You’re going to want to explore Loló’s brand-new cocktail list, which is full of creativity and culinary surprises. Then, try SF’s first pizza a teglia at Barbara Express in North Beach, and don’t miss a quality Dungeness crab feed at The Alice Collective in Oakland. Finally, just in case you got dissed on Thanksgiving leftovers, here are two of SF’s top turkey sandwiches.
The Latest Cocktail List at Loló Offers a Culinary Adventure
Loló is one of those San Francisco gems adored by restaurant industry folks for many reasons: their incredibly creative and well-executed cocktails are high on the list, along with the impressively curated wine list from GM Juan Carlos Ruelas that continues to get fine-tuned, with a strong focus on natural and organic wines — there are some real gems on there. Add in Jorge Martinez’s ever-evolving menu with Jaliscan and seasonal influences, the friendly staff, delightfully playful interior by partner Lorena Zertuche, fun vibes, and lively crowd (this place is always full of interesting and good-looking people), and it’s not only a good time, but a quality one.
Their bar team is one of the city’s best, and personally, I think they should be getting much more national attention than they are. Bar manager Leon Vazquez leads a talented team, and their latest lineup of cocktails just launched, full of esoteric ingredients and unexpected combinations and concoctions, which they are known for. An example is the Lost Souvenir, with Homeric mastiha (a spirit made with an ancient ingredient from Chios, Greece), Navy-strength gin, carrot, and coconut creme, served over crushed ice — it’s almost like an orange creamsicle, but with carrot, plus a resinous note from the mastiha. It’s a refreshing place to start, and the kind of cocktail that makes people ask what you're drinking.
Then there’s the Rusty Trombone, with red onion-infused vodka and coconut that somehow, oddly, magically comes together to drink like a martini (it’s so good with food). So many culinary ingredients are featured in the cocktail menu, like white truffle in the Truffled Gin Cobbler and long black pepper grated on top of the Sfumato Sour. This one is a perfect drink to end the night with (it has rhubarb amaro, mezcal, lemon, egg white), although the Blood Brother with mezcal, amaro, Campari, and Makrut lime leaves will also ask to be your final-final.
One more item of note: the kitchen just acquired a molino (masa grinder) from Guadalajara to make their own masa in house. They are sourcing corn from Masienda, who specializes in heirloom, non-GMO, landrace maize from Mexico (and beyond). The kitchen team has been falling in love with the flavorful masa they’re making, and are using it for their quesadillas, the tortillas that come with the carnitas, and various specials like the crab and chorizo quesadilla pictured above.
There's a New Kind of Pizza Counter in North Beach
When you mention square pizza in North Beach, most folks immediately think of classic Golden Boy Pizza (since 1978!), but there’s a new counter in town, offering the first teglia romana in SF: Barbara Express. It’s a Roman-style pizza baked in a square pan and then cut with scissors (it’s served pre-cut in squares at Barbara Express, although in Rome, you can decide how large or small you want your slice — if you want to pig out with a rectangle, you can go for it). Here, slices range from an affordable $3.50–$6. Barbara Express adjoins the newly open Barbara Pinseria & Cocktail Bar (in the former Panda Rei) from Il Casaro’s Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio (they are also behind Pasta Pop-Up).
The tiled counter offers eight different kinds of teglia Romana, and they’re keeping the toppings Italian and simple in style: you can get margherita, or broccoli rapini with sausage (be sure to drizzle some Calabrese chile oil on that one, it needs some kick), mushroom, sausage and red onion (I loved this one), four cheeses, diavola with soppressata and dollops of burrata added on top at the end, veggie (with eggplant and zucchini), and other rotating kinds (to be clear, it’s not a build-your-own kind of place). The tomato sauce has a nice, bright pop, and the cheeses are fresh, really creamy, and melt beautifully.
About the crust: this is not a cracker-thin Roman pizza, nor is it thick and doughy Sicilian. The dough is 85 percent water and fermented for 48 hours — the airy bubbles transform into a bubbly crumb, with a light crunch. I recommend trying it right out of the electric Cuppone oven for the best impression (at least your first piece, and then get another to go) — the satisfying crunch disappears as it comes to room temp. A couple of pieces also seemed a touch under-baked to me, but I was also trying the first slices of the day before the oven really got cranking.
There are some tables where you can sit inside or outside and watch the Columbus Avenue parade go by. Hang out, you have time. Other additions include supplì fresh out of the fryer, there’s a fridge full of drinks (and beers), and there’s also espresso service.
A Dungeness Crab Feed Done Right
It’s Dungeness crab season, and you’ll find local crab on menus all over the Bay Area. But there’s nothing like getting a bib on and really tucking into a pile of freshly steamed crab. Ted Wilson of the new The Alice Collective in Oakland (he was previously behind SF’s Fine & Rare) has hosted some epic annual crab feeds, and he isn’t sourcing just any ole crabs — he makes sure to get some big, fresh, quality beauties from local fishermen (he has some great connections). They’re served simply with drawn butter and lemon (perfection!).