Here are three newcomers I’m loving, whether for a quick lunch or take-out, each with some notable dishes.
KITCHEN ISTANBUL, Inner Richmond
As with my longtime Iraqi favorite, Jannah, Istanbul is one of our great Middle Eastern restaurants, going beyond the same handful of Middle Eastern dishes many serve and digging into regional specialties I long to see much more of.
Owner and executive chef Emrah Kilicoglu (co-owner of Troya) kills it with classics like moussaka ($19 or $17 for vegetarian version), rich with ground spiced lamb, eggplant, bell pepper and bechamel sauce.
He equally shines with ultra-fresh versions of muhammara ($6 with pita bread), a traditional hot pepper dip, or gratifying, flavorful salads like a black lentil bulgur salad ($9.50) laced with golden raisins, tart cherries, feta cheese, almonds, cucumber and mint.
Even zucchini fritters ($9) are not all fried breading dotted with vegetables but rather a thin cover of breading nearly exploding with fresh, thinly-sliced zucchini strips, mixed with parsley, mint and feta cheese in a yogurt sauce.
Popular lamb beyti ($19) is like an enchilada meets a cooked sushi roll, filling rolls of lavash bread packed with Adana-style ground lamb, drizzled in tomato & yogurt sauce.
NOURISH CAFE, Inner Richmond
Opened at the end of February, Nourish Cafe is the kind of eatery/take-out spot one wishes was in every neighborhood. Even those of us who eat everything long for healthy meals that don’t sacrifice flavor. Like Seed + Salt in the Marina and these 7 healthy spots, Nourish serves 100% plant-based, organic, naturally sweetened, non-GMO dishes, baked goods and juices.
Most importantly, it’s delicious. Massive salads, like the Nourish Bowl ($12), pack in quinoa, avocado, spinach, yam, roasted chickpeas, sprouts, house hummus, cucumber and cherry tomatoes over a bed of greens in creamy, oil-free hemp dressing.
A faux nut “tuna” (sunflower seeds, celery, onions, almonds) is an early favorite, either as a salad ($14) or open-faced sandwich ($12) on rustic, hearty bread with lettuce and tomatoes. Smoothies ($8-9), like Baker Beach Banana Chocolate (banana, cacao, almond butter, dates, almond milk, vanilla), or toasts ($4 each) topped with adzuki bean miso, radishes and flax oil, are other immediate go-tos that leave me satiated.
EL PIPILA at THE HALL, SoMa
The lovely and gracious Guadalupe Guerrero is a working mother, excellent cook and launched her own business, El Pipila, through the ever-visionary La Cocina. Starting out (and still) catering, El Pipila now has its first brick-and-mortar in The Hall, a marketplace of quality food vendors on Market St.
Guadalupe’s cooking is homey, authentic Guanajuatan recipes inspired by her mother and growing up in Acámboro, Mexico. It’s a family affair with Guadalupe’s daughters, Brenda and Alejandra, working alongside her.
Her mother’s smoky pozole verde is sheer comfort of green tomatillos, hominy, shredded chicken and bits of bacon. Her sopes, using fresh masa from Oakland’s La Finca Tortillería, are her signature and an ideal street food bite, topped with tomatillo-braised nopales (cactus), onions, cilantro, chile negro, lettuce, cotija cheese, and salsa roja.
Most items on her straightforward menu are under $10, but for beef, veggie or chicken enchiladas, which are $12, and come with rice and beans. I particularly love her tart, lively tomatillo salsa on the understated enchiladas, as gratifying and nurturing as if Guadalupe cooked them up for you in her own home.