaaay over the butchery of an animal carcass as a centerpiece for food events. (Especially the vegans.) But Ryan Farr rocks, I heart meatpaper, and the OPENrestaurant event at the SFMOMA was one of the most intense spectacles of the year. Discuss.

  6. And here’s another complicated one: street food. There are some mighty talented people in this town, all armed and ready with Twitter accounts, cooking up some good vittles on the fly. And besides, this city needed more food served on carts, trucks, and, uh, bike baskets. But like Ike’s, the LINES of people for some of these vendors is beyond my comprehension—you’ll see people waiting for more than an hour for the novelty of taking a bite of flatbread while outside on the street. Really? I blame the media for the overexposure. Oh right, I guess I’ll need to take some responsibility for some of that. Duly noted. Next!

  7. Okay folks, we’re officially in 2010. So wassup with all the music that still permeates restaurant websites? Whether it’s loud screechy singing, an accordion, or a circa 1998 easy house track, the only thing music on a website impels me to do is find the STOP button. Immediately. Trust me, visitors who are trying to cruise your site surreptitiously while at work will thank you if you cut out all the racket. Shhhhhh. Leave all the noise for your restaurant, right?

  8. Wine bars show no signs of slowing down around town. And many of them don’t seem to like serving wine at the proper temperature, or leave the bottles open for too long, and still get away with charging $14 a glass. When I see “we have 50 wines available by the glass,” my eyebrow shoots up. Yup, there they are, just sitting on the back bar getting warm. I’m not one for additional bureaucracy, but I really wish there was a wine bar certification program.

  9. There are enough places to get a burger around town, can we stop now? Where’s the beef? Uh, everywhere!

  10. And last but not least, can we all take it easy on the cologne, perfume, and (most importantly) secondhand smoke? This applies to everyone: servers, hosts, chefs, and guests. I may like smoked salmon, but smoky server who just had a cigarette break? Not so much.

Okay, my little annual rant is done. Let’s get ready for a year of sandwiches, porchetta, and bakeries. Love and kisses!

  1. I am so blowing the whistle on cupcakes. Yes, it’s great to have a few shops in each city, but we don’t need more than a few. And really, what is up with the LINES of people (mostly ladies) waiting at some of these places? Ri-donkedonk. Now, I would queue up for a true Parisian croissant… but unless those sprinkles on said cupcakes start coming from happy pills, the frosting on my cupcake is of an unhappy face.

  2. Since we’re on dessert, what is up with all the salt ending up in my sweets? Salted caramels, lovely. Salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite, bring it. But when I start crunching on large flakes of salt in my chocolate dessert and suddenly need to order more water, I gotta draw the line. Please keep the monster flakes o’ Maldon away from my Madagascar chocolate.

  3. You didn’t think I was going to skip fro-yo, did you? Hells no. See, it’s the exact same cycle that happened back in the 80s: too many yogurt shops open at once, the city gets flooded with fro-yo, and then suddenly every place closes shop and we end up with none. It’s a runaway train of fruit-named knockoffs breeding like rabbits. And hilariously, the City doesn’t even have a Pinkberry, the mother ship of them all.

  4. Ahem on mixology mayhem. Now, I love my cocktails as much as the next boozehound. And we’re blessed to have so many pros in San Francisco who can make a spectacular cocktail—I dig the “kitchen notes” in a lot of drinks that make them pair well with food, or help my cocktail do double duty as an appetizer, heh. But more and more I find myself glazing over when my drink starts to sound like something I should be eating in a haute French restaurant, with a detailed description of each and every ingredient and the techniques used to make the darned thing. Can we dial this back to five, or six? (The hype, and the minutes it takes to make it.) Let’s get back to having the folks behind the stick be bartenders first, mixologists second. Which is why I am finding myself back on Manhattans. They’re quick, because yo, I’m thirsty. And it better not cost $14.

  5. I know I’m gonna get some heat on this one, but the cocktail consulting thing at local restos also needs some reining in. A good cocktail list does not a good restaurant make. Yeah, the cocktail program reads great on the restaurant’s press release, and it’s all dandy during the opening when the startenders are there, but what is going on with those drinks a month or two later? That quality control thing is tricky. I’d prefer simpler drinks (see above), less fanfare.

  6. This one is a cautionary tale: bacon. I totally dug the pigwich at Orson, and the bacon with apple and maple donut from Dynamo was an item whose time had come. But folks experimenting with bacon better stop acting all OCG (Original Culinary Gangster) because look around, everyone is doing it. Bacon is totally jumping the shark.

