Table Talk: Al Pastor Perfection, Homey Arabic and Ethiopian, Burger Love

A special half-order of the can't-miss al pastor at Tank18. (tablehopper.com)

Track down this al pastor dish for Sunday brunch, enjoy Arabic or Ethiopian home cooking (and hospitality), a new monthly guest chef burger special, and an annual artisan cheese festival you won’t want to miss.

Don't Miss Tank18's Incredible Al Pastor Dish at Sunday Brunch

Tank18 Restaurant & Urban Winery
1345 Howard St., San Francisco
Sunday brunch 11am–3pm

Shakshuka with nopales at Tank18's Sunday brunch. (tablehopper.com)

Brunch is very popular in SF, but sometimes it can be tooooo popular — it can be as tough to find a table for a group of friends as a Friday night table at primetime. But at Tank18 in SoMa, they have a spacious dining room, one that features just as many tables for large groups as two- and four-tops, maybe more. You may know Tank18 as a winery, but they actually have a full bar, on full display at Sunday brunch in their Bloody Mary, which comes with salumi and pickles, or choose from two other kinds, plus a paloma, coffee flip, and more.

Large groups are welcome at Tank18. (tablehopper.com)

There are dishes on chef Brandon Cavazos’s brunch menu that will appeal (shakshuka with nopales, pan de mie French toast) but the hands-down winner, the one you should get a couple friends together for ASAP is the pork al pastor ($32). You get a pound of the most savory, juicy, pork shoulder cooked sous vide with al pastor rub — it’s seared to order on the plancha, giving it a nicely crispy edge, and served in the most flavor-packed, rich, reduced sauce (we’re talking 40 quarts of pork bone stock reduced to 4, with charred onion and pork skin for extra texture and deep sabor). The shoulder is served with avocado crema, escabeche, sliced radish, charred jalapeños, and pillowy tortillas from La Palma, plus cracklings on top for extra crunch, and it’s pure pork perfection.

Mojo rice with housemade breakfast sausage. (tablehopper.com)

Another sleeper hit is the mojo rice ($8), green and bright with cilantro, parsley, and garlic, and topped with sliced housemade breakfast sausage with a little hit of ginger and grilled shishito. Yet another reason to get your pork-loving posse together for a fun Sunday brunch.

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Beit Rima
138 Church St., San Francisco
Open Tue–Sun 11am–10pm

Enjoy Quality, Homestyle Arabic Dishes at the New Beit Rima

Chicken shish tawook plate at Beit Rima. (tablehopper.com)

There’s nothing like being greeted at a fast-casual place with a complimentary cup of hot, sweet, minty black tea and kindly asked to take a seat with “Don’t worry, I will take your order at the table.” The hospitality at Beit Rima (“Rima’s House”) is matched by the delightfully and deliciously homey food, which is proudly proclaimed as “Arabic comfort food” on the business sign and logo. It’s an homage to chef-owner Samir Mogannam’s mother and her wonderful cooking (she is originally from Jordan), although he has quite the cooking pedigree himself from cooking at Aziza, Tawla, and Dyafa.

The location was previously Burgermeister, and his father, Paul Mogannam, was the founder of Burgermeister, who is retiring and passing it on to his son. The tables are now covered in green and white checkered tablecloths, with classic wood spindle chairs, and there are hanging houseplants and other residential décor touches throughout the space. The only thing that isn’t welcoming is how chilly it is inside, so don’t forget your jacket.

Hummus ma' lehma (with spiced beef). (tablehopper.com)

The menu is built to share, but you can easily come for a solo meal of the chicken shish tawook plate ($12), with tender, grilled bites of yogurt-marinated chicken with “mom’s rice,” charred onion and red pepper, toum (Lebanese garlic sauce), hummus, pickles (plus beet-pickled turnips), and a half of warm and lightly fluffy pita. Mom would also want you to eat your greens, so get the fattoush ($8) salad, which comes with charred dates and a kicky dressing with pomegranate vinegar.

