The Finished Hail Mary with the two other variations of the Bloody Mary at the Saratoga. All variations can come as a Hail Mary (Patrick Wong)
For as health-and-fitness-minded as the Bay Area is, there are still plenty of ways to treat yourself to something that’s a bit decadent--because there’s nothing wrong with a cheat meal (or day) here and there.
The Bay Area is obviously a great place to eat, boasting an impressive 55 restaurants with Michelin star ratings. The Bay Area is also a great place to workout, boasting an ever growing list of gyms and fostering an equally impressive repertoire of fitness trends. From national chains to boutique studios, to CrossFit and Orangetheory, to even goat yoga classes--the Bay is a perfect place for enthusiastic eaters to also burn off everything they ingest so that they can do it all over again.
For a city as fitness obsessed as the Bay Area, there's something about this place that also gives rise to nutrition trends. The clientele here have allowed cold-pressed juice shops, vegan eateries, and paleo and keto meal kit delivery services to thrive. For as obsessed with food as Bay Area dwellers are, they seem to be equally fixated on making sure that food is also healthy.
But like any good foodie paradise, there are plenty of options for even the healthiest eaters to deviate, to have a little cheat meal. Whether you're fully dedicated to the Whole30 or doing a "spring leaning" challenge at your gym, we say there's nothing wrong with giving yourself a break every once in a while. And, really, if you're going to cheat, you might as well make it a good one. Below are some of our favorite places to indulge a bit. We tried to cover the range of cheat-eating moods--do you want booze? How about dessert? Or something savory? Hopefully one of these dishes will quell that craving and leave you ready to get back on track.
There’s something magical when two types of comfort foods decide to come together to be as one. Enter the Fried Chicken Burrito from WesBurger ‘N’ More.
Stuffed into its flour tortilla is pieces of crispy fried chicken (of course), pinto beans, corn salad, crema, salsa, and cheese. Never again will you need to choose between getting a burrito or fried chicken while exploring the Mission, because with every bite of this, you'll get both.
You'll find this Fried Chicken Burrito (don't worry, there's also a fried tofu sandwich for vegetarians or for those who would prefer to cheat in a non-burrito format) under the "'N More" section of the menu, but you can truly find a non-diet friendly meal under their "Burger" section which includes a peanut butter and jelly with onion rings sandwich; and under the "Chicken" section, which includes even more fried chicken.
Not to be missed is their super crunchy Tater Tots, which can come naked, but if you're really in the mood, their Deluxe Tots come with queso, caramelized onions, bulgogi bacon, and a special house sauce.
And speaking of sauces, no matter what you order, make sure you take a gander at the bottles of sauce waiting near the water station. There's tons of ketchup, but their table sauce is not to be missed. As the sauce says, it's great to bring back to your table to douse everything with.
If you're looking for a night cap for your cheat meal, nestled right beside WesBurger is their bar, The Den. Super snug for some intimate drinking, The Den has a rotating menu of drinks, including collaborations with the neighboring Mission Chinese as well as other eateries in the city.
For late night binges, WesBurger is perfect as they serve food until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Fenton's Creamery, opened in 1894, is a Bay Area institution and a beloved landmark for tourists, transplants, and natives alike. Fenton's is so popular that it even made an appearance in Pixar's Up, as many of the nearby animation studio's employees frequented Fenton's.
Famed for its Black and Tan Sundae, there's another show-stopping sundae at Fenton's: The Banana Special.
Even for the biggest ice cream fans, the Banana Special at Fenton's is not for solo eating thrill-seekers (and probably not great for the lactose intolerant).
The Banana Special comes of course with a ripe banana, and then piled sky high with three gigantic scoops of your classic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice creams. Each scoop is drizzled with pineapple, strawberry, and chocolate sauce and topped with a cloud of whipped cream, a sprinkling of almonds, and a single maraschino cherry. Think of the Banana Special like your traditional banana split, three or four-fold.
