Caleb Zigas is the Acting Executive Director of La Cocina and lives nearby on a block that he says "used to be called the Mission. Now it's Noe Valley." He organizes the programming for the business incubator, and is often called upon for media interviews. Among Zigas' favorite foods are chicken soup, steamed pork buns, molletes (a bread roll popular in both Mexico and the Andalusia region of Spain) and nearly anything with miso. Zigas has been working in the food industry since a starter job at his all time favorite spot, Ruppert's Restaurant in his native town of Washington DC. He is fully fluent in Spanish, which was strengthened by a brief "nightmare" vegan macrobiotic cooking job in Costa Rica. Other culinary stints have included weekend work as a butcher, as well as waiting tables and managing the front of the house. Zigas answered questions about his favorite eating spots from Bay Area Bites via email and phone interview.
The thirty-year old Zigas likes Zuni, but "only after 9 PM. I like to go with a good friend, or a couple, and start with a half-bottle of white wine and some oysters. Next, go with a full bottle of red and either a burger or the chicken. It's quintessential San Francisco. Right in the middle of the city, big glass windows looking on sincere urban space, a beautiful open kitchen, and a couple of real steals on the wine list. And the food's always just what it's supposed to be."
Also on the list is Yuet Lee: "It's in different hands now, but they're still holding it down. I've been going there since I moved here and worked for Isa Restaurant and Luke (Sung) would take us there for staff meals. It's open late, and the food is always great. And the North Beach scene adds some sincere color. I don't miss the salt and pepper shrimp (eat the heads) and the calamari is some of the best in town. Otherwise, I always let the staff order, they know it much better than I do."
For Mexican/Salvadoran dishes, Zigas heads to El Zocalo, on Mission Street. "It's 2 blocks from my house, which helps, but they're an institution. Burn-your-mouth fresh pupusas for those kind of nights, bowls of caldo de pollo or res for when it's cold and foggy. And cold beer too. I like the post-Rocapulco crowd and the old-school service. I always get the plantains too, just because it's awesome that Salvadoran plantains come with cream and beans too." As a back-up, or alternative, El Gran Taco Loco up the street "is probably my favorite taqueria; open until 2, brightly lit with some real Mexican dishes hidden in the menu and great carnitas."