Ful (smashed fava beans). (tablehopper.com)

Mezze include a warm bowl of ful (fava beans), mashed with garlic, olive oil, and lemon, with a little bit of chickpeas ($7); you can order a supplement of a soft egg on top, and it comes with pita. The flavorful hummus was silky with nutty notes of tahini and there’s the option to get it with ground and spiced beef on top along with some pine nuts ($12), another dip you’ll want to scoop up with the warm pita. There’s shakshuka all day, falafel, beef kabobs, vegetables from Mariquita Farm for dipping, and more mezze, plus muhalabbia milk pudding for dessert, and nothing is over $14. You’ll be well-fed and doted on, which will bring you back as quickly as the good food will.

A Quintessential Neighborhood Place: Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen

Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen 
484 Ellis St., San Francisco
Open daily 11:30am–9pm

A full spread of chicken tibs, special kitfo, and the vegetarian combination. (tablehopper.com)

Nestled right in the heart of the Tenderloin is Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen, a popular stop for some theater-goers who are okay with walking through a couple of the neighborhood’s scruffier blocks for a meal. Husband-and-wife Elias and Nani Shawel have created a colorful spot you can’t ignore, with artwork on the bright mandarin orange walls. Inside, there are just a handful of tables, with couples and friends sharing plates of tibs (chicken, lamb, or beef) and scooping up kitfo (buttery chopped beef, usually served on the rare side — we ordered ours medium rare and it came out perfectly) with spongy and tangy injera bread from baskets on a counter. 

The menu is full of vegetarian and vegan options, like chickpeas with turmeric and ginger; collard greens with ginger, garlic and onions; and lentils. Don’t miss the vegetarian combination hiding in the specialty entrées section, which includes kik alicha wot (chickpeas), misir wot (split lentils), gomen (collard greens), alicha tikil gomen (cabbage, potatoes, and carrots), plus some salad and buticha (mashed chickpea), a full spread for just $12.95. They even offer gluten-free injera for an extra $3. Portions are hearty — two people will have more than enough to eat by ordering one dish each. Hopefully you’re dining with someone who likes to share — and eat with their hands — because everything comes out on a big plate that you eat from communally.

Tadu even offers gluten-free injera bread. (tablehopper.com)

Everything tasted very homemade and freshly made, with tender meat morsels, but the flavors didn’t have the pop of Berbere (spice mix) like I’ve had at other places. It ends up you need to tell your server to really bring the flava, otherwise they keep things pretty tame. Even our spicy kitfo came out pretty mellow. When the owner saw I was seeking more than the little bowl of Berbere spice he brought over, he told me the next time I should request the kulet: here, it’s a deeply savory and thickened onion sauce, almost a paste, loaded with Berbere that they can cook into your dishes. Ah ha! That’s the stuff. So now you know.

This location doesn’t have any alcohol, but you can try telba, a slippery-textured drink made with ground flax seeds and honey. While I wouldn’t call this place a destination, if I was looking for something homey and affordable (and vegetarian) in the neighborhood, it fits the bill. There is a newer and brighter location in Mission Bay as well.

Causwells Launches a Monthly Guest Chef Burger

Causwells
Guest Burger Series (monthly)
2346 Chestnut St., San Francisco

The OG Mosto burger at Causwells. (Aaron Chang)

Causwells in the Marina already makes one of the best double cheeseburgers in town, but now it’s truly double trouble since they just introduced a guest burger series. Every month, they will feature a rotating burger special from favorite restaurants throughout the Bay Area. For February, the burger collaboration features a burger with chef Telmo Faria of Uma Casa and Piri Pica: the OG Mosto Burger (double smash patties, Oaxaca cheese, poblanos, spicy serrano aioli, pickled red onion). You can get the burger for $16.95. Upcoming burgers include March with Media Noche and April with Prospect. 

Get Your Cheese on at This Annual Weekend Festival

California Artisan Cheese Festival
March 23–24
Various Sonoma and Marin County locations
Tickets

A delicious bite made by cheesemonger Christina Strategos of Nugget Market in Woodland, using Big Boy Blue from Willapa Hills Cheese. (Karen Pavone)

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Sound the cheese alarm: coming up on March 23 is the thirteenth annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, a two-day weekend event that includes cheese tastings, pairings, farm and producer tours, and a culinary competition, all of which are held at various locations in Sonoma and Marin Counties. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses, all while learning about the art of cheesemaking from some of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts through a variety of interactive seminars. Don’t miss fun tasting events like Cheese, Bites & Booze! and Bubbles & Brunch, plus the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace on Sunday, March 24. Tickets are going fast, so don’t delay.

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