5 Things Midtown Needs From San Francisco

Bay Area Food 2009
Double Double w/ Cheese (and grilled onions)

I was in the Bay Area over the weekend, and was able to partake in five things that Midtown Lunch desperately needs! #1 is the most obvious… and has been mentioned a million times before: In N Out Burger!  Because everything is sourced fresh from the west coast, it’s unlikely that this will happen anytime soon- but there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to get the other four things!

Bay Area Food 2009

#2. A burrito that is 2/3 the size of a 3 month old baby.

Bay Area Food 2009

Oh, and it should be able to stand up on its own.  None of this fork and knife bullshit.  This carnitas burrito came from (what I thought was) a nothing place in Mountain View, California (but apparently is well known), called Taqueria Los Charros. And it was 1000 times better than anything I’ve ever had in New York City.

Bay Area Food 2009

#3. Enormous tacos.  Sure we have Tehuitzingo (on 10th Ave. btw. 47+48th) and the El Rey Del Sabor Cart (on 60th and 3rd) has finally brought some delicious Mexican food to Midtown… but these were on a-whole-nother level.  The carnitas (on the right) was awesome, but the cabeza (on the left) was ridiculous.  And I’ve never seen tacos with this much meat in them.  Delicious salsa verde on every table sealed the deal. (From La Taqueria in the Mission… thanks to the Foodbuzz crew for the recommendation!)

Bay Area Food 2009

#4. Good Vietnamese Food. We finally got an out of control Banh Mi place (even though it is out of bounds), and you can now get generic deli versions of bun and pho from Boi Sandwich on 3rd Ave. (btw. 44+45th)  But this city has a real problem with decent Vietnamese food.  Once again, I went to some hole in the wall place in Mountain View, that isn’t even considered that good- and had a better bun (with pork and spring rolls) than anything you get in NYC.  Is this stuff really that hard to make!?!

Bay Area Food 2009

#5. This crazy version of a cheap Chinese food buffet.  As a lover of cheap Chinese food of all kinds (I’m seriously addicted to the stuff) I was amazed by this buffet at one of the 99 Ranch Supermarkets.  I’ve had all you can eat cheap Chinese food.  I’ve had pay by the pound cheap Chinese food.  And of course, I’ve had the choose 2 items with rice or noodle Chinese food.  But this blew me away…  a $6.95, stuff all food you can into a Styrofoam container, cheap Chinese food buffet (in a grocery store!  Awesome.)  They did have two rules: only rice and noodles in half the container, and you have to be able to close the lid.  Done and done.  The check out person offered the guy in front of me extra fried calamari (free of charge) but didn’t do the same for me.  I guess he thought I had take enough:

Bay Area Food 2009

So great.  And to top it off, they had a lot of more authentic Chinese foodstuffs, like salt and pepper shrimp, and pork chops.  Oh… and (!?!) around the corner from this buffet they had a separate dim sum buffet.  They should just rename this place “Zach’s Heaven”.  None of it is what you would call “great”, but I had so much fun the lack of quality didn’t really bother me.

Well, I guess as long as we’re talking cheap chinese food, I have to add a #6.

Bay Area Food 2009

Panda Express!!!  (Eaten on I-5 from S.F. to L.A., where I am today.)  Their noodles and orange chicken are cheap Chinese food nirvana.

If we could just get a few of these things in Midtown, I would never have to go to the west coast again… well, except for the weather.  I hear it’s pretty crappy in NYC today. Sorry, I feel your pain. (If it makes you feel better, it’s raining in L.A. today.)


  • Woowee! I thought that double double was the pic of the day until I scrolled down and saw your burrito scale. Never seen a cuter or sweeter-natured one! I’m going to go hug my architectural scale now.

  • Adam in LA, you are the man. Do you know Tommy’s now does breakfast??!? I tried their chili breakfast burger and the burrito last time. Not that great, but hell, you know, had to try it.