  7. Ditto on poached eggs. Breakfast, it’s what’s for dinner! Not. I eat far too many eggs every week; they’re definitely going with me to the desert island. But man, can we take it (over) easy? Eggs are making appearances on dinner menus everywhere. Unless the chef is doing something really unique, like Seis Kamimura at Postrio, who is soft-cooking an egg inside a Wolfe Ranch quail, wrapping that puppy in San Daniele prosciutto, then deep frying it, and glazing the quail with a maple Banyuls vinegar gastrique—otherwise, can we just leave the poached eggs to the brunch places, truffle season, pizzas, and bistros serving salade Lyonnaise?

  8. Large plates, but small tables, and even smaller portions. ‘Nuff said.

  9. Communal tables, especially the big ones that are so wide you can’t hear your friend sitting across from you, especially with all the other people around talkin’ loudly. So much for communal. Yes, they are a clever way to seat single diners or a random group of folks who don’t have reservations, but find me anyone out there who brightens up when the reservationist says, “No, we don’t have any tables available that night, but we do have first-come, first-served spots at our communal table!”

  10. Did I just hear that woman at the table next to me ask if the salad was local? Yeah lady, the menu says it’s from County Line Harvest, relax. The intense local / sustainable / organic policing that is happening at restaurant tables is making my head hurt. It’s like the Inquisition! These are fine questions to ask of your salmon, your beef, and your tomatoes during that pesky scare, but what’s coming under the microscope next, the garnish in your drink, and the chocolate shavings on your dessert? Why even eat out?

  1. I love pork as much as the next guy, but all this pork belly nonsense is getting out of hand (and getting us fat).

  2. I am so stanca (tired/fatiguée) of panna cotta and its rainbow of flavors. It’s like last year’s crème brûlée, and the cavalcade of bread pudding before that. Can I just have some pie?

  3. 35 wines by the glass, that’s great, but do they have to average $12 each? Jeez. I’m back on the bottle.

  4. Since we’re on wine, what is up with all the wine bars opening? It’s becoming a joke. We have a wine bar in each neighborhood, I think we can stop now. Well, unless yours is going to be really cool and you’ll serve killer wines in correct stemware and at the right temperature. (And pizzerias are coming up close on wine bars’ heels. We’ll be seeing them on this list in 2009, mark my words.)

  5. Ok, this has become my biggest pet peeve: servers and bussers who say, “You still working on that?” What am I, a hyena gnawing off the last shreds of meat on a wildebeest thighbone? That phrase needs to be banished from restaurant lexicon. Be the change.

  6. Hey, I dig salts. It’s why I have at least ten at home I like to play with. But offering four kinds on the table to sprinkle on your buttered bread, or listing them as an ingredient in certain dishes is, uh, trying too hard.

  7. Why are open kitchens continuing to be a “hot” design trend? They are noisy, and there’s a lot I don’t need to watch (or see, yikes, you did not just drop that towel on the floor and then pick it up and use it again?). Unless it’s a gorg kitchen like, say, Myth’s. Perhaps bacar started a trend by covering theirs up.

  8. Another thing cropping up in restaurants that pains me is flat screen TVs. Unless you’re a sports bar, I think they are ugly, distracting, and playing art house films doesn’t really constitute good décor.

  9. Saketinis and nasty soju cocktails are usually so wrong. I’m sorry you don’t have a liquor license, but do you really need to create a list of eight saketinis, and for $9 each? Just do some good Champagne cocktails instead—and they taste a hell of a lot better.

  10. It’s gotta be said (and it breaks my meat-loving heart), but salumi has become a runaway train. Some people know what they’re doing, but many of these entry-level efforts need to stay home. Just because the meat didn’t rot doesn’t make that coppa a success, and let’s not even talk about the fact you’re selling it off at $14 a plate. tablehopper

What I Don’t Want to See More of In 2007

  1. No more variations on tuna tartare. Basta, please.

  2. Enough with the silly amuse bouches. Unless you’re busting out something special or exquisite, say, with caviar. Otherwise, I am no longer amused.

  3. Will the tyranny of crème brûlée flavored with [insert trendy ingredient here, from tea to yuzu] ever stop? And the mini trios of them, lord help me. Oh, and let’s not forget bread pudding. It’s become the new flourless chocolate cake.

  4. Pinot Noir. Yes, it’s a lovely varietal that pairs wonderfully with food, but I say be a contrarian and start ordering Merlot like a maniac.

  5. Bottle service. ‘Nuff said.

  6. While we’re on booze, will everyone lay off the Fernet abuse already? Try something new, like Averna, or even Amaro Montenegro.

  7. Truffle oil. Don’t even get me started.

  8. Kobe beef. Unless that steak tartare or 6 oz. filet is $150 and it’s really from Kobe, it’s just Wagyu, or Kobe-style beef, not the real deal. I wish diners and servers would stop talking about it like it’s true Kobe beef, because that Prada bag is fake, baby.

  9. Braised short ribs. They’re almost like truffle oil in this town i.e. everywhere.

  10. Hamachi crudos. Lemme guess, with yuzu, or a special salt?