A few months ago, I came across 7×7’s list of the best macaroni and cheeses in the Bay Area. I’d been looking for a good excuse to try a new restaurant each month with friends, and what better excuse is there than sampling mac & cheese? I dare you to come up with one…and if you do, that’ll be my new excuse once I work my way through this list.
Our first night was at Mission Cheese (736 Valencia, San Francisco), a cheese-based restaurant in the Mission—obviously, they approach naming with laser-like precision.
It’s a busy spot on a Friday night, and you may find yourself waiting a while for one of the few tables after you place your order. But in pursuit of great mac & cheese, sometimes you must make sacrifices of convenience.
Go on, cram in with us at the corner of the bar!
Consider this your introduction to my mac & cheese rating guide. I’ll fill it out for each mac & cheese we sample.
Price: $10, reasonable to me for the size.
Cheese: Cloth-bound cheddar and washed rind cow’s milk cheeses. I didn’t ask particulars. It was too crowded and loud for that.
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The husband and I ended up at Afghan Village after a quick Yelp search from the freeway when our hunger post-wine-tasting had reached critical levels. So that hunger may have influenced my opinion of the establishment, but honestly, I think Afghan Village just plain has amazing food despite mixed Yelp reviews.
It’s located in a dark strip mall, and the restaurant was just starting to get patrons in the early evening, around 6 pm. Traditional, elaborate decorations adorn the walls. Gold, white, and red were the primary colors of the room.
It gave of the vibe of a special occasion restaurant, the type where a large family would rent half the room for a birthday or wedding celebration—the two throne chairs in the center of the restaurant definitely contributed to that effect. The décor made the place seem vast when not filled, but it was pleasant to gape at, regardless.
Service was prompt. Because of our hunger, an appetizer was a must.
Those are potatoes pakora, and I loved them. The spices in the besan flour batter made for an intriguing blend, and the cilantro chutney banished any potential for blandness. It was a healthy helping, too. Despite that glossy sheen, they didn’t taste at all greasy and had a crisp exterior.
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Being a relatively young foodie, my taste buds have grown up on Farm to Fork/Farm to Table/Nouveau American/New Californian/Californian or just plain upscale cuisine that uses products from local vendors and a blend of different styles that highlight the ingredients’ natural flavors. As expected, the Bay Area is swimming in options for that particular brand of cooking, but I’ve discovered that a plethora of offerings sometimes means a plethora of mediocre attempts at it. After a string of those, I was thrilled to stumble upon Pappo on a dinner and movie night with my husband.
The restaurant’s atmosphere is understated, just a mix of brick, leather, wood, and brown-gray walls adorned with blown-up pictures of water droplets. It was sleek and cozy at the same time with welcoming, speedy service from the servers and kitchen.
I don’t have the particulars of my husband’s meal, not having expected to do a review that evening, but it was essentially a duck leg from Liberty Ranch with roasted root vegetables and broccolini.
Insert my obligatory apology for fuzzy cell phone pictures here. The husband said the duck was good. I tried a bite of the vegetables and they were perfectly roasted, bringing out great flavor in both the starches and the broccolini. Whatever broth was served with them was exquisite.
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