  • Mamacita, what is this you speak of? Tommy’s and breakfast, together in the same sentence? Clearly I need to don the ML West Coast Correspondent hat….. I mean, bib….. and get myself to a Tommy’s, stat! I can feel the sweet sweet tummy ache as I type…

  • For SF Viet nonpareil, you must Tu Lan: http://notfortourists.com/ListingDetails.aspx?city=SF&listingID=839725

    Total honorary west coast Midtown Lunch material.

  • That is one seriously adorable kid! He looks ready to scarf down that burrito.

  • The In-N-Out photo was awesome enough, but then you had to go and add Harry and the burrito! Best (and cutest) food measurement device ever!

  • Bistro Burger and Clown Alley. City View for Dim Sum and San Jose Tacqueria in San Rafael under the overpass off 3rd street is the best burrito joint. Mi Casita and the Guerneville Taco Truck in Sonoma County on the Russian River are the only places to eat.

  • Didn’t mean to be anonymous above…

  • @ Rax and @Zach:

    Tu Lan, for example, which Rax mentions above — is absolutely not good foodwise.

    Character I’ll grant.

    However the food is nowhere near as good as the (god forbid CHINESE) Nha Trangs of the NYC Chinatown world.

    Tell me where all these great Viet places in the Bay Area are and I’ll happily try them next trip. I’ve eaten at Tu Lan five times however, and it’s not great.

    p.s. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m talking SF, not LA. LA has many many Asian places that put anything in NYC (except maybe Flushing szechuan) to shame.

  • There was only one in and out Burger in San Fran that I saw online so i didn’t make it out there. I think they are more prevalent in LA. I did go to Joe’s Cable Car (it was Ok).

  • I have eaten at Tu Lan dozens of times, taken Viet family there, and we all agree, it is the business.
    Obviously a matter of opinion. It is greasier than some(certainly more gut busting than Nha Trang or Thai Son), but so fulfilling and flavorful, and definitely in the spirit of the places Zach covers here.

    Pho Tan Hoa also fits.

  • All this West Coast talk and craptastic weather is making me wish I never left LA for this NYC hell…

  • I think it’s very strange that a true, good, SF-style burrito place doesn’t open in Manhattan.

    Even Boca Grande in Boston was always a zillion times better than anything I’ve had here. I’m not saying they serve real Mission burritos there, just that they do a better job on burritos than any place I’ve been to here in NYC.

    I find it hard to believe that some burrito chef who knows how to do it hasn’t migrated to NYC from SF and given it a shot. Lord knows the lack of Mission-style burritos in NYC has been bitched about on food blogs as long as there have been food blogs.

  • Corretion, Not Mi Casit but rather Taqueria LA Tapatia is the place in Guerneville BEST EVER.

  • There are plenty of tasty Vietnamese places in NYC. We do a far better job of importing authentic tasting Viet. than we do most other Asian cuisines.

    However, although the addition of Banh Mi joints is welcome, they rarely measure up to the street eats one can enjoy in Vietnam.

  • Grace:
    For good mexican food in OC, go to Taco Mesa. The closest one to Disneyland is in Costa Mesa. The food is a little more upscale than your average tacqueria, but it is exceptionally scrumptious.

  • @MAB – Shit… I probably should have also clarified that I didn’t mean Banh Mi. There is amazing Banh Mi in NYC… but for traditional Vietnamese food, I have not been able to find anything in Manhattan better than “just decent” (i.e. pho and bun)

  • First- omgs omgs omgs Harry is so. damn. cute. That little half smirk just stole my heart. Oh.my.gosh!!!
    Ok, baby gushing aside, I was fine with you saying that there’s none of these things in MIDTOWN… but I actually feel kind of offended that you said there’s no good Vietnamese in ALL OF NYC. My fave place (in Elmhurst, Queens) beats out any place I’ve ever been to (Toronto & SF – I stopped trying to find a better place) – and it’s got the nitty gritty dirty feel to it too. Well, it IS dirty. But it’s damn delicious.

  • Oh, sorry, I just skimmed the comments (I went straight to comment cuz I was so riled up) and I see that you’ve clarified a bit. I take it back. I’ll take you to my “secret” place sometime and you can tell me why it isn’t as good as the places in SF. And perhaps on my next trip to SF (this August) I’ll check out some Vietnamese places there :)

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