And if you’re looking for an equally delicious sundae for a good cause, every month, Fenton’s offers a special sundae that benefits a local non-profit. For the month of May, you can enjoy Myrtle’s Creation, which is an Oreo cookie sundae with hot fudge and whipped cream. Myrtle’s Creation benefits Oakland Public Library and is available until the end of May.
If sticking to the Banana Special, we do recommend bringing a small party with you to tackle the Banana Special, but if your stomach can stomach all that ice cream alone, you might be able to snag yourself a seat a lot quicker at the bar, when the restaurant gets busy for their lunch and dinner rushes.
However, Vive La Tarte departs from the pastry route and takes a crack at a savory item with their new Tacro.
It's what it sounds like: a taco and croissant hybrid! Instead of a traditional taco shell, the filling is cradled by a buttery, flaky croissant that's been specially baked into the shape of a taco shell (Vive La Tarte hasn't revealed how they get the shape so taco-like). The bakery offers three different fillings for their Tacros: pulled pork and pineapple, chicken and avocado, and vegetarian-friendly Jackfruit barbecue. Every single tacro is topped with pickled greens, fresh mango, and comes with house green and red salsas.
If you happen to be gluten-free or simply don't want to eat so many carbs for your cheat meal (although the croissant, even on its own is very delicious), the Tacro comes as a protein bowl as well for a one-dollar upcharge.
The Tacro is only sold at Vive La Tarte's location inside of the San Francisco Ferry Building, located outside right next to Gott's Roadside. Although this location opens at 8am, the Tacro is sold starting at 11am until they're sold out--which given the lunch rushes at the Ferry Building, can happen quite often.
For those who are have hard time making decisions, or who simply want a more extreme cheat meal, try venturing to Gogi Time in Oakland.
Gogi Time offers not just one, but two types of All You Can Eat menus, one for Chinese Hot Pot, and another for its more popular Korean Barbecue.
From the Korean Barbecue menu, expect your standard fare of marinated and non-marinated meats like bulgogi and pork belly as well as an assortment of seafood and vegetables. Along with that, you can order an unlimited amount from their long list of appetizers, side dishes, as well as their different wrappers and toppings for your barbecue. To keep the pacing and rhythm of the feasting under control, you're asked to choose a certain number of items per round of ordering until you've filled your belly (and maybe unbuttoned the first button of your pants). Each meal also comes with a mini probiotic drink that accompanies the bill--an attempt to stop the meat sweats from coming on.
On Mondays through Fridays from opening to 4pm, you can get the All You Can Eat menu for less than $20 per person and about $27 after 4pm and on weekends. If you arrive with an entourage of at least five, and you're all feeling hungry, you can also add the All You Can Eat Chinese Hot Pot menu to your table for $20 a head.
While Gogi Time does take reservations, the restaurant is quite large, but if you're coming after work hours or on the weekends, expect a bit of a wait.
If booze is on your cheat meal spectrum, the “Hail Mary” Bloody Mary is for you.
How is a Bloody Mary a cheat "meal" you ask? Well, when you order the Hail Mary at the Saratoga AKA a Bloody Mary with “the works,” it comes fully loaded with the following: a large fried pickle, a hulking piece of fried chicken, a skewer of pickled quail eggs (pickled in turmeric and beet juice), a strip of crispy bacon, a string of jalapeno poppers, a set of poached shrimp, and some house-made beef jerky.
Somehow, all of that fits inside your cocktail glass and act as very tasty stirrers for your very spicy Bloody Mary. The Classic Bloody Mary comes with vodka, tomato, worcester, tabasco, dill, pickled green beans, and celery salt. However, if you're not into tomato, there's two other variations--one with gin and carrot and another with mezcal and tomatillo. All three variations can come with the works. All three are also destined to be Instagram darlings.
For those who crave more for a cheat brunch than a drink and meal all in one, the Jenga Tots--large logs of fried potatoes with lox, cream cheese, and capers--are highly recommended.
Currently, weekend brunch is only on Sundays, but the Saratoga will also begin slinging brunch on Saturdays come June.