1300 Battery Street (at Embarcadero), 415-982-2000, www.fogcitysf.com
1. Braised pork cheeks. Bruce Hill’s revamped Fog City is already one of our favorite spots. The braised pork cheeks rival Chris Cosentino’s at Incanto and exceeded our expectations in a big way. The fall-apart tender cheeks are served on a bed of ethereal, creamy polenta.
2. French crullers. French crullers (fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry) used to make us think of going to Bob’s Donuts, but after having them at Fog City we never want to eat them anywhere else. The French crullers come out fresh and hot from the cruller machine, light and fluffy with a citrusy hint of orange blossom. These are the best French crullers in the City, so be sure to save room for dessert.
242 Columbus Avenue (near Jack Kerouac Alley), 415-986-9651, www.toscacafesf.com
1. Crispy pig’s tails. When you bite into the fried skin, the fat comes oozing out, like pork rinds and bone marrow in a perfect marriage but a lot easier to eat. This is one dish chef April Bloomfield should always keep on the menu.
2. Bucatini with guanciale. House-made bucatini (spaghetti with a hole in the middle) with guanciale (Italian salt-cured pork jowl) in a spicy tomato sauce is Bloomfield’s take on the classic all’amatriciana. The pasta is always perfectly al dente, but it doesn’t have the same sauce every night (we know because we’ve been there almost every night since Tosca reopened!).
North Beach Restaurant
1512 Stockton Street (at Columbus), 415-392-1700, www.northbeachrestaurant.com
1. Abalone doré. Every time we visit classy North Beach Restaurant we’re reminded of why co-founders Lorenzo Petroni and Bruno Orsi are still one of the best teams in the business after more than 40 years. The authentic Tuscan cuisine is not to be missed, and we especially love the abalone doré, which is coated in a light egg batter, pan-fried until golden brown, and topped with a lemon sauce flecked with fresh parsley. People think nothing of spending $75 on a great steak these days, so next time skip the artery-clogging red meat and head to NBR for abalone, a true delicacy found in very few restaurants (and almost never prepared properly).
2. Spaghetti Lorenzo. We judge an Italian restaurant by the most deceptively simple dish — pasta in tomato sauce. Spaghetti Lorenzo is the perfect version of this classic; thin, al dente spaghetti is just chewy enough and coated in a bright but not-too-acidic tomato sauce with just the right amount of garlic. Better yet, each serving has just 247 calories and no cholesterol (verified by testing at UC Berkeley), which means you can splurge on one of our other favorites: chicken livers sautéed with mushrooms and Barbera sauce.
360 Jessie Street (inside the Hotel Zetta), 415-321-6000; thecavaliersf.com
1. Cavalier salad. This one has us ordering salads all over town hoping they’ll all taste like the Cavalier salad, but no such luck. The freshest seasonal greens are coated in a truffled vinaigrette and topped with aged goat cheese and fennel. Simple but satisfying.
2. Sunday Roast Chicken. This roast chicken gives Zuni Café a run for its money. Every bite is juicy and moist, even the breast, thanks to bacon larding. The accompanying horseradish mashed potatoes are whipped almost to Joel Robuchon perfection (but with a lot less butter). When the server pours bacon-mustard jus over the bird, it’s just icing on the